Friday, February 5, 2016

(Review) Illustrated Life of Paul by Charles L. Quarles

Publication Date: 2014.
Publisher: B and H Publishing. 
Genre: Nonfiction, Bible history.
Pages: 300.
Source: Free copy from B and H Publishing in exchange for a review.
Rating: 5 stars for excellent.

Link @ B and H Publishing.

Christian Book

Illustrated Life of Paul follows chronologically the life of Paul in the sixteen chapters of Acts that focus on him and his New Testament letters.
"Chapter 1: Introduction
Chapter 2: The Background of Saul of Tarsus
Chapter 3: The Damascus Road
Chapter 4: The First Missionary Journey
Chapter 5: The Jerusalem Conference
Chapter 6: The Second Missionary Journey
Chapter 7: The Third Missionary Journey
Chapter 8: From Jerusalem to Rome
Chapter 9: Paul's Last Years"

In the Preface, Charles L. Quarles explains,
"I have sought to wed deep love for the apostle Paul with deep love for the truth. Some will likely argue that this approach sacrifices the objectivity of the good historian. However, I have attempted to follow solid evidence in reconstructing Paul's life without becoming the detached and disinterested historian that was the ideal of modernism." Page ix.
The Introduction states Paul's importance for the New Testament Church. I believe Quarles has painted a beautiful portrait of Paul. From explaining Paul's early life, to education and training, his role as a Pharisee, dramatic conversion, missionary journeys, ministry, and martyrdom.
Both Old Testament and New Testament Bible references are included.
Explanations are defined for terminology (Hebrew, Greek, Latin.) For example: Makkot (Hebrew), referring to flogging, the word in Hebrew is stripes; provocatio (Latin) a trial.
The term of justification (accounting terminology) and how "rabbis were fond of describing God as a great accountant who kept an enormous ledger." I'd not read this expression before.
The book is arranged like an illustrated magazine-think National Geographic.
Illustrations of photographs, art work, archaeology artifacts, and maps are in vibrant color.

My Thoughts:
I feel this is a marvelous book to read cover to cover and to use for reference.
I'd read remarks from other reviewers this book is a "basic" study of Paul. I love basic. Basic to me means exactly what I need to read pertaining to the person and not fluff.

Reasons why I awarded Illustrated Life of Paul 5 stars for excellent.

  • Page 33. "The Spirit had so broken Paul's heart that he neither ate nor drank for three days. His fast was natural and voluntary. It exhibits his deep and sincere repentance and his utter shock at this amazing turn of events. The Damascus road revelation had turned his world upside down." This statement reveals how all Christians should feel: Jesus has "turned our world upside down" and we are never the same person again. 
  • Chapter 4 explains, "The doctrine of justification" and its "important hallmark of Paul's message. 
  • Enjoyable reading pleasure in learning about the apostle Paul. 
  • Visually engaging illustrations. 
  • Chapter 7. "Supernatural activity." Luke describes in the third missionary journey "extraordinary miracles," see Acts 19:11-12. Seven pages are devoted to the history and ministry of exorcism. 
  • Chapter 9. Paul's final arrest, imprisonment, and martyrdom. Nero's brutality, and the conditions in the prison were especially gruesome and heartrending.  

The Great Fire of Rome by Hubert Robert

Thursday, February 4, 2016

(Review) The Listening Life: Embracing Attentiveness in a World of Distraction by Adam S. McHugh

Publication Date: December 9, 2015.
Publisher: IVP Books.
Genre: Nonfiction, listening, psychology.
Pages: 224.
Source: Self-purchase.
Rating: 5 stars for excellent.

Adam S. McHugh's blog

For more information at IVP Books. 

Christian Book

Adam S. McHugh is the author of another book: Introverts in the Church: Finding our Place in an Extroverted Culture. 
I'm an introvert. I'm able to lead committees, meet and greet people in the church, and take part in Bible study discussions. However, I'm an introvert at heart. I need time, sometimes extensive time, to do my own thing in solitude.
Just because I'm a quiet introvert, does not mean I'm a good listener. Through the years I've learned the importance of listening, but this is a work in process.
I'm a member of the IVP Bookclub. After coming across this book in the month's section, I had to read it.

