Friday, December 31, 2010

Book Review: Voices of the Faithful, Book 2

If you have a heart for missions, you will be blessed by the stories in this book.

If you’ve become skeptical about the state of our world and are prone to wonder if God is still at work, you will be encouraged by the stories in this book.

If you long to pray more meaningfully, more intentionally, more specifically, you will find the information and inspiration you need in this book.

If you desire to see God at work in this world to learn where He wants you to join in, you may gain vision through this book.

Voices of the Faithful, Book 2 is a daily devotional containing stories told by more than 300 missionaries. The stories will encourage you personally, while helping you know how to pray for those who serve God in foreign cultures. Stories were compiled by Kim P. Davis, a former missionary now working for the International Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention. Stories are divided into monthly themes with an introduction for each written by Davis, herself.

The idea for the Voices of the Faithful series came from Beth Moore, who wrote the introduction for this book. Moore hopes readers will feel connected to believers all over the globe, be motivated to pray, and be encouraged to pursue their own callings in God’s Kingdom work. I believe God can use this book to help readers do all three things.

If this is something that interests you, I recommend this book. Thank you, Thomas Nelson Publishers, for sending it for my review.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Book Review: Blind Hope

Kim Meeder and Laurie Sacher understand what Wildflower Thinking is! Their book, Blind Hope, is a collection of devotional thoughts brought to mind through the life of an unwanted dog. When we’re seeking truths about God and our life with Him, He can speak through anything!

Kim and her husband own and operate the Crystal Peaks Youth Ranch in Oregon. The book opens with the story of how this ranch came to be, a place where horses and children are rescued from some of life’s harsh realities. (I would love to visit this place!) Laurie worked at the ranch as an intern. In the spirit of rescue, she adopted a badly neglected dog. Blind Hope records the lessons she learned about God through her experiences with this dog, how these lessons changed her life, rooting and establishing her faith in her Master, and how she shared these with Kim, her mentor, and now, with readers of the book.

Laurie reveals very little of her past, but that part of the story is not essential—it belongs just to her. Instead of dwelling there, she tells us enough to help us see that God used an abandoned, little dog to lead a prodigal safely home. It’s a touching, God-honoring story, full of wisdom and insight of value to any reader—new Christian to seasoned believer.

I truly enjoyed this book and am happy to recommend it to others. Thank you, Waterbrook Multnomah, for sending Blind Hope for my review.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Book Review: The Lucado Life Lessons Study Bible

If you’re looking for a new Bible and/or Bible study resource for the new year, The Lucado Life Lessons Study Bible is worth considering. Long-time Lucado fans will recognize the work as an updated version of The Inspirational Study Bible published in 1995. The format for the Life Lessons is the same, along with some of the opening articles, and several of the devotionals, but this version also includes passages from Lucado’s newer works and many new Bible study features.

The Bible itself is the New King James Version written in contemporary language with an effort to preserve the beauty and poetry of the original KJV. It’s not as hard to understand as the original, but it does require a little more work on the reader’s part than the NIV, NLT, or other more recent translations. It’s a worthwhile trade-off for those who appreciate the language of the KJV, but long for easier understanding.

Placed near the relevant passages are excerpts from Lucado’s books written in devotional and Bible study forms. There are also full page studies, Bible reading plans, indexes, and introductions to each book. I appreciated the new Christ Through the Bible feature—a series of short articles highlighting the thread of God’s plan for our salvation revealed throughout the Bible, uniting what appear to be separate parts as a unified whole.

There are also several features designed to help new believers get started studying their Bibles, absorbing foundational truths. In fact, there are 30 studies for New Believers, a 30-Day Overview to the New Testament, and a “Where to Turn When” index in the back of the book.

But there are plenty of devotional and study aids for long-time believers, too. If you like the NKJV, appreciate Lucado’s insights, and love new Bible study helps, this may be a great resource for you.

Thank you, Thomas Nelson Publishers, for sending this Bible for me to enjoy, study, pray through, and review.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Book Review: Parenting Is Your Highest Calling . . .

