Tuesday, May 24, 2011

All you need to survive.......

How important is the word of God? Top among the themes of Jesus' parables and teaching, Jesus himself answers this question on a number of occasions by explaining that the word of God is more important than food and water. In John 6:27 he advises his listeners that it is more important to work for eternal life- which is by far more important than the physical food that sustains the life of our physical bodies. Jesus quotes Deuteronomy 8:3. In the barren dessert, hungry and tired, tempted and teased by Satan who tried to convince Jesus to turn rocks into bread, Jesus powerfully responded with the mighty weapon- word of God, in Matthew 4:14 that "Man must not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of God". Obviously, these passages are not suggesting that food and water are insignificant! That is certainly not the point. In fact, there is no doubt that food and water are essential to our physical survival- the continuance of our physical health and well being here on earth. A few days without water- and we would not be able to survive! There is no doubt of the importance of food and water. Even Jesus recognised that when he fed thousands of tired, weary hungry listeners on the mount after listening to his teachings. But the miraculous point that Jesus is making is that there is something far more important to our survival than food and water- of that were possible.... and that is the word of God. Just think and consider the gravity of that claim that Jesus has made- that the word of God is far more important for survival thamn food and water. And to take this a step further, our eternal life, and our eternal salvation is far more important thatn our temporary, finate, physical lives here on earth.

With that thought in mind, the importance of eternal life, and our spiritual health over our finate, temporary physical lives, and the significance of the spiritual food of God's word in contrast to food and water that simply nourishes our temporary shells of skin and bone- should allow us to put into perspective the circumstances we face during our lifetimes. With an eternal and spiritual mind-set the significance of physical pain, emotional pain and suffering during our lifetimes can be viewed from a different perspective- an eternal and spiritual perspective and perhaps, if possible, be appreciated and even used for the greater good. Though the focus on the unseen, spiritual, eternal world seems counter intuitive in today's modern society, it is in fact the true reality that we should consider according the the ultimate word of God. Romans 5:3-5 indicates that rather than despair when we meet with hardship we should be rejoicing because God uses pain and suffering to develop our characters and our strength. James 1:2-4 further explains that we should be excited in the face of suffering and pain because it tests our faith in such a way that we eventually become stronger and better able to endure. There is something unique about pain and suffering in the way that it strengthens us spiritually in a way that no other experience can. It prepares us for eternity and decreases our reliance on this finate and tempporary world. As 2 Corinthians 4:7-11 states that no matter what we go through- our spirits are not destroyed, but rather we are strengthened. Spiritually and emotionally, we may lose the physical battle, but spiritually we gain eternal life. Pain can be used for a purpose and in the end it can be used for the greater glory of God. As 2 Corinthians 1:8-9 proclaims, we should not deny the fact that pain and suffering can be used for the greater good. In fact to deny the usefulness of pain is actually ignorance because even in the face of despair, pressure and even death, such things "happen that we might rely not on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead"!!!!! Furthermore, why waste our pain? 2Corinthians 1:4-5 says we should use it to help others- and just as God comforts us in our pain and suffering, we should help and comfort others in their pain and suffering as well. At some point, each and every one of us will suffer- some less and some more. If you are one of those who seem to have a lot to endure, then re-think how you view your hardships, and try to use it for the greater good. Perhaps you should consider yourself blessed if possible- because just as fire is used to refine gold and other precious metals, harship refines and strengthens our spirits. We can not deny this one fact- regardless of religious belief or lack thereof, eventually each and every one of us will die- we will indeed sucumb to physical death at some point in the future. In the end our eternal happiness will outweigh the temporary and transient pain we experience here on earth. No matter what, God's promise to us is this: no matter what we go through in this world, the physical and emotional pain will be nothing compared to the unimaginable happiness and glory we will experience for eternity.

While most of us may not be facing a life threatening crisis at the moment, in our day to day lives, we should not neglect our spiritual health. Just as we eat every day and drink every day to keep our bodies running, we need to remember our spiritual health as well and mainatin a steady diet of God's word through the bible. The bible is like God's letter to us, inspired by God. Without it, we are without direction or discretion as we are subjected to the philosophies and ideas of the world as dictated by the media and society. As stated on several occasions, Satan is the "god" of this world.

