The Most Misused Stories in the Bible by Eric J. Bargerhuff, PhD

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We all heard those great stories from the Bible when we were kids; we know all about Cain and Abel, Jonah and the whale, and the Three Wise Men. Okay, so we know the stories, but do we really know what God is trying to tell us through these stories?

Many times, we don’t actually know the full story, because Scripture is often taken out of context, intentionally or not. We also live in a completely different culture than the biblical writers did, so we may not fully comprehend the subtleties of language and cultural contexts that shaped the lessons contained in the Word. Our traditions and societal differences can skew our understanding of the Bible, if we only take the bits and pieces we know and love out of their context.

But thanks to teachers like Eric Bargerhuff, we can be shown and/or reminded of the Truth behind some of the most popular stories in God’s Word. In The Most Misused Stories in the Bible: Surprising Ways Popular Bible Stories are Misunderstood, Bargerhuff does a fantastic job of placing the stories back into their context–biblically, culturally, and historically–to help seekers of the Truth understand the Bible more deeply.

A few years ago, I got Bargerhuff’s The Most Misused Verses in the Bible and really appreciated his expository style and easy-to-read information. His latest is just as good and would be a wonderful tool for pastors, Bible study leaders, and students of the Word alike.

If you want to have a deeper, more meaningful understanding of the Word of God, I suggest you grab a copy of The Most Misused Stories in the Bible. And happy learning!

Many thanks to Bethany House and NetGalley for the digital copy of this book for review purposes. I was not required to give a positive review. All opinions are my very own!! ūüôā

You Carried Me by Melissa Ohden

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From the cover: “Melissa Ohden is fourteen when she learns that she is the survivor of a botched abortion. In this intimate memoir, she details her search for her biological parents and her own journey from anger and shame to faith and forgiveness.

“This intensely personal story of love and redemption illumines the powerful bond between mother and child that can overcome all odds.”

Melissa Ohden’s story is more than remarkable; it is¬†both heart-wrenching and heart-lifting. Not only knowing that she will be persecuted for both her story and her stand, but also already having experienced that persecution for speaking the truth of her life in the past, she lays her heart boldly on the page. The writing may not be Austen-esque, but that does not in any way detract from the power of her story.

But this is more than just a memoir of Melissa’s survival. It is a model of triumph and forgiveness from which all Christians, all people,¬†can learn. If anyone could have a reason to be bitter and unmerciful, it is a woman who discovered that she was the product of an unsuccessful abortion, believing that she was unwanted before she was even born. Yet, though she does run the gamut of emotions over the years, Melissa finds that there is so much more freedom and joy and strength¬†in forgiveness.

She is an inspiration to all. And this is a book that is not to be missed. I most highly recommend it.

Many thanks to Plough Publishing House and Julie from Handlebar for the chance to read this amazing memoir. I was not required to give a positive review. All opinions are my very own! ūüôā

Jesus and the Beanstalk by Lori Stanley Roeleveld

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From the publisher: “Use the hidden gifts in 2 Peter to topple the giant challenges in your life.

“We live in unsettling, challenging times. Everywhere we look, we see giant problems: giant obstacles to sharing faith, giant barriers to peaceful lives, giant strongholds of fear. But what if you knew eight small secrets to unlocking a strength big enough to overcome whatever obstacle life may bring?

“Using allegory and a bit of humor, Jesus and the Beanstalk explores a passage in 2 Peter 1 to uncover eight truths that will help you unleash a larger-than-life faith: Faith, Goodness, Knowledge, Self-control, Perseverance, Godliness, Affection for others, Love.

“In this creative, refreshing perspective on spiritual growth, you will discover an unyielding strength when you tap the power of a God who is stronger than any beanstalk and bigger than your biggest giants.”

Lori Stanley Roeleveld’s latest book, Jesus and the Beanstalk, is a humorous and insightful look at the Christian life, paired with a thought-provoking study of 2 Peter 1. The author doesn’t stand over you and preach in this book; she sits beside you and shares stories, leading you¬†almost unknowingly into deeper understanding of God’s Word.

