Thursday, April 4, 2019

The Book of Signs by Dr. David Jeremiah

Subtitled "31 Undeniable Prophecies of the Apocalypse," this outstanding book lays out in a clear, engaging format the author's interpretation of what is commonly called The End Times. It should be stated that it is presented from an unwaveringly pre-Tribulational, pre-Millennial view, which, I should make clear, is also mine; since that is so, I naturally would have no argument with the author's perspective. Since the author's aim is to present his view, there is no discussion of other viewpoints with regard to the events or their sequence. If the reader is hoping to evaluate varying viewpoints in one volume, then this is not that book. For those wishing to have in one source a pre-Tribulational, pre-Millennial view of what is to come, you can do no better than this book as a refresher course of future events, especially if you are acquainted with eschatology, prophetic Old Testament books, and Revelation. The Book of Signs is not an apologetic (that is, a defense of doctrine) work; it is a presentation of one doctrinal perspective. It was very well researched, citing many other respected theologians, sometimes reaching back many years for their works, and used Scripture quotations extensively. Each chapter, beginning with an engaging story meant to capture your attention and make you want to read more, progresses with helpful sections and subsections which help make the book eminently readable. Jeremiah was schooled in a time when alliteration was encouraged as a preaching tool, and it shows. For example, in the chapter "Heaven," the sections are entitled, "The Prominence of Heaven," "The Plurality of Heaven," "The Place Called Heaven," and "The Preciousness of Heaven." This method permeates the book. While the tone of the book is didactic, it is also intended to comfort believers and challenge unbelievers; each chapter focuses on these two things in its closing paragraphs. This was one of the best books on prophecy I have read; it is one I will reread periodically. I did notice a couple of typos: on page 81, it says, "He gave every single one to the hospital, more than $200,000 dollars in all"; and on page 272, it says Adolf Eichmann was a "principle" (rather than "principal") player in the Nazi persecution. I received this book for free in exchange for my unbiased review through the Thomas Nelson Booksneeze Program.

Saturday, March 16, 2019

The Theft of America's Soul by Phil Robertson

If you know anything about the author, you know he is the very plain-spoken patriarch of the Duck Dynasty family. He is a straightforward, no-nonsense man; if there is anything subtle about him, it would be his sense of humor. In his latest book, Robertson addresses 11 lies that he says are ruining America, the foundational one of which was perpetrated in the 1960s: "God is dead". From there followed the next seven: There is no Devil, Truth is Relative, God did not create life, Sex is for self-gratification, Virtue is outdated, Laws can be ignored or changed if they are inconvenient, and Unity is not possible. The last three lies are aimed at the American church: Church participation and day-to-day life should be kept separate, Christians should shut their traps; and the Truth of Truths, Often the author addresses each subject with his own personal stories, which are both entertaining and instructive. In the chapter on laws, Robertson incorporates a fair amount of historical research, which was new to me. Throughout, he cites biblical support for his views. Robertson hopes he is issuing a clarion call to the nation, that unbelievers would come to the knowledge of Jesus as Lord and Savior and turn from their ways, and that believers would adhere to the Bible and share and preach it unafraid. Robertson believes that only if enough individuals embrace the gospel with America's decline be halted. Phil Robertson makes a very good case for his beliefs. He evidences a good mind and a stout character that is formed by what he believes. This book is worth your time. I received this book for free in exchange for my unbiased review through the Thomas Nelson Booksneeze Program.

Monday, February 25, 2019

The Luckiest Man by John R. Paine

Subtitled, “How a Seven-Year Battle with ALS Led me to Intimacy with God”, this book provides a narration of the life of a successful Texas businessman who was diagnosed at age 47 with Lou Gehrig’s disease. At the time of writing, the author was likely close to the end of his life. The narrative rotates around the time when a documentary of the author’s life is released, and a fair chunk of the book is devoted to talking about the premiere of that movie, from John being readied for the event, going to the event, and participating in it. A second aspect of the book looks back over John’s life, beginning in childhood. The third aspect involves John’s internal journey. The book is 187 pages long, and the first 100 pages does not address what the subtitle mentions: intimacy with God. So it takes a while for the foundation to be laid, by which time the reader may lose interest, thinking the book will talk about John’s growing relationship with God. Toward the end, John intensifies his emphasis on walking with God through the disease, and there are some very challenging and worthwhile perspectives he offers. One of the best is one he was offered from a friend, which is to learn to say goodbye as the inexorable flow of losses continue—with a last time for everything as his body loses its abilities, from his last hug, to the last time he was able to feed himself, to the last time he was able to pull the bedcovers over himself. John R. Paine clearly grows in his insights and understanding, which was clearly demonstrated as he walked himself through the process of coming to terms with everyday frustrations and was able to put himself in his wife’s shoes when she was frustrated. John was deliberate, thoughtful and responsive in a way we all wish we might be, but only after he took a timeout and carefully walked himself through his own emotions. The author’s thoughts about and understanding of how God views him and encourages him were worth the read. His own shift from self-perspective to God’s perspective was something I wished received more words and pages in this book. So much of the narrative was devoted to John’s physical situation that the book felt uneven, with the spiritual journey receiving short shrift in the narrative. One literary device that I found annoying was the very frequent use of a series of rhetorical questions, which had the effect on me of feeling badgered. For example, on page 74, in typical fashion, the author asks, “Hadn’t I served God as best I knew how? Didn’t God promise to provide for those who loved him, for those who did the right things in faith? Hadn’t I done all the right things? Hadn’t I outworked everyone? So, where was he? Did he see me? If he did, then why the failure of my businesses, of my marriage? Why wouldn’t he intervene in Hillary’s life; why wouldn’t he make her eat? Shouldn’t I reap the rewards? After all, without some reward, what good is rigorous dedication? What good is all of this faith? Even more, what of his promised comfort and closeness?” On balance, the book is worth reading for its message, but it was not as smooth a read as it might have been. I received this book for free in exchange for my unbiased review through the Thomas Nelson Booksneeze Program.

