Category Archives: Devotionals

The 21-Day Dad’s Challenge

Babies have no choice. Toddlers and young children idolize you. But once they grow out of that we’re gonna have to do something more than simply bring their father. To have the relationships we want with our kids as they grow we are going to have to work for it.

The 21-Day Dad’s Challenge
Edited by Carey Casey
Focus
September 2011

This book is set up to be read as a devotional starting with a story and ending with an idea to connect with your children. Each devotion is easy to read, easy to digest and easy to implement. Unlike some books on relationships this book doesn’t require you to go spend money; instead it focuses on spending time not spending money.

Each day is written by a different contributor, like sports stars Shaun Alexander and Tony Dungy, and well known Christian writers like Josh McDowell and Randy Alcorn. It’s tied together by Focus on the Family and Carey Casey editing.

I found that each chapter had nuggets of truth and held valuable lessons. I didn’t get through it in 21 days, but over the course of reading the book I did come up with many ways to make its influence last longer that just three weeks. It is a worthwhile book for Christian fathers who want to build long lasting, strong relationships with their children.


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.

5 Minute Apologetics by Ron Rhodes

Ron Rhodes takes 365 most asked questions and provides concise, Biblically grounded answers that are easy to understand and (if used as intended) to memorize. Each day has a topical question, a couple hundred word response, then a Pearl of Wisdom – a take-away focused on why the day’s apologetic devotion was important.

5 Minute Apologetics
by Ron Rhodes
Harvest House
2010

Ron Rhodes is president of Reasoning from the Scriptures, a conservative apologetics and prophecy/ end times ministry, so it should come as no surprise that this book takes a staunchly conservative view of the scriptures when giving answers to some of the most asked questions by skeptics and seekers. Sometimes, a more conservative, literal interpretation than I find to be helpful in witnessing to my friends who are skeptics.

For instance, the sections on Creationism include Day 157: The Days of Genesis 1 where Rhodes makes his belief in the six “literal solar days” the focus of the devotion spending the vast majority of the page on it at the expense of other legitimate options on how to interpret the word we call “day.” On Day 162: Young-Earth Creationism he says of the creation story in Genesis, “No marks of poetry or saga or myth are evident.” This is something I believe most interpreters would disagree with him on. Genesis 1 is very likely written as a poem. Rhodes maintains these views while at the same time stating that “Nature and Science do not conflict. Rather, science… and theology… sometimes conflict. (Day 111: Nature and the Bible)” It would seem that the more logical view in light of that quote (and empirical evidence) that he should have been more generous in showing different orthodox positions within Christianity instead of choosing to focus on only one side in an internal debate.

Another devotion that seem to be focused more on internal disputes than on witnessing to unbelievers is Day 263: Speaking in Tongues, which seems to encourage an intra-Christian debate and includes a straw-man argument about whether or not speaking in tongues is required for salvation – something that almost all Pentecostal groups would say they do not believe.

These criticisms aside the vast majority of the 365 devotions are great apologetic starting points and the concise devotions that take more like 2 minutes instead of 5 are perfectly bite sized for most people. This book is an excellent resource for those who are interested in being able to answer the call of the Bible and Hank Hanegraaff, of the Bible Answer Man, where Ron Rhodes is a guest often:

Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. (1 Peter 3:15)


Scott Asher is the founder and administrator of BookGateway.com. Along with his contributions to BookGateway, he reviews for the commercial site BuddyHollywood.com. His personal blog is AshertopiA – a land flowing with milk and honey… and a lot of sticky people where he cartoons and writes on current events and Christianity.

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

I Love God’s Green Earth by Michael & Caroline Carroll

This book is written to be used as a daily devotional for kids and to make them aware of the need to protect God’s creation. The devotional quotes daily scripture and touches briefly on the meaning and connection of the environment to the Bible. However, it seemed the book is more scientific than spiritual. The facts are interesting, the jokes cute, but in my opinion don’t contribute enough spiritually. As a devotional it lacks substance.

