Book Review: Heart of the Matter by CCEF

Over the past few years of studying biblical counseling, I have been greatly helped by the ministry of CCEF (The Christian Counseling and Educational Foundation). If you’ve followed Precious Adornment for any length of time, you have probably noticed that I often share excerpts or videos containing biblical advice from men like David Powlison, Ed Welch, or Paul David Tripp. The reason I do this is because I have learned so much about understanding and applying God’s Word from the counselors, authors, and teachers connected with CCEF, that I want to pass as much of that knowledge on to you as I can.

For that reason, I’m glad that I can now recommend a new resource from CCEF called Heart of the Matter: Daily Reflections for Changing Hearts and Changing Lives. In this one year devotional book, you will find comfort, challenge, conviction, and encouragement in the form of brief, daily readings provided by the faculty of CCEF. These daily devotionals cover a wide array of topics such as suffering, relationships, the process of change, overcoming fear and anxiety, trust in God, forgiveness, and much more. 

As you read this book, you will find that your attention is continually being pointed to Christ and the hope of the Gospel, God’s sovereignty over all things, and His loving purposes for you as His precious child. The readings are deep, yet completely accessible. Because I was reading Heart of the Matter for the purposes of this review, I had to move through it more quickly than I wanted to, and I often found myself thinking that I would benefit much more from reading and considering just one devotional at a time, which is of course, how the book is intended to be used.

I am thoroughly convinced that the Bible contains every truth required to care for the human soul (2 Pet. 1:3-4), and I believe that Heart of the Matter illustrates well what a rich resource God has provided for us in His Word. The authors go deep into the Scriptures to reveal profoundly beautiful truths that we too often miss in our hurried approach to Bible reading. 

Book Giveaway!

New Growth Press has provided me with the opportunity to give a copy of Heart of the Matter to two of my readers. If you would like to enter the giveaway, please add a comment to this blog post and make sure to provide your email address in the appropriate field (so I can contact you if you win!).

At midnight tomorrow night, I will use Random.org to choose two winning comments.

Update

Thanks to everyone for participating in the Heart of the Matter book giveaway. As promised, I used Random.org to find two winners…

The first winner is Colleen who posted the third comment. Congratulations, Colleen!

And proving that God has a sense of humor, the second winner is Taaron N Niki Parsons who posted the 18th comment.

Many thanks to New Growth Press for making this giveaway possible.

Book Review: Call of a Coward by Marcia Moston

If your husband returned from a short-terms missions trip and told you he believed God wanted you both to return to another country as full-time missionaries, what would you say? Although many of us would hope we’d be able to respond in a God-honoring manner, most of us are probably just relieved that we don’t actually have to answer the question right now!

Marcia Moston’s Story

Marcia Moston, however, did have to answer the question. In her new book Call of a Coward: The God of Moses and the Middle-Class Housewife, Moston shares the story of how her family unexpectedly decided to abandon their comfortable life in the U.S. to move to a rural village in Guatemala where they hoped to minister to widows and orphans in need. Upon arrival, they learned that providing that care would be far more challenging than they had optimistically imagined.

In addition to the usual barriers presented by differences in language and custom, Moston and her husband quickly learned that the lack of oversight at the little mission had led to significant debts which they had no ability to pay. Only a few adults and a handful of children actually lived on-site when the Mostons expected many more. In spite of these obstacles, the new missionaries pressed on to adapt to their surroundings and begin making a difference where they could.

A Reader’s Response

Call of a Coward is an enjoyable account of a modern day missionary venture. The best aspect of the book is Moston’s writing style. Her use of vivid and picturesque language is nearly poetic at times and helps draw the imagination of readers into foreign surroundings they’ve likely never encountered. 

Although I did enjoy reading about many of the daily struggles endured and the spiritual lessons learned through Moston’s experiences in Guatemala, I felt that some of the anecdotes included weren’t all that beneficial to the storyline and thought that perhaps they had been added to lengthen the account since the Moston family’s time in the country was relatively brief.

Overall, though, I found Call of  Coward to be a pleasant read, which personally challenged me to hold loosely to the comforts I daily enjoy here in the U.S. and to be ready to answer, “Yes, Lord,” when He calls.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com 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 

Book Review: Twelve Unlikely Heroes by John MacArthur

The Common Definition

If you were to describe a hero, what words would you use? Courage, conviction, passion, strength, selflessness—these character traits and others like them are probably the ideas that quickly spring to mind. In our culture (and most others), we think of heroes as individuals who distinguish themselves from all the average joes of the world through their extraordinary lives and reputations.

In his new book, Twelve Unlikely Heroes, John MacArthur provides a completely different perspective on what it takes to be a true hero in this life. He says, “The greatest heroes are those who are the human means God uses to change people forever—for their good and His glory. And these true heroes who make an eternal impact are invariably the most unexpected and ordinary people—God makes unlikely heroes.”

The Unqualified Candidates

Twelve Unlikely Heroes follows MacArthur’s two previous titles, Twelve Ordinary Men and Twelve Extraordinary Women, as the newest addition to his popular series of books focusing on the lives and legacies of biblical characters. In his latest book, MacArthur features the biographies of both familiar and lesser known names in Scripture—Enoch, Joseph, Miriam, Gideon and Samson, Jonathan, Jonah, Esther, John the Baptist, James (brother of Jesus), and Mark and Onesimus.

