The Jesus Experience: Journey Deeper into the Heart of God / by Bill Myers. 7.27.2017

Shiloh Run Press ISBN 9781630589899

Adult Rating: 5

Award-winning author Bill Myers shares his personal journey of how he falls deeply in love with God. The transformation of his walk with God does not happen overnight. After becoming overworked from all of the numerous projects he is doing in trying to please God, Myers comes to realize that he is emulating Martha from the Bible story of Martha and Mary. This is a turning point in his mindset and attitude regarding God and leads to his developing an intimate friendship with God. Meyers discusses three Scriptures that have had a major impact on his relationship with Jesus Christ and are the key elements of his deep, unwavering joy for God.

The Jesus Experience: Journey Deeper into the Heart of God offers practical ways for both recent converts and long-time believers in Jesus Christ to avoid the pitfall of allowing works of service to become the priority in their lives, instead of spending time with God and enjoying His company. The book is written in an easy-to-understand style, and Myers recounts his story with candor, insight, and humor. The anecdotes, personal testimony, Bible verses and passages, inspirational examples of God’s unfailing love, and challenging chapter questions to reflect on at the end of the book makes this an inspiring story for readers to explore their own relationship with God.

Dianne Woodman, CLJ

King’s Blood / by Jill Williamson. (The Kinsman Chronicles, 2) 7.25.2017

Bethany House ISBN 9780764218316

Adult Rating: 4

Award-winning author Jill Williamson pens another volume in her epic fantasy series for adult readers, filled with political and spiritual intrigue.

In King’s Blood, those who escaped the destruction of the Five Realms live on hundreds of ships, seeking a new home. They encounter giants and serpents, while their leaders face assassination attempts and coups. The people live in spiritual darkness–worshipping multiple gods, believing in superstition, and using dark magic. The king of Armania is dying, and Sar Wilek emerges as the leader of the Armanians. How will the prophecy of the promised Deliverer affect them?

Even longer than book one (by 50 pages, this one has almost 600 pages!), Williamson manages to produce another well-written volume with interesting characters and plot twists. The author carefully juggles multiple points of view by identifying the character at the beginning of each chapter. Although it is a lengthy book, it was originally published as three shorter ebooks: Kingdom at Sea, Maelstrom, and Voices of Blood.

Williamson does an excellent job of world building. Inspired by the corrupt kings of Israel, Williamson’s series is more appropriate for adults and teens over sixteen. The book includes a list of the key players and an author’s note; supplemental material is available on her website. The Kinsman Chronicles contains elements that foreshadow The Blood of Kings trilogy (for example, blood voicing which is similar to telepathic powers and only given to those in the royal bloodline).

Recommended for high school libraries, as well as adult fiction collections in public libraries. The third book, King’s War, will complete this series.

Carol R. Gehringer, worthy2read.wordpress.com

Earlier Series Titles Reviewed by CLJKing’s Folly (Jul/Aug/Sep 2016).

Moving Target / by Lynette Eason. (Elite Guardians, 3) 7.24.2017

Revell ISBN 9780800723248

Adult Rating: 4

Bestselling author Lynette Eason continues her romantic suspense series featuring a female-owned agency of female bodyguards.

In Moving Target, Maddy McKay, a former FBI agent and now a bodyguard for Elite Guardians Protection Agency, and Detective Quinn Holcombe are ambushed and kidnapped by someone seeking revenge from their past. But from whose past and which case?

When they awaken in a concrete room, they are unable to remember exactly what happened. Now the kidnapper wants to exact his revenge through a deadly hunting game on a remote island. Can they escape with their lives? Can they find out who is hunting them? Is it tied to a current case Quinn is investigating?

As always, Eason is an excellent storyteller, weaving plot twists along with her development of complex characters. Violence in the story is appropriate but not too graphic. The book starts off with the ambush and grabs the reader’s attention, keeping it until the very end.

The clean romance develops at a realistic pace, and faith elements are present but not overpowering. Though attracted to one another, Maddy and Quinn have yet to affirm their feelings for one another. In addition, both have family issues preventing them from moving forward in a relationship. They work together to escape their situation, unravel the mystery, catch the killer, begin rebuild family relationships, and plan a future.

Some characters from previous Elite Guardian books make an appearance, to the delight of the reader. The Elite Guardian series are unique in that each cover features a woman carrying a gun. Chasing Secrets (book 4) is due Summer 2017.

