Monday, February 19, 2018

The Rescue by Jim Cymbala

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The Rescue
by Jim Cymbala

ISBN-13: 9780310351177
Hardcover: 192 pages
Publisher: Zondervan
Released: Feb. 27, 2018

Source: ebook review copy from the publisher through BookLook Bloggers.

Book Description from BookLook:
Seven People, Seven Amazing Stories

A Wall Street broker, a party girl, a student, a homeless man, an addict, a teenage mom, a drug enforcer—all of them spiraling out of control. Each has a reason to despair and a wound that won’t heal. Until something unexpected happens—something that will change their lives forever.

The Rescue tells the powerful, true stories of men and women whose lives should have ended badly but didn’t. What happens to each of them will take you by surprise and give you hope. It will restore your sense that no matter what you are facing, Someone good is in control of the universe. Fortunately, that Someone cares about you. If you or people you care about are facing challenges beyond their strength, it may be time to experience The Rescue.

My Review:
The Rescue is a collection of 7 testimonies by Christians about how they came to faith. They came from different backgrounds, but each had a life of pain that felt empty and out of control until God reached out to them in different ways and brought healing and peace. To quote the last woman, Toni, "No matter how painful your story has been, or how much shame might be hiding from yourself and others, God is strong and loving enough to deal with it. He's also creative enough to use everything--even the worst things--to accomplish his good purposes. If you let him, he will turn your life into a story that you will cherish..." This book seems intended for people who do not believe in God or who don't have a close relationship with him yet.

If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.

Saturday, February 17, 2018

The Women of Christmas by Liz Curtis Higgs

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The Women of Christmas
by Liz Curtis Higgs

ISBN-13: 9781601425416
Hardcover: 212 pages
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
Released: Oct. 26, 2013

Source: Bought a copy.

Book Description, Modified from Goodreads:
Elizabeth is barren, yet her trust in God remains fertile. Mary is betrothed in marriage, yet she is willing to bear God’s Son. Anna is a widow full of years, yet she waits patiently, prayerfully for the Messiah to appear in the temple courts. Following in their footsteps, you too can prepare for the Savior to enter your heart, your mind, and your life in a vibrant, new way. Best-selling author Liz Curtis Higgs explores the biblical stories of Elizabeth, Mary, and Anna, unwrapping each verse with tender care and introducing you afresh to The Women of Christmas.

My Review:
The Women of Christmas is a Bible study focusing on the women involved in Jesus birth narrative, from Elizabeth and Mary to Anna. The author went verse-by-verse from Luke 1:5 to 2:40 and commented on events. She provided cultural background information so the reader could better understand and visualize events. (Frankly, though, I didn't always think she was right. For example, she suggests that Elizabeth went into seclusion until she felt her baby first move. I've read that, traditonally, women went into seclusion once they started to show until birth and I always assumed that's what Elizabeth did.) She also suggested what people might have felt during those events and provided other insights. There's a short study guide in the back with questions for further discussion or thought. Overall, I'd recommend this joyful Bible study

If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.

Excerpt: Read an excerpt using Google Preview.

Monday, February 5, 2018

Never Alone by Tiffany Bluhm

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Never Alone
by Tiffany Bluhm

ISBN-13: 978-1501848636
Paperback: 240 pages
Publisher: Abingdon Press
Released: Feb. 6, 2018

Source: Review copy from the publisher through Amazon Vine.

Book Description, Modified from Goodreads:
From the time we're little girls, we long to be loved and accepted--from the playground to the lunchroom to the places where we live and work as grown women. We do our best to prove we're lovable and to avoid being left all alone. But the truth is that it's impossible to walk through life without experiencing the pain and loneliness of betrayal, shame, guilt, loss, judgment, or rejection. These wounds can shape our views of ourselves, others, and God and even make us question if we are worthy of love and acceptance. Whether old or new, our heartache can convince us there's no one who understands or cares. Yet Jesus tells us a different story.

In Never Alone, author Tiffany Bluhm offers hope and encouragement that as our plans, hearts, and lives change, God does not miss a beat. What we may have mistaken for absence was only our mind questioning his goodness and grace. Tiffany reveals the depth and healing power of Jesus' unconditional love for us and how we will never escape his love. We do not possess that kind of power. Accept your invitation to find healing for your deepest hurts as we experience the unfailing companionship of Jesus--the Rescuer and Redeemer of broken lives and wounded hearts.

