Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Be the Hands and Feet - Nick Vujicic

Nick Vujicic’s calling and mission is to bring as many people as possible into relationship with God through Jesus Christ through his example of love and respect, while being bold and confident to proclaim the gospel. His newest book delineates what is our calling, too, to be winsome and attractive everywhere we are, including at home, to encourage others to be godly. In the second section of this book, Nick writes about opportunities to serve, including foster care, mentoring others, and following any vision God gives to spread the gospel, whether that is in schools, by way of your church, and supporting others. The last section speaks poignantly about Nick’s father’s battle with cancer and Nick’s own recent health challenges, as well as lessons learned. While the author made good points, this book felt long at 222 pages, as much of it was repetitious. I think it could have been half this length and still covered all its bases. I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

A Life Beyond Amazing by Dr. David Jeremiah

A Life Beyond Amazing by Dr. David Jeremiah This very refreshing book focuses on the nine fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5:22,23 and how a decision to pursue each will change your life into one "beyond amazing". The nine qualities are love, joy, peace, endurance, compassion, generosity, integrity, humility and self-discipline. Dr. David Jeremiah describes each, both in terms of what they are and what they are not. He challenges the reader, in very practical ways, to cultivate each. I found each chapter to be personal and easy to understand, as the author uses memorable real-life illustrations of each quality. Jeremiah also has what I thought were some original thoughts. Of particular benefit to me was one on page 54: "There are four main highways upon which the peace of God travels: the Spirit of God, the Son of God, the Word of God, and prayer." In the chapter on self-discipline, the author writes: "Ïf we're not unhappy and dissatisfied with how much and what kind of love, joy, and peace we have in our lives, nothing will change. If we're not convicted that we fall short in generosity and compassion, we'll stay the same. And if we think we're humble and resilient when we're not, we fool ourselves and a life beyond amazing for us will just be a nice title to a new book. "So embrace your dissatisfaction with your life. Don't let it depress or discourage you. Remind yourself that the more you want a better life, the more power and fuel you have to achieve it!" This is a common tone in this book; after laying out the chapter's quality, Jeremiah talks to you like a wise friend, zeroing in on your responsibility to God and yourself. I received this book for free in exchange for my unbiased review through the Thomas Nelson BookSneeze Program.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

You Are the Beloved by Henri J. M. Nouwen

This collection of 365 meditations by a Catholic priest who died in 1996 has something for everyone. Nouwen’s perspective, heavily influenced by time spent contemplatively in solitude, makes for unique insights. I am not Catholic and so do not share Nouwen’s views on saints and relationships with those who have died, but there was much here to like. Nouwen encourages the reader to embrace experiences usually thought of as “negative”, such as loneliness, pain, and death. Here are a couple of my favorite selections: From February 25, “There is a false form of honesty that suggests that nothing should remain hidden and that everything should be said, expressed, and communicated. This honesty can be very harmful, and if it does not harm, it at least makes the relationship flat, superficial, empty, and often very boring. When we try to shake off our loneliness by creating a milieu without limiting boundaries, we may become entangled in a stagnating closeness. It is our vocation to prevent the harmful exposure of our inner sanctuary, not only for our own protection but also as a service to our fellow human beings with whom we want to enter in a creative communion. Just as words lose their power when they are not born out of silence, so openness loses its meaning when there is no ability to be closed.” From October 9: “You have been wounded in many ways. The more you open yourself to being healed, the more you will discover how deep your wounds are. . . . The great challenge is living your wounds through instead of thinking them through. It is better to cry than to worry, better to feel your wounds deeply than to understand them, better to let them enter into your silence than to talk about them. The choice you face constantly is whether you are taking your hurts to your head or to your heart. In your head you can analyze them, find their causes and consequences, and coin words to speak and write about them. But no final healing is likely come from that source. you need to let your wounds go down to your heart. Then you can live through them and discover that they will not destroy you. Your heart is greater than your wounds.” I highly recommend this book, as it will help you think about the way you think. I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.

Monday, November 27, 2017

In the Middle of the Mess by Sheila Walsh

Sheila Walsh has written many books, but none as honest as this one. In it, she admits to a lifelong struggle with suicidal ideation which likely took root after her father committed suicide when she was five. This book aims to help those who struggle with debilitating emotional issues by applying the truth that salvation is not just positional or future but is for today, with power to reach the depths of our pain. Sheila encourages the reader to talk about what is secret, buried, and walled in. In doing so, freedom can come by letting go, telling oneself the truth, and allowing oneself to be fully known and loved. The author encourages the reader to talk aloud to God about whatever is held privately, to break the habit of suffering in silence. Then one should use great discernment to find other women, “safe-place sisters” who will offer support and encouragement through the turmoil and pain. I recommend this book to any Christians who struggle with lifelong emotional challenges, especially those related to family. It is well written, with a balance between Scripture and the practical. I received this book for free in exchange for my unbiased review through the Thomas Nelson BookSneeze Program.

