Friday, March 24, 2017

Seven-Mile Miracle by Steven Furtick

When a person knows he is about to die, he chooses his last words carefully.  This book contemplates the last 7 phrases that Jesus spoke before his death on the cross.  These 7 words can serve as "mile markers" on our spiritual journey: forgiveness, salvation, relationship, abandonment, distress, triumph, and reunion.

Each chapter, or "mile", in the book has two sections.  The first explains what Jesus said and what was happening at the cross, and ends with questions for the reader to ponder.  The next section uses teaching and stories to help readers think about and apply the topic to their lives today.

In the weeks leading up to Easter, this is a nice tool to use to focus on what Jesus did for us on the cross and reflect on our relationship with him.  (There is even a 40 day bible reading guide to use during the Lenten season for those who want to delve deeper.)  Beyond that, I can't say that I came away with any new "eye-opening" information.  It was more of a reminder of things I had already heard.

My favorite part came in the last chapter.  I had heard Steven Furtick preach a sermon on the topic and it had stuck with me, so I was glad to see it in print!  Steven offers some insight into the interaction between the travelers to Emmaus and Jesus after his resurrection.  It involves the pattern that we see when Jesus shares a meal with his followers: Taken, Blessed, Broken, Given and how we can see that same pattern played out in the way God works in our lives.  Really good stuff to ponder.

Steven writes in a style that is easy to read and relate to.  I would recommend this book more to a seeker or a Christian young in his/her faith.  However, it is appropriate for anyone who wants to remember and focus on Jesus's final words before He gave His life on the cross.

*I received a complimentary copy of this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for an honest review.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Cherish by Gary Thomas

The definition of cherish is to "protect and care for (someone) lovingly, to hold something dear".  When applied to marriage, this goes beyond merely committing to your spouse - it means making him/her feel special.

I've been married for almost 17 years and recognize the importance of renewing my mind when it comes to how I view my husband and our marriage.  I can't say there was any huge revelation that I took away from this book, but it did help me to focus on the truth and align my perspective with God's word.  I pray this will help me to cherish my husband more.

For couples who like to read together, each chapter ends with a summary of the main points and a series of discussion questions.  Gary Thomas points out that while he shares advice that works for most couples, each person is an individual.  Therefore, to get the most out of this book, you should discuss it with your spouse to see how he/she would feel most cherished.

While there are several things I underlined, I always like to share my biggest take-away in my reviews.  This one appeared in a chapter about being patient with your spouses's sins.  Gary writes, "A holy person isn't known by what he or she does or doesn't watch, by avoiding a few forbidden words, or by attending a frequent number of religious meetings, but by how he or she treats fellow sinners.  Our experiential holiness is defined in large part by our ability to gracefully bear the lack of holiness in others.  You know you are a spiritually strong person when you can live joyfully and gracefully around spiritually weak people."  I had to stop and digest that...We ALL sin and therefore all have spouses that sin.  It's how we respond that shows our true maturity.  He goes on to write, "There's another way to look at this: if God's attitude toward you in your sin mirrored exactly your attitude toward your spouse in his or her sin, where would you be with God?...Stop comparing your spiritual maturity with your spouse's; instead, start comparing your spiritual maturity with Ephesians 4:1-3.  If you do that, you will change the climate of your marriage."

This is only one of the many ways we can learn to cherish our spouses.  I challenge you to read this book and learn about the others.

*I received a complimentary copy of this book from BookLook Bloggers in exchange for an honest review.

                                                                               Ephesians 4:1-3  

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Kingdom Family Devotional Review

"If we're ever to see the salvation of our nation, we must first pursue the salvation of the family.  The strength or weakness of the family will ultimately determine whether our society stands or falls.  That's why we've written the Kingdom Family Devotional" - Tony and Jonathan Evans

Family devotional time has always been an area where my family has struggled to be consistent.  Trying to figure out a time when everyone can eat dinner together is challenging.  Then to find material that is engaging for all age groups?  Really tough.  I'm always keeping my eye out for good resources.  I picked up this book to see if it would be appropriate for my family with boys ages 9-14.  While some tweaking will be necessary, I believe this is worth a try!

The Kingdom Family Devotional is designed to last a full year, focusing on one topic per week, Monday through Friday.   Examples of topics: Love, Respect, Purity, Money, Forgiveness, Courteous Speech, Wisdom, Repentance, and Humility.   Each day is only one short page, beginning with a Scripture.  You will find short stories and illustrations, verses to memorize as a family, discussion questions, and suggestions for activities.  Wednesdays tend to focus more on Scripture (Wednesday in the Word), while "Fun Fridays" have an activity.

I found that I really like the content of this devotional.  The Scriptures and readings that have been selected are interesting and relevant.  I can see meaningful discussions taking place as a result.  The one area that will require the most adaptation is the activities.  Crafts? Not happening.  Family dance and song writing? Nope, that's probably out too.  Read ahead...If you see there's an activity coming that you know would not work for your family, simply omit it or tweak it to fit your style.

*I received a complimentary copy of this book from Tyndale Publishers in exchange for an honest review.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Meals From Mars by Ben Sciacca

Meals From Mars is a fictional story that is meant to fuel conversations about racial tension.  I found it to be an interesting, quick read that helped me to expand my perspective on the challenges facing segregated communities.

