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Did the Apostle John leave something on Patmos?

It’s worth your time to find out. A review of Davis Bunn’s The Patmos Deception.
I’ve really enjoyed the last few Davis Bunn novels, and The Patmos Deception is no exception. Bunn moves the setting into the world of modern day Greece and Turkey. The economy of Greece is falling apart, unemployment is rampant, and a young American arrives at a new job in Greece only to find out that the place she was to work is shu211393_1_ftct down. But her arrival in the country is fortuitous, as an old friend contacts her with a business proposition that involves tracking down some (believed to be) stolen artifacts.


As the story unfolds, the reader is introduced to some sincerely evil characters and some sincerely good ones. But in the middle are those who are fighting to establish how their worldview will affect their life decisions. What is right and wrong? How far can one go in violation of the law in order to provide for his family? One of the disconcerting things about this book is that some of those questions are left unanswered. However, the story moves quickly through the different islands of the Mediterranean, the characters face difficult and challenges situations and decisions, and we get to follow the faith journey of several.


One weakness in the book is that while it has strong religious overtones (the whole story revolves around the island of Patmos, where the apostle John wrote the book of Revelation), there is very little explained about the gospel, and even less about repentance and forgiveness. The characters seem to have more “religious experiences” than they do conversions. This could prove to be very confusing for nonreligious readers. I also found the conclusion of the book to be a little disappointing. That being said, it was a good read overall and I would recommend it to anyone who has read and enjoyed Davis Bunn in the past.


I would give it 4 out of 5 stars.


I received a free copy of this book from Bethany House Publishers in exchange for a fair and honest review.

A Really Solid Devotional That Applies the Gospel to All of Life

A Review of Gospel Formed by J.A. Medders


J.A. Medders pastors Redeemer Church in Tomball, Texas. Redeemer is an Acts 29 Network Church. I had never read anything by Medders, and I don’t generally read a lot of devotionals (they seem to consist of a lot of fluff with a sprinkling of Bible verses). But after hitting on a great devotional by John Piper a few months ago, I thought I’d give this one a shot. Medders is no John Piper when it comes to deep 443589_1_ftcmeditations on a text. But we need pastors who can approach the text from different perspectives, and Medders gives readers a great dive into the implications of the gospel in every area of life.


The format of the book is made for reading. I am going to pass this one around at church. Each devotional section is about 5 pages long and easy to read. This means that I can hand it to someone and not worry that they are going to replace their time in the word with time in man’s words. The book starts with the gospel itself. It then moves into a long section (ten chapters) on worship. Great section. If you read one of those chapters each day it will change how you worship- not just on Sundays, but on every day. The third section deals with Gospel identity. In six chapters, the author builds a case for who we are in Christ, and what that means in the daily living out of our lives. In part four, he addresses gospel community. Four chapters on the church. Who makes up the church, how should we relate to it, and how should we feel about it? The final section is on the gospel mission. Five chapters on evangelism, missions, and discipleship. It is important to understand that these are not dry and crusty chapters. The theology is deep, but intensely practical, easy to understand, and infused with plenty of humor and wit.


It takes only about 5-10 minutes to read each devotional, and with 27 chapters, it would take less than a month to read through. Get it, read it, and meditate on the wonder of the gospel and how it changes everything! I would give it five out of five stars.


I received a free copy of this book from Kregel in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Christmas Reflections

Christmas reflectionsIt seems like every year during the Christmas season we listen to lots of music of all different styles.  Yeah, we enjoy our fair share of fun songs – I will never quite get over the Grinch song.  Probably most of us have some of those classics memorized. . .Walking in a Winter Wonderland, White Christmas, etc.  Even those of us who despise snow can get into the spirit for a few weeks.  Even our little toddler walks around the house singing, “that’s the jingle bell, that’s the jingle bell, that’s the jingle bell” like a record stuck in the same spot.  These songs just get stuck in our heads so that by the time January 1st rolls around we have had enough of it.

There are a lot of Christmas carols that I like to hear year after year, but I also love hearing some new ones.  This year the one that stands out to me is a new song by Sovereign Grace called Who Would Have Dreamed.  They did a nice video recording of the song on their site if you are interested in watching it.

