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Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus: A Devout Muslim Encounters Christianity, written by Nabeel Qureshi and published by Zondervan (expanded version, 2016), recounts Qureshi’s journey to Christianity–his “powerful memories and personal thoughts.”

As a young boy, Nabeel, an American-born Muslim, has the ideas of Islam instilled into his thinking and way of life. The culture of his faith is his identity and understanding of the world. But it becomes evident, that even while still a boy, God is working in his life.

On the school bus one day, Kristen talks with him about Good Friday. According to what Nabeel has been taught, Jesus did not actually die on the cross. Instead he passed out and was taken away where he recovered. Both, agree to disagree. Nabeel feels validated that Islam is the right religion and the final chapter.

In high school he has a conversation with Betsy, who talks about Christianity and invites him to a church play about sin and death. Nabeel and his father attend the play. On the way home they have a conversation about what they’ve seen and how it is wrong. Both discuss how Christians believe in “3” gods not the Trinity–“God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit.” They agree, again, Islam is right and there is only one God—Allah. Jesus is a prophet like Muhammad.

In college Nabeel meets David, a Christian. David encourages Nabeel to expand his literature understanding of Jesus and based on literature decide whether or not Jesus is who he says. David invites Nabeel and his father to a debate with two pastors who have written about the history of Jesus. The arguments are again made that Jesus did not actually die on the cross. The pastors explain that the Romans made sure Jesus was dead. The piercing of his side was an indication that he was dead by suffocation.

When the debate ends Nabeel is confused and looks again to his Muslim literature. David then encourages Nabeel to go to church with him since one of the pastors who debated is preaching. Nabeel says he cannot attend based on what his parents would say. David counters that Nabeel is an adult and can make his own decisions. Both men graduate college and go their separate ways for graduate school. Nabeel begins to pursue a medical degree.

Guided by the loving, faithful hand of God, Nabeel comes to be on his knees before Jesus–accepting the truth. In the Extended Epilogue his journey as a Christian continues. Nabeel must deal with his decision of faith and efforts to restore a relationship with his family.

The side margins of the book have a glossary of Islamic terms. Documents in the back are helpful as well.

This book is a good read for college-age young adults who want to explore both a better understanding of the Muslim faith and how God works in our lives–never giving up on us.

Kristina O’Brien is a mother, an avid reader and a credentialed teacher. She has taught both middle school and high school history.

Lent begins next week on March 1st and so we begin to think about Easter and new life. I looked up “lent” (words interest me) and it came from a word that meant the time of year when the days lengthened. It  also was their word for spring, since that is the time in the Northern Hemisphere when days lengthen. Patsy has discovered a wonderful book that will enrich your days no matter what the sun and the earth are doing. – Nancy

Deeper: Living in the Reality of God’s Love, by Debbie Alsdorf and published by Revell (2008), will certainly jump start your walk with the Lord. An uplifting read, it will challenge you to get closer to God and go deeper into His Word, to discover the treasure of wisdom He has for you. After hearing Debbie speak at a women’s retreat, I have felt a revival in my own relationship with Jesus. She speaks on timeless truths. In the beginning of the book, Debbie shares the words her mother kept repeating at the time of her death, “Live like it is real, because it is!”

Debbie describes her youth, her struggle to feel worthy and “good enough” for parents who were difficult to please. She felt their acceptance was based more on her performance than on unconditional love. At a young age she became a singer, hoping and anxious to gain the approval of others. When she became a Christian in her youth and when she later married a pastor, she felt her worth depended on being “Pretty, Perfect and Polished.” She tried to live up to how church members and family felt the perfect pastor’s wife should be.

One day her husband came home and stated that he didn’t love her, he never had, and he wanted a divorce. Debbie’s perfect world crumbled. She was heart-broken. Her mother moved in with her to help her raise her two young sons. Shortly after, her mother had a stroke. Debbie became the caregiver of everyone, trying desperately to survive her emotional traumas.

Over time and through counseling, Debbie realized that God never expects us to be perfect. Rather He loves us unconditionally. We are secure in our position as His cherished, adopted children. A wonderful quote from the back of the book says, “It is time to get honest with God and live like his love for you is real–because it is!

