Wednesday, November 15, 2017

DANGEROUS ILLUSIONS by Irene Hannon

Trish Bailey learned about giving from her parents.  And over the years, the lesson became a principle.  The principle became a habit.  The habit became a lifestyle.

It's not something you can turn on and off, and Trish enjoys her life and her calling as a teacher of drama and art in an inner city school way too much to even want to.

Unfortunately, not everyone is wired that way.  Through a series of personal crises, Trish's world has been seriously rocked.  And her recent lapses in memory haven't helped matters. 

Her life is even more complicated by the men in her life.  Her parent's accountant, who wants to move things past the professional boundaries.  The detective investigating her mother's death, who seems to have the same idea.

And then there's the man in her life that she isn't even aware of.  The one so obsessed with a personal agenda that Trish's welfare isn't even on the radar.

But when things come to a head, Trish finds her way back to the one man in her life who will stop at nothing to keep her safe and secure. 

If only she could reconcile the Dangerous Illusions in her life!

Another masterful story of faith and suspense by Irene Hannon.  With strong, complex characters and a plot that races relentlessly to an unexpected climax, let the reader be warned before hand:  just when you think you've figured it out . . . you're wrong.

5 stars for cutting edge fiction with an eternal message.

DANGEROUS ILLUSIONS
Irene Hannon
ISBN 78-0-8007-2767-3
Revell
Romantic Suspense
386 pages
$15.99 U.S.  softcover

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Murder In Disguise - a Donn Taylor Cozy Mystery

Found:  a 21st Century Renaissance man. 
Occupation:  Korean War Veteran, Vietnam War Veteran, literature professor, author, poet and philosopher.

And no . . . this has nothing to do with the plot of the book.  I’m talking about the author of Murder In Disguise, a “cozy mystery” which will take you by the hand, double your heart rate, and tug at your heartstrings simultaneously.

This is the first novel I’ve read by Donn Taylor, and I have to admit that it took several attempts to “get into” the book.  But that’s all on me; mysteries have never been a favorite genre of mine.  I didn’t even remember signing up for reviewing this book (my apologies to the author, please don’t take it personally!).

But I certainly do not regret having done so.  Not only has Donn Taylor opened my eyes to the genre, he’s also opened my eyes to a new way of thinking, and of living.  The breadth and depth and grasp of truth, and beauty, and language displayed on the canvas of this book graphically illustrate what it is to be a Renaissance man.

But this is supposed to be a book review. 

Professor Preston Barclay undertakes the teaching of two courses at a state university in the midwest as a visiting professor for the summer term.  It provides for several pressing issues in his life.  The need for income, obviously.  The desire to make an impact on the minds of the succeeding generation.

Oh, and then there’s the little issue of his friend and colleague committing suicide that he has questions about.  And when the widow beseeches him to “prove” that the suicide was anything but . . . his musical hallucinations simply increase volume and tempo.

The state university proves to be more of a minefield than an institution for higher education, and try as he might to avoid scandal, controversy and violence, all three seem to be mandatory courses in his rather busy “class schedule.”

And then there are the “electives,” which include a hijacking, money laundering, Christian rights in the marketplace, and human trafficking.

And you thought you had a full day! 

As Professor Barclay investigates without investigating, his momentum – and its impact – become increasingly similar to the proverbial bull in a china shop. 

And then . . . the walls came tumbling down.

There is so much to say about this book; the puns, the musical references, the lectures, all woven together in a beautiful tapestry that will hold your attention to the final crescendo.

This is a book that needs to be experienced, as well as read.


5 stars for a cozy mystery that causes you to rethink your commitments.

MURDER IN DISGUISE
Donn Taylor
ISBN 978-1-938499-09-8
Cozy Mystery
Lamplighter Mysteries
301 pages
$14.95 U.S. softcover

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

ANYONE CAN TALK THE TALK . . .BUT CAN YOU WALK THE WALK? FIND OUT in WALK IT OUT by Tricia Goyer!

"The just shall live by faith . . ." and this is ONE snapshot of what that looks like in the 21st Century.

What ought not to surprise you is that this is what it looked like when Billy Graham was filling football stadiums during his evangelistic crusades.

