Category Archives: Christian Living

Faith of Our Fathers by Pure Flix Entertainment

Faith-of-our-fathers-movie-posterArmed with high hopes and a bag of snacks, I attended a pre-screener of the faith-filled family film, Faith of Our Fathers.

Faith of Our Fathers
Pure Flix Entertainment
July 2015

I genuinely enjoyed it; however, I left feeling grieved that it fell short of what it could have been. I have the unsettling conviction that it will draw scathing criticisms from people outside the Christian faith, many of them merited.

It cannot be denied that, at times, the acting is stilted, the plot under cooked, and the credibility almost totally lacking. (For example, Rebecca St. James’s cameo as a sultry car thief, though well acted, was pretty ridiculous).

Be that as it may, it held my interest throughout and made me laugh out loud more than once. More importantly than that, it is a movie that glorifies Jesus Christ and proclaims the gospel message. Also, what with its messages on faith, patriotism, friendship, and fatherhood, Faith of Our Fathers has more substance than most of the drivel that one can find in movie theaters these days.

(Be forewarned, this movie contains war violence, so you might not want to show it to the younger kiddies).


Jaime Jane Motok is a violin teacher by trade, a lover of Narnia, funny movies, Simon and Garfunkel and the perfect cup of Joe.

A preview version of this movie was provided by the producers for review.

Let It Be Jesus by Christy Nockels

nockelsI’ve enjoyed listened to Watermark and Passion in the past, both Christy Nockels. I recognize that when it comes to music, personal tastes will drive a lot of whether or not someone enjoys something. All that to say that you may very well enjoy this album and I hope you understand when I say that I didn’t as much as I thought I would.

Let it Be Jesus
by Christy Nockels
sixstepsrecords
April 2015

Let it Be Jesus was recorded live, but doesn’t flow like a normal service. There is almost no background noise, crowd noise or continuation from one song to another on most tracks. (Some do have noticeable crowd noise especially towards the end, like If You Never, but once done, the sound starts completely over, like on Leaning On You.) I found most of the songs to be much more CCM than worship oriented. What I mean is that most songs were from the perspective of the singer and what God has done for them or what they will do now that they have God, which is what CCM usually covers. Examples include, Rock of Ages, Find Me at the Feet of Jesus, or My Anchor. Most songs are not directed at God, which is what you would find in worship songs. (This isn’t all of them, of course. Leaning on You is a very good worship song directed toward God.) Some songs were hard to describe. I’m not sure what Everything is Mine in You is about. I’d like to read more about that Theology. I can guess, but it’s not clear, which I think worship should be. (Again, preferences, right?)

Also most songs tend not to build or swell. Very little urgency in them. Ballad focused (again the CCM focus). This is a shame as Nockels has a strong voice and could totally have rocked some more up tempo songs. The closest you get would be the overly happy Freedom Song or how My Anchor starts to build but then plateaus and stays at middling urgency. There isn’t an Oceans or Brave here.

Overall, I found this album to be a calm, relaxing CCM studio sounding album. A couple worship tracks but for the most part something we will find on the radio in coming months. You know, safe for the whole family stuff. As for me, I’ll grab Bethel or United next time I’m looking for something to worship along with.

Congrats to Kathrine E. of Murfreesboro, TN for winning a download of this album! For more chances to win, click the Giveaway page in the menu drop down above.


@ashertopia is the Managing Editor of BookGateway.com. He is an avid reader and a lifetime learner. His favorite genres include science fiction, fantasy, as well as theology and Christian living. His personal blog is AshertopiA – a land flowing with milk and honey… and a lot of sticky people.

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

The War Room by TriStar and Faithstep Films

WarRoomThe War Room is an excellent, feel-good family film that will likely make you laugh and cry.