As MacArthur expounds on the biblical accounts of these individuals, he makes it clear that on their own, none of them is actually worthy of being called a hero. In the end, there would be nothing notable about the lives of these men and women, if not for the God they served.

The Ultimate Hero

MacArthur recently explained the overriding theme of Twelve Unlikely Heroes:

In truth, God is the real hero of every story. He relished choosing and using the most unlikely people to make spiritual impacts far beyond their own imagination or inherent usefulness. These aren’t lessons about human potential, positive thinking, or how to do the miraculous; they’re about how God, in His providence, deals in the circumstances of lives to accomplish His purpose. They show how God can order the affairs of ordinary people—the flawed, weak, and faltering—for His own significant spiritual outcomes.

My Humble Opinion

I greatly enjoyed reading Twelve Unlikely Heroes and found myself repeatedly thinking, “I never knew that!” In this book, MacArthur not only provides the reader with skillful explanations of the Scriptures, but he also sheds light on the text by sharing numerous cultural and historical insights. Additionally, I also appreciated the way that MacArthur brought his teaching down to a practical level, helping readers to see what the life of each biblical character reveals about God and how it should make a difference in their lives today.

Twelve Unlikely Heroes is both interesting and insightful, and as such, is a book I would gladly recommend.

More from Dr. MacArthur on the unlikely heroes of Scripture…

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through a blogger review 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 

Book Review: No Greater Love by Levi Benkert

Before last weekend, it had been quite a long time since I’d found a book so intriguing that I read it through in one afternoon. But when I sat down with Levi Benkert and Candy Chand’s new book No Greater Love, that’s exactly what I did.

No Greater Love tells the remarkable true story of how an unexpected phone call turned Levi Benkert’s world upside down and resulted in he and his family doing something he would never have imagined. Within the course of 6 weeks, Levi, his wife, and three children left everything they knew in America in order to travel across the world in the hopes of rescuing innocent children destined for death in Ethiopia.

An Unthinkable Practice

The Benkerts’ hearts were captured by the plight of children labeled as mingi by certain tribes in rural regions of Ethiopia. Steeped in superstitious pagan beliefs, these tribes remain convinced that for various reasons, certain children are “unclean” or “cursed” and must be put to death in order to prevent evil spirits from punishing the entire tribe with drought, crop failure, and death. Children are declared mingi if they are born out of wedlock, if their parents conceive without a special tribal ceremony being performed beforehand, or if their top teeth appear before their bottom teeth.

An Incredible Calling

When Levi and his wife Jessie learned that mingi children are routinely starved, drowned, or suffocated by their own parents, they knew God was calling them to do something to make a difference. Once they arrived in Ethiopia however, the Benkerts realized that rescuing these children and providing them with loving homes and families would be far more complicated and heartrending than they could ever have envisioned. Although they faced countless challenges in their new ministry, Levi and Jessie persevered and saw many lives saved and their own hearts forever changed.

A Powerful Story

No Greater Love is a captivating story which is well-worth reading. I found the Benkerts’ experiences to be especially meaningful because of my own family’s deep connection to the country of Ethiopia. Evangelle and I often pray together that God would shine the light of His gospel into the darkness of her home country, and No Greater Love provided me with a sweet reminder that He has not forgotten the people of Ethiopia.

Learn More

No Greater Love is now available for purchase.

Read about Levi and Jessie’s current ministry in Ethiopia at their website Bring Love In.

 

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through a blogger review 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 

Book Review: The Truth about Grace by John MacArthur

We say it’s amazing. We describe it as God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense. But apart from that, what do we really know about grace?

In his new book, The Truth about Grace, John MacArthur sets out to help believers gain a deeper and more accurate understanding of this often misunderstood topic. The Truth about Grace is one in a series of three small books now available from Thomas Nelson. Other volumes include The Truth about Forgiveness and The Truth about the Lordship of Christ

In the introduction, MacArthur explains that although divine favor is central to the concept of grace, the oft-repeated definition “unmerited favor” simply doesn’t go far enough. He says, “Grace is not merely unmerited favor; it is favor bestowed on sinners who deserve wrath. Showing kindness to a stranger is ‘unmerited favor'; doing good to one’s enemies is more the spirit of grace (Luke 6:27-36).”

He suggests the following definition instead: “The free and benevolent influence of a holy God operating sovereignly in the lives of undeserving sinners.” In his concise and straightforward style, MacArthur goes on to teach readers from the Scriptures about the two kinds of grace (common and special), God’s sovereignty over grace, common distortions of the topic, the effects of saving grace in the lives of believers, and much more.  

Although some readers may shy away from books dealing with weighty theological issues such as this, there is no reason to fear the subject matter contained in The Truth about Grace. One of the many things I appreciate about John MacArthur is his ability to explain the deep truths of Scripture in a highly understandable manner. Whether you’re struggling with confusion in your understanding of grace or are simply interested in learning more about this merciful gift of God, I believe you’ll be encouraged and blessed by reading the brief, yet thorough teaching provided by MacArthur in The Truth about Grace.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com 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 

Book Review: Beyond Bath Time by Erin Davis

I had every intention of posting this review last Saturday, and if I weren’t a mom, I’m sure I would have done it. My 14 month-old daughter, however, had other plans for me, plans that kept me revolving around her from sunup to sundown.

