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Christian Non-fiction book review: The Real Origin of the Species by Oscar J. Daniels, Sr.

RealOriginofSpeciesThe Real Origin of the Species: Twelve New and Compelling Reasons to Believe That God Exists is a BookCrash book from the Small Indie Publishers group. They gave me a copy for my unbiased review. This is a subject in which I am really interested (wrote a book on it). Sorry to say it’s a real disappointment. The design level of the book is barely competent [note the underlined Real in the Times Roman title].

Snide for heathen, basic stuff for believers

Oscar has a sarcastic manner (meant to be humorous, I’m sure) toward non-believers. I found myself offended for their sake. No one deserves that level of belittlement. I was in the evolutionist camp from public school in the fifties, through several decades as a hard-core believer, and only came to my senses a few years back. This book would have irritated me then also. (It still does, but I imagine you guessed that.)

My assumption is that Mr. Daniels has a following who love his teachings and that this will do fairly well for him. But it’s a pretty “thin” writing style and a very short book—a couple hours to read or less.

His compelling reasons are solid

I certainly do not remember twelve of them, but the arguments are good and I agree with his reasoning. The book feels more like a transcribed recording of a teaching. He claims his audience is believers looking for arguments to share with people they hope to lead to the Lord (or to at least straighten out their theology). For that type of readership, this book will work fairly well. So, I don’t hate it, love the general subject, and can recommend it as long as you are aware of the issues just mentioned. If my issues don’t bother you, you’ll like the book.

 

Be careful of your political stance: we need repentance

By Talmoryair (Own work) Wikimedia Commons

The Lion of Judah: By Talmoryair (Own work) Wikimedia Commons

I ran across this quote this morning from Dr. David R. Reagan of Lamb & Lion Ministries. It is from part one of his six-part series on America’s Spiritual Crisis. It is but one expression in a message from God with many voices these days, and one prophetic word we need to take seriously. How does the Lord want us to respond to the forceful rejection of God and His Truth in our society? This first quote is one I have been teaching to those under my responsibility since the late 1970s. It goes to the core of the problem.

First, I am neither a Republican or a Democrat. I am a Monarchist. And I say that because I have devoted my life to doing everything possible to prepare the way for the coming of the King of kings and the Lord of lords. He’s going to reign with a rod of iron from Mt. Zion in Jerusalem. He’s going to bring righteousness, and justice and peace to this earth, and I can hardly wait.

Here’s the way social commentator, Todd Starnes, recently put it in one of his books: “We don’t need more Americans bowing down to the Democrat donkey or the Republican elephant. We need more Americans bowing down to the Lion of Judah.”

It is good to see others in the church with this attitude. I’ve been saying this for several decades now. I’m a proud monarchist, serving my King.

We don’t need more conservatives or liberals, we need more dedicated followers of Jesus, the Messiah

Dr. Reagan continued with the following paragraphs in his letter to the readers of his blog:

And that thought brings me to my second disclaimer. I do not believe that either the Democrats or the Republicans are the hope of America. Rather, I believe that Jesus is our only hope. And, because I believe Jesus is our only hope, I therefore believe we have little hope because we have turned our backs on God.

This point was illustrated after the horrible Connecticut school shooting when someone designed a t-shirt which says: “Dear, God, why do you allow so much violence in our schools? Signed, a Concerned Student. Dear, Concerned Student, I’m not allowed in schools. Signed, God.” That pretty well sums it up.

Our only hope is national repentance

Of course, this requires a leader who will call for that. We need to be on our knees praying “Thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven”. Jesus is our only hope. Without His help, America is swiftly sliding down the tubes with no return in sight. Is there hope? Of course! In Jesus there is always hope. The question is whether the hope is for individual saints, small outposts of the church, or our society.

Seek the Lord while He may be found!

Pray for the peace of Jerusalem!

Be careful about extra-biblical traditions

English: Catrinas, traditions figures of day o...

English: Catrinas, traditions figures of day of the dead celebrations in Mexico (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In Ministry Today’s daily newsletter they posted an article today called 10 of the Most Fiercely Defended Traditions in Church. It’s a silly discussion about the number of comments received about worship style, pastor duties, and so on. It’s not very helpful or edifying. However…

Many extra-biblical church traditions are problematic

No, I am not coming against the Day of the Dead, Shrove Tuesday, or Mardi Gras. These go far beyond extra-biblical into worldly events. But there are many things we take for granted in our churches which need to be looked at because of their extra-biblical nature. They are not necessarily evil, but we do need to carefully adjust to make them work well.