Here are some of my favorite lines from the song:

Wondrous gift of heaven the Father sends the Son
Planned from time eternal, moved by holy love
He will carry our curse and death He’ll reverse
So we can be daughters and sons

And who would have dreamed or ever foreseen
That we could hold God in our hands?
The Giver of Life is born in the night
Revealing God’s glorious plan
To save the world

How incredibly mind blowing to consider that the One who created the Universe would become a baby, that we would be able to “hold God in our hands.”  And God would use Jesus to save the world!


I hope you have some Christmas songs that have “gotten stuck in your head” and have caused you to stop and consider Christ’s birth in a fresh way this season.

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Making family Christmas memories

We love celebrating Christmas at our house from the time we put up the tree on Thanksgiving, and throughout the season. As we get to do lots of special things as a family that create great memories and form traditions, it is fun to see which things our children remember from year to year and look forward to doing together. One tradition that we have continued is a special trip to Christmas Town at the Creation Museum. We are so blessed to live close enough to have enjoyed this every year that we have been living here in Indiana.

Last weekend they had a special Christmas sing-along featuring Ken Ham and Buddy Davis for families to attend before going through Christmas Town . Our kids are big fans of Buddy Davis, and loved singing Christmas songs with him.

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The weather was really great for this time of year (no rain or snow at least). So after eating in Noah’s Ark Cafe, we went outside to see Christmas Town. One of the main attractions of Christmas Town is the live nativity. . .

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complete with a variety of animals.

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And who could resist petting these cute little shaggy animals. Our daughter is such an animal lover that I think she would have taken it home with her if given the chance.

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The beautiful garden area is a winter wonderland to walk through with all of the lights. This year we didn’t even have to take any strollers, so the munchkins were nice and tired by the time we were done.


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And of course, because it is the Creation Museum, there have to be dinosaurs. You don’t see that every day.


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I love that we can do something like this as a family that is so fun, and that also reinforces to our children why we celebrate Christmas.


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We don’t ever want to lose that sense of awe that God became a man, a helpless baby even, to be born in such humility. Those who first came to worship Him were just simple shepherds. Somehow I feel that when I get to see a live nativity, I see and consider certain aspects of the birth of Jesus that I otherwise may have overlooked. I am reminded of the incredible love of our Savior who would eventually die for us. I hope and pray that our children will see that kind of love reflected in us so that it points them one day to the God who loves them perfectly.

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Keep on trying

I mentioned last time that I had wanted to try something new during this past year and something specific that I had mentioned was learning how to knit. Currently, I am almost finished a hat for certain family member who is a huge Green Bay Packers fan.

Seriously, why would anyone wear those colors otherwise.

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What I didn’t mention in my last post is how many times I started knitting projects that only ended in utter failure. Sometimes I chose projects that were too difficult. Sometimes I chose projects that I lost interest in (knitting takes a long time especially when you are just a beginner like me). And other times I would make a mistake, try to fix it, and get so frustrated that the only solution I could see was to just unravel everything (aaaahhh, after all that work).


But as I have gotten more practice (and yes, all those failures added up to a lot of practice), I have started to understand knitting a little bit more. I would listen to Youtube videos or watch the DVD I had from the library and hear little knitting phrases like “just knit the knits and purl the purls” and I would think — what? But after a while, I started to see what they were talking about. And when I make a mistake, I have been learning how to fix it without unraveling the whole project.


So I am not sure what my next knitting project will be, but I get tons of inspiration whenever I scroll through projects on ravelry. After this hat is done, I hope to start crocheting a blanket for a certain baby boy who is expected to make his arrival in the spring. And then there is that bag of snuggly baby print fabric I got from Joann’s when they had their Black Friday sales. . . nothing makes me want to start making things more than being pregnant.

I will keep everyone posted on my knitting progress.  And don’t be discouraged if you have attempted something new only to fail – even if you fail over and over again.

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Family update: what we’ve been up to

So a year is such a long time to be away from blogging and we have had a lot going on. But first a couple of pics, because that’s what everyone wants to see.

Bri with ianliv2014

Ok, you guessed it, that one is not very recent because it was obviously taken when the weather was a lot warmer. So if you want a really recent pic, I took this a few days ago. This is what life looks like at our house if you happen to stop by.

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In review, quite a lot has occurred in a year. Our youngest wasn’t even walking this time last year and now she is keeping up pretty well with big brother (who, by the way is the most fascinating person on earth to her right now.) Big brother, on the other hand, has started kindergarten this year and we are continuing our homeschooling adventure with him. I am not the crafty kind of homeschool mom, so you won’t see a lot of projects hanging up around our house. But he seems to have no problems coming up with his own “projects” to construct — to the point that we have to keep a close eye on our tape and glue when he’s around.


