Book Review: The Adam Quest, by Tim Stafford

Eleven scientists who held onto a strong faith while wrestling with the mystery of human origins.

Where did we come from?  How did it all begin?  Was there a “real” Adam and Eve? How can we reconcile science with the Bible? Can we?

Many Christian believers have struggled with these questions. Tim Stafford interviewed eleven of them and reports his conversations in this excellent book, The Adam Quest.

For Stafford, the search began with a son who struggled to find peace with God.   It continued after he spoke with a friend at the microbiology research lab at the University of California, San Francisco.  It continued as the author  researched the cold war between science and faith in America.

The Adam Quest is about men and women whose lives join science and faith, their searches, their struggles, and their conclusions.

Various points of view are represented, each with its advantages and disadvantages, from young earth creationists, to intelligent design creationists, to evolutionary creationists.

I found the author unbiased and fair.

This is an interesting book,  not one I would normally pick up, because science is not a topic I often  pursue.  It is readable and understandable.   Reading this book made me think more deeply about the issues involved. Each scientist’s views are respectfully presented–a feat in itself when discussions of science and faith are often the “elephant in the room.”

If you’ve ever been curious about the relationship between science and the Bible, or the question of human origins, you will want to read this book.

I received The Adam Quest  as a participant in the BookShout Program and I was not required to give a positive review.

To walk with the risen Christ is life’s greatest adventure; to share His message life’s greatest privilege.

FUTUREVILLE, Discover Your Purpose for Today by Reimagining Tomorrow

By Skye Jethani

Published 2013 by Nelson Books

If a meaningful life is one spent participating in God’s mission in the world, then our sense of hope and purpose is the product of our vision of the future—hence the title, Futureville. 

In the first chapter, the author takes us back to the 1939 New York World’s Fair,  illustrating how the vision of a brighter tomorrow encouraged people at the close of the Great Depression.

This book was prompted by the author’s concern that “those within the church are being inoculated to the gospel . . .approaching God from a posture of control predicated on fear, rather than one of faith flowing from love.”

Futureville, contrary to its title, is a book about the present and how Christians can relate to an increasingly changing world.  Current debates about social justice, pluralism, mission and vocation, cause many to wonder what faithful engagement with the world should look like.

While fewer young people attend local churches, many are increasingly committing themselves to social action.  All are struggling to know how to live in an increasingly pluralistic society.

This book is a great follow up to Jethani’s earlier book, With, Reimagining The Way You Relate to God, which centers on personal faith.  In Futureville he discusses the importance of our work in the world, even if we are called to secular pursuits, rather than organized Christianity.

Futureville will make you think!  It may challenge some of your currently-held views of what the future will look like.  Will the earth evolve into something better, or are we all going to evacuate?

I received a complimentary copy of this book from BookLook, Harper Collins Publishing and I was not required to give a positive review.

Reviewed by Carole Ledbetter, author of Who Am I Now? Growing Through Life’s Changing Seasons, 2007.

Book Review: Unquenchable by Carol Kent

Unquenchable by Carol Kent

Published February, 2014 by Zondervan

Would you like to have an unquenchable, wild-fire kind of faith that can see you through life’s challenges and personal failures?  Carol Kent’s new book, Unquenchable, can send you in the right direction.  This is an honest, easy-to-read book, written from Carol’s heart and filled with her experiences and the stories of others who have seen their faith crushed to embers and fanned to life again.  She illustrates what faith looks like when life is hard.  Using the analogy of fire, as the Bible often does, Carol shares ten chapters packed with Biblical quotes and stories from the lives of people who learned to move forward by faith, rather than sight.  She encourages us to talk out loud about our doubts and assures us that God is a safe place during the firestorms of life.

“For faith to endure over time, it needs to develop embers,” says Carol.  “The embers are the life of the fire—not its death.”  When we experience personal firestorms, God has eternal reasons.  She describes the “ebb and flow” of our relationship with God and tells us we must never confuse feelings with faith.

This book will be an encouragement to many people.  I highly recommend this book!

