Friday, December 29, 2017

Book Review ~ Seeking Aliveness: Daily Reflections On A New Way To Experience And Practice The Christian Faith by Brian D. McLaren

Let me start by stating that Seeking Aliveness: Daily Reflections On A New Way To Experience And Practice The Christian Faith by Brian D. McLaren was not at all what I was anticipating when I requested this book for review, and thus took me a lot longer to wade through than expected.

This book is a labelled as being a 52-week devotional based on Brian D. McLaren's book We Make The Road By Walking. Being unfamiliar with both the author and his previous works, I based my interest on the back cover, which states that "If you're a seeker exploring Christianity, if you're a long-term believer feeling disheartened, if your faith seems to be a lot of talk without much practice, here you'll find a fresh and healthy reorientation."

Basically, the book is separated into 52-weeks with 5-7 readings per week and a question or thought to ponder for each reading. Starting with Genesis and working its way through to the book of Revelation, each week focuses on a different story of theme from the Bible while helping the reader relate that story to modern times. So far, so good.

However, in emphasizing the point that these are merely stories, Brian asks the reader (time and time again) to ponder if the Biblical events actually happened or if they are just tales passed down by storytellers designed to make us think about specific issues, kind of like the parables that Jesus told. While I can see this as maybe being helpful to the skeptic or to a follower of a different religion who is seeking to learn about Christianity, I had a very hard time with concept of relating to the Old Testament stories (Moses, Noah, Elisha, etc.) as being on the same levels as the parables - people and events that didn't necessarily exist, were probably exaggerated and built up over the ages (if they were factually based to begin with), and are there more or less just to show us how to relate their lessons in our modern times.

I also found Brian's seemingly political motives when referencing modern cultures to be exhausting.

As for who I would recommend this book to, that's a hard one. The people I've known that believe in a metaphysical interpretation of the Bible would probably be able to relate better to most of the readings than I can. And as stated previously, those who are non-believers or skeptics and want to learn what makes the Christian's stories and interpretation different from their own might find something here worth learning. But I would not recommend it for most of the people I know that are currently on a Christian walk. 2/5 stars.

*Disclaimer: I received a complimentary print copy of this book from the publisher for the purpose of this honest review. All opinions are my own.*

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ About The Author ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
(copied from back cover)
Brian D. McLaren is an author, speaker, activist, public theologian, and popular conference speaker for denominational and ecumenical leadership gatherings in the U.S. and internationally. A former pastor and church planter, Brian has written over a dozen books, including Why Did Jesus, Moses, the Buddha, and Mohammed Cross the Road and Everything Must Change. Brian is also a popular blogger, a musician, and an avid outdoor enthusiast. He is married to Grace, and they have four adult children. Learn more at his website, www.brianmclaren.net.
Purchase Links:
     Amazon
     ChristianBook

Monday, December 25, 2017

Book Review ~ Know Who You Are, Live Like It Matters: A Homeschooler's Interactive Guide To Discovering Your True Identity by Tim Tebow

Know Who You Are, Live Like It Matters: A Homeschooler's Interactive Guide To Discovering Your True Identity by Tim Tebow (with A. J. Gregory) is a 36-week journey to finding and learning to live out your true identity in Christ. With weekly lessons that include journaling prompts, Tim writes to homeschoolers from his personal experiences in life as a homeschooled student.

Lessons include scripture verses, personal stories, biblical examples, and questions designed to make you rethink about your life and refocus your goals to keep Christ at the center, no matter what other dreams you're pursuing.

When I ordered this book, I was slightly concerned about the possibility of it being overly influenced by Tim's career in sports - nobody in my house is a sports fan in any manner. That being said, while there are plenty of references to his sports background (both as a teen and an adult), Tim does a wonderful job at keep it easy to follow and focusing on God. So even those of us that don't do sports can still enjoy and learn from his insights.

While geared toward homeschooled high school students, this book is perfect for young adults of any educational background who want to reexamine their current path in order to make sure that it's aligned with the path God has in mind for their lives. I also would not hesitate to recommend it to any Christians (new believers and longtime followers of the faith) of any age who want a refresher on where their life is headed and a reality check on how well they are meeting God's goals rather than their own.

My husband and I are both in our 30's and I plan on handing it to him to read before passing it off to our homeschooled teenage daughter. The only accommodation I'd make for an older audience is just to point out that you could go through it as daily lessons to review and reflect on your life rather than just reading one lesson a week.

For young adults, stick to weekly lessons and really let it soak in as much as possible. Also, parents should definitely get involved and either read the entire book (or each lesson) before handing it to their kid or just have a discussion on the material covered each week. 5/5 stars.

*Disclaimer: I received a complimentary print copy of this book from the publisher through the Blogging For Books program, for the purposes of this honest review. All opinions are my own.*

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ About The Authors ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
(copied from back cover)
Tim Tebow is a MLB player, a two-time national college football champion, first-round NFL draft pick, Heisman trophy winner, and author of the New York Times bestseller Shaken. After college, he founded the Tim Tebow Foundation that exists to bring Faith, Hope, and Love to those needing a brighter day. The foundation fulfills this mission by making dreams come true for children with life-threatening illnesses, taking care of thousands of orphans worldwide, providing life-changing surgeries for children in the Philippines, and fighting for those who can't fight for themselves. Learn more at www.timtebowfoundation.org.
A. J. Gregory is known for more than thirty-five book collaborations, including several New York Times bestsellers, with fascinating high-profile figures from celebrities to scientists. She is also the author of two books, Messy Faith and Silent Savior. A. J., her husband, and their three kids live in New Jersey. Learn more at www.ajgregorybooks.com
Purchase Links:
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     ChristianBook

Monday, December 18, 2017

Book Review ~ Transforming Grace by Jerry Bridges

This is the 2017 edition of Transforming Grace by Jerry Bridges, which has an 8-lesson discussion guide included in the back for personal or group study. Being completely unfamiliar with Jerry's work prior to picking up this book, I found it to be a very thorough and in-depth study of the principles behind living in grace, rather than simply being saved by grace but continuing to live in our own strength.

For anyone who has already read several (and I do mean several) books on the art of living everyday in God's grace, there probably won't be a lot of "new" information here - that's in part because of the original copyright date of 1991 in the front of the book. But don't let that deter you from reading it. If I had to recommend just one book on living in grace, this would be it.

