Friday, October 17, 2014

"It's a God Thing Volume 2" by Dan Jacobson and K-Love Radio

Many people feel that miracles are something that are reserved for Biblical times.  But miracles do exist, and they are all around us.  Many of us can point to an instance in our life for which there is no earthly explanation.  Those instances can be called “God things.”  Only the hand and work of God can be responsible for those happenings.

In It’s a God Thing, Don Jacobson and K-Love Radio complied a collection of modern day miracles to share amazing true stories of God at work in our world.  And that successful book is now being followed up by It’s a God Thing Volume 2: When Miracles Happen to Everyday People.  

This new book includes the true stories of a young boy who made a full recovery after being trapped under water for seven minutes, a mother who was compelled to drive across town and found her nine year old stranded alone at a busy intersection, and a man who was mysteriously pulled from a truck as it sailed over a cliff.  These stories are three of the 50 miraculous stories included in the book.

This is a fantastic book.  It is a book that you can read each day like a devotional book, one story per day, or you can read it all in one sitting.  Either way, you will be amazed and moved by these stories of how God works in our world.  It’s easy for us to think that God is distant from our world, that He doesn’t work the way He did in the Old and New Testament, but this book will show you that He is still close to us each and every day, watching over us. 

If you need encouragement or uplifting, if you’re feeling distant from God, if you’re worried or anxious, this book is just what you need.  If you’re looking for confirmation of what you already believe about the power of God, you will find it here.

I received a copy of this book courtesy of the publisher through Netgalley.  The opinions expressed above are my own.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

"The Bible's Cutting Room Floor" by Joel M. Hoffman

The Bible we read today is not what it could have been.  Through recent discoveries and historical writings we know that there were many more books that could have been included.  But for many reasons (political, theological, physical), books were left out.  

The people who compiled the Bible were given the task of what to include and what to leave out.  IN the end, a lot of information that they considered common knowledge at the time was left behind.  But for those of us today, they fill in a lot of gaps and answer a lot of questions.

In The Bible’s Cutting Room Floor, author and translator Dr. Joel M. Hoffman shares with us these important parts of the Bible that were left out in order to give us a deeper insight into the Word.  Using Adam and Eve, Abraham, Enoch, the Dead Sea Scrolls, and the Septuagint he relates how and why texts were left out of the Bible we read today.

This book is a bit different from what I was expecting.  I thought it was going to be a bit more accessible, a sort of straightforward overview of everything that was missing and where they would fit in today.  Instead, the book focuses on specific areas and writings to illustrate the bigger picture, to give an idea of the political and cultural times that led to the decisions that were made.

If you are interested in learning about the origins of the Bible then this is the book to read.  When we begin to look outside of the pages and at the historical and cultural influences, we are open to receiving and learning so much more.  This book is a great choice for Biblical scholars and laypeople alike.  Once you have read this book, you will read your Bible in a much different way.

I received a copy of this book courtesy of the publisher through Netgalley.  The opinions expressed above are my own.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Favourite Tweeters

I resisted Twitter for a long time but as with most social media, I eventually gave in.  Though my personal blog account isn't very active in terms of tweets from me, I do check it daily for inspiration and edification from the people I follow.  Here are a few of the accounts I'm following:

@sarahbessey:  Sarah Bessey is the author of Jesus Feminist, an incredible book about the role of women in todays church and a call for women to find freedom in Christ. She always has some great nuggets of wisdom on Twitter.

@ChristianPost: World news that is relevant to Christians and written with a Christian perspective. I find myself clicking on their stories every day.

@IamSecond: A movement (and two fantastic books) that aims to inspire people to put God first and themselves second.

@MatthewBarnett: Matthew is the pastor of The Dream Center and Angelus Temple in Los Angeles, California.  The Dream Center is an amazing organization doing even more amazing work in the city.

@The_Gospels: The Gospel Daily tweets daily bible verses and though I follow a few different accounts like this, this one always seems to have the words I need to hear at the moment.

Who are you following on Twitter? Who would you recommend?

Monday, September 22, 2014

Modesty Monday: Why Modesty?

For a while now, modesty is one word that has been placed on my heart.  I think it is partly because I live in an area where the majority of people follow a religion in which modest dress is an expectation and is thus, very noticeable.  When I contrast the people in my neighbourhood with what I see in the media, I wonder “where do I fit in? What is modesty for me?”  

Modesty isn’t just about the clothes we wear, it’s also about how we speak and how we carry ourselves.  But our apparel is usually the first thing people notice about us.  And in today’s era of crop tops and mini-skirts, one can wonder just how important modesty is to young women.