The study is well-designed, too. She begins with a few chapters of introduction, then gets into the work of the study. There are eight weeks of studies, six days per week. Each week focuses on one of the aspects necessary for a deeper relationship with Christ spoken of in 2 Peter 1, with charming stories and interesting questions to guide your study.

This would be an excellent study to work through with a small group or even on your own. I would definitely recommend you check  it out!

Many thanks to Abingdon Press and NetGalley for the free copy of this book for review purposes. I was not required to give a positive review. All opinions are my very own! ūüôā

Journey to the Manger: Exploring the Birth of Jesus by Paula Gooder

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In Journey to the Manger, scholar Paula Gooder takes the reader step-by-step through the Biblical narratives of the birth of Jesus. She scrutinizes the sections in each of the three Gospels that talk of our Lord’s coming (Matthew, Luke, and John) in as close¬†to chronological order as possible. Gooder examines individual Hebrew and Greek words¬†and explains how their various¬†translations have an important impact on the birth narratives,¬†as well as taking¬†the recorded history of the time and the historicity of the narratives¬†into account in her inquiry. She also adds in at the end of each section her own reflections and even some poems she composed.

This was an interesting read. I found quite a bit of intriguing information to guide a study of the birth narratives, which is what I believe this book was written for Рnot to be an end-all, be-all on the Gospel accounts, but an aide for pastors, Bible study groups, and individuals who want to look more deeply at the birth of Jesus.

That said,¬†I definitely don’t think it’s¬†for everyone. For one, it’s an academic text – not something you pick up to have a comfy read on the couch or the beach (or rather a beautiful day in the mountains, if you’re like me). It’s fairly thick with information that you really need to pay close attention to as you read. Also, I wouldn’t necessarily recommend this to a new Christian or a non-believer, who may be intimidated by¬†or even turned away by the lack of decisiveness at times. Let me explain that: Gooder presents different interpretations of¬† and information about the various Gospel accounts,¬†occasionally¬†verging on¬†discounting parts of the Bible altogether.¬†I’ll admit, this frustrated me at times, because I was taught and truly believe that God is only constrained by your lack of belief…if you believe He can do it, He can, whether or not it fits with your particular knowledge of the world and its history.

So, I would recommend this book for study, but with the caveat that it not be your ultimate guide – let the Word of God itself be that.

Thanks to Hymns Ancient and Modern and NetGalley for the free copy of this book for review purposes. I was not required to give a positive review. All opinions are my very own! ūüôā

The Surprising Imagination of C. S. Lewis by Jerry Root and Mark Neal

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C. S. Lewis is one of those authors that many people have read (or, at least, have seen the movie) and enjoyed. However, Lewis’s imagination can take a casual reader further, deeper, higher, and brighter¬†than she ever thought she could go. Lewis did this by understanding how to use his own imagination to tap into and develop¬†his readers’ imaginations. Sound confusing? Well, then you should read The Surprising Imagination of C. S. Lewis by Jerry Root and Mark Neal. They lay out, chapter-by-chapter,¬†the types of imagination¬†C. S. Lewis used in his various works and how those different types of imagination work for different purposes.

Jerry Root and Mark Neal have done an exceptional job of examining the works of C. S. Lewis. But don’t think this is going to be a light beach-read kind of book – it is thick with in-depth research and academic insight.¬†It could prove to be a valuable resource for a sincere study of Lewis and his works. And if you happen to be studying a particular piece of Lewis’s work, this book could give you a new¬†awareness of both how Lewis approached the work and what layers of meaning are developed in the piece. Though it doesn’t cover every thing Lewis wrote (I can’t begin to imagine how big that book would have to be!), the scope and breadth of knowledge they show is truly impressive.

I also feel that a writer could certainly benefit from a thorough read through this book, in that the authors explain how Lewis used imagination to plumb the depths of truth in ever more interesting ways Рways an author could incorporate into their own work.

Root and Neal have helped me see Lewis through lenses I didn’t even know existed before reading this book and have given me a new love for my favorite Lewis pieces and a desire to finally pick up those tomes I’ve been putting off…absolutely fascinating!

Many thanks to Abingdon Press and Handlebar for the free copy of this book for review purposes. I was not required to write a positive review. All opinions are my very own! ūüôā