Category Archives: Christian books

Reframing the Soul by Gregory Spencer–Book Review

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This was a new book I picked up at my local library recently.  It’s probably not for everybody, but I really enjoyed it.  Subtitled How Words Transform Our Faith, the author deals with language and how the way we use it affects how we view ourselves, our relationships with others, and even our faith.  For example, if you had a difficult childhood, do you choose to “frame” it with the language of bitterness or forgiveness?  When you “frame” our relationship with God, do you choose words of love and gratitude, or judgement and failure?  When you look back over your life story do you choose words of grace, or condemnation?

“We choose our frames, and then we live in them.  They form the structure of our lives, the “home” we carry around, which includes the “windows” through which we see the world.  Though words are not everything, the words we choose matter.  We can be transformed by them.  They affect our work and play, our faithful and unbelieving choices, our virtues and our vices.”

Reframing the Soul: How Words Transform Our Faith

I’m a word person, and so I like to think words make a difference.  Words are the way we think and the way we tell our stories. Calling an experience “disastrous” we make us think about it in a different way than labeling it “challenging.” As believers, we can choose to “reframe” situations by putting on the mind of Christ, seeing ourselves and others as imperfect and broken, but children of a God who loves and values them.  We can choose to “reframe” our memories by believing that God was in control and working things for our good, even when it didn’t seem that way at the time.

This book is both thoughtful and thought provoking.  It ends with some “reframing exercises and discussion questions.  I would recommend it as a great read for a small group or book club.

 

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Just Open the Door by Jen Schmidt–Book Review

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“Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality”  Romans 12:13

Jen Schmidt doesn’t just practice hospitality, she pursues it!  She defines hospitality as “freely giving of ourselves, while granting others the freedom to be themselves.” and offers many creative solutions to our usual excuses for failing to welcome others.

The best advice she has is, “just do it!”  Hospitality is not about having the perfect home or the perfect menu;  it’s simply about welcoming others in and making them comfortable.  It’s not about you at all– it’s about others.  Her hospitality is radical;  it goes far beyond the usual dinner or potluck.  In her book, she discusses hospitality on the go (spread a blanket at the ball game and invite someone to sit with you), everyday moments (invite the people you just met at Chick-fil-A to visit you), adoption (make a stranger part of your family) and more.

Throughout the book, the author has interspersed “Dear Jen” letters she has received with questions about hospitality and her answers. There are also a number of short essays by some of her family members. Each chapter is  followed by an “Elevate the Ordinary” list of ideas about everything from entertaining on a budget to creating a family mission statement.

I especially enjoyed a chapter about a time in her life when everything seemed to be going wrong.  Her family was struggling financially and there were several deaths in the family.  Jen says:

“I was forced to choose.  Declare His promises or disappear into my doubt.  Avoid doing life in community and the vulnerability that comes along with it, or wrestle my spirit to find ways to bring Him glory in the midst of it.  I needed to stay committed to opening my life up to others–actively loving God and loving my neighbor–even when I didn’t feel like it.  Even when I couldn’t afford it.”

If you, like me, do not have the gift of hospitality, read this book.  You’ll be inspired and learn many suggestions for hosting and welcoming.  Some of them are sure to work for you. You may also enjoy visiting Jen’s blog, Balancing Beauty and Bedlam.

Verdict:  I give this book 5 stars.  For purchasing information go to the link below:

http://www.bhpublishinggroup.com/products/just-open-the-door

A Quote by Eugene Peterson

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For those who have not heard of him, Eugene Peterson is a Presbyterian pastor and author of more than thirty books. I have read quite of few of them, and would recommend him as a Christian author.  He is best know for his contemporary rendering of the Bible, The Message.  This quote comes from his book, A Long Obedience in the Same Direction, and I think it addresses well the reality of living together as a Christian community.

“But, of course, the fact that we are a family of faith does not mean we are one big happy family. The people we encounter as brothers and sisters in faith are not always nice people.  They do not stop being sinners the moment they begin believing in Christ.  They don’t suddenly metamorphose into brilliant conversationalists, exciting companions and glowing inspirations.  Some of them are cranky, some of them are dull and others (if the truth must be spoken), a drag.  But at the same time our Lord tells us that they are brothers and sisters in faith.  If God is my Father, then this is my family.

So the question is not, ‘Am I going to be part of a community of faith?’ but ‘How am I going to live in this community of faith?’  God’s children do different things.  Some run away and pretend the family doesn’t exist.  Some move out and get an apartment of their own from which they return to make occasional visits, nearly always showing up for the parties and bringing a gift to show that they really do hold the others in fond regard.  And some would never dream of leaving but cause others to dream it for them, for they are always criticizing what is served at meals, quarreling with the way the housekeeping is done and complaining that the others in the family are either ignoring or taking advantage of them.  And some, determined to find out what God has in mind by placing them in this community called a church, learn how to function harmoniously and joyously, and develop the maturity that is able to share and exchange God’s grace with those who might otherwise be viewed as nuisances.”

