Category Archives: Non-Fiction

Patterns of Evidence: Exodus

Did the Exodus from the Bible actually happen? Many say there is no evidence, but what if the time frame that they were looking for evidence was wrong? That’s what this documentary wants us to consider.

Patterns of Evidence: Exodus
by Timothy P. Mahoney
Thinking Man Films
August 2015

A well made and intriguing documentary – if you dig archaeology – the film provides what it sees as evidence of the Exodus happening earlier than most current archeologists believe. By changing the expected date, according to the film, the Exodus fits the evidence almost perfectly. I’ve watched this film several times and find the “evidence” compelling. The problem is that there is almost no documentation outside of this film to fact check.

I’ve looked for more information on what I think is a fascinating find that deserves more information: the pyramid tomb of someone who may be Joseph. But outside of links to and about this film it is hard to find more information on that. What I would like to see, and what I think is very important, are follow-up about the evidence itself. This is the problem with most documentaries: are you telling me a story or are you presenting facts. I’m not sure.

The only works cited I can find on the documentaries website are a bunch of books by David Rohl. Dr. Rohl, according to Wikipedia, is an Egyptologist who has been putting forth theories like the early dating of the Exodus since the 1980s. (He has also put forth his theory of where the Garden of Eden would have been – next film, maybe?) What is interesting about Dr. Rohl is that he is not a Christian so what he says isn’t easily dismissed as biased. But minority opinion is still a fair label. Whether he is right or not may not be knowable at this time.

In the end we have a documentary that makes a strong, if somewhat unsubstantiated, case for an early dating of the Exodus that kept my attention twice so far and has intrigued me so much that I may end up reading Dr. Rohl on the topic. I recommend it.


Scott Asher is the Editor-in-Chief of BookGateway.com. His personal blog is AshertopiA – a land flowing with milk and honey… and a lot of sticky people where he turns real life into stupid cartoons, writes on Christianity, Zombies, and whatever else he wants and posts Bible studies from his classes at church.

This movie was provided by the publisher as a review copy.

The Journey by Sanna

As I lay down on the ground with my 7 and 10 year old boys to read this book I considered the reasons for doing so. This book is not your typical children’s book with an upbeat and happy story. This is a story about war, death, destruction, fear, migration and refugees. Why should I read this to my young boys? Because I want them to understand the crisis and to empathize with those who have lost almost everything. Empathy is so powerful and it’s so lacking in the world today.

The Journey
by Francesca Sanna
Flying Eye Books
September 2016

We took turns reading the beautifully illustrated pages about the war (obviously Syria based on the starting point and the journey). The reading level was higher than my first grader but fine for my fourth grader. As we finished, I took a minute to unpack this for them. We discussed what happened and what it would be like to live through this. I explained that this is a true story and it really happens. I showed them before and after pictures of the destruction in Syria (careful to avoid pictures of casualties and injuries). “Why don’t we stop this?” they asked. I said it wasn’t that easy. In language they could understand I told them about the crisis and encouraged them to care and to pray for these people.

Hours later when they told mom about this story they were still upset that we couldn’t save these people – the nearly 6 million displaced, the over 4 million refugees, and the nearly half a million deaths. My hope is that thanks to a book like this children and their adult readers can come to empathize and care. That this isn’t just a news story that can be ignored.


Scott Asher is the Editor-in-Chief of BookGateway.com. His personal blog is AshertopiA – a land flowing with milk and honey… and a lot of sticky people where he turns real life into stupid cartoons, writes on Christianity, Zombies, and whatever else he wants and posts Bible studies from his classes at church.

This book was provided by the publisher as a review copy.

My First Book of Hockey by Sports Illustrated

Almost everything you need to know about hockey.

My First Book of Hockey
A Rookie Book: Mostly Everything Explained About the Game
Designed by Beth Bugler
Sports Illustrated
September 2016

This children’s book contains cut outs of photos of real players that are used to describe action and how the game is set up. There is a cartoon little boy who shows up occasionally to allow your child to connect and see themselves in the game. It covers very basic information, like how many players, what happens at face offs, scoring and some fouls. Exactly what a young person needs, in my experience.

My youngest guy, who is 7, is taking part in our local NHL team’s training program for new and have never played kids and so this book was my attempt to help acclimate him to that and to his first visit to watch a game live. It was very easy for him to follow along with and to get an idea of what he was watching and what he would be doing. The pictures had just enough visual appeal to keep interest (although as an adult, I found the pictures boring and sometimes out of context, but it’s not for me.)

