Category Archives: Christian Living

Hot Buttons Series by O’Dell

Hot-Buttons-booksParents of teens can use all the help they can get. That’s where this new series of topical help guides aims to fill those needs.

Hot Buttons Series
(Bullying and Image Editions)
Nicole O’Dell
Kregel
September 2013

Kregel sent two of the series to me for review: Bullying and Image Editions. (They also publish Hot Button books on other topics like Internet, Sexuality, Dating, 30-Day Challenge, and Drug Editions.) The books are written by a well known talk radio and author who specializes in parent/ child relationships. As if having six children of her own wasn’t enough reason to respect her opinions!

Each book in the series starts with exploring the issue (with chapters on Why, When and How) then moves in to particulars on how to reach and teach your child to respond appropriately in situations surrounding the Hot Buttons. Each book is timely and doesn’t feel dated (like so many parenting books do). We deal with real current even stuff like Cyberbullying, Self-Harm, Eating Disorders and such and then move in to part three of each book: strategies.

I really liked how relevant these topics are to today’s teen. Reading the strategies – filled with Biblical references and responses – came across as genuine and helpful not preachy or tired. And if you think your child isn’t going through these struggles then you need them more than most parents. These struggles are real and prevalent.

Each book is less than $10 on Amazon and well worth the price.


Scott Asher is the Managing Editor 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.

The First Christmas Night and Giveaway

christmasIt’s Christmas time and nothing makes more sense than reading about the reason for the season.

The First Christmas Night
written by Keith Christopher
illustrated by Christine Kornacki
Ideals Books
October 2013

This version of the Nativity is set to the song the Night Before Christmas. Instead of the “Night before Christmas and all through the house / Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse” we get “Twas the very first Christmas, when all through the town / not a creature was stirring, there was not a sound.” Normally, I wouldn’t go for what some may consider a knock off, but Christopher, the writer, does come up with some endearing – and original – lines that make it worthwhile. Consider, “He had not a crib, but in a manger instead / the tiny new baby lay down his sweat head. Mary looked down at his cute little nose / and silently counted – ten fingers, ten toes.” As a father, this resonates.

The illustrations are lush and full of life; vibrant and colorful. I liked that the characters seemed to be a-racial (if I can make up my own words) – the character’s seemed to not be any or to be all races. So we don’t worry about a blond, blue eyed Jesus here. I also like that one of the Wise Men was black, even though that may not be historically accurate. It is inclusive and I liked it.

Speaking of Wise Men, though, I didn’t like that they were in the story. This is the story of Jesus’ birth and these guys were definitely not there at the time. What I get is that this story is based more on tradition than the Bible, which I’m not a fan of. I’d have preferred we not propigate the traditional errors but instead correctly tell the story.

Overall, though, this is a very well done, colorful, engaging, and easy to read book about the birth of Christ.

Thanks to the publisher we have a copy of this beautiful hardback book to giveaway! Enter below. Note: You may only win one giveaway per 30 days at BookGateway.com.

Congratulations to Anna E. of Anza, CA for winning a copy of this 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.

1 Girl Nation CD and Giveaway

1girlnationThere are a ton of kid’s music out there. Songs by artists that are influencing our children through catchy lyrics and music. Now there’s a Christian alternative. Is that a good thing?

1 Girl Nation
Lauryn Taylor Bach, Lindsey Ciresi, Carmen Justice, Kayli Robinson, Kelsey Sowards
Reunion Records
August 2013

I’ve got two daughters and can’t get away from their music. (Cue sad I-must-be-getting-old moment here.) When they were preteen and “tweenagers” it was all Disney pop music and now as they move to Junion and Senior High School it’s country music (thankfully they seem to have skipped over the former Disney singers) with some pop. This kind of music is all catchy, synth music with danceable beats. And there really is nothing like it on the Christian station (which seems to play mostly towards earnest life growth focused songs).

Enter 1 Girl Nation. Yeah, it’s a cheesy name, but it’s exactly right in line with younger girl expectations. It sounds exactly like Cheetah Girls and similar Disney pop music. On the solo songs, this CD sounds indistinguishable from current synth pop music. Except for the words – which can be overhanded at times – that clearly mark this as a message for Christians.

My younger daughter (11) took this CD and hasn’t given it back. My older daughter (14) said of the music, “I don’t want to call it cheesy… but.” And then sang along with it. (If you have a teen you know that tension that exists between wanting to grow up and still enjoying the “kid” stuff.) Interestingly, my sons (both younger than the girls) love the music and dance and sing to it regardless of the female focus. From my perspective, the music is very cheesy but it’s also very needed. Kids are going to listen to music and they are going to sing along. I’d rather them singing these lyrics than Miley Cyrus (Hannah Montana, of which we have several CDs in the house).

