Monday, November 20, 2017

The Strength You Need by Robert Morgan

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The Strength You Need
by Robert Morgan


ISBN-13: 9780718079598
Hardcover: 240 pages
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
Released: Aug. 16,2016

Source: ebook review copy from the publisher through BookLook.

Book Description, Modified from Goodreads:
Pastor Robert Morgan leads a busy life as a pastor and is also a multitasking caregiver to his disabled wife. He has learned to fully embrace Psalm 84, as he moves from strength to strength. The valleys and the weaknesses are inevitable. Our task is to embrace these as we wait for God to take us to our next time of strength. After reviewing the 232 occurrences of the word strength in Scripture, Pastor Robert discovered twelve clear passages that drop anchor in God’s Sea of Strength. Among the kinds of strength available to every believer are:

Your strength will equal your days (Deuteronomy 33:25)

They go from strength to strength (Psalm 84:5-7)

The eyes of The Lord range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to Him (2 Chronicles 16:9)

The joy of The Lord is your strength (Nehemiah 8:10)

God is our refuge and strength (Psalm 46:1)

In quietness and trust is your strength (Isaiah 30:15)

Those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength (Isaiah 40:31)

The Lord will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden (Isaiah 58:11)

The Sovereign Lord is my strength; He makes my feet like the feet of a deer, He enables me to tread on the heights (Habakkuk 3:19)

Abraham did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God (Romans 4:20)

I pray that out of His glorious riches He may strengthen you with power through His Spirit in your inner being (Ephesians 3:16)

I can do all this through Him who gives me strength (Philippians 4:13)


My Review:
The Strength You Need is a study on 12 verses that refer to strength: Deuteronomy 33:25, 2 Chronicles 16:9, Nehemiah 8:10, Psalm 46:1, Psalm 84:5-7, Isaiah 30:15, Isaiah 40:31, Isaiah 58:11, Habakkuk 3:19, Romans 4:20, Ephesians 3:16, Philippians 4:13. The author talked about people who found the verse inspirational, about the context of the verse, and about what lessons we can learn from all that. His wife also described how these verses have helped her.

As I'm still building up my physical strength after a recent illness that left me very weak for months, I thought this would be a helpful book. Unfortunately, I didn't really find it so. First, the author sometimes interpreted the verse in a way I'm not sure was what was really meant given the context. Plus some of these verses were spoken to a specific person in a specific circumstance, yet the author acted like it's a promise given by God to every believer. Second, he sometimes turned the lesson into a Christian living sermon--how to avoid Asa's mistake, for example--which just left me feeling more burdened with "ought to be doing" lists rather than feeling strengthened.

I do like some of these verses and have felt comforted by what they say about God's character and how He helps us. But I don't particularly feel a surge of energy (like the author apparently does) after having meditated on these verses. If these verses are particularly meaningful to you, then you might enjoy reading about what he (and others) get out of these verses.


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, 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.


Excerpt:


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.

Monday, October 2, 2017

I'm Not a Scaredy-Cat by Max Lucado

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I'm Not a Scaredy-Cat:
A Prayer for When You Wish You Were Brave
by Max Lucado,
Illustrations: Shirley Ng-Benitez


ISBN-13: 9780718074913
Hardback: 32 pages
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
Released: Oct. 3, 2017

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

Book Description, Modified from Back Cover:
I’m a big cat. I’m a strong cat. I’m not a scaredy-cat . . . except when . . .

From New York Times bestselling author Max Lucado comes I’m Not a Scaredy-Cat, a hilarious new picture book to help kids manage their fears and worries and learn to trust God.

Follow a silly series of misadventures as scaredy-cat faces his worst fears: an appalling abundance of (gulp!) yellow and pink sprinkles on his donut, an elephant on the verge of a ginormous sneeze, and the terrifyingly loud chime of a clock. For each of the fears, Max provides this reassuring prayer for children:

“God, you are good.
God, you are near.
God, you are here!
And, God, you love me.”

A fun read for children and parents, I’m Not a Scaredy-Cat will open doors for important conversations about fear in a nonthreatening way and help you instill godly bravery in your kids.


My Review:
I'm Not a Scaredy-Cat is Christian juvenile fiction that suggests praying when you're afraid. It's a short, hardback book which follows a cute young cat that gets frighten by things like loud noises or unexpected things. They're generally things which kids can relate to but exaggerated so that they're funny rather than fear-inspiring. The illustrations are charming and make the cat engaging.

There are four sections that start with the "I'm not a scaredy-cat" sequence and end with the "Then I pray: 'God, you are good. God, you are near. God, you are here! And, God, you love me.' And I feel better" sequence. The fears range from scary noises to things that make you feel uneasy (like falling leaves or going down a slide) to times when you don't know what to do (like an elephant about to sneeze on you or a caterpillar on your foot) to when you feel skittish and tearful (like getting soaked in the rain or when a bunch of clocks chime).

I'm not sure how well the book would work by itself, but it certainly provides jumping-off points for discussing the fears that child has (some of which may not be rational) and how praying and trusting that God loves you and is near (to protect you, I presume) can help. Overall, I'd recommend this fun children's 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.


