Tag Archives: christian book reviews

Review: Spiritual love tested, unfolds in ‘Under A Withering Sun’

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By Tonya Andris
Inside The Pew

We’ve all been taught not to read another person’s diary.

In the case of author Chaka Heinze, reading someone else’s diary is the premise for an inspirational romance novel about two youngChaka Heinze college students. The pair’s quest for earthly love and spiritual love unfolds through Heinze’s epistolary writing.

Published through Christian book publisher Athanatos Publishing Group, Under A Withering Sun ($14.95 USD, Athanatos Publishing Group) introduces readers to Regina Leeman, who struggles emotionally after the sudden death of her parents and twin sister.

To mask her pain, Regina volunteers to teach a creative writing class to young teens at the “Wreck” for the summer. Her good intentions are tossed in a tailspin when she develops feelings for a handsome, yet persistent, basketball player, Damion Martin. Among her struggles, she feels guilty for falling in love while on the four-week volunteer project. The challenge Regina consistently encounters is her inability to appear complete to others. She feels she needs to be complete for God to love her. She believes Damion shouldn’t have feelings for a young woman like her because she has “issues.”

Heinze daringly challenges readers to see the quest for God through the eyes of a backslider and a doubter of Jesus Christ. In fact, theUnder A Withering Sun best part of Heinze’s spiritual novel is that it is not sugar coated. As the novel progresses, the reader sees the bumpy progression of the characters’ quest for Him. At one moment, Regina discloses, “At one time I’d lived among the faithful, but life had conspired to carry me far off the path. Now I existed in a kind of spiritual limbo.”

Heinze’s presentation of Regina’s story fits well with the mystery and congruency of the novel. Furthermore, Regina’s triumphs and struggles become realistic in the mind of the reader and the journal entries lend credibility to the narrator. This writing style is featured in many novels, including The Color Purple by Alice Walker and Bridget Jones’ Dairy by Helen Fielding. The author’s talent for writing shines in her use of a lesser-known narrative choice.

Under A Withering Sun is Heinze’s first full-length novel.  As a side note, the novel is also available on eBook (Nook and Kindle) for $4.95.

Always a writer at heart, Heinze dabbled in poetry and storytelling from an early age. While attending the University of Nebraska in Lincoln, she penned a column for the college newspaper and was recognized for abilities to write short stories in a contest sponsored by the university. She also received a JD from the University Of Nebraska College Of Law.

Learn more about Heinze and her novel at http://awitheringsun.com/

Tonya Andris is features editor and book reviewer for Inside The Pew. Contact her at pewnews@aol.com.

1st English-language biography of Pope Francis set for release

Published by:

By Tonya Andris
Inside The Pew

The world learned on March 13 who was elected as the 266th pope of the Roman Catholic Church. For those who desire to learn more about Pope Francis, the moment is just around the corner. Matthew Bunson, Senior Fellow of the St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology at St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology in Steubenville, Ohio, has written the first English-language biography on Pope Francis.

The book’s publisher, Our Sunday Visitor, announced March 22 the book, titled “Pope Francis” ($16.95 USD), will arrive in bookstores on April 10. The book is available for pre-order through Our Sunday Visitor.

Considering a leading authority in the United States on the papacy and the church, Bunson also wrote the first English-language of Pope Francis’

"Pope Francis" by Matthew Bunson

“Pope Francis” by Matthew Bunson

predecessor, Benedict XVI.

The 224-page book is split into three parts to allow readers to get an idea of how and why Pope Francis of Buenos Aires, Argentina, selected and what his selection means for the Catholic Church. First, Bunson puts forth a comprehensive analysis of the unprecedented final days of the pontificate of Pope Benedict XVI. Second, Bunson provides an enlightening perspective on the interregnum and the biggest issues facing the Cardinals as they headed into the conclave. Third, Bunson dedicates more than 150 pages to Pope Francis including:

  • His family history as son of an immigrant railway worker;
  • His active, social youth where he experienced firsthand the challenges of a society ravaged by war, economic despair and cultural unrest;
  • A Jesuit priest, trained as a chemist, who even as a cardinal was referred to as Father Jorge;
  • His work as a priest, bishop and Cardinal in the very unique setting of Buenos Aires where he navigated politics, extreme poverty and high culture;
  • His reputation as a man of the people who lived simply, cooked his own meals, and rode the bus.