Starting by discussing our own spiritual bankruptcy and why we need God's saving grace, Jerry uses personal and scriptural stories to elaborate on how God's saving grace is so overwhelming and why it needs to be at the core of our relationship with Him. However, as Jerry is quick to point out, this is not a book on God's saving grace. That form of God's grace is eagerly shared and seldom overlooked by Christians. Instead, the majority of Transforming Grace focuses on what it means to us, as Christians, to live everyday by God's grace. How we should behave, treat others, and allow God's wonderfully amazing grace to reflect in every aspect of what we do on a daily basis.

Focusing on the parables of the generous landowner and the unmerciful servant, Jerry lays out a blueprint for Christians to truly embrace God's love and grace, while sharing it with their neighbors. Don't get me wrong, this is not a book of checklists and legalism; in fact, it's the exact opposite. It's a book of finding and embracing God's grace through your own personal walk with Him, rather than focusing on how the rest of the world perceives your relationship.

As stated before, I would recommend this book to any Christian who is seeking to understand more about God's grace and how to live by grace on a daily basis. Unlike a lot of books on this subject, Transforming Grace is written for both men and women, and would be just as valuable to a new believer as a longtime follower. 5/5 stars.

*Disclaimer: I received a complimentary print copy of this book from the publisher for the purpose of this honest review. All opinions are my own.*

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ About The Author ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
(copied from back cover)
Jerry Bridges was a well-known Christian writer and speaker. His numerous books have sold over 3.5 million copies. He served on the staff of The Navigators for more than sixty years before his death in 2016. Jerry leaves behind his wife, Jane; two children; and seven grandchildren.
Purchase Links:
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     ChristianBook

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Book Review ~ The Unexplainable Church: Reigniting The Mission Of The Early Believers by Erica Wiggenhorn

The Unexplainable Church: Reigniting The Mission Of The Early Believers by Erica Wiggenhorn is a 10-week (50 lesson) Bible study of Acts 13-28. While designed to follow An Unexplainable Life, Erica's 10-week Bible study of Acts 1-12, this book would also work well as a stand-alone study.

In The Unexplainable Church, Erica walks us through a verse-by-verse study of the last 16 chapters of Acts which focus on Paul's various missionary journeys and the subsequent establishment of the early church. Here, we will learn about God's grace, following His course, and trusting in His protection.

While emphasizing the early church and community of believers, this study reveals not only how Paul's life should influence our interactions with the church today, but also how our standing with the church reflects our relationship with God in our hearts. Combining her own personal experiences with in-depth questions that will make you contemplate God's transformational power in the very core of your being, Erica leads invites us to join Paul on his quest to seek God, expand God's kingdom, and sacrifice everything in order to gain the only thing which truly matters.

I love the color coded type that Moody has used in these recent Bible studies, making it easy to separate out the author's insights from the Scripture and the reflection questions. There is very little Scripture in the actual study book, relying on the reader to have your own Bible present at all times. While this can make traveling with the book a bit tedious, I find that it encourages you to set aside a time to stop and truly focus on the day's lesson and Bible reading, rather than trying to rush through it as one more thing on your to-do list.

Erica's insights and examples help bring the pages to life, making the story easier to relate to in today's culture. I would recommend this book for individual or group study to any women who want to learn from Paul's missions, feel closer to his motives and relationships with the early believers, and discover ways to bring the transformational power of unexplainable grace into their own lives. 5/5 stars.

*Disclaimer: I received a complimentary print copy of this book from Moody Publishers for the purpose of this honest review. All opinions are my own.*

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ About The Author ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
(copied from back cover)
Erica Wiggenhorn is the founder of Every Life Ministries, which teaches biblical principles for life change. She serves on the women's ministry team at her church and loves to write and teach women's Bible studies. She also speaks at retreats and conferences around the world. A graduate of Azusa Pacific University, Erica lives in Phoenix with her husband, Jonathan, and their children, Eliana and Nathan. For more information, along with free resources to accompany this study, visit ericawiggenhorn.com.
Purchase Links:
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Saturday, December 9, 2017

Book Review ~ Renewed: A 40-Day Devotional For Healing From Church Hurt And For Loving Well In Ministry by Leigh Powers

Renewed: A 40-Day Devotional For Healing From Church Hurt And For Loving Well In Ministry by Leigh Powers is a 40-day journey through the hurts and aches of ministry, including anger, failure, resentment, selfishness and more. Containing personal stories both from her own experiences and that of others, Leigh candidly discusses the setbacks and bumps along the road to being a pastor's wife. Each day has a main focal story, scripture, a Biblical account for similar struggles, and a prayer to help you push in closer to God through your hardships and pain.

Reminding all women that they are not alone in their trials, this book (though intended for women in ministry leadership roles) is a powerful asset for all women who have dealt with hurts or heartache at the hand of others within the Christ body.

Laid out with beautiful progression to help you work your way from pain and anger into a place of gratitude and grace, I would highly recommend working your way through this devotional one day at a time, in the order set forth. However, after reading through its powerful messages, this is one you'll definitely want to keep on the shelf to be able to read a day here and there as new situations arise to bring up past or present sorrows that need addressing. With each day given appropriately clear titles, such as "Lord, I Feel Betrayed", it is easy to find help for so many common issues within your daily relationships with God, others, and yourself. 5/5 stars.

*Disclaimer: I received a complimentary print copy of this book from the publisher for the purpose of this honest review. All opinions are my own.*

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ About The Author ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
(copied from back cover)
Leigh Powers is passionate about helping women find hope and healing in God's Word. A pastor's wife and mother of three with fifteen years of full-time ministry experience, she is a freelance writer, Bible study and devotional author, and a graduate of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. She blogs regularly at www.leighpowers.com and at www.pastorswives.com. You can usually find her with either a book or knitting needles in her hand - and sometimes both.
Purchase Links:
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Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Book Review ~ Walking On Water: Experiencing A Life Of Miracles, Courageous Faith And Union With God by Jennifer A. Miskov

Walking on Water: Experiencing a Life of Miracles, Courageous Faith & Union with God by Jennifer A. Miskov is a combination of her own personal testimonies, Biblical stories, and activation steps focused on making you more aware of God's everyday miracles and helping you to step out in faith so He can present His miracles to you.

