Wednesday, April 23, 2014

"Rhinestone Jesus" by Kristen Welch

“For it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.”  Philippians 2:13

In high school, Kristen Welch was “that” girl, the one that carried her Bible everywhere she went and wore a big, sparkly rhinestone “Jesus” pin every day.  But it wasn’t until she was an adult that she realized her high school faith was a shallow one.  It was when she was standing in the midst of one of Africa’s biggest and most dangerous slums that she came to realize that knowing Jesus wasn’t enough, she had to live a life that proclaimed it louder than any rhinestone pin ever could.

Rhinestone Jesus is Kristen’s story of moving from living a safe, sheltered faith to diving head first into a faith where she says yes to anything God asks of her.  It is the story of how a woman who was “just a mom” went on to open a not-for-profit home for at-risk pregnant girls half the world away.  And most importantly, it shows us all how we can open our lives to what God wants us to do and how to say yes when you hear that call.

This is an encouraging and blessed book that is a wonderful read for anyone who feels like there is something more they can be doing.  There is nothing wrong with being content where you are or staying in your safe faith, but when we decide that we are ready to take risks and strive for something bigger, we will find that God is waiting to use us to make a difference in the lives of others.

I really enjoyed Kristen’s honesty in this book.  There are matters in her life that she didn’t have to open up about but she did and it shows us that even when we think we’re not good enough, worthy enough, or ready, God has it all planned for us.  Kristen has been blogging for years and the writing style of this book is similar to that of a blog which makes for an honest, easy read.  God is not expecting us all to head out to the other side of the earth, but this book shows us that there are opportunities to contribute to the Kingdom everywhere we look.

Kristen’s story is a wonderful one that will inspire and encourage women and men of all walks of life.  It is about saying yes to God wherever we are, whatever it is.  We may think that we don’t have much to offer but God knows we do.  It’s about stepping out of our comfort zones and seeing the potential we have to make a difference in this world.

Quotes

“Our primary job is to have a relationship with Jesus.  It’s the only way to discover the contentment in life we all crave.  And when we focus on intimacy with God, He provides the right timing, couples it with our hard work and skills, and passion is born.” (Loc. 772, e-book.)

“We aren’t called to do big things, we are just called to do something that fulfills this command: Love God. Love others.” (Loc. 2102)


“Making Jesus enough isn’t about good works or being good enough.  It’s about peeling back all the layers, the blessings, the stuff in our hearts, and discovering our desperate need for Him.  When we remove the extras we find we are not enough.  And we see that He is.” (Loc. 2868)

I received a copy of this book courtesy of Tyndale House Publishing.  The opinions expressed above are my own.

Friday, April 18, 2014

"Jesus Feminist" by Sarah Bessey

“There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” - Galatians 3:28

For centuries, the role of women in the church has been debated over and over.  For many women this has resulted in taking a back seat when it comes to their calling in the Kingdom.  But in her book Jesus Feminist, Sarah Bessey is issuing a new call to women.  Using biblical teachings and examining the church culture of the past and present, Bessey shows women that they do have a place in the church and it is on the front lines in His Kingdom.

The term Jesus Feminist can be scary or off-putting for some.  It can also be confusing for some.  But the focus shouldn’t be on the label but on what women are capable of doing.  It is a conversation that needs to be opened.  And as a woman who has always taken a more hardline stance on our role, I truly believe that this book shows there is a place for every opinion in the conversation.  The Kingdom of God is built on the work of everyone who abides in Jesus Christ, both men and women. We all bring something to the table and without that we can’t truly achieve all that the church is capable of.

I was truly amazed by this book.   I have been following Sarah Bessey on Twitter but haven’t been reading her blog so I wasn’t fully sure what to expect.  In all honesty, I was expecting to come out of it feeling condemned for my views on a woman’s role in the church.  But it was nothing like that at all.  Using the teachings of both the Bible and scholars, as well as her own personal experiences, Bessey crafts a well-structured argument for gender equality in the church.  This isn’t just an argument against the teachings that women shouldn’t be pastors or should keep silent in church, this is more an argument that Jesus has called us all to be a part of his Kingdom and that we all will have a role in building it.  It won’t look the same for every woman but everyone has something to offer.

