A Spectacle of Glory by Joni Eareckson Tada – Truth to Strengthen our heart, mind, soul and spirit

It’s been my privilege to read Joni Eareckson Tada’s books and devotionals over the years.  That’s why I was grateful for the opportunity to read her latest devotional, A Spectacle of Glory – God’s Light Shining Through Me Every Day, which she co-authored with Larry Libby.

Joni is a mature Christian and her continued growth and love for the Lord and Scripture comes shining through this devotional, A Spectacle of Glory.  This year, will be 50 years since Joni’s tragic accident that left her as a quadriplegic.  Joni’s life has not been easy and her witness and testimony have a weight of credibility other’s may not have.

In A Spectacle of Glory, Joni focuses on a Scripture verse or two each day.  She includes stories from her own life where she’s seen God at work.  With openness and transparency, she relates to the reader as she confesses her struggles, which may be similar to our own.  She closes each day with a prayer and aligns her heart and mind on the truth from Scripture.

Joni always come back to the Bible which is the believer’s plumb line.  She takes the Scriptures and uses them as a mirror to reflect what’s going on in our heart.  Shining the light of God’s Word has a way of driving out the darkness.

I highly recommend Joni Eareckson Tada new devotional, A Spectacle of Glory, written with Larry Libby.  It’s a great way to start or end your day.

I would like to thank BookLook and Zondervan for the opportunity to read A Spectacle of Glory.  I was under no obligation to give a favorable review.

 

The Candidate by Lis Wiehl – A Mixed Bag

the-candidate_240_360_book-2043-cover

Since I like books with mystery and intrigue, I decided to read author Lis Wiehl’s new book The Candidate – A Newsmakers Novel written with Sebastian Stuart. I’ve watched Lis on Fox News and like her keen legal analysis and hoped that would translate into a good book. Unfortunately, I found The Candidate to be a mixed bag.

What’s good? I found the plotline intriguing. Is top Presidential candidate, Mike Ortiz, as good as he seems at first glance? Or will Erica discover there is something nefarious going on behind the scenes when she takes a closer look? Coming on the heels of a very contentious election cycle this should be a very interesting book.

The story is action packed and the main character, Erica Sparks, is somewhat interesting. Her background is revealed during the course of the story but there was not a lot of depth to this character. I liked her fiancé Greg, while not perfect, he showed himself to be there for Erica in the end. But overall I found the characters were not well developed. What the reader learns about the characters is very surface level details, some action of course, but there seemed to be an obsession with physical appearance. In fact, it was almost to the point of distraction.

What’s not so good? The story was predictable. After the first big event in the book, I found myself guessing what the next plot development would be throughout the book.

While somewhat veiled, there were some rather sick sexual relationships in this book that cross the line in a book released by a Christian publisher. While not described in detail, enough is said that makes it clear what’s happening. Also, Lis took a swipe at Donald Trump by including a nasty comment from one of the characters about him. It was unnecessary to the story and not value added. My overall impression was Lis tried to be edgy.

If this book had been published by a secular publisher, I would only put a cautionary note about some of the content which may be offensive to people of faith.

I have higher expectations from Thomas Nelson Publishers. On their website, this publisher is self-described as, “Thomas Nelson is a world leading publisher and provider of Christian content and has been providing readers with quality inspirational product for more than 200 years.”

There was nothing whatsoever Christian about this book. There was nothing about faith. There was one curse word as I recall and I appreciate that there was very little profanity. But some of the content of this book was not fit material from a Christian publisher.

I would like to thank BookLook for the opportunity to read The Candidate by Lis Wiehl. I was under no obligation to give a favorable review.

The Witnesses by Robert Whitlow – A Gifted Storyteller

the-witnesses_225_350_book-1949-cover

I’ve read some of Robert Whitlow’s previous books and was thrilled at the opportunity to read his newest release, The Witnesses. While reading this book, I was reminded why Robert Whitlow is one of my favorite authors. This man is a gifted storyteller and he knows how to weave a story together with intrigue, mystery and characters you want to get to know better.

The Witnesses tells the story of two generations of the House family. Frank is from Germany, a former Nazi and grandfather to Parker who is an attorney in a small town in North Carolina. Both men have a unique gift that they can use for good or evil. How will Frank reconcile his past participation in unimaginable horrors? Will he ever find rest and peace for his soul? Parker’s career is just beginning, he’s the new man on the totem and working long hours. How long will he have to wait to sink his teeth into some weighty cases and prove himself as an attorney?

