Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Lies Women Believe - Nancy Demoss Wolgemuth




Lies Women Believe by Nancy Demoss Wolgemuth is a book that goes through various lies that women believe about reality and counters them.  Dealing specifically with many of the lies women believe about God, themselves, sin, priorities, sexuality, marriage, children, emotions and circumstances, this book is designed as a gentle, but firm exhortation to wake women up to see the truth.

I get the impression that many of the women's writings of today cater to women's excuses, unbelief and overall selfishness. We don't need to build up our self-love, "the truth is that we do love ourselves", we need to learn to deny ourselves.  "Our most common malady is not having a low view [of] ourselves, but having a low view of God."

I also loved how the author pointed out that the thought, "I can't help the way I am" because of - fill in the blank-,  is a lie.  She uses Eve as an example: it was not Eve's circumstances that accounted for her miserable condition, it was not that she had had a difficult childhood, been unloved,  abused by her husband, had uncontrollable emotional issues, physical ailments or any of the many excuses women nowadays love to turn too.  No, Eve had a great beginning in life, she was never physically or verbally abused and was in great physical and emotional shape.  And yet she still sinned.  

There were some things I didn't like, however.  For instance, there was some stuff in the "Sexuality" chapter that I was uncomfortable with, I skipped over stuff, and I didn't think the fictional 'Eve's diary' part was very edifying in that particular chapter either (there are some things I just don't need to imagine in my head).  I know that most (probably all) of the advice and counsel is good but I simply didn't think that it needed to be dealt with that thoroughly. 

Also, I didn't agree or see the sense of why she thinks that it is okay for Christians to turn to drugs to help with depression.  It just seems to contradict what she said earlier, about the bad habit people have of turning to movies, alcohol or fun activities to change their bad emotions into happy ones rather than turning to God and His Word first.  I mean, for a Christian, what if there were pills to deal with, not only depression, but lust, anger, pride and fear? Would taking a pill for stopping lust be "killing sin"? Or just sedating it?  I thought that the weapons of our warfare are "not carnal" (2 Corinthians 10:4).  What if a disaster or something happens and those pills are no longer made or we lost access to them? Would we have built up any spiritual muscle for the fight against those emotions?  Or will they manifest themselves stronger than ever because we didn't kill them daily we merely rendered them unconscious so that we didn't have to fight them?  As Wolgemuth says, "When we find ourselves suffering under the weight of negative emotions like anger, anxiety, bitterness, despair, hatred or condemnation, we must learn to look toward God's Truth, keeping our minds stayed on Him rather than simply trying to escape or swap out negative emotions with a feel-good substitute. "   I would add depression to that list.

But overall I thought that the book was very good. Wolgemuth counters the lies with Biblical truth very well, and gives a lot of good counsel.  Here are some more of the concepts that I really liked that are based in the truth:

When people think that you're not normal, they're right! You're not normal, you are a New Creation! You are a saint, not a sinner.

Wives are not their husband's mothers, and they should not act as though they are the Holy Spirit in their husband's lives.

We are not saved by our feelings, our feelings are not facts.  We look to how what God says is true, not to our feelings to figure out reality.

And lastly, the truth may not change your circumstances, but that's okay, it will change you. God is primarily making us holy, not 'happy' - this side of eternity.

Many thanks to the folks at Moody Publishers Newsroom for sending me a free review copy of this book! My review did not have to be favorable.

My rating 4 out of 5 Stars

This book may be purchased at Christianbook.com and at Amazon.com




Friday, April 13, 2018

The Baker Compact Dictionary of Biblical Studies - Tremper Lognman III & Mark L. Strauss





The Baker Compact Dictionary of Biblical Studies is a dictionary that seeks to provide definitions and explanations for words that you will find in many books and articles that delve into the study of the text of the Bible.  It gives definitions and brief overviews of places, scholarly terminology, prominent people whose works are mentioned in theological books.

It was pretty interesting to just sit and read through a lot of the information in the book, to learn a lot of new things and even to glean some extra helpful information about events, people and places that I already knew a few things about.  If I came across something that I've already become acquainted with I felt sort of reluctant to read those parts, thinking something along the lines of, "this is just a dictionary, what more could it tell me about that?" But I was surprised at some of the extra information I gleaned.  For example,  I have done a bit of reading on the "Counsel of Jamnia" but I did not particularly notice before that the book of Ezekiel was one of the books whose canonicity was debated by the Jews.  Or if I had noticed, I don't remember understanding why it's validity was up for debate.  The dictionary explains that it was because in the vision given to Ezekiel of the alter it is depicted as having steps which was something contrary to Mosaic law. Interesting!

 At least  one bit of information I came across was quite shocking.  I was extremely surprised, when I came to the summary of who Gerhard Kittel was (editor of The Theological Dictionary of the New Testament), to find that he had had strong Anti-Semitic viewpoints and supported the Nazis during World War II!

