Saturday, May 19, 2018

Hope of Nations - by John S. Dickerson ( a book review)

When I was given a copy of the book Hope of Nations to review, I wasn't sure I wanted to read it. Leafing through the pages, I was reminded of my seminary days and those drab philosophical books that were required reading, but as I flipped through the pages, a statement on page 22 caught my eye. The author, John S. Dickerson, stated, "With all my heart, I believe that Christ's people are the greatest hope for this nation, for all the nations, and for every living, breathing person on the planet." That statement caused me to read the book in its entirety and I'm so glad I did.

Hope of the Nations is a book that is very relevant for today. In this chaotic world where every other headline screams of turmoil and calamity, it seems all hope is lost. In his book, Mr. Dickerson helps us see that while the world seems to be spinning out of control and basic Christian morals and values seem a thing of the past, all is not lost.

This book is full of truth and my personal belief is that it was divinely inspired. Without wanting to sound cliche, Mr. Dickerson has certainly hit the nail on the head as he describes a world where moral absolutes have all but vanished.

We are seeing evidence of a shift toward a Post-truth society. Christianity and the foundations of biblical truth it was built on stand on weak and wobbly knees in today's world where most are concerned, but for those who believe in, adhere to, and trust in the Lord, faith still stands strong even in the midst of a depraved world. John S. Dickerson helps us understand how this shift began and where it is going in the future.

The book focuses on our current generation and the state of the world today. As we read about those issues, it's easy to become hopeless and depressed but these are the ramifications of a society that has chosen to reject absolute truth.

Mr. Dickerson takes great care to include information about current trends which include the persecutions of Christians, the tendency toward open sexual depravity, and a total disregard for human life in general. As our world grows more accepting of immoral practices, the author points to five forces that are shaping our world events today. He surmises humans are sinning, Satan is scheming, ideologies are warring, western civilization is unraveling, and Christ and His people are prevailing. These forces, he writes, "are not written from journalistic observations but as scriptural truths."

As I continued to read the book, I was appalled to learn, in Chapter 3, about events that take place annually in the San Francisco Bay area. These events were used by the author to help give a glimpse into the unbridled depravity many of us are unaware of in today's world. He tells of public events hosting open nudity, public sex, and adults parading around in bondage gear. As a Christian for over 50 years, I had no idea such things existed, but as I read, I realized the reasons the author was sharing the information was to bring home his point about our society's loss of interest in doing what's right by God's standards.

When one of the spectators of this event said, when asked why he'd allowed his young daughter to accompany him dressed in bondage leather, he replied, "Every parent has to decide for themselves what is right for them." That seems to be the way our world looks at things today - it if feels good do it and you don't have to apologize to anyone for anything.

After Dickerson takes time to give the reader example after example of how and why our society is where it is today, he turns us to Chapter 3 of his book entitled, "How Will We Live?" In this section, John S. Dickerson helps us understand the importance of learning to view things in two ways - the things we can control and the things we can't control.

I enjoyed his use of biblical examples and Scripture as he prepared the reader to face an uncertain future with not only hope but joy in knowing the truth of God's perfect plan and His provision for those who love Him.

This book should be a must-read for every Christian pastor, seminary student, and Christ follower. There are so many important truths included in Hope of Nations that I'm afraid my review falls short of giving it the credit its due.

Any Christian in today's world realizes we have much to pray about as we consider the condition of our society. For those of us raised in Christian homes and with a firm foundation of faith, it grieves our hearts to realize if something doesn't change soon, the generations under us will have no idea how to face the days ahead.

Please consider making Hope of Nations an addition to your library. I know you'll be blessed as you read it. The author has written this book with great love and care, he's definitely done his homework, and he's included heart in his work.

I am happy to give this book a big thumb's up. The information I've gleaned from this book has given me courage and hope that even though the days ahead may get dark, I don't have to be afraid because Jesus is the hope of all nations.

