Monday, February 20, 2017

Same Kind of Different As Me for Kids by Ron Hall, Denver Moore

book cover
Same Kind of Different As Me for Kids
by Ron Hall, Denver Moore

ISBN-13: 9780718091798
Hardcover: 32 pages
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
Released: Feb. 7, 2017

Source: Review copy from the publisher through BookLook.

Book Description, Modified from Goodreads:
This remarkable story shows what can happen when we choose to help. Based on the New York Times bestseller Same Kind of Different As Me, this book tells the true story of Denver Moore and Ron Hall, who also created the delightful illustrations in this book.

My Review:
Same Kind of Different As Me for Kids is juvenile nonfiction--the autobiography of Denver Moore told in a simple, brief way. He started by talking about his childhood on a cotton plantation in Louisiana during the Great Depression. When he grew up, he no longer wanted to be a sharecropper, so he traveled to a city. He couldn't get a job, so he became a homeless person who felt no one cared about him. Ron Hall and others eventually reached out to him and showed him God's love. Denver Moore then worked to help other homeless people. The lesson tagged on at the end is that "nobody can help everybody, but everybody can help somebody."

The illustrations are by Ron Hall, but they look like a child drew them. They're very simple and lack detail. These vague, child-like drawings seem more suited to a made-up story or a story told by a child. Since this is an autobiography told by adults, I'd have preferred clear illustrations showing what life was really like or even some pictures of these people and places (if any existed) to help ground the story in reality.

I like reading Christian autobiographies to children, and this was worth reading once. It wasn't quite what I was expecting, though.

If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.

Excerpt: Read an excerpt using Google Preview.

Monday, February 13, 2017

God's Glory Alone by David VanDrunen

book cover
God's Glory Alone
by David VanDrunen

ISBN-13: 9780310515807
Paperback: 192 pages
Publisher: Zondervan
Released: Dec. 1, 2015

Source: Review copy from the publisher through Amazon Vine.

Book Description, Modified from Goodreads:
In God’s Glory Alone, renowned scholar David VanDrunen looks at the historical and biblical roots of the idea that all glory belongs to God alone. He examines the development of this theme in the Reformation, in subsequent Reformed theology and confessions, and in contemporary theologians who continue to be inspired by the conviction that all glory belongs to God.

Then he turns to the biblical story of God's glory, beginning with the pillar of cloud and fire revealed to Israel, continuing through the incarnation, death, and exaltation of the Lord Jesus Christ, and culminating in Christ's Second Coming and the glorification of his people.

In light of these wonderful biblical themes he concludes by addressing several of today's great cultural challenges and temptations—such as distraction and narcissism—and reflecting on how commitment to God's glory alone fortifies us to live godly lives in this present evil age.

My Review:
God's Glory Alone is a study on "soli Deo gloria." The author looked briefly at what the reformers and those in the Reformed tradition said on the topic and then looked at the mentions of glory in Scripture. He then discussed why this declaration still matters to our lives today. I appreciate that he didn't make simple things difficult to understand or make difficult things too simple and so lose important tensions found in Scripture. Also, he did a careful study of all of Scripture rather than just picking the verses that support his ideas.

You'll probably find it easier to follow his reasoning if you've read the entire Bible through at least once. He tended to move through Scripture quickly, assuming you're familiar with what he's talking about. I agree with his overall points and could follow his reasoning, but I still paused every few pages to think over what he said because he packed so much in.

I believe the theology presented in this book would be accepted by most conservative Protestant denominations. His main focus was on God's glory and on God's attributes and actions that bring Him glory. He did look at Scripture that teaches that God will glorify believers. He pointed out that even our glorification is God's doing, not ours, so this ultimately glorifies God. To quote him (page 106), "Soli Deo gloria is about God and how he glorifies himself, but one magnificent way God glorifies himself is through glorifying us and enabling us to glorify him through faith, worship, and whole-hearted service to him and our neighbors."

I'd highly recommend this book to those interested in a deeper look at this theological theme.

If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

The Book of Acts by Steven Ger

book cover
The Book of Acts
by Steven Ger

ISBN-13: 9780899578187
Hardcover: 288 pages
Publisher: AMG Publishers
Released: Feb. 1, 2004

Source: Bought.

Book Description, Modified from Goodreads:
Acts reveals the successes and defeats, the conquest and tragedies of the original band of Jesus' followers. In Acts we are able to share in the joy, the loss, the frustration, the passionate debate and the ultimate triumph of these pioneers of Christianity. These are ordinary people who, through the power and enablement of the Holy Spirit, accomplish extraordinary tings in the name of their messiah.