By the time she finally went to sleep that night, I still hadn’t produced the first word of a book review, and I was completely drained. Apart from keeping my daughter clean and fed, I felt I had accomplished nothing else of significance that day. 

Moms have lots of days like that—days that seem so filled with the menial and mundane you can’t help but wonder if they even matter at all.

In her book Beyond Bath Time: Embracing Motherhood as a Sacred Role, author Erin Davis encourages frazzled moms to remember that, yes! It all matters!

A Corrected View of Ministry

Last week in my review of the book Missional Mom, I expressed the disappointment I felt when I realized that the majority of the book appeared to equate “ministry” with activities that took place outside the home. As it turns out, Erin Davis once had a similar mindset.

Davis explains in Beyond Bath Time that she and her husband actually put off having children because they thought little ones would hinder their ability to do “ministry.” She later came to see such thinking as entirely misguided:

We had been lied to. It’s a lie that has been whispered into many ears.

More and more women are choosing childlessness…Motherhood is not revered as a sacred role. Career is king. The modern equation leaves little room for children.

I believe this is one of the greatest tragedies of our time.

Davis goes on in the rest of the book to explain why she believes Christian women should “stand up to the culture and reclaim motherhood as a high and holy calling.”

A Big Message in a Small Package

At just under 150 pages, Beyond Bath Time is a great size for busy moms. Davis looks at how motherhood has been damaged by the feminist movement, by lies that women commonly believe, and by the trend of choosing childlessness.

She then moves to focus on what the Scripture has to say about the role of motherhood and encourages women to see the eternal impact they can have as they daily nurture the souls of their children…

What you’re doing might seem small…But God multiplies your efforts. Your small tasks point to a very big God if you are determined to do it all for His glory. 

Just as our definitions of blessing and burden have gotten jumbled, so have our concepts of big and small stuff for the kingdom. If a woman surrendered her life to share Bible stories with children in unreached people groups overseas, we would consider that big, and rightfully so.

But your children are also an unreached people group. They don’t come into the world with a knowledge and heart for God. It’s your job to teach them, and it’s a big job.

That’s a message we need to hear far more frequently within the church today, and I appreciate Erin Davis for sharing it.

A Wealth of Encouragement for Weary Moms

Whether you’re a brand new mom or one with years of experience, I believe you’ll find valuable encouragement in this little book on how to make your mothering count for the Kingdom of God.

Another plus is that Beyond Bath Time is one of the first books to carry the new True Woman publishing imprint, which means that the content has been approved by Revive Our Hearts and The True Woman Movement. If you know anything about the biblically-grounded nature of those ministries, then you’ll understand why that’s a very good thing.  

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through a blogger review 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 

Book Review: Missional Mom by Helen Lee

This week, I hope to share reviews of two books I’ve read recently which I believe contain very different ideas about the ministry of motherhood. I hope you’ll benefit from hearing about them. Here’s the first… 

Missional Mom: Living with Purpose at Home & in the World

When I first saw the cover of Missional Mom by Helen Lee, I was truly excited about having the chance to read the entire book. Based on the book’s title, subtitle, and back cover, I had the impression that Missional Mom would call attention to the vital role that motherhood plays in changing the world for Christ. What I was surprised to find, however, is that the book actually focused very little on the ministry of motherhood at all.

What Is a Missional Mom?

In the introduction, Helen Lee discusses the feelings of frustration, purposelessness, and despair that many women seem to experience once they have children. Lee set off to discover if missional living was the missing key for these moms. She spent the next year searching out women she calls “missional moms” and concluded that “Ultimately, mothers who choose a missional lifestyle have found the secret to the conundrum many mothers experience: that living missionally brings a profound sense of heavenly affirmation and peace.”

Lee goes on in the rest of the book to explain the distinctives of missional moms: they join with God in His mission to redeem lost humanity by living counterculturally, they make evangelism part of their everyday life, and they educate themselves and then seek to meet the needs of people close to home and around the world.

What I Enjoyed

Lee is incredibly passionate about encouraging women to take seriously their primary calling to love and know God by living in obedience to the Great Commission. She challenges women to resist cultural pressures that would motivate them to isolate themselves and their children in search of security, bow to materialism in search of comfort, or to idolize their children’s achievement and success in search of happiness. What Lee encourages moms to do instead is to sacrifice and push themselves outside of their comfort zones in order to advance God’s mission of redeeming the lost.

As you read Missional Mom, you simply can’t ignore Lee’s love for the Lord and those in need. Her enthusiasm and desire to honor the Great Commandment and Great Commission are obvious throughout the book, and I personally found myself challenged to evaluate my own life and seek more opportunities to help the hurting and reach the lost with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

What’s Missing

In spite of the many good things said in Missional Mom, my greatest concern about the book, as I referred to earlier, is what the book doesn’t say about motherhood. Although moms are mentioned on nearly every page, Lee says relatively little about the ministry of motherhood itself and seems to put the focus of missional living on those outside of the home.

Even in the eighth chapter “The Missional Mom Creates Missional Families,” Lee still neglects to address what the Bible has to say about motherhood or parenting. She recommends resisting materialism and showing generosity and hospitality as methods of creating a missional family. These are good things, of course, but when Lee suggested that moms discuss with their children fair trade coffee, global warming, and how wasting energy affects polar bears, I failed to see how these topics related to the Gospel and missional living.