This book isn’t as hard-hitting as the title will have you believe but that is okay.  Bessey isn’t writing it to be the next great theological masterpiece but rather to open up the conversation about traditional gender roles and to inspire women to find the place that Jesus has for them.  She isn’t attempting to be the next great academic scholar, she’s a wife, mother, and blogger who feels compelled to share a story many women have.  It’s time we throw out the debates and throw out the labels and start focusing on what Jesus wants us to achieve with the lives He has given us.

Quotes

(Usually when I read a book, I jot down a few quotes that jump out at me.  While reading this book, I wrote down many more quotes than I usually do.  It was very difficult for me to pick just a few to go here.)

“I am a biblical woman because I live and move and have my being in the daily reality of being a follow of Jesus, living in the reality of being loved, in full trust of my Abba, I am a biblical woman because I follow in the footsteps of all the biblical women who came before me” - p.97-98

“If we can’t preach it in every context, for every person, it’s not really for everyone, and so then we should probably ask whether or not what we are preaching is actually the gospel” - p.126-127


“You have worth, not because of your gender or your vocation or your marital status.  Not because of your labels or your underlined approved-by-the-gatekeepers books or your accomplishments or your checked-off tick boxes next to the celebration you’ve mistaken as a job description in Proverbs 31” - p.193

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

"The Fully Lived Life" by Dr. Merry C. Lin

"I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full." - John 10:10

Do you feel yourself sleepwalking through life? Are you soul weary?  Do you long to fully live?  So how does one break free from soul depression?  Respected psychologist, Dr. Lin believes that only biblical truth can wake a sleeping soul to the full life Jesus promised.  With her personal experience and powerful therapeutic principles, The Fully Lived Life details the emotional and spiritual steps to finding God beyond, and even in, the chaos of real life.  

The Fully Lived Life is a book for people who have ever felt tired.  Tired of running the race, tired of the world, tired of the day to day grind.  It is a book for people who know that there is a different life out there than what they are currently living, one that is fresh, alive, and full.  If you’ve ever been there or are there now, this book will show you how Jesus wants to refreshen and renew you so that you may have life and have it to the full.

Dr. Lin shares her own personal struggle with depression as well the stories she has heard from her patients and balances this with Biblical principles.  The stories she shares are ones of hurting but also ones that have been turned around through the love of Jesus Christ.  I really appreciate how Dr. Lin shares her own journal entries from when she was struggling with depression.  She is very open and honest and that brings a warm touch to this book.

This isn’t an easy book to read, especially if you are struggling.  However, it is a necessary and important book to read.  In addition to sharing personal stories and giving you the needed information and tools, each chapter ends with a “Digging Deep” section, one that gives you assignments to really dig into what is holding you back.  And this is where it gets tough. As Dr. Lin reminds you, this is something you would most likely want to do with a trusted counsellor rather than on your own.  These are the hard things that need to be addressed in order to move forward.  God doesn’t want you to shoulder this burden all on your own.

I know what it is like to struggle with depression and anxiety and in my toughest moments, it was the love and mercy of God that brought me through.  The Fully Lived Life will help you fight your way through the darkness leaning on that same love and mercy.

About the Author

Dr. Merry C. Lin is a licensed psychologist and Clinical Director of LifeCare Centres in Ontario, Canada (www.lifecarecentres.com), with over 20 years of clinical experience.  Throughout that time, she has helped many people overcome fear, depression, abuse, and other personal struggles.  She describes her life’s purpose as “helping people discover their full potential and break free from any bondage that prevents them from realizing their purpose and joy in life.”  A frequent speaker at conferences, retreats and workshops, Dr. Lin combines biblical truth with compassionate counsel, words of encouragement and practical applications that lead to changed lives.  Visit her website www.drmerrylin.com to learn more about her or to subscribe to her blog postings.  You can also follow her on Facebook www.facebook.com/drmerrylin.


