Friday, November 17, 2017

Where We Belong by Lynn Austin

Lynn Austin is becoming one of my favorite authors of fiction!  While this story is fictional, the idea came from the true story of two sisters, Agnes and Margaret Smith, who lived in the 1800's.  "These brilliant, self-educated women discovered a copy of the Gospels dating from AD 500 at the monastery on Mount Sinai...Their trust in God led them to accomplish extraordinary things and live a rich, adventurous life for God's glory."

This interesting story is told through the eyes of four different characters.  The two largest sections of the book are told through the sisters perspective, with two other sections focusing on minor characters.  By switching points of view and using flashbacks to develop characters, the story stays fresh and captivating throughout.  I also like learning a little bit of history by discovering what life may have been like in the 1800's.

The main characters are easily likable, displaying faith, hope, and a belief that God has a purpose for each one of us.  While this is a work of fiction, there are words of wisdom sprinkled throughout the book that can inspire and uplift. 

*I received a complimentary copy of this book from Bethany House in exchange for an honest review.

Friday, October 27, 2017

Whisper by Mark Batterson

What does it mean when someone says that God "spoke to them"?  Does God still speak today?  If so...how?  That's what this book explores.  How to Hear the Voice of God.

"Chronic noise may be the greatest impediment to our spiritual growth".  That got my attention.  Schedules are busy.  Our lives are filled with cell phones, televisions, and music.  These things aren't necessarily bad, but they can be a distraction.

In 1 Kings 19:12 God speaks in a whisper.  Why a whisper?  Here is the author's take on it: "When someone speaks in a whisper, you have to get very close to hear.  In fact, you have to put your ear near the person's mouth.  We lean toward a whisper, and that's what God wants.  The goal of hearing the heavenly Father's voice isn't just hearing His voice; it's intimacy with Him.  That's why He speaks in a whisper.  He wants to be as close to you as humanly possible!  He loves us, likes us, that much."

So how does God speak?  In this book Mark Batterson explores 7 love languages, providing examples of how we can hear from God.  God can speak through Scripture, Desires, Doors, Dreams, People, Promptings, and Pain.  As I was reading through the stories shared in these pages, I was reminded of times in my life and of other stories I've heard in which God spoke.  Not audibly, but in a way that was clear.  This book can help someone recognize and discern when God is whispering.

*I received a complimentary copy of this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for an honest review.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Evidence That Demands a Verdict by Josh & Sean McDowell

Evidence That Demands a Verdict was written by a man who set out to intellectually and historically disprove Christianity.  Yet instead, he discovered that the claims were true!  This book is a collection of the evidence that he gathered, giving Christians a solid defense of what they believe to be true (commonly referred to as apologetics).

The first version of this book was published in 1972 and was previously updated in 1999.  Since then new discoveries have been made and new challenges to the claims of Christianity have come forth.  This book contains the same truth as previous versions and is now up-to-date for the current generation. 

While you could read this book cover-to-cover, it is more like a resource book, having 722 pages of text.  There is a table of contents, chapter outlines, and a subject index to help the reader find specific topics.  I read bits and pieces of the book and found that the text is easy for the average reader to understand.  It's not too intellectual. 

My favorite part of the book so far is the author's testimony that he gives at the beginning entitled, "He Changed My Life."  It is a very honest, powerful story.  He shares not only how he came to faith, but also how his life changed afterward.

Josh McDowell writes "One precaution when using apologetics: God saves - apologetics does not.  On the other hand, God often uses apologetics, or evidences, to help clear away obstacles to faith that many people erect, and also to show that faith in Christ is reasonable."  

If that's what you are looking for, then this is the book for you!

*I received a complimentary copy of this book from BookLook Bloggers in exchange for an honest review.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

A Time to Stand by Robert Whitlow

When I'm subbing at the high school, I enjoy reading a good fiction book now and then to pass the time.  This story revolves around a crime that has been committed...a young black man being shot by a white officer.  But it goes beyond the crime to explore the racial tension in the community and how that affects the case.  While the plot does focus on legal matters, very little of the action takes place in the courtroom.  It mainly focuses on Adisa, a young black attorney, who must decide whether she can go against her racial prejudices to defend the officer.

I enjoyed the book, but a piece of bad theology left me unsettled.  In the story, the grandmother of the boy who had been shot stood up at church and announced that she had forgiven the officer and asked others to show him mercy.  Instead of supporting that act, the preacher and deacons think she needs to be rebuked.  He says "On the issue of whether it's necessary for someone to ask forgiveness in order to be forgiven.  Does Jesus forgive our sins if we don't ask him to?  I don't think so.  If that's the standard he laid down, how can anyone, even Thelma Armistead, forgive someone who hasn't admitted to doing something wrong and asked for forgiveness?  Several of the deacons were telling me I have to publicly rebuke her."  This line of thinking was never corrected.  I know this is a work of fiction, but it bothers me to think that someone may assume this is true.  From what I've read in Scripture, we absolutely can and should forgive others, even if they don't ask for it.

