Idols

There are so many idols to distract us from God and His truth. This world has many temptations to entice us away. Our hearts are the real culprit however. Much of what we desire and long for can be classified as good desires and longings, yet how we seek to fill those desires and longings often leads us to idolatry.

But wait a minute! Idolatry? Most of us, particularly in the Western hemisphere, would say that we don’t practice idolatry. We don’t bow down to wooden or gold statues. We don’t offer sacrifices anymore. But idols aren’t necessarily something physical. Idols are anything that we look to for satisfaction. Idolatry is worshipping something or someone other than the true God. In this way, we can see multiple ways that we turn to idols to fill our desires rather than to God Himself.

The desire for close friendship is a valid desire. The desire to grow in knowledge and understanding is a valid desire. But if I sin in order to fill those desires, they have become idolatrous. When I scroll through my Facebook feed and get jealous seeing my friends hanging out with other people rather than me, I have turned that friendship into an idol. When my longing to learn and study leads to buying books that I cannot afford, I have turned my desire for knowledge into an idol.

So how do we turn from idolatry to worshipping God? It all goes back to the heart. What am I looking to for satisfaction? Heart change takes time and involves a continual renewal of truth to remind ourselves that true satisfaction is found only in God, not in other people, knowledge, money, or power. They may temporarily satisfy, but will never really fill the longings we have within us. When I find myself longing for something, I need to examine why I am desiring that particular thing? Am I looking for it to fulfill me? Or is it something that God is using to bring Him more glory? Will this friendship help me to honor God with my actions and attitude? Or will it cause me to sin against Him? As long as we live in this sin-cursed world, we will struggle against idolatry. But that doesn’t mean we are defeated. Rather, God continues to renew His children and sanctify us with His truth. We go back to His Word to remind ourselves of His majesty and love. He is our only true Savior.

Advertisements

Face Time by Kristen Hatton

Face Time: Your Identity in a Selfie WorldFace Time: Your Identity in a Selfie World by Kristen Hatton

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A short, succinct and practical book, this is geared toward teen girls and the struggle to find their identity. However, anyone can gain help from this book, which starts out with the foundation of our identity being in Christ if we are a believer in Him. She gives the foundation of what justification means and how that affects who we are as Christians and what that means for where our identity lies.
After the foundation of our identity being rooted in Christ, she then takes us through multiple ways that teens struggle today with their identity, whether it be an eating disorder, approval of friends, perfectionism, self-harm, sex, or drinking. With each example, she then has discussion questions and a journal section with Bible verses to see the truth about these struggles. Whether it’s a personal struggle or something we see our friends going through, this book offers practical help in dealing with life in this world.
One small problem I had was that some of the verses used were taken out of context. While the truth that was being given from these verses is accurate, those verses are not the best place to show that truth as the meaning of those particular verses was not correctly being used. Other verses in the Bible could have been used to show that truth. However, overall this was an excellent book that could be used with a small group of teens to work through some of these issues that they face and how to deal with them in a Biblical way.

*I received a copy of this book from the publisher New Growth Press in exchange for my review.

Redefining Truth by David Fiorazo

Redefining Truth: Delusions of Replacing God and Calling Evil GoodRedefining Truth: Delusions of Replacing God and Calling Evil Good by David Fiorazo

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

In a world where truth has become relative, those of us who believe that there is an absolute truth are fast becoming a minority. In this book the author goes through many ways that the truth has been eroding in the world, particularly in America. Several of the chapters take a closer look at particular religions and worldviews and what about them makes them false. Other chapters look at the decline of marriage and family and how the sex revolution has changed the culture. This book is sobering and a wake-up call to not be complacent in the face of mounting opposition to the Christian faith. Truth must be defined based on what God says in His Word, not on what our feelings want it to be.
Easy to read, if you want to be informed on some of the current issues facing the church today, this book would be a help. One of the chapters that I did not find helpful was the one where he used the strawman fallacy regarding what he calls “replacement theology”. He doesn’t accurately understand the opposing view, obviously holding to dispensationalism himself. But disregarding that chapter, overall the book was a helpful read and one that can provide information regarding the downward slide that this country is part of.

*I received a copy of this book free from the publisher Aneko Press in exchange for my review.

