Thursday, August 17, 2017

The Gospel of Jesus Christ - A Study in Mark (book review)

The book The Gospel of Jesus Christ, Whosoever Will Come After Me by Russell M. Stendal, is a study done on the Gospel of Mark. In this powerful book the reader will find many unexpected things. As I began reading it, I was expecting the author to expound on each verse (which he does) and give a commentary (which he also does). I wasn't expecting anything more. I assumed it would be the equivalent of one of my seminary studies but as I read, I found so much more. The author makes a point of giving key truths, Biblical history, Greek word studies, tips on righteous living, and an introduction to many Jewish customs. I learned so many new and exciting things as I read.

Mr. Stendal's writing is descriptive and easy to read. The reader will find he/she is being transported back in time. An example of the writer's ability to do this can be found in Chapter 8 of the book. This title is called "Thou Art the Christ" and focuses on Mark chapter 8. You may have heard about the blind man who had his sight restored by Jesus. This man had been blind from birth. He had heard about Jesus healing others and he wanted to be healed. His desire to regain his sight led him to walk forward with courage to approach Jesus. Jesus did not turn him away but took him by the hand, led him out of town, spat in his eyes and healed him. As you read the account offered by Mr. Stendal, you'll gain a new perspective. Let me share an overview from one of Mr. Stendal's chapters, Mark 8: Mr. Stendal quotes the verses from Mark chapter 8. He begins in verse 22 and for this account, goes on to verse 26. Mr. Stendal gives background information on the city of Bethsaida. As he sets the scene, he says: "Bethsaida was a religious city whose inhabitants were not interested in giving God the glory for what Jesus was saying and doing..." Then he goes on to describe the healing event. "Jesus personally took him by the hand and led him out of the city in order to restore his sight, which he did in two stages. Unconventional as always, Jesus began by spitting into the man's eyes. That is hardly the sort of medical therapy that any of us would volunteer for, and among the Jews in particular, this was a great offense, as it was considered to render unclean the person who had been spat on. Even viewed from a spiritual perspective, it could be a very traumatic experience for any self-righteous religious person if Jesus were to 'spit in their eye' and demonstrate that their entire world view is unclean. The blind man, however felt nothing but gratitude, for after that first touch from Jesus, his vision began to return and he saw men who walked as trees." Mr. Stendal goes on to share relevant facts for today, "When Jesus first opens the eyes of those who are spiritually blind, the same thing tends to happen, inasmuch as the first reaction of many is to elevate man (to see men as tall as trees) and look up to those who are gifted and in ministry. It took a second touch from the Master to complete the healing to the point where the man was whole and could see everyone, far away and clearly. So, too, with fully recovering our spiritual sight."

The clear and concise writings of Mr. Stendal will provide an enjoyable and informative experience for the reader. His analytical thinking process provides the reader with definitive answers to questions they may have as they try to read and understand the book of Mark. At the end of each chapter, the author offers up prayer for the reader.

I found this book to be delightful. It was filled with so much information, I felt like I needed to read it a second time to glean more. Mr. Stendal's exposition of the chapters found in the book of Mark are well done and it is evident he has done much research to provide his text.

I would like to thank Aneko Press for allowing me the opportunity to read and review this book. I would like to give it a 5 star recommendation. I was not encouraged to give a positive review but it is my honor to do so. For those wishing to increase their biblical knowledge, this book is a must. You may purchase the book by visiting Aneko's website. If you'd like to download the free Ebook for Kindle, click here.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Sarah's Journey of Faith, Volume 3 - a book review

Recently I was given the opportunity to review the book, Sarah's Journey of Faith, From the Dark Clouds of China To the Blue Skies of America, Volume 3 by Sarah Liu. I knew before I even started to read this book that it would be special to me. China has had a soft place in my heart since 2005 when I traveled there for the very first time as a short term missionary. I had never been out of the country but knew God was calling me to be obedient to Him. My team of missionaries went to China under the guise of teaching English as a Second Language. That was the best way to get our Visas approved so we could enter the country. I went through specialized training so I could teach English but knew in my heart that wasn't the main purpose for my journey.

When I entered the country, I was astounded. In the airport, there were armed guards at every corner. In full uniform, they looked very ominous. Our sponsors warned us to remember we were entering a Communist country. We would need to abide by the Chinese government rules and regulations at all times. There was a feeling of being constantly watched as we proceeded through the airport and it had us on pins and needles.

After checking in to our hotel and meeting with our sponsors, we were able to connect with high school and college age students. They were interested in learning English but knew we were missionaries. We had many opportunities to share Christ with them and I didn't realize the real danger until one afternoon when I stepped out into the common area to meet with a young Chinese girl. I had my Bible under my arm and was ready to sit down and talk to her about how much Jesus loved her. There were guards surrounding the courtyard and they were moving toward me. My sponsor must have felt something was amiss. I was dumbfounded when he quickly approached me, took my Bible, and whispered, " You can't have this out in the open." At that moment, I was fearful. The reality that I could have been imprisoned slapped me in the face. Later that day, when our team reassembled to pray, the sponsor explained how dangerous my mistake had been. I could have jeopardized the entire team's work. God's hand was on me because He prompted the sponsor to come over to me and help at the very moment I needed it. I was humbled and grateful.

