Friday, January 27, 2012
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I have always known that The Son of Man came to "seek and save the lost" but never have I thought about The Son of Man coming to eat and drink as found in Luke 7:34. In this short, yet very thought-provoking read Tim Chester digs into the book of Luke to show us how Jesus used meals as more than just a time to nourish His body but rather a time to feed the souls of many. Using the example of Jesus, Chester exhorts us in 6 chapter to apply the service of hospitality in our own lives to minister to the church and to the lost.
I personally loved the overall emphasis of this book and I walked away with a new perspective and understanding of Jesus' earthly ministry. Reading A Meal with Jesus challenged me to rethink my purpose in hospitality and convicted me to use this ordinary tool more often in sharing His grace with others. The message of this book is powerful and fresh.
This book gets 4 stars because of it's content and I highly recommend it. It's a rather short read at 143 pages long. (Contrary to what Goodreads.com says of it being 160 pages.) However, I found it a challenging book to read. Although it is only 6 chapters long, they were to me packed way too full and were not as succinct as they could have been. I frequently lost focus as he seemed to jump around a lot and make a simple point more wordy than necessary. While I personally don't have a problem with this, I feel bad in that more people would probably pick this good looking book up, begin to read it, and finish it if it was a bit less wordy. My challenge to you is for you to grab a copy and see for yourself. And if you agree with me, let me encourage you that is indeed worth pushing through to enjoy the whole book.
Wednesday, January 25, 2012
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
This is number four in the Adventures of Benny and Watch series which is a young reader version of the Boxcar Children series. While focusing mainly on little Benny and his dog, Watch, it includes all the children and their Grandfather. In this short book you'll read about Benny learning to do some magic tricks and the fun that he has teaching Watch to help him. I highly recommend reading this to preschool age children or giving it to a first or second grade child to read on their own.
Monday, January 23, 2012
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Fear. Worry. Anxiety. These things are very real in many of our lives. For some of us they are greater challenges than for others. But no matter what level you are at in battling this deadly trio in your life this book by Elyse Fitzpatrick will equip you with Scripture that will show you how and enable you to overcome.
I appreciated this book personally because Elyse breaks it into three practical sections - Understanding Your Fears, The Source of Your Fears, & God's Answers to Your Fears - and then simply, yet deeply digs into God's Word and how it applies to these sins. You will walk away with a better understanding of how fear and worry affect your life and how applying the truth of Scripture will help you gain victory. My favorite chapter was chapter 8 which explains in easy-to-understand terms how a solid theology base is the staring point to overcoming fear, worry, and anxiety. Questions like, "Can God free me from fear?, are answered and straight-forward practical help is offered in every chapter. And Elyse will also help you see how fear is often times the symptom of something else you are struggling through.
I highly encourage anyone - man or woman - who has ever struggled little or much with these three areas to read this book. And maybe you don't think it applies to you, but reading it will help you to have compassion on and help others who do struggle with these areas. And quiet honestly, I don't think anyone can read this book without becoming convicted of something in their life! Elyse doesn't dance around the issue, but gets directly to the heart of the matter and offers both help and hope to her readers.
Wednesday, January 18, 2012
As the new year slowly rolls on…or maybe quickly for some…I know that many people desire to do more Bible reading this year. I was delighted to find a great little post by Crossway on 10 Bible Reading Resources. You can read it HERE. And, before you come back and leave me a comment about “10” being the wrong number…look very close! And read the whole post!
Monday, January 16, 2012
Celebration of Discipline: The Path to Spiritual Growth by Richard J. Foster
My rating: 2 of 5 stars
This book is about 12 different spiritual disciplines and teaches us how we can incorporate them into our daily lives. I appreciate the idea of this book, however, I was not able to finish this book despite the easy listening audio format.
There were multiple things that I didn't agree with and then phrases that left me feeling quite uncertain about his exact beliefs. While I want to know more about and grow in applying spiritual disciplines to my life, I will be looking for other books to read. In all fairness, I have heard some people rave about this and others who have walked away with the same uncertainty as I. But after so many questionable ideas and too many thoughts I couldn’t agree on, I set this one aside. I personally feel it should not be read and think that there are more options that address the topic with better clarity.
