New Year and Reading Lists

I love this time of the year, when the old year ends and the new begins. While it is an arbitrary point on a calendar, I like the idea of a fresh start, a new beginning and the start of a new year lends itself to this thinking.

I also love to make lists. So making a reading list for the new year is something I enjoy. Whether I actually stick to that list is another story. But the making of the list is fun, so I continue to do it, even if I don’t actually stick to it. Tim Challies’ 2017 Reading Challenge also provides an opportunity to make book lists.

I also find that the new year is a great time to make goals. I’ve learned to be more realistic in my goal-setting, yet still trying to stretch myself. But never accomplishing goals can be discouraging so I try to make goals that are somewhat attainable. However I do have some ambitious book goals for 2017. The last few years I have had the goal of reading 100 books. Once again I hope to read 100 books in 2017. But this year I have added the goal of trying to not buy any books during 2017. This is mostly to work on reading my own books and getting my to-be-read mountain lowered. I’m not sure I can go a whole year without buying any books. This should be interesting.

One of my other goals includes reading Michael Horton’s The Christian Faith. I love theology and have several monstrous tomes to read. Picking one to read each year should help me wade through them. Because I read so much and I love trying different Bible reading plans, in 2017 I plan to start an annual goal of reading through the Bible twice each year. For 2017 I plan to read through the NKJV Chronological Bible (which I’ve already started) and also read the Bible along with Thomas Schreiner’s The King in His Beauty book (there is a reading plan for reading the book along with the Bible).

I also have a Scripture memory goal that I’m working on and a health goal. Do you make goals for the new year? What about reading goals or lists?

No Little Women by Aimee Byrd

No Little Women: Equipping All Women in the Household of GodNo Little Women: Equipping All Women in the Household of God by Aimee Byrd

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book was “preaching to the choir” as they say, for it echoes much of what I have seen in the last several years. We are all theologians, but not necessarily good theologians. The “fluff” that is often published for women’s ministries has not helped Christian women to grow in their knowledge of God and His Word. And women are not being equipped to properly discern what is truth and what is error. Aimee tackles this difficult and often emotional topic in this book, challenging women not to be the “little women” that Paul warns about in 2 Timothy 3:6-7: “For among them are those who creep into households and capture weak women, burdened with sins and led astray by various passions, always learning and never able to arrive at a knowledge of the truth.”
While first defining the problem, this book doesn’t just leave us frustrated at what seems to be an insurmountable problem of Biblical illiteracy and lack of discernment. Aimee gives practical advice for how to combat this and equip women in how to be better discerners and studiers of God’s Word. Each chapter has discussion questions at the end for further reflection and thought. She encourages us to read critically and thoughtfully. In the last section she provides excerpts from popular women’s books and asks thoughtful questions to think about what these women are saying compared to God’s Word. In order to better detect error, we must be firmly grounded in the Bible. She also talks about theological triage and what is considered primary or first-order doctrine and is thus heresy, versus secondary doctrines that we might disagree on but still be within orthodoxy. Doctrines like the Trinity, Christ being both fully God and fully man, these are doctrines we cannot compromise on.
A lot of this book resonated with me. I get angry when I see the lack of discernment among Christians and their seemingly whole-hearted acceptance of false doctrine because it makes them feel good. It saddens me to see a lack of Bible knowledge and verses ripped out of context for their warm, fuzzy appeal. It encourages me to see books like this, that others see what I see and want to equip women to know their Bibles and thus know God, having their lives transformed by His truth. It thrills me that I’m not alone in my desire to learn theology and that there are other women out there that want to grow and learn together. I would love to join other women and have theology reading groups. The need is great!
I didn’t agree with everything in this book, but I think its overall message is much needed. I highly recommend that church leaders, women’s ministry teams, and the lay person in the pew read this book. Be aware of the need and see solutions for how to make needed changes. Let’s be passionate for truth – the truth found in God’s Word!

