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Saturday, March 30, 2013

Review: Just Like Jesus: A Heart Like His

Just Like Jesus: A Heart Like His by Max Lucado

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


God loves you just the way you are, but he refuses to leave you there. He wants you to be just like Jesus.

Can you think of a better offer?

Jesus felt no guilt; God wants you to feel no guilt. Jesus had no bad habits; God wants to do away with yours. Jesus had no fears; God wants the same for you. Jesus had no anxiety about death; you needn't either. God's desire, his plan, his ultimate goal is to make you into the image of Christ.
But how does this change occur? And why does the change seem so slow? If God wants me to be just like Jesus, why do I still seem just like me?

In Just Like Jesus, Max Lucado helps you answer these questions. He helps you understand God's wonderful ways of transformation. Would you like to know more? Then read on. And remember: God loves you just way you are, but he refuses to leave you there. He wants you to be just like Jesus.

My Review:

In 12 chapters Max Lucado walks us through some of Jesus attributes and reminds us that we are called to imitate Him, to have a heart like His. We are to have a forgiving, compassionate, listening, God-intoxicated, worship-hungry, focused, honest, pure, hope-filled, rejoicing, enduring heart. Perhaps Max summed it up best when he said having a heart like Jesus "means to kneel as Jesus knelt, touching the grimy parts of the people we are stuck with and washing away their unkindnesses with kindness". It sounds like a big order but when Max breaks it down, we realize just how obtainable it is.

Combining scripture with story illustrations we begin to not only understand that we truly can have a heart like Jesus, but we begin to want a heart like His. We are reminded that "how we look at life determines how we live life". We need to be focused on our goal of living Christ-like, conscious of our actions, and determined to reach the end of the race.

This is a great book and the companion book, Just Like Jesus Devotional: A Thirty-Day Walk with the Savior , helps us to go deeper and personalize the lessons. All in all this is another great Lucado resources for drawing us closer to God.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Review: The Next Target: A Novel

The Next Target: A Novel by Nikki Arana

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Next Target Description:

Would You Share Your Faith If It Would Cost You Your Life?

It only took one bullet. Austia’s friend and student fell dead. And with a glimpse of a newspaper headline, the young and recently widowed Austia knows more about what happened than the police. From that fatal night, Austia’s secret outreach to the U.S. Muslim community—in the guise of English language classes—becomes a target. Local Muslim extremists set their sights on ending her ministry and even her life. And the women she ministers to will be next.

A thick web of deceit closes in around Austia, and her circle of friends becomes smaller by the day, even as she finally opens herself to the idea of falling in love again. But who can she trust? Facing a spiritual battle that proves more treacherous than it at first seemed, Austia’s convictions are tested to their limits and her heart becomes primed for breaking. She must ask herself: how much she will risk to stay true to her herself, her faith, and to the lives of the women she serves?

My Review:

I have to say that after reading this book my heart goes out to the women associated with Muslim extremists. I liked that the author, Nikki Arana, made an effort to show that not all Muslims are extremists and that many only want to live and worship in peace and are not interested in religious jihads.

My only complaint about the book is that the story line of Zaki, the spy/love interest of Austia, isn't very well developed. I didn't feel like I ever truly understood his motives, especially those concerning his experience during the war.

Austia, however, was very well developed. I liked that we not only see her actions, but her struggle with God during her efforts to help those around her truly understand who Jesus is. I found it helpful that Nikki Arana pointed out the obstacles that Muslims may have with accepting Jesus/understanding Christianity and doing so in such a way that it blended seamlessly into the story.

All in all a wonderful story in and of itself and a great way to better understand the challenges of witnessing to Muslims.

Review: The Fairest Beauty

The Fairest Beauty by Melanie Dickerson

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Book Description:A daring rescue. A difficult choice. Sophie desperately wants to get away from her stepmother's jealousy, and believes escape is her only chance to be happy. Then a young man named Gabe arrives from Hagenheim Castle, claiming she is betrothed to his older brother, and everything twists upside down. This could be Sophie's one chance at freedom---but can she trust another person to keep her safe? Gabe defied his parents Rose and Wilhelm by going to find Sophie, and now he believes they had a right to worry: the girl's inner and outer beauty has enchanted him. Though romance is impossible---she is his brother's future wife, and Gabe himself is betrothed to someone else---he promises himself he will see the mission through, no matter what. When the pair flee to the Cottage of the Seven, they find help---but also find their feelings for each other have grown. Now both must not only protect each other from the dangers around them---they must also protect their hearts.

My Review:
This is an imaginative retelling of the classic Snow White fairy tale with a Christian twist. While it doesn't remain entirely true to the original tale, there are enough similarities that you recognize the inspiration.

What I liked the most about this book is that Prince Charming (aka Gabeheart Wilhelm) not only displays an enduring love for Sophie (aka Snow White) but it is a pure love. He is concerned for her reputation, with making sure that he treats her with respect, and that he honors her. This seems to be a lost character trait in today's world. But don't get me wrong, he has flaws too. He is impulsive, rash, headstrong, and full of pride. As with all great stories though, he does come to recognize his flaws.

I definitely plan to pass this on to my teen daughter and I am sure she will love it too!

Friday, March 1, 2013

Lord, I Give you This Day review

Lord, I Give You This Day: 366 Appointments with God Description:

Do you long for intimate communion with God?
Are you tired of struggling through life?
Are you eager to experience the abundant life offered by Jesus?

Discover the Joy of Taking God at His Word!
In this power-packed daily devotional, Kay Arthur beckons you to a deeper relationship with God, helping you discover for yourself the life-changing power of His unshakeable love. As each brief reading draws you into the Bible and leads you into purposeful prayer, you’ll be equipped to greet each day with bold faith, confident in God’s faithfulness, strength, and transforming grace.

Discover the joy and peace that come with daily surrender, with joyfully declaring each morning: Lord, I Give You This Day!

My Review:

I have to be honest, before this devotional my only exposure to Kay Arthur was some Facebook posts that a friend often shares on her wall.  She is apparently an international Bible teacher, four-time ECPA Christian Book Award winning author, and co-CEO of Precept Ministries International. Who knew?

I had enjoyed the quotes that my friend posted on Facebook so when I was extended the opportunity to review this devotional I accepted.  As far as devotionals go, this one is pretty typical.  Each day has a short story and a Bible verse.  They are designed to "address the challenges and joys of surrendered living and point you to unchangeable, eternal truths about your God, His Word, and His love for you".  While this does do that, I found it to be ho-hum.  After having read devotionals such as Jesus Calling where it feels very personal and Just Like Jesus Devotional: A Thirty-Day Walk with the Savior where we are encouraged to dig deeper and to apply the teachings to our own lives, this one feels more like a read it to get through it kind of thing. Personal preference I guess.

That isn't to say that the readings are good, or that the writing is poor.  Kay's writing is engaging and many of the stories touched my heart, they just didn't feel personal.  I can see how they could inspire a person to focus on God more than they might without a devotional, but I just didn't go deep with them, and that is what I look for in a devotional.

Find out more about Kay Arthur's ministry here
Read Chapter 1 here