Friday, November 21, 2014

Miriam's Secret, by Jerry Eicher

First of all I would like to thank Harvest House for allowing me to have an advance copy of this book to review. I appreciate their gift to me.

I have read lots of Amish Romance Novels and they all start to blend together after a while, but usually they are a fun read and a wholesome read, nothing too forward in them. So, with Jerry Eicher I was wondering what new twist he might put on an Amish novel. Well, he found a good one and I think that it comes from his having lived in the Amish community as a child. He understands their thoughts and ways and he found a subject that would weave Biblical truths as well as moral values together to help us understand a young woman's desire to serve others, follow God and not succumb to temptation.

The writing is well done and very captivating. I look forward to seeing the final product in print as then I will be able to see the discussion questions that are inserted at the end to help book clubs work through the story and the values that are expounded within.


Miriam Yoder is a fine young Amish woman who has a heart to serve others. She is also the oldest daughter in a family of 10 children, a poor family at that. Her father has a limp that makes working the farm hard, not impossible, but hard. As such he has never made a lot of money, the family lives on a very tight budget. Because of this Miriam feels that she needs to work outside the home. She finds a job doing housekeeping and care giving to an older English gentlemen, Mr. Bland. He has a large farm in their community and is very well taken care of financially.

He offers Miriam the job with a modest salary. As time goes on he gives her raises that are very nice and provides income for her family. She grows to care deeply for Mr. Bland and he cares for her as well. He and his wife never had children and his wife has passed, so all he has left is his sister Rose.

When Mr. Bland dies unexpectedly it is a blow to Miriam, not just because of the loss of a job, but because of a loss of a close friendship. He had come to think of Mr. Bland as a second father to her. His sister Rose is grateful for all she has done for her brother. He tells Miriam that he cared deeply for her and the service she provided was far above what they had hoped for.

Rose picks her up for the funeral. On the way there she tells Miriam that her brother has mentioned Miriam in his will. As such after the funeral Rose and Miriam have an appointment with Mr. Blands attorney. It turns out that Mr. Bland left Miriam his farm and all the land as well as a sum of money to maintain it hopefully forever.

But there is also a second item, he has left her two million dollars in cash. Miriam says she can't take it and it should go to Rose. But she is told that Rose was taken care of by her brother as he provided her with 1/3rd of his entire estate, what Miriam received was equivalent to another 1/3rd and a final 1/3rd was given to charity.

Well to say that this changes Miriam's life and future is an understatement. What is an Amish woman to do with such a gift? Who does she tell? Will the money corrupt her? Will men seek her hand in marriage because of the fortune? What was God thinking?

This makes for a great story. I won't give anymore away, but it will be a test of faith and character for Miriam that will encourage your heart as you see her resolve to deal honorably with the gift.


Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Every Valley; Advent with the Scriptures of Handel's Messiah

What a great devotional book to read through during the Advent Season. Jessica Kelley has edited this short compilation of devotions that are written in direct relationship to Handel's Messiah. Most of us hear Handel's Messiah (or more appropriately at least the Hallelujah Chorus) during the Easter season at our churches or by local symphonies and choral groups. We associate the material thus with Easter and rightly so as it brings us to the resurrection of Christ.

But the work really gives us a full picture of the birth, life, death and resurrection, it starts out with the task of viewing scriptures of the Old Testament that dealt with the prophecy of the Messiah coming to the rescue of the nation of Israel. This was God's promise to His people. So, as you will find as you work through the 40 devotional thoughts they have a great text for understanding the birth of Christ as well as the death, burial and resurrection of Christ.

The 40 devotions are meant to be read, one daily, during the advent season. They will address Handel's work from beginning to end. I would suggest that you get a copy of Handel's work and have it at hand to read through along with the devotional. You will be certain to find new inspiration and faith in the work as you process through this devotional.

As stated in the Forward of the devotional one of the contributors was astounded to discover that 75% of the text of Handel's Messiah comes from the Scriptures of the Prophets and the Psalms in the Old Testament. Thus with every movement of the work you are confronted with the truths of Scripture in a moving, artistic way through music and words that is phenomenal.

