Monday, November 28, 2011

So sick of the Holiday Greed :( :(

"Every who down in who-ville, teh tall and the small was singing! Without any presents at all.  Maybe Christmas doesn't come from a store.  Maybe Christmas means a little bit more"-
from How The Grinch Stole Christmas

It is that time of year again, when so many people use the birth of Jesus to justify greed. I am so sick of hearing about "black Friday" and how commonplace it has become that most people think nothing of spending so much money- even so called "Christians".  Many even flaunt about it and brag about their financial ability to spend.  Hundreds and maybe even thousands of dollars are spent by the every day consumer to purchase electronics, clothing, accessories and other things- all of this in the name of the "Christmas Spirit".  -Not to mention that it is already common place for the average American to think nothing of spending hundreds of dollars on a coach bag, Ugg boots, iphones, manicures, frivolous vacations, dinners out and clothes. Society centers around greed, materialism and competition. 

If you can look past the amateurish quality of the following you tube video (See the link), a good point is made about how many people complain about not having enough without regard to those who do not even have basic neccessities such as food or clothing. Many don't have the luxury to worry about which iphone or tablet to buy.  They don't care about a $600 coach bag or coach shoes, when they do not even have food to feed their children.  How insignificant and petty and greedy are our shopping habits when compared to the suffering and lack of so many.
VIDEO (click link below)
Poor Vs Rich

How ironic that a secular children's writer, Dr Seuss summed the true spirit of Christmas: "Every who down in who-ville, teh tall and the small was singing! Without any presents at all.  Maybe Christmas doesn't come from a store.  Maybe Christmas means a little bit more"- from How The Grinch Stole Christmas.---all the while the rest of us "Christians" do our share of promtoting materialism and greed at not only holiday time but all year round.

Black Friday GREED!!!!! 

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Night of the Living Dead Christian by Matt Mikalatos

Night of the Living Dead Christian, by Matt Mikalatos is a hybrid between a horror satire and a book on biblical spirituality. Don't be fooled by the comic book styled graphics on the cover, and its bright green block letters and cartoon zombies- this book has a relevant message for young and old alike- as well as secular and religious readers. Underneath the satire and humor, the author presents a sombering message about hypocricy and divisions among so called Christians and churches. 

These days, I don't know who hasn't hasn't heard of zombies- they are the subject of many horror movies, TV shows, and apparently Christian literature as well. Yet, the analogy between zombies, warewolves, vampires and other monsters is obvious, even though it has been overlooked! Really, this books asserts that people are in fact no different from the personification of a warewolf, zombie or other horrible creature- the undead- physically alive,technically, yet dead, spiritually- alive in the form of a body, breathing, walking, existing- yet dead in spirit. Yet in an ironic twist, the self- aware, humble warewolf hero, is portrayed as more human, and more honest than the typical, hypocritical, self professed Christians that are so common.Mikalatos basically sums up Paul’s new testament teaching on false teachings, hypocrisy and faith without specifically referencing Paul’s letters. Even Paul in his New Testament letters points out that Christians often are their own worst enemy in turning other people away from God. Simply read through the vices of the unsaved. The analogy and correlation between those who are unsaved with zombies and warewolves makes a sense- and it is in a format that can be easily understood and enjoyed by Christians and secular readers, as well as older and younger readers alike.

"As for you, don't you remember how you used to exist? Corpses, dead in life, buried by transgressions, wandering the course of this perverse world. You were the offspring of the prince of the power of the air- oh, how he owned you, just as he still controls those living in disobediance. I'm not talking about outsiders alone; we were all guilty of falling headlong for the persuasive passions of this world; we all have had our fill of indulging the flesh and mind, obeying impulses to follow perverse thoughts motivated by dark powers. as a result, our natural inclinations led us to be children of wrath, just like the rest of human kind." Ephesians 2: 1-3 (the Voice NT

