Thursday, June 27, 2013

"The Next Christians" by Gabe Lyons

Not too long ago, I saw a book in the Christian bookstore called unChristian, which was co-written by David Kinnaman and Gabe Lyons. I bought it immediately and began to read it that very day. The insights in that book, based on how different sections of non-Christians view those professing to be followers of Jesus Christ, really opened my eyes. When I saw that Gabe Lyons had written a follow-up book called The Next Christians, I figured it was a positive follow-through on some things he had learned in his research.

I began to discover that he had some rather good things to say about the younger generation of Christians in today’s world, that are growing into the leaders of the Church. (Global--with a capital “C,” a.k.a., the Body of Christ.) He is hopeful about where we are headed and the way followers of Christ are adapting to modern culture without losing hold of Biblical ideals and truths. 

The two things that really stand out to me as I think back over the book are Lyon’s description of the time he got to meet Billy Graham in person. He was invited into Rev. Graham’s personal study at his home, and reading Lyon’s recollection and the emotions that he experienced are similar to a child getting to meet “Santa Claus” at the local department store for the very first time. His giddiness jumps out at you, yet you quickly see his appreciation for the very down-to-earth nature of Rev. Graham, and it moves into a story of encouragement as Graham shares Lyon’s passion for the young Christian leaders of the day.

Another story is of a young woman who went above and beyond what would have been expected of her to help someone she encountered. When asked about her motivation, she simply replied, “It’s the right thing to do.” Lyon’s uses this phrase to describe a growing conviction in young Christians in dealing with issues ranging from the spiritual, to the emotional and social. That “right thing” is in regards to what they see in Jesus’ examples throughout the Gospels. No longer are we seeing watered-down, socially-relative “churchianity” taking place, but real imitation of Christ. It is a hopeful place for the Body of Christ (specifically in the United States) to be. 

I pray that Lyon’s insights are correct. Our modern culture needs young leaders who can engage others where they are, and find that common ground, and then use it as an open door to bring people to Christ. The Next Christians is a good read for those involved in church, or those that find themselves repulsed by what media depicts in a negative light of Christianity. It offers a gritty, yet inspiring challenge to take a deeper look at what the future holds.

In fairness of full disclosure, I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publishers.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Crater by Homer Hickam

Years ago, when the movie “October Sky” was released, I watched it and enjoyed it. A few years later, I married a girl from the town where some of the scenes were filmed--in fact, my wife was an extra in the science fair scene! So, when I had the opportunity to read Crater, by Homer Hickam, the author who wrote Rocket Boys, the source material for the aforementioned movie, I thought it would be cool. 

Crater is the first in a new series of novels called Helium-3. It is a young adult series that takes place in the future and on the moon. Humans have colonized in order to mine for a substance called Helium-3 in order to produce energy on the Earth.

Crater Trueblood is the main character of the story, and the source of the book’s title. He is a sixteen-year-old orphan who is also a miner. He really enjoys his job where he works with his best friend, Petro. After an incident at work makes Crater and Petro reluctant heroes, they are tapped by the mine owner for a special job that ends up being more dangerous and complicated than they first believed. Along the way, Crater develops a maddening relationship with Maria, the mine owner’s granddaughter, and sparks fly--and not always the good kind!

The novel is an easy read for an adult, but should also be easily enjoyable and comprehended by any teenagers or even older children. (I’m probably going to recommend it to my 8-year-old twins to read!) The dialogue is back-and-forth, and draws you into Crater’s heart as you experience personal growth with him. You also get a good sense of Petro’s almost arrogance, and Maria’s stubbornness. The story is obviously of a science-fiction nature, but is not so completely outlandish and technical as to be ignored by those who normally avoid that particular genre.

I enjoyed the escape that Crater provided, and look forward to reading the next installment of the series. Hickam delivers a lively and light-hearted story with dramatic elements that will captivate your attention and give you a fun look at one man’s idea of the future.

In fairness of full disclosure, I received a complimentary copy of this book from

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

"Alienation" by Jon S. Lewis

I recently finished reading ALIENATION, the second book in Jon S. Lewis’ C.H.A.O.S. Trilogy, and I’m not ashamed to admit that as a man in my mid-thirties, I REALLY like Colt and Oz. I was no where as cool as either of those guys when I was in High School, so I enjoy being swept into a world not only where Aliens are trying to destroy all human life as we know it, but a world where Teenagers are allowed in the fight! I work with teenagers, and I know a few who would enjoy that chance.

Lewis brings back the fun in this second installment, and while again, Young adult fiction is the genre, making it an easy read, it is not a dull read at all. We pick up where we left off with Oz and Colt  headed out to the C.H.A.O.S. Training academy, but now, Danielle has been recruited as well. Colt quickly turns the heads of a few fellow cadets, but not necessarily in a good way. But, really, who’s going to let bullies scare you when there are shape-shifting aliens who have infiltrated the campus and have worse things than insults on their agenda. Colt takes it in stride, even while dealing with a discovery that threatens his friendship with Oz.

The dialogue is smooth, the story is fun, and the characters are believable. I’ve met some High School Athletes who seem to fit the same physical build of Oz, so I don’t doubt it can happen. I personally, am looking forward to the third and final book, and would recommend this book to young adult readers, and to the parents of the same. There are some Christian themes in the book, but Lewis does a good job of weaving it into the story naturally so it doesn’t appear as a “how-to” manual on teenagers trying to live their faith in a world being overrun by aliens. Because THAT would be applicable. 