Deeper shows you how to live four core truths from Psalm 139– God knows me; He protects me; He made me, and He values me.  Debbie expounds on each one of these truths, helping others to view themselves as God does. She gives many examples of times in her life when God’s Word changed her thinking. She shares how He worked all things out for the very best in her family and helped her to start a ministry for other women.

Debbie founded Design4Living Ministries. She leads conferences and retreats that encourage women in their faith. I found her to be an excellent speaker and author. This amazing book is particularly helpful for women age eighteen and above.

Patsy Ledbetter says she has many titles, but her favorite is being mom to her five children. Her two daughters, two sons and one son-in-law are her joy. A teacher with forty years experience Patsy has taught children of all ages and also special needs children and adults. She writes occasionally for a local newspaper and performs in church theater productions on a regular basis. Her husband is the church choir and orchestra director. They have been married for 32 years. She says, “It is my desire to bring honor and glory to my Lord Jesus in every area where He has allowed me to minister.”

 

 

Nancy — Patsy, as you will read, really appreciates this non-fiction book.  And while it is not written for children, (though its principles can certainly be used to help children), I thought it appropriate for a new year and perhaps our common longing for a new beginning. Lord, I Feel So Small might be just what you need for your journey.

 

Lord, I Feel So Small, written by Jon Drury and published by Wine Press Publishing (2010), will speak to anyone who has ever felt unworthy, small and insignificant. Pastor and writer Jon Drury shares candidly about times in his life when he struggled to feel accepted and worthy.

Drury tells much of his life story, explaining how he has struggled with fear and rejection. Even though he became a Christian at a young age, his parents often fought and it would frighten him. But as the Lord continued to pour His unconditional love and healing over Jon, things improved. He learned to resist listening to any voice but God’s. God’s voice brings peace and encourages us. On the other hand, Satan will use our unworthiness to slander and discourage us. He will also use our failures.

The book explores twenty battlegrounds of significance. Sharing his own experiences and those of others, Jon exposes the world’s false yardsticks that demean us. He also looks at Biblical characters who overcame great weaknesses. Drury directs his readers to many scriptures and points of action to help them resist the voice of The Enemy.

Some of the chapter titles include, Feelings that Immobilize Us, The Flesh that Hinders Us, Externals that Frustrate Us, and Experiences that Hamper Us. Drury states that God releases the oppressed, and that the Cross is the basis for victory. Near the end of the book, there is a chapter on “Exchanging Daily Misery for Joy.”

One of my favorite parts of the book is when Jon says, “The most potent antidote for rejection is acceptance by God. When we come to faith in Him, we are embraced by the Lord God Himself.  ‘Ephesians 1:6, To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved.'”

Everyone can learn something from this book  It is extremely helpful and practical. I was inspired and uplifted by it, and I know you will be as well.

Patsy Ledbetter says she has many titles, but her favorite is being mom to her five children. Her two daughters, two sons and one son-in-law are her joy. A teacher with forty years experience Patsy has taught children of all ages and also special needs children and adults. She writes occasionally for a local newspaper and performs in church theater productions on a regular basis. Her husband is the church choir and orchestra director. They have been married for 32 years. She says, “It is my desire to bring honor and glory to my Lord Jesus in every area where He has allowed me to minister.”

Nancy Ellen Hird is a mom, a writer and a credentialed teacher. (She taught seventh grade and preschool.)  Her latest work for children is We All Get a Clue, a mystery novel for girls 10-13. It is the second book in the series that began with I Get a Clue. For several years she was a freelance reviewer of children’s and teen’s literature for the Focus on the Family website.

 

At my church a special discussion group for high school seniors is delving into the book Mere Christianity by C. S. Lewis. I think this is a wise choice. The approximately 200 page (printings vary) gem is an excellent sounding board for young adults who want to get a firm grasp on the core of their beliefs before leaving home for work or college.

