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Thursday, March 15, 2012

"Flirting with the Forbidden" (Steven James)

TITLE: Flirting with the Forbidden: Finding Grace in a World of Temptation
AUTHOR: Steven James
PUBLISHER: Grand Rapids, MI: Revell, 2012, (192 pages).

Things are important only because of the stories around them, so begins the author. Instead of things, Steven James re-tells several Bible stories around certain themes. Stories like Cain/Abel, Joseph and Potiphar's wife, Hannah's silent struggle, David/Bathsheba, Solomon, Naomi/Ruth, stories of Jesus, the wedding at Cana, Lazarus, Paul/Barnabas, and several others.

  • Through the story of Cain/Abel, we are reminded that the saints of old struggle with both ups and downs, joys and shortcomings.
  • The author uses the story of Potiphar's wife tempting Joseph, to highlight 5 ways to tackle temptations;
  • Hannah's silence due to her barrenness, is a reminder that one should never give up on God;
  • The story of David/Bathsheba is a reminder for saints and sinners that wallowing in guilt is a 'subtle form of pride.'
  • This is my favourite. On Jesus' healing ministry even on the Sabbath, the author reminds us that the Devil works through 7 ways (103-104);
  • On the retelling of the Lazarus story, the author reminds us that life has 4 components: 'Believe, Receive, Suffer, and Rejoice';
  • .. and many more.

Some readers may be wondering if the author has taken too much liberty with the Bible characters in the paraphrasing. The author freely acknowledges that, taking some 'creative license' and at the same time maintain respect and regard for the Bible stories. In doing so, the author has hoped that the re-telling will have made the Biblical scene more vivid and easier for modern readers to identify with. I think this is a very novel way of bridging the ancient texts for contemporary eyes. Positively, it brings the characters alive. Negatively, some parts are fiction, and new readers may not be able to tell the which parts are truly in the Bible or not. Paraphrasing has its limitations after all. Having said that, I think there is something more valuable apart from the re-telling of the stories. The small nuggets of wisdom and learning at the end of each chapter are clearly the gems readers must not miss out.

Initially, the book reads a little strange, as I find myself constantly comparing and contrasting what the author says versus what the Bible says. While some instances are fictional, there are certain areas which the author has helped to expand, which throws new light on an old story. For example, the conversations between Paul and Demas, prior to Demas forsaking the mission team and even the faith, is a worthy read. In summary, the first-person narrative makes the retelling of the story very much alive and enjoyable. The nuggets of wisdom set forth plenty of applications for the layperson.

Rating: 4 stars of 5.


"Book has been provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc. Available at your favourite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group".

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