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Tuesday, July 03, 2018

Hope of Nations is Power Packed



My rating: 4 of 5 stars
John's words in Hope of Nations resound with much of what Christian culture is feeling these days. We know that we are living in a Post-Truth society full of anger towards Christianity. Some of it is warranted because people claiming to be Christian committed terrible atrocities against other human beings. Some of it is because people reject God and turn to the lustful inclinations of the flesh. What we see in this book is the history of how nations that had been blessed by God spiraled down and became evil nations. You can see the histories of Hitler, Stalin, etc. took the reigns and how they turned and entire people to commit terrible atrocities by slowly corrupting their ideas.

Honestly. the first half of the book feels like a punch in the gut. You can easily see how society is turning against us and seemingly wants to punish us. John explains that we are going to have to find new ways to sustain ourselves and our institutions. The enemy is at the gate.

The second half of the book is greatly encouraging. It spells out all of ways we can respond to what history teaches us might happen. We must cling to truth. We must know truth. We are going to need to be creative and support each other in every way possible. We can diligently search scripture for answers. God has given us a strategy: "Live good lives among pagans." Dignify people. Be an ambassador to foreign tribes. Listen. Love your neighbor.

I highly recommend it. This book was graciously given by Zondervan Publishers for review.


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Tuesday, June 26, 2018

I LOVED Life Giving Parent!

 The Lifegiving Parent: Giving Your Child a Life Worth Living for ChristThe Lifegiving Parent: Giving Your Child a Life Worth Living for Christ by Clay Clarkson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I am not sure how to write a review for one of the best parenting books I have ever read. Every single page was inspiring. I have continually read tons of books on parenting to gather skills that I did not learn and instill virtue in my own heart. Sally and Clay have written something I will read again and again. I have already purchased the study book so that I can work my way back through it. Read it. If you see Sally out and about, ask her if she will come live with me.

This book will help you realize the time you have with your kids is precious and how to number the days you have with them. You will be equipped to nurture your child's spirit, guard their heart, renew their mind, and shape their will/character. In the process, yours will be shaped and formed as well. It is full of what is good, true, and beautiful.

My favorite line:

"Only you-parents alive in Christ because of the Holy Spirit within you-have the ability and power of the Spirit to make your home a Christian home. Engagement with Christian culture does not define a Christian home; engagement with the living Christ does."

This book was graciously given by Tyndale House for review.


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Friday, June 08, 2018

The Spirit-led Heart by Suzanne Eller


The Spirit-Led Heart: Living a Life of Love and Faith Without BordersThe Spirit-Led Heart: Living a Life of Love and Faith Without Borders by Suzanne Eller
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I came across this book on a prayer prompt page I follow. It gives you one idea to pray for each day. Their May calendar was based on things in this book. When I saw it come into my queue for review, I was excited! Y'all. I loved it.

I cannot tell you how many times I screen-shotted something and sent it to a friend, highlighted things, or wrote words from this book down in a journal. It's good. It's full of wisdom. It's solid. It reminds us that a Spirit-led heart is defined by truth. This is not some weird book about the Holy Spirit. This is Bible-based goodness.

I have something highlighted on 81 out of 201 pages. That's a lot of love.

Suzanne tackles and gives light to many things we are looking for answers for. She gives light to confusing things in a beautiful, simple way that gives them great clarity. Mostly, she reminds us that we are invited beyond the veil to ask for what we need and to enjoy God.


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*This book was graciously provided by Bethany House Publishers for review.




New from Bestselling Proverbs 31 Author Suzanne Eller!
Without realizing it, we've gotten lost in our own little lives. We've settled for "good enough" and days that run together in an unmemorable blur. We long for something to shake us up, but we're exhausted by the thought of it too.

In her warm, vulnerable style, bestselling Proverbs 31 author Suzanne Eller shows how living and loving without limits has nothing to do with your own efforts--and it has everything to do with God's Holy Spirit. Unpacking the promises and teachings Jesus shared with the disciples about the Holy Spirit, Suzanne shows how you can stop settling and start trulyliving. When you learn to unwrap the gift of his presence, you'll find the world-changing, foundation-shaking, soul-stirring life of passion and purpose God is waiting to give you.