There are two things that need to be said about the book. One, it was written in 1950’s England, so it reflects the language and worldview of that time and place. Two, its richness for the mind rivals that of flourless chocolate cake for the palate—one can savor only a sliver at a time.

Lewis touches on many topics that are essential to a believer’s perspective on life, as well as a believer’s attitudes about faith and practice. He asks decisive questions and does not shy away from complex answers. Among his topics are: Where does morality come from? Moral behavior within us, between us and others, and in relationship to God. Who is God and what is He like? Does God want to make me feel miserable? Why Jesus? The reason for the crucifixion. Explaining the Trinity. How does God work in my life? What is the whole point of being a Christian and not just a nice person? Choice. The role of sex. What happens to good people who never hear about Christ? Forgiving evil. The great sin of pride. Why suffering? Why doesn’t God just invade the world and wipe out all evil? Becoming like Christ—what does it really mean? What’s the point of all this?

Some readers may find Lewis a little conservative on certain subjects, others too liberal. But you don’t have to agree with his every opinion to benefit from the depth of his reflections.

Due to the nature of this book, it is best read slowly, a chapter or two at a time, then discussed. This could happen with a mentor or parent or in a class or youth group with a teacher to monitor discussion and explain harder concepts.

Reading Mere Christianity was a gift to my soul. A master storyteller, Lewis uses interesting word pictures to illustrate timeless ideas. Both adult and mature teen readers could benefit from a thoughtful tour of this compact presentation on the inner life of believers.

A classic in Christian apologetics, Mere Christianity is available at libraries, book stores, Christianbook.com, Barnes & Noble, and Amazon.com.

Donna Fujimoto is a graduate of Alliance Theological Seminary. She has published both devotionals for adults and short stories for teens. Her children love to read.

Mrs. Fujimoto has a collection of short stories, 9 Slightly Strange Stories with an Uplifting Edge, available as an e-reader at Amazon. Find our review under “N” in the alphabetical listing: Titles We’ve Reviewed.

Thoughts to Make Your Heart Sing was written by Sally Lloyd-Jones and illustrated by Jago. It was published by Zonderkidz in 2012.

Lloyd-Jones wrote this after hearing about the bullying of her eleven-year-old niece. She wanted to show her niece God’s love and how her niece might learn to listen to God and love Him. There are over one hundred thoughts with eye-catching headings and appropriate scriptures.

For example, the first headline is “Dance” with a fascinating illustration of whirling planets. The thought is that at creation God was at the center of everything like the sun is at the heart of the planets. We were born to dance for joy (Job 38: 7). God shouted for joy.

The second continues with the headline “Cataclysm.” God’s perfect world was no longer perfect because we put ourselves in the center. But God had a perfect plan. He would send His Son, Jesus (Jeremiah 31:4).

Lloyd-Jones’ poetic style is heart lifting yet solidly based on scripture. Each illustration adds a new depth and dimension. Other intriguing headlines are “Loving Heavenly Father,” “Bird’s Nest” and “By the Hand.” Each one draws you in–wondering what could this mean?

Thoughts to Make Your Heart Sing has a challenging depth and delivers what the title says. It will bring joy and comfort to many hearts from ages eight to teens. It would also be great for families gathered around the table for a time of sharing.

Carol Green, a graduate of Northwestern, is married and the mother of three adult children. Her five grandchildren affectionately call her “Grams cracker.” She is the published author of many poems for both adults and children; three coloring books: God Gave Me Five, ABC Fun Book, and Color God’s World Bright; and the picture book: My Mom Loves Me.

To offset some depressing reading assignments from high school, my teen chose to read In His Steps by Charles Sheldon from our home bookshelves. It became so engrossing and uplifting a choice, that it was hard for my child to put it down to do homework.

Curious, I decided to revisit the book myself.  It had been decades since I last read In His Steps. Although authored by an American clergyman in the late 1800’s, the writing is very accessible to modern readers. With the exception of occasional references to horse drawn carriages and the absence of cell phones and computers, the novel could be a contemporary storyline.