How important is the word of God? The bible answers this question...... We are told to hold to God's word like a treasure in our hearts- Psalm 18:30 and that the word is like a lamp guiding one's feet safely through the darkness Psalm 119:105. Every word of God is pure- Proverbs 30:5 and remains forever and ever- Isaiah 40:8 and that the word of God will never ever pass away no matter what happens- Matthew 24:35. The word of God was always there, it always existed John 1:1, and took up flesh in Jesus- John 1:14 The word of God is truth- John 17:17.

The Seraph Seal By Leonard Sweet and Lori Wagner

The newly published fiction  novel, The Seraph Seal By Leonard Sweet and Lori Wagner is a timely unique hybrid of a detective story, history, science fiction fantasy and inspirational tale in one story. This ambitious and well detailed book is among the new genre of quasi-religious prophetic fiction. This piece of work is one among many popular end times themed movies/ books such as "Knowing", "Deep Impact", "2012" and the "Left Behind" Series.

The author goes into extensive detail describing a fictitious, yet well woven quasi-scientific theory of the end times, weaving together ancient Mayan fables with Catholic traditions and new age theories. In fact, the same readers that actually believed Dan Brown's intricate tales of church intrigue and conspiracy theroies in the fictional novel, The Davinci Code, may be the very same gullible readers who may believe that Sweet and Wagners's end times theatrics are in fact real. 

Christianity is reduced to superticious and at best antiquated, yet quaint ideas.  Catholic church traditions, such as the priest hood and, religious orders,  private mystical revelations, the mass and eucharist are elevated and attributed as a  legitimate authority on par with the bible.  In fact, the hero of the book, Paul, comes to faith, and for lack of a better description- is rborn again.  Nevertheless the priest performs a Catholic style baptism- where he is sprinkled with water from a fountain, rather than imemersed.  To point out this detail, may be seen as inconsequntial, but it is indicitive of the Catholic slant of this novel which leaves me to question as to the intended readership of this book. Icons such as the Celtic cross, and private revelations of the Saints, supersticious, ancient works of art are considered to be inspired and endowed with a supernatural power of prophecy.  Ancient pagan  Mayan and Jewish rituals and theories are given an equal voice as well.  In fact, this novel is a potluck mixture of ancient and mystical beliefs of various cultures woven  into one novel. 

This novel is reminiscent of an end- times supernatural scavenger hunt where prophecy and clues may be found in any time, culture or religion.  Thomas Nelson publishers, in large part, produces biblical based books that are not aligned with a specific demonination.  Nevertheless this book clearly has Catholic undertones which will draw in Catholic readers as well as secular readers, but may serve to alienate bible based Christian believers.  Perhaps this book is an attempt at an outreach towards Catholic and secular readers?  It is true, nevertheless, that the ancient Catholic Church with its antique traditions, deep rooted history and elaborate rituals has served as a good back-drop setting for many works of horror, fiction, drama pieces and thillers in movies and novels.

Apparently the main characters, coincidently, are one of the select few, endowed with the special gifts holding the balance of mankind in their power. This is somewhat like Calvanism, where the belief is that mankind is predestined for salvation or damnation.  These characters I feel are given too much liberty  to intervene in  events in order to change history. This  raises some interesting questions about the arbitrary significance of these characters to control only what God has the power to do  of events and how even little actions or choices of arbitrary people may have a ripple effect for future generations. At the same time, the implication made by the authors, when the characters knowingly  use their arbitrary gifted powers intervene to control events to thwart future suffering, seems to undermine the idea of God's unique role in providence as an all-knowing, omnificient, all powerful being. In essence, the heros of the story become "god"-like in the fact that they have so much power to intervene to make amends or change the future. They are like supernatural super sleuths or detectives whereas the rest of the unspecting world are merely pawns in  the darkness of oblivian and ignorance.  Nevertheless, science fiction fans  will enjoy the vivid depictions of the sites, sounds and technologies in the future as well as the travels to variouscultures that the characters travel  to.  Food, clothing, artwork, buildings and other historical details are authentically described.  