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Better Together by Warren Photographic

On each page of this small book on friendship is either an outstanding photos of two animals interacting or a thought or verse on friendship. The authors of these thoughts range from the Bible to Priscilla Shirer to Vincent van Gogh. I found it to be a heartwarming and encouraging book, just a little light reading when one wants to reflect on friendship and what it can mean. I recommend this book to anyone wanting to consider their friendships and their importance in your life. I received this book for free in exchange for my unbiased review through the Thomas Nelson Booksneeze Program.

Saturday, February 2, 2019

Stories Behind the Great Traditions of Christmas by Ace Collins This small book gives the history and background of 26 aspects of our Christmas celebrations, from the meaning of “Advent” to the history and use of “Yule Logs”. The author is thorough, sometimes overly so, in presenting the origins and practices concerning each of the traditions. I found some of the chapters, such as “Handel’s Messiah”, “The Nutcracker Ballet” and “The Twelve Days of Christmas” interesting and educational. Others, such as “Holly”, “Lights”, “Mistletoe” and “Xmas” felt belabored. All in all, this book tells you all you’d want to know about the Christmas traditions you and others around you practice. It will likely deepen the reader’s appreciation of the celebration we call Christmas. I received this book for free in exchange for my unbiased review through the Thomas Nelson BookSneeze Program.

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

The Golden Thread - Darlene Zschech

This book about the author’s walk with God was interesting, as it talked about the challenges of following God, such as being surprised in good ways and bad by adventures, including moves, new ministries, and health crises. Much of the writing aims to encourage others in their journeys through life, to lean on and learn from God. That being said, this book was not quite my cup of tea for a couple of reasons. One was that it tended to be wordy, as exemplified by this paragraph from page 46: “I am humbled when I think of the times God spoke to Abraham and Moses and Joshua and David and His prophets, how Jesus drew near to an outcast woman at a well, how God spoke to a young virgin through an angel, how He spoke and created the earth and the planets and every living thing above and under the earth through His word. And yet, He still longs to dwell in me and you, and lead us in the way that only He can.” That paragraph reminds me of how people speak, not how they should write; there are a lot of “and”s and a lot of topics in that first very long sentence. Much of the book reads this way. Another reason this book was not a good fit for me was that I come from a different church tradition than the author. On page 143, Darlene Zschech said three people during one shopping trip asked to “pray with me or prophesy over me.” One said, “I have asked my pastor that if ever I saw you here, could I please give you this word that I feel is for you. I see and hear thousands of regal horses galloping up the freeway toward the Central Coast. This picture represents strength and leadership, literally galloping together in response to the many prayers that have been prayed over this region for many, many years. God has said that you are here as a part of this prophesy.” I am not familiar with people prophesying over others or giving “this word.” Because of this, there were aspects of this book where I questioned whether I understood what was written; words I thought were common were used in ways I did not know. Still, there were lessons offered and encouragements written that can be helpful. It is not a book I recommend, but if my two criticisms above do not resonate with you, this may be a book you will enjoy. I received this book for free in exchange for my unbiased review through the Thomas Nelson BookSneeze Program.

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

The Voice by Sandi Patty

This thought-provoking book traces the author’s journey, which had parallel tracks: on one track, Sandi Patty became the most celebrated Christian female vocalist of her time, and on the other, she was, from a young age, so overly compliant that for many decades that she failed to speak up for herself, losing touch with her own perspective, attitudes and feelings. Sandi Patty describes in this book how she was sexually abused by a female grade-school teacher when she was six. The fear and shame of that time taught Sandi to keep silent and set her on a path of negotiating with herself where others’ voices and opinions became more important to her than her own. Sandi traces the effects of that trauma-induced habit well into her adulthood. This book is written clearly and concisely. It is easy to trace the pattern with Sandi of learning to be silenced and then voiceless. At the end of each chapter, the author includes thought-provoking questions so the reader can evaluate their own ability to speak, with most verses cited in this section quoting a Bible verse that has to do with the voice, including God’s voice. I recommend this book to anyone. If you have not given up part or all of your voice, particularly as a result of childhood trauma, you know someone who has. The Voice will help you understand the perspective of those who have been muted. I received this book for free in exchange for my unbiased review through the Thomas Nelson BookSneeze Program.