Eason’s newest series will interest fans of DiAnn Mills, Dee Henderson, Dani Pettrey, and Irene Hannon. Recommended for adult collections in public libraries.

Carol R. Gehringer, worthy2read.wordpress.com

Earlier Series Titles Reviewed by CLJ: Always Watching (Mar/Apr/May/Jun 2016); Without Warning (Jul/Aug/Sep 2016).

A Lady in Disguise: A Novel / by Sandra Byrd. (Daughters of Hampshire, 3) 7.12.2017

Howard Books ISBN 9781476717937

Adult Rating: 4

Award-winning author Sandra Byrd pens a third novel in her Victorian England historical suspense series.

In A Lady in Disguise, a young Englishwoman works as a costume designer in London’s theater district. When Gillian Young inherits Winton Park, a family estate, following her father’s death, she also inherits questions about the circumstances surrounding his death.

In the course of seeking answers, she meets two young men who show an interest in her: her new neighbor Viscount Thomas Lockwood, and Frances Collingsworth, son of the local inspector. Is their interest genuine? Did her father leave behind evidence that identifies his killer? Who can she trust when she tries to find it? How does her experience in costumes help her disguise herself to find answers she seeks?

Layers upon layers are revealed about her father’s life until she realizes her parents were very different from what she believed. She comes across young girls in the theater district working in almost slave-like conditions and helps them. But not everyone is in support of that charitable effort. Who is trying to stop her from helping the girls and solving the mystery about her father’s death?

Written in first-person narration, Byrd’s book is filled with mystery, romance, and plot twists–all the elements of a Gothic novel. A Lady in Disguise grabs the reader’s attention until its conclusion. The faith element is light, and the historical detail regarding human trafficking, the early days of the Salvation Army, and life in London’s theater district is exceptional.

Recommended for school and public libraries. Fans of Brontë and Victoria Holt will especially enjoy this series. Byrd gives a nod to Little Women with quotes sprinkled throughout.

Carol R. Gehringer, worthy2read.wordpress.com

Earlier Series Titles Reviewed by CLJMist of Midnight (May/Jun 2015); Bride of a Distant Isle (Jul/Aug/Sep 2016).

Shadow of the Mountain: Exodus / by Cliff Graham. (Shadow of the mountain; 1) 7.7.2017

Bethany House ISBN 9780764214752

Adult Rating: 4

Shadow of the Mountain: Exodus is a fictional story centered around the biblical character of Caleb. Eighty-five-year-old Caleb is the leader of the Hebrew army. On the eve of battle, stormy weather has delayed the army, and Caleb’s nephew uses this opportunity to encourage his uncle to share details about his life as a young man in Egypt. The story moves between the present and the past with Caleb not only fulfilling his military duties but also relating his experiences in Egypt to his nephew.

Caleb’s narrative begins with him leaving his Kenazzite family and traveling to Egypt where he works mainly as a stone carver. A spur-of-the-moment decision made by Caleb changes the focus of his life from artist to warrior. After undergoing a grueling course of physical training, Caleb becomes a highly skilled and renowned soldier in the Egyptian army. Caleb is entrenched in the Egyptian’s idolatrous way of life until Moses and Aaron ask Pharaoh to release the Hebrew people from slavery. When Pharaoh refuses, God uses Moses and Aaron to bring down ten plagues upon the Egyptian people. Experiencing firsthand the devastating plagues and seeing the omnipotence of the Hebrew God have a profound effect on Caleb.

Cliff Graham has created a backstory of Caleb’s life in Egypt with realistic depictions of ancient Egyptian life. The story dramatizes fiction with biblical history. This gritty and suspenseful story encompasses tragedy, heartache, idolatry, unwavering faith, God’s love and sovereignty, joy, determination, revenge, and salvation. There are graphic descriptions of brutal military training, violent battles, and terrifying plagues. A glossary of terms is at the beginning of the book.

Dianne Woodman, CLJ

Contagious Disciple-Making / by David L. Watson and Paul D. Watson. 7.5.2017

Thomas Nelson ISBN 9780529112200

Adult Rating: 4

Contagious Disciple-Making focuses on how to plant and grow churches in remote and difficult-to-reach areas. The father-and-son team of David and Paul Watson have started a multitude of churches and baptized a plethora of people in Africa, India, Central and South America, and the United States using the principles and strategies of their Disciple-Making Movement. The Watsons advocate evangelizing families and communities, rather than individuals. One of the main points made in the book is that trying to win people to a particular denomination or congregation is thought to be a hindrance for making disciples of Jesus Christ.