 There is some, in my opinion, pretty useless information in this dictionary, mainly the detailed information about various pagan 'gods' , their 'story' and the attributes attributed to them.  They don't actually have any attributes, so why mention them in detail? And I also didn't like how they mentioned how so many scholars think that The Biblical writers drew inspiration from myths and attributes of other gods, without countering that  viewpoint.  I guess I can sort of see how that could come in handy for someone who wanted to know which authors not to read, but I wish they would have countered them in the notes, instead of letting them stand.

  All I need to know that it is a pagan god and therefore not a god at all.  The Bible doesn’t focus its attack on the mythological attributes of the false gods, rather it deals with the facts.  It points out their ACTUAL attributes of deafness, blindness, dumbness, irresponsiveness and utter lack of existence at all.

Another thing I didn't like , and   was surprised at, was the dogmatism in certain places, like where they state that "The Sumerians invented writing for the first time in human history sometime in the thirty-first century BC."  Oh, really? How do we know that Noah didn't know how to write already and taught it to his descendants? How do we know for sure that people didn't know how to write before the flood?

I was also surprised that they don't list Martin Luther, John Calvin, Jonathan Edwards, John Wesley and the like in this dictionary.  That just seemed a little weird, as their works are still pretty popular.

Don't get me wrong, things like the above don't take away from the usefulness of this book.  They do have a lot of information, and,  when dealing with 'grey areas', for the most part the editors of this dictionary seem to use phrases along the lines of "it is believed"  or "some scholars think" when the facts are not certain. And they do give some quick criticisms to a few of the obviously erroneous viewpoints. 

Overall I think that this still  a pretty handy dictionary, for just about anyone.  If you read any linguistic commentaries on the Scripture, or even just a regular commentary, it would be handy to have. 

Many thanks to the folks at Baker Books Bloggers for sending me a free review copy of this book!  -  My review did not have to be favorable.

This book may be purchased at Christianbook.com and at Amazon.com

Monday, March 26, 2018

Operation Thunderbolt - By Saul David



I knew a little about the famous Israeli rescue of hostages held in Entebbe but didn't know a lot.  'Operation Thunderbolt: Flight 139 and the Raid on Entebbe Airport, The Most Audacious Hostage Rescue Mission in History' by Saul David was an interesting way to learn about it. 

David takes you through each day, in 'real time', as it were, bringing you back and forth from the hostages and terrorists to Israeli diplomats and military men, international political leaders and others,  continually switching locations to give you a perspective of what was going on in these significant places and among the various significant people throughout each of these 8 days of tension. 

It was quite interesting, and very informative.  I did not know that hijackings were such a common thing in the late 60s into the early 70s.  And that they were mainly to make demands of Israel! Nor did I know that there were Japanese terrorists fighting for the Palestinian cause!  Nor did I know that the PFLP was founded by a Palestinian "Christian"(so-called)

The knowledge of the many previous hijackings leads to the misgivings of several of the people who were about to be passengers(Many of whom were Jewish) of flight 139 when they found that the plane will not be making a direct flight from Israel (which had heavy airport security checks) but would be stopping over in Athens. Some consider changing flights and you feel anxious when they decide to take the flight anyway.

The book was well written, I found myself quite drawn into the account, getting to know the various people involved (David gives the background of many), you get to know the background of many of the hostages, the politicians who are involved in trying to figure out what to do, and that of the terrorists. Some of the people are brave, others exhibit cowardly behavior, but you really become interested in the fate of pretty much everyone. Though not necessarily caring about everyone.

I liked the real time format too.  It was fascinating to come to the realization (pretty much along with the hostages themselves) that the president of Uganda, Idi Amin Dada is working with the terrorists and therefore the hostages are being held, not just by a group of terrorists, but essentially they were imprisoned by a whole country.  That made it even harder for Israel to attempt a rescue, though it really did help with the element of surprise as neither the terrorists nor Idi Amin seemed to think a rescue attempt was even possible.

I also found myself getting frustrated at certain people. For instance, when the terrorists first took over the plane, some were for attacking the terrorists, others were for remaining passive - you kind of feel like yelling at the ones who think they shouldn't attack the terrorists, "Do something! They're probably going to kill you anyway!"

It was also bothersome to hear Yitzhak Rabin's arguments for negotiating with terrorists and I really felt for Peres in his arguments to the contrary, basically saying that by giving in it would make all terrorists realize that taking hostages and threatening to kill them works and then they'd have many, many more hijackings on their hands!

There were some amusing things in the book as well, such when the terrorists suspect one of the hostages of being an Israeli Spy and they force him to write an account of his life in Israel and he writes a monotonous account about picking grapefruit! And the part, after the rescue, where one of the Israeli diplomats calls Idi Amin to thank him for his 'help' and Idi Amin, who doesn't know that a rescue has taken place yet, is confused.  Amin and some of his military officers didn't know what was happening when the Operation took place, they suspected a mutiny and so did not send reinforcements right away (giving more time to the Israelis)

Now, I do feel the need to mention that some of the facts given in this book were awkward to discover, for instance, apparently several of the hostages were rather scantily clad (some extremely so)when they were rescued.  Also, some of the casual dialogue of the hostages was indecent, as well as some of their actions (particularly one man nicknamed 'the flirt'), so I skipped those parts.  There are some things I just don't care to know about history.  

