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Monday, March 28, 2011

"Thriving at College" by Alex Chediak

There are many college books out there to advise students out there. What makes this book different is that it has a focus on Christian students and is written by a college professor--who teaches engineering at a Christian institution. Depending on one's level in life, some of the lessons in this book may be redundant. However, when used as a reference book for when students have particular questions, this does a superb job. Bible verses are quoted often, and pertinent advice is given. I don't agree with everything the author says, but the overall intention is good. For instance, I think it's good for students to take a Sabbath (or whole weekend) to do no homework. However, I do like how he said that female students ought not to dumb themselves down.

Friday, March 25, 2011

"Love Amid the Ashes" by Mesu Andrews

Most readers--Christian or otherwise--are familiar with the Book of Job from the Bible or at least the premise of the story. This faithful guy loses his possessions when God allows satan to wreak havoc on his life. In the end, Job prays for those who are mocking him and is blessed with more than what he had lost. Andrews takes this story and weaves it into fiction. Of course, she had to add some stuff here and there to make it a novel. However, for the most part, the accuracy is there. What's interesting is the emotions and dialog between Job and his family and friends--especially the women in his life. Want a real dramatic novel that's based on the Bible? Pick up this book.


AUTHOR INTERVIEW


What do you like about the book of Job?

I like that it shows a godly man doubting himself and God. I think even the most spiritually mature believers can become discouraged and doubt. Job’s recorded suffering and questioning of his faith gives us all a measure of hope that we’re never too far gone to come back. We can be completely honest with God about our anger, bitterness, doubts, discouragement; and our merciful God may chastise us but will always love us back into His embrace. And to be completely honest, I’m thankful that Job’s situation is so completely awful—beyond anything I’ve ever heard of anyone else suffering. Even the most tragic of lives can still look at Job and say, “Well, at least my situation isn’t THAT bad!”


What do you say to "Christians" who think Job is just a story but didn't really happen?

I simply smile and say nothing. After growing up in a household of plaid Protestants (Charismatics, Quakers, Wesleyans, Nazarenes, etc.), I’ve had all the arguing I care to endure. I’m not a scholar, so I don’t know all the historical data to support my view that God’s Word is what it appears to be. I can only say that after a year of research, I found nothing to discourage my belief that Job was a real person and actually endured an extended illness with profound blessing at the end of it.


What is your view on suffering?

I don’t like it!!! Ha! I believe it can have several origins. It may be, like Job’s, an attack by our eternal enemy. Or it could be discipline from a loving Heavenly Father, an amended concept to Job’s friends’ accusations. I also believe it can simply be the natural consequences of living in a sin-sick world, an expected byproduct of the Fall. The truth is, I don’t think it’s as important to concentrate on WHY we’re suffering as HOW to deal with it, and more specifically, WHO to turn to in the midst of it.


How do you think Job's suffering story would be different if Job were a woman?

Great question! Job-ette wouldn’t have been allowed to lounge around on an ash pile for a year! All kidding aside, I’m not sure the story would have been preserved if the suffering had been a woman’s. I believe that’s part of the power of Job’s testimony. He was the wealthiest, the most blessed, the greatest man in the East. This description infers the epitome of strength and honor, leading to the lowest depths of human suffering at the threshold of death’s door. In the ancient mind, a woman would not have provided the extreme height to accentuate the plummeting depth. Because men traditionally recorded and preserved history, I’m thankful the Lord used a man to record and preserve Job’s lesson.


Why do you think Job was finally blessed when he prayed for his friends that yelled at him?

I think Job, like many of us, became too self-focused during his suffering. He couldn’t see others, nor could he see and worship God. When the Lord finally revealed Himself in an undeniable way, He pressed Job to continue his outward focus—to see his friends’ needs. I was startled to realize that Scripture does not specifically say Job was ever healed. Obviously, we assume God’s blessing includes healing, but how much of Job’s physical healing came as he focused on others? And how much was immediate and miraculous? Because Love Amid the Ashes is biblical FICTION, I can create that answer. Because I live with a tendency to be me-focused, I must live-out that answer.



Read the first chapter of "Love Amid the Ashes" at www.MesuAndrews.com. You can also download free Bible study and discussion questions and sign up for free weekly e-devotionals.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

"The Chasm" by Randy Alcorn

Wowza, is there a lot of symbolism in this book! The protagonist Nick is in some sort of land that relates to Earth. There is a big chasm separating him from Charis. Charis is this great city of light and laughter that seems to represent Heaven. Throughout his journeys, Nick meets several different people. The reader has a fun time discerning who is really a friend and who is really a foe. Spiritual warfare is heavy in this book, and the illustrations are not for the faint of heart. When it comes to Jesus and the Crucifixion, there is also a plot event that correlates to it. It is not exactly the same in the sense that the story is in AD30 Middle East. However, Alcorn paints a vivid picture that makes the Passion easy to understand, especially for those that are not exactly Bible scholars. Also, at the end of the book, there are discussion questions and even a short list of Bible verses to guide the reader. I knew Alcorn was an apologetic theologian, but I had no idea how well he could write Christian fiction that impacts readers. Plus, at just over 100 pages, this book is short and easy to read.

