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.

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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.

12 Ways Your Phone Is Changing You

12 Ways Your Phone is Changing You12 Ways Your Phone is Changing You by Tony Reinke

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Well, if you weren’t already convicted by how much time you spend on your smartphone, you will be after reading this book! The pros and cons of technology are discussed, particularly when it comes to our use of social media. The author asks some hard-hitting questions and talks about reasons we use our smartphones, things such as distraction and to avoid responsibility, for diversion, for affirmation and community.
“The question of this book is simple: What is the best use of my smartphone in the flourishing of my life? To that end, my aim is to avoid both extremes…” The author gives both downsides and upsides to our use of smartphones. It appears the intent of the book is to open our eyes to why we are using them and for what purposes. We need to be intentional in the decisions we make and the author reminds us that we will answer to God for our words and deeds. He does not tell us we shouldn’t use social media or smartphones, but rather to gauge our use and motivations for use and to be wise with our time and resources. “Before you text, tweet, or publish digital art online, honestly ask yourself: Will this ultimately glorify me or God?”
In a world that speeds by us, this book is a good reminder of what matters and to remember what is truly important. Are we living life for God’s purposes or our own?

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

This Changes Everything by Jaquelle Crowe

This Changes Everything: How the Gospel Transforms the Teen YearsThis Changes Everything: How the Gospel Transforms the Teen Years by Jaquelle Crowe

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book is excellent! It is written by a teenager for teenagers. Now, I am no longer a teenager :-), but I have been getting involved with teenagers and wanted to see if this would be a good resource for them. And yes, it is!
The author delves into how the gospel and following Jesus changes everything about our lives. I was getting convicted in her chapter about how we use our time. She spells out the gospel and then shows how this affects us in various ways, such as community in the church, our time, spiritual disciplines, relationships with others, sin and sanctification. I loved her chapter on disciplines and the importance of memorizing Scripture!
This was a quick read and very impactful. I highly recommend this, not only to teenagers, but to anyone who wants a reminder of why the gospel is important and how it affects our daily living.

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

Biblical Doctrine by John MacArthur

Biblical Doctrine: A Systematic Summary of Bible Truth
The long-awaited, much-anticipated systematic theology by John MacArthur is finally here. Though there are several areas where I disagree with MacArthur theologically, he is a sound Bible teacher and pastor who has remained faithful to the Word of God through the many years of his ministry.

However, as I tried to read this theology book I found myself getting frustrated with the tone and manner in which it is written. The view of the author is put forth as the correct view, matter-of-factly, as if no other view has any validity. Contrary to Grudem’s theology book, which gives the different views within orthodox Christianity, MacArthur’s theology comes across as being the only correct view. I have noticed in past messages by MacArthur that he does not fairly represent opposing views but often uses straw-man arguments. It may well be that he doesn’t understand the opposing view or really thinks that is their view. But his arguments fall flat because he is not accurately teaching what the opposing view actually believes, only a caricature of what he thinks they believe.

I could not continue reading this book with him only giving his view and teaching it as if it is the only way to read and understand the Bible. Many well-respected scholars and theologians down through the centuries would not agree with MacArthur’s interpretations. His view is not the only correct, biblical view. When it comes to salvation and the doctrines that matter (primary issues), we would agree. But on secondary issues, he comes across as his way being correct without any alternative views being allowed for. While I don’t think he actually feels that way, as he has partnered with others such as Sproul, it smacks that way in his book.

For those who hold similar views to MacArthur in secondary issues, you will likely love this book. It is written in an easy-to-read and normal MacArthur manner. But if you believe differently on some of these issues (such as covenant theology, amillenialism, etc.), you may have a hard time stomaching what he writes. Perhaps I may go back and try to finish it in the future, but with so many books out there that I want to read, the rest of this one is going to remain unread for now.

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

Chasing Contentment by Erik Raymond

Chasing Contentment: Trusting God in a Discontented AgeChasing Contentment: Trusting God in a Discontented Age by Erik Raymond

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Discontentment seems to be an American or Western culture issue. With the rise of materialism and wealth, dissatisfaction has also grown. With so much available to us, we still struggle with being discontent with all that we have. There is a tendency to want “just a little bit more.” In this book, the author addresses this problem from a Biblical perspective.
This was a convicting book! It is so easy to fall into the sin of discontentment. We tend to worship the created things instead of the Creator. And this causes us to not be content with what we have or our current circumstances.
One of the chapters that stood out to me was the one on self-denial. In the Gospels, Jesus calls us to take up our cross, deny ourselves and follow Him. When we deny ourselves, it is much easier to be content. Our focus is on serving God and others, rather than our own desires.
I would definitely recommend this book to challenge you in your Christian walk. It’s a quick, short read that packs a punch!

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