Book Review: Beauty from Ashes

Author: Hope Stansberry
Pages: 280
Reviewer: Beatrice Ani and Godswill Ezeonyeka

Advanced Review Copy (or ARC) on Reedsy Discovery: https://reedsy.com/discovery/book/beauty-from-ashes-hope-stansberry

Trauma has a way of lingering. Letting go of the pain is what we want most but, in most cases, it is this need that makes us stow away our pain and give it life for longer than is required. Hope Stansberry presents us with an intense story of triumph over trauma and its bewildering effects. It is a story of love and discovery that surely would give the reader the much-needed healing and entertainment they might be in search for.

Just like every other romance novel, this Christian romance fiction will make one lose track of time until the last page is read. It’s an absolute page-turner. Stansberry captures a vivid picture of love in the very familiar and endearing pursuit of Cameron for Natalie’s friendship. Friendship blossoms into romance but in the most unlikely way and this journey delivers to the reader a relatable story of redemption, trust, faith, recovery and how our suffering produces perseverance.

This is not the ideal sappy romance fictions, but it does tug at one’s heart. However, for those looking for a story that portrays the bitter and beautiful parts of healing, this is an ideal read. The pain that Natalie and Cameron have had to deal with and will go through is very well portrayed and this makes their characters stand as perfect mirrors for anyone going through pain. Christian readers will find the focus on how God heals to be very familiar and endearing however, non-Christians can also relate to how we all react to love regardless of what we believe. Hence, I would definitely regard this book as a good read for anyone that is willing to. It is not preachy and definitely gets the message across. My only critique would be the length, possibly Stansberry may want to give us a sequel?

Beauty From Ashes is a book I will recommend for any person above childhood (however that is calculated these days) because it speaks to one of our primal needs which is healing from pain. It is a beautiful balance between reality, faith and romance. As earlier said it is quite a quick read but it is sure to leave you reeling and loving every moment, every word and wanting more.

BOOK REVIEW: Spiritual Make Up

Author: Uchenna Okwara Hillprieston
Publisher: Writer’sHouseHQ
Pages: 40
Reviewer: Abokhai Osione

After reading this book I literally felt a wave of relief rush through out my body… I guess that’s what true freedom feels like.

Growing up in a Christian familiy, you get to hear the “holy” requirement of the gospel from allot of perspectives, I believe the most popular we all grew up with is that “if you do what is bad you will go to hell fire!”.  For me, that explanation was as close to home as getting whooped by my parents for breaking a ceramic plate or leaving the house dirty to go and play games outside on a Saturday morning.

However, the difference  between those perspectives and this one is that

 “There is Life in these pages“. 

Spiritual Make Up :  The Believers Beauty Kit brings the Truth of this victorious life we can live above sin and shame, closer to home. In fact it is so close that it actually begins to feel personal. 

Today, many believers with a hunger for God, a burning desire to do His will and please Him are often downcast because of the weight of besetting sins. This often gets them wondering how?! 

How do all these awesome spiritual promises about my salvation and victory and new life in Christ even relate to my personal, “real” life?

Trust me I know the struggle, I was there too. But cheer up brethren! There is hope here!

The beauty of this book is that you can hear your mothers voice teaching you in the simplest way how walking in righteousness and purity is as easy as brushing your teeth or taking a shower, or dressing decently. Spiritual Make up is funny yet so True, I often caught myself vigorously nodding in agreement to the simple truths the author so easily gisted out in text as I laughed because of how relatable it is.  

The Life of Holiness and purity we the Born Again in Christ are to live is not a tedious one.. Nothing makes that fact clearer like this book. Living victorious and bearing the fruit of the spirit in our everyday life is as fluid as the air we breathe in and out daily without permission or any explanation. 

This is by far the most refreshing book for anyone who desires to clear the airways of doubt, confusion and misunderstanding and just have a wonderful and unhindered relationship with Our Heavenly Father, our maker and Husband who loves us so much. 