Uncomfortable by Brett McCracken

Uncomfortable: The Awkward and Essential Challenge of Christian CommunityUncomfortable: The Awkward and Essential Challenge of Christian Community by Brett McCracken

My rating: 1 of 5 stars

I tried to finish this book, but I found myself unable to keep reading. I disagree theologically with the author, which made it difficult to continue on. While there were some good things in this book, including a discussion on how we find it uncomfortable to talk about the cross and sin, as well as our uncomfortableness with pursing holiness in our lives, the chapter on the Holy Spirit was not in line with what I believe. While there can be things to learn from reading those we disagree with, there was enough in this book to not make it worth my time to continue. Others may find it helpful but it’s not a book I would recommend.

*I received a copy of this book free from the publisher Crossway in exchange for my review.

Closer Than a Sister by Christina Fox

Closer Than a Sister: How Union with Christ Helps Friendships to FlourishCloser Than a Sister: How Union with Christ Helps Friendships to Flourish by Christina Fox

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Friendship is something that many of us struggle with. We long for it, yet often find ourselves on the outside, wondering what it takes to have the closeness we see others experiencing. In this book, the author particularly addresses the area of friendships for women in the church. For Christian women, friendship goes beyond merely being friends, but having a bond and unity in Christ that makes us a family. She uses the example of the Trinity as an example of perfect community – three persons in one – experiencing perfect unity and community. Because we are made in God’s image, we have been made to experience community with one another. But because of sin, that community has become broken and does not often meet the desires that we have for it.
After explaining the theology behind Biblical friendships and the unity we have as believers in Christ, the author then takes us into practical ways that we can serve and encourage each other and thus grow in our friendships. Community takes work and she talks about some of the downfalls that we often experience. Loss of friendships whether through moving, changes of the season of life, or conflict, all contribute to our loneliness and longing for community. In the last section of the book, the author addresses ways that friendships can be destroyed through gossip or even idolizing our friends and placing unrealistic expectations on them.
Developing friendships such as the author describes requires effort on our part. Not everyone at our church will become a close friend. But rather than waiting for others to come to us, we need to reach out in service to our sisters in Christ. While we wait for friendships to develop, we also remember that ultimately Christ is our true Friend, One who never lets us down or leaves us.
I recommend this book, whether friendship is a struggle for you or not. It is a good reminder of what friendships should strive to be and Who ultimately is the Friend we all long for.

*I received a copy of this book from the publisher Christian Focus in exchange for my review.

Descriptions and Prescriptions by Michael Emlet

Descriptions and Prescriptions: A Biblical Perspective on Psychiatric Diagnoses and MedicationsDescriptions and Prescriptions: A Biblical Perspective on Psychiatric Diagnoses and Medications by Michael R. Emlet

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book addresses a controversial topic among Christians – the use of medications for treatment of various mental ailments. The author does an excellent job of balancing this topic in a Biblical manner, also showing that it’s not always a cut-and-dried response. There is not a once-size-fits-all answer for this challenging area of medications.
The first section of the book deals with the history of psychiatry and development of various mental illnesses as seen in the Diagnostic Manuals and their continual updating through the years. The second section then deals with medications – what they are and what they are prescribed for, as well as not knowing completely how they work. I found his approach balanced and Biblical.
For those who may be on one side of the issue or the other, this book presents a balanced response and a “middle-of-the-road” approach to the difficult decisions involved with deciding whether or not medication is needed in the lives of those struggling. I recommend those who come across this issue to read this book for help.

*I received a copy of this book from the publisher New Growth Press in exchange for my review.

True Feelings by Carolyn Mahaney & Nicole Whitacre

True Feelings: God's Gracious and Glorious Purpose for Our EmotionsTrue Feelings: God’s Gracious and Glorious Purpose for Our Emotions by Carolyn Mahaney