I recommend this to others who want to introduce their children to the basics. I found it helpful.


Scott Asher is the Editor-in-Chief of BookGateway.com. His personal blog is AshertopiA – a land flowing with milk and honey… and a lot of sticky people where he turns real life into stupid cartoons, writes on Christianity, Zombies, and whatever else he wants and posts Bible studies from his classes at church.

This book was provided by the publisher as a review copy.

What Grieving People Wish You Knew about What Really Helps by Guthrie

Timely advice, unfortunately.

What Grieving People Wish You Knew about What Really Helps (and What Really Hurts)
By Nancy Guthrie
Crossway
September 2016

I read this book a couple months after my father died and about the time that my wife’s grandmother died. I wasn’t sure how to respond and whether or not how I felt about how others responded to me was normal or not. This book answered those questions.

Guthrie does a great job of explaining why we should or shouldn’t say something or anything. Each section has details on why she is making the case for the response she recommends in certain situations and then she does an admirable job of sharing her own story of loss to bring the message home. While that would be the end of it in most books, Guthrie goes a step further and includes actual quotes from others who went through grieving and what worked for them and what didn’t. I found these parts the most eye opening. Some of the quotes seem reasonable but the way they came across to a hurting person was surprising and enlightening. They also served as a warning. I don’t want to make those mistakes when I’m speaking to friends about losses.

The only place I felt this book fell short was in the redundancy. I felt that after the first few chapters a lot of what Guthrie said was already said. I got the point early on and then felt it became repetitive to the point that I ended up skipping through the mid to end part, reading the examples but skimming the author’s content. This could have probably been an even shorter book that it was. Whatever the case, the beginning is worth the price of admission.

I used specific tactics learned here with my wife and also with a friend who lost his mother. They worked. They understood how much I cared and really opened up about their loss. This book will help you gain very effective was of communicating.


Scott Asher is the Editor-in-Chief of BookGateway.com. His personal blog is AshertopiA – a land flowing with milk and honey… and a lot of sticky people where he turns real life into stupid cartoons, writes on Christianity, Zombies, and whatever else he wants and posts Bible studies from his classes at church.

This book was provided by the publisher as a review copy.

8 Simple Tools for Raising Great Kids by Dr. Cartmell

8SimpleToolsForRaisingGreatKids_3DWe all know how to be great parents, right? That’s why our kids are coming out perfectly and they never have any trouble. Oh, wait…

8 Simple Tools for Raising Great Kids
by Dr. Todd Cartmell
Moody Publishers
January 2015

The title says 8 tools, but in reality the author includes 40 tools in 8 categories. Each of the 40 small chapters is about 3 pages long, many starting with an anecdote from counseling children or his own life and including simple ideas for overcoming the challenge.

In fact, my favorite parts of this book were the stories from his counseling. Listening to children say things that no parent would ever want to hear of themselves is motivating and convicting. Nearly every chapter I found something I should do better.

For that reason and others I highly recommend this ready to read and digest book.


Scott Asher is the Editor-in-Chief of BookGateway.com. His personal blog is AshertopiA – a land flowing with milk and honey… and a lot of sticky people where he turns real life into stupid cartoons, writes on Christianity, Zombies, and whatever else he wants and posts Bible studies from his classes at church.

This book was provided by the publisher as a review copy.

Under The Sea Holy Bible and Giveaway

undertheseaIn a sea (heh) of Bibles, the Under The Sea Holy Bible is a nice addition to the kid’s section of Bibles.  It’s in an easy to read format designed to help children connect with Biblical concepts.

Under The Sea Holy Bible
Zonderkidz
March 2016

Bright colors and sparkly glitter adorn the cover of this Bible, meant for children.   This is not an ordinary children’s Bible, in that it is the full text from Genesis to Revelation.  Many children’s Bibles are abbreviated stories highlighting the “heroes” of the Old Testament or focusing solely on Christ’s miracles in the New Testament.

This Bible is also written in the New International Reader’s Version.  A foreword discussing this NIrV version mentions that it is an extension of traditional NIV.  Its purpose is to make reading (and understanding) the Bible easier for children, adults learning to read, first time Bible readers, readers whose first language is not English, and those who have trouble understanding what they read.

A cursory glance of verses with which I’m familiar shows the meaning of the verse is virtually unchanged by adapting it from KJV.  The foreword also mentions that the translators worked to reference the Greek New Testament and Hebrew Old Testament as they worked to create the NIrV in an effort to maintain the integrity of this translation.