Friday, November 10, 2017

The Satisfied Soul - John Piper

This is the second book of meditations I have read by this author, who has an outstanding reputation as a Scripture expositor. I probably should read one of his topical books, such as Desiring God,which might have been more academic and less personal. The Satisfied Soul, 120 Daily Meditations, covers the gamut with regard to topics, so much so that reading it straight through in order to review it was, at times, a jarring experience. Some of the better meditations are straight out of Scripture and aim to encourage, such as Why God Tells His Children That He Delights in Them, Thoughts on the Book of Life and Union with Christ, and Thoughts on the Nature of Sanctification, to name a few. However, John Piper, I would say, is sometimes very culture resistant, such as when he rails against television (he has not had one in his home in 34 years). While he makes a valid point that people have had access to this form of mass entertainment for only about 2 percent of human history, it’s too late to go back now, as most people lack the reason and incentive to completely boycott this medium. His last meditation, A Prayer for Our Church, asks that God build people who “don’t care if they own a house. . . don’t need recent styles. . . don’t expect that life should be comfortable and easy, who don’t feed their minds on TV each night. . . who don’t whine or use body language to get pity. . . .” Not many are left out in this more-than-odd list, and I am not convinced that these are anything but personal preferences. I got the distinct impression that Piper is an intense man, sometimes reflected in his writing, which can become convoluted, such as this quote from page 66: “But when I ask, when did God become 100 percent for us? I mean more than, when did it become 100 percent certain that God would save us? I mean, when did it happen that God was for us and only for us? That is, when did it happen that the only disposition of God toward us was mercy? Or, when did God become for us so fully that there was not any wrath or curse or condemnation on us, but only mercy?” That could and should have been edited down to one or, at most, two questions. This hard-driving style of writing caused me to feel browbeaten, not a good feeling for a reader, but I wondered it if was the intended result. If you love John Piper’s writing, you probably will be mentally and emotionally prepared to read this book. If you do not, or if you do not know, bypass this book or start with another of his writings. I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Boundaries by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend

This updated classic remains the gold standard on the topic, as it is thorough, well written, and easy to read. It balances solid teaching with biblical principles and includes spot-on examples. To top it off, it is written in a style that “hits home”. Among its topics are boundary definitions, problems, and myths. An outstanding chapter covers the ten laws of boundaries. A whole section covers boundary conflicts with family, friends, spouse, children, work, the digital age, yourself and God. An excellent chapter is “How to Measure Success with Boundaries”, a checklist of 11 steps to gauge your own health with regard to boundaries. The book’s first and last chapters give examples of people living first without and then with boundaries. Cloud and Townsend, in their masterful job of delineating clearly the large and small issues surrounding boundaries, include many nuggets of truth that give new perspectives to old issues, such as this one about the different between punishment and discipline, found on page 174: “Punishment looks back. It focuses on making payment for wrongs done in the past. Christ’s suffering was payment, for example, for our sin. Discipline, however, looks forward. The lessons we learn from discipline help us not to make the same mistakes again: ‘God disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share in his holiness’ (Heb. 12:10).” There is much to be learned and gained from reading or re-reading this wonderful work. I received this book for free in exchange for my unbiased review through the Thomas Nelson BookSneeze Program.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

The Four Tendencies - Gretchen Rubin

The author’s analysis of people finds that they tend toward one of four groups in their approaches to expectations, both outer and inner: the Upholder meets both outer and inner expectations; the Questioner resists outer expectations and meets inner expectations; the Obliger meets outer expectations and resists inner expectations, and the Rebel resists both outer and inner expectations. I love analyses that break people into four main groups, being most familiar with approaches regarding temperament. Rubin’s grid is, in my opinion, a stroke of genius. This well-written book applies Rubin’s understanding to coworkers, spouses, children, and health providers, helping each of those groups understand and accommodate the various groups and subgroups (e.g., Questioner-Upholders, Rebel-Obligers, etc.) Rubin’s grid is easy to grasp and helpful to understand, both with regard to oneself and others. I think everyone would profit from reading this book, and I highly recommend it. I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.