Review: House

Medium ImageSort of like combining Stephen King and C.S. Lewis.

House: The Only Way Out is In” (WestBow Press) is a very suspenseful and intense novel by Frank Peretti and Ted Dekker. In fact, it’s so intense, I cannot in good conscience recommend this to kids or to the squeamish.

The entire first half of the book is setup and character building, and very well done. You can identify and sympathaze with a part of each character or an entire character, depending on you. Impatience, materialistic, vulgar, selfish, character flaws are spread amply around to everyone.

The second half of the book starts combining this horror novel with Christianity, and it becomes obvious that this is no ordinary house the characters are trapped in. Their fears, their ambitions, their flaws are amplified, and try as they might to overcome their own desires, they are sucked deeper and deeper into the house and it’s basement. Only when they realize they cannot survive on their own do they realize they need help; and even when help arrives and tries to lead them to safety, some resist. Not all survive.

I thoroughly enjoyed the book and will probably read it a second time, but I didn’t recommend it to my wife. Beware and enjoy.

Review: Presumed Guilty

Medium ImageSex. Mystery. Intrigue. When fiction includes topic like sex, you just know it’s going to be good. Presumed Guilty by author James Scott Bell and published by Zondervan tracks the fall of a minister, Ron Hamilton, as his good works switch from glorifying God to glorifying himself. His own self of self-esteem and his own pride keep him from running from sexual temptation, and the resulting fallout from his sin. It’s not quite that simple, though – the girl turns up dead and the minister is arrested. The novel is an exploration in character wrapped in a suspenseful thriller. How does Ron confess his sin and handle his fall from a position of authority? How does his relationship with his wife, Dallas, change? Can she forgive, or does she dump him? His overachieving daughter, his war-shocked rebellious son, and a host of other characters all are impacted from this one beginning sin.

I thought the characters were all believeable, the plot believeable, and the writing excellent. If I had to have one complaint, though, is that by the end of the book it turns out nearly all of the characters are bad people one way or another or had a bad past. With the possible exception of his daughter, maybe. I really wanted to identify better with one of the characters but found it hard to empathize. Surely not *everyone* makes choices this bad consistently, do they?

Good Christian fiction dealing with sexual temptation and pride, it’s sometimes predicatble but a very enjoyable read. Recommended strongly.

Review: Help! Mom! Hollywood's in My Hamper!

Medium ImageWritten by Katharine DeBrecht, the same woman who did Help! Mom! There Are Liberals Under My Bed!, this book takes a kid-friendly crack at Hollywood’s influence on our children. Hollywood “look-alikes” (ahem) keep popping out of the closet and advising children that their lives are wrong! The Hollywood elites tell the girls what to eat, what to wear, how to act, and the combination of all of these directives makes the girls look silly, act silly, and go hungry all the time. Very amusing and your children will love it.

The book isn’t quite up to par with the Liberal Under My Bed book; I’m not sure if it’s because I read more about Liberals and am more immune to the influence of Hollywood, so if you can only buy one, but the Liberals Under My Bed book. The two books together make a nice set though.

Review: Help! Mom! There are Liberals Under My Bed!

Medium ImageThis was an amusing look at two boys that open a lemonade stand so they can save money for a swingset. They’re good little boys and want to work for the swingset because their parents tell them it’ll make them better people.

But then… horror! One liberal after another shows up, setting new rules for the lemonade stand. Gallantly the boys keep trying to sell lemonade, but each time a liberal shows up, the rules get harder. Eventually the lemonade stand is unprofitable, and liberals have decided that the lemonade stand is inhealthy and unfair to poor children who can’t afford lemonade. The liberals confiscate the lemonade stand.

The cartoons and the names are amusing, as well. Oddly, the liberals in the book bear a striking resemblance to real life liberals. Will the real life liberals notice the resemblance? Probably not; I would expect the liberals to notice neither the characatures nor the actions of their fictional counterparts.

Review: The Witness

coverI recently finished “The Witness” by Dee Henderson, and enjoyed it a lot. I can’t tell you how much pleasure it was to read about characters that treat each other with respect, look out for each other unselfishly and sacrificially, then go to the Lord in prayer before making major decisions.

In this book, the police chief gets involved in a woman’s life who is on the run, who’s been in hiding to protect her family from the evil ones from New York. When circumstances change so that hiding actually puts her family in more danger than herself, the plot twists, and the police chief is there to help unravel things and protect her.

What I like about the book is that there’s no gratuitous sex, the characters date each other respectfully where holding each other’s hand is a romantic affection. There’s no salty language, either. Perhaps because I haven’t read Dee Henderson’s works before, though, I felt the relationships blended too well together. 6 people, 3 couples. 3 men who work together, 3 sisters. It didn’t seem realistic. And the ending left something to be desired – either a completely happy ending, or at least more detail on how Christians handle tragedy.

