Thursday, June 1, 2017

A Life for Christ - Dwight L. Moody (a book review)

In the first chapter of his book, A Life for Christ, What the Normal Christian Life Should Look Like, Pastor Moody gives us a short description of the biblical event of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead. I was touched by a statement Dwight L. Moody made in the first chapter. He says, " But the Lord wants His children to learn this lesson: They have something to do towards raising the spiritually dead. The disciples not only had to take away the stone, but after Christ raised Lazarus they were told to also loose him and let him go." I've read the story of Jesus raising Lazarus many times in my life and I've never thought about the point Pastor Moody brought up. Jesus could have immediately rolled the stone away and called Lazarus forth, but instead, he asked the disciples to move the stone. He wanted them to take an active part in the process. Dwight L. Moody wants us to realize we not only have an active part to play in reaching others for Christ, but we have a responsibility.

Throughout the book, Mr. Moody explains our obligations as followers of Christ. All Christians should desire the lost to be rescued and brought to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. In order to reach the lost for Christ, believers need to be willing to make every effort using whatever means possible to accomplish this goal. He admonishes us not to get caught up in doing things the way they've always been done. He encourages us to reach out in faith and allow God to work through us. According to Dr. Moody, "God must prepare the ground and He must give the increase."

A Life for Christ is filled with truths a seasoned believer already knows and many of us take for granted such as:

We are to operate out of love.
We are to want to see everyone come to a saving knowledge of Christ.
We should always be willing to share the gospel.
We should esteem ourselves lowly and have a humble spirit.

But in addition to these truths, Mr. Moody wants the normal Christian to understand more fully our role as believers. He says, "If we want to be wise in winning souls and to be vessels for the Master's use, we must get rid of the accursed spirit of self-seeking." He intimates our motives must be right and our motives should only stem from a heart filled with love.

This book is a must read for all Christians. Dr. Moody is a well known and respected man of God. He is wise and has much to teach those of us who are fearful of partaking in the soul winning aspect of Christianity. I recommend this book highly and know it will bless those who read it.

Thank you to Aneko Press for giving me an opportunity to read and review this book. I was not encouraged to give a favorable review but it is my pleasure to do so.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

My People, the Amish (a book review)

I've always loved learning about different religions and their beliefs, but the Amish people have fascinated me. Their simple lifestyle is appealing on so many levels but I had no idea how restrictive that lifestyle could be until I read My People, the Amish.

I already knew a good deal about the Amish, or so I thought. I'd watched several shows on television about them, the most recent being Leaving Amish. But none of the shows shared much detail about everyday living and all the church ordained regulations, so I had much to learn.

As I began reading the true story of Joe Keim, My People, the Amish, I felt sorry for him. Growing up in the Old Order Amish community, Joe lived by a strict set of rules. The rules set forth by his church mandated the length of his hair, the color of his clothes, where he could go, what he could do, and how he should live his life. Joe often felt like he couldn't live up to all the expectations set before him and rightly so. Not only did the church expect perfection, Joe's Father did as well.

Joe shared how he longed for encouragement and affirmation from his father and how disappointed he was that he never received it. His father didn't show any physical affection toward Joe and never offered loving sentiments to his son. This was typical of the Amish community, says Joe Keim, "I don't remember ever getting a hug from Dad or hearing him tell me that he loved me, but that's not uncommon in the Amish community. Most Amish people don't show affection. It's just the way it was. In fact, the word love isn't in the Pennsylvania Dutch vocabulary - the closest word for love is like." It's no wonder, when Amish children reach teenage years and are allowed to go through the ritual of Rumspringa, they test the waters and begin to break some of their Amish rules.

Joe Keim shared every aspect of his life in My People, the Amish. He talked candidly about his childhood, his teenage years, dating, leaving the Amish community for a time, and how he finally found God. The challenges he faced involved disappointing not only his family but his church, but Joe knew there was more to a life filled with strict guidelines and tradition. He felt God drawing him and he wanted to answer the call.

After accepting Christ as his Savior, Joe wanted to give back to the Amish people whom he dearly loved. He founded a ministry called MAP, Mission to Amish People. His goal in forming this ministry with his wife, Esther, was to share the love of Christ with the Amish people and to help them understand the truth of the gospel.

