Saturday, May 28, 2011

Book Review of Final Summit by Andy Andrews

The Final Summit: A Quest to Find the One Principle That Will Save Humanity

In exchange for my honest review, Booksneeze gave me a complimentary copy of The Final Summit by Andy Andrews.  All I can say is that this review is definitely going to be honest and I'm glad I didn't pay money for the book. .
  Books like this are a growing problem in so called "Christian" literature and I was disappointed to see how many reviewers on Amazon gave the book a glowing report.  I was also surprised to see how many well-known Christian media personalities endorsed this book.  Where was their spiritual discernment?

    Plot:  David Ponder returns in this sequel of The Traveler's Gift. He is whisked away by the Archangel Gabriel to a meeting hall ( somewhere in heaven) where he meets other 'travelers.'  They are assembled here to save humanity from God's wrath and the subsequent end of the world.  They can only do so by correctly answering a question:  What does humanity need to do, individually and collectively, to restore itself to the pathway toward successful civilization?"

   The time travelers get five chances to answer the question before earth meets its doom in the same manner it did when the flood destroyed the earth in Noah's time.

     Ok, already spiritual red flags should be popping up in your head.  Did you catch the first theological blunder?  What must humanity do?  The time travelers-which include famous historical figures such as Winston Churchill, who's portrayed as a buffoonish hot head, Abraham Lincoln, Joan of Arc, King David and George Washington Carver, each come up with their humanistic solution to save mankind.

Did you catch the second theological blunder?  King David, a man after God's own heart informs people that all we need is self discipline.  Really?  Why'd he bother writing Psalm 51? Create in me a clean heart oh God and renew a right Spirit in me.. Others give equally self-saving answers 'restore hope,' 'seek wisdom' etc..

      In the end (SPOILER ALERT) all their answers were wrong, or rather they were part of the right answer.  Guess what the answer that will save humanity from God's wrath is?  Go ahead guess!  Ok I'll tell you:  What humanity needs to do, individually and collectively, to restore itself to the pathway toward successful civlization is (drum roll please)  DO SOMETHING!

  That's it.  That's the answer.  Do something.  Am I the only one who finds that answer a bit nebulous?

   I understand this is a work of fiction but that doesn't mean the author doesn't have a very real message in it, otherwise why did he bother writing it?

  I suggest Mr. Andrews read Jeremiah 17:9

The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked, who can know it? 

 Man can't save himself. Period.  That's why in Isaiah 59:15, 16 it says:

  The Lord saw that there was no justice, and He was offended.
He saw that there was no man-He was amazed that there was no one interceding:
so His own arm brought salvation,
 and His own righteousness supported Him.

 Why else did Christ come into the world if it was in our own power to save ourselves? John 3:16 is well-known but I want to put it here because it's my favorite passage of scripture:

For God so loved the world
That He gave His only begotten Son
That whosoever believes in Him
Will not perish, but have eternal life!

   So my main objection to this book is that it is, in fact, a humanistic book and not a Christian book.  If this book was published by a secular company it wouldn't matter but why is a Christian company promoting a book that has a decidedly unChristian message?

 My other objections is the way Andrews anthropormorphises Gabriel.  He characterizes him to be petty and arrogant. Those are sinful human traits.   When you give a sinless being sinful characteristics you are bearing false testimony to one of God's glorious beings.  Andrews also makes King David out to be awkward and bumbling not to mention ignorant of a Biblical solution for the problem. In addition to that, many people who, according to history, never became Christians are there in heaven.  That's a universalist belief, not a Christian one.

    The only positive I saw was the obvious historical research that went into the book, although the only person I didn't know about-and he was worth getting to know- was Eric Erickson who, according to Andrews was an Ally Spy who was the primary reason for Germany losing the war.  However, if I were you, I'd google for information on Erickson rather than buying this book to find out about him.

 Last but not least, the book is boring.  Most of the book takes place at a  meeting  with everyone brainstorming to arrive at the correct answer.  I've been to plenty of meetings, I really don't need to read about one.
   In conclusion, The Final Summit is a boring, poorly developed book filled with bad theology. I hope I have allowed you to make an informed decision about reading this book or not but you may notice that I haven't provided a link for anyone to buy it through my blog.


Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Book Review of The Treasure Principle by Randy Alcorn

The Treasure Principle: Unlocking the Secret of Joyful Giving (LifeChange Books)

John D. Rockefeller was one of the wealthiest men who ever lived. After he died someone asked his accountant, How much money did John D. leave?” The reply was classic: “he left....all of it.”