Our culture has taken the Christmas season to a height of consumerism that is unparalleled at any time in the history of the world. From the sales of Black Friday to the stocking of Christmas decorations in stores even before November 1st this year, we have seen that Christmas is a barometer of how our economy is doing. Really, is that what we want Christmas to be know for?

In the early days of Israel they were being overrun by the god's of the cultures surrounding them. They were being assaulted by one god after another that was trying to show them that their God was weak and unfavorable. How much more is that true today. Our gods of consumerism, tolerance, justice, love for everyone and a cheap grace that says everyone gets to heaven have so diluted what we believe of God and Jesus Christ that we lose sight of our true faith and worship of the Creator and Designer of this world and of us.

Take a deep breath this season and start each day of the advent season by reading a short devotional on the work of Handel's Messiah and be awed for either the first time or for the 100th time by the insights that Handel brings together from scripture to paint for us word and musical pictures of the One True God and His desire to restore our relationship with Him.


Sunday, November 16, 2014

Who is Jesus, by Greg Gilbert - a Nine Marks Series book

First of all I would like to thank Crossway Publishing for allowing me to have an advance copy of this book for the purpose of a review. I would suggest that you go out to Amazon or CBD or wherever you buy books and Pre-Order yourself a copy of this title. I plan to purchase a case of them to have on hand to use as giveaways to people who I want to share Christ with.

In this short booklet we get a good treatment of the topic, “Who Is Jesus.” Greg Gilbert lays out a very clear and comprehensive discussion on the topic, it is geared towards those who have yet to decide who Jesus really is.

As he begins the book he asks the question, “Now of course you may not accept what Jesus says. You may reject it outright. But think about it: Wouldn’t it make sense not to do that too quickly? Wouldn’t it make sense to get to know this man a bit before you completely toss off what he says about you? Let me be bold and make a request, since you’ve been so kind to pick up this book and start reading it: Give Jesus a chance. It may be that as you learn more about him, you’ll realize that there are actually some very good reasons for believing what he said—about himself, about God, and about you.”

With that request made Gilbert then moves into a dialogue about Jesus and his teachings, his miracles, his actions and eventually his death on a Roman Cross. The outline for his work is very well thought out and very well articulated. He does not bludgeon you over the head with scripture, instead he gently lays out his argument for who he believes Jesus is.

This little booklet will become a great tool for all to have in their possession who want to share about Jesus with skeptic’s, non-believers, agnostics, atheists, etc. The only request that Gilbert makes is to give him a chance to lay out the case for Jesus and then they can make their own conclusion about Who Jesus Is.

There was an earlier book that did much to help people come to Christ, that was Lee Strobel’s book, “The Case for Christ.” That book is wonderful and a great tool as well. It is quite a bit longer than Gilbert’s book. So, the difference will be this, will your friend read a shorter treaty on Christ and be willing to dialogue about it? If so, use Gilbert’s book. Then after that move on to Strobel’s book as the second discussion starter with your friend.

I believe that Gilbert’s book will become a primer for many non-believers to come to address their decision about whether they believe Jesus is who he said he was or not. The Nine Marks Series of books are wonderful, but this newest one might be the best yet.

Monday, November 10, 2014

America, Turning a Nation to God, by Tony Evans

First of all I would like to thank Moody Press for letting me read an advance copy of this wonderful book. Tony Evans is calling our nation back to God. He gives us a clear prophetic message that if we don't return to God we will face terrible times that will eventually destroy our country as we know it. He goes through scripture in a way of detail that shows us how Israel kept turning away from God and thus they were constantly being overrun by others, degraded by the culture around them, influenced by other god's, other idols, other sins that lead only to their destruction.

He uses scripture to paint a very clear picture for us that we need to turn back to God and thus renew our commitment of faith and servanthood to our Lord and Savior. Then and only then will we be able to find that our country gets back on a proper footing.

We just ended the mid-term elections. It was evident that there is a frustration on the part of the American people with how things are going. The democrats lost the Congress and the Senate. So, now we have a democratic President but a republican run government. How will this work? Well, it probably won't. But it shows that the American people are frustrated with how things are going. But their frustration is born from selfishness, not from a sense of doing what God wants us to do. We want what we want for our own personal benefit and growth.