The classic battle between good and evil is integrated into the story- whereas the lurking danger of an ancient antagonistic presence is always there trying to obstruct goodness.   It was well written with much detail, and is sure to appeal to a varied audience. The pseudo-scientific ideas presented as well as references to ancient traditions and extra- canonical works, writings and mystic visions make this almost plausible for those readers who have not studied the bible truths .  A troubling fact as a reader for me was that rather than seeking wisdom and information about the end times from the bible as the sole source, authority and enlightenment are indescriminately found in the most unexpected and remote religions, cultures and traditions of the past  .As a blogger for booksneeze.com, I recieved a free copy of this book for review from Thomas Nelson publishers. I was not required to write a positive review and the ideas expressed are my own.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

It is extremely difficult for the modern German to confront the role of his nation in the persecution of the holocaust and  to acknowledge the shameful truth that people just like himself stood by, and even condoned the death of millions of innocent victims. To murder an innocent human being is the worst of all crimes, therefore to accept the responsibility for the torture and death that millions of Jews experienced is too great a burden; a punishment that Germans are unwilling to accept.  Therefore, many Germans convince themselves and others that they were not responsible for the Jewish holocaust.  They prefer to consider themselves to be victims “that Hitler ‘seized’ in 1933 and ‘occupied’ for twelve dark years”. (Kramer, 48) In addition to this, another strategy is to claim ignorance of Hitler’s Final Solution. This implies that  they would have acted differently if they had not been ignorant.  While Germans prefer to include themselves among the innocent victims of the holocaust, they would much rather leave the past behind them and avoid the issue of the holocaust altogether in order to leave the “unutterable past into what they like to call history” (Kramer, 48). They do not want their crimes of the past to “interfere unduly with the business of life at hand”. (48) Their greatest desire is  not only “to be exonerated from their choices” (49), but also to be perceived as heroes.  Such attitudes of the desires to avoid the memory of the holocaust, to claim victim-hood, and to claim heroism, clearly infiltrate the modern films of the holocaust from the German perspective.

            Based on an analysis of  the two films “Europa, Europa” and “Nasty Girl”, which provide a modern perspective of the role of “ordinary” non-Jewish Germans during the holocaust, it becomes clear that non-Jewish Germans perceive themselves as victims when they are confronted with the memory of the holocaust.  Films such as these are produced out of an inherent desire to obscure the unpleasant facts of the holocaust and the Jewish victims into obscurity, in favor of “symbolic simplicities of objectification”.  The tension that is evident in these films involves the issue of handling the victims of the holocaust.  The way this issue is handled is to not  deal  directly with the German role in the holocaust, or the Jewish victims.  To achieve sympathy for the German victims it becomes necessary to omit details concerning the Jewish Persecution such as the concentration camps which tortures and murdered its victims.  These two films have handled and portrayed the memory of the holocaust  in their own terms.  There are no depictions of concentration camps, or stories from survivors. Jewish people fictional or real are not even depicted.  The danger of such films have lasting implications, especially considering the fact that for many individuals, these films may be the only encounters they have in learning about the holocaust.  These fantasized memories of heroism and victim-hood of non-Jew Germans are portrayed at the expense of the Jewish victims.  Such sterilized accounts of the holocaust are replacing the documentaries which show the cold hard facts.  These films have blurred the line between the perpetrators of the holocaust with the victims of the holocaust. The perpetrator  is now defined as a vague and distant entity distinct from the ordinary German.

            These films seek to convince themselves, and individuals of other nations that they were innocent of the crimes committed against the Jews. The Germans of today underestimate the role that their “ordinary” counterparts of the past played in the persecution and murder of over six million Jews.  Because they were only “ordinary” Germans, who were not among Hitler’s SS command, nor executioners who tortured and murdered Jews, they feel as if they were not responsible for the atrocities committed against the Jewish people.  They distinguish themselves from those individuals that they feel did play a direct role in the Jewish persecution: (Hitler and his command). Nevertheless, within their role as ordinary citizens they did allow and facilitate the extermination of  the Jews.

            The film “Europa, Europa” diminishes the distinctions between the Jew and the non-Jewish German; and the victim and perpetrator.  Its message is that the distinction whether one was Jewish or not played an insignificant role in determining one’s level of responsibility during the Jewish persecution. In this film, an innocent Jewish boy named Simon Perel went to such great lengths to survive that he gave up his Jewish identity, changed his name to Josef, and became a student in an elite Hitler youth school. Simon even participated in anti-Semitic activities which included stabbing and mutilating a doll which represented the body of a Jew, and hailing Hitler.