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Water at the Roots by Philip Britts (a book review)

When I received a copy of Water at the Roots by Philip Britts to review, I wasn't so sure I'd enjoy reading it. The title alone did not intrigue me and the subtitle, Poems, and Insights of a Visionary Farmer, didn't do much more to interest me in opening the front cover, but I am always up for a challenge and decided to be objective.

The book is about Philip Britts, a man born in 1917 in Devon, England. Mr. Britts was unique. He was not only a wonderful husband and father, but he was also a dedicated pastor and farmer. Throughout his life, Philip was a man of godly character.

When he was called up for the draft, he was adamant about not going. He did not believe in fighting and stood his ground as a pacifist. After explaining his position, his views were finally accepted and he was allowed to remain home safe from the frontlines of battle.

Mr. Britts joined the Bruderhof society, an organization formed in 1920 by German Christians. As a member of this religious group, Philip tried his best to follow the tenets of the Christian faith.

Britts died at the young age of thirty-one from the devastating effects of a tropical disease he contracted while in South America.

After his death, his wife began distributing some of his poetry to family and friends. Many of these writings had never been seen before and soon, others were realizing the deep heart and talent of this often quiet and very private man.

As I read the book, I discovered Philip Britts had a deep faith. Reading his poems felt like an intrusion into his deepest secrets, but I was thankful they had been shared. I've always loved poetry and often do my own writing.

Britts said, "Faith is like water at the roots, if we have faith, we can face the sun, we can turn the heat and the light into life-giving fruits, into love." He also said, "Faith is a gift like the rain, and like the rain it is something to be watched for and prayed for and waited for."  What profound words! As I mulled those statements over in my mind, I couldn't agree with Mr. Britts more. Our faith is the very essence of our being. Without it we would surely die.

Water at the Roots is a combination of Philip Britt's journal entries, his poetry, and bits of world history. I enjoyed how all of these three elements were interwoven to create an enjoyable and meaningful read. Water at the Roots blessed me as I read it and I'm sure it will do the same for you.

One of my favorite poems from the book is entitled, "Alone." Instead of trying to describe it for you, I'm going to include it here. I hope you'll be blessed as you read it.

Alone by Philip Britts

"When the night is cold and the winds complain, 
And the pine trees sigh for the coming rain, 
I will light a lonely watch-fire, nearby a lonely wood, 
And look up to see if the God I serve has seen and understood. 
I'll watch the wood-ash whitened by the licking yellow tongues, 
I'll watch the wood-smoke rising, sweet smoke that stings the lungs, 
See the leaping, laughing watch-fire throw shadows on the grass, 
See the rushes bend and tremble to let the shadows pass,
While my soul flies through the forest, back a trail of weary years, 
And the clouds, as if in pity, shed their tears. 
Oh, I do not want their pity for a trail that's closed behind, 
Though all the things on earth combine to play upon the mind. 
I must keep on riding forward to a goal I'll never find- 
What matter the eyes have seen so much that the soul is colour-blind."

I'd like to thank Plough Publishing for giving me the opportunity to review Water at the Roots. I was in now way encouraged to give a positive review of this book but it is my pleasure to do so. 

If you'd like to purchase your own copy of Water at the Roots, you may do so by visiting Plough's website here

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Whole: Restoring What Is Broken in Me, You, and The Entire World by Steve Wiens

This was my first time reading a book by author and pastor, Steve Wiens. I received a copy of the book for review from Tyndale House Publishers and was excited to have the opportunity to read something by a new author. Although this was Mr. Wiens second book, I had no idea what type writing style he enjoyed but found it to be pleasantly surprising.

The book is all about restoration. I enjoyed the way Mr. Wiens was able to weave beautiful analogies and personal experiences into a story of love and compassion from Christ. I also enjoyed the various word studies included in the book. I found it very helpful to have the original Hebrew, Greek, and German word meanings included in Steve's book. They helped me gain a better understanding of what he was trying to convey.

Mr. Wiens touched my heart with several of his statements. In the beginning of the book, he says, "When something shatters, the broken pieces find their way into hidden cracks and crevices. Then they end up inside of us, causing pain, especially to the most vulnerable. It's easy to walk past the fragments of brokenness. We're busy and overwhelmed. And maybe that particular piece of jagged glass hasn't hurt you. But it is hurting someone." There is profound truth in those statements.

