Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Book "Cast of Characters - Common People in the Hands of an Uncommon God" by Max Lucado

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About the Book: Some of the most powerful stories from the Bible will come alive for today’s readers through these inspiring selections from the writings of Max Lucado. Max provides a compelling look at the most high-impact moments in the biblical narrative, drawn from his previous 20+ years of writing.
At the end of each chapter will be study guide questions so the reader can go deeper into this scripture.
Extraordinary stories are told about the following characters:
Mary, Peter, Matthew, Joseph, Nicodemus, Woman at the Well, David, Esther, Job, The Samaritan Woman, John, Rich Young Man.

About the Author: Lucado was born on January 11, 1955 in San Angelo, Texas, the youngest of four children to Jack and Thelma Lucado. He was raised in Andrews, Texas. His father was an oil field worker, while his mother served as a nurse. Lucado attended Abilene Christian University. Initially he had set himself to become a lawyer, but has said that a required Bible course at the university and a mission trip made him change his mind, deciding instead to become a missionary. However, this required that Lucado get a graduate degree in Bible and have at least two years experience ministering to a church. After graduation Lucado moved to Miami, Florida, to minister to a church. His responsibilities were to minister to a singles' group and write a column for the church's newsletter. Later these short columns were compiled to form his first book, On the Anvil. After two years in Miami, the newly wed Lucado and his wife, Denalyn, moved to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, to become full-time missionaries. In 1987, Lucado's father died from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (Lou Gehrig's disease.) After five years in Brazil, he brought his family back to the United States to be closer to his mother. In 1988 he was hired as minister to the Oak Hills Church of Christ in San Antonio; the congregation has been known simply as Oak Hills Church since 2003. He is father of Jenna, Andrea, and Sara. In a good week he reads a good book, has a few dinners with his wife, and breaks 90 on the golf course. He usually settles for the first two.

My Review: This is another piece of art from Mr. Lucado. In 22 Chapters he describes many bible characters, telling their stories and he does the analogy on theirs and our lives, showing how much God loves us no matter what (23rd Chapter is conclusion).
He selected the following characters: Joseph (Jesus' father); Matthew (Jesus' disciple); immoral woman (who washed Jesus' feet); Mephibosheth (Jonathan's crippled son); Samaritan woman; Mary, Martha and Lazarus; Abigail; paralyzed man (at pool of Bethesda); John (Jesus' disciple); Paul (Saul); two criminals (crucified at the sides of Jesus); Moses; Joseph (son of Jacob/Israel); David; Esther; Job; Nicodemus; Jairus; rich young ruler; Sara, Peter and Paul (again); Lazarus(again); and Peter(again). Through Max's eyes we see that all of them are sinners like us and there is always hope that God will reach each one of us.
At the end of each chapter there is a set of questions. The idea is to use them for discussion and reflection.
This book was written by Max Lucado in 2008 and published by Thomas Nelson and they were kind enough to send me a copy for reviewing through their Thomas Nelson Book Review Bloggers Program. If you are reading this review, feel free to leave a comment with your thoughts.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Book "The Witness" by Josh McDowell

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About the book (editorial review): From Monte Carlo to Morocco to Egypt and into Petra, Marwan Accad is pursued by authorities for murders he did not commit. Tracked by advanced intelligence-surveillance technology, his every location is eventually found out, thrusting those he loves into danger. Nurtured by a bitter past that equipped him with what he needed for his company to thrive, Marwan Accad never looks back. Yet the way forward promises only uncertainty, and living each day is a lie in which corruption and greed play in the lives of man. For whose lie is he going through all of this? Even as Marwan races against time to find his pursuers and their motives, he must grapple with what is beyond his life, with what is eternal.

About the author: Since beginning ministry in 1961, Josh has given more than 24,000 talks to over 10 million young people in 118 countries. He is the author or coauthor of 112 books, selling over 51 million copies worldwide; including More Than a Carpenter, (more than 15 million copies in print worldwide) which has been translated into over 85 languages, and The New Evidence That Demands a Verdict, recognized by World magazine as one of the twentieth century's top 40 books. Josh continues to travel throughout the United States and countries around the world, helping young people and adults bolster their faith and scriptural beliefs. Josh will tell you that his family does not come before his ministry—his family is his ministry. He and his wife, Dottie, have four children and three grandchildren.