I believe that this book is too detailed and deep for kids under the age of 10. Even after age 10, I question kid’s ability to fully grasp the book’s complexity. The book is colorfully illustrated with nice pictures, is for the most part cute, and is full of jokes, but is not something that will hold a child’s interest for long. If used daily it is likely that kids would get excited about the environment and trying to take care of God’s creation, but young kids, as a whole, are more interested in entertainment than in social responsibility. I applaud the authors for attempting to encourage the perspective that the earth as God’s magnificent creation I have my doubts though as to their success. At the least, this devotional could be used as a reference book for some school projects as there are some interesting facts listed.

As for myself, I was challenged by the publisher to determine an action step that I could take to make my household more environmentally sound. My action step is to ensure that 95% of light bulbs in my home are compact fluorescent bulbs.

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

Closer by Jim and Cathy Burns

Like many couples, my wife and I have read through – or at least started – many devotionals. Some are simple one-pagers that don’t bring much more than a kind of mini-sermon, while others like Closer give much more. Each of the 52 devotions has Bible reading, a quick story illustration, and then poignant questions that prompt discussion.

I found that working through the devotions with my wife that the book was really just a jumping off point. We spent much more time on the discussion questions. In this way, Closer was very successful in drawing me and my wife together.

The one part of the book that didn’t make a lot of sense to me was in only doing 52 devotions, one per week. If you are like me, even if you are busy, you probably want to do a devotion daily. I found that my wife and I would go through a new so-called weekly devotion each day. I understand that the authors did this so that they wouldn’t burden those of us with limited time, but I felt that a simpler 30 or 60 devotion span would have been easier for users who wanted to do devotions daily or over a period of time. And let’s face it – most of us don’t do this every day anyway.

Overall a good devotional. Not too heavy and not too light. Something that you can do every day or once a week. Above all, though, it is a great jumping off point for conversation – which is what really draws couples closer.


Scott Asher is the founder and administrator of BookGateway.com. Along with his contributions to BookGateway, he reviews for the commercial site BuddyHollywood.com. His personal blog is AshertopiA – a land flowing with milk and honey… and a lot of sticky people where he cartoons and writes on anything he finds funny and Christianity, which sometimes overlap.

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

Becoming a Woman of Faith by Cynthia Heald

 One in her Becoming a Woman of […] series, Cynthia Heald examines the issue of faith in Becoming a Woman of Faith. In this volume, Heald examines the question of faith, doubt, and how we can increase our faith in God.  The book is arranged in 11 chapters, each dealing with a different idea or area of faith.  Heald starts with showing you how God proves he is faithful.  She then walks through overcoming doubt, how we can put faith into action, how to keep our faith going, and several other areas of faith.
I love that Heald takes an in-depth approach to faith and provides many, many examples in scripture throughout the study.  She interjects personal thoughts on faith throughout the study as well.  There are scriptures for memorization and suggestions for ways to increase our faith.
I will be the first to tell you that I am not a Bible scholar.  I need more direction when it comes to studying and understanding God’s word. From that perspective, Heald’s book along does not offer this.  I think it would work much better for someone who has a much more in-depth working knowledge of God’s word.  For beginners, it could leave you wanting more.  In all fairness, Heald’s book does state up front that some additional references (Bible commentary, study Bible with references, etc) can be helpful when going through this study.  
Still, I think beginners can still get some insight into walking in faith, even if it is a little ahead of where a beginner would be in studying the Bible.  There are a lot of thought-provoking questions that really do a great job of having the reader study and ponder the meaning of God’s word, leaving you with more knowledge and understanding than you had in the beginning.  I would certainly recommend this book and will be looking into other books in this series.
This book was provided free of charge by the publisher as a review copy. The publisher had no editorial rights or claims over the content or the conclusions made in this review. Visit www.navpress.com for more information on this book.