Let me give you a small list:

  • Sinner’s PrayerActually, this is a serious problem. Not only is it extra-biblical, but it is contrary to the Great Commission. Jesus did not tell us to get people saved by reciting the Sinner’s Prayer. He told us to Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you…” Matthew 28: 19-20 NASB Now if we are careful, the sinner’s prayer can help us get a person’s attention so that we can then disciple him or her. However, the sinner’s prayer has a conversion rate of around a half of a percent [.5%] without counseling and followup.
  • Adult Sunday School: Nothing wrong here, but is it the best use of your time and resources? How often have you experienced real ministry in a Sunday School class? Is it participatory ministry or a dead lecture?
  • Sermons: Have you really read I Corinthians 14 lately? Does the following scripture passage really sound like the church service you went to last Sunday? Where’s the sermon? Where’s the choir or worship team? Where’s the offering (or the announcements)? Where’s the eucharist or Holy Communion service? This is the only New Testament description of a Sunday Service of which I am aware.

Whenever you come together, each of you has a psalm, has a teaching, has a tongue, has a revelation, has an interpretation. Let all things be done for edification. If anyone speaks in a tongue, let there be two or at the most three, each in turn, and let one interpret. But if there is no interpreter, let him keep silent in church, and let him speak to himself and to God. Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others judge. But if anything is revealed to another who sits by, let the first keep silent. For you can all prophesy one by one, that all may learn and all may be encouraged. And the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets. For God is not the author of confusion but of peace, as in all the churches of the saints. (I Corinthians 14: 26-33 NKJV)

  • Slain in the spirit: For those who don’t know, this is when people fall over under the power of the Holy Spirit when they are being prayed for. I’m not denying its reality. I know it really happens and by all reports it’s a wonderful time with the Lord. I’m just saying the justification for the practice is barely Biblical and probably extra-biblical. It’s certainly not important doctrinally.

Basically what I am saying is that many of the churchly activities are social or psychological events without a firm Biblical basis. None of things I mentioned are evil. But you need to pray for wisdom and follow the leading of the Lord to make them useful and edifying to the people in the church.

What traditions worry you?

#christianepicfantasy book review: The King’s Scrolls, Book #2 of the Ilyon Chronicles by Jaye L. Knight

The King's ScrollsThis is the second book in a planned five-book series called The Ilyon Chronicles. I really dislike waiting for series to be complete. But…

It’s as good as I hoped!

Here’s the blurb from the Amazon page:

“Following the harrowing events that brought them to Landale Forest, Jace and Kyrin have settled comfortably into their new lives and the mission of protecting those under the emperor’s persecution. The fast approach of winter brings with it the anticipation of a quiet few months ahead. That is until the arrival of four mysterious, dragon-riding cretes who seek aid in a mission of great importance—not only to their own people, but to all followers of Elôm.

Hidden in the vast mining valley north of Valcré, a faithful crete has spent years sharing his knowledge with the destitute miners and their families. He is known to possess what may be Arcacia’s last surviving copies of the King’s Scrolls—the Word of Elôm. Joining the cretes, those in Landale must find the crete teacher and bring him to safety, but it is a race against time. Should Daican’s men find him first, his execution and the destruction of the Scrolls is certain.

When disaster strikes, all seems lost. Could Elôm have a plan even in the enemy’s triumph?”

This is a typical second book of a trilogy: doom and gloom, disaster after disaster. But the characters remain intriguing and they are people I want to know better.

I wish the spiritual level would climb a little

It’s still not really Christian (no savior). The Lord does interact with his people, but there are no healings, prophecy, spiritual warfare, and any of the reality of a walk of faith. The life of a believer is all about hanging on by tooth and toenails, hoping to make it somehow. That may be reality for many younger believers, but there is no maturity offered to give hope. The reality of God’s presence within is not part of this book. The good people know about God and try to serve him. That’s nice. The scriptures are kept safe, seemingly—with a great deal of effort. But there is still no general knowledge of them.

However, the story is very good. It’s an excellent new book from a promising young author.