Using the story of Peter walking on water to go toward Jesus as the foundation of this book, Jennifer establishes that in order to move closer to God and have a closer union with Him, we have to step out in faith. We have to be willing to not only listen for God's calling in our life, but also pursue what we feel He has promised us, in order for Him to give us those gifts and everyday miracles that we desire.

Sharing testimonies from her own past, such as going to the airport without a ticket beforehand, Jennifer presents us with a multitude of examples as to how she personally has stepped out in faith time and time again, so we may get a better feel for how this might look in our own lives. She also give activation steps at the end of each chapter with questions, suggestions, and prayers centered upon letting go, focusing on Jesus, moving toward God, and several other practical steps to help us step into our place as His children.

I have mixed feelings about this book. I feel that overall, Jennifer has laid out an inspirational story and a wonderful foundation for anyone seeking to feel closer to God and increase their faith in His role in their everyday lives. However, parts of the book have a very repetitive nature and duplicate things already discussed in previous chapters. Reading through this book in a short time frame and trying to soak it all up, this could be bothersome and tiring. But, if you read it slowly (as intended) and break it up to, say, one chapter a week for 17 weeks, then the slight repetition could serve more as a review and reminder of what has already been covered and what progress has already been made. In this case, that could be a major asset - particularly for those of us that need a hint of familiarity to refresh our memory after dealing with the daily grind in the interim. Overall, 4/5 stars.

*Disclaimer: I received a complimentary print copy of this book from the publisher, Chosen, for the purpose of this honest review. All opinions are my own.*

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ About The Author ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
(copied from back cover)
Jennifer A. Miskov, Ph.D., teaches at Bethel School of Supernatural Ministry, facilitates Writing in the Glory workshops and is the founding director of Destiny House. Ordained by Heidi Baker and licensed by Bethel Church, Jennifer loves to lead people into life-changing encounters with Jesus through her writing, teaching and ministry. She lives in Redding, California.
Purchase Links:
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     ChristianBook

Monday, December 4, 2017

Book Review ~ Vanishing Point: A Nikki Boyd Novel by Lisa Harris

Vanishing Point is the first novel by Lisa Harris that I've had the pleasure of reading. Although taking a while to build up speed and momentum, Vanishing Point is an action-packed suspense/thriller set to keep you on your toes. Spanning a little over a decade and a pawful of murders, two detectives must decide who to trust and how far they'll go to catch a serial killer that's always one step ahead.

Although this is the fourth book in the Nikki Boyd series, Vanishing Point also makes a great stand-alone read, considering I haven't read any of the other books and had no issues keeping up. But, it is likely to make you want to get a hold of the other books and give them a read too!

While the dialogue seemed a bit too "by the book" at times, I still found myself being drawn into the story and sympathizing with the emotional and spiritual struggles of the main characters. Questioning where God is in the midst of pain and suffering, they each find themselves revisiting the past and wondering about the choices they've made and how God fits in to the equation.

This book is perfect for fans of crime scene shows or suspense novels, who could also use a potent reminder of God's master plan and how some things are worth waiting - and fighting - for. 4/5 stars.

*Disclaimer: I received a complimentary print copy of this book from the publisher, Revell, for the purpose of this honest review. All opinions are my own.*

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ About The Author ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
(copied from back cover)
Lisa Harris is a bestselling author, a Christy Award winner, and the winner of the Best Inspirational Suspense novel for 2011 and 2015 from Romantic Times for her novels Blood Covenant and Vendetta. The author of more than thirty books, including Vendetta, Missing, Pursued, and the Southern Crime series, Harris and her family have spent fourteen years living as missionaries in southern Africa. Learn more at www.lisaharriswrites.com.
Purchase Links:
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     ChristianBook

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Book Review ~ Favor: Finding Life At The Center Of God's Affection by Greg Gilbert

Favor: Finding Life At The Center Of God's Affection by Greg Gilbert is a sobering look at not only how one should obtain God's favor, but also what blessings are waiting for those righteous ones who do.

Destroying common perceptions of the concept of "winning one's favor", Greg explains that God's favor is not demonstrated by whether things are going your way or it seems as though the world is against you. Nor is it shown by how "blessed" you are on this earth through riches or other worldly measures. Instead, God's favor is an illustration of how He views you. If He favors you, then you are acceptable in His eyes. You are effectively welcome at His table and looked upon with perfect love in His eyes.

Sounds nice, right? But here's the kicker: Greg also reveals why God's favor must be earned and is not simply given freely to everyone. Only a perfect, sinless man can truly win God's favor. 

Using personal stories and scriptural references, Greg explains why we, as Christians, should eagerly embrace Jesus as our champion and let him lead us into God's favor. As if simply having God's favor wasn't enough, Greg also walks us through the blessings achieved by such a miraculous thing. Contentment. Peace with God. A new life. While you may think you understand each of these blessings, Greg opens our eyes to an entirely new understanding of what they truly mean when were focused on the eternity of a life with God instead of just our current earthly existence.

I found Greg's blunt honesty combined with a soft humor to be easy to relate to and a friendly voice of correction. I would recommend this book to any Christian who is seeking a fresh drink from the pool of God's love and a reminder of the magnitude of Jesus's sacrifice for us. 4/5 stars.

*Disclaimer: I received a complimentary print copy of this book from the publisher, Baker Books, for the purpose of this honest review. All opinions are my own.*

~ ~ ~ ~ ~About The Author ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
(copied from back cover)
Greg Gilbert is senior pastor of Third Avenue Baptist Church in downtown Louisville, Kentucky, and has degrees from Yale University and Southern Seminary. He lives in Kentucky with his wife, Moriah, and their three children, where he enjoys basketball, coffee, and Thai food.
Purchase Links:
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     ChristianBook

Monday, November 27, 2017

Book Review ~ Divine Time Management: The Joy Of Trusting God's Loving Plans For You by Elizabeth Grace Saunders

Divine Time Management: The Joy Of Trusting God's Loving Plans For You by Elizabeth Grace Saunders is more of a book on life management than actual time management, or perhaps the title would be aptly read as "divine time" management - managing your time spent with the divine.

In Divine Time Management, Elizabeth shares glimpses of her own personal story, combined with testimonials from friends and clients, to demonstrate not only the problems with conventional time management techniques, but also the solutions that help bring you closer to God. Tackling common goals such as control, pleasure, and achievement, Elizabeth shows you how to recreate your goals by learning to trust in God, loving your true identity, and coming into alignment with God. Heavily laced with scriptures, prayers, and powerful exercises, this book is designed to help you learn to clear your schedule and refocus your life on the one thing that truly matters - your relationship with God.