The remainder of the Bible is just that:  NIrV of the full Bible text.  There is also a dictionary and an index of “Great Bible Stories.”  These two sections could be greatly improved.  The dictionary is only 5 pages long, and the Great Bible Stories section is a list of 92 common Bible stories.  Both of these could be very much extended for referencing.  This would allow the Bible to work for children as they age.

This Bible also has a few inserts related to important concepts:  prayer, the 10 Commandments, love, and important children in the Bible to name a few.  Here’s where I would also like to see an expansion.  There are only 3 of these inserts in the whole Bible.  The last one is the ABC’s of becoming a Christian.   The Bible would appeal much more to children if there were more of these relevant passages included throughout the Under The Sea Holy Bible.

All in all, this is a very nice starter Bible for children.  It has the basics needed for a 3rd or 4th grader.   As a child gets older and begins to explore more, it is a Bible that would need to be replaced with one that has more expansive passages and explanations about concepts throughout.

 

Want a copy of your own?  I have partnered with Fly By Promotions to provide this review AND a chance for you to have a copy of your own!  Just leave a comment below telling me what Bible verse is your favorite to share with children.  I’ll draw a winner on April11th!  The winner will get his/her own copy of the Under The Sea Holy Bible.

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Robin Gwaro is the Young Adult and Women’s Literature Editor at Bookgateway.com. She currently spends her days wrangling her 3rd grade science nerd and toddler aged busy body. You can visit her world of randomness at justwanderingnotlost.net, where there is no spoon.

This book was provided by the publisher as a review copy.

God’s Not Dead 2

gods-not-dead-2Is this not-quite-a-direct-sequel just another overly simplistic “Christian” film serving to highlight the Newsboys on stage again – or is there a story worth telling here? The quick answer: Unfortunately, it’s more the former.

God’s Not Dead 2
PureFlix Entertainment
April 2016

The first God’s Not Dead was an emotional punch to the intellect with some really interesting data for Christians looking for apologetics-lite, (which is to say the apologetics data without the details.) The presentations in the classroom of the first movie were outstanding but shallow and too quick. The interactions between characters were under-developed and the atheist was an offensive caricature. The ending was far too tidy. Some of these same problems infest God’s Not Dead 2 as well.

Grace Wesley (a constantly concerned and very earnest Melissa Joan Hart) is a school teacher who, while talking to Brooke Thawley (Hayley Orrantia), one of her students after school and off campus about the loss of her brother, says that she finds hope in Jesus. Brooke then (very coincidentally) finds that her brother had a Bible and was keeping his faith a secret from their unbelieving parents. After reading some of the Bible, Brooke brings up a quote by Jesus in a class on non-violent civil disobedience and asks her teacher if the quote fits the discussion. Grace says it does. The movie is very careful to show the only time Grace proselytizes is off campus, while in the classroom Grace only answers the question raised by a student in a very reasonable, non-religious way.

No matter how reasonable, Grace’s school decides to hold a disciplinary hearing for bringing religion up in class. Grace refuses to recant – simultaneously affirming her Constitutional right to free speech and her religious duties to follow God first – and so the discussion goes to court to allow the judicial system to determine wrongdoing (or not).

Here’s where it get’s very shallow. The lawyers who take up the case are (of course) from the ACLU and are depicted as preying on the situation and Brooke’s parent (even selling them on how this case will help Brooke get into college). Pete Kane (yes, like in killing Abel), played by Ray Wise, is nefarious, self-serving, one dimensional and unbelievable. The only thing we know about him personally is that he wears and respects shiny shoes. We know literally nothing more about him. I say unbelievable, but what I mean is that it is only unbelievable outside of a “Christian” film. In this film, it makes total sense since much of the message is clear pandering to the Religious Right.

In a promising change from the first film, there is an unbeliever in the film who is reasonable, more fleshed out and who grows throughout: Tom Endler, Grace’s lawyer (played by Jesse Metcalfe.) While Tom does read some of the apologetics information he doesn’t do a quick death-bed confession of Jesus or couple up with Grace, thankfully. He is consistently himself throughout and believable.

Rev. Dave (reprised by David A.R. White) is what connects this movie to the last (along with a couple cameos from the previous film) when he gets jury duty for the case. Rev. Dave has to make a troubling decision – completely unrelated to the court case – to turn in three years of his sermons to the government. Why he was asked to do this or to what entity in the government is unclear. This sub-plot felt like pandering and fear mongering, but then I looked it up. In 2014, Houston asked five pastors to do just this. From Snopes.com, “The subpoena asked the religious leaders to turn over “all speeches, presentations, or sermons related to HERO, the Petition, Mayor Annise Parker, homosexuality, or gender identity prepared by, delivered by, revised by, or approved by you or in your possession.” (HERO stands for Houston Equal Rights Ordinance.) So, still unrelated, but yikes!?