So sit back, grab a cup of tea and try to read this book where people are because I can assure you first hand that from the second page you’d be looking for someone to read aloud to as is the habit of those who love to share true stories that are good. 

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Book Review: The Alchemist by Paul Coelho

Title: The Alchemist

Author: Paulo Coelho

Pages: 241

Reviewers: Beatrice Ani and Imani Dokubo

The Alchemist tells the story of a young shepherd named Santiago who finds out from a king about his treasure lying in the basement of the faraway Egyptian pyramids. Along the way, he learns to listen to his heart and more importantly realizes that his dreams/Personal Legend are not just his but part of the Soul of the Universe. The novel is both entertaining and educational.

The author’s portrayal of real-life principles in simple terms that are easy to recognize and connect with is a highlight.

Just like the young shepherd, most of us are on a journey to find our ‘personal legend’, some of us have, and some are already depositing our unique legend to the world.

Where ever you are on your journey, the lessons from this book are beneficial to you.

Some notable eye-opening lessons the book captures are:

1.The power of courage: Fear is a bigger obstacle than the obstacle itself

“Tell your heart that the fear of suffering is worse than the suffering itself and that no heart has ever suffered when it goes in search of its dreams, because every second of the search is an encounter with God and the universe.”

The power of truth: “Truth cannot be veiled by smoke and mirrors — it will always stand firm. When you’re searching for the ‘right’ decision, it will be the one that withstands the tests of time and the weight of scrutiny”

The power of gratitude: “Gratitude is the practice of finding the good in each day. Life can easily become stagnant, mundane, and monotonous, but that changes depending on what we choose to see. There’s always a silver lining if you look for it.”

The power of decision: “When someone makes a decision, he is really diving into a strong current that will carry him to places he never dreamed of when he first made the decision.”

The power of focus: “It’s easy to be influenced by others, but you’ll be miserable if you end up living someone else’s life. There’s nothing wrong with taking advice and learning from others, but make sure it aligns with your desires and passions.”

The power of action: “There is only one way to learn. It’s through action.”

(You can study, read, and listen until you turn blue in the face, but the full experience is when you take action and let the rubber meet the road… Once you’re done aiming, pull the trigger.)

Here’s what the book suggests: when you seek to create something, things will eventually fall in place to enable you to bring it to life.

Of course, there are exceptions to this rule. It’s just crucial that we undertake the journey to making the most of the life that God gives us. Or, as Jesus’s parable says, to use our talents to the fullest.

What phase of life’s journey are you on?

We recommend this book to everyone in search of a formula for reaching their goals, discover, and realize their potential.

 

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Review: The War Of Art by Steven Pressfield

Reviewer: Ubamara Ezenobi

“The Writer will take on any job when he is running away from writing”.

The War of Art focuses on the enemy of the writer, and how to tackle him. This enemy is resistance.

Steven Pressfield displays mastery in this book particularly in the simplicity with which he conveys his message. He uses movies and well-known creatives to enhance his descriptions. A victim of Resistance for a good number of years – has been able to master the phenomenon. He is quick to point out, however, that Resistance is an enemy that turns up daily, it is internal, one that never goes away.

By Resistance, Pressfield means the force that makes us put away our work, our calling, to a later date. Procrastination is only a part of it. Fear of failure and even fear of success are also legitimate concerns for the creative. Pressfield goes in-depth.

He also distinguishes between the amateur and the professional. The amateur creative doesn’t know there’s an enemy trying to stop her from becoming all that she really is. Or perhaps she knows Resistance but underrates him. The professional, on the other hand, does not underrate Resistance. She keeps a watch on him. She knows that Resistance has the power to cripple her career, her calling, her life.

The pro shows up every day and on time, unlike the amateur who treats it as a hobby. The pro treats her work as a business, unlike the amateur who treats it as a passion. The pro is in it for the money, but she’s also in it for the sake of the art itself; who better to write what has been handed down to her by the heavens, if not her?

So in everything Pressfield says, he says one thing in particular: Most of us have two lives. The life we live, and the unlived life within us. Between the two stands Resistance.