Sunday, October 1, 2017

Four Birds of Noah’s Ark: A Prayer Book from the Time of Shakespeare by Thomas Dekker

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Four Birds of Noah’s Ark:
A Prayer Book from the Time of Shakespeare
by Thomas Dekker,
Robert Hudson (Editor)


ISBN-13: 9780802874818
Paperback: 176 pages
Publisher: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company
Released: Oct. 1, 2017

Source: ebook review copy from the publisher through NetGalley.

Book Description from NetGalley:
As the Black Death ravaged London in 1608, the theaters closed, many people moved out of town for safety, and playwrights scrambled to find other outlets for their talent. While Shakespeare retreated to his hometown of Stratford, Thomas Dekker wrote Four Birds of Noah's Ark, a book containing fifty-six prayers for the people of London and all of England.

Dekker's prayers bear witness to his deep faith and profound understanding of human psychology with a power and poignancy that few written prayers in English literature achieve. Bringing this devotional classic back into print for the first time since 1924, editor Robert Hudson has included a fine introduction, annotated the prayers, and modernized the language without sacrificing any of its beauty and simplicity.

This lovely book at once surprises and enchants with its literary voice, devotional heart, and accessible writing.


My Review:
Four Birds of Noah’s Ark is a prayer book written in 1608 during an outbreak of the Black Death. Unsurprisingly, the author (a playwright) worked the thought that death could happen at any time into many of his prayers.

The prayers were divided into 4 sections. The first section had prayers for common laborers, like sailors, midwives, women about the give birth, apprentices, servants, and farmers. The second section contained prayers for the more upper class people, like the clergy, lawyers, king, and nobles. The third section had prayers about the seven deadly sins. The fourth section had prayers thanking God for our salvation through Jesus Christ. The final section was a collection of sayings by early church fathers, like Augustine, Jerome, and Gregory.

This version has updated the language of the original prayers so that modern readers can understand his meaning. The prayers give a unique perspective on the thoughts and beliefs of the time period, or at least of Thomas Dekker. The prayers were based off of Scripture and had sentiments even modern readers can relate to. Overall, I'd recommend this book if you find old prayer books interesting.


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, September 26, 2017

Fire Road by Kim Phuc Phan Thi

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Fire Road
by Kim Phuc Phan Thi


ISBN-13: 9781496424303
Trade Paperback: 336 pages
Publisher: Tyndale Momentum
Released: Oct. 3, 2017

Source: Review copy from the publisher.

Book Description from Goodreads:
"Get out! Run! We must leave this place! They are going to destroy this whole place! Go, children, run first! Go now!" These were the final shouts nine year-old Kim Phuc heard before her world dissolved into flames—before napalm bombs fell from the sky, burning away her clothing and searing deep into her skin. It’s a moment forever captured, an iconic image that has come to define the horror and violence of the Vietnam War. Kim was left for dead in a morgue; no one expected her to survive the attack. Napalm meant fire, and fire meant death.

Against all odds, Kim lived—but her journey toward healing was only beginning. When the napalm bombs dropped, everything Kim knew and relied on exploded along with them: her home, her country’s freedom, her childhood innocence and happiness. The coming years would be marked by excruciating treatments for her burns and unrelenting physical pain throughout her body, which were constant reminders of that terrible day. Kim survived the pain of her body ablaze, but how could she possibly survive the pain of her devastated soul?

Fire Road is the true story of how she found the answer in a God who suffered Himself; a Savior who truly understood and cared about the depths of her pain. Fire Road is a story of horror and hope, a harrowing tale of a life changed in an instant—and the power and resilience that can only be found in the power of God’s mercy and love.


My Review:
Fire Road is a memoir that describes how Kim Phuc found peace for her soul. She told her life story, which includes descriptions of the bad things that happened (the napalm burns, how political officials prevented her from pursuing her dream and used her as a propaganda tool) and how these events affected her emotionally and physically. However, she didn't dwell on the bad things so it's a sad but not depressing story during these worst parts. She initially followed her family's religion with great devotion, but the gods didn't help her. When a Christian pastor came into her orbit and answered her questions, she realized that Jesus also bore scars and endured pain.

As she told the story of her life, she also told the story of her spiritual growth and how God provided for her. She described how, as a new Christian, she fought depression and a desire to commit suicide by memorizing Scripture and praying the Psalms back to God. She talked about how she slowly came to forgive those who abused and wronged her by praying for them (as Jesus instructed us to do). And she talked about how she deals with the physical pain by singing praises to God (among many other things).

I'd never heard of Kim Phuc before, partly because I was born several years after she was burned. I found her story interesting and touching. People who do know her story will likely enjoy knowing some of the things that have happened in more recent years. As Kim acknowledges, everyone carries their own scars and pains, though not all are as obvious as her scars. I'd recommend this story to anyone, but especially to those who want to know how she found peace despite the pain and scars she still carries.


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 18, 2017

31 Proverbs to Light Your Path by Liz Curtis Higgs

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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.