Friday, March 26, 2010

The Voice New Testament

As a blogger for the Booksneeze blogger program, I had the opportunity to review the a new modern translation of the New Testament, The Voice. Believing in the importance of the Good News of the bible, and having faith that the bible is the word of God to the human race, I feel it is essential that the bible is translated into easy to read language that can be understood by all. It is a grave diservice to prohibit or condemn easy to understand translations of the bible as some cults and religions do. There is no reason whatsoever to maintain the antiquated opinion that only the King James version (or other proprietary or antique versions for that matter) have a monopoly on the word of God. After all the KJV is in of itself a translation. Regrettably, the antique English style of the KJV and many other older translations, although poetic, make it prohibitive for many to read and understand the bible's message. So what's the point of having a bible if one can not understand or appreciate it.

The Voice is one of many new modern English translations. What makes the Voice stand out from other modern translations is that it is written in a transcript/ play like fashion. Introductory background material and information is also provided before each book as well as within the text. The two tone pages, and the formating make this translation easy to read. This supplimentary material is clearly "set aside" so as to not me confused with the actual bible text. The only downside to this casual translation is the fact that Jesus is called the Liberator or Liberating King, rather than Christ or Messiah. Other than that, which is not too much of an impediment, I highly reccomend this translation. It is important to keep in mind that the text is somewhat of a paraphrase- a meaning for meaning, rather than a word for word translation. This bible is perfect for reading and for drawing close to the truths of God, but not exactly the best for an indepth theological study.

As a blogger for Thomas Nelson's blogger program: booksneeze, I recieved a copy of this book for free. I am not required to write a postive review and the opinions and views expressed are my own.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

The Chronological Guide to the Bible

I had the opportunity to read and review the full color bible guide, the Chronological Guide to the bible, published by Thomas Nelson publishers. This study guide is like a study guide/ encyclopedia/ hisoty book hybrid with its main focus on biblical history, society and culture. Diveded into chronological epochs, the chapters of this book may be read consecutively inorder or individually. Rather than having a chapter based on each indivdual bible book, the bible is broken down into consecutive historical periods, analogous to a history book, The book of the bible are summarized and discussed within the historical socio- economic period in which they occur. Additional content such as mini articles, photos, maps and timelines are inserted within the text. These articles provide to the modern reader, background material for the bible stories and heroes. Such material most likely would be familiar to the ancient reader, yet not to the modern reader. Its inclusion is very enlightening and provides the reader with a much better understanding of the ancient society and cultures of the bible. This bible guide is well suited for the secular student as well as the bible enthusiast.
I would recomend this book for anyone interested in the bible as well as in ancient history. One thing to keep in mind is that this book is not intended to be a spiritually motivational book. Nor is it a text on theology. The material of this book is replicated from the Thomas Nelson Chronological Study bible. Therefore if you own that particuloar study bible this guide may be redundant.

Disclosure of Material Connection- This book was recieved free from Thomas Nelson Publishers book review blogger program. I was not required to submit a positive review and the opinion contained in this review are my own.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

