Reading the Bible in One Year

Narelle here. Happy New Year! I’ve taken a break from blogging here to focus on my fiction writing (see my last post dated August 2013). In 2015 I’m going to revamp the 30 Minute Bible Studies site.

One of my New Years resolutions for 2015 is to read the Bible in one year. I’ve joined an online group with friends from Australasian Christian Writers and we’re using the resource: A Woman’s Guide to Reading the Bible in a Year: A Life-Changing Journey Into the Heart of God by Diane Stortz.

I’m going to post a daily meme that includes the relevant Bible reading references. You’re welcome to join me in reading the whole Bible in 2015.

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Book Description:

You CAN Read the Bible in a Year

When Diane Stortz was invited to join a study to read the whole Bible in a year, she went for it. It changed her life, even though she’d been a Christian a long time. Now, more than ten years later, she still reads through the Bible every year with a group of friends.

“I didn’t start to really know God until I made knowing him my goal as I read the Bible. Getting to know God changed me. It changed how I think and what I do. It changes me still.”

God put the Bible together for you. Reading it through in a year helps create a rich experience and a focused understanding of what God wants to reveal about himself. And with week-by-week reading plans, easy-to-use reference material, and stories of encouragement from women like you, A Woman’s Guide to Reading the Bible in a Year is the perfect companion for this life-changing practice.

Gather your Bible and some good friends to join you in your journey, or go for it on your own. Either way, God will change you.

Diane Stortz has over twenty years of Christian publishing experience, including writing and editing. She maintains a blog site to encourage Bible reading and memorization (dianestortz.com). She and her husband, Ed, live in Cincinnati, Ohio.

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Book Recommendation – Couples of the Bible: A One-Year Devotional Study

Couples of the Bible

Back Cover blurb:

In this scrapbook of your spiritual family tree, you have the faithful patriarchs and matriarchs who make you proud…and the scoundrels who you’d rather not talk about. But all of these ancestors, Couples of the Bible, will give you a snapshot of your biblical heritage. Some bring encouragement, others offer a stern warning.

Through this 52-week devotional experience, you will be reacquainted with the obstacles and outcomes of familiar couples like Abraham and Sarah…and meet some lesser-known couples like Othniel and Aksah. Each week focuses on one couple of the Bible, from Adam and Eve to Christ and His Bride. You will read their story, learn about their cultural setting and explore how their story can teach you important truths about your own marriage. Each week you will be guided with questions applying biblical truth to your relationship with your spouse. And you’ll finish the week with a time of reflection, thanksgiving and prayer.

Couples of the Bible will teach you how God guided couples in the past and will encourage you to trust in his faithfulness for your marriage.

Narelle: I really liked the concept underpinning Couples of the Bible. The devotional book is designed to help couples strengthen their marriage by studying the many examples of married couples in the Bible. Each couple lived a flawed marriage and they had unique challenges to overcome. Some couples walked closely with the Lord, for example Ruth and Boaz, while others turned away from the Lord, for example Ahab and Jezebel.

The following quote from the book sums up the essence of the devotions: The Bible is a living book, a love story. It is the inspired story of the great King in heaven who woos His people and commits Himself to perfectly love them forever. 

There are 5 devotions each week for 52 weeks. Day 1 looks at the narrative Biblical story of the couple. Day 2 provides the cultural background. Day 3 asks the reader to put themselves in the couple’s shoes and imagine living their lives. Day 4 explores the issues facing married couples by looking at application questions relating to the couple. Day 5 examines the couple’s legacy and includes a time of reflection and prayer.

The devotions are informative and will help you learn more about the Biblical characters in an easy to read format. I’m a fan of the traditional devotional structure that includes all the above elements on the one day. The five way split is great for couples who lead  busy lives and can only snatch a short time together to read the book. My preference, time permitting, would be to group the first three days together, and explore the last two days either separately or together. One reason being I like to know the cultural setting when I’m reading the narrative text of the Biblical story. I recommend this devotional book to couples wanting to gain a greater understanding of how God reveals himself through the lives of couples in the Bible.

Many thanks to NetGalley and Zondervan for providing a review copy.