Also, at the end of the book (in the 'Acknowledgements' section) I noticed that the author mentions that in certain places he constructed dialogue himself (as none is yet available), based upon the character of those speaking.  He did it to  make it read more like a novel than a traditional story.  I don't know that I like that very much, when I read a history book I want to know I'm reading about facts.  But he describes them as "occasional bits of the story" where he did that, and so it sounds as though it wasn't a lot of made-up dialogue.  And another comforting thing is that in the back of the book there is a section that shows various reference sources quoted, or referred to in the book (and numbering which page of this book that the info was used on).  I just wish that, if David was going to make up dialogue he would at least put a footnote or something under the dialogue to indicate where these 'bits' are.

That said, all in all, I (and several of my siblings) found the book to be very interesting. And I wasn't the only one in my family who liked this book.  I had decided that instead of merely reading the book to myself I would read this book out loud to two of my sisters and we all found it interesting.  One of my younger brothers was nearby when we reached the day when the rescue mission was happening, I didn't know for sure that he was listening until I was showing one of the maps of the airport to my sisters and all of a sudden he was leaning over me as well gazing at the map.  He seemed quite intrigued with the rescue, I could even hear him chuckling in amazement at certain parts. 

If you want to read a book on the topic, I'd recommend this one.  It's the first one I've read on the topic and I think that it was pretty informative, and also interesting enough to make the information stick.

Many thanks to the folks at Little Brown and Company for sending me a free review copy of this book! (My review did not have to be favorable)

You may purchase this book at Amazon.com and from other websites

Thursday, March 22, 2018

The Complete Convection Oven Cookbook - Robin Donavnan




In my opinion, this book is worth having just for the convection oven information at the beginning. It explains, not only how different convection ovens work, but also how to adapt recipes designed to be cooked in conventional ones.

It has several recipes, organized into sections like, "Breakfast and Brunch", "Appetizers and Snacks", "Poultry", "Breads" and so on. Each recipe gives a brief description of the food, at times even explaining how the convection oven cooks it to perfection, and also lists which types of Convection Ovens the recipe works best with, Full-Size, Countertop, Halogen…etc. And which setting to use, BAKE or ROAST.

The one thing I think that this cookbook could be improved by is having pictures of each recipe.  But many of the titles and descriptions of the foods sound tasty just to read about, so it's not too important. There are many (in my opinion) easy to follow recipes, like  Juicy-Oven-Grilled Bacon Cheeseburgers, Crispy Chicken Wings with Sweet-Hot Honey Mustard Sauce ("crispy on the outside, juicy on the inside, and bathed in a zippy sauce"), Pecan-Sour Cream Coffee Cake ( I tried this recipe, my dad really liked it with his coffee!), Streusel-Topped Caramel Apple Muffins…and so on.

I only tried one recipe so far from this cookbook, but am definitely planning on trying more in the future.  Mainly for the past couple of months I've been referring to it in cooking some of our normal meals.  For instance, I referred to it when I made some chicken that we normally fry in oil, and wanted to see what they did to make oven fried chicken and what setting they used, Bake or Roast.  

The section I must appreciated about this book is it's section about convection ovens and how to cook with them at the beginning.   I learned something brand new about my family's convection oven. I was reading the section "convection settings and how to Use Them" when "Convection Roast" caught my eye.  "I don't remember our oven having a roast setting",  I thought, but then I seemed to have this faint memory of seeing some sort of button that said "roast".  I went to our kitchen and looked at the buttons on the oven.  It has a "Roast" setting! The button is right NEXT to the "BAKE" setting, and yet I had never really noticed it.  We've had the oven for over ten years and yet I never realized we have that button? I was very eager to try the setting, especially since the book points out that "Convection Roast can also be used to 'oven-fry' breaded or battered foods such as chicken nuggets or tempura shrimp, or to turn veggies into crispy chips or fries." French Fries, I've always had trouble cooking them in the oven.  They never seem to come out nice and crispy.  Just hot and squishy.  "Perhaps", I thought, "it's because I've been using the wrong setting on the oven".  We always used BAKE, 'cause, of course, we thought we didn't have another setting on the oven. I really feel crazy for not noticing that Roast button all of these years. Not only is it next to the BAKE button but It's even the same size!