The Day I Believed

Even though the actual story begins when I was very young, with the memory of my earliest of memories, for the sake of time I will fast forward to the day when I made an important decision that changed my life. That day started like any other day. There were no distinct weather conditions, special holidays, anniversaries or achievements to mark the date. In fact the particular calendar day was so insignificant that I no longer remember the date or even the exact year for that matter. It had never crossed my mind to record the date. Yet, the significance of that decision cannot be measured.
Some minimal background is required to understand the change that resulted from that important decision. Like countless others, I too had some difficult and awkward years when I was young. I did not grow up with the burden of any extraordinary impairments or circumstances. I did not have any unusual traumatic events. I was not tortured nor was I abused. Never did I go to bed hungry, not did I have to live in a shack. No PTSD memories linger to haunt me. But I did have some physical and emotional impediments which became more pronounced as I grew older. The events of my life in of themselves were neither memorable nor significant. I had three sisters who kept to themselves and two parents: my mother, nevertheless was not always around when I was young- but that was ok.
When I was really young, I was always a bit antisocial and distant from the other children. During my teenaged years, my physical and emotional deficits became more pronounced at a most inopportune time of life when appearance and social skills are paramount for normal positive social interaction. As I matured, my appearance shamed and I was distanced from the other girls my age. My physical appearance embarrassed me to such an extent that I lived in a constant state of abject discomfort and anxiety that someone would tease me. Graceless, indelicate and overgrown, I was isolated and frequently tormented by my peers. I was made fun of, humiliated and embarrassed. I was ignorant concerning the normal common social, health and hygiene knowledge that so many people take for granted. While the other girls engaged in sports, went to dances, took home economics and health class, I avoided these activities with the understanding that I would have no use for such skills which would most certainly never be put into the context of which they were intended. I lacked friends and was very lonely as a result of my physical appearance which was not considered to be even within the normal standards. I eventually reconciled myself to my fate, as well as my physical state. I did not have any hope for a better future. When I was very young, I was brought to therapists to “correct” my issues- to no avail. Attempts at brainwashing me to normalcy failed- retreats failed, counseling failed as well as writing those daily, laborious, repetitive positive affirmations in the spiral bound notebook that I was forced to do. Inside I had the same wants, goals and dreams as any other teenaged girl. Yet these were unattainable. While these problems may pale in comparison to the world’s social injustices and inequities, this was my life and my world! It was all that mattered to me at the time in my own selfish, self- centered world.
Outside I was quiet, yet within I was sad, angry, bitter and jealous. I was shy and lacked confidence and self esteem. I withdrew inward. Every night I would cry myself to sleep. . I could pass half the night awake in bed feeling sorry for myself. Sometimes I played out long scenarios of suicide despite the fact that I was too much of a coward for that. Imaginary scenarios of revenge and justice helped me fall asleep. In my dreams I lived out detailed fantasies of revenge and redemption- that is, of course- when I finally was able to sleep. I had a fear of death- not of my own but of my family. This extreme fear of others dying, made it very difficult for me to sleep. I specifically feared that my Dad would die. He had been hospitalized and had seizures, but no known diagnosis. I lived with a sick sense of dread and impending doom every night for years! In fact I would leave my bedroom sometime during the night and go out to the couch. I could barely even walk past the hall to go to the bathroom without having an intense fear of impending death. I hate nightmares often about death. I often wished my mother or older sisters were around so I didn’t have to face this fear alone. My only prayers were prayers that I would die peacefully in my sleep and never wake up. I didn’t fear my own death, however. I welcomed it. I doubted that even God existed because if He really did, I was sure that I had been abandoned by God. I wondered why I of all people deserved to have been singled out by my peers to endure such misery and frustration.
During the daytime I was withdrawn and anxious. I did not watch tv. I did not listen to music. I engaged in solitary activities: reading, writing, drawing and playing with dolls. I would clean and organize my room and my books and my dolls and my various collections. I had many collections: rocks, stickers, stamps, petrified/ shellacked hermit crabs….. All these things were my expressive outlet- especially writing. I could spend hours, and even an entire night simply writing- filling entire notebooks within a few short hours! This was the age before computers- so I would write and write and write until my fingers were red and callused and sore. I had to finish, I could not leave a piece of work unfinished! Oh, how I lived my life in my room. I lived out my dreams- reenacting a perfect world, and fulfilling my wishes for revenge and my dreams. All those little tiny people represented real people. I created a miniature replica of a town, filled with homes and schools, stores and people. After school from the time I was eight throughout high school, I lived out my life of normalcy and dreams through the fictitious town I created as well as its inhabitants. I found peace by playing within that town. Anything that happened in real life, I would reenact in my small miniature town. No detail was too insignificant to include in my little town replica. In fact, it had its own transportation system, school system, a library and even a newspaper! The newspaper was available both in miniature format as well as larger traditional format- to this day I still have some copies.
I enjoyed books and lived my life’s adventures from reading literature and novels. I also enjoyed philosophy, psychology and science as well. Much of my knowledge and experience came from books. I lived life experiences through reading, and made them come to life through my writings, my fantasies and the re-enactment through my dolls. To me this was life!
By today’s standards, my dreams as a youth were pretty mundane: my peers, normal and average by the world’s standards, represented the manifestation, and complete embodiment of my dreams. As impossible as it seemed my hopes consisted of getting a boyfriend, getting married and having children. That’s it! That was the scope of my ambition- simply to be normal like everyone else. Sure I did well in school- getting on the honor roll and honor society without ever having to study. I completed all my school work , studying and research papers in the time it took me to take the bus ride home and during the time it took finish my business on the toilet bowl. I had three cats, and these three animals were my only physical