            Despite Simon’s betrayal and choices, the film is portrayed so that the viewer can understand and sympathize with what Simon is experiencing.  Watching the film, the viewer can not help but forgive and excuse Simon’s anti-Semitic actions.  Had they been committed by a “real” Nazi, they would be unforgivable.  If an outsider were to observe Simon, he or she would never have known that he was really a Jew. The fact that Simon went through a great deal of internal anguish over his decisions was not externally observable.  One would be unable to distinguish him from the other Nazis.  In fact this is why he deceived the Nazi’s around him. 

            The significance of this message may be interpreted in two ways. Just as Simon, who appears to be a Nazi, though it is only to protect his life, it is also possible that the other Nazi’s are only acting so that they will not be killed.  Therefore the message of this film may be that one should not be hasty in judging the deeds of the Nazi soldiers because they too may be acting only to save their lives, just as Simon had done.  The films wishes to portray the following question: Who knows how many Nazis themselves were Jews in disguise?  Even among non-Jewish Germans, any one who opposed the Nazi’s were endangering their lives. Therefore, may be argued that becoming a Nazi was the best way to insure the safety of one’s life.  The logical conclusion of this argument is that even the Nazi’s who hoarded innocent victims into the gas chambers may have  been following orders just out of fear for their lives, and therefore they should not be judged to harshly.  In fact, under this rationale they may be called victims too. Even though this is an extreme interpretation, it is a valid one.

            A second more plausible interpretation of this film is that its purpose is to exonerate or liberate Germans from the responsibility of their choices by showing that a Jew, just as easily as any ordinary non-Jewish German, could have been in the same position.   I believe that Simon’s role, as an innocent, young boy may be interpreted as  representing Germany.  Just as one could feel sympathy for the choices that Simon was forced to make, one should also feel sympathy for the difficult choices that many ordinary Germans had to make in order to preserve their lives. Nevertheless, I feel that this argument does not free the Germans from the responsibility and the consequences of their choices. Nor do I believe that Simon Perel should be excused for his actions, just as I do not believe that the ordinary non-Jewish Germans should be excused from their role in the Jewish persecution.  Even though Simon himself did not agree or condone the Nazi hatred of the Jews, his actions had real consequences.  Though it caused him anguish to curse at the dead Jewish girl hanging by the neck, and to burn down her house, Simon’s anguish did not make the act of torching the house distinguishably less evil than if a genuine anti-Semitic Nazi had done the same deed.  The consequences of the role an individual played during the Jewish persecution led to the same outcome regardless of whether the individual was a Nazis because he or she was genuinely anti-Semitic, or because he feared for his lives.  The outcome reflected itself in the persecution and mass extermination of the Jews.

            A powerful moment at the end of the film occurs when Simon tells the Russians that he is really Jewish, is condemned for his betrayal to his people who had been murdered by the Nazis.  In disbelief they can not conceive why a Jew would wear feign loyalty to the same people that millions of Jews.  As the Russian solider shows him pictures of the mass murder, Simon claims that he did not know that the Jewish people had been killed.  The viewer is left with the feeling that Simon really is innocent and that if he had known that the Jewish people were really being murdered that maybe he would not have  pretended to be a Nazi. Just as the film portrays Simon to be ignorant of Hitler’s Final Solution,  it may be concluded that it is possible that other Germans may also have been ignorant of the Final Solution, and if they had known they may have made other choices.  It is with this message the viewer of the film “Europa, Europa” is left with.  To claim  fear and ignorance are comfortable explanations for the German’s to explain their role during the Jewish persecution.  Nevertheless, I believe that fear is a more plausible argument to explain the role of the ordinary German rather than ignorance.  Yet, fear does not excuse or lessen the responsibility of the ordinary German in his role during the Holocaust

            The film “Nasty Girl” is an effort to portray the heroism of  the ordinary German.  Sonya Wegmus is portrayed as an heroic, young, German woman who risked her own life in a pursuit to uncover the role that her hometown Pfilzing played in the Jewish persecution.  It is ironic that while this film is about a woman who seeks to uncover the truth of her town’s role during the Third Reich, Jewish people are not represented in the film. The film clearly establishes Sonya, a non-Jew German, as the victim.  We see her life threatened several times by terrorists; with rocks and bombs. The viewer can sympathize with her fears and frustrations.  At the same time, the viewer does not have a sense of the suffering that the Jews went through.  The persecution of the Jews is treated superficially.  Jewish suffering is trivialized and obscured in comparison to Sonya’s persecutions whose sufferings which are vivid and real.  One of the only references to Jewish persecution involved the “pants” incident as described in a newspaper article that Sonya uncovered.  The vague Jewish victims are not given an identify, or even names. In a sense, they are dehumanized.