What the Scripture Teaches

Unfortunately, the major impression I’m concerned readers will take away from Missional Mom is that a mother’s ministry to people outside her home is more important and more in line with the Great Commission than is her ministry to her husband and children. Biblically speaking, this is simply not the case. Paul had not forgotten the Great Commission when he instructed older women to teach younger women “to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands” (Titus 2:4-5). In fact, he explained that moms should live this way so that God’s Word would not be dishonored (2:5).

When a woman fears the Lord, loves her husband and children, “looks well to the ways of her household” (Prov. 31:27), partners with her husband to diligently teach their children God’s commandments (Deut. 6:7) and to train them in the “discipline and instruction of the Lord” (Eph. 6:4), she is living missionally. A woman’s family is her primary mission field and the work she does to make disciples in her own home is no less important than the work done by a missionary on a foreign field.

These are vital points that I believe are missing in Lee’s approach to missional motherhood. You simply cannot accurately portray Christian motherhood without first explaining what God has clearly revealed in His Word regarding the topic.

In Conclusion

I appreciate Helen Lee’s desire to inspire moms to share God’s heart for the lost and needy and take the Great Commission seriously. As moms who have children living at home, we must ensure that we don’t allow our primary mission field to become our only mission field, and Missional Mom contains some helpful advice on how to avoid that error by creatively responding to the needs of the world around us.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through a blogger review 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 

Book Review: Stress Point by Sarah Francis Martin

Nearly every teenage girl in existence lives in eager anticipation of the day when she can finally enjoy all the freedom, independence, and excitement that is sure to accompany her future life as a twenty-something. However, it’s often not until a teen actually transitions into her twenties that reality sets in revealing the painful truth that adulthood isn’t quite as blissful or carefree as she once imagined!

Stress—It accompanies every decade of life, and the experience of a twenty-something is no exception. In her book, Stress Point: Thriving through Your 20s in a Decade of Drama, Sarah Francis Martin seeks to help young women navigate through some of the major challenges they’re likely to face during this stage of life.

Overview

Martin devotes one chapter each to ten different stress points: career, self image, body image, love and dating, serious romantic relationships, friends and family, money, independence, making a difference, and spiritual maturity.

Each chapter follows a specific structure. Martin begins by illustrating the chapter’s particular stress point with three case studies, often using stories from popular TV shows, movies, or her own life to help the reader relate to the topic at hand.

She then directs twenty-somethings to the necessity of “Worshiping at the Throne of the King” by highlighting a name of God and teaching how His character is revealed through that name. Worshiping leads to “Waiting at the Throne of the King” as Martin encourages readers to see that waiting on the Lord is an active and beneficial process, rather than passive and useless as it often appears to be. Finally, each chapter concludes with “Finding Focus on the King” where the author explains how readers can find satisfaction and fulfillment by keeping the Lord central in all that they do.

Stress Point’s Strong Points

I greatly appreciate the goals that Martin aimed for in writing this book. As a result of the lack of solid biblical instruction in many homes and churches today, young Christian women often move into adulthood with a great deal of confusion regarding how their faith should shape every aspect of their lives. Stress Point offers some much-needed teaching that will help readers see how they can please God even in the midst of major life changes.

Martin repeatedly hammers away at the importance of living under the Kingship of Christ and seeing that He is Lord over every stressor a woman may face. By providing questions and journaling space in each chapter, she encourages personal application of the material covered as well as interaction with the Scripture.

I particularly appreciated Martin’s emphasis on worship and the need to deepen one’s knowledge of the character of God. These topics, which are often neglected in modern Christian women’s literature, are truly vital to understanding our identity and purpose on this earth. When a young woman grasps the biblical truth that she was created by a wise and loving God to bring Him glory in all that she does, her life is infused with meaning and direction she would otherwise never experience. Stress Point provides valuable assistance in this regard.

Stress Point’s Weak Points

As much as I wish I could give Stress Point my wholehearted approval, I do have some reservations about certain aspects of the book. The first concerns Martin’s handling of Scripture. In a few instances, she takes an Old Testament passage which refers to a particular individual or where God is speaking to the Israelites in general (for example, Ps. 45:11; Is. 62:3-4), and she attempts to apply it directly to individuals today. Although all of Scripture has bearing on the lives of Christians, it is a mistake to interpret any passage without considering the original audience and context.  

This problem leads to my second concern—Martin’s attempt to bolster the reader’s sense of self worth by using these Old Testament passages to assure readers that God is enthralled with or captivated by their beauty. In my opinion, this approach actually undermines Martin’s stated desire to help women turn their focus from self to Christ because attention is still being placed on self and human beauty rather than being placed on the Lord and His beauty.

As human beings thoroughly marred by sin, we must remember that any beauty we have is derived from God Himself as our Creator and from Christ as our Savior. We have worth as human beings because we’re created in God’s image; we have beauty as believers because we’ve been clothed in Christ’s righteousness. So whenever we speak of our worth or identity as individuals, it needs to be done in biblically accurate terms or we can easily make the mistake of sounding as though we have some sort of loveliness that is not directly derived from and dependent upon God Himself.