Christian speculative fiction at its best: Ice Wind by Guy Stanton III

IceWindI’m at a loss for words. My only quibble is that it’s yet another of those #%$&*( )@#$ novellas. I have literally run out of superlatives for Guy’s books.

Another genre busting book

This is Christian, action/adventure, science fiction, western, spiritual warfare, romance at its unique best. Guy says that this series is a result of the life-long love of Louis L’amour. I had no idea that Louis had written science fiction, but evidently that’s true. This second novella in Guy’s new series adds another wonderful intense Biblical romance to the mix. Fire Wind, book 1, is the only one of Guy’s books without the wonderful mating of a strong man and woman of God—though like most of us, they were heathen sinners before the Lord got a hold of them. These are flawed, heathen sinners redeemed and transformed by the Lord.

It’s not overtly Christian

This is simply because the Savior is not mentioned, as I recall. But the spiritual truths you live through the characters are real and edifying. Taran is a wonderful hero. As always, he’s strong, handsome, likable, inspiring, of impeccable character, dangerously direct—you know all the wonderful stuff we hope to find in a hero. The book is gritty, but never gratuitous. He lets the reader fill in the nasty or delightful details in his or her mind.

I like to call Guy the Christian Clive Cussler, but he’s much more than that. He’s a unique, fresh, inspiring teller of tales the likes of which I always hope to find. You’ll love his books. Since 2012 he’s released four major series and a stand alone novel. If I am remembering right, there are 16 books released with several more promised during 2015.

Christian Western Science Fiction book review: Fire Wind by Guy Stanton

FireWind“Fire Wind is the beginning of a series of western science fiction novels that feature adventureaction, and faithChristian Speculative Fiction  – learn to love it!” This is how Guy introduces his new genre-shredding Wind Drifter series. Of course, he forgot to mention intense spiritual warfare. This one is up to the standards of his epic Christian action/adventure, fantasy, science fiction, romances in The Warrior Kind series. That’s saying a lot for one of the worst things foisted on our readers at this time—the novella. I hate short books. Whereas The Warrior Kind novels range from 175 to 250 pages, this new series comes in at 90 to 100, so far. So, these are very intense 4-5 hour reads for an evening.

Prepare yourself! This is not a normal western

Guy’s books always wreak havoc with genre. This one was enough of a surprise that I reread it a few weeks later and got a lot more out of it. Several times I was on the edge of shouting Alleluia! But I kept it quiet. There’s no sense in startling the wife and the dogs. The only thing missing in this first book of the series is one of Guy’s intense Biblical romances. [There’s one coming in book 2 of the Wind Drifter series.]

Spiritually, the content is not explicitly Christian

However, the spiritual truths which are at the heart of the story certainly are. To a believer, I find myself deeply satisfied. It’s gritty and violent, though clean and never gratuitous. The evil is strongly spiritual as well as physical. I cannot recommend this new series highly enough. Mature teen and older.

Christian mystery: The Woman In Blue by David G. Johnson

The Woman In BlueOK, I don’t like mysteries much. Noir mysteries a bit less… But I like David G. Johnson’s writings. So, I gave it a shot. If you like noir mysteries, you’ll like this one.

The Woman In Blue (Nick O’Brien Case Files)

As expected, an excellent book. Did I like it? Naw, a bit dark fo’me, plus it’s a mystery. Here’s the blurb:

“Ever try finding a virtuous man in the Big Apple circa 1930s? A fool’s errand, right?

“Well, Nick O’Brien is no fool. The war vet and former cop turned in his badge and then turned his back on the crooked criminal justice system. He’s got a new mission: to be that good man in a bad city. With honesty and compassion, Nick hangs out the shingle of his own private detective agency to aid the victims of evil. He’s out to crush corruption, case by case.

“When a mysterious beauty with a missing brother seeks his services, Nick finds himself working a real onion of a mystery, with each layer peeling away to reveal deeper levels of darkness, deception, and murder. No matter how deep he has to go, Nick will find out the truth and solve the enigma of The Woman in Blue.”

No spoilers here. There are many twists, a fair amount of action, copious amounts of antique jargon, and a satisfying mystery to those who like that sort of thing.

Realistic religious spirituality

I was a bit disappointed that Nick is only a typical-for-the-times, nominal believer, Irish Catholic. Spiritual truth is not a large part of this story and I knew that going in. It’s basically clean, but a little rough around the edges. It’s certainly not edifying or anything spiritually useful. But I understand that David needed to get this book out of his system.

