Monday, March 31, 2014

great book: Seeking Allah, finding Jesus


   An inspiring autobiography, this book reveals to the reader the heart of a devout Muslim and his journey from a dissatisfactory, confusing religion towards a powerful and real saving faith in Jesus Christ.
I found this book fascinating; one of the best books I've encountered in the past couple years. Although I came to this book with an understanding of Islam stemming from my life-long interest in the far east, I learned a great deal more of the heart of that religion, and what drives a devout Muslim.

   Uniquely, this book brings to life the family-life of a Muslim. Although Nabeel is definitely not trying to make his readers and audience fall in love with the Muslim faith, he presents an honest picture of what he experienced growing up in a loving family.  He fosters the hope that the reader will remove personal prejudices against Muslims and view them as they view other non-Christian; with patience and love. Nabeel has met that goal, I think, in this book. We must be careful to not view every person of middle-eastern background as a 'threat'! Rather we need to treat them as every other non Christian we associate with!
I have always felt a concern for people of the Islamic faith and worried that American Christians are perhaps 'turning them off' by their lack of patience and love. We should not categorize non Christians as if some are 'closer to heaven' than others. When we do this, it is usually a result of personal fears and prejudices, don't you think?
Despite coming to this book already prepared for Nabeel's message, I was moved beyond expectation.

   I thought the questioning portion of Mr. Querishi's life one of the most interesting parts of the book. The debates and arguments which took significant place in the author's life when he was still seeking make up a significant part of this book.  I find that they present some of the best ideas of practical discussions with people of the Islamic religion.

  This is a challenging, convicting, uplifting book. It will even challenge you to examine your heart! It will push you to seek God as Nabeel did!
It is amazing to see how God brought Nabeel Quereshi to a saving faith through Jesus Christ! Now he putting his faith into practice by working with Ravi Zacharias's international ministries.
Needless to say, I highly recommend this book. The author is also a gifted writer, easily capturing the attention of the reader.
Did I mention that I recommend this book?

   Oh, and Christians, I thought this conversation in a portion of the book to be insightful. Although non-Christians are often mistaken in their judgement of Christians, there are things we can learn from their observant comments.

''What they're teaching people is that they can do whatever they want their whole lives ,and all they have to do is say a prayer and they'll go to heaven.....The purpose of religion is to make good people and a good society. If people can do whatever they want, they will indulge their sinful desires and society will fall apart. They have a blank check to sin....And that's why America is the way it is. Christians teach that there is no accountability for their deeds.''
hm...something to think about, eh? What impression are we giving the world?

I was pleased to receive this book in exchange for my honest opinion of it through the BookSneeze program.

Book review: Guiltless Living

Guiltless LivingGUILTLESS LIVING by Ginger Hubbard

   Author Ginger Hubbard sets off on the usually daunting task of transparently revealing her weaknesses and the many ways she gives in to them. Many women will be able to relate to Ginger's struggles with pride, control, impatience, selfishness...

This seven-chapter book also includes a Bible study guide on major character flaws (sins!) along with their godly opposite character traits: Critical versus encouraging, controlling versus sovereign, etc.

Although mentioned in reviews as ''hilarious'', I didn't find Ginger Hubbard's style incredibly humorous, despite the fact that I do have a great sense of humor.

  I appreciated this author's use of Scripture in this work of hers.
 Each chapter is filled with relevant passages. She does a good job of driving her point home in an enthusiastic manner. The lessons from each of her confessions make sense.

  I also thought it good that this woman doesn't laugh off ''normal'' sins such as road rage, proud thoughts, etc. Instead she actually makes herself out to be the worst of sinners in each of those moments. Which is how each of us should view ourselves. Every time we sin, it is an enormous trespass against God's law. This book has a good perspective on the depth of even the 'little' sins, balanced biblically with God's grace and forgiveness to His children.

I was personally not impressed with this easy-to-read book. Although I struggle with several of the sins presented in it, I found the lessons pretty basic.

I was offered this book through the Cross Focused Reviews program. I was encouraged to express my honest opinion of the book, whether negative or positive.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Great book: Choosing Gratitude by Nancy Leigh DeMoss

   CHOOSING GRATITUDE by Nancy Leigh DeMoss

Choosing Gratitude: Your Journey to JoyIs the gratitude that flows out of your life as abundant as the grace that flows into your life?

  You may think of yourself as a pretty grateful person, I know I did. I am one of the most thankful people for all the blessings the Lord heaps upon me! But what about the hard times? What about the lessons and trials of life which are sent by God?
As I force myself to realize, being grateful for God's work in your life a year after, is not true gratitude. Imagine how different your life would be if you maintained an attitude of thanksgiving?

As the author emphasizes, ''gratitude is a lifestyle.''
''The grateful heart that springs forth in joy is not acquired in a moment; it is the fruit of a thousand choices.''