Here is a wonderful, in-depth review of this book by Pastor Kirk Barger…
I looked forward to reading this book by Foster, but after completing it, I must say I have quite a few concerns. I would agree with Foster that “superficiality is the curse of our age” and that the typical tenor of the 21st century church is primarily interested in instant satisfaction spiritually. Rarely do we see the spiritual disciplines (fasting, prayer, study, simplicity, etc.) practiced by individuals in full time Christian service or by the layperson in the pew. Foster blames the lack of spiritual disciplines on two problems—a philosophic problem (materialism)
and a practical problem (a lack of exploring the inward life). With that in mind, Foster breaks down his focus of the spiritual disciplines into three distinct sections—the inward disciplines, the outward disciplines, and the corporate disciplines.
Section one, the inward disciplines, includes meditation, prayer, fasting, and study. From the outset, I was confronted with an air of New Age mysticism whereby Foster encourages the hearing of God’s voice within (18), visualization (25), and lotus-like posture for meditating (28). The boldest red flag for me, though, was when he referenced the practice of “old mystics” (31). And although Foster did mention the need to meditate on Scripture, he only refers to this as “the
central reference point by which all other forms of meditation are kept in proper perspective” (29).
Foster then takes this foundation of meditation and blends it together with several other disciplines. Meditation becomes a springboard for a deeper prayer life as one “listens to God.” But instead of focusing on the fact that this message comes from God in Scripture, there seems, again, to be a focus on hearing God from within. He does the same thing in his chapter on “study.” He first says that study and meditation are “two distinct experiences” (64). Yet, as he expounds on how to use study, he immediately crosses over from objective learning to the experiential. Foster does have some good suggestions as to how to study, but this is only short lived as he quickly encourages the reader to study other nonverbal “books.”
His second section—the outward disciplines—focuses on simplicity, solitude, submission, and service. I did appreciate his thoughts on the need for simplicity with regard to materialism, especially in guiding one’s focus toward God’s kingdom and not the stuff of the world. Unfortunately, his journey into solitude, though speckled with positive ideas for this discipline, still gives off the “scent of meditation” found earlier. I found the chapters on submission and service to be relatively helpful.
Section three deals with the corporate disciplines of confession, worship, guidance, and celebration. I found only parts of this section worth reading. Again, Foster’s chapters on worship and guidance seemed—for the most part—to center on experience. I did find his chapter on celebration to be enjoyable, although he went too far by endorsing “holy laughter” (198). Add to that the fact that he encouraged the creative gifts of fantasy and imagination, and we are right back where we started—mystical and ethereal.
Are spiritual disciplines lacking and needed today in the 21st century? Yes. Does Richard Foster give a good and balanced approach on how to practice the spiritual disciplines? No. He spends an inordinate amount of time in the experiential realm encouraging the reader to be—in my opinion—too self-focused, introspective, and mystical. Instead, the key is to be Biblically grounded and God-focused. Otherwise, one is treading on dangerous ground spiritually and theologically. Even though the book does focus on the need to be strengthened in the spiritual disciplines, I would not recommend this book due to the areas of concern mentioned above.
Friday, January 13, 2012
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
For as far back as I can remember I have known who Martin Luther is and have had a vague understanding of his life. However, this wonderful little biography changed that for me! In roughly three hours of reading I gained a brief, yet thorough, overview of his life which began with great fear and ended with strong faith.
This 160 page book is short and easy-to-read, but could be a little challenging for younger teens to read. It might be a challenge worth making them work through since Luther's life is such an encouragement to the "average" person. Not only did I enjoy learning about Luther as a historical figure, but I reveled in learning about how God used an ordinary man to bring such extraordinary change to the church. And this short read lit the spark to read more about Luther and his life - especially his last 20 years being married to Katy!
Anyone who reads this book will walk away with more understanding of who Martin Luther really was, what his life work was all about, and be encouraged by how God an change what seems impossible to change. I highly recommend it to teens and adults both. It would also be a great book to read as a family for those with middle school age children and on up.
Wednesday, January 11, 2012
If you thought parenting was exhausting...wait till your read this book! And not only that, but you will also feel like an utter failure as a parent!
Before you click away because this sounds like a terrible book, let me share that this is THE BEST parenting book I have yet read. Yeah...that should say something because I have read a pile of parenting books!
While Everyday Talk will make it very clear to you that you are an imperfect parent, it will also greatly encourage you, humble you, and fill you with hope that through Christ you can point your children to God through the simplicity of your everyday talk. It's a short book and an easy read with Younts casual, but direct approach. He doesn't waste time trying to convince you of his ideas, but purposefully unpacks and applies scripture to our daily challenged as parents.
As you have already noticed, I like this book. I walked away with so much to apply and for the first time felt such clear purpose in the daily issues that I face as a mother. My favorite chapters were 6 and 7 that dealt directly with the most frustrating parts of parenting. And I also highly appreciated his chapter on music which was short and got right to the heart of the matter rather than being another essay on someone's personal opinion. If I had to sum up what I am walking away with it would be this: "Do I value God's holiness enough to allow it to influence and direct my moment by moment parenting?"
