Category Archives: @ashertopia

Tea With Hezbollah by Ted Dekker

Ted Dekker along with Carl Medearis, his guide, and Samir, their man with the contacts, travel from Egypt to Syria and many points in between in an effort to sit with many of the ideologues of the Muslim world. The authors state that the goal is to find out what the important Muslims at each of the stops, be them Hamas or Hezbollah or unaffiliated (officially) think about Jesus’ teaching on loving our neighbors as ourselves. Dekker calls the book a travelogue and it is a fitting description as the book documents their travels in the Middle East, more than actually deals with the issue at hand, which is to say that the question of how important Muslim thinkers and influencers think Jesus’ teaching fits with their agenda and actions. Each of the conversations that Dekker has with each of the Muslim leaders is shared verbatim in transcript form so that there can be no issue of out of context quotes or agenda driven choices of quotes.

There are parts of this book that are absolutely fascinating. The history and perspectives were, in many cases, completely new to me even though I consider myself well read on current issues. On occasion, Dekker would go into depth on the history of a specific area and how the temples to such and such god were taken over by the Jews, then the Christians, then the Muslims. I also found the transcripts to be fascinating in that I gained insight into the background and character of those being interviewed. Unfortunately, I found that the book didn’t actually answer the question posed in the introduction.

I found most of Dekker’s worrying about going into the dangerous areas to be whiny. I get that he was scared, but he went for a book so I found that I didn’t connect emotionally with his plight. If he had gone for a more altruistic reason I may have cared more. I also found the story of Nicole to be distracting. Sure it was an interesting aside, but I read this book to hear from the leaders of the Muslim world about the idea that we are called to love our enemies and I just didn’t get that. In fact, the biggest let down in the book were the interviews. Dekker had an opportunity to discuss non-violence and love with very influential Muslims and he spent most of the interview asking inane questions like, “What is a joke that makes you laugh?” and “What kind of car do you drive?” The important questions came only at the end and little or no follow-up was made to them. I understand that Dekker is trying to humanize our so-called enemies so that we can do a better job in loving them, but I felt at times that humanizing them with the shallow questions did less to answer our concerns than to fill the pages of a book. An interesting read that ultimately fails to deliver on its promise.


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.

Dug Down Deep by Joshua Harris

Joshua Harris takes the well known, but not well understood, parable of the builder (who builds his home on the sand vs the builder who builds his home on the rock under the sand) and applies it in a rich and insightful way to our understanding of Christian doctrine and theology. Dug Down Deep calls the reader to a deeper understanding of Christianity; to the why not just the what of our belief. It is a call to a firm foundation that will lead to a revived love for and appreciation of God. Each of the chapters in the book, after the first couple which serve to introduce us to the topic, go into greater depth on a specific orthodox theology, explaining why it matters and how we apply that knowledge to our walk with Christ.

In reading this book I found a balance between head knowledge and its affect on heart. Too many times I have seen someone go to the extreme on either side. I’ve seen people go too far to knowledge side where they know so much about God but they may not actually know God, and I’ve seen the opposite where people experience God but have no idea what their experiences mean. This book is a great resource for those in your life (including yourself) that fit into one of those categories.

Highly recommended.

John Ankerberg and Jimmy DeYoung come together to create “Israel Under Fire: The Prophetic Chain of Events That Threatens the Middle East,” a book that promises to explain the Biblical predictions concerning the current events in Israel, how what happens in Israel affects the rest of the world, and answers the age old question, “Will there ever be peace in the Middle East.” To come to these answers Ankerberg and DeYoung interview – on location in Israel and the Middle East – many of the policy makers and experts who would be close to the situation, such as, Benjamin Netanyahu, the prime minister of Israel and Reuven Rivlin, the Speaker of the Knesset in Israel.

Ankerberg and DeYoung are less authors than interviewers for much of the book (and interviewees, as I will explain.) The authors claim that the book will answer questions and give a Biblical basis for the current events in Israel. To accomplish these goals the authors provide a brief history how the modern state of Israel came to be and what exactly is currently happening in Israel. On these points, I found that the authors were successful. Unfortunately, this was only one part of the book.

In the second part of the book, the authors interview current world leaders and here is where I feel the book goes awry. I had two issues here. First, the authors advertise on the back cover that they interview Adnan Husseini, Yasser Arafat’s cousin and Palestinian Authority spokesman. While, it is true, it is a little misleading as he is one of three world leaders advertised yet he appears in only one very short section with only a couple of questions, while the others leaders, Jewish pundits exclusively, are interviewed extensively. This is far from balanced coverage.

Second, the authors didn’t just interview pundits they agreed with – they also interviewed each other. I understand that the authors may be experts in a field but their opinions should be bolstered by other expert’s opinions, statistics, reports and the like. Author’s opinions should not be proved by their own opinions. The issue of lack of documentation and proof isn’t just relegated to their opinions in interviews. Unfortunately, the authors take comments and opinions from pundits they agree with for granted, moving right past controversial quotes that cry out for data that reinforces the opinion. The only reference in the book to an outside source (other than the Bible) is on page 156 (of 174).

