Friday, October 30, 2009

Book Quotes: Showing God's Love

From The Love Revolution by Joyce Meyer (pp. 34-36):

For most of my life, I woke up every day and lay in bed making plans for myself. I thought of what I wanted and what would be best for me and how I could convince my family and friends to cooperate with my plans. I got up and went about the day with myself on my mind, and each time things did not go my way I became upset, impatient, frustrated, and even angry. I thought I was unhappy because I wasn't getting what I wanted, but I was actually unhappy because all I did was try to get what I wanted without any real concern for others.

Now that I am discovering that the secret of joy is in giving my life away rather than trying to keep it, my mornings are quite different. This morning...I prayed and then took some time to think of all the people I knew I would come in contact with today. I then prayed through Romans 12:1, which speaks of dedicating ourselves to God as living sacrifices, offering up all of our faculties to Him for His use. As I thought of the people I would work with or probably see today, I asked the Lord to show me anything I might do for them. I set my mind to encourage them and be complimentary. Surely we can all find one nice thing to say to each person we meet....I trust the Lord will lead me as I go about my day.

....You will never know the joy of living like this unless you actually try it. I call it a "holy habit," and like all habits, it must be practiced to become one. On some days, I still get all caught up with myself and forget to practice my new habit, but I am quickly reminded when I lose my joy and enthusiasm for life that once again I have gotten off track.

....At times when I realize that I've been selfish again, I don't get upset because getting upset with myself only keeps me involved with me....We spend far too much time feeling bad about ourselves because of the mistakes we make--and that is a waste of time. Only God can forgive us and He is quite willing to do so if we simply ask Him.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Book Review: Content to Be Good, Called to Be Godly

Content to Be Good, Called to Be Godly cover

Content to Be Good, Called to Be Godly
by Janet Denison

Trade Paperback: 224 pages
Publisher: Tyndale House
First Released: 2008

Author's Website

Source: Bought from

Back Cover Description:
Are you feeling empty and spiritually exhausted?

The solution may surprise you.

Do you sometimes feel like a "professional Christian?" Do you live a life that looks perfect from the outside...but is missing the joy Jesus promised? You're on the "spiritual treadmill"--a one-person faith walk that feels more like a trudge crammed into your overbusy schedule. Your worn-out spirit tells the real story: This self-designated program isn't working and it's time to try something different.

Join Janet Denison--Bible teacher, mom, and busy pastor's wife--on an invigorating journey through Scripture that will renew your soul. Drawing from lessons she needed to learn herself, Janet becomes your spiritual trainer as together you listen for God's voice and discern how he wants you to use your gifts. In Content to Be Good, Called to Be Godly, you'll find caring guidance, wise insights, and Bible study questions for individual or group use...leading you from a ho-hum faith to the freedom and joy of a God-driven, God-filled life.

Content to Be Good, Called to Be Godly was Scripture-focused and looked to Christ as our example. The book was easy to read and understand. It included personal examples from the author's life.

The chapters were broken into sections that built on each other, and each section was generally about two pages long. Each of these sections ended with a few verses to read and some questions to ponder about what the verses taught on the topic being discussed.

I felt that chapters 1-4 often got stuck on "do this; don't do that." Though her suggestions were good and helpful ones, they didn't really get at the root of the problem. I was pleased when the rest of the book (chapters 5-10) dug into Scripture to find the deeper problems and solutions.

I'd recommend this book to those who feel worn out from doing good and who wonder "where is the joy and abundant life God promised?"

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 Chapter Seven (page 116-117)
I will always be grateful to the friend who showed me the truth of 2 Corinthians 10:5. I had often been taught that my outward behavior was crucial to my Christian witness. I had never been taught that how I acted was actually the "second stage" of my witness. Paul says that we need to take our thoughts captive and cause them to be obedient to Christ. If our thoughts are obedient to Christ, then our behavior will likely follow. We have learned to consider our behavior and then act as a Christian should. In Romans 12:2, Paul teaches us to focus on our thoughts so we can think like a Christian should and then act accordingly.

God will transform you and your behavior if you allow him to change the way you think. How do you do that? Consider the first part of the verse: "Don't copy the behavior and customs of this world." If your thoughts are more strongly influenced by the world than the inspired voice of God, you will have difficulty being obedient to Christ. How many of your two or three thousand thoughts each day could qualify as a "God thought"? Consider this truth:

"My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts," says the LORD. "And my ways are far beyond anything yo could imagine. For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so my ways are higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts." Isaiah 55:8-9

What is the difference between a human thought and a God thought?

Read the first chapter.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

And the winner is...

It's time to announce the winner of "Fearless" by Max Lucado. Using a random number generator and numbering the entrants in the order I received them, the winner is:

Deborah of Comfort Joy Designs

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

For those who didn't win, you can always buy a copy of this book from Books-A-Million (see the sidebar for instructions of getting a ChristFocus Book Club discount on your order) or your favorite bookstore. Anyone is welcome to join in our book discussion which starts on November 1st.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Book Quotes: God's Purpose

From Listening for God by Marilyn Hontz (page 84):

The second question I ask is, "What are you asking God to do in this situation?" This causes the person to consider what God's purposes may be. His purposes and glory should be our highest goal in prayer.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Book Review: NIV Audio Bible, Dramatized, on CD-ROM

No Cover Available

NIV Audio Bible, Dramatized, on CD-ROM
Narrated by Stephen Johnston

Publisher: World Bible Publishing
First Released: 1995

Source: My personal library. I think I originally bought it from I can't find it there now, but it's this version.