Steven Ger is a "Hebrew of Hebrews", a fourth-generation Jewish believer, whose Jewish-Christian perspective will bring new life to your understanding of the book of Acts.

My Review:
The Book of Acts is a Bible study--well, commentary--on Acts written by a Messianic Jew. He started by describing the background of Acts: who wrote it, when it was written, what was the purpose, etc. He then went through Acts, chapter-by-chapter. You look up and read a section of verses then read his commentary on them. He talked about the cultural and historical background to the verses, some meanings of original words, the timing of various events, and so on.

His Jewish-Christian perspective was interesting and brought out some insights that I haven't read in other commentaries. At times, he stated as if fact that a verse said something, but I didn't necessarily read it that way. He didn't always explain why he read it a certain way, and he didn't necessarily convince me to his viewpoint when he did. Still, it was interesting to get other takes on what a verse might mean. Overall, I'd recommend this interesting and readable commentary.

If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Unashamed by Heather Davis Nelson

book cover
by Heather Davis Nelson

ISBN-13: 9781433550706
Paperback: 192 pages
Publisher: Crossway Books
Released: June 30, 2016

Source: Review copy from the publisher through Amazon Vine.

Book Description from Goodreads:
Shame is everywhere. Whether related to relationships, body image, work, or a secret sin, we all experience shame. While shame manifests itself in fear, broken relationships, and regret, it ultimately points us to our fundamental need as fallen human beings: redemption.

Shame never disappears in solitude, and Heather Davis Nelson invites us to not only be healed of our own shame but also be a part of healing for others. She shines the life-giving light of the gospel on the things that leave us feeling worthless and rejected, giving us courage us to walk out of shame's shadows and offering hope for our bondage to brokenness. Through the gospel, we discover the only real and lasting antidote to shame: exchanging our shame for the righteousness of Christ alongside others on this same journey.

My Review:
Unashamed is an examination of shame and finding healing in Christ. By shame, she means feeling like you aren't good enough or aren't worthy. The author looked primarily at social, body, and performance shame--in finding your value in being accepted by others, in how you look, or in how successful you are.

She also looked at dealing with shame in your marriage relationship, how to parent without shaming your kids, and how the church can do a better job of being a place where people can share their shame struggles and heal. She helps you to identify your shame and it's origins, suggests talking about your struggle with safe friends, and applies the truths from Scripture to help you feel secure in the love God has for you in Christ.

I'm not married, have no children, and I don't struggle with the examples she uses so I didn't feel like this book directly touched upon my struggles. (I'm not bothered by people seeing my house in a lived-in state rather than perfect, I'm content with how I look, and so on.) However, she talks about very common areas of struggle for most people and the advice can apply to all "shame struggle" situations.

If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Last Days of Jesus DVD series

book cover
The Last Days Of Jesus
DVD-based Bible Study
Deeper Connections Series

ISBN-13: 9781628624328
DVD: 3 hours
Publisher: Rose Publishing
Released: Jan. 25, 2017

Source: Review video from the publisher.

Series Description, Modified from Publisher Website:
Gain a deeper understanding of Jesus’ last days before his crucifixion and resurrection. While most studies focus on laying out the events of Jesus' final days, this DVD study goes one step further to teach you the deeper connections that are rooted in the New Testament's first century context and provides twenty-first century applications.

This 6-session DVD study contains lessons on Jesus the Messiah, the Transfiguration, the Triumphal Entry, the Last Supper, The Trial and Death of Jesus, and Jesus' Resurrection. Each session features an expert scholar from the most prestigious seminaries in the country: Dr. Darrell Bock, Dr. Gary Burge, Dr. Scott Duvall, Professor Susan Hecht, Dr. Mark Strauss, and Dr. Matt Williams.

Perfect for small groups, Bible studies, or personal use. Leader and Participant Guides are also available which outline the video teaching with room for notes, and include photos, maps, additional information, and a five day personal Bible study guide after each lesson.

My Review:
The Last Days of Jesus is a 6-session DVD Bible study for small groups or personal use. Each session is 25-35 minutes long. It starts with 2-3 minutes of video on location in Israel (Ceasarea Philippi, Mount of Olives, Garden Tomb, etc.) with Margaret Feinberg. This is followed by audio of the study text from Matthew using the NIV Audio Bible. Then a New Testament scholar provides 17 minutes of commentary on the passage and 6-10 minutes of application. They walk you through the text while explaining first century context and cultural background information.