*I received a copy of this book free from the publisher P&R Publishing in exchange for my review.

Know the Word Study Bible (NKJV)

This Bible is designed to help one study the Bible. Each book of the Bible starts with an introduction summary and a “how to study” section for that particular book. There are brief notes like in any study Bible throughout each book, and also highlight sections to provide more insight into some of the chapters. For those just getting started in the study of God’s Word, this Bible can help them to not feel so intimidated by taking their hand so to speak and walking through the study with them.

There are also topical articles sprinkled throughout the Bible if one wanted to study a particular topic. Some of the topics include: God the Father, covenant, sanctification, salvation, and church. There is also a brief “what happened” between the Testaments. A concordance and some maps are included in the back.

Overall, this is a good Bible for someone who wants to get started with Bible study and isn’t sure where to start. It is in the New King James version, which is a reliable translation that is more word-for-word.

*I was sent a copy of this Bible free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers program in exchange for my review.

Parenting by Paul Tripp

Parenting: 14 Gospel Principles That Can Radically Change Your FamilyParenting: 14 Gospel Principles That Can Radically Change Your Family by Paul David Tripp

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Wow! Once again Paul Tripp hits it out of the park! This book has similar principles to his brother Tedd Tripp’s book Shepherding a Child’s Heart. It all points back to the heart. In raising and disciplining children, we are to not just focus on behavior change but heart change. Not that we are able to change a child’s heart (only God can do that), but we look beyond the behavior to see the heart of what is causing the behavior.

This book outlines 14 principles to keep in mind in the midst of parenting. I am not a parent myself, but have several close friends that are and they are in the trenches. Parenting is unbelievably hard and incredibly selfless. The first principle in the book points to this: “Nothing is more important in your life than being one of God’s tools to form a human soul.” Parenting is not meant to be done on our own, in our own wisdom and strength. God calls us to be parents with His help. He will not call us to do something that He doesn’t also help us to accomplish. “God never calls you to a task without giving you what you need to do it. He never sends you without going with you.”

I found this book encouraging, yet not holding back any punches. Since I’m not a parent, I can’t actually put these principles into practice for myself with my own children. But I would like to encourage parents to read this book and use it as a tool. We have been given mercy by God as Christians that we can now pour out on others, especially our own families. I think parents will find this book to be worthwhile and a help as they pour their lives into their kids and teach them about God.

Other quotes:
“There is nothing more important to consistent, faithful, patient, loving, and effective parenting than to understand what God has given you in the grace of his Son, the Lord Jesus Christ.”

“God calls unable people to do important things because ultimately what he’s working on is not your immediate success, but that you would come to know him, to love him, to rest in his grace, and to live for his glory.”

“What you’re always dealing with is the need for heart change, and we simply have no power at all to change another person’s heart.”

“As a parent you’re not dealing just with bad behavior, but a condition that causes bad behavior.”

“Your children don’t so much need character management as they need worship realignment. They don’t first have a character problem; they have a worship problem that produces a character problem.”

“You are parenting a worshiper, so it’s important to remember that what rules your child’s heart will control his behavior.”

“So your hope as a parent is not found in your power, your wisdom, your character, your experience, or your success, but in this one thing alone: the presence of your Lord.”

“Parenting is about being God’s ambassadors in the lives of our children. It is about faithfully representing his message, his methods, and his character to our children.”

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

NKJV Word Study Bible

NKJV Word Study Bible: 1,700 Key Words that Unlock the Meaning of the BibleNKJV Word Study Bible: 1,700 Key Words that Unlock the Meaning of the Bible by Thomas Nelson

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Doing word studies can open up a whole new world in Bible study. Word studies also make it possible for those of us who don’t know Greek or Hebrew to be able to better understand what the original authors were saying. This Bible provides word studies right in with the text, rather than having multiple volumes to reference the different numbers and words. While not every word is given in this Bible, key words are given to provide the original language meaning. If you’ve been intimidated in the past with having multiple places to look up words to understand the original meaning, this Bible can provide a great start to doing word studies and learning what the word meant in the original language. And the text is in the New King James Version, which is more reliable being a word-for-word translation rather than thought-for-thought.

