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.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Surprised by Faith by Dr. Don Bierle

Since I've been a Christian, I've always been interested in Apologetics, the art of defending the Christian faith. The Scripture, found in 1 Peter 3:15, ..."Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have..." prompted me to have that interest. It also prompted me to not only understand why I believe what I believe, but to be willing and ready to share it with others. I feel like it's a great responsibility and I don't take it lightly. 

When I received a copy of the newly updated book, Surprised by Faith, by Dr. Don Bierle, I was excited to learn this was a book on Apologetics. The subtitle for the book explains well, Dr. Bierle's quest to uncover proof that would defend his faith: "A skeptic discovers more to life than what we can see, touch, and measure."

As a college student, Don Bierle, began to search for answers. During his undergraduate and graduate studies, he became cynical about faith and religion. He felt faith was not based on truth but rather on personal preference and opinion. He linked faith with emotion and suspected it was an illusion that offered a type of security blanket to the believer. He viewed religion as being a crutch for the weak. But as he surmised these views, Don still had questions. Like many others, he wanted to know what his purpose was in life. He wanted to understand why he was on planet Earth. He wondered what significance and value his life held. There were more questions than there were answers and Bierle wanted his questions to be answered. 

As he began to research, Dr. Bierle started with the basic question of wondering about God's existence. Was He real and if He was really real, how could he know for certain? Bierle detemined for God to exist, he needed tangible proof. He wanted to see, feel, and touch him and the only way to do that would be to have physical evidence of His existence. 

Don studied world religions. He compared their likes and their differences. He studied many books and religious leaders. The Christian claim that Jesus was God intrigued him. He also learned Christianity claimed God made Himself available to be known in the natural world of reason and evidence. In order to test this claim, written records of the existence of Jesus would need to be produced. Reliable and trustworthy records from the first century must exist and not only that, there must be a scientific method of gathering facts and the evidence must be reviewed objectively. 

The jumping off point for Bierle's research began with the statement "Is the Bible True?" In his book, Dr. Bierle compared Biblical text against ancient historical documents for accuracy. His research revealed ancient manuscripts recorded by eyewitnesses attested to the fact that Jesus did exist and the Bible was actually true. Not only did Bierle research documents, he studied historical artifacts found in Israel and in the surrounding regions. Dr. Bierle said in his book, "Based on the very methods which literary and historical scholars use today, the only reasonable and logical conclusion I can draw is that the Bible is the most reliable book of antiquity." Archaeological discoveries confirmed writings found in the New Testament and proved they were historically reliable. 

Questions presented in Surprised by Faith include: 

Why Am I Here?
Is the Bible True?
Is Jesus Really God?
Can Faith Be Reasonable?
Where Am I?
How Can I Know God?

The book presents factual evidence of the existence of Jesus Christ as a human being on Earth. Dr. Bierle takes a scientific approach to prove each piece of information he gathered. Like a lawyer presenting evidence for an important case, Dr. Don Bierle thoroughly researched and uncovered evidence to provide even an Atheist with enough information to win the case for faith. 

I found the book interesting and well written. I enjoyed learning about historical artifacts and how they fit into Biblical history. My own personal faith was reaffirmed as I read Dr. Bierle's book. This book is an important tool to help both unbelievers and believers understand answers to basic questions we all have about our faith. 

I was given this copy of Surprised by Faith by Aneko Press in exchange for my review. I would like to thank them for the opportunity to provide my honest opinion without being persuaded to give a positive review. 

Thursday, February 9, 2017

The Death of Christian Thought by Michael D. LeMay

Humanism. What is it and how do we fight against it? In the powerful book by Michael D. LeMay, humanism is not only clearly defined but explained in great detail.

Humanism, as described in LeMay's book, The Death of Christian Thought, is "An outlook or system of thought attaching prime importance to human rather than divine or supernatural matters. Humanist beliefs stress the potential value and good news of human beings, emphasize common human needs, and seek solely rational ways of solving human problems." Humanism is not only dangerous, it is deadly.

Mr. LeMay states, in the first paragraph of his book, "America is in a crisis. The greatest nation in the history of the world, founded upon the wisdom of Judeo-Christian principle, is on the verge of total economic and social collapse as our leaders and people have abandoned God and His Word." As I read these statements, I had to shake my head in agreement. Having lived on this Earth for nearly 60 years, I've seen evidence of secular humanism increase in our country year after year. LeMay says, "Ove the past one hundred years, an enemy has infiltrated the hearts and minds of American leaders and people, convincing us we know better than God how we should live in and govern our nation." He is right. Satan is a live and well on planet Earth.

