Saturday, July 4, 2015

The Life and Spirituality of John Newton, A compilation of his personal letters

The story of the life of John Newton is definitely one that every Christian should become familiar with. For a great comprehensive book on the life of John Newton I would recommend you read, "John Newton, from Disgrace to Amazing Grace," by Jonathan Aitken.

This book is a collection of John Newton's personal letters that he was asked to write by a friend who thought that people should hear directly from Newton as to what his life had been like. Bruce Hindmarsh gives us a short introduction to the life of Newton and the reason for these letters to have been written in the first place. But then the rest of the book is a collection of Newton's letters.

To read the letters from John Newton is to find yourself investigating the life of a young man that had it extremely difficult yet found that God had a plan for him and that God's plan would not be stopped short. Newton was to come full circle with his life and serve the Lord Jesus Christ as a fine young man and bring the Gospel to hundreds of people.

I was highly encouraged by these letters and trust that you will be as well.

Bedtime Devotions with Jesus, from Thomas Nelson Publishers

A wonderful devotional guide for you to share with your small children. This book is a hard back edition so that it will withstand some use. The format is 52 weeks of devotions, six a week, Monday through Friday with one for the weekend as well. The scripture is taken out of the International Childrens' Bible, by Thomas Nelson Publishers.

According to my wife the pictures are "cute!" I turned to her for the word because I didn't think you would believe me. The pictures are of a teddy bear in different poses on each page. There is a scripture reference and then a very short devotional thought. The devotions are written by a variety of authors.

The print is good size for a very young reader. The stories will take you a couple of minutes at most to read with your toddler or pre-schooler. then you can spend time praying with them.

It is marketed as a Bedtime Devotions book and I think that is a great application for it.

Take a look, I think you will like what you see and read.

Two Roads Home, by Deborah Raney

The second book in the Chicory Inn series will trace the family crisis of another of the children of the family. Jesse and Corinne have the perfect life, at least as far as Corinne is concerned. Jesse has a great job as a Salesman for a major business and makes good enough money that they have been able to build a nice large home in a great neighborhood on a larger than normal plot of land. They have three little girls who are amazing. Corinne doesn't have to work because of the good money that Jesse makes so she is a stay at home mom.

They love the Tuesday night family dinners at the Chicory Inn where everyone gathers together with mom and dad and the siblings and their families. It is a wonderful life and couldn't be better.

But then the bottom falls out. On a business trip Jesse travels with others from work, one of those being Michaela, a young woman who happens to think Jesse is attractive. Michaela takes to flirting with Jesse and he is not smart enough to see the signs (or is it naive enough?). Bottom line when Michaela starts calling him at home on his days off Jesse realizes that there is a problem. He confronts Michaela at work and she in turn threatens to file a sexual harassment case against him with the State. Jesse's employer calls him in to tell him and things get worse.

The story will revolve around the issue with Michaela and Jesse as well as Jesse coming to terms with a thought he has had for a long time that he would like to pursue becoming a teacher. But if he does that it will change the economic status of the family and they will have to change everything.

The story does not have any real mystery to it. It is a nice story about the trials of one family and how they will deal with them. It is a true, down to earth family story. As such there are good lessons for each of us to learn from the story and to put into play in our lives.


Lorie's Heart, by Amy Lillard

Another in the Amish life series about Wells Landing, Oklahoma. As the story starts Lorie Kauffman and her family are grieving the death of her father from an accident. Lorie and her step-mother go to the county coroner’s office to identify the body. That is difficult to do, but the more difficult thing is that Lorie notices that her father has a tattoo! That is not something an Amish man should have.

When she tries to ask her step-mother about it she gets no answer and is told to let it go and not ask again. But the tattoo has an attraction that makes her think that it was gotten in memory of her mother, whom she doesn’t really remember because she was so young when her biological mother died.

So, Lorie sets out on a quest. She takes a look at the items the police return to the family that belonged to her father. In his wallet is a drivers license, another no no in the Amish community. But low and behold the license has a different address and a different name than Kauffman. What does that mean, did he have another family somewhere else?

As Lorie works to unravel the mystery she will discover that he father was an honorable man but one with many secrets. She will meet a grandmother she didn’t know she had. She will meet a nice English boy who will turn her head and make her question whether she should marry the Amish boy, Jonah, that she has been dating forever.

Just when I thought I couldn’t find an Amish novel that would offer a new story line and some new twists this one came along. I was very pleased with the story and how it developed. I enjoyed the mystery as well as the struggles a young Amish woman will have.

The story maybe wraps up a bit too nicely, but what did I expect?

I enjoyed the story and think it would be a good discussion book for a church book club to read.


Friday, June 26, 2015

Fatal Trauma, by Richard Mabry, M.D.

What happens when you are an emergency room doctor whose life's mission is to serve those who are sick and injured but the patient that just came in has a gun totting relative who is threatening to kill everyone if you let his brother die? The first problem is this, the brother is DOA from several gunshots, so how can you save someone who is dead?

That is what Dr. Mark Baker and Nurse Kelly Atkinson faced in the opening scene of this novel. Their solution was interesting but also traumatic for many people. It also sets the stage for the tension throughout the novel. The brothers were part of a drug cartel who will decide that everyone involved in treating the patient and letting him die will also need to die. That puts targets on our two main characters. How will this resolve.

Also, there is a love triangle of sorts, involving Dr. Baker, Nurse Atkinson and another doctor from the hospital. But the question will stand out with, what will happen? Who loves whom and will they get together?