My Review: This is a very well-written book with a fast pace plot. It starts in Monte Carlo, where Rafeeq Ramsey has his daughter murder and his wife kidnapped. He hires the service of a security company owned by Marwan Accad and his brother, Ramy Accad. When they start figuring out what is going on, things start to happen. Marwan and his brother thinks the kidnap was fake by Rafeeq's wife and Rafeeq is murdered while in a meeting with Marwan when he was telling Rafeek about his suspicions. Marwan has to escape, trying to save his life, but he turns from primary witness to primary suspect of the murder. He scape to Casablanca where he meet his long term friend Kadeen, a converted to Christian that helps him healing from his wounds (physical and spiritual wounds). But Marwan is afraid that he put his friend and his family in danger and flies to Cairo. When he arrive there, he meets Dalia and fall in love with her. The search for him  increases and he found that his friend Kadeen was murdered and he is also accused of killing his friend. Although against his best judgment, he proposes marriage to Dalia and while they are travelling to spend the weekend together, someone tries to kill him and he has to react and kill two attackers. He has to open his heart to Dalia and tell her the whole truth about himself. After forgiving him, Dalia wants to have the blessing of his family to marry Marwan, so they head to Jordan to meet her family. Dali's father figures out who he really is and after pressing him, he admits his problems and he is converted to Christianity by Dalia's father, who is a Pastor. They travel to visit Petra and while there, a last try to kill Marwan is attempted, but through the intervention of the Monte Carlo inspector and Marwan's brother, things are cleared and the responsible for the real plot is captured.
It is a clean book, easy to read and will maintain your full attention from the very beginning till the last page. If you like Christian mystery books, this one is for you. It took me around 13 hours in total to read this book.
This book was written by Josh McDowell in 2010. It was published by Tyndale Publisher House also in 2010 and they were kind enough to send me a copy for reviewing through their blogger book review program. If you are reading this review, feel free to leave a comment with your thoughts.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Book "Healer" by Linda Windsor

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About the Book: Sixth-century Scotland—in the time of Arthur…. "The Gowrys' seed shall divide your mighty house and bring a peace beyond the ken of your wicked soul." Her mother's dying prophecy to the chieftain Tarlach O'Byrne sentenced Brenna of Gowrys to twenty years of hiding. Twenty years of being hunted—by the O'Byrnes, who fear the prophecy, and by her kinsmen, who expect her to lead them against their oppressors. But Brenna is a trained and gifted healer, not a warrior queen. So she lives alone in the wilderness with only her pet wolf for company. When she rescues a man badly wounded from an ambush, she believes he may be the answer to her deep loneliness. Healing him comes as easy as loving him. But can their love overcome years of bitterness and greed…and bring peace and renewed faith to the shattered kingdom?

About the Author: Linda Windsor is the author of twenty-nine contemporary and historical novels. Her first sixteen were secular historical romance for Zebra/Kensington Publishing, NY as Linda Windsor and Linda Covington. In 1999, she switched to the inspirational market, once she was assured that Christian characters were not only flawed, but did indeed have hormones. Her late husband used to tease that there was a little of Linda in each of her heroines. Windsor contends he must have been referring to her sense of humor, resourcefulness and stubborness. NOT the figure.
Her inspirational historicals have placed in the secular historical category of some RWA contests and Affaire De Coeur polls. Both her inpirational historicals and romantic comedies, dashed with suspense, have won a few National Reader's Choice Awards, Aspen Golds, Barclay Golds, and numerous other RWA contests as well as the CBA Christy Award for the Irish Celtic RIONA, #2 of the Fires of Gleannmara series.
Windsor resides in a "painfully" restored (as in never do that again!) historic home on the Eastern Shore of MD. She still enjoys singing and playing music (keyboard and guitar) after a ten year stint in an 80's professional band. Today she plays the organ in her church and frequently does special music with guitar at church and for various charities.
Then there are home improvements. She can paper, paint, refinish furniture, and renovate, but... Let's suffice it to say, this Red Hat Lady and AARP member doesn't enjoy them as much as she used to.
Windsor is currently contracted for a three book historical trilogy titled Brides of Alba. HEALER, book one, hit the shelves in June,2010.

My Review: This is a very well written, beautiful tale that happens in the time of King Arthur. In Scotland, a fight between family clans (O'Byrne x Gowrys) causes the slain queen (Joanna) of one family (Gowrys) to make a prophecy against the other family that was attacking her. This prophecy involves her daughter Brenna, that has to live 20 years in hiding being hunted by both families, her family wanting her to appear to fulfill the prophecy and the other family wanting to kill her to avoid the prophecy to happen. After finding a stranger that was badly hurt, Brenna uses her skills as a healer to cure the young man and fall in love with him. Later she finds that he is the heir of the O'Byrne family. Can their love be greater than the bitterness sorrounding those families? You have to read to find out!

In general, this is a very easy reading clean book (it took me about 12 hours to read it), very entertaining and with an excellent plot. It is full of Christian messages and biblical citations. If you enjoy an excellent historical christian fiction novel, this book is for you. The author did a remarkable research to compose this book. All references are cited at the end of the book.
This book was written by Kathy Herman in 2010. It was published by David C.Cook also in 2010 and The B&B Media Group was kind enough to send me a copy for reviewing through their blogger book review program. If you are reading this review, feel free to leave a comment with your thoughts.

If you want to know more about the author, visit http://www.lindawindsor.com/.

Publisher information can be found at http://www.davidccook.com/.