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ACRBA tour An Heiress at Heart by Jennifer DeLamere

July 22 – 26
Is Introducing
(Grand Central Publishing)
By 
Jennifer DeLamere
2013 RITA nominee 
About the Author:
The youngest child of a Navy pilot and a journalist, Jennifer acquired a love of adventure and an excitement for learning that continues to this day. She’s lived in three countries and traveled throughout the United States. An avid reader of classics and historical fiction, she also enjoys biographies and histories, which she mines for the vivid details to bring to life the characters and places in her books. Her debut novel An Heiress at Heart was chosen by Grand Central Publishing to be the first inspirational romance for their Forever imprint. She resides with her husband in the southeastern United States–where, when not writing or dreaming up romantic adventures for her characters, she can be found fantasizing about her next ski trip or international vacation.
About the Book:
A youthful indiscretion has cost Lizzie Poole more than just her honor. After five years living in exile, she’s finally returning home, but she’s still living a secret life. Her best friend Ria’s dying wish was for Lizzie to assume her identity, return to London, and make amends that Ria herself would never live to make. Bearing a striking resemblance to her friend, and harboring more secrets than ever before, Lizzie embarks on a journey that tempts her reckless heart once again . . .

A committed clergyman, Geoffrey Somerville’s world is upended when he suddenly inherits the title of Lord Somerville. Now he’s invited to every ball and sought after by the matchmaking mothers of London society. Yet the only woman to capture his heart is the one he cannot have: his brother’s young widow, Ria. Duty demands he deny his feelings, but his heart longs for the mysterious beauty. With both their futures at stake, will Lizzie be able to keep up her façade? Or will she find the strength to share her secret and put her faith in true love?

Narelle: I really enjoyed reading this book and liked the Aussie connection in the story. Lizzie is a fascinating character who made unwise choices in London that led her to seek refuge in Bathurst, Australia. Lizzie meets Ria in Australia and their uncanny physical resemblance raises a number of questions in the story. Lizzie fulfils Ria’s dying wish by returning to London and assuming Ria’s identity. What Lizzie doesn’t count on is falling in love with Geoffrey, Ria’s brother-in-law who she can’t legally marry while continuing to impersonate Ria.

Geoffrey had never met the real Ria in person, but I did question why Ria’s relatives seemed to easily accept that Lizzie was Ria. My questions were answered in an exciting and satisfying ending. The faith element in the story was more understated than in many inspirational romances and themes of honesty and integrity were addressed as Lizzie dealt with the consequences of her deception. I recommend this book to those looking for a fun and intriguing historical romance.

Many thanks to NetGalley for providing a review copy.

Book Recommendation: Fear Has a Name by Creston Mapes

Fear Has a Name

Back cover blurb:

How Far Would He Go To Keep Them Safe?

It was more than a break-in. More than a stalking. It was personal. When a stalker targets his family, journalist Jack Crittendon must uncover who the person is and what his motives are–if he is to protect the ones he loves. It will lead Crittendon into a world of behind-closed-door secrets and faith gone awry, as does his investigation of a missing pastor, whose apparent suicide is more than it appears.

Each move Crittendon makes weaves him tighter and tighter into a web of lies, greed, hypocrisy, sin, and danger. He believed he’d never give in to fear. But that was before. And holding on to his faith won’t be easy. Nor will keeping his family safe, and ending the terror. Because that might require him to step over lines he never dared to cross.

Narelle:  This book is action packed from the start and I couldn’t put it down. The plot twists kept me turning the page to learn what happens next. Jack’s faith is tested and pushed to the limit when a dangerous stalker threatens to destroy his family.

Fear Has a Name deals with hypocrisy and corruption in unlikely places. It has a supernatural element and the manifestation of evil in the world is a strong theme in the book. Jack and his wife, Pam, learn that evil can arise in unimaginable ways. Being a good person and doing the right thing by God is not a ticket to an easy life without fear, pain, struggles and hardship. I recommend this book to those looking for an exciting supernatural thriller.

Many thanks to NetGalley and David C. Cook for providing a review copy.

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ACRBA tour Boondaburra by Natalie Lonsdale

 

17 – 21 June

is introducing

(Even Before Publishing, February 2013)

By Natalie Lonsdale

available from

Light The Dark

About the Author

Natalie Lonsdale is a former Early Childhood Educator who is currently studying to be a Library Technician. Natalie loves children’s literature, photography, travelling, history, and eucalyptus trees. Boondaburra is Natalie’s first book, and she is working on several more. Natalie has a heart to write stories that encourage children to delight in God’s word and in His love.

