Sunday, April 20, 2014

Review of OLD TESTAMENT TODAY by John Walton and Andrew Hill

Title: Old Testament Today
Author: John Walton and Andrew Hill
Publisher: Zondervan
What It's About: Old Testament Today is a survey of the Old Testament that is focused on helping readers to understand the relevance of the Old Testament to modern day believers.
What I Liked About It: I was interested in reading this textbook-style book because I've read some of Walton's other writings on the Old Testament. He has incredible insight and much to convey about the world in which the biblical stories take place.
Where You Can Buy It: This book does a great job of orienting readers into the Old Testament world. The authors give an overview of the Old Testament's storyline and show how the OT is a large part of a greater work. The main goal of the book is to show the OT's relevance to believers today. For example, there are helpful comments on how the New Covenant as promised in the OT applies to us, as well as the role of the laws that aren't applicable to us today but reveal something about the world the biblical characters lived and about God's character.

The book is divided into the different types of literature presented in the OT. The authors bring to light the way different biblical authors focused on certain things just as authors do today. You'll find helpful information on each book of the OT and how it contributes to the overall message of the OT.

Because this is a textbook, it will be especially helpful as a classroom textbook on the Old Testament, but it's also a great book for non-academics who want to understand more about the Old Testament. The Old Testament is often a confusing collection of texts. Walton and Hill help make it more understandable and reveal the character of the God who is at its center.

Review copy provided by Zondervan Academic, courtesy of AcademicPS

Friday, April 18, 2014

Flash Fiction Friday: The Journal, Part Seven

Check out Sara's journey after awakening in a world with a rewritten history in episodes 12345, and 6.

As Sara closed the journal, she heard a loud explosion coming from the city ahead. The sky was beginning to get dark, but among the tall buildings in the distance, she saw smoke begin to ascend. She had to know where it was coming from and if the world was beginning to end again.

She got into the driver's seat and sped toward the city, ignoring Jack's warning to go into hiding. If she was the one destined to stop whatever Faceless had planned, she couldn't do any good in hiding. She'd never run from danger before. She wouldn't do it now.

She thought about Jack. She would've loved to have grown up with a brother, but the history she remembered didn't include a brother. And now he was gone again. Could she trust him? She didn't know.

Thirty minutes later, she joined a crowd of people looking up at the flames lighting up the night sky from the top stories of a luxury hotel. Sara recognized the building, but she didn't know it as a hotel. She remembered it as the Faceless Corporation headquarters from the days when everyone thought they were a mysteriously benevolent organization focused on making people's lives better. Before they disappeared and no one knew where they really came from. It was also the building from which she saw Michael plummet to his death.

Emergency vehicles surrounded the building and police officers were pushing people back. Sara could see injured people on stretchers. They must have been the ones to get out. The ones below the top levels of the hotel.

"What happened here?" Sara asked a man beside her.

"No one knows," the man replied. "I was eating at a diner a couple blocks away when I heard the explosion. We all rushed outside and saw this."

Sara wished she could get inside the building. It couldn't be a coincidence that this building, of all the buildings in town, exploded. Why the upper levels?

What if someone is trying to cover something up? she thought.

Sara looked around, but she knew she'd never be able to make it past the officers. As she scans the crowd around her, she notices a face that looks familiar. Michael's face. Her heart sank. If they could bring her father back from the dead, could Michael really be back as well?

She began making her way through the crowd toward where she saw him, but when she got there, he was gone. She continued looking around. Up ahead, she sees him walking toward the back of the hotel. She follows him. She's surprised to see a lack of activity behind the hotel. Just a few police officers. She looked up and saw that the explosion, although in the upper levels, seemed to affect the front of the building more than the back. 

The man who looked like Michael waited until the officer guarding the back looked away to sneak into a door at the back of the building.

So there is a way in? she thought.

She waited as the man had, then went through the same door. She found herself in a darkened hallway. Michael was nowhere in sight. She slowly makes her way down the hallway when she finds a door. Though it’s dark, she barely made out the word "Basement" on the door. 

She descended the steps, seeing a room barely lit up below. When she gets to the bottom, she sees that the room looks like a control room. A large screen is lit up with images. None that she recognizes. She looks around for Michael, but as far as she can tell, she is alone. 

The screen goes blank for a moment, then lights up with footage of two people under a tree in a field. Sara's skin is suddenly covered with goose bumps. The footage is of the day Michael proposed to her. But it wasn't filmed. Someone had been watching them.

Sara watched as Michael professed his love to her. She felt desperate to find him alive, but she felt foolish because it was obvious someone was messing with her. Luring her in here.

But for what?

"Too bad we never got to the altar," a voice behind her said. 

Sara turned around. Michael walked out of a shadow. 

"Hi, Sara," he said. "It's good to see you."

"How?" she said, backing up for fear that this man was an impostor.

He walked closer to her.

"It doesn't matter how. All that matters is that you stopped it."

He pulled her close to him. "I've missed you so much," he said.

She returned the embrace, but she couldn't be sure that this was real. 

"What do you mean I stopped it?" she said. "We didn't stop anything. I saw you die, and then I was dying myself."

He pulled back and looked her in the eye. "But we're both here now. And we're alive."

Sara glanced around the room. Michael wasn't making sense. Faceless had completely erased any evidence of their existence. Yet here Michael stood inside the building where she'd lost him. A building whose upper floors were on fire. A building once known as the headquarters of Faceless.

Which made her wonder, why was Michael down here?

"What is this place?" she said. 

He smiled. "The place where you agree to let this thing go."

Suddenly, several men in black masks came down the stairs.

"I'm sorry, baby," Michael said. "We've worked really hard to get this right."

The men grabbed her, pulling her hands behind her back. She felt betrayed. But surely this couldn't really be Michael. The man was just an illusion.

"Why?" she said.

"I really did love you," he said, "but this thing you thought we were trying to stop is bigger than either of us. We could only save the world by destroying it. We didn't foresee that you would survive it. And we definitely didn't foresee that you would remember it."

Michael had been a part of this whole time. The thought felt like a punch to her gut.

"What are you planning?"

"Exactly what you see." He let the words hand in the air before saying, "A whole new world."

One of the men put a rag up to her face. She fought to get free, but she soon faded out of consciousness.

When she awoke, she found herself strapped to a chair once again, but this time she wasn't alone. 

To be continued...

Photo Credit: karimiaz via PhotoPin CC

Monday, April 7, 2014

Review of THE LIVING GOD by Alister McGrath

Alister McGrath has a grasp on the truths of Christianity and conveys them in a way that few people have. In The Living God, McGrath looks at the doctrine of God and walks readers through what the Bible teaches concerning who God is and what he's about. In the beginning, McGrath strips away the false conceptions of God to reveal a God who is loving, all-powerful, and committed to rescuing his people. This is important because he wants to make sure readers are clear on who exactly is the subject of the book.

He then delves into some of the characteristics of God that make him unique. God is a personal God who interacts with his people. He shows God as loving. God is also almighty, and this is what makes his personal nature so compelling.

For such a small book, McGrath packs a lot of insight that should draw us to the heart of God for all that he is. This is a great book in a great series exploring Christian theology.

Review copy provided by Westminster John-Knox