A Night With the King – A Review of Esther by Angela Hunt

Open the pages of the book of Esther in the Old Testament and one cannot be caught up in the age old story of a king and his search for the most beautiful woman in his kingdom to be his queen. In her book, Esther: Royal Beauty, Angela Hunt takes the reader back to the days of the great Persian Empire. We walk the streets of Susa, and meet Hadassah (Esther), her cousin Mordecai and his wife Miriam. As she recounts the Biblical story, Hunt makes a strong effort to fill in the gaps not mentioned in the Bible by using other historical accounts.  (more…)

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C.S. Lewis and the Crisis of A Christian by Gregory S. Cootsona – A Review

I grew up in an Evangelical Christian home complete with time in a Christian school and later college. Conveniently, that method of education meant that I memorized Bible verses, learned the right way to understand the Bible and didn’t have any idea that the Christian life has so many questions that don’t haveLewis immediately clear answers. I listened in class, took good notes, got an A on the test and voila…life was good. Until it wasn’t.  And when life wasn’t good anymore, I felt very unprepared to sort through the various emotions, spiritual struggles, bitterness and depression.

To many, C.S. Lewis is one of the greatest thinkers of the 20th century. While many weigh in with differing  opinions, I think the reason his works are so beloved is that he approached the Bible from a different perspective  than a traditional faith experience. He wasn’t content with Sunday School answers and felt compelled to grapple with issues that don’t have easy answers.  Throughout his works, a thread emerges. Lewis seeks to find true joy in Christ but finds that he must wrestle with various crises of belief in order to find that rest and peace.

When I received a copy of C.S. Lewis and the Crisis of a Christian, I hoped that it would further my own walk with the Lord as I work through finding joy in my own life.  In this work, author Gregory S. Cootsona addresses the following crisis that are found in Lewis’ works:

The Crises of Atheism  which include: The Crisis of Materialism, The Crisis of Meaninglessness & The Crisis of Anomie

The Crises of Christian Faith which include: Jesus & the Crisis of Other Myths and The Crisis of the Bible

The Crises of Human Life which include The Crisis of Feeling, The Crisis of Suffering and The Crisis of Death

As Cootsona presents each crisis, he describes what brought about each crisis in Lewis’ life, how Lewis struggled with it and how he resolved it in his own mind. As he does so, he invites each one of us to wrestle with the same difficult issues.  There is no assumption in these pages that each of Lewis’ conclusions is 100% correct. It is simply one man’s process of resolving crises and finding joy.  There are a lot of points to ponder despite this book being relatively short.  I would highly recommend this to anyone who enjoys C.S.Lewis’ works or to anyone who finds themselves struggling with their faith. In these pages, you will find words for your doubts and a really solid place to start wrestling with faith.

(I received a copy of this book from Westminster John Knox Press  and  NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. No monetary compensation was received.)

 

50 Things You Need to Know About Satan and Demons by Mark Muska – A Review

 

In our day and age, images of the demonic and Satan are commonplace. They find their way into our entertainm50thingsdemonsent, onto our yards as Halloween decorations and into various facets of our lives.  Growing up, I had little concept of demons. Satan was the bad guy that tempted Eve to eat a piece of fruit in the garden and I knew he was red with black horns because Halloween costumes don’t lie.  Seriously though, I had a mixed bag of impressions of what these dark forces looked like and how they affect our lives.  As a teen, I remember reading some of Frank Peretti’s books and having my interest piqued. But, I didn’t have any kind of framework for understanding these bad guys.  Several years ago, our family had a series of life changing events that brought spiritual warfare to the forefront of our lives. It became a daily conversation as we worked to understand this little known concept.

I believe that demons are real. With the Bible as my handbook, there are simply too many references to ignore.  In Ephesians 6:12, we read “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”(NIV)  As I started to learn about this subject, initially it was very confusing. It was hard to know where to start putting the puzzle together. When I meet people who are encountering the subject for the first time the way I did, they often get overwhelmed the way I did. However, I was recently given a book that I feel is a great one for jumping into the topic. Recently I read, 50 Things You Need to Know About Satan and Demons, by Mark Muska.  It takes 50 different questions  we encounter in our culture and in our churches and takes a logical approach to answering them.

Questions covered in this book run the gamut. They include things like:

Who is Satan?

What is demon possession?

Why should I believe what the Bible says about Satan?

Can Satan read my thoughts?

Is it possible to actually see demons?

If I ignore Satan, will he go away or just leave me alone?

What is spiritual warfare?

…and many many more questions.

As I read through the questions, I appreciated a few things about this author’s approach. First, he states clearly upfront that he is using the Bible as the source of authority on this topic. If you don’t accept that as a source of authority, you will struggle with this book, but at least he is up front about that. Secondly, he incorporates culture all through it. Most of the way we “see” the demonic is in our culture but it is often done with artistic license with no regard to its accuracy. He does an excellent job of addressing  those various areas and then comparing them to what the Bible has to say. Sometimes there is a clear answer and sometimes there is not. Either way, the information is presented in a factual way. I would highly recommend this book especially for those who are new to the subject of spiritual warfare.  For those who are very familiar with the topic, it provide a good summary and helpful talking points for interacting with others.

(I was given a copy of this book by Bethany House publishers for review purposes in exchange for an honest opinion. No monetary compensation was received.)

 

Boxes of Bananas – God’s Provision.

I’ll admit I’m a fan of stories…the ones where God uses unfortunate situations to bless other people. A few days ago, my dad walked in my house holding a 40 pound box of GREEN bananas…yummy!  He set them down and I noticed that there were a few very YELLOW bananas in the green ones. It was odd as they were clearly ready to be eaten and the others were no where near ripe.

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I had to know the story…because we don’t get deliveries of 40 pounds of bananas walking through our door often! Our friend Tim at Old Mother Hubbard’s Cupboard runs a food pantry. He just had a truck come in that had 5000 pounds of these green bananas. But that was only part of the original load of 120,000 pounds. A shipment had arrived in New York and been completely rejected because these bananas were ripening very unevenly. Can you imagine…all those bananas rejected because a few were riper than the others.

What I love is that rather than waste the whole lot, they were donated to a food ministry in Pennsylvania called Blessings of Hope. From there these green (now turning yellow) bananas made there way to various smaller food ministries where they will bless many families. Having been around food bank organizations for several years now, I will tell you that produce is gold. Most donations are canned or boxed dry goods. Quality fruits and vegetables have a much shorter shelf life so they are in more limited supply.

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Yesterday my husband stopped by the Cupboard to load up our van with bananas. Today and tomorrow we will be handing them off to several families. Hopefully these will bless them and their freezers. I am thankful on many levels. I’m thankful for the company that donated and for laws that make it beneficial to do so. I’m thankful for the good people at these ministries who work long hours with limited resources, and I’m ultimately thankful to God from whom all blessing flow.