If that point is clear in your mind, you're ready to hear the secret of the Treasure Principle. (pg. 18)

The Treasure Principle by Randy Alcorn is a short readable book based on a set of principles each built on top of each other. The first principle is that everything we have, including all our money, is God's. The second principle is that if we treat all we own as the Lord's we will spend it according to God's will. This involves seeking out how God wants us to spend His money. The third principle is that if we truly are seeking God's will in how to spend His money then we will be giving sacrificially.

The impetus is the focus. Alcorn expounds on his “Treasure Principle” which comes from the words of Jesus:

Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and hwere thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thjieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (Matthew 6:19-21)

If we keep our mind on our eternal treasure we will willingly give up our temporary one. In one chapter he tells of a widow who fasts every Thursday in order to use the money she's saved to buy food for others.

Alcorn discusses not only how we should be spending our money but, as Christians, who and what we should be spending our money on. He compares the different viewpoints of tithing, concluding with his own. He also talks about the fruits that God promises to people who see themselves as the managers or caretakers of God's money rather than regarding it as their own.

Give and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” Luke 6:38

What Alcorn has to say is convicting and requires a lot of faith to follow. Lest anyone think, “Well sure, easy for him to say. He's a successful author and pastor” I'll point out that Alcorn is practising what he preaches. Some years ago he peacefully protested outside an abortion clinic. He was arrested and put in jail. The judge awarded the clinic a substantial amount of money. Alcorn refused to pay it because he didn't want any of his income going to an industry that profits from infanticide. The judge then demanded his church pay a quarter of his wages to the clinic each month. To prevent this from happening Alcorn resigned. He now can make no more than minimum wage to avoid garnishment. Recently the ten year statute of limitations came up and Alcorn would have been able to receive his salary again but the judge awarded an extension of another ten years. What does Alcorn have to say about all of this?

What others intended for evil, God intended for good (Genesis 50:20). ..My inability to legally own assets was nothing I sought after and nothing to be congratulated for, but God used it to help me understand what He means by “Everything under heaven belongs to Me.” Job 41:11 (pg. 23)

In conclusion The Treasure Principle is a good book to read but don't do so unless you want to be convicted.
I received a complimentary copy of this book from Multonomah book publishers in exchange for my honest review.
If you buy a copy of this book, please do so by clicking on the link below so I can receive a small percentage.  Thanks!!


Book Review for Making the Best of a Bad Decision by Erwin W. Lutzer

Making the Best of a Bad Decision: How to Put Your Regrets behind You, Embrace Grace, and Move toward a Better Future

Have you settled for second best in a situation because you chose the immediate over the permanent? Have you married the wrong person? Have you crossed a moral boundary thinking no one will be the wiser only to have your secret exposed? How about a bad financial decision or maybe you hate your job? Maybe you've hurt other people.

Erwin Lutzer addresses all these issues each in their own chapter in his book, Making the Best of a Bad Decision. The book starts off with the worst decision ever made in world's history (it started in the Garden of Eden) and how all of mankind has had to pay for Adam and Eve's bad decision. The succeeding chapters address how people arrive at bad decisions and how they and others suffer the consequences for them. Luckily he doesn't end there. He also shows how turning to God for the solution can make even the worst decision ultimately lead to victory and God's glory.

Lutzer turns to different stories of the Bible-Adam and Eve, the Israelites wandering in the desert, Joshua's foolish vow to the Gibeonites, King David's infidelity- and demonstrates how God took their wrong choices and made ultimate good out of them. Lutzer doesn't sugarcoat sin. He never refers to it as a “mistake” or a “stumble.” Those terms imply that one didn't do it on purpose. Sin is always a conscious choice. Lutzer explains that there will be negative consequences for it but he also shows that with God all wrong can still lead to right.

I especially appreciated his section about being the person who suffers from other peoples bad decisions. Whenever one hears about some abusive individual who does horrible things to his family, inevitably I hear someone say, “Well, that's probably how he was raised.”

Lutzer has this to say about that “explanation”:

God's grace goes where it is most needed and desired. Millions of children with unfaithful-and even evil- parents have served God with faithfulness and great blessing.

A couple named Tony and Ruth exemplify this truth. Tony came from an abusive, alcoholic home, and Ruth was thrown out of her home as a teenager and ended up working on the streets. Both have been redeemed by God's grace and are raising their children with careful parenting and faith. Together, they are affirming, “The curse stops with us!” (pg. 33)

I also found his words toward people who believed they married the wrong person encouraging. He tells of James Fraser, an eighteenth-century Scottish pastor with a difficult wife. When other pastors praised their wives he had this to say.