Then add to that the religious aspect of searching happening by Dr. Baker. He accepted Christ at a young age, but he has drifted for years. Nurse Atkinson is not drifting, she has a vibrant faith in God. Others in the story are drifting, lost or walking with Christ. The author takes the theme of salvation, peace in Christ, trust and obedience and weaves them into the story line.

All this to say that the book has lots of good content and things that you can take and talk through with others as you like.

So, why only 4 stars? That's a good question. I guess it's because of all the death, killing and distrust that happens throughout the story. I know that is true human nature, but I guess I just didn't like the drug cartel having the mindset of killing everyone off. I guess I have just gotten to use to the happily ever after scenarios.

This book will definitely have some twists and turns that you won't see coming.


Monday, June 22, 2015

Hand Me Down Husband, by Rosanna Huffman

I enjoyed this novel very much. As a Christian novel I was interested to see how the author would handle the subject of a young woman of 37 years of age who had never been married now being faced with maybe finding the love of her life, but in a man 17 years her senior. That is quite an age difference and even more interesting since Mitchell Sanderson's children would be contemporaries of Suzanne Bloomer. How would they take their fathers interest in a younger woman.

So there are several topics the novel covers that I think are handled very well and they are:

1. How does a single adult survive in a church of married couples with lots of children, where the pastor seems to forget when he preaches that he has single adults as part of the mix?
2. How does a young woman contend with the memories of being bullied by other teenagers because she was a bit outside the realm of the popular group?
3. How does a young woman set behind her the non-loving environment of her home upbringing?
4. What about Christian School Teachers at Private Christian Schools and the paltry salaries they are paid. How does a gifted single adult woman teacher survive on that salary and what about retirement?
5. What about eating disorders? Suzanne is very petite and some would call her skinny, that drives her nuts, does she or does she not have an eating disorder?
6. What about the fact that Christian couples take advantage of a single woman in her thirties when it comes to baby sitting, assuming that the "old maid school teacher" should do it for no pay?
7. What about re-marriage for a man who has lost his wife to cancer? But more than that, what should he do when he is attracted to a woman 17 years his younger?
8. How will grown adult children of Mitch Sanderson deal with their fathers growing attraction to Suzanne Bloomer?

These and many other subjects are really at the heart of the book. Suzanne has always wanted to be married, she has always wanted to have children of her own, but at no time in her life, so far, has the opportunity come about that she could marry.

It hurts her very much that her best friend takes great joy in telling her all about her children and all about her desire to have more and how being pregnant is so great. Then comes mother's day and Suzanne is beat up by the sermon and the desire of others to have her babysit so that husbands can take their wives out to dinner.

I thought the book handle all these situations really well, taught good Biblical lessons and wove a good romantic story into the mix.

I'm sure you will enjoy reading about a rich older farmer who comes into the life of a thirty something (almost 40) old maid teacher who is poorer than dirt.


Friday, June 19, 2015

Exploring Christian Theology, Volume 2

While this is Volume 2 in a three volume set it must be noted that this is the last volume being published. Volumes 1 and 3 have been out for a while. This project was taken on by professor's from Dallas Theological Seminary, thus the views are Protestant Conservative Evangelical. Most pastors will know that for decades the major Systematic Theology work from Dallas Seminary has been Lewis Sperry Chafer's 8 volume work. So, why a new three volume series?

Well, the answer is found in the introduction for the series, the writers are wanting you to Know God and to do that you must Know About Him. So that means that as a Christian layperson or professional you need to study Theology. But the study of Theology can seem like a daunting task for the layperson. Here is what the introduction states as to why this series of texts;
     "Exploring Christian Theology differs from other mini-theologies in that it strives to present a broad consensus, not a condensed systematic model of one evangelical teacher or protestant tradition.......Treat each volume as a simple primer that supplements (not supplants) more detailed treatments of theology--that complements (not competes with) intermediate and advanced works."

So, what we have is an attempt to give a more readable version of a Theological Text for the layperson. This is not meant to take the place of a more systematic approach to theology, as it states it is to supplement and complement other works that your denomination might use.

So, with that in mind I took up the task of reading through Volume two with the understanding that it was not a comprehensive look at the theological topics that it was going to tackle. I also liked what the author's had to say in that, "since this is not a systematic study you can pick and choose the topic you want to read without working through the text from beginning to end." That is good because most laypeople will have certain topics that they want to delve into without having to build upon them from one to the next.

Volume two deals with "The Christian Story in Four Acts:"
     Act I -- Creation
     Act II -- Fall
     Act III -- Redemption
     Act IV -- Restoration

Each of these topics are broken up into bite size studies that the reader can tackle and accomplish fairly easily. I particularly like their style of how they break down the four acts. The breakdown is:
     High - Altitude Survey
     Passages to Master
     Facts to Never Forget
     Dangers to Avoid
     Principles to Put into Practice
     Voices from the Past and Present
They also give you some recommendations for further books and studies you might do from things that have been discussed in their text.

Reading through this text I felt that they did an excellent job of breaking down the theological jargon in a way that a lay person will be able to understand. They have gone to great lengths to make the book readable.

I would highly recommend this material for any person who wants to get to know God better and put that knowledge and relationship into more practical use in their lives.

NOW, for one last bit of advice, for my Evangelical Free Church of America lay people this is a good set of books to read, but you also should purchase a copy of "Evangelical Convictions, A Theological Exposition of the Statement of Faith of the Evangelical Free Church of America." It is the official book to explain the complete Statement of Faith of our denomination. It is also well written and also written in a way that any layperson, pastor or theologian can understand.

Enjoy learning more about God as you read through these books, and don't forget to spend time in your Bible as well.