Into the Book

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  1. Have you ever wanted to be like the Proverb’s 31 woman? I have, mostly because she’s a business woman. But no matter what your reasons, Beautiful in God’s Eyes for Young Women is centered around helping you become like the Proverbs 31 woman.

    The book is divided into twenty chapters, each covering one portion of the Proverb’s 31 (or P31 as the book calls her) woman. Each chapter opens up with the author sharing a part of her trip to Israel, goes on into a discussion of that particular trait, and ends with some discussion questions. I think the discussion questions means that this book is suited to be a devotional or as part of a Sunday School class.

    Despite the fact that the title says “for Young Women”, I feel like it’s targeted at preteens to early teens. That’s mostly from the style of writing with “soooo” (perhaps I used an ‘o’ or two too many) and “ooooh” and generally talking like my younger sisters. But the book is supposed to be a sort of confidante, to help you grow into a truly beautiful young woman, so I suppose that for younger girls, this is the most appropriate style.

    I had only one small problem with the book. In Chapter 3, “A Spring of Goodness”, the author presents a list of ladies that you don’t want to follow because they weren’t a “spring of goodness for their husbands.” Reading through the list, you’ll see that Eve (the mother of all human beings) and Rebekah (who’s generous heart helped her become Isaac’s wife) included in a list with other evil ladies like Jezebel and Solomon’s wives. Now, the inclusion of Eve and Rebekah made me uncomfortable. I look up to Eve and Rebekah. I know that they’ve sinned, but who hasn’t? And the way this passage was written, it felt like it was their fault that their husbands sinned (in the case of Adam at least). Perhaps it’s just my personality, but I know that if I was younger and read a book like that, I would get really scared and well, the weight of other people’s sin is not something that you should ask anyone to bear, boy or girl. I would have appreciated it if the book added a paragraph saying that the husbands did have some responsibility, even if their wives played a role in getting them to sin. I feel that while Satan will always tempt you to sin, in the end, the one that chooses to sin is you yourself. In the same way, we cannot make a blanket statement and say (or make people feel that) if a wife isn’t a perfect, pure spring of goodness, her husband will sin and it will be all her fault.

    And that was the only part of the book that made me uncomfortable. Apart from that, I found the book to be a good resource for young girls, and it’s something that you can consider giving to a young cousin or relative and going through with them, to help them become Godly women.

    Disclaimer: I got a free copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for a free and honest review.

    ~Eustacia

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  2. When I went back to Singapore for the summer holidays, I got roped into giving an impromptu Sunday school class one Sunday. Well, since most of my family has been/is involved in children’s ministry one way or the other, I guess this isn’t so unusual. So when I started reading this book, I immediately thought of how I could use this the next time I’m giving the children’s sermon (although that may be a few years away).

    While the title sounds as though it’s a guide on how to create a story, it’s actually a guide on how to tell a story effectively. According to the book, the bible is 75% is in a story format because “God had it written this way to make it easier for people to learn, remember and share with others.” I’m not sure if this is true, but considering that most of my Sunday School lessons were taught through stories, effective storytelling is definitely going to be an asset.

    The book is divided into three sections. Section One is about how to create a captivating story. Section two is about how to present the story well (this section is not essential, but recommended for anyone who wants to improve their storytelling skills). Section three is about why storytelling is essential. The focus isn’t so much on how to come up with a good story, it’s about teaching you how to tell a story effectively.

    What I liked about this book was that story-telling wasn’t restricted to just kids, it’s presented as a way of sharing that can work for everyone. And while the first application for story-telling that came to mind was for sermons, this book also shows that it’s possible to use it in a classroom setting.

    If you’re looking for a book that will help you in Children’s ministry or in any ministry that requires public speaking, you should definitely pick up this book.

    Disclaimer: I got a free copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for a free and honest review.
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  3. I had such high hopes for the book. In the author’s note, he asks “Could the Works of God in nature give us a lens through which to understand the Works of God in Scripture?” Being a fan of Creation Ministries International, I was really hyped up by that question. Unfortunately, the book actually compromises the Bible, which means I can’t recommend it.
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  4. One thing that has always puzzled me was how different Biblical names are in Chinese and English. Well, it’s a little different in Japanese as well, but the Japanese pronunciation are actually quite similar to the Chinese pronunciation. Well, after reading Identity Theft, it hit me – the Chinese and Japanese names are transliterated from Hebrew/Greek, not English!

