Friday, September 25, 2009

The Transformation Study Bible

Warren Wiersbe, general editor
David C. Cook, 2009

For over thirty years, millions have come to rely on Dr. Wiersbe’s commentary and insights on Scripture. “It isn’t enough," he states, "for us simply to read assigned portions of the Bible each day, as helpful as that is. A truly transforming experience involves meditating on what we read (Ps. 1:2), studying it carefully in the light of other verses, and then obeying what God tells us to do (Josh. 1:8).” The Transformation Study Bible offers the full text of the highly readable New Living Translation (which was created using a highly rigorous and scholarly approach) with accompanying notes and commentary from the 50 books in Dr. Wiersbe’s “Be” series.

The goal of this Study Bible is to enable readers "to appreciate, appropriate, and apply the Word of God," in order to produce "purity, joy, right values, hope, comfort, freedom, new life, peace, guidance, wisdom, integrity, encouragement, and effective prayer.” If you want to be a new person, knowing and obeying the will of God and becoming more like Jesus Christ, The Transformation Study Bible is an excellent tool to encourage that process.

The basic features of this Bible include:
  1. Introductions for each book of the Bible, helping the reader understand its background, important themes, and other key information.
  2. Book outlines that provide the key theme and key verse with other Scripture passages that fit into the flow of each book.
  3. Book overviews with timeless and practical lessons from Dr. Wiersbe.
  4. 'Catalyst notes' that discuss important biblical themes and character issues. These help prepare readers' hearts and minds as they study, and motivate them to have their lives transformed by the power of the Holy Spirit.
  5. 'Be transformed' notes that direct the reader to the life-changing impact of a particular part of scripture.
  6. Cross references that reveal how different parts of Scripture are connected.
  7. Full colour maps that help readers locate significant sites and geographical relationships of places identified in the Bible.
  8. A dictionary-concordance that helps readers locate a verse or group of topically-related verses.
  9. Approximately 10,000 study notes that explain key Bible passages and how they apply to readers' lives.

Dr. Warren Wiersbe has produced a Bible that is clear, understandable, and applicable to the lives of its readers. He encourages believers of all levels to know and love the Bible and to experience the same transformation that has radically changed his life.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

The Fairy-Tale Detectives (The Sisters Grimm)

by Michael Buckley
Amulet Books, 2005

When 11-year-old Sabrina and her 7-year-old sister are deposited with Mrs. Grimm, Sabrina is understandably suspicious. Their father, who disappeared along with their mother 18 months ago, had always told the girls that they had no living relatives, yet here is this woman pretending to be their grandmother!

Well, no matter. It won't be the first time the girls have run away from a foster home. But when the girls' attempt fails, it isn't long before they find themselves in very odd circumstances. Is it possible that pixies really exist? Are storybook creatures secretly living in Ferryport Landing? Are the sisters really descendants of the famous fairytale scribes?

When Mrs. Grimm and her faithful companion, Mr. Canis, are snatched by a giant, Sabrina and Daphne spring into action. They must save their friends from imminent destruction. But can they trust trickster king Puck and Jack the Giant killer to help them? And what is Mayor Charming's role in the abduction?

First in a series, this extremely well-written book captured the interest of my entire family, from youngest (11 y.o.) to oldest (## y.o.). My son, deprived of x-box, computer, and tv from Monday to Thursday, devoured 50 pages a day and we all look forward to reading the remaining titles.

It's worth noting that, though these are the author's first children's books, he has previously written for television. No wonder his images and scenes are so riveting and you can easily imagine this story playing out on the big screen.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Christianish: What if We're Not Really Following Jesus at All?

by Mark Steele,
David C. Cook, 2009

According to wiktionary, the adverb 'ish' is used to express doubt about the complete accuracy or truth of what precedes it. Thus, 'Christianish' suggests 'somewhat or fairly Christian' - not Christian at all really, because there is no acceptable halfway to following Jesus. God says in Revelation 3:16 that 'because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of My mouth.' Middle of the road is not a good or safe place to be.

In Christianish: What if We’re Not Really Following Jesus at All?, author Mark Steele encourages the reader to move away from this mediocre Christianity and to live the real deal. He admits his own failures and tells of his personal journey to living a life that’s centered on Christ. “Somewhere along the road, I stopped being a ‘little Christ’ and instead began filling out the application that I had labeled ‘Christian.’ It was not a definition based on the actual namesake but, rather, on those who frequent the clubhouse. I allowed Jesus to seep into my church world—but not my relational world, my romance world, my business world, my creative world, my habits, my mouth. I had become Christianish.”

