Monday, June 29, 2009

Book Review: Above All, Love

Above All, Love

Above All, Love
by Julie Ackerman Link

Paperback: 237 pages
Publisher: Discovery House Publishers
First Released: 2008

Source: Review copy from publisher

Back Cover Description:
All in the same day, you say that you love the book you're reading, the salad you had for lunch, your spouse, and God. Love is such a vague, elusive concept that we use it to describe everything from passions to preferences, from the absurd to the sacred. We know what it means to be loved, but we have trouble translating that into what it means to be loving--what God wants most from us.

Jesus told His listeners that the most important commandment is this: "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength." But how do we love God--heart, soul, mind, and strength?

God intends that our hearts, souls, minds, and bodies all be fitted together in Christ, who wants to make us whole by making us one with Him, one with ourselves, and one with others. And the bonding agent is love--His love for us and our love for Him and for others.

Above All, Love explores what it means to love God with all of your being. As we discover that God loves us in all the same ways that He wants to be loved, our love for Him will grow deeper, and we will become satisfied in the safety of His embrace. And as we come to love God with all of our being, His image is restored in us, and we reflect His glory to the world.

This book explores what it means to love God by studying the perfect example of God as He loves us in these ways. Overall, I liked the God- and scripture-focus of this book, and I discovered new insights into God's love and loving God. However, I felt the book was uneven in the depth of each study. The author also sometimes got a little sidetracked from the main focus of the chapter.

The book is written like a devotional, with several sections in each chapter based on the same theme but each section doesn't necessarily flow into the next section or build on each another. This isn't surprising since much of the book was taken from previous devotionals by the author. She also regularly writes for Our Daily Bread, and I suspect you'll enjoy this book if you like that daily devotional.

If you've ever wondered exactly what it means to love God, then you'll probably get a lot out of 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: Introduction
When God descended from heaven in His fiery presence to meet Moses on Mount Sinai, He delivered a document citing ten basic rules for His people to live by. The first and most important was this: “You shall have no other gods before me.”This statement was revolutionary. All other civilizations worshiped many gods. But God’s chosen people, the children of Israel, were to establish a nation that would be a light to the world, revealing to all others the joy and peace that come when people live in accord with the design and purpose of our loving Creator, the one true God, who formed us in His own image.Years later, Moses explained the first commandment. Having no other god but God means loving Him with every aspect of our being—heart, soul, and strength (Deuteronomy 6:5). Jesus later affirmed this interpretation (Mark 12:30). To love God means having a relationship with Him that is so full and satisfying that it crowds out all competing desires, identifications, thoughts, or actions.

Since the day God delivered the first hand-made edition of the document now called “The Ten Commandments,” sculptors, calligraphers, and designers have formed the words into works of art. But God’s intent was not that we would shape the words into ornate decorations; instead, He wants the words to shape us. God’s law of love is not something to be made into an ornament that adorns ourselves or our buildings; it’s to form us into the unique piece of artwork God designed us to be. Loving God is not about creating something beautiful for Him; it’s about allowing Him to re-create in us the beauty He originally formed. It’s there, and it’s waiting to be recognized, restored, and made real.

Read the rest of the introduction and chapter one.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Book Review: God's Little Princess Devotional Bible by Sheila Walsh

God's Little Princess Devotional Bible

God's Little Princess Devotional Bible
by Sheila Walsh

Hardback: 335 pages
Publisher: Thommy Nelson
First Released: 2006

Source: Review copy from publisher

Back Cover Description:
Every girl is a princess, the daughter of a King...the greatest King who created and rules over everything!

Girls long to be loved and adored, and give their heart to their hero. God is that hero! The characteristics focused on in this Bible storybook will help your little girl blossom into the princess she was created to be. Virtues to create beauty such as compassion, sharing, and truth are highlighted in fun and engaging ways. The perfect format for girls to learn about their destiny as a daughter of their King.

Features included are: Beauty Secrets, Bible Princesses, My Hero (Scripture promises), Take a Bow (Easy plays that are Bible-focused), I Adore You (Put girls energy to use with songs, scripture and worship), Royal Truths, Down In My Heart (Scripture Memory), Princess Charming, Worthy of Love (Ideas to show how to love her royal subjects: family, siblings, friends and those in the community).