companions. I constantly feared they would get loose and run away.
irony is that despite the anger and jealous feelings I harbored within, I felt morally superior to everyone else. I deluded myself into thinking I was righteously perfect. I believed I was so good and guilty of no wrong whatsoever. I believed I was morally superior to all those other so-called ingrates of society masquerading as “good” people. In fact everyone else had wronged me in my own mind. I believed if there actually was such a place as heaven, then I would go there with no problem. I was so puffed up with pride about my own goodness when I compared myself with all those other degenerates that dated, went to dances, listened to music or dressed in nice clothing. At least they were degenerates in my own mind. Yet at times when my father who was a believer in the bible would discuss the bible, I would silently, and without a word, stomp out in offense and leave the room. I simply did not want to hear about God or the bible. I silently and without complaint kept all my worries and miseries to myself.
One day this internal misery came to an end. I vaguely recall a young woman in her twenties associated with a high school self esteem related assembly program who somehow crossed my path and befriended me. She was a Christian, yet at the time having no interest in religion, Christianity or the bible, I do not recall any specific details concerning her associations. She invited me to lunch at Burger King during my lunch hour. We talked, or rather she talked, and I “listened”. In actuality I was more concerned about finishing my french fries than listening to whatever she appeared to be rambling about. She could not have missed my apathy and lack of response. She dutifully and in a perfunctory manner went over, laboriously page by page, a green booklet. She did not miss a detail explaining every diagram and caption- of which I barely glanced indifferently. But one statement of all the others stood out: she called me a sinner. Well she also explained how everyone was a sinner and that no one was righteous in God’s eyes. A sinner! I didn’t say anything, but immediately I took offense. How dare she assume that I was a sinner! She did not know who she was speaking to obviously. Obviously she didn’t know about my sufferings and misery. How inaccurate and ridiculous to accuse me of all people a sinner. As far as I was concerned I never sinned. I don’t remember anything else except that I felt disappointed somehow and she gave me that booklet and that somehow I made it back in time for my History class on time.
Looking back I remember the parables of Jesus about how hard it is for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven, and that it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle….. Well, a more formidable obstacle comes to mind- pride and self righteousness! How much easier it is for a camel to go through an eye of a needle than a self righteous, stubborn, self pitying young girl (or anyone for that matter) to humble herself spiritually and enter the kingdom of heaven. Yet, it did happen!
Later that day I tried to put the entire conversation out of my mind. I still couldn’t get over the idea that she had referred to me as a sinner like everyone else. But the thoughts of that conversation and that verse consumed me! “For all have sinned and fall short of the Glory if God”. (Romans 3:23) I was a sinner according to that statement! I pondered in my mind the implications of that statement. What if it was true? What if I was actually separated from God? The consequences were to terrible for me to even imagine. Just the thought that it may be true and I was outside of God was too much to bear.For days and maybe even weeks, I can not recall, I thought about it- deliberating and debating in my mind the consequences of that new knowledge. Oh how I wished that my comfortable vague ideas about God and heaven had not been challenged. I had grown accustomed to living comfortably within my own world with my self righteous attitude and self pity. What if it were really true? What if it was possible to have a relationship with God? What if I was separated from God? I had to humble myself spiritually and admit that I was a sinner. I had no choice and no excuse. Despite the hardships of my life, I still was guilty of sin in my actions and most of all my thoughts. My feelings of revenge and anger and envy were sinful! My fictitious fantasies were impure and sinful in God’s eyes. I was not morally perfect as I had deluded myself into believing. I had to make a choice and I had to make a change. It was a real decision. I decided to accept God’s friendship and gift of grace, admitting that I was guilty of sin. In that moment I had made the decision. There was no turning back. The message of the gospel and of salvation was truly good news. “God demonstrated his love towards us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” Romans 5:8 For the first time in my life I felt truly happy and hopeful, as if an enormous burden had been cast off. The evil feelings I harbored within were a burden all my life, and it was liberating to release those negative feelings and to have God as

Monday, March 1, 2010

Rediscovering God in America By Newt Gingrich

As a member of the Thomas Nelson Review Blogger program , I had the pleasure of reviewing Newt Gingrich’s new book, Rediscovering God in America. This book presented a brief synopsis of well known national monuments and their biblical origins. The role of faith in the making of historical patriotic icons is well documented and made obvious through the text of the book. This simple to read, yet informative book can be read in one sitting. Yet the impact of its content is far reaching- unveiling the undeniable influence of faith and scripture in America and its leaders. Actual quotes from the very monuments themselves, depicting scripture, are contained within the text as well as photographed! In true lawyer-like fashion, Newt would have proven his case of the significance and influence of the bible, without a shadow of a doubt to even the most hardened of atheists. Nevertheless, this objectively written book simply states facts- opinions and judgments are left out. The secular, as well as religious audience would appreciate this book and its objectivity.
Nevertheless after reading this book, I was left with a sense of wanting to know more about each of the monuments portrayed. The simplistic writing makes this work accessible to the layman. Personally I would have loved to see more photos and more in-depth historical background provided for each of the monuments depicted. With its full color photography and objective presentation of the religious elements of well known monuments, this book would be a welcome addition for any patriotic American or history enthusiast.