For example, Session 1 covers "Who do people say that I am?" and explained why people thought Jesus might be those people and what they expected of the Messiah. Dr. Williams also explained some phrases like "keys of the kingdom of heaven" and underlying word plays. Each session features a different speaker, so Session 1 on Matthew 16:13-28 features Dr. Matt Williams, Session 3 on Matthew 21:1-22 features Dr. Mark Strauss, and Session 6 on Matthew 28:1-10 features Dr. Gary Burge.

Overall, I thought that the three sessions I viewed were informative and interesting. I'd recommend this series as a small group Bible study.

If you've read this DVD series, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.

Trailer Video link:

Monday, January 16, 2017

Talk Yourself Happy by Kristi Watts

book cover
Talk Yourself Happy
by Kristi Watts

ISBN-13: 9780718083861
Paperback: 224 pages
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
Released: Jan. 3, 2017

Source: Review copy from the publisher through BookLook.

Book Description, Modified from BookLook:
How does a person bounce back after being beaten down personally, professionally, and emotionally? What impact do words, thoughts, and beliefs have in determining one’s level of happiness? Kristi Watts asked herself these questions after her marriage dissolved and she left a high-profile position as a cohost of The 700 Club. Known as the upbeat host who was always filled with joy and laughter, she soon stumbled into emotional pitfalls that left her discouraged, disappointed, and distant from God.

When one’s words focus on faulty perspectives, faith is quickly derailed, but by remembering God’s blessings and verbally claiming His promises, hearts change. Using biblical principles, Talk Yourself Happy illustrates the importance of relying on God to tame our tongues and train our minds, and it exposes the hidden traps that keep Christians from living lives of happiness, empowering readers with the ultimate transformation of their hearts.

My Review:
Talk Yourself Happy is a memoir about a dark period in the author's life and some lessons that God taught her through those trials. I'd expected the book to be focused on God's character and promises and contain a lot of Scripture quotes, but there's not much of this. The focus was mainly on the author and the hard things she went through.

The author came to realize that some of her attitudes and actions were standing in the way of God's blessings. There was an ongoing theme about not speaking negative thoughts aloud. I agree that words have power and that blaming or criticizing other people can stand in the way of your healing and joy. However, I felt burdened by the repeated idea that any negative thought will stand in the way of God blessing me--though I doubt the writers of the Psalms would agree with this idea.

Overall, though, her points were good ones. We feel happier when we remind ourselves of the things God has done for us (and others) and about his character than when we focus on our problems. Reaching out to help others, showing compassion and forgiveness, praising God, and seeking God's perspective about our identity and situation are all good ways to find happiness. So, overall, I'd recommend this book, especially if you're interested in "what ever happened to Kristi Watts?"

If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.

Excerpt: Read an excerpt using Google Preview.

Monday, January 9, 2017

Fear Fighting by Kelly Balarie

book cover
Fear Fighting
by Kelly Balarie

ISBN-13: 9780801019340
Paperback: 240 pages
Publisher: Baker Books
Released: Jan. 3, 2017

Source: ebook review copy from the publisher through NetGalley.

Book Description, Modified from Back Cover:
We all live with fear. It hangs around, whispering in our ears, reminding us of all we can't do or will never be. But that's not the end of the story. We also have a God who draws close to say, Fear not. I am with you. This Spirit transforms us into fear fighters--women breaking free of trepidation to find bold dedication to God's peace-, purpose- and joy-filled callings.

My Review:
Fear Fighting is about overcoming feelings of insecurity, shame, failure, and unworthiness. The author used a very pep-talk tone and included many short one-liners like "Let blind faith be your guide" and "Your stain is really your gain." She wrote very poetically, which I realize some people like but I prefer authors to be clear about their meaning. She could also get wordy, and I sometimes lost track of what her point was by the end of a poetical passage. So this wasn't my favorite writing style, but others may love it.

The overall idea seemed to be that, if we follow God's ways and humble ourselves, the result is a courageous, bold, Spirit-led life. That we just need to take courage and fear will fall away because God is eagerly waiting to rescue us if we ask for help. She had some good points and suggested some things you can do. But I guess I was hoping for more focus on Bible verses than on pep and metaphors.

If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.

Excerpt: Read an excerpt using Google Preview.