Review of Killing Jesus by Bill O’Reilly and Martin Dugard

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Oct 262013
 

Killing Jesus is a somewhat controversial book about the historical life of Jesus of Nazareth written by Bill O’Reilly and Martin Dugard. There have been many negative comments about it perhaps because many don’t seem to understand that it was never meant to be a spiritual book – it was meant to be a history book.

Killing Jesus

It was a good read and only took me a few days to read it in it’s entirety. I’m a slow reader so that is a record setting pace for me. The authors did an excellent job of immersing the reader in the story – for you old time gamers out there – like the first person shooters’ Wolfenstein, Blake Stone, and Doom all did. Thus, although I have not read them, I suspect Killing Kennedy and Killing Lincoln to also follow this full immersion, first person paradigm.

The story started with Herod’s slaying of every male child under the age of two years in Bethlehem. It then takes an unexpected turn and describes in vivid detail the life and death of Julius Caesar. It also describes how Cleopatra, Octavian (Caesar Augustus), Caesarion, and others interacted with and/or succeeded Julius. I found the historical background of these related people to be very interesting and a nice touch.

While going on to tell the stories of Mary, Joseph, and Jesus, this book describes in detail the depravity of Herod Antipas. Specifically, the graphic depiction of Herod’s sexual immorality and corrupt sexual games is my only criticism of the book. This makes the book unsuitable for younger readers and even, in my humble opinion, some older readers as well. Killing Jesus would have been a better book without this negative information.

The book continues to follow Jesus through his life up until he is crucified on the cross at the place of a skull – Golgotha or Calvary.

killing jesus

One of the best parts of the book for me was how the authors proved certain events that are noted in the Bible by using external sources. For example, they reference a journal that notes Chinese astronomers who observed a long-tailed, slow-moving comet in their skies during March of 5 B.C. This additional pertinent information is oftentimes written in footnotes at the bottom of the pages and should be read in order to get the full effect of the book.

All-in-all, in spite of the colorful information about Herod’s depravity, I would recommend Killing Jesus to adult readers. My prayer is that God would use this book to prove his existance and Jesus’ divinity (he is the Messiah, the Christ, the son of the living God) to many who do not believe.

Review of “101 – A Marriage & Family Success Story” by Stephen Ashford

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May 112013
 

In a world where “fine” is the standard answer as to how one is doing, Stephen’s book is refreshingly open, honest, and real. In his wonderful book, “101 – A Marriage & Family Success Story,” Stephen speaks of God’s faithfulness and restorative power even in the midst of separation and divorce.

101 - A Marriage & Family Success Story

Even though God hates divorce (Malachi 2:16), it does not scare Him or limit His miracle working power in any way. Although Stephen and Cynthia had been divorced for eight years, God was able to keep them abstinent (a miracle in and of itself), and restore their marriage so that they were remarried.

This book is a testimony to the love and power of God to work in our lives regardless of our circumstances. God is not a respecter of persons (Acts 10:34). In other words, He does not play favorites. What He did in Stephen and Cynthia’s lives, He can do in yours.

All-in-all, “101 – A Marriage & Family Success Story” is a great short read and I highly recommend it to anyone who needs victory and hope for their marriage.

Dear Father,

Thank you for the myriad of miracles that you perform everyday in our lives – You give life and breath to all mankind. Thank you for the way that you have worked mightily in Stephen’s life and in his family. My prayer is that you would have mercy on everyone who reads this review, and if they are willing to humble themselves and seek (ask) you according to your will, please give them the miracles that they so desire.

In Jesus’ name,

Amen.

I would love to hear from you! If God has restored your marriage, please leave a comment below. How did He accomplish this? What steps did He require you to take (if any)?

Review of “Choose Joy” by Kay Warren

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Apr 132013
 

I want to start by saying that my heart goes out to Kay, Rick, and the whole Warren family. I cannot fathom the unimaginable pain and loss they must be feeling right now due to the death of their son Matthew. My son’s name is also Matthew, and I cannot imagine having to do life without him. My prayer is that God would bring comfort and peace to the whole Warren family.

I listened to the “Choose Joy” audio book that is written and read aloud by Kay Warren.