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Often we look at our emotions and view them as bad. Yet emotions themselves are not bad, rather how we use them. Learning to recognize and control our emotions is a battle we all face. In this book, the authors provide some practical steps to better understand our emotions and learn to use them in a God-honoring way rather than in sinful patterns.
Emotions “tell us what we believe and value. We should listen to what they are telling us and evaluate our emotions in light of Scripture. Emotions also move. We should not try to deny their persuading power, but instead allow them to drive us to God.” When our emotions manifest themselves, we should evaluate what that particular emotion is revealing about what we believe and value. For example, anger at being cut off in traffic reveals that we value our safety. Or it may reveal that we want to be in control and have our drive go smoothly. Recognizing our underlying beliefs and values behind our emotions helps us to then respond according to what Scripture teaches rather than turning to a sinful response. If the beliefs or values that an emotion reveals is not Biblical, that emotion is an indication that we need to change our belief or value so that it lines up with Scripture.
This book provides great information for us to evaluate our emotions Biblically and some practical steps for moving forward. If you struggle with your emotions, this is a good read to provide hope and encouragement.

*I received a copy of this book free on Kindle from the publisher Crossway through Netgalley in exchange for my review.

Anger & Stress Management God’s Way by Wayne Mack

Anger & Stress Management God's WayAnger & Stress Management God’s Way by Wayne A. Mack

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I don’t know if I read this book years ago or not. Most of it seemed pretty familiar, but that could be due to the reading I’ve done regarding anger management and biblical counseling. Very simple and succinct, if you are not familiar with how biblical counseling addresses anger, this book is a good overview of recognizing anger, whether anger is sinful, and how to respond to it. We often get angry because of wrong expectations or a perceived violation of our “rights”. There are quite a few application questions throughout the book to ask ourselves so that we can properly deal with our anger.
The second half of the book deals with stress and how we cope with stress. A reminder is given of God’s sovereignty and how remembering that helps us in coping with the trials we face.
I wasn’t overly impressed with the book, but I don’t know if that was because I was already familiar with the material. It was a quick, easy read.

*I received a copy of this book free on Kindle through Netgalley from the publisher in exchange for my review.

How to Read and Understand the Biblical Prophets

How to Read and Understand the Biblical ProphetsHow to Read and Understand the Biblical Prophets by Peter J. Gentry

My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

This is a short, succinct book on the genre of prophecy and how this Hebrew literature was written. In our Western mindset, we often don’t properly read and understand Hebrew prophecy, as it was written in a style that we are not accustomed to. Peter Gentry takes us through the characteristics of Hebrew prophecy and how to better understand it. He uses multiple examples, particularly in Isaiah, to show the style and genre and demonstrate how this would have been understood to the original readers. As I’m currently studying Isaiah, I found this helpful to better understand what I am reading. There are charts throughout the book to demonstrate the chiastic structure that is common in Hebrew literature. We are not properly understanding the Bible if we don’t understand it the way the original readers understood its meaning. This book is a helpful resource to better understand the genre and structure of the biblical prophets so we can better grasp the original readers’ understanding of the text.

*I received a copy of this book free on Kindle from the publisher Crossway in exchange for my review.

Book Review: A Practical Guide to Culture

A Practical Guide to Culture: Helping the Next Generation Navigate Today's WorldA Practical Guide to Culture: Helping the Next Generation Navigate Today’s World by John Stonestreet

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book is geared toward parents, pastors, and youth leaders but could also be read by teens themselves. The authors present the challenges that Christians face in today’s culture and provide practical solutions for facing these. We all have a worldview and often the culture we live in affects that worldview. As Christians our worldview is to be based on the truth of Scripture. When much of the culture we live in flies in the face of that truth, it becomes a challenge to navigate. Teens today especially face these challenges and we need to help equip them properly to know the truth and defend it.
While this book is geared toward those who parent and mentor teens, it could also be used as a small group study amongst teens to help them learn tools for facing some of the most common issues in today’s culture – homosexuality, transgenderism, a hook-up culture, addiction, etc. The authors take us through these key issues and provide answers to the lies that the culture tells us about our sexual identity, relativism, etc. Each chapter in the book ends with further resources on that topic as well as discussion questions to talk through.
I would highly recommend this book as a resource for parents of teens to read, along with youth ministry leaders. We cannot hide our heads in the sand regarding these issues in the culture but need to challenge them with the truth and grace of the gospel. This book is a quick, easy read that provides tools to deal with these issues as well as pointing to further resources for deeper study.

*I received a copy of this book free on Kindle from the publisher David Cook in exchange for my review.