I really like Elizabeth's honesty and her openness about her own hang-ups and shortcomings, which helps you to realize that no matter where you are on your journey, God is there to embrace you and help you along the path. Whether you struggle with not wanting to let go of control, being a people-pleaser, or trying too hard to fit in even when it means sacrificing little parts of yourself - this book is for you! If you don't have any major control, identity, or relationship issues, but you are looking to learn new ways to grow closer to God and His plans for your life - then this book is also for you. 4/5 stars.

*Disclaimer: I received a complimentary print copy of this book from the publisher for the purpose of this honest review. All opinions are my own.*

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
About The Author
(copied from back cover)
Elizabeth Grace Saunders is the founder of Real Life E Time Coaching and Speaking. She's been featured on CBS, ABC, NBC, and Fox. She contributes to Forbes, Harvard Business Review, Huffington Post, and Fast Company. Elizabeth is a member of the Young Entrepreneur Council and the Forbes Coaches Council. Though she's the author of two previous books, her first Christian inspirational work is Divine Time Management (FaithWords, 2017).
Purchase Links:
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Friday, November 24, 2017

Book Review ~ True Identity: Finding Significance And Freedom Through Who You Are In Christ by John C. Majors

True Identity: Finding Significance And Freedom Through Who You Are In Christ by John C. Majors is written for teens and young adults who find themselves struggling to find themselves. Through this Biblically-based book, John tackles issues of personal identity, gender identity, spiritual identity, relational identity, and missional identity.

Geared for the youth being raised in a society that is blurring more lines every day on what it means to be a man or a woman, this book gets to the core issues of discovering your own identity and coming to terms with being exactly who God made you to be. Whether you find yourself struggling with assertiveness and control issues, or whether you question a possible attraction to the same sex - this book hold many truths to help you unlock the truest blueprint for God's plans for your life.

Not only does John help equip young adults with the knowledge needed to make Biblically sound choices, he also helps provide them with insight and positive practices for dealing with others in their lives who may not be making the most Christ-like choices.

Written for both young men and young women, this book if a must-read for anyone trying to sort through the myriad of societal allowances that make it so easy for young people to step into dangerous so-called grey areas and inadvertently step on mines. 4/5 stars.

*Disclaimer: I received a complimentary print copy of this book from the publisher, Bethany House, for the purpose of this honest review. All opinions are my own.*

~ ~ ~ About The Author ~ ~ ~
(copied from back cover)
John C. Majors creates resources for FamilyLife (a ministry of Cru), including Passport2Identity, and has contributed to THE ART OF MARRIAGE video series, STEPPING UP video series, and Passport2Purity. He also teaches for Cru across the United States and in other countries, training Cru staff in a communication and Bible study. John and his family live in Little Rock, Arkansas.
Purchase Links:
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     ChristianBook

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Book Review ~ Talking With Your Kids About God: 30 Conversations Every Christian Parent Must Have by Natasha Crain

Talking With Your Kids About God: 30 Conversations Every Christian Parent Must Have by Natasha Crain is a collection of basic apologetics lesson for Christian parents to walk through and discuss with their children. This is not a book to just hand your kids and walk off, leaving them to fend for themselves. Instead this is a very well laid out action plan for talking to your kids about the tough questions - when you may of may not have the answers yourself.

Natasha's emphasis is on beginning young and reinforcing your kids' knowledge banks before these issues are allowed to become issues. Talk to them and teach them the basic "why's" behind their beliefs - before the secular world starts to question them and make them doubt their own beliefs or abilities to provide a defense.

Each of the 30 questions starts with a brief but detailed explanation for you, the parent, to read so that you can understand both sides of the issue and provide your child with a more personal and in-depth discussion.

Having armed the parent, Natasha then goes on to provide a simple conversation guide for each topic. Here, she walks you through several questions or main points to raise with your child, while providing ideal answers and Biblical evidences in order to help you steer the ship in the right direction. She also provides a real-life application example for you and your child to review when these evidences would be the proper defense, and how they should go about utilizing their knowledge in a constructive and assertive manner.

So what are these 30 questions? Divided into 5 parts, each part focuses on 6 foundational questions for your child to know. Starting with a defense of the existence of God, Natasha walks you through such issues as "Where did the universe come from?" and "How much evidence do we need to be confident God exists?". Part two covers science and God, with questions such as "Can science explain why people believe in God?". In part three, "The nature of God", Natasha reveals "What does it mean that God is just?" and five other thought-provoking questions. The fourth part is all about believing in God, and covers issues such as "Do all religions worship the same God?". And lastly, part five discusses the difference God makes, including "What is the meaning of life?".

I would recommend this book not only for Christian parents wanting to prepare their kids for engagement with the secular world, but also for those adult Christians who would like to investigate the basic of apologetics and don't know where to begin, or would like to be able to learn the simple answers as to the evidences behind what they've been taught to believe. 5/5 stars.

*Disclaimer: I received a complimentary print copy of this book from the publisher, Baker Books, for the purpose of this honest review. All opinions are my own.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ About The Author ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
(copied from back cover)
Natasha Crain is a popular blogger, author, and speaker who is passionate about equipping Christian parents to raise their kids with an understanding of how to make a case for and defend their faith in an increasingly secular world. She is the creator of the Christian Mom Thoughts blog and the author of Keeping Your Kids on God's Side. Crain lives in Southern California with her husband and three children.
Purchase Links:
     Amazon
     Christian Book

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Book Review ~ Habits Of The Heart: 365 Daily Exercises For Living Like Jesus by Katherine J. Butler

Habits Of The Heart: 365 Daily Exercises For Living Like Jesus by Katherine J. Butler is a pocket-sized yet powerful book designed to help you learn and form habits of lasting change to bring you closer to God and into a better relationship with yourself and those around you.

Focusing on one primary lesson each week (such as slowing down, living simply, trusting in God, and letting go), Katy devotes one page to each day of the journey toward "living like Jesus". Each day has a scripture verse (or two) and a short, simple, and effective exercise - an activity or a prayer or questions to reflect on. Moving us gradually through these 52 lessons, Katy helps us to each embark on an adventure in what it truly means to be closer to God on a daily basis.