I enjoyed this book. It was refreshing to read about Joe's story and learn how difficult it is for an Amish person to completely walk away from his order. The book is filled with courage and hope. I would like to thank Aneko Press for allowing me to review this book in exchange for my honest opinion.

If you'd like to read more about Joe Keim and his story, you can pre-purchase the book here. The release date for the book is June 1, 2017.


Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Jesus Came to Save Sinners - Charles H. Spurgeon (a review)

Charles H. Spurgeon was among the greatest preachers of all time. His words of wisdom and his godly example are well known around the world. Charles Haddon Spurgeon, England's best-known Baptist minister, was born on June 19, 1834 in Kelvedon, Essex and spent his childhood and early teenage years in Stambourne, Colchester, and Newmarket. In 1856 he married Susannah Thompson; their only children, twin sons Thomas and Charles, were born on September 20, 1857. Spurgeon had no formal education beyond Newmarket Academy, but he was very well-read in Puritan theology, natural history, Latin and Victorian literature. Although he held no college degree, this did not deter him from a remarkable preaching career which he began at the young age of 15. Spurgeon's preaching was both enormously popular and highly controversial.
Charles Haddon Spurgeon

Charles Haddon Spurgeon has always been one of my favorite authors. When I was given the opportunity to review one of his works, I was excited. I've always loved the depth of Spurgeon's writings and how they always point the reader toward a more meaningful relationship with Christ. Jesus Came to Save Sinners certainly did not disappoint in those areas.

Aneko Press has taken Spurgeon's original Christian classic book, Jesus Came to Save Sinners, and has updated it for today's readers. The book is so well written. It's easy to read and understand. I really enjoyed Spurgeon's way of writing this book as if it were a personal conversation from one friend to another. The book is written for both Christians and non Christians alike. It gives a beautiful and clear picture of God's grace, love, mercy, forgiveness and acceptance. Subjects covered in the book include:
  • Justification
  • Grace
  • Salvation
  • Faith
  • Regeneration
  • Repentance
  • Forgiveness
  • Deliverance from Sin
  • Living the Christian Life
To give you an example of how simply Spurgeon expounds on each topic, I'll share an excerpt of his thoughts on the concept of justification. He says, "According to our natural reliance on works for salvation, we tend to always talk about our own goodness and our own worthiness. We stubbornly hold to the idea that there must be something good in us for God to take notice of us. But this is a deception, and God sees through all deceptions. He knows that there is no goodness whatsoever in us. He says that there is no one righteous, no not one (Romans 3:10) and He knows all our righteousness's [are] as filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6). Therefore, the Lord Jesus didn't come into the world looking for those who were good and righteous, but to grant these virtues to people in need of them. He comes no because we are just, but to make us so, for He is the One that justifies the ungodly...With perfect justice, He has set up a system by which He can treat the guilty as if they lived free from offense all their life. In this way, He can treat them as if they are totally free from sin. He justifies the ungodly." He also says, "The salvation of God is for those who don't deserve it and have no way to make themselves ready or good enough for it. This may sound odd, but it is a reasonable statement because the only ones who need justifying are those who have no justification of their own. That includes all of us. For only the perfectly righteous would have no need of justifying." So you can see by the way he writes, Spurgeon wants to make sure the reader completely understands what he is sharing with them. He also uses personal examples from his own life to help the reader know the writings in the book not only apply to others but to himself as well.

I can't give enough praise to this book! If I could, I'd had out copies of it to everyone I meet. It is so powerful and simple but explains the truth of God's plan to redeem us so well. Spurgeon incorporates the "Roman Road" concept of salvation in Jesus Came to Save Sinners and his explanations of each Scripture will sweetly point the reader to Christ.

I would like to thank Aneko Press for the opportunity to review this book in exchange for my honest opinion. I was not encouraged to give a positive review although it was my pleasure to do so. Please read Jesus Came to Save Sinners! It will bless you and I'm sure you'll also want to pass a copy on to someone you know.

You can purchase a paperback copy of the book here.
If you prefer an ebook copy at no charge, please click here.