“There’s a secret that real writers know that the wannabe writers don’t, and the secret is this: It’s not the writing part that’s hard. What’s hard is sitting down to write.

What keeps us from sitting down is Resistance.”

BOOK REVIEW: NORTH by BUSAYO KEHINDE

Reviewer: Ubamara Ezenobi.

Life happens to everyone. It’s inevitable. The things that you never imagine would ever happen to you could take place in the blink of an eye. You could become a person you never imagined you would be in the space of a few days. In these times we are thrown off balance, left to decide who or what to hold onto as anchor. In this book, North, Busayo Kehinde tells us in the best way possible, the best direction to follow.

North is the story of a young woman, Laura, who goes through much distress in life despite her love for God. First, she loses her younger brother to leukaemia. Next is her dad who walks out on them. And then, as though she has not lost enough, she loses her fiancé who loved God so much, to a lifestyle of drugs and women. Eventually, he dies. These tragedies turn her south, and she decides she doesn’t believe in God anymore.

Busola helps us realize that it’s not really about the many challenges you face, but about what you choose at the end of the day: life, or not. By placing special characters like little Ire who battles with sickle cell anaemia yet has unwavering faith in God, and other people who constantly remind her of God’s love, especially for her, the author shows us that God knows us inside out, and knows how best to proceed with healing us, and blessing us beyond our wildest dreams.

For Busola Kehinde, North is the direction that leads us above, and to choose north, is to choose life. In the epilogue, she shares from her personal experience how she has had to choose north at different points in her life, just like her key character. She enjoins us to choose life, to keep choosing life no matter what, and to never lose trust in God.

North is a book to read now. No matter where you are, it’s going to meet you right there and bless you tremendously.

Click HERE to Get the book

© Ubamara Ezenobi, 2019

BOOK REVIEW: EXPLORING WORSHIP, by Bob Sorge

Author: Bob Sorge 

Pages: 262

Edition: 22nd

Publisher: GCEE BRUNO CONCEPT LIMITED, Lagos, Nigeria. 

Reviewer: PHILIPA ORAEGBU
 
 
 
God seeketh worshipers not worship. Why then do I need to worship if he seeks it not?
 
Bob Sorge, an ardent writer of thought provoking practical books, ignites hearts yet again with this piece, Exploring Worship: A Practical Guide to Worship . Bob, a former music director, expresses his belief and desire to see leaders and worshipers equipped in the spiritual and practical aspects of worship. His writing is not just theoretical; it retells real life experiences and contains bible references. With these, he is able to show the importance of spiritual sensitivity in the art and act of worship emphasizing the place of the Holy spirit and a worshiper’s ability to discern.
 
“Worship”, though a common term in the faith and commonly regarded as just the act of singing slow songs, is beautifully exposited in this book. Exploring Worship clarifies the diverse misconceptions of the term while expounding its simplicity, essence and exclusivity. 
 
The book is divided into two sections: The Heart of Praise and Worship, and The Leading of Praise and Worship. The first section of the book comprises 7 chapters and dwells on worship and praise as expressions unto God, while the latter has 3 chapters and relates the practical aspect of worship. 
 
The first chapter discusses praise and its distinctive extroverted nature. Its essence, and how it’s perfunctory on will and not emotion. Bob proceeds to explain when, where and how one should praise. Praise, being extroverted expression, is done in varying ways. Some of these are common; others are not very widely practised. 
 
The second chapter addresses our approach to God’s presence: an individual approach and congregational approach. Worship as a Christian communal experience is described as an excercise which requires both on the worship leader and worshippers to bring to life. The author makes it clear that there are sacrifices to be made by all involved, in order to actualize worship. 
 
Chapter three emphasizes the use of praise as a weapon of spiritual warfare. The scriptural basis of its use is not without explanation, likewise the exposition on the use of the forms of expression of praise as spiritual weaponry.
 
Chapter four explores the term ‘worship’, its distinction from praise, its essence, and how the Holy Spirit is an integral part of worship. Worship as revealed is not bound by time or place but rather is dependent on “spirit” and truth. 
 