Carole Ledbetter

BOOK REVIEW: Strange Fire by John MacArthur


Strange Fire

By John MacArthur

For BookSneeze

Does the Bible teach that the sign gifts described in the Book of Acts are for today?  (Such as speaking in tongues, miraculous healings, words of wisdom, prophetic utterances, visions, dreams, etc.)

Should believers desire these gifts?

Or did they cease at the close of the apostolic age?

Is the Bible enough—Sola Scriptura??

Or do believers need to seek “more of God?”

Am I a cessasionist?  Or a continuationist?

Does it matter?

Does the charismatic movement elevate the authority of experience over the authority of scripture, as MacArthur asserts?

This is a well thought-out, carefully researched book by a respected Bible teacher.

He is specific in his charges and doesn’t hesitate to name names, which may cause some readers to wince.

MacArthur dates the modern Pentecostal movement to New Year’s Day, 1901, when a young woman named Agnes Ozman had an estatic spiritual experience.  As Charles Parham later recounted, “I laid my hands upon her and prayed.  . . and a halo seemed to surround her head and face, and she began speaking in the Chinese language and was unable to speak English for three days.”  Parham recounted that Ozman later spoke in many other languages, and this was the beginning of the modern Pentecostal movement.  He admits, however, that speaking in tongues today does not normally consist of actual languages.

If you love theology and these questions stir your interest, you will want to read this book.

I found the Appendix, which contains a history of how prominent church leaders in the past have understood biblical teaching on this topic, to be informative.

I have been involved in parachurch ministries with an emphasis on evangelism and for this reason I am often uncomfortable with issues that cause division.

While I believe it is important to protect the unity of the Body of Christ, I still admire MacArthur for addressing a topic about which he feels strongly and sees as a threat to the Gospel.

I received this book as part of the Thomas Nelson BookSneeze program and I was not required to give a positive review.

Reviewed by Carole Ledbetter, author of Who Am I Now?  Growing Through Life’s Changing Seasons, 2007 Winepress Publishing

Billy Graham, The Reason For My Hope

Book Review:

If you want to read a book that defines classic Christianity, this is it!

At the age of 95, following 70+ years of preaching the Christian message, Graham comes once again to the defense of biblical Christianity.

In a world where designer faith, trendy faith, and blended faith are rampant, Billy stands true to the Bible, freely speaking of sin, redemption, repentance, faith, Heaven, Hell, and the second coming of Jesus Christ.

There is very little nuance in this book.  I found it refreshing.

Graham describes his conversion at the age of 15, stating, “I exchanged my will for God’s way, I traded my calloused heart for a cleansed soul.  I had sought thrills, I found them in Christ.  I had looked for something that would bring perfect joy and happiness, I found it in Christ.  I had looked for something that would bring pleasure and would satisfy the deepest longing of my heart.  I found it in Christ.”

The chapter on “Defining Christianity in a Designer World,” talks about faith in today’s “make-it-up-as-you-go” culture, Americans tailoring their faith to fit their needs, and customizing their beliefs to accommodate how they want to live, faith blending—claims of faith, while worshipping other gods—re-branding faith as spiritualism cloaked in tolerance.

Graham addresses the “need to belong,” which he says all people experience, and points them to an unchanging, loving, biblical God, in contrast to the gods of pop culture.  He says that Facebook is one way people meet this need for connection and social acceptance.

Graham’s message in this book is clear and unequivocal.  A few quotes to illustrate:

“True Christianity is not religion.  True Christianity is faith in Jesus Christ.”

“Just because people claim to be Christian doesn’t mean they are Christian.”

Eschewing “easy believism,” and a God who makes no demands, Graham says that, “becoming a Christian means that Jesus Christ comes into your life to take over.”

“You cannot have Jesus in your life without change.”

I believe this is Graham’s best book!   And he has a life to back it up!

I received this free book as part of the Thomas Nelson BookSneeze program and I was not required to give a positive review.

Reviewed by Carole Ledbetter, author of “Who Am I Now? Growing Through Life’s Changing Seasons.”