My wife has been better to me than all of yours put together...She has driven me to my knees seven times a day, and that is more than any of your wives have done for you!”(pg. 65)

Such sacrifice is unheard of today and Lutzer discusses the myth and lie “I have a right to happiness” and how this belief has caused more misery than any perceived dissatisfaction with a given situation has.

I read a review on another blog about Madame Bovary. This blogger waxed eloquent on Bovary's
“brave emancipation from her husband and duties of motherhood”. (A nice way of saying she cheated on her husband and abandoned her daughter to a life of grinding poverty). The reviewer summed up with “It's a pity she could never find happiness.”

I wrote a response: “Selfish people can never be happy.”

This book is filled with many personal stories and examples both from the Bible and people Lutzer has known and counseled throughout the years. He ends with a chapter titled, “The Worst Decision You Could Ever Make”. This is the only decision any human can make that God cannot change for good. Readers who are Christians will know exactly what that is, the rest will need to read the book.

I highly recommend this book for anyone looking for solutions or an escape from their wrong choices.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Tyndale House Publishing Co. in exchange for my honest review.

If you buy this book, please do so through my link so I can receive a percentage.  Thanks!!

Friday, May 20, 2011

Book Review for My Forty Years as a Diplomat by Feng-Shan Ho

My Forty Years as a Diplomat by Feng-Shan Ho

Feng-Shan Ho was appointed ambassador of the Republic of China by Chiang Kai-shek in the 1930's. As the title states his career spanned forty years and saw several governments in various countries come and go. His initial job was to establish relations with countries to help China in their “War of Resistance” against Japan and later in a race to get countries to recognize the Republic of China as the legitimate government of the Chinese people rather than Mao Zedong's communist regime.

While Ho's writing (translated by his son) is not written in a flow-able storyline it is a book worth reading for the wealth of information it provides. Ho recounts his work as Ambassador to Austria during Hitler's regime, the development of leadership in Middle Eastern companies and his efforts to keep them from sympathizing with Communist China. He describes the tactics of Communist China in their efforts to gain support throughout the world as well as the sad shrinking of the Republic of China until it is finally delegated to the island of Taiwan.

His work in Germany is probably most notable for his efforts to get as many Jews out of the country as was in his power. Many Jews were not accepted in the Allied countries but they could get a Visa to Shanghai and stay there until they were able to move on to Israel or the United States. Ho was instrumental in providing Visas to many Jews. Even after his government back home told him to desist and ultimately recalled him, he continued to hand out Visas. As his train was leaving Vienna, he passed Visas through the train car window to outstretched hands. It's interesting to note that some of these Jewish refugees stayed many years in China, receiving their education and employment there. In 2001 Ho was posthumously recognized in Israel as one of the Righteous Among the Nations.

One of the most interesting aspects of Ho's memoirs is his efforts to get Chang Kai-shek's China recognized and to prevent the People's Republic of China (communist) from making headway in countries around the world. His book exposes the double talk and hypocrisy of many political leaders-such as the ones in Egypt and other Middle Eastern countries and India as they said one thing to the Western countries and another to the Communists.

Also interesting is his description of the development of the Arab nations as they went from being poverty-stricken nomad countries living in a 2000 year old way of life to being the richest countries in the world at the expense of American and British engineers who harvested their oil for them.

One of the most provocative things he wrote about was the strategies of Communist China to get themselves recognized and consequently validated throughout the world:

I had long known of the seriousness of the Communist infiltration. Their ultimate objective was to establish diplomatic relations. I had already experienced the 'three-phased' strategy of the Communists when I was in Egypt. The first phase was to offer to buy goods, to entice with profit. The second was to apply for opening a trade fair, in order to exchange delegations and establish a permanent trade relationship. The third phase was to shift from commerce to politics, the final purpose being to request diplomatic recognition.....

...In seven years, the Communists launched fourteen infiltrative activities in Mexico. They sent to Mexico an economic delegation and a trade delegation, which started to trade and do business... They tried to infiltrate culturally by sending a circus troupe.(pg. 193)

Hmmm.. none of that has transpired in the U.S., has it?

Ho also describes how the Communists worked to infiltrate into the media, fine arts and performing arts (television, movies) of their targeted countries (including the US). Surprise, surprise.