''True gratitude is not an incidental ingredient. Nor is it a stand-alone product, something that never actually intersects with life, safely denying reality out on its own little happy island somewhere'' (pg.23)

Without living with a true heart of thankfulness...
''Gradually, subtly, we become desensitized as layers of entitlement and resentment wrap themselves around our hearts until thankfulness is all but gone from our lives and lips.''
Oh, how I agree! I have felt this too often in my life. This holds true even day by day. As soon as we let go and retreat into our natural way of feeling sorry for ourselves, it becomes like a trap.
The author tells the story of a church leader from India, when asked honest opinion of Americans. He responded carefully ''You have no idea how much you have, and yet you always complain.''
Isn't that (sadly) the case?
What are we going to do about it?

''Where does gratitude rank on your list of Christian virtues?''
 Nancy explains that faith without gratitude results in a heartless practice of religion. Christian love without gratitude culminates in disappointment and disillusionment. Sacrificial giving of self without gratitude will drain you of joy.

   I can't describe what a blessing this book was to me. Nancy gently but firmly encourages the reader to examine his or her heart and to work on changing personal attitudes.
It's not simply a matter of applying a Pollyanna-like attitude to life. It's about how you view God's hand in your life. And about how you view yourself in comparison to God's perfection and holiness! We should be overwhelmed by all that He has given us! I quote loosely from the movie Courageous: ''The question is- are you going to be thankful for the nine years you had Emily, or resentful for the years you didn't have?'

 Nine chapters of wisdom. Plus a thirty-day devotional. I recommend this book with all my heart!

Monday, March 24, 2014

Book review: The Art of Storytelling

The Art of Storytelling: Easy Steps to Presenting An Unforgettable Story by John Walsh

   What an interesting book!
Helpful for people eager to perfect their storytelling skills, beneficial for public speakers, and missionaries.
 And even useful for just a regular person like me and you.
Because we all tell stories.
Every day!
You may not think of them as such, but every incident you choose to relate to someone else is a story you have found fascinating. And you are a storyteller. It is in your power to make your stories spell-bounding and meaningful or flat and boring. I love talking with family and friends, describing to them my thoughts and discoveries. I can't wait to put the lessons presented in this 14-chapter book into practice. I am sure my personal audience will much appreciate what I have learnt!

  This work by John Walsh was very easy to read; perhaps because of the unusual content, maybe because the author has an engaging style of writing. This book was not simply a textbook or ''how-to'' manual.

   Walsh's personal story is inspiring: growing up with a major stutter, he nevertheless felt called by God to the ministry of public speaking. It is interesting to see how God helped him overcome, for the most part, his weakness.

Good book: Singled Out by Nikki Derouin

Singled Out: Finding Contentment When It's Just You and the Nikki Derouin

   This new book is both encouraging and convicting.
As an unmarried woman with the desire of marriage, Nikki is not only qualified but gifted to share godly wisdom with the hundreds of single women of all ages who are looking for advice and purpose.
 As a single young woman, I was challenged by her loving encouragement and wise rebukes. Her hope for young ladies is that they think beyond the usual mindset that being single is some sort of curse. Although she doesn't commend singleness, she exhorts each of us to make sure we are attempting to fulfill God's will for our lives right now. There are many different seasons in our lives. We must not become drastic- assuming that marriage is never to be for us- or unrealistic- selfishly dreaming of the marriage we deem our right!

''Marriage is not a guarantee. A spouse in not included in the ''Christian Package''. But I'll tell you what is in Christ.''

Nikki carefully covers every heart aspect you may have experienced: selfish dreams, godly dreams, the sure calling many of us feel for motherhood,  bitterness, struggles with trusting God with our future, etc.

  In my view, the most important quality of her book is the counsel to look past our personal dreams and selfish view of life and to really try to understand what we were created for. No matter whether we are married or unmarried, we are individuals in the sight of God and we are accountable to Him as such. Although marriage is a beautiful picture of Christ and the Church (and Nikki is careful to describe marriage as such), and although it definitely is better for two to work together for the Lord than one; there are many instances where it just isn't God's will for a person. And we shouldn't waste time complaining or feeling deprived because how to we know the length of each season in our lives? Let us come before God as individuals and strive to serve Him the best way we can NOW.
   As you have most probably noticed, I am having a hard time putting my thoughts into coherent words. But I assure you Nikki Derouin didn't have that problem in her new book. I encourage you to read it. You will be blessed.

I was pleased to receive this book through to review. 

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

book review: Glimpsing Grace in Ordinary Days

Glimpsing Grace in Ordinary Days
Glimpsing Grace in Ordinary Days by Christine Litavsky
published by CrossLink Publishing

   This is a simple book written with the warm and joyful style that only a loving mother can master. I enjoyed flipping through it, reading here and there of the author's experiences in life, smiling over the humorous incidents which Christine brings to life via the pages of this book. She has three children, she loves animals, she has a natural joy and zest for life. Most importantly, she loves God and wants to find His blessings in every portion of life.