So if you’re looking for a way to start doing word studies, this Bible can be a great start!  The word studies in this Bible do not include all the range of meanings like you would see in a Strong’s Concordance. They do give the concordance number so you can look it up for further study. But the explanation of the word is not the multiple listing, but rather an explanation of the fuller meaning of the word. As such, this is more a beginning introduction to word studies and can be a way to get one’s feet wet before diving further using Strong’s. As a disclaimer, nowadays, word studies can be done fairly easily online on sites such as Blue Letter Bible. Also, this Bible is not a Study Bible – there are no study notes. It just includes explanations of 1,700 key words throughout the text.

*Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Good and Angry Blog Tour

Good and Angry: Redeeming Anger, Irritation, Complaining, and BitternessGood and Angry: Redeeming Anger, Irritation, Complaining, and Bitterness by David A. Powlison

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Wow! That’s my initial reaction on reading this powerful book! The author doesn’t hold back any punches when it comes to the issue of anger and often what is behind it, namely our unmet desires and expectations. This is not a self-help book on how to better control your anger. Rather, it is a dive deep into what is behind our anger, helping us to better understand our anger and then use it to turn to God for help and mercy. Each chapter ends with a “Making It Your Own” section of soul-searching questions that get to the heart of the matter.
His definition of anger boils down to “active displeasure toward something that’s important enough to care about.” And he then spends the rest of the book unpacking that. Anger is how “we react when something we think important is not the way it’s supposed to be.” Often anger is the result of our god of self being dethroned. In one of the chapters, he takes us through eight questions to determine what motive or expectation is behind our anger, so that we can deal with that directly. While anger is not necessarily a sin, there is good and bad mixed in with anger, and often the root of it is something sinful. This book addresses that in an impactful and insightful way.
I would highly recommend this book, even if you don’t think that you struggle with anger. We are all affected by anger in various ways and this book is a great read to tackle the problem of sin.

*I received a copy of this book free from the publisher as part of Cross Focused Reviews Blog Tour in exchange for my review.

Evangelical White Lies by Mike Abendroth


Evangelical White Lies
by Mike Abendroth

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

It took me a little while to get into this book, but I think that was partly due to my not being familiar with the author’s writing style. The chapters are short and stand-alone, so that may have contributed as well. That being said, this book can be used for reference as it doesn’t need to be read straight-through, but each chapter addresses a different “white lie” that seems prevalent in evangelicalism. Whether it’s the “hearing God speak to me” or the “eco-friendly lifestyle”, the different subjects are tackled and addressed with Scripture to debunk them. This is a quick read with great information for discussing some of these issues with friends and family. Particularly with Scripture being used to defend the view, this gives Biblical back-up for opposing these prevalent views.

*I received a copy of this book free from the author to review.

Castles in the Sand by Carolyn Greene

It is concerning to me how widespread contemplative spirituality and spiritual formation have become. This book is a fictional story about a very real problem. Tessa goes to a Bible college and is drawn into the spiritual formation movement that has recently begun at the college. The book then goes on to describe what happens to her and the dangers that result from going down this path of ancient mystics. For those who wonder what spiritual formation is or why it is dangerous, this book will open your eyes to the reality of why this is not a Biblical practice. Easy to read and follow, it is eye-opening and scary! And it is everywhere! We need to be aware, alert, and discerning, always going back to God’s Word, the Bible, to compare what we are being taught. We need to know our Bibles.
Castles in the SandCastles in the Sand by Carolyn A. Greene

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

*I own a copy of this book.