It's the complete New International Version of the Bible read word for word but with various voices for different the parts and with music or sound effects in the background.

As a child, I had a huge set of records--a children's dramatized version of the life of Christ. I spent hours on end listening to those records while I played. As a teenager, I spent less time with them so my mother gave the records away to a friend who had young children.

After college, I wanted to buy and listen to those records again, but I was never able to find them. (Not to mention that I didn't have a record player.) So I bought this dramatized version of the NIV Bible. While I use a print Bible for study purposes, I enjoy listening to chapters--even whole books--of the Bible while I do housework.

The audio follows the NIV version of the Bible word-for-word, but it's done in a away that makes it interesting even for a child. The narrative portions have multiple voice actors playing the various parts as well as sound effects (wave sounds when near the water and so on). The Psalms and other non-narrative parts have non-intrusive music in the background, and the narrators (mainly Stephen Johnston) read it in a way that maintains my focus (i.e. not monotone).

There are a few places where a section has clearly been redone after the main read and doesn't quite match the volume and tone of the rest, but this doesn't bother me. Also, these CD-ROMs came in a case that started to ruin the CD-ROM's surface after several years. I was able to clean them up once I noticed what was happening, but I'd recommend putting them in a different case if you buy this exact set.

If you have a lot of time driving in the car or doing housework, I'd recommend getting a dramatized version of the Bible to listen to. It's a fun way to listen to the Bible and gives a different perspective that I've found lends new insights that I don't get when reading a print Bible.

If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Book Quotes: Source of Compassion

I haven't read this book, but I liked this quote from Simple Compassion by Keri Wyatt Kent:

Compassion flows from those who are so full of God's love that it simply sloshes onto everyone around them. When we act justly and love mercy, it strengthens our walk with God. When we walk with God, it leads us to love mercy (because we have been shown mercy) and to act justly (because we are becoming more like Jesus).

To become more merciful and just, we first must get a glimpse of how much we each matter, and of the fact that we can make a difference. ...I hope that you'll begin to see that every person on the planet—whether she lives in a suburban mansion or a housing project, in Los Angeles or Sierra Leone—is deeply loved by God. Each person matters to God. Because that's true, we ought to matter to each other.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Book Review: Diving Into God's Words

Diving into God's Words cover

Stand: Diving into God's Words
A discovery of Psalm 119
by Alex McFarland

Paperback: 134 pages
Publisher: Tyndale House Publishers
First Released: 2009

Author Website

Source: Review copy from publisher

Back Cover Description:
There's no better way to know God than to understand His Words. Right in the middle of the Bible stands one of the richest chapters, Psalm 119. It's 176 verses about the stuff that makes up real life: having relationships, setting priorities, making decisions, and living in the truest form of reality.

In this 22-day journey, you'll unlock the power of Psalm 119 for your life and future. Stories, real-life illustrations, and even trivia from biblical history will help you discover timeless truths that have shaped the universe--and will shape you. So dive right in.

Diving Into God's Words is a teen devotional for both males and females. It explores what Psalm 119 has to say or demonstrate about God (His character), the importance of knowing Scripture, prayer, truth/moral purity, happiness, blessings, priorities, troubles, attitudes, and goals.

The book has 11 chapters and then a short 22-day reading guide for meditating on Psalm 119. The author assumes the reader has read Psalm 119. He simply makes comments on the parts pertaining to the chapter's subject and concludes with specific Psalms 119 verses at the end of the chapter.

The author often provides a quick story to illustrate the points he makes and includes sidebar quotes and trivia pertaining to the subject.

This devotional doesn't dig very deeply into any one subject, but it is nicely Scripture-focused and God-focused and covers many important topics. Overall, it teaches good stuff, and I'd recommend it to teens.

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 Chapter Four (pages 43-44)
[What Psalm 119 says about prayer]
Ask for obedience
Obedience to God's Law won't earn you salvation. However, obedience to His [Teachings] is both something God desires for us and something we will desire as we grow closer to Him. I don't know about you, but there are some things I pray for that I'm not sure God wants me to have--because my prayers are too often selfish. But when you pray to be obedient to what God has shown you, you can be sure that you are praying a prayer that is absolutely in the center of God's will for your life. Pray for obedience. Pray for the strength to be obedient in difficult situations. Pray that your Christian brothers and sisters will be obedient to God....Pray, even, that they will obediently and lovingly chastise you when you are disobedient!

Ask for unfailing love
It may seem strange or illogical to ask for God's unfailing love (see verse 41). After all, if it is unfailing, why would we need to pray for it? Won't it always be there whether we pray for it or not? That's sort of like praying, "God, please don't repeal gravity today. Please don't let me fly off into space!"

