Friday, July 31, 2009

Book Quotes: Amazing Grace

From Eyes Wide Open by Jud Wilhite (page 14; he's talking about the story of the prodigal son and has gotten to the point where the son decides to come home and beg his father for a spot as a servant):

You'd think the father might send him to the quarry to hammer stones for the next decade. Make him earn his keep by sweeping out the chicken coop for five straight years. Yeah, that'll show this little brat. That'll teach him. In fact, there is a similar story in Buddhist literature, and in it the father does make the son spend his life working off all the wrong he has done.

This is where the picture of God in the Bible is so radically different. There is just amazing love and forgiveness. The father runs to greet his son. He's not holding back, trying to settle the score. No calculating. No payback. He doesn't talk about the sins of the past.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Book Review: Listening For God

Listening For God

Listening For God
by Marilyn Hontz

Trade Paperback: 206 pages
Publisher: Tyndale
First Released: 2004

Author Website
Author on Twitter

Source: Gift from Author

Back Cover Description:
God loves you deeply and longs to speak to you. The question is, are you listening?

With refreshing humility and openness, Marilyn Hontz explains how God taught her--an ordinary person--to recognize his voice in Scripture, prayer, and even the mundane moments of life. In the process, God replaced the anxiety and lack of direction that had plagued her, giving her renewed purpose and an assurance of his unfailing love.

You too can learn to recognize and respond to God’s voice as you get beyond the busyness and distractions that drown him out. Listening for God is one woman’s story--yet it offers practical insights for anyone who longs to live out ordinary days with the extraordinary power that comes from listening to God.

Listening For God is God-focused and uses scripture to make or support the author's main points. She also illustrates how to put the various things she's talking about into practice by using stories from her personal walk with God. The book is encouraging and easy-to-understand. It has a lot of good, basic points and a variety of ideas on how a person can apply them.

If you know you should be reading the Word more or praying more regularly but just don't feel like you have the time or desire, this book will help you out. I'd recommend this as a good book for anyone wanting to hear from God and be used by Him in their everyday life.

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: Introduction
Do you long to approach God as you would a dear friend? Is it truly possible for you to hear God speak today? You can learn to recognize God’s voice, if you listen! You don’t need to be a super-religious person to hear from God. All you need is a hunger for him and a listening ear.

I have found what many have discovered: God speaks to each of us through his Holy Word, and he communicates with us as we pray. He whispers to us through his Holy Spirit in the quietness of our hearts. He does this because he wants us to be in an intimate relationship with him—a relationship he desired before we were even created. A. W. Tozer said, “[God] waits to be wanted. Too bad that with many of us He waits so long, so very long, in vain.” He waits for you to want him!

If God wants to open his heart to us, why is it so difficult to hear his voice? How do we respond when we feel like God is ignoring our pleas, as I felt while watching my mother’s life slip away?

The rest of this book explores my adventures in learning to hear God speak through the Word and prayer as I stilled myself and listened for his voice. My journey has not always been a smooth, easy one, and my aim is not to tell you how to build your devotional life. Rather, I hope the Scriptures and my personal experiences will create in you a deep hunger to spend time in God’s presence and learn to recognize his voice.

Listening is a lot like waiting. When we’re in the midst of either, we often feel like we are wasting time. Paradoxically, some of God’s greatest gifts come in the still hours we spend in his presence. When we really learn to hear God’s voice, we allow him to share his plans with us and actually involve us in his work! We never know what truth God will show us or how he will impact others through us, but one thing is sure: Life becomes an adventure.

God is always listening to you. He invites you to listen to him as well. “Be still, and know that I am God,” he says to you (Psalm 46:10). Listen. . . .

Read the rest of the introduction and chapter one.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Book Quotes: Not Good Enough

From Shame Lifter by Marilyn Hontz (page 31-32):

For fourteen years my mother had told me about God, taught me songs about God, and prayed with me. I liked the God my mother followed and worshiped. I was fascinated with the way He seemed to answer many of her prayers and the way He was so real to her. But I didn't feel good enough to have that kind of relationship with God. And because I didn't feel good enough, I thought I would not be pleasing to God. Consequently I believed God did not want to be close to me just as my dad didn't want to be close to me. An aloof earthly father meant an aloof heavenly Father.

