Monday, September 18, 2017

31 Proverbs to Light Your Path by Liz Curtis Higgs

book cover
31 Proverbs to Light Your Path
by Liz Curtis Higgs


ISBN-13: 9781601428936
Hardcover: 206 pages
Publisher: Waterbrook Press
Released: Oct. 3, 2017

Source: Review copy from the publisher.

Book Description, Modified from Goodreads:
With her signature ability to blend ancient truth with real-life takeaway, best-selling author and Bible teacher Liz Curtis Higgs examines thirty-one verses from the book of Proverbs, and then offers a unique "One Minute, One Step" challenge at the end of each chapter, suggesting a do-it-now task that requires one minute or less. Readers will quickly discover how practical and applicable the book of Proverbs is, and how the Lord can use even the smallest steps to lead us in the right direction.


My Review:
31 Proverbs to Light Your Path is a devotional study that focused on 31 verses from proverbs. Each chapter started with the verse from proverbs. The author then pulled out each major thought in the proverb and discussed it. She used phrases from different translations to help bring out the full meaning of the proverb.

I appreciate that she kept the focus on what God has done (rather than making the reader feel like they need to work harder to measure up). Each chapter ended with a quick activity that you can do to help apply or remember what you've learned. Overall, I'd recommend this book.

From page 6: "As to our being righteous, that is entirely the Lord's work. Righteousness isn't about our goodness; it's about God's goodness. We can't become "right-living people" (MSG) on our own. Our walk with Him is upright only because He bent down to carry a cross.

"It's His Spirit in us that prompts us to say and do the right things--to be loving, joyful, peaceful, patient, kind, good, faithful, gentle, and disciplined. All that delicious fruit of the Spirit is produced when we depend on God, not when we depend on our own strength. What a relief!"


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, September 11, 2017

Unseen by Sara Hagerty

book cover
Unseen
by Sara Hagerty


ISBN-13: 978-0310339977
Hardcover: 240 pages
Publisher: Zondervan
Released: Aug. 29, 2017

Source: Review copy from the publisher through BookLook.

Book Description, Modified from BookLook:
In a culture that applauds what can be produced and noticed, it’s hard to spend time hidden from others—the long afternoons with a toddler, the fourth-floor cubicle, the laundry room. Aren’t those wasted hours? Wasted gifts? In Unseen, Sara Hagerty suggests that God created every heart to be seen—and it’s the unseen moments that draw hearts closest to the One who sees them best.

Through an eloquent exploration of both personal and biblical story, Hagerty calls readers to offer every unseen, “wasted” minute to God so that they might find new intimacy with Him. She looks in particular at the story of Mary, who wasted perfume at Jesus’s feet. Mary had such love for Jesus that she was able to pour herself out for Him, though no one applauded. In doing so, with nothing tangible to show for her actions, she changed the world.


My Review:
Unseen is part memoir and part Bible study. Her intent is to help draw people into a closer relationship with God. The author looked at how Mary lavishly "wasted" her time (and perfume) on Jesus and was praised for it. Using Mary's story as a jumping off point, she talked about things that happened in her life that illustrated a certain point or that showed how mundane moments drew her closer to God.

As a young adult, she felt that any minute not spent serving God was "wasted," so the overall theme was how God taught her that the ordinary, unseen moments of life also please Him. She talked about how we can deepen our relationship with God and see His greatness in the everyday moments of life, like doing laundry. The author (and her husband) adopted orphans from several foreign countries, so she explained how raising them has given her insights into how we're like these adopted orphans in our relationship with God. Overall, I'd highly recommend 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, September 4, 2017

Every Piece of Me by Jerusha Clark

book cover
Every Piece of Me
by Jerusha Clark


ISBN-13: 9780801007644
Paperback: 240 pages
Publisher: Baker Books
Released: Aug. 1, 2017

Source: ebook review copy from the publisher through NetGalley.

Book Description, Modified from Back Cover:
Throughout Scripture, God reveals himself as the great I Am. He does not define himself with reference to any thing, person, or trait. He is, and that is enough. Women find themselves in a far different situation. When we introduce ourselves, we typically describe ourselves in terms of our relationships (the wife, mother, daughter, sister, or friend of someone else) or in terms of our accomplishments (our title, position, education, or accolades). When our identity is wrapped up in these external things, we inevitably (and exhaustingly!) strive to prove ourselves worthy of love, attention, or affirmation.

God never meant for us to focus on whether we are "enough," whether we measure up. Jerusha Clark discovered this while exploring Jesus's seven powerful "I am" statements recorded in the Gospel of John. She invites women to join her in embracing the life and truth of these words, relishing the freedom of an identity fixed on Christ alone while leaving behind fear, bitterness, busyness, and toxic thoughts.


My Review:
Every Piece of Me studied several of Jesus's "I Am" statements and linked them to various issues with which women often struggle. The author talked about each "I am" statement, explained the context of what was going on when Jesus said it, then talked about a related issue that women deal with. She also suggested some things you can do to shift your outlook into alignment with how God views you.

For example, she talked about the "I am the bread of life" statement. Talk about eating led to talk about how women view their bodies and appearance. She suggested things like noticing when you think or say self-judgmental words and to take a "fast" on saying them. In the section on the Good Shepherd, she talked about anxiety and worry. When feeling anxious, she suggested thinking of things that you're grateful for since you can't think anxious thoughts at the same time as grateful thoughts.

The book was easy to read and understand. She made good points and offered useful suggestions on how to shift your focus over time. Overall, I'd recommend this book, especially if you feel like your identity is wrapped up in what you do or how you look and that you'll never measure up.


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, August 28, 2017

Get Out of That Pit by Beth Moore

book cover
Get Out of That Pit
by Beth Moore


ISBN-13: 9780718095826
Paperback: 272 pages
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
Released: July 11, 2017

Source: Review copy from the publisher through Booklook.

Book Description, Modified from Goodreads:
From her first breath of fresh air beyond the pit, it has never been enough for Beth Moore to be free. This best-selling author and Bible teacher who has opened the riches of Scripture to millions longs for you to be free as well--to know the Love and Presence that are better than life and the power of God's Word that defies all darkness.

Beth's journey out of the pit has been heart-rending. But from this and the poetic expressions of Psalm 40 has come the reward: a new song for her soul, given by her Saviour and offered to you in Get Out of That Pit--friend to friend. This is Beth's most stirring message yet of the sheer hope, utter deliverance, and complete and glorious freedom of God:

I waited patiently for the Lord
He turned to me and heard my cry
He lifted me out of the slimy pit
He set my feet on a rock
He put a new song in my mouth

It is a story, a song--a salvation--that you can know too.


My Review:
Get Out of That Pit is a God-help book based on Psalm 40 and other verses that refer to pits. Beth Moore talked about indicators that you're in a pit, the different ways you can get into a pit, how to get out of the pit, how to know that you're out of the pit, and how to stay out of pits. About half of the book was about identifying when you're in a pit (you feel stuck, you feel ineffective against attack, you've lost your vision and creativity) and the ways you can get into one (thrown in, slip in, jump in).