***A Personal Side Note:  When I, as a teenager, came to faith in Christ, Billy was already famous as a preacher of the Gospel.   In the 40s and 50s, groups of students came fromWheatonCollege in theChicago suburbs, to minister atPaulStreetBibleChurch, where I then attended.  As aWheatonCollege student, Billy occasionally lodged with the Ivan Parr family onWest Madison Street inOttawa.

The Beauty of Broken

My Story and Likely Yours Too

By Elisa Morgan

Elisa Morgan is probably best known as the former president of  MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) International, a nonprofit ministry, reaching over a million moms.  For twenty-some years she served as a kind of “poster child” for the movement that promoted successful mothering and perfect family values, while her own family experienced alcoholism, learning disabilities, legal issues, abortion, homosexuality, addition, teen pregnancy, infertility, adoption, divorce, and death.   While she stood on platforms teaching mothering and family values, she worked to integrate her private world with her public world.

This is her story.  She tells with honesty and compassion how her childhood family was a broken family and, as a result,  she determined that her family would be a perfect family.   It didn’t turn out the way she expected.

She says:  ”There are many who are desperately in need of being set free from the guilt and confusion of the myth of the perfect family. . .”  She seeks to destroy that myth.

The book reads as a memoir, detailing the  ”fractured family” of her childhood, her parent’s divorce, her mother’s alcoholism, her conversion to Christ as a teenager, her marriage to the stable and dependable Evan, who cannot father children due to a previous bout with cancer.   Their children are adopted.

The book contains many lessons for families and individuals that are broken. Morgan points us to the love, forgiveness and freedom that is found in Jesus Christ.

Chapters on commitment, humility, courage, reality, relinquishment, diversity, partnership, faith, love, respect, forgiveness, and thankfulness, culminate in the final chapter on the beauty of the broken and “a beautiful broken legacy,” lessons we can learn only through disappointment and brokenness.

Morgan’s story reads like a novel, moves through a lifetime of sorrows, as well as joys, and tells how we can learn to trust God in our broken places.

An Appendix of Hope includes scriptures, quotes, and poems, providing great fodder for meditation.

Readers who want to know if they  are “proud” or “broken” can find the answer in Am I a Proud or a Broken Person?  How Can We Know? a beautiful piece in the appendix of the book.

Morgan reminds us that Jesus kept his scars, even after the resurrection.  Why was this?  ”. . . He carried with Him remembrances of His visit to earth.  For a reminder of His time here, He chose scars.”

I received this complementary book as a participant in the Thomas Nelson BookSneeze program and I was not required to give a positive review.

Reviewed by Carole Ledbetter, author of Who Am I Now?  Growing Through Life’s Changing Seasons, published by WinePress in 2007.

Death by Living by N. D. Wilson

( Author of Notes from the Tilt-a-Whirl)

Life is Meant to be Spent.

This is a book  about living fully and freely–about our lives as story, a family’s visit to France, Belgium, Rome, Jerusalem, and London, and places in between; a rambling travelogue on death and life and trouble, soul food, paper boats, and rules for mortals.  I was never sure if the chapters were meant to be essays, or not.  The chapter titles were intriguing.

The chapter on The (Blessed) Lash of Time was my favorite.  I loved Wilson’s statement:  ”Gratitude is Liberation.”

I enjoyed the chapter Born to Trouble where the author asks, “Would you like to be Adam, dooming your descendants with the thunder of your own folly?  Would you like to be Eve, the first to welcome darkness into your home, the first to embrace the biggest lie?  Here we are, with our feet on a path given to us at our births.  Born to trouble.”

The family scenes in the book are nostalgic and heartwarming.  Wilson weaves in assorted ancestors and other members of his family and God, as he describes the race of life that propels us to the finish line.  The book is funny and imaginative.  Clever nuggets of truth are tucked here and there.

“Living to live always reaches inevitable and pointless Darwinian burnout–bigger fears, deeper mortal panic; therefore, live to die,” advises Wilson.

I found the book entertaining, but confusing in format.

I received this book as a participant in the Thomas Nelson BookSneeze program and I was not required to give a positive review.