 

Cornerstones – A Book Review

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Brian Dembowczyk has written a book that reviews 200 basic questions about God, Jesus, the Church and pretty much any basic theological question you can imagine.  He starts of with a letter to parents about why he wrote the book and how to use it to develop a spiritual nature in their children.

The book is colorful and interesting in its format It is broken into 7 sections.  The sections are listed below:

  1. God
  2. Creation
  3. Sin
  4. Jesus
  5. Salvation
  6. The Bible
  7. Discipleship
  8. The Church and Last Things

Even though the questions and answers are a simple format and are geared towards children; I feel that this book would work well with anyone who is new to the faith or would like to renew the knowledge they have.

I found the answers simple, correct and to the point, and since I prefer books that are straight to the point I enjoyed this one.

Keep in mind this book is to be used as a family unit, you are not to give the book to someone and walk away, it is an interactive study to expand and deepen the knowledge a person has of their spiritual walk.

I rate this book 5 out of 5 stars and would recommend it as required family reading.

 

I was given a free copy of this book in return for an unbiased review.

ColorFull by Dorena Williamson–Book Review

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I loved this book.  The illustrations by Cornelius Van Wright and his wife, Ying-Hwa Hu are delightful.  Author Dorena Williamson presents her theme (we are all fearfully and wonderfully made) in a way that is winsome, realistic and easily understandable to young children.  God must love color!  It  is part of the wonder of His creation:  in plants, food, the world around us, and people.  We shouldn’t strive to be “color blind.”  Instead we should notice and admire the different colors of our skin, hair and eyes. Is your hair red, brown or blonde? Are your eyes brown or green?  Is your skin chocolate, vanilla or caramel? God made us ColorFull, not ColorLess.   All of our colors are beautiful and good.  That’s the way God made us to be and everything He created is good.

At the end of the book the author has included a Bible verse with suggested Scripture readings and thought questions that will be useful for parents and teachers who want to further explore and reinforce the topic.

Verdict:  Five stars!  This book will definitely go in our church’s Little Free Library collection.  To order, follow the link below:

http://www.bhpublishinggroup.com/products/colorfull

Who To Be

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“As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, ‘You shall be holy, for I am holy.'” 1 Peter 1:14-16

I just started reading a book titled, In His Image by Jen Wilken, and the first chapter is about holiness. Although holiness is an attribute of God, it is also a quality we need to reflect as God’s people.  For humans, holiness means being set apart for God, devoted to God, pure in character — in other words, pious.

Most Christians want to know what God’s will is for them as individuals .  What job should I take?  Who should I marry?  Where should I live? These are things we ask ourselves.  According to Ms. Wilken, instead of these questions which all boil down to “What should I do?” we ought to be asking “Who should I be?”

The Bible does not tell us what is the right decision in every case.  However, it does tell us quite a bit about who to be in every area of life.  Here’s a quote from the book:

“Simply put, God’s will for your life is that you be holy.  That you live a life of set-apartness.  That, by the power of the Holy Spirit, you strive for utter purity of character (Heb.12:14).  Every admonition contained in all of Scripture can be reduced to this.  Every warning, every law, every encouragement bows to this overarching purpose.  Every story of every figure in every corner of every book of the Bible is chanting this call.  Be holy, for he is holy.”

If we are striving to be direct our life to God and His will for us, the other decisions will not loom so large. Piety is not about what we do.  We can be holy in any job, any place, any marriage.  The circumstances don’t matter, but who we are does.

 

The CSB Worldview Study Bible

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The Worldview CSB Study Bible is a newer translation called the Christian Standard Bible.  This translation is said to be more reader-friendly.  I did not really have a problem with the verses I checked against my ESV and will continue to utilize it in my studies since I like to use several translations.  There are approximately 100 essays located throughout the Bible written by different professors, theologians, Pastors, etc. that range in topics from how to use the study Bible to different religions and modern issues we as Christians are dealing with.  I did not really care for them to be scattered throughout the Bible I would have preferred to have them in the back as an appendix.  The study notes are located at the bottom of the text and any additional reference verses are located in the middle column.  In the New Testament, all Old Testament references in the text are in bold, and I find that I like that and wish all Bibles would do it.  Before I review the actual physical characteristics I want to put in a word of caution.  If ANY of the study notes raise a question, talk to your Pastor, Priest Spiritual Head or whatever they are referred to as; do not accept information that is contrary to your beliefs in any way.  That being said the notes that I review were on target with my theology, but of course, I did not read every study note.  There is a very nicely detailed concordance in the back along with colorful maps.

Physical Characteristics – It is a blue Leather touch with silver gilding on the page edges.  It comes in a sturdy box that if giving as a gift and mailing should do well.  There is a presentation page with the verse Revelations 22:6A Then He said to me, “These words are faithful and true” I liked that and felt it gave it a great touch.  There are 2 ribbon markers one for the Old Testament and one for the New Testament.