Matt Mikalatos challenges some common misconceptions that many readers may have about the concept of Christianity through the story of an enlightened warewolf in the midst of a spiritual battle. The warewolf, seeking relief, has amazing insight and clarity that one would not expect to see from such an untamed, wild creature. The warewold himself is the one who points out the sobering reality that many who claim to be Christian, aren’t really Christian on page 53 when he states “If claiming to be a Christian meant personal transformation, our world would be a far different place. As it is I know far too many Christians who are worse men as Christians then they were as pagans”. It also is pointed out that many religious churches and institutions are really impediments to true faith. For example, he challenges the notion that just because one says he or she is a Christian doesn’t mean that they are. He points out the divisive and cultic nature of some well known denominations and contrasts them with the true spirituality of the bible. He makes fun of those bookworms, who hide behind complicated theology and thick, expensive study bibles, pointing out how works and appearances are not enough to save. At one point, Matt adresses the controversy over translations- literal vs paraphrase, when Matt and the warewolf are arguing over what translations is best. During the debate, they are adminished by another character, Hibbs, who states "The fact is, all those translations are the scriptures.  They have different styles and different should stop fighting over translations so much that itprevents you from reading the scriptures." page 179.
Another popular cultural icon, the vampire, (especially in light of the Twilight series), is used as another analogy in this story.  Mikalatos challanges the romantic notion of the vampire and portrays the concept of the vampire for what it actually is- the representation and personification of selfish greed and ambition at the expense of others.  Using a fictional vampire named Lara,  to communicate the truth of the human condition, vampires are redifined as not only fictional, yet  literal creatures that such blood, but as anyone who profits or gains through the manipulation of others.  "You don't have to suck blood to be a vampire", she explains on page 140. "It's a question of selfishness, of putting yourself and your needs ahead of people around you."  Based on that definition of vampire, then most people today can consider themselves to be vampire-like.  The theme of monsters, zombies and warewolves is simply a platform that the author uses to communicate the problems that are wrong with luke- warm, modern Christianity and churches, and people in general for that matter. The quest to save a warewolf, mirrors the quest to save people- or all of us-  from false, hypocritical and ineffective religion in favor of the true salvation offered by the good news of the gospel message.

The book itself includes many added bonuses: an author interview, discussion guide and even a mini handbook to the various monsters and undead creatures. The rejected titles included at the back of the book is entertaining in of itself. The monster handbook, titled, “Are You a Monster: A Layman’s Guide to Common Monstrosities”, lists some creatures such as warewolves, Vampires and Zombies. It also adds mummies, which according to the guide, are normally found in their habitats which include long established ministries. Which of course is a reference to hypocritical, ineffective and rigid religion which bears little resemblance to the biblical truth of the gospel message. This book is sure to appeal to a wide audience, and it is a unique format for outreach to may who would not normally read a spiritual book.

As a blogger for Tyndale publishers I received this book for the purpose of writing this review.

If you enjoyed this review, or if you would like more information, you may wish to visit the following sites:
My story.....
SPECIAL GIVEAWAY- Please comment on this review.  A random winner's comment will be chosen to win  a certificate for a copy of Matt's book. If chosen, you will be contacted.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Saved from death

This describes me- a passage from Ephesions, a new testament book written by Paul, the apostle, "As for you, don't you remember how you used to exist? Corpses, dead in life, buried by transgressions, wandering the course of this perverse world.  You were the offspring of the prince of the power of the air- oh, how he owned you, just as he still controls those living in disobediance.  I'm not talking about outsiders alone; we were all guilty of falling headlong for the persuasive passions of this world; we all have had our fill of indulging the flesh and mind, obeying  impulses to follow perverse thoughts motivated by dark powers.  as a result, our natural inclinations led us to be children of wrath, just like the rest of human kind."  Ephesians 2: 1-3 (the Voice NT). Everyone has heard of Zombies- the living dead. A body, reanimated, disgusting, grotesque and barbaric- alive yet devoid of the essential part that makes us human.  I don't know who hasn't hasn't heard of zombies- they are the subject of many horror movies. At one time in my life I really was no different from the personification of a zombie- the undead- physically alive,technically, yet dead, spiritually- alive in the form of a body, breathing, walking, existing- yet dead in spirit. I had the appearance of physical life, that is true, but I was dead in all that really mattered.

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 me 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.

The 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 my friend.