 Anyway, so one day I tried a small batch of frozen french fries, using the newly discovered ROAST setting.  And it worked! They were beautifully crispy.  And as I scarfed some down one of my sisters kept asking if she have one, and another one, and another one… they were good!  And then I tried it with a normal batch of fries.  I come from a large family, I have 13 brothers and sisters with twelve of us still living at home.  So a regular batch of fries for us is two cookie sheets full of fries. The pan on the top rack came out nice and crispy, but the ones on the middle rack weren't done yet (I think the pans are probably a little too large to allow an even circulation of air in the oven).  Next time I'll need to put them back in the oven on the top rack to allow them to finish.  But the crispy ones were still really good! I've made many small batches of fries for snacking in the past few weeks with that setting.  It's so much easier to roast the fries in the oven instead of having to make a mess frying the fries in oil. 

Anyway, I'd highly recommend this book, for the convection oven tips alone!

Many thanks to the folks at the Callisto Media for sending me a free review copy of this cookbook! My review did not have to be favorable, I truly do like this cookbook!

My Rating:  5 out of 5 Stars
*****

This book may be purchased at Amazon.com

Saturday, March 3, 2018

CSB Kids Bible - Hardcover






The CSB kids Bible is a pretty nice Bible. As to its physical characteristics of this Bible, it is a very colorful hardcover which kids will probably like.  Even the edges of the pages are colored.  I do want to note that on the inside of the front and back cover has an orange crinkly pattern, at first I thought that the pages were damaged, but on closer examination I realized that it was just a picture.

 It has some colorful pages scattered at wide intervals through the Bible.  Many of them have summaries of what each book of the Bible contains.  They give descriptions like, "Matthew was originally written for the Jews and shows Jesus as the Messiah and King, in whom the Old Testament prophecies were fulfilled." Many of them give pretty good descriptions but I didn't like all of their summaries as some seem to be leaning toward a "Christocentric" hermeneutic instead of a literal, grammatical, historical one.

Some pages have maps, and others have lists of verses dealing with various topics, like the miracles of Jesus, or "Kids in the Bible" where they list many passages that give accounts of children.  I'm sort of surprised that they didn't include the  account of the boys who called Elisha "Baldy!" (2 Kings 2) , Elisha cursed them and bears came and mauled many of the children. Yeah it's graphic, but it's an account of children and they had the account of Cain and Able (whom Cain murders), which most kids probably already know, so why not that one? Most kids probably don't know that account. I'm saying that partly to be funny but I'm also sort of serious.  Why just include the most 'famous' accounts and not the more obscure?

 Anyway, back to what these pages contain, there are a couple of pages with illustrations of the twelve disciples (as a kid I probably would have liked looking at that page in particular)with some descriptions of what they did and who they were.  I did find it amusing that they didn't really have any information to give concerning some of the disciples. For instance, under "James, Son of Alphaeus" they say, "The Bible tells nothing about this man except his name."

As to the translation, it is a pretty good one.  I do wish that they would list more textual variants in the footnotes though.  For instance, in Psalm 40 vs 6, where it says, "you do not delight in sacrifice and offering; you open my ears to listen." I didn't like that they didn't include a footnote for that verse giving the Septuagint variant , which, instead of referencing "ears" being opened, says, "a body you have prepared for me".  That is an important variant because it is quoted in the New Testament by the author of Hebrews.  If kids follow the verse reference in Hebrews 10 back to the source of the quotation in the Psalms they may be confused that the author of Hebrews seems to be misquoting a prophetic text. 

And then in their page on, "How Do I Have Quiet Time With God?" there was something else I felt rather wary about.  After being instructed to pray about various things, the kids are told to "Listen for God to speak to you".  So listen for an audible voice? Wait for an inward feeling? That just seems like quite a mystical thing to do. 

Parents may also want to know that at times this Bible version can be more 'modern' in translating certain words.  For instance, when referring to physical relations, at times they will translate it, "So-and-So was intimate with his wife" but at others, they are more modern.  For instance, where the men of Sodom see the Angels that come to bring Lot and his family away, they have them as saying, "Send them out to us so we can have sex with them!"

Those things being noted, I like the translation overall.  And parents can talk to their kids about any concerns they have about any extrabiblical information and instructions that this Bible includes.

Overall, this is a nicely bound Bible that has some colorful inside pages, as noted above, and even includes a small topical concordance in the back. I particularly like the font size, it is nice and big, kids should have a pretty easy time reading it. Overall I think this would be a pretty handy Bible for kids. 

Many thanks to the folks at B&H Publishers for sending me a free review copy of this Bible (My review did not have to be favorable)!

My rating:  4 out of 5 Stars
****

This book may be purchased at Amazon.com and at Christianbook.com

Friday, March 2, 2018

Alexander the Great- by In60Learning





Want to learn some history in about an hour?  This book series is a good way to do it. In60Learning produces books that are designed to be read in an hour's time.  Thus providing a quick learning experience. 

Upon being offered the chance to try out their material, I chose Alexander the Great: Student of Aristotle, Descendant of Heroes, a part of their BiographyIn60 series.  I did not know much about him though I have noticed many references to him in some of my other reading and felt a curiosity to learn more about him. 