God's Little Princess Devotional Bible is a fun, easy to understand book full of Bible stories and related activities (plays, songs, lessons about what the Bible verses teach). The lessons are good ones with an obvious or underlying God/Christ focus. The plays are Bible-verse based and look simple enough to put on. The worship songs are good ones, but only the words are included.

A good amount of Bible scripture from both the Old and New Testament (International Children's Bible translation) is included. The translation is generally a very good one for children, though younger children might have some questions about what's meant. (The book is labelled as for 4-7 year-olds, but I suspect it's more accurately for 5-9 year-olds.)

Occassionally, the full Bible story was not quoted when more of the story was needed to understand what's going on. In those cases, the reader's told where to go in the Bible to read the whole story. Unless a parent does this for the child, though, I'm not sure they would bother. I would have liked it if more of the story was included in those cases.

I'd recommend this book to any parent who wants their (younger) girls actively engaged in learning Bible stories and/or learning to become God's Little Princess (with godly manners to match). It's a cute, fun, Christ-focused 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.

Charmed, I'm Sure

Your friend has been working hard on a drawing. You get up to peek over her shoulder and see how she's doing. You decide to say:

A) "That's really great! I like your colors."
B) "What on earth is that? It looks funny."
C) "That's not how you're supposed to do it."
D) "You don't draw very well."

All during the day, you have the chance to talk to other people. You also have a choice. You can say good, kind words that help people. Or you can say things that will hurt their feelings. God says we need to guard our mouths. He wants us to only say words that build others up. He never wants us to tear them down. Ask Jesus to help you see something good in the other person. Then tell that person the good that you see! It helps them, and you become more like Jesus.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Book Review: Eyes Wide Open by Jud Wilhite

Eyes Wide Open

Eyes Wide Open
by Jud Wilhite
with Bill Taaffe

Trade Paperback: 189 pages
Publisher: Multnomah Books
First Released: 2009

Source: Review copy from publisher

Back Cover Description:
I had it all backwards.

The main thing was not my love for God, but his love for me. And from that love I respond to God as one deeply flawed, yet loved. I’m not looking to prove my worth. I’m not searching for acceptance. I’m living out of the worth God already declares I have. I’m embracing his view of me and in the process discovering the person he created me to be.

In Eyes Wide Open, Jud Wilhite invites you to discover the real you. Not the you who pretends to be perfect to satisfy everyone’s expectations. Not the you who always feels guilty before God. Not the you who secretly feels God forgives everyone else but only tolerates you. Not the you who looks in the mirror and sees a failure. The real you, loved and forgiven by God, living out of your identity in Christ.

A travel guide through real spirituality from one incomplete person to another, Eyes Wide Open is a book of stories about following God in the messes of life, about broken pasts and our lifelong need for grace. It is a book about seeing ourselves and God with new eyes–eyes wide open to a God of love.

Eyes Wide Open is a non-fiction book categorized as Christian Living. It is well-written and very easy to read and understand. It uses examples from the Bible and from the author's life (and that of people he knows) with the focus more on the modern examples. The author quotes scripture to back up his points, and the book is Biblically correct.

I love that the book says, "The main thing was not my love for God, but his love for me." So true, and it's what ChristFocus Book Club is all about. I'm even willing to make this a book that ChristFocus members read together if there's interest. However, the information in this book is covered in other ChristFocus Book Club books that I've already selected. Those books dig deeper into the scripture to explore how God sees and loves us.

Jud Whihite makes one statement I don't agree with. He states that we've lost the culture war. However, he then goes on to give an example of one person making a difference politically in the local laws. I agree that the example he gives is how we ought to be "waging" the culture war, but in my mind that's what it's always really been--personally caring about and making a difference in individual peoples lives.

Eyes Wide Open is a great, basic book for all Christians. I'd recommend this book to anyone who doesn't already deep-down rejoice in the statement "the main thing was not my love for God, but his love for me....I’m not looking to prove my worth. I’m not searching for acceptance. I’m living out of the worth God already declares I have." I'd also recommend this book for young adults and adults who are new Christians.