With its research conducted in five different languages into the lives and ministries of the world’s leading Cardinals, their backgrounds, writings and homilies, “Pope Francis” shows why Cardinal Bergoglio was ultimately elected as the Catholic Church’s pope.

Bunson is the author of more than 45 books, including “The Pope Encyclopedia,” “The Encyclopedia of Catholic History,” and the soon-to-be-released “Encyclopedia of U.S. Catholic History.”

‘Fruit Of My Spirit’ a tale of God’s love despite our missteps

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By Tonya R. Andris
Inside The Pew

Deanna Nowadnick isn’t perfect. Despite her physical and internal imperfections, she also know that God loves her just the way she is.

In her book, “Fruit Of My Spirit: Reframing Life in God’s Grace” ($12.95, Rhododendron Books; ebook available on Amazon’s Kindle and Barnes and Noble’s Nook), she takes us on her spiritual journey. The book left me confident and empathetic.

Part Bible study, part memoir, and part confessional is the best way to describe Nowadnick’s release. The Monroe, Wash., author takes readers through moments in her life and shapes them around the nine qualities of the Holy Spirit’s fruit. In Galatians 5:22-23, apostle Paul tells the people of Galatia: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Against such things there is no law.”

Recalling the nine qualities of the Holy Spirit’s fruit, the author uses pictures to relate each attribute to its Greek equivalent. The chapter on “Joy” or chara (Greek for divine happiness) is paired with cherries; “Kindness” or chrestotes (Greek for goodness) is paired with strawberries.

Charming black-white photos capture transformations through 30 years of marriage for Deanna Nowadnick and her husband, Kurt, and family time with their sons Kyle and Kevin. In chapter 3, titled “Peace” or eirene (Greek for tranquility) she discusses how she found tranquility in several situations, from enjoying the outdoors without camping and overcoming a need to find comfort in food. Her reaction? She gave it to God.

“My heartfelt prayer was nothing more than, ‘Please, God.” I didn’t even have the words to know what to ask for. All I could repeat was, “Please, God,” she wrote.

Each well-developed story reveals a lot about the growth Nowadnick and how she learned she no longer rests on her own understanding and “let go and let Him.” By pouring out her soul in prose, she benefits. Even in recollection, Nowadnick shows how maturity and understand of her inner self.

Nowadnick feels confident in the way God made her. The tone of her writing is genuine and relatable. There are periods of self-doubt and weakness, but these traits don’t destroy her. Deep inside, she knows she is still loved by the Almighty, a feeling all His children has to understand and embrace.

Visit www.fruitofmyspirit.com to learn more about Nowadnick’s spiritual walk.

Comment on this weekly column by emailing Tonya Andris at pewnews@aol.com.

Book review: Peace making as a way of life for pastors

Published by:

By Michael Ireland
Special Reporter, ASSIST News Service

Editor’s note: This review was first published on Michael Ireland’s blog, “Devotional Moments with Mike.”

MINNEAPOLIS, MN (ANS) – In the introduction to ‘The Peace Making Pastor’ by Alfred Poirier (Baker Books, 2006), the author states that to be a pastor is to be a peacemaker (p.13).

Poirier says that too often pastors view peacemaking as only a tool of ministry, rather than a habit of being. “Instead of being ministers or reconciliation (2 Cor.5:19-20), we confine peacemaking to special crisis situations within the church.”

Poirier actually goes further than to say that just pastors are peacemakers or in the ‘ministry of reconciliation.’

Poirier says: “Since God reconciled all things in heaven and on earth to himself through the death of his Son on the cross (Col.1:19-20), then we who are children of God are redeemed to be reconcilers.”

Poirier develops this theme in Chapter 5, ‘Peacemaking in the Family of God,’ specifically on p.92, under the heading ‘Theology of Sonship.’ Here he says that Jesus’ connection between “peacemakers” and being called “sons of God” is not an arbitrary one. “Peacemaking is the defining characteristic of sonship. And of all Christian virtues and actions, peacemaking reflects most the meaning of being a son or daughter of God.”