Monday, July 20, 2009

September Book: Hearing Jesus Speak into Your Sorrow

Hearing Jesus Speak into Your Sorrow

Hearing Jesus Speak into Your Sorrow
by Nancy Guthrie

Hardback: 166 pages
Publisher: Tyndale Publishers
First Released: 2009

Source: copy from the publisher for a blog tour

Why I Chose This Book:
I chose Hearing Jesus Speak into Your Sorrow to be our September/October book club discussion book because it deepens the reader's understanding of the Bible and our view of God. It doesn't give easy, pat answers but digs deeper in search of truth and never denies your pain. This book focuses on Bible scripture and on Christ, and the insights she points out will bring comfort and healing to your deep sorrows.

This book was written by someone who knows deep sorrow (through the death of two children), but the book is for anyone who has ever struggled with disappointment, heart-break, or hurt of any sort.

For those interested in Hearing Jesus Speak into Your Sorrow, ChristFocus Book Club will hold a giveaway of the book on August 1-14, 2009. We will officially begin reading the book on September 1, 2009.

Back Cover Description:
In this paradigm-shifting book, Nancy Guthrie gently invites readers to lean in along with her to hear Jesus speak understanding and insight into the lingering questions we all have about the hurts of life: What was God’s involvement in this, and why did he let it happen? Why hasn’t God answered my prayers for a miracle? Can I expect God to protect me? Does God even care?

According to Nancy, these questions can either take us far from God or cause us to press into him more deeply as we search for and find the answers in His Word. It is as we hear Jesus speak into our confusion that we come to clarity about the promises of the gospel we may have misapplied and the purposes of God we may have misunderstood.

In Hearing Jesus Speak into Your Sorrow, Nancy shares the answers she has found as she has heard Jesus speaking promises ("My grace is all you need"), imperatives ("Be healed!"), and prayers ("Thy will be done") into the sorrow in her life.

Excepts from the Introduction:
It is found in John 6, where John records that many of Jesus’ followers had turned away and deserted him because some of his teachings were so hard for them to swallow. They were offended by what Jesus said, so they simply walked away from him. He didn’t meet their immediate expectations, and he seemed to ask of them more than they wanted to give. They were far more interested in what they could get from Jesus than in getting more of Jesus. And when Jesus made it clear that what he wanted to give them was more of himself, they simply weren’t interested any longer. At that point, as the throngs that had been following him began to slip away, Jesus turned to his twelve disciples and asked, “Are you also going to leave?”

I try to imagine the drama and emotion of that moment as Jesus said out loud what they were probably all thinking to themselves and as he called those closest to him to a decision. Simon Peter spoke up for the group, saying to Jesus, “Lord, to whom would we go? You have the words that give eternal life” (verse 68).

As my pastor read the Scripture, I could relate to those in the story who found some of Jesus’ words difficult to understand and accept, and simply walked away. Perhaps you can too, as you have struggled to reconcile your understanding of what you’ve read about in the Bible, and your expectations of how God cares for those he loves, with your own difficult reality.


Jesus said that we should listen closely to his words. “Pay close attention to what you hear,” he said. “The closer you listen, the more understanding you will be given—and you will receive even more. To those who listen to my teaching, more understanding will be given. But for those who are not listening, even what little understanding they have will be taken away from them” (Mark 4:24-25).

And so I have to ask you, Do you want to listen closely to Jesus so that he will give you more understanding? Will you open your heart and mind to hear him speak into your sorrow? The words written on the pages of your Bible are not just detached religious dialogue that fails to intersect with your difficult reality. They are God’s personal message to you.

Read the full introduction.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Book Quotes: Identity Theft

From Shame Lifter by Marilyn Hontz (page 153):

Remember those credit-card identity theft commercials that show a person calmly speaking about all of their purchases? Like the little old lady who talks in a very manly voice about the monster truck she just bought? It's her body, but the wrong voice is coming out. Similarly, when I was battling shame, it was as if someone else took my identity and used it to make charges against me, leaving me to pay for those expenses. I believe that Satan seeks to steal your identity in Christ. It's your body, but he is saying things through you like, I'm not good enough or I'm worthless. It's the right body but the wrong voice.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Book Review: Shame Lifter

Shame Lifter

Shame Lifter
by Marilyn Hontz

Trade Paperback: 206 pages
Publisher: Tyndale House
First Released: 2009

Author Website
Author on Twitter

Source: Review copy from publisher

Back Cover Description:
Replacing Your Fears and Tears with Forgiveness, Truth, and Hope

Not good enough. Is that how you see yourself? Maybe you constantly put yourself down or work harder and harder trying to measure up. Perhaps you're sure that people wouldn't like you if they knew the real you. You may even battle an eating disorder or other serious addiction, or suffer from a history of abuse.