He did a very good job. As far as I can tell he did an excellent job of nailing the genre.

 

Political/military thriller: Counterfeit Lies by Oliver North and Bob Hamer

Counterfeit LiesPolitical/military thrillers don’t get much better than this. I always loved reading this type of book because of the information about the world around me. I like books by authors who’ve been there and who can give me knowledge of which I wasn’t aware.

If the insights about North Korea are accurate, ’tis scary

I suspect they are. A criminal enterprise with a global reach and virtually unlimited finds, Pyongyang is the center of a true force for evil in our world. As a believer, it’s exciting to watch as we see evil exposed around the world. It’s all aligning Biblically, where NK is just a minor supplier of parts for the forces of the Antichrist yet to be revealed. We don’t know how close that is, but the blatancy of the enemy is remarkable. It suggests the great news of the millennium: Jesus really is coming soon. The King is Coming! Look up!

The undercover realities are exceptional.

I have no idea how a person can live in the midst of such lying, betrayal, and nastiness. Hamer bring a reality to the undercover operator world which is very believable. The North Korean criminal world certainly seems real. They’re not nice…and of course Hezbollah is what they are—a real class act. Disgusting, but the good guys win. yeah! The story is great fun in a worldly way (and that’s a bit sad). Here’s the blurb:

The explosive new thriller from Oliver North, who stormed bestseller lists nationwide with his disarmingly authentic military novel Heroes Proved, is a gripping, non-stop tale that could only be written by someone who has “been there, done that.”

Veteran undercover FBI agent Jake Kruse is investigating a smuggling ring in southern California when his assignment is cut short. A prominent criminal defense attorney wants to hire Jake on another kind of mission: to kill the daughter of a local crime boss.

What began as a “contract killing” soon captures the attention of the CIA, the U.S. Secret Service, and high-level officials in Washington. The undercover agent is plunged into a deadly underworld of North Korean espionage, Hezbollah terror and the sinister deception Iran uses to acquire nuclear weapons. Caught in a web of international intrigue that goes to the top of the U.S. government, Kruse is forced to confront the ultimate moral quandary: doing what’s right when everything seems wrong.

His New York Times bestseller Heroes Proved was praised by Sean Hannity as “a heart-thumping ‘must-read’ for every American” and as “inspiring truth in the form of a novel” by U.S. Army Lieutenant General William “Jerry” Boykin, a founding member of Delta Force.

Now, national security expert and decorated war hero Oliver North and former U.S. Marine and FBI undercover agent Bob Hamer bring their real-life experience to this pulse-pounding tale of international intrigue and down-to-the-wire suspense. They say it’s fiction. But it’s all too real.

It’s all accurate as a hook to get you to read the book. But as usual, we must read between the lines. It is all too real, BUT…….

I started reading Ollie’s books because of the Christian lives of many of the characters.

You’ll notice I didn’t put Christian thriller in the title of this post. It’s not. There’s a little bit of evidence that the lead character is a believer of some sort, but certainly not enough to convict him. This book is not Christian in any sense. There is a sense that God is blessing Jake, but it’s not realistically done. There is no other “Christian” character.

This is a story of the good guys fighting the bad guys with everyone using the same tools of the trade, similar morals, and only a hope that the good guys are smart enough to beat the bad ones. Both sides are disgusted by the “evil, nasty” guys. What a world the Creep has developed to deceive us. It’s fascinating but far outside the suggestion that we think upon whatever is good, lovely, and true that Paul presents in Philippians 4.

So, it’s 5-star entertainment with 1-star spiritual content

It’s definitely adult fiction, but no blatant sex, foul language, or overly graphic violence. It may even be CBA acceptable. This is why I’ve turned to reading only Christian fiction—if I can find enough good stuff to feed my habit. I enjoyed the read, but that only shows how far I have yet to go in my walk to reach holiness and righteousness. Praise Jesus for His work and promises.