One of my most favorite parenting books ever is “Parenting Is Your Highest Calling” And 8 Other Myths That Trap Us in Worry and Guilt by Leslie Leyland Fields. If you’ve hung around my blog for very long, you know I’m pretty picky about my parenting books, so this is high praise. In this book, Fields gives us “a liberating look at what God most wants you to know.” She acknowledges up front that the Bible doesn’t offer a lot of directly specific parenting advice. Yet she gleans biblical truths about parenting from the stories of God’s people, from their parenting successes and failures, from God’s work in their lives. It’s a true parenting Bible study—no twisting God’s Word around to support strictly human ideas will be found here.

This book provides unique insights for parents of older elementary, tweens, and teens—though parents of younger children can benefit from reading it too. It’s non-judgmental and encouraging, combating society’s beliefs about parenting that leave parents frustrated and wondering where they must be going wrong.

To summarize my favorite ideas, society tends to teach parents that if they carefully follow all the parenting rules, their kids will turn out right—just as sugar cookies turn out just so if you follow the recipe. Parents like this thought because they see in it a guarantee that their kids will grow up to be responsible Christians, contributing members of society, and problem free.

The truth is, however, there is no such guarantee. God gave each of us—even our kids—the freedom to make choices. And our kids will make choices. And sometimes those choices will be wrong. This would be true even if there were such a thing as perfect parents. In fact, God is the only perfect parent, and He gave His kids free will, and every single one of them rebelled.

The good news is that God graciously provided for that, and He lovingly provides for our kids. As parents we do the best that we can do, then we prayerfully leave the rest to God—the One Who loves our kids even more than we do. We all have a spiritual journey to take. This book helps parents understand Who Is really guiding their kids on theirs. Go get it! Go read it today!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Book Review: Flight of Shadows

As I read Flight of Shadows, I had to ask, “What’s the purpose of a book?” Do I read to be entertained, to learn, to provoke thought? Flight of Shadows plunges the reader into darkness and evil from the very first page and leaves that reader there, absorbing horror and hopelessness.

That’s not where I want to be when I read.

And so, I almost gave up on this book, something I very rarely do. Before I did however, I turned to the back of the book, another thing I rarely do. My son thoroughly enjoyed Sigmund Brouwer’s books for kids a few years back; I wanted to give this book for grown-ups a fair review—but I didn’t want to let it leave me among the sad and cynical.

Instead of finding the end of the story, though, I found a letter from the author telling why he wrote such a book. He explains how he drew from history to show a possible future based on current scientific and political events. In the book he is speculating on where society’s current direction can lead us all if people don’t examine their choices more carefully. He’s reminding us to learn from history, so history won’t repeat itself.

That intrigued me. I decided to finish the book.

If you enjoy books that examine society and make you think, if you like science and political fiction, you may want to read this book. Remember, however, that you’ll have to wade through a lot of darkness and evil, horror and disturbing images in order to discover what the author is trying to say. It may not be a journey that you really want to take. Proceed with caution. Reader beware.

Thank you, Waterbrook Multnomah Publishers, for sending this book for my review.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Book Review: A Time to Dance

I’d never read a Karen Kingsbury novel before, so I was thankful when Thomas Nelson Publishers sent A Time to Dance for my review.

In this book, Kingsbury makes her case for couples to fight to save and strengthen their marriages. It’s a fictional story, of course, yet it serves as a parable. First, through a series of flashbacks, Kingsbury shows how a series of minor and seemingly innocent choices can slowly, but firmly drive a couple apart. Then she shows how God can act in so many ways to pull them together again. His Spirit spoke God’s Word into their minds. He used people in their lives to gently confront, encourage, pray, and even speak of regrets, making characters think. He caused them to remember happier times and even intervened miraculously. Again, it is a fictional story, yet our God truly does work in all these ways. Our marriages matter to Him.

Kingsbury closes the book with a heartfelt and non-judgmental letter to readers, emphasizing God’s view of marriage, its value, and the need for couples to protect and cherish theirs. The book is a ministry. I’ll look forward to reading its sequel someday. (This story is self-contained; the sequel must tell what happens next in this couple’s life journey.)