Nine chapters teach and apply the importance of listening.
"1. The Listening Life
2. The King Who Listens
3. Listening to God
4. Listening to Scripture
5. Listening to Creation
6. Listening to Others
7. Listening to People in Pain
8. Listening to Your Life
9. The Society of Reverse Listening"

McHugh states, "Listening is a practice of focused attention." Page 19.
The importance of being an astute listener is important as a disciple of Christ Jesus. It is a first step in being a friend, prayer partner, and loving servant. We listen attentively, because we love people. We love people, because we are commanded to, "love your neighbor as yourself." Matthew 22:39. NLT.

My Thoughts:
I love this book! As my friend Becky at Becky's Book Reviews and Operation Actually Read Bible expresses, I'm gushing about this book!

Several points led me to award The Listening Life 5 stars for excellent:

  • "Listening is an act of servant hood and serving is hard." Page 22. I'd never realized until reading this book, how important listening is as a servant and in the Kingdom. 
  • God is silent at times, or we perceive Him to be silent. McHugh reminds us God is working in our life. Through this silent time our dependence in Him and faith grows. 
  • Our hearts are selfish. We think about ourselves most of the time. McHugh directs us to empty ourselves of "self" and instead serve others out of love.
  • Example of bad listening and good listening. 
  • The importance of asking "open-ended questions" in conversation. 
  • How to listen and speak to those who are suffering. 
  • Dealing with emotions in conversation. 
  • Listening to the culture and to community. 
  • The voices in our head and how to "deal" with them. 
The topic of God talking to us is discussed. Depending on the readers denomination and or belief in whether or not God speaks to our "hearts." This part of the book may or may not be of interest and the reader may not agree with the authors stance. Don't let this part of the discussion distance you from the book. Listening is an important life skill. It is an important Christian life action. Glean from the book what you feel is needed in your life. 

My favorite quote:
Some of the most revealing moments are when a word hangs in the air, echoing through the listeners, lingering even after they have moved on in the conversation. We listen for those authentic moments, those truly human moments when someone reveals herself to us, when the mask, even just for a second, comes off and we meet the real person. Page 157.
Scripture link courtesy of Bible Gateway.

Monday, February 1, 2016

Bible Reading Update

I've coughed for over two weeks. I am feeling better, but I have a sore abdomen and lower right rib from two weeks of coughing. Illness has kept me from blogging and reviewing, but I'm back and ready to share the Scripture I've read.

Since January 1:

Genesis chapters 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 
12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22,
23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31, 32, 33, 
34, 35, 36, 37, 38, 39, 40, 41, 
42, 43, 44, 45, 46, 47, 48, 49, 

Exodus chapters 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20. 

Proverbs chapters 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10. 

Matthew chapters 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28. 

I have a new favorite website. It's for journaling/writing.

All Scripture links courtesy of Bible Gateway. 

Thursday, January 14, 2016

(Review) Philippians: Discovering Joy Through Relationship by Sue Edwards

Publication Date: November 27, 2015.
Publisher: Kregel Publications.
Genre: Nonfiction, Bible study, Philippians.
Pages: 80.
Source: Free copy from Kregel in exchange for a review.
Rating: 5 stars for excellent.

Available in paperback only.

Link for all of the Discover Together Series study books.

Kregel link to read about the product and includes an excerpt.

Christian Book

The Philippians letter was written by the apostle Paul, to the Christian church at the Roman colony of the city of Philippi, in about A.D. 60.
The first convert at Phillipi was Lydia. Lydia was a business woman, a seller of purple cloth.
Paul encourages the Philippi church to continue in their faith, to "stand firm in One Spirit," to comfort each other, to be at peace with the Lord, to "press on towards the goal in Christ Jesus," and to "rejoice in the Lord."
Philippians: Discovering Joy Through Relationship has 8 lessons.
The first lesson is Acts chapter 16, verses 6-40. This lesson gives the over-all story from Acts on Philippi.
The second lesson is Philippians 1:1-11.
The third lesson is Philippians 1:12-30.
The fourth lesson is Philippians 2:1-16.
The fifth lesson is Philippians 2:17-30.
The sixth lesson is Philippians 3:12-4:1.
The seventh lesson is Philippians 4:2-9.
The eighth lesson is Philippians 4:10-23.