Thursday, March 16, 2017

Escape Routes by Johann Christoph Arnold (a review)

Wisdom is gained by life experience and the aged often have profound pieces of advice to share with those of the younger generation; often, however, the young are too busy to stop and listen or even heed the advice of the older and wiser around them. Johann Christoph Arnold was different. He did stop to listen to the advice offer by a much older and wiser woman. Her name was Maureen and she shared this sage advice when the author mentioned his desire to write a book about heaven and hell:

"A book on heaven and hell? I just don't know. I'm not sure it's a good use of one's time - to worry about the afterlife, and where you'll go when you die. It's probably unhealthy. There's plenty to do right now, here on earth. You can find joy in the present, real joy, through serving others - by helping them or easing their load. You can also look out just for yourself, though if you do you will always be grumpy. You will never be satisfied. maybe that's hell...Now, I suppose if I were concerned about the afterlife I would have something more to tell you, but I haven't."

After hearing her perspective, Arnold began his book. He felt all of us have some form of hell in our lives and with that hell, there also comes a kind of happiness or a glimpse of heaven, too. As a pastor for over 40 years, Johann Christoph Arnold heard many stories of sadness along with stories of joy. Each of those stories contained a deep searching heart longing for a place of belonging and love. Many of the tales revolved around loneliness. As Arnold gathered information for his book, he found many people today also suffer from extreme loneliness. Even in the midst of community, there can be an unsatisfied need for purpose and belonging. Arnold blames some of those feelings on social media and the false sense of community it offers. He says, " The rise of the Internet has not, as some hoped, ended our isolation. True, people use social media to interact with others daily, even hourly. Yet when it comes to building relationship between people, these social technologies may actually reduce social involvement and psychological well being, in the words of one scientific study. It's common sense. The time we spend online cuts down on the time we could devote to a spouse, a child, or a coworker who might be sitting right next to us. Even the best virtual exchange is disembodied and cannot possibly replace face to face interaction with flesh and blood friends."  Mr. Arnold says "loneliness is so hazardous that people who are physically healthy but isolated are twice as likely to die during a given decade as those who live surrounded by others."

Escape Routes is a book about how we live our lives and the questions each of us have about our future. Arnold shares stories from different types of people in his book. The common thread between all of them is they want and need to feel like they belong and are valued. Arnold doesn't spend time in his book on preaching the message of salvation, instead he wants the reader to understand how disconnected we call can feel in today's world.

The book causes the reader to consider his own mortality. Do we truly understand the meaning of suffering? Can it be beneficial to helping us understand the importance of focusing on being present in the moment? The most important question of all is will we choose to love?

I found the book to be thought provoking and I enjoyed reading about the lives of others. Some of their stories did not end well but not all lives do end well. Mr. Arnold did a good job of expressing how others cope when they feel unloved. He poised many questions to his readers throughout the book about life here on this Earth and about life after we leave this place.

Readers interested in sociology or humanities would enjoy this book. It is written well and is a quick read. I would have liked to have see Mr. Arnold present the plan of salvation in his book or at least quote Scriptures from the Bible offering his readers hope. I felt it was his responsibility, as a Christian, to point people to Christ. He did quote many famous authors in the book and did speak often about love, but did not put as much emphasis on Christ's love as I thought he should have done.

I was given a copy of Escape Routes by Plough Publishing in exchange for my honest review. I was not encouraged to give a positive review although it is my pleasure to do so. I would like to thank Plough Publishing for my review copy.

If you're interested in purchasing the book, you may do so here.

About the author: Born in Great Britain in 1940 to German refugees, Arnold spent his boyhood years in South America, where his parents found asylum during the war; he immigrated to the United States in 1955. He and his wife, Verena, have eight children and many grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Arnold is the Senior Pastor of the Bruderhof, a movement of Christian communities.