Over and over again, I found myself relating to what Mr. Wiens was sharing. When he talked about the root word Racham, which is used to describe the action of someone showing deep affection, compassion or mercy for another, I was surprised to learn the root word also meant the same as the word womb. Since my oldest daughter is currently pregnant and dealing with the possibility of a premature birth, I completely understood what he was trying to say. In essence, when we show compassion for another, we're providing a womb, or safe place for them to be loved, fed, and grow.

Mr. Wiens' word pictures were so vivid and the in-depth studies he provided were excellent. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and have highlighted so many passages in it. I'm sure I'll refer back to it many times in the future and I'll recommend it to others as well.

This book is filled with so much truth! I think it will probably speak differently to each person who reads it. If you're interested in learning more about the heart of God and how He longs to see us live our best life, I know you'll enjoy this book.

I'd like to thank Tyndale House Publishers for giving me the chance to review this remarkable book. I was not encouraged to provide a positive review however, it is my pleasure to do so.

To purchase your copy of this book, visit Amazon or Christianbook. 

The Way to God by Dwight L. Moody (Updated Edition)

Iconic pastor, Dwight L. Moody, never fails to disappoint in his books. When I received a copy of the updated edition of The Way to God, I was eager to start reading. I've read many of his books in the past and have always found his writing style to be very enjoyable and truth filled. Throughout The Way to God, Mr. Moody shares vital truths, personal stories, scripture references, and descriptive examples. As you read his books, you find yourself feeling like you're sitting across from an old friend having a serious conversation.

Mr. Moody conveys many points in this updated version of the Christian classic, The Way to God. Among one he wants the reader to grasp are:
-the depth of God's love
-the importance of repentance and what that truly means
-the gift of salvation and how to be assured of it
-living the Christian life
-loving others as Christ loves us

The book is a quick read with only 9 chapters. Each chapter contains a Scripture verse at the beginning of the chapter. Chapters included are:
Chapter 1: Love That Passes All Knowledge
Chapter 2: The Gateway into the Kingdom
Chapter 3: Two Groups of People
Chapter 4: Words of Counsel
Chapter 5: A Divine Savior
Chapter 6: Repentance and Restitution
Chapter 7: Assurance of Salvation
Chapter 8: Christ Is All
Chapter 9: Backsliding

While reading the book, I understood Mr. Moody's heartfelt sentiments. He wanted his readers to comprehend the depth of God's love for them but not only that, he wanted them to understand the process involved in coming to that understanding.

This book would appeal to those who already have a grasp of the Christian faith but would also be a useful help in reaching those who don't yet know Christ as their personal Savior.

I enjoyed this book very much and I am happy to give a positive review. I would like to thank Aneko Press for allowing me the opportunity to read and review The Way to God, Updated Edition.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

My Amish Story by Rebecca Borntrager Graber

I was intrigued by yet another personal story shared by an Amish person. This story comes from a woman by the name of Rebecca Borntrager Graber. Born into the Amish faith, Rebecca follows the traditions and tenets of her religion to the tee but as she and her family move to Montana, she begins to question whether her religion is complete. She longs for more.

Soon Rebecca is introduced to Christianity. As she learns about Christ's unconditional love, her life begins to change. She and her husband make the tough decision to leave the Amish faith and embrace Christianity. Her story includes the many challenges and struggles they face as they step forward to follow after Christ.

I enjoyed this book because of Ms. Graber's openness and honesty. She shares her feelings and emotions as they face shunning, she tells how friends and family treat them, and she helps the reader feel part of the story.

The vivid descriptions of Amish life made me feel like I was part of their community among wagon drawn buggies, bearded men and bonneted women. As I read, I could almost envision beautiful quilts, clothes on the line, and butter being churned. That simple life of faith was a good life for the Grabers but they were missing the key ingredient to the best life possible - Jesus Christ.