A QR code is located on the back cover of the book and at the middle or end of each lesson. Using a smart phone and snapping the QR code, a person is able to watch the accompanying videos of the lessons. The videos are also located at the website, 

My Thoughts:
Several aspects of this Bible study I love.
  1. Additional points of interest and study is located on the side margins of the pages.
  2. A "Digging Deeper" section is located on the side margins of the pages. For example: additional Bible verses to read, links for further study in commentaries, quotes, and questions for deep thinking and reflection. 
  3. Not including the "Digging Deeper" section, each lesson has between 23 and 30 questions. 
  4. The paperback has glossy front and back covers, is 10 x 7, nice thick pages, and is acceptable in laying open flat. 
  5. A verse for each lesson to memorize. 
  6. A truth or application question at the end of each lesson. 
  7. "Summary Review Questions" at the end of the study.
  8. Topics pulled from the study are discerning other people, false teachers, humility, conflicts, good works versus faith, and being content despite situation. 

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

(Review) The Girl From the Train by Irma Joubert

Publication Date: November 3, 2015.
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
Genre: Fiction, World War II, Holocaust, Coming of Age Story.
Pages: 384.
Source: Self-purchase.
Rating: 4 1/2 stars for very good to excellent.


Gretl Schmidt is six years old when her Oma pushes her off a train bound for Auschwitz. Gretl survives the tumble with minor abrasions. While waiting in the forest for her sister to find her, the train explodes. Gretl heard the explosion but did not understand what happened. A young Polish man named Jakob Kowalski becomes a surrogate guardian to Gretl. His focus is on the war and resistance effort, but Gretl needs food and protection. Jakob who did not know how to care for a child, became Gretl's advocate and surrogate parent. Communism replaces Hitler after World War II in Poland. Jakob felt it best to send Gretl away to South Africa to have freedom and a chance in life. With tears, Gretl and Jakob part. The later part of the story is Gretl's name change (again) and a new life. However, will Gretl's new life never know Jakob again?

My Thoughts:
Yes, the story is predictable. Yes, the story has elements of the war and communism, especially its affects on civilians.
The story may cause some people to feel uncomfortable, it depends on your threshold.
I was glad the story portrayed the long-term affects of the war on Gretl. Her dreams, fears, and insecurities were tied to the period of her life during the war. A friend helped her through this dark memory recovery.
I enjoyed reading about Gretl's transformation from frail troubled girl to young woman.
The tied-in romantic relationship of Gretl's is ignored at first by the couple. They understand the complexities of their relationship. I felt the couple analyzed their situation. They viewed life through a logical lens. But love wins.
I am not well-read on South Africa, not its history, climate, geography, nor temperament of people. I understand a little about apartheid. When Gretl was in college it was the mid 1950s.
The following link is information on the "gathering storm" of laws and resistance in the 1950s.
The book does not discuss this history. I believe it might have helped the later part of the book, its environment and atmosphere, to have shared the history of South Africa at this time. The book may have had 50 or more pages added, but I certainly would have enjoyed this element.

Friday, January 1, 2016

Art and the Bible

His Kingdom Come

Weekly and biweekly prompts for Bible studies, reflection through art work.
There is a second group at His Kingdom Come, titled Logos 365. Both groups I am a member of.

Documented Faith has a new website. You can follow them through their website on Facebook. Documented Faith has weekly prompts for a brief Bible study and further reflection in art work.

There are several groups on Facebook for art journaling, these are just a few:
Bible Art Journaling
Documented Faith
Bible Journaling
His Kingdom Come
Bible Journaling: Chasing Wisdom
Bible Stories from the Heart
Faith Art Journaling Community
Journal and Doodle Through the Bible

Bible Journaling is on Pinterest. 

