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

Finding Sanctuary series / by Nancy Mehl. 6.19.2017

Gathering Shadows / by Nancy Mehl. (Finding Sanctuary, 1)

Bethany House ISBN 9780764211577

Deadly Echoes / by Nancy Mehl. (Finding Sanctuary, 2)

Bethany House ISBN 9780764211584

Rising Darkness / by Nancy Mehl. (Finding Sanctuary, 3)

Bethany House ISBN 9780764211591

Adult Rating: 4

The series takes place in Sanctuary, Missouri, where the population is predominately Mennonite and the townspeople are extremely protective of their privacy. Each book features different main characters, who go on spiritual journeys while trying to overcome challenges in their lives. Nancy Mehl has combined mystery, suspense, and light romance, along with inspirational messages of faith and hope not only for people who are going through difficult times but also for people who no longer trust God.

In Gathering Shadows, 23-year-old Wynter Evans is a television news reporter assigned to put together a documentary on small towns in Missouri. She decides to go to Sanctuary because she suspects a teenager who lives in the town is her long-lost brother, who was abducted at the age of seven and has been presumed dead. The abduction tore her family apart and destroyed her faith in God. After a chance encounter in Sanctuary with the teenager, she is convinced more than ever that he is her brother and is determined to prove it no matter the cost. Will Wynter find her brother and welcome God back into her life?

In Deadly Echoes, 24-year-old Sarah Miller is the school teacher in Sanctuary. Sarah’s life is thrown into turmoil when her sister, Hannah, is murdered. Sarah becomes the legal guardian of her 10-year-old niece, and it is not an easy transition for either of them. To complicate matters, the circumstances surrounding Hannah’s death are eerily similar to how their parents were killed. Because Sarah is dissatisfied with the police’s ruling in both cases, she decides to do some investigating on her own and runs into dangerous roadblocks. Is there a connection between the two cases that someone does not want her to find? Sarah is a woman of faith who struggles with self-esteem throughout the story. Will she be able to overcome putting herself down?

In Rising Darkness, 21-year-old Sophie Wittenbauer has turned her back on God, left her traumatic past behind, and created a new life for herself. She now goes by the name of Sophie Bauer and writes obituaries for the St. Louis Times, but she has her heart set on becoming a crime reporter. When she finds out from an old acquaintance that a fugitive believed to be dead may be alive and hiding out in Sanctuary, she uses a false identity to go undercover in the town. While trying to track the man down, she not only puts her life in danger but also sets her past and present on a collision course. Will Sophie get the story she so desperately wants? Because of her horrid childhood, Sophie believes God does not answer prayers. Will she change her mind?

Dianne Woodman, CLJ

Irish Meadows / by Susan Anne Mason. (Courage to Dream, 1) 6.12.2017

Bethany House Publishers ISBN 9780764217241

Adult Rating: 4

In Irish Meadows, Gil Whelan has finished business school and can’t wait to return home to Irish Meadows–where he was raised by the O’Learys–even if it’s only temporary. Since the O’Learys financed his education, he feels it’s only right to come home and try to help with the family business, a horse farm in Long Island, New York. His return is eagerly awaited by Brianna O’Leary, who was raised with Gil and is like a sister to him, but who can’t help the attraction now that they are grown. However, Mr. O’Leary has plans for Brianna and her sister, Colleen. He wants them to marry into rich, influential families and not have to struggle as his poor Irish immigrant father did. Colleen also has other plans, especially when a handsome distant cousin comes to visit.

Mr. O’Leary wants what’s best for his daughters and knows the hardships of financial struggle. He just seems to go about it the wrong way–preferring to bully his children into doing what he wants. Brianna knows that her father wouldn’t accept a marriage to Gil or the idea of her going to college, but she continues to pray that things will work out in her favor. Colleen also wishes to believe that she’ll get to choose her future for herself, even if it’s with whom she least expected. Will Gil be able to save Irish Meadows from financial ruin? Will the girls be able to follow their hearts?

Author Susan Anne Mason deftly portrays early 20th-century life in Long Island. Her characters are well-drawn and grow throughout the progress of the story. Each of the main characters is determined and strong-willed in their own fashion, but their faith and prayers help them get through each day and look forward to a brighter future.

Recommended for public and school libraries.

Trina Chase, CLJ

What Christians Ought to Believe: An introduction to Christian Doctrine Through the Apostles’ Creed / by Michael R. Bird. 6.6.2017

Zondervan ISBN 9780420630935

Adult Rating: 5

Bringing together helpful illustrations, theological discussion, and ways to apply these to one’s life, What Christians Ought to Believe enables readers to see the possibilities of the Apostle’s Creed as a way to probe and understand the basic teachings of the Christian faith. The book provides a syllabus for summarizing what Christians believe about God, Jesus, the church, and the life to come.