The entries are marked by date (January 1st, March 2nd, etc) for those of you that manage to find the time, energy, and remembrance needed to stick to a strict daily regiment for an entire year. However, for those of us who tend to get behind on daily readings and then feel bad about skipping or trying to play catch up (raising my paw here), they are also marked by weeks and days (week 10, days 2 & 3). So, if you do get behind and end up skipping a few days, then don't fret and - more importantly - don't try to skip ahead to the correct date. Just go by the weeks and days, take it one message and lesson at a time, and figure eventually you'll still get through the book. Katy has done a marvelous job at arranging the lessons in a progressive fashion, and you don't want to miss out on any of the steps to reach the final destination.

My favorite feature of this book is that the pages in Habits Of The Heart are thick enough to give you the confidence that you'll be able to read and re-read this book many times over, without worrying about tearing or damaging it from the excessive use it's sure to receive. It also has a handy ribbon bookmark sewn into it to ensure that you'll never have to go searching for the next page in your journey. I would suggest this book as a daily read for anyone looking to form lasting habits to strengthen their relationship with God, others, and even themselves. 5/5 stars.

*Disclaimer: I received a complimentary print copy of this book from Tyndale House Publishers for the purpose of this honest review. All opinions are my own.*

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ About The Author ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
(copied from inside book)
(photo provided courtesy of Tyndale House Publishers)
Katherine Butler was first introduced to spiritual formation as an undergraduate at Biola University.
The she attended a special program for a small number of students and faculty, where they lived together at a retreat house for several weeks, studying the topic of spiritual formation and practicing spiritual disciplines within community.
It was during that time that Katy felt her heart awakened to know God deeply and to feel loved and known by him in return. This experience led her to pursue a master's degree in spiritual formation and soul care from Talbot Seminary in Southern California, where she also became a certified spiritual director.
Katy is passionate about walking with others as they learn more about who God has created them to be. She believes God works with each of his children in ways that are special and unique to them.
Her desire is to help others open themselves to a greater awareness of God's deep and faithful love for them and his presence in their everyday lives.
Katy lives in Illinois with her husband and two beautiful little girls.
Click here to view all of Katherine's books published by Tyndale House Publishers

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Friday, November 17, 2017

Book Review ~ Free Of Me: Why Life Is Better When It's Not About You by Sharon Hodde Miller

Free Of Me: Why Life Is Better When It's Not About You by Sharon Hodde Miller is a reality check that most Christian women could use to read at some point in their journey to be closer to God. Sharon starts by explaining the overall consequences of making yourself your focal point in life - whether through your achievements or your insecurities. She emphasizes that God demands for us to be other-focused and Christ-focused, while using personal stories to demonstrate how we so often become self-focused even while we're attempting to care for others instead. We worry about how they'll see us, what they'll think of us, and if they'll show appreciation for what we've done. Time and time again, we keep tilting the playing field more and more in order to make it about ourselves rather than others - including God.

Sharon then walks us through seven "mirrors"- God, family, appearance, possessions, friendships, calling, church - which are things that we tend view in a distorted manner in order to make them about us when they really shouldn't be. Have you ever apologized for not putting on makeup before going out, or not cleaning the living room before guests arrive? How about distancing yourself from the jokes your husband says, so people won't think of you in "that" way? Or maybe you make sure to always have the perfect ensemble and the newest technology? How about checking your blog or facebook page to see how many views and likes that last message praising God received? These are all things that some of us struggle with more than others, but we all struggle with something that wants to steal our focus from God and place it back onto ourselves. Sharon's honest, direct, and loving approach reminds us that we're not alone and that God doesn't think any less of us for these setbacks.

After revealing and reflecting on your personal mirrors, Sharon helps you learn to redirect your focus back to praising God, loving others, serving your purpose, and humbling yourself - without neglecting yourself. This book is a wonderful asset and breath of fresh air for any Christian woman who finds herself needing to refocus on God. 4/5 stars.

*Disclaimer: I received a complimentary print copy of this book from the publisher, Baker Books, for the purpose of this honest review. All opinions are my own.*

NOTE: Be sure to visit the "book" tab on Sharon's website (SheWorships.com) and sign up to download a free group discussion guide for Free Of Me. This discussion guide has additional questions and thought points, making it a wonderful asset even if you're going through the book on you own.

About The Author (copied from back cover):
Sharon Hodde Miller is a PhD, a pastor's wife, and a mother to two small boys. She blogs at SheWorships.com, has been a regular contributor to Propel, She Reads Truth, and Her.meneutics, and has written for Relevant, Christianity Today, and (in)courage, among others. She speaks regularly on topics ranging from leadership to body image to Scripture. She lives with her family in the Raleigh/Durham area. 
Purchase Links:
     Amazon
     ChristianBook

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Book Review ~ Where We Belong by Lynn Austin

Where We Belong by Lynn Austin is the story of the bond of two sisters, Rebecca and Flora, who are on what may be their final adventure together. In the 1890s, they're forced to rely on God to give them the courage and the wisdom to face a dangerous sandstorm while lost in the desert with their two young servants and an agitated sheikh, who harbors hidden motives for helping them.

The sisters and their servants find themselves passing time by recalling past adventures and travels from their childhood in 1860s Chicago, as well as key moments leading them to their present circumstances. How did they get to the desert? What do they hope to find? Will God's will be on their side, as it has in the past?...

Filled with period-accurate theological debates on evolution and scientific evidences into the accuracy of the Bible, Lynn has presented a vivid window into the case for Christianity during the designated era.

I found the story to be relatively slow in sections while being vivid enough that parts read more like a screenplay than a novel. Also, while the book is divided into parts for each of the main characters, the entire book is written in the third person and only a few very small scenes repeat from a different person's perspective. Overall, you get a full picture of each scene as it plays out, regardless as to which character the focus is supposed to be on.

I think this is a good historical novel for anyone interested in the time period and the scientific dilemma imposed on Christians during the era. 3/5 stars.

*Disclaimer: I received a complimentary print copy of this book from the publisher, Bethany House, for the purpose of this honest review. All opinions are my own.*

About The Author (copied from inside book):
Bestselling author Lynn Austin has sold more than one million copies of her books worldwide. She is an eight-time Christy Award winner for her historical novels, as well as a popular speaker at retreats and conventions. Lynn and her husband have raised three children and live in Michigan. Learn more at www.lynnaustin.org.
Purchase Links:
     Amazon
     ChristianBook

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Book Review ~ Why I Believe: Straight Answers To Honest Questions About God, The Bible, And Christianity by Chip Ingram

Why I Believe: Straight Answers to Honest Questions about God, the Bible, and Christianity by Chip Ingram is a practical compilation of answers to those questions most frequently posed by skeptics of Christianity. Having once been a skeptic, Chip has arranged this book from the archeological, scientific, historical, and philosophical answers that helped him to leave so much of his own personal skepticism behind in order to truly follow Jesus - without feeling as though he'd somehow thrown out logic and reasoning in the process.

