Love Triangles (review)

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Love Triangles, Discovering Jesus the Jew in Today's IsraelLove Triangles, Discovering Jesus the Jew in Today’s Israel by Bobbie Ann Cole
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

In her memoir / travelogue Love Triangles, Bobbie Ann Cole writes about her love affair with Israel. When she and husband Butch move there, it is to fill a six-month time period till their rented property will again be available to them. However, after only three months they begin thinking of applying for permanent residency, called making Aliyah* when you’re Jewish (as Bobbie is).

There is one problem. Bobbie and Butch are Christians. The interpretation of the Jewish immigration policy in the last years has kept many Jews who believe Jesus is their Messiah from gaining permanent residency. This has Bobbie constantly on edge, worried that she’ll jeopardize her chances of immigrating. And so she guards what she says, avoids establishing intimate friendships with the locals, and even changes who she associates with.

Much of the book is descriptions of biblically familiar Israeli sites. In vivid and picturesque language Cole describes what she hears, sees, smells and touches. She also recalls what happened in the Bible places like Nazareth, Capernaum, the Sea of Galilee, Jerusalem and more. Repeatedly she mentions that in Israel she feels closer to Jesus than anywhere else in the world:

What I loved, but as someone relatively young in faith had never known before, was following Jesus all around the Land. That was a powerful incentive.

In our three months there, we had met Him in the Negev Desert, in Jerusalem’s Old City, and on the shores of the Sea of Galilee. … We had discovered that even though the country was constantly on high military alert, there was what Butch referred to as ‘that safe, spiritual feeling,’ a serenity rooted in faith, a trust that God ‘has it.’” KL 129.

I found this book informational and inspiring in several ways. First, it opened my eyes to the way Jews who believe in Jesus are singled out as ineligible to become Israeli citizens. Second, Cole’s descriptions of modern Israel juxtaposed against her sometimes whimsical and imaginative retelling of what happened there in Bible stories made me want to visit Israel more than ever. And finally, through Cole’s story I have gained a new appreciation for Israel’s story and the love of the people for the land both in the past and present.

You’re probably wondering if Bobbie and Butch made Aliyah. Were they successful in immigrating? You’ll have to read the book to find out.

*‘Aliyah’ literally means ‘going up,’ a term originally used to describe how Jews from all over the ancient world would go up to the temple at the very top of Mount Zion in Jerusalem for Jewish pilgrimage festivals” – KL 768.

I received the Kindle edition of Love Triangles as a gift from the author for the purpose of writing a review.

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The Holy Land Key (review)

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The Holy Land Key: Unlocking End-Times Prophecy Through the Lives of God's People in IsraelThe Holy Land Key: Unlocking End-Times Prophecy Through the Lives of God’s People in Israel by Ray Bentley

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

In The Holy Land Key Ray Bentley ties history, current events, phenomena in the skies, and Israel’s feasts and festivals with prophecy to develop a holistic view of Israel’s place in history past, present, and future. The ideas he puts forward have developed over decades of trips to Israel and relationships with individuals living there, both Jews and Gentiles.

I appreciated the principles of interpreting Scripture and history that Bentley presents.

He suggests that to hasten end-time events with “… God’s glory being poured out for the final and greatest harvest the world has ever seen…” we need to adhere to God’s order: “…. for the Jew first and also for the Greek” (Romans 1:16-17). In other words, more than ever Christians need to reach out in love to the Jewish people (Kindle Location 666).

He maintains that to understand and interpret prophecy, it’s important to recognize the patterns in scripture. One pattern that he identifies is “first natural, then spiritual” as Paul explains in 1 Corinthians 10:11 (K.L. 1687).

A principle of interpreting prophetic passages that flows out of this is similar: “… look first for the natural meaning of the scripture and then for a spiritual meaning” (K.L. 1725).

He gives a lot of significance to signs in the heavens, drawing permission from Genesis 1:14, which says about the lights God created: “… let them be for signs and seasons.” His explanation of how, in the past, blood moons have correlated with dramatic developments in Israel is fascinating. The fact that two more blood moons are expected to occur in 2015 to join the two that happened in 2014 will have me watching developments in Israel more closely than ever. However, his linking of the signs of the zodiac with Israel’s feasts seemed a bit far-fetched to me.

All in, I appreciated Bentley’s ideas on how to interpret prophetic passages through the Jewish mindset. His love for the Jews is outspoken, but balanced by personal friendships with non-Jewish Christians in the Middle East. His explanation of the history of these people groups with their claims to the same small bit of land in a conflict that is more intense than ever helped me better understand current affairs in Israel and the Middle East.

I received The Holy Land Key as a gift from the publisher through Blogging for Books for the purpose of writing a review.

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Pilgrimage (review)

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Pilgrimage: My Journey to a Deeper Faith in the Land Where Jesus WalkedPilgrimage: My Journey to a Deeper Faith in the Land Where Jesus Walked by Lynn Austin

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A series of losses, disappointments, and unpleasant surprises have pummeled Lynn Austin. She is feeling bruised, spiritually dry, and, in plain words, depressed. And so she has high hopes for an opportunity to travel around Israel for two weeks:

“Spiritual renewal is what I long for … as I begin this pilgrimage. I want to see the bigger picture of His plan and learn to accept His will in all things. I want to revitalize my prayer life. … Maybe I’ll be able to let go of my own will and face the changes in my life with joy and faith” – Pilgrimage, Kindle Location 97.

Pilgrimage is Lynn Austin’s account of that two-week trip. But it is much more than a travelogue. For in it she gives the historical background of each stop. She reviews for us the Bible events that happened in each location. She explains Bible customs from her knowledge enriched by research for the many biblical fiction novels she’s written. And she probes those Bible events and characters for insights and lessons she can take back with her into everyday life.

Some things I really liked about this book were the lyrical descriptions of modern sites in Israel as seen through Austin’s eyes, the review of what happened at each location, and the explanations of interesting customs that add richness and depth to an understanding of the Bible. And I gained an appreciation of the humanity of this author (whose novels I’ve enjoyed) as she shared openly about her life.

One aspect of the book that disappointed me, though, was the way Austin explained her situation and feelings in the first chapter and then, throughout most of her travels, she merely named the feelings she was grappling with (anxiety, discouragement, impatience, worry, etc) without relating them to specific incidents or triggers. It seemed like a type of “telling’ versus “showing” and didn’t have the impact one would expect that kind of memoir-writing to have. Perhaps a more engaging way of relating these personal incidents would have been to leave that list out of Chapter One and tell about these events in bits and pieces throughout her travels. As it was, I had to keep reminding myself why she was feeling so negative—Oh right, that list from Chapter One. When she did include stories of her life that her travels brought to mind, my interest immediately picked up.

Pilgrimage would make a wonderful read-along guide for people touring Israel. Many locations are chapter titles and of course digital copies of the book are searchable so no worries if your itinerary differs from hers, just search the location you wish to read about: Nazareth, Bethlehem, Jerusalem, Joppa, Caesarea etc.

For anyone who loves Israel or hopes to tour the Holy Land, Pilgrimage is a good historical and devotional resource.

I received my copy of Pilgrimage as a gift from Bethany House (via NetGalley) for the purpose of writing a review.

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