Other than that, the book was well-written and thought provoking.  There are 7 discussion questions at the back of the book.

*I received a complimentary copy of this book from BookLook Bloggers in exchange for an honest review.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

All Saints by Michael Spurlock and Jeanette Windle

All Saints is the true story of a dying church in Smyrna, Tennessee that welcomed a group of refugees into their congregation.  What resulted was life-giving for both parties.  The story is full of examples of God's provision for the community and shows what can happen when people work together for the common good.  All Saints has also been made into a movie - showing now at theaters near you!

Many times a book is better than the movie version of a story.  All Saints may be an exception.  While I haven't seen the movie, the book left much to be desired.  First, nearly half of the book is backstory.  While there should be some information leading to the arrival of the refugees at the church, I thought the amount written was excessive.  I enjoyed the second half of the book much better.  Also, the book is written in 3rd person.  It was as if I were reading a news report about what happened instead of someone sharing his/her experiences.

While I think this story is inspiring and needs to be shared - I recommend skipping the bookstore and going to the movies!

*I received a complimentary copy of this book from Bethany House in exchange for an honest review.

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Convicted by Jameel McGee & Andrew Collins

The tagline pretty much nails it.  This is a true story about a crooked cop, an innocent man, and an unlikely journey of forgiveness and friendship.

Officer Andrew Collins works for narcotics - ridding the streets of Benton Harbor, MI of drug dealers.  Slowly his morals start to ebb away though as he begins to lie and plant evidence to ensure the criminals convictions hold.  Since he was convinced a drug dealer was guilty, why should he let him get off due to a technicality?  That is, until he was caught and discovered he had put at least one innocent man in jail.

Jameel McGee had a habit of being in the wrong place at the wrong time.  Due to Andrew Collins false report, he was imprisoned of a crime he didn't commit.  He was robbed of 3 years of his life and knew who was to blame.

So what happens when these two men come face to face?  That is the beauty of this tale....while it didn't come easily, they became best friends.

 This story was interesting and captivating the whole way through, with chapters alternating between Jameel McGee and Andrew Collins telling their side of the events.  It is a touching example of the power of forgiveness and reconciliation.

*I received a complimentary copy of this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for an honest review.


Monday, July 31, 2017

Online Bible Study?


   Recently I heard about a ministry called Love God Greatly and their Bible Study groups, many of which are online.  To be honest, the thought didn't appeal to me at first.  I've been a part of and have led women's bible studies before, and there's just something special about physically showing up!  You can read each other's facial expressions and understand so much from tone of voice and body language.  You can give hugs and welcoming smiles.  And let's not forget coffee and snacks!  Relationships are built easily when we make time to get together.

  But...I haven't been in a women's bible study for years.  Why?  Because it's too difficult to find a group of women who want to commit to a study AND align schedules to make it happen!  I'm in a season of life where my kids activities and therefore my schedule are always changing.  Evenings that we do have free I usually try to reserve as family time.  So you take multiple women with varying schedules, and it's hard to meet consistently.  Maybe this online bible study thing is worth a try!  Women can plan their time with God whenever is convenient in their schedule that day, and then post insights and encourage others in a private online group setting.  The best part - you can do it in your pajamas!

So you've probably guessed by now that I'm in for a trial run.  And more than that...I feel like God wants me to facilitate a group. It forces me to put the time and effort in.  As with anything, the more you put into it, the more you get out of it!   I have a month to prepare, because the next study with Love God Greatly (LGG) begins on August 28th and is over 1 & 2 Timothy.  If this interests you too, read on for more info!

Who can join the group? Women only, please

How long does it last?  It begins on August 28th and continues for 6 weeks.

What do you have to do? LGG publishes a journal that can be ordered through Amazon or downloaded for free.  It provides daily Scripture readings, room to journal using a SOAP format, and other helpful tips.  LGG also has a blog that posts related devotions 3 times per week.  After journaling, simply participate in conversation in a private Facebook group.

What is SOAP?  This is a method of journaling.  SOAP stands for Scripture, Observation, Application, and Prayer.  Click here for more info.

What will we be studying?  1 &2 Timothy.  Click here for a description of the study or to order the study journal from Amazon.com.  You can also get a kids version of the journal here so they can study along with you!

How do I join?  Just let me know you are interested and I will send you an invitation to join the group Facebook page once I have it ready to go!  Also, you may go ahead and order your journal (see above).  There will be a PDF version available for free download at a later date if money is an issue.  However, buying the $12 journal through Amazon helps to support the ministry and offers a nicer presentation of the material.

If you have any other questions, feel free to ask.  Who wants to try this out with me?