Saturday, October 31, 2015

Miracle at the Higher Grounds Cafe by Max Lucado

I have read many non-fiction books written by Max Lucado and already liked him as an author, so I was excited to see this fictional novel hit the shelves.  I was not disappointed with the story-telling...Max is a master at weaving truth into compelling stories.  My only complaint is that the book seemed short - I would have liked to see more development.

The plot in this book reminded me of some of Frank Peretti's works, but with less action.  The book focuses on a family working through problems here on Earth, but then flips the lens every now and then to show us what is going on in the "heavenly realms".  While the story itself is fiction, it really makes the reader think about the possibility of an alternate spiritual reality.  Do we too have guardian angels?  Can our prayers be heard and seen in heaven as is presented in this story?

A large focus of the story is on a "God Blog" that patrons can access through an internet site at a cafe. Each person is allowed to ask one question that is answered directly by God.  I enjoyed reading the questions and answers that were submitted.  The author is able to offer wisdom and perspective to some common questions people ask, while adding in some humor at the same time.

While the story didn't seem incomplete, I did desire more character and plot development.  However, for those who like it sweet and simple - this length would be perfect.  There are a list of 12 discussion questions at the end of the book.

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

Thursday, October 15, 2015

The Message 100 Bible Review

The Message is a Bible translation that is meant to be easy to read, using language from our generation.  It is translated by a pastor whose heart is to get people engaged reading the Bible.  I like reading The Message to help me to think about Scriptures in a new way, even though I typically use other versions for study.  The Message 100 is a Bible arranged in 100 readings, each beginning with an introduction of the content.  While the books of the Bible are all present, this version does some re-arranging of the order to aide in understanding.

Why 100 Readings?  Eugene Peterson has grouped the Scriptures into 100 content-related sections.  I like the reflections that he has written to begin each reading because they help to set up the main idea.  But be aware - this is not your typical devotional Bible.  For someone like myself who would have a difficult time reading through the Bible in one year, I definitely would fail doing it within 100 days.  In my opinion, these should not be thought of as "one-a-day" devotions, unless reading 17 pages of small print per day is something you have time to do!  Instead, I would suggest setting a comfortable pace for YOU, and then just enjoying the added reflections from the pastor when they appear.

This is not a Bible to be used for in-depth study.  There are no maps, footnotes, concordances, or indexes (other than where to locate the 100 readings and books of the Bible).  This is a version for reading and reflecting.  If you want to hear the Scriptures in a fresh, engaging way, I recommend The Message.

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

Sunday, October 11, 2015

It's Good to Be Queen by Liz Curtis Higgs

Who was the queen of Sheba and is there anything to learn from her?  That was the question that led me to pick up this book.  I had read the few verses about Sheba's visit to King Solomon in the Bible, but honestly had never given her much thought.  Liz Curtis Higgs has researched what Scripture and historical documents have to say about this queen, and then throws in some personal insight and application.

Here's what I liked: Liz stuck to the truth.  Even though I have never seen them, there are various films and stories about the queen of Sheba that are based on legend, not fact.  This book sticks to what we know to be true, using various translations of Scripture.  The passage is broken down phrase by phrase to add in historical context and personal application.  Going this slowly through a passage of Scripture really helps me to focus and think through the message that God was trying to convey.  It also helps me to remember the story long after the book has been completed!  There are two types of discussion questions at the end of the book: one set of 10 questions for book clubs who are discussing in only one meeting, and other more in-depth questions for each chapter for those who are meeting in multiple sessions.

Here's what I would've left out: All the quotes from blog readers.  Sometimes Liz posts questions on her blog to get ideas and opinions from her audience.  There are several times in the book that these quotes are shared.  I think that's great for a discussion board on a website, but not to be included in the book.  That is just my opinion....I'm more of a "let's get to the point" kind of person :)

I enjoyed learning more about the queen of Sheba and her interaction with King Solomon.  Here's my take-away.  "The queen of Sheba finished exceedingly well: she found the wisdom of God and shared it with her people.  Of all her many fine qualities, that's what makes her a worthy mentor, for our generation and for every generation."

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