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Category Archives: book reviews

Hillsong: Let Hope Rise – A Review

lethoperiselogonewIf you are a regular church attendee, and your music has any aspect of contemporary songs in it – you have sung something from Hillsong.  I have long loved their music, and the heart behind the writing of praise songs that are sung the world over.

This movie – really more of a documentary – follows the Hillsong United band through the development of a new album and to aWorship event at the Forum in California.  It was fascinating to watch as the “flashback” scenes culminated in the event.

I loved hearing from Brian Houston, founding pastor when he said that he had wanted to start a church that was music driven and that the music would “connect the soul to heaven”.  He and his wife Bobbie took us back to the place where they first met – with just 100 others.  Since 1983 they have grown from those 100 to 75,000 in 12 countries.

What struck me most as I watched this journey of worship leaders who truly believe that “the songs mean nothing if they aren’t helping people connect to God” as Joel Houston shared, is that they are just real people.  They don’t have huge houses, flashy cars and all that goes with the American experience of celebrity pastors.  The band has a heart to use their talents to lead people in meaningful worship.

The piece has been produced with lyrics on the screen during the worship songs, with the intention of the audience joining in with the music.  Just imagine a theatre full of worshippers singing so loudly that those in the movie complex hear it!  Surely a small taste of heaven…

While there is no question about the centrality of Jesus in the theme of Hillsong’s music, it occurred to me as the movie was coming to its end – that there was not much mention of him outside of the songs.  Brian even said that people should “pour yourself into a local church, and you’ll never be the same”.   Perhaps it is an over reaction on my part, but it’s not enough to be part of a church, it’s the relationship with Jesus that matters and it’s him that makes you not the same.

I loved watching the process of the song writing, even when one song was finished at the very last minute.  To see Joel sitting with his Bible open, pen in hand and journalling his way to the lyrics was lovely.  My very favourite moment though, was the international singing of Mighty to Save.  Just incredible!

Should you have the opportunity to see Hillsong: Let Hope rise – do so.  Better yet, go with your family and/or friends and worship in the theatre right along with the movie.  My thanks to GrafMartin Communications for the opportunity to independently review this movie.

 

 

 

 
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Posted by on October 7, 2016 in book reviews, Family ideas

 

The Longing In Me

To say that I am fond of Shelia Walsh – her writing and her speaking and even her tweets, would be an understatement.

Shelia’s story of her life and her honesty about living with Depression and how her faith in Jesus sustains her through it all is incredibly inspirational.  She has honestly shared once again, this time about the longing that is in all of us and how God longs to meet that deepest need in each of us.

You can find more about the book here www.TheLongingInMe.com, and once I’m done the book this weekend – I’ll post a more complete review.

 

 
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Posted by on April 2, 2016 in book reviews

 

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The Crimson Cord, Rahab’s Story – A Review

the crimson cordAs an independent reviewer, I am thankful to Graf-Martin Communications and Revell Books for the opportunity to read this very new telling of a very old story.

Rahab’s story is one that causes most of us to be uncomfortable with.  Let’s face it – she’s not a woman that most moms would hold up as a mirror for their girls to aspire to.  Nor are we content that she is only one of a very few women to be named in the lineage of Christ.  Yet, she is an example of courage, of God’s never ending grace and the beautiful great-great grandma of King David.

Jill Eileen Smith has crafted, very skillfully, a new engaging story of Rahab, and how she came to assist the Hebrew’s fulfill God’s plan for Jericho.  A faithful, yet abused wife finds herself sold into slavery to pay off her husband’s debt.  Her purchaser has many other plans for her.  Tastefully dealing with the degradation that happens with sex slavery – we understand Rahab’s complete lack of faith in herself.

She does though, find a way to assure her safety and her that of her family when the Hebrew’s come to claim the land God has promised.  Then we “watch” as God redeems her past life, and brings her to a place of honour in history.  She is a pre-cursor to the story of the kinsman redeemer named Boaz, and gives us a glimpse that all people are loved so much that God wants them to be part of the family.

I thoroughly enjoyed this read – although I must admit I began quite skeptical at what could be done with a bible character we know relatively little about.  Bravo!  I savoured every page.

 
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Posted by on March 12, 2015 in book reviews

 

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Great Bible character + a favourite author = a joy to read.

esther coverEsther, by Angela Hunt, published by Bethany House.

Esther has always been my favourite Bible personality. What young girl doesn’t live a story of the commoner getting to become queen! And then to have her save an entire nation…Disney could learn a thing or two about heroes.

So, imagine my excitement when Angela Hunt, one of my all time favourite authors published this rebelling of Esther’s story. Told with depth of character and setting, we hear this account from the voices of those most intimately involved.

Providing fresh insights (love the reasoning behind Vashti’s refusal to the queen, and her later plots) to the stories behind the story. Hadassah, as she grows into knowing her place in the palace, and learns to love her husband is shown to us as the captivating girl she must have been. Captivating enough to win the King’s heart.

One of only 2 books of Scripture, (the Song of Solomon is the other), Angela has very clearly woven God’s hand through the entire story, and highlights the truth of the faith that Esther was raised to honour.  It is his faith in the One True God that prevents Mordecai from bowing to Hama, and it is the ritual of fasting that Esther and all of the Jewish people in the kingdom engage in preparation for her request to the king.

This was a book to savour, I intentionally took my time in reading the story, not wanting to leave the palace too soon.