As I read the book, Sarah's Journey of Faith, I felt like I was back in China. As Sarah shared her story of being smuggled out of China, I clearly understood the danger. Her faith and bravery were so apparent as she trusted others to help her in dire circumstances. God's providential hand was upon her at every turn and when complete strangers stepped up to aid her, Sarah's faith was strengthened.

Despite being tortured and beaten, Sarah remained steadfast in her beliefs. During one particular instance of torture, Sarah said she felt like giving up. She silently prayed, "Lord, take my life, I can't endure this anymore." Sarah says, "In that case, God gave me a vision of Jesus on the cross, suffering for me. Enduring all that wrath of man, for me. In my darkest moment, Christ became my noonday sun in all its brilliance for me. I saw perfectly clearly what I was to do. I repented for wanting Jesus without the cross. In torture and in pain, I took up the cross and was taken to the edge of the abyss, and He was there!" Her statement, wanting Jesus without the cross, was so powerful. How many times do we long for Jesus but forget the immense amount of suffering He endured on our behalf?

Sarah also talked about the underground churches in China. When I was there, I was able to see some of these churches. They were well hidden and our sponsor explained we could not go closer for fear of jeopardizing the lives of the believers who worshiped there. Understanding their willingness to worship despite the possibility of torture, imprisonment, or death was heart wrenching and made me realize how very blessed we are to live in a country where we can worship freely.

Sarah's Journey of Faith, Volume 3, is a continuation of her testimony woven into 3 devotional books. As each chapter shares a little of her journey from China to America, she shares a verse of Scripture and provides some provoking questions to help the reader journal and reflect.

This book is a true story of sacrifice, faith, hope, and love. It will touch readers in a profound way. I recommend it especially for those interested in missions to Communist countries.

In closing, I want to mention one more instance of Sarah's book that struck me personally. Sarah shared the following, "At 9:30 a.m. on August 2, 2005, while two American tourists were preparing to have Christian fellowship with 41 Chinese House church pastors and believers in Zaoyang City, Hubei Province, approximately 30 Chinese plain clothed police officers rushed into the house. The same day, the 41 Chinese pastors and believers from evangelical South China Church were taken to No. 2 Zaoyang Prison." This incident happened exactly one month after I left China. I had been in the city of Xiamen on the Fujian Province, Zaoyang City was only a day away. The dangers there are very real and even today Christians in China are persecuted. Please remember to pray for those willing to risk their lives to take the gospel overseas. Chinese people need to learn about Christ's love and Sarah is just one of those who risked her live to obey Christ at any cost.

I would like to thank Aneko Press for giving me the opportunity to review this book. I was not encouraged to give a positive review although it is my honor to do so.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

How to Study the Bible by Dwight L. Moody (a review)

Dwight L. Moody is a well known name among Christians. This gentle man was born in Massachusetts in 1837. He was one of nine children. At the age of four, his father died. At the age of seventeen, he left home to become a shoe salesman. The following year, Moody was introduced to Christ by his Sunday school teacher and was saved. He continued to sell shoes and was making a comfortable living but felt the call to follow God. Leaving his job, he stepped into full time ministry. Although he was never ordained, he was a powerful evangelist.

How to Study the Bible is one of the Christian classics. Aneko Press has taken on the task of updated the original work which was entitled Pleasure and Profit in Bible Study. The updated version is easy to read and maintains the integrity of the original book.

The reader of this book will find evidence of Dwight L. Moody's love for God's Word. Throughout, Mr. Moody emphasizes the importance of understanding, studying, and treasuring God's magnificent gift to us, the Holy Bible.

Some of the chapters included in the book are as follows:

  • No true life without the Bible
  • The Word of God Is True
  • Don't Neglect the Old Testament
  • Take Time and Study
  • Look and Learn; Read and Remember
  • Take God at His Word
  • And more...
The author gives so much wisdom in this little book. I loved reading his perspectives and would like to share some of his wisdom and practical advice here through his direct quotes:
1. "The more you love Scriptures, the stronger your faith will be."
2. "If we feed on the Word of God, it will be easy to speak to others about the Word of God; and not only that, but we will also be growing in grace the entire time, and others will notice the change in our walk and conversation."  
3. "There is no book that will draw people in like the Bible."
4. "We must study the Bible thoroughly and hunt through it, as it were, for some great truth." 
5. "The quicker you learn to feed yourself, the better." 
6. "The best law for Bible study is the law of perseverance." 
7. "Read the Bible itself; do not spend all your time on commentaries and helps." 
8. "Every child of God ought to be like a soldier and always hold himself in readiness."
9. "Get ful lof Scripture, and then you can't help but say it."
10. Remember, it is the Holy Spirit and not you who does the converting and who gives new life."

How to Study the Bible is an excellent reference filled with powerful information. This book would be a wonderful addition to the library of old and new Christians alike. After reading How to Study the Bible, a reader would be well equipped to dig into God's Word and understand it better.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It gave me new insight on better ways to study. I would like to thank Aneko Press for giving me the opportunity to review this book in exchange for my honest review. I was not encouraged to give a positive review, but it is my pleasure to do so.

If you'd like your own copy of How to Study the Bible, click here