About the book:

Boondaburra is sad. Why do the other animals make fun of him just because he is different? When tragedy strikes in the Australian bush, Boondaburra learns that being unique has its advantages. Boondaburra is the story of a platypus’ journey from rejection to accepting and understanding his uniqueness, and the friends who come to accept and admire those differences.

Narelle: I really enjoyed reading Boondaburra. The illustrations are gorgeous and relevant to the action taking place. The story celebrates God’s creation of many different types of animals. At the start of the story Boondaburra struggles with feelings of inadequacy because the other animals treat him like an outcast.

A number of native Australian animals are included in the story and they learn the importance of appreciating each other’s unique characteristics. The author’s note at the end provides fascinating platypus facts. I highly recommend Boondaburra to those looking for a fun and inspiring children’s story.

Many thanks to Even Before Publishing for providing a review copy.

Book Recommendation – Reign: The Chronicles of Queen Jezebel by Ginger Garrett

ReignBack cover blurb:

Beyond the Drama, Her Heart Was Real

From the moment her marriage to prince Ahab thrusts her into the intrigues of palace life, Jezebel’s exotic beauty opens doors and her will breaks down walls. Torn from her homeland and wed to power in a strange country, Jezebel vows to create a legacy and power all her own. Some might call her a manipulative schemer, bent on having her way. But they don’t know the whole story, and she was much, much worse.

As she moves through the halls of power, her heart struggles between devotion to the gods she worships, the prince who loves her, and her thirst for revenge. She sparks a battle between her strangely powerless gods and the God of palace administrator Obadiah—a God who confronts her with surprising might. She will fight, though victory may cost her everything.

Narelle: I found Reign a fascinating story to read. It was a little confronting to walk in Jezebel’s shoes as she became the princess and ultimately queen of Israel with her husband, Ahab. Her despicable and evil acts including idolatry, child sacrifices and killing the Lord’s prophets are covered in the book. We gain an insight into her hatred of the prophet, Elijah, and her unquenchable desire for power.

Ahab is stuck in the middle. He is unable to please his wife and the people who have remained faithful to the Israelite God. He allows Jezebel to encourage the Israelites to worship her foreign gods. Both Ahab and Jezebel suffer the consequences of God’s wrath and judgment.

We are given a fictional perspective on their dysfunctional marriage and family life, and plausible reasons to explain their life choices. I recommend this book to those looking for insightful and challenging Biblical fiction.

Many thanks to NetGalley and David C. Cook for providing a review copy.

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Book Recommendation: So Shines the Night by Tracy L. Higley


So Shines the Night

Back cover blurb:

In a city teetering at the brink of anarchy, Daria finds hope among people of The Way.

She escaped a past of danger and found respite in beautiful Ephesus, a trading center on the Aegean coast, serving as tutor to Lucas, the wealthy merchant who rescued her.

But the darkness she fled has caught up with her.

The high priests of Artemis once controlled the city, but a group of sorcerers are gaining power. And a strange group who call themselves followers of The Way further threaten the equilibrium. As Daria investigates Lucas’s exploits into the darker side of the city, her life is endangered, and she takes refuge in the strange group of believers. She’s drawn to Paul and his friends, even as she wrestles with their teachings.

When authorities imprison Lucas for a brutal crime, Daria wonders if even Paul’s God can save him. Then she uncovers a shocking secret that could change everything—Lucas’s fate, her position in his household, and the outcome of the tension between pagans and Christians. But only if she survives long enough to divulge what she knows.

Narelle: I loved reading this book. The first few chapters hooked me into the story and I couldn’t put it down. Daria and Lucas are intriguing and multi-layered characters. I wanted to see them triumph over their problems and achieve their seemingly impossible happily-ever-after ending.

I enjoyed seeing the city of Ephesus, with a rich cultural heritage, brought to life on the page. Paul, Timothy and other Biblical characters we learn about in the book of Acts and Paul’s letter to the Ephesians play a crucial role in the story.

The spiritual warfare element in the story is fascinating and I liked seeing the early church from the perspective of outsiders who were seeking to learn the truth. I highly recommend this book to those looking for an insightful and gripping Biblical fiction story.

Thanks to Thomas Nelson and Net Galley for providing a review copy.