The book starts with a brief introduction, and the main portion is split into two parts. The introduction describes the motivation behind the launching of the Watsons’ Disciple-Making Movement. Part 1 explains the way of thinking required for a disciple-maker. There are nine viewpoints covered in the book, such as presenting the gospel without Western cultural influence, the importance of being obedient out of love for God, and understanding the difference between making disciples and making converts. Part 2 covers the essential components to be a disciple-maker and to start a Disciple-Making Movement. There are nine elements, such as an unwavering commitment to prayer, approaches to leadership development, and characteristics of mentoring relationships.

Biblical citations, passages of Scripture, paraphrasing of Bible verses, and personal experiences are included throughout the book to support the Watsons in their recommended way for disciple-making to succeed. The afterword is written by David Watson and is a testament to the unexpected results of the Disciple-Making Movement. In the appendix is a list of Scripture passages from both the Old and New Testament, which is for personal study about the creation of the world, the fall of man and its effect on humanity, and the redemption of mankind.

Dianne Woodman, CLJ

Faith Alone: The Doctrine of Justification / by Thomas Schreiner. (The Five Solas Series) 7.3.2017

Zondervan ISBN 9780310515784

Adult Rating: *5

Author Thomas Schreiner provides a good summation of the book on page 179: “… this book is an introduction and a tour through the doctrine of justification –historically, biblically, and theologically…” This is precisely what the book provides.

In the first section of the book, the author moves the reader through samples of the writings of the early church fathers, culminating with the views of Augustine. The historical tour continues through the Reformers, consisting of an exposition of their understanding of the doctrine of justification as well their unique formulations of the doctrine. The reaction of the Council of Trent is also considered. The tour progresses through Puritan authors such as John Owen and Richard Baxter, among others. The section concludes by considering the views of Jonathan Edwards and John Wesley.

The next section considers the biblical evidence for the doctrine of justification by faith alone and its theological implications. This is where the author truly begins to hit his stride. As a professor of New Testament as well as associate dean of Scripture and Interpretation, Schreiner allows his expertise and facility with the biblical text really shine through in this section. His tone is consistently irenic. He sets out his opponents’ position very well and then begins to refute that position. However, this is not done in a polemical tirade but a point-by-point, reasoned refutation.

The final section of the book considers how Sola Fide (faith alone) is being challenged currently in New Testament studies. The work of N. T. Wright is highlighted for special attention. Once again, Schreiner does not simply find fault. On several occasions, he voices his appreciation for the work of Wright and points out specific insights that Wright’s scholarship has given to him. In the end, however, Schreiner is setting forth a historical, biblical, and theological argument that the doctrine of justification by faith alone is the most biblically faithful understanding of how man can be justified before God. The short concluding chapter to the book makes abundantly clear that the author holds to a Reformed understanding of the doctrine.

This book is highly recommended. Though intended as an introduction, it is not a light read and will challenge most readers. However, it is written in such a way that it does not presume any specialized knowledge on the part of the reader. In other words, if one is interested in the topic, this book would be a great resource for exploration. This book would be a welcome addition to public or private libraries. It also would likely function very well in group study.

Michael Wilhelm, CLJ

Shine Like the Dawn: A Novel / by Carrie Turansky. 6.30.2017

Multnomah ISBN 9781601429407

Adult Rating: 4

Award-winning author Carrie Turansky pens a new Edwardian novel where childhood friends reunite after the deaths of their parents.

In Shine Like the Dawn, Margaret (Maggie) Lounsbury works in her grandmother’s millinery shop while caring for her six-year-old sister, Violet. They lost their parents several years earlier in a boating accident. Maggie is bitter towards God (and Maggie’s childhood friend Nathaniel Harcourt) for abandoning them after their accident, not knowing that his family kept Nathaniel and Maggie apart.

When Nathaniel returns home to deal with his father’s illness four years later, he discovers an unpaid debt to Maggie’s father and is committed to repaying it after his father’s death. Nathaniel takes over his father’s engineering company, dealing with worker conditions and problems with his stepmother. Meanwhile, Maggie begins to suspect her parents’ death wasn’t accidental, and asks Nathaniel to help her search for answers. Will the person behind it cause more “accidents”? Will this bring them closer to one another when they discover the truth?