While there are no specific admonitions about how women should dress in the BIble, Paul does touch on the subject of modesty for women.

In like manner also, that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety; not with broided hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array - 1 Timothy 2:9

Whose adorning let it not be that outward adorning of plaiting the hair, and of wearing of gold, or of putting on of apparel - 1 Peter 3:3

There are different ways that these verses are interpreted.  One is the idea that they are explicit in what women shouldn’t wear (no gold! no pearls!), another is that here Paul isn’t concerned about what we wear but how we carry ourselves.  For me, I find both in these verses.  

It is important to note that at the time, there was a focus on extravagant dress in the larger society.  This was something that Paul did not want to see carried over into the church.  Braiding of hair, gold jewellery, fancy clothes were like our crop tops and miniskirts.  Paul is talking about the apparel of women being different from that in society.  When our focus is on the extravagance of our clothing, our best ornament - our faith - is not being displayed.  When we wear items that are characteristic of the world, we can be confused with those in the world when we should be set apart from them. Paul wants women to take care that their dress matches up with their profession of faith, and that holds true today.  

It would be nice if people didn’t judge each other by what they wear, but it happens.  In our world, people make assumptions on what kind of person you are based on how you present yourself.  Think about witnessing to someone not of the faith.  Will your words have a good impact if your outward appearance places an emphasis on your clothes or your body?

Just as with our behaviour and our language, it’s important that our manner of dress is modest.  That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t wear nice clothes, it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take care with your appearance.  It’s not an edict to cover yourself from head to toe in drab fabrics.  It's about matching our appearance to our faith, it's about sharing our values in all that we do.

Over the next few months I will be exploring why modesty is important, what it means to me, and how modest girls can navigate the fashion world.

Join me on Pinterest to celebrate and encourage modesty and please feel free to share your thoughts.  I don't think I have all the answers and I'm certainly not telling people how to dress, but I definitely want to start a conversation.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

"When I Fall in Love" by Susan May Warren

When Grace Christiansen’s family surprises her with an all expenses paid cooking retreat in Hawaii, it’s the last thing she wants.  Grace is perfectly happy in her predictable, safe life and doesn’t want to leave it.  But she can’t say no and she soon finds herself living as far outside of her comfort zone as she ever thought she’d be.  And she certainly didn’t expect that it was here that she would find love.

When Max Sharpe, superstar hockey player, heads out on his yearly three-week culinary vacation in Hawaii, he is looking forward to spending alone time in his favourite place - the kitchen.  Max is definitely not looking for love, but when he is asked to keep an eye out for a friend’s sister and then ends up entering a cooking competition with her, he might end up playing too close to the flames.

Max and Grace are both heading to Hawaii simply for the cooking lessons but they will end up leaving with their hearts wide open.  And when Max’s real reason for refusing to fall in love emerge, Grace has to make a choice she never expected - play it safe or follow or heart.

When I Fall in Love, by Susan May Warren, is the third novel in the Christiansen Family series about a large family from Northern Minnesota and the lives of the adult children. When I first picked up this book I did not realize that it was part of a series. That soon become apparent while reading it (some backstories that are alluded to but not explained), the book works as a stand-alone novel.  Though with the quality of Susan May Warren’s writing, why would you want to read only one?

This is a beautiful, romantic story, but one with a lot of depth to it.  There are some very serious tones to it, with a main character who shies away from getting close to a woman because of the disease he suffers from.  Warren wrote this character and his struggle with such warmth and beauty. There is so much depth to her characters and their struggles, and that pulls you in as a reader.  Even the secondary characters and stories have you caught up and they don’t shy away from the difficulties and controversies.  

I really enjoy contemporary Christian novels where the characters are strong in their faith but still have their everyday struggles in the world.  These characters aren’t perfect and they shouldn’t be because none of us are.  I don’t want to read stories about people who have things all figured out or who live in a world where everything comes out on top.  I want to read about people who are like me, who have their struggles but who have experienced the grace and mercy of Jesus Christ and keep going because of it.  That is exactly what happens in this novel.

There is so much to this novel that everyone will relate to - yearning to know God fully, trying to understand why we suffer, giving up the things we can’t control to Him.  You may not have the same life experiences of these characters but you can relate to their emotions, passions, and the importance of their faith.   

Friday, August 29, 2014

"Atlas Girl" by Emily Wierenga

When Emily Wierenga left home at the age of 18, she figured she would never return.  Growing up in a strict religious home and battling every day to not fall into the eating disorder that almost took her life at the age of 13, she was desperate to find God on her own terms, in a new place.  And so Emily set out across the world, through Canada, the United States, the Middle East, Asia, Australia, and Central America as a student, missionary, and teacher.  But it wasn’t until her mother’s brain tumour brought her home that she discovered God was waiting for her there all of the time.

