Monday, October 24, 2016

Review: Women in the Church

Phew! With quite a bit of effort and time (several months), I finally managed to get all the way through "Women in the Church," a collection of academic essays meant to defend the complementarian position, especially in regards to that controversial passage in 1 Timothy 2. I consider myself an average intellectual capable of reading more academic material, but the essays here are mostly written for those who will have a strong understanding of grammar and the Greek language. Certain chapters were extra difficult to get through because of a regular use of Greek words that I had no ability to even guess how to pronounce. There were some good points here - and bits and pieces were more readable, especially an interesting roundtable discussion at the conclusion of the book. I am sorry to have to give the book such a low rating (2/5 stars) when I do feel that overall these essays helped my own understanding of a biblical position on womanhood, but I nearly gave up reading the book multiple times, and I feel most readers will not have the patience to finish. Chapters examined specific words in 1 Timothy and how they were used throughout history, the culture of the time 1 Timothy was written, and various egalitarian positions. There is a lot to take in here. If you're willing to wade through deep and complicated waters, give the book a try.

*I received this book from Crossway. All opinions are my own.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Review: The Berenstain Bears' Book of Prayers

"The Berenstain Bears' Book of Prayers" contains "nearly 50" rhyming prayers for your child's daily routines. It will be up to you to help your child place these easy to remember, easy to recite prayers in their appropriate situations. The board book can be ready like a storybook, but isn't really written that way. It contains prayers for the morning, God's creation, joyful praise, thanks, friendship, bravery, mealtimes, unpleasant emotions, forgiveness, comfort, bedtime and more. This is a great way to teach your young one to pray all day in every situation and to include God in every moment.

*I received this book from Worthy Publishing. All opinions are my own.

Review: God Made the Sun and God Made the Moon

"God Made the Sun" and "God Made the Moon" are adorable, well-illustrated die-cut stories for the little ones, quick and easy to read. Although not all the rhymes are all that creative or rhyme well, these are simple stories that begin and end with God's blessings. As you read through with your child, he or she will see a peer go through a day (or evening) of fun and adventure. You can help your child understand that even in these daily routines, God's light shines down. In fact, both cardboard books begin with the same little ditty: "God made the moon/sun to smile down on earth, and fill the dark with light (it shines to light our way). The moon/sun reminds us of the love God sends to us each night/day. The moon story features a little girl, while the sun story features a little boy. The moon story also includes a few more pages with specific spiritual themes - the little girl praying, a comment that God watches from above. Both books include cutouts on each page of a sun or moon that makes the books more interactive and fun.

*I received these books from Worthy Publishing. All opinions are my own.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Bible Review: NKJV Word Study

I received the digital version of this Bible from the publisher (all views are my own). The digital layout was necessary, but frustrating. Links to word descriptions at the back of the chapter were difficult to use and inconvenient. There wasn't much to study here beyond the word descriptions, which were informative, but direct and obvious - not very revealing or interesting. The book introductions were also very short. They include a list of words to watch out for, but do not give much in the way of summaries for ideas found in those words. There's also an excessive amount of underlining for words that have "word studies" in other books of the Bible. I give this edition three stars because one, it's the Bible and you can't go wrong with the Bible, and two, maybe, just maybe, you'll find the word studies beneficial. In fact, the digital version may be easier to use than the print version.

Fiction Review: Tangled Webs by Irene Hannon

With just a few books, I have become a great fan of Irene Hannon's suspense work. Hannon's perspective and writing style are unique. She always includes the antagonist's point of view, and she always builds up to an exciting, edge-of-your seat finale. I was slightly disappointed by "Tangled Webs," though.

This installment - the final and third of the "Men of Valor" series - has a slower pace and less interesting climax - albeit just as dangerous. Hannon's particular habits that I find disagreeable were also still there: Introducing a new point of view late in the book and nearly instant attraction between the romantic leads. Still, having read the two previous installments in the series, I enjoyed learning what happens with the third brother.

The "tangled webs," themselves," were interesting enough. Dana is recovering from a hostage incident in New York while Finn recovers from his army trauma. A drug producer wants the two off of the land he uses and finds a way to blackmail the local police chief to help him. There is not quite as much character development here as in Hannon's other books. I would have enjoyed having more than a chapter or two to look at the drug maker's motivations. The police chief's character is probably the most realistic and relatable of all the people who appear in the book. The novel is also lacking in spiritual themes or insights.

