Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Torchlighters Heroes of the Faith SALE

For a limited time, get $10 off the 12-pack price. Go to Vision Video and enter the promo code tl12bwj when you order. Offer ends June 1, 2015.

It's been ten years since the Torchlighters videos started releasing. They are inspiring stories of heroes of the faith. The first one was The Jim Elliot Story. Now there are thirteen. These animated stories are great for children aged 8-12. They can be used in the home, church, school and any other form of children's ministry.

You can watch a trailer of The John Wesley Story here. It will give you an idea of the quality and inspiration of the award winning Torchlighters series.

I recently watched The Jim Elliot Story. He was one of five young American men who went to the steamy jungles of Ecuador. He was killed by a member of the Auca (Woadani) tribe – the very tribe he had gone to serve. Elliot's is an inspiring story. From his youth he had wanted to share the gospel with those who had never heard it. After his death, his wife and family members of the other men went back to the Auca and brought them to Christ.

I also watched The Corrie ten Boom Story. She and her family repaired broken clocks and watches in Holland. They took in a Jewish baby, protecting it from the Nazi invaders. But they were imprisoned for their good deed. Corrie's faith was tested and she showed courage, sacrifice, and forgiveness. Hers is an inspiring story.

Other episodes include the stories of Richard Wurmbrand, Eric Liddell, Samuel Morris, Gladys Aylward, John Bunyan, Amy Carmichael, Augustine, William Tyndale, Perpetua, and William Booth.

The Torchlighters series began when creator Bill Curtis was reading biographies of great Christian heroes to his ten year old daughter. Realizing how powerful these stories were, he planned the Heroes of Faith animated series. We know kids are drawn to heroes from the sports and the entertainment industry. What a wonderful opportunity to show young people real heroes, heroes of the Christian faith.

The first twelve episodes have been bundled together. Each of the twelve discs contains a 30 minute animated story, a four-lesson curriculum in PDF, a feature length documentary on the hero, and English and Spanish languages and subtitles.

For a limited time, you can get $10 off the 12-pack price. Just go to Vision Video and enter the promo code: tl12bwj when you order. You can also call 800-523-0226 but be sure to mention the promo code. This offer ends June 1, 2015.

You can find out more about the Torchlighters ministry here.

I received access to the two videos I watched through BelieversTrust for the purpose of an independent and honest review.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Too Many to Jail by Mark Bradley

The church in Iran has been growing vigorously, Bradley writes. There is overwhelming evidence there has been dynamic growth in the house church movement. He estimates that there are around 370,000 Christians among Iranians of Muslim background.

He gives a history of the last several decades to show how many in that country have become disillusioned with Islam. Many have turned to Jesus. Bradley says that “Iranians have an instinctive love for Jesus.” (104) They read about him in the Koran and see him as a peaceful man and a miracle worker.

Bradley shares why the house church movement allows for this growth. Christians can meet at different places and at different times. After persecution, they can regroup again. Women are frequently in leadership. They emphasize sharing testimonies. There is an expectation for God to be active so most of the house churches are charismatic.

While Anglicans and Presbyterians had missionaries in the country for over a hundred years, Ayatollah Khomeini effectively brought that to an end by 1979. At that time there was thought to be around 500 Christians in the country. Recently, the government has forced the closure of the services in Persian in most of the Protestant church buildings. “This means that the number of functioning public services in Persian can now be counted on one hand.” (154-5) He explains how the decadence of the west is associated with Christianity. Muslims feel that allowing Christianity freedom will lead to licentiousness, so it must be suppressed. Bradley includes a heartbreaking account of the persecution too.

Areas of difficulty for Christians in Iran include print materials (it is illegal to produce any Christian content in the Persian language in Iran) and training. Even so, Bradley says there is little heresy in Iran. He notes that satellite TV and Internet are used by thousands of isolated Christians.

This book is an encouraging account of Christianity in Iran. Bradley has included a number of inspiring testimonies. His review of the last several decades of the country's history is great for understanding the situation there today. He has included an extensive appendix with the history of Christianity in Iran prior to 1979 as well.

The author suggests http://www.iran30.org/ to pray for the believers in Iran.

Mark Bradley is a researcher with a charity working in the Middle East.

