Thursday, September 29, 2011

No Wonder They Call Him the Savior: Experiencing the Truth of the Cross By Max Lucado

No Wonder They Call Him the Savior: Experiencing the Truth of the Cross By Max Lucado is among the most uplifting books that I have recently read. In true Lucado fashion, Max writes in an animated, easy to understand style that communicates biblical truths to the reader. His books bring bible stories and biblical truth to life in an inspirational way that speaks out to the reader.  His analogies are very relavent and insimple to understand words, he expressed the warped priorities of our society where the spitiual insignificant such as physical beauty and sucess is valued while the dignity of human lived is considered worthless.

His words spreak to everyone... "Catch God in a bad mood? Won't happen. Fear exhausting his grace? A sardine will swallow the Atlantic first. Think he's given up on you?" ..... Lucado's use of colorful language and his conversational tone, make it so that biblical truths are memorable and meaningful to the average modern reader. You need not be a theologen, educated in an expensive seminary or college to understand Max Lucado's books.
This inspirational book will be certain to leave the reader with a lasting impression. In today's self centered society, without offense Max Lucado illustrates the importance of living life based on biblical principles. Lucado illustrates with clarity the sacrifice Jesus made on our behalf.  In vivid detail, he makes clear, in everday words and language, the significance of Jesus' life and death for us.  After reading this book, and really meditating on the biblical truths communicated via Max Lucado, one can feel a renewed sense of embpowerment to live a selfless life style. Max makes use of personal anecdotes as well as bible stories to illiustrate the importance of depending on God rather than on the material things of this world. If you are a theologen, looking for an apologetic defense on the purpose of depending on God then this book isn't for you. But, if on the other hand you are simply looking for bible based motivation and a relief in a world that takes pride in materialism, selfish ambition and competition, then this book is perfect. As a blogger for booksneeze, I receive books from Thomas Nelson publishers in exchange for writing an honest review. The opinions expressed are my own.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Dreams as practice for real life

The world of dreams provides the perfect environment for preparing oneself for reality in the waking world.  In what other environment could anyone, more effectively prepare for the unexpected range of possibilities that we can face in the real world?  Even in the world of science fiction- virtual reality scenarios are limited by technology, and  expensive to boot.

 Dreams in of themselves should not be dismissed as useless, inconsequential, distorted images that we put up with at night. Nor should dreams be dismissed as passive wastes of time. So many simply take for granted the new world that dreams open up.  While it is true that dreams frequently have little if no significant meaning other than representing disjointed images that are a part of the deep subconsous mind, yet it is not the substance of the dream that is significant, but rather the alternate sphere of reality that is opened.  In contrast to this real world, where we are limited by our social, economic, genetic and physical constraints of time and space, the world have dreams has no such limitations.  In dreams you can travel back in time- hundreds of years and explore! Or you can travel billions of light years into space and explore! You can meet anyone and everyone- from the past present or future.  A dream can be mundane as reliving your day at work or school or supernatural in which you can carry on a conversation with those who have lived years ago.  In a dream you can walk, swim or even fly.  You can eat, read or speed across outerspace in a spaceship.  There are no phyical limitations. There are no boundaries whatsoever! 

Dreams,  can be manipulated and altered by the dreamer and therefore used experimentally as a way to "practice" for the real world or reality or to resolve unresolved issues.   The topics and scenarios that can be covered in dreams are limitless.  These scenarios, no matter how disjointed or farfetched from reality can still provide useful for interaction and anticipation of resal world events and scenarios.  Dreams can be controlled to some degree and even manipulated. 

