Thursday, June 26, 2014

Book Review of Arms Open Wide by Sherri Gragg

Arms Open Wide : A Call to Linger in the Savior's Presence, Sherri Gragg
Come near. Stop striving. The Master of the banquet has raised His glass to welcome you as His dear child.
So often Christians view Christ as someone who’s far away and can’t be approached until they have their lives in order. In Arms Open Wide, author Sherri Gragg proves that Christ is a kinder, more tender, more loving Savior than many understand Him to be.
Sherri writes in fictional narrative form while mixing biblical history with scripture, creating a setting that transforms readers back in time and places them right in Jesus’ presence. For thirty-five days readers walk with the Savior to witness miraculous healings and events, and give fresh insight into His power by thinking and feeling with people whose lives became instantly transformed by His love and grace. Readers journey with Jesus and His disciples in the most important time in history.
Hearts will be stirred and lives will be changed as readers draw near and walk with the Savior as never before. 

So much attracted me to this book. First of all, the title ... "arms open wide" has been a visual I have tried to hold in my mind of Christ. "A call to linger" ... is such a beautiful word picture of what God desires for us. Friendship. Fellowship.

Yet, as you know from your own lives, friendship does not grow out of nothing. There is time invested; hearts invested. And so that brings us to Sherri Gragg's wonderful devotional/storybook.

Basically in the simplest terms, Gragg's book is
a deeper, wider lens placed at the heart of bible scenes and stories. So, for example when the Bible chooses to say "Jesus wept.", Sherri chooses to open all our senses to what that must have looked like and felt like. The true essence of storytelling.

This little book is both beautiful on the inside and outside. The gold embossed hard cover entices you to open its treasure trove of pages. Then once inside Gragg opens up a vivid and stirring mental picture of New Testament Judea. She entices us to linger longer and deeper into thirty four different stories/scenes from the New Testament.

I chose to use the book as a devotional, so each day I read one of the bible stories. The first one in the book is the scriptural story of Jesus and his disciples escaping the crowds in a boat. Gragg invites the reader to read first from their bible (Mark 4:35-41), then to open their eyes wider by entering into the story right on the banks of the Sea of Galilee. Then at the end of each scene, Sherri Gragg has included a heartfelt prayer based on the eternal truth of God's character drawn from the story.

I found the stories engaging and lively. Sherri Gragg followed scripture closely adding in her own interpretation based on cultural cues and research she gathered while visiting Israel. She speaks in the introduction of her heart's desire to draw readers closer to the intent and heart of the gospel message. Too many times we read scriptures and try to squeeze their meaning into our own limited and sometimes incorrect cultural viewpoint. This book takes you right into the time and place that the story took place, much like a movie, incorporating all the nuances and social cues of the time. Gragg says that once she encountered Christ on his turf she was able to see and experience the bigger picture of a loving and redemptive God with arms open wide.

This book is a wonderful gift, or addition to anyone's personal Bible reading collection. It is especially perfect for people who love to mix fact and fiction.

For more information check out an interview with Sherri Gragg, her personal author webpage or blog and the publisher's (Thomas Nelson) info.

Thanks to Thomas Nelson and Booklook Bloggers program for a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinion. I was not required to review it positively.

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