Christianish may feel like authentic faith. Yet it’s often easy to settle for the souvenir t-shirt—the appearance of a transformed heart—instead of taking the actual trip through true life-change. We find ourselves being contented with a personal faith that’s been polluted by culture and diluted by other people’s take on spirituality.

In Christianish, Mark details the tell-tale symptoms of being Christian-like and revisits the words and life of Christ to deliver a compelling look at what authentic faith is all about. Each chapter begins with a personal story that is often humorous, and follows up with a piercing truth about the life we are called to live in Christ. The book concludes that "There is only one way for us to discover the right way to travel the right road. The way is not church. The way is not an ideology. The way is not Christian. The way is Jesus.”
Here are a couple of my favourite passages from the book:
"Conviction without love is just an angry opinion. Conviction with love proves that what is true is also alive. That it is not only a code, but a transformative power. Conviction alone needs desperately to be proven accurate at all costs. In short, it only survives when it wins. And unfortunately for our opinion, Christ has called us to be losers." (p. 158)
"To this end we have begrudged and distanced ourselves. From God. From faith. From one another. And as we do, the Enemy wins. Because he has been able to distract us away from the very core idea of following Jesus: that we only truly gain when gain is not what we are after, and we only find answers for ourselves when we are being the answers for someone else." (p. 172)

Author Bio
Mark Steele is the president and executive creative of Steelehouse Productions, a group that creates art for business and ministry through the mediums of film, stage, and animation. He is also the author of Flashbang: How I Got Over Myself and Half-Life/Die Already and is a regular contributor to Collide Magazine and Relevant Magazine.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Not So Fast: Slow-Down Solutions for Frenzied Families

by Ann Kroeker,
David C. Cook, 2009

Today’s families find themselves in a high-speed, fast-paced, goal-oriented society. We race from first and second jobs to appointments, lessons, practices, games, and clubs. How do we counterbalance our overcommitted culture? Replenish our depleted selves? Restore our rushed relationships?

For readers whose every hour is rush hour, Ann Kroeker explores the jarring effects of our culture and offers refreshing alternatives. Bypassing the fast lane, Kroeker urges families to discover how simplifying and slowing down can help restore strained relationships…and souls.

“We’re raising our kids in a high-speed, high-pressured, 24/7 world,” says Kroeker. “Pushing children to get ahead, we cram everything possible into our days to maximize their chance at success. We’re overloaded, overextended, overcommitted, and over-caffeinated. And we’re paying a price: Our relationships are anemic; our health, in jeopardy. Half-awake and half-hearted, we can’t sustain this pace.”

In Not So Fast, Kroeker relates her own story of how embracing a slower everyday pace has resulted in a richer, fuller, and more meaningful family and spiritual life. With practical ideas and insights that will spark creativity and personal reflection, Kroeker offers hope that families can discover the rejuvenating power of an unrushed life —a life that makes room for knowing and loving God and people. At the close of each chapter, the “Slow Notes” section offers slow-down solutions to apply immediately. In “Live from the Slow Zone,” readers will hear inspirational stories from those who have learned to reap the rewards of life in the slow lane.

“For everyone who yearns for the benefits of a slower life, I want to point to Jesus and say, ‘Start here. Start with the One who offers true and lasting peace. Look to His Word. Meditate on that. Learn from Him, for His yoke is easy and His burden is light,’” writes Kroeker. “I wish we could see that the root of meaning and peace that we’re seeking is found not in a yoga pose or a mind-emptying meditation session, but in a rich relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ.”

Author Bio
Mother of four children and author of The Contemplative Mom, Ann Kroeker is committed to encouraging and inspiring families as they face the demands of daily living. A contributor to the award-winning Experiencing the Passion of Jesus, she has written for numerous corporations and her articles have appeared in a variety of publications.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

The Buzzards are Circling, But God's Not Finished With Me Yet

by Stan Toler,
David C. Cook, 2001

On the landscape of life, buzzards are inevitable—those challenging events and situations that encircle us, eye us as prey and swoop down to cause hurt and heartache. A late-night phone call delivering bad news. Loss of a job. Bankruptcy. Whatever form these buzzards take, the pain is excruciating.