Book has been provided courtesy of Graf-Martin Communications and author in exchange for an honest review.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Friendship - Four Week Mini Bible Study GIVEAWAY


Friendship - Four Week Mini Bible Study By Ashley Ferris

About the Book:

Let’s explore the gift of friendship- what a devoted friendship looks like, how to handle the waiting period, and how to deepen current, valued friendships. If you are in a season where you find yourself light on friends, I want this study to be an encouragement that this season will have an expiration date. If you are in a place where you feel you have many friends, I hope you can use this study to evaluate the depth and purpose of those friendships. It may spur you to take risks to deepen some already beautiful friendships. It may also help you see that there are some unhealthy ties that may need to be prayed over and potentially ended. Finally, if you have friendships that are deep, but you tend to pull away when you are confronted, I hope you will see the value that lies before you. I pray that you will endure uncomfortable conversations with deep friends (that you know have your best interests at heart) in order to grow in friendship and as a daughter of the King.

Connect with author Ashely Ferris here: Blog | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

Giveaway!

We are so excited to celebrate this Kindle new release with you by hosting a giveaway! Just enter for your chance to win a Kindle copy of Friendship - Four Week Mini Bible Study and a $50 Kindle gift card! a Rafflecopter giveaway Disclosure: Some affiliate links have been used within this post! This giveaway is sponsored by the Becoming Press Book Launch Bloggers.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

"The Replacement Wife" by Tiffany L. Warren

Five years after the death of his wife, millionaire Quentin Chambers refuses to return to church and the music ministry he and Chandra built up together.  Left to raise five children on his own, he hasn’t been giving them much attention and it is beginning to show as they spin out of control, especially his eldest daughter Deirdre.  And so his mother decides to hire a nanny, a young woman from the church.

Montana is pretty, compassionate, and has a beautiful singing voice she uses every Sunday in the church choir.  The children take to her right away and Montana quickly discovers that what they really need is music back in their lives.  Soon, Quentin finds himself opening his heart back to God and also to Montana.  But someone isn’t very happy about that.

Chloe has been by Quentin’s side ever since she introduced herself as a “friend” of Chandra’s at the funeral.  She has done everything she can to secure her place as the next Mrs. Chambers and is convinced that a marriage proposal is coming soon.  When she realizes that Montana is standing in her way, she decides to do whatever it takes to get her out of the picture.  But Chloe forgets that she has a secret past that may keep Quentin from her forever.

The Replacement Wife is the latest novel from Tiffany L. Warren and is a novel of love, loss, family, and faith.  

I enjoyed this book very much.  The plot had it all, it was romantic and scandalous.  But most importantly, faith jumped off the pages.  And I think the message is one that will resonate with all readers.  No matter who we are, we’ve all experienced times where we have questioned God’s actions.  We wonder why He would choose to bring us heartache and pain and we fail to see the wisdom behind it.  Some of us cry out to God and draw closer to Him, some of us choose to run, just like Quentin did.  But even when we run, God follows us and never lets us go.  We need to keep our eyes open to see how He is working in our lives, even when we don't want Him there.


Tiffany L. Warren is a wonderful writer.  She knows how to develop all of her characters without letting them crowd the book and she knows how to keep the plot moving and twisting.  I was very happy to see characters return from one of her previous novels, The Bishop’s Daughter.  If you have not read the book it does not matter, the characters are supporting and the story from the novel does not affect this one.  Though I do recommend reading both books.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

"A Heart's Rebellion" by Ruth Axtell

Jessamine Barry, daughter of a country vicar, is spending the season in London at her godmother’s home with her best friend Megan.  But her godmother doesn’t have many connections and the girls find themselves on the outside of society looking in.  This is okay for Jessamine at first, as she is still nursing a broken heart from when her suitor Rees, Megan’s brother, left her for the elegant Lady Celine.

Jessamine soon begins to draw the attention of a son of an aristocrat, Lancelot Marfleet, who is also a vicar.  Though they have many qualities and interests in common, Jessamine decides to aim for a higher spot in society.  With the help of a rakish young suitor, she may just do that.  But he isn’t all he seems and Jessamine soon finds herself in trouble.  Will she be able to find love in London society or is her true love the one she overlooks?

