Thursday, November 2, 2017

The Master's Mind by Lance Hahn

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The Master's Mind
by Lance Hahn

ISBN-13: 9780718035433
Paperback: 240 pages
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
Released: Sept. 19, 2017

Source: ebook review copy from the publisher through BookLook.

Book Description, Modified from BookLook:
If what we think determines who we are, then why are so many of us insecure, depressed, and confused? This is not the condition God has in mind for us. In fact, the Master’s overwhelming desire is to see us full of hope, strength, peace, joy, and love. So where do we go wrong?

Someone is running the show in our minds and it’s not us—at least not the real us, nor the real owner. When we lose our identity, we become tossed about on the sea of a million random influences. Between the world, the flesh, and the devil, we don’t know what to think, and therefore our lives are filled with hurt, pain, and regret.

Pastor Lance knows first-hand the power that comes from a mind at rest, trusting God’s goodness despite the voices in our head. Jesus died to set us free. He made a way for our souls to be rescued from our enemies. It’s time for us to take back control of our minds, to master them and bring them back in alignment with the Master’s will.

My Review:
The Master's Mind explores how what we think and believe shapes our behavior. "Transformation always begins in our thoughts." By studying what God teaches us to be true about ourselves and Him and aligning our thoughts to these truths, we will change our emotions and behaviors. The author quoted Scripture or provided Scriptures in the footnotes to support or illustrate his points. He stayed focused (so no filler) and clearly explained his points. Overall, I thought the author did an excellent job of explaining the battle for our minds and how to find victory.

He talked about the influences that can lead to wrong thinking and common lies that we believe. If we learn to identify lies and Satan's strategies, then we can reject them and replace them with God's truths and right thinking. Of course, this means that we need to learn God's true and good things to replace them. He talked about temptations to addictions and issues like anger, anxiety, and depression. He also explained how to resist attacks by Satan.

The author didn't spend much time on personal stories, but he did provide advice on what helps from people who struggle with depression, anxiety, and such. He suggested practical steps like regularly engaging with a supportive community (especially with those who understand your struggles and can give good advice), daily reading of the Bible to learn the truth of God and thinking about these truths, engaging with God through prayer, and avoiding the situations that usually lead to wrong thoughts or emotions. Don't expect a quick solution. It's a process of learning to make right choices, which makes it easier to make right choices in the future.

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.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Stones of Remembrance by Daniel G. Amen

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Stones of Remembrance
by Daniel G. Amen

ISBN-13: 9781496426673
Hardback: 128 pages
Publisher: Tyndale House Publishers
Released: Nov. 14, 2017

Source: Review copy from the publisher.

Book Description, Modified from Goodreads:
An invitation to discover the healing power of Scripture meditation and memorization. There is a reason the Bible calls us over and over again to "remember." Remembering God's acts, promises, and guidelines for living is essential to a healthy spiritual life. Scripture meditation and memorization can also contribute to a healthier mind and body--reducing stress, increasing brain capacity, and even helping to reverse problems like memory loss. Stones of Remembrance includes key Scriptures to memorize and meditate on and tips for incorporating Scripture meditation and memorization into your life.

My Review:
Stones of Remembrance is a book of Scripture verses to read when afraid, angry, etc., or to memorize to strengthen your memory. In the first section, the author very briefly talked about the benefits of sleep, exercise, meditation and prayer, eating healthy, meaningful labor, close relationships, relaxation, forgiveness, learning new things, concentration, a positive focus, and being a part of a community. Under each of these subsections, he included several verses relating to that topic. Since topics like exercise aren't directly addressed in the Bible, some verses were a bit of a stretch. For exercise, he suggested verses about running the race or God giving us strength.

The second section contained 12 Scripture verses each "to remember when" you're anxious, grateful, afraid, depressed, happy, lonely, sick, angry, tired, impatient, unsure of yourself, experience doubt, need hope, need comfort, or need strength. The third section had 12 Scripture verses that "every Christian should know."

At the back of the book, the author included a list of tips for memorizing verses, a list of healthy snacks for boosting your memory, and a list of activities that can help improve your memory (like doing crossword puzzles or learning something new). I'd expected information about studies on how Scripture memorization helps your brain, so I was disappointed that he only included a few sentences about this. But I'd recommend this book to people who enjoy collections of verses for reference or memorization.

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.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

A World Ablaze by Craig Harline

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A World Ablaze
by Craig Harline

ISBN-13: 9780190275181
Hardcover: 304 pages
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Released: Oct. 26, 2017

Source: Review copy from the publisher through Amazon Vine.