Friday, September 23, 2011

Between the woods and frozen lake, the darkest evening of the year.
The only other sound's the sweep, of easy wind and downy flake.
The woods are lovely and dark and deep.
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep.
...And miles to go before I sleep.
(Robert Frost)

Psalm 38

The following is Psalm 38 NIV version A psalm of David. A petition.
1 LORD, do not rebuke me in your anger
or discipline me in your wrath.
2 Your arrows have pierced me,
and your hand has come down on me.
3 Because of your wrath there is no health in my body;
there is no soundness in my bones because of my sin.
4 My guilt has overwhelmed me
like a burden too heavy to bear.
5 My wounds fester and are loathsome
because of my sinful folly.
6 I am bowed down and brought very low;
all day long I go about mourning.
7 My back is filled with searing pain;
there is no health in my body.
8 I am feeble and utterly crushed;
I groan in anguish of heart.
9 All my longings lie open before you, Lord;
my sighing is not hidden from you.
10 My heart pounds, my strength fails me;
even the light has gone from my eyes.
11 My friends and companions avoid me because of my wounds;
my neighbors stay far away.
12 Those who want to kill me set their traps,
those who would harm me talk of my ruin;
all day long they scheme and lie.
13 I am like the deaf, who cannot hear,
like the mute, who cannot speak;
14 I have become like one who does not hear,
whose mouth can offer no reply.
15 LORD, I wait for you;
you will answer, Lord my God.
16 For I said, “Do not let them gloat
or exalt themselves over me when my feet slip.”
17 For I am about to fall,
and my pain is ever with me.
18 I confess my iniquity;
I am troubled by my sin.
19 Many have become my enemies without cause[b];
those who hate me without reason are numerous.
20 Those who repay my good with evil
lodge accusations against me,
though I seek only to do what is good.
21 LORD, do not forsake me;
do not be far from me, my God.
22 Come quickly to help me,
my Lord and my Savior.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Jesus Calling Devotional Bible, NKJV By Sarah Young, General Editor

Jesus Calling Devotional Bible, NKJV- Enjoying Peace in His Presence By Sarah Young, General Editor- is another new themed bible published by Thomas Nelson Publishers. This themed bible is a nice idea. The padded cover art is impressive.  Devotions from the book "Jesus Calling" are dispersed within.  The main thing that would have made this bible better is if it was offered in a more user friendly version such as the NCV which is also published by Thomas Nelson.  Sarah Young's writings and devotions are very easy to read and understand in stark contrast to the more literal NKJV.  Therefore I believe the easier to read NCV version would have been a better translation to pair up with Young's devotional style. I hold the same opinion for the Max Lucado themed bible which I feel should have been offered in the NCV version as well.  In fact, I wrote a comment about this (on the booksneeze fb web site) and the feed back I received was that an abreviated version of the bible- simply a series of selected readings- not nearly the entire bible, was available as a devotional in the NCV version.  But, why not have the NCV version available as an option for their themed bibles?  In the Start Bible for New Believers I really feel it was a disservice not to offer that bible in NCV version either.  I think the end result is that all these nice, attractive looking themed bibles will wind up taking bookspace on people shelves with only the devotionals being read but not the actual bible text.  I Simply do not understand why Thomas Nelson publishers avoids publishing its themed bibles in the NCV version which they publish as well. 

  As a blogger I have had the opportunity to review a number of bibles and bible translations. As a believer I read the bible because it is the word of God. A frequently used translation by Thomas Nelson publishers, the publisher I blog for, uses frequently for their themed bibles the NKJV- New King James Version. The NKJV as well as other more literal translations- such as the KJV, NASB, NRSV and ESV tend to be overly literal to the point of being difficult to understand. This is especially evident in the Psalms, and other old testament books as well as the letters in the New Testament. For example, a bible marketed for new belivers titled the "New Believers Bible- Start" ironically, is available in only the literal NKJV, rather than a more user friendly version such as the NCV. The NCV which also is available by the same publisher but under- marketed, would be more appropriate for a new believer or new bible reader. Furthermore, a Max Lucado themed devotional bible is also available in NKJV only and not the more modern yet reliable NCV- New Century Version. For those readers who enjoy Lucado's simple to understand books, the NKJV does a disservice- and a more user friendly version for this themed bible would be more appropriate.