Marilyn Hontz knows these feelings all too well. While her life has been marked by many outward successes, a series of devastating losses early in life left her feeling insecure and inadequate. In Shame Lifter, Marilyn tells her personal story of how she released her own shame and overcame the destructive habits of bitterness and negativity. This sensitive yet powerful book will help you let go of the unhealthy shame holding you back and embrace the God-given truth about yourself instead.

Shame Lifter is a Christian Living / Spiritual Growth book. Marilyn Hontz explains the sources of shame and how to find freedom by mixing this information into the story of her personal journey from shame to freedom. There are sections at the end of each chapter with questions and scripture to help the reader apply what was learned.

While the book does seem to be somewhat slanted toward a female audience, the information can be used by anyone. The book is easy to read and easy to understand. The points made in the book are in line with what the Bible teaches and are often backed up by specific scriptures. I, of course, would have liked the use of even more scripture.

The first half of the book focuses on humans and their behavior--identifying the source of your shame, how your actions can lift shame from others, recognizing a shame-giver and how their words affect you, and how guilt becomes shame.

The second half of the book is wonderfully Christ-focused and teaches on forgiveness, depending on God, discovering the truth of our identity in Christ and how God sees us, and the many ways God brings healing into our lives. (Yes, she tells us various things we can do, but the focus is still on Christ.)

I'd highly recommend this book to anyone, even those who don't personally deal with toxic shame. Quite likely, you know someone who is in bondage to shame, and this book can help you know how to help 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: Introduction
Do you ever have a vague, bogged-down feeling that something is wrong with you? Do you ever feel that while you’ve been told God loves you, He certainly must love others more than you? Do you sense that you can’t measure up to what people or God want from you? Do fears torment you and keep you from being a confident person?

Perhaps you feel a rush of anger whenever you feel put down so you lash out at the person closest to you. Or you might down an entire half gallon of ice cream after listening to your boss go on and on about how you should improve your time management skills. Maybe you berate yourself for minor mishaps. Say you accidentally back into a neighbor’s mailbox. Even after paying to have it replaced, you continue to feel bad about it and indulge in self-berating thoughts. Why wasn’t I paying more attention when I backed out of the driveway? How could I have been so dumb? And every time you drive by that now-repaired mailbox you wonder how you could have been so brainless to make such an obvious mistake. By way of contrast, people who do not view life through the lens of toxic shame may back into a neighbor’s mailbox and while they feel bad, they can fix the mailbox and then move on. They do not continue to degrade themselves.

Toxic shame can take an outward event (like hearing a critical comment or backing into a mailbox) and turn it inward. It causes you to focus on yourself in a negative way. Instead of recognizing that you accidentally hit a mailbox, toxic shame can make you believe that you are a mailbox hitter and always will be. If you make a mistake while presenting a workshop for your company or church, you tell yourself, I’m not a good presenter. I’ll never be able to speak again. You believe the internal message and refuse to give another presentation—even though you are very capable.

Shame is bound up in who we are and not so much with what we do. Author Stephen Seamands writes, “Shame, though it may be triggered by something we have said or done, is about our being.”

Read the rest of the introduction.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Book Review: Surrender All

Surrender All

Surrender All
by Joni Lamb

Hardback: 203 pages
Publisher: WaterBrook Press
First Released: 2008

Author Website

Source: Unrequested review copy from media and public relations agency

Back Cover Description:
The path of surrender always leads to contentment.

Sometimes life doesn't make sense: Your heart breaks. Your dreams shatter. You feel confusion about your purpose, alone, or fearful for your future or that of those you love. Sometimes you simply want...more.

With eye opening insight, TV executive, talk show personality, and inspirational singer Joni Lamb shows how to meet the struggles and hardships of life with one powerful act of faith.

Once searching for answers herself, Joni wrote a letter to God: "I wonder over and over again what my life holds and where I'm going...Show me the path to follow."

The same sure thing she's discovered is what the extraordinary personalities she's interviewed over the years talk about in this book. Learn about the path they've taken, and how to move beyond fear and disappointment into the life that waits when you surrender all.

"There is a place of peace, power, and purpose in this world," Joni shares, "and it begins with one word. Surrender."

Surrender All is a "Christian living" book. I received this book due to a miscommunication, but I decided to read it anyway. The book is mostly a series of personal testimonies that illustrate various types of surrender to God: surrendering your marriage, your children, your career, your health, your friendships, in daily life, in loss, and in failure. She does occasionally refer to Scripture, but usually in only general terms. While the points made in the book are in line with what the Bible teaches, I would have preferred a more frequent use of specific scripture quotes to show this.