Utilizing compelling evidences from multiple historic and scientific resources, Chip explains why he believes so resolutely in the resurrection, the Bible, life after death, creation, and the God of the Bible. Comparing Christianity to other world religions throughout the text, Chip also emphasizes how you can be sure that Christianity is the one and only path to the true God, as opposed to the belief that there are many possible routes or most religions believe in the same god, just under different names.

I really appreciate how Chip cites non-Christian experts for each of the main claims, making a compelling effort to prove the accuracy of the evidence for Christians and non-Christians alike. I would recommend this book for anyone who is simply curious as to the supporting evidence for a Christian belief system, or to the skeptic who is trying to determine the validity of such outrageous claims, or to Christian who would like to be able to give supporting facts in an effort to secure their beliefs more firmly on historical and scientific logic and reasoning rather then just a feeling or emotional response. 5/5 stars.

*Disclaimer: I received a complimentary print copy of this book from the publisher, Baker Books, for the purpose of this honest review. All opinions are my own.*

About The Author (copied from inside back cover):
Chip Ingram is the senior pastor of Venture Christian Church in Los Gatos, California, and teaching pastor and president of Living on the Edge, an international teaching and discipleship ministry. A pastor for over thirty years, Chip is the author of many books, including Culture Shock, The Real Heaven, The Real God, The invisible War, and Love, Sex, and Lasting Relationships. Chip and his wife, Theresa, have four grown children and eleven grandchildren and live in California.
Purchase Links:
     Amazon
     ChristianBook

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Book Review ~ In Step With The Spirit: Infusing Your Life With God's Presence And Power by Sarah Bowling

In Step With The Spirit: Infusing Your Life With God's Presence And Power by Sarah Bowling is a personal testimony of the Holy Spirit's presence in Sarah's own life and ministry infused with Biblical examples and lessons, mostly based off of Paul's testimonials as recorded in the book of Acts.

Sarah uses her personal story to show us how the Holy Spirit can be a powerful ally to keep us following God's direction for our lives while also making us aware of the potential land mines that lay waiting for us to make a wrong step - and how to avoid them. Each chapter is filled with powerfully moving narratives to not only get us going in the right direction, but also make sure that we have a solid foundation established under our feet for the next leg of the journey.

Closing each chapter with a prayer as well as questions and simple activities designed to help us become more aware of the Holy Spirit's presence and more attuned to heeding His voice, Sarah helps guide us into a more personal relationship with God on a daily basis.

I enjoyed reading about Sarah's own journey, both in her early missions work and in Saving Moses, where she helps young children in need. Her perspectives on spirit-filled living made me rethink what it means to have the Holy Spirit in us, while bringing comfort to those times that it feels as though God isn't listening or may have left us wanting.

I would recommend this book for anyone seeking to have a closer personal relationship with God in the here and now, anyone who has ever felt as those their prayers weren't being heard, and anyone who wonders if God is really present during the seemingly mundane acts of daily living. 5/5 stars.

*Disclaimer: I received a complimentary print copy of this book from the publisher, Chosen Books, for the purpose of this honest review. All opinions are my own.*

About The Author (copied from back cover):
Sarah Bowling is a Bible teacher, international speaker, author and pastor. She co-hosts a daily television program with her mom, the esteemed Marilyn Hickey, and founded the international nonprofit Saving Moses to provide resources for children in need. Sarah and her husband, Reece, co-pastor Encounter Church in Denver, where they live with their three children.
Purchase Links:
     Amazon
     ChristianBook

Prayer Time ~ Right Paths (Hosea 14)

Today's Influence:
Hosea 14 (NLT):
1-2: Return, O Israel, to the Lord your God, for your sins have brought you down. Bring your confessions, and return to the Lord. Say to him, "Forgive all our sins and graciously receive us, so that we may offer you our praises."
4: The Lord says, "Then I will heal you of your faithlessness; my love will know no bounds, for my anger will be gone forever."
9: Let those who are wise understand these things. Let those with discernment listen carefully. The paths of the Lord are true and right, and righteous people live by walking in them. But in those paths sinners stumble and fall. 
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Today's Prayer:
Dear Lord, I confess that my walk with you has wandered and I have found myself too often in the wilderness from my own sin. I know now that even there, in the midst of my own exile, you were my comfort and my salvation. Lord, I thank you for forgiving my sins and I beg you to open my eyes to your acts of graciousness within my life. Heal me of my faithlessness in times of doubt, and remind me of your unfailing love, that I may walk in the paths you set before me as your daughter, full of the righteousness placed within me through your son Jesus Christ. Give me wisdom and discernment to follow your calling for my life. I praise you, Lord, for your righteousness, justice, unfailing love, and compassion. 
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My Story:
I spent the first part of my adult life believing in a distant, disciplining God, rather than a personal, loving God. While I did not purposefully place myself in a sinful exile, I was unaware that there could truly be a personal communion with God outside of following the traditional Christian checklist of things to do or not to do. This personal legalism quickly grew tiring and I had no connection with God beneath the surface of praying when things got really bad - while not actually having any faith that the prayers would change anything. Doubt in His love and personal affection for me, as His daughter.
-----

Your Turn:
In times of weakness, the devil loves to play off of our insecurities, quickly reminding us that we have sinned and convincing us that God will lose patience with us for our failures or our own faithlessness. The truth is, God never loses faith for us. He never lacks compassion or gives up on chasing after us with His unfailing love and ultimate grace. Nothing we ever have done - or could ever do - will ever be enough to separate us from Him.
Have there been times in your own life when you placed yourself in exile from God, believing that somehow your sins were greater than His forgiveness? Or maybe that He was too distant to truly love you and show you the grace and mercy you so desperately needed? What trials have you endured during wilderness periods that have ultimately brought you closer to God or revealed His plans for your life? Share in the comments.