This is my favorite chapter in the book because here the author lays out the biblical basis and foundation for our role as 24/7/365 Christians to be peacemakers and reconcilers in a broken and hurting world.

Poirier goes on to say that if this claim is true (that Scripture proclaims and endorses this view of us as believers), “we must not relegate our individual identity as sons and daughters and our corporate identity as family to a minor place in our theology, as if our sonship were one image among many that Scripture uses to describe God’s relationship with the church.”

Poirier states three reasons why this ‘sonship reconciliation theology’ is true.

First, he says that the significance of sonship is proved by its dominant presence in several key ‘programmatic’ passages of Scripture (Rom.8:15-32; Gal.3:15-4:7; Eph.1:3-6; Heb.2:1-18;12:1-14;1 John 3:1-3). [By programmatic he means those texts that give the sweep and order of God’s redemptive purposes].

Second, Poirier says sonship is the distinctive mark of the new covenant. He says that in Galatians 3:26-4:7, Paul likens the radical shift in the status of God’s people in redemptive history to the transition from being slaves to being sons.

The third line of evidence showing the significance of sonship in God’s redemptive purposes is that sonship is a key characteristic of our sanctification, most overtly seen in Hebrews 12.

Poirier says (p.95) that to be “Like father, like son,” is not only a common proverb, but is inherently biblical in nature. “In Scripture, sonship is about likeness.”

Elsewhere in Scripture, Paul says that we are ‘heirs and joint heirs (co-heirs) with Christ’ and that one day we shall be like Him. But there is a very real sense in that we are called to be like Him NOW. Jesus said ‘the Kingdom is within you, and NOW is’ – the Kingdom of God has come near, is with us, and within us NOW by the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit.

Therefore, if we are heirs, and joint heirs with Christ NOW, we are to be like Him NOW, and to exercise the role of peacemakers and reconcilers NOW.

From reading Poirier, I conclude that not only pastors, but all Bible-believing Christians, are to be “reconciling peacemakers,” as Paul says, “as if God were making His appeal to you though us.”

This being the case, I believe it is incumbent upon us as Christ followers, in the words of Paul, to “as much as it is within your power, live at peace with all men,” and “to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”

For me, this means to live a Spirit-filled, Spirit-directed life, seeking to bring the message of ‘the peace with God’ and ‘the peace of God’ to all men, everywhere.

Book review: ‘Fresh Hope … Cleveland’ quite resourceful

Published by:

By Tonya Whitaker
Inside The Pew

Nearly nine years ago, Cleveland author Nanci J. Gravill was diagnosed with breast cancer. Then, she was unable to return to her temporary job. Since she could not work, Gravill was left to live off money generated from investments and retirement. The best course for Gravill was to seek assistance for community resources. By reaching out, she found more than outside help. Gravill discovered a new course that allowed her to cope with her condition and learn how to put all her trust in God.

The end result of her experience is the release, Fresh Hope … Cleveland: Resources to Help You Navigate through Unsettled Times  (West Bow Press, $19.99 perfect bound softcover; $3.99 eBook).

Within its pages the reader will find inventive ways to manage those challenges along with money-saving tips, healthcare services, job and mortgage information, and more. At the core, readers will discover (or re-discover) the most important resource once could ever possess: a relationship with God.

“Prayer is the simply talking to God and telling Him how you feel and what you need. Your words do not have to be fancy or in any particular fashion. … Prayer is the most powerful resource you possess. Cast all your cares on God because He cares for you (1 Peter 5:7),” Gravill writes in the introduction of part 3, “More Fresh Hope Resources.

While the book includes a bevy of information for individuals seeking community assistance in Cleveland, Gravill said the content is easily adjustable to fit residents in any large, metropolitan city.

“All the resources in the book came from my modern-day Job experience. Even though there are some resources that seem to be just for my area, they will still point someone needing help in the right direction. All they will have to do to find the location in their city is look in the phone book or Google the facility and such!”