I still remember how I used to exist, as a corpse, dead in life, buried by my transgressions, wandering the course of this perverse world.  I was the offspring of the prince of the power of the air- oh, how he owned me,  living in disobediance, guilty of falling headlong for the persuasive passions of this world; having had my fill of indulging the flesh and mind, obeying  impulses to follow perverse thoughts motivated by dark powers.   Ephesians 2: 1-3 (the Voice NT).  I once was dead, but now I am alive, born again- saved. Because I have heard the word of truth- and received  the good news of salvation- and because I have believed in the One who is truth, marked with the Holy Spirit, who is promised as the guarentee, who frees and resuces all who belong to Him.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Heaven Is for Real DVD Conversation Guide

The Heaven Is for Real DVD Conversation Guide is based on the book, Heaven is for Real -A Little Boy's Astounding Story of His Trip to Heaven and Back, By Todd Burpo.  This kit basically completes and explains the ideas introduced by the book.  This kit is more like an after the fact, defense of the book and of Colton's experiences. It is an apologetic styled work written in defense of book and of Colton's experience- perhaps written in answer to the vocal skeptics.   I was suprised that this conversation guide book gives a clear message of the gospel, true to the message of the bible.  Theologically, this book explained salvation and heaven in simple, easy to understand and relevant terms.  The errorof relativison and the ideas of nirvana were exposed and explained in light of the true message of the gospel.

Obviously, since this kit is based on the book, many references are made to Colton's specific visions of heaven, which may or may not be biblically accurate.  For those who are skeptical of near death experiences and private visions, in general,such refernces to Colton's own portrayal should be taken with a grain of salt. Even Christians who believe strongly in the bible should be cautious about accepting the validity of a private vision.  Whereas the original book was pretty simple and left a lot of the biblically based explanatory information out- this DVD and guide fills the gaps of information.  Personally, I believe the text of the conversation guide should have been integrated into the original book- perhaps in the back as a study guide suppliment. 

For those who never read the book on which this kit is based, Heaven is for Real -A Little Boy's Astounding Story of His Trip to Heaven and Back, By Todd Burpo with Lynn Vincent, claims to be an account of a true story. A pastor, writes the account of his son's trip to heaven, that happened during the emergency surgery of his 4 year old son near death experience. While alleged near death experiences are somewhat common, based on the media attention in documentaries, articles and even books, what makes this story unique is the fact that it comes from a 4 year old boy, who upon his return to his parents, reveals information that he could possibly not have known everywhere else.
Even though this story is easy to read and easy to follow, it raises spiritually complex issues such as the issue of the legitimacy of private visions apart from revealed scripture. While it is true that some NDE can be ruled out as the side effects of a dying or injured brain, not all can be scientifically ruled out. Some perhaps might be supernatural in nature. Nevertheless that does not mean they should automatically be accepted as biblical in nature or truth. I must admit I am skeptical when it comes to believing modern day visions and NDE. For example, there are so many alleged apparitions of Mary in the Catholic church, that I believe most to be hoaxes, and in other cases, demonic in nature.