Reverend Henry Maxwell, pastor of a wealthy, aristocratic, and dignified church, is inspired by a startling event to re-think his faith. After sharing with his congregation the upheaval in his soul, he asks members of his congregation to take a pledge with him for one year to live out the answer to this question: “What would Jesus do?”

Among those who make this vow are Rachel Winslow, a young woman expected to pursue a career in opera; Edward Norman, editor of a popular newspaper; Jasper Chase, a promising young author; Virginia Page, a young heiress; and President Marsh of Lincoln college. Their choices over the next year send shock waves through their personal lives, their community, and beyond. Some remain faithful to their pledge, even at great personal loss; others turn away and pursue paths of their own making.

There are two or three passages where the author becomes openly preachy, and his tone is certainly idealistic, but this does not take away from the amazing power of the story to make the reader rethink personal motives and actions in the light of a personal commitment to be like Jesus. Hailed as a Christian classic, it’s a book worth reading.

In His Steps is written for adults but has been embraced by generations of teenagers. It is readily available on Amazon, through Barnes & Noble and Christian Book Distributors, as wells as in local and church libraries.

Donna Fujimoto is a graduate of Alliance Theological Seminary. She has published both devotionals for adults and short stories for teens. Her children love to read.

Mrs. Fujimoto has a collection of short stories, 9 Slightly Strange Stories with an Uplifting Edge, available as an e-reader at Amazon. Find our review under “N” in the alphabetical listing: Titles We’ve Reviewed.

The short-term mission trip is a familiar experience to Christian teens. Either they have been on one or they know someone who has. That’s one of the reasons I think Found in Translation (Barbour Publishing, Inc., 2011) will delight and intrigue teens. This novel by Roger Bruner and his daughter, Kristi Rae, unpacks one such life-changing trip and tells it with authenticity, humor, and great heart.

When the reader first meets eighteen-year-old Kim Hartlinger, she has just missed her connecting flight to San Diego where she is to join her mission team. Kim is just this side of a blonde joke. She thinks the airline can put her on another plane—a faster one. The curious part about her misunderstandings, her excuses, and her less-than-grace-under-pressure attitude is that she begins to feel familiar. Oops!

Kim does board another flight, (the reader senses that God intervenes). However, her late arrival in San Diego costs the group valuable orientation time and people are less than pleased. Their irritation, however, is a minor difficulty for Kim compared to what she learns next. The mission project has changed. (She doesn’t know about the change because she didn’t read the emails.) Instead of evangelizing with a local church in a Mexican town, the team will be building houses in a village recently hit by a tornado. The tiny village is poor, remote and didn’t even have electricity, plumbing or running water before the disaster. Kim has not come prepared for such an experience. When she blurts out her dismay and frustration, the team leaders offer to refund her money and help her get a flight home. To everyone’s surprise, including her own, Kim decides to go with the team. She believes God wants her on the trip.

God does have a reason for Kim being on the trip. More than one. The authors show Him using even her missteps and mishaps and making them the needed elements to bring about His good purposes. During the two weeks Kim learns to lean on God more, to seek His plans over her own, and to obey Him even when what He is telling her to do doesn’t seem right to her.

This theme of trusting God is not the only theme the Bruners explore. They also dig into the need for forgiveness and restoration. They come at it from several angles, enriching the reader with understanding and inspiration. The Bruners  also look at teamwork and how relationships support or hinder us.

Found in Translation is a great read for Christian teens, particularly girls. I think they will enjoy Kim and her spiritual journey. Her story will encourage and inspire them. Her relationship with Aleesha may cause them to long for a friend like Aleesha or maybe even to be a friend like Aleesha. The wise way Kim handles her relationship with Geoff will remind teens to be discerning and prayerful in their relationships. Kim’s sweet relationship with little Angelita, the disabled child from the village, will warm their hearts and open their eyes wider to the riches that can be found in serving others.

Nancy Ellen Hird is a mom, a writer, and a credentialed teacher. (She taught seventh grade and preschool.) Two of her published works for children are Marty’s Monster and Jessica Jacobs Did What?  For several years she was a freelance reviewer of children’s and teen’s literature for the Focus on the Family website.

Book Reviews

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