Tuesday, December 22, 2009

The Reckoning

By Beverly Lewis

Another beautifully written book by Beverly Lewis!

"The Reckoning" is the third and final book in the Heritage of Lancaster County. Following the story of Katherine Mayfield (Katie Lapp) the story resumes with Katherine assuming her position as Mistress of Mayfield Manor. This is a considerable lifestyle change for a young woman who was raisede Amish by her adoptive parents.

Still struggling with her shunning by the Amish people, she devises a way for her maid to write her best friend in Hickory Hollow.

To further complicate things, her first love who she believes to be dead appears at her door one day.

Faced with many difficult decisions, she agrees to attend church with her maid and butler, and hears of the true gospel and God's love for her. The seess of the Gospel are sown, and Katherine must examine herself, her past, and future.

This is a tremendous story of forgiveness, reconciliation, and redemption.

Monday, December 21, 2009

The White Horse King

The White Horse King is a brilliantly written biography of King Alfred. It is clear this book was thoroughly researched as Benjamin Merkle has brought the events to life in rich detail.

It written in such a way that it can be used for scholarly purposes yet is fairly easy to read. I don't generally read biographies, but this one seemed interesting. I was not disappointed; I could hardly put it down.

Prior to reading this biography I knew little of Alfred the Great, and I believe that is the case for many people. However, much can be learned about Western Civilization and the importance of having a Biblical worldview through studying his life.

As the fifth in line to throne, it would have seemed unlikely that Alfred would ever be king. As a small child his father sent him to Rome, and that proved to be a defining time in Alfred's life.

This was a period of time when the Viking raiders were pillaging most the English coastlands and taking over villages. Farms, churches, and monasteries were being burned and destroyed and many were slaughtered at the hands of the Vikings.

As Alfred ascended to the throne he faced the Viking aggressions with a poorly trained volunteer military. He had already lost much of his family to the Vikings, including his brother who had been sacrificed to the Viking gods.

Merkle has done a fabulous job of describing the tactics of both the Vikings and the Anglo-Saxons in great detail. Much time is spent describing how Alfred was eventually able to establish a few periods of peace.

After pushing back the Vikings and taking captive one of there kings - to whom he showed incredible mercy, Alfred turned his attentions to building a better military and fortifying the towns.

This was at time when many years had passed since the Romans had left, and illiteracy was rampant and the people were falling into paganism. King Alfred realized that his people were being crippled by a lack of knowledge of God.

All of the Christian works of the day were in Latin, and few people outside of church scholars and monks could read it. In addition, most of the Anglo-Saxon people could not read or write their own language. Alfred set up public school system to teach the peasant children to read, and required all of the noblemen to learn to read. He hired monks and other scholars to translate parts of the Bible to the Anglo-Saxon language, knowing that his people needed the word of God in their own language - this was almost 700 years BEFORE the Reformation.

Seeing as America is falling into paganism now, not from illiteracy but from Biblical illiteracy I found it very refreshing to hear that so many years ago one very wise king saw the same problem. People need to know the Bible to avoid paganism, yet so many churches today have abandoned Bible teaching and replaced it with self-help or the social gospel.

I would highly recommend this book for home school classes or for anyone who wanting to understand the importance of having a Biblical worldview.

While I did receive a courtesy review copy of this book from Thomas Nelson publishers, that in no way influenced my review.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Though Waters Roar

By Lynn Austin

Though this delightful tale begins with Harriet Sherwood sitting in jail wondering how she became a criminal, it is really the story of the women who came before her.

While being a slightly slow read, it is worth every minute of it.

Set primarily in the mid  to late 1800's and early 1900's this book puts you at a station on the Underground Railroad, on a Civil War battlefield, on the sidewalk in front of a saloon just before Prohibition, and in the Women's Suffrage march on Washington DC. Full of accurate historical detail you see these events as an eye witness.

The issues of women in this time period are clearly brought to light in the lives of Harriet's grandmother and mother. Harriet's grandmother was a farm girl when she met Horatio Garner, a wealthy son of a tannery owner. Through the grandmother's life you see true living faith in action as she faces trials in her marriage and with her in laws, tragedy, and triumph. She grows from being a young farm girl into a powerful woman of faith who cares for the poor and fights for just causes.