    Identity Theft is based on a simple premise – the Jesus that we know today has been stripped of his Jewishness. And that is something that is hindering the Jews from coming to know him. From names that have been changed (think Miriam to Mary) to the idea of Peter as the Pope, the book provides a brief introduction to how Jesus has been stripped of his Jewishness.

    The book isn’t written in the normal non-fiction form. The narrative vehicle uses the experiences of a Jew called David as he’s visited by and taught by an angel called Ariel. As a Messianic Jew, the author Ron Cantor used his experience, his struggle of being both Jewish and Christian to show how David struggled with belief in Christ.

    Personally, I thought this book was eye-opening. I’ve always been told that Jesus was a Jew, and that the Gospel came first to the Jews, then to the Gentiles, but since a lot of my Sunday School materials (not to mention so much classical art) came from the West, I developed this impression of Jesus as a Caucasian.

    For me, it was the section of how names that were changed that got me to realise how casually I’ve taken the fact that most Jews aren’t Christians. Why am I not more upset that not more of God’s chosen people don’t believe in his Son?

    I heartily recommend this book. I think it fulfills its twofold purpose of introducing Jesus to the Jew and of re-introducing Jesus to the believer.

    Disclaimer: I got a free copy of this book from the publishers via NetGalley in exchange for a free and honest review.
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  5. In Godsmacked, Paul Cicchini tries to be the Christian Douglas Adams. As a big fan of the Hitchhiker’s Trilogy of Five, I really wanted this book to work. Unfortunately, while the plot could have worked, theological problems means that there’s no way I can reccomend this book.
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  6. It seems that the more I read Joel C. Rosenberg’s theology, the more skeptical I become. But if I ignore that, his latest book Damascus Countdown is a gripping read about what the start of the end times might be like.

    Damascus Countdown is the third book in the Twelfth Iman series of books. It follows the CIA undercover operative David as he tries to stop Israel from being attacked by nuclear bombs. The mastermind behind this is The Twelfth Imam, who’s is gathering all the Islamic countries into one Caliphate in order to become lord of the age.

    What I liked about this book was the tight writing and the characterisation. There’s a large cast of characters, but I felt as though I knew most of them personally. And even though I felt that the characterisation was well developed, it wasn’t at the expense of the plot. The book moved along at a quick pace, with a very exciting end.

    Apart from the main plot, there are a few subplots, such as what’s going on with David’s family and the former Shia-theology scholar turned Christian Birjandi and his dilemma on whether he should answer the summons of the Twelth Imam.

    Before I start on my niggling doubts, let me quote this passage of the book that I agree with:


    “We need to be very careful not to overreach in our interpretation.”

    Personally, I find it very hard to understand End-Time prophecies, especially with all the disputing schools of thought. That’s why I’m very skeptical when things are written as though they are definitive, with no reference to other interpretations.

    Well, there’s that and the fact that this book was focused solely on America and the Middle East. I understand the need to have the Middle East as the main region, but why is America the other big player? Where are the Asian countries? If I remember correctly, China is mentioned two times, India once and the rest of Asia barely at all. This is strange considering that this is where significant economic growth (and with it, political growth) is concentrated. I’m actually fairly sure that the Asian countries pull weight in the international arena as well.

    For example, Malaysia has ties with the Middle East, and has even offered to be a peace broker. Their Prime Minister Najib even visited Gaza in the recent past.

    In conclusion, this is an exciting and enjoyable work of fiction. The only thing that I have doubts about is the over the theology, and what I think is an inaccurate portrayal of global politics.

    Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Tyndale Blog Network in exchange for a free and honest review.


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  7. It’s the end of the world. A virus called the White Horse (and can only be described as a viral form of cancer), combined with another World War, has caused most of mankind of perish. One of the survivors, Zoe, is one a journey, and is supposed to (according to the book) show us the good in us humans. Unfortunately, the book fails on so many levels.
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  8. “And [the devil] took him to Jerusalem and set him on the pinnacle of the temple and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here, for it is written, ‘He will comman his angels concerning you to guard you, and on their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone.” (Luke 4:9-11)

    The devil quoting Scripture is nothing new. That’s why we need to know when Scripture is being misused, and The Most Misused Verses In The Bible is supposed to help us with that.