Christian fantasy romance review: Dauntless by Dina Sleiman

DauntlessEarly quibbles: I signed up to review this book because it looked like a fantasy or at least a “Robin Hood” type of story. It is a Robin Hood-type of story, but mainly it’s a romance. I was afraid of that. Huge portions of a book which could have been so much more are spent with “OMG, where are these feelings coming from?” “Nope, I can’t do it. It’s too risky.” “I don’t trust him or her.” “Am I evil or sinful?” “Why am I feeling this spark and compelling attraction?” The last question has an easy answer, “They are fleshly feelings which have little to do with what the Lord wants to do in your life.” But then I’m very strange. I knew my wife well as a friend and close fellow traveler of the narrow way. I settled who the Lord wanted me to marry well before I asked her, and before feelings got in the way. [Yea, I know. Weird!!!]

There is a good story hidden behind the romance

And, the romance was fun—if you could disregard the angst of teenage love/lust/confusion. It is extremely predictable, but thankfully all the many twists are resolved to the good by the end of the book. I hate books which punch me in the gut. This one is often tense, regularly grabbing me with concern for the good guys and fear of the bad guys.

About the cover:

I don’t like the cover at all, for many reasons. It’s pretty, but does not really have anything to do with the story. The tale’s about an outlaw leader and a lesser noble with no station dealing with the trouble, danger, and shear nastiness of medieval England at the time of the emergence of the Magna Carta. All of these compelling issues are overwhelmed by the romance.

As usual, the woman I visualized in the book has nothing to do with the image on the cover. I wish authors could realize that the internal images developed while reading a book are much better than a supplied face on any cover (other than in a biography or non-fiction history book). This story is about a wonderful, strong, gifted, female leader. The archer part is but a very small portion of who she is. The level of makeup is far beyond the reality of the story. And the cleanliness of the woman merely makes me laugh. It’s as bad as the characters found in a 1950s Western.

The male lead is not even hinted on the cover. He is largely a very confused boy driven by the flesh with his desires for position, fame, power, grief avoidance, and the list goes on. It turns out good in the end. But the distaste I developed for him in the first two thirds of the book hadn’t left my mind by the time he actually turns into a likable, solid person. He never makes it (in my mind) to trustworthy.

Malene Thyssen, http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/User:Malene

Malene Thyssen, Wikimedia

The vacuous, unrealistic white space by Merry’s head in the cover should be dark leaves. A forest is dark—especially old-growth forests like these. It is glorious, beautiful, and inviting to those who know forests and Merry certainly does. The image to the left would work better and help the typography.

The rest of the world Dina built has similar issues. The culture, architecture, customs, geography, and all the rest are given short shrift in this book, and it hurts the story.

Will you love the book?

Probably. This is entertainment. It really is a very good tale about admirable people in very difficult circumstances. I’ll give it four stars, but as a fantasy two stars. Sadly, it’s CBA friendly—translated a clean read with little or no spiritual content of any importance.

Spiritual level: mainline PC

It is Christian, but it’s not really the core of the story. It will offend no one, meaning it’s not edifying or helpful spiritually. Thank God, it’s at least on the Kingdom side of things. But much of the Christian living shown is not believable, and none of it is about the realities of walking in the Spirit in the midst of an antagonistic, heathen world run by the Enemy.

Christian thriller book review: Sky Zone: A Novel from the Crittendon Files by Creston Mapes

This is a fun read. It’s a typical thriller with some very good Christian twists. Here’s the blurb:

A rally for a controversial presidential candidate.
A terrorist threat.
A nightmare of cataclysmic proportions. 

Jack and Pamela Crittendon have hit the breaking point. After months out of work as a reporter, Jack is playing Mr. Mom and working part-time at Festival Arena with his survivalist friend Brian Shakespeare. Meanwhile, Pamela has gone back to work full-time while eight months pregnant. Having her recently widowed mother on hand isn’t making matters any easier.

With financial pressures boiling, Jack reports for duty at a rally for controversial presidential candidate Martin Sterling where he expects a mindless night on the job. But when Homeland Security picks up intel about a potential terrorist threat, Jack and Shakespeare are thrust into a life-or-death battle to save their own lives–and the lives of thousands of innocent people.

This third book in The Crittendon Files reminds us of the power of family, friendships and faith–and why we are never in as much control as we think.

Sky ZoneThis book will not change your life, but it’s definitely a step up for most current traditionally published Christian fiction.

This is merely entertainment

There’s nothing wrong with that, but it’s expensive fluff. It’s positive, clean, and on the edge of boring. Creston is a good writer, but it’s like hoping to see something really good on TV or in the movies. It’s all aggressively heathen or pablum, in most cases. At least this is a good clean read.