This verse gets at the heart of why we pray. We pray because God asks us to, because it brings Him glory, and because prayer matures us. God's love is unfailing, but we often fail to remember it. By having this prayer ever on our lips and in our minds, we have one of God's fundamental attributes--His love--constantly before us.

Read the introduction and chapter one.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Giveaway: Fearless


I'm giving away my review copy of Fearless: Imagine Your Life Without Fear by Max Lucado. It's a timely book full of truths that we Christians could use a reminder on right now.

Read my review to learn more about the book.

This contest is for USA residents only.

The giveaway runs from October 9th until noon on October 24th. 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 "Fearless" by Max Lucado."


Leave a comment on this post asking to be entered in the contest for Fearless 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 October 24, 2009 and list them on this blog. I'll inform the winner and ask for their shipping address. If the winner hasn't responded within four days of notification, a new winner will be selected.

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

Book Quotes: All Good Things

From Because He Loves Me by Elyse M. Fitzpatrick (page 105):

When God doesn't give us something we ask for...

Will you transfer all your trust to [God] and believe that the One who did not withhold his only Son from you will also freely give you all good things? The loving Savior who hung on Calvary's tree for Nicodemus and gave him faith to believe is seeking your uplifted eyes. Look to him; believe in his loving provision and live.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Book Review: Extraordinary

The Goose Girl

by John Bevere

Hardback: 240 pages
Publisher: Waterbrook Press
First Released: 2009

Source: Review copy from publisher

Back Cover Description:
Satisfy your intrinsic desire to rise above the norm.

Isn't it true that we long to see the extraordinary, experience the extraordinary, do the extraordinary? Yet, so often we settle for mediocrity when greatness is within our grasp.

Why are we drawn to stories of heroic triumph over seemingly impossible circumstances? In our fascination with adventure movies, superheroes, and tales of incredible human feats, do we reveal an inherent desire for something larger and greater in life? Maybe what we think is a need to escape or be entertained is actually a God-inspired longing...for the extraordinary.

Best-selling author John Bevere reveals how all of us were "meant for more," extraordinary created and intended for a life that is anything but ordinary. Here is the roadmap for your journey of transformation. You are marked for a life that far surpasses the usual definitions of success or fulfillment.

I thought this book was about this world is not how it was originally created to be, how we can find true fulfillment in God, and how God can transform our lives. It's not, not really. I admire that the author uses Scripture in this book and that he exhorts us to search the Scriptures to make sure any teaching we hear (including his) is Biblical in the full context of the Bible. I can only hope that those who read his book take this advice.

Several chapters (chapters 2, 7-10) are very good and give a balanced view of what Scripture teaches about God's love for us and His grace toward us. Other chapters (chapters 3-6) are fairly Biblical as far as they go, but they don't give a balanced view of everything the Bible says on the subject and so could mislead people into believing the Bible teaches certain things that it doesn't.

However, my greatest problem with this book starts in chapter 11. He previously defined grace as most people do: "grace is getting what we don't deserve, whereas mercy involves not getting what we deserve. (p. 82)" He also says "[Grace] gives us the power to live in truth. (p.64)" However, in chapter 11, he re-defines grace as God's empowering all believers with the ability to cast out demons, heal the sick, create food to feed thousands, convert thousands to Christ, and otherwise bring about the conditions found in heaven upon the earth.

However, the verses he uses to try and prove that having God's grace equals all believers having the power to perform physical miracles in other people's lives clearly don't teach this, even out of context. In each example the author gives, both "grace" and "power" are mentioned with power being the word relating to the miracles. When only grace is mentioned in his examples, it's describing the change of a believer's heart from being self-centered to having God's priorities.

The teaching in the remaining chapters (12-17) is skewed because of this incorrect redefinition of "grace." The author then picks verses on faith that he feels supports his belief that "grace" (which he takes to mean the ability to perform miracles) can be done if you have complete faith in this ability. As in, God's power resides in us (p.146) and we control God's power through believing we can do anything Jesus did. But the Bible doesn't teach this.

Simply put, I can't recommend this book due to the parts that depart from what the Bible teaches or which don't give a balanced view of what the Bible teaches. I'd recommend instead an excellent book: Because He Loves Me: How Christ Transforms Our Daily Life by Elyse M. Fitzpatrick.

If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Book Quotes: Kingdom of Heaven

From Sitting at the Feet of Rabbi Jesus by Ann Spangler, Lois Tverberg (page 182-183):

The gospels use two different phrases--the "kingdom of heaven" and the "kingdom of God." ...Why the difference? Because in Jesus' day, and even now, Jewish people show their reverence for God's name by not pronouncing it. Instead they substitute a respectful euphemism like "heaven."

....By using "kingdom of heaven," Matthrew's gospel was preserving the culturally correct expression. The rest of the gospel writers used "kingdom of God" in order to communicate more clearly with their Greek audiences, who would not have understood that "heaven" meant "God."

....In other words, a simple way of translating "kingdom of God" or "kingdom of heaven" would be God's reign, or how God reigns, or those whom God reigns over.