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Saturday, May 19, 2018

The Better Mom by Ruth Schwenk



The Better Mom: Growing in Grace between Perfection and the MessThe Better Mom: Growing in Grace between Perfection and the Mess by Ruth Schwenk
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a good book. It helped me breathe a deep breath in the chaos of mothering young children. It helped me clearly see that children are like a payment we can receive joyfully—and one we must handle wisely. No matter the struggles we face, our children are a reward.

“In God’s hands, our kids can grow up to fulfill God’s purpose of piercing the darkness of the world in which they live—they are like weapons of truth, life, and light in a broken hurting world.”

This book is akin to having an exceptional mentor. It hits on the topics Christian moms truly care about. We want to know how to care deeply for our children and keep alive ourselves. Ruth reminds us that God used suffering and pressure to help Paul learn to rely on God’s strength. God used hardship to teach him to focus on building up an eternal kingdom. This is what we yearn for in our own hearts and those of our children. She calls it the blessing of our own weakness.

This is a great read for navigating the mess of motherhood with grace. It will bless you and remind you that, like it says in Psalm 127, your children are arrows and a reward. May you be blessed in your mothering.

This book was graciously provided by Zondervan Publishers for review.


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42 Seconds by Carl Medearis


42 Seconds: The Jesus Model for Everyday Interactions42 Seconds: The Jesus Model for Everyday Interactions by Carl Medearis
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The thought that Jesus’ interactions were so short and intentional is fascinating. The average length of his talking with someone in scripture is 42 seconds. He didn’t give a bunch of long theological speeches to convince people to come to his kingdom. He simply saw into what was going on with people and spoke to their needs.

Carl did a great job writing a simple guide on how to have simple conversations that draw people to Christ. He encourages us to be normal. That something a lot of us over eager evangelists have trouble doing. We are so focused on our agenda that we miss the people we are talking to. This book is an invitation to take notice.

{As a side note that has nothing to do with the book, I immediately thought of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy when I saw this. The super smart computer told them the answer to everything was 42. Maybe they were on to something.} :)

This book was graciously provided by NavPress for review.


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Thursday, April 19, 2018

Better Together by Rusty George


Better Together: Discover the Power of CommunityBetter Together: Discover the Power of Community by Rusty George
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

As I read through Better Together, I thought that I should tell everyone longing for community and everyone in a community group to read it. It’s a cut above the cookie cutter idea of community. It’s a call to vulnerability and admitting we do need someone.

The pages dive into the “we” of scripture and the Jewish culture.

“I remember when WE crossed the Red Sea, when WE were fed by manna, when We heard that Jesus was the Messiah, when wE found out Jesus was alive...” It dismantles the western ideal of me and my experience. It reminds us to take joy in the success of others.

“Our problem is not the monster, the clown, or even the haunted house. Our problem is that we have failed to lock arms, circle up, and walk bravely into the darkness.”

This book is full of beauty and reminders of real men like CS Lewis and fictional men like Frodo who found healing in community and went on to heal others in community.

It’s grand. Read it. Be encouraged to love again.

This book was graciously provided by Bethany House Publishers for review.






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Saturday, April 14, 2018

Y'all. This Holy Interruption.

 
Today we were holy interrupted. We had just sat down on the back porch of our cottage in Gruene when this woman apologized for wandering in to our space. I told her she wasn’t bothering us and we’d be totally happy if she just joined us on the porch. She started telling us how she had just had a divine encounter on a rock out back. She was walking by and thought about standing on the solid rock. She climbed up there and she was stunned by how being three feet off the ground (on the rock) changed her perspective. I thought that was such a powerful sentiment. Standing on the rock changes your perspective. Emily and I thanked her for sharing her story and maybe told her we loved her and her boldness.She told us she was on an new journey and then went off exploring more. As I sat there, I thought of someone I wanted to share her story with so I called out to her and asked if I could get a picture of her on that rock. That’s when the deeper story began to unfold...
As we walked over to the rock she told us that she wanted to tell us the reason her encounter was so powerful. Her kids were still asleep in the room and she went to eat breakfast by herself alone. This was the first time she had eaten alone since her husband died three weeks ago. She went on to tell us that she had lost her dad in February as well. Her husband had a heart attack while they were out sailing and he fell in the water. Her daughter jumped in and held his body. Her son then administered CPR. At the ER, she was on her knees outside of the area where he was with her hands in the air praying and believing God for a miracle. She said all of a sudden her hands dropped and she just surrendered to whatever God wanted to do. That's when the nurses came in and told her that they had been working on him for some time and he wasn't responding at all. So she went to the kids and asked if they wanted the good news or the bad news. Good. "Daddy is with Jesus."