As the storyline develops, Robert slowly unveils the characters, layer by layer. He has keen, thought provoking and honest insights into people and their circumstances. His characters are very relatable. I especially liked the relationships: between Frank and Parker and their love and respect for one another, the friendship between Frank and his longtime friend Lenny and the instantaneous bond between Layla and Frank. As a Christian, I appreciate how Robert weaves the Christian faith into his character’s lives. He did a great job in presenting the Gospel message and showing the Christian faith lived out in everyday life. I would never have guessed that I would like a story that involves a former Nazi, much less like the character; but I did.

This book is well written, with interesting characters that will draw you in. I found myself thinking about the characters when I wasn’t reading, they kind of come alive. One thing I love about a book is when a character perfectly expresses what you’ve been feeling, but didn’t quite know how to put into words.

I highly recommend The Witnesses by Robert Whitlow, a tale of two men who have a unique gift of seeing what will happen in the future. One man is looking back on a life with some very ugly sins he can’t seem to get away from and the other just starting his career. Will he put his career over and above love? To find out what happens in the lives of these men you will want to read The Witnesses by Robert Whitlow.

I would like to thank BookLook and Thomas Nelson Publishers for providing me a free copy The Witnesses by Robert Whitlow. I was under no obligation to give a favorable review.

The Daniel Prayer by Anne Graham Lotz – Context, Context, Context

_240_360_Book.1938.cover

Desiring to learn what the Bible teaches us about prayer, I selected Anne Graham Lotz’ newest book The Daniel Prayer.  Unfortunately, after reading this book, I cannot recommend it because it’s off base theologically.

One of the first things Anne should have noted was the importance of not taking Scripture out of context.  But it wasn’t until page 181 that she notes the “danger of taking God’s Word out of context and manipulating it so that it seems to speak personally and specifically.”  But at this point in the book, she has already taken Scripture out of context and read into it and misapplied it many times, rather than reading what it says in context.

One of the phrases Anne uses throughout this is “prayer which moves Heaven.”  She uses it a lot.  It seemed like she was substituting Heaven for God the Father.  Heaven isn’t moved, but God may be moved by our prayers.

Many times in this book Anne does eisegesis; she reads into the Scripture based on her own thoughts and ideas as opposed to exegesis interpreting the Scripture based on what it says in context.

Page 49 – “God reassured me from 1 John 2:27 that I had received an anointing from Him, so I was not to worry.”

Page 54 – “Noah claimed God’s promise of salvation by doing everything exactly as God said.”  Noah believed and obeyed God.

Page 58 – Anne tells about her daughter Rachel-Ruth calling her about the 276 Nigerian girls who had been kidnapped by Boko Haram.  She found it significant that in Acts 27:37, the number of people on board Paul’s ship was 276.  “And we will pray until all 276 are safely home, either with their parents in Nigeria, or with their Heavenly Father.”  Feeling prompted to pray by a Scripture verse is fine, but taking that verse out of context is not good.

Page 61 – Talking about 2 Chronicle 7:13-15, “If a promise could be worn out from use, this one might be tattered beyond recognition.  But promises cannot be worn out.  They are just as valid today as when they were first issued.”  This verse pertains to the nation of Israel, not the United States of America.  It is good when a believer humbles themselves and repents and but it’s not good to take a verse context and misapply it.

Page 70 – Anne speculates about the time when Jesus took three of his disciples, Peter, James and John, and was transfigured in their presence.  “The lesson God drove home to me was this:  Had Jesus invited all twelve of His disciples to draw aside with Him for a time of private prayer?  Did only three of them accept His invitation?  Did the other nine give excuses…?”  Anne is reading into to Scripture.  None of the Gospels indicate that Jesus invited all twelve of the disciples.

Page 88 – Anne talks about the time she was speaking to the United Nations General Assembly and presented the Gospel as the only way to have genuine, permanent world peace.”  The Gospel message is not a way to achieve world peace.  The Gospel message is for individuals, calling for sinners to repent of their sins, believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and His atoning death on the cross which paid the penalty in full for their sins so that they could be forgiven.  The Gospel message is for sinners to have peace with God the Father through Jesus Christ the Son.