So - it's not Hannon's best, but fans of Hannon's previous work and anyone out for a simple romantic suspense novel without much depth will enjoy "Tangled Webs."

*I received this book from Revell. All opinions are my own.

Devotional Review: Earth Psalms by Francine Rivers

I am not normally one to enjoy or get anything out of a devotion book, but I connected with "Earth Psalms" by Francine Rivers. It wasn't necessarily because of the subject matter - some of the allegories and lessons drawn from nature were stretched - but the beautiful photos, quick hymnal and Scriptural quotes, and specific lessons drew me in. Each lesson seemed to connect with a previous lesson - there are 52 total - encouraging me to rely on God's faithfulness and to live my life accordingly. I found simple, but profound truths in each entry. I find myself wanting to return and read through the book again now that I've finished it. The book is written to be a weekly devotional, but works just as well, if not better, as a daily devotional.

*Disclaimer: I received this book from Tyndale. All opinions are my own.

Fiction Review: Open

I love David Gregory's choice to make a coffee-table, short story novel. I'm sure the simplicity of his writing style and his direct aim to connect the Bible with modern-day dilemmas will attract beginners in the Christian faith. Personally, however, I found his writing a bit too simple and his story a bit lacking in depth. Connecting Emma's breakup with Scripture seemed like a bit of a stretch, and her own ignorance of the Bible was realistic but bothersome. I longed for thought-provoking conversation and insight, but instead, when Jesus invites Emma to witness the events of the Gospels, the reader gets what he or she has read before in the Bible. All this is not to say I dismiss the book entirely. I enjoy the concept, and there are a few moments to connect with, but I do not care much for Gregory's non-descriptive writing and think the story is more written for the inquiring mind than the more mature (but still growing) believer.

*Disclaimer: I received this book from Tyndale. All opinions are my own.

Review: Pop Manga Coloring Book

As you can probably tell from the cover image, "Pop Manga Coloring Book" contains beautiful, surreal sketches of manga girls, the majority of them wrapped up in nature in one way or form (tentacles, animal friends, fantastical hats, etc), and a few of them having rather soulful, sometimes creepy eyes. The large coloring book has a nice, flat lay to it. The pages have a good thickness for coloring (although they're so detailed, pencils may be more appropriate than markers - prepare to spend a lot of detailed work and time one these drawings). Personally, I did not care for the addition of a small creature that pops up frequently with tips. The creature got in the way of some of the drawings, and the tips spoke to me like I was a child who didn't know red from green, pencil from pen. I'll admit, though, that the idea was cute and very fitting for manga.

*I received this book from BloggingforBooks. All opinions are my own.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Review: NIV Holy Bible for Girls Journal Edition

The NIV Holy Bible for Girls Journal Edition has a fun, hard cover that mimics the look of a journal, complete with elastic wrap. The pages are about the usual thickness, the text is small, but easy to read, and the book itself has a nice flat lay to it. The Bible includes lines on the edge of each page for notes, but depending on how many notes you take, you may have to write very small to fit in your thoughts. There is no commentary or additional notes to go off of for your study, either (if there were, the book would be much larger than its easy to handle size). I found that this is a good Bible to take with me to Bible studies or to take notes in as I read other Bibles with larger commentary. It gives me the opportunity to have all the points that stand out to me in other books and Bibles in one place.

*I received this book from BookLookBloggers. All opinions are my own.

Fiction Review: When Love Arrives by Johnnie Alexander

Dani accidentally gets caught spying on Brett. She hopes to find a way to embarrass him after he spoke ill of her mother's pilot career in an interview. But can she maintain bitterness when he asks her on a date? Johnnie Alexander provides an relaxing read in "When Love Arrives," but not without a few flaws.

Dani's motivations felt unrealistic. Perhaps it might have been more believable if her mother had committed suicide after the plane crash or if she had made more of a connection between her step-father's mistreatment and the crash. Dani's emotional response to her father's harsh words and actions is more interesting, but is treated almost entirely separate from her motivations for revenge and plays a very small role in her character growth. I did, however, relate to the character's insecurity.

