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.

Finding God in My Loneliness by Lydia Brownback

Finding God in My LonelinessFinding God in My Loneliness by Lydia Brownback

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

“The path out of loneliness begins by letting go of all our attempts to make life work on our own terms. It’s about taking up our cross and following Jesus.”
This book is not a “quick-fix” help to dealing with loneliness. Rather it goes to the heart of the matter, what is behind our loneliness, and the fact that we are not made for this world and loneliness will exist until the new heavens and new earth are ushered in. Having dealt personally with loneliness, the author can relate to this very human emotion that we all deal with at some point in our lives. Different chapters deal with different reasons for why we suffer with loneliness – for being different, in a difficult marriage, during grief, and in singleness. She talks about the wrong ways to deal with loneliness and points us back to Christ as the One we must turn to. This doesn’t mean the loneliness will go away, but He is with us during it. He also has borne our griefs and sorrows (see Isaiah 53). Each chapter ends with discussion questions, so this book could be used in a small group study or book club.
While not an in-depth look at this topic, this book can be an encouragement to those going through loneliness and also help us to realize that we are not alone in dealing with this issue.

*I received a copy of this book free on Kindle from the publisher Crossway through Netgalley.com 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.

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.

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.

Genesis: A Commentary for Children by Nancy Ganz

Herein Is Love, Vol. 1: GenesisHerein Is Love, Vol. 1: Genesis by Nancy E. Ganz

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

When I discovered that a series of commentaries for children had been written, I was eager to check them out. The first in the series is on Genesis and subsequent books cover Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy.

Basically the author writes about what is happening in the book of Genesis and provides further detail. One of the things I especially liked about this commentary is how she tied the stories in Genesis into the promise of Jesus Christ, the coming Savior. While written for children (and I would say older children, not young ones), the commentary is also enjoyable for adults to read. I would caution parents to read ahead of time to know if a section is age appropriate or to skip particular portions that their child might not be old enough to handle. Since Genesis does include talk of s*x, so does the commentary, though not luridly or inappropriately.

The book is written in a very readable style, story-like, drawing one into the stories of Genesis. Again, her tying Genesis in with God’s plan of redemption was well-done, I thought. There was a phrase she gave early on in the book that gave me pause and I don’t think I would agree with regarding the creation of man. “God breathed into him, so that God’s Spirit would be part of him.” I don’t agree with saying that God’s Spirit became part of man. I’m not sure what she meant to convey by that statement. Perhaps it just means that God created man as both a physical and spiritual being. Since the majority of the book seems to be sound theologically, that alone isn’t enough to make me not recommend the book. Just to point it out as a caution and potentially needing explanation when doing this with kids.

All in all, I would definitely recommend this for parents to use with their older children (upper elementary age, middle school). It could be used as a family devotional. Scripture passages are given with each chapter for digging deeper. It really helped to bring the book of Genesis alive and linked it with the theme of the whole Bible – Jesus Christ, our Redeemer.

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

Discipling by Mark Dever

Discipling: How to Help Others Follow JesusDiscipling: How to Help Others Follow Jesus by Mark Dever

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The book defines discipling as “deliberately doing spiritual good to someone so that he or she will be more like Christ.” Being a disciple is being a follower. As a disciple of Jesus, we are to follow Jesus and part of that is to obey His command to make more disciples (or followers of Jesus). This is a very practical book on what discipling is and how to go about it. Discipleship should grow out of the local church and thus the book emphasizes the need to be part of a local body. “Christianity is not for loners or individualists. It is for a people traveling together down the narrow path that leads to life.” When we disciple we invite others along to join us on the journey of life.
“Discipling involves transmitting the knowledge of God and his Word through every moment of life.” Who we are to disciple will often be determined by where we live, our schedules, and who God brings into our path. At the end of the book is a short section for leaders and developing future leaders. “The goal of discipling is to see lives transformed, which means it involves more than reading a book or even the Bible with another person. Ultimately, discipling involves living out the whole Christian life before others.”
Definitely worth the read to encourage building into others’ lives and helping to make disciples who make disciples. Short, quick read with a powerful punch!