Page 110 – “Ask Him (God) to give you experiences, as He did Daniel, that will help to build your confidence in Him.”  Is that scriptural?  Or should we instead read God’s Word and believe it and take God as His Word?

Page 125 – Anne references a book by Charles Finney and talks about preparing your heart for revival.  She encourages believers to examine themselves for sin and shares a list of areas to look at from Finney’s book.  Isn’t looking at our sin and repenting a good thing?  Yes it can be, yet Charles Finney was not the most sound theologically.  He denied our moral depravity and sin nature.  He also denied God’s sovereignty in salvation.  His influence is seen today in the seeker-sensitive movement.

There were a couple (page 155 and 160) of times that Anne used Scripture verses and called them prayer, when in fact they were people talking to a Person who was there with them (the Lord Jesus Christ or an Old Testament appearance of the Lord).

Extra-biblical reference – On page 170, Ann shares from Jewish history about Honi who prayed for rain during a severe drought in Jerusalem.  This prayer is not scriptural and it certainly does not seem humble, but instead is commanding the Lord.

On page 253, Anne is encouraging readers to pray The Daniel Payer.  “Could it be that God wants to reassure you…and this book is God’s message to you.  God has heard your prayer.  Heaven has been move and nations are being changed, one person at a time.”  Wow…that is a pretty bold for Anne to speak for God.

There are other examples I could list, but I think you get the picture.  Don’t take Scripture of out context.  Don’t take a promise that God made to an individual or nation and try to make it your own.  You may be encouraged or strengthened in your faith and trust in God based on Scripture, but don’t twist it or take it out of context.

Based on the above examples, and many more that I left out, I do not recommend The Daniel Prayer by Anne Graham Lotz. 

I would like to thank BookLook and Zondervan Publishers for the opportunity to read The Daniel Prayer in exchange for an honest review.  I was under no obligation to give a favorable review.

 

 

Sister Eve and the Blue Nun by Lynne Hinton – Steer Clear, Don’t Waste Your Time or Money

_225_350_Book.1922.cover

I hardly know where to begin my review about Sister Eve and the Blue Nun by author Lynne Hinton.  An alternate title for this book might be Sister Eve the Lying Nun.

This is the second book I’ve ready by Lynne Hinton.  I like mystery and suspense novels, especially by Christian authors that weave their Christian faith into the storyline and characters.  This book does not even come close to that.

My objections?  The first thing that caught my attention was that the main character Sister Eve lied; repeatedly lied throughout the story.  Purposeful and intentionally lying by a nun seemed rather incongruent with a character who is supposed to be a person of faith.  The character doesn’t express any grief or sorrow over her sin.  She doesn’t seem to acknowledge or be aware that lying is bad or that it’s a sin that Christ died for.  Not only does this character lie, she steals, compromises a crime scene and hopes that Father Oliver, the head of the monastery, will remain silent about her senseless and wrong actions.  Secondly, throughout this book Eve makes the stupidest decisions and she lacks common sense.  She needlessly puts herself in danger and refuses to accept help or seek help when she needs it.

For brevity’s sake I’ll wrap up my objections.  Eve, for no explained reason seems to have a serious mistrust of police.  She is prideful and arrogant in thinking she is the be all and end all in solving crimes.  So much so that she not only compromises the crime scene but she steals a key piece of evidence.  What didn’t make a lick of sense is that once she established that someone had been murdered she didn’t have a sense of urgency on calling the police or concern that there may be a murderer lurking about and she may not be safe.  That’s just the beginning for Eve’s stupid decisions.  This book was painful to read.  More than anything Eve was irritating and not someone I want to read about.

Obviously, when I read a book about a nun I know that there may be things from the Catholic faith brought up.  I found the differences between Protestant Christianity and Catholic faith disconcerting.  For example, when Eve was praying to the saints, but not to God.

It seemed as if the author was agenda driven about women and the church.  In this story Eve expresses thoughts that women are oppressed by the church.  Late in the story, another character concurs with her feelings.

There was nothing much of Christian faith shared in this book.  There was a scene that seemed reminiscent of new age philosophy when Eve is injured.  It doesn’t square with Biblical Christianity.

Was there anything likable in this book?  I did like Eve’s dad Captain Jack.  He seemed to care about his daughter and had some common sense.