Who really are worshipers? How does one become a worshiper? What does it mean to worship without guilt and what are the attitudes that could hinder an acceptable worship? These questions are answered in detail in the fifth chapter of the book. 
 
Worship has three aspects to itself as written by Bob, the vertical aspect where the worshipes communicates with the Lord; the horizontal aspect, in which the worshiper communicates with the congregation; and the inward aspect of worshiper’s internal communication. All of these are found in chapter six. 
 
Chapter seven talks about the link between prophecy and music, the difference between psalms, hymns and spiritual songs, and how they should be incorporated into today’s congregational worship. There’s also some discussion about walking in prophetic worship by faith. 
 
Chapter eight delves into the art of leading worship. The author wants us to understand that proper worship leadership is learned. Worship leaders don’t just spring up; they grow by learning. Further explained are the qualifications a leader should possess: musical expertise which is of great necessity; the leaders preparation both musically and spiritually; and the leaders leading– and not controlling -worship. 
 
Chapter nine exposits the importance of a worship leading team in a church, the role of the pastor and worship leader in congregational worship, the various members of the worship leading team and their place in the church. 
 
And finally, chapter ten makes known the need for planning worship services, the need for sensitivity, preparation and balance as regards worship services, creativity in providing good variety in worship services, and practical steps to writing songs and teaching new songs.
 
If you are desiring insight into the world of worship, the art of worship and leading worship, you will find this book useful. It demonstrates, among other things, that worship is not about the subject (worshiper) but the object (God) . And this, in the end, is the key message we all need to internalize.

Book Review: The Pilgrim’s progress By John Bunyan

AUTHOR: JOHN BUNYAN 

PUBLISHER: CHRISTIAN CLASSICS ETHEREAL LIBRARY

REVIEWER: IFIOKABASI OKOP

John Bunyan is one of a host of classic Christian writers (part of a group that includes Dante Algehieri and C. S Lewis). The Pilgrim’s Progress is one of the most significant works in Christian literature and has been translated into more than two hundred language. It has been identified as an allegory which, as an extended version of a metaphor, is a narrative technique that uses fictional characters, events or places to represent real situations and in this case, the Christian journey. 

The Pilgrim’s Progress is divided into two parts which tell the story of a man’s progress in search of salvation and eternal life. It is narrated by an omniscient narrator who sees all he narrates in a dream. The first part documents Christian’s revelation and decision to leave his home town, City of Destruction, to embark on a journey to the Celestial City. His journey to the Celestial City can be likened to the Christian race. Christian’s salvation is portrayed as the falling off of a burden from his back into the tomb where a cross is locates. He faces persecution in the valley of the shadow of Death where he loses his friend, Faithful. When his journey becomes tiresome, an easy path appears. This path represents false doctrines that lead people to destruction. He eventually escapes from there and continues on the true path which leads him to the Celestial City. There, he is received by the King into eternal life.

The second part narrates the decision of Christiana, Christian’s wife to join him in the Celestial City alongside their children. They are mocked by their neighbours because of the decision Christiana makes. They embark on the journey and go through similar experiences to Christian’s from the reproach at the City of Destruction to the Cross and the tomb where they are saved. They climb the Hill of Difficulty and at House Beautiful, Matthew, Christiana’s son is healed with a purge made of the blood and body of Christ. This represents the healing power of Jesus Christ. Their guide, Great Heart defends the travelling party against danger and points out to Christiana places where Christian had significant encounters. The journey is portrayed as a lifelong one as the children grow up and get married while on the journey. They all make it to the Celestial City and are received by the King.

This book portrays the difficulties and struggles christians face in their lives and the joy and happiness they will experience in Christ. Almost every moral struggle we encounter in our lives is somehow allegorized, whether in Christian’s own journey or in encounters that others tell him about. Christian is tempted by Mr. Worldly Wisdom and Despair while his friend Faithful has to get past Wanton. Every person has different strengths and weaknesses, and every Christian is encouraged by Bunyan to follow and study the Lord personally, and not compare oneself to other Christians, who have different experiences. Christian does not become perfect as he grows; sometimes he becomes proud because of his knowledge and displays an arrogant attitude towards others. He makes mistakes and learns from them. The novel has good ebb and flow as is depicted in the ups and downs of the Christian race. There are periods of rest after trials and temptations which arise after victories.