Atlas Girl: Finding Home in the Last Place I Thought to Look is a deeply personal, poignant story that will touch you right from the start.  Emily Wierenga’s memoir of faith and forgiveness will resonate with every reader.  With all of the brokenness in the world, it is easy to close yourself off from all of it and from God, but Wierenga’s story will bring you hope in the darkness and inspiration for your journey.

Emily starts by sharing about her childhood in the Congo and how her father’s call to missions and later to the pulpit affected the family dynamic, especially for her mother who never felt the same calling.  She shares about heading to the other side of Canada to attend school and questioning her faith when she was supposed to be teaching others about it.  She talks about dating her husband, going to the Middle East as a missionary, her friends and family.

But the deepest and most introspective moments come in two places.  First, when she talks about battling anorexia that started at the age of 9 and within a few years had her hospitalized.  And second and most importantly, when she returns home as an adult to care for her mother who is suffering from a brain tumour.  It is here where she reconciles her childhood with her understanding of God as she cares for her mother the way a mother cares for a daughter.

Her story is strong enough to move you - to faith, to tears, to forgiveness, to God.  But what makes this book so moving and beautiful is Emily’s writing style.  It is poetic and lyrical.  It is introspective, full of grace and mercy.  She isn’t telling you about her life, she is inviting you into it.  Rarely, do people give so much of their hearts and souls on paper as Emily does in this book.

About the Author

Emily T. Wierenga is an award-winning journalist, blogger, commissioned artist and columnist, as well as the author of five books including "Atlas Girl: Finding Home in the Last Place I Thought to Look" (Baker Books). She lives in Alberta, Canada with her husband and two sons. For more info, please visit Find her on Twitter or Facebook.

Book has been provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc.   Available at your favourite bookseller from Baker Books , a division of Baker Publishing Group

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

"Face to Face with Jesus" by Samaa Habib with Bodie Thoene

Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.” - John 14:6

It is a headline we have seen many times.  A bomb rips through a church during service on the other side of the world.  Five hundred people try to escape but there is only one door to leave through.  Many people lose their lives.  But this time, one woman comes back to life.  

When Samaa Habib first heard the voice of Jesus Christ calling her to Him, she knew she was making a dangerous decision.  Samaa grew up in a Muslim family in the Middle East and she knew that she would find opposition everywhere she looked, especially within her own family.  But she was not prepared for what happened after the bombing.

After one of the bombs exploded next to her, Samaa met Jesus face to face in heaven.  But He gave her a message that her time on earth was not finished.  She took back with her a renewed hope and love, a spirit that would never be broken, and a mission to bring people of all walks of life to the Saviour who guides her.

Face to Face with Jesus: A Former Muslim’s Extraordinary Journey to Heaven and Encounter with the God of Love by Samaa Habib with Bodie Thoene is a heart-wrenching and inspiring account of Samaa’s early life, conversion, and unflinching faith in Jesus Christ.

Samaa was raised in a country that is 98% Muslim and where conversion to Christianity is considered punishable by death to many.  But as her country plunged into a civil war and her family tried desperately just to stay alive, she found herself being called to Jesus through people who came into her life.  After converting to Christianity, her struggles worsened but her faith grew and the supernatural power of Christ touched her life in many ways.

This is an incredible book.  I was so moved by Samaa’s faith in the face of violence and death.  Shortly after I finished reading the book, my pastor spoke of how difficult it can be for us in the West to understand miracles.  He spoke about Christians in parts of the world where there is war and persecution placing a high importance on them when we don’t.  This book shows you why.  

I was so inspired by the stories of Christians who came to her country and spoke openly about Jesus Christ.  I was glued to the pages in which she describes the church services and the community of Christians she belonged to.  In the face of persecution, they stood strong for Jesus in a way that many of us will never have to experience.  It is amazing to read these kinds of stories.

What I loved most about reading this book was reading about the conversions to Christianity of her family and friends.  It really shows us the importance of patience and prayer in witnessing to our loved ones.  It took a lot of time but even Samaa’s fiercest opponents were changed by her life and testimony.  

Moving, inspiring, and permeated by His love, mercy, and grace, this book is an fantastic read.  Looking at our faith through the eyes of a convert who faced persecution and terror for her decision will move and push your faith in incredible ways.

I received a copy of this book courtesy of Chosen Books.  The opinions expressed above are purely my own.