Alexander's life is summed up in thirty pages.  A skilled military leader, who conquered a great deal of territory, building on his father, Philip's, strong start.  He could be quite ruthless in taking cities, but I was surprised at how many times he exercised mercy and allowed the peoples of the towns he conquered to live.  It gives a high level  overview of Alexander's life, relationships with his friends and family, and a good overview of the battles he fought. Even though it was just a summary, I really learned quite a bit about the man and will actually have a knowledgeable picture in my head now when I see him referenced in other books.

Before I invest time reading a big biography about someone I look at summaries of that person's life to see if it would be worth spending the time reading it.  These little biographies offer a way to do that, and can wet one's appetite to learn more about their subjects.  Perhaps the only thing that I think would add to the quick learning experience would be to have some maps in the book as well, my knowledge of ancient geography is not great, so it was hard to picture where certain battles were being fought, where specific groups of peoples lived or where the various countries were.  But it was easy enough to look up the information I wanted on the internet.

I really was able to sit down and read the book in an hour (without rushing).   Overall, I thought that this was a good overview and would recommend this series as an excellent way to get a high level overview of people and historical events in the space of about an hour.   If you would like to sign up to receive updates from In60Learning (and even free book and audio book offers from them) you can subscribe here:   https://app.convertkit.com/landing_pages/349280?ref=snickerdoodle

Many thanks to the folks at in60learning for sending me a free PDF of this book to review (My review did not have to be favorable).

If you would like to purchase this book, or others in the series, you may find it on Amazon.com, available in Paperback and in Kindle formats.

Friday, February 16, 2018

How to be a Perfect Christian - by The Babylon Bee

 How to be a Perfect Christian: Your Comprehensive Guide to Flawless Spiritual Living is a satirical book about how to attain complete sanctification this side of eternity.  By the folks at the Babylon Bee (a satirical Christian news site), this book lives up to their usual method of using humor to make a point, only this time, instead of a small news snippet, you get a whole book full of pointed humor. Having enjoyed much of their writing already I thought that it would be interesting to see how it would work in a book.

And it works quite well.  The book gives you a step by step process of becoming completely perfect.  Guiding you in the process of choosing the right church, explaining how you can 'worship like a pro', what type of standards you should have, and how you ought to make sure that you are always confirming to the most current mainstream Christian beliefs.

At the end of most of the chapters is a 'Holiness Tracker 5000" chart, showing your progress in the scale of Christian 'growth'.  As you read the book you will find  your progress in holiness rising fast, starting from the lower levels of Satan, Rob Bell and Benny Hinn, you'll rise through the ranks of Luther, Apostle Paul, Tim Tebow…etc.  There are also some charts and a few pictures scattered through the book. I thought that their sample Gospel 'tract' was sadly hilarious.

The book is filled with section after section giving you spiritual 'growth' pointers, they'll explain many ways that you can become holier than other people (sounding serious, but of course, they're actually mocking that mindset). For instance, did you know that your devotional times don't count with God unless you post announcements that you are having them on social media sites, along with pictures of your Bible, a devotional book and, of course, a cup of coffee? Or here's another one, did you know that the absolute best way to work for God (in His Kingdom on earth, the U.S.A.)is to elect Christian candidates to public office, as we know that we are supposed to establish God's Kingdom through the republican party.  God gave us the Gospel "so that we could affect Social Change and win the Culture war".

At times they get a little too flippant in their satire, speaking your "breathing down Jesus' neck" in your holiness progress, we get to "hangout with our homeboy Jesus".   Considering that Jesus is God in the flesh, those types of flippant references to Him seems too close to taking His name in vain. Another thing that I felt uncomfortable about is that they also use derivatives exclamations like "heck" and "darn" which are simply other words for Hell and damn*.  Yes, I know that these things are done for satirical purposes and I might be acting too picky, it's just that some things I'm not sure that we should do even to make a point.

Having said that, I'll sum up my overall opinion of the book:  I liked it pretty well overall.  It is amusing and sobering at the same time. Many of the statements are so true in the book that they are hard to find actually funny as they step on everyone's toes, including mine at times. They don't always imply that you should change your methodology as much as prompt you to examine your attitude and reasoning behind that methodology.  It makes you examine the motive behind why you do what you do, is it just because it makes me FEEL holy? Is my practice actually biblically derived? Or  is it a personal conviction, such as whether I should use the KJV Bible or the NIV? Is worship just a feeling? Is the goal of a church to make people happy and comfortable with themselves? Do I go to church to serve or to be served? All in all, It really makes you think about why we do what we do as Christians.

Many thanks to the folks at Blogging for Books for sending me an Advanced Copy of the book to review (some things about the book may be changed when it is actually published, so my quotations may not match up all of the way.).  My review did not have to be favorable.

My Rating:  4 out of 5 Stars
****

This book will be released on May 1, 2018 
You may preorder it at Amazon.com



*I don't think that these are bad words in and of themselves, but we Christians ought not to use the word 'Hell' flippantly because we want people to take it seriously and we want them to know that we do to. "damn it' or 'damn' shouldn’t be used because we do not have the power, or the right to condemn anyone or anything to Hell. 