Like the first movie, the courtroom allows for some interesting apologetics to be clearly explained in what I think are the best scenes (and possibly most redeeming scenes) in the movie. Specifically the scene with J. Warner Wallace, the author of Cold-Case Christianity: A Homicide Detective Investigates the Claims of the Gospels. In one scene he says, “I’m not a Christian today because I was raised that way or because it satisfies some need or accomplishes some goal. I’m simply a Christian because it’s evidentially true.” Scenes like this are when the movie shines.

How the court case comes out – if you need a hint just remember this is a “Christian” film – isn’t the biggest issue to the filmmakers. Like the last film, at the end you’ll see a list of many court cases like this one that purport to prove Christian persecution in the United States. But I’m left wondering if this storyline was a good example of the “persecution.” I always ask the question, “What if the actions being discussed were done by an [X] instead of a Christian? Would I be cool with that?” In this case, what if the teacher discussed Mohammed and was open about her Muslim faith? Not a big deal since the class room scene wasn’t against the law; there was no proselytizing. But what if that same Muslim teacher met with your daughter after a significant loss and pointed her to the Quran? Would you still be ok? Probably not, which means it was probably not cool to do that as a Christian – at least legally in pluralistic America. This is one view. We either need to be ok with everyone sharing their faith or none. But like a lot of propositions by the Religious Right, Christians want to be free to share our faith but we don’t like it when others do. (Just check out all the posts about kids learning about Islam in school for evidence.)

A reasonable conversation about the issue of religious freedom doesn’t happen in these movies. Instead we get straw man arguments and over simplistic motivations. The other teachers and principle are unrelentingly anti-Christian, the lawyers are one sided, the only reasonable people in these films are the Christians and that’s just too simple for a movie trying to shed light on a complicated problem. Christians have the right to be Christians everywhere we are. We have freedom of speech. But we need to balance the rights and expectations of who we work for and those we are talking to. What if Brooke was offended by Grace’s recommendation to look in the Bible? What if Brooke were Hindu or Muslim and this proselytizing created a hostile environment in the classroom? Because it didn’t in this story doesn’t mean it wouldn’t or couldn’t in real life. We have to be mindful of this.

All this to say that this is exactly the movie you’d expect. It’s shallow, quick and affirms the fears of Christian Americans that atheists are out to get us and to take away our rights. Atheists are evil and have nothing better to do (like scientist professors in the previous film). They are in power and we are the underdogs. And because everything wraps up too cleanly at the end of every film (with a Newsboys concert, of course) we have hope. Blah.

Christian entertainment could be so much more. The scripts could be more complex, with at least some measure of nuance. Not every opponent is an enemy and out to get us. There are some situations where the courts, the ACLU or schools have gone too far and it is great that there are legal defense groups out there to fight for religious liberty. But telling the stories could be so much better.

(It also doesn’t build trust that this movie is only out to help shed light on serious issues rather than make money when there are so many books, CDs and journals and so on for sale already a month ahead of the release. Search Amazon. It’s incredible – in a sad way.)

Because of the shallow characters, the mostly vanilla acting, and the overly one dimensional plot that doesn’t take it’s issues seriously I recommend you pass on this one.


Scott Asher is the Editor-in-Chief of BookGateway.com. His personal blog is AshertopiA – a land flowing with milk and honey… and a lot of sticky people where he turns real life into stupid cartoons, writes on Christianity, Zombies, and whatever else he wants and posts Bible studies from his classes at church.

This pre-release movie was screened by the studio.

Fragile and Perfectly Cracked by Sophie Wyndham

fragilecover1 in 4 women.  25% of us.  We will walk a path no one wants to travel.  We will endure a pain no one wants to share.  We will join a club no one wants to join.  1 in 4 of us will know what it’s like to lose a child.
Fragile and Perfectly Cracked
by Sophie Wyndham
Independent Book Publisher’s Association
July 2015

In 2009, Sophie and her husband decided they were ready to start a family.  Like so many others, they don’t anticipate any problems.  They don’t yet know the statistics:  that a woman with a normal cycle only has a 20% chance of conceiving each month.   They move forward with excitement for this next stage in their lives.