Monday, November 6, 2017

Book Review ~ Bounce: Learning To Thrive Through Loss, Tragedy, And Heartache by Aaron Fruh

Bounce: Learning To Thrive Through Loss, Tragedy, And Heartache by Aaron Fruh is a book about cultivating resilience in order to "press on regardless", even when life gets hard.

Starting each chapter with a real-life story to illustrate the power of resilience in a specific situation or through utilizing a certain skill, Aaron explains that resilience is all about learning to bounce back during hard times. in the second part of the book, he focuses on four resilience blockers and how to overcome each. The last section is designed to help you learn from the past in order to make a plan for handling rough situations in the future. Each chapter concludes with questions to reflect on and a "bounce challenge" to journal and reflect on your progress and goals for each section.

I found parts of the book to drag on or jump around enough that I was left wondering where Aaron was headed with the information he was sharing, or found myself losing track of the main issue at hand. Other than that, the overall flow was pretty smooth and Aaron did a good job at forming a natural progression through the sections.

My main complaint would be that I spent a lot of time trying to figure out exactly what type of loss this book would be good for, or during what season of the grieving process it would be ideal to venture through without pouring salt on open wounds. In my personal life, I've experienced more depression, disconnection, and disappointment (with myself and others), than I have direct loss. From the losses I have dealt with, my guess would be that this book is overall useful for anyone trying to figure out how to move on after they've reached the point where they feel as though they might be starting to try to heal. Although, certain chapters and sections may resonate better than others, meaning that while the book emphasizes the importance of learning to "press on regardless", you really need to be determined to do that from page one - while letting the book help you find the roadmap on how to get there. 3/5 stars

*Disclaimer: I received a complimentary print copy of this book from the publisher, Baker Books, for the purpose of this honest review. All opinions are my own.*

About The Author (copied from back cover):
Aaron Fruh is the author of The Decree of Esther and The Forgotten Blessing and a weekly guest on the nationally syndicated radio program Nothing but Truth with Crane Durham, which airs on the American Family Radio Network. He and his wife, Sharon, have four children and three grandchildren and live in Point Clear, Alabama. Learn more at www.aaronfruh.com.
Purchase Links:
     Amazon
     ChristianBook

Friday, November 3, 2017

Book Review ~ Choosing A Life That Matters: 7 Decisions You'll Never Regret by Dennis Rainey

Choosing A Life That Matters: 7 Decisions You'll Never Regret by Dennis Rainey is a small but powerful book. In it, Dennis presents seven sets of do and don't principles that will help guide you to a more fulfilling personal journey with God while helping you to discover what purpose God has for so many of life's common experiences. Combining personal anecdotes with Biblical truth, Dennis not only reminds us of the importance of following these seven principles, but he also lists "life skills" which act as mini homework assignments to help navigate the terrain of each step.

In Choosing A Life That Matters, we will rediscover the reasons to seek, love, and obey God while learning how to maintain closeness in relationships with both God and other people without stumbling over many of the common pitfalls that can hinder a Christian's journey. I would recommend this book for anyone starting out on a new leg of their physical or spiritual life, whether graduating college, getting married, or learning how to adjust to life after the kids leave home. While the principles being taught will not be new concepts to most readers, Dennis shed new light on them in a way to help revitalize a stagnant pursuit and revolutionize the way that you think of your life's pursuits and goals. 5/5 stars.

*Disclaimer: I received a complimentary print copy of this book from Bethany House, the publisher, for the purpose of this honest review. All opinions are my own.*

About The Author (copied from back cover):
Dennis Rainey is the president and cofounder of FamilyLife, a Cru ministry. He is a graduate of Dallas Theological Seminary and hosts conferences on marriage, men's ministry, and parenting. Dennis is the daily host of the nationally syndicated radio program FamilyLife Today. He and his wife, Barbara, live near Little Rock, Arkansas, and have six adult children and a bunch of grandchildren.
Purchase Links:
     Amazon
     ChristianBook

Monday, October 30, 2017

Book Review ~ God's Best-Kept Secret: Christianity Is Easier Than You Think by Mark Maulding

God's Best-Kept Secret: Christianity Is Easier Than You Think by Mark Maulding is a thought-provoking journey into the depths of exactly what it means to be a Christian - and why so many Christians experience a spiritual burnout or feel as though Christianity is just too hard or they can't seem to get it right and find the joy and happiness they believe they should be experiencing.

In God's Best-Kept Secret, Mark leads us through several "secrets" that Christians tend to keep - things like battling depression, pornography, drinking problems, and other sins that are way too frequently occurring within the Christian body, yet seldom revealed, discussed, and dealt with outside of a counseling office or the well-meaning church that believes you could overcome your problems if you just had more faith. A lack of faith isn't the problem. The problem is that we're being taught a list of common misconceptions about what Christianity is and what it isn't, which then affect what we believe a Christian should or should not be or how they should or should not behave.

Mark uses a series of clinical examples from his experience as a Christian counselor, combined with scriptural evidence, to show us that many of the beliefs we hold onto that make Christianity so difficult are formed under the presumption that we're still working operating under the Old Covenant rather than the New Covenant that Jesus Christ brought into our broken world.

So how do we move away from the Old Covenant beliefs that are so heavily weighing us down? We start by ditching the checklist of right and wrong - trusting that the Holy Spirit within us will help guide us, if only we turn to Him instead of clinging to our own flesh. Mark then goes on to show us other concepts that are generally misconstrued in the modern church, including righteousness, the ten commandments, forgiveness, strength, freedom, and the influence our Christianity should have on our life outside of the church and Bible study times.

I found the section on the formation of character and Christian values to be enlightening, and have used it as a base to change my perspective in dealing with my own children on issues such as patience and honesty. I would recommend this book to anyone who finds Christianity to be "too hard" or difficult to maintain, struggles with legalism, or simply finds life to not be the joy-filled blessing it is and needs a change of scenery in their perspective. This book is appropriate for men and women alike, and is perfect for adults of any age. Mature young adults could benefit from a lot of the material, but there is open discussion of pornography and adultery, so discretion is advised. 5/5 stars.

*Disclaimer: I received a complimentary print copy of this book from the publisher, Baker Books, for the purpose of this honest review. All opinions are my own.*

BONUS: Make sure to check out the official website for God's Best-Kept Secret, which includes a free study guide in the resources section, perfect for an expanded individual or group study.