She then talked about three steps to out of a pit (cry out to God, confess any sin and that you need Him, consent to the process and wait upon God as He works in your life). At the back of the book, she included verses that you can speak out loud to yourself for each of these three steps. She also talked about how others might not want you to get out of a pit and that you need to make up your mind to cleave to God and call upon His power for the rest of your life. She used Scripture and told stories to illustrate her points. Overall, I'd recommend 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.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Encountering the History of Missions by John Mark Terry and Robert L Gallagher

book cover
Encountering the History of Missions:
From the Early Church to Today
by John Mark Terry and Robert L Gallagher


ISBN-13: 978-0801026966
Paperback: 432 pages
Publisher: Baker Academic
Released: Aug. 22, 2017

Source: ebook review copy from the publisher through NetGalley.

Book Description, Modified from Goodreads:
This new addition to a highly acclaimed series portrays the sweep of missions history, revealing how God has fulfilled his promise to bless all the nations. Two leading missionary scholars and experienced professors help readers understand how missions began, how missions developed, and where missions is going. The authors cover all of missions history and provide practical application of history's lessons. Maps, tables, box inserts, sidebars, and discussion questions add to the book's usefulness in the classroom.


My Review:
Encountering the History of Missions is a textbook about missions history. The authors started at around AD 100 and went up to 2017, but the book was only loosely in chronological order. They took groups (like the Jesuits or Moravians) or movements (church growth movement, etc.) and looked at their missionary efforts. The focus was on how various individuals and groups spread the gossip (methods) and what the results where--did the church last or send out missionaries of its own?

They mainly looked at European and Asian missions efforts, though they did briefly touch on missionary work from all around the world. They looked at all Christian missions, including Catholic, Orthodox, and Protestant. However, they mostly looked at Protestant missions after describing the Reformation. They talked about missionary councils and congresses, movements, various specializations within missions (radio, Bible translations, etc.), and suggested what we can learn from past missionary efforts.

Most of the early sections gave some background to explain why the missionaries acted as they did and then gave short biographies for the notable missionaries from that group. There were also case studies and side bars with discussion questions. Overall, I found the information interesting as it provided an overall arc that I've not gotten before. But while I grant that this is a textbook, it isn't likely to keep the attention of someone not already interested in the topic.


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, August 14, 2017

A Week in the Fall of Jerusalem by Ben Witherington III

book cover
A Week in the Fall of Jerusalem
by Ben Witherington III


ISBN-13: 9780830851737
Paperback: 304 pages
Publisher: InterVarsity Press
Released: Aug. 14, 2017

Source: ebook review copy from the publisher through NetGalley.

Book Description, Modified from NetGalley:
It’s A.D. 70. Amid smoke, clamor, and terror, Jerusalem is falling to the Romans, its temple being destroyed. As Jews and Christians try to escape the city, we travel with some of them through an imagined week of flight and faith. In this narrative retelling of events in the ancient church, New Testament scholar Ben Witherington leads us behind the veil of centuries to see and experience the historical and social realities of the epochal event of the fall of Jerusalem.


My Review:
A Week in the Fall of Jerusalem is a narrative retelling mixing nonfiction about the Fall of Jerusalem with fiction about what happened to various Christ followers. The first two or three days focused on what happened in Jerusalem in A.D. 70 when the Romans finally broke into the city. Then the story shifted focus to the scattering of the Christ followers, their plans for the future, and things that had happened to them between A.D. 30 and A.D. 70.

The fictional parts were largely speculative. For example, as Levi (Matthew) flees Jerusalem, he meets other Christ followers, collects stories from Christ's life, then returns to Galilee to finally give up tax collecting and start work on his gospel. Mary, Martha, and Joanna flee to Pella, where Mary Magdalene has been living. Titus, Josephus, and some other people (some purely fictional) also have brief parts.

As the narrative unfolded, various historical and cultural elements were mentioned. The author provided sidebars that gave further information on these topics--things like slaves, taxes, villas, and coins. The author used modern wording and phrasing, so it's an easy read. Overall, I'd recommend this interesting book, though I liked A Week in the Life of Corinth better.


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, August 8, 2017

Fear Less, Pray More by Janet Ramsdell Rockey

book cover
Fear Less, Pray More
by Janet Ramsdell Rockey


ISBN-13: 9781683221852
Paperback: 192 pages
Publisher: Barbour Publishing, Inc.
Released: Aug. 1, 2017

Source: ebook review copy from the publisher through NetGalley.

Book Description, Modified from NetGalley:
This devotional guide features 180 readings around the themes of fear and courage. Inspired by this promise from God's Word: "Be strong. Take courage. . .because God, your God, is striding ahead of you. He’s right there with you. He won’t let you down; he won’t leave you” (Deuteronomy 31:6 MSG), You can live courageously every single day—whether you fear the unknown, aging, rejection, losing a loved one, being alone, or something more.


My Review:
Fear Less, Pray More is a devotional about "taking courage." Each of the 180 devotions took about a minute to read and looked at a different fear or situation. Because each fear was dealt with so briefly, the author couldn't go very deep. She mainly just admonished the reader--to trust God or find comfort in God's word or even to look at the situation as an opportunity to tell others about Jesus.

Each devotion started with a Bible verse that contained the word relating to that day's fear. The author told a story that happen to her or someone she knows, then wrapped up with why we shouldn't be afraid along with a short prayer. So, for example, we're told how she was afraid of her writing being criticized, but she benefited from it. So we shouldn't be afraid because we benefit from criticism.

The verse for the day (if read in context) often had little to do with the author's entry for that day, or it was a stretch to make it fit. Sometimes, though, she did take the verse in context and even looked at the events surrounding it rather than focusing on her own life.

From the title, I thought the devotions were going to be about how prayer can reduce our fears, but instead the overall theme was that we should take courage because God is with us. Frankly, though, after reading 180 different ways that life can be scary, I'm feeling more unsettled than comforted. I wish the focus had been more on our mighty, loving God and less on our fears.


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.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Turning Everyday Conversations into Gospel Conversations by Jimmy Scroggins, Steve Wright

book cover
Turning Everyday Conversations into Gospel Conversations
by Jimmy Scroggins,
Steve Wright,
Bennett Leslee


ISBN-13: 9781462747849
Paperback: 144 pages
Publisher: B&H Books
Released: Nov. 1, 2016

Source: ebook review copy from the publisher through NetGalley.

Book Description, Modified from NetGalley:
We live in a broken world. And the gospel is how God puts broken people back together again. Once we repent and believe in Jesus, God’s Spirit helps us recover and pursue His design. God is the one who created the world and every human being in it.

Authors Jimmy Scroggins and Steve Wright outline a reproducible method of sharing the gospel that has been tested in the real world. Turning Everyday Conversations Into Gospel Conversations equips believers to use the innovative "3 Circles," a user-friendly evangelistic tool for a new generation. The 3 Circles work, and this book will train you and your church members to use it. It doesn’t matter if you have been a Christian for decades or days, you can learn to do what God asks us to do—to make His appeal to others through us (2 Cor. 5:20). This short training manual will empower and inspire you to turn everyday conversations into gospel conversations.


My Review:
Turning Everyday Conversations into Gospel Conversations is a book about how to transition everyday conversations into a simple discussion about the gospel and about the 3 circles method of explaining the gospel. This method requires some practice if you want to become comfortable with it, but it's simple to use. It can be used by children to seniors and by new to long-time Christians. All you need is something to write with and write on.

