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.

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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.

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.

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.

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.

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?

Living in Reverence

Several women from our church are doing the True Woman 201 study this summer, which is basically a study of Titus 2:1, 3-5. Last night’s topic was on being reverent. This is an attitude, a character trait that is not cultivated in our culture these days. Being reverent, respectful, honoring… these are traits from the past that don’t have much place in a me-first, individualistic society. The holiness of God is an attribute that isn’t much talked about. We’d rather focus on God’s love than on His holiness.

The Bible resounds with the holiness of God. Some books in particular, such as Leviticus and Isaiah, shout with His majesty and holiness. In our attempts to be personal in our relationship with God, we’ve reduced Him to a buddy, a friend, and downplayed His holy, awe-inspiring character. While it is true that through Jesus Christ we can now have a relationship with God, we must never forget that He is a holy God. He cannot tolerate sin. Like Isaiah in Isaiah 6, when shown the glory and majesty of Who God is, we should tremble and realize how sinful and wretched we are before Him. How much more beautiful is Christ’s death on our behalf in light of our sinfulness compared to God’s holiness?

This is an attribute of God that has been hitting home for me over the last couple of years. Does my lifestyle reflect holiness? What am I allowing myself to watch, to read, to listen to? Is it respectful and reverent toward God? Does it honor Him? Do my words, my actions display a reverence for God? This is a convicting subject and one we do well to ponder on. Who or what is foremost in our minds each day? What do we spend our time thinking and talking about?

This study has been good so far. And I just started the chapter on discipline/self-control. Oy! Talk about convicting! So many areas that God wants to grow us in, changing us to be more like Christ, to be His representatives in a culture that denies His existence.

Excellent Quote

D. A. Carson: “People do not drift toward holiness. Apart from grace-driven effort, people do not gravitate toward godliness, prayer, obedience to Scripture, faith, and delight in the Lord. We drift toward compromise and call it tolerance; we drift toward disobedience and call it freedom; we drift toward superstition and call it faith. We cherish the indiscipline of lost self-control and call it relaxation; we slouch toward prayerlessness and delude ourselves into thinking we have escaped legalism; we slide toward godlessness and convince ourselves we have been liberated.”

We must be intentional about pursuing holiness. We must be in God’s Word in order to know Him more and grow to be more like Christ.

Failing Yet Pressing On

So often I fail. I fail to be loving towards others. I fail to honor God with my attitude. I fail to represent Christ to those around me. I fail to act in humility.

“Yet one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 3:13-14 (NIV84)

Thankfully God has forgiven me through Jesus Christ my Savior. He already paid the penalty for my sins by dying on the cross in my place. And He continues to work in me, growing me and changing me to be more like Christ. He doesn’t give up, even when I fail Him. “being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 1:6 NIV84) If you want to know more about this life-changing gospel, please go here.

Don’t give up, fellow Christian! Even when we fail, God’s grace is abundant.

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.