   I must admit that although each incident (chapter) ends with a praiseworthy note to God for the lessons learnt, afterwards I was able to remember the incident told but had a difficult time recalling the application.
  This book reminds me of a pleasant blog. The chapters can be read at one's leisure; perhaps one a day to bring a smile to your day.

     Some of the book will not be relevant to homeschoolers since the author doesn't teach her children at home. But as I discovered through a comment she made in one chapter, she does think highly of full-time mothers and the reader can still relate to most of the incidents in this wife and mother's life.

From the publisher's description:
Using true life stories from the author’s everyday life, Glimpsing Grace in Ordinary Days reminds us that God is always at work, even when it’s hard to see His hand in our daily routines. It helps readers pull out often-elusive glimmers of grace out of our chaotic world, examine them, and rest in the assurance that we are loved by God. Whether we’re struggling with a divorce, remodeling a kitchen, or chaperoning a field trip, glimmers of grace are there, free for the taking, but we do need to reach out and grasp them. This book helps us remember we can.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a Review Copy free from the publisher through the book review program. I was not required to write a positive review. The options I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255

Good book: Hitler's Cross

Hitler's Cross by Erwin W Lutzer
foreword by Ravi Zacharias  (2012 edition)

***** book, ages 15+...Thorough explanation to the ideas that Hitler carried. Thought-provoking and convicting. Review below: (paragraphs in bold are quotes from the book)

   This book is all I expected it to be, and more. A weighty work by Erwin Lutzer, it brings to light the  evil belief system which drove Hitler as well as some of his predecessors and followers in their walk of sin. Although I knew the basics for Hitler's hatred of the Jews and Christians, and had studied his life somewhat about ten years ago, I had much more to learn. How he was rooted in occultism, loved Hinduism, believed in the caste system, set himself up as the fulfillment of Christ, (disgusting!) and led the majority of the German nation into sin.
   Reading this book is hard because of the blasphemous beliefs and words presented by Adolf Hitler and his followers. I'm not saying that I didn't previously know that Hitler was that dangerous...I just didn't fathom the depths from which the monstrosities he endorsed and carried out. It's easy to believe, if you don't read further into Hitler's belief system, that he was ''just'' an extremely power-hungry man, as many kings of the past have been, with a hatred of Jews...and Christians...and righteousness. But to realize that the murder of millions was just a portion of what he would have loved to have carried out...

  And to think that, without Christ we all are just as evil! Our ''little'' sins are just as condemning. It's eye-opening to ponder this thought. It would have been good if the author had dwelt on self-examination in this important book. Yet I understand that he had too much as it was to write in this good-sized paperback.
One thing he does tackle:An aspect which I did not expect in this book was the likening of pre-Hitler Germany to...America. Of course I have heard some about this similarity, but it just hovered at the back of my mind after the initial surprise.
 This book is an eye-opener and leaves no room for doubting. As the author explains at a point in the book...

''We can't help but wonder whether the church was warning people about this satanic occultism that swept Germany. The lie that Christianity can be combined with the esoteric mysticism of other religions is easily believed by those who are ignorant of the biblical warnings about such compromise. The apparent silence of the church about such rebellion is a warning to us who live in an age when these same ideas flourish in our country, albeit in a different form.''

The author explains that Germany as a whole, depressed by the outcome of World War 1 and it's the destruction left in its wake was especially open to 'false prophets' such as Hitler. They were steeped in occultism. And we end up with such quotes as these...

 Aug. 30 1933: Pastor Julius Leutherser stated 'Christ has come through Hitler...we have only one task, be German, not Christian.''

Thankfully, the author does also have a couple chapters on the faithful men of God in Germany at this time; namely Bonhoeffer, of course. 

The author quotes from Hitler's statements....''Christianity, by honoring mercy and forgiveness, has weakened the German nation''. In contrast, Hitler's religion would be a ''joyous message that liberated men from the things that burdened their life. We should no longer have any fear of death or a bad conscience.''

''What Christ began'', he said, ''I will complete.'' In a speech...he parodied the Lord's prayer, promising that under him a new kingdom would come on earth....

In Nuremberg, a giant photo of Hitler was captioned with the words ''In the beginning was the Word.''

So blasphemous.
We need to examine our own hearts...
  ''Those of us who live in America think that suffering for Christ is somehow fundamentally inadmissible; it is un-American and contradicts the notion that ''I should do what is best for me''

I repeat, this is a thought-provoking book packed with hard truths. It is so easy to ignore the facts of the past, to assume that a war such as world war 2 will never again happen. But author Erwin Lutzer explains the importance of studying the problems and sins of the past so that we may avoid them in the future.

I received this book free from Moody Publishers as part of their Moody Publishers Blogger Review Program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255