The authors explained why they chose this method, how to transition conversations into the gospel, and how the 3 circles method works. You can use your own wording, but they gave examples of what you might say and do. One strength of this method is that it can be used by new believers to talk with their non-believing friends to explain the gospel. Overall, I'd recommend 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.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Pierced and Embraced by Kelli Worrall

book cover
Pierced and Embraced
by Kelli Worrall


ISBN-13: 9780802416315
Paperback: 224 pages
Publisher: Moody Publishers
Released: Aug. 1, 2017

Source: ebook review copy from the publisher through NetGalley.

Book Description, Modified from NetGalley:
Women today long to experience the same sort of life-changing love that Jesus lavished on His followers 2000 years ago. They still want to be seen and known and valued and set free. The author looks at seven encounters that Jesus had with women in the Gospels to show how His love can be just as powerful in our lives today. It mixes attentive Scriptural engagement with contemporary research and personal narrative.


My Review:
Pierced and Embraced is part memoir and part Bible study. The author started by summarizing a favorite story where a woman tries to get rid of a bull which is meant to symbolizes Christ. When the woman finally orders the bull killed, the bull gores her. Then the author talked about a very painful and upsetting period in her life when she felt that Jesus had "pierced" her. In later chapters, the author further described her hardest, most painful times. She focused on her angry response to these events, though they ultimately did draw her closer to Christ.

But most of the book recounted encounters that Jesus had with women in the Gospels, along with some background information (like you'd find in a good study Bible). She then took a theme from each encounter and wrote on that topic. So we're told what the Gospels relate about Mary (Jesus' mother), then the author talked about our calling. For the Samaritan woman at the well, she talked about labels and the lies we believe. For the woman with the problem of bleeding, we learn about recognizing our need for Christ. For the woman caught in adultery, she talked about forgiveness. For Mary and Martha, she talked about God's timing. For the woman with the alabaster jar, she talked about worship and how we should use our resources to serve Christ. And for Mary Magdalene, she talked about the role of women in church.


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, July 31, 2017

A Very Thankful Prayer by Bonnie Rickner Jensen

book cover
A Very Thankful Prayer
by Bonnie Rickner Jensen


ISBN-13: 978-0718098834
Board Book: 24 pages
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
Released: Aug. 8, 2017

Source: Review copy from the publisher through BookLook.com.

Book Description from BookLook:
Every day I wake up with a happy, thankful heart. From watching the leaves fall to picking pumpkins from the patch, from sharing a Thanksgiving meal with loved ones to learning how to give—there’s so much to be thankful for! Join these adorable animals as they say a prayer of thanks to God, who gives us every good thing.


My Review:
A Very Thankful Prayer is a board book for ages 4-8. The rhyming poetry was about all the things "I" am thankful for, from coats and scarves, colorful fall leaves, and the seasons to farmer's fields, pumpkins, and apples, to my family, star- and moonlight, and God's love. The illustrations have a "child-drawn" feel to them, yet it's still easy to identify the various happy animals and what's going on in the scenes. The text included who we're thankful to: "All good things are gifts from God"

I thought the use of "I" in the text without a reoccurring main character in the illustrations could be potentially confusing. There were different animals in each scene, so we started with a rabbit and have scenes with squirrels, mice, etc. Then there's a scene with bears around a table and the lines "I'm thankful for my family / and their great big, bear-hug love." That jolted me--I thought "I" was a rabbit! Still, probably not a major issue. Overall, it's a nice book with a nice message.


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:

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Noah Drake and the Dragon Killer by Ben Russell

book cover
Noah Drake and the Dragon Killer
by Ben Russell


ISBN-13: 9781540358080
Paperback: 176 pages
Publisher: Createspace
Released: Nov. 10, 2016

Source: ebook review copy from the author.

Book Description, Modified from Goodreads:
Noah Drake loves dinosaurs and would like to dig up dinosaur bones someday. Then he discovered that real dinosaurs might still be around! While on vacation to Lake Champion with his family, he hears stories about Champ, a lake monster. He'd love to capture Champ, just like he captures dinos on a video game he enjoys. But he starts to rethink things when he meets two men who are set on killing Champ for fame and fortune. Noah Drake And The Dragon Killer is a middle grade to young adult story that teaches creation. You'll enjoy Noah Drake if you like Jonathan Park!


My Review:
Noah Drake and the Dragon Killer is a Christian middle grade adventure novel. The story follows a family during their eventful vacation to Lake Champion, where some of them see the local sea monster (Champ) and encounter some dragon hunters. Noah would love to capture Champ--like on a video game he plays--but the dragon hunters are out to kill Champ for fame and fortune. The "good guy" main characters were engaging while the "bad guy" characters were largely comical.

Several characters were Christians who believed that God created dinosaurs about 6,000 years ago and that we knew them by the name "dragons" until the 1800s. There was also a simplified explanation of why a character didn't believe in evolution. There was no sex, gore, or bad language. Overall, I'd recommend this fun, engaging story.


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, July 25, 2017

All in All Journaling Devotional by Sophie Hudson

book cover
All in All Journaling Devotional
by Sophie Hudson


ISBN-13: 9781462743407
Hardcover: 304 pages
Publisher: B&H Kids
Released: Aug. 1, 2017

Source: ebook review copy from the publisher through NetGalley.

Book Description from Goodreads:
Wherever you are, let Jesus be your all. Written by popular author and blogger Sophie Hudson, this beautiful devotional journal for teens and young women reminds you that Jesus is your All in All—over all, through all, and in all that you do.

As you dig in to Sophie's words and wit, you'll better understand the wholeness and freedom that come from a life filled with Jesus. Each of the 100 devotions is followed by journaling prompts that will get you writing, keep you thinking, and help you grab all the goodness He has waiting for you.


My Review:
All in All Journaling Devotional is a 100-day devotional for teenage girls. Each devotion takes about 5 minutes--it depends on how much time you spend answering the journaling questions. The author covered a wide range of issues, from sexual temptation to handling drama or stress. She had good advice which she delivered with humor and a lot of grace. She doesn't make the reader feel bad about not being perfect. I felt encouraged, loved, and accepted.

The author described events that happened in her life and used them as parables to illustrate a spiritual truth or showed how the situation helped her understand a spiritual truth. She sometimes quoted that day's Scripture verse but usually had you look it up. She also gave four questions to help you think through what she just said, and there were blank lines in the book where you can write your answers.

The author points the reader to Christ and encourages you to spend time getting to know Him better. She showed how you can find peace, love, and grace in Jesus. Overall, I'd highly recommend this devotional for teenagers, and I think tweens and even young adults would also enjoy it.


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.

Friday, July 14, 2017

The Wisdom of God by A. W. Tozer

book cover
The Wisdom of God
by A. W. Tozer


ISBN-13: 9780764218088
Paperback: 192 pages
Publisher: Bethany House
Released: June 20, 2017

Source: ebook review copy from the publisher through NetGalley.