    In this book, Eric J. Bargerhuff takes some of the most commonly quoted verses and puts them in the correct context, allowing the reader to see where they have been misquoted.

    From Matthew 7:1 (“Do not judge, or you too will be judged”) to 2 Chronicles 7:14 (“If my people, who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land”), seventeen commonly (mis)quoted verses are put into their proper context.

    For example, 2 Chronicles 7:14 (“If my people, who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land”). This is commonly used to exhort a country to repent of their ways. However, by reading the Bible, you’ll see that this is said as a response to Solomon’s prayer when the Temple is rebuilt. In other words,



    “It is not meant to be a general promise that is given to any other nation on the face of the earth. No other nation could ever claim to be “God’s people” and not other nation today has a temple where the living God dwells.”)


    So when people try to claim this verse, they shouldn’t be surprised if the healing they expect doesn’t come to pass.

    What I liked about this book was that it gave the historical and Biblical context, which puts it in it’s proper light. I’ve heard it said, that “a text without a context is just a pretext for what you want it to say”, and that’s certainly true for the verses cited above.

    I’d recommend this book to anyone looking to boost their Bible knowledge. It’s not a shortcut to knowing the Word of God, but it’s a good help when you’re studying the Bible.


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  9. If you ask me, you can never read the Bible from start to finish too many times. And while I normally read according to a reading plan, I think it would be very helpful to read it with a devotional. So, if you have 90 days of mostly free time, you should definitely use this book to read through the Bible once.

    Now, 90 days is a fairly short period of time to read through the Bible, which is why this book goes through several chapters (sometimes a whole book) in a day. What this means is that instead of a detailed verse by verse examination, the book looks at a more macro picture.

    Each day goes through the chapters selected, interweaving the Biblical narrative with an ideas to consider. At the end of each day are questions for you to consider. While you could just read the devotional without reading the Bible (the entire narrative is told, after all), I think it will be much more enriching to read it concurrently.

    Apart from going through the Chapter/Books, there are also two days dedicated to introducing the Old Testament and the New Testament. I foumd that this helped me in not feeling so overwhelmed, since it introduced key themes.

    I want to end by quoting this passage on James (Day 82):

    “The practice of faith affects our actions, our mouths, and our relationships. It’s a deadly delusion to think that hearing and agreeing with God’s Word is the same as doing it. A thousand messaegs from gifted teachers do no good if the truths learned from them don’t produce change in our lives.”

    So yes, I highly recommend this book, but bear in mind, that just reading the book won’t be enough. Put into practice what you’ve learnt.

    Disclaimer: I got a free copy of this book coutesy of Tyndale Blog Network in exchange for a free and honest review.


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  10. This may not be a real cowboy western, but hey, it’s set in one of those make-believe cowboy towns that I saw in the “Sweet Valley series” and that I always wanted to visit (whew, that’s a long sentence).

    Dead Man’s Hand is the first in the series of The Caden Chronicles, which I’m guessing is a mystery series. In this book, Nick Caden, our protagonist, is at a family vacation in Deadwood Canyon Ghost Town. He’s just arrived when he finds the dead body of Billy the Kid. BUT, when he alerts the sheriff, the body’s gone! And thanks to an agreement between the Sheriff and his father, Nick’s allowed to investigate – under certain conditions.

    I suppose that since this was the author’s first book, he’s still getting into the hang of things. My biggest problem with the book was the narration. It’s told in first-person form, but somehow, it doesn’t feel right. I remember being fourteen, and while I wasn’t that mature, I didn’t remember being so bratty. Honestly, I’ll believe it if Nick was like, ten. I’m not sure why, it was just a feeling I got.

    The plot was, ok. Nothing spectacular, but it’s about the same as most YA mystery novels. I’m already thinking of re-reading the book to see what clues I missed, because the culprit was nothing like I expected.

    Finally, the whole spirit/death theme. I think, that the book may have overemphasised the whole spiritual thing in the blurb, because it felt like this was added in last minute. Sure, there was the mysterious Bible with the relevant versus highlighted (and props to the author for doing what Chesterton suggested and making the familiar seem unfamiliar), but I don’t recall it helping the plot in a noticable way. And why did Nick suddenly want to investigate the mystery of Jesus?

    But I think, the whole review can be summed up in this – I read the book in one sitting. That should tell you how compelling it is.

    Disclaimer: I received a free book from the publisher in exchange for a free and honest review.


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