Convieniently, this entire miraculous story occured to a pastor's son. The reader places his faith by accepting the word of the pastor- the author of this book- that his 4 year old son did in fact go to heaven and that it is a true account and not fabricated or embellished. While the pastor does not admit to adding to his son's depictions of heaven, he interprets them in light of scripture. In of itslef there is nothing wrong with doing that. Once the reader decides to accept the author's word that this story is legit, it is up to the reader to discern the source or supernatural power behind the NDE. This is where most readers will most likely accept with blind faith that this is a true account and that it is based on biblical truth. This is because most people want to believe this heartwarming and comforting message is true.
Any responsible reader familiar with the bible will be aware that he or she is faced with the task of determining if the experience of Colton is spiritually based on truth, or if it perhaps is an indirect attempt of Satan to mislead believers into accepting false information. Paul warned in the letters of the new testement, especially in the book of Galations, that even Satan, and evil spirits can appear as angels of light, deceiving many. So, if this is true, then is it possible that a Pastor might be decieved and misinterpret his son's experience as being from God when it possibly isn't? That possibility must be acknowledged by anyone who reads this book. While Paul acknowledged the possibility of personal visions in the ancient church, he himself did not place on any believer the burden of accepting any other private vision other than the message containe din the gospel. When Colton urgently claimed that all must know Jesus to enter Heaven, that is accurate- and perhaps the most significant piece of information that could possibly validate the experience as being in line with scripture. As far as the other details- knowledge of his grandfather and unborn sister- that information could be obtained from evil sources for the purpose of adding "authenticity" and misleading believers into believeing the other aspects of the visions Colton shared. The evil spirits are known for mixing truth with falsehood. We are in a spiritual battle, and nothing is off limits as far as the evil spirits of this world are concerned. they will try all sorts oftricky and decieving deceptions. They will try any underhanded tactic even going so far as using an innocent boy and his Pastor Dad, as tools to mislead others. It isn't always obvious to everyone to sort truth from untruth unless they are firmly grounded in the Holy Spirit. Even those involved in the occult such as palm readers and fortune tellers, can sometimes fortell the future or the past with amazing accuracy with supernatural information supplied by the evil spirit realm. The details of the throne of God, the angels and other aspects are questionable, as to their spiritual authenticity.

As a blogger for booksneeze I received this book & DVD kit from Thomas Nelson publishers for the purpose of writing this review. It is with caution I would suggest this book to anyone to read- unless of course that reader is willing to take the time to discern, in light of scripture, the validity of the message presented by this little boy's experience and his dad who authored the book. I do believe however, the kit is a neccessary part of this book- and without some explanatory material, many readers will be left with an incomplete picture.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

To write in one's personal bible or not OR Why I do not write notes in my bible

To write in one's personal bible or not has been an issue that I have contemplated on many occasions. I have seriously considered writing notes and underlining important passages- especially considering at how popular it is among many faithful bible readers. As I stare at two of copies of a bible I just won from entering an online facebook contest, I found myself thinking, with a pen in hand,  why not write some notes and highlight passages in one of the copies.  Considering that I have more than one bible- I figured why not write notes in at least one copy. That is one way to personalize one's own bible and memoralize one's own thoughts.   In the end, I have ultimately decided  not to write notes and not to highlight passages of my bible. (And I gave away the extra copy).  Instead, I prefer to write important verses and passages in a journal or on notecards.  Or perhaps I will even stick a small sticky note near an especially important or meaningful verse. And I will stick to my preference of not writing directly in my bible.

Any commentary or thoughts I have about what I read in the bible are written in a journal or typed out on a word document or blog- rather than writing them directly in the bible or on the margins of the pages.  The reason I have decided not to write notes in my bible is because in my humility, I understand that my interpretations or my emphasis of certain verses are passages are probably not always inspired by the Holy Spirit.  It might also be self serving or biased.  So, why would I want my words or emphasis side by side with God's word, for me to see each and every time I opened my bible.  Even if I went so far as to claim to have private revelations, or visions from God  (neither of which, I claim), no matter how convinced I may be that they were true, it still would not compare to the authenticity or holiness of God's words.   I would not put my words, or interpretations on the same level as scripture itself and I would not want to "deface" a copy of the bible with my own words.  I would not want to obscure the true meaning of scripture by having it interpreted or elaborated with my words.  Therefore, I keep my words and thoughts where they belong- in my mind, or if I feel so inclined, on a seperate sheet of paper where they will not interfere or obscure the actual bible's words.  I am not denouncing or judging anyone else's decision to write in his or her own bible.  I am just simply expressing my opinion and the reason behind it.

While I do believe the Holy Spirit can inspire anyone to read and understand the full  meaning of the bible's message, the words of the bible speak for themselves! I can not add anything to the inspired words, and the best I can do is memorize them as they are written- with nothing more added or taken away. So even if I owned a million copies of the bible, if I take one off the book shelf, and see handwritten comments, I might be tempted to rely on my own comments and highlighted passages, rather than just simply reading and relying on the bible itself. At minimum, my focus would be diverted to my own notes and interpretations rather than on the bible text.  If I felt so inclined to interpret the bible or add study notes-then perhaps I should simply just write them out in a seperate document.  In fact, I did do this- I wrote a summary or simplified version of the entire New Testament from Acts to Revelation, which is available on this blog!

