Archive for 'Books'

Review: Every Body Matters by Gary Thomas

Every Body Matters by Gary Thomas (ISBN: 978-0-310-29081-0)

I had the privilege of getting a review copy of Gary Thomas’ latest book Every Body Matters. I was eager to read this book, since Thomas is the author of one of my all-time favorite books “Sacred Pathways”.

Since, 66% of the US population is overweight (and many more struggle without being overweight), this is a very timely message that needs to be discussed. The very real battle in maintaining our temples has profound spiritual implications. This book in many ways is the start of a conversation, asking “Have you considered the spiritual impact of your diet / fitness habits? “Are you engaged in the battle to present your best self to be used by God?” “Do you believe that God desires to use you for noble purposes?” “Where should health / fitness be on our priority list?” As Christians, we should wrestle with how the answers to these questions should impact our daily routines / habits.

Mr. Thomas passion for this topic is penetrating, it practically jumps off the page screaming “Please Listen — your temple matters, start the journey, begin to fight, don’t give up, God wants to use you!” This is not the kind of book you should just read, nod your head in agreement and go on with your day. No, it’s a book that asks you to wrestle with the topic and start fighting the battle on a daily moment-by-moment basis. God’s spirit can use this message to encourage, convict and empower the reader.

I got a lot out of this book, both in encouragement and motivation to continue on my life journey closer to Christ. I thought the most important starting place is asking ourselves:
Do I believe God when he says he has a plan for my life? Do I believe He wants to use me for noble purposes? What is my part in making myself a more usable instrument? Our temple is a great starting place to show that we are faithful stewards of our lives (body, mind and spirit).

Thomas talks about this point on pg. 20 saying:

Christians who don’t take their health seriously don’t take their mission seriously. What we’re saying by our action is, “My life doesn’t really matter.” But because of the ability of God to work powerfully in any repentant sinner’s life, every body does matter.

There were many good points and takeaways that can be directly applied to ones life, such as:

Gain a future mindset: (Pg. 96)

Bad habits provide instantaneous gratification vs’ the slow reward of good habits. This is the challenge that this battle is fought in the moment, but the rewards (weight loss, energy, clarity of mind, spiritual depth) may not be observed for many months later. That’s a lot of fighting, stress, battle when the reward for giving in to temptation is immediate. So, we have to focus our minds on the hope of the future reward.

Take advantage of positive momentum in building new habits: (pg.162)

Most of us when attempting to wrestle with our health struggles — try for a couple weeks with new healthy habits (perhaps as part of a new years resolution) and then give up accepting the fight can’t be won. However, if we had just persevered for a few more days or weeks to make the 3 or so week threshold the fight will get easier. Positive momentum will begin to build as the new behaviors are no longer struggles but habits on auto-pilot. The battle is not over, but is considerably lessened.

Create Boundaries around New Habits: (Pg. 162)

Don’t go more than two days slipping into old behaviors (skipping exercise, overeating, excess snacking, etc.) or you will be on the road to making them daily habits. The longer you slip into old patterns the harder it is again to break free.

Begin the Process of “Sin Killing”: (pg. 178-180) (I thought this was very helpful regardless of what the sin is. ).

Taste the Bitterness of Sin
– Think and feel the remorse, shame, pain and bitter ugliness of sin.

Examine the Deceit behind sin
– Ask yourself the question: What is the lasting value in Sin? We are deceived into believing that the instantaneous gratification is better than the lasting value of obedience.

Consider the circumstances of your sin?
– What scenario makes it more likely that you’ll be weak / vulnerable to a particular sin? Is it how you feel? Your circumstances? Time of the day? Then become prepared for this inevitable battle, before it defeats you — again!

Use the exposure that sin provides to gain a more accurate view of the conditioning of your soul
– Gain an accurate assessment of yourself based on the sinful behavior to fully recognize how contrary it is to what God wants for us.

Consider the strength of your sin
– Did this sin occur in a rare weak moment or are you out of control in this area (and risk being destroyed by it)? If this is a very strong sin in your life seek help to make the chance for freedom greater.

Find a Holy Substitute
– Replace the sin with a positive alternative. Being prepared with an alternative activity, food or approach will make winning the battle easier.

Fortify your soul
– Adopt habits that will nurture your soul, such as spiritual disciplines, meditating on scripture, listening to sermons, reading books, etc. Create a “spiritual workout” for your soul.