When I first received this book to review, I didn't think I would enjoy reading it. I hadn't studied much about humanism and wasn't particularly looking forward to learning about it but the more I read, the more intrigued I became. I found, through Mr. LeMay's ability to give a prophetic outlook on the state of our nation, I was unable to put the book down. It was eye opening to read the ways Satan has infiltrated our government, our schools and most importantly our churches. I found myself saddened by the profound truth contained in The Death of Christian Thought. Mr. LeMay says, "...the enemy that is slowly infiltrating our nation and churches hopes we are so preoccupied with our daily activities that we have not noticed how he is dismantling our nation and the Christian church. Many are begin systematically conditioned to reject truth and embrace deception with grave eternal consequences." LeMay's book not only explains the dangers of humanism, it also presents a true picture of salvation - how to be secure in your faith and how to share it with others.

I enjoyed the writing style Mr. LeMay used in his book. It was easy to read and understand. Each chapter contained an objective which was clearly defined. Personal examples and biblical principles were also given in each chapter. At the end of each chapter, a summary was included. I also enjoyed Mr. LeMay's use of Greek and Hebrew word meanings. As he presented scripture to substantiate truths presented, he made sure to expound on these truths by providing Greek or Hebrew words that would help the reader truly understand the meaning of the scripture with a deeper insight.

It's scary to think the world we live in today is so easily deceived and humanism is so widely accepted but Mr. LeMay helps the reader see this is exactly what's happening. For those who love the Lord, Mr. LeMay's book, The Death of Christian Thought, will prick hearts and prompt them to pray for our country as never before.

I would like to thank Aneko Press for allowing me the chance to review this book in exchange for my honest review. I enjoyed reading it and feel like this is a must read for all believers.

For a short video clip by the author and to purchase your copy of Mr. LeMay's book, click here.

The Soul Winner by Charles H. Spurgeon

Charles Haddon Spurgeon was born June 19, 1834 in England and was considered to be the "Prince of Preachers" although he had no formal theological training. He was a dedicated servant of God and preached until he died at the age of 57. His preaching style has inspired many pastors all over the world. He remains a respected and influential source of inspiration and study among today's pastors.

Contained in this updated version of Spurgeon's original book, The Soul Winner, are compilations of college lectures and church sermons. The tasks of winning souls was extremely important to Charles Spurgeon and he says, "Soul winning is the most important concern of the Christian minister. In fact, it should be the main pursuit of every true believer." His book is not only a practical handbook for ministers giving specific instructions on the process of winning souls, but it is also a step by step guide for believers to lead others to Christ.

I was impressed, as I read the book, by Spurgeon's heart for the lost. It was important for Spurgeon to not only make converts for the church, but to make sure those he ministered to completely understood and grasped the concept of what it meant to be saved. He stressed the importance of making sure the convert not only had a head knowledge of Christ, but a heart knowledge. One of the most important aspects Spurgeon stressed was the fact that the Holy Spirit is the one who does the work. Believers can present the truth but the Holy Spirit is the one who does the wooing and drawing of the lost soul.

The Soul Winner is designed to help the minister or lay person understand the foundational truths to soul winning. There are chapters on sin, holiness of character, how to encourage people to win souls, and the cost of being a soul winner among others. I was impressed with Spurgeon's ability to clearly and concisely present step by step instructions on understanding every aspect of soul winning. As I read the book, I not only gained a better understanding of how to reach others for Christ, I also gained a better understanding of my own salvation experience. 

I especially appreciated the chapter entitled Obstacles in Our path as We Seek to Win Souls for Christ. It was helpful to understand some of the deterrents facing believers as they pursue the lost. Some of the obstacles mentioned by Spurgeon include unbelief, delay, carnal security, despair, love of sin, self righteousness and worldliness. Spurgeon explains each of these in detail and presents methods to overcome each obstacle. 

The responsibility and desire to win souls should be on the heart of every believer. The Soul Winner presents clear evidence of this fact. I felt inspired after reading the book and made a commitment to focus more on leading others to Christ in the future. 

The Soul Winner is a small but very powerful book. I think it should be included in every Christian pastor's library and used often as a vital resource for soul winning. The information contained in this book is valuable and filled with truth. 

I would like to thank Aneko Press for affording me the opportunity to review this book. The knowledge I gleaned from it was very worthwhile.

If you'd like to purchase a copy of The Soul Winner, you may do so here.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

The Holy War (Updated version) by John Bunyan

Almost every Christian I know is familiar with John Bunyan and his famous book, Pilgrim's Progress, but not many are familiar with another of his works, The Holy War. The original version of this book was published in 1682. It contained prim and proper English wording commonly used at that time. Since this presented some difficulty for today's readers, Aneko Press has carefully updated the text to aid in clarifying meaning making this challenging book relevant for today.

The book is 427 pages long and includes bonus content about the life of John Bunyan written by William Brock. A helpful glossary of names is also included at the back of the book.