The greatest asset of the Fresh Hope … Cleveland is its emphasis on reflection and reconnection. Gravill includes several of Workspace forms to allow readers to chronicle their thoughts on the section’s topic. One cannot help but to be moved by the form in part 4, “Record To Day To Remember.” In it, Gravill challenges readers to ponder the day Christ came into their hearts.

“If you’ve gone to church but have never heard about knowing God personally and having a personal relationship with Him, please take a comfortable seat and let me tell you about the best friend you could ever have!” she divulges in “Something More.”

If anything, Gravill leaves readers with the sense they can survive any situation by believing in Him and by calling on those who show love for their fellow-man through their generous acts. The book is well-balanced and conveys the love Christ has for us is unwavering, we just need to reach out for it.

NFL Hall of Fame QB Jim Kelly shares parenting plays

Published by:

By Dan Wooding
Founder of ASSIST Ministries

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (ANS) – NFL Hall of Fame quarterback Jim Kelly shares fatherhood advice in his new book, The Playbook for Dads – with Ted Kluck – (FaithWords/Hachette Book Group, September 2012).

Kelly, who spent 11 eleven seasons as quarterback of the Buffalo Bills, helped lead the team to the playoffs eight times, including four Super Bowls.

The Kellys have shared Hunter’s story all over the world and in Jill’s book, Without a Word. Relaying insider information on his toughest job, Kelly tackles 10 important lessons that fathers should be sharing with their children.

“Being a father is hard work,” writes Kelly. “It’s hard work just like being a quarterback was hard, relentless work … But I can honestly say that it’s the greatest, most important job in the world.”

According to a news release, relating personal experiences on and off the field to fatherhood, Kelly walks fathers through his game plan, challenging them to coach their children through 10 important lessons: thankfulness, confidence, respect, preparation, passion, perseverance, character, responsibility, teamwork, and spiritual life.

“It seems like many of these principles are fading away in our society, and I think it’s our job as fathers to preserve them and pass them along to our children,” writes Kelly. In September 1997, three months after their infant son, Hunter, was diagnosed with a fatal disease, Jim and his wife, Jill, founded the Hunter’s Hope Foundation. Sadly, Hunter died at age 8 from Krabbe diesease.

Each parenting lesson begins with a letter to his late son and ends with a letter to his two daughters, Cam and Erin. Kelly shares details of his and his wife Jill’s journey to Christianity after the passing of their son, and how that experience has changed their lives for the better – forever. FaithWords publishes books for the growing inspirational market.

Based near Nashville, Tenn., FaithWords has grown dramatically by acquiring a solid list of faith-building fiction and high-profile authors with edifying messages, including best-selling authors Joyce Meyer, Joel Osteen, John Eldredge, and David Jeremiah. Several FaithWords titles have appeared on national best-seller lists, most recently Every Day a Friday by Joel Osteen, Living Beyond Your Feelings by Joyce Meyer and I Never Thought I’d See the Day! by David Jeremiah.

Wooding bases ‘Dagger’ on personal experiences

Published by:

By Jeremy Reynalds
Senior Correspondent for ASSIST News Service

LAKE FOREST, Calif. – Dan Wooding’s career must rate as one of the most unusual in journalism. For he has gone from being a London correspondent for the National Enquirer and a staffer on the Sunday People and the Sunday Mirror, two of Britain’s raciest tabloids, to an undercover reporter and campaigner for persecuted Christians in the restricted countries of the world.

And now international journalist, Dan Wooding, 71, founder of the ASSIST News Service (www.assistnews.net), has put his many years of exciting and often dangerous travel to good use in Red Dagger, his 44th book — and his first novel.

The fast-moving book, much of which is based on his many years of traveling to some of the world’s hot-spots, features a Palestinian terrorist who belongs to the Red Dagger terror group from Gaza, a place that Wooding has visited several times, an Irish double agent, and a drunken American journalist who moves to London and spends too much time in a pub called “The White Hart” which had been nicknamed “The Stab in the Back” because that is where tabloid journalist gathered to verbally stab each other in the back.

Wooding knows all about this journalists’ pub as it was there that he recommitted his life to Christ back in the late 1970s and went to Uganda to write “Uganda Holocaust” with Irish-Canadian, Ray Barnett, who later founded the African Children’s Choir.