A number of emerging Christian, and rigid individual - "leaders claim that the ESV is the "Bible of the future'—ideal for public worship and private reading, appropriate for adults, youth and children. This puzzles me, since the ESV seems to me to be overly literal—full of archaisms, awkward language, obscure idioms, irregular word order, and a great deal of “Biblish.” Biblish is produced when the translator tries to reproduce the form of the Greek or Hebrew without due consideration for how people actually write or speak. The ESV, like other formal equivalent versions (RSV; NASB; NKJV; NRSV), is a good supplement to versions that use normal English, but is not suitable as a standard Bible for the church. This is because the ESV too often fails the test of 'standard English'"...... according to Bible translator and linguist Wayne Leman in a conference in 2008.

The more literal translations are accurate and trustworthy- great for theologens and scholars and seminary students- in contrast to a paraphrase such the Message which is far, far less literal -to the point of being comedic. As far as a translations for the rest of us- who aren't theologens- as well as new believers, I believe there are perhaps better, more easy to read choices available between in the mid point of the translation spectrum. Sometimes I feel pride is an issue, and that there are some individuals in Church and elsewhere who simply feel smarter and more intelligent when they carry around a NKJV, KJV or ESV. This is nothing more than biblical snobbery. There are many who feel the NIV, the HCSB/ CSB, NLV and other such translations are beneath them. I used to feel that way until I did my own bible studies comparing the texts of passages side by side and saw for myself that modern translations do not obscure or change the meaning. In contrast, the modern translations are enlightening. There is one exception- The Message bible is too paraphrased, intended for entertainment and not serious study. Its a unique paraphrase which is appropriate as a suppliment but it does not replace the bible.

As far as bible translations, there is a spectrum of the ease of reading of a particular translation ranging from beginner/ easy reading levels such as the message and more complex/ literal such as the King James version, and revised standard version. For example, the popular NIV- New International Version, is somewhere in the middle with regard to ease of reading level and undertsanding. The NKJV - New King James Version, in particular, is a bit more literal and is written in somewhat of a higher reading level. Nevertheless, this NKJV is an easy to understand version as well. For those new to the bible entirely, The Message and Living bible as well as NIV versions are easy to read and understand, and are very good options for those who seek to understand the meaning of the bible.

Difficult to read versions such as the Old King James - though very well written and poetic- in a Shakespearian sort of way, do a disservice to the modern or new bible reader. The antique language is difficult for many in this day to understand on their own and makes it prohibitive for many to understand the truths of the bible. Having known many readers of the KJV, who do not even understand the meaning of what they read- indicates that this is not the best translation for those who really seek to know God's word. What is the point of a bible after all if you can not even undertsand it? For those new to the bible or for those who have a difficult to read translation such as the King James Version, who wish to read the bible and actually understand it, I would suggest one of the bible versions with more modern/ contemporary language. While the NKJV is relatively easy to read, it may present a challange to the literacy level of many modern adults. What really seems ironic is when the NKJV, ESV or KJV is printed as a children's bible! When I see this, I can only wonder what child on his or her own can actually read and get anything from it. This is a great diservice to a child- when a child is presented with a bible in archaic English in a tiny text font. I feel that publishers and even parents need to take time to consider visually what a child or teenager will understand when being presented with the bible. There are a number of very good youth bibles and study bibles full of colorful graphics such as the NLB themed study bible, and magazine style bibles in the NCV version which are sure to appeal to younger readers and new bible readers. The NIV and HCSB also have a number study and student bibles too.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

The Christian Zombie Killers Handbook

In light of the popularity of the themes of the undead and zombies, this timely book, The Christian Zombie Killers Handbook: Slaying the Living Dead Within by Jeff Kinley is sure to capture the interest of young people- both Christians and even non Christians. In the books, chapters alternate between the story - indicated by "Episodes" and the spiritual commentary in the "chapters".  It is a unique format with comic book styled illustrations with each episode. The scientific explanation of the zombie "virus" is good enough to rival the storylines of popular zombie themed movies.