I'm thankful I had the opportunity to review this book for Aneko Press. I was provided a complimentary copy. I enjoyed this book very much and know it will bless those who read it. If you enjoy learning about the Amish faith and culture, be sure to visit Aneko Press to obtain your copy here.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

The Gospel of Jesus Christ - A Study in Mark (book review)

The book The Gospel of Jesus Christ, Whosoever Will Come After Me by Russell M. Stendal, is a study done on the Gospel of Mark. In this powerful book the reader will find many unexpected things. As I began reading it, I was expecting the author to expound on each verse (which he does) and give a commentary (which he also does). I wasn't expecting anything more. I assumed it would be the equivalent of one of my seminary studies but as I read, I found so much more. The author makes a point of giving key truths, Biblical history, Greek word studies, tips on righteous living, and an introduction to many Jewish customs. I learned so many new and exciting things as I read.

Mr. Stendal's writing is descriptive and easy to read. The reader will find he/she is being transported back in time. An example of the writer's ability to do this can be found in Chapter 8 of the book. This title is called "Thou Art the Christ" and focuses on Mark chapter 8. You may have heard about the blind man who had his sight restored by Jesus. This man had been blind from birth. He had heard about Jesus healing others and he wanted to be healed. His desire to regain his sight led him to walk forward with courage to approach Jesus. Jesus did not turn him away but took him by the hand, led him out of town, spat in his eyes and healed him. As you read the account offered by Mr. Stendal, you'll gain a new perspective. Let me share an overview from one of Mr. Stendal's chapters, Mark 8: Mr. Stendal quotes the verses from Mark chapter 8. He begins in verse 22 and for this account, goes on to verse 26. Mr. Stendal gives background information on the city of Bethsaida. As he sets the scene, he says: "Bethsaida was a religious city whose inhabitants were not interested in giving God the glory for what Jesus was saying and doing..." Then he goes on to describe the healing event. "Jesus personally took him by the hand and led him out of the city in order to restore his sight, which he did in two stages. Unconventional as always, Jesus began by spitting into the man's eyes. That is hardly the sort of medical therapy that any of us would volunteer for, and among the Jews in particular, this was a great offense, as it was considered to render unclean the person who had been spat on. Even viewed from a spiritual perspective, it could be a very traumatic experience for any self-righteous religious person if Jesus were to 'spit in their eye' and demonstrate that their entire world view is unclean. The blind man, however felt nothing but gratitude, for after that first touch from Jesus, his vision began to return and he saw men who walked as trees." Mr. Stendal goes on to share relevant facts for today, "When Jesus first opens the eyes of those who are spiritually blind, the same thing tends to happen, inasmuch as the first reaction of many is to elevate man (to see men as tall as trees) and look up to those who are gifted and in ministry. It took a second touch from the Master to complete the healing to the point where the man was whole and could see everyone, far away and clearly. So, too, with fully recovering our spiritual sight."

The clear and concise writings of Mr. Stendal will provide an enjoyable and informative experience for the reader. His analytical thinking process provides the reader with definitive answers to questions they may have as they try to read and understand the book of Mark. At the end of each chapter, the author offers up prayer for the reader.

I found this book to be delightful. It was filled with so much information, I felt like I needed to read it a second time to glean more. Mr. Stendal's exposition of the chapters found in the book of Mark are well done and it is evident he has done much research to provide his text.

I would like to thank Aneko Press for allowing me the opportunity to read and review this book. I would like to give it a 5 star recommendation. I was not encouraged to give a positive review but it is my honor to do so. For those wishing to increase their biblical knowledge, this book is a must. You may purchase the book by visiting Aneko's website. If you'd like to download the free Ebook for Kindle, click here.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Sarah's Journey of Faith, Volume 3 - a book review

Recently I was given the opportunity to review the book, Sarah's Journey of Faith, From the Dark Clouds of China To the Blue Skies of America, Volume 3 by Sarah Liu. I knew before I even started to read this book that it would be special to me. China has had a soft place in my heart since 2005 when I traveled there for the very first time as a short term missionary. I had never been out of the country but knew God was calling me to be obedient to Him. My team of missionaries went to China under the guise of teaching English as a Second Language. That was the best way to get our Visas approved so we could enter the country. I went through specialized training so I could teach English but knew in my heart that wasn't the main purpose for my journey.