Friday, March 18, 2011

"The Nature of Love: A Theology" by Thomas Oord

From the onset, this book is all right. The author talks heavily about the theology of love--big surprise, right? Anyway, at the first and last chapter, a plethora of Bible verses are quoted. However, in the middle chunk of the book, the Scripture quotes dies down as theologians are quoted more. Oord goes into the philosophies and lingual sciences as he makes his points. To the average reader, things seem fine. However, to the aged Christian, some little warning flags come up. A sentence here and there is disturbing, but--again--the average reader will either not pick up on it or just gloss over it. At one point. Oord says traditions and habits help make on a virtuous Christian. This is tiptoeing awfully close to works. At another point, Oord says that God only loves those who keep His commandments and takes a verse out of line. God loves everybody and never stops. For those that don't keep His commandments, He'll deal with them appropriately, but, at the end of the day, God loves everybody. When God removes His hand of protection or allows some calamity to strike a people, it is for the sole purpose of having the people return to Him. Even if people are just being tested, the purpose is still for the people to turn back to Him. God loves the sinners but hates the sins. When people end up in hell, it's not because God doesn't love them. God loves people so much to give them free will and woo rather than coerce them into His love. When people are in hell, it's their own choice and their own fault.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

"Bathsheba" by Jill Eileen Smith

This is the third book is the King David series, but readers won't really be missing out if they haven't read the first two. While many Christians are familiar with the basic story of David and Bathsheba, even those that don't will know what is going on. Smith uses some Bible verses at the beginning of each of her three parts of the book. However, I think she should have included all of what the Bible says about the story and then less of her own story-crafting. Granted, what Smith writes about is fairly accurate, she obviously puts in her own style and fabricates details about characters to make the story come to life. Regarding the romance, it is not graphic in the least, but at times can get a tad racy. Overall, this book is a good read, but readers will get a richer--and quicker--tale if they just go straight to the Bible.

Available March 2011 at your favorite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group.

Monday, March 14, 2011

"Money and Marriage" by Matt Bell

I'm sure it's no surprise to people that most marriages end due to fiscal altercations. Bell's book aims to give couples (engaged or married) the tools to live happily together and not fight about money. Bible verses and principles are quoted when necessary, and the book is clearly organized. Surveys and charts are given, and economic terms are defined. There are even prompted questions meant for couples to go through together. My only criticism is that in the section that covers giving, Bell discusses being blessed for giving. While God does say He will bless us when we give generously, people should not give away money / possessions just because they think they'll get a reward; also, the reward may not come in this life. Besides that, the book is a good reference for couples to use. There is even personal advice from the author and other personal accounts that readers can relate to.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

"The Grad's Guide to Surviving Stressful Times" from TH1NK

When I chose to review this book, I figured it'd be another self-help book for Christian teens ready to make their transition from high school to college. My mind was tumbled and turned upside down when I finally began reading the book. Does it discuss how to cope with stress and college like the title suggests? Yes. However, what's unique is that the book focuses on the Book of Daniel from the Bible. Verses are dissected, and readers learn how this prophet was not too different from them. Readers learn about Daniel's childhood and adolescence, how he was taken from home, how he had a close-knit group of friends, how he got his first job, how he relied on God, and how he never once stood by or succumbed to peer pressure that would involve denying his God--even in the face of death. This book will make readers really relate to the Daniel of the Bible and learn that stories from the Bible can definitely be related to their own lives. Superb.

"If God, Why Evil?" by Norman Geisler

In this highly intellectual book, Geisler knocks down many claims that atheists make about God not existing in an evil world. He uses bullet points and organized lists to clearly lay out each argument he makes. Bible verses are heavily used, with the majority of them being only referenced and not actually quoted on the page. What's more, Geisler does not just talk about pain and evil in an objective sense. No; he shares some deep and personal pain from his own life. While I do not agree with every single argument made in the book, the author does make some good points and points to how God is real and why evil is in the world. This would be a great gift to an atheist friend who likes solid arguments over "faith" talks.

"A Conversation with God for Women" by Marcia Ford

Like the title suggests, this book is full of dialog between women and God. Various topics like prayer, the Bible, God, Jesus, relationships, and life come up. Essentially, the way the book is laid out, a question is laid out to God, and God answers. While Ford uses Bible verses and Biblical insight, she often writes a narrative as if God is actually speaking to the women and leaves the Bible verses for the end of the book. They are footnoted in the chapters and included in the notes section at the back. Also, sometimes, Ford utilizes other Bible characters to voice responses. The book has good intentions, but not everyone may like this style. On the plus side, the pages are very glossy.