In fairness of full disclosure, I received a complimentary copy of this book from

"When Work & Family Collide" by Andy Stanley

Andy Stanley was the first author to really convince me to start reading Non-fiction books. His style of writing comes across more as a conversation instead of a showing-off of intellectual greatness. 

When Work & Family Collide is a re-printing of an earlier book called Choosing To Cheat, but it has updated information, so apparently it’s not the same. I did not read the original book, but I did download the sermon that served as inspiration for this book many years ago, and the message is still as relevant today as it has ever been.

Stanley simply makes the case that many people are caught between the rock of family and the hard place of work. Unfortunately, too many people make the choice to work harder, which “cheats” their family of them. They justify it by claiming it to be “FOR” the good of the family, but in all reality, it actually makes things worse.

The book opens with the story of a successful businessman who was in charge of two continents worth of business from an international company, we are immediately drawn into the pull of the “American Dream.” However, what we quickly discover is that this man was NOT happy, and neither were his wife and daughters. Finally deciding to make some changes, he takes steps towards being there with his family. The road was not easy, and there are some twists to that story, but the point gets across. Using that as a springboard, Stanley goes on to give more examples, principles, and challenges that support the underlying idea that no one ever ends up on their deathbed wishing they had spent more time at work.

Being a pastor, Andy Stanley’s heart is for people to understand that God’s design for family is strong and worth fighting to save. We have to work, but we don’t have to do it at the expense of our families.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher. All the ideas and views in this review are my own and not influenced by the publishers in any way.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Invasion by Jon S. Lewis

Invasion, a book by Jon S. Lewis is a book designed for escapism. Sure, it’s young adult fiction, but who doesn’t like a smooth and easy read here and there? The back of the book tells us some of the story, so it’s no spoiler, but certainly lets you know what you’re about to read. Colt is a sixteen year-old who just lost his parents in an accident, and is now living with his Grandfather. However, he has discovered that his parent’s accident was, in fact, no accident, Colt begins a search to finding out the real reason for their death. What he discovers is a world of Shape-shifting lizard people, flying helicopters, and aliens. Those are just small fries compared to the secret mind-control program happening at one of the world largest biotech companies.

Colt, along with his friends Oz and Dani, make for likeable characters. Oz’s confidence borders on cocky, but it’s light-weight, and he never uses it at the expense of his friends. Danielle (Dani) is a whiz with the computers who happens to be a long-time friend of Colt, and does a good job of looking out for him.

The themes of friendship, dedication, sacrifice, and heroism are explored and while some positive points are made, there is enough left open for some discussion. As it turns out, that’s what Lewis must have had in mind, because in the back is a discussion guide for any teenagers who read it. Out of curiosity, I went to and discovered more resources that allow this book to be used for teaching purposes. I enjoyed the Bible Study element to it, being a Youth Minister, and am glad to see that imagination is still alive, and fun books don’t have to involve inappropriate romances between teenagers and vampires or werewolves. I’m looking forward to reading the next book, and give my full recommendation for anyone interested.

In full disclosure, I received a complimentary copy of this book from, but all the opinions here are of my own accord, and not influenced by anyone else.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

The Bone House by Stephen R. Lawhead

I absolutely love The Bone House by Stephen R. Lawhead! I’ve gotten hooked on “The Bright Empire” series, and my only regret is that I have to wait three more years to figure out what’s going to happen! Book two in the series picks up right where we last saw Kit, Mina, Giles, and the other characters we’ve come to know. Having discovered the secrets of Ley Travel, which is a system of travel between multiple dimensions and times, our heroes continue their search for the complete Skin Map, from the first book. They seem to have bad luck, and encounter the villainous Lord Burleigh and his henchmen at almost every turn, and must use what limited knowledge they have to “leap” to safety.

Lawhead continues to inter-mix the modern speech of Kit and Mina with the more formal cadences and patterns of old-world dialogue with ease, and does a wonderful job of demonstrating the differences even in subtle ways during conversations. The idea of ley travel is terribly complex, yet is presented in such a way as to be understood. In no way does the reader feel as though they are being condescended to, or thought too simple-minded to understand.

My personal favorite is the last third of the book, where Kit finds himself in totally foreign surroundings. Not wanting to spoil it for any potential readers, I will only say that Kit finds himself in a time period well beyond any other he has visited at this point, and it opens his eyes to realities that he never considered before.

Having first been introduced to Lawhead’s work through the Bright Empires books, I have undertaken another of his series, and plan on exploring his other works. The Bone House is a fun and exciting second quest, and leaves the reader looking forward to more.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

The Skin Map by Stephen R. Lawhead

The Skin Map is the first book in a new series by Stephen R. Lawhead called "The Bright Empires." It introduces us to a few characters who have discovered the secret to travel to other dimensions and times by using Ley Lines. Others have learned it in the past, and in fact, one in particular mapped out various routes of these portals, and had them tattooed to his skin. Following the map leads to a treasure that he discovered in his journeys. There is one problem--the map is in pieces and is missing.

I have never read Mr. Lawhead's books before, and rest assured I will be delving into some of his others very soon. (I am already reading the second in this series.) His style is easy to read, but not simplified to the point of being childish. The introductions of new times and places are smooth transitions, and he effortlessly mixes the modern-day speech of main characters Kit and Mina with the older, more formal speech that correspond to the appropriate times.

The story itself is captivating, and draws the reader in very quickly. My only regret is that I will have to wait until all of the books are written and released to discover how this story ends. I highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys reading good stories, and likes to escape into other worlds.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from