Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Leap (Breakthrough, #2) by Michael C. Grumley (Goodreads Author)

5 out of 5 stars  *****

Scientists are involved with primate communication instead of dolphins in this second book of the Breakthrough series. Countries, like China and Russia, along with their scientists and military forces are active as antagonists in the story. The pivotal points of the plot are rich with thrilling adventure and death that leads to despair for the protagonists. From the middle of the narrative to the approach of the end, excitement and intrigue simmer until characters from the first book turn the tide in favor of the heroes, but not without a cost. The climax crescendos and ends with open questions and disturbing thoughts in the midst of apparent victory.

Michael C. Grumley elaborates on the romantic aspect between two of the main characters in this book. With clarity in the relationship comes concern for each other's safety. Life appears more fragile when one dances with death. Closure is only temporary in the Breakthrough world. What ends with a sigh of relief is not happily ever after; instead, gratitude for the moment suffices until the loose ends of this escapade are secure.

The science fiction contribution to Grumley's adventures are smart and thought provoking. The Leap explanation is understandably logical but the ambitious push of mankind for resources strains wisdom with an urgency that, often times, is reckless to obtain the discoveries that create power, control, and wealth. Grumley's scientific breakthroughs initiate crises which require the best of mankind to overcome the worst. 

Thursday, April 5, 2018

The Pilgrim's Progress by John Bunyan

5 out of 5 stars  *****

This story flows with characters having names that are actual human qualities. For example, Christian and Hope encounter many obstacles and characters on their pilgrimage to the Celestial City. Some of the people Christian encounters have names like Faithful and Pliable, who is scorned by townspeople for not being able to stay on track when necessary. Bunyan uses this opportunity to refer to scripture, Jeremiah: 29:18, 19, when he writes, "...because he hath forsaken the way." 

Like life, trials and tribulations pave the path to righteousness. Therefore, many pilgrims go astray and enter into suspect places that also bear names of qualities; city of Destruction or the Slough of Despond. Faithful encounters a hill called Difficulty where he meets an old man named Adam the First from the town of Deceit. Adam offers Faithful a place to stay where he can enjoy delicious food, live his desires, and use his slaves that he has, "of his own begetting." Then he tempts Faithful with his three daughters, the Lust of the Flesh, the Lust of the Eyes, and the Pride of Life. Bunyan refers to 1 John: 2:16, at this time. 

Faithful, later, explains to Christian that he refuses Adam's tantalizing offer due to his suspicion of becoming another one of Adam's slaves. Adam is so angry at Faithful's decision that he sends someone after him as Faithful climbs Difficulty. That someone catches Faithful and shows no mercy knocking him back down the hill and nearly killing him. The pilgrim is spared when one with holes in his hands and in his side passes by and bids the merciless one to restrain himself. 

Christian, talking to Faithful about his recount, tells him that the man who overtakes him is Moses, who does not show mercy to those who transgress the law. Obviously, the one who forbears Moses from his merciless duty is Jesus Christ, who forgives all who accept him of their transgressions with His crucifixion. The author, Paul Bunyan, does not spell out this meaning in the story; rather, the story moves along with another tale when Faithful meets Discontent in the Valley of Humility.

Their adventures require that Christian and Faithful depend on each other to keep themselves vigilant; to focus on their goal when one falters. Shepherds give them advice along the way but the pilgrims forget their wisdom and suffer admonishment to learn the lesson that puts them back on the right path. Bunyan's brilliance shines in this delightful book which creates a world of fiction about the pertinent life messages in the Bible. The imagery transcends all age groups making this one of my favorite classics.

Monday, April 2, 2018

Breakthrough (Breakthrough #1) by Michael C. Grumley (Goodreads Author), Meghan Wolf (Narrator)

5 out of 5 stars  *****

Breakthrough is just what I needed after reading and listening to non-fiction of various styles and eras. Michael C. Grumley pens a yarn of military and scientific adventure that thrills the reader with its pace and tone. The protagonists are humanly flawed and the antagonist is a hot-headed, power hungry military brass who reacts impulsively in a crisis. Outcomes are somewhat fairy-tale-ending but they do not detract from the entertainment of this novel.

Breakthrough is the first of a series. A sample of book #2 follows the last chapter of this narrative. Book #1 stands on its own as a complete story but there is plenty of room to elaborate on the protagonists with their livelihoods. The sample does its job with Leap, the next volume in the Breakthrough saga. I plan to follow up with it next.

Monday, March 26, 2018

Democracy in America: The Complete and Unabridged Volumes I and II by Alexis de Tocqueville

5 out of 5 stars  *****

Volume II 

Tocqueville observes the American growth in art, agriculture, trade, expansion, and politics. Andrew Jackson is president at this time and the North and South are divided on the issue of slavery. Morality from the Northern manufacturers and mariners threatens the livelihoods of the Southern plantation owners who have rationalized slavery to fit their desires. The author has serious doubts about these two factions reconciling their differences. 

Tocqueville admires American women for the respect they have for themselves, their savvy social interaction, and the ease with which they express their faith living in the world based on their own terms. They are industrious, as are most Americans. 

Unlike Europe, art is not appreciated for the art, itself; rather, Americans appreciate art that is useful and practical. Education differs also in that there is not an upper or royal class in young America. Europe teaches its royalty in the finer aspects of life without guilt or shame. Royalty is not expected to work at all; rather, its life of leisure is spent refining manners and language that separate them from the working class. Americans take great pride in their work and educate their offspring to do the same, as the Bible teaches.