Monday, March 6, 2017

A Life for God, A Rabbi's Analysis of Life, the Cross, and Eternity

Reading a Biblical perspective written by a Jewish author was very enlightening for me. As I read Rabbi Greg Hershberg's book, I felt I'd received a secret key to unlock some of the deep mysteries of the Bible. The more I read about Jewish history, customs, and word meanings, the more the Bible came alive for me and I realized, even after having been a Christian for 50 years, there were things I did not completely understand about God's Word. Scripture became alive and fresh as indicated by this verse: "For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart." Hebrews 4:12

Rabbi Greg Hershberg, is a Messianic Jew. Messianic Jews are Jewish people who believe and have accepted Yeshua (the Hebrew name for Jesus) of Nazareth as the promised Messiah of the Hebrew Scriptures. These people do not stop being Jewish, but they continue to remain strong in their Jewish faith. Many Messianic Jews refer to themselves as “completed Jews,” since they believe their faith in the God of Israel has been “completed” or fulfilled in Yeshua (Jesus).

A Life for God is Rabbi Hershberg's written effort to help both Jews and Christians alike come to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. He presents an abundant amount of information gleaned from the Torah and from the Bible. He covers topics such as Eternal Life, Covenants, Offerings, the Crucifixion, the Greatest Commandment, and Gematria (Biblical symbolism of numbers).

Rabbi Hershberg writes his book well. It is easy to understand and filled with Scripture references. Not only did Hershberg take time to include specific Scriptures to illuminate topics, he also included history from Jewish manners and customs. The Greek and Hebrew word studies Rabbi Hershberg included were relevant and helped me gain a better understanding of Scripture. As I read each chapter in the book, I learned something I'd never known before. For instance, in the chapter entitled, "A Sacrifice, Living and Set Apart for God," Rabbi Hershberg is explaining details of the crucifixion. He describes the various types of wounds Christ endured before and on the cross. He tells about the Roman custom of breaking the legs of those crucified. This was usually done to hasten death so the bodies could be removed before sundown but in Jesus' case, his legs were not broken. Rabbi Hershberg states this was because they noticed he was already dead but more than that, it was to fulfill Scripture, Psalm 34:20, "He protects all his bones; not one of them gets broken." Next Rabbi Hershberg speaks about the wound Jesus suffered from the spear tip of the Roman when his side was pierced. Blood and water gushed out. I always wondered why water poured forth and I understood after reading the Rabbi's explanation - "By thrusting his spear into the side of Yeshua, the soldier actually fulfilled the prophecy of Zechariah. And from this wound, blood and water flowed, blood for the forgiveness of sin and water for the washing away of the guilt of our sin. If we recall the brazen altar and laver, we realize that Yeshua fulfilled that requirement for approaching the father. The blood was shed at the altar, and the guilt washed away at the laver, just as the blood and water flowed from Yeshua's side. He laid down His own life as a voluntary act. The incised wound was one of the last prophecies to be fulfilled while Yeshua was on earth."

A Life for God fills the reader with hope. If a devout Jewish Rabbi can understand and accept the truths of the Bible and share his understandings in such a clear and concise way, anyone who reads this book should be able to receive the message of salvation. For the skeptic, Hershberg presents practical evidence. For the Christian, Hershberg presents rich history stepped in Jewish tradition. For the Jew, Hershberg presents the gospel with tenderness and compassion but also with power and truth.

I enjoyed this book immensely. I have always wanted to learn and understand more about the Jewish life and Rabbi Hershberg helped me do that. I'm thankful he took time to include information about the Jewish faith and their history in this book.  I feel I have a better understanding of the Bible and a clearer picture of what life was like for Jesus as a Jewish man.

I was given a copy of the book, A Life for God, in exchange for my honest review. I would like to thank Aneko Press for the opportunity to read this book and I would like to recommend it to others interested in learning more about the Messianic Jewish movement and about how we should live for God.

Monday, February 27, 2017

Life of the Beloved by Henri J. M. Nouwen (a book review)

Henri Nouwen is considered one of the great spiritual writers of our day. A teacher at Harvard, Yale, and Notre Dame, Nouwen is well versed in many subjects but theology is among his first loves. As a Catholic priest and follower of Christ, Henri Nouwen felt compelled to share his beliefs on how to live a better life while on this Earth and did a beautiful job in this book.

