Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Stranger No More by Annahita Parsan

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Stranger No More
by Annahita Parsan
with Craig Borlase


ISBN-13: 9780718095710
Paperback: 288 pages
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
Released: Nov. 14, 2017

Source: ebook review copy from the publisher through BookLook.

Book Description, Modified from Goodreads:
Annahita Parsan was born into a Muslim family in Iran and grew up with the simple hope of one day finding a good husband, having children, and doing some good in the world. Married and a mother before she turned eighteen, Annahita found herself unexpectedly widowed and trapped for years in an abusive second marriage that she later fled—discovering instead a God who might love her. Stranger No More is the remarkable true story of Annahita’s path from oppression to the life-changing hope of Jesus. Fleeing Iran across the mountains into Turkey, she spent months in the terrifying Agri prison before a miraculous release and flight to Europe, where she and her two children knelt in a church and prayed, “God, from this day on we are Christians.”

As the leader of two congregations in Sweden, Annahita has baptized hundreds of former Muslims since her own conversion and is reminded every day that saying yes to God is always worth the risk.


My Review:
Stranger No More is the memoir of a woman who grew up as a not-very-devote Muslim in Iran. She married young only to lose her first, loving husband in an accident. She was left to raise her baby son alone, so she felt sympathy for a man who had lost his wife in an accident and had a young daughter. They married, but he was very abusive to her and the children. Most of the book was about this abusive marriage and why she didn't leave him. They had to be smuggled out of Iran due to his political views and were imprisoned and tortured in Turkey. They were eventually allowed to move as refugees to Denmark, where she tried to commit suicide and eventually was convinced by friends to leave and hide from her stalker husband. She ended up in Sweden and became a pastor to Muslim refuges.

There's more to the story than that (including yet another failed marriage), but only a small part of the story was about her becoming a Christian and her activities since then. It was a hard story to read because she went through so many horrific experiences. The sad part was that most of these experiences might have been avoided if she hadn't been so ruled by emotion. For example, she wanted to return to Iran to visit her dying grandmother even though she was warned (and seemed to know down deep) that her life would be in danger if she did. But she did it anyway, and, happily, God saved her from the worst consequences of that decision. It's clear that God was at work throughout her life, but she also has suffered a great deal due to the choices she made.


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, December 4, 2017

Godspeed by David Teems

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Godspeed
by David Teems


ISBN-13: 9781501847158
Paperback: 384 pages
Publisher: Abingdon Press
Released: Oct. 3, 2017

Source: Review copy from the publisher through Amazon Vine.

Book Description, Modified from Goodreads:
For the Protestant reformer, times were treacherous. The reformer lived, moved, and exercised his or her faith within the shadow of a powerful church that dominated Western culture. Many of these men and women paid the ultimate price for their faith.

Celebrating the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation, Godspeed is a 365-day devotional that features the words of prominent reformers, including Martin Luther, William Tyndale, John Calvin, and others, thoughtfully illuminated by best-selling author David Teems with both historical precision and charm.


My Review:
Godspeed is a 365-day-long devotional. There is an entry for each day of the year. Each entry started with a quote from one of the "Voices of the Reformation"--mainly William Tyndale and Martin Luther, but also people like John Wycliffe, Jan Hus, Thomas Cranmer, Anne Askew, Ulrich Zwingli, John Calvin, John Knox, and queens Anne Boleyn, Katherine Parr, and Elizabeth. The author (or a further quote) then expanded upon what the reformer said. This was followed by a brief thought or prayer (often another short quote from that reformer). It ended with related verses from the Bible. Those verses were quotes from different versions of the Bible published in the last 500 years. This devotional is a fun way to get a look at some of the things the reformers wrote.


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.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Insights on 1 & 2 Thessalonians by Charles R. Swindoll

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Insights on 1 & 2 Thessalonians
by Charles R. Swindoll


ISBN-13: 978-1414393728
Hardcover: 176 pages
Publisher: Tyndale House Publishers
Released: Oct. 1, 2016

Source: Bought from Amazon.

Book Description, Modified from Goodreads:
The Thessalonian church was young yet vibrant in faith. In this volume, Chuck Swindoll explores Paul's encouragement, exhortation, and correction to the church he had started but had to leave soon after. Paul's encouragement to remain faithful, full of hope and love in spite of trials--and his correction of distorted teachings about the end times--retains its crucial importance for today.


My Review:
Insights on 1 & 2 Thessalonians is a Bible commentary on 1 & 2 Thessalonians. The author explained the meaning of various key Greek words to help the reader understand confusing passages and to bring out the full meaning of the text. He also provided information on the cultural and historical background and quoted similar statements made elsewhere in the Bible to help the reader fully understand the verses.