All in all, I thought this book was bad, really bad.  Theologically, it’s out to lunch.  The main character does things that don’t make any sense.  I was sorely disappointed by this book.

Unfortunately, I can’t recommend this book.  Steer clear, don’t waste your time or money on Sister Eve and the Blue Nun by Lynne Hinton.

I would like to thank BookLook and Thomas Nelson Publishers for the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

 

 

If I Run by Terri Blackstock – Will keep you on the edge of your seat from beginning to end

_240_360_Book.1818.cover

I’m a fan of Terri Blackstock’s writing so I was excited at the opportunity to read her newest mystery If I Run.

This book is much different from her other stories. If I Run is written in the first person narrative from two character’s perspectives, Casey and Dylan.

The story jumps right in to a mystery from the first sentence with Casey leaving the scene of a murder. Over time the reader learns more about who was murdered and why and why in the world Casey is on the run.

Shortly thereafter readers are introduced to Dylan, a friend of the murder victim, who was hired by family to help bring into custody the chief murder suspect Casey.

Why is Casey fleeing the scene? If she’s really innocent why doesn’t she hang around to defend herself? After all, won’t the evidence exonerate her if indeed she is innocent? Does Dylan really want to find the person who murdered his friend? Or is he hunting Casey down just for the money? Will truth prevail or will evil triumph?

To get answers to those questions, you’ll have to read If I Run by Terri Blackstock. This book will keep you on the edge of your seat from beginning to end.

One of the things I appreciate about reading Christian writers is when they incorporate the Christian faith into the characters. Unlike some of her other books the main characters aren’t believers. They’ve had some exposure to Christianity, but they aren’t believers yet.

Both characters, Casey and Dylan were very likable. I’ve got to confess, Casey had me pulling my hair out at times. But I realized that the character reminded me of real life. We can’t control what other people do and the decisions they make and they have their reasons for making them.

I recommend Terri Blackstock’s newest book If I Run. Readers will enjoy Terri’s unveiling the characters and storyline one layer at a time. I forewarn you, you may need to stay up late to finish this book.

I would like to thank BookLook and Zondervan Publishers for the opportunity to read Terri Blackstock’s newest book If I Run in exchange for an honest review. I was under no obligation to give a favorable review.

Parables by John MacArthur – An Excellent Read and Resource

_225_350_Book.1757.cover

Pastor John MacArthur’s latest book is Parables – The Mysteries of God’s Kingdom Revealed Through The Stories Jesus Told. I’m so grateful I had the opportunity to read this book because of the solid Bible teaching it contains.

Before diving into the parables, Pastor MacArthur explains, from Matthew 13, why Jesus started teaching in parables.  He had specific truths He was trying to convey to those who had the ears to hear. It wasn’t to make it easy for the common people to understand what He was teaching. Instead, the symbolism used in the parables was to hide the truth from those who had no desire to know what Christ was saying.

Pastor MacArthur brings clarity and helps the reader understand the truths contained in these stories. Unlike allegories, not everything in a parable has significance, but there is a profound truth to be understood. In this book a parable is defined as, “an ingenious simple word picture illuminating a profound spiritual lesson.”

This book covers select parables in ten chapters, including the parables of the soils/seed, the good Samaritan, and the rich man and Lazarus. Some of the parables are only a sentence or two long, but there’s a meaning that Christ wanted His followers to understand.

In this day and age, it is important for Christians to be wise and discerning and know when a pastor or teacher is accurately teaching God’s Word. This book will help you to be equipped as you study God’s Word for yourself. One of the benefits to the reader is that you will be able to take what you’ve learned and apply it as you study the Bible and read Jesus’ parables and teachings for yourself.

I greatly appreciate Pastor John MacArthur’s high view of God and Scripture. He is thorough in his study and exposition of the Bible. He is insightful and courageous as he speaks the truth about what’s happening in our culture and in today’s churches.

I highly recommend Parables by Pastor John MacArthur. This book is a great resource for anyone who loves to read and study God’s Word and for those who are new to studying the Bible. Whether you are a new Christian or mature, you’ll want to read this book.

I would like to thank BookLook and Thomas Nelson Publishers for the opportunity to read Parables by John MacArthur in exchange for an honest review. I was under no obligation to give a favorable review.