My Review:
Never Alone is part memoir, part spiritual growth book. In each chapter, the author told a part of her life story--from being adopted from an orphanage in India, growing up, and dating to getting married and going through the long process of adopting a son from Uganda. She dealt with feelings of rejection, shame, and loneliness due to her adoption and different appearance from her family. She has also wrestled with envy, worry, anger, bitterness, and grief. So she talked about those issues, bringing in the stories of women in the Bible and related Scriptures. She talked about the lessons she's learned and how God has been at work healing her heart and giving her strength. It's an encouraging book that leads you toward trusting God and drawing on His strength and love in difficult times.

If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.

Excerpt: Read an excerpt using Google Preview.

Monday, January 29, 2018

Insights on Luke by Charles R. Swindoll

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Insights on Luke
by Charles R. Swindoll

ISBN-13: 9780310284314
Hardcover: 528 pages
Publisher: Zondervan
Released: Jan. 24, 2012

Source: Bought on Amazon.

Book Description from Goodreads:
The 15-volume Swindoll's Living Insights New Testament Commentary series draws on Chuck Swindoll's 50 years of experience with studying and preaching God's Word. Each volume combines verse-by-verse commentary, charts, maps, photos, key terms, and background articles with practical application. This series is a must-have for pastors, teachers, and anyone else who is seeking a deeply practical resource for exploring God's Word.

My Review:
Insights on Luke is a Bible commentary. The author explained the meaning of various key Greek words and provided information on the cultural and historical background. There were also maps, photos, and charts to help illustrate what was going on. The author gave a paragraph or two of Scripture and then studied through that verse-by-verse. At the end of each section, he discussed how we can apply the writer's message to our own lives. He also included occasional "journal" pages were he talked about how those verses had been applied or worked out in his life.

Though you can look up information on just a single verse, this is more a Bible study book where it's assumed you'll read the whole book. Most of the text focused on clarifying what the verses mean so the reader can better understand them. Some parts were more of a sermon, where he tells the reader what to understand from it.

This book was easy to follow and understand. He brought out some interesting points about Jesus' trials. Overall, I'd recommend this book.

If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.

Excerpt: Read an excerpt using Google Preview.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Evidence That Demands a Verdict by Josh McDowell, Sean McDowell

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Evidence That Demands a Verdict
by Josh McDowell,
Sean McDowell

ISBN-13: 9781401676704
Hardcover: 880 pages
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
Released: Oct. 3, 2017

Source: Review copy from the publisher through BookLook.

Book Description, Modified from Goodreads:
The modern apologetics classic that started it all is now completely revised and updated—because the truth of the Bible doesn’t change, but its critics do. With the original Evidence That Demands a Verdict, bestselling author Josh McDowell gave Christian readers the answers they needed to defend their faith against the harshest critics and skeptics. Since that time, Evidence has remained a trusted resource for believers young and old. Bringing historical documentation and the best modern scholarship to bear on the trustworthiness of the Bible and its teachings, this extensive volume has encouraged and strengthened millions. Now, with his son Sean McDowell, Josh McDowell has updated and expanded this classic resource for a new generation. This is a book that invites readers to bring their doubts and doesn’t shy away from the tough questions.

Features Include:
• Thoroughly revised and updated from the previous edition
• All-new chapters defending against the latest attacks from Christianity’s critics
• Designed to be a go-to reference for even the toughest questions
• Offers thoughtful responses to the Bible’s most difficult and extraordinary passages
• Expansive defense of Christianity’s core truths, including the resurrection of Jesus Christ

My Review:
Evidence That Demands a Verdict is a collection of evidence that helps believers have confidence and unbelievers see that there is a reasoned, factual basis to Christianity. I've owned previous editions of this book, the latest being the 1999 version. This book has been updated to include the latest discoveries and arguments as well as commentary at the beginning from Sean McDowell. While much of the core evidence is the same, there has been some rewriting and changes made as the new information was added. Even if you've read the previous versions, it's worth getting this version for the new material. I'd highly recommend this as a great reference resource (for looking up information that interests you) or to read through from start to finish.

The book covered why we believe that there is a god (evidence for theism), ways that the Bible is unique from other books, how the Bible was written, manuscript and archeological evidence that the New and Old Testaments are accurate, how the text of the Bible was copied by scribes and how accurate they were, information about the Gnostic gospels and other texts that were not included in the Bible and why they weren't included. Christian and non-Christian sources and archeological discoveries that support the existence of Jesus, examining Jesus' claims to deity and does that make him lord, liar, or lunatic. Old Testament prophecies that Jesus fulfilled, evidence for Jesus' literal, bodily resurrection, and why the apostles were willing to die. How the Old Testament and ancient near eastern texts are similar but also strikingly different, evidence for the historical reliability of Genesis (Adam and Eve, the patriarchs), Exodus, the conquest, the united monarchy, the divided monarchy, the exilic period, and other books of the Old Testament (Pentateuch, Isaiah, Daniel). Some alleged contradictions in the Bible and how they can be harmonized. Why truth matters, can you know the truth, answering skeptics, are miracles possible, and many other topics.