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Saudi Inc. By Ellen R. Wald


I don't know that I would have EVER thought that a book about the Kings of Saudi Arabia and an oil company would have been interesting. But this book is! I don't just mean that the book is well written (it is) but Wald actually seems very enthusiastic about the topic and that carries over to the reader.  Or at least it did to me. I almost want to laugh at myself for how interesting and intriguing I found this book, "SAUDI INC. The Arabian Kingdom's Pursuit of Profit and Power" by Ellen R. Wald.

Abdul Aziz, or ibn Saud, the founder of Saudi Arabia (never realized where the name came from, sort of a 'duh' moment when I found that out: SAUD-i Arabia) was quite an interesting guy.  He started out by conquering his hometown of Riyadh and then ended up growing his territory over time until he had even conquered Mecca.  He and Sheikh Abdullah Sulaiman, the man he put in charge of his finances (also an interesting character), made quite the team to build up the Kingdom and solidify its well-being for the future. That was one of Aziz's goals, to ensure the continuation of his Kingdom.  In order to even continue as a kingdom, he needed money, very badly.   This is where oil comes into the picture.

Americans thought that Saudi Arabia might be a potential source of oil and so they requested permission to search for it. King Saud did not expect their search to be successful, but he saw a financial opportunity in this. He could charge the Americans a fee to search his country for it and also obtain rent from their premises, and then royalties from oil sales, if there was any to be found.  Even if the Americans didn't find oil, his own country would still get something out of it.

 Lo, and behold, after much searching and near failure, a significant source of oil was found. Four American companies ultimately teamed up to work in Saudi Arabia.  They renamed the company, calling it the Arabian American Oil Company, or Aramco.   Along with American oil operations came American equipment, American housing structures for the workers, an airport, hospital and power plant and other American luxuries.  The King wanted those things for his country.  He had more money than he had ever had before, thanks to Aramco.  Though Saudi Arabia did not have the ability, as of yet, to build these things for itself, they could pay foreign venders to do it for them.  Saudi Arabia was so successful in their modernization that Abdul Aziz was invited to extend his rule to other places, though he declined the offer. Ruling the territory he currently had was already a tough enough challenge.

This historical account does not merely focus on the Sauds and Aramco at a high level.  Wald zooms in, as it were, on the individual lives of many of the characters involved, using their stories to help move the book along.  You'll learn about the Saudi Kings:  the beloved founder Ibn Saud, and his sons who succeeded him, all of whom had unique personalities of their own.  Saud and Feisal, for instance, were opposites in personality.  King Saud - was a bad governor and a spendthrift who loved luxury.  He was, somewhat forcibly, persuaded to give up his government to his brother Feisal, was a much better ruler.

You'll also learn about non Royal Saudi Arabians,  Aramco employees, and American Ambassadors who, at the beginning of the Aramco and Saudi relationship, often had to act as intermediators between the company and the Kings of Saudi Arabia.  Wald often repeats who these people are, by mentioning what their job or position is, or by giving you a reminder about their background which can trigger your memory as to their identity.  I really appreciate that as I often have a hard time keeping characters straight in my head.

Wald demonstrates how wise the Sauds were in their being willing to acknowledge that other countries were more modern than they and in their being willing to learn from those countries. They had foreign companies and workers come in and do the work while they learned until they were finally able to take over themselves.  Ultimately the Sauds were able to take over Aramco itself by means of this strategy. Instead of forcibly nationalizing the foreign oil company, as some other countries had done, the Sauds were very patient and were willing to wait.  They eventually even started having more and more young Saudi Arabians educated in other countries to increase their knowledge and to have more to contribute to their society when they returned. By the time the Sauds completely took over Aramco they were more ready than other countries, who had acted in haste, to run the oil industry themselves.

The book ends at the beginning of the reign of King Salman (2015) and does not deal with later plans of Saudi Arabia like Vision 2030, but the whole book gives you the history of the development of Saudi Arabia, which development and growth would eventually lead up to that plan and it gives you the big picture of the Saud mindset of always looking to the future.  The Sauds are still looking to the future, they want to stay in the energy business and realize that oil will not stay a major source of energy forever and so they are making other plans to ensure that they will be a long-term relevant energy source.

 As indicated at the beginning of this review, I found that Wald writes very well, her book really kept my interest. Some other books dealing with history are horribly boring, some so much so that I didn't finish reading them.  Boring history books just seem as though they are merely reciting a bunch of facts, and after a while the continued recitation of various names, dates and events becomes quite dull and very hard to retain in one's memory. Wald, on the other hand tries to get you to picture the people, their personalities, their thoughts and the events and circumstances in which they are involved. She uses excerpts of historical quotations and recollections of many of the people involved in order to do this.  She truly seems to find her topic interesting and seems to have worked hard to make it interesting to the reader.

