The Jesus Inquest by Charles Foster

I was excited to get my first complimentary e-book to review from BookSneeze, but honestly I struggled to get into Foster’s analysis of the resurrection of Jesus. I don’t know if it was the e-book format that I was not so comfortable reading – I do like a real book. But I also found the introduction by Foster to be patronising and a bit arrogant when writing about others who have tackled the same subject. On the other hand Foster’s book is through and contains many reference. It is not an easy book to sit down and read but I would certainly recommend it as a resource to dip in and out of. I’m tempted to buy the printed copy – it might be a hnady resource to have around.

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The Secrets Beneath: Kathleen Fuller

Kathleen Fuller: The Secrets Beneath

I love a good mystery so when I was offered a complimentary copy of The Secrets Beneath by Kathleen Fuller for review from Booksneeze.com I thought it would be fun, even though it is book aimed at tweens – I haven’t been a tween for many years now. It is book 2 of a series but you don’t have to have read the first one to understand what is going on. The action is all set in Amish Pennsylvania which adds a bit of mystery to the mystery as you get to learn about a new culture and some new ways of speaking. I was surprised that a tween book deals with issues like depression, unanswered prayer and loss of faith.

The mystery itself is interesting but not as mysterious as it could be, but the bitter-sweet ending is more real to life than any book I remember reading at that age. The characters deal with disobeying parents, crushes, being nosey, difficult home lives and broken families – a lot of emotions for a tween book. A good gift for a tweenage girl – especially for one who has a family member suffering from depression.

Heaven is for Real: Todd Burpo & Lynn Vincent (Thomas Nelson)

Heaven Is for Real: A Little Boy's Astounding Story of His Trip to Heaven and Back

I was a bit sceptical when I saw that this book was the true story of a 3 & a bit years old’s visit to heaven when he was undergoing surgery for a burst appendix. I was a sent a complimentary copy for review by Booksneeze.com. Despite myself I found myself enjoying this family’s testimony of how God looked after them in a very difficult period of their lives. The claims of little Colton do not contradict scripture, although one detail of people getting wings did throw me, even though he makes a clear distinction between people and angels. I enjoyed the childlike faith in God that Colton expressed that some many adults have lost. I loved that the angels sang to him during his operation because he was scared but refused his request to sing ‘We will rock you’. Finishing this book I longed that Colton’s testimony be proven to be true – God gave this family the reassurance that all things are in His hands, even when it looks like things are falling apart and perhaps he gave a small boy a glimpse of heaven to prove it to them. It made me wonder that if my image of heaven is true and if in my heart of hearts I really believe it to be real.

Revelation 4:2-3 At once I was in the Spirit, and there before me was a throne in heaven with someone sitting on it. 3 And the one who sat there had the appearance of jasper and carnelian. A rainbow, resembling an emerald, encircled the throne.

This heart-warming little book challenged me to remember that God is in his place on the throne of heaven, in control of all things, even when it seems like to us there is chaos. If heaven is not for real then the chaos and suffering we experience is without end or purpose. This little book is a hope giver and & certainly believe that ‘Heaven is for Real’.

Out Live Your Life: Max Lucado

Outlive Your Life: You Were Made to Make A Difference

When I opened the envelope with a complimentary review copy of Max Lucado’s new book ‘Out Live your Life’ from Booksneeze I was a little apprehensive. You see I haven’t read a Lucado book in quite some time. A few years ago I read so many Lucado books that I felt like I had become immune to his beautiful turn of phrase – I was Lucado-ed out. But as I sat down this weekend to read ‘Out Live your Life’ I was easily drawn into the book and finished it that same day.

Based on the early church in the book of Acts Lucado challenges the reader to make a difference in the way they live their lives – by showing compassion, breaking cultural walls and living radical relationship. Initially with all the statistical quotes about poverty I thought that this was another book in the ilk of Rich Stearn’s ‘Hole in the Gospel’ but although the book touches on poverty issues the real focus is relationships – noticing the people and their circumstances around you. While some of the examples he uses are people who went to radical lengths to help others many of the examples are just ordinary people who did something small that made a huge difference. It feels like Lucado’s call is not necessarily to the dramatic but to making a difference in an everyday kind of ordinary way and that feels attainable and less daunting than most books that deal with poverty issues.

Among my favourite chapters was Chapter 12 ‘Blast a Few Walls’ which is about how the early church, with the leading of the Holy Spirit, totally turned cultural barriers on its head. Lucado challenges the reader to be part of the “Bigotry-demolition team’. I also loved chapter 9’s (Do Good, Quietly) imagining of the conversation between Ananias and Sapphira. “Bottom line: don’t make a theatre production out of your faith” – a challenge to do good for the sake of doing good rather than to be seen.

On the downside I felt the book was firmly aimed at the American believer – but that is Lucado’s main audience. I also felt that the flow between the chapters was a bit disjointed  – that each chapter stood alone, which is an advantage for those who like to dip in and out of a book or do the study in the back. It felt that each chapter had previously been a separate stand alone sermon from a series on Acts.

I found the study guide by David Drury in the back very interesting and especially helpful with his ‘Ideas for Action’, again following Lucado’s non-intimidating challenge to be radical with not too scary ideas to implement the chapter’s lesson.

Lucado’s challenge to ‘Out Live Your Life’ is a challenge to let our faith radically change our relationships, but Lucado issues the challenge in a gentle way that makes it attainable and not too overwhelming.