Miracle on Voodoo Mountain (review)

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Miracle on Voodoo Mountain: A Young Woman's Remarkable Story of Pushing Back the Darkness for the Children of HaitiMiracle on Voodoo Mountain: A Young Woman’s Remarkable Story of Pushing Back the Darkness for the Children of Haiti by Megan Boudreaux

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

After a few mission trips to Haiti, 24-year-old Megan Boudreaux was happily settled in her marketing job for a hospital in Louisiana. Then she began having unsettling dreams. Always they featured the tamarind tree that sat on top of Bellevue Mountain near Gressier, Haiti.

Several months later, with these dreams continuing, Megan began to wonder if there was a message in them. She mentioned them to her boss and his response: “If you think God is calling you to Haiti, you absolutely need to go,” set her on a path she had never imagined or designed for herself.

Miracle on Voodoo Mountain is the story of Megan’s move to Haiti and takes us from 2011 and the humble beginnings of a feeding program, to the present Respire Haiti—a school, medical clinic, café, and various community and sports outreaches that have touched the lives of hundreds. She has also started her own family by adopting several youngsters and in January 2013 she married Josh Anderson. A section of photographs brings the characters and events in this book to life.

Boudreaux’s is an amazing tale of danger (in which she does things like report a corrupt orphanage operation and confront voodoo priests), miracles (she begins speaking the language with no history of learning it), compassion (she tirelessly advocates for Haitian children, especially the restaveks—child slaves), and hard hard work.

Megan’s story impressed on me the importance and power of prayer and the incredible things that God can do through people who are implicitly obedient to Him. This is a faith-building story, full of compassion and hope. I’d highly recommend it to readers of all ages.

I received Miracle on Voodoo Mountain as a gift from the publisher for the purpose of writing a review.

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Storm (review)

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Storm: Hearing Jesus for the Times We Live InStorm: Hearing Jesus for the Times We Live In by Jim Cymbala

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Jim Cymbala, who experienced Hurricane Sandy in 2012, likens it to the storm he expects will soon hit the evangelical church of North America. In Storm he gives advice to pastors and lay people about how to get ready so that the light of faith won’t be snuffed out like the city lights of Lower Manhattan were in Sandy’s wake.

“I believe followers of Jesus in America are on the cusp of something horrible. I, and many others, see the early warning signs all around” – Jim Cymbala, Storm, Kindle Location 148.

Three areas that cause him to be concerned about the American church are:

    1] The church isn’t as big or popular as it thinks it is.
    2] Personal transformation is rare.
    3] Biblical literacy is declining.

To remedy this he addresses lacks and needs in a variety of areas:
* The failure of modern models of church planting and growth (he calls them “fads and trends”).

* The need for prayer, both personal and corporate intercessory prayer.

“… the deepest secrets of prayer are only learned by spending time with God” – K.L. 805.

“Think about the people we love and worry about but rarely pray for” – K.L. 2641.

* Godly, exemplary leadership.

“… the quality of spiritual leadership can only be measured by how it looks in the Lord’s sight” – K.L. 1096.

* The need for the presence and power of the Holy Spirit in our churches and ministries.

* A clear, Christ-centered gospel message.

* Clarity on the difference between the Old and New Testament Covenants.

“Old Testament passages are only properly used when they ultimately point us to Jesus and the New Covenant” – K.L. 3006.

* How to live in anticipation of Christ’s return.

First person stories of people from his church whose lives illustrate the point he has just made follow chapters of teaching.

The book’s ideas are logical and the points well supported with Scripture. Cymbala speaks from a wealth of pastoral experience which gives his voice and message credibility,  passion, and urgency.

There is nothing new here, really, just a plea to get back to basics, made urgent because of how quickly events are changing the political and social landscape in America and the world. For those who have lost fervor or gotten bogged down in esoterical theology, this easy-to-read book is an invitation back to Bible essentials.

I received Storm as a gift from the publisher via BookLook Bloggers for the purpose of writing a review.

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An Insider’s Guide to Spiritual Warfare (review)

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An Insider's Guide to Spiritual Warfare: 20 Battle Tested Strategies from Behind Enemy LinesAn Insider’s Guide to Spiritual Warfare: 20 Battle Tested Strategies from Behind Enemy Lines by Kristine McGuire

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

When, one day, a man asked Kristine McGuire, “What is spiritual warfare?” she was surprised. McGuire, who describes herself as aware of spiritual things since childhood, had never realized people might not be attuned to the spiritual dimension and unaware of the battles taking place in that realm. Her difficulty in coming up with a good answer for her questioner challenged her to study spiritual warfare. An Insider’s Guide to Spiritual Warfare is the result.