You know we had to climb up on that rock ourselves. I was honored to get to pray with her. Then, we took a selfie and exchanged numbers. Jesus stuns me with his ability to bring 3 people together that didn't know each other, but needed one another so much. 
Thank you, Jesus.
Thank you kindly for stopping by. 
Love y'all,
Steph

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Wednesday, March 28, 2018

The Rescue by Jim Cymbala



The Rescue: Seven People, Seven Amazing Stories…The Rescue: Seven People, Seven Amazing Stories… by Jim Cymbala
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

These six stories are soul stirring and faith building. Each story is the worst case scenario of perpetrators and perpetrating. There is deep sin with a great foothold. But, when God writes a story... there is redemption.

The thing that stood out to me the most is how simple acts of kindness brought these people to Christ. It was not some great movement, it was simple words and gestures. One man living in an alley heard a tv from one of the apartments above him saying that Jesus was the only way. He was able to get off drugs and out of homelessness after this encounter. It spoke to me because it is so easy to be discouraged and not feel like small acts of kindness do anything. These six stories help us remember that no act is to small to be used by Christ.

I am a big fan of Ann Spangler and the stories that come out of the Brooklyn Tabernacle via Jim Cymbala.


View all my reviews

Publisher's Description:
By New York Times bestselling author and pastor Jim Cymbala, The Rescue tells the powerful, true stories of men and women whose lives should have ended badly but miraculously didn't. Something unexpected happens to each of them and their incredible stories will take you by surprise and restore your hope.





Wednesday, March 21, 2018

A Light on the Hill by Connilyn Cossette


My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I have recently realized that I have been following Connilyn from the beginning of her career as an author. Every thing I have read from her has been gripping and hard to put down. This book is no exception. I was tied in knots the entire time.

There were so many interesting facts that I learned reading this book. I knew what cities of refuge were, but had no clue about the complexities of the law. If you accidentally killed someone, you could go to a city of refuge and ask for trial because the next of kin could legally kill you. I never thought about how hard or treacherous these journeys could be. If the avenger beat you there, he could kill you at the gate.

The romance sometimes seemed over the top to me, but it definitely kept me tuned in to the story. It also showed what happened to these people who were forced to leave their families and live in these cities when an accident had occurred.

The thing that sticks out to me at the end of the book is the fact that when the high priest who gave them asylum in these cities dies, all the manslayers (accidental killers) go free. His death pardons all of their sins. What a clear picture of the gospel.


This book was graciously given by Bethany House Publishers for review.


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Monday, March 12, 2018

Raising Passionate Jesus followers by Phil and Diane Comer


What a great book on parenting! I underlined or took notes from almost every page. I found some nugget that I could pray for in nearly every paragraph. This is one of the best practical books I’ve read on parenting by faith to infuse faith. 




If you are like me and had little guidance in this area, this is a book for you. So often we feel like we don’t have it together and the time we have to train our children is slipping through our hands. Phil and Diane give practical, thoughtful, timely guides for igniting a passion in our children for Christ. Of course, only Christ can give faith, but we as parents can make delighting in him so much easier. I don’t know about you, but I need reminders to reach through the chaos and remind me to pray, teach, love. 

This book is broken up into sections according to age and the basic areas of character you are working towards in each. I can see many areas where I could use some help and some where I am thriving. The main thing is that it gave me specifics to pray and practical steps to take. Even if you just prayed through the book, I feel like it would be a good investment. We may not be able to perfectly showcase Christ to our kids, but with guidance and prayer, we can try.




This book was graciously provided by Zondervan Publishers for review.