As Silver refined by Kay Arthur

The new book, As Silver Refined: Answers to Life's Disappointments  by Kay Arthur, is an inspirational biblically based message on how to handle the difficulties and reality of life.  So  many books, claiming to offer Christian inspiration avoid the issue of tragedy as if it simply does not happen in a believer's life.  For so many, tragedy means minor dissapointments such as a broken computer, spilled coffee, and misbehaving children.  For those who experience real tragedy: death, terminal illness, divorce, crime or finanical ruin- such readers are left without any support or comfort.  The fact of the matter is that really bad things do happen- beyond the ordinary nuisances that so many materialistic, "comfortable Christians" complain about. She talks about turning dissapointments into "his appointments".  This means that she challanges the reader to consider the purpose behind dissapointments and that God, ih his wisdom, uses them as appointments which serve to refine the believer, just as precious metals are refined by fire.

In fact, the author must deal with her own guilty conscious as a result of first husband's suicide.  It is not so common when a writer on suffering actually went through suffering herself.  Kay Arthur has the courage to admit the issues she struggles with.  Although, at times, it appears as if she tries to rationalize her past as stating it occured before she was saved. Nevertheless, the simple fact she is humble enough to acknowledge her past pain puts her light years ahead of many so called "spiritual" writers who probably had never had a day of suffering in their lives.   Many so called Christian authors complain and bemoan when they are rushed and have no time to get their morning coffee at Starbuck's.  Often the reader is left puzzeling in wonder if the author of the alleged "inspirational" book actually has spiritual priorities or wordly material priorities.  Many so called Christian writers reccomend the reader to relax and have a day of freedom at an expensive spa or a vacation.  In the real world, with acute crisis, death, poverty and sickness, who, but a well- to do, prosperous person untouched by the reality of tragedy can do such worldy diversions. 

The anecdotes included by the author describe individuals who show courage in the face of real pain and tragedy.  This is exactly what the suffering Christian needs to read, and not simply a bunch of short feel good bedtime style stories.  At the end of the book is a bible study- that is actually useful in spiritual formation, in contrast to so many superficial "studies" found in the back of other books.  As a blogger for Water Brook, I recieved this book for the purpose of writing this review.  My opinions are my own. 

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

The Lucado Inspirational Reader by Max Lucado

The Lucado Inspirational Reader by Max Lucado is the newest compilation of the "best" of Lucado's writings. Almost all of Lucado's works are inspirational and worthy of re-reading (with the exception of the book, "Cure for the Common Life).   Earlier this year, the pocket sized "Live Loved", devotional was published- consisting of passages from Lucado's previous works. This is a similar book, but larger sized, and it is not formated in a daily devotional.  Nevertheless, it was filled with inspirational; passages from Lucado's library of previously published titles. It is obviously hard to carry around an entire collection of Lucado's works, but this book takes selected exerpts from many of his popular titles.  Although none of the material in this book is new, much of what Lucado writes can be re-read- especially in times of great spiritual need.  I havee found that when I read Lucado's writings, I will find many noteworthy and inspiration ideas and passages- which I do mark so that I can return to at a later time.  The only downside to this compilation is that the author- or publisher's oipinion of his greatest or most notable passages may differ from the opinion of the reader.  Perhaps the devil's advocate may believe that the publication of this book is simply another attempt to make even more money on previously published books, while putting in minimal effort.  While this may be true, in part, this book is worth reading for those familiar with Lucado's books as well as for those readers new to his works.  As a blogger for booksneeze I received this book for the purpose of writing this review.  The opinions expresssed in this review are my own.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Dissapointed in this elitist dieting book, disguised as Christian literature----Awakening: A New Approach to Faith, Fasting, and Spiritual Freedom by Stovall Weems