Author Michael R. Bird begins by highlighting the importance of creeds for the formation of the Christian faith, with each chapter, following the Creed’s outline, introducing the Trinity and the church of believers. Bird notes that embedding the Apostles’ Creed in our corporate church life is an excellent way to ensure the integrity and orthodoxy of our faith and a great means to infuse some ancient wisdom into our spiritual journey. An appendix includes the Apostles’ Creed in the original Latin and Greek.

Leroy Hommerding, CLJ

The Inn at Ocean’s Edge / by Colleen Coble. (A Sunset Cove Novel) 6.5.2017

Thomas Nelson ISBN 9781401690267

Adult Rating: 4

The Inn at Ocean’s Edge is an engaging story with a mix of mystery, suspense, tension, family secrets, betrayal, courage, assault, kidnapping, and murder. A budding romance hindered by doubts, trusting in God during highly stressful times, and a rescued baby orca are also woven into the storyline. Some interesting facts about orcas and their similarities to humans are included in the story. Readers will be invested in the outcome of the novel as the suspense continues to build until it culminates into a climatic ending.

Claire Dellamare has just arrived at Hotel Tourmaline on the island of Folly Shoals, Maine, to help her father with an important merger for the family-owned business. She begins to feel uneasy and ends up having a panic attack. To calm herself down, she goes for a walk on the beach, which leads to an unexpected encounter with Luke Rocco and his sister Megan. During their conversation, Claire is stunned to learn that she went missing at the age of four and spent one year lost in the island’s forest. Luke is hopeful she remembers seeing a woman on the night she disappeared, but Claire has no memories of the childhood incident. Claire confronts her parents about her past and comes to believe they are hiding important details about what happened. Subsequently, Claire and Luke work together to try and discover the truth. Even when a mysterious person threatens Claire’s life, she refuses to give up. Will Claire be able to unravel the secrets of her past, and will it change her life in any way?

The central theme of the book revolves around the complexity of family relationships. Colleen Coble has done a good job of showing the adverse emotional effects that lies and deceptions can have on family members, while also showing how love, perseverance, and commitment can profoundly impact families. Questions have been included that can be used in group discussions about complex issues faced by characters in the novel.

Dianne Woodman, CLJ

At home in Trinity series / by Delia Parr. 5.24.2017

The Midwife’s Tale / by Delia Parr. (At home in Trinity, 1)
Bethany House ISBN9780764217333

The Midwife’s Choice / by Delia Parr. (At home in Trinity, 2)
Bethany House ISBN9780764217340

The Midwife’s Dilemma / by Delia Parr. (At home in Trinity, 3)
Bethany House ISBN9780764217357
Adult Rating: 4

Martha Cade comes from a long line of midwives, proud of this satisfying work and hoping to continue her vocation for many years to come. She loves ushering new life into the world and ministering to the mothers, but a consequence of being in so many homes and at a rather intimate time is that Martha knows all the secrets of her small Pennsylvania town–a blessing yet a burden at times.

Martha has been long widowed and raising her headstrong daughter Victoria can be a trial. She had hoped that this daughter would take over her midwifery practice in the future but Victoria has her sights set on a more worldly endeavor. At the onset of the first book in the series, The Midwife’s Tale, Martha has not heard from her daughter in months and is distraught, wondering where she might be. Will there be reconciliation?

The story continues in The Midwife’s Choice and The Midwife’s Dilemma. Throughout the series, other events also weigh heavily on Martha. This is the 1830’s and times are changing. The obstetric methods of a new young doctor in town are threatening her job, causing pregnant women to seek him out for their care instead of the traditional midwife. And there is romance in the air. As a young woman, Martha’s beau was Thomas Dillon, now the town’s mayor. Although each of them married another, now that they are both widowed, Thomas is determined to make Martha his bride.

Martha trusts the Lord and although her faith is often tested, she turns to Him again and again for strength and guidance. All three titles in Delia Parr’s At Home in Trinity series are enjoyable inspirational fiction.

Ceil Carey, CLJ

Core Christianity: Finding Yourself in God’s Story / by Michael Horton. 5.18.2017

Zondervan ISBN 9780310525066

Adult Rating: 5

Westminster Seminary professor and theologian Michael Horton seeks to help the Christian reader to invite others into solid theological truths. Horton’s Core Christianity: Finding Yourself in God’s Story puts together systematic theology, biblical theology, and practical theology into one discussion. The twelve chapters of the book cover four themes: the drama of redemption, the doctrine of Scripture, doxology (praise/worship), and discipleship.

One particular strength of this work is the author’s emphasizing that it’s not so much that God is a part of our stories, but that we are a part of His. Another is the practical approach on what believers should be doing until Jesus returns, with a look at serving in our various callings—a discussion enabling believers to be more direct in handling challenges and doubts. A lingering consistent theme is Horton’s persistent focus on God and His Word. He is clear about enabling believers to know what they believe and why. Those having read Basic Christianity by John Stott will enjoy this clarifying work.