About The Author (copied from back cover):
Mark Maulding is founder of Grace Life International, one of the largest Christian counseling and teaching ministries in America. A speaker, counselor, and leadership coach, Maulding is a regular blogger who is passionate about sharing the transforming message of God's grace with a world in desperate need of it. He and his wife, Ellen, have four adult children and live in North Carolina.
Purchase Links:
     Amazon
     ChristianBook

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Book Review ~ She Is Free: Learning The Truth About The Lies That Hold You Captive by Andi Andrew

She Is Free: Learning The Truth About The Lies That Hold You Captive by Andi Andrew is mostly comprised of snippets of Andi's personal journey to face those lies which keep a lot of women from embracing their full value and having a close personal relationship with God. As Andi reveals her past struggles, she provides both Biblical and practical insight, along with suggestions to help other women who are facing similar imprisonment from unforgiveness, fear, anger, shame, control, and isolation.

For each of these captors, Andi starts by posing the common lie the enemy uses to keep us from connecting with God. She then shows us how this lie influenced her life, the revelation that made her confront and overcome it, the truth that replaces the lie, and personal suggestions for "walking in freedom". Most of the suggestions are simple steps like a prayer to recite, a Bible excerpt to read, or questions to reflect on.

While this book does not tackle the very core of some deep-rooted issues, it does provide a soothing dose of hope for even those most painful conditions. It's not just for the light-hearted surface pain but rather it's designed to shine a light into the broken crevices of our souls and help the healing process begin. If you're looking for a psychology book or just a scriptural resource, this is not it. Instead, this is a moving testimony from someone who has faced the same struggles and wants to take your hand and walk you out of your self-created prison and out into the sunlit courtyard that is the Lord's love and peace.

I would recommend this book to any woman who is struggling with the lies the enemy so frequently places in our paths. Whether you already know God and would just like a friendly reminder of His love for you and His plans for your life, or if you've never uttered His name but are just desperate to find a better way to live - this book is for you. Andi even includes a prayer in the appendix for those women who have yet to accept Christ into their lives. 4/5 stars.

*Disclaimer: I received a complimentary print copy of this book from the publisher, Baker Books, for the purpose of this honest review. All opinions are my own.*

About The Author (copied from back cover):
Andi Andrew is cofounder and copastor with her husband, Paul, of the multisite Liberty Church. In 2015 she launched the She Is Free Conference in order to equip women to find freedom, strength, and wholeness in spirit, soul, and body. A frequent speaker all over the world, she and Paul have four children and live in Brooklyn.
Purchase Links:
     Amazon
     ChristianBook

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Book Review ~ Seeing The Unseen: A 90-Day Devotional To Set Your Mind On Eternity by Randy Alcorn (Expanded Edition)

Seeing the Unseen is "A 90-Day Devotional to Set Your Mind on Eternity" by Randy Alcorn. Discussing a large variety of topics, Seeing the Unseen is designed to help you learn to live each day purposefully while keeping your mind set on eternity.

Starting with topics such as "Seeing God as the Source" and "Grasping Our Need for Grace", Randy first reminds us at to why we need to focus on eternity and God's plans for our lives. Moving into topics such as "God's Glory, Our Good" and "When It Comes to Heaven, Dream Big", we refocus on the limitless possibilities awaiting us for eternity. Finishing with suggestions for ongoing improvement and self care, such as "Steps to Greater Happiness in Christ" and "Dependence and the Heart of Prayer", Randy leaves us with attainable ways to keep pursuing God in this life, so we may enjoy His eternal presence in the next.

Two pages are devoted to each of the 90 days. Each day's main entry has a personal or Biblical story to illustrate the day's theme in a way that's easy to relate to regardless as to your current circumstances, or how far along you are in your personal pursuit of God. Following the day's entry are quotes from God's Word and additional insights from other inspirational Christians. At the very end of each day is a suggested blog post, article, or video for a more in-depth look at the selected topic.

This devotional would be a good reminder for anyone wanting to focus (or re-focus) their life on God's ultimate plan. 4/5 stars.

*Disclaimer: I received a complimentary print proof copy of this book from Blogging For Books for the purpose of this honest review. All opinions are my own.*

About The Author:
Randy Alcorn is the founder and director of Eternal Perspective Ministries (EPM). He is the New York Times best-selling author of more than fifty books, with over ten million copies sold. His books include The Treasure Principle, Happiness, Heaven, If God Is Good, and the award-winning novel Safely Home. The father of two married daughters and grandfather of five, Randy resides in Oregon with his wife, Nanci.
Purchase Links:
     Amazon
     ChristianBook

Prayer Time ~ Earnest Love (1 Peter 4:8)

Today's Influence:*
1 Peter 4:8:
Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins.
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Today's Prayer:
Dear Lord, please help me to love my family earnestly and whole-heartedly. Remind me to show them love and kindness even in the midst of hardship and trials. Give me your heart to forgive their sins and help them learn to forgive themselves. I pray that you shed your love over us, so we may all love one another.
Help me to learn how to show love without conditions or limits. Teach me unfailing love as only you can.
Watch over my relationships with my children and help us to love and respect each other. Help them to follow your guidance and to ask for your mercy to forgive their sins and your grace to cover their weaknesses. 
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My Story:
It's easy to say "I love you" when things are going well, but I have a hard time not being sarcastic when things are not running smoothly. Having my teen yelling and screaming at me is more likely to elicit an "I love you, but..." than a straight up "I love you". Follow that "but" with anything from "it's hard to show you that while or screaming" to "it hurts me to watch you doing this to yourself"... Loving them unconditionally, no matter how much they're driving me crazy isn't hard - but showing them that love is a whole different ball game. I need help. God's help.
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Your Turn:
When do you find that you need God's help or reminders to love earnestly, without conditions attached to your level of care? Are there some relationships that are naturally easier for you to get along in than others? Share in the comments.
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*Today's scripture is from the week 1 lesson of the 2016 edition of Read Pray Love from Proverbial Homemaker. It might be obvious I'm running a year behind, but I'm new to this praying through the scriptures concept and I just printed out both the 2016 and 2017 sets last week and didn't want to "miss out" on anything while playing catch up. Instead of focusing on one verse a week, I plan on just working my way through one lesson every couple of days. With God's help, I'll catch up eventually.

Here are the links to both editions on her blog:
2016 edition of Read Pray Love - 52 Weeks Of Praying For Your Family
2017 edition of Read Pray Love (still in progress)