The War Room
TriStar & Faithstep Films
August 2015

It almost crossed the line towards the too-long side, but if you are like me you will not want it to end. The character arc of Tony (the father) pushed the boundaries of believablility – [SPOILERS] his transformation from selfish, abusive, lustful con-man to the kind, generous, jump-roping community center direct he is at the movie’s end is somewhat silly in its stark suddenness. [END SPOILERS]

However, as this a movie about miracle and the power of prayer, I have decided to forgive the Kendrick brothers and declare this and excellent film. Don’t miss it!


Jaime Jane Motok is a violin teacher by trade, a lover of Narnia, funny movies, Simon and Garfunkel and the perfect cup of Joe.

A preview version of this movie was provided by the producers for review.

Grace of God

An ex-detective finds himself investigating the disappearance of $30,000 from a church. The question of money turns out to be secondary to the question of faith. But is the question well asked?

Grace of God
A Story of Easter Traditions
Phase4Films
March 2015

Why this is a story of “Easter Traditions” is unclear. What it is – basically – is a long form sermon illustration about a group of people at a church finding their way. A mother who finds her daughter (and more), a daughter who finds strength to stand up to abuse, an investigator who (is this really a spoiler?) finds God. Everything fits so tightly together you’d think it was made up! Ha. Ha. Ahem. Yeah. It’s like that.

The film isn’t good. I found the plot is mediocre at best. Editing was harsh and quick. The characters are cookie cutter: an ex-thug who found the light, a self sacrificial, peaceful preacher, a smart-allecky daughter, and so on. At times, the acting was outstandingly bad. I wonder when Christians are going to hold entertainment up to the standards that we should expect instead of just being happy that there was a story with a “happy” ending and no cussing.

(I say happy here in quotes because I’m not certain that the outcome was the best one.)

I don’t recommend it and I hope other Christians will avoid the film and send the message to the producers that we expect more. Stories don’t have to be neat, they don’t have to be clean, they don’t have to quote the Bible every few minutes. The Bible itself isn’t neat or clean and does a way better job showing the way.


@ashertopia is the Managing Editor of BookGateway.com. He is an avid reader and a lifetime learner. His favorite genres include science fiction, fantasy, as well as theology and Christian living. His personal blog is AshertopiA – a land flowing with milk and honey… and a lot of sticky people.

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

10 Ultimate Truths Girls Should Know by Kampakis

10truths_rnd2Teens have it tough these days. I’m sure every generation says that, but how many generations have almost no privacy, the ability to be bullied from anywhere in the world at any time, and live in a world that is so overwhelmingly visual that almost all other aspects of our life take a back seat?

10 Ultimate Truths Girls Should Know
by Kari Kampakis
Thomas Nelson
November 2014

In this world, it’s important to know the truth about yourself and the right and wrong ways to act. With relativism so prevalent it’s tough to sell “ultimate truth” but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist or that we shouldn’t try. And this author tries and succeeds on so many levels!

The 10 Ultimate Truths focus on 10 important ant issues that girls (and boys, to an extent) deal with:

Popularity
Confidence
Reputation
Interacting with Boys
Self Worship
Perseverance
Patience
Image
Inner Beauty
Self Talk

As I read the books – as a man with two teenaged daughters and two sons – I found that the truths here applied to boys as well as girls in most cases. The truths exposed were demonstrated and illustrated for girls but they apply to everyone. Consider the “Interacting with Boys” chapter, for instance, where the truth is “Chasing boys doesn’t make you cool. It makes you a nuisance.” While the illustrations may change the fact is that boys are at least as likely to annoy girls buy how they pursue girls as girls are buy how they pursue boys. I don’t believe the point here is not to show interest but a healthy way to show interest is the key. That’s a lesson everyone can learn from.

I loved that when you read through the book you don’t just get answers, you get questions. Self discovery is a key way to make learning stick. The author includes several important questions in each chapter to bring the topic home. Also included are relevant Bible verses that tie these current teachings to the timeless truths of the Biblical teaching. Verses like Proverbs 22:1, “A good name is more desirable than great riches; to be esteemed is greater than silver and gold” fits perfectly with the chapter on reputation.