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

A Treasury of Sherlock Holmes

A post shared by Stephanie Cherry (@heystephcherry) on

In January of this year, I picked a classic out of a set my dad bought us when I was a little girl. I had never read all of the Sherlock Holmes stories. Let me just say that I was captivated by his writing. In this particular collection put together by his son, there are two novels and 27 stories. It was truly hard to put this down. I love how characters in books help you appreciate the eccentricities of people in our real lives. Seeing mystery and story unfold helps me appreciate the unfolding of my own life. We often fight the developing of our own beautiful stories. "We have not yet met our Waterloo, Watson." *Meaning our end has not come...from Napoleon's defeat at Waterloo. There is a reason for every mystery. We can often find answers in story that we would never find in a text book. That is because life is living, not dissecting.

What are you reading? I am reading Raising Passionate Jesus Followers by Phil and Diane Comer and Everybody Always by Bob Goff. I think my next classic will be The Hunchback of Notre Dame. I'm in search of a classic copy. Love to y'all. Happy reading. May God use everything you mentally ingest for his glory.

Monday, February 12, 2018

Judah's Wife by Angela Hunt

If you have ever wanted to know more about the Maccabees, this is a fascinating read. This story occurred during the silent years between Malachi and Matthew. In the narrative of I, after Antiochus IV issued his decrees forbidding Jewish religious practice, a rural Jewish priest from Modiin, sparked the revolt with rebel Jewish warriors against the Seleucid Empire by refusing to worship the Greek gods. 

I remember the first time I heard this story and I can see now that it was quite slanted. AS I read the story and studied the history, some things had been omitted and some details had been added. For instance, I had no idea how brutal these Jewish warriors were. They were beheading people and slaughtering people who oppressed Jewish worshippers. I had no idea how many battles this revolt entailed and how gruesome they were. The small Jewish army defeated large opposing forces with superior weapons repeatedly.

The Jewish festival of Hanukkah celebrates the re-dedication of the Temple following Judah Maccabee's victory over the Seleucids. According to Rabbinic tradition, the victorious Maccabees could only find a small jug of oil that had remained uncontaminated by virtue of a seal, and although it only contained enough oil to sustain the Menorah for one day, it miraculously lasted for eight days, by which time further oil could be procured. According to our author, there is no historical evidence for this and may have been added for drama at a later date.

Reading about the how harsh Antiochus IV (remember him from Daniel?) was made me praise God all the more for religious freedom. He was having everyone who practiced Jewish law killed. If you circumcised your son, you were all killed. Jews were turning on Jews for fear of being killed by the government. Some of those in the priesthood were also corrupt. It is always disparaging to see the people who are supposed to be shepherding God's children killing them.

I thought the book was fascinating. Of course, there are added portions to make it a work of fiction, but all of the battles and events are true. I highly recommend it. It made the story remarkably real to my mind's eye.

  • Series: The Silent Years
  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • This book was graciously provided for review by: 
  • Publisher: Bethany House Publishers (January 2, 2018)

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Tuesday, February 06, 2018

Yes, You Can Homeschool by Erin A. Barry

I have been homeschooling for ten years so I wasn't expecting to find much new information when I began reading this book. Thankfully, the thing I have learned in homeschool is to always be learning and willing to learn. Often we need to hear old things in a new way again. That is what Erin's book did for me. From teaching philosophy, to socialization, to the very heart of why we do this, I was encouraged. She breathed new life into an old game.

I think everyone should read this. It's full of wonderful ways to facilitate learning and the true end goals of education. It would be great for an educator as well as a prospective homeschooler. Truly the objective is to instill a love of learning. Erin's book is beautifully thought out and backed up with research. If you are a beginning homeschooler or needing a boon in your spirit to press on, pick up this book.

I personally highlighted about fifty sections. I thought I would share a few.

 9
Publisher Description:

Are you wanting to homeschool but worried by such questions as, Will my children become social misfits? Will they get into college? Am I smart enough, capable enough, strong enough? What if I do more harm than good? In Yes, You Can Homeschool! The Terrified Parent’s Companion to Homeschool Success, education specialist and 20-year homeschooling veteran Erin Barry answers these questions and more. Packed with practical information and insight, and delivered via engaging stories and vulnerable life-lessons, this resource will empower any terrified parent to courageously venture on their own successful homeschooling journey. 

You’ll also:
•Find tips for raising up the whole child (build both brains and character!)
•Discover the power of parenting from a Biblical worldview
•Become informed of public education laws and how they affect you
•Uncover the secrets of lead learning 
•Find your best learning rhythm
•Realize the advantages of homeschooling


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This book was generously provided to me by the author for review.