A Heart’s Rebellion is the second book in Ruth Axtell’s London Encounters series.  It picks up where the first book, Moonlight Masquerade, left off but this time with different characters.  If you haven’t read the first book, it does not matter.  I haven’t read it either but this definitely book stands alone as I didn’t feel I was missing anything.  I will say though, that this book definitely makes me want to go back and read the first one.

This book is your typical Regency Romance, which by my definition is a lovely read with charm, romance, and faith.  It has characters you will enjoy and though it may seem a little obvious what is going to happen at the end, it is an enjoyable read.

Time and time again I review historical fiction books and say that I don’t read much of the genre.  I think it’s about time I stop saying that.  What made me realize that, is that every book I have chosen to read so far I have absolutely enjoyed, but this one was more middle of the road for me.  I’m not saying it’s bad, I just wasn’t as amazed by it as I have been by others.  My reasons for feeling this way was the book felt a little slow in the beginning and when it came to the major development to push the plot forward, it then happened too fast.  The pace just wasn’t a good fit for me with that book.

What I did like about the book was the message of Jessamine’s story.  She spent a lot of her time mourning her relationship with Rees.  She is hurt and angry and we all know how this can affect one’s relationship with God.  Rather than letting God take care of her, she decides instead to control her own life and this leads to trouble.  There is a great lesson here that everyone can take away.  I also liked how Lancelot was a missionary who had returned from India.  I find that in the books I have read from this period, all of the focus is on English society and this book gives you a glimpse of life for Christians outside of the world we are accustomed to.  It’s great to read of someone being a missionary in this time period.


Overall, this was a good book for me.  Not spectacular, but not bad.  I don’t regret reading the book and I would recommend it to people who enjoy the genre.  

Book has been provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc.   Available at your favourite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

"Fortune & Fame" by ReShonda Tate Billingsley and Victoria Christopher Murray

The First Ladies are back and this time they’re taking their drama to the national level with a new reality show.

Jasmine Cox Larson Bush and Rachel Jackson Adams have gone from being enemies when their husbands were running against each other to head the American Baptist Coalition to frenemies when Rachel found herself mixed up in a terrible murder.  Can they become friends as the stars of First Ladies, a brand new reality television show?

Jasmine doesn’t like the idea but it was Rachel’s idea to have her own reality show and Jasmine sure isn’t going to let her have the spotlight.  The women know that they aren’t saints but they see this show as an opportunity to show that they are changed women and bring the Word to the people.  But when two women from their pasts show up, women who are determined to bring Jasmine and Rachel down, they may have to once again from an alliance to keep their reputations in tact.

Fortune & Fame is the third book in First Ladies series by ReShonda Tate Billingsley and Victoria Christopher Murray.  A soap opera on pages, this book is full of fun and faith.

Wherever Lady Jasmine and Lady Rachel are, you know there is going to be trouble and things are no different in this book.  I have loved watching the relationship between these ladies grow, having already read their individual stories in their previous books.  Whoever came up with the idea of putting these two ladies together is brilliant!

Giving the First Ladies a reality show was a fantastic idea.  I really enjoy the way the authors bring current events and trends into their stories.  Trust me, if these two women were real, the networks would be lining up for them.  The introduction of women from their pasts makes for a great story and shows that just because we follow Christ, doesn’t mean our lives will be free from difficulties.

I like Urban Christian Fiction because it gives you an opportunity to read about characters who are real and who go through real problems but keeps it within a faith perspective.  Life is messy, even for Christians, and these books accept that.  It’s never in your face preachy but it never skips on the message.  And ReShonda Tate Billingsley and Victoria Christopher Murray are two of this genre’s finest.  


If you’ve never read a book by these ladies, go back to the beginning (Let The Chuch Say Amen and Scandalous) and get to know them.  If you don’t want to read that many books but rather this one right now, don’t worry, you’ll quickly figure everything out.  For fans of the genre or fans of reality television, this book is a must-read.