Book Description, Modified from NetGalley:
The Wisdom of God captures Tozer's teaching on this topic as a way to understand the well-lived Christian life. God's wisdom is a part of his character, inseparable from his love and grace, and knowing this wisdom means drawing closer to him. It will change your decisions, attitudes, and relationships, setting you on the path to becoming all God wants you to be.


My Review:
The Wisdom of God is hard to describe. Tozer kind of wandered from topic to topic, but each chapter related to wisdom in some way. He sometimes quoted the same verses or made the same points in different chapters, so I'm curious if this is basically a compilation of his sermons relating to wisdom. However, his overall point is that human wisdom can't save you, only God's wisdom (a.k.a. Jesus).

He started by talking about how the logos in John 1:1-3 reflects the ancient Hebrew understanding of the word and of wisdom, not the Greek philosophy involving logos. He then talked about why we need wisdom and where we find it (Christ!).

He then started preaching against modern (at that time) trends, like people using "precipitation" instead of crediting God for the rain. His underlying point was against placing your confidence in man's wisdom, but the way he stated this came across as anti-science, anti-logic (don't try to prove God), etc. Again, while his underlying point seems to be that true Christians have to repent, see a life change, and shouldn't compromise God's teachings to avoid conflict, he came across as saying that true Christians should have a profound conversion experience, be deeply committed to God, and make enemies out of everyone as they stand up for God's truth.

As I didn't have a conversion experience involving profound remorse and have managed to stand up for the truth without making enemies of everyone, I felt like he went looking to the extreme to make his points. Or maybe I'm just misunderstanding him. I've enjoyed Tozer's books in the past, but this one left me feeling unsure about what he meant in some parts.


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, July 12, 2017

Insights on Hebrews by Charles R. Swindoll

book cover
Insights on Hebrews
by Charles R. Swindoll


ISBN-13: 9781414393773
Hardcover: 320 pages
Publisher: Tyndale House Publishers
Released: May 9, 2017

Source: Bought on Amazon.

Book Description from Goodreads:
The 15-volume Swindoll's Living Insights New Testament Commentary series draws on Gold Medallion Award-winner Chuck Swindoll's 50 years of experience with studying and preaching God's Word. Each volume combines verse-by-verse commentary, charts, maps, photos, key terms, and background articles with practical application. The newly updated volumes now include parallel presentations of the NLT and NASB before each section. This series is a must-have for pastors, teachers, and anyone else who is seeking a deeply practical resource for exploring God's Word.

My Review:
Insights on Hebrews is a Bible commentary. The author explained the meaning of various key Greek words and provided information on the cultural and historical background. The author gave a paragraph or two of Scripture and then studied through that verse-by-verse. At the end of each section, he discussed how we can apply the writer's message to our own lives. He also included occasional "journal" pages were he talked about how those verses had been applied or worked out in his life.

Though you can look up information on just a single verse, this is more a Bible study book where it's assumed you'll read the whole book. Most of the text focused on clarifying what the verses mean so the reader can better understand them. Some parts were more of a sermon, where he tells the reader what to understand from it.

This book was easy to follow and understand. I was surprised that the book was relatively small as I'd expected him to have a lot to say about Hebrews. He did cover the main points of the text, but he didn't dig as deep as he could. I'm reading another commentary on Hebrews that made many of the same points (and more), but it also required more focus to follow the text. So, overall, I'd recommend 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.

Friday, July 7, 2017

Hope. . .the Best of Things by Joni Eareckson Tada

book cover
Hope. . .the Best of Things
by Joni Eareckson Tada


ISBN-13: 978-1433502194
Paperback: 32 pages
Publisher: Crossway Books
Released: June 15, 2008

Source: ebook bought through Christianbook.com.

Book Description from Goodreads:
If hope is scarce in your life, this special booklet will draw you-toward a fresh perspective on suffering, true scriptural encouragement, and this beloved author's hard-won insights about the goodness of God.

In her life's journey Joni has learned to meet suffering on God's terms. She has learned that joy is for real. And most of all, she has learned that hope is the best of things when we give it a chance. This book powerfully communicates all these truths from someone who has lived them, so that you can live them too, no matter what you're going through.


My Review:
Hope. . .the Best of Things "Hope...the Best of Things" is a short booklet aimed at people who feel hopeless, especially those with disabilities. The title comes from the movie "The Shawshank Redemption." The scenes involving the quote are described in the book along with the lesson that we need to get busy living or get busy dying. We also learn a bit about Joni's story and how she leans on God each day to get through the day.

She talked about how God allows bad things to happen so that we will learn to more fully depend upon Him (and that He is strong) and about sharing with others the hope we have through Jesus. She also talked about the coming joy we have to look forward to when we gain glorified bodies and are with Jesus forever. Much of this is explained through stories from her own life or of people she knows.


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.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Coffee for Your Heart by Holley Gerth

book cover
Coffee for Your Heart
by Holley Gerth


ISBN-13: 9780736970945
Paperback: 176 pages
Publisher: Harvest House Publishers
Released: July 1, 2017

Source: ebook review copy from the publisher through NetGalley.

Book Description from Goodreads:
Discover more joy, peace, and purpose every morning as you listen to the voice of the One who delights in you! In Coffee for Your Heart, bestselling author Holley Gerth shares 40 encouraging and powerful reminders of how God sees you as His beloved daughter. You are...wonderfully made, chosen, irreplaceable, strong, never alone, ...and so much more!

This noisy world can make it hard to hear the assurances of God. Let His voice be the loudest one in your life as He stirs up your hope and confidence each new day. Previously published as God's Heart for You.


My Review:
Previously published as "God's Heart for You." Coffee for Your Heart is a 40-day devotional that encourages women using Scripture. The author looked at how we are accepted, forgiven, loved, chosen, free, secure, known, strong, beautiful, heard, His friend, His child, defended, guided, understood, valuable, victorious, pursued, comforted, supported, never alone, desired, and more.

Each day's devotional started with a verse, then the author talked about the verse and how it's come up in her life. For example, how we might struggle with feeling accepted and acceptable, but God accepts us. Or how we delight in our children (even though they aren't perfect), which helps us understand how God can delight in us. She included several reflection questions relating to the Bible verse and her commentary and a short, open-ended prayer (so you can personalize the prayer). She ended with a free-form poem reminding the reader of what you just learned.

Overall, this devotional left me feeling encouraged and closer to God. She made some excellent points. I intend to read this devotional again, and I'd highly recommend it.


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, June 20, 2017

Jonah by Priscilla Shirer

book cover
Jonah:
Navigating a Life Interrupted
by Priscilla Shirer


ISBN-13: 9781415868492
Paperback: 157 pages
Publisher: Lifeway Church Resources
Released: July 1, 2010

Source: Bought a copy for group ladies Bible study.

Book Description, Modified from Goodreads:
Jonah: Navigating a Life Interrupted provides a personal study experience five days a week, leader helps, and viewer guides for the group video sessions of this in-depth women's Bible study.

What do we do when God interrupts our lives? Many times, like Jonah, we run! In this 7-session Bible study, Priscilla redefines interruption and shows that interruption is actually God's invitation to do something beyond our wildest dreams. When Jonah was willing to allow God to interrupt his life, the result was revival in an entire city.