My completed art journal for 2015.

Bible Reading for 2016

From Diving Deeper Ministries, a chronological reading plan, with an ability to download and print out.

Bible reading plans from YouVersion. This link will show several types of choices.

From my church, Handley Baptist Church, Fort Worth, Texas. Read through the NT in a year.

Joanna Weaver has a Bible reading plan, titled Word of God Speak 2016. She has a Bible reading plan, and if you sign up for a newsletter you will receive a printable notebook for journaling.

From Bible Gateway:
A survey for Bible reading resolutions.
Help in memorizing the Bible.
Bible reading plans.    

You can signup at Our Daily Bread to read through the Bible in a year and have a devotional to read, they will email you. Our Daily Bread has applications for your phone or tablet.
I've been receiving Our Daily Bread by mail and reading the devotionals since 1993.

From Insight for Living with Charles Swindoll.
An overview chart of the whole Bible.
Study information on each Bible book. 

From ESV Bible, start reading at Genesis.  ESV has an application for your phone or tablet.
Several choices in Bible reading plans at ESV.

From Back to the Bible, several plans to choose.

From Grace to You ministries by John MacArthur. The link takes you to January 1 devotional.

A free download in learning to study the Bible, from Precept Ministries, Kay Arthur.

Bible reading plans from Ligonier Ministries. 

From Desiring God , advice for Bible reading.

Read Charles Spurgeon, a daily dose of Spurgeon. 

From In Touch with Charles Stanley. This link will show ability to order a free gratitude journal.
This link is for January 1 devotional. 

Discipleship Journal Bible reading plan. The link takes you directly to a plan for printout.

Anne Graham Lotz has devotionals and free resources.

And last but far from least, Justin Taylor's excellent articles on Bible reading.
7 Ways to Approach Your Bible in 2016 by Matt Smethurst, from The Gospel Coalition. 
Justin Taylor's list of Bible reading plans.
Be sure and scroll to the bottom of page to see Bible videos!

Thursday, December 31, 2015

(Review) The Explicit Gospel by Matt Chandler with Jared Wilson

Publication Date: 2012.
Publisher: Crossway.
Genre: Nonfiction, Gospel, grace.
Pages: 240.
Source: Self-purchase.
Rating: 5 stars for excellent.

"soli Deo gloria (glory to God alone)"

My Thoughts:
I feel The Explicit Gospel is an important book, because it explains what the Gospel is and what it is not. Further, it explains the human heart of idolatry, our need to worship something or someone, it's handicap all humans have in wanting to worship self. The book also explains God's grace and the glory of His name. Chandler explains the search for peace and looking for it in places and in things that are not lasting. God is our peace, our shalom. Sin, the cross, reconciliation, and a changed heart are other points explored in the book.
Over-all, The Explicit Gospel is a top-notch must read book.

The message of the book is direct:
From beginning to end, the Scriptures reveal that the foremost desire of God's heart is not our salvation but rather the glory of his own name. God's glory is what drives the universe; it is why everything exists. The world is not present, spinning and sailing in the universe, so that you and I might be saved or lost but so that God might be glorified in his infinite perfections. Page 33-34.
People seek glory for themselves (what they can do to earn and accomplish on their own) in place of God. This is idolatry. The Explicit Gospel begins by clarifying what humanity has sought from the beginning of time: self worship and self glorification.
Idolatry is a battle all of us fight. At every point we want to steer our mind and heart back to ourselves.
Idolatry is the strongest message I received from The Explicit Gospel. God was speaking to me and I'm listening.

Chapter Titles:
"Part 1: The Gospel on the Ground
1 God
2 Man
3 Christ
4 Response

Part 2: The Gospel in the Air
5 Creation
6 Fall
7 Reconciliation
8 Consummation

Part 3: Implications and Applications
9 Dangers in a Gospel on the Ground Too Long
10 Dangers in a Gospel in the Air Too Long
11 Moralism and the Cross"