Lion Hudson (distributed in the U.S. by Kregel), 303 pages.I received a complimentary copy of this book from Kregel for the purpose of an independent and honest review.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Farewell, Four Waters by Kate McCord

In this very revealing book, McCord (not her real name) has woven her experiences and those of others into a novel about a young woman working for an NGO in Afghanistan. Marie is the main character, a single young woman working in a woman's literacy project.

Our first view of her work is in getting all of the stamps and signatures needed for the government's approval of the latest project. That gives us some insight into the whole governmental system of the country.

Marie travels to a village to meet with the literate woman and set of a classroom. Materials are provided and Marie oversees the work. In the course of Marie's visits, we readers find out more about the village and the power structure of the people there. We learn of deep seated animosity between some people groups or some families.

Two aspects of the work in Afghanistan come across very clearly. One is the danger from external forces, such as tribal rivalry. One family might cause an explosion at the wedding celebration of a hated family. A western woman might be gunned down in the street. Western workers might be kidnapped for ransom. You might be awakened in the night, windows shattering from the shelling of a nearby building.

The other danger comes from within. Marie had been working in Afghanistan for years and had already seen one person leave who was supposed to be working with her for some time. Now a relatively newcomer was planning to leave. Through Marie's journal entries and thoughts, we find out the toll it takes on Marie's faith and mental stability.

This is an enlightening book. As we follow Marie in her work, we get glances of the local people, their thoughts, traditions, and how they treat westerners. Marie is a Christian and it was interesting to see how she let Muslims know of her belief. We also see how careful those over Marie wanted her to be, especially when she visited villages.

I had a little trouble with the writing style of this novel. The sentences were often stilted or seemed disconnected. I had trouble liking the character of Marie. We read many of her thoughts. They seemed to jump around a great deal. Also, Marie was a little arrogant, frequently questioning the directions of those over her. I just did not see her as a likable character. Part of that might be her disillusionment. Marie had come into Afghanistan with high ideals, with a certain attitude. She left with a much more realistic attitude. I also felt like I was reading a sequel. Marie had been at her work for years and I felt like I was only reading the tail end of a longer story.

If you are looking for a fast moving novel, one with lots of action, this is not it. If you are looking for a novel that is character driven, it is not that either. If you want to learn what it was like for a young woman to work in Afghanistan, this one will do that for you.

Kate McCord is not the author's real name. To protect those she worked with, all names have been changed. In the midst of a high powered career, Kate sold everything and left for Afghanistan to start a non-governmental organization with the goal of aiding Afghan women. She worked in Afghanistan for five years.

River North (Moody Press), 368 pages.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher for the purpose of an independent and honest review.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Day of Wrath by William R. Forstchen

This short novel packs a huge punch. I thought Forstchen's novel, One Second After, was scary. This one is much more so.

The action takes place in about an eight hour period. Bob Peterson heads off to the middle school where he teaches. He kisses his wife good-bye, not knowing it would be the last time they would see each other alive.

A short time later, a very organized series of terrorist attacks begin across the country. Many of the teams invade schools, including Peterson's middle school. Other teams roam the interstates, shooting various drivers as they pass.

What a powerful novel. There are so many issues in this novel, it is hard to know where to start. A big one is carrying guns. Bob takes a concealed weapon to school, in his pocket. It is totally against school rules, but he saves scores of children with it. Another issue is the obsession with being politically correct in the U.S. That has allowed the terrorists untold freedom to pursue their ends. Other issues include religious freedom, media coverage, gun control, marshal law, and much more.

The issue that fascinated me was the religion of the terrorists. They are a part of ISIS. Their leader has figured out exactly how Americans will respond to this series of attacks. And we Americans play right into their plans.

Forstchen has created a chilling novel. Yes, there are controversial aspects to the plot. Nonetheless, the story seems all too possible to me. I highly recommend this novel, if for no other reason than just to get you thinking.

Even if you do not read the book, go to the book's website and just check out the information.

William R. Forstchen has a PhD from Purdue University with specialization in military history and the history of technology. He is a fellow and professor of history at Montreat College. He is the author of over forty books. He lives near Asheville, North Carolina.

Spectrum Literary Agency, 188 pages.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Feast for Thieves by Marcus Brotherton

What an entertaining novel! It has quirky characters, great action, and the promise of new life for a compassionate crook.