Book Description, Modified from Amazon:
October 2017 will mark 500 years since Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses to the church door in Wittenburg, launching the Protestant Reformation. At least, that's what the legend says. But with a figure like Martin Luther, who looms so large in the historical imagination, it's hard to separate the legend from the life, or even sometimes to separate assorted legends from each other. Craig Harline aims to do just that. He tells the riveting story of the first crucial years of Luther's fame, from 1517 to early 1522.

My Review:
A World Ablaze focused on Martin Luther's life between Oct. 31, 1517 (when his 95 theses were posted on the church door in Wittenberg) to the Diet of Worms, his "exile" at Wartburg, and his return to Wittenberg in the spring of 1522. There was also a chapter summarizing Luther's life before this time and a chapter on what happened afterward (until his death).

The author summarized the gist of what Luther wrote and believed during this period, but the focus was equally on the political situation surrounding Luther. We got details about the various meetings that Luther went to and short biographies about the major players, like Frederick the Wise and the Pope. The book wasn't really about the theological issues (why Luther believed what he believed) but rather the impact those ideas had. The author wrote for the average person, and he tried to inject humor into the subject. Unfortunately, that humor usually had me rolling my eyes rather than laughing, but it may appeal to other people. Overall, I enjoyed this book.

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, October 23, 2017

Martin Luther by Herman Selderhuis

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Martin Luther
by Herman Selderhuis

ISBN-13: 9781433556944
Hardcover: 288 pages
Publisher: Crossway
Released: Oct. 31, 2017

Source: ebook review copy from the publisher through NetGalley.

Book Description from NetGalley:
Martin Luther is well known for initiating one of the most influential movements in church history—the Reformation. But this fascinating nonconformist, praised as a hero or criticized as a heretic throughout history, was first and foremost a man searching for God. This new biography by leading Reformation scholar Herman Selderhuis digs deep into the heart and mind of Luther, following him on his spiritual journey and revealing the many facets of his powerful personality, from loving husband and father, to serious monk, to feared opponent, to compelling preacher and writer. Selderhuis supplements his work with Luther's own words to help us see him as a man of flesh and blood, full of faith and full of faults, with a deep longing to live for God.

My Review:
Martin Luther is a biography on Martin Luther. The author described Luther's life from birth to death while focusing on his developing theology. The author summarized and quoted Martin Luther's own letters and writings. He also noted what people who knew Luther at the time said about him and some of what was going on in the world that influenced what he wrote about (actions by the Pope, Emperor, Turks, etc.). I thought that the author did a good job of showing the good along with the bad in a way that showed Luther as human but remained respectful of all the positive that Luther did. You get to know the man, not the legend.

The author covered where Luther went, what he experienced, his family life, and his health issues. But mainly he focused on what Luther's beliefs were, why he believed these things, and how these beliefs changed over his lifetime. Initially, this was handled by explaining what types of debates Luther was dealing with, what he said, and who influenced his thinking. Near the end, this became more topical--for example, what did Luther say about Jews (or Muslims, death, etc.), how did that change, and why did it change?

I found this book very interesting and informative. I felt like the author explained the various theological concepts clearly so I could easily understand the points being made. Overall, I'd highly recommend this biography to anyone interested in Martin Luther or the Reformation.

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.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Prayers for Hope and Healing by Sarah Forgrave

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Prayers for Hope and Healing
by Sarah Forgrave

ISBN-13: 9780736971515
Hardcover: 160 pages
Publisher: Harvest House Publishers
Released: Oct. 1, 2017

Source: ebook review copy from the publisher through NetGalley.

Book Description, Modified from NetGalley:
Serious or chronic medical issues bring a litany of painful and confusing feelings that only someone else who's been in a similar situation could possibly understand. Sarah Forgrave has walked the difficult road you find yourself on. No matter the road ahead, you don't have to face it alone. Even in the depths of your worst emotional and physical pain, God is right there beside you, offering His comfort, love, and peace.

As you read these heartfelt prayers and devotions, let this book be your manual to help navigate the difficult set of emotions that come with health issues. Read it front to back or go directly to the devotion addressing how you feel at any given moment...when you need it the most.

My Review:
Prayers for Hope and Healing is a prayer book covering 44 topics. You go to the issue(s) you're dealing with to read that entry. Most of the prayers seemed targeted at people who have to stay in the hospital, make many doctor's visits, have surgeries, and the like. For example, there's a prayer about difficulty sleeping in a hospital room and a prayer about difficulty sleeping due to medication, etc. There were also prayers about feeling bored, having too many visitors, or feeling lonely because no one is visiting. She has prayers asking God to help you continue to follow doctor's orders or continue to take pills that are hard to take or have bad side effects. Some prayers had a wider audience, like when you're angry with God for not healing you or you're losing your faith or you feel far from God.