Reading through the book I not only thought these were truths that my daughters should know but that I wished that I had known these things when I was a teen. These really are “ultimate truths” as they speak to who we are as created and loved beings and speak to an inner peace that just doesn’t come from any other source but the foundation of God. This is a must read for teenaged girls and their parents. I highly recommend it.


@ashertopia is the Managing Editor of BookGateway.com. He is an avid reader and a lifetime learner. His favorite genres include science fiction, fantasy, as well as theology and Christian living. His personal blog is AshertopiA – a land flowing with milk and honey… and a lot of sticky people.

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

Jesus is the Question by Copenhaver

JesusQuestionTrue to the title, Copenhaver asks questions of the reader to come to a deeper undertaken of who Jesus is to us and who we are to be for him.

Jesus Is the Question
The 307 Questions Jesus Asked and the 3 He Answered
by Martin B. Copenhaver
Abingdon Press
September 2014

Each of the 8 chapters on the questions of Jesus is filed with anecdote anger story after parable all towards the goal of asking the questions in just the right way to get the response Jesus was going for originally. Starting with “what are you looking for?” and moving through topics dealing with compassion, identity, faith and doubt, worry, love, heading and abundance.

Starting with chapter 9, the author takes us through the very important, eternity impacting questions for us that Jesus answered: who Jesus is, what happened on the cross and what the resurrection. The book ends with nearly 10 full pages of all of Jesus’ questions listed out then some study questions.

A worthy read that should prompt growth and understanding.


@ashertopia is the Managing Editor of BookGateway.com. He is an avid reader and a lifetime learner. His favorite genres include science fiction, fantasy, as well as theology and Christian living. His personal blog is AshertopiA – a land flowing with milk and honey… and a lot of sticky people.

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

The Unbelievable Gospel by Dodson

Modern stereotypical evangelism isn’t the way it is supposed to be. It has become rote, by the numbers and simply unbelievable.

The Unbelievable Gospel
Say Something Worth Believing
by Jonathan K. Dodson
Zondervan
September 2014

The good news (pun!) is that there is a cure. What sinks is how obvious it is. What truly sucks is how underutilized. Be a real person and build relationships based on actually caring.

The world around us isn’t interested in hearing old words that don’t mean anything and canned responses to questions. But people are definitely still hurting and have needs that we know God had the answer for. How to bridge that gap? Do like Jesus and Paul did.

Dodson calls readers to real relationship and then customized metaphor for the Gospel. Instead of a one size fits all approach we should listen and then speak in the language and express the facet of the Gospel that would make the most sense to our friend.

This is a message that is very well written, scripturally sound, and so needed.


@ashertopia is the Managing Editor of BookGateway.com. He is an avid reader and a lifetime learner. His favorite genres include science fiction, fantasy, as well as theology and Christian living. His personal blog is AshertopiA – a land flowing with milk and honey… and a lot of sticky people.

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

The Answer to Bad Religion is Not No Religion by Thielen

answerToo often the main excuse for people who avoid going to God is the people who are supposedly Christian and how they mistreat others.

The Answer to Bad Religion is Not No Religion
A Guide to Good Religion for Seekers, Skeptics, and Believers
by Martin Thielen
Westminster John Knox Press
February 2014

There is a lot of bad press about Christians today. Sure, a lot of negativity is stirred up in Hollywood but there is enough smoke here to say a fire exists. So a message that clearly explains why someone shouldn’t abandon Christianity because of Christians is a welcome and needed one.

While I don’t agree with everything Martin Thielen writes regarding some specifics the can be no doubt that he is right in the broad sense. Christianity is much bigger than doctrinal distinctives. Interpretations and beliefs can vary and frankly everyone thinks they are right. But the truth is there is Christ and Him crucified then everything else. And any Christian who forgets they are a sinner and so would prefer other sinners not come to their church is a hypocrite. It is far better that everyone comes to know God and His love for us regardless of sin than for some to avoid God because they aren’t welcome. Sin is sin and the hope we all have through the process of sanctification is that we will stop sinning. That applies to everyone no matter their sin.