As Harriet reflects on the life of her grandmother and mother she sees how their lives have influenced her in many ways.

I did receive a complimentary copy of this book for review purposes, but that in no way influenced my opinion of it.

Monday, November 23, 2009

The Silent Gift

By Michael Landon Jr and Cindy Kelley

This is, quite simply, a MUST READ.

Set in the 1930's this book tells the story of a young woman struggling to care for her disabled son after escaping from her abusive husband. It's a story of true motherly love, compassion, sacrifice, betrayal, forgiveness and redemption. The best and worst of humankind are brought to life through the events in the story of this very special boy and his unique gift.

I'm not sure I have words to adequately describe how profoundly I was moved by this book.  I read it in one afternoon and evening. From the first page I could not put it down. The dark-haired boy on the cover captured my heart from the start.

Landon/Kelley have done an outstanding job of bringing these characters to life. This book touched my heart in a way few books ever have. The sacrifices that Mary (the mother) makes to care for her son show to all what motherhood truly is. The strength that she has is in the worst of circumstances is something we all can learn from.

This is a book that I would recommend everyone read. There will be many copies under our Christmas tree this year - I believe it will make a great gift to those who love to read.

*** I must mention that I received a complimentary copy of this book from Bethany House for review purposes.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

A Measure of Mercy

By Lauraine Snelling

A Measure of Mercy is the first in the Home to Blessing series. The story of the Bjorklund family, who first settled the town now called Blessing, North Dakota, continues with the youngest daughter of Ingeborg and and Haakan. Astrid Bjorklund has been training with her sister-in-law Dr Elizabeth Bjorklund and is now ready for surgical training in Chicago. Astrid dreams of continuing her practice with Dr Elizabeth in the hospital they hope to build in Blessing.

Just before she departs for Chicago a missionary visits the church and tell of the need for medical missionaries in Africa. At the same time Joshua Landsverk returns to Blessing seeking to court Astrid.

Astrid leaves for Chicago with both Africa and Joshua on her mind. Is God calling to be a missionary? Will she return to Blessing and Joshua?

This inspiring story lives up to the reputation of all the other Bjorklund books. Ingeborg is busy as always serving the community and teaching her family, and us the readers, to love, serve, and follow God.

As always the Blessing women are an inspiration in how they work together to support one another and help the nearby Indian reservation.

Those who have followed the Bjorklund family through the other series will not be disappointed in this book. It is as well written and researched as the rest.

First time readers will also love this boo. As always, Lauraine Snelling does a fabulous job of making this book enjoyable even for those who haven't read the previous books.

I laughed, I cried, I loved it.

*** I received a complimentary copy of the book from Bethany House for review purposes.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

The Karma of Jesus: Do We Really Reap What We Sow

By Mark Herringshaw

The Karma of Jesus begins with Pastor Mark Herringshaw recounting a conversation he had with a young postmodern who had attended one of his talks at the behest of his mother. The young man had recently been in rehab, where he discovered Eastern religion and became a believer in Karma.

The young man asks him the question "Why did Jesus die?" and that was the beginning of the journey that would become this book.

It was also the beginning of my disappointments in this book.

The format of the book makes it both tedious and frustrating to read. It is normal in a nonfiction book for the author to begin with propositional statements (truth claims) and then give evidence to back up their claims. However, Herringshaw does not do this. As he puts it, "it's a conversation" (p 183). Chapter after chapter rambles on with tidbits of his conversation mixed with his own thoughts and stories. By chapter five I was ready to throw the book. Five chapters of conversation sprinkled with illustrations that don't often seem to "illustrate" anything. Were I not committed to writing a review of the book, I would have given up and gone on to something better.

The lack of  footnotes /end notes is also frustrating. It appears at first that Herringshaw has completely neglected to cite his sources, but if you do manage to finish the book you will find a "notes" section with page numbers at the end. There are no super-scripted numbers indicating in the text that there are notes to be found.

I was also deeply troubled by theological problems in the book.

