Category Archives: Reading Challenge

Book Review and Deal: Conscience by Andrew D. Naselli and JD Crowley

9781433550744Naselli, Andrew David, and J.D. Crowley. Conscience: What It Is, How to Train It, and Loving Those Who DifferWheaton, Illinois: Crossway, 2016.

This book has literally been life-changing for our family. Bryan and I have been fortunate to hear many of these principles either from JD or Andy or our pastor, Danny Brooks. JD presented some of this material at a missions conference a few years ago. My parents, sister and brother-in-law, and Bryan and I had the privilege of attending this conference together. My parents have been faithful followers of Jesus for nearly their whole lives, but the principles they heard that weekend were a brand new way of thinking–a liberating way of thinking!

A couple of years later, this book came out, and my parents read it together. Then they bought 20+ copies and gave them to their small group friends and to their kids (us) to work through with our spouses. Bryan and I read through this book together over our vacation this past month. We took time to talk through the various chapters, applying them to various situations we’ve come across recently. I went to school with one of the authors, Andy, and have had the privilege of getting to know JD over the past few years. This past fall, I got to hear JD and Andy co-teach the principles outlined in this book at a missions conference in Minneapolis, and it was a boost to my heart and mind.

Reading through the book, my biggest take-away was gratitude that a vital resource like this finally