            Sonya’s motives for her research present some contradictions.  Because it did not appear that Sonya’s motives to uncover the truth stemmed out of a genuine concern for the Jewish victims who suffered as a result of their persecution, it seems ironic that she would risk her life and that of her children to pursue her research.  With Sonya’s history of essay writing, and her dedicated personality, it seemed as if it was only natural for her to pursue a topic to its logical conclusion.  Her quest for information  was as if it were a mystery that needed to be solved; and Sonya played the role of detective.   Sonya met with may obstacles from acquiring the needed information to complete her research.   The townspeople did not want Sonya to pursue her research.  They did not want to confront the memory of their role in the holocaust.  One widow who did not want to speak to Sonya about her husband’s role in the Jewish persecution said that she did not want to “bring up all that muck”.  The widow’s feelings are representative of most of the townspeople. In fact, at the start of her research, her mother told her to only write about the good things implying that the town’s role during the Third Reich, which involved the persecution of the Jews should be avoided or forgotten. 

            The reactions of the townspeople reflect those of  many Germans. Many were hostile to Sonya, calling her a betrayer to the German people. Others simply wanted to forget about the past; to go on with their lives.  Nevertheless, none of these individuals were villianized as the enemy.  After all, they could also claim to be victims. In addition to this, the theme of ignorance was also evident in this film as with “Europa, Europa”.  When she learned of the concentration camps, Sonya thought of them as too horrible to be true.  Sonya had been ignorant of  the mass murder of the Jews.  Just as Sonya was ignorant of the Mass murder of the Jews, this film implies that it is not impossible that non-Jewish Germans may also have been ignorant of Hitler’s final solution. Not only does this film his support the fact that “Germans want their past to have happened to them.  They want to have suffered from themselves, the way everyone else suffered from them.” Many Germans look with disbelief upon Hitler’s final solution, claiming that they and the Germans of the past are not responsible., while others desire to forget the past. It is the goal of this film, nevertheless, to exploit the holocaust, and use it to prove the heroism of ordinary Germans at an attempt to exonerate or liberate  themselves from their past decisions.

            Both of these films which I have discussed de-emphasize and undermine the painful and horrific experience of the Jewish people during the holocaust.  The Jewish victims and the holocaust have been obscured as being a part of the past. Films such as these are in a sense uplifting to the Germans,  as they do not dwell on images of concentration camps, piles of dead, skeletal victims, or the stories of holocaust survivors. In her article, “The Politics of Memory”, Kramer explains the role of the ordinary German, and  that she could understand “how ‘normal’ it must have seemed to other Germans when, in a few years’ time, Jews were forbidden to do anything but die”. One can not underestimate the discomfort felt by the German when reflecting his role in the Jewish persecution.  It is understandable that one would rather forget such an uncomfortable past, or to deny responsibility.  Nevertheless it is important not to distort or to obscure the memory of the Jewish victims of the holocaust.  To forget choices made in one’s past increases the likelihood that they may someday be repeated.  While the holocaust has been one of the most evil acts committed by mankind, to deny the holocaust’s victims or to rationalize away one’s responsibility makes the evil of the holocaust even greater. Movies such as these are an outrage- as they undermine and even excuse away crimes committed against the Jewish people.


Mother's Day 1991

Mother's Day 1991

Shattered by Melody Carlson

As a "mature" adult, I normally don't read young adult fiction, but as a blogger for booksneeze, I recieved the novel, Shattered: A Daughter's Regret by Melody Carlson, published by Thomas Nelson for the purpose of writing this review.

This is a very well written book.  Not only is Melody Carlson a skilled writer with her use of descriptive and scenic details, in contrast to many modern writers- the story deals with important issues of grief, guilt and loss and detachment, which is perfect for anyone who is dealing with such issues in their own lives.  The heroine in this story must face the reality of her mom's untimely and unexpected death, as well as her own secrets and guilt about the death of her mom.  The emotions she faces are  true to life- as if the author has insight of her own with regards to grief and guilt.  The story covers the intense and painful emotions of guilt, loss and pain realistically that many teenaged stories, simply don't address.  The main character is well developed and realistic. 