Isn’t that the point though? This is not music for parents – we have enough of that. This is music for the missing demographic: tweens and teens. And it is just right.

This is an enjoyable, simplistic, Christian version of pop synth music that everyone in my family enjoys (even if they don’t admit it.) Listen to the CD a few times and you’ll be singing along too.

Thanks to the record label, Reunion Records, we have a giveaway! Enter below.

Congratulations to Paris R. of Glendora, CA! Your CD is on the way!


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 CD was provided by the publisher as a review copy.

The Women of Christmas by Liz Curtis Higgs

91k9goHHX+L._SL1500_The participation of Mary, Elizabeth, and Anna in the Christmas story are presented through scripture verses from the Bible and the narrative of the author.

The Women of Christmas
by Liz Curtis Higgs
Waterbrook Press
September 2013

The Women of Christmas by Liz Curtis Higgs is a wonderful book for the Christmas season or for any time of the year. The book covers the lives of Mary, Elizabeth, and Anna in the months before the birth of Jesus and a few weeks after His birth. Each woman is presented through Bible scriptures and the narrative of the author. Mary is newly betrothed but she is pregnant, Elizabeth is old and barren but she also becomes pregnant, and Anna is old, widowed, and lives in the Temple waiting for the arrival of the Messiah. Of course the story also includes Joseph a carpenter who is betrothed to Mary, Zechariah a priest who is the husband of Elizabeth, and Simeon also a priest and living each day waiting to see the promised Messiah. The one thing that all three women have in common is that their hearts belong to God. And Mary and Elizabeth are blessed to have husbands that love and obey God.

Liz Higgs does an excellent job in presenting the story of these three women and showing the involvement in and contribution of each of them in the Christmas story. The style of the writing made for easy reading and enjoyment. Liz wrote a paragraph or two to introduce each woman and then a verse of scripture was given and Liz would then give her interpretation of that verse, another verse was given, Liz would interpret, and this style of writing was continued throughout the entire book.. This form was also used for the three men in the story. This style of writing made the Christmas story so easy to understand and brought new thoughts to mind even though I have been hearing and reading the Christmas story for decades. A study guide is presented at the end for individual or small group study. This is a small book but it packs a big punch.

I definitely recommend this book to all who would like to know more about Mary, Elizabeth, and Anna and their participation in the Christmas story.


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.

King’s Faith Movie and Giveaway

kingsfaithCue blurred scene. A male body is lying on the ground in a pool of blood. A woman is crying out, holding him. Police rush in and arrest her. Voice over: I watched my best friend die. This is not your average vanilla Christian movie.

King’s Faith
Directed by Nick DiBella
Provident Films
October 2013

Brendan King (Crawford Wilson) found Jesus and true faith serving time after the police arrested him – when his friend from his gang was shot in the opening scene – and is given one last chance to find a home; his 18th foster home. Mike (James McDaniel) and Vanessa (Lynn Whitfield) lost their policeman son four years ago when he stopped a car and was shot and killed by the driver. Mike hasn’t given up on trusting God that there is a plan that included the tragic loss of their son and sees Brendan as a way to serve God and His plan. Vanessa still struggles with the loss and with the idea that a God who loves them would take her son. When Mike brings home Brendan it causes a schism of priorities between Mike and Vanessa.

Brendan, for all his arrests, felonies and gang affiliations, seems genuinely committed to his faith. He joins the local school Bible study / Christian group, the Seekers, and takes humble work mowing the playing fields at school. When Brendon saves prom queen Natalie (Kayla Compton) from her wrecked car before it burned he find acceptance and friendship and above all – hope that he has finally found a way out of his past life. Then his gang shows up.

[SPOILERS] Eli (Brandon Correa), a member of the same gang Brendan belonged to, wants a stash of drugs that Brendan and their slain gangmember hid prior to the bust. Brendan doesn’t want the drugs out on the street, but when Eli and his crew start hurting Brendan’s friends, and beat him badly, he decides to take the gang out to the drug stash then kill them. Mike, who doesn’t know about the details only the difficult decisions, told Brendan that he needs to rely on God, but Brendan feels that this is the only way. [END SPOILERS]

This is a “Christian” movie that defies stereotypes. It isn’t cheesy and the resolution seems more realistic than many miracle-at-the-last-second stories. This film is full of violence, drugs, sexuality (including an admission by one of the characters of having an abortion). Non-Christians may still look at the story and think parts of it are too good to be true, but that’s the difference between degenerate and regenerate thinking. God really is too good to be true.

One thing I struggled with was the casting in the story. Brendan, Crawford Wilson, is such a clean cut, earnest white guy that it is hard to envision him as a thug drug dealer. Crawford is straight out of 90210’s preppy school of acting that even with (obviously fake) tattoos and a couple scars he just isn’t able to pull off the complexity of the character. I bought earnest Christian. I didn’t buy thug.