Turansky excels in her writing–her books are filled with rich characterization and descriptive narrative. Historical details give the reader a glimpse into life in an English village. The faith element is present but not heavy-handed. Maggie’s bitterness prevents her heart from healing, and her faith is struggling. Maggie’s grandmother and Nathaniel do not preach but serve as examples of being strong in their faith, despite life’s struggles.

Fans of Turansky’s novels will enjoy this new work. Shine Like the Dawn is a joy to read, with its family drama, clean romance, and the restoration of an estranged relationship to God.

Recommended for adults in public libraries.

Carol R. Gehringer, worthy2read.wordpress.com

The Body Under the Bridge / by Paul McCusker. (A Father Gilbert Mystery) 6.29.2017

Lion Fiction ISBN 9781782641070

Adult Rating: 4 (Recommended with caution)

The Body under the Bridge finds former detective turned Anglican priest in a murder mystery that spans hundreds of years as well as natural and supernatural realms. A disturbing vision leads Father Gilbert to find a historic medallion of unknown worth and significance left behind on the belfry at St. Mark’s in Stonebridge, England. Following the vision and subsequent discovery, police investigate a well-preserved “bog-body” found under a historic bridge on land in the center of a development controversy. As Father Gilbert and Father Benson, the new, young curate at St. Mark’s, investigate further, more light is shed on dark matters until they fear for their own lives.

Father Gilbert’s personality is easy to love. Paul McCusker excels at creating sympathetic characters. Gilbert’s car is perpetually in the shop. He loves his church members and is dedicated to ministry and even prays occasionally for dead souls. Though he left Scotland Yard, the detective in him still can’t seem to resist solving a crime. The plot churns up dead bodies and adds an element of the supernatural–even of demonic influence–creating a mood of darkness and suspense.

An evil element oppresses certain characters making clear the difference between spiritual light and darkness. As Father Gilbert investigates further, he discovers that black masses have been held at St. Mark’s. There are non-explicit references to sexual temptation and orgies, and even Father Gilbert seems affected by some of the demonic activity and is shown to struggle with temptation. Gilbert and Benson witness a stabbing at a black mass that they stumble upon. Astral projections and near-death occurrences are mentioned. A couple of the secondary characters use mild expressions such as “Good Lord” and a “Good God.”

In spite of the darkness that shrouds this book, the redeeming element, besides a good who-dun-it, is the wisdom sprinkled throughout. “I know that coincidences, the pull of Truth, are all part of a providential conspiracy to get us to Him.” (p. 203) “Ironically it was death, his great nemesis, that pointed him to life.” (p. 72)

Kristina Wolcott, CLJ

The Deity of Christ / by John MacArthur. (The John MacArthur Study Series) 6.20.2017

Moody Publishers ISBN 9780802495273

Adult Rating: 4

This book represents a compilation of sections of the MacArthur New Testament Commentary. The 10 chapters are divided into three parts titled: 1) The Divine Glory of Christ, 2) The Divine Authority of Christ, and 3) The Divine Claims of Christ.

The first section deals with both the eternal glory of Christ as well as his preeminence. This section primarily addresses the explicit claims by two New Testament writers. Christ is shown to be eternal and over all via the text of the New Testament.

The second section discusses the authority of Christ over various aspects of creation. Thus, the case for the deity of Christ in this section is often more implicit than explicit. Christ shows his authority over demons, sin and disease, the Sabbath, and Creation. The cumulative argument is that Christ is shown doing and saying things that only God can do. The demons cower in fear in the presence of Christ (p. 52). Christ forgives the sin of the paralytic borne of four (Mark 2:5). The Sabbath was established and ordained by God. So, by implication, Christ’s view of his preeminence over the Sabbath can only mean that this is an implicit claim to Deity (Mark 2:23-28). Christ’s ability to walk on the water during a storm shows his sovereignty over creation (Matt. 14:22-33).

In the third section, MacArthur deals with the explicit claims of Christ in the Gospels, with a heavy emphasis on the Gospel of John, where Jesus’ claims to Deity are quite a bit more vocal in comparison to the other Gospels.

John MacArthur stays true to his view of himself as a pastor/teacher dealing with the interpretation of the text. Though he may mention liberal challenges to the claims of the New Testament, for the most part he steers clear of these. This book is recommended for those who would appreciate a primer on the subject of the deity of Christ from a pastor’s perspective. It is recommended for private and public libraries.

Michael Wilhelm, CLJ