The Holy War is a beautifully written allegory which takes place in the town of Mansoul. Key characters in the story are aptly named by Mr. Bunyan according to their traits or roles. I found the story quite enjoyable and felt myself becoming part of the tale as I read it. The well thought out details provided a great visual for the reader.

The story line is familiar to Christians, as Mr. Bunyan brings the spiritual realm of light and dark to life. The great battle, The Holy War, that ensues is not only between Diabolus (the evil foe) and Shaddai (the Great Prince of Peace) but between confused and conflicted townsfolk who must learn where to place their allegiance.

As I read the book, I found myself empathizing with the characters. I could easily slip into some of the roles and take on their feelings. For example, as the Prince is speaking to the people of Mansoul, in Chapter fourteen, he says, "Are you the men who permitted yourselves to be corrupted and defiled by that abominable one, Diabolus?" They answered and said, "We did more than permit it, Lord. We chose it with our own free will." The conversation continues and as the Prince (Shaddai) allows the townspeople to think about their actions, he presents them with another question, "What punishment do you think you deserve at My hand for these and other high and mighty sins of yours?" They answer, "We deserve both death and the grave, Lord." This powerful conversation caused me to see myself before the Lord answering the same questions.

Throughout the book, key scriptures are inserted to allow the reader a more complete understanding of previously presented text. I found each scripture to be perfectly accurate and appropriately placed. Scriptures used were taken from the Jubilee Bible (published by Life Sentence Publishing). These verses contain both Hebrew and Greek word meanings in translation.

The Holy War is a powerful book. In a nutshell, the people of Mansoul fall prey to the treachery, lies, and deceit of the evil Diabolus (the symbolic Satanic figure). They allow him to rule over them and find he isn't quite what they thought. Mansoul has and always did belong to Shaddai, the glorious prince, (the symbolic figure of Jesus Christ). When he comes to redeem Mansoul, they don't readily see this is the best choice to make. They've come to enjoy their free will and have fallen prey to all the lusts of their darkened hearts. In a last ditch effort to hold tightly to Mansoul, Diabolus asks Shaddai to grant him half the town but is refused. He continues pleading asking for smaller and smaller portions and then even asks for permission to work outside the town. Shaddai lays claim to what is his and sets the prisoners free. In the great and mighty war, the realm of light and dark clash repeatedly until finally victory is won.

I enjoyed this book very much and will keep it in my library in hopes my children and grandchildren will take time to read it one day. I'm thankful Aneko Press felt it was worthwhile to update this version of John Bunyan's original work. I think this will make it more appealing to a wider audience of readers.

I'd like to thank Aneko Press for allowing the opportunity to review this book. I was not encouraged to give a positive review.

If you'd like to preorder the book, click here.

The Beautiful Garden of Eden by Gary Bower

I was so excited when my copy of the Beautiful Garden of Eden arrive in the mail. I'd been waiting to review this book for several reasons - first and foremost, I love children's books, especially Christian children's books and secondly, because I have 8 grandchildren and I'm always looking for good books to recommend to their parents. This book did not disappoint.

The Beautiful Garden of Eden was written by Gary Bower and illustrated by Barbara Chotiner. The story, if you haven't already figured it out, is based on the biblical account of Adam and Eve found in the book of Genesis of the Holy Bible. The author uses sing song rhymes to tell the story similar to the ones found in the story, The House That Jack Built. By using repetitive verses, Gary Bower helps children remember key story components.

I found this book well written and beautifully illustrated. I think the best audience for this children's book would be for those aged 8 through 12 years but generally speaking, children of all ages would enjoy it. Some of the wording might not be easily understood by younger children. Examples of some of the words that might need a little more explanation by parents to the younger listeners include: upheaval, comely, calamitous, deceive, woefully, wayward and others.

The story follows scripture well and is written in such a way that young listeners can retain and repeat most of the information. The author did a good job of conveying key biblical truths in an enjoyable manner.

The illustrations are bright and cheerful. Adam and Eve are displayed with a youthful appearance. The serpent in the story is presented in a nonthreatening illustration with tongue outstretched. There are no facial expressions to indicate the snake is evil other than Eve's slight smirk as she is pictured holding the apple in her hand.

On the last page of the book, the author has prompted readers to look to Genesis chapters 1 through 3 for the complete version of the story. I thought this was a very thoughtful addition to the book. At the bottom of the back page, the author also includes a verse of scripture from Galatians chapter 3 verse 13 which says, "Christ has rescued us from the curse." This verse was a beautiful way of conveying hope to the reader.

This book is part of the Faith that God Built series.  It is 32 pages long. The book is published by Tyndale House Publishers. I would like to thank Tyndale House Publishers for giving me the opportunity to review this lovely book. I was not encouraged to give a good review but I'm honored to do so.

You can watch a cute video clip of children reading part of the book here.
To purchase the book on Amazon, click here.
To visit Gary Bowers' website, click here.