Very well written, intriguing and even fascinating.  Wald really drew me in to the history, and she might draw you in too, even though it is just a book about oil and Kings.

I received a complimentary Advanced Reading Copy of this book from the publisher for review. My review did not have to be favorable. Many thanks to Pegasus Books!

My Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars
*****


You may purchase this book at Amazon.com 

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Christ: Chronological



This book,"Christ: Chronological" is a sort of chronological parallel Bible.  Using the Christian Standard Bible translation the Gospel accounts, written by Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, are arranged in a chronological order and they are placed alongside each other in parallel columns when dealing with the same account. The text from each Gospel is in a different color, blue for Matthew, Green for Mark, a reddish color for Luke and purple for John.  Along the very bottom of each page is a 'color code' key as it were, reminding you which color represents each Gospel.

Very nicely bound (a hardcover book, and wider than a typical Bible - it's in a square shape), the book lies quite flat when opened, so you can easily lay it down on a table while reading it without keeping one hand on it to make sure that the pages won't turn on their own.   The font is easy to read, a good size, and also, despite the font being various colors, they are bold colors and so stand out on the page.

The book is divided into a sort of chapter format, though they are not called chapters and are not numbered.  The 'chapters' have main titles like "Jesus Turns His Focus Toward Judea". Within each 'chapter' are many 'sections' some of which have descriptive headings for sections within the 'chapters', and above each section are the chapter and verse references for the Scriptures within them. There are many short introductory notes that begin parts that have parallel accounts.  These notes comment on apparent differences between the accounts and offer suggestions as to how they are actually complementary.  The font size of these notes is small enough that you can just glance over them, if you'd like, and continue reading the Scriptural account of the life of Christ. The flow of the Gospel account is a bit choppy, with the many section headings throughout and then single columns breaking off into four columns of varying lengths and then back again to one…etc. It is still very readable though, and serves its purpose well. 

 It is always interesting to compare the Gospel accounts, to see how they complement one another, how some of the accounts give more detail than others who focus more on particular details. All in all they form quite the picture of our Lord's sacrificial life, His teachings, His death and His resurrection.  This book is a nice way to read all of the accounts together.


Many thanks to the folks at B&H publishing for sending me a free review copy of this Bible (My review did not have to be favorable)!

My Rating: Five out of Five Stars
 *****

This book may be purchased at Amazon.com and Christianbook.com


Sunday, January 21, 2018

Quote of the Day

Whatever people may say, ignorance is not a virtue.  Neither is knowledge, however, unless it is applied and put to proper use.  This application of knowledge to real-life situations is called 'wisdom'

- Andreas Kostenberger



See more quotes on my quote collection blog:  https://snickerdoodlesquotes.blogspot.com/

Friday, January 19, 2018

Quote of the Day

Spirituality is…not an individualistic experience of solitude, defined by the amount of time spent in protracted periods of communion alone with God, but  an active obedience to God's commands that practically demonstrates love to others and is integrally involved in Jesus's mission to the world.  Christian spirituality, properly understood is a spirituality of engagement, not withdrawal…There is nothing inherently spiritual about the study of Scripture if that study does not lead to obedient, active application. 

- Andreas Kostenberger



See more quotes on my quote collection blog:  https://snickerdoodlesquotes.blogspot.com/

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Long Before Luther - By Nathan Busneitz



Long Before Luther by Nathan Busenitz is book that examines history to demonstrate that the concepts of Salvation by faith alone, through grace alone…etc. were not invented by people like Martin Luther and John Calvin in the 16th Century, as some have claimed.  Rather these concepts are very old, coming from the Scriptures themselves. As the subtitle of this book indicates, this book traces "the heart of the Gospel from Christ to the Reformation".

The book is divided into four parts, part one is, "The Reformers and Justification", which examines what the Reformers believed and where they discovered those beliefs in the Bible.  

Part Two deals with the "Church Before Augustine". "The Reformers looked primarily to Scripture to establish their understanding of justification by grace through faith alone, yet they also claimed secondary affirmation for their position from the writings of Christian leaders throughout church history."  This section examines the beliefs of the early church (I don't feel comfortable/Biblical calling them "Fathers") in regard to justification by grace through faith apart from works, the forensic nature of justification, distinction between justification and sanctification and the imputation of Christ's righteousness.

Part Three, "Augustine and Justification". This gives a close look at Augustine's beliefs regarding salvation.  There is a whole section devoted to this because "The Reformers looked to Augustine more than any other church father in their defense of the doctrine of salvation by grace."

Part 4 "The Church After Augustine" examines the beliefs of Christians who came in between Augustine and Luther.  