A third area concerns specific illustrations and points made on the issues of drinking or visiting a bar and physical relationships with the opposite sex. For the sake of space, I can’t go into detail here, but I thought some statements should have been avoided and more should have been said to encourage avoiding temptation and sin in these areas.

Final Point

There is a great deal of good contained in Stress Point, and for that reason, I truly wish I could enthusiastically recommend it. While readers will benefit from much of Martin’s teaching, the concerns I’ve mentioned above prevent me from giving it my full approval.

Girls Uncovered

Girls are in trouble in America.

Even though I live in a small city in North Carolina, that fact is clearly illustrated to me on a weekly basis at the local pregnancy resource center where I volunteer as a peer counselor. For the majority of young women I counsel, sexual promiscuity, unplanned pregnancies, and cohabitation are a way of life. Sadly, this lifestyle is often accompanied by abortion, STIs (sexually-transmitted infections), unemployment, and poverty. The lives of these women are a wreck, yet they hardly seem aware that any other options exist.

Girls Uncovered

In their new book Girls Uncovered, Joe McIlhaney, Jr. and Freda Bush document how America’s highly sexualized culture is destroying young women. In addition to years of professional experience as board-certified ob/gyns, McIlhaney and Bush also draw from current medical and sociological studies to reveal how the popular hook-up culture in our country is devastating the very women it claims to have liberated. The authors share this information in order to educate parents regarding the crisis facing their daughters and to motivate them to reclaim their role as their daughters’ primary protectors. 

What Society Says

Girls Uncovered is both fascinating and heartbreaking. The authors spend the first seven chapters of the book showing how our society, through its promotion of sexual promiscuity, actually works against the hopes and dreams most girls have for completing their education and establishing successful marriages and families in the future. Although adults once provided safety for young people through their oversight of the traditional process of courtship, McIlhaney and Bush believe parents in modern times have by and large left their daughters unprotected or “uncovered” by leaving them alone to navigate relationships with the opposite sex.

Without parents guiding them to make wise decisions, McIlhaney and Bush stress that young women have little option but to follow the lies they consistently receive from the media and culture which say that sex outside marriage is normal and no big deal, contraceptives make sex safe, abortion is a minor procedure, and sexual promiscuity leads to happiness.

What Studies Show

Using a wealth of statistics, McIlhaney and Bush debunk each of these myths and show that sex is a significant act which deeply affects a woman both physically and emotionally.  Brain research reveals how a complex combination of hormones released during sexual activity actually bonds women to their partners and creates a sense of trust which may partly explain why women often remain in harmful relationships. Although young people usually consider pregnancy to be the greatest risk involved with premarital sexual activity, the authors emphasize the grave consequences of STIs, which affect millions of people in the U.S. every year and can lead to infertility, miscarriage, or even death.

The Authors’ Solutions

After painting a grim picture of the risks facing girls today, McIlhaney and Bush then go on to explain what society and parents must do in order to provide the protection young women so desperately need. I would describe their solutions as traditionally moral, yet short of biblical. Although Girls Uncovered is designated as “Christian Living” and is endorsed by Josh McDowell, the content is not specifically Christian.

The authors cite the positive role of religion in raising daughters, yet do not identify the teachings of Scripture as providing the ultimate solution to the crisis our highly sexualized culture is creating among women. Nevertheless, the advice they provide is common-sense and moral and would greatly benefit our culture if put into practice.

My Thoughts

I would recommend Girls Uncovered as a helpful resource for parents, pastors, counselors, and anyone interested in ministering wisely to young women, since the information contained in this book will help adults to better understand the temptations and pressures girls commonly face in our society. It is important to remain aware, however, that it is only the Gospel of Jesus Christ as revealed in Scripture that can transform the hearts of young people and empower them to flee sexual immorality and glorify God in both spirit and body. 

The Story of the Bible

Sam’s Club, The Dollar Store, a hotel room drawer, countless websites. 

In 21st century America, it seems there are few places where the Word of God cannot be easily accessed. For those of us who have never been without multiple copies of the Scriptures, it’s quite easy to overlook the priceless treasure we possess. We need to be reminded that it has not always been this way. Throughout Christian history, untold numbers of believers have given their lives to protect the very gift we so often take for granted.

In his beautiful book The Story of the Bible, Larry Stone documents the history of the written Word of God, helping believers today to understand how God has worked through His people to write, preserve, and translate the Holy Scriptures over the past 3,500 years.

When I first received my copy of this book, I was surprised both by its size and its attractive design. The Story of the Bible is a coffee table-sized book printed in full color from beginning to end. The text is accompanied by dozens of photos and illustrations, and interspersed throughout the book, readers will also find 93 life-sized color reproductions tucked away within vellum pockets. These reproductions include pages from famous copies of the Scriptures throughout history like The Great Isaiah Scroll, The Gutenberg Bible, The Bay Psalm Book, and many more.

In his foreword to the book, Ravi Zacharias says:

Larry Stone’s The Story of the Bible offers a captivating and colorful account of the history of the Bible from parchment to print, and from its English translation to over 2,400 languages. With his selection of pictures and fascinating stories, Larry has done a wonderful job of making scholarly material engaging and accessible to many more readers. Along the way, he shows how the biblical documents have withstood the most scrutinizing analysis ever imposed on any manuscript and have emerged with compelling authenticity and accuracy. [p. 5]

The Story of the Bible is well worth adding to your personal, church, or family library. Reading this book will enrich your understanding of the Bible’s unique role in human history and deepen your gratitude for the great privilege of being able to hold a copy of the Word of God in your hands.

