Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Unashamed by Heather Davis Nelson

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by Heather Davis Nelson

ISBN-13: 9781433550706
Paperback: 192 pages
Publisher: Crossway Books
Released: June 30, 2016

Source: Review copy from the publisher through Amazon Vine.

Book Description from Goodreads:
Shame is everywhere. Whether related to relationships, body image, work, or a secret sin, we all experience shame. While shame manifests itself in fear, broken relationships, and regret, it ultimately points us to our fundamental need as fallen human beings: redemption.

Shame never disappears in solitude, and Heather Davis Nelson invites us to not only be healed of our own shame but also be a part of healing for others. She shines the life-giving light of the gospel on the things that leave us feeling worthless and rejected, giving us courage us to walk out of shame's shadows and offering hope for our bondage to brokenness. Through the gospel, we discover the only real and lasting antidote to shame: exchanging our shame for the righteousness of Christ alongside others on this same journey.

My Review:
Unashamed is an examination of shame and finding healing in Christ. By shame, she means feeling like you aren't good enough or aren't worthy. The author looked primarily at social, body, and performance shame--in finding your value in being accepted by others, in how you look, or in how successful you are.

She also looked at dealing with shame in your marriage relationship, how to parent without shaming your kids, and how the church can do a better job of being a place where people can share their shame struggles and heal. She helps you to identify your shame and it's origins, suggests talking about your struggle with safe friends, and applies the truths from Scripture to help you feel secure in the love God has for you in Christ.

I'm not married, have no children, and I don't struggle with the examples she uses so I didn't feel like this book directly touched upon my struggles. (I'm not bothered by people seeing my house in a lived-in state rather than perfect, I'm content with how I look, and so on.) However, she talks about very common areas of struggle for most people and the advice can apply to all "shame struggle" situations.

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

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Last Days of Jesus DVD series

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The Last Days Of Jesus
DVD-based Bible Study
Deeper Connections Series

ISBN-13: 9781628624328
DVD: 3 hours
Publisher: Rose Publishing
Released: Jan. 25, 2017

Source: Review video from the publisher.

Series Description, Modified from Publisher Website:
Gain a deeper understanding of Jesus’ last days before his crucifixion and resurrection. While most studies focus on laying out the events of Jesus' final days, this DVD study goes one step further to teach you the deeper connections that are rooted in the New Testament's first century context and provides twenty-first century applications.

This 6-session DVD study contains lessons on Jesus the Messiah, the Transfiguration, the Triumphal Entry, the Last Supper, The Trial and Death of Jesus, and Jesus' Resurrection. Each session features an expert scholar from the most prestigious seminaries in the country: Dr. Darrell Bock, Dr. Gary Burge, Dr. Scott Duvall, Professor Susan Hecht, Dr. Mark Strauss, and Dr. Matt Williams.

Perfect for small groups, Bible studies, or personal use. Leader and Participant Guides are also available which outline the video teaching with room for notes, and include photos, maps, additional information, and a five day personal Bible study guide after each lesson.

My Review:
The Last Days of Jesus is a 6-session DVD Bible study for small groups or personal use. Each session is 25-35 minutes long. It starts with 2-3 minutes of video on location in Israel (Ceasarea Philippi, Mount of Olives, Garden Tomb, etc.) with Margaret Feinberg. This is followed by audio of the study text from Matthew using the NIV Audio Bible. Then a New Testament scholar provides 17 minutes of commentary on the passage and 6-10 minutes of application. They walk you through the text while explaining first century context and cultural background information.

For example, Session 1 covers "Who do people say that I am?" and explained why people thought Jesus might be those people and what they expected of the Messiah. Dr. Williams also explained some phrases like "keys of the kingdom of heaven" and underlying word plays. Each session features a different speaker, so Session 1 on Matthew 16:13-28 features Dr. Matt Williams, Session 3 on Matthew 21:1-22 features Dr. Mark Strauss, and Session 6 on Matthew 28:1-10 features Dr. Gary Burge.

Overall, I thought that the three sessions I viewed were informative and interesting. I'd recommend this series as a small group Bible study.

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

Trailer Video link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XCBeIqv12T4

Monday, January 16, 2017

Talk Yourself Happy by Kristi Watts

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Talk Yourself Happy
by Kristi Watts

ISBN-13: 9780718083861
Paperback: 224 pages
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
Released: Jan. 3, 2017

Source: Review copy from the publisher through BookLook.

Book Description, Modified from BookLook:
How does a person bounce back after being beaten down personally, professionally, and emotionally? What impact do words, thoughts, and beliefs have in determining one’s level of happiness? Kristi Watts asked herself these questions after her marriage dissolved and she left a high-profile position as a cohost of The 700 Club. Known as the upbeat host who was always filled with joy and laughter, she soon stumbled into emotional pitfalls that left her discouraged, disappointed, and distant from God.

