Friday, June 27, 2014
In the past year, I've read and seen a few stories by several who having been practicing followers of Islam have left their religion and become passionate followers of Jesus Christ. In his book, Ex-Muslim, Naeem Fazal weaves a similar tale of discovery in the Lordship of Jesus Christ, but also brings a post-conversion look at what journeying with Jesus has entailed for him since becoming a bona fide believer in Jesus as the Son of God and the Savior of the world.
Naeem spent most of his childhood years in Kuwait, a portion of which came at the height of the Gulf War. It was these events that led his parents to first send his brother, and later himself to the United States to escape what looked like potentially no prosperous future for them in Kuwait. However, unknown to him or his parents, shortly after coming to the United States, his brother had received Jesus Christ as his Lord, and it was his conversion which had a direct impact upon Naeem and the course his life took.
One of the things I've noticed in the Muslim conversion accounts I've read and heard about is that often there is an element of the supernatural involved. By that, I am referring to dreams, visions or, as in Naeem's case, encounters with spiritual entities. It is sometimes these divine interventions in the ordinary affairs of man which attract the person's attention enough to respond to the truth. I was a little disappointed that the book opens with the author's conversion rather than building up to it. And I prefer a more chronological approach to these life events, but it was still a wonderful story of God's love redeeming not just a person but a family (you'll see what I mean when you read it).
I do hope that you will read the book and learn from one man's journey of faith. I received this book for free through the book review program for bloggers, available at http://booklookbloggers.com/blogger. Any accounts of conversion to Jesus Christ are great to read, and Naeem's story is no exception. I pray for other Muslim believers that they too may come to repent of their sin and believe that Jesus Christ is God's son whom He raised from the dead, embracing Him as their Lord also.
Sunday, June 15, 2014
Some of you reading this review may have grown up knowing a little bit about Protestant church history. But, many of you probably have a story similar to mine, where you knew virtually nothing. Because my life, as that of so many others, can be extremely busy, I don't have a lot of time to read massive volumes on the history of the church. And that is one of the reasons I did like the new book by Justin Holcomb called "Know the Heretics" which I received free through the book review program for bloggers, available at www.booklookbloggers.com.
As of this post, Justin Holcomb is presently is an episcopal priest and a professor of Theology and Christian Thought at both Gordon-Cromwell Theological Seminary and Reformed Theological Seminary. "Know the Heretics" is part of a series of books in the "Know" series, of which he has also contributed "Know the Creeds and Councils". As I mentioned earlier, I did not know a lot about the heretics that are often cited from church history and this book was a good, simple, concise look into their lives and un-Christian teachings.\
So if you're not familiar with the names Marcion, Arius, Pelagius and Sabellius (to name just a few) you're not alone. This book will help you to learn parts of early church history in an easy to read manner. The chapters are fairly short and highlight the major thoughts the individual advocated. Included at the end of each chapter are discussion questions and recommendations for further reading. I did find a it a little bit dry at times, but the author does his best to convey the history behind the heresy without complicating the issues as much as possible.
From this book, I took away a few important things. One of those is that there really is nothing new under the sun. Many of the same heresies of hundreds of years ago resurface today in modern vernacular. Second, I recognized that those that don't know history can be destined to repeat it. Though this is not necessarily a subject that you'll feel inspired to read, it is needed for believers in Christian churches everywhere to know those who have tried to undermine the faith and to be equipped to defend it when the same errors arise again, even if they are clothed in modern garments.
Friday, June 6, 2014
Perhaps in your life, at some point or another, whether desired or unanticipated, you may have had a supernatural encounter of a mystical, religious sort that gave you a greater awareness, or understanding of someone bigger than yourself, perhaps even God. But, maybe you tried to tell others about it, only to be met with skepticism, doubt and maybe even mockery. After all, you may have been told, 'there's no way to verify what you say took place'. Or...is there? And that is part of the facets found in Joseph Hinman's book, The Trace of God.
I was given this book for free to read through a relative who recommended it for my blog. I had never heard of the author, because this is his first offering. But, I soon discovered he had a very impressive set of academic credentials (see his biography no Amazon for more information). I was not required to write a positive review. And, I began to delve into and finished this intelligent work of literature.
The major premise of the book centers around the concept that mystical, religious experiences are not only real for many people, but can be verified scientifically. Using historical research data, the work of psychologists, scientists, philosophers and others, the author builds an impressive case for his arguments. In doing so, he deals with objections from others on the opposite side of the issue, including related skepticism about placebos, drugs, the issues of brain chemistry and other variables many would use to object to the validity of his conclusions.
I liked the fact that the author took somewhat of a systematic approach to the subject and the arguments against it. Whether this related specifically to research he had done in his graduate studies I am not certain, but it appears that he uses very logical, sequential 'bullet point' type analysis in his chapters, which I enjoyed. Science is not my strong suit, so I did have some challenges with following a few items, until I closely attended to the surrounding detail. But, I was able to digest the material in small bites and flow until the end.
The book is designed on a more academic level, so it may be challenging to you if Abraham Maslow, Richard Dawkins and other advanced thinkers are not your preference in leisurely reading. However, though the author feels some may be skeptical at taking this as an apologetic work, I found it to be a vital work in apologetics that will stimulate the mind, contribute valuable insights to the reality of a divine being existing and offer clinical proofs that will challenge even the skeptical to consider the ramifications of the results. If that sounds like something you might want to pursue further, then I encourage you to buy the book.
Thursday, June 5, 2014
Have you ever longed for something more? Have you ever sensed in your heart that you were born to do something you never anticipated with your life? But, have you ever settled into the routine of the comfortable and the familiar? Has life ever become so mediocre that each day seems like a complete repeat of the day before? The latter two choices are the type of lives that many people fall into. But, pastor and author Steven Furtick challenges us in his book Greater that God has something more in store for us than we ever thought was possible when we reach out to Him and allow Him to take us on our journey with Him through life.
This book has actually been out for quite some time, but I was recently given a free copy for this review through the book review program for bloggers that can be found at http://www.bloggingforbooks.org from the Crown Publishing Group. With the recent emphasis on featuring this selection again from the publisher, I'm glad that I had the opportunity to review the selection. As always, Steven Furtick delivers a no-nonsense challenge to his audience to not just waste their life away and not just settle for the mundane but to live the greater life that God has already designed for them to live.
Using the life of the prophet Elisha (not to be confused with the prophet Elijah, of which he does make a distinction), Pastor Steven Furtick examines the things we can learn from this great leader whom God used mightily on the earth. He compares the prophet's adventures to the things that God wants to do through us, making the illustrations from Elisha's exploits potent pictures of the power that's available to all of us as we dare to believe for the impossible.
While I do not necessarily feel that this was Pastor Furtick's best work, it is still a powerful work that will challenge you to think, do and be more than you ever have before. As always, the author includes his own personal stories and confessions that make the material more relatable to those who are reading it. It's worth reading if you allow yourself to be challenged and to act on the principles he espouses. And there' seven a study guide at the end for group discussion of the material presented. You can read a sneak preview of the first chapter at http://waterbrookmultnomah.com/pdf/SneakPeekGreater.pdf.