Upon meeting journalist, Fred Bratman, Henri Nouwen discovered a deep desire to help Bratman understand what it meant to live a life as God's beloved. During an interview, while Nouwen was teaching at Yale, Bratman was sent to do a profile on Nouwen. As they talked, Henri asked if the journalist liked his job and was surprised to find Bratman did not. He was only doing the job because it was his job. When the interview was complete, they began to talk about more important thing in life and Nouwen felt a deep compassion for Bratman. He says in his book, "What was happening between us seemed to me quite similar to what happened when Jesus looked steadily at the rich young man and was filled with love for him." Mark 10:21. Beneath Bratman's heart of cynicism and sarcasm, Nouwen sensed a beautiful heart - one that longed to give, create, and live a fruitful life. The more he listened, the more he wanted to help. Thus began his teachings on how to live the life of the beloved.

The book is written as a very personal letter to a dear friend. In it, Nouwen takes time to explain in depth exactly what it means to be beloved, how he knows we are considered to be beloved, and why we should live as beloved children of God.

I found the book to be very inspiring. I especially enjoyed the chapter entitled "Broken." The profound truths in this chapter spoke to me personally. Nouwen stated, "Perhaps the simplest beginning would be to say that our brokenness reveals something about who we are. Our sufferings and pains are not simply bothersome interruptions of our lives; rather, they touch us in our uniqueness and our most intimate individuality". He also said, "Our brokenness is always lived and experienced as highly personal, intimate and unique. I am deeply convinced that each human being suffers in a way no other human being suffers."

If you're searching for insightful truths written in a caring and compassionate way, this book is for you. It is well written and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

The Jubilee Bible - From the Scriptures of the Reformation

The Jubilee Bible is a unique translation of the Holy Bible taken from the Scriptures of the Reformation. Translators from the original texts in Hebrew and Greek into Spanish were made by Casiodoro De Reina, Cipriano de Valera, Francisco de Enzinas, and Juan Perez de Pineda, godly men of the reformation period. Russell Stendal, a missionary to Columbia, then translated their work from Spanish to English. He painstakingly compared this translation to that of English translator William Tyndale and also compared it word for word with the text of the authorized version of the King James Bible. Stendal's intention was to return the translations to the closest possible version of the original received text (Textus Receptus).
Editor Russell Stendal

The Jubilee Bible is written so the reader does not need to depend on theological dictionaries or reference materials. The Jubilee Bible is the only translation we know of that has each unique Hebrew word matched and mated with a unique English word so that the usage (number of occurrences and number of verses where the word occurs) sets forth a meaningful number pattern and a complete definition of what God means by each word.

This Bible is a bound in a leatherette tan material. It is embossed with a lovely tree design on the front cover along with the title. The Bible includes a ribbon marker, a listing of both Old and New Testament books, a dictionary of Proper Names, and translator's notes. The paper used is lightweight and the font is small at 10 points. Text is tight and margins are very small. There is no gold gilding to the pages and the words of Jesus are not written in red.

As the owner of many versions of the Holy Bible, I compare the Jubilee Bible most closely to my King James Bible. I did notice, in most of my other Bibles, each verse begins with a capital letter. This is not so in the Jubilee Bible because of the attention to grammar. There are some words added in italics by the translator for clarification.

I would like to give an example of text in various translations for comparison's sake. I have chosen John 15 verse 6:

Jubilee Bible: He who does not abide in me shall be cast forth as an unsound branch and shall wither, and they are gathered and cast into the fire and are burned. 

Authorized King James Version: If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned.
Amplified Bible: If anyone does not remain in Me, he is thrown out like a [broken off] branch, and withers and dies; and they gather such branches and throw them into the fire, and they are burned.

I found it interesting the word used to describe the branch in the Jubilee Bible was "unsound." In Hebrew, the word indicates infirmity, sickness or disease. I'd never thought of the branch as being diseased until I read the Jubilee version and this helped me gain a deeper insight into the verse. 

The Jubilee Bible is appealing to me because of the similarity to the King James Version of the Bible I grew up on, but for those unfamiliar with the text of the King James, the use of Old English might prove difficult to read or understand. 

Overall, I would give this Bible an A. It is well made and the translation is sound. I would have liked to have seen better paper used for the pages and a more defined transition between books of the Bible but those are my own personal preferences. 

Thank you, Aneko Press Publishers, for allowing me the chance to read and review this lovely Bible. It was my pleasure to do so. The opinions expressed in this post are my own and I was not encouraged to give a positive review.