A great word that should be shouted from every pulpit: no matter your sin or your attitudes or culture, you belong in church. You belong with God. Don’t give up on Christianity!

I recommend this book highly.


@ashertopia is the Managing Editor of BookGateway.com. He is an avid reader and a lifetime learner. His favorite genres include science fiction, fantasy, as well as theology and Christian living. His personal blog is AshertopiA – a land flowing with milk and honey… and a lot of sticky people.

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

In the Field of Grace by Tessa Afshar

IN THE FIELD OF GRACEThis is a fictional story based on the story of Ruth and Boaz as recorded in the Book of Ruth in the Bible.

In the Field of Grace
by Tessa Afshar
Moody Publishers
June 2014

In the Field of Grace by Tessa Afshar is the story of Ruth, Naomi, and Boaz based on the story in the Bible. The story opens with the death of Boaz’s first wife and continues on to give background into Ruth’s life before she married Naomi’s son. After the death of her husband and two sons, Naomi decides to return to Israel. Ruth decides to go with Naomi but since she is a Moab woman, she is not accepted at first but because she is so good to her mother-in-law Naomi, she slowly wins the acceptance of the people in Naomi’s village. While gleaning in a field she meets Boaz and he tells her to glean no where but in his fields. Naomi explains the redeemer law to Ruth and she does exactly what Naomi tells her to do. Boaz is interested in Ruth and he does all the things necessary to make her his wife. The story of Ruth begins when she is the young widowed daughter-in-law of Naomi and living in Moab. From that beginning, she becomes the wife of Boaz and this puts her in the genealogy of Jesus.

The only facts that we are sure are true are those found in the story of Ruth in the Bible. The author does an excellent job in writing this fictional story of Ruth. Through her development of the characters, dialogue, and scenes, the author makes the story even more real. The things portrayed in the story could have happened and they definitely do not take anything away from the Biblical account. The author has stayed true to the account in the Bible and writes a wonderful story that makes you want to go to the Bible and reread the Book of Ruth.

I highly recommend this book, especially if you are a lover of Biblical fiction.


Deanna Love Gottreu is a 75 year old widow and the mother of two wonderful sons who share second place in her life – with God being in first place. She spends her time reading or making quilts for charity. Her book reviews can also be read on her blog at www.buzzardsroostcrafts.com/blog.
This book was provided by the publisher as a review copy.

Crazy Stories Sane God by Turner

Crazy-Stories-Sane-GodThere are ton of really weird stories in the Bible. As a reader we have two options: ignore the weird and focus on the clear and easy or try to figure out the point of the weird.

Crazy Stories Sane God
by John Alan Turner
B&H Books
March 2014

Turner obviously goes with option two taking off the wall stories (literally in the case of the writing on the wall) and, starting with the fundamental idea that every story in the Bible is there for a reason, attempts to answer the question of value. What is the point? What are the Biblical authors trying to teach? The book deals with quite a few stories that readers of the Bible may have read or skimmed and then, devotion style, explains a possible reason for it being there.

We may be tempted to assume that all the stories would be from the Old Testament, but New Testament stories are included as well. So we get stories like talking donkeys, Moses’ son’s circumcision, Job and God’s debate, Ezekiel’s visions and so on next to stories like demons in pigs, and Ananais and Sapphira.

In most every instance, Turner does a good job of tying the story to the bigger revelation of God and how many of them are foreshadowing Christ and his life. Some, like Moses’ son’s foreskin, seem strained – I think he could have gone with propitiation via blood instead of covenant relationship, but I quibble.

This is a solid book that deals with tough stories and provides viable answers for parts of the Bible that most of us ignore. I recommend it.


@ashertopia is the Managing Editor of BookGateway.com. He is an avid reader and a lifetime learner. His favorite genres include science fiction, fantasy, as well as theology and Christian living. His personal blog is AshertopiA – a land flowing with milk and honey… and a lot of sticky people.

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