Though I think this is a very useful and well written work, I think that there is a more pressing issue in the church today, and that is an elevating the 'Reformers' too much.  Actually, when I first decided to review this book, I was hoping that it was a critique of the near worshipful attitude of the reformers that many, in the church, particularly those who call themselves 'reformed', seem to possess.  It's no wonder that people think the Reformation was the starting point for the 'doctrines of Grace', many professing Christian act as though the 'fullness of time' climaxed at the Reformation, that the faith we hold to originated at that time.  And I critique myself when I say this.  When I was younger I loved learning about the 'Reformers', tended to 'hero-worship' them, and what they taught, and collected quotes from them.  At one point I ended up in a debate with an 'Arminian', over salvation/election,  and he wanted me to stop using quotations by Luther, Calvin and other Christians and just debate by using the Scriptures themselves. I think that that was really helpful to me. And, in thinking back on it, it's rather embarrassing to think how I must have looked, appealing to the writings of many Christians to support my point, rather than primarily using the Bible as the sole authority. Rather than pointing people to the Reformation we should point back to the Formation.  I'm not against the reformers and still admire God's work in and through them, but I think we really should start watching ourselves and make sure that we deal with any 1 Corinthians 3 scenarios. 

But I still like this book. Busenitz does an excellent job in giving written proofs that the 'doctrines of grace' were not invented by the Reformers.  If anyone is struggling with an idea like that I would recommend this book. It's not very long, but it is quite a solid defense of the unoriginality of the Reformers.  When it comes to salvation we don't want to be original, we want to be right in our belief - our eternal souls are at stake!


Many thanks to the folks at MP Newsroom for sending me a free review copy of this book! (My review did not have to be favorable).

My Rating 5 out of 5 Stars
*****

This book may be purchased at Amazon.com and Christianbook.com 

Thursday, January 4, 2018

The Tunnels - By Greg Mitchell (Paperback Version)




The Tunnels by Greg Mitchell is a book about escape tunnels that were built under the Berlin wall during the Cold War.  Though many tunnels and tunnel escapes are looked at, the focus of the book is on one particular tunnel that was funded by NBC in exchange for filming the construction of the tunnel and any escapes that would happen by means of the tunnel.

I first picked this book to review simply because I thought that it sounded rather interesting, I didn't realize how absolutely riveting it would be.  I started reading it to myself, got a little way into it and then started reading it out loud to one of my sisters. By, probably the middle of the book, several of my siblings were listening in with fixed attention. 

I have read this book before, the hardcover version, and this is the paperback, which of course isn't really different except for the cover.  But the content is as riveting as ever

This book is very well written, Mitchell really seems to give one the perspective of the people involved in these escapes so that you feel along with them as they attempt their dangerous work.  We all got pretty tense with every tunnel escape attempt, and also with fears that their work would be discovered by the clever West Berlin spies.  It was very intriguing to find out how they made these tunnels, starting them from West Berlin (the good side) they would pick a building on the other side to aim for (sometimes without those who owned the building being in the 'know') where they would then break through into a cellar or even a living room.  I found it amazing that they were able to aim SO well.  They would work long periods of time, sometimes staying in the same building for a month or more without coming out just to have more secrecy while digging  the tunnel.  Then you have to wait and hope with the tunnelers that there are no Stasi agents waiting for them when they break through, and hope that all of the East Berliners who want to escape make it to the tunnel without being caught.  At times there are Stasi agents waiting and you then hope that no one comes to the tunnel to escape and get caught. 

I learned a lot about the Cold war and the Berlin Wall.  I found it fascinating that some of the government officials in the U.S. were (amazingly) actually in favor of the Berlin wall being built(to the East Berlin government's delight), thinking that it would calm things down…which of course it didn't.

 The book switches back and forth from different perspective of various characters in this history,  you will meet Harry Seidel, an East Berliner who has already escaped to the West but who wants to get his mother out of the East and therefore works on various tunnels, including the "NBC Tunnel";  Piers Anderton of NBC is another player in this history who really wants this documentary on the "NBC Tunnel" to be a success (and also for it to actually be allowed to be shown on tv);  Siegfried Uhse is an East Berlin informant who is working under cover with some of those who are organizing escapes to West Berlin for desperate East Berliners, he is attempting to get information about various tunnels so that he can pass it on to his superiors and be the means of foiling any escape attempts;  JFK is also a player in these events, he is nervous that any open U.S. support of escape attempts will be the means of provoking an invasion of West Berlin by the Russians, and so he is very wary of any American news documentaries filming and aiding any escapes.
These are only a few of the people involved in this account of this tense time in history. 

I just wish that the author would have dealt with Ronald Reagan's part in pressuring Gorbachev to tear down the Berlin wall, I don't remember that being mentioned at all (though I may have just for gotten it).  Also There were some topics that were rather uncomfortable to read, such as the immoral lives of some of the people discussed and some pretty bad language  and expressions that some people used.  I scribbled out a bunch of those things.  

But all in all, this was a very interesting historical account. It's amazing to think that these things actually happened,  I thought that Mitchell did a great job of impressing upon the reader the reality of these events and people. 

I received this book from the Blogging For Books book review program (My review did not have to be favorable)


This book may be purchased at Amazon.com