12 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: 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
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.
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?
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.
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.
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: 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.
The Blessing of Humility: Walk within Your Calling by Jerry Bridges
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Jerry Bridges is one of my favorite authors, so I was glad that another book of his was coming out even though he recently passed away. His book The Pursuit of Holiness was life-changing for me and Respectable Sins hit a few nerves of guilt as well. In The Blessing of Humility Jerry’s usual easy-to-read style takes us through the Beatitudes. These character traits for a believer include mourning over our sin, and not just the “big” ones, but the daily common ones of gossiping, pride or envy. Each chapter takes us through a brief snapshot of another Beatitude. Very practical and down-to-earth, Jerry takes us through applying the traits found in the Beatitudes. The beginning traits deal with heart attitude, while the later traits help us work out our relationships with other people.
For those who have loved Jerry Bridges’ work in the past, this was another great read. For those who haven’t read him yet, this is a good book to start. Humility is a necessary part of a believer’s life. Part of developing humility is growing in our understanding of how much we sin and how much God has forgiven us through Christ.
*I received a copy of this book free from the publisher through Netgalley in exchange for my review.
I am not a mother, which means that I will never be a grandmother. That thought hit me the other day. But it also got me to thinking of all the children that God has brought into my life, especially in the last few years through coaching Bible Quizzing and doing nursery at church. While I may not be a biological mother, I am able to be another adult woman in the lives of these kids. One who cares about them, listens to them, wants what’s best for them, and longs for them to know Christ and grow in Him. Some of these kids are toddlers, just learning to talk, while others are pre-teens getting ready to navigate some rocky years of growing up.
As a result of my developing relationships with various ages of children and teens, I have been trying to collect resources to help these kids grow in their knowledge of the Bible and theology. While I may not have my own kids to build into, God has gifted me with these other children whom I can build into. In many ways, I am able to be a part of their lives because I don’t have my own children to take care of. I have more time that I can invest that I wouldn’t have if I had children of my own.
I don’t know what God has for me with ministry in the future. But He has been working in my life in these last few years and it is amazing to see what He has done!