Choose Joy In this book, Kay is very open and honest about her inner life and struggle to find joy. She is real and transparent about many of the situations and circumstances that she has gone through in her life. She makes herself vulnerable so that others may identify with her and learn how to choose joy in their lives.

One of my biggest takeaways from this book is Kay’s definition of joy:

“Joy is the settled assurance that God is in control of all the details of my life, the quiet confidence that ultimately everything is going to be alright, and the determined choice to praise God in all things.”

Choosing joy is about trusting God in everything. Trusting Him with what we’re afraid of, with what we don’t understand, with our futures, and with everything in between.  This reminds me of the Prayer for Serenity:

God, grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change,
the courage to change the things I can,
and the wisdom to know the difference.
Living one day at a time,
enjoying one moment at a time;
accepting hardship as a pathway to peace;
taking, as Jesus did,
this sinful world as it is,
not as I would have it;
trusting that You will make all things right
if I surrender to Your will;
so that I may be reasonably happy in this life
and supremely happy with You forever in the next.
Amen.
—Reinhold Niebuhr

Choosing joy is about knowing that God is in control and that in the end we will be with Him forever in heaven and everything will be wonderful. There will be no more crying or pain or death or grief or suffering. The former things will be left behind, forgotten, and the new order of things in heaven will begin and remain forever!

I heard a loud shout from the throne, saying, “Look, God’s home is now among his people! He will live with them, and they will be his people. God himself will be with them. He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.” And the one sitting on the throne said, “Look, I am making everything new!” – Revelation 21:3-5 NLT

“Choose Joy” by Kay Warren is a wonderful book about choosing to trust God in all the circumstances and situations of life. It is definitely worth the read or listen.

I would love to hear from you. Have you read this book? How has it helped you to choose joy in your life? What else (books or other) has helped you choose the parallel train track of joy versus the track of sorrow in your life?

Feb 182013
 

For an unknown new Christian author like myself, the Christian marketplace can be a hard place, real hard. Not only did I have to write the book and do much of the editing and layout myself, I’m also primarily responsible for marketing it.

Since the market is now inundated with books due to the low cost of self-publishing, it can be quite difficult to land book reviews, for example. The book reviewers are flooded with way more books than they can possibly review.  This is driving the demand for paid book reviews.

In my effort to get our book reviewed, I sent emails to many different book reviewers.  Only two responded.

Friendship_Quotes

The first, Kathleen Samuelson, Director of Publications for CBA Retailers+Resources Magazine, responded that she couldn’t guarantee a review due to the number of books that she received. Nevertheless, I proceeded to mail our book to her attention and sent a follow-up email asking her to confirm receipt. She promptly responded that she had received it. The email correspondence alone was HUGE considering the number of folks who didn’t bother to respond to my emails.
The second, Margaret Lukasik, informed me that she would create a book promotion webpage for free. For free! Really, what’s the catch? There is no catch. Ten days later she delivered the page as promised.
She also explained that for a small fee she would do a guaranteed book review and much more!
The first package for $19.95 offers the following:
  • 1 full page review of your book on this site, Life Purpose Books.com.
  • 1 review with different keywords on my Christian Book Review Blog.
  • 1 announcement of my review on my blog for this site.
  • Reviews will be written with specific keywords placed strategically for SEO ranking.
  • Announcements in my two monthly newsletters
  • Free banner advertising on specific pages of this site (I will make the banner free if needed).
  • Announcements posted on three of my Facebook pages
  • Broadcasts posted on my Twitter Account
  • I will include your email and website address if you wish to promote them and any other information you may have such as interview links for example.
The second package for $49.97 offers even more:
  • Page construction for Search Engine Optimization to achieve great page ranking
  • 1 full review on this site, Victory Bible Studies (click on examples below) with specific keywords placed strategically for SEO ranking with a post on it’s blog
  • 1 full review on my popular Christian Money Growth.com site which will be slightly different than for this site to achieve better page ranking and to target a larger audience. It also includes a post on it’s blog.
  • Announcements in my monthly newsletters
  • Announcements posted on four of my Christian Facebook pages
  • Regular broadcasts posted on my Twitter Account and the major social networks.
  • Your other books will be listed.
  • Amazon.com ads on my websites to sell your book if you have your book listed on their site.
  • Free ads created to advertise on my Victory Bible Studies and Christian Money Growth sites
  • 1 free ad for your book on my Victory Thru Christ site.
  • I will include your email and website address if you wish to promote them
  • I will continue to promote your book!