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Faithful Finance by Emily G. Stroud

Many of us feel overwhelmed and ill-equipped to deal with our personal finances. We wonder if we will ever experience financial freedom. We want to make wise decisions and spend money on what matters, but we just don’t know how.

Financial advisor Emily G. Stroud is a mom, businesswoman, and entrepreneur. She has two decades of experience with helping people make smart choices about money. She knows that money can be one of the great causes of stress in life—but that it doesn’t have to be that way. Finances, in fact, can be a great source of joy, security, and hope.

In Faithful Finance, Emily comes alongside you to:


Develop a savings plan based on your unique goals
Make a monthly budget that actually works for you
Reduce your overall debt burden
Plan for your children’s college years
Insure your life without fear
Leave a legacy through estate planning
Encourage you to give generously
And most importantly, discover the source of true wealth
Presented in a conversational style, this practical guide offers ten life-changing secrets that work in every financial situation, for every income level, at every stage of life. With engaging stories and practical examples, Emily empowers you to make choices that will allow you and your loved ones to enjoy financial freedom for years to come.

Find me on Good Reads:
Faithful Finance: 10 Secrets to Move from Fearful Insecurity to Confident Control

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

For a book on finance, it’s really well written. It seems like the author is sitting across the table from you having an informed chat. She covered all the bases. I learned many things and was even encouraged in my faith. If you are buying a home, looking to invest, pay for college, or make a budget, this is a great book.


This book was graciously provided for review by Zondervan Publishers.

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Wednesday, January 17, 2018

I read Make Your Voice Heard in Heaven by Dr. Barry C. Black



Make Your Voice Heard in Heaven: How to Pray with PowerMake Your Voice Heard in Heaven: How to Pray with Power by Barry C. Black
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Dr. Black always inspires my heart. He has this calm, trusting way about his words that inspire your heart to act on God’s word. He is a man that knows God’s truth is true.

His latest book, inspired by his speech from the National Prayer Breakfast, does not fail. From reminding us that we are a people to be praying for each other to reminding us to be intimate, quiet listeners before the Lord, Dr. Black stirs the coals of faith to flame.

I was challenged countless times to change and reinvigorate how I pray. The section on cultivating reverential awe spoke deeply to me. Help me think more of you, Jesus.

There were many points on types of effective ways to pray. My main takeaways were about personal repentance and how we are meant to be more of an us in prayer. Read all of his books. You won’t be disappointed.

“When I was younger, I heard someone in church remind us that, in reciting the Lord’s Prayer, we never once say I. We never say my. Neither can we pray the Lord’s Prayer without praying for one another. For when we ask for our daily bread, we must include our brothers and sisters. Every petition we make involves other people as well as ourselves. From beginning to end, the Lord’s Prayer guides us to pray with unselfish intimacy.”


View all my reviews on Good Reads.

I also enjoyed The Blessing of Adversity.

This book was graciously provided by Tyndale House Publishers for review.


Tuesday, January 02, 2018

I LOVED Reading the Bible with Rabbi Jesus


Lois' new book is out today! I cannot encourage you to read it enough. Every one of her books has changed my ideology about what Scripture is conveying to us. There is much more there than meets the eye. I can't encourage you to read it enough. You will be encouraged to love God more. Your perspective of what God is doing around you will be shifted into something beautiful. 
I have known that the Hebrew culture has long been more of a "we" culture than a "me" one. Lois helped me see the depth of all of that. I loved how she said that Southerners had gotten this concept right with being a "y'all" society. 
Her explanation of the word love being an action one took instead of an emotion that we respond to helped explain many scriptures. We actively love our neighbor and our enemy even when we do not feel loving. Our Westernized culture has made love about me and my feelings. Love is an outward response to the inward call of God.
I don't want to give away everything in the book. I want you to read it. Every single explanation and the excellent way she explained it was fascinating. Remember was another word that stood out to me. It can be confusing as to why God would need to remember things. This word usage wasn't about him forgetting and then recalling. It was about him acting on what he knew. Remembering was a call to act. For God to remember us was a petition for him to act on our behalf.
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 I was fortunate to be able to ask Lois some questions with a handful of other bloggers. Here is that interview. 