The news that we are expecting a baby has been met with a LOT of enthusiasm, especially from our son. We recently had an ultrasound and of course, our children wanted to be a part of this big occasion. (The fact that we told them we were going to celebrate afterwards when we found out the gender of the baby didn’t hurt either.) As we got out of the car, our son tapped my protruding baby bump and said “come on momma, let’s go find out what this thing is.”


Oh, in case you were wondering, it’s a boy.


As far as me personally, I had a New Year’s resolution last year to take better care of myself. Let me explain. I wanted to focus more on my health, try some new things, and do some things I have always wanted to do. As our family grows it can be so easy to focus so much on them, because, come on, they need a lot of attention. But my goal in life is not to be super-mom (yikes) but to bring glory to God in all that I do. And last time I checked, being a mom is only one of the roles I assume on a daily basis. As for the specifics, my husband and I are slowly working at changing our diet to eat less junk and more things closer to the way God made them. We are doing better at working out more consistently. I had wanted to read through the Bible in a different version this year, and have almost completed that, thanks to a free audio Bible download I got at the beginning of last year (totally recommend listening to the Bible for anyone who is “too busy” to read the Bible). This year I learned how to knit, improved my guitar playing skills, and was reminded that I should not tell myself things like “I could never learn how to knit” or “I could never play guitar in front of people.” God loves to show Himself strong in us when we are willing to be used.


Which brings me to the last major happening in my life this past year. I finally was able to attend the introduction to Biblical counseling courses offered at a local church as a first step towards possibly becoming a certified Biblical counselor. This is something that I have wanted to do for a while, but stuff always came up. I am so thankful for my gracious hubby who watched the kids on three separate weekends so I could attend. Brad Bigney is the pastor at the church where I attended the training and I love what he says about it. He says, “Don’t you want to learn how to help real people with real problems using your Bible.” And of course, I can’t extend help to others until the message is real in my life. I was challenged and excited about what the Gospel can do in the lives of real people every day. I hope that God will use me to help others through our little church here in Indiana.

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Hello, anybody home?

You may have noticed that my blog has been a bit predictable and sort of blah for a while. For almost a year, as a matter of fact. My husband and I have been posting book reviews on a regular basis, but that’s it. No pics of our family, no devotionals, no tidbits about what is going on here in Indiana. I have avoided any kind of personal interaction, and I have a few reasons to share as to why.


  • Around this time last year, my life got temporarily busier. I was missing my old nursing job. Don’t misunderstand. I love my children and I am far from bored (haha, that’s almost funny.) But because of the way the job market was after I graduated nursing school, I never got that coveted “med-surg” experience in a hospital. Since moving to Indiana, I have not worked at all, and I was beginning to feel my albeit novice nursing skills slip slowly away. I picked up a PRN (as needed, work once in a blue moon) nursing job at a hospital, but found myself working close to full time hours for the first few months as I trudged through orientation. Can I just say it was quite the learning curve for me? God gave me strength to get through it and in a sense it was a time of healing for me because. . .
  • Secondly, and this is difficult to simply add to a list, I experienced a miscarriage. This was our second time going through it and I found I needed time and space to be able to grieve. I had no desire to write at all, and especially did not want any extra attention. It was during this time I first considered the idea of closing our Facebook account, which months later, I eventually did. I will probably revive it again sometime, but it has been nice to get a break from it. But that’s a discussion for another time.
  • The last reason for only doing book review posts and nothing else is something exciting and a lot more recent. My husband has finally decided to start his own blog. Yay for him! And if you want to check it out go here. He would love for you to swing by and visit.


So now that I have gotten that all out, I am hoping to get back into blogging a bit. I will probably update everyone on our family first and then see from there.


I hope your holiday season is going well and I will be in touch.