 

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com 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 

Kisses from Katie

“And he said to them, “Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or wife or brothers or parents or children, for the sake of the kingdom of God, who will not receive many times more in this time,
and in the age to come eternal life.”

Luke 18:29-30

I want to love Jesus like Katie Davis does.

Last night, the book Kisses from Katie was waiting for me on my doorstep when I arrived home, and after reading only the back cover I was immediately captivated by Katie’s overflowing passion for Christ and love for those in need.

Take a look at her story and you’ll see what I mean… 

In this excerpt from her book Katie explains more about why she has chosen this life in spite of the ongoing hardship:

I loved my new life. It was wonderful in so many ways, but I would be lying if I said I didn’t miss the comforts and the people of my old one desperately. My human flesh still sometimes wanted to go to the mall and spend a ridiculous amount of money on a cute pair of shoes. Sometimes I wanted to sit on my mom’s kitchen counter chatting with my friends and eating brownies…Most days, I wished I could wake up under my down comforter in a house with my loving family, not all by myself. Sometimes I just wished I could hang out with my little brother and his buddies, eating junk food and laughing late into the night…I wanted to be a normal teenager living in America, sometimes.

But I wanted other things more. All the time. I wanted to be spiritually and emotionally filled every day of my life. I wanted to be loved and cuddled by a hundred children and never go a day without laughing. I wanted to wake up to a rooster’s crow and open my eyes to see lush green trees that seemed to pulse with life against a piercing blue sky and the rusty red soil of Uganda. I wanted to be challenged endlessly; I wanted to be learning and growing every minute. I wanted to be taught by those I teach, and I wanted to share God’s love with people who otherwise might not know it. I wanted to work so hard that I ended every day filthy and too tired to move. I wanted to feel needed, important, and used by the Lord. I wanted to make some kind of difference, no matter how small, and I wanted to follow the calling God had placed on my heart. I wanted to give my life away to serve the Lord with each breath, each second. At the end of the day, no matter how hard, I wanted to be right here in Uganda.

Opportunitites to make someone else’s life better were so much more attractive to me than the thought of the comforts I once knew. The longer I stayed, the more I realized that deep fulfillment had begun to swallow my every frustration. No matter how many contradictions I struggled with, how difficult certain situations were, no matter how lonely I got, no matter how many tears I cried, one truth remained firmly grounded in my heart: I was in the center of God’s will; I was doing what I was created to do.

[Kisses from Katie, pp. 23-24]

What a testimony. What a challenge.

Learn more about changing lives in Uganda through Katie’s ministry Amazima.

Follow Katie’s blog HERE.

Photo: kissesfromkatie.blogspot.com

dot.com Dating by Drs. Les & Leslie Parrott

Online dating—it’s one of the deep, dark secrets of my youth. Ok, well, maybe it’s not that deep or dark, but it is one of the facts about my life that is not widely known. Until now, that is. My foray into the world of dating websites was made somewhere between my first and second year of graduate school, right about the time when I decided that the dating pool at my college was hopelessly dried up. It seemed like a good idea at the time…

But my online dating adventures are not what this post is about. We’ll save that for another episode.

Internet dating didn’t exactly work out for me, but more and more Christians are “using a mouse to find a spouse” with good success. Yet in spite of the growing popularity of online dating, many singles still hesitate to sign up out of fear of becoming tangled in the unknowns that may await them on the other side of the world-wide web.

It is for those singles that Drs. Les and Leslie Parrott have written their little book dot.com Dating: Finding your right someone online—Avoiding the liars, losers, and freaks. As psychologists with years of experience in marriage and family relationships, the Parrotts describe themselves in the book as being “dedicated to seeing the divorce rate reduced dramatically in our lifetime and seeing stronger and more vibrant marriages, particularly among Christians.” They are enthusiastic supporters of online dating when it takes place in the context of faith-based websites designed to carefully match singles seeking serious relationships. In the introduction of the book, the Parrotts explain that through their research they became so convinced of the merits of such dating sites that they cofounded one of their own, MyRightSomeone.com.

In Part One of dot.com Dating, the authors deal with a number of myths often connected with online dating—the idea that it carries an embarrassing stigma, that it’s reserved for the desperate, that only weirdos populate such sites, etc. As they cover these topics, the Parrotts provide wise advice by encouraging readers to check their motives before signing up, to avoid poor means of decision making (e.g.,“putting out a fleece”), and to avoid isolation by seeking involvement with Christian community as well as by soliciting biblical guidance from church leaders during the dating process. Along the way, the Parrotts share numerous statistics and interesting anecdotes, all of which make for quick and enjoyable reading. 

The second part of the book consists of a series of chapters designed to help readers answer the question, “Is Internet dating right for me?” It is at this point that the book really breaks down for me, because although I’m sure the authors’ enthusiastic promotion of online dating is sincere, it does bear a strong resemblance to a sales pitch. The Parrotts describe online dating as the solution for those “tired of waiting for love,” the way to “instantly and dramatically increase your chances for love,” a way “to use time and money wisely” and to “safeguard yourself from emotional pain and danger.”