One subplot- when Cleo starts to date within a week of her mom's death- seems too trivial and coincidental considering the other issues she is dealing with.  Apparently the desire to date is one of the catalysts for her to move on to normalcy.  Although faith in God and the forgivness that God offers contributes to Cleo's healing process, it appears as if getting a new boy friend is more instrumental in Cleo's decision to address her secrets and guilt issues, than mere faith in God.  Near the end of the book, as she patiently awaits for the forgiveness of her Dad, she appears a bit too relaxed and free spirited.  Nevertheless, this in no way overshadows the deep and intense feelings that were portrayed in the first half of the book.  In  typical fashion, the story has a happy ending, where the heroine accepts God's forgiveness and is reconciled with her Dad and has a new bf. With a renewed relationship with an estranged aunt and a new boyfriend, Cleo has outside strength to draw on to move on with her life. 

Overall, this was a great piece of fiction for teenaged readers. Even so, it re-affirms the all-too common theme that  outside relationships are required  in order to have a fullfilling and secure life.  Not every young person, or adult for that matter, has physical relationships- whether parents, relatives, or significant others, to draw on in times of great need.  They find in the midst of death, grief and loss, they must travel alone.  For some people who are truly alone- with no parents to fall back on, no boyfriends, girlfriends, bffs, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins etc... the only resource is God. That isn't to say that God is insuffiecient. In fact, God is our purpose for life.  It just appears as if this book in particular does not explore that concept. This book, in which the main character had a network of caring indivduals to help her,  does not address such a situation in which one finds themself totally alone- but that, would be a story in of itself- for another day.

Monday, May 9, 2011

The Gospel For Real Life by Jerry Bridges

Although The Gospel For Real Life: Turning to the Liberating Power of the Cross... Everyday  by Jerry Bridges states in its preface that the book is not intended as a "theological treatise", is is not to be conisdered simple, beginer level reading "Gospel 101" as its author suggests.  Nevertheless, the book is thoroughly written and that is a positive thing for any believer who desires to strengthen his personal faith.  In contrast to all those books that focus on out reach programs and making disciples, this book focuses on the faith of the indivdual which must come first.  Many neglect their own personal faith, but this book fufills the need for one to preach the goseple message to himself- which is something each and every one of us should do.

In typical Jerry Bridges style, most chapters start off simply with a personal anecdote or story to capture the attention of the reader, then progress further into biblical relevance.  Then, as the chapter procedes a specific theological point or essential gospel fact is covered in systematic detail.  In essense, if this is a "Gospel 101" course, then it is analogous to the sytematic detail provided by a college introductory course.  Theological terms are in fact introduced in this book, but explained in detail so that the reader will have no difficulty comprehending what they mean and where they fit in with the story of salavation.  Jerry Bridges is the author of many books that offer detailed explanation of the bible.  This book will prove to be very informative for those individuals who wish to explore the concepts behind biblical faith. The end of this book includes a bible study for those readers who wish to apply what they learned from the book.  As a blogger for Navpress I recieved a copy of this book for the purpose of writing this review.

Trusting God for Everything: Psalm 23 by Jan Johnson

A Personal Retreat Guide Trusting God for Everything: Psalm 23 by Jan Johnson ia a small 99 page book in a series of books specifically written to be used for guiding one's own personal retreat. The reader should know this is not a ordinary book, nor is it part of the devotional genre. 