By looking at the title "The Karma of Jesus: Do We Really Reap What We Sow" one might expect Herringshaw to open the Bible and prove that the Eastern idea of Karma (which seems entirely contrary to sound Christian doctrine) can be found in Scripture. Or perhaps he might use the idea of karma to illustrate how our faith should be evident in our lives by the good works we do.

He does neither. Instead he engages in a conversation with the young man that left me feeling that it was Herringshaw who ended up being "converted."

There is very little Scripture used, and what he does quote is taken from the New Living Translation - a paraphrase - not a literal translation of the Bible. I was left completely unconvinced that there is any Biblical evidence for Karma.

He also does very little to prove that there is any reason for Christians (or anyone else) to believe in karma. His teaching on karma is brief, and when compared to what true Buddhists and Hindus believe it really isn't their true doctrine of  karma at all.

If you can make it to chapter six, you will be rewarded as he begins to bring Christ into the "conversation." Chapter seven begins with the comment by Andrew, "You're making karma out to be what you usually call sin." and with that I breathed sigh of relief - sort of. While the verbal slight-of-hand involved in switching "sin" to "bad karma" is disturbing, it does lead to a discussion of the atonement. I would have loved his treatment of the blood atonement if he talked about SIN, not karma. He covers the three major views of the atonement in detail and even perfectly describes our need for atonement.  However, it is our sin that was atoned for, not bad karma. And to say Christ had "good karma" is also in error. He was perfectly righteous, holy, and sinless. That is not good karma, it is deity. He did not obtain deity through good karma, as the Buddhists might teach, but always was God. Karma is an impersonal force. It does not love you. Jesus died for your sins that you may obtain His perfect righteousness through His shed blood when you repent and trust in only Him for your salvation.

Please, Pastor Herringshaw, you are a pastor at a prominent Lutheran church. I beg you, return to the Reformation doctrine of Scripture Alone.  All that we need to know about God is contained in His holy Word. We do not need to borrow terms or doctrines from other religions. Preach the gospel as it is in God's Word and people will be converted and will receive the atonement they need.

- I must note that I received a complimentary copy of this book from Bethany House for review purposes.

Friday, November 13, 2009

The Preachers Daughter

By Beverly Lewis

The Preachers Daughter is a charming story of a young Amish woman, Annie Zook, and her long time pen pal, Louisa.

Annie is the daughter of an old order Amish preacher whose heart yearns to be an artist, which is forbidden in their church district. She has kept her art a secret from everyone but her cousin and her English Pen Pal Louisa. But now the time has come for her to join the church and she must choose...her art or the church and the people she loves.

Meanwhile, Louisa is needing a break from the frenzied life of Denver Society. What better time to visit her Plain friend in Paradise, Pennsylvania.

It is evident that many hours of careful research went into this book. Readers gain a deep understanding of the Amish people and their beliefs. The strong emphasis on family and relationships is refreshing.

In this book Beverly Lewis shows, once again, her amazing talent in crafting beautiful words that tell an engaging story of love, mystery, and heartbreak.

Lewis has an amazing ability to help her readers connect with the characters. Her ability to describe a scene in vibrant detail leave you feeling as though you witnessed it yourself.

I strongly recommend this book to all  fiction lovers.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Becoming More Than a Good Bible Study Girl

Are you at a point in your Christian life where going to church, doing a Bible study, prayer, and "being good" just seem like things on a to-do list? Author Lysa TerKeurst understands.

In her book "Becoming More than a Good Bible Study Girl" she gives readers a glimpse into her life as she shares her own struggles as a woman, a mother, a wife and a ministry leader.

All areas of our Christian life are covered: our hearts, our walk with God, our relationships, our struggles, our thoughts, and our calling. Lysa offers sound biblical advice on how we can grow in each of these areas to become women who honor and obey the Lord and reflect His love to those around us.

She is very open about her own shortcomings, many of which seem to be true of most women today.

The book is written in a very down-to-earth and easy to read style that makes it seem more like having a cup of coffee with an old friend than a study on spiritual growth.

You can purchase this book from Proverbs 31 Ministries or Amazon.com.