In The Buzzards Are Circling, But God’s Not Finished With Me Yet, Toler takes a lighthearted look at some of life’s more serious subjects. Drawing from his own personal struggles, Toler offers a generous dose of encouragement for the troubled heart, helping readers find hope, joy, and peace, even in the most trying of circumstances. In chapters such as “When the Fountain of Youth Has Rusted” and “I Know I’m Lost, but the Scenery Is Spectacular,” readers will find the strength they need to face life’s difficulties knowing that God is in control.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

God Has Never Failed Me, But He's Sure Scared Me to Death a Few Times

by Stan Toler
David C. Cook, 1995

In God Has Never Failed Me, But He’s Sure Scared Me to Death a Few Times, Toler gives a humorous twist to challenges of faith. Though we know that God’s provision is always on time, we’ve all had experiences where we wondered what He was up to. For anyone who's ever felt stressed, confused, hurt, angry, or any other emotional response to the difficulties and uncertainties of life, Toler provides delightful reminders that God is still at work in the world.

Filled with heartwarming stories and hilarious anecdotes, this collection offers hope and peace for the weary, waiting heart. Toler combines a rich blend of spiritual truths with humorous insights as he reminds God’s children of His unfailing love. Through it all, readers will discover a God who is always faithful, worthy of our trust, and never late with His help.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Hope Unleashed: Serving God Through Words and Actions

by Andy Hawthorne,
David C. Cook, 2009

In Hope Unleashed: Serving God through Words and Actions, Hawthorne inspires Christians to serve others through acts of kindness without compromising the gospel message.

“The famous words of Francis of Assisi are being bandied around everywhere: ‘Preach the gospel at all times, and if necessary use words,’” writes Hawthorne. “The only problem is, I don’t really feel that this quote from the great man describes the heart of what we should be doing at all. A much better way of describing evangelism to me would be: ‘Preach the gospel at all times with your actions and with your words.’”

As a young man committed to bringing the Christian message to youth in his hometown of Manchester, England, Andy Hawthorne was shocked when a missions partner told him he shouldn’t just preach the gospel but also engage in community projects. What did washing someone’s car have to do with the gospel? But Hawthorne enacted the idea and today his mission organization, Message Trust, has been praised internationally as bringing hope and change to the roughest, poorest neighborhoods of Manchester.

“It’s right that you can’t get a ten-ton truck across a one-ton bridge, and that if we try and bring our great juggernaut of gospel proclamation into the community without any bridge maintenance, it’s all going to collapse,” Hawthorne says. “However, it’s equally true that if we build a beautiful, highly polished bridge of kindness, service, and generosity, and yet never bring the truck across the bridge, we haven’t got the job done either. For me, the secret to success in any ministry is to genuinely combine the two.”

Written in a warm, passionate, nonreligious style, Hope Unleashed is filled with practical ideas and strategies for Christian missions based on word and deed. While sharing inspiring stories from his own experiences in ministry, Andy draws principles from Scripture that will both inform our actions and keep us mindful of the need to “give a reason for the hope that is within us.”

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Make Love, Make War: NOW is the Time to Worship

by Brian Doerksen
David C. Cook, 2009

In Make Love, Make War, award-winning Canadian songwriter, musician, and worship leader, Brian Doerksen, sounds a clarion call for believers to engage in authentic worship. He defines what true worship is, describes what it looks like, and tells us why it's important. The writer of many beloved worship songs [perhaps most notably Come, Now is the Time to Worship; Refiner's Fire; and Today (As for Me and My House)], Doerksen encourages songwriters and worship leaders to rethink their values and motivations and to draw close to the heart of God. Each chapter tells the story behind one of his songs, and concludes with tips for songwriters.
Despite its uninspiring cover, this book demands to be read by all believers who are serious about worship. While the title may startle some Christians who have bought into the notion that believers should always be 'nice,' Doerksen reminds us that we are in a spiritual battle and that worship is one of our most significant weapons as we seek to recognize the character of God and to love others.

While I am not giving my copy of the book away, but passing it along to my daughter, who is an aspiring singer/songwriter, I encourage you to visit to enter the “Hear It First, Read It First” contest and promotion sponsored by David C Cook, Integrity Music,, and Gibson/Epiphone Guitars. There, you will be able to enter to win prizes, as well as download free music video performances of Brian Doerksen (i.e., “It’s Time” and “Holy God”) and free sample chapters from Make Love, Make War. Prizes include a set of worship CDs from Integrity, a signed Epiphone guitar and an Epiphone amplifier! Visit!

You can also watch Brian Doerksen's music video, "It's Time," here.