Each one of the characters finally finds redemption in their twisted lives, but not before much mayhem has been committed and the world had stood on the edge of complete disaster.

“Red Dagger is the result of more than 20 years of loving work,” Wooding told me. “It began when a colleague told me that I should put together a novel that incorporated all the years of personal experiences I have had since I first entered journalism with The Christian in London back in 1968.”

This, said Wooding, has included the time he was arrested and locked up in a cell in Lagos, Nigeria. Also when he and a colleague were in a hotel in San Salvador, El Salvador, when a car bomb exploded in the parking lot and badly damaged the hotel and, finally when he and his wife Norma were held up by terrorists in Bethlehem and were going to be shot by them. That was until a quick-thinking Arab taxi driver saved their lives by explaining they were visitors from the USA.

“Although none of these experiences are used in the book as they occurred, they helped me to imagine many of the scenes included in the book,” said Wooding. “Also, my travels to Gaza were great background to writing up the many scenes there.”

Red Dagger has already received interest from movie producers and praise from various celebrities who have read it.

They include veteran American entertainer, Pat Boone, who said, “Dan Wooding’s latest book, Red Dagger, is a gripping novel about terror, betrayal and redemption. Much of it is set in Gaza, but also features a Northern Ireland terrorist and an American journalist who, after moving to London, finds himself spending too much time in a bar called ‘The Stab in the Back’ with other drunken hacks. The conclusion of the book has a most dramatic twist that held my attention right to the very end. I enthusiastically endorse Red Dagger, which is written by one of the world’s most traveled journalists.”

Rock keyboard legend, Rick Wakeman, about whom Wooding penned his biography called “Rick Wakeman – the Caped Crusader” – foreword by Elton John – wrote, “Terrorism is a dangerous subject both in reality and in fiction. To bring Christianity in as a major part of the plot is potentially even more dangerous, but Dan Wooding portrays all his characters as both very real and very believable in this novel that literally sets off at a tremendous pace from the very first page. I found myself thinking very visually whilst reading it and that’s the secret of any good novel.”

So if you want to enter the dark and dangerous world of international terrorism and be inspired with its conclusion, this is the book for you, or even for a friend who loves good novels.

To purchase a copy of “Red Dagger” (Tanswell Books), go to: http://www.lulu.com/shop/dan-wooding/red-dagger/paperback/product-11050174.html;jsessionid=89997AD165003FF2695A468AB262C07D
It is also available as an e-Book file download.

You can also get it at http://www.amazon.com/Red-Dagger-Dan-Wooding/dp/0578056534

If you live in the USA and would like an autographed copy of the book, just send a check for $20 (which includes postage) made out to Dan Wooding, and mail it to Dan Wooding, PO Box 609, Lake Forest, CA 92609. For overseas orders, please add a further $3 USD. Also, please put in the memo section of the check, “For Red Dagger.”

Author tells fellow believers to ‘Quit Going to Church’

Published by:

By Tonya Whitaker
Inside The Pew

PLANO, Texas – Bob Hostetler has a message for Christians – quit going to church.

He also tells us to quit saying prayers, quit reading your Bible, quit volunteering, quit enjoying fellowship, and so on.

Bob Hostetler

Hostetler, co-founder of Cobblestone Community Church in Oxford, Ohio, uses the Bible to explain why Christians should improve in these areas in his latest release, “Quit Going To Church.” (ISBN 978-0-915547-70-8, $14.99, 224 pages, Leafwood Publishers)

While all these requests sound a bit far-fetched, think again. This thought-provoking and “pull-of-the-gloves” book is based on the premise that much of how we think and act, a great percentage of what we do today as church-going people, bears a slight resemblance to the way of Jesus and “the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 1:3 NIV).

The title of the book and its subsequent chapters issue an eyebrow-raising challenge, showing how many of us have misunderstood and distorted the good news of Jesus and replaced Christianity with something else.