I give this Study Bible 4 out of 5 stars based on the information I read and would recommend it for purchase.

I was given a free copy in exchange for an honest review.

Superheros Can’t Save You by Todd Miles–Book Review

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If you can get past the title, this is a great book.  Sorry, but I grew out of my fascination with comics at age eleven, and I think comparing historic heresies to superheros trivializes a serious topic.  However you really can’t judge a book by its’ cover! Author Todd Miles,  who is a teacher at Western Seminary in Oregon knows his topic.  He does an excellent job of covering seven major heresies and 2,000 years of church history in a manner that most laypeople will find clear and understandable.

Superheroes Can't Save You: Epic Examples of Historic Heresies by [Miles, Todd]

Each chapter starts with his explanation of a particular superhero and how this hero represents one of the “bad ideas about Jesus.”  (You can skip this part if you like.)  He goes on to explain the exact belief of each heresy, the historic background, and how the heresy is manifested today.  Finally he lays out what the Bible says that discredits the heresy, and why it is important that it be rejected.  The chapter ends with questions for personal reflection or group discussion and suggestions for further study.

Verdict:  This is a very readable book for those who want to learn more about the complex issues of the Trinity and Christology.  It could easily be used for a group study. It would also be a good addition to any church library as it answers questions about some difficult theological concepts.  I think any reader will come away with a deeper understanding of the person of Jesus.  I would give it four out of five stars only because I didn’t like the silly pop culture theme — otherwise, it would be a five.

If you would like to purchase this book, follow the link below:

http://www.bhpublishinggroup.com/products/superheroes-can%c2%92t-save-you

 

What Does Piety Look Like #2

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Years ago I found this description of what piety looks like in a book called The Christian’s Secret to a Happy Life by Hannah Whitall Smith.  Hannah was raised as a Quaker and was later influenced by the Holiness movement (John Wesley, founder of the Methodists). I don’t know all there is to know about Hannah’s theological beliefs, so I can’t recommend all of her writings, but I find her comments below helpful in defining what it means to be authentically pious.

“When a consecrated believer follows the Lord faithfully several evidences appear sooner or later.  Meekness and quietness of spirit become, in time, the characteristics of daily life.  Other outward signs are:

  1. Grateful acceptance of the will of God as it comes in the hourly events of each day

  2. Pliability in the hands of God to do or bear whatever He assigns

  3. A sweet disposition, even under provocation

  4. Calmness in the midst of turmoil and confusion

  5. Willingness to let others have their way

  6. Refusal to notice slights and affronts

  7. Absence of worry, anxiety and fear

The Christian's Secret to a Happy Life - Hannah Whitall Smith by [Smith, Hannah Whitall]

Sometimes I read through these qualities as a way to examine my conscience, in other words to measure my own progress in piety. Knowing our weaknesses is the starting point for change.  I admit to having trouble with all of these, but find #3 and #7 particularly difficult.  You may fall short in different areas. I notice that although these attributes are manifested outwardly, they all spring from an inner desire to trust and obey God, and they’re not easy to fake.  It’s not about following the rules, it’s about following Jesus.

Do you find Hannah’s list thought provoking? How might you use it?  Let the Lutheran Ladies know what you think.

The CSB Study Bible for Women – Book Review

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This is the Christian Standard Bible translation offered by Holman.  The exterior of this Bible has a hardback light turquoise with a cream bookend.  It comes with a very pretty flowered paper jacket.  The appearance of this Bible is feminine and the only thing I would like to see changed is that the flower jacket covered the entire exterior.

The interior has a lot of features to review, starting with the wife and husband family trees located in the very front of the book.  It then lists the Ketubah, which is a Jewish marriage contract, I found the information about this interesting and it also gives space for your own personal contract to be written.  Next comes the listing of family milestones and spiritual mothers.  Since there are events and people in our lives that shape us, this is a great way to honor them.

The introduction to the Study Bible had some very relevant suggestions and ideas that were written by Dorothy Kelley Patterson (professor at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary).  There is also a section on how to actually study the Bible.  There are essays from various women throughout the Bible and also different charts and maps to help.

One of the many items I liked were the word studies located throughout.  Each one picks a single word and gives a more detailed breakdown; origin, different locations in the Bible, etc.)  The concordance is the back has many different features including related terms, color coding for old, new or both.

Now to the meat of the review.  I checked the translation against my ESV, NIV, and NLT and found them to be similar.  I like the format of the study notes and how much information is provided.  The essays and study notes were extensive and I did not read all of them, but the ones I did were in line with the Lutheran doctrine.

However, if anyone should have questions about any notes in a study Bible, I would suggest a discussion with your Pastor in case the notes are not conducive to your doctrine.

That being said I would purchase this Study Bible and give it 3 out of 4 stars.

You may purchase it at:  https://www.lifeway.com/en/product/the-csb-study-bible-for-women-light-turquoise-sand-hardcover-P005787303