I still enjoyed the book tremendously, though, and can recommend it heartily.

Review: Brokenness

coverHave you gone through trying times, and wondered what God’s plan is or was? Are you going through them now?

I have. There was a time about 9 years ago that I wondered what in the world God was trying to teach me. How in the heck could I possibly be in this mess? I don’t *feel* like I’m such a bad person that God would punish me like this, so what the heck is God doing?

Brokenness: How God Redeems Pain and Suffering by Lon Solomon answers these questions. My favorite analogy is the electric wire – if the wire has too much resistance, electricity won’t flow through it. Likewise, a proud human spirit has a lot of resistance, and God cannot use such a person. Once the person is broken in spirit and recognizes that everything belongs to God and that God is supreme, then God can use him.

Looking through biblical characters for examples of this, Job immediately comes to mind. But the author also spends quite a bit of time on Moses, comparing his earlier life in the service of Pharaoh with his later life as God’s servant. Other characters such as Peter when he denied Jesus are also discussed. But the most powerful example is Lon Solomon himself. He describes that as a pastor of a growing church how his life was turned upside down with the birth of his daughter. After hundreds of seizures that left her severely handicapped, Lon was at a loss as to God’s plan. It derailed all of his retirement plans with his wife, put a severe strain on his marriage, and took all of his time caring for his daughter.

But then the author realizes God’s plan – and shows how God’s plan in Lon’s life and his daughter’s life have left them both blessed and broken – and doubly blessed *because* he is broken. Lon has a deep appreciation and gratitude for the service he is blessed to provide to his daughter, and how his daughter is blessed with all those that love her, and how God turned Lon’s inward-focus to a focus on God. The church is growing faster than ever, but that’s no longer Lon’s goal. All along, it was all for God’s glory.

This is a must-read; God speaks to us when we are truly desperate for Him, and that only happens when we are broken. If you’re in high spirits you can pray, “NowIlaymedowntosleepamen,” but if you are hurting, then you truly know what it is like to plead with God and to depend on Him for everything. Your prayers *have* to be different. If you’re hurting and wondering, let Lon Solomon explain with scripture why you are hurting and what God is doing in your life.

Review: What's the Deal with Wicca?

What’s the Deal with Wicca by Steve Russ is a “deeper look into the dark side of today’s witchcraft.” The author gives a quite detailed picture of Wicca and why it appeals to teenagers expecially, and compares it to Christianity. If you are a teenager or know a teenage considering Wicca, knowing about this religion will help you relate to him or her.

Wicca is an interesting mix of religions. It’s complicated, both contemporary and centuries old, and a mix ofoccultism, neopaganism, and witchcraft. Wicca’s core beliefs are the same now as they were hundreds of years ago, but it’s been repackaged as a New Age style of witchcraft. The details of Wicca though, changes from person to person or from coven to coven since Wicca is a do-it-yourself flexible belief system. If the Wiccan sees something in another religion they like, they’re free to blend it in their own system. It allows the teenager to be free of restrictions and outside control.

Wiccan believe in something called the Rede which basically says, “An ye harm non, do what ye will.” A Wiccan is free to do or worship in any way they see fit as long as they don’t harm another. Other than that, Wicca seems to be a piecemeal individualistic religion where they appoint themselves as their own rulemake of what’s right and wrong.

This allure of personal power is what makes Wicca so enticing and dangerous. While the Wiccan may worship or call upon the powers of famous, powerful people (mostly Roman gods and goddess but they’re free to call upon Egyption gods, or Hindu, Buddhist, Celtic… or even Jesus), they do not realize they’re trying to use spiritual beings as a tool. In short, they’ve appointed themselves their own god, to boss around the ancient dieties.

Christianity differs by submitting to a higher authority. Rather than boss around a god, a Christian seeks to submit to God, to do what God wants.

Some Wiccans believe that all religions are essentially the same and that there are many paths to God, but a closer look at the actual beliefs show that this is not possible. Wiccans, for instance, believe in reincarnation, while Christians believe that we live and die once and then we are judged. Wiccans believe in witchcraft, manipulating their surroundings by invoking invisible powers, while the Christian God detests witchcraft. And Wiccans believe that it’s more important to reveal your own truth through experience and have no absolutely moral code or concept of sin.

As much as Wiccan want to believe Jesus is a “great white witch with a coven of thirteen,” a review of Jesus’ teachings show that Jesus would have soundly rejected such a description. Jesus is the Son of God who sacrificed himself for our sins, and who says the only way to heaven is a belief in Him. In short, the Wiccan belief is incompatible with Christianity. They can’t both be right.

I found the book highly descriptive about Wicca and all it’s various forms, and enjoyed the individual stories from teenagers who told why they left Christianity for Wicca, and I enjoyed the compare and contrast with Christianity. I recommend What’s the Deal with Wicca hightly.