This is what it looked like when John and Charles Wesley were used by God to start The Great Awakening.

Believe it or not, this is what it looked like when Saul of Tarsus was struck down on the road to Damascus, transformed into the Apostle Paul, and became the greatest missionary the world has ever seen.

While the names and faces have changed, the times and circumstances have radically altered as the world turned, the principles remain the same, and are captured in one verse of Scripture:
"He has shown you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?" Micah 6:8 (NKJV)

So many people stop short of that final step.  In her autobiographical work, WALK IT OUT, author Tricia Goyer shows us what that final step looks like.  As Tricia explains, "I've learned that God's good plans are not always easy, or neat, but when we step out in obedience we never walk alone."


COUNSELING UNDER THE CROSS by Martin Luther

I have a confession to make.  I’m not German.  I’m not Lutheran.  I’m not even Reformed in my theology.

I’m a Baptist pastor, have been since 1991.  I’m fundamental in my theological perspective . . . but not mad about it.

And I absolutely love this book!  Bob Kellemen has taken the time and energy, the blood, sweat and tears necessary, to make Martin Luther not only readable, but enjoyable.  And liveable.  Not an easy task in the contemporary historical / cultural context.

Exploring rich theological terms which Martin Luther himself found crucial for his salvation and, later, for his ministry, author Bob Kellemen writes as only one who comprehends the subject matter is able.  He has taken difficult theological concepts and “dumbed it down” for the rest of us, without sacrificing any of the significance.

Drawing on letters, conversations, sermons and anecdotes in Martin Luther’s life, COUNSELING UNDER THE CROSS shares the heart and soul of this Father of the Reformation as he ministers the gospel in a cross-shaped  approach to pastoral care—sustaining, healing, reconciling, and guiding. These four counseling concepts serve as compass points  as one discovers how Martin Luther took this historic approach and infused it with the gospel—demonstrating the rich relevance of the gospel for daily life.


5 stars for a foundational primer for Biblical counseling

COUNSELING UNDER THE CROSS:
HOW MARTIN LUTER APPLIED THE GOSPEL TO DAILY LIFE
Bob Kellemen
ISBN 978-1-945270-22-2 (eBook)
Christian Living / Spiritual Growth
NewGrowth Press
$19.97  paperback

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

KNOW THE WORD . . . SPEAK THE WORD . . . LIVE THE WORD! IT'S POSSIBLE!

Many people start the new year with the best of intentions.  We call these "New Years Resolutions."  And along with the list of "going on a diet,"  "losing weight," and "getting into shape by exercising regularly," some would add, "This is the year.  This is the year that I'm going to FINALLY read my Bible through."

Ahhhhh . . . the best laid plans of mice and men!  Wouldn't it be nice to have a game plan?  Better yet, wouldn't it be nice to have some help?  I mean . . . where does one start?

I highly recommend getting the KNOW THE WORD Study Bible.  The statement on the cover is not just advertising hype:  "GAIN A GREATER UNDERSTANDING OF THE BIBLE:"

Book by book.  Verse by Verse.  Topic by Topic.  Now, why does that sound familiar?  
" For precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little:"  Isaiah 28:10 (KJV) 

The KNOW THE WORD STUDY BIBLE adopts that very methodology.  Whether you are wanting to do a complete book study, a topical study of major Bible themes, or a verse by verse study, this is the study Bible that you will find yourself reaching for again and again.

Attractive features include:  textual notes and explanations, summaries of each book, STUDY THE BOOK highlights, tables of ancient monies, weights and measures and their modern equivalent, a more than adequate concordance, and of course a nice collection of maps.  I always look for maps in a study Bible!

However you choose to use the KNOW THE WORD STUDY BIBLE, you will find yourself so engaged with the Scriptures that you won't even realize, "Oh!  I'm reading the Bible!"  Bible study will no longer be a chore, or an item on your "to-do" list.  It will be the life-changing adventure that God intended it to be.  As a bi-vocational pastor, this is one of my "go-to" references for sermon preparation as well as for devotional reading.