In the third section of the book, the authors attempt to tie current events with Biblical prophecy. I would expect that anyone, after reading this book, even someone who has no experience with Biblical prophecy or current events, would be able to walk away understanding the “prophetic chain of events that threaten the Middle East.” What I found in this section, though, was confusion. To explain a complicated book like Revelation, I would expect we would start at the beginning and work our way through the (purported) time line from start to finish. I would expect that current events would be tied in to the timeline to show how the events fit into the puzzle. I would expect that the authors would show how these events work together to fulfill prophecy. Unfortunately, Ankerberg and DeYoung did not make a convincing connection for me.

While I did find the first section of the book interesting, this book left me unsatisfied in my search for connections between current events and Biblical prophecy. Revelation itself is already difficult to understand and I found the authors didn’t accomplish their goal of making it accessible and understood by the reader.

As much as I would have liked to, I cannot recommend this book to anyone but Bible prophecy buffs.


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.

The Male Factor by Shaunti Feldhahn

Like Shaunti Feldhahn’s previous works, the Male Factor is commentary based on surveys. I was introduced to Feldhahn’s work through For Men Only: A Straightforward Guide to the Inner Lives of Women, which I found to be very helpful in understanding my wife and her needs. And though I am a man interested in women, I also read For Women Only: What You Need to Know about the Inner Lives of Men to see how accurate I found the survey information to be. I found that Feldhahn was spot on and the surveys incredibly insightful. Now with this book, we get the same insightful information but based on surveys focused on the work environment instead of the home.

As a man in the business world I found that the survey was right inline with how I see the workplace and / or how I know that my male peers do. I imagine that if a woman was to read this book and implement some of the suggestions that they would immediately find their male peers much easier to work with and her job much more enjoyable. (In the same way, I look forward to the upcoming partner book, which will focus on how males can function better at work with females.) Interestingly, this book also sheds light on some of the weaknesses in the way that men function, and while reading I found that I could benefit from changing my worldview as well.

Another solid book that I recommend to all business people, male or female.


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.

The Rose Conspiracy by Craig Parshall

J.D. Blackstone is perfect. Well, except that he can’t sleep. He has multiple degrees, knows everything, is in great shape, rich, a professor and lawyer. He drives a Maserati convertible. He has an attractive partner at the law firm and soon after the start of the book he has an attractive and very interested defendant. If this book was somehow filmed in black and white J.D. couldn’t have been more stereotyped.

The damsel in distress. The forgetful professor of religion (he forgets when he dropped off his dry cleaning. Really?) The tough P.I. who can get any information you need with just a few calls to his contacts. Everyone in this book is a stereotype! And yet, I found that I enjoyed the book.

This crime drama is fast paced, detailed and fun. The Booth diary and the Freemasons make for a fun setting for this mystery. Are we ever very surprised? Not really. But that’s something we can say of nearly every crime / courtroom show on TV yet we watch those.

The Rose Conspiracy is an enjoyable diversion that keeps the reader interested throughout.


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.

Angels by Dr. David Jeremiah

Dr. David Jeremiah says that the angel craze “peaked in the 90s” (p14) so the question of why this book was written is a justified one; there must be a pressing reason to release another book on the subject. What I found was that there really isn’t a pressing need other than the author’s desire to publish his opinion for a new generation. This is not to say that this is a bad thing. Many times a topic may have been done before, and even better, but a new generation may read this newer version and be introduced for the first time to the topic. Angels is a book like that.

I found the book most helpful when I considered it a resource rather than a standard non-fiction treatise. Chapters like, “Showing Us How to Worship,” “The Angels and Us: How Much Alike,” and “What Angels Are” are great resources for those with questions or putting together a sermon or study. The chapters are Biblically based with scripture and also references to some of the previous works on the subject.

The book is an easy to read, interesting study of angels for a new generation. I recommend it to those who have an interest in angels either for themselves or for someone that they know that may have unorthodox notions.


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.

Primal by Mark Batterson

Mark Batterson through his book Primal is calling for a reformation. Starting from the viewpoint that believes that Christianity is not what it is supposed to be, Batterson works through what he believes the most raw, purest form of Christianity should look like. Primal exegetes Mark 30, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your Strength” by redefining what those characteristics should look like to modern readers. The result is a call to renewed compassion, wonder, curiosity and energy. Each of the four sections of Primal go in depth into each of these redefined – or properly defined – characteristics and calls the reader to become what Jesus was asking us to be.