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.

Some sections focused on clarifying what the verses meant so the reader could better understand them. Others were more of a sermon where he told the reader what to understand from it. He spent a lot of time on the verses referring to rapture and the end times. He'd point out what the verses actually say (which I agreed with), then he explained how he fit those verses into his beliefs about the pre-Trib rapture and the Tribulation. As I don't agree with much of his overall Rapture and Tribulation beliefs, I found this commentary less helpful than many of his others.


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, November 20, 2017

The Strength You Need by Robert Morgan

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The Strength You Need
by Robert Morgan


ISBN-13: 9780718079598
Hardcover: 240 pages
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
Released: Aug. 16,2016

Source: ebook review copy from the publisher through BookLook.

Book Description, Modified from Goodreads:
Pastor Robert Morgan leads a busy life as a pastor and is also a multitasking caregiver to his disabled wife. He has learned to fully embrace Psalm 84, as he moves from strength to strength. The valleys and the weaknesses are inevitable. Our task is to embrace these as we wait for God to take us to our next time of strength. After reviewing the 232 occurrences of the word strength in Scripture, Pastor Robert discovered twelve clear passages that drop anchor in God’s Sea of Strength. Among the kinds of strength available to every believer are:

Your strength will equal your days (Deuteronomy 33:25)

They go from strength to strength (Psalm 84:5-7)

The eyes of The Lord range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to Him (2 Chronicles 16:9)

The joy of The Lord is your strength (Nehemiah 8:10)

God is our refuge and strength (Psalm 46:1)

In quietness and trust is your strength (Isaiah 30:15)

Those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength (Isaiah 40:31)

The Lord will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden (Isaiah 58:11)

The Sovereign Lord is my strength; He makes my feet like the feet of a deer, He enables me to tread on the heights (Habakkuk 3:19)

Abraham did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God (Romans 4:20)

I pray that out of His glorious riches He may strengthen you with power through His Spirit in your inner being (Ephesians 3:16)

I can do all this through Him who gives me strength (Philippians 4:13)


My Review:
The Strength You Need is a study on 12 verses that refer to strength: Deuteronomy 33:25, 2 Chronicles 16:9, Nehemiah 8:10, Psalm 46:1, Psalm 84:5-7, Isaiah 30:15, Isaiah 40:31, Isaiah 58:11, Habakkuk 3:19, Romans 4:20, Ephesians 3:16, Philippians 4:13. The author talked about people who found the verse inspirational, about the context of the verse, and about what lessons we can learn from all that. His wife also described how these verses have helped her.

As I'm still building up my physical strength after a recent illness that left me very weak for months, I thought this would be a helpful book. Unfortunately, I didn't really find it so. First, the author sometimes interpreted the verse in a way I'm not sure was what was really meant given the context. Plus some of these verses were spoken to a specific person in a specific circumstance, yet the author acted like it's a promise given by God to every believer. Second, he sometimes turned the lesson into a Christian living sermon--how to avoid Asa's mistake, for example--which just left me feeling more burdened with "ought to be doing" lists rather than feeling strengthened.

I do like some of these verses and have felt comforted by what they say about God's character and how He helps us. But I don't particularly feel a surge of energy (like the author apparently does) after having meditated on these verses. If these verses are particularly meaningful to you, then you might enjoy reading about what he (and others) get out of these verses.


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.

Thursday, November 2, 2017

The Master's Mind by Lance Hahn

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The Master's Mind
by Lance Hahn


ISBN-13: 9780718035433
Paperback: 240 pages
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
Released: Sept. 19, 2017

Source: ebook review copy from the publisher through BookLook.

Book Description, Modified from BookLook:
If what we think determines who we are, then why are so many of us insecure, depressed, and confused? This is not the condition God has in mind for us. In fact, the Master’s overwhelming desire is to see us full of hope, strength, peace, joy, and love. So where do we go wrong?

Someone is running the show in our minds and it’s not us—at least not the real us, nor the real owner. When we lose our identity, we become tossed about on the sea of a million random influences. Between the world, the flesh, and the devil, we don’t know what to think, and therefore our lives are filled with hurt, pain, and regret.

Pastor Lance knows first-hand the power that comes from a mind at rest, trusting God’s goodness despite the voices in our head. Jesus died to set us free. He made a way for our souls to be rescued from our enemies. It’s time for us to take back control of our minds, to master them and bring them back in alignment with the Master’s will.