While Ambassador Ho met with varying success in the Middle East, he did successfully counter Communists efforts in Mexico. A colleague had this to say about him:

Mexico is a large country in North America. She has a boundary of over a thousand miles with the United States. It is here that Ambassador Ho blocked the infiltration of the Chinese Communists.(pg. 208)

All in all, anyone interested in the history of the international political arena for the past eighty years from the viewpoint of someone from another culture and time (and who does not always paint a flattering picture of Western countries) would benefit greatly from reading this book. I personally think anyone who cares at all about the future welfare of our own country (which should be everyone) should read this book.

I received a complimentary copy of  this book as a member of the
Dorrance Publishing Book Review Team. Visit
to learn how you can become a member of the Book Review Team.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Book Review for Galileo by Mitch Stokes

Galileo (Christian Encounters Series)

I was given a copy of Galileo by Mitch Stokes for free by the Thomas Nelson book publishers (a.k.a. Booksneeze) in exchange for my honest review. I eagerly looked forward to receiving this book because Galileo is one of those famous people that I knew had something to do with science, maybe he got in trouble for it by church officials.....Anyway, I thought to myself, “Aha! Now I'm going to learn who exactly this person is, when he lived, what he did and what happened to him for it.”

And that is exactly what happened. This book is an excellent biography of one of the most important scientist/mathematicians in history and also one of the most misunderstood-not only in his own time but our own.

Stokes' biography sets the stage by starting with Galileo's ancestry, his father's place in society (he was a court musician) and finally Galileo's birth: 1564-the same year Shakespeare was born and Michelangelo and John Calvin died. Galileo was educated by monks and his father wanted him to become a Medical Doctor which was a respected profession that one could make a living at. Galileo wanted to become a mathematician-which was not a respected profession and provided no job opportunity. I wanted to throw that in because it's so different, at least in regard to mathematics, from our present world. It's also interesting to note that music was highly regarded, considered a branch of mathematics and philosophy was also respected-more than math. Very different from today as well.

Galileo did not want to become a Medical Doctor he wanted to become a mathematician. He eventually got his way and was able to make something of a living at it by teaching at universities and personally instructing Dukes and such in courts.

So. What makes Galileo so special? We have to back up to what people currently believed and the scientists that came right before Galileo that changed his own thinking.

For centuries Europe in the middle ages had complete faith in the Greek ancients. Most of their scientific and mathematical beliefs were based on Aristotelian philosophies and theories. In fact, Church doctrine had become so intertwined with Aristotelianism that they accused people (like Galileo it would turn out) of contradicting the Church and scripture when, in fact, they were only contradicting Aristotle's theorems and postulates.

The problem with Aristotle's mathematical theories involving the Earth and it's place in the universe is that it was fitting less and less with observed data. After a while as discoveries continued to mount the Aristotelian model became so cumbersome that it

 Became impossible to describe the motion of the heavens beyond a rough approximation. This actually had religious ramifications. Calendars were important for predicting holy days, particularly Easter. The Church called for reform, and they called for a Catholic cleric to help. (pg. 65)

The Catholic cleric who came to the rescue was a church official from Poland who studied astronomy and law. This cleric decided that in order to simplify the mathematics and reform the Church calendar he would first have to reform astronomy. This cleric was none other than Copernicus. He wrote a book De Revolutionibus in which he explains, among other things, the mathematical formula for the heavenly spheres not the least of which is making the sun the center of the Universe.

We can identify perhaps ten people in the world who held Copernicus' view between 1543 and 1600. it seems that Galileo was one of these ten. (pg. 67)

Galileo eventually developed a twenty power spy glass (today called a telescope) which enabled him to make such amazing observations that he published a pamphlet called Sidereal Nuncius (Starry Messenger). These observations concerned the appearance of the moon and the stars which contradicted Aristotle's views on the moon. He also later made many revolutionary discoveries about the other planets and their relationship to the sun.

Galileo later published these findings in a book called Dialogue. (The reason for the title is that Galileo uses a writing device in which he explains his theories in the form of a dialogue between three men, a popular method of writing at the time.)

Now comes the problem: Stokes explains just why the Roman inquisition decided to condemn Galileo's works and force him to recant them or die by torture. Basically, the Pope and certain Church leaders decided that Galileo's (and Copernicus') assertion that the sun did NOT revolve around the earth but rather the opposite contradicted scripture. They pointed to the scripture in the book of Joshua where God made the sun stand still in order to prolong the battle for the Israelite's victory (Joshua 10:1-15). If the Bible said the sun stood still, then it means that the sun moved, not the earth. To state otherwise, of course, was heresy.