As a meditative tool for retreats, there is a lot of repetition and repetitious material built in the book. For example, the seven ideas listed under the "in Between Sessions" are repeated word for word in each chapter somewhat like a brainwashing technique.  Some of the suggestions appear quite trivial and worldy in fact.  The book  suggests that the reader "may wish to sit in a Jacuzzi", excercise or take along some "light reading" such as a magazine.  She suggests leaving home the "detective novel  {which} will engage you wholly".  While these activities in of themselves are not wrong to do, they are far from spiritual activities and are more self serving than anything.  They are also suggestive of a wordly financial prosperous lifestyle which many in this world do not have the luxury to enjoy.
 A paraphrased prayer by the Roman Catholic Mystic, Therese of Lisiux, is repeated in each chapter as well.  Firstly, I question the reason for the choice of a prayer by an individual revered and honored by Roman Catholics as a Saint and Patron of Catholic missions. During her short yet noble lifetime she was  known as a Carmelite nun.  After her death she was beatified and cannonized as a saint by the Roman Catholic Pope John Paul 11. While there is nothing inherantly wrong with the choice of this prayer, the source is questionable as Saint Therese of Lisieux was known to be an advocate of  Catholic traditions such as transubstantiation of the eucharist as well as the doctrine of Many as being the sinless mother of God, and Mediatrix of heavan capable of assuming a role of intercession for prayer.  In fact, countless sincere Roman Catholics actually believe that as a Saint, Saint Therese of Lisieux can intercede for prayers and perform miracles. I assume Jan Johnson is not advocating the cult of saint worship by inclusion of this prayer, nevertheless, I believe that in the spirit of the ecumenical movement to find unity between religions, the inclusion of this prayer serves only to grant credibility to such unscriptural traditions and supersticions of prayer worship.
Overall the idea behind a meditative study of Psalm 23 is a worthwhile pursuit.  Nevertheless, Jan Johnson's approach, I find, caters too much towards the materialistic culture of today's society as well as the ecumenical movement which comprimises truth or glosses over scriptural truths for the sake of unity and conformity. As a blogger for Navpress publishers I recieved a copy of this book for the purposes of writing this review.  The opinions expressed are my own.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

The Skin Map

The Skin Map by Stephen R. Lawhead

The newly published fiction novel, The Skin Map by Stephen R. Lawhead is a unique hybrid of a detective story, history, science fiction fantasy and inspirational tale in one story.

The author goes into extensive detail describing a fictitious, yet well woven quasi-scientific theory of ley lines and time travel. In fact, the same readers that actually believed Dan Brown's intricate tales of church intrigue and conspiracy theroies in the fictional novel, The Davinci Code, may be the very same gullible readers who may believe that Lawhead's stories of the theories of traveling through the spectrum of alternate universes, a.k.a the "Omniverse", are in fact real. The ideas of travel across time and place between alternate universes is well described in layman's terms, using the London transportation and bus systems as a comparison. Access to anytime anywhere is simply a ley line away, as long as you have the special gift of navigation. This story makes traveling to different "planes of existance" seem as plausible and commonplace as navigating the public bus system in downtown New York. Portals, to alternate universes, known as "leys" are found in various, convienient locations in Kit's home of London. Apparently Kit is one of the select few, endowed with the special gift of navigation through these special pathways. This special travel ability, and the fact that the characters are able to intervene in past events in order to change history for the better, raises some interesting questions about the purpose of events and how even little actions or choices may have a ripple effect for future generations. At the same time, the implication made by the author, when the characters knowingly intervene to change past events to thwart future suffering, seems to undermine the idea of God's unique role in providence as an all-knowing, omnificient, all powerful being. In essence, the heros of the story become "god"-like in the fact that they can travel anytime, anywhere and intervene to make amends or change the future.

History fans will enjoy the vivid depictions of the sites, sounds and smells in the various historical time periods and various cultures that the characters travel to. Food, clothing, buildings and other hitorical details are authentically described. Interesting scenarios of alternate historical outcomes of commonly known events in history are presented as well.

The book challanges commonly held sterotypes of modern society. For example Kit, the hero of the story, outwardly appears as a successful young man, yet, is described as a lonely, unfulfilled, frustrated guy, worthy of sympathy rather than envy. He is a character that all of us, at sometime in our life, can relate to. His girlfriend is vividly described in the most unflattering of terms. In contrast, Kit's aged grandfather is depicted as healthy, happy and full of vigor, having more energy that a young man. Rather than seeking wisdom and information about tcutting edge theories on science and time travel from the the modern scientists, Kit and his great grand father must travel hundreds of years into the past, into another alternate universe! Authority and enlightenment are found in the most unexpected and remote of places, years in the past.

The classic battle between good and evil is integrated into the story- whereas the lurking danger of an ancient antagonistic presence is always there trying to obstruct Kit and his great grandfather from completing their mission to obtain a valuable skin map which is the key to valuable information. This adventure story was very enjoyable. It was well written with much detail, and is sure to appeal to a varied audience. The pseudo-scientific ideas of ley line travel, mixed with historical-like scenes make the story seem almost plausible. As a blogger for booksneeze.com, I recieved a free copy of this book for review from Thomas Nelson publishers. I was not required to write a positive review and the ideas expressed are my own.