When I entered the country, I was astounded. In the airport, there were armed guards at every corner. In full uniform, they looked very ominous. Our sponsors warned us to remember we were entering a Communist country. We would need to abide by the Chinese government rules and regulations at all times. There was a feeling of being constantly watched as we proceeded through the airport and it had us on pins and needles.

After checking in to our hotel and meeting with our sponsors, we were able to connect with high school and college age students. They were interested in learning English but knew we were missionaries. We had many opportunities to share Christ with them and I didn't realize the real danger until one afternoon when I stepped out into the common area to meet with a young Chinese girl. I had my Bible under my arm and was ready to sit down and talk to her about how much Jesus loved her. There were guards surrounding the courtyard and they were moving toward me. My sponsor must have felt something was amiss. I was dumbfounded when he quickly approached me, took my Bible, and whispered, " You can't have this out in the open." At that moment, I was fearful. The reality that I could have been imprisoned slapped me in the face. Later that day, when our team reassembled to pray, the sponsor explained how dangerous my mistake had been. I could have jeopardized the entire team's work. God's hand was on me because He prompted the sponsor to come over to me and help at the very moment I needed it. I was humbled and grateful.

As I read the book, Sarah's Journey of Faith, I felt like I was back in China. As Sarah shared her story of being smuggled out of China, I clearly understood the danger. Her faith and bravery were so apparent as she trusted others to help her in dire circumstances. God's providential hand was upon her at every turn and when complete strangers stepped up to aid her, Sarah's faith was strengthened.

Despite being tortured and beaten, Sarah remained steadfast in her beliefs. During one particular instance of torture, Sarah said she felt like giving up. She silently prayed, "Lord, take my life, I can't endure this anymore." Sarah says, "In that case, God gave me a vision of Jesus on the cross, suffering for me. Enduring all that wrath of man, for me. In my darkest moment, Christ became my noonday sun in all its brilliance for me. I saw perfectly clearly what I was to do. I repented for wanting Jesus without the cross. In torture and in pain, I took up the cross and was taken to the edge of the abyss, and He was there!" Her statement, wanting Jesus without the cross, was so powerful. How many times do we long for Jesus but forget the immense amount of suffering He endured on our behalf?

Sarah also talked about the underground churches in China. When I was there, I was able to see some of these churches. They were well hidden and our sponsor explained we could not go closer for fear of jeopardizing the lives of the believers who worshiped there. Understanding their willingness to worship despite the possibility of torture, imprisonment, or death was heart wrenching and made me realize how very blessed we are to live in a country where we can worship freely.

Sarah's Journey of Faith, Volume 3, is a continuation of her testimony woven into 3 devotional books. As each chapter shares a little of her journey from China to America, she shares a verse of Scripture and provides some provoking questions to help the reader journal and reflect.

This book is a true story of sacrifice, faith, hope, and love. It will touch readers in a profound way. I recommend it especially for those interested in missions to Communist countries.

In closing, I want to mention one more instance of Sarah's book that struck me personally. Sarah shared the following, "At 9:30 a.m. on August 2, 2005, while two American tourists were preparing to have Christian fellowship with 41 Chinese House church pastors and believers in Zaoyang City, Hubei Province, approximately 30 Chinese plain clothed police officers rushed into the house. The same day, the 41 Chinese pastors and believers from evangelical South China Church were taken to No. 2 Zaoyang Prison." This incident happened exactly one month after I left China. I had been in the city of Xiamen on the Fujian Province, Zaoyang City was only a day away. The dangers there are very real and even today Christians in China are persecuted. Please remember to pray for those willing to risk their lives to take the gospel overseas. Chinese people need to learn about Christ's love and Sarah is just one of those who risked her live to obey Christ at any cost.

I would like to thank Aneko Press for giving me the opportunity to review this book. I was not encouraged to give a positive review although it is my honor to do so.