I am grateful to Graf-Martin Communications, via the Nuts About Books and Bethany House for providing this opportunity for me to complete an independent review of this book.

 
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Posted by on January 19, 2015 in book reviews

 

Like a Flower in Bloom – Book Review

I am not a typical Christian fiction reader.  I am not a fan of the Historical romance, but being a voracious reader, and knowing I was heading away on a beach holiday – I was happy to receive this advanced reading copy compliments of Bethany House Publishing.

On its journey of a story, I was engaged with a young woman I greatly identified with.  Miss Withersby is an independent young woman, who is not entirely thrilled with the expectations and limitations placed on her by Society.  She is passionate about all things Ranunculus, and entirely happy and content to be her father’s assistant – drawing and writing his botany books.

Her father though, becomes convinced that all this must end, as it is time she find herself a husband.  She sets off to do just that, but planning to find someone so unsuitable, her father will never agree.  Under the tutelage of a friend, the two begin their scheme, but when it involved 2 very different men who share our ladies’ interest, things get interesting.

When life shows it has a different agenda, and even though she can’t see it, the very man her father hired to release her from her duties at home, becomes a familiar and somewhat comfortable, thorn in her side.

I found the botany references, and our heroine’s passion to detail very familiar and engaging.  I was pleased that this book didn’t follow the typical formula for romance novels, having a twist at the end that I hadn’t anticipated.  A refreshing find, and enjoyable way to spend a holiday afternoon.

This review is an independent opinion, with the book being provided through Graf-Martin Communications by Bethany House Publishing.

 
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Posted by on January 13, 2015 in book reviews

 

Burning Questions from RZIM – a review

I have always enjoyed anything that comes from the Ravi Zacharias Ministries. He and the ministry that bears his name are fine presenters of the evidence for the truth of Christianity, and the Scriptures.

I was excited by the opportunity to review their newest resource. A 6 session, small group study asking the “Burning Questions”. Presented in DVD format, with an accompanying website for resources, it has everything a small group leader would need to walk their group through these issues. The downloadable guide, which is only available after having signed up for the newsletter, breaks the session into “chewable” segments, and has questions to guide reflection throughout the segment.

Hosted by Andy Bannister, Canadian Director of RZIM – he seeks out the expertise of leaders and leading thinkers from 5 of the World’s main religions: Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, Atheism and Christianity. The opening session sets the tone for the remainder of the sessions, exploring the issue of God’s existence. He then follows with Science, Evil, Truth, Biblical accuracy and Jesus.

In excellent interview formats, Andy engages well, and respectfully with all of his guests. There is no defensiveness in any of the answers, which is helpful. (on a very personal note, one of his guests, I have personally seen in a setting where his religion was not the majority – and his presentation was offensive to his hosts at best. It was a much better presentation he gave in this setting.)

I watched this with a particular population of seekers in mind, and found myself realizing that most of the material would not be accessible to them. I would recommend this for a deeply thinking, even critically thinking gathering of seekers. Even a setting with those who would desire to share their understanding of the world in a educated, yet pluralistic setting. The Christian and Biblically sound responses to the other religions are excellent. But realistically, beyond a conversation that someone without a university level education (perhaps even not without a graduate level) would have.

I wonder if the extended conversations with those who don’t share a Christian worldview might be confusing for those who are seekers, or even skeptics. I can see this resource being useful in World religions class, or for a group who is interested in Apologetics.

I am grateful to Graf-Martin Communications for providing this copy for my independent review.

 
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Posted by on December 11, 2014 in book reviews

 

The Cradle Calls Each of Us

I have a book by the singer Michael Card, called “Come to the Cradle”.  It was written to accompany his recording of the same name.  One of my favourite  quotes is contained on the first page:

                “The cradle call us to come away from the busyness of the world – to rediscover the holy, unhurried life of a child, and to discover that as we pour ourselves into the lives of our little ones, life overflows in return.  For the cry of a baby in the middle of the night is not simply a summons to change a diaper – it contains within it more than our ears can hear.  It is a call to leave the cozy self-interest of our warm beds; to come, saying no to a thousand voices that tell us to remain where we are comfortable.  It is a call to come away from ourselves.  No one who has ever heeded this call will tell you it was in vain”

Michael’s words were meant to describe the experience of being a parent…but they ring so true for us all, and they come to mind each year as I get ready to celebrate Jesus birth.  The night God broke into history to show us how much He loves us, He didn’t arrive as the scholars had all thought.  There was no white stallion – it was a lowly donkey, being ridden by a young, unwed mother and her fiance.  There were no servants, or handmaids to assist, just a safe place where the animals were kept.  No one to hand out birth announcements,  but there were angels – an army of angels the Scriptures tell us – to invite all of God’s creation, to come to the cradle.

I don’t think that the song, as lovely as it is, Silent Night quite gets the picture of the stable right.  Jesus was born fully human, be assured that he was a “real” baby…that means crying.  I imagine that as one who help create the vastness of the stars, he had a full cry, and I’m sure he used it.  But, just as Mary will have had to respond to her Son’s call – so must we.

Jesus, still today, ask us to leave our cozy self-interest, and to say no to the thousand voices telling us not to go.  He does call us away from ourselves, and calls us to be closer to Him.  When we answer that call – nothing stays the same.  We are able to see the world through His eyes, to care with His heart and to serve with His hands.   As you celebrate the Christmas, listen for the call from the cradle, and answer with “I’m right here”, and hear Him answer, “I’ve been waiting – just for you”.

May your Christmas be blessed.