Reading the Bible with Rabbi Jesus
 Interview Questions and Responses

You’ve written a couple of other books before this one that have similar titles – Sitting at the Feet of Rabbi
Jesus and Walking in the Dust of Rabbi Jesus. How do they relate to your new book?

Sitting at the Feet was about the Jewish customs that deepen our understanding of Jesus’ life and ministry, like the biblical feasts, the Jewish prayers, and the relationship of rabbi and disciple. Walking in the Dust was about the Jewish context of Jesus’ teachings. Many of the things he said make much more sense when you know the conversation that was going on around him. Disciples are supposed to “walk in the ways” of their rabbi and obey his teaching. So I chose some of Jesus’ teachings that are especially practical for our lives and have a Jewish context that sheds light on their meaning. 
My newest book, Reading the Bible with Rabbi Jesus, pulls back a bit and starts by looking at cultural issues that get in the way as we read the Bible in the modern, Western world. Among the things I asked myself as I wrote were, what cultural tools can I give readers to read the Bible more authentically? How does a lack of grasp of Jesus as a Jewish Middle Easterner cause us to misunderstand his words? Ultimately, my goal was to equip the average Christian to read the Bible more like first-century disciple.

In your new book you talk about cultural differences that get in the way of understanding the Bible and suggest that we need to grasp how the Bible “thinks.” What do you mean by that? 
I started the book with a story about when my five year old nephew arrived in Iowa from Atlanta for Christmas. He had never seen snow before, so he asked, “What do you do with the snow when you have to mow the lawn?” He couldn’t imagine a reality where people didn’t mow their lawns year round, so he assumed it was universal. In the same way, many of our problems with the Bible come from misunderstanding its cultural reality and projecting our own onto it instead. We need to grasp how the Bible “thinks” – the basic background assumptions that biblical peoples had about life. Often these were very different than ours today. It’s also important that we don’t mix these two worlds together inappropriately, like mixing lawnmowers and snow. 

You mention an acronym, “WEIRD,” that psychologists coined for the ways that that American culture is unusual compared to the rest of the world. How do you think this comes into play in reading the Bible?
The acronym “WEIRD” stands for “Western, Educated, Industrialized, Rich, Democratic.” All these traits tend to characterize Europeans and especially Americans. We live in an educated, Western culture that values scientific thought above all else. We are industrialized, so that our world does not revolve around family and clan, but around work and business. We are relatively rich, so that many basic worries are simply not on our radar screens. We live in a democracy and dislike all hierarchy and authority.
I point out that these same characteristics tend to set us apart culturally from the Bible, so that major biblical themes, like farming and kings, simply do not resonate. I explore these and other cultural difficulties that modern readers (especially Americans) have with the Bible.

There’s a chapter titled “Greek Brain, Hebrew Brain” where you discuss the difference between Western vs. Eastern thought. How does this influence how we read the Bible?
Western thinking is very analytical, theoretical and focused on abstract concepts. It began in Greece in the 5th century AD and has deeply affected European-based cultures. We see it as the essence of mental sophistication and have a hard time imagining that anyone could think any other way. Much of the Bible, however, communicates in a more ancient way. It speaks in concrete images and parables rather than abstract concepts and argumentation. In this chapter, I show that brilliant ideas can be expressed this way too, and to give readers some basic skills to bridge the gap between East and West. 

Another chapter is called, “Why Jesus Needs those Boring ‘Begats.’” In it you point out that many people wonder why the Bible contains so many meaningless lists of names. What is significant about genealogies, culturally? Why were they included?
In the Bible, family was central. Even if you don’t agree with it on every issue, you have to grasp how it “thinks” in terms of family as the center of reality in order to follow its most basic themes. The growth and relationships of a family were the core of how societies functioned. The main theme of the biblical story is God’s promise to Abraham to give him a great family, and the covenant that God makes with that family, Israel. Every time genealogies are listed it shows how God is fulfilling his promise. Even in the New Testament, whether or not believers in Christ needed to be “sons of Abraham” (Torah-observant Jews, who lived by the family covenant) was a major issue.
How does our perspective change if we read the Bible as a “we” instead of merely as an individual?
Americans are very individualistic, and we tend to focus on the Bible as a series of personal encounters between individuals and God. We also assume that the ultimate audience for Bible reading is “me.” We miss how often the Scriptures focus on the group rather than the individual. When Jesus preaches, he’s almost always addressing a crowd. When Paul tells his audience that they are a temple of God, we hear it as about how “my body is a temple.” But Paul is actually talking about them all together as God’s temple, not to each of them individually. In this chapter I point out many places where things make more sense when you see them in light of their communal implications. 
Here’s another example of how “we” is important. People talk about Jesus is “my personal savior” and struggle to find the gospel in the Gospels. That’s because the biblical imagery is actually about Christ saving a group of people. Jesus is the “Christ,” God’s anointed king, who has come to redeem a people to be his kingdom. When we “accept Christ” we are submitting to his kingship and joining his people. The imagery of a “kingdom” is inherently plural, so it passes right by us. 