Put Your Dream to The Test by John C. Maxwell

Put Your Dream to The Test: 10 Questions to Help You See It and Seize It by John C. Maxwell is the perfect book for anyone who wishes to pursue a life long dream, or perhaps those uninspired indivvduals who are simply living in fantasy world waiting for some good luck.  This book is the perfect resource to for those indivduals to see if their pipe dreams actually have the potiential to measure up to reality. Although this book may be percieved as condescending, it is in actuality a wake- up- call for those who simply sit back, living in a fantasy world waiting passively for luck to make their dream come true.  ANd, for those motivated readers who are truly inspired, this book is a perfect tool for helping such indivduals to actually making their dream come true.

Systematically, Maxwell, proceeds to guide the reader to the goal of turning his or her dream from the sphere of imagination into reality.  Written in simple language that any reader can follow and appreciate, this book serves as a guide towards accomplishing one's goal. It is as if the reader has a lifecoach and counselor at his own personal disposal.  Each chapter is dedicated to a question by which the reader can gauge the reality or or viability of his dream. Obviously some dreams will not pass the "test" as being viable. Real life issues such cost and time factors are considered. There is a hands on study guide at the end of the book for the reader, referred to by Maxwell as "My Dream Map". As a blogger for booksneeze bloggers I recieved this book from Thomas Nelson publishers for the purpose of writing this review.  The opinions expressed are my own. 

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

I Am His by Rita J. Platt

I Am His: Experiencing the Comfort of Abba's Love by Rita J. Platt is an 8-week indivdual or group bible study specifically written for women.  Over the course of eight chapters- intended to be read at a rate of one chapter a week, the reader will be guided into developing a personal relationship with God.  Throughout the new testament of the bible, one can see that God is a personal God, and as we become children of God, through our rebirth, we can claim God as out father.  In contrast to the dysfunctional relationship many have with their earthly Father figures who are imperfect and serve to dissapoint, God is the perfect embodiment of what a Father should be.  In fact, many women's relationships- or lack thereof, may present a stumbling block or impediment for faith in God- especially in today's modern dysfunctional society.  This book, over the course of eight chapeter- or eight weeks, systematically addresses and dispels all the stumbling blocks when women erroneously apply their imerfect and biased views of fathers and project them onto the almighty creator.  Through this book, the reader can get past that psychological hurdle and come to trust in God as the perfect heavenly father who can completely meet and fulfill every spiritual need. 
This book can be used as a groiup or individual bible study.  This bible study is based on the bible, and therefore can be trusted as an authority.  Relevant bible verses are included throughout so that the reader can followe along with God's word, side by side.  Platt has also written other relevant bible studies intended for women as well.  As a blogger for Navpress publishers I recieved a copy of this book for the purpose of writing this reveiw.  The opinions expressed are my own.

Hannah's Hope by Jennifer Saake

Hannah's Hope by Jennifer Saake is an inspirational book empowering those facing extremely difficult times in life.  Specifically written for those facing life challanges and trials in the midst of miscarriage, infertility and failed adoption, this book is appropriate for anyone finding themselves facing life's difficulties.  For those readers facing any type of loss, death, teminal illness or depression in general, this book helpful. 

This concept of this book is based on the historical biblical heroine, Hannah, of the old testament.  Hannah faced the shame of infetitlity in a culture where a woman's self worth and security was based on having children.  The author, Jennifer Saake uses Hannah's life and faith as an analogy and role model of how we should face similar challanges should one find herself in the same situation. Furthermore, Saake pulls relevant biblical verses and uses them as a guide- to inspire the reader to place her faith on God inorder to draw upon God's strength in the most difficult of trials that might be faced in life.  There are times in life that prove to be so difficult that nothing short of God's comfort can help.   Using real life anecdotes from her own life and the torments and hardships of others, Jennifer Saake clearly has lived through some difficult times and  has used them for the greater good with help from God.  Overall this book provides hope and inspiration for thos who might otherwise have no hope.  As a blogger for Navpress, I recieved a copy of this book for the purpose of writing this review.  The opinions expressed ar my own.