Although I could quibble with a number of details about these claims, there is an even more pressing concern about the Parrotts’ portrayal of online dating. On more than one occasion, they state that online dating “puts you in the driver’s seat” and they emphasize that online dating will increase your chances of meeting your future mate. Although the authors also reference God’s will in the book, the overwhelming impression given in dot.com Dating is that online dating can give you control over finding “the one.”

For example, in Chapter Seven, the Parrotts say:

If you’re growing weary of waiting to find your right someone, you don’t have to keep waiting. Online dating has little to do with waiting. It puts you in the driver’s seat, helping you to be proactive about the fate of your dating life. You don’t have to sit home alone on Friday nights. And you don’t have to date duds just because your options are drying up. Online dating can broaden your prospects and help you find the someone you’ve been looking for.

Such counsel can be incredibly dangerous for the Christian single who is already struggling to trust the Lord while she waits on His plan. Waiting is an ongoing part of the Christian life, and as many women who waited longer for their wedding day than they would have planned will tell you, “It was all worth the wait.” Of course, I agree that singles shouldn’t be encouraged to sit at home and wait for God to deliver a husband to their door, but they should never be tempted to believe that the fate of their dating life is ultimately in their hands. I was disappointed by the Parrotts’ failure to emphasize the sovereignty and providence of God in regard to the timing of marriage.

Another issue of particular concern is the fact that the Parrotts encourage women to feel comfortable in the role of the initiator:

Online dating puts you in the driver’s seat. This is particularly important for women. You no longer have to feel as if you’re sitting around passively waiting for a guy to make the move. It’s cool for anyone to initiate contact when it comes to online dating.

While I realize that the issue of initiation becomes more complicated in the online dating world, I would still counsel a single woman to give men a chance to take up their God-given role as leaders even before the relationship begins. God won’t allow a woman to miss “the one” simply because she chose to trust Him to work out His will in His way. Regardless of how the culture may change, biblical roles for men and women retain timeless importance.

I believe the Parrotts have good motives in sharing their belief that online dating makes it easier for singles to meet the right person and establish successful marriages, but their neglect of God’s sovereignty and the vital role of the gospel in their counsel on dating and marriage is a glaring problem. Yes, science and psychology can make predictions about the success or failure of marriage relationships based on moral values, personality traits, and communication skills, but what they cannot do is to reckon the incalculable difference that God’s grace makes within the covenant of marriage.

In the realms of dating and marriage, we must never place our hopes for success on anything (not even the most sophisticated technology or scientific findings) other than the gospel of Jesus Christ. Only He can transform sinners into soulmates. In conclusion, while I do believe God uses online dating to bring certain couples together, I am unfortunately unable to recommend dot.com Dating as a guide to be used during that process.

 

Tyndale House Publishing provided a complimentary copy of dot.com Dating for this 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

Uncompromising by Hannah Farver

Have you ever unexpectedly encountered someone who was hurting, and you wished with all your heart you could introduce them to the hope found in Jesus Christ? A few weeks back, I had just such an experience while waiting for a plane to California. As I sat in the boarding area of the airport, I realized that a young woman across from me was crying. When I offered her a tissue and asked if she was ok, she said yes. But her nervous fidgeting, the anxious look on her face, and the hospital bracelet on her arm all told me she was anything but ok. I didn’t know what her story was, but I did know that whatever her situation, Jesus was the Comfort she needed. I also knew I wouldn’t have the time to tell her that.

As I stood to board my plane, I handed her more tissues along with the book I’d been reading and told her I wanted to give it to her. She seemed surprised and said, “Are you sure?” I told her yes, that the book had been an encouragement to me, and I hoped it would be an encouragement to her too. Then, I smiled, told her that God loved her, and left, praying with all my heart that God had placed me in that airport with those tissues and that book just because He wanted to save that young lady. Only eternity will tell, but the book I had with me seemed too perfect for the situation not to be part of His plan.

Uncompromising: A Heart Claimed by a Radical Love

Written by Hannah Farver and published by Moody, Uncompromising is one of the few books written for young women that I can wholeheartedly recommend. Perhaps never before in history has a generation of women faced such deep confusion about who they are, what their value is, and what their purpose is on earth as those living today. Hannah, a college student herself, is well-acquainted with the challenges of understanding what it means to be a woman in the midst of a gender-confused culture. In her book, she addresses the pain and confusion so prevalent among today’s teens and twenty-somethings and then paints a contrasting picture of the joy and satisfaction that awaits the heart fully devoted to Christ, or as the subtitle describes it, “A heart claimed by a radical love.”

Uncompromising discusses the ordinary issues that dominate a young woman’s thoughts—things like love, beauty, and passion, yet the perspective provided on these topics is far from ordinary. That’s because Hannah Farver is no ordinary college student. She’s a woman living with a passion for the ultimate Cause—glorifying God in all things, and she’s rallying other young women to join her in the journey. She writes with a depth of wisdom beyond her years, yet she does so in a conversational, almost chatty way that is sure to engage the young ladies her book is targeting.

In her quest to enlist readers in living for the Cause, Hannah talks about the Gospel, true beauty, purity, and the importance of biblical community. Additionally, in Uncompromising, readers will learn about vital issues that are often overlooked in the church today like modesty, expository Bible teaching, and the benefits of godly mentors. In short, after reading Uncompromising I couldn’t help but wish I’d had the chance to read a book like it when I was a teenager. Some of the transformational truths covered in its pages I’ve only really begun to grasp in the last few years of my life.