Reviewed by Carole Ledbetter, author of  Who Am I Now? Growing Through Life’s Changing Seasons, published 2007 by Winepress.

Homeless at Harvard, Finding Faith and Friendship on the Streets of Harvard Square

By John Christopher Frame

Have you ever wondered what it’s like to be homeless?  You can learn about it in John Christopher Frame’s recent book, Homeless at Harvard, published by Zondervan.

“If you’re going to be homeless anywhere, Harvard Square is probably the best place to be,” says Chubby John, one of the people the author meets while living on the street at Harvard.

Chubby John adds, “. . .there are services for the homeless in Cambridge and there’s no problem raising money.  If you’re hungry, you just tell somebody walking down the street and somebody’s going to buy you a sandwich or a pizza.”

Frame, the author of the book, wanted to learn about homelessness from the inside out.  While a divinity school student at Harvard, one of his professors suggested translating life experiences into actions in order to serve a greater purpose.  So Frame decided to build relationships and share experiences with those who lived on the streets and he chose Harvard Yard as the place to spend ten weeks in the summer.

In his book, Frame introduces us to Neal, Dane, Chubby John, George and others who share the community of the homeless at Harvard.

Many of the chapters are written from the view point of people who live on the streets and are, indeed, homeless.

“On the streets there’s more freedom and less rules,” says George.

Neal, who is dying of a terminal disease, says he wanted to become an actor but “because of my health I always feel like ‘What’s the use of doing anything because I’m going to die anyway?”

Hank describes the danger of hanging out at “the pit” while other homeless people describe “the Coop” and the “Camp,” places familiar to them in their “neighborhood” on the streets.

I found this book a fascinating first-person account of another lifestyle and the lessons learned by the author who spent a summer as a homeless person in Harvard Yard.

I received this book from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their BookSneeze program and I was not required to give a positive review.

Book Review: Jesus, My Father, the CIA, and Me

A Memoir . . . of sorts

By Ian Morgan Cron

It was the title that caught my attention!

The story begins in London in the fifties, during the cold war, where Cron’s father is employed as the managing director of Screen Gems, a television subsidiary of Columbia Pictures, in theUnited KingdomandEurope.  The children attend the finest private schools in London, and their home is filled with cooks, maids, and nannies.  The family is rich.  Later, after his father loses his job and they move to the States, they become poor, due to his father’s mental instability and alcoholism.

Cron describes his childhood as a train wreck.  He takes us on a rollicking ride through his growing up years and beyond, centering on his relationship with his brilliant, abusive, and narcissistic father, who is occasionally and mysteriously later employed by the CIA.  He describes his mother as “rock and flower, steel and clouds.”

It’s a book about shame, resentment, faith, love, and “falling into God”

The author is witty, wise-cracking, irreverent, and tender.

His faith adventure begins during his Irish Catholic boyhood, where he says he “fell into God” during his first communion.  He attends parochial grade schools, GreenwichHigh School, and BowdoinCollege, where he struggles with bitterness and alcoholism.

In spite of the heart-rending events described, this book is delightfully funny!  The metaphors and comparisons made me laugh out loud.  Cron is an excellent, entertaining writer.

In the early 1970’s, during a religious revival at a small Episcopal Church in an affluent community in Darien, Connecticut, he meets young people from an evangelical ministry called Young Life, where he later plays a leadership role, in spite of his continued battle with alcoholism.

Does he ever break free?  I’ll let you read the book to find out!

If you enjoy memoirs such as The Glass Castle by Jeanette Walls, you will love this book which received positive comments from a wide variety of sources, including Publishers Weekly, Fr. Richard Rohr, O.F.M.; Dr. Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury; Makoto Fujimura, founder of International Arts Movement, and Phyllis Tickle, author of The Great Emergence: How Christianity Is Changing and Why.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Thomas Nelson Publishers under the BookSneeze program and I was not required to give a positive review.

Reviewed by Carole Ledbetter, author of Who Am I Now? Growing Through Life’s Changing Seasons.