Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Book Review: As Kingfishers Catch Fire

Title:  As Kingfishers Catch Fire
Subtitle:  A Conversation on the Ways of God Formed by the Words of God
Author:  Eugene H. Peterson
Genre:  Christian Devotional
Publisher:  WaterBrook, an imprint of the Crown Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House LLC
Number of Pages:  372
My Rating:  4/5

The stunning watercolor cover of a man deep in thought captures so well what is laid out for us in the pages of this unusual devotional book. Eugene Peterson -- professor, theologian, pastor, author -- found himself struggling to bridge "the chasm that had developed between the way (he) was preaching from the pulpit and (his) deepest convictions on what it meant to be a pastor."

And so he compiled this never-before-published collection of some of his sermons (49, to be exact) into seven distinct themes that I can only describe as coming from the mind of an philosopher, the heart of a saint, and the soul of a human. Peterson's style of writing about the meaning of specific scriptures and how it relates to our lives is both insightful and poetic, and because I seem to view much of the Bible and the human experience with a similar lens, I fell in love with this book from page one.

The devotional is divided into these seven sections:

He Spoke and It Came to Be (Preaching in the Company of Moses)
All My Springs Are in You (Preaching in the Company of David)
Prepare the Way of the Lord (Preaching in the Company of Isaiah)
On Earth as It Is in Heaven (Preaching in the Company of Solomon)
Yes and Amen and Jesus (Preaching in the Company of Peter)
Christ in You the Hope of Glory (Preaching in the Company of Paul)
In the Beginning Was the Word (Preaching in the Company of John of Patmos)

Within each section are seven sermon transcripts that Peterson originally preached to his congregation at Christ Our King Presbyterian Church in Bel Air, Maryland, over the course of 29 years. The publisher's editorial team, in its Letter to the Reader, lets us know that this compilation is an effort to allow the rest of us to be "a fly on the wall" as we listen to Peterson "unpack the whole counsel of God." What an inspiring and beautiful privilege.



Disclaimer:  I received this book from www.bloggingforbooks.com in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Book Review: The Hum of Angels

Title:  The Hum of Angels
Author:  Scot McKnight
Genre:  Christian Living
Publisher:  Waterbrook, an imprint of the Crown Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House LLC
Number of Pages:  189
My Rating: 2.5/5

I began reading this book with a bit of trepidation, fully aware of the prevalent and misguided images of angels portrayed in secular and new age philosophy and in artwork as gentle fairy-like beings offering love and happiness or as humans-turned-angels or animals dressed up as angels. I wanted to learn more about angels as revealed in the Bible, to learn more about the truth of what they are and what their work is. The title of this book concerned me because of its vague new age sound -- I think of angels as warriors, not as hummingbirds. However, for the most part, the content between the covers belies the wispy title by providing lots of scriptural references, quotes, and descriptions of Biblical angels and not the counterfeit counterparts so popular today.

I had not heard of the author, so here is information pulled from the book jacket: Scot McKnight is the author of more than 50 books, a popular conference speaker, and a professor of New Testament at Northern Seminary in Illinois. He maintains a blog, Jesus Creed, which receives three million page views per year.

The book is divided into four parts: In Defense of Angels; God's Loving Presence in Angels; God's Loving Advocacy From Angels; and God's Loving Transformation Through Angels. It also includes an Appendix, After Words, and Notes (references and citations).

According to the author, a Barna study done in 2007 shows that eight out of ten Americans believe angels exist, and an Associated Press study done in 2011 reports that 88% of Christians believe in angels.  This last statistic puzzles me, because the Bible clearly expresses the creation and ministry of angels, leaving no room for doubt about their existence, and the author cites lots of scriptures to that end.

McKnight asserts that angels are as alive and active today as they were between the pages of Genesis 1 and Revelation 22, and his book informs us of their ministry to God and to humanity: worship, service, protection, deliverance, instruction, guidance, forth-telling, comfort, engaging in battle, etc. He uses much scripture and many historical quotes to back up his assertions. The picture he paints for us of angels is definitely not the one I was concerned about in the first paragraph. That said, I did not agree with everything he puts forth about angels, but overall he does an adequate job.

Disclaimer:  I received this book from www.bloggingforbooks.com in exchange for a fair and honest review.

