God’s Favorite Place on Earth is the newest book by Frank Viola. It is all about the town of Bethany, and the lessons we can learn from the time Jesus spent there. (Bethany was the home of Lazarus, Mary and Martha. It was where Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead and Mary and Martha argued over housework).
This is a book of several parts. Each chapter focuses on a different visit to Bethany and starts by retelling it in a fictional novel style told from Larazus’ perspective. Following that there is the original Biblical text, and then Walking it out which looks at the lessons we can learn from that visit. Dotted throughout are lots of additional insights into 1st century Israel life that help us understand better what is going on, and the various religious and cultural barriers that Jesus wasn’t afraid to cross.
I really enjoyed the style of this book. Retelling the familiar stories through Lazarus as a narrator gave a fresh angle to them, while the application sections which follow make this a very useful, applicable book which has much for us to learn from, covering topics such as rejection, suffering, living to please only God (our audience of one), dealing with waiting on God, freedom from the bondage of guilt, the power of resurrection and the supreme worth of Christ. A particular highlight for me was when Frank looked at Mary anointing Jesus with expensive perfume and he draws out the application that nothing is too valuable for Jesus, that it isn’t a waste to give your life to Jesus, that he is worthy of our best.
As well as being primarily based on the gospel account of Jesus in Bethany the application sections are heavily supported with verses from throughout the Bible – this is a very Biblically saturated book, full of applicable wisdom (much of which is helpful set out with numbered headings to be more memorable) and is well worth checking out. There is also the obligatory study question section at the end. The only flaw I have is that for most of the Bible quotes the verse reference is only given as an endnote rather than in the main text, which personally I find annoying. (Oh, and the American spelling of Favourite, but you can’t really judge a book for that…)
NB I was sent a free copy of this book prior to its publication by David C Cook in order to review it. I was not obliged to give a positive review.