My Review:
Jonah is a 7-session group Bible study inspired by the events in the book of Jonah. It's a group study where the women meet together once a week for 60-90 minutes. During this group study, you watch a video that is 32-48 minutes long and discuss things from the workbook. The workbook had sentences that you fill in as you watch the video, then it had 5 days worth of work to do at home during the week. Each day has 4-5 pages worth of reading in the workbook. The main theme was about divine interruptions (or interventions).

Basically, if Jonah was given a second chance, we then looked at places in the Bible where people were given a second chance and then were encouraged to discuss times in our lives when God gave you a second chance. We were also encouraged to find a "Nineveh" to reach out to as a group. Our church tends to attract people who are involved in various outreaches. Our problem wasn't that we didn't want to do this but that we're already so busy.

Our group of women knew each other but were not close, and our leader was new to leading Bible studies. I would have liked to discuss some things brought up during the week that were never brought up for group discussion in the Leader's Guide. By the end, we were skipping most of the suggested questions and spent more time discussing the parts that we had questions about.

Also, it seemed like each week we were supposed to open up about ourselves. For example, we're suppose to talk about a time God gave us a second chance. We all agreed God had done so, but either due to "which one to talk about?" or "I'm not telling about that!", only the leader actually answered in front of the group. I think many group Bible studies try to get people to open up more than their level of acquaintance makes comfortable.

While I enjoyed getting to know the women who attended, I didn't feel like I really learned anything about Jonah that I couldn't learn from study Bible. The focus seemed more on looking at how something in the story might (somehow) be related to our lives and how to apply that. So it's more of a "Christian Living" study than a true "book of the Bible" study.


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, June 12, 2017

Insights on Galatians, Ephesians by Charles R. Swindoll

book cover
Insights on Galatians, Ephesians
by Charles R. Swindoll


ISBN-13: 9781414393766
Hardback: 336 pages
Publisher: Tyndale House
Released: December 1, 2015

Source: Bought.

Book Description, Modified from Back Cover:
The Living Insights New Testament Commentary series draws on Chuck Swindoll's 50 years of experience with studying and preaching God's Word. His deep insight, signature easygoing style, and humor bring a warmth and practical accessibility not often found in commentaries. Each volume combines verse-by-verse commentary, charts, maps, photos, key terms, and background articles with practical application. The newly updated volumes now include parallel presentations of the NLT and NASB before each section. This series is a must-have for pastors, teachers, and anyone else who is seeking a deeply practical resource for exploring God's Word.


My Review:
Insights on Galatians, Ephesians is a Bible commentary. The author explained the meaning of various key Greek words and provided information on the cultural and historical background. The author gave a paragraph or two of Scripture and then studied through that verse-by-verse. At the end of each section, he discussed how we can apply the writer's message to our own lives. He also included occasional "journal" pages were he talked about how those verses had been applied or worked out in his life.

Though you can look up information on just a single verse, this is more a Bible study book where it's assumed you'll read the whole book. Some sections focused on clarifying what the verses mean so the reader can better understand them. Others were more of a sermon where he tells the reader what to understand from it.

Overall, this book was easy to follow and understand. I use these commentaries for my daily devotional reading, and overall, I'd recommend them.


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, June 6, 2017

Included in Christ by Heather Holleman

book cover
Included in Christ
by Heather Holleman


ISBN-13: 9780802415912
Paperback: 240 pages
Publisher: Moody Publishers
Released: June 6, 2017

Source: ebook review copy from the publisher through NetGalley.

Book Description, Modified from Goodreads:
Included with Christ is a narrative-driven study where you can write Scripture into your life. Women will learn to spot their "shadow narratives"—ways they are living outside of their identity in Christ—and then rewrite those narratives according to biblical truth. This in-depth, 8-week study in Ephesians will help women combat feelings of exclusion, loneliness, weakness, decay, emptiness, and silence.

Included in Christ is designed to facilitate honest sharing and help you internalize biblical truth. It will also guide you in how to share your story and the hope of Christ with someone who doesn’t yet know Him.


My Review:
Included in Christ is an 8-week Bible study of Ephesians (with 5 days of study per week). Each week focused on one of seven verbs found in Ephesians: included, chosen, seated, strengthened, renewed, filled, proclaiming. For example, "proclaiming" talked about the words you use and about evangelism.

The overall theme is that we believe Shadow Narratives containing lies that make use feel excluded, weak, empty, etc. When we learn the truth and live like someone who is Chosen, Included, etc., then we start to live our Savior Stories. She shared Savior Stories that were written by people she knows, and she asked questions to help you identify your Shadow Narratives and rewrite them into Savior Stories. The last week focused on how to write out and share your Savior Story.

The author suggested visualizing meaningful symbols to help remember these verbs and how they affect our lives. This study can be done on your own or as a group study were you share your answers. Some answers involve revealing your fears and feelings, so it might work best for groups that are comfortable with each other. Overall, I'd recommend this Bible study.


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, May 30, 2017

A Brief History of Sunday by Justo L. Gonzalez

book cover
A Brief History of Sunday
by Justo L. Gonzalez


ISBN-13: 9780802874719
Paperback: 160 pages
Publisher: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company
Released: May 31, 2017

Source: ebook review copy from the publisher through NetGalley.

Book Description from NetGalley:
Noted Christian historian Justo González tells the story of how and why Christians have worshiped on Sunday from the earliest days of the church to the present.

After discussing the views and practices relating to Sunday in the ancient church, González turns to Constantine and how his policies affected Sunday observances. He then recounts the long process, beginning in the Middle Ages and culminating with Puritanism, whereby Christians came to think of and strictly observe Sunday as the Sabbath. Finally, González looks at the current state of things, exploring especially how the explosive growth of the church in the Majority World has affected the observance of Sunday worldwide.

Readers of this book will rediscover the joy and excitement of Sunday as the early church celebrated it and will find inspiration in an age of increasing indifference and hostility to Christianity.


My Review:
A Brief History of Sunday is a history of how Christians have viewed Sundays, from the early church to modern times. It's not a history of the Sabbath except in how Christians initially accepted then rejected the Sabbath and eventually came to view Sunday as a Christian sabbath. The author looked at (and quoted) documents from each time period to understand why Christians met on Sunday and what they did together when they met. He talked about the changing attitudes toward Sunday, including beliefs about how one should celebrate or honor the day.

Understandably, there wasn't much documentation for the earlier periods, but there's enough to know how early Christian's viewed Sundays and what they did when together. I found it interesting how much things have changed from the earliest meetings and how Constantine's policies started the shift in how the day was viewed. I enjoy learning about how things got to the way they are today, and I found this to be a very interesting and informative book. I'd highly recommend it to those who are interested in this topic.


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, May 24, 2017

Comment about BookLook

A few months ago, BookLook--a book blogger site for requesting books--sent me a survey asking how they were doing. At that time, I said their site was one of the easiest book blogger sites I used and, on the rare occasion I needed help, their e-mail help promptly and helpfully responded. After that, I requested a book on April 5...which was never sent, so I can't turn in a review. I've contacted their e-mail help 4 times now, and only received an automated response saying that my request for help has been received. No one has responded and no action has been taken to fix this problem. The only way to free up my account to request another book is to turn in a review, so...hey, this is my review! Sorry to all my readers that you got this as well.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Worship by Jeff Kinley

book cover
Worship
by Jeff Kinley


ISBN-13: 9781943852451
Trade Paperback: 180 pages
Publisher: True Potential
Released: 2017

Source: Checked out from church library.