NKJV Greatest Stories of the Bible

For the reader looking to get a picture of how God has touched us on Earth, Thomas Nelson Publisher has provided the  NKJV Greatest Stories of the Bible.  The book is arranged from Old to New Testament and uses the actual verses from the NKJV of the Bible to recount 250 “stories,” starting with Genesis and the beginning of the world and ending with our “Final Victory” in Revelation. 
As the book points out in the foreword, it is important to remember that this is not the Bible.  While the entire book is comprised of verses from the Bible, it does still leave out most of the what you will find in an actual Bible.  From a format perspective, that is what required the most adjustment for me when reading.  I kept expecting to see verses with which I am very familiar, only for them to be missing in this collection. 
However, that is the point of this book.  Thomas Nelson Publishers set out to create an “heirloom edition [that] provides readers with the tales of the Bible in an easy-to-navigate, storybook format.”  I believe that they have achieved this goal.  I am often concerned with devotions or companions that will interpret the verses in a way that does not hold to the true meaning or content of an actual Bible.  By maintaining the format (NKJV), Thomas Nelson was able to alleviate those concerns for me.  I was also able to locate the Biblical figures from whom I have found the most inspiration in my times of trials quickly and easily. 
The book is hardbound and comes with a ribbon attached to be used to mark a favorite story.  It would serve as a perfect gift book for special occasions.  Thomas Nelson also advises that it can be used to “improve family devotions.”  I would only recommend this if you have a family with older children.  I tried it on my younger son, who is still much more a visual than an auditory learner. As the book is entirely text, the stories were not very effective in holding his attention for long enough to finish one.
Overall, I was very pleased with both the layout and the content of this book.  I would certainly recommend it to others as a companion to their Bibles and an easy way to spend some time learning about how God has touched the lives of those who came before us.
This book was provided free of charge by the publisher as a review copy. The publisher had no editorial rights or claims over the content or the conclusions made in this review. Visit www.thomasnelson.com for more information on this book.

40 Loaves by C.D. Baker

There are so many devotionals available that most of the time I feel I’d rather not try to wade through them to find the one that would fit me. In fact, I can’t remember the last time I read through a devotional at all. I know it’s been years. Till now.

C. D. Baker’s 40 Loaves is different. Very different. How about topics like, “Why are Christians so hard for me to like?” and “Why am I afraid to read my Bible?” When Water Brook sent me this as a review copy I had only one word with which to respond: awesome!

I loved reading through one man’s struggles and finding the answers that worked for him. I found that not all of his answers worked for me, but that’s fine, because the process of working my way through tough questions about faith, love, the Bible, God, anger, frustration and so on are what grows me. A devotional that moves me along the path God has for me was just what I needed, and 40 Loaves hit the spot.

I recommend this book for anyone who is struggling with so-called deep questions about faith and doubt, any one who also asks questions like, “Why do I only pray in emergencies.” An honest book that turns into bite sized devotions the struggles and faith of the author. This isn’t some preachy, everything will turn out right devotional. This is real.


Scott Asher is the founder and administrator of BookGateway.com. Along with his contributions to BookGateway, he reviews for the commercial site BuddyHollywood.com. His personal blog is AshertopiA – a land flowing with milk and honey… and a lot of sticky people where he cartoons and writes on anything he finds funny and Christianity, which sometimes overlap.

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

Treasured by Leigh McLeroy

How many books have we read to better understand God? Who is God? What is he like? Leigh McLeroy probes into these questions from a different perspective than most. A valid and (after-the-fact) obvious way. After all, the Scriptures say that you can tell what kind of tree something is by its fruit; how it behaves, acts. Isn’t the same true of God?

In Treasured, McLeroy seeks to know God by the things he keeps. This is a bit of a misnomer as God doesn’t actually keep the things that McLeroy talks about but rather interacts with them. Chapters like 1 A Fig Leaf talk about God keeping us after Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit and were covered by God. In 12 One Smooth Stone, McLeroy describes God’s intentions and interactions with us and how he turns our stone-cold hearts to living ones.

Each chapter is bite sized and easy to read, starting with an anecdotal story from the authors life in most cases then moving on to a time in the Bible where God interacted with our ancestors making the connection that He still interacts with us the same way today. While the book doesn’t actually talk about the things God keeps as in items that God actually has, like the author’s cigar box. Rather the book is about what God, invisible and non-physical, holds tight to; what He treasures. This is a book about us, of course. Reading this book reminded me that we are His treasure and He is our portion. Highly recommended.


Scott Asher is the founder and administrator of BookGateway.com. Along with his contributions to BookGateway, he reviews for the commercial site BuddyHollywood.com. His personal blog is AshertopiA – a land flowing with milk and honey… and a lot of sticky people where he cartoons and writes on anything he finds funny and Christianity, which sometimes overlap.

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