Even though I consider myself to be well read and well versed in the so-called “It” pastors of my generation, I had never heard of Batterson till Primal until Multnomah sent me this book as a review copy. If his previous books are as convicting as this one then I count that a huge loss on my part! Primal is amazing. By far the best book of 2009. The combination of calls to compassion and energy with curiosity and wonder hit home for me in a way that other books didn’t. Bell’s book, Jesus Wants to Save Christians, from last year, for instance, is a call to a reformed Christianity that is concerned about renewed compassion in the church, but is lacking Primal’s calls for curiosity and wonder at God’s creation. Batterson message fits with other authors I enjoy, like Bell, Miller and Driscoll but goes deeper than I’ve experienced before. I cannot recommend this enough.


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.

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.

The Devil’s Kiss by Sarwat Chadda

The Templars have fallen on hard times in this young adult horror / fantasy novel by first time novelist Sarwat Chadda. Hunted down by the church and demonic forces over several centuries, only a small group of Templars remain to hold back the darkness. Residing in modern London, Billi SanGreal, the reluctant teenage daughter of the current Head Master of the Templars, Arthur SanGreal, is the newest member of the knighthood. Things take a turn for the worse – possibly Armageddon worse – when one of the Templars accidentally draws the attention of the Angel of Death. What follows is a predictable young adult fantasy with an ending that the reader will see far in advance.

Though predictable in plot, the characters are interesting and the take on the genre is compelling. For secular fans of the genre, this book is worth purchasing and foretells a promising future for Chadda. But for Christian readers the book signifies something more, and less desirable. < This book is the unfortunate result of the popularity of modern fantasy set in real world locales that mix myth, legend and religion into an unholy concoction resulting in the dumbing down of the three complex ingredients. When religion, which most of the world recognizes as real - not fantasy - is mixed with and then placed on the same level as myth or fantasy it becomes equivalent to fantasy, something that faithful readers of all religions should be concerned about. Targeting these books at young adults further complicates the issue as young faithful readers receive a message mixing myth, legends and reality in a way that can make it hard to distinguish between them. In a society that is increasingly Biblically illiterate this spells trouble. To be clear: I have no issue with fantasy. In fact, it is my favorite genre. Fantasy realms like that of Harry Potter, for instance, are set in a fictionalized real world but diverge from reality when it comes to sacred religion. This is vastly preferable as faithful readers can enjoy books like Harry Potter without worry that the author will pit the fantasies of that world against the realities of this one. Because of the equivocation of myth and religion in the world of the Devils Kiss, I do not recommend this book to faithful readers. Secular readers may enjoy a generic, although entertaining young adult fantasy.


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.

Fool-Proofing Your Life by Jan Silvious

Jan Silvious is a good friend and co-host with Kay Arthur with Precept’s Ministry. She’s an accomplished speaker and author. With credentials like this one would think she wouldn’t be published as a gift / budget book, but she is with Fool-Proofing Your Life. Priced at $6.99 (suggested) the book sports colorful if generic artwork on the cover and paper one step better than newspaper quality. If Silvious isn’t a name you recognize it is entirely likely that this book would be overlooked by most buyers. And that is the shame of it.

Fool-Proofing Your Life deals with something we all deal with in our over-medicated, over-indulgent culture: crazy people. I’m not talking about certifiably crazy, I’m talking about the people in our lives who drive us crazy with their actions. Or as the author and the Bible call them, “fools.”

Each of the three Parts, Is there a fool in your life?, Relating to your fool, and Wising up, include sub-sections like Think About It, where pointed questions guide the reader in the right direction through self discovery, Go to God About It and Go to the Bible About It, which both move the reader through prayer and scripture to come through the section with a Biblical view of how to deal with their reaction to the fools in their lives. Chapter 5 alone is worth the (small) price of the book with its’ succint definitions of the types of fools the reader may encounter and how to deal with them.

Well written and full of wisdom this book may not look like much but is hard to pass up at this price point.


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.

99 Ways to Build Job Security by Gary Nowinski

Looking at the book, no doubt you wouldn’t think much of it. Plain cover, undersized and clearly for the budget conscious, this book does not look significant. But on the inside there are a multitude of significant nuggets of wisdom! Like most “value gifts” the “99 Ways…” series is far more about what’s on the inside than the outside.

I received this book as a review copy from the publisher, WaterBrook Press, as a part of a blog tour for value gifts, along with Fool-Proofing Your Life, which I will review in the coming days. I admit that I was hoping to receive 99 Ways to Stretch Your Home Budget or 99 Ways to Entertain Your Family for Free. But when I started reading the bite sized wisdom I realized that this book was exactly what I needed.

In an economy like this, with job security on so many people’s minds I found an easy outlet for the 99 Ways… – at my job! I started quoting Ways to my direct reports that I believed would benefit them, like #6 Self-Confidence and #89 Self-Defeating Thoughts. They were a hit!

Value gift books can sometimes be overlooked because of their presentation but at least in the case of the 99 Ways… series I believe that you should give them a second look.


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.