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Book Recommendation: Stealing Jake by Pam Hillman

Stealing Jake

Back cover blurb:

When Livy O’Brien spies a young boy jostling a man walking along the boardwalk, she recognizes the act for what it is. After all, she used to be known as Light-fingered Livy. But that was before she put her past behind her and moved to the growing town of Chestnut, Illinois, where she’s helping to run an orphanage. Now she’ll do almost anything to protect the street kids like herself.

Sheriff’s deputy Jake Russell had no idea what he was in for when he ran into Livy—literally—while chasing down a pickpocket. With a rash of robberies and a growing number of street kids in town—as well as a loan on the family farm that needs to be paid off—Jake doesn’t have time to pursue a girl. Still, he can’t seem to get Livy out of his mind. He wants to get to know her better . . . but Livy isn’t willing to trust any man, especially not a lawman.

Narelle: I really liked the story premise and enjoyed reading this book. Livy is an intriguing character with a heart of gold. Her faith helps her overcome her difficult childhood. She has a genuine desire to help the orphans and street kids who have appeared in her small town. Livy is drawn to Jake, despite fearing he will discover the truth about her past.

Jake struggles to understand why Livy has a soft spot for the street kids, who seem to be the source of trouble in the town. Explosive secrets are revealed that take Jake and Livy on a dangerous journey to seek the truth and bring  justice to the town of Chestnut, Illinois. I highly recommend this book to those looking for a fast paced and beautifully plotted historical romance.

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Book Recommendation: Yesterday’s Tomorrow by Catherine West

Yesterdays Tomorrow

Back cover blurb:

She’s after the story that might get her the Pulitzer.
He’s determined to keep his secrets to himself.

Independent, career-driven journalist Kristin Taylor wants two things: to honor her father’s memory by becoming an award-winning overseas correspondent and to keep tabs on her only brother, Teddy, who signed up for the war against their mother’s wishes. Brilliant photographer Luke Maddox, silent and brooding, exudes mystery. Kristin is convinced he’s hiding something.

Willing to risk it all for what they believe in, Kristin and Luke engage in their own tumultuous battle until, in an unexpected twist, they’re forced to work together. Ambushed by love, they must decide whether or not to set aside their own private agendas for the hope of tomorrow that has captured their hearts.

Narelle: I loved reading this book, and I couldn’t put it down. Kristin and Luke are fascinating and complex characters who struggle with a number of issues. They are thrown together in an intense and dire situation, and live each day not knowing if it will be their last. They are flawed people who must cope with the extreme pressures of war. As a result, their relationship evolves in a different direction to the typical Christian romance.

Yesterday’s Tomorrow provides a realistic portrayal of life in Vietnam during the war. The story addresses the hardship faced by people who served their country without receiving honour and recognition back home. I highly recommend this book to those looking for an authentic and powerful romance set during the Vietnam War.

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Book Recommendation: Reinventing Rachel by Alison Strobel

Reinventing Rachel

Back Cover blurb:

God let Rachel Westing down. For twenty-six years she’s done everything by the book; she figures He should have her back. But then she learns her fiancé is cheating on her. Her parents are getting a divorce. And her Christian mentor has a pill addiction. Where is God in all this? Nowhere, as far as Rachel can see. Wounded, bitter, and with a shattered faith, she quits her job and goes across the country to live with Daphne—her childhood best friend whose soul Rachel once thought she was meant to save.

Confident, successful, fun-loving Daphne sets about helping Rachel reinvent herself, and for a while it’s exciting. But when another tragedy shakes Rachel to the core, what little bit of self-possession she has left begins to unravel. A true-to-life story that will draw you in and keep you biting your nails until the end.

Narelle: I enjoyed reading this book despite not particularly liking the main character. At the start of the story Rachel comes across as shallow and naive. She views the non-church attending people in her life as potential ‘projects’ to convert rather than potential friends. Her world falls apart and her faith is shaken because God hasn’t given her a perfect life.

I struggled to identify with Rachel during the first few chapters because she acted like a spoilt princess and seemed to lack an understanding of how suffering is part of the Christian journey. I nearly put the book down but I was intrigued by the story premise. I’m glad I kept reading.

We journey with Rachel as she turns her back on her childhood faith. She explores a different world in Chicago that is foreign to her previously sheltered life experiences in California. Without her faith to define her decisions, Rachel struggles to build a meaningful new life. Tragedy strikes and Rachel is forced to evaluate the direction of her life. I recommend this book to those interested in reading a story that shows what could happen to young believers who fall away from a childhood faith that hasn’t prepared them to face real world challenges.

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