    

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Book Review: 31 Verses to Write on Your Heart


Title:  31 Verses to Write on Your Heart
Author:  Liz Curtis Higgs
Genre:  Devotional/Bible Study
Publisher:  WaterBrook, an imprint of the Crown Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House LLC
Number of Pages:  200
My Rating:  4/5

I have heard of Liz Curtis Higgs through the years but have never read any of her books until now. I was eager to do so, because my impression of her has been that she is a fun-loving, faithful sister in Christ, and I wondered if her writing would match my preconception. And it does.

Higgs is a prolific writer (over 30 titles, including her Bad Girls of the Bible series) as well as a professional speaker and Bible study teacher. You may have enjoyed her on stage during the Women of Faith, Women of Joy, and Extraordinary Women tours in both the United States or abroad. She is a wife, mother, and tabby cat shepherd currently living in Kentucky.

This book is down-to-earth, honest, and uplifting in its approach to scripture study and memorization. It is accurately described as a "daily devotional and a small-group Bible study" on the back cover and is suitable for individual or group use.  The readings are gentle but thought-provoking and are peppered with Higgs' personal experiences that help to bring the truths to life (not to mention tickle your funny bone).

There are 31 chapters, each focused on a well-known scripture verse and followed with a heartfelt, personal prayer and tips for memorizing scripture. There is also a study guide section with questions for each chapter that will assist the reader to dig deeper, both privately and in a group setting. A scripture verse reference listing for each chapter rounds out the book.

If you are a new believer in search of a treasure trove of meaningful scripture verses to learn and memorize, this book is a wonderful place to start. If you are an old saint with scripture verses already stored up in your heart, this book is a wonderful way to re-visit some favorites, dig a little deeper, and reignite your passion for memorization.

Disclaimer:  I received this book from www.bloggingforbooks.com in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

'Tis the Season to Be Jolly

I never know when it will hit, but I do remember struggling sometimes as a teenager -- amid the love and light of the Christmas season, I became depressed. How could that be? I had a family and friends and lived in a safe, secure environment without want. I never did figure out what triggered the overwhelming feelings of emptiness and sadness that crept into my heart back then, and I still can't figure it out today.

So.....what is it like to be depressed during the Christmas season? I'm sure it's different for everyone, but for me, it's something like this:

*Depression is staring at the bare tree in the living room and not having the energy to decorate it and not caring if it ever gets done.

*Depression is looking at a stack of beautiful Christmas cards and not having the energy to address and mail them and not caring if they ever go out.

*Depression is holding an Advent calendar in your hands and realizing you're days behind in lifting the flaps and not caring because every day is just another major effort to get out of bed and get dressed.

*Depression is watching the available shopping days fly by and not having the energy to figure out gifts for everyone and hoping they'll graciously accept gift cards this year.

*Depression is listening to Christmas music and weeping because your father is no longer on Earth to celebrate his favorite season and your elderly mother is hours away and alone.

*Depression is not baking any cookies or making any crafts or attending any parties or concerts and being relieved that you don't have to engage.

*Depression is forcing yourself to attend church and to put on a sweet smile even though you usually love worshipping and fellowshipping with your brothers and sisters in Christ and even though your heart is out of tune.

*Depression is wanting to lie down and sleep until it's January 1st when you no longer have to see, smell, or hear all the festivities taking place around you but without you, even if it's your choice.

*Depression is thanking God for your precious little cat because making sure it has food and water and a clean litter box is pretty much your only reason for needing to be alive right now.

Please remember to pray for those who are struggling with depression this Christmas season. In spite of all the love, light, family, and friends, being jolly is just not on the agenda.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Book Review: Dark Matter


Title:  Dark Matter
Author:  Blake Crouch
Genre:  Science Fiction/Thriller
Publisher:  Crown, an imprint of the Crown Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House LLC
Number of Pages:  340
My Rating:  4 out of 5

Ever hear of Wayward Pines? It's that creepy enclave in a shattered post-apocalyptic Earth that kept me glued to my couch every week it aired on television. I loved seasons one and two and sure do hope there's a season three on the horizon. That said, when I tried to read Blake Crouch's books that the show was based upon, I gave up after about 50 pages out of sheer boredom. I felt the writing lacked enough luster for me to keep going with it. I was disappointed.