Brett's character arc is also worth the read. Readers don't really get a solid conclusion on one plot point, but Brett's desire to be a better man and take responsibility for his child (outside of wedlock) is inspiring. Other character names can get a little confusing, but their stories are moving and made me want to read the first book in the series. This book stand well on its own, but I liked it enough to want to find out what happens next, especially in a subplot romance.

*I received this book from Revell Publishers. All opinions are my own.

Nonfiction Review: Christ in the Sabbath

What is the Sabbath? Does it mean "to cease"? Or is it meant to reflect a life lived under God's blessing? Rich Robinson lays out basic principles behind the Sabbath that most anyone can agree on: The Sabbath is a day to remember and sanctify. The Sabbath is a communal and humanitarian day.

In his book "Christ in the Sabbath," Robinson gives an overview history of the Sabbath - first as a blessing guarded by refrain from work, developed into a regular time in which the land itself rests for a year, brought into the New Testament period in which various sects had differing views on what was allowed or not allowed, and "completed" in Jesus Christ's own jubilee ministry. The book also includes a few chapters on relevant New Testament passages, focusing on what Jesus and Paul said about the Sabbath. According to Robinson, Jesus invites the weary to himself and fulfills all the kinds of rest of which the Old Testament speaks. Where God is, we find rest.

Other topics include the Sabbath among modern Jewish practices, the development of Sabbath practices within the Christian church, and modern arguments for and against Sunday worship. Robinson's points on how Christians began to worship on Sundays were particularly insightful.

Of course, with so much to cover in one book, there is much that is not covered. The book felt more like an overview of the Sabbath, rather than specifically of Christ in the Sabbath. I was disappointed that groups like the Seventh Day Adventists were not explored in more detail. The chapter with modern viewpoints was short and quick. The final chapter with suggestions for how to apply the Sabbath to our own lives also seemed somewhat contrived. But Robinson's own Jewish background added a nice personal touch, and anyone interested in a history of the Sabbath will get a lot out of this book.

*Disclaimer: I received this book from Moody Publishers. All views are my own.

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Devotional Review: The Bard and the Bible

Now here is a devotional I can enjoy! Bob Hostetler pairs short Shakespeare quotes with Scripture verses and fun facts. The one-page devotions themselves are interesting to read, even though some pairs seem a stretch. Also, the devotionals are organized by each work of Shakespeare, rather than by topic. Perhaps I would have found more depth in my daily devotions if they had been organized by topic to reinforce what I had read previously.

*Disclaimer: I received this book for free in exchange for my honest review.
Astronomer David Bradstreet does a wonderful job of laying out the universe in clear language. But although his aim is true and straight - to reconcile science with religion - his book "Star Struck" is more of a very basic history and explanation of the "wonders of creation" than a specified list of ways those wonders line up with the Bible. That's not a bad thing. It's all fascinating information. But very little of it will actually help me defend my faith.

A bit disorganized in its chapter order, "Star Struck" covers:

- Ancient cosmology,
- The "goldilocks" location of Earth and its place in the universe,
- An overview of the planets of our galaxy, with a chapter focusing on the Sun and the Moon, and another chapter on Mars (and Martians),
- A history of the Telescope revolution, Galileo and the Catholic church,
- The age of earth (Bradstreet believes in an old-earth),
- Asteroids, stars, and dark stuff,
- Aliens and life on other planets,
- The future of space travel,
- How galaxies are formed and how far they are from the Earth,
- The Big Bang Theory,
- And end of the world scenarios.

The few Faith applications include:

- Scientists like Galileo and a Catholic priest, who discovered the orbit of the earth around the Sun and the expansion of the Universe from a Big Bang,
- A brief consideration of Atheism and Deism,
- A few chapters on God as creator and sustainer,
- The encouragement to separate Biblical prophecy from Astronomy, with a mention of a few possible real-world scenarios that could fit end-time prophecies,
- A chapter on God's calling for Christians to consider both science and religion,
- The theory that the dust mentioned in Genesis (which man is mad from) could be star stuff,
- And binary star systems as another example of how God uses community and complementarity.

Overall, "Star Struck" will give Christian readers a greater appreciation for God as creator. The book is a quick and easy read, which features multiple photos and illustrations, including some color inserts.

*Disclaimer: I received this book for free in exchange for my honest review.