Not all church officials held this view, however. Some agreed with Galileo (who was a devout Catholic and never believed his theories contradicted scripture) that scripture can be taken a number of ways: literally, figuratively or written according to man's contemporary understanding. In the case of Joshua, the sun standing still was intended to be a case of observation and not a scientific assertion about the motion of the planets and their relationship to the sun. In other words, Joshua wrote what he saw not what actually took place (being on the earth it would be impossible to see it move).

Galileo wrote in a letter to a friend:

The intention of the Holy Spirit is to teach us how one goes to shouldn't therefore, surprise us when Scripture speaks figuratively or accommodates its language to the views of its original recipients..(pg. 124)

The Church, while acknowledging that one could look at Scripture in more than one way, stipulated that Scripture had to be interpreted according to how the Holy See interpreted it.

The counsel prohibits interpreting Scripture against the common consensus of the Holy Fathers. (pg. 124)

This is where Galileo ran into trouble. It wasn't that his theories necessarily contradicted Scripture. It was that they contradicted how certain (but definitely not all) Church leaders saw it. He spent the last few years of his life under house arrest and was not exonerated until Pope John Paul II.

In 1992 a Commission reported to the pope:

It is in that historical and cultural framework, far removed from our own times, that Galileo's judges, incapable of dissociating faith from an age-old cosmology, believed quite wrongly, that the adoption of the Copernican revolution, in fact not yet definitely proven, was such as to undermine Catholic tradition and that it was their duty to forbid its being taught. This subjective error of judgment, so clear to us today, led them to a disciplinary measure from which Galileo 'had much to suffer'...(pg. 194)

Stokes' describes in a clear, concise way, the history of the contemporary beliefs of the church, the way education and politics were run in 16th cent. Italy and how the Church governed the populace. Galileo was misunderstood back then but, Stokes points out, he is also misunderstood today. Galileo never once thought that science contradicted Holy Scripture. He believed that as science brought greater understanding to how the universe was run we needed to look at certain Scripture in a different light.

Galileo's own conscience was clear both as Catholic and as scientist. On one occasion he wrote, almost in despair, that at times he felt like burning all his work in science but he never so much as thought of tuning his back on his faith. (from the Preface).

In conclusion, this book is for history lovers-especially of Medieval and Renaissance Europe, and also for those of us who may not know much about science and math but enjoy reading about the historical development of both.
If you buy this book please do so through my link below so I can receive a small commission, thanks!!

Monday, May 2, 2011

Book Review for The Whole Bible Story by Dr. William H. Marty

Whole Bible Story, The: Everything That Happens in the Bible in Plain English

When I was very young my mother read Bible stories to me daily. When I was old enough to read independently I read them on my own. My parents even occasionally allowed me to read my big book of Bible stories in church. I enjoyed being able to do this because they didn't have Children's Church back then and I wasn't old enough to pay attention to the sermon. By the time I was eight or nine I got my very own “real” Bible for Christmas. It was called The Way-anybody out there old enough to remember The Way? It was your quintessential hippie Bible with lots of photos of contemporary people of the time. It was a paraphrased version but I really liked it. I eagerly embarked on reading it starting with Genesis. Genesis was easy. It had lots of interesting stories that I was already familiar with from reading my storybook Bible. Exodus wasn't bad. Then came Leviticus. And Numbers. And Deuteronomy. I must confess that it was a few years before I was able to tackle those books. Nevertheless, I did manage to read every book in the Bible by the time I was twelve.

Dr. William H. Marty is professor of Bible at Moody Bible Institute. He realized that many adults have the same challenge I had when it came to reading certain books of the Bible. He decided to make a storybook of the Bible but without pictures. He gives his reason in the Introduction:

Simply reading the Bible cover to cover is a daunting task...It can be difficult to follow the storyline because the books are not recorded in chronological order.

Another challenge is content.. The Bible is written in a variety of literary forms..

So Dr. Marty left out all the genealogies, listings of the laws (Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy), prophecies and epistles. What is left is simply one big storytelling of the Bible from the beginning of creation to John's exile on Patmos.

This book is not intended to be a substitute for Bible study or Bible reading. What it does provide is an overview that allows the reader to see all the events in the Bible in one continous line without interruption. I found it to be an excellent way to sort in my mind what all happened when and who came in where.

The Whole Bible Story is a fluid read and an excellent supplementary resource for personal Bible study. I recommend it to anyone looking for such a resource as well as someone interested in reading the Bible but finds digging through sixty-six books a formidable task. For such a person, this book would be a great place to start. (Notice I said start not end-nothing can replace God's Word.)

I got this book as a complementary copy from Bethany Publishing House in exchange for my honest review.
If you buy this book, please do so through my link below so I can get a percentage back, thanks!