Almost a year later, Sophie finds herself planning and preparing for the arrival of a son.  After not feeling well for a week, she begins to have complications.  The baby they’ve longed and hoped for will not be leaving the hospital in their arms, only in their hearts.

What follows is another try, another loss, then Sophie’s account of her journey through infertility treatments.   It is a raw, graphic, no holds barred view of what she endured.

Having traveled the same path as Sophie, it’s VERY hard for me to be objective.  The fact that she’s willing to open the pain of these moments and share with the world is highly commendable.  Sophie doesn’t sugar coat what she endured.   It’s a recommended read, but readers should be prepared for graphic details.   There are unhappy parts to any journey through loss and infertility, and Sophie doesn’t hold back.

If there’s one critique I can add, it’s that I wish it was longer.   I think opening up further could help the 75% better understand how to support a friend who might be experiencing infertility or loss.   Adding in what helped her cope best through those losses, particularly with outside support would allow a non-member of the club some insight into helping.

Overall, that’s a really small complaint in sight of the memoir.  Thank you, Sophie, for sharing your hurt.

I’m sorry you had to join this club.

 


Robin Gwaro is the Young Adult and Women’s Literature Editor at Bookgateway.com. She currently spends her days wrangling her 8 year old science nerd and 10 month old busy body.  You can visit her world of randomness at justwanderingnotlost.net, where there is no spoon.

This book was provided by the publisher as a review copy.

Finding Noah

Finding NoahAdventure. Quest. Fizzles.

Finding Noah
Brent Baum
October 2015

This documentary film follows a group of archaeologists, theologians, and Ark hunting explorers as they go on an expedition to Mount Ararat to find evidence of Noah’s Ark. The explorers make the trek up the mountain, use sonic technology to find evidence of wood coveted in pitch under the ice.

There are some interesting sections of the film, like the previous sightings of the ark throughout history. The different explorer’s lives are interesting as well, although there isn’t a lot of background info for each most likely because there are so many different people in the film. Also because of the large cast it can be hard to keep up with names.

[SPOILERS] Ark hunting is obviously a labor of love for these people. But the question I’m left with at the end isn’t whether or not there is evidence of Noah’s Ark, but whether or not I want to watch people I don’t know spend a lot of time on a mountain with very little resolution. Don’t read on of you don’t want to know – and I did mention this section contains spoilers – but this film goes no where. It shouldn’t even be called “Finding Noah” as nothing is found and Noah isn’t what they are looking for anyway, it’s the Ark. [END SPOILERS]

As far as documentaries go, this is interesting and covers information about Ararat and the surrounding area that are useful and insightful. I’m an avid watcher of documentaries, but wasn’t for me.


Scott Asher is the Editor-in-Chief of BookGateway.com. His personal blog is AshertopiA – a land flowing with milk and honey… and a lot of sticky people where he turns real life into stupid cartoons, writes on Christianity, Zombies, and whatever else he wants and posts Bible studies from his classes at church.

This movie screener was provided for the purpose of evaluation.

My Final Word by Colson and Morse

myfinalwordSame. Late. Unfinished.

My Final Word
Holding Tight to the Issues that Matter Most
by Charles W. Colson
and Anne Morse
Zondervan
August 2015

It’s hard not to admire Chuck Colson. Whether you agree with his politics or not, you have to admit that after conversion to Christianity his life was turned around and then he became a man of integrity and focus. Although not as conservative as he, I enjoyed Colson’s concise and informed commentary. He was thoughtful and intelligent. As such I was really looking forward to this book. It wasn’t what I’d hoped for.

The is a collection of partly finished thoughts and commentaries. They lack the polish of the finished product we are used to from his radio and print commentaries. They are much more exactly how they were described in the preface: recorded thoughts that Colson would collect as he considered current events or after reading something. But having passed away, these are no longer current. Unfortunately, even the most current of the current events – gay marriage – was legalized just prior to this book’s publication. Another example of how these just aren’t timely anymore.

Many of the commentaries run together. Many don’t have a solid conclusion, rather provocative thought. What I took from this is how much the editors helped Colson with his Break Point commentaries. They focused and wrapped them up. These in the book are not at that level.

All an interesting read, but not what I was hoping.


Scott Asher is the Editor-in-Chief of BookGateway.com. His personal blog is AshertopiA – a land flowing with milk and honey… and a lot of sticky people where he turns real life into stupid cartoons, writes on Christianity, Zombies, and whatever else he wants and posts Bible studies from his classes at church.

This book was provided by the publisher as a review copy.