 The book is spiritually encouraging but also true to the theology of the bible. The truth about the corruption of our state of being is not hidden, but explained.  Sin is discussed as well as the spiritual battle within.  The author makes references to the bible.  The actual references are at the end rather than in the text- so to look up the verse you must look to the notes in the back.  While the author does not dismiss personal accountability for sin, he tells the reader on page 43 that the spiritual battle that occurs and personal remorse when Christians continue to sin in of itself is evidence that we are Christians.  Nevertheless I can not help but think that this feel good statement is not enough to motivate believers to try their best to put to death their old ways.  In a way I think it simply is a recognition and a passive resignation to accept that we are sinners rather than a call for a Christian to deliberately fight against sin and put a death to it.
So many movies such as 28 days later and popular video games are centered around the concept of the the vampire and the zombie- the human entity that is alive- yet dead. In contrast to the vampire, there is no asthetic appeal to the distgusting and horrific zombie.  Yet it would suprise the reader to know that essentially many of us are no different than zombies.  Ironically, the bible says that many of us are the living dead- or more specifically, the spiritually dead.  When we are no born again, we are in essense the same as a zombie- hence the premise of this book. 

This book makes use of an interesting analogy, employing popular culture to introduce Christian concepts of spirituality and life in contrast to spiritual death and Christian lukewarmness.  As a blogger I recieve books to review without cost and am not required to write a positive review.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Night Night Blessings by Amy Parker

Night Night Blessings by Amy Parker is a bedtime story boardbook for toddlers and babies published by Thomas Nelson publishers.  The highlight of this book are colorful illustrations by Mariajan Ramljak.  In contrast to the simple cartoonish styled drawing of many children's books these days, it looks like the artist actually took timke and effort into illustrating this book.  Other than the illustrations, this is a typical religious themed bedtime story. The little girl, who is the hero, obviously comes from a privilidged, upper middleclass family: with two parents, a pet,  plenty of good food and toys, leisure time and playtime and no worries or cares in the world.  This child lives in an ideal world- intact family untouched by divorce or unemployment or illness, pets, toys and two full time devoted parents.  What else could a child wish for?  Regrettably, there is a large segment of the population whose lives are a struggle financially and socially and could not relate to or find comfort to the happy themes of this book.  It would be worthwhile to write a children's book to target such an audience- the forgotten "minority"  inorder to empower struggling families and their children in times of adversity and to maintainhope and thankfulness to God even in times of want and struggle.  As a blogger for booksneeze, I received this book for the purpose of writing this review.  My opinions are my own.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Gabby, God's Little Angel by Sheila Walsh

Gabby, God's Little Angel by Sheila Walsh, an illustrated children's storybook published by Thomas Nelson publishers, makes for light reading as a bedtime story for parents to read to their young children.  This simple to read story about the popular theme of angels, is suppose to offer comfort to children as well as parents- based on its intrepretation of Psalm 91:11.   As a bedtime story, with no other expectations than entertainment, it is an okay choice. 

For those craving spiritual truth and for those who want to impart spiritual truths to their children, this story falls short.  The simple  cartoon illustrations depicting light skinned blonde angels, feeds into the stereotypical depiction of an angel.  The popular media conception of an angel is the basis for this story in contrast the biblical concept of angels. The light haired,  pre-school aged angels, in pink and yellow dresses- with the token African American boy angel, most likely limits the target age group to very young, well dressed upper class caucasion girls who enjoy horseback riding and other elitist hobbies. The target readership of this book is obviously the intact, typical two parent, upper class,  houshold with the stay at home mom.  For those who grew up in "Christian" households, this is sure to be a feel-good bedtime story.  But for those who are into biblical truth, whose spirituality is based on bible teachings and not popular misconceptions, this story falls short. Socially, however,  I feel perhaps the illustrations as well as the focus on horseback riding might be alienating for some readers and families- but perhaps I am reading too much into this book.

Other than that, setting aside spiritual, biblical and social considerations, this would make a nice bedtime story for children.  As a blogger for Thomas Nelson publishers I received this book for free for the purpose of writing this review.  My opinions are my own.