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I ended up with many quotes and tips captured in my notes from the book; I think this book makes a great reference on the topic of our “temple”. Some of the takeaways for me were simple actions, like memorizing 2 Timothy 2:20-21 and 1 Corinthians 9:24-27 to adding in new boundaries in my life through the “Sin Killing” process, such as: I won’t use the internet until I’ve completed my Bible Study and Exercise for the day, since I could see that was an area I could waste time in instead of using my time more wisely. I also have been careful not to miss more than 2 days in a row in my new habits, because I can see more clearly how that creates a trend of bad habits.

If you read this book and are willing to make an honest assessment of your life, I think you too will find it has many practical applications that will prove to be life changing.

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I received a review copy from the publisher, Zondervan. 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: Larkspur Cove by Lisa Wingate

Jesus was a wonderful story teller, because stories have powerful ways of reaching the heart and planting truths that facts and figures alone could never impart. Inspirational Fiction is a nice way to add spice to your Spiritual Life through Stories.

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This book is about new beginning and adapting to change.

I enjoyed the unique story telling approach of having two first-person accounts. It allowed the reader to understand the various complexities of both characters and their personalities.

I enjoyed the ride through the rough and tumble back roads of Moses Lake with a romantic undertow. Although the plot around the romance is not a surprise, it didn’t need to be a mystery to be an enjoyable read.

The book is full of enjoyable characters with complexity and depth for only briefly introducing each of them.

The only thing I felt disappointed with was the ending, it felt too short and compared to the rest of the book left me wanting. Or maybe it was just that I didn’t want the book to end. 😉

I hope they are considering making the book into a series, because there are clearly many more stories to tell around Moses Lake.  I also would like more information included (in the next book, perhaps) about Andrea’s husband and if there could be a redemptive turn for him.

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I received a review copy from the publishers, Bethany House. 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: Max on Life by Max Lucado

This book is a Q&A book on the many different types of questions that Max has been asked over the years.

This is typical Max Lucado style, which is as if he’s talking to a friend. It’s a little folksy, but that’s what I think is so appealing about him. The answers are often intertwined with a story to make the point more clearly understandable.

To the questions: there is a wide range of topics in 7 categories all starting with H (he’s obviously got the Pastor alliteration gift down 🙂 ) Hope, Hurt, Help, Him/Her, Home, Have/Have-Nots and Hereafter.

There is a nice index to the book both by topic and by scripture index.

I noticed sometimes the questions seem to be very similar, but are covering different nuances of a topic. For example (this is my quick summary of the questions, the actual questions are much more detailed): 13 – How to forgive myself, 14 – How to get over fear that God might not forgive me, 15 – What to do when doubting forgiveness, etc.

Occasionally, the answer leaned on Christian platitudes and didn’t quite seem complete to me.

All-in-all I think this book would have a wide appeal, since it covers questions that we’ve all asked from time-to-time. Also, it’s helpful to have a thoughtful answer to give to others who are questioning or hurting. It’s a good reference book.

This would make a nice devotional as well, since it covers a wide variety of topics and gives insightful answers from Max that draw the reader to want to know God more.

I received a review copy from the publishers, Thomas Nelson. 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: 31 Days of Drawing Near to God by Ruth Myers

31 Days of Drawing Near to God by Ruth Meyers:

ISBN: 978-0-307-72944-6

©1999 – Multnomah Books

(Previously released as “The Satisfied Heart“)

This is a timeless devotional destined to be a classic for women. Ruth Myers’ writing exhibits a great passion for the Lord that leaps off the page. I felt my own hunger and longing for more of God, stirred up within the depths of my soul.

The book is targeted toward a Christian who needs a fresh touch in their relationship with Christ — to grow more deeply in Love with Him in their personal walk. It’s not an evangelistic book with a Gospel presentation. The book includes both a devotional and Ruth’s story of joy and heartache while continually turning back to the only source of true peace and contentment: God’s Love.

The main theme of this book is learning to know God more passionately by resting in His love and delight. Often when we think of drawing near to God, it seems like we have to do some work or task in order to get closer to Him. Yet, in reality, if we could just accept His Love and allow it to fill our Spirit, we would gain the intimacy and closeness we desire. This concept is showcased in many different forms and ways throughout the story to get this most important truth — Rest in God’s Love — in our heart and psyche.