The story revolves around a white man from an affluent neighborhood who goes into "the other side of town" to deliver some groceries to a needy family.  He ends up getting carjacked and stranded with a young black man.  As the two strangers begin to open up to one another and share their stories, readers can be challenged to explore their own views and prejudices regarding race.

I was drawn to one observation that the author made about violent crime.  He writes "Some simply label things too quickly and try to connect violence to race rather than to circumstances or context.  The reality is that any community - regardless of race - that is facing...poverty, joblessness, and brokenness tends to use violence in equal measure.  In most cases, when violence emerges in a community, it has become the currency of negotiation for people who feel like they have no other option."  This story aims to provide understanding and get us thinking about how to fix the root problem and bring reconciliation, rather than just the quick fix.

This book is an engaging tool that can be used to get the conversation about racial tension started....there are even 20 discussion questions provided to get things rolling!

*I received a complimentary copy of this book from Tyndale Publishers in exchange for an honest review.

Friday, December 2, 2016

Shaken: A Book Review

While this book could be beneficial for anyone to read, if you have teenage sons who are sports fans - this book is awesome!  Why?  They will read it!  And it's solid, faith-based teaching and encouragement.  I could buy them all sorts of spiritual books aimed at teenagers, but they would only get a passing glance.  Two of my boys have already read Tim Tebow's first book and enjoyed it, so I know they will give this one a try.  His writing is kid-tested and mother-approved ;)

Shaken: Discovering Your True Identity in the Midst of Life's Storms.  We all have disappointment and discouragement in our lives - even professional athletes.  In this book Tim shares some of his struggles in his sports career, such as getting cut from a few teams, and uses that platform to share how we can overcome our storms.  He also shares stories of other people who have inspired him.  I thought it was the perfect mix of sports, story, and teaching.  Enough football talk to engage my sports-oriented boys, but not too detailed for someone who could care less about the game.

Tim's story helps to give perspective on what it's like to be a professional athlete.  Right now my oldest son sees only the game and the money.  What he doesn't see is the risk of crushing disappointment, the fickle fans, and the struggle with remaining humble and grounded.  Everyone has highs and lows in their lives, but we can't let them define who we are.  That's the heart of this book.

I respect Tim for using his fame to make a difference in the world.  He has a foundation that is changing the lives of children, some of which we hear about in this book.  He does mission work in prisons and overseas, and he is sharing the message of hope with those who will listen.  Many of us don't have the same level of influence that fame provides, but he still encourages us to stand up and practice acts of kindness.  We can all make a difference.

Tim writes "I want my life to speak louder than a world record.  I don't just want to leave a legacy on the field.  I want to live off the field in a way that outlives me.  I want my love for God and for others to shine greater than an incredible comeback moment, a heavy gold trophy, or a handful of favorable headlines".  Thank you, Tim, for being bold enough to share your faith and set an example for these young men of mine.  You are leaving a legacy.

*I received a complimentary copy of this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for an honest review.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

NIV Bible for Teen Guys Review

I have one teenage son, with two following quickly behind, so this Bible caught my attention.  I'm always on the lookout for content that will help them engage with and relate to God's Word.

The main thing you need to be aware of is that this is a devotional bible, NOT a study bible.  You will not find footnotes or maps explaining the text in further detail.  What will you find?

  • Scattered throughout the Bible are roughly 333 one-page devotions focused on a specific verse found within the book where the devotion appears.  Several of these are excerpts from popular student edition books, such as All In, Thrive, and Gods at War.  At the end of the bible is an index arranging these devotions by topic.
  • Since this is a bible for guys, there are 55 one-page highlights of Men of the Bible.  Each page tells what the man's name means, where his story can be found, and what lessons he can teach us.  There is an index at the back of the book for these highlights as well.
  • Each book of the Bible starts with a one-page introduction.  It details when the events happened, who is in the book, popular verses, and a brief synopsis.
  • The Bible ends with a 60-page concordance.
While I think a study bible might be the best choice for a teenage boy wanting to understand the Scriptures, I do like the features contained in this book.  The devotions are relevant and I think boys will be drawn to the stories of men.  The book I was given was hardback.  If I were going to purchase this book, I would probably spend the extra money for an imitation leather cover.

*I received a complimentary copy of this book from BookLook Bloggers in exchange for an honest review.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Riley Unlikely by Riley Banks-Snyder

This book is the heart-warming story of how God has and is using a teenage girl to impact the world.  Can one person really make a difference?  Absolutely.  All it takes is one step of obedience at a time.

Riley Banks has an aunt and uncle who were going on a short-term medical missions trip to Africa.  At the age of thirteen she was able to go visit them and help serve, which ignited a passion in her for the children in Africa.  She would see a need and then figure out what she could do, with the help of others, to meet it.  She sacrificed presents and other material goods for herself in order to raise funds for return visits to bless the children.  What started as something as small as collecting school supplies has now become her lifelong vision to live and serve in Kenya.

This true story was enjoyable to read.  It is encouraging to see how God can use an ordinary girl and her family to start a ministry and do more than they possibly could have imagined.  Riley is honest about the challenges and obstacles that were present on her journey, but is also quick to point out the many ways that God has shown Himself faithful.

If you want to learn more about Riley's ministry Generation Next, or if you simply want to read a story about the impact that one family is having on the world, check this book out!

*I received a complimentary copy of this book from BookLook Bloggers in exchange for an honest review.