We meet Rowdy as he is escaping from a bank heist. He's back from WW II and like hundreds, thousands of men, can't find a job. He needed money and his old buddy talked him into the deed. He and his partner run for it and are separated. Rowdy jumps in the river, nearly drowns, but makes it out alive. He has the money sack and after great thought, decides to return the money.

And that is where the story takes an interesting turn. The sheriff of Cut Eye, Texas is in a pickle. The town needs a preacher and Rowdy needs to be in the good graces of the lawman. He agrees to be a preacher for a year and in return, he won't be arrested.

And therein lies the story. Rowdy, a tough guy with a heart of gold, becomes a preacher. But life is not all Bibles and pew benches. His old partner in crime comes back and demands money. Rowdy is in a heap trouble.

There's much more to the story, including a young woman who had been filling in at the church. Daughter of the sheriff, she quotes poetry and at times tries to write some. She tells Rowdy what his duties will be. Some people think preachers work only one day a week but her list of duties sets him straight. There's humor there and other places too.

Brotherton has woven spiritual insights into the story. Rowdy at one point finds a note pinned to his door. Some church goer is angry with him because he had them sing all the verses of a hymn. They had always left out the third verse. If he didn't want to get people angry, he'd better do it like they've always done.

And then there was the evangelistic method Rowdy used in the bar. He convinced the hard boiled factory workers of he could beat them up, they'd agree to come to church.

As good as the story and the humor are, there is a river of heartwarming love that flows through the novel. The people in the Cut Eye church are not perfect, but then, neither is Rowdy. He comes to really care for them, even the quirky ones, the crazy ones.

The message is clear. Can a man really change?

This is a great book. I thoroughly enjoyed it. It is very well written. I loved the characters. They were so well crafted, fitting exactly into the plot. While the story takes place just after the end of WW II, it has truth for today. This is an enjoyable novel. I highly recommend it.

Marcus Brotherton is a journalist and professional writer, the author or coauthor of more than twenty five books. Many of his books center on WW II veterans and what they experienced upon their return from war. He has a bachelor's degree from Multnomah and a master's degree from Talbot Seminary. He served as a pastor in rural areas for nearly a decade before returning to writing full time. He and his family live in Bellingham, Washington. Find out more at www.marcusbrotherton.com.

Moody Publishers, 288 pages.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher for the purpose of an independent and honest review.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

The Real Origin of the Species by Oscar J. Daniels

Daniels sets out to disprove the theory of evolution and verify the accuracy of the Bible. The result is a rather folksy essay.

He covers the improbabilities of evolution, beginning with interdependency. He notes the unlikeliness of male and female of a species evolving at the same time, let alone that happening 1.8 million times. He writes about the issues of animals and their necessary habitat and food sources evolving all at the exact same time. He defends the geological column as a result of the flood. He critiques carbon 14 dating. He compares creation and evolution, notes the evidence for a Designer, and likens evolution to idolatry. He then defends the Bible and presents a gospel message.

Daniels has provided no documentation in his work, that is, no footnotes. He makes lots of unsubstantiated claims. For example, “...the human genome has remain fixed, unchanged... All other plant and animal genomes have remained unchanged...” (55) He offers no documented proof for such a claim.

He makes sweeping statements: “We cannot trust any of the claims made by scientists regarding the age of the earth or the origins of life. All of their claims are based solely on speculation and theory. There is no scientific proof for any of it.” (23) Quite a statement to make when he himself offers no scientific proof for his claims.

The subtitle of the book is not accurate. What Daniels presents is not new. If you have done any reading at all in the creation evolution debate, you will have read about the information Daniels presents. The information here would be new only to someone who has not read anything by Morris or Ham or any other of the scores of authors writing on the subject. And I did not find the arguments compelling. That was mostly because they were unsubstantiated claims. While I may agree with some of them, they were not presented in a “compelling” way.

Potential readers should be aware that Daniels recommends the Bible commentaries of Ellen G. White, one of the founders of the Seventh Day Adventist Church.

I find it odd that the cover image of the book, a painting by Michelangelo, has been altered. Was it really necessary to spare readers the anatomical accuracy of the original painting?

I would not recommend this book. There are many books, long and short, that are much better on the issue of creation and evolution.