If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.

Excerpt: Read an excerpt using Google Preview.

Monday, January 8, 2018

Trade Your Cares for Calm by Max Lucado

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Trade Your Cares for Calm
by Max Lucado

ISBN-13: 9780718074890
Hardcover: 208 pages
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
Released: Dec. 26, 2017

Source: Review copy from the publisher through BookLook Bloggers.

Book Description, Modified from Goodreads:
What if faith, not fear, could be your default reaction to circumstances? Imagine being able to walk away from worry, conquer the need to control, get rid of guilt, and end if-only thinking. That’s God’s offer. He wants to exchange your burdens for an abundance of mercy, gratitude, and trust. To replace striving and stress with a faith-filled life in which you’ll see God’s goodness, feel calm in chaos, and find peace through prayer.

Bestselling author Max Lucado understands what it’s like to feel overwhelmed by anxiety. Through unforgettable stories and biblical wisdom, he offers powerful tools to help you manage your fears and worries.

My Review:
Trade Your Cares for Calm is a compilation of previously published material quoted or adapted from some of Lucado's previous books (Anxious for Nothing, Facing Your Giants, Fearless, Max on Life, 3:16 The Numbers of Hope, Traveling Light, and You'll Get Through This). This gift or coffee-table-style book contained many landscape photographs and quick, short entries to read. Each chapter contained short, devotional type material, application and how-to lists, topical collections of several verses, and journaling questions to help you apply the lessons to your worries.

He takes you through four principles (CALM) found in Philippians 4:4-8. He also pointed out that "your anxiety decreases as your understanding of your father increases." So we get some chapters on how God is in control, God is good and He is for you. We're told not to listen to shame- or guilt-based thoughts but apply God's truth and grace. Combat "if only" thinking and discontentment with thanksgiving and counting your blessings. We're also told to focus on God, not our circumstances. And, of course, pray and take your worries to God.

While the book contained good advice, it felt a little disconnected since it's taken from different sources and the advice was dispensed in short, devotional-type entries.

If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.

Excerpt: Read an excerpt using Google Preview.

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Reading the Bible with Rabbi Jesus by Lois Tverberg

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Reading the Bible with Rabbi Jesus
by Lois Tverberg

ISBN-13: 9780801017155
Hardback: 288 pages
Publisher: Baker Books
Released: Jan. 2, 2018

Source: ebook review copy from the publisher through NetGalley.

Book Description, Modified from NetGalley:
Lois Tverberg knows the treasures that await readers willing to learn how to read the Bible through Jewish eyes. By helping them understand the Bible as Jesus and his first-century listeners would have, she bridges the gaps of time and culture in order to open the Bible to readers today.

Combining careful research with engaging prose, Tverberg leads us on a journey back in time to shed light on how this Middle Eastern people approached life, God, and each other. She explains age-old imagery that we often misinterpret, allowing us to approach God and the stories and teachings of Scripture with new eyes. By helping readers grasp the perspective of its original audience, she equips them to read the Bible in ways that will enrich their lives and deepen their understanding.

My Review:
Reading the Bible with Rabbi Jesus looks at the differences between modern American and first century Jewish cultural perspectives in order to provide insights into the Bible. The author talked about why Jews expected the Messiah to be a king and how this assumption is woven into several New Testament events and conversations. She also explained why a just king would have been a desirable thing. She talked about differences between Greek (logical, theoretical) and Eastern thinking patterns. She explored how the Hebrew language reflects this different way of thinking (which sometimes makes translation difficult).

She talked about the cultural perspective that family and community are more important than the individual, thus making the begats sections and a person's family name (reputation) important to them. She talked about how they didn't question the existence of God, but that a god that cared about humans was unique. She talked about how people learned Scripture at the time of Jesus, and how they linked similar memorized verses to study and better understand the point being made. She showed how Jesus made Messianic claims, just in a very Jewish way that isn't obvious to Westerners. Finally, she applied some of her previous points to Isaiah 53 to illuminate things that Westerners might miss.

She sometimes discussed information that she talked about in her other books or that can be found in other Eastern versus Western perspective books, but she also explored aspects that I hadn't previously heard or discussed them in a slightly different way so it wasn't just repetition. I found her explanations easy to follow, which I haven't always found true with these Eastern/Western perspective books. Overall, I'd highly recommend this book (and her previous Rabbi Jesus books).

If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.

Excerpt: Read an excerpt using Google Preview.