Tocqueville observes that even though particular states may differ socially and politically, they are all united in their love of freedom as outlined in their two famous documents, the Declaration of Independence and the United States Constitution. This Volume II of Democracy in America contains the actual words of that Declaration of Independence. The author knows that mere words cannot create a thriving country where its citizens live in harmony, despite the slavery issue. 

American principles do not produce the same results in other countries who model their governments off of America; Mexico, for example. Tocqueville is astute in pointing out who, exactly, make up these two governments. It is not in the government design but in the people, themselves. 

Mexico is settled by conquistadors on a quest for riches. America has some of those opportunists in its history but is mainly settled by people looking for a place to practice their religion in peace. Never before is there such an opportunity for adventurous, persecuted, religious people to find their way across a wide ocean and into a raw, rich, promising nation that offers freedom and liberties at a price of forbearance they are all willing to endure. 

Tocqueville does a thorough job explaining the intangible shared qualities necessary for America to prosper, at all. The remarkable rise of America and the unity among its population in areas of significance is what brings Alexis Tocqueville to America in the first place. 

Saturday, March 24, 2018

From Bondage to Liberty: The Gospel According to Moses by Anthony Selvaggio

5 out of 5 stars  *****

From Passover to the Last Supper, Moses and Jesus Christ start new Covenants with God. Moses brings the Covenant of The Law, the Ten Commandments most importantly. Jesus Christ brings a spiritual covenant by dying on the cross for mankind's sins and resurrecting from the dead to promise eternal life for all who follow Him. Blood sacrifices are no longer necessary as Jesus pays that price with his blood. Mankind is not saved by works obeying the Law but by faith, alone, in the Messiah, Jesus. 

Moses builds a house for God, the tabernacle, according to God's specifications so that Moses could communicate with God for His people. This happens after the Israelites worship a golden calf that Aaron, Moses's brother, allows them to make. Moses was receiving those Ten Commandments when the Israelites turn away from the One who chooses them to carry out His plan. They lose out in having a direct communication with God. 

That tabernacle houses God and is representative of Christ who is man and God. The new covenant allows a direct communication with God via the Holy Spirit and Jesus Christ. This is the Holy Trinity, God in each each, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. A more intimate relationship may develop like Moses has with his direct line to God. 

To become a vessel for the Holy Spirit one must let go of earthly and personal desires. Moses wanders in the desert, at first, to empty himself of pride and become the man who leads God's chosen people out of enslavement and into a Promised Land. This transformation requires trust in God and thankfulness for what God bestows by His mercy and grace. A Christian may fill up with God's grace in the same manner, emptying of self for fullness of the Holy Spirit's fruits. 

Moses becomes a righteous example for a leader. Because of his pride and sins during the wanderings in the desert, God does not permit Moses entry into the Holy Land. Rather than complain or plead his case, Moses prays for God to choose a strong leader so that His people are courageous and not like sheep. His concern is for his people and not himself. 

Jesus teaches to love our brothers like ourselves and to serve our neighbors before ourselves. This selflessness empties one's self and praises God by putting other's needs first. The selfless become full of peace, love, joy, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control, the qualities that never change and are subject to no law. This experience is the moment one becomes a tabernacle, a vessel for the Holy Spirit. 

To be the Christian, flaws included, in this world who practices the "Good News" according to Moses, one must answer the call, if and when God wants and as He wants, until He calls one home. Lastly, the way one lives should model after the man who, at first, reluctantly answers his call. "As Moses passed the baton of leadership to Joshua, he did it with a servant’s heart and the mind of Christ." - Selvaggio, A. T. (2014). From Bondage to Liberty: The Gospel according to Moses. (I. M. Duguid, Ed.) (p. 160). Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing.

Monday, March 19, 2018

Democracy in America by Alexis de Tocqueville

4 out of 5 stars  ****

Volume I Volume II is written five years later
A thorough explanation of America's geography from Atlantic to Pacific, an explanation of the type of people who started a new government after winning their independence from a Monarchy, failing first with its initial Confederacy, and the thoughtful remedy applied in writing the US Constitution with its Bill of Rights and Separation of Powers between the Executive, Legislative, and Judicial branches, the author compares the United States with other countries and their societies. Where others failed, America succeeded in blossoming due to the type of people isolated from most of the old world by the great oceans.

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Explore the Bible: 1, 2 Corinthians by Clint Pressley (Editor ), Micah Carter

5 out of 5 stars  *****

Apostle Paul visits the Greek, Roman-run city of Corinth to, initially, bring the "Good News," the Gospel, to answer disputes between certain leaders of the newly established Church, and then remind the Corinthians that centering their behavior around Jesus Christ's teachings unites them rather than divides them. Paul must defend himself against false teachers who point to his abject poverty and afflictions. The apostle uses this opportunity to praise God in his weaknesses so that he won't boast. He teaches that the grace of God is enough to sustain him. 

Marriage, singleness, and sexual immorality are issues in Corinth and Paul suggests the people stay away from bad, sinful habits that become part of their culture. Paul reminds them that as newly born children of God their behavior displays God's love. They are to have faith in this love to find their peace and joy persevering any obstacles by, once again, returning to the teachings of Jesus Christ.

Paul is a strong character whose ambition is to teach truth about the gospel. He shares his introspection and relationship with the Holy Spirit for a people who, for the first time, are changing their lives and culture according to the morals and lessons of that "Good News." Their adherence to his teachings is a testament to the influence the Holy Spirit has through Paul.