When one’s words focus on faulty perspectives, faith is quickly derailed, but by remembering God’s blessings and verbally claiming His promises, hearts change. Using biblical principles, Talk Yourself Happy illustrates the importance of relying on God to tame our tongues and train our minds, and it exposes the hidden traps that keep Christians from living lives of happiness, empowering readers with the ultimate transformation of their hearts.

My Review:
Talk Yourself Happy is a memoir about a dark period in the author's life and some lessons that God taught her through those trials. I'd expected the book to be focused on God's character and promises and contain a lot of Scripture quotes, but there's not much of this. The focus was mainly on the author and the hard things she went through.

The author came to realize that some of her attitudes and actions were standing in the way of God's blessings. There was an ongoing theme about not speaking negative thoughts aloud. I agree that words have power and that blaming or criticizing other people can stand in the way of your healing and joy. However, I felt burdened by the repeated idea that any negative thought will stand in the way of God blessing me--though I doubt the writers of the Psalms would agree with this idea.

Overall, though, her points were good ones. We feel happier when we remind ourselves of the things God has done for us (and others) and about his character than when we focus on our problems. Reaching out to help others, showing compassion and forgiveness, praising God, and seeking God's perspective about our identity and situation are all good ways to find happiness. So, overall, I'd recommend this book, especially if you're interested in "what ever happened to Kristi Watts?"

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, January 9, 2017

Fear Fighting by Kelly Balarie

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Fear Fighting
by Kelly Balarie

ISBN-13: 9780801019340
Paperback: 240 pages
Publisher: Baker Books
Released: Jan. 3, 2017

Source: ebook review copy from the publisher through NetGalley.

Book Description, Modified from Back Cover:
We all live with fear. It hangs around, whispering in our ears, reminding us of all we can't do or will never be. But that's not the end of the story. We also have a God who draws close to say, Fear not. I am with you. This Spirit transforms us into fear fighters--women breaking free of trepidation to find bold dedication to God's peace-, purpose- and joy-filled callings.

My Review:
Fear Fighting is about overcoming feelings of insecurity, shame, failure, and unworthiness. The author used a very pep-talk tone and included many short one-liners like "Let blind faith be your guide" and "Your stain is really your gain." She wrote very poetically, which I realize some people like but I prefer authors to be clear about their meaning. She could also get wordy, and I sometimes lost track of what her point was by the end of a poetical passage. So this wasn't my favorite writing style, but others may love it.

The overall idea seemed to be that, if we follow God's ways and humble ourselves, the result is a courageous, bold, Spirit-led life. That we just need to take courage and fear will fall away because God is eagerly waiting to rescue us if we ask for help. She had some good points and suggested some things you can do. But I guess I was hoping for more focus on Bible verses than on pep and metaphors.

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, January 3, 2017

Shalom in Psalms by Jeffrey Seif, Glenn Blank, Paul Wilbur

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Shalom in Psalms:
A Devotional from the Jewish Heart of the Christian Faith
by Jeffrey Seif,
Glenn Blank,
Paul Wilbur

ISBN-13: 9780801019470
Paperback: 352 pages
Publisher: Baker Books
Released: Jan. 3, 2017

Source: ebook review copy from the publisher through NetGalley.

Book Description, Modified from Back Cover:
The ancient Jewish life-giving balm in Psalms helps us recover our equilibrium in a world where so much knocks us off balance and steals our shalom. This devotional and Tree of Life Version of the Bible come from the heart of today's Messianic Jewish movement to provide the Jewish essence of Psalms in a way that promises shalom for the heart and soul.

My Review:
Shalom in Psalms is a devotional that works through the Psalms. Each devotional started with one of the psalms in the Tree of Life Version followed by commentary by one (or more) of the three authors. They focused on what the psalm was saying and how we can relate to it even now. Hebrew words or phrases that don't translate well into English were further explained to help readers understand the psalm. Also, as the authors are Messianic Jews, they point out how the Messiah is seen in the psalms and give a Jewish viewpoint on some repeated themes in the psalms.

I liked these devotions and felt encouraged by them. After reading a bunch of Christian books that imply that good Christians are joyful and evangelistic at all times, it was nice to read a devotional acknowledging that circumstances can get us distressed, depressed, or angry. But the psalms also point back to God as our Savior even when we wonder why He's "hiding His face" or taking so long. Overall, I'd highly recommend this devotional.

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

Excerpt: Read an excerpt using Google Preview.