Each prayer started with one or two Bible verses related to that topic. The author made a few "I know how it is" comments and invited the reader to trust God. Then there's a prayer for you to read. My overall impression was that the author looked to doctors for healing and to God for the hope, peace, and strength to make it through. As God made the universe (including my body), knows how everything works, and can heal with a word (and can heal me when the doctors can't), I was disappointed that God seemed relegated to a more emotional-support role.

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, October 9, 2017

Renegade: Martin Luther by Andrea Grosso Ciponte, Dacia Palmerino

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Renegade: Martin Luther
by Andrea Grosso Ciponte,
Dacia Palmerino

ISBN-13: 9780874862072
Paperback: 160 pages
Publisher: Plough Publishing House
Released: Oct. 9, 2017

Source: ebook review copy from the publisher through NetGalley.

Book Description, Modified from NetGalley:
Five hundred years ago a brash young monk single-handedly confronted the most powerful institutions of his day. His bold stand sparked the Protestant Reformation and marked one of the great turning points in history. Martin Luther, a spiritual and historical giant, is loved and hated to this day – and for good reason.

The anniversary of the revolution he helped start has produced a spate of doorstop-sized biographies. Luckily, today there exists a more accessible format that does justice to such a colorful, complex character and his tumultuous life and times – the graphic novel. Each chapter of Luther’s life comes vividly to life thanks to cutting-edge graphic techniques, meticulous historical research, and compelling writing.

My Review:
Renegade is a graphic novel biography of Martin Luther's life. I assume the intended audience is protestant Christians, so I was surprised by the gore and use of bad language. A couple bad guys say things like "D*mned stubborn idiots!" and even Luther says, "Who the h*ll does she want?"

I understand that life and war back then were pretty cruel, but I was surprised by the focus on gore when the graphic novel format limits how much information can be included. Why not focus more on what Luther did and said rather than panel after panel of scenes of people dying horribly or him being bored during a time when he was hiding? Some pages showed people impaled on a tree, a woman slowly burning to death, and rows of hanged people with broken necks. We even get three panels focusing on a severed head that's impaled on a large hook.

The novel started with Luther as a youth and followed him until he died. It also showed how other people used the sentiments that Luther stirred up in the peasants to start a war. There were several pages with Luther in old age preaching against the Jews and blaming them for his sickness, plus some scenes after his death. I'll accept that Luther's marriage might not have been a love match, but he's shown as not even respecting her even as he agrees to marry her. I don't know--maybe Luther wasn't such a great guy, but I would have liked more on what he preached and did that lasted. It's what lasted that I'm interested in.

Update: After reading this book, I read two text-based biographies about Martin Luther. This is a case where a picture was not worth a thousand words. Some of the pictures in the graphic novel have meaning if you know Luther's story but meant little to me when I didn't. Also, the graphic novel didn't always accurately portray Luther. Sometimes it was due to pacing, like Luther bad mouthing Kate and considering marrying her within the same scene. Sometimes it was going with legend, like the inkpot and the devil before inkpots were used. Sometimes, it just wasn't accurate, like how he's shown as paranoid against the Jews. While he did write some unfortunate things regarding Jews, both text-based biographies said it was because he was frustrated that the Jews weren't converting to Christianity.

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, October 3, 2017

Enjoying God by R. C. Sproul

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Enjoying God
by R. C. Sproul

ISBN-13: 9780801075483
Paperback: 240 pages
Publisher: Baker Books
Released: Sept. 19, 2017

Source: ebook review copy from the publisher through NetGalley.

Book Description, Modified from Back Cover:
Confused, angry, and hurt after the death of his father, a young R. C. Sproul began his personal search for ultimate truth with these piercing questions: Who are you, God? And why do you do the things you do?

In Enjoying God, readers journey with R. C. Sproul to discover the attributes of God through the questions many of us have asked: Where are you, God? Can I trust you, God? and more. Dr. Sproul communicates deep truths in a fresh and easy-to-understand style as he shares his passion to know God and urges the reader to dig deep and seek the God who is alive, who is real, and who loves each one of us.

My Review:
Enjoying God looked at several of God's attributes, like omniscience, omnipotence, omnipresence, infallible, truth, justice, love, unity and diversity. Though written for the lay person, it's more an exercise in logic and philosophy than worshipful contemplation. For example, he tried to explain infinity (though he admits that finite beings have trouble with this concept). He delved into what is a being and how this shows that God is the Supreme Being. He explained how God is present in all places, yet He's not creation. He talked about how omnipotence means that God has complete power over His creation, not that He has the power to do things that go against His nature.

I appreciated the author's theology and enjoyed what he wrote. He did a decent job of explaining concepts that most people have trouble grasping. Overall, I'd recommend this interesting book.

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.