So when the opportunity arose for me to try another Blake Crouch book -- Dark Matter -- I was intrigued enough by the storyline to lay aside my hesitancy, and I am so glad I gave him another go. This book kept me glued and riveted and questioning and pulling my hair out from the first page to the last. Aside from the author's fondness for the F-bomb (the book would have been just as great without it), Dark Matter will pull you in and hold you in suspense until the very end.

The main character, Jason, is an immediately likable fellow, and his separation from and search for his wife and son will touch your heart. Their are baddies galore who will stop at nothing to keep a reunion from happening, and his journey through, not time, but parallel space is exciting and rife with twists and turns. I appreciate that the science behind the whole parallel universes theory is presented in a way that is not overwhelming and confusing. Crouch did a good job of spreading said explanations throughout the book and in a manner that even a layman could (mostly) understand.

Given the success of the Wayward Pines franchise, I hope Dark Matter is also made into a movie for the big screen. Visually, it would be stunning. And the audience would be on the edge of their seats the entire time.



Disclaimer:  I received this book from www.bloggingforbooks.com for review.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Book Review: Taste and See


Title:  Taste and See
Subtitle:  Savoring the Supremacy of God in All of Life
Author:  John Piper
Genre:  Christian Devotional
Publisher:  Multnomah, an imprint of the Crown Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House LLC
Number of Pages:  390
My Rating:  4.5 out of 5

I am always excited to read a new-to-me devotional book because on days when I don't have time for longer reading, the bite-sized portions are perfect. However, not all devotionals are created equal. Some are milk; some are meat. These meditations by John Piper definitely fall in the meat category.

John Piper is a well-known theologian and author who is not afraid to talk about issues that could be considered controversial, but praise the Lord for that. In this book of 125 short chapters, each dealing with a topic that is maybe not so nice and neat, he has the courage to present his Biblical worldview clearly and compassionately. I may not always agree with everything he says, but I love that Piper doesn't shy away from the tougher stuff and that he makes me think. I have to chew and digest my way through his mediations, so even though they are short, they are packed.

Taste and See touches on many topics ranging from omnipotence to love to retirement, sin, evil, righteousness, adoption, eternity, prayer, mental health, joy, discipline, salvation -- the list goes on and on. It covers the gamut from Biblical theology to contemporary issues facing the Christian (and the world) today. You will not be bored, period. Especially helpful are the indices in the back of the book for quick subject and scriptural referencing.

Piper states that what he has "written here is partly meditations on Biblical reality and partly applications to contemporary life" and that he "hopes that what pervades all the readings is a savoring of the supremacy of God." And I feel he has done what he set out to do.

And a shout-out regarding his poem of dedication to his daughter -- it is absolutely delightful and not to be skipped over.



Disclaimer:  I received this book from www.bloggingforbooks.com for review.

Friday, June 10, 2016

Book Review: The Gift for All People


Title:  The Gift for All People: Thoughts on God's Great Grace
Author:  Max Lucado
Genre:  Christian Devotional
Publisher:  WaterBrook Multnomah, an imprint of Crown Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House LLC
Number of Pages:  132
My Rating:  4 out of 5

Max Lucado, a prolific speaker and writer who lives and serves in a church in Texas, is a well-known and beloved author. His soft-spoken words, both oral and written, inspire and encourage millions. This book offers his usual content, seeking to lead the reader into a deeper understanding of the amazing grace of God.

It is divided into four main sections -- The Gift of a Savior; Ransom for Sinners; Bounteous Grace; and The Choice -- designed to cover the gift and experience of grace from the birth of Jesus Christ to the need for a decision to receive this gift and experience of grace in one's own life. 

Each main section is divided into about eight short chapters with such headings as "It Began in a Manger," "Road to Calvary," Pardon and Peace," and "The God Who Invites." The reader is taken on a journey of discovery in the gentle, heartfelt way that Lucado is famous for. His ability to clothe theological truths and insights in practical, earthly terms helps the reader to visualize the Word becaming flesh and dwelling among us.

While there is nothing 'new' presented in this book, Lucado's skill in presenting age-old truths in contemporary ways makes for a fresh and engaging read that will definitely touch the heart, mind, and spirit of those who take the time to consider again just how great God's grace is.



Disclaimer:  I received this book from www.bloggingforbooks.com for review.