But God wants us to turn back to Him and follow His lead. But in our culture today we have lost the ability to quiet and know that He is God. We can't seem to hear Him because of the volume of noise from our iPads, iPhones, Galaxy tablets, other smart devices and electronic versions of the Bible that make it easier to find the book the preacher is talking about. What happened to old fashion sword drills when we knew our Bibles and how to find the verses that we needed to direct us through life?

God is calling us back to Himself. Tony Evans gives us a clear and concise text that tells us why that is important. Unfortunately I am concerned, as is Evans, that America won't turn back to God but will continue down the path of it's own destruction seeking it's own idols of independence, financial security, military might and pleasurable activities that will entertain us. God will surely not belabor His judgement forever. We are right on the edge of falling over the cliff into total sinful death.

Please read this book with an open heart and mind and then spend time with your Lord and Savior asking for forgiveness and for clear direction on how God wants you to proceed.

This book comes out on January 1, 2015, pre-order a copy from Amazon, iBooks, Barnes & Noble or whatever book seller you use.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

The Global War on Christians, by John Allen

Living in the Western World Culture most of my readers will have never felt religious persecution. Sure you may have people who think you are crazy for believing in God, or they might be a bit antagonistic if you talk about religion, but they aren't going to pull out a gun and shoot you or grab a sword and chop off your head because of your beliefs.

But that is not true through much of the world. Religious persecution is still alive and well in most of the world. Christians are dying regularly at the hands of people who hate their religion and hate their God. While we as Christians are being asked to be tolerant with other religions they are not being tolerant at all with us.

John Allen's book will detail the problem, detail the myths that have been propagated and share his view as a journalist as to what is going on. He will not just focus on one nation and one set of abuses. He will give details and accounts from many nations, from many continents and from many different types of persecution. This book will inform and educate you on what is happening in our world today.

We in the West need to wake up and understand that persecution is happening and it is not going to be long before it may show up on our shores.

With all the news about ISIS and what is happening in the Middle East we should be concerned. This book will give you an unbiased journalists view of the threat and the violence. Please read prayerfully and ask the Lord what He would like you to do about this issue.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Proof, Finding Freedom in the Intoxicating Joy of irresistible Grace, by Daniel Montgomery

Proof takes on the task of being a modern day primer for the doctrinal position of God's Grace. It using the acronym of Proof to lay out the design of the topic. The acronym is:

Planned Grace
Resurrecting Grace
Outrageous Grace
Overcoming Grace
Forever Grace

If you have not studied this topic before this is the book for you. Also through reading this book you will come to understand more of a "Proof" for God and His existence than you maybe intended by picking up this volume.

The author's do a great job of laying out the topic, developing each section on Grace and then driving home the truth's and providing you with the opportunity to decide how you will now live your life based on understand the Grace of God.

You will be able to draw many principles that you then can turn into action points, into applications for your life. You will be comforted by the Grace of God and His Mercy as well.

This is a great little book that all Christians will find highly encouraging.


Friday, October 31, 2014

Love: the sinner and the seeker, by Christina Stevens

A very captivating read. Mother Teresa had an encounter with God, fell in love with God and then set out to serve Him with her whole life. She captures the essence of serving God with your entire, heart, soul, mind and strength. She also gives us a very real working story that plays out the Parable of the Good Samaritan over and over and over again. How could one small woman bring such a monumental change to our world? Well, it was through living out the love of God in all that she did.

Mother Teresa truly embodied Philippians 2:3-4, "Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others." Her work with the poor and indignant really shows your love of God. She is truly one person who demonstrates through her life what she truly believes in her heart about God.

The book is one that you will enjoy. I believe that it could have used a bit more editing as there are sections that seem to need to be cleaned up and trimmed a bit. But it will not annoy you too much. What might annoy you more is the fact that the author seems to be on a quest to discover what the root of Mother Teresa's convictions are. But she seems to not fully get it at times. Mother Teresa has a love relationship with God. The author seems to have a more inclusive relationship that holds on to God as well as other things she considers spiritual but that don't seem to conform with scripture.

But with that said the book will keep you interested. You will learn, you will understand and you will catch a glimpse of what Love truly is.