Monday, November 14, 2016

Review of Confessions of a Secular Christ Follower by Tom Krattenmaker

Tom Krattenmaker isn't a Christian. He doesn't believe in the concept of Jesus as the Son of God or that Jesus died for the sins of the world. He does, however, believe that Jesus is an important figure in history with much to say about how to live as people who solve more of the world's problems than create them.

In his newest book Confessions of a Secular Christ Follower, Krattenmaker shares his journey toward following some of the teachings of Jesus that focus on human flourishing and encourages readers to follow in the footsteps of Jesus' ministry. Krattenmaker does an excellent job of showing the relevance of Jesus to the problems of today's modern culture. Christians and non-Christians alike will find much to appreciate from this book. The only criticism I have of Krattenmaker's approach is that Jesus said a lot about himself as the Son of God coming to die for the sins of the world. If Jesus believed he was the Son of God and wasn't, then it's not likely that he should be considered a great teacher.

However, as someone who does believe in everything that Jesus said, I think Krattenmaker makes some important points about the relevance of Jesus' teaching to improving the way people live among one another in the world.

Review copy provided by Blogging for Books

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Review of Finding God in the Waves by Mike McHargue

I grew up assuming God existed because that was what my parents and my church told me. I never questioned their credibility. I just believed they were telling the truth and evidence wasn't required. I became a follower of Jesus when I was fifteen, and all was well. Except the older I got, the more questions I had. Certain things about the Bible didn't make sense. I also had a fascination with science, which often comes into conflict with religion and faith. In college, I decided the evidence for God's existence was weak and turned away from my earlier belief. It was scientific evidence that led me back to a belief that God must be behind the universe we live in.

My story is exactly why I couldn't wait to read Mike McHargue's book Finding God in the Waves. I still have questions, many years later, and Mike's story is similar to my own. When I picked up the book, I almost skipped to the second part, bypassing Mike's personal story. Not that I thought it would be boring, I just wanted to get to the evidence part. Thankfully, I decided to read Mike's story first, which resonated with my own experience on almost every page. It's a powerful story of losing God and not so much finding him again but being found by him instead.

Then in the second part, Mike outlines the evidence for why we should believe. He covers God's role in creation, how neuroscience points us to God, and why we can trust that Jesus is who he says he is. Some things can't be easily explained by science, but so much can, and so much of it points to God.

Finding God in the Waves may not convince everyone, nor is it supposed to, but for many, Mike's story is a welcome one because of its honesty with the experience many of us share.

Review copy provided by Blogging for Books

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Review of Story Genuis by Lisa Cron

A couple years ago, I read Lisa Cron's first book, Wired for Story, which dove into the brain science that makes storytelling so important to us as human beings. I came to the book as a fan of Jonathan Gottschall's book, The Storytelling Animal. Wired was great because it confirmed so much of what I already suspected as a storyteller. There's something encoded into us to enjoy stories and to be moved by them.

With Story Genius, Lisa Cron's second book, she dives into the practicalities of actually telling a story that appeals to people. It takes all the brain science from the first book and applies it to the storytelling process. Not all stories resonate with people. Some just don't connect with people at all. As storytellers, we want to tell stories that people are intrigued by and that don't leave them after they've read the last page.

Cron tackles some misconceptions about how to tell a story in the beginning of the book, challenging some common wisdom. At times, it feels like she's just arguing semantics, but she makes some great points. Storytelling begins with a character, and it's the inner journey of that character that causes us to resonate with the story so well.

Story Genius will give you much to think about in terms of being a better storyteller.

Review copy provided by Blogging for Books

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Review of The Gap of Time by Jeanette Winterson

The Gap of Time by Jeanette Winterson is a modern retelling of William Shakespeare's play, A Winter's Tale. In fact, the story is referred to as a "cover version" of Shakespeare's play. In the original story, a powerful king is blinded by unfounded jealousy and ends up banishing his young daughter and his wife dies tragically. Shakespeare tells a story that is full of tragedy and yet ends in a powerful redemption.

The Gap of Time takes this story and brings it into a more modern world, taking place in American City called New Bohemia (New Orleans). Like in the play, a man named Leo ends up separated from his young daughter because of a blind jealousy. From the very first page until the end, it's the intense story of a father's mistake and a redemption that shouldn't be possible.

While The Gap of Time doesn't perfectly capture the essence of Shakespeare's play, it works as a great ode to a masterpiece. It's a compelling story and is sure to keep readers going until its climactic end.

Review copy provided by Blogging for Books.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Review of THE CALLING by Rachelle Dekker

Rachelle Dekker, daughter of bestselling author Ted Dekker, returns to the intense dystopian world she established in her debut novel The Choosing with the second book in the series The Calling. In The Calling, a secondary character from the first novel takes center stage as he leads a team of Seers back into Authority City to rescue other Seers out. The Seers recognize the oppression of the leaders in Authority City and the false representation of God's law, but they're nearly powerless to do anything about it. As Damien Gold, the city's newest president, ramps up the executions of the followers of Aaron, the Seer's mysterious leader, Remko, Carrington, and their team must risk their lives and the future of their movement in order to save as many people as they can and show the Authority that they won't just accept things blindly anymore.

I loved The Choosing, and as a longtime fan of Ted Dekker, I was very impressed with the skill Rachelle exhibits that's every bit as intriguing as her father's. There's no doubt that she learned a lot from being the daughter of Dekker, but her stories have a distinctive feel that's all her own.

The story was reminiscent of when I read The Hunger Games. It's a very different story, but it definitely had that feel. In fact, it's one of the reasons why I enjoy the story because when I finished The Hunger Games trilogy, I wanted to read something that made me feel the way that story did.

The first book in the series was written from Carrington's perspective, and the The Calling is from Remko's perspective. The transition from female to male voice in between books was flawless and you get a real sense of the struggles Remko deals with, especially his fear. The only complaint I have about the book is that I wish the theme of the book hadn't been written as a subtitle on the book's front cover. I would have rather discovered that from my own reading of the story, rather than having it fed to me before I even began the book. Of course, that's a publisher issue rather than an author issue. The theme is handled well, and I could identify with it.

Rather than ending this review with a "If you're a fan of Ted Dekker... ," I'd say if your a fan of fast-past thrillers that deal with some of the world's most burning questions, check out The Calling. I look forward to the conclusion of this trilogy.

Review copy provided by Tyndale Blog Network

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Review of HAPPINESS by Randy Alcorn

I've enjoyed Randy Alcorn's work ever since discovering his book Heaven in the wake of my grandfather dying several years ago. What I enjoy about Alcorn is his commitment to digging deep into the Scriptures and discovering what others often miss along the way. That's very much what reading Heaven felt like when I first read it.

In his latest book, Happiness, Alcorn tackles the question of whether or not God wants us to be happy. Christians are frequently taught that God cares more about our holiness than our happiness. Often, we're told to have joy instead of happiness, as if the two are completely separate things. With these teachings in mind, many Christians assume a life of grudging sacrifice is what God most wants for us. Happiness presents a God who not only desires our happiness but is himself infinitely happy.

Like Heaven, Happiness dives into the relevant Scripture passages to challenge the assumption that God isn't interested in our happiness. It turns out that God cares deeply about our happiness and fights for it every day.

Happiness is a game-changing book because it challenges something many of us have accepted as part of the Christian narrative for so long. Happiness is important. God is happy, and he wants to share and expand his happiness with us.

Review copy provided by the Tyndale Blog Network