The book consists of five sections that contain a total of thirty chapters. Within them she discusses spiritual warfare from many angles. These include defining what it is (Chapter 1 of Part 1 “Life in the Spiritual War Zone”); examining the “Weapons of War” (Part 2, subjects include “The Belt of Truth,” “The Breastplate of Righteousness” etc); naming “Common Battlefields” (Part 3, topics include “Suffering,” “Worry and Fear,” and “Lust”); exposing the enemy’s tools in “When Supernatural Meets Natural” (Part 4, topics of pagan culture, familiar spirits, ghosts and more); and, finally, challenging us: “Take Back Your Ground” (Part 5, subjects include overcoming war-weariness and praying the Bible).

Sprinkled as text boxes within the chapters are the 30 Battle-tested Strategies promised in the subtitle.

Example: “Strategy Point #1: As God’s adopted child, you have the right to call out ‘Abba Father!’” – p. 26.

At the back of every chapter is a “Your turn to Reflect” segment—five questions that invite the reader to interact with and apply what they have just read. Some chapters also tag on a relevant Scripture passage and a “Take Action” section.

The book ends with a bibliography of sources for supplementary reading and a topical index.

I found the book logical in idea development and easy to understand. McGuire’s voice is passionate and compassionate as she speaks out of conviction and personal experience. Here, for example in the chapter “The Subtle Influence of a Pagan Culture,” she talks about how even Christian culture has, through avoidance, begun to accept the occult:

“Although some Christian apologists and teachers have been warning the Church of the influence of mysticism and the occult in the Church for years, such warnings have often fallen on deaf ears. Many say there is no such thing as paranormal activity, witchcraft, divination or spirit communication, often placing all occult activities into the category of fanciful tales or outright trickery.

“This is how occultism is gaining, and has gained, a foothold in many Christian lives. We have a community of believers with limited knowledge of the Bible. They have questions. When they do go to their pastors seeking answers, or with stories of paranormal experiences, they are rebuffed” – p. 159.

Section four, where McGuire tells stories about her own involvement in the occult helps us see the pathway in and out of occultic deception. Her voice of experience in these matters sets this book apart from other books about spiritual warfare.

At this time when paranormal subjects are getting lots of book, internet, and TV attention, we really need the kind of testimony and teaching that McGuire gives in her book. It is an excellent resource for Christians old and new. For the experienced believer it is a good review of spiritual warfare basics. For the new Christian it is for a clear explanation of what spiritual warfare is, and how and why we need to be involved. For all it is a challenge to holy living in every part of life.

I received An Insider’s Guide to Spiritual Warfare as a gift from the publisher, Chosen Books, for the purpose of writing a review.

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Ex-Muslim (review)

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Ex-Muslim: How One Daring Prayer to Jesus Changed a Life ForeverEx-Muslim: How One Daring Prayer to Jesus Changed a Life Forever by Naeem Fazal

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Ex-Muslim: How One Daring Prayer to Jesus Changed a Life Forever is the memoir of Naeem Fazal (with co-writer Kitti Murray). In it Fazal tells the story of how he, an ethnic Pakistani from Kuwait, came to America as a devout Muslim intent on meeting beautiful blondes. Then one day, during a frightening encounter with evil, he met Jesus. Ex-Muslim also tells how his siblings converted to Christianity, how he met and wooed his wife Ashley, and how they planted Mosaic Church in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Fazal tells his story in first person. The writing style is casual. It’s almost as if he’s sitting across the table talking to you using everyday lingo and putting in asides. The sense of ego that comes across in places did irritate me a bit, though he does his share of admitting to and apologizing for episodes of immaturity and a tendency toward cockiness, especially in evidence during his younger days.

Besides telling his story he also explores, in some of the more lecture-type parts of the book, principles of how God works in general. Fazal finds lessons in the incidents of his own life and uses them as springboards to instruct others. His experience of coming to the States from the Middle East also gives us a refreshing look at western culture through an outsider’s eyes. These things work together to make for interesting and relatable teaching.

I found much to like and take away from this book. Describing his encounter with Jesus, Fazal writes:

“Jesus’ first words to me were not, ‘Whew! You’re safe now with me.’ No, he said, ‘I am Jesus Christ, your Lord. Your life is not your own’ ” Kindle Location 859.

When speaking of ministry to people of other cultures and faiths, especially Muslims, He says:

“Incarnational living, living among people and relating to them intimately, is of far more value than anything an evangelism or apologetics course can teach us. I’m not suggesting we don’t learn to understand our Muslim neighbors and friends and coworkers, but I am saying that it is our relationships that matter most. If people don’t see the teachings of Jesus lived out in us, they won’t want to listen to a word we have to say about him” K. L. 1814.

After seeing his coffee shop barista at Target and not recognizing her because she was out of context, he sensed Jesus asking him:

“Naeem, do you know what I look like out of context? You recognize me in the places you create for me, like worship services and Christian conferences but do you see me anywhere else?” KL 2503.

I would recommend Ex-Muslim to anyone who enjoys memoirs, especially stories of God at work in people’s lives. As well, it would be a valuable resource to those reaching out to Muslims with the gospel, to church planters, and to young people in or considering going into ministry.

I received Ex-Muslim from the publisher, Thomas Nelson, as a gift for the purpose of writing a review.

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