My Review:
The Master's Mind explores how what we think and believe shapes our behavior. "Transformation always begins in our thoughts." By studying what God teaches us to be true about ourselves and Him and aligning our thoughts to these truths, we will change our emotions and behaviors. The author quoted Scripture or provided Scriptures in the footnotes to support or illustrate his points. He stayed focused (so no filler) and clearly explained his points. Overall, I thought the author did an excellent job of explaining the battle for our minds and how to find victory.

He talked about the influences that can lead to wrong thinking and common lies that we believe. If we learn to identify lies and Satan's strategies, then we can reject them and replace them with God's truths and right thinking. Of course, this means that we need to learn God's true and good things to replace them. He talked about temptations to addictions and issues like anger, anxiety, and depression. He also explained how to resist attacks by Satan.

The author didn't spend much time on personal stories, but he did provide advice on what helps from people who struggle with depression, anxiety, and such. He suggested practical steps like regularly engaging with a supportive community (especially with those who understand your struggles and can give good advice), daily reading of the Bible to learn the truth of God and thinking about these truths, engaging with God through prayer, and avoiding the situations that usually lead to wrong thoughts or emotions. Don't expect a quick solution. It's a process of learning to make right choices, which makes it easier to make right choices in the future.


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.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Stones of Remembrance by Daniel G. Amen

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Stones of Remembrance
by Daniel G. Amen


ISBN-13: 9781496426673
Hardback: 128 pages
Publisher: Tyndale House Publishers
Released: Nov. 14, 2017

Source: Review copy from the publisher.

Book Description, Modified from Goodreads:
An invitation to discover the healing power of Scripture meditation and memorization. There is a reason the Bible calls us over and over again to "remember." Remembering God's acts, promises, and guidelines for living is essential to a healthy spiritual life. Scripture meditation and memorization can also contribute to a healthier mind and body--reducing stress, increasing brain capacity, and even helping to reverse problems like memory loss. Stones of Remembrance includes key Scriptures to memorize and meditate on and tips for incorporating Scripture meditation and memorization into your life.


My Review:
Stones of Remembrance is a book of Scripture verses to read when afraid, angry, etc., or to memorize to strengthen your memory. In the first section, the author very briefly talked about the benefits of sleep, exercise, meditation and prayer, eating healthy, meaningful labor, close relationships, relaxation, forgiveness, learning new things, concentration, a positive focus, and being a part of a community. Under each of these subsections, he included several verses relating to that topic. Since topics like exercise aren't directly addressed in the Bible, some verses were a bit of a stretch. For exercise, he suggested verses about running the race or God giving us strength.

The second section contained 12 Scripture verses each "to remember when" you're anxious, grateful, afraid, depressed, happy, lonely, sick, angry, tired, impatient, unsure of yourself, experience doubt, need hope, need comfort, or need strength. The third section had 12 Scripture verses that "every Christian should know."

At the back of the book, the author included a list of tips for memorizing verses, a list of healthy snacks for boosting your memory, and a list of activities that can help improve your memory (like doing crossword puzzles or learning something new). I'd expected information about studies on how Scripture memorization helps your brain, so I was disappointed that he only included a few sentences about this. But I'd recommend this book to people who enjoy collections of verses for reference or memorization.


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, October 31, 2017

A World Ablaze by Craig Harline

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A World Ablaze
by Craig Harline


ISBN-13: 9780190275181
Hardcover: 304 pages
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Released: Oct. 26, 2017

Source: Review copy from the publisher through Amazon Vine.

Book Description, Modified from Amazon:
October 2017 will mark 500 years since Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses to the church door in Wittenburg, launching the Protestant Reformation. At least, that's what the legend says. But with a figure like Martin Luther, who looms so large in the historical imagination, it's hard to separate the legend from the life, or even sometimes to separate assorted legends from each other. Craig Harline aims to do just that. He tells the riveting story of the first crucial years of Luther's fame, from 1517 to early 1522.


My Review:
A World Ablaze focused on Martin Luther's life between Oct. 31, 1517 (when his 95 theses were posted on the church door in Wittenberg) to the Diet of Worms, his "exile" at Wartburg, and his return to Wittenberg in the spring of 1522. There was also a chapter summarizing Luther's life before this time and a chapter on what happened afterward (until his death).

The author summarized the gist of what Luther wrote and believed during this period, but the focus was equally on the political situation surrounding Luther. We got details about the various meetings that Luther went to and short biographies about the major players, like Frederick the Wise and the Pope. The book wasn't really about the theological issues (why Luther believed what he believed) but rather the impact those ideas had. The author wrote for the average person, and he tried to inject humor into the subject. Unfortunately, that humor usually had me rolling my eyes rather than laughing, but it may appeal to other people. Overall, I enjoyed 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.