Young ladies blessed with the opportunity to read this book will come away with a deeper appreciation of God’s love for them, a greater understanding of the gospel, and an increased passion to live every day for the glory of God alone. Buy it, read it, share it. You never know who the Lord may reach through your copy.

Hear more of Hannah’s vision for Uncompromising in this interview for Revive Our Hearts…

 

Review of Dancing With the One You Love by Cindy Easley

I was amused some time back to hear of a conversation which occurred between two Christian women after a Sunday morning message on the biblical roles of men and women within marriage. Even though these ladies had just heard Scriptural teaching on how wives should respond to their husband’s leadership, one woman offered the following matter-of-fact explanation for why she had recently gone against her husband’s advice on a matter: “Submission doesn’t mean we have to obey our husbands.” Hmm…Really?

Submission. Confusion. More often than not, these two terms seem to go hand in hand, but the good news is they don’t need to.  

In her book Dancing With the One You Love, author Cindy Easley sets out to clear away some of the cultural haze that often shrouds the biblical teaching of submission. As a woman who once struggled with misconceptions of submission herself, Easley understands how important it is that women be able to distinguish between God’s design for a husband’s headship and a wife’s submission and the common distortions of that design. In order to clarify what submission is and is not, Easley begins by describing God’s purpose for submission and then explains how the entrance of sin into the world forever marred the interaction of men and women within the marriage relationship. The author moves on to provide further clarity on the topic with a series of chapters describing how submission plays out in difficult scenarios such as in marriages to unbelieving husbands, situations where a husband is physically incapacitated, and other complicating circumstances.

Dancing With the One You Love is written in an enjoyable style and contains a number of real-world illustrations with which many women will readily relate. Throughout the book, Easley acknowledges the difficulties often involved with submission while at the same time promoting submission as being biblical, achievable, and even desirable. She emphasizes that when husbands and wives live in obedience to God’s commands, marriage serves as a powerful illustration to the world of the divine love between Christ and His bride. This is a truth we must never minimize or ignore. 

Although this book has several good points worth commending, it does contain some weaknesses as well. After the first two chapters, Easley relies less heavily on Scripture passages and begins drawing more from human experience or psychology, and as a result the advice given is not as solid as it could be. The most problematic chapter is entitled “Codependency versus Submission,” and while it does provide some helpful insights, the chapter is supported mainly by the testimony of a clinical psychologist’s experience with her alcoholic husband [which portrays her refusal to share a bedroom with him as an appropriate use of boundary-setting] instead of relying primarily upon teaching from God’s Word.

Because of the few instances where pertinent Scripture passages were overlooked, I can recommend this book only with a gentle warning to read with discernment. Overall, Dancing With the One You Love is a book which will prove helpful to many women who desire to better understand the Bible’s teaching on submission so they can more fully glorify God in their role as wives. If marriage is a dance you’d like to participate in more skillfully, I believe you’ll find Cindy Easley’s book to be a useful guide for learning how to respond to and encourage your husband’s leadership as he follows the steps God has prepared for you as a family.

Photo: OBMonkey

Disclosure of Material Connection
I received this book free from Moody Publishers as part of their Blogger Review Program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

Voices of the Faithful: Book 2 by Beth Moore & Kim Davis

What would it be like to give up everything I know to serve the Lord? Saying goodbye to family, friends, culture, and even my language to minister to souls on a foreign mission field–these are sacrifices I know nothing of. That’s why I appreciate Voices of the Faithful: Book 2 by Beth Moore and Kim P. Davis so very much. It provided me with a helpful glimpse into the lives of missionaries scattered across the globe who face these challenges and many more every single day.

As creator of the Voices of the Faithful series, Beth Moore believes we have much to learn from missionaries who serve the Lord in various regions of the world. In her introduction, Moore explains her hope that this book will inspire many to pray more effectively not only for their own personal needs, but for the needs of those sharing the gospel through their work as full-time missionaries. To that end, Kim P. Davis compiled 366 daily devotionals written by over 300 men and women who serve overseas through the International Mission Board. All royalties produced by both volumes of Voices of the Faithful benefit the work of IMB.  

The devotionals are divided by month and categorized by topic. As various missionaries share their personal experiences, struggles, and growth in Christ, readers will learn more about prayer, divine appointments, encouragement, hope, and following Christ among other topics. Each devotional is accompanied by a verse as well as a prayer which often focuses on specific needs mentioned in the missionary’s story, so when you pray, as Beth Moore puts it, “You’re not just stuck with ‘God bless the missionaries.'”

This book is both encouraging and challenging at the same time. For those of us accustomed to living with a wealth of material comforts, it can be all too easy to focus on the here and now, living as though this world were our true home and eternity were non-existent. Voices of the Faithful provides readers with much-needed reminders of what truly matters—living for the glory of God, loving others, and sharing the gospel with a world in desperate need. I commend this book to you as a means of sharpening your eternal perspective and enlarging your concern for our brothers and sisters who serve in foreign missions.

Thomas Nelson provided a complimentary copy of Voices of the Faithful: Book 2 for this 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