This story is well acted by the other actors, especially the sinister Eli, Brandon Correa, mentor Mike, James McDaniel, and hurt mother Vanessa, Lynn Whitfield. I especially liked that Brendan was already saved and dealing with consequences from his previous actions – something that Christians sometimes gloss over suggesting that faith fixes everything, which is not true.

This is perhaps the best Christian film of recent years. Realistic and redemptive.

Thanks to Provident Films we also have two copies of this DVD to giveaway.

Congratulations to John K. or Murfreesboro, TN and Latoya P. of Antioch, TN for winning copies of this DVD!


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.

Robin Gwaro is the Young Adult and Women’s Literature Editor at Bookgateway.com. Her personal blog is Just Wandering. Not Lost. where she writes about whatever comes her way.

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

One Way Love Giveaway!

“Believe it or not, Christianity is not about good people getting better.  If anything, it is good news for bad people coping with their failure to be good.”

One Way Love:  Inexhaustible Grace for an Exhausted World
by Tullian Tchividjian
David C Cook
October 2013

In Tullian Tchividjian’s opinion, the world needs a new view of grace.   We spend a great deal of time trying to earn our way, while struggling with the rules and regulations that Christians create for one another.  In his most recent book, Tchividjian examines how we work so hard to achieve grace and completely ignore the fact that grace is not about work.  It’s not about how good we can be or how well we can follow the rules.  It’s about a gift, freely given.

What impresses me about Tchividjian is his willingness to go against what is the normal message in churches.  The message that if we are good enough, do our best, and follow the rules, we’ll be able to earn our place at the table with our peers who work to be “good Christians.”  One of the most profound statements (posted above) is a message my own pastor repeats often.  The point of his book is that grace from God isn’t conditional.  We don’t deserve it, but He gives it to us anyway.  It’s One Way Love.

While that’s the basis of his message, Tchividjian goes into deeper detail about his reasoning, his experiences, and different aspects of our lives where God’s grace is applied.  Additionally, he is not stating that God’s grace means that we are free from direction (or laws in his words).  He does point out that they both have their place and direction.

The only issue I run into in Tchividjian’s book has nothing to do with his message or the point he’s trying to support.  It’s the manner in which he does it.  As he continues through the book, he repeats the assertion with anecdote after anecdote.  While I like the sections of scripture and lessons from the Bible, the other stories become redundant after time.   Also, Tchividjian relies heavily on references from other writers and “experts.”   His writing is strong enough on its own, so long passages from other writers feel unnecessary.  Finally, the continued name dropping and several pages of endorsements from names in the Christian community seem in direct contradiction with Tchividjian’s message.

Overall, Tchividjian’s book is very good.  The message is one with which I can get on board.  Anyone in need of grace should know it’s there for the taking: no questions asked, no conditions applied.

 

Want to read a copy of your own?  I have one to give away!   Just fill out the form below.  I’ll be drawing a name on October 26th.

 

Good Luck!

 ***Congrats to Rebecca F for winning her own copy of One Way Love!! 

 

 

 


Robin Gwaro is the Young Adult and Women’s Literature Editor at Bookgateway.com. Her personal blog is Just Wandering. Not Lost. where she writes about whatever comes her way.

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

Little Book of Great Dates by Smalley and Smalley

dates52 great fun ways to spend time with my wife? Yes, please!

Little Book of Great Dates
by Greg and Erin Smalley
Tyndale
September 2013

This leather-like dark royal blue book is gift sized with 52 two-page long “date” ideas. The Smalleys do a great job opening the reader up to re-evaluating what it means to date. Instead of spending time at a restaurant or going to a movie this book gives the reader a ton of fun things to try together. The focus is definitely on building relationship rather than amusement.

Some favorites included picking a challenging meal to cook where the focus is on working together to follow the directions then enjoying the meal together. Included are discussion questions around teamwork, what worked well and what didn’t and the next dish you want to work together on.

The book is full of great stuff, but one thing bothered me on my read through. On date 23 (page 62) “Time for a Check in” the reader is directed to the Smalley’s website to take a survey/ test to see where they are at in their relationship. A good idea. The catch? It costs $29.99. This is the written equivalent of the very unpopular app practice of In App Purchasing where you buy the app for a low cost (or free) but to get the full experience you have to purchase add-ons. I don’t like it on apps and I definitely don’t like it in my books. If the check-up is something we should do and we already purchased the book we should get a onetime code to take the test for free.

Overall, I’m a fan of the book and what it’s trying to accomplish. I love the redefinition of date and the focus on building the relationship rather than (only) having fun.

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


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.

Rufus and Ryan Go to Church by Bostrom and Thornburgh

rufusryanRyan is a young child who carries his stuffed monkey Rufus with him wherever he goes. Today is Sunday! It’s time to go to church!

