Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Book Review: Heaven is for Real

Heaven is for Real is a thought-provoking book filled with hope. I was totally caught up in the story from one cover to the other. It starts with the not-quite-sequential, but skillful telling of a near tragedy and a little boy’s miraculous recovery just in time.

Normally, that would be the end of the story, but for Colton and his family, it’s where the story begins. A few months after his recovery, Colton casually mentions his visit with Jesus and how the angels sang to him. At first his parents think he had a sweet dream. Then they realize he knows things that he shouldn’t have known—like where they were and what they were doing while he was in surgery. They begin to question him, without leading him, to learn more about their son’s experiences on that day.

Todd Burpo, Colton’s father, tells readers the things that Colton said and why they were surprising to hear from a 4-year-old. He also quotes Scripture throughout, citing passages about heaven that match up with what Colton saw.

The book is a beautiful testimony, a biblical study of Heaven, and a joyful glimpse into what all Christians look forward to seeing someday. I’m sorry for all the Burpo family had to suffer before coming to such a place of blessing and joy, but I’m thankful they chose to share. As they said, through Colton, God gave them a gift. In this book, they let us enjoy it, too.
Thank you, Thomas Nelson Publishers, for sending this book for my review.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Book Review: The Grace of God

The Grace of God is the first Andy Stanley book I’ve had the opportunity to read—and I truly appreciated his points of view. In this book, Stanley gives us a panoramic view of God’s grace from Adam and Eve to David to the early church to today. He first defines this amazing grace—something no human being will ever deserve. (If you deserve it, it’s not grace.) Then he shows it at work throughout the Bible.

My favorite chapters were the two—yes, two!—on the Ten Commandments and the one about Nicodemus. The historical and cultural information he provided about the new Israelite nation and its place in the world at that time led to helpful insights and showed the Commandments in a new and even more meaningful light. Likewise, the information Stanley provided about Nicodemus revealed his role in Christ’s ministry, giving me new appreciation for his story and leaving me once again in awe of the way our God works, using ordinary and even unsuspecting people to further His plans. Stanley definitely has a gift for helping his readers understand the Bible from a historical and cultural view—a view which always results in revealing more of its relevance to students of God’s Word today.

He also has a gift for making it easy to understand. He tells the stories, working lessons in clearly as he goes. His words draw the reader in, and then he makes his point. If you want to see God’s grace at work throughout the Bible to see it even more clearly today, I recommend this book to you.BlogSign

Thank you, Thomas Nelson Publishers, for sending this book for my review.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Book Review: The Waiting

Amish fiction. Who’d’ve thunk it would become its own genre with a whole store of its own at! I’ve been reading Beverly Lewis’s books for years and recently discovered Cindy Woodsmall's, too. But then I thought, “That’s enough.” There are other kinds of stories to read.

Then the Litfuse Publicity Group offered me The Waiting for free to review. I couldn’t resist—and I’m glad I didn’t. This was a very fun read!

Though it’s the second in a series, The Waiting stands alone. I haven’t read the first, but I never felt I’d missed anything—though I will go back and read The Choice as soon as I find time!

Not only is The Waiting Amish, it's also historical. Setting the story in 1965, author Suzanne Woods Fisher, shows how events of that time—the Vietnam war, racial tensions, and such—impacted even the Amish communities.

The Waiting shows that life can get complicated even for people who strive to live simply. The story line is intriguing and unpredictable—truly hard to set down. The heroine, Jorie King, loves her family, their horses, children, and her community. Though pressured to marry, she refuses to settle for less than true love. Caleb, a young leader in the community, struggles to balance ministry, managing his farm, and caring for his brothers after the death of his parents, while raising his own daughter, too. The adventures and concerns of the children, Ephraim and Maggie, are a bonus delight in this book.

If you like sweet stories, Amish or not, I recommend The Waiting to you.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Book Review: Really Woolly Bible Stories

Really Woolly Bible Stories is an adorable board book for preschoolers. The artwork is so cute—as it had to be being Really Woolly. (I'm a big fan of that greeting card line!) Each two-page spread shows a Really Woolly lamb, bunny, and duckling doing something story-related together on one side with cartoon-style Bible art on the other. The sixteen stories are actually two- or three-stanza poems which summarize Bible passages in a catchy way. Some close with a line or two of life application. Under the Bible art beside each poem is a reference for finding the story passage in the Bible. The book’s brief introduction proclaims the purpose and truth of the Bible, the child’s relationship with God, and assurance of Jesus, the Good Shepherd’s care. The book closes with a prayer for children, showing the Really Woolly characters tucked into bed for the night with the Good Shepherd nearby.

I’m not sure that children will really know the Bible stories after having this book read to them, but they will enjoy the time with those who read to them and the pleasant look and sound of the book. The children will meet and become familiar with a few of the major Bible characters in preparation for further learning as parents and churches faithfully follow through. They’ll learn that the Bible is a precious Book—God’s Word—and that God, their heavenly Father, loves them. They’ll learn that Jesus, the Good Shepherd, welcomes children to come to Him and watches carefully over their lives.

Thank you, Thomas Nelson Publishers, for sending this cute book for my review!

Monday, October 11, 2010

Book Review: Transforming Church in Rural America

Transforming Church in Rural America is part autobiography, part advice, written to encourage and inspire pastors of churches in small towns. In the book, Shannon O’Dell tells of his calling to rural America and how God turned a struggling church into a multi-campus ministry with services also available via satellite and the internet. Using this story and the acrostic, VALUE, O’Dell provides principles for evangelism, discipleship, and mentoring to help pastors grow congregants who can in turn reach others for Christ.

My husband and I pastured a rural church before entering military ministry. Everything O’Dell says about the blessings and challenges of such a church is on target. He brought back a lot of memories for me. From that point of view, the book was fun to read.

But O’Dell’s ideas for reaching people in this setting are impressively innovative. Some of them concerned me a little, but every church, every minister is unique. I recommend this book to pastors of rural churches as a source of inspiration—a catalyst for fresh ideas. Yet I would encourage them to prayerfully consider how they can best integrate these ideas or others triggered through the book into their church’s own situation.

Thank you, Thomas Nelson Publishers, for sending this book for my review. It was an interesting and worthwhile read.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Book Review: The Treasure of God's Word

I was surprised to learn, recently, that the King James Version of the Bible is turning 400 next year. Normally, 400 would sound pretty old. But when we’re talking about the Bible, it doesn’t so much. The Treasure of God’s Word is available to help interested readers celebrate this event.

The Treasure of God’s Word is an attractive gift book with an embossed cover and gilt edging on the pages. Inside, you’ll find a presentation page, introduction, nine articles about the history of the King James Version, and a sampling of Bible verses arranged topically. The articles tell about the KJV’s origin, its influence on literature, politics, and science, its revisions and some versions that came from it. They are short and interesting. Two, however, according to the copyright page, were adapted from Wikipedia articles. Since this site isn’t considered a valid source for my son’s high school research papers, this kind of concerns me.

The articles were interesting, though. I was fascinated to learn that scholars of the day were having trouble deciding which of several English versions were most reliable. King James decided to settle the issue by authorizing one to be used by everyone. Considering how many versions we have to choose from right now, sometimes I wonder if we might appreciate a visit from King James today. But no, each reliable translation gives us new insights into God’s amazing Word helping us to understand the original languages that relatively few can read.

Thank you, Thomas Nelson Publishers, for sending this book for my review.