The discussion is well worth the time in reading. The print is somewhat small, with the font in the sidebars somewhat difficult to read. Younger believers can also consult Surprised by Faith by Don Bierle.

Leroy Hommerding, CLJ

Broken Ground / by Karen Halvorsen Schreck. 5.5.2017

Howard Books ISBN 9781476794839

Adult (YA)      Rating: 5

Ruth envisions an idyllic life with the man she loves, going to college, and becoming a teacher. When a terrible tragedy shatters her life, Ruth must decide how much she wants to live–and how to escape a domineering father. Her choice propels her on a journey through America’s 1930s western landscape dotted with Hoovervilles and plagued by state-sponsored racism.

After an assault and a false accusation derail her dream of school and uproot her again, she embarks on a new journey into the world of Mexican workers fighting illegal deportations. In the midst of her own grief and struggles, Ruth rises above herself and discovers the redeeming qualities of service to others that transforms her life and that of those around her. Teaching the Mexican children, she learns that every child should feel content, that education is a universal right, and that God is the God of all cultures and languages.

Through thoughtful narrative, engaging dialogue, and descriptive scenes, Karen Halvorsen Schreck portrays a little-known part of American History. In addition, Broken Ground is a powerful reminder of the redemptive quality of suffering that leads to fruitful growth in God, and that proves that all things do work together for good, if you are open to God’s call and willing to go wherever that takes you.

Veronica Jorge, CLJ

Waves of Mercy / by Lynn Austin. 4.27.2017

Bethany House ISBN 9780764217616

Adult Rating: 4

Award-winning author Lynn Austin pens a turn-of-the-century story of two women: one a young Chicago socialite, the other an older Dutch immigrant. Their lives intersect when Geesje recounts her immigration story in preparation for their town’s 50th anniversary.

In Waves of Mercy, 23–year-old Anna Nicholson flees to Holland, Michigan after her wealthy fiancé ends their engagement. She befriends Derk Vander Veen, a seminary student working part-time at her hotel. Their conversations lead to a friendship that brings her in contact with Geesje, his neighbor. Derk sees a similarity between the two women.

In 1846, 17–year-old Geesje de Jonge crossed the ocean with her parents and other immigrants from the Netherlands to settle in the Michigan wilderness. In 1897, she is asked to write a memoir of her early experiences. As she recounts her experiences, no one expects the secrets revealed when the two women meet.

Anna suffers from nightmares she has experienced since she was a young girl; she dreams of drowning as a ship sinks. When she travels with her mother to Holland via steamship, she relives those dreams when they face a raging storm just before arrival. Geesje has had her share of hardships. Though her faith may have wavered, it stands the test of time, something she shares with Anna through her story.

Austin tells the story of two women, identifying the speaker at the beginning of each chapter. The stories are interwoven with the theme of family secrets, religious persecution, hardships, joys, and God’s faithfulness through it all. Austin’s characters are believable, as is her central theme: nothing can separate us from God. He is always with us, and has a plan for our lives.

Recommended for public libraries and Lynn Austin fans.

Carol R. Gehringer , worthy2read.wordpress.com

Beyond suffering Bible NLT: Where Struggles Seem Endless, God’s Hope Is Infinite / by Joni and Friends, Inc. 4.21.2017

Tyndale House ISBN 9781414392028

Adult Rating: 5

2017 is a year of special significance to bestselling author, artist, singer, and radio host Joni Eareckson Tada–it marks the 50th anniversary of her journey in a wheelchair. One of the ways she has chosen to commemorate is by publishing the Beyond Suffering Bible, a special edition of God’s word for individuals who are struggling with disabilities as well as for families struggling to care for suffering people. The volume is a labor of love, reflecting Mrs. Tada’s desire to reach more people and to encourage and strengthen their walks by sharing the insights that have gotten her through the past 50 years.

With Mrs. Tada as its general editor, the Beyond Suffering Bible features the work of many distinguished contributors, including the experts at Joni and Friends Christian Institute on Disability. It is a study Bible with many valuable features, including book introductions with an emphasis on key suffering and disability themes, profiles of biblical persons who lived with a disability or acted as a caregiver, devotionals that tackle some of the toughest questions about suffering, and thousands of “Connection Points”–study notes that delve into verses in the context of suffering. There are essays that take an in-depth look at specific topics, written by people who also know suffering. For example, Stephen F. Arterburn’s article on accidental drug addiction is excellent, as is the article on living with chronic pain written by Dr. Michael Easley, president emeritus of the Moody Bible Institute.

The Beyond Suffering Bible may have been created specifically for people who are dealing with disabilities or illnesses, but would be a comfort and invaluable resource for anyone who has ever suffered–which is everyone.

Valorie Cooper, CLJ