The Pilgrim’s Progress is an engaging and didactic read. There are complex, detailed sections of theological discussion which may seem boring. Warren Wiersebe’s notes help in better understanding of the book. He explains difficult words, themes and scriptural references in the book. Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress is definitely a good read for every Christian.

Book Review: THE EARLY CHRISTIANS IN THEIR OWN WORDS By Eberhard Arnold

 

Author: Eberhard Arnold

Publisher: The Brunderhof Foundation

Reviewer: Ikenna Alexander Nwachukwu

Without knowledge of Church History, it would be difficult to understand how much the Church- and indeed the way in which the Christian life is lived out – has changed over the nearly 2,000 years in which it has existed. A detailed survey of the lives of the early followers of Christ as recorded in the New Testament books (especially in the Acts of the Apostles) could shed some light on how much perceptions of the faith from within and outside the circle of believers has evolved. But the picture of Christians as painted in those books could be better appreciated by taking a look at extra-biblical accounts which tell us how the Christians in the earliest times and shortly after regarded themselves and their devotion.

The Early Christians In Their Own Words is an attempt by one Christian scholar to sketch a comprehensible image of the Christian life as it was within the first hundred years after the end of the Apostolic age, i.e. the post New Testament era. Eberhard Arnold wanted to let his readers into the faith of those who received the Gospel message directly from the apostles and their contemporaries. His approach was to put together a host of excerpts from the letters and creedal statements of these ancient Christians, as well as references and descriptions by their pagan persecutors. Apart from the first chapter in which he draws upon the aforementioned sources to give a rather lengthy summary of the life and beliefs of these Christians, the rest of the book consists of a collection of quotes from their writings.

The book’s seven chapters cover important themes relating to the community of Christ’s followers in the earliest times. It deals with the state’s treatment of Christians, the Church’s relationship with society, the early Christians’ beliefs about Scripture and doctrines, the nature of Christian meetings, and the role of the Holy Spirit in the prophetic ministry of the ancient Church. The sources quoted range from moving accounts of martyrdoms at the hands of Roman authorities for the sake of the faith, to admonitions to the faithful to beware of false teachers.

There is a lot that we can recognize in these texts: pleas from Church leaders for unity in the face of internal strife, misrepresentations of the Christian life by non-Christians, and the heartfelt praise of God in words and action. But there are also references to things that we rarely find in our day: Christians voluntarily becoming slaves in order to help pay off debts of their brothers and sisters in Christ, or not having the notion that there was such a thing as private property. Helping the poor is something for which the Christians are known, and even mocked. For the pagans, the fact that Christianity appealed to the poorer members of society was evidence that it was a despicable religion; for the Christians, it pointed to God’s care for the lowly and simple. The devotion of the early Christians was so powerful that they were willing to die horrible deaths for the sake of their Lord, at the hands of the idolatrous Romans and fanatical Jews. Their Godly fervor and love for one another was displayed in acts that could surprise and inspire many modern people.

For all the good things that can be said about the followers of Christ in the years after the apostolic era, there are some notable shortcomings that could be deciphered. Chief among these is the slow but certain appearance of legalism, i.e. emphasis on “good works” as a condition for holiness. It is perhaps not surprising that the earlier writings contain little or no traces of legalism, whereas the latter ones are heavily laced with assertions about “righteous deeds” as being a condition for right standing with God. There are also hints of other negative influences from the pagan world (such as Gnosticism), which later evolved into prominent errors that the Church has struggled with to this day.

The Early Christians is a great resource to have if you are keen on finding out what Christian living looked like in the early days of the faith. The accounts it refers to speak to us almost two millennia later, reminding us that the faith we have transcends time and space, and is as sacred as ever.