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 from Introduction
I've been on a journey of God-discovery and self-discovery for the past twenty years as a follower of Jesus. Eyes Wide Open began as I sat down with my journal and reflected on the most transforming principles that helped me move from being broken and hurting, with a distorted view of God and myself, to healing and growing as the real me.

As I've taught these principles to thousands of people, I've been humbled by the response. Some of the most "together" people I know have admitted to going though incredible struggles to accept God's grace, to see themselves with their new identity in Christ, and to make an impact in the world as a result of that. One of the greatest joys of my life has been to see them look at God and themselves with new eyes, freed to discover the person God designed them to be.

....let me give you some glimpses of what you can expect.

-Wide open to God. Part 1 of this book looks at how God sees us and explores the awesome dimensions of His love and grace. We'll be internalize what it means to see God as a loving Father who is for us and has bound Himself to us by a spiritual agreement. Receiving His uncensored grace frees us to become the person He desires.

-Wide open to identity. Part 2 looks at the new identity the Bible declares we have. In the Christian community, we focus a lot on practical expressions of faith, such as prayer or service, but not enough on our position "in Christ" from which these practical expressions flow. So here we'll see how important our new identity is and discover that we are chosen and hidden in Christ. We'll learn the power of seeing ourselves as a priest, saint, and servant now, even if we don't always act as such.

-Wide open to change. Part 3 looks at how we come to express our new identity in everyday life. No matter where we're starting from, we can morph into the person God desires. ...we will more fully become the unique creation God made us to be.

-Wide open to influence. Part 4 looks at the importance of fulfilling the role in the world that God calls us to. We aren't fully ourselves until we are making the impact God desires for us to make. By embracing His view of us and living out of that, we can affect culture for the good and bring a little heaven to earth.

Read chapter one.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Buying Books from BAM

I've been able to set up a discount deal with Books-A-Million for ChristFocus Book Club members (which, in this case, means anyone who reads this post and wants to use this deal).

If you click through the below ad to Books-A-Million (or through the ad in the blog's sidebar) and buy books from BAM, you will get a ChristFocus Book Club discount. How? Enter the number 0013765289 into the discount club card area at checkout and get 10% off your entire purchase. This discount number will not work unless you have first clicked though a BAM ad on this site.

If we get enough orders through this link, BAM will provide ChristFocus with free Christian nonfiction books to give away. So use this link and discount number--everyone benefits!

BAM ad

Giveaway Winner for Because He Loves Me

The winner was randomly selected from the submitted entries. The winner of Because He Loves Me: How Christ Transforms Our Daily Life by Elyse M. Fitzpatrick is:


Congratulations! I'll be contacting you for your address.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Giveaway: Because He Loves Me

Because He Loves Me

I'm giving away one new copy of Because He Loves Me: How Christ Transforms Our Daily Life by Elyse M. Fitzpatrick at my own expense. It's such a great, life-changing, and victory-inducing book that I think everyone should read it. Unfortunately I can't afford to buy the book for everyone. :-)

Learn more about the book.

This contest is for USA residents only.

The giveaway runs from June 1st until noon on June 14th. If you've never won a free book from ChristFocus Book Club, enter the contest by either:

Follow me (@ChristFocus) on Twitter and send me a tweet saying "@christfocus Enter me to win "Because He Loves Me.""


Leave a comment on this post asking to be entered in the contest for Because He Loves Me and also leave some way for me to contact you if you win.

If you've won a free book from ChristFocus Book Club before, I'd ask that you don't enter the contest for this book if you aren't at least halfway finished with the book you won. To let me know you're steadily reading the book you won, please comment on the book in the correct book discussion post on this blog or comment about the book on Twitter using #cfbc. Once you've done this, you can enter this contest (see instructions above in green).

Sorry to be so picky. I just really want to see these books read and talked about.

I'll randomly select the winner at noon (central time) on June 14, 2009 and list them on this blog. I'll inform the winner and ask for their shipping address.

I hope everyone has fun with this, and I look forward to hearing what everyone thinks of this book!