My one and only caution in this book is that Younts focuses a little more on the discipleship of children than the evangelism of children and I think we need to be cautious in that we never assure a child of their salvation or assume it. Not that he outright says this, just that he seems to lean more toward this side of the spectrum.
I recommend this book to parents, and I highly recommend it to grandparents, aunts, uncles, and those who work with kids on a regular basis. While the focus is directed to Moms and Dads, the wisdom and Biblical principals are beneficial to all who interact with children. I think that a parent's child-rearing could be even more effective when godly grandparents are on the same page and supporting their children rather than undermining them or discouraging them. The same goes for teachers, extended family members, and any adult close to the family.
Read and learn again and again with this gospel-centered, everyday book .
Monday, January 09, 2012
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
This short, 87 page book is an easy-to-read unpacking and explanation of 1 Timothy 2:9-15. It is like a mini commentary in the way that it digs into the passage, yet still flows like an easy reading book. In 4 short chapters John MacArthur explains the Biblical role of women as we find in 1 Timothy.
I personally appreciated the simplicity of this book - it's a "get in and get out" kind of read. In two hours I was able to read the entire book and take notes while really being impacted by it's message. While there are no lists of things to do or steps to take for change, learning the depth of what this passage means is enough to cultivate a desire for growth and/or change if you truly want to apply Scripture to your life. At the end of each chapter there is a short "Review" section that asks questions on what you read and helps you retain more and also would make a great discussion guide for a book club or Bible study.
I highly recommend this book to any woman or teen girl and think that it is a great individual read or perfect for discipleship or Bible study settings. It is a fabulous de-funking of false beliefs on women being second class in the Bible and a wonderful re-building of the high call God has placed on a woman's life.
Friday, January 06, 2012
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
This wonderful, gospel-centered book is all about how God's love impacts our broken lives. While the title leads one to think that it is about counseling others, there is much in this book that will resonate within the heart of the reader.
I enjoyed the entire book, but especially appreciated the chapters on how the gospel applies directly with our sanctification, emotions, and relationships. After reading other books on the topic of the daily transforming grace of the gospel, these 3 chapters offered new perspective and a fresh look at these areas where I struggle to apply God's grace. The idea that our emotions are a good gift from God is almost mind blowing to me!
Counsel From The Cross is very similar to Because He Loves Me but comes from more of a "counseling" approach. However, while it repeats some of the same material, it also works through it in a different way that I found to be very helpful as I continue in understanding and applying the gospel to my everyday living. It certainly stands alone as a single book, but I would highly suggest reading Because He Loves Me first, especially if you have never read another book on the daily application of the gospel.
This is a deep book, but not so deep that it takes a degree to read it. I highly recommend it to anyone - teen and up - who desires to understand the gospel more and is willing to take the time and effort to study it out using the book as a guide.
Wednesday, January 04, 2012
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I never knew about this series until Micah received it for Christmas. It is the cutest set of early reader books based on the original series of The Boxcar Kids. They are simplified and condensed to a young reader level, but still follow the basic outline of the older version. Each page has colorful illustrations and the story line is from the perspective of young Benny. I highly recommend this book - and this series - which is probably best for a first to second grade reading level or ages 4 to 8 for reading together.
Tuesday, January 03, 2012
I am so excited to do something new this year – a book club!
Would you like to read a book along with others to both encourage you and motivate you? Then join us for some good reads and some great fellowship, too!
You can find all the details at this post on my blog titled Daily Cup Of Grace.
Then you can join up by going to this facebook event page.
And finally, here is what we are going to be reading!
Monday, January 02, 2012
My rating: 2 of 5 stars
Every so often I enjoy a good sentimental story and while this had that element, and also the sweet "Gift of the Magi" twist to it, I finished it feeling frustrated by the lack of depth and the abrupt ending. Some of the main themes in this story were left hanging with out a conclusion. And while I liked the main character and the general storyline, she and others were allowed to get away with behavior that was un-biblical with out consequences. It is a short book filled with emotional tug and some sweet gestures - a quick reading fix - but with out purpose and encouragement. I was able to put the book down with out having been uplifted or challenged in any way. I enjoy Melody Carlson's writing - what was written was good writing - but the overall story is sadly lacking impact. If you want a book that's strictly "Christmasy" and emotional then you might enjoy it, but if you want a story that is going to uplift your heart, too, this is not for you.