Oscar J. Daniels completed three semesters of theological studies and has a BA in English from the University of New York. He worked for the Government Printing Office where he was a writer of contract specifications. In his retirement, he writes articles and essays defending the claims of the Bible.

TEACH Services, 96 pages.

I received a complimentary digital copy of this book through BookCrash for the purpose of an independent and honest review.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Facing the Blitz by Jeff Kemp

In life, like in football, a blitz is an unexpected attack hoping to disrupt the opposing team. Kemp experienced them on and off the field and shares what he has learned about surviving and thriving past them. The way we face a blitz makes all the difference, Kemp says. He wants to help us experience growth, not setback.

He gives three major strategies. First is taking a long-term view. He encourages having the mindset of finding opportunity in the experience. We may have to be flexible, letting the old dreams die. But God may have allowed the blitz to get us moving in a new direction. Second is being willing to change. He suggests taking a deep look at ourselves and accepting responsibility. He writes about relationships, being an investor, not a consumer.

Kemp excels in his third strategy, reaching out to others. He writes about our team and looking for the good in others. He advocates inspiring and elevating others (LIFT). He writes quite a bit about family and leaving a legacy.

Kemp uses lots of examples from football so this would be a great book for lovers of football. He also has stories of people he knows who have experienced a severe blitz in life and have formed a way forward.

He shares insights from his experience on the football field. He has great insights into performance based acceptance and rejection and ultimately finding our value in Christ. Other insights include the value of teamwork and how blitzes help us understand ourselves. His writing about consumers and investors was excellent. His section on humility was superb.

But Kemp doesn't leave readers with just good ideas. He also gives some very practical suggestions for action. He ends each chapter with questions for self-reflection and ideas for action. He asks some very thought provoking questions. Many of them would be helpful for someone anticipating a career change.

This is a very good book for anyone facing a situation that may seem overwhelming. A reader will enjoy this book the most if he or she is a lover of football, since that's the topic of many of the illustrations and stories.

Jeff Kemp has a BA in economics from Dartmouth College and an MBA from Pepperdine University. He had a career in the NFL for eleven years (including the Seattle Seahawks - shown here), most years as a backup quarterback. In 1993 Jeff founded Stronger Families. In 2012 he joined FamilyLife. He is a popular speaker and is active in family and marriage strengthening. He and his wife live in Little Rock, Arkansas. You can find out more at www.JeffKempTeam.com.

Bethany House Publishers, 240 pages.

I received a complimentary egalley of this book from the publisher for the purpose of an independent and honest review.

Monday, March 23, 2015

The Boy Who Loved Rain by Gerard Kelly

This book is captivating, haunting, thought provoking.

A teenage boy, son of a pastor, has feelings that overwhelm him. He has terrifying dreams he can't explain. He's made preparations to commit suicide. His parents are frantic. They've done what they think it best for their son. Everything, that is, except tell him the truth, the one tool he needs to survive.

I really liked this book. The combination of the subject matter and the plot construction made for a great novel. We find out information as the plot progresses, just as some of the characters do. The exploration of the relationships and characters is developed slowly but deeply. It is an intense novel yet very satisfying. I can hardly believe this is a debut novel. It is great.

This novel generated lots of questions for me. Some of them deal with character development. Just how important is one's history? Does it have an effect on us even if we don't know it? Others deal with parenting. Is it better to tell a child painful information when young or later? How honest should parents be with their children? Is it ever best to not be honest? Some of the questions deal with suffering teens. Do they cut themselves to physically feel the pain they have in their heart? Some of them deal with how we give help to troubled teens. Do we keep the source of help within the Christian community or do we look to “secular” help too? (In the novel, the father, a pastor, wanted to use only people within his own congregation.) And then there are some general questions. Are keeping secrets ever the “best” thing to do? How does healing from past trauma happen?

There was no discussion guide included in this novel. I would highly recommend it for reading groups anyway. There is so much to discuss in this book, concepts about secrets, parenting, adoption, and much more. This is a great novel.

Gerard Kelly is a speaker and author. He and his wife live and work in France and co-foounded the Bless Network. You can find out more about the ministry at http://blessnet.eu/.

Lion Fiction (distributed in the U.S. by Kregel), 322 pages.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Kregel for the purpose of an independent and honest review.