You tell about a Christian scholar who theorized that Paul knew his Scriptures by memory. Christian scholars were very skeptical, but Jewish scholars strongly agreed with him. Why was this story important to you?
When I first started hearing about Jesus’ Jewish context, I was skeptical about whether it could be of use to Christians. I was also skeptical of ideas like that Jesus and Paul likely knew their Scriptures (our Old Testament) by heart and expected their listeners to be very familiar with them too. I was told that they would hint to it and drop in little quotes often in their teaching, and these hints were often quite important to grasping the point. 
At first, I absolutely didn’t believe this. But as I studied more about traditional Judaism, I discovered that even since the first century, rabbinic sermons have been overloaded with hints, quotes and subtle links to Bible passages. Memorization has been strongly stressed. I laughed when I read about a scholar on Paul’s Jewish context who spoke about this at conferences about twenty or thirty years ago. Christian scholars would all poo-poo him and say, “highly unlikely” or “totally impossible.” The Jewish scholars in his audience, however, would all nod their heads in agreement and say, of course he did! 
In the last section of the book I go into more detail about how Jewish teachers studied their Scriptures and alluded to them in preaching. Most importantly, I talk about how some of Jesus’ boldest claims to being the Messiah, the Christ who God sent as Savior, were delivered in this very subtle Jewish way. There are a lot of skeptical scholars who have said that Jesus was just a wandering wise man whose followers exalted to a divine status. But they know nothing about Jesus’ Jewish habit of hinting to his Scriptures, so they miss some of his most powerful statements about being the Son of God.

What started your interest in the Jewishness of Jesus? Was there a particular event that piqued your interest?
I was raised in a devout Christian home. I’m not Jewish and my overall interest is in understanding the reality of Jesus and the Bible, rather than Judaism per se. A little over twenty years ago I signed up for a seminar on ancient Israel and the Jewish culture of the Bible at my church, thinking it would be just some dry historical information. But all of a sudden Bible stories that were foggy and confusing became clear and deeply relevant to my life. I started hearing the words of Scripture through the ears of its ancient listeners, and it made all the difference in the world. 
My background was originally in the sciences, and I have a Ph. D. in biology. I was teaching as a college biology professor and my background in research compelled me to dig deeper. Over the years I’ve traveled to Israel several times to experience the land and history in person and to study the language and the culture. Every time I come home I’m newly inspired, because in the past few decades scholars and archaeologists have unearthed enormous amounts of information that clarifies the Bible’s stories, particularly the Jewish setting of Jesus. 

Why do you think that so many Christians are unaware of their Jewish heritage?

All of the disciples were Jewish, and the New Testament was written almost entirely by Jews. But within only a couple centuries Gentiles became the majority in the church, and many were hostile to its Jewish origins. Even in Romans Paul warned the Gentiles not to be arrogant toward the Jews, but his words went unheeded. One reason was that early Christians needed to establish their identity as a new movement, and they defended their faith by focusing on their differences with Judaism.

Through the ages there has been occasional interest by Christians in understanding their Jewish roots, but for much of its history the church has struggled with anti-Semitism. And Jews who had felt the persecution of Christians were understandably less than interested in helping them understand the roots of their faith. It’s only been in the last century that Christians have become avidly interested in the topic. One reason for this is because we mingle so much more. Jews and Christians now have relative freedom to discuss their beliefs, and both groups are curious about how the other reads their common Scriptures. 

This book was graciously provided for review by Lois Tverberg and Baker Publishing.
Happy reading!