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

Blog Tour: Counseling One Another

Counseling One AnotherCounseling One Another by Paul Tautges

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The sufficiency of God’s Word for discipling and counseling one another is the key theme throughout this excellent, well-written book. Written at a lay level, throughout the book we are pointed back to the Bible for help in coming alongside our fellow believers to encourage growth in sanctification. Discipleship happens as we walk alongside one another and point each other back to what God’s Word teaches us in how we are to live.

Secular humanism and psychology have come into the church through the ideas of self-love and self-esteem. This book counters this ideology by pointing us back to what the Bible says we are: depraved sinners who already love ourselves and our sin and are hostile to God and His ways. The Bible teaches that we are to deny ourselves, not to love ourselves more. Counseling from the Bible exposes our sinful hearts and points back to Jesus Christ as the way of salvation from our sin.

The author starts off with our call to make disciples and how that is done. He then continues by explaining conversion and the call to godliness. Growth in discipleship happens in community. The subtitle of the book is “A Theology of Interpersonal Discipleship”. And this book then proceeds to describe what that looks like.

This is one of those books that I wish every Christian would read. It is succinct, well-written, easy-to-read (though convicting!), and powerful. There are discussion questions at the end of each chapter, which make it easily used as a discussion book for a small group study.

Some quotes to ponder:

“Believers in Jesus Christ must be taught and trained to be richly indwelt with the Word of God, to live under the influence of the Holy Spirit, to be driven by the gospel, to express dependence on God through prayer, to be motivated by love for God and neighbor, and to be moved with compassion to help one another make progress in the ongoing work of sanctification. This is authentic biblical counseling.”

“Biblical counseling is an intensely focused and personal aspect of the discipleship process, whereby believers come alongside one another for three main purposes: first, to help the other person to consistently apply Scriptural theology to his or her life in order to experience victory over sin through obedience to Christ; second, by warning their spiritual friend, in love, of the consequences of sinful actions; and third, by leading that brother or sister to make consistent progress in the ongoing process of biblical change in order that he or she, too, may become a spiritually reproductive disciple-maker. This definition describes the aim of biblical discipleship and supports the underlying principles of this book. Biblical counseling is helping one another, within the body of Christ, to grow to maturity in Him.”

And many more – I could probably quote half the book – it was so good! So I encourage you to read it for yourselves.

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

 

Twelve Ordinary Men

Twelve Ordinary MenTwelve Ordinary Men by John F. MacArthur Jr.

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A look at the 12 disciples of Jesus.
“When they do come to the foreground, it is often to manifest doubt, disbelief, or confusion. Sometimes we see them thinking more highly of themselves than they ought to think. Sometimes they speak when they ought to remain silent and seem clueless about things they ought to have understood. Sometimes they exhibit more confidence in their own abilities and their own strength than they should. So their shortcomings and weaknesses show up more often than their strengths. In that sense, the raw honesty of the Gospel accounts is amazing.”
“The Gospels are the record of how Jesus trained them. Scripture deliberately records more about Jesus and His teaching than it does about the lives of these men. It all serves to remind us that the Lord loves to use weak and common people. If the faults and character flaws of the apostles seem like a mirror of your own weaknesses, take heart. These are the kinds of people the Lord delights to use.”

Peacemaking Women

Peacemaking Women: Biblical Hope for Resolving ConflictPeacemaking Women: Biblical Hope for Resolving Conflict by Tara Klena Barthel

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Not a “fluff” book – good stuff for helping to work through conflicts in relationships.

Quotes:
“We are prone to worry. Worry is that constant obsessing about the worst possible outcome to a situation. Worry is misplaced faith. When we worry, we call God a liar and deny him as our heavenly Father. Worry is the soul’s usurpation of God’s sovereignty and is the distinguishing mark of the pagan world. When we worry, we usually engage in thoughts, words, and actions that are rooted in unbelief.”

“I realized that all that we strive for, all that we build and imagine, everything we do, will come to ruin. No book we write, no speech we give, and no vision we pursue will make it into eternity. Only people make it into eternity. Our relationships with one another will endure throughout all time, even as all that we have accomplished will fade away. Every human being will live in eternity – some in blissful joy because they have placed their trust in Jesus Christ and some in unending agony because they have rejected his saving grace. The glory of man dissolves away. The glory of God endures forever and is most profoundly revealed in us and in our relationships.”

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