Ruth highlights one of the things I love most about the Bible; as we read it and  it speaks more and more in our lives, it’s not just God’s story, but our story as well. His Word becomes the backdrop of the tapestry of our life. Throughout the book, Ruth combines God’s work in her life with a verse that spoke to her during that season or is related to the lesson to be learned.

Bible Verses, inspiring and thoughtful quotes and example prayers are the seasoning of the book that truly gives it flavor and the ability to satisfy. It’s so important to  gain a new insight and love for God’s Word in order to grow closer to Him. Ruth sees the Bible as the Love Story and Guide Book that it truly is.

The following prayer, which is on page 36 of the book, represent how I felt after reading the book:

Dear Lord, I thank You that I am Yours, that You know me through and through, and that it’s no accident You’ve led me to this book.

Father, I’ve tasted Your love, and I long to experience more deeply how You really feel about me. I long to know in my daily life the intense reality and great wonder of Your boundless love, which You so freely bestow on those who seek You.

Help me turn away from my misconceptions of Your love and from being casual or indifferent toward You. Help me to turn from hectic, frantic activity that often makes even my time with You so hurried. I ask that through Your Word You will speak to me of Your perfect love in powerful, life-changing ways.

I pray in Jesus’ name . . .

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I received this book free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review. I had never read a Ruth Myers book prior to requesting this book (or even heard of her). I was in a season of spiritual drought, so the title lept at me as being a most necessary touch of refreshment — and it left me most satisfied.

I wanted to know more about Ruth Myers and her life. I found out she had recently passed away (11/8/2010). The following article from The Navigators is a nice memorial with pictures of her life and an overview of her work for the Lord. It’s touching to know that her inspired writing has a legacy beyond her life and still is able to touch and encourage lives.

Below is another resource I found with free downloadable audio from Ruth Myers and a few PDFs:

 

Book Review: Eat Your Peas Faithfully by Cheryl Karpen

Have you ever had that dear friend (or family member), who you wanted to let them know that they  mean the world to you . . . but, you just don’t know the words to say it?

That’s the purpose of this book. It combines a carefree way of delivering very important truths like:

  • You matter to both me and God!
  • I desire to completely know you and listen to you — and so does God!
  • Have Faith — God has a wonderful plan for your life.
  • You are a masterpiece of the living God — Special and Treasured!

Words of encouragement are written like a dance of letters across the page. Along with the scripture based thoughts and the corresponding Bible verses.

I love the story on the author page that describes how the book started; Cheryl Karpen (the author) had a dear young lady in her life that she wanted to encourage and let her know — you are really loved:  I want the best for you and I’m here for you. The reach of the book expanded from young adults to all ages, because everyone needs some encouragement and to know they are loved.

The subtext of “Eat Your Peas!” is because “They are good for you”. And like the nutrition of peas, this book does offer nutrition for the soul — If it is savored and accepted by the heart. Therefore, my recommendation is after reading through it once at a faster pace, next . . . read through it slow. This would be especially a nice practice at the beginning or ending of the day. Rest in the truths about who God is — and what he desires for you. Pray to grow in faith to believe these important truths.

The two main reasons to buy this book are as a gift to someone (the primary context for the book). Second to use for personal devotions and reflection.

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Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com <http://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 Reviews Coming Soon . . .

©2011 – Horia Varlan

As I’ve reflected on my own spiritual growth; it’s quite clear that one of the primary factors was books. By reading a variety of books, I’ve been able to gain tools, ideas and encouragement that have helped me grow and develop as a Christian. Books give us an opportunity to listen in and learn from the messages the Holy Spirit is putting on the hearts and minds of others. It’s easy to read a book and then rush onto the next book or simply the next activity without taking the time to figure out the most important question, “Ok, now what . . How do I APPLY this to my life?”

My book reviews are going to be both overviews of the book – why I think it’s useful, who it will benefit, my favorite nuggets of wisdom and most importantly: how God is using it to challenge and grow me. This will hopeful be useful to you, the reader, but will also prove to be a profitable exercise for me. As I review my favorite books from over the years, I predict that it will be an amazing journey of growth for me, learning and re-learning lessons.

If you read or have read the books being reviewed it would be a good opportunity to chime in on what you found useful and share your wisdom as well.

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