Book Description from Goodreads:
Unfortunately, the image of God present in many Christians’ minds today resembles more of a caricature than an accurate portrait. Like a cartoonist’s sketch, some entertain a distorted picture of who God is and what He is like, with many relating to Him as a distant Deity or even as a faceless Force. Others see Him merely as a compassionate, caring, and convenient God. Worse, false teachers have also infiltrated the Church. Many deny core truths, reimagining God to fit their preferences. This flawed, idolatrous understanding reduces Him into a deity that exists to serve us and our needs.

But the God of Scripture exists independent of our thoughts, feelings and ideas of Him. He is not as we imagine Him to be, but rather who He declares Himself to be in Scripture. This biblical knowledge is the very basis and beginning of authentic worship. It is through this heavenly understanding that we come face to face with the real God, discovering and experiencing what worship was meant to be!

With author, speaker, and veteran Bible teacher Jeff Kinley as your guide, journey deep into God’s Word, where you will encounter not only a refreshing simplicity, but also a renewed level of intimacy with your God and Savior!


My Review:
Worship is a Bible Study about worship. It's not about music styles or other "worship service" debates but about what the Bible says. Starting in Genesis, the author talked about how worship was easy and automatic before the Fall. That's no longer true, yet we're hardwired to worship, so where do we start? "Your view of God will determine your worship of Him. The more you know of God's greatness, the greater your capacity to declare His praise."

So the author explored what God is like and why He is worthy of worship. He also looked at examples of "extreme worship" in the Bible, like when David got to dancing or the widow in the New Testament gave "all she had" when she gave her two coins at the Temple. He talked about sacrificial praise, given when circumstances aren't so great...but our God still is.

The book was easy to read and to follow. The author made excellent points. I appreciate that he dug into the Bible to look for answers. Overall, I'd highly recommend 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.


Monday, May 8, 2017

Forensic Faith by J. Warner Wallace

book cover
Forensic Faith
by J. Warner Wallace


ISBN-13: 9781434709882
Paperback: 304 pages
Publisher: David C Cook
Released: May 1, 2017

Source: ebook review copy from the publisher through NetGalley.

Book Description, Modified from NetGalley:
Forensic Faith will help readers: understand why they have a duty to defend the truth, develop a training strategy to master the evidence for Christianity, learn how to employ the techniques of a detective to discover new insights from God’s Word, and become better communicators by learning the skills of professional case makers.

With real-life detective stories, fascinating strategies, and biblical insights, Wallace teaches readers cold-case investigative disciplines they can apply to their Christian faith.


My Review:
Forensic Faith explains why Christians need to learn the evidence supporting the Christian faith and teaches some basic apologetics skills. The first part of the book made the case for why it's important not to just have blind faith that Christianity is true but to understand the evidence that confirms it's true and to build your skill at sharing this information.

Many Christian kids are losing their faith due to unanswered questions, yet the answers are out there. We need to train our kids (and adults) with the answers. Training involves practice, and the author described how he's done this with youth groups. I totally agree that kids should be taught the evidence and the skill to share it. I taught myself some of this way back when I first went to college, and it made a huge difference.

The author was a cold-case detective. In the second part of the book, he explained how skills he used as a detective can be applied to spotting evidence for Christianity and using this evidence to make a case for it. A lot of this information was from (and covered in greater detail in) his previous two books. If you've read those books, you're probably already convinced that it's important to learn and share the evidence for Christianity, but you might still be interested in his suggestions on how to train youth groups or on using the evidence to "make a case" when asked why you believe. However, I'd mainly recommend this book to Christians who aren't very familiar with the evidence supporting their faith.


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.


Thursday, May 4, 2017

Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus, Vol 5 by Michael L. Brown

book cover
Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus, Vol 5
by Michael L. Brown


ISBN-13: 9781881022862
Paperback: 353 pages
Publisher: Purple Pomegranate Productions
Released: Nov. 5, 2015

Source: Bought from a store.

Book Description, Modified from Goodreads:
In the fifth and final volume of his series, Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus, Dr. Michael Brown refutes the traditional Jewish concept that there is a binding, authoritative Oral Law going back to Moses. While showing great respect for his people's traditions, Brown demonstrates that when there is a conflict between the Bible and tradition, Jews are called to follow the Bible.


My Review:
Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus, Vol 5 "refutes the traditional Jewish concept that there is a binding, authoritative Oral Law going back to Moses." The author wrote as if talking directly to a traditional Jew who believes in the Oral Torah. He started each section with a defense commonly given for the Oral Law, then he described why this defense isn't convincing or accurate.

I'm not a Jew and was simply interested in learning what the Oral Torah referred to. Since the author assumed that the reader is well informed about the Oral Torah, my questions weren't directly answered. However, I did get an idea of what it is, how it developed, and what traditional Jews think about it.

The author was very detailed and exhaustive in his responses, looking at example after example. That's good if you're talking with someone who knows all of the counter-arguments, but it's more than I can easily remember if I wanted to argue the case myself. Still, I do remember many of the overall points he made. I suspect it's a good book in terms of doing what the author intended. However, I'm wondering just how many people who are that devoted to the Oral Torah would be open to reading his arguments.


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, May 2, 2017

30 Days in the Land of the Psalms by Charles H. Dyer

book cover
30 Days in the Land of the Psalms
by Charles H. Dyer


ISBN-13: 9780802415691
Hardcover: 256 pages
Publisher: Moody Publishers
Released: May 2, 2017

Source: ebook review copy from the publisher through NetGalley.

Book Description, Modified from NetGalley:
The psalms are among the church’s finest treasures, a collection of writings where many find solace, comfort, and hope. Yet some psalms refer to places and objects modern readers have never seen and can’t picture. Until now. From author and renowned Israel expert Dr. Charles H. Dyer comes a devotional that brings selected psalms to life. Each entry features a beautiful, full-color photo of a Holy Land site, a suggested reading from Scripture, and a reflection that incorporates Dr. Dyer's knowledge of the land.


My Review:
30 Days in the Land of the Psalms is a 30-day devotional on the Psalms. You read the selected psalm in your own Bible, then read Dyer's comments and application. He often started an entry by describing a stop as if we were on a tour of the Holy Land. He described aspects of the psalm that people who haven't visited Israel may have trouble visualizing or might misunderstand. There were full-color pictures of the different places under discussion, though many of these were different views of Jerusalem or the wilderness.

This devotional covered Psalms 1, 11, 18, 20, 22, 23, 30, 42, 43, 46, 48, 56, 84, 90, 91, 96, 100, 102, 118, 120, 121, 122, 125, 127, 131, 133, 134, 136, 147, and 150. Overall, I'd recommend this devotional, but I felt like I gained more insights from the author's Thirty Days in the Land with Jesus devotional.


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.


Friday, April 21, 2017

NIV Faithlife Study Bible, Standard Print

book cover
NIV Faithlife Study Bible
Standard Print


ISBN-13: 9780310080572
Hardcover: 2704 pages
Publisher: Zondervan
Released: March 7, 2017

Source: Review copy from the publisher through Amazon Vine.