I was very dissapointed by the book, Awakening: A New Approach to Faith, Fasting, and Spiritual Freedom by Stovall Weems.  The subtitle, "21 Days to Revolutionize your Relationship with God", seemed catchy enough, and drew me in. I started out reading this book, openminded, looking for inisght, yet remained skeptical, on the author's version of "fasting". After reading this book, it seemed more like a  how- to book on health food and detoxification- whichis more like a veiled, yet pius sounding type of elitist diet rather than a book on spiritual fasting.  For example, a variety of fasts were listed, including the fruit and veggie fast where you eat simply fruit and vegitables. Some of these were given religious sounding names like the "Daniel" fast.   For many individuals from the lower rung of the socio- economic ladder, this type of fast is nothing more than an elitist diet that you will find advocated  in a fancy spa, or a woman's fashion magazine. Sample menues include expensive, time consuming fruit smoothies and "whey protein"...whatever that means. This book's focus on health foods  and equating expensive health food with Christian spirituality disgusted me. 

I found this book too distracting and it seemed to deviate from the book's original intent to draw closer to God, and to revolutionize one's relationship with God.  Is this done through a fancy, expensive- self limiting diet, made up of trendy fruit juices, smoothies, whey proteins, salads, exotic organic dressings, whole grains and legumes and other things that are too prohibitive and expensive for many lower working class readers or the poor, to follow? This seemed like a yuppie how -to book on "fasting". Many people, well at least lower middle class and financially poor readers, or those who must work full time jobs with long hours, do not have the money or time to spend on organic foods, whey protein, organic fruits, and smoothies, much less prepare them.  I'm sure for anyone fortunate in financial resources and/or time, who can follow this diet/ "fast", will have a thinner waist-line, and lower blood pressure would be the result, but certainly not an increase in being filled with the Holy Spirit.   This book does not portray a spiritual fast but rather a health-food indulgence based on false piety and hypocracy.   Perhaps I am wrong, but I thought fasting meant you don't eat, not that you eat fancy, expensive healthy food. At least that is what biblical fasting meant. So, then, if fasting doesn't mean abstaining from all food, but rather choosing a selection of food, then why not include the John the Baptist fast which consisted of wild honey and locusts?  Of course that would not be includedin this book  because too much sugar isn't "healthy" and is too indulgent and locusts are too "gross" for elitists and their false religious beliefs who say its ok to fast with capuccinos and smoothies but inexpensive peanut butter is not ok for a fast.  This book justifies all those spa addicts, and health food nuts.   If that's the case, then almost any one with an eating disorder such as anorexia, health food freaks, or elitist, obessesive, health nuts have an automatic head start on fasting. This book belongs in the healthfood & dieting section of the bookstore and not with the Christian books.  As a diet and health book- it is unique I suppose, but for any other spiritual enlightment, or empowerment I'd look elsewhere.  As a blogger for Waterbrook, I recieved this book for the purpose of writing a review. The opinions expressed in this book are my own.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

The Abundant Life Day Book by Nancy Guthrie

Not only is the pocket sized devotional, The Abundant Life Day Book by Nancy Guthrie, inviting to look at and read, it is inspirational as well.  The first thing that stands out on this book, is the embossed cover details and the bright green butterfly print.  While it is important to follow the old cliche about not judging a book by its cover, obviously this book is designed to catch the reader's attention.  There certainly is no shortage of pocket sized devotional books on the market- not to mention full sized- soft covered trade book styled devotionals.  The idea of a pocket sized devotional is that the reader will find it convientient to carry in a pocket or a purse.  Furthermore, the cover must be sufficiently stylish to carry around.  This book certainly qualifies as a stylish accessory. While it seems this review has an undue focus on the external appearance of this book, it is simply because as far as devotional books go- the presentation of this book, its cover, and two tone pages, are impressive.

The point of pocket sized devotionals is that they are easy to carry and easy to read.  Usually they are not rich in theological detail, but rather they offer simple advise, in a quick to read single paragraph- just like this devotional by Nancy Guthrie.  If you are looking for quick inspiration in a stylish package, this is the book for you.  In the genre of pocket sized devotional books, this is a good choice.  The devotionals speak out to the reader to provide inspiration and biblical truth. 

As a blogger for Tyndale I received this book from the publisher for the purpose of writing this review.  My opinions are my own.