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Good Work on the relationship of Israel and the Future

A Review of The People, The Land, and The Future of Israel edited by Darrell L. Bock and Mitch Glaser
Has Israel been promised a permanent place in their land? What does the future hold for that nation? How should the church relate to Israel? These are a few of the questions that the authors of this new 443626_1_ftcbook try to answer. 17 different authors actually contribute chapters in the book, which is the result of a conference held in New York City in October of 2013. Each chapter is modified from an address given at the conference. Authors such as Eugene Merrill, Walt Kaiser, Robert Chisholm, Michael Brown, Craig Blaising, John Feinberg and others contribute chapters.
As far as structure, the book begins with a section dealing with Israel in the Old Testament, and then in the New. This section covers the first eight chapters. Chapters 9-13 get into the meat of the book, dealing with hermeneutical, eschatological, and church history issues as they relate to the nation of Israel. The final section deals with some practical issues as the authors seek to help pastors and ministries today address how they should reach the Jewish people.
As a totality, the book is strong. The authors deal with the issue at hand comprehensively, and makes a strong case for the future of national Israel as laid out in the scriptures. There were two major weaknesses. First, with 17 authors, the material did not always seem to flow very well. Second, I struggled to understand who the intended audience of the book was. Some of the material was very basic, layman level stuff, while other material got very convoluted and complex. Outside of those two observations, I think it’s a good book for people seeking more information on this issue.

I would give it 4 out of 5 stars.


I received a free copy of this book from Kregel Academic in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Very good historical fiction work on “the dark ages” in Church History

A Review of The Heretic by Henry Vyner-Brooks
1536-1539 were not easy years for genuine Christians in England. The battle between the Catholic Church and the Anglican Church was in full force. Thomas Cranmer and Oliver Cromwell were at the peak of their influence, and conflict over the place of the king in relation to the church was a very real challenge. In the midst of this were those who taught a genuine personal relationship with Christ. It was 640952_1_ftcthese brave souls who bore the brunt of the persecution of the day.
Enter Brother Pacificus, a monk with a past he would rather leave behind. He left his previous life to seek the peace that was supposed to come with service to God within the church. But something is wrong. Pacificus believes in the church and he believes in God. But through some various circumstances he comes under the influence of some of the heretics that his church seeks to eliminate. The books tells his story of wrestling through what is truth and what is not. What is of God and what is man’s invention? How does the church relate to the state? This is a question almost foreign to American sensibilities, but at this time period of English history it was a very real question. And so the monk must once again take up the sword, but this time in defense of family, friends, and possibly love.
This is a long book (603 pages), and is rooted in real history, which makes it fascinating. The story can at times stutter a little bit, as large amounts of time (weeks and months) can go by. Overall, it is a good story and a strong reminder of what some of our brothers and sisters have suffered because of their faith. There is a little bit of profanity toward the end of the book that I thought was unmerited. Other than that, it is a good and well written story.

I would give it 4 out of 5 stars.


I received a free copy of this book from Kregel in exchange for a fair and honest review.

The Best Practical Guide on the Ministry of the Holy Spirit That I’ve Read

Review: Jesus Continued by J.D. Greear
If you aren’t a charismatic/Pentecostal, what does the Holy Spirit mean to you? What does He actually do? And how does He do it? Does He only work through objective means or is there a little subjectivity in there? How do I know if the feeling I have is from the Holy Spirit or Aunt Carrie’s casserole? J.D. Greear addresses these questions and others on a pastoral level. He doesn’t develop a biblical theology of the _225_350_Book.1396.coverHoly Spirit. Instead, he dives into the questions that Christians wrestle with on a practical level.


The book is divided into three parts. In part one, Greear tackles some basics about the Holy Spirit. Who is He and what does He do? Part two gets into the meat of experiencing the Holy Spirit. There are six specifics that Greear lays out that all believers would be wise to learn. The Holy Spirit is experienced through the Gospel, the Word of God, our giftings, the Church, in our Spirit, and in our Circumstances.
There are some major strengths. The author writes as a pastor. He wants the average believer in the church to be able to pick up the book and get a good idea of how the Holy Spirit works in his life, and how he can make sure he is taking advantage of that ministry. That also brings into play the book’s weaknesses. Greear is a continuationist, which means that he at times drifts too far into the experiential and subjective. My biggest issue with that concerns the average believer who is not strong in what the text says about spiritual gifts. Since the book does not give a biblical defense for the continuationist position (it really doesn’t fit into the book’s purpose), some readers could come away with some confusion. Minor weaknesses aside, Greear has written a really good and accessible book on the Holy Spirit.


I would give it 5 out of 5 stars.


I received a free copy of this book from Zondervan as part of the Booklook Blogger Program in exchange for a fair and honest review.

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