Starter Bible by Thomas Nelson

Starter Bible

For young children, this is a colorful storybook with short Bible stories. I think the intent is to introduce them to some of the key stories in the Bible. But it is sorely lacking in what it covers. For starters, while creation of Adam and Eve is covered, there is no mention of the Fall or of sin. The story of Noah’s ark is given with no reason for why the flood happened. It is a bunch of disjointed Bible stories with no underlying theme. Jesus isn’t even mentioned until the story of His birth (which also has the first mention of sin – that Jesus is God’s only Son and would save the world from sin).

If you are looking for a storybook with short Bible stories, this provides something. But if you are looking for something to introduce children to the theme of the Bible, that is Jesus Christ, and the story of man’s fall and God’s redemption, this is not it. I would recommend instead using The Big Picture Story Bible by David Helm.

The Big Picture Story Bible

*I received a copy of this book (Starter Bible) free from the publisher in exchange for my review through Book Look Bloggers.

God’s Battle Plan for the Mind by David Saxton

God's Battle Plan for the Mind: The Puritan Practice of Biblical MeditationGod’s Battle Plan for the Mind: The Puritan Practice of Biblical Meditation by David W. Saxton
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Meditation for Christians has become a neglected discipline nowadays, often because of the connotation that it has with New Age and Eastern religions. But Biblical meditation is a necessary part of Christian growth and sanctification. In this book, the author goes through what Biblical meditation is NOT to explain how it differs from the world’s idea of meditation. He explains the benefits of meditation and how it is an essential part of a growing Christian’s walk. Using the Puritans and their writings, he gives practical advice for how to meditate and counters excuses that people use for not meditating.

“What does it mean to meditate? It means to think personally, practically, seriously, and earnestly on how the truth of God’s Word should look in life.” Meditation takes the truth of God’s Word and applies it to our lives. “…the believer fills his mind with truth so that his life becomes governed by the attitude of the Savior.”
Today, meditation has all but become non-existent. We live in a busy world filled with so many distractions and taking time to think deeply is not a regular part of most Christians’ lives. Another reason for meditation falling by the wayside is “…a lack of confidence in God’s Word to sufficiently deal with the issues, problems, and temptations that believers face.”

This was an excellent treatise on what Biblical meditation is and is not and the importance it plays for the Christian’s growth. So many gems in this book to take away (I needed to make sure I had a pen handy to underline as I was reading!). This should be required reading for any Christian who desires to grow in their relationship with God. Meditation on God’s Word would also help the growing crisis of Biblical illiteracy that is rampant in America.

Thoughts to consider:
“Whenever any notion or form of spirituality fails to be tied back to the written Word, the end result inevitably tends toward unbiblical mysticism and religious sentimentality. This eventually leads a person to greater darkness rather than light.”

“…Protestants who fail to emphasize biblical meditation because of fear of falling into mysticism are simply overreacting to unbiblical forms of meditation.” I know this is something that I need to work on.

“Because of the depravity of our hearts and tendency to self-deception, the divine testimony of Scripture must always govern our biblical spirituality and meditation.”

“…contemplative prayer is an unbiblical form of meditation that seeks a spiritual experience through some kind of existential encounter with God apart from His written revelation….The contemplative prayer movement seeks to experience God’s voice apart from His written Word. This movement is a product of a larger evangelical departure from an absolute conviction in the sufficiency of Scripture.”

“…biblical meditation does not seek to empty one’s thoughts. Rather, it seeks to fill one’s thoughts with Scripture, fastening them to the objective truths of God’s Word. Rather than seeking to arrive at a plan of self-actualization, biblical meditation seeks to think God’s thoughts after Him. It seeks to grow in appreciation that all of life is lived before a great and mighty God. Biblical meditation realizes that thoughts reveal beliefs.”

“…Christian meditation is the scriptural plan to keep from thoughts that diminish the glory of God.”

*I received a copy of this book free from the publisher Reformation Heritage Books through Cross-Focused Reviews in exchange for my review.