I decided to go with the second option and, thus far, she has delivered all of this:

Book Review Pages:
http://lifepurposebooks.com/Christian-life-book.html
http://victory-bible-studies.com/books/slaying-life-s-dragons-and-beasts.html
http://christian-money-growth.com/reviews/spiritual-growth-book.html

Blog Posts:
http://lifepurposebooks.com/blog/christian-guidance-book-by-gary-millner/
http://christian-book-review-blog.blogspot.com/2013/02/new-christian-book-slaying-lifes.html

http://christian-money-growth.com/blog/spiritual-growth-book/
http://www.victory-bible-studies.com/blog/slaying-life-s-dragons/

Pages that Contain an Ad for your Book:
http://victory-bible-studies.com/child-abuse-victim-recovery.html
http://lifepurposebooks.com/tools.html
http://christian-money-growth.com/free-Bible-study-notebook.html

When I do a Google search for the title of our book, one of her pages comes up first even before Amazon’s or my own website’s! Impressive!

Due to the small fees that she charges, she certainly isn’t in this to get rich.

Margaret Lukasik provides a priceless service to Christian authors for very small fees.

Finally, I would like to mention Sarah Bolme, author of the book Your Guide to Marketing Books in the Christian Marketplace. Sarah also provides valuable services to Christian authors. Her book is an excellent resource that very practically describes what the author should be doing in every step of the book publishing process.

Sarah has been very helpful to me. In fact, she even referred me to my publisher, Tate Publishing.

In addition, for an annual fee, she offers membership to Christian Small Publishers Association. This service is very valuable, especially to self-published authors. She offers book distribution and many other invaluable benefits to members.

I would love to hear from you. What has been your experience as a Christian author? Have you found it to be hard? Who has helped you out along the way?

Review of One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp

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Jan 212013
 

I just finished reading One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp today. I’ve also committed to naming these one thousand gifts in my own life. Who knows, perhaps I can find this joy that Ann talks about? Perhaps this close communion with God that I so desire, that I once had?

Ann writes this book from her heart, real, transparent, honest – which is what attracted me to it. She talks about the tragedy, loss, brokenness, and pain that she has experienced in her life.  And how she came to start naming these 1000 gifts or blessings. And how they changed her.

Ann starts by telling about how her sister, Aimee, was suddenly killed by a delivery truck. How the whole family shut their hands and their lives to the notion of a good God with the following refrain:

“No, God? No, God, we won’t take what You give. No, God, Your plans are a gutted, bleeding mess and I didn’t sign up for this and You really thought I’d go for this? No, God, this is ugly and this is a mess and can’t You get anything right and just haul all this pain out of here and I’ll take it from here, thanks. And God? Thanks for nothing.”

How many times have I thought and lived this exact same thing? Too many to count.

Ann goes on to describe how, as a direct result of this tragedy, her Mom is committed to a mental hospital and how she (Ann) becomes a cutter. How fear and agoraphobia and anxiety grip her life. How she just wanted to die.

Sound familiar? I’ve been there too many times to count.

Then, she tells of how, in a dream, God shows her that instead of wanting to die, what she really wants is to live, fully – to fully live.

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Her friend, Linda, dared her to count a thousand things she loves, one thousand blessings, one thousand gifts. And the journey began.

Ann shares of how she learned the Greek word eucharisteo, meaning thanksgiving, and charis, meaning grace, and chara, meaning joy.  And how they are related.

And how, “Eucharisteo – thanksgiving – always precedes the miracle.”

The remainder of the book speaks of how eucharisteo unfolds in Ann’s life and how she comes to find joy and close communion with God as a direct result of naming these one thousand gifts.

This is one of the few books (the only one I can think of right now) that I have been able to finish reading lately.

I highly recommend it to anyone who, like me, has desperately wanted and striven for joy and closeness with God in their Christian walk, but for one reason or another has failed to achieve them, or failed to achieve them for any appreciable amount of time.

I would love to hear from you. Do you have the fruit of the Holy Spirit in your life?  The love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, etc? How did come to know it, them? Did thanksgiving play a role in it?