My Rate: 5 stars

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Book "To Those Who Suffer" by Sean Nolan

About the Book: We often hold out for God to alleviate our circumstantial suffering or pain. But what about those who suffer and fall between the cracks of conventional Christian teaching? Those that don’t have that luxury to have the horrific circumstance removed or reversed that has caused their hardship? These people aren’t able to hold out hope that the Lord will alleviate their circumstances because their circumstances are not transformable within the rules of life that the Lord has set up. The Lord will not reasonably reattach the legs of a person who has had both of their legs amputated, nor will God bring a women’s husband of fifty years back from the dead: so does this mean that these people have no hope? The answer to this question is there is hope! There is a solution to suffering that doesn’t depend on the transformation or relief of our circumstances. 

“To Those Who Suffer” proves that the Lord’s hope is not primarily found in the relief of our condition but in the actions of Christ on the Cross. The Lord will come through for us even if He doesn’t change our circumstances. This doesn’t mean that there isn’t circumstantial blessing and relief to be had in our lives. It simply means that such things are a secondary solution to our suffering compared to the spiritual solution that our Savior sends to all who seek to understand suffering from His standpoint. 

This truth is best displayed by the actions of Christ at the Cross. If Jesus had the circumstantial pain that He was in immediately alleviated, then the greatest gift and most wonderful thing that the world has ever seen would not have come to pass. The same is true for us. “To Those Who Suffer” helps you to understand that the Lord is not ‘short changing’ you by allowing pain and suffering in your life. The best and most wonderful thing that the Lord brings to pass in the lives of His children is not the protection of their personal pleasure but the process of being conformed into the image of His Son.

In Chapter 10 author Sean Nolan explains that Paul understood that the highest calling and greatest gift God gives to His children is not comfortable circumstances but a Christ-like character. Paul realized that suffering fueled and propelled his relationship with God. Through this he came to understand something more fulfilling and valuable than a pain free existence. Paul learned that his physical pain had produced spiritual prosperity. He may have been suffering in his physical earthly circumstances but he was abounding spiritually. His relationship with the Lord had flourished and he had an abundance of Christ-like characteristics that had been cultivated through the removal of his comfort. 

It is the purpose of this book to help you understand that the Lord takes the same tree and changes its fruit. Instead of suffering giving birth to misery, despondency, anger, hate and pain, the Lord prunes and works in our lives so that we bear different fruit from the same tree or circumstances. Instead of negative bitter fruit, our suffering can yield fruit of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. The Lord may not bring relief of your pain but instead He’ll use it as a breeding ground for Godly character traits such as: love, joy and purpose. 

It is the message of the Cross, and the message of this book to “To Those Who Suffer,” that a seemingly hopeless circumstance can give birth to the most powerful victory and wonderful blessing!

About the Author: Sean Nolan lives in Sydney, Australia with his family. Sean pastors at Glorious Hope Baptist Church which reaches out to some of the most marginalized members of the community. Sean is a graduate of Emmaus Bible College in Sydney, and is actively involved in the political arena. Sean enjoys rugby, cricket and sci-fi and has a passion for people in pain.

My Review: Only those who have experienced pain and suffering will fully understand how amazing this book is and how well the author exposes his points. 
Through four sections (Why God Does What He Does; The Many Different Paths To Pain; The Church versus God - The Answers We All Seek; It Still Hurts), each one with 3 or 4 chapters, the author tries to demonstrate that God is under control. Some quotes touched me deeply, as a major theme for reflection, like when talking about pray, "God does not want our advice. He wants our devotion". Another one: "Christ came to free us from our sin, not necessarily our suffering", and a variation of that, "God is more interested in our character than our comfort". And the list of quotes that makes us think goes on and on. Yet my favorites are "hell is not a place, it is a choice,... hell is the absolute separation from God." and "Paradise is not a place, it is the presence of God". 
Entering into details on the different paths to pain, Sean relates different types of suffering to different Biblical characters that passed through the varying types of hardship that are discussed, which makes the reading very clear and interesting. The "Innocent Suffer" is illustrated by Joseph, the "Self-imposed Suffering" by David, the "Suffering Spiritually" by Job and "All Roads Lead to Rome" by Naomi. 
If you want to read about a serious consideration on suffering and pain, this book is a must have in your permanent library and I can guarantee that you will not suffer and have pain while reading this book (sorry for the joke, Sean)!
This book was written by Sean Nolan and was published by VMI Publishers and B&B Media Group was kind enough to send me a copy for reviewing. 
It took me around 7 hours to read this book.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Balance of June

During June I read and reviewed the following:

- "What Is Jesus Worth To You?" by David Platt
- "Beyond The Map's Boundaries" by Nibi Soto
- "On Guard - Defending Your Faith With Reason And Precision" by William Lane Craig
- "The Sister Wife" by Diane Noble
- "You Can Be Everything God Wants You To Be" by Max Lucado

- "Who Is In charge Anyway?" by Max Lucado

July will be more productive!