I had one main concern about what the book said. On page 25, under "Step 2: Offer a Prayer of Surrender," Ms. Lamb writes:

Once you realize how much you need the Lord, the next step is to ask for God's help and intervention. You can't surrender to His will until you invite the Lord to forgive your sins and to come into your heart and your life. This isn't a one-time deal. It needs to be repeated every time you face a challenge in any aspect of your life.

She then talks about praying to accept Christ as your lord and savior. Later, she also refers to coming to God in repentance for sin as offering a prayer of surrender, and I assume that's the part Ms. Lamb meant needed to be done repeatedly. My concern is that some people might think Ms. Lamb is saying you've lost your eternal salvation every time you sin instead of you're "saved" once and come in specific surrender and repentance after that.

Parts of the book are very Christ-focused. The problem with personal testimonies is that the focus can subtly slip from what God can do with a surrendered life to what man has accomplished (i.e. the praise and awe becomes focused on the person instead of God, who deserves all the credit). Some testimonies were very God-focused, but others not as much.

While there are some pretty amazing testimonies in this book, the book's main focus on experiences instead of scripture made me nervous. After all, other religions use personal experiences as proof, too. However, Surrender All is not a bad book despite my reservations about how Ms. Lamb chose to write 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.

The desert surrounding the holy city of Jerusalem sounds like a romantic place to get a call from God, but it’s not as glamorous as it sounds. The ground is hard and unforgiving, full of deep and deadly crevices, as if a giant creature had carved the land with massive fingernails to trap unsuspecting travelers–much like the Path of Surrender we followed to obey that call. But here is where my husband, Marcus, and I began the journey that brought us through “crevices” deeper than any we saw in the Sinai Desert as we traveled through Egypt.

We had only been in the Bedouin region for a short time, when Marcus noticed something unusual: a satellite antenna poked up from the top of each tent in this dry and barren landscape. It seemed incongruous, this modern technology in so simple and harsh a land. Marcus realized that God had been planting a vision in his heart and mind, telling him that television is a tool for spreading the Lord’s teachings to a vast audience–anywhere in the world, day and night.

God had come up with a very tall order for us in the Holy Land. At that point, in March 1983, we were newly married. We were on the road constantly, preaching and ministering with revivals in twenty states. We knew nothing about operating a television station, Christian or otherwise. So when the Lord spoke to Marcus while standing on the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem about moving to Montgomery, Alabama, he said three things to God.

1. Why would You ask me to stop doing something You were blessing–evangelism!–in order to go and build a Christian TV station?
2. Lord, I don’t know how to build a Christian TV station.
3. Lord, I don’t have a million dollars to build a Christian TV station!

You might think that God would respond with a lengthy dialogue to answer all those questions after giving Marcus such a tall order. But all He did was repeat the assignment: Go to Montgomery and build a Christian television station.

Marcus and I were excited by this, but we were also flustered and more than a little clueless about how to get started. We puzzled over it for several months. Then, in the fall of 1983, Marcus decided that we needed to seriously focus on it. He suggested that we go on a three-day fast to make sure we were clear on what the Lord wanted us to do.

Like most other women, I’d done my share of dieting, even back when I really didn’t need to diet. But I’d never gone on a three-day fast where you didn’t eat even a carrot stick or a bran muffin. Let me tell you, it is no walk in the park. I thought I was going to die! After the first day, the headaches were excruciating. But we both persevered through prayer, and when it was over, Marcus felt the Lord had made it very clear that we were to find a way to start a Christian television station.

By the following January, we were in Montgomery.

Read more from Surrender All.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Book Discussion for "Because He Loves Me"

Because He Loves Me

As you read Because He Loves Me: How Christ Transforms Our Daily Life by Elyse M. Fitzpatrick, this is where you can make comments on the book, ask questions (of other club members or the authors), or answer questions that I post here.

Click on the title of this post to see the discussion and to get the comment box so you can post your own comments.

If you're not familiar with blogger, you can then leave a comment by:

1) Scrolling down to the bottom of the page (preferably after reading the discussion ;) ).

2) Write your comments in the text box right below "Post a Comment."

3) Click on the selection box to the right of "Comment as" and chose the "Name/URL" option. Type your first name into the correct place in the pop-up box (you can ignore the URL box) and click the Continue button.

4) Click on the Post Comment button. Your comment should now be posted.