For instance, in the chapter “Quit Going To Church,” he points out that Christians should “stop going to church and start being a church” that resembles the one in Acts 2. What should a church look like? Hostetler said it should be holy (“spirituality” and “being the church”), catholic (“universal” and “all of us together”), and apostolic (“based on the teachings of the apostles” and “provide gift-based leadership”). Furthermore, Hostetler tells readers to shy from the long-held notion by some that going to church makes you a Christian. This portion of Hostetler’s book takes me to James 2:14-26, when James talks about faith and deeds. What are you doing to fulfill Christ’s kingdom Monday through Saturday?

Hostetler contends Christians should quit tithing because the practice is misrepresented in today’s church. Everything we have belongs to God. Therefore, if you truly understand the New Testament church, 10 percent or any portion that man constitutes as tithing is incorrect. Jesus wants His people to surrender all to Him. Not 10 percent, but 100 percent. Everything! (Luke 14: 25-34).

As I read more, I stumbled into another nugget that made me nod my head in agreement. Hostetler tells believers to quit helping the poor and unite with them. The author boldly says, “When Jesus said, ‘You will always have poor among you (John 12:8 NIV), he meant, ‘among you.’ Not ‘on your drive to the office’ … Not ‘in shelters,’ … or in neighborhoods far from your community. He meant among you.”

Sadly, some have swayed from the Christ’s roadmap for His church. Hostetler is attempting to convey in “Quit Going to Church” that traditions and customs were not a part of first century Christianity and it should not have a place in the 21st century church. This straightforward title has nothing to do with “denomination” or who is right or wrong. But, if you believe in Him with all your heart, you would adhere to Christ’s vision for His church.

Learn more about Hostetler at www.bobhostetler.com. To purchase this book, visit Leafwood Publishers.

Review: 60 ways you can help the needy

Published by:

By Dan Wooding
Founder of ASSIST Ministries

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – We live in a world where there are 145 million orphans, where a child dies of hunger every five seconds, where 925 million people are chronically undernourished, and 1.1 billion lack access to potable water.

When the need is so overwhelming, making a difference often feels like an impossible task. Does helping just one person really matter?

In her new book, “A Cup of Cold Water in His Name: 60 Ways to Care for the Needy” (Discovery House, April 2012, 978-1-57293-512-9, paperback, $12.99), author Lorie Newman reminds us that God calls every Christian to help the millions of forgotten, impoverished, and hurting people in the world.

In Matthew 25:40, Jesus says, “I assure you, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!” So as Newman says, that one definitely matters.

“She wrote A Cup of Cold Water in His Name to equip Christians with practical ways to care for the needy in their everyday lives. In it, she shares 60 ideas inspired by real-life stories of people making an impact, and passes on resources, websites and ministry contacts – everything needed to inspire us to become the hands and feet of Jesus, said Stephanie Ridge of PR by the Book.

“A busy homeschooling mom of seven – including two adopted children from Haiti and Liberia – she is also the founder of an orphan ministry that enables over 250 impoverished African orphans to receive food, clothing, and education through a partnership with Children’s HopeChest. She leads mission trips to teach, train and minister to women of impoverished nations, too. For her work, Newman was featured on Moody Broadcasting’s Midday Connection during their ‘Women Making a Difference’ series.”

Ranging from easy to high-level commitment, the projects in A Cup of Cold Water in His Name speak to five major human

Laurie Newman

needs, addressed in Mathew 25: feeding the hungry, being hospitable, clothing the naked, caring for the sick, and ministering to the prisoner.

Step-by-step instructions help readers make a difference in the lives of individuals, families, and even entire communities, regardless of age, status, experience or financial situation. Sample projects include:
* Keep five-dollar gift cards in your purse or wallet for the needy.
* Participate in a local produce co-op or buy in bulk.
* Provide respite care for foster families.
* Organize a block party in a needy area.
* Form a support group at your church for people infected with or affected by HIV/AIDS.
* Teach life skills to foster children who are aging out of the system.

“Caring for the poor and needy is not optional for Christians,” says Newman, “and it’s easier than we realize.”

She is a frequent speaker at Christian retreats and ministry events, and has taught Bible studies and led prayer groups for more than 15 years.

Learn more at www.LorieNewman.com and http://lorienewmanblog.typepad.com.