Book Description, Modified from Back Cover:
Filled with innovative graphics and rich commentary, this visually stunning study Bible delivers helpful insights designed to inform your faith. Robust study notes are built on the original languages and adapted from the popular Faithlife Study Bible app. The balance of striking graphics, comprehensive study features, and intriguing insights from multiple points of view will keep you curious as you explore the treasures of God’s Word.

Features include:

-The full text of the most read, most trusted modern-English Bible – the New International Version (NIV)

-In depth book introductions that include an outline and information on authorship, background, structure, themes, and a map, a timeline, or both

-Verse-by-verse study notes with the unique focus of revealing nuances from the original biblical languages for modern readers

-Informative contributions by respected scholars and best-selling authors including Charles Stanley, Randy Alcorn, and Ed Stetzer, among others

-Over 100 innovative full color infographics, comprehensive timelines and informative tables to enrich Bible study. Three detailed life-of-Jesus event timelines chronicling his infancy and early ministry, the journey to Jerusalem, and the passion and resurrection. 27 family trees and people diagrams illustrate the interconnectedness of key characters in Scripture


My Review:
NIV Faithlife Study Bible is a New International Version with copious study notes. These notes included word studies, information on people and places mentioned in the verses, and cultural or historical background information. It also had maps, timelines, family tree charts, tables comparing different theological views, and infographics showing things like a fishing boat, ancient Israelite house, and royal seals of Judah.

It sounded like the study notes would focus on helping the reader understand the text for themselves rather than telling the reader what to think about the verses. In the New Testament, that was generally true and I felt the notes and graphics were interesting and helpful. It's in the Old Testament--especially early Genesis--that I had some problems.

The Old Testament notes often assumed that other Ancient Near Eastern beliefs deeply influenced the biblical narrative and beliefs. I believe that Genesis preserves the true history of the universe, and any similarities found in ancient myths are degraded forms of that true history. So I had problems with statements like "this reflects an understanding common in the ancient Near East" about how the universe worked, and then the verse was explained using New Eastern beliefs. And we're told that "the deep" in Genesis 1:2 refers to chaos and a chaos deity, thus God created chaos and so "the chaos is part of what God deems 'very good'" All because the word for "the deep" is somewhat similar to the name of a chaos deity in a religion that existed around the time of Moses.

The notes sometimes provided a look at a various viewpoints. In early Genesis, they gave more information about views that don't favor the plainly intended meaning of a verse. So we're told that the author of Genesis 1:5 specifies the length of the day with "evening and there was morning," but then they immediately say it could really mean any length of time. They could have simply stated the nonliteral interpretations rather than making it clear that they favor a nonliteral view. The notes for Noah's Flood mention that there is evidence that backs up a global flood and the verses clearly indicate such, but then basically say that a global flood is still questionable. I would have preferred it if the notes just stated the various views or that there are similarities with other religions rather than telling us what to think.


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.


Graphic Example:



Thursday, April 6, 2017

Reclaiming the Lost Art of Biblical Meditation by Robert Morgan

book cover
Reclaiming the Lost Art of Biblical Meditation
by Robert Morgan


ISBN-13: 9780718083373
Hardback: 192 pages
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
Released: April 4, 2017

Source: Review copy from the publisher through BookLook.

Book Description from Goodreads:
Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Your sight. — Psalm 19:14

Do you long to deepen your intimacy with the Lord? To find a sense of soul-steadying peace? To develop emotional strength? Then you will need to pause long enough to be still and know He is God. Trusted Pastor Robert Morgan leads us through a journey into biblical meditation, which, he says, is thinking Scripture—not just reading Scripture or studying Scripture or even thinking about Scripture—but thinking Scripture, contemplating, visualizing, and personifying the precious truths God has given us.

The practice is as easy and portable as your brain, as available as your imagination, as near as your Bible, and the benefits are immediate. As you ponder, picture, and personalize God’s Word, you begin looking at life through His lens, viewing the world from His perspective. And as your thoughts become happier and holier and brighter, so do you.


My Review:
Reclaiming the Lost Art of Biblical Meditation examines the practice of meditating on Scripture. The author started by explaining what biblical meditation is and the many benefits of practicing it (like peace, energy, hope, insights, etc.). He talked about biblical and modern examples of people who practiced biblical meditation and provided "quick tips" about practicing Biblical meditation. He also explained how to meditate on Scripture by pondering, personifying, and practicing the verses to help you to internalize these truths and gain God's perspective on life.

While it seemed like much of the book focused on convincing the reader to take up (and stick with) biblical meditation, I did feel comfortable that I could do it after completing this book. I enjoyed the 10-day meditation guide at the end, which takes you step-by-step through the "ponder, personify, practice" process using some verses quoted in the book. Overall, I'd highly recommend this book.

Side note: He included a story about having trouble sleeping once due to a sudden fear that popped into his mind, but meditating on a Scripture verse allowed him to fall back to sleep. I've been struggling with fears popping into my head when I'm trying to sleep, but I've been able to remain calm since I started pondering Bible verses as I go to bed. I felt like that story was just for me.


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, March 21, 2017

The Dawn of Christianity by Robert J. Hutchinson

book cover
The Dawn of Christianity
by Robert J. Hutchinson


ISBN-13: 9780718079420
Hardcover: 352 pages
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
Released: March 14, 2017

Source: Review copy from the publisher through BookLook.

Book Description, Modified from Goodreads:
The Dawn of Christianity tells the story of the last week of Jesus' life and the first few years after his death and resurrection. Using the most recent studies by top Christian and secular scholars, Robert Hutchinson reconstructs all of the known accounts of the witnesses to the resurrection and the initial years afterward, when they spread the word about what they had witnessed.


My Review:
The Dawn of Christianity is a "narrative retelling" of the last week of Jesus' life and of the first few years after his death and resurrection. The author used direct quotes from the Bible, summarized what happened, or created a fictional narrative of what might have happened. However, this is a commentary rather than pure narrative.

While talking about events, the author provided information about the political situation of the time and archeological discoveries. For example, he described what the temple looked like and the likely location of the crucifixion along with details about crucifixion. The author also talked about what skeptics of the Bible have thought and now think about various passages.

While he usually said "some skeptics doubted" or similar phrases, a few times he said "scholars doubted"--like anyone who believed the accuracy of the Bible couldn't be counted as a scholar. He also tried to explain away the supernatural elements. If Jesus raised someone from the dead, that person wasn't really dead but asleep and Jesus just revived them. (Happily, Jesus' resurrection was not explained away using this argument.) According to the author, Jesus just assumed that anyone criticizing the system would end up dead--yet he held out hope he'd avoid death and considered running away to a foreign country. He also had Jesus secretly arranging things like the use of the donkey and the Upper Room and keeping this information from his closest followers for security reasons.

The part about the first few years of the early church was mostly a summary of events described in Acts along with some political background information. The commentary effort was mostly spent on the events right before and after the crucifixion. There are plenty of books that cover that material and do so in a way that's easier to read (as this had a more academic tone).