The KNOW THE WORD STUDY BIBLE comes in the KJV and the NKJV translations, hardback with beautifully designed jackets, imitation leather, and genuine leather options.  The words of Jesus appear in red, and the two-color interior page design and thoughtful layout of the text and notes keeps the reader engaged.

5 stars for a Study Bible that lives up to its name.

KNOW THE WORD STUDY BIBLE
Thomas Nelson Publishers
ISBN 978-0-7180-9160-6
Bibles / KJV / Study
$39.99 cloth over board hardcover

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

SPIRITUAL WISDOM FOR A HAPPIER LIFE by Mark W. Baker, PhD

To be honest, I have never really thought about my emotions, until I received this book for review.  My emotions, my feelings, were just "the way I'm feeling right now."  The notion that they can be understood . . .directed . . . put to work in one's life in such a way that they do not so much dictate your everyday life so much as they enhance your daily walk . . . enrich your relationships, and bring balance and focus to whatever you are doing at "the moment," is completely foreign to me . . . and completely refreshing.

What can I say?  I'm a guy!  Guy's don't usually engage in the "emotional."  Maybe it's time I learned.

In SPIRITUAL WISDOM FOR A HAPPIER LIFE, author Mark W. Baker, a clinical psychologist and author of JESUS - THE GREATEST THERAPIST WHO EVER LIVED, lays before us what the practitioners of psychology have generally accepted as the eight key emotions that human beings experience. 

Combining spiritual insights from scripture, 25 years of experience as a clinical psychologist, and candid revelations from actual cases, Dr. Baker plumbs the depths of pain, guilt, anger, anxiety, sorrow, fear, joy and love.  He writes in a clear, practical style, avoiding both technical jargon and over-simplification.

If (like me) you've never considered your emotions, or how they can be put to positive use in your everyday life, you may need to read the chapters over a few times until the light comes on.  Once the lights come on, they stay on, and illuminate possibilities of a happier life that you never dreamed of.

5 stars for a thoughtful approach to human emotions

SPIRITUAL WISDOM FOR A HAPPIER LIFE
Mark W. Baker, PhD
Christian Living / Emotional Health
ISBN  978-0-8007-2882-3
Revell Publishing
$16.99 US  softcover

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Where Does One Find Justice In THE RULE OF LAW?

Show-time under the big top.  SEAL Team Six has just taken center stage.  For good or for ill, the lives of an American Journalist and the son of the Saudi royal family rested in the hands of one of the most capable Special Forces Units currently under arms.  Expertly trained, incredibly equipped, this should have been a walk in the park.

Of course, one can never forget the most-oft quoted proverb of the SEAL Team community:  “The only good day was yesterday.”  And with bad – bogus? – intel, the “walk in the park” becomes a bloody fight for survival. In the aftermath, hard questions are being asked, and no one seems to be able to provide the answers.

Did the president play political games with the lives of U.S. service members?

Who was ultimately responsible for the spectacular failure of SEAL Team Six?

Paige Chambers, a determined young lawyer, has a very personal reason for wanting to know the answer. The case she files will polarize the nation and test the resiliency of the Constitution. The stakes are huge, the alliances shaky, and she will be left to wonder if the saying on the Supreme Court building still holds true.

Equal justice under law.

It makes a nice motto. But will it work when one of the most powerful people on the planet is also a defendant?

Randy Singer has written what can only be called an epic tour de force of legal and military suspense.  His writing is tight, his plot lines are engaging, and the action rarely allows for the reader to take a ragged breath.

My only criticism is simply this; the book is just too long!  At 473 pages, and with a cast of 40 characters to keep track of (there is a CAST OF CHARACTERS at the beginning of the book), one is reminded of Abbot and Costello’s infamous radio program, WHO’S ON FIRST?  Perhaps the CAST OF CHARACTERS at the front of the book should be detachable? 

If you have the necessary patience and stamina, as well as the time and inclination, Randy Singer produces a fictional story that reads like yesterday’s headlines in terms of authenticity.  Along the way, the author forces the reader to really think through what we have always naively accepted as THE RULE OF LAW.


4 stars for an excellent book that requires a lot from the reader

RULE OF LAW
Randy Singer
military suspense
ISBN 1-4960-41815-8
Tyndale House
473 pages
$26.99