Rufus and Ryan Go to Church
written by Kathleen Long Bostrom
illustrated by Rebecca Thornburgh
CandyCane Press
September 2013

The story follows Ryan as he goes to church (with his stuffed monkey), sings along, listens to a “Bible story”, then fellowships afterward with snacks. It ends with them leaving and looking forward to next Sunday.

This book is a positive message for young kids to enjoy church and look forward to Sundays. As such, I highly recommend it. One caveat, though.

This story is specifically for churchgoers who bring children in to the main sanctuary for church instead of sending them to a Children’s Church or Sunday School while adults go to big church. When I read this book to my two young boys they didn’t seem confused but their experience does not match the story. They do go to Children’s Church instead of big church. I can see this being confusing to some kids who may ask about it.

I love the premise of the series and am looking forward to the other books in the series.

NOTE: BookGateway is hosting a giveaway through October 7th HERE. Be sure to enter!


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.

God’s Not Dead by Broocks

With so many loud, seemingly authoritative voices championing atheism and so few Christian voices being allowed the opportunity to broadcast the Gospel it can be hard for a Christian to answer the challenge. Enter Broocks.

God’s Not Dead
Evidence for God in an Age of Uncertainty
By Rice Broocks
Thomas Nelson
March 2013

Broocks uses philosophy and logic – the same tools being abused to condemn Christianity – to show that the most rational, logical and correct worldview is that of the Christians. The author goes in to great depth to show the meaninglessness of empiricism and how it leads to only one conclusion: that we can prove nothing.

I love how the book was deep enough for those who have some experience and want deeper answers but could also be boiled down to very easy to understand concepts. Consider how the author destroys the argument against God because of evil: how can I believe in a god when there is so much evil in the world? The author answers simply: no God = no evil. Evil and good are concepts that are only explained by a creator God who gave them to us. A natural world built by undirected change and chance cannot create concepts like good and evil. Good stuff.

I highly recommend this book to anyone who is struggling with the questions raised by non-believers or for those who want to have an answer for the hope that lies within them.


Scott Asher is the Managing Editor 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.

Love the Least of These (A Lot) by Spielman

Nearly 45 million human beings have been brutally killed since January 1973. 45 million. That’s seven and a half times the number of Jews that were killed in the Holocaust. Thank God that the Holocaust of the Jews is over. Unfortunately, the Holocaust of the Unborn is not.

Love the Least of These (A Lot)
by Michael Spielman
Loxafamosity Ministries Inc
January 2013

Spielman is the founder and director of Loxafamosity Ministries, the ministry that runs Abort73.com, (in my opinion) the best and most well documented anti-abortion website and ministry in the world. The website is a cornucopia of scientific, theological, moralistic, and logical reasons to abhor abortion and for visitors to recieve support in case they were considering abortion or unfortunately had already had an abortion. A well rounded ministry to, and education of, people.

This book is similar to the website but in a specific, focused way. A primer more than an in depth look at the debate and the act. Questions of life and conception, moral relativism, effects of abortion, why it’s wrong and more. It seems like a great starting place for interested parties – both Pro-Choice and Pro-Life – to understand the debate and the why of what they believe. Which is why I don’t understand why it wasn’t published sooner and by a bigger publisher.

According to the author, this book was passed on by multiple Christian publishers. I can only assume that the publishers either, 1) didn’t think it was marketable, or 2) didn’t want to publish a book against abortion for fear of repercussions. Spielman addresses this point in the book: some Christian organizations and churches don’t want to get in to this topic because they feel it polarizes and causes dissension. Listen, this is exactly the type of topic that we should be dividing over. Jesus said that He would divide people (Matt 10, Luke 12) and even though many Christians would like to solely focus on building relationships, which is good, the problem is that where sin is there will be division because the act of sinning is the cause of the division (or turning away/ breaking relationship) with God. The division exists because of the sin, not because a Christian calls something a sin.

(This is not to say that we should walk around calling sins out. Jesus made it clear in his famous plank eye analogy (Matt 7) that we need to look to our sins and let God deal with the sins of others. But here is a major difference between judging people and killing people. Abortion is killing people. We don’t have the luxury of saying to ourselves, “God will work that out.” See here.)

Abortion is one of the most dangerous to discuss topics in the world. In Christianity, unfortunately, it isn’t a settled issue either as with our mouths we condemn the act as murder but with our choices show that we aren’t much different than the world around us. Most of these decisions are made without true understanding of abortion and what it is and why it’s wrong. Education is what we need. This book is a great place to start.

Whether you are a Christian, Pro Choice, Pro Life, an Atheist or anything in between this book is one of the most clearly and concisely written primers on the Biblical argument against abortion.


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.