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.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Alive in Him by Gloria Furman

book cover
Alive in Him
by Gloria Furman


ISBN-13: 9781433549779
Paperback: 176 pages
Publisher: Crossway
Released: March 31, 2017

Source: ebook review copy from the publisher through NetGalley.

Book Description from Goodreads:
God's grand plan for the redemption of creation has been in motion since before time began. The book of Ephesians lays out this glorious vision, highlighting the coming of Christ's kingdom on earth--a kingdom that will soon arrive in full.

In Alive in Him, Gloria Furman leads us deep into the biblical text, exploring the book's main themes and showing us how the blessings we have received in Christ empower us to walk in a new way. Designed to be read alongside the book of Ephesians, Alive in Him draws us into the plotline of Scripture, directing our gaze to the love of Jesus Christ--a love that has the power to transform how we live.


My Review:
Alive in Him is a thematic study of Ephesians. Rather than studying Ephesians verse-by-verse, the author took a section at a time and explored its theme. She assumed you will read the text in your Bible before reading this book. The first half is about what Christ has accomplished through the cross, and the second half is about how we can walk in the light of that reality. I liked how she pulled verses in from other parts of the Bible to help us better understand the points made in Ephesians.

While the author is very enthusiastic about the topics covered, this is a dense book as she didn't use many stories to illustrate her points. I normally prefer this style, but there were times I'd have to re-read sentences and was still left unsure exactly what she meant. It sounded profound but needed more or clearer explanation. Overall, though, I enjoyed this study of Ephesians.


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, March 7, 2017

Jesus by A. W. Tozer

book cover
Jesus
by A. W. Tozer


ISBN-13: 9780802415202
Paperback: 208 pages
Publisher: Moody Publishers
Released: March 7, 2017

Source: ebook review copy from the publisher through NetGalley.

Book Description, Modified from Back Cover:
Tozer helps to high thoughts of God brought low—yet no less moving—for the common reader. Jesus: The Life and Ministry of God the Son features selections from Tozer’s writings on the God-man, Jesus Christ. It follows the chronology of Christ's earthly life and explores classic themes of Christology, helping readers better comprehend and appreciate Jesus’ person and work.

When you set out to study Christ, you want to behold His splendor the best you can. Read Jesus and appreciate anew the Savior of the world and the power of the written word to glorify His name.


My Review:
Jesus is a collection of 17 sermons or essays by A. W. Tozer that are organized by periods of Jesus' life. The first essays tended to focus on the character and work of God and Jesus, and I enjoyed these. Some of the later essays got sidetracked into pointing out the errors of belief in certain Christian (or non-Christian) groups rather than focusing solely on the work of Christ. While interesting in a historical way (especially as some of these errors are still around), I didn't enjoy these as much.

The questions at the end of each chapter generally helped me to think over and process that chapter. Tozer tends to dig deep on a topic. He's not difficult to understand, though he often explained things in a way I'm not used to. I usually needed to stop and think things over as I read it so I could contemplate his full meaning. Overall, I'd recommend this interesting collection, especially to those who enjoy Tozer's writings.


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, March 1, 2017

The Story Travelers Bible by Tracey Madder

book cover
The Story Travelers Bible
by Tracey Madder
Illustrated by
Tim Crecelius


ISBN-13: 9781496409157
Hardcover: 356 pages
Publisher: Tyndale Kids
Released: March 1, 2017

Source: Review copy from the publisher.

Book Description, Modified from Goodreads:
Join Lana, Munch, and Griffin on the adventure of a lifetime as they travel through the Holy Land and learn about the stories, cultures, people, and places of the Bible. High-quality illustrations, engaging sidebars, and scripture passages draw kids into the narrative.

The Story Travelers Bible teaches kids that the Bible is more than just a bunch of tales told by parents and Sunday school teachers, but the Bible documents God's work in and for His people from the beginning of time. The Story Travelers Bible will take kids on a ride through 85 Bible stories.


My Review:
The Story Travelers Bible is a children's Bible story collection for grades 3 - 7. The stories were told in present tense since the modern main characters (Lana, Munch, and Griffin) watch from a time-traveling bus as events happen. They started at creation and ended with John's revelation about the new heavens and new earth. The stories were usually tied together with a summary of what happened between these stories, so it reads as one continuous story.

There were side bars providing simple memory verses, some commentary about the events, and information about the various countries mentioned. Overall, the stories were retold pretty faithfully to the biblical versions. They skipped over things that parents might not want to explain, so Ruth simply goes to Boaz and he wakes up--no lying at his feet--and Rahab's occupation was never mentioned. Jael "quickly and quietly kills Sisera" without the details of how it was done.

The illustrations were simple in style yet looked more like real people than cartoons. They were also reasonably accurate in terms of what the people and things may have looked like. However, the illustrator didn't do a good job with early Genesis. It's hard to take the Noah account seriously as literal history when the illustration made it look like only a few animals would fit in the boat. Then the toy-like boat landed, apparently about to fall off off the top of a small mountain peak, with no way for the animals and people to get off the Ark.

Eve was shown sitting against the forbidden tree while she tells the serpent that they can't eat from the tree or even touch it. Oops! And both text and illustration had Adam asleep in Eve's lap, so he ended up eating the fruit without knowing where it came from. That's the one addition made to the biblical text that had theological ramifications, and I don't think the biblical text indicates that to be true. Anyway, except for early Genesis, this was one of the better children's Bible story collections that I've read.


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, February 27, 2017

Really Woolly Easter Blessings by Bonnie Rickner Jensen

book cover
Really Woolly Easter Blessings
by Bonnie Rickner Jensen


ISBN-13: 9780718092566
Boardbook: 40 pages
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
Released: Feb. 21, 2017

Source: Review copy from the publisher through BookLook.

Book Description, Modified from BookLook:
Winter’s nap is over, and new life is all around! Flowers are blooming. Birds are chirping. And the Really Woolly characters are discovering God’s goodness all around them. Curl up with your little one, and join the fun while learning about the hope of Easter and springtime!

Adorable rhymes, sweet Bible verses, and prayer starters will make reading time a special moment for you and your child—to connect with each other.


My Review:
Really Woolly Easter Blessings is a Christian children's board book (apparently for ages 2-5 years old; I would have guessed a little older). Rather than a story, this book contains a series of rhymes. Each double-spread page contains a simple Bible verse, a fun rhyme based on that verse, and a very short prayer thanking God for that topic. The topics cover God's love and care for us (including what Jesus did for us on the cross) as well as new life and spring.

Due to the spring theme, the illustrations show the animal characters among lush, green grass and many flowers. I'm going to be reading this to a young one growing up in a city in the desert, so I'm not sure how well she'll be able to relate to the illustrations. However, I do feel that the author did an excellent job of making topics like God's forgiveness understandable to young children. Overall, I'd recommend this meaningful, enjoyable book of rhymes.


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:
"The LORD will come to us like the rain, like the spring rain that waters the ground" - Hosea 6:3

Grass of green and skies of blue,
Birds softly chirp their songs for you.
Tulips lift their sleepy heads
In yellows, purples, pinks, and reds.

We watch the seasons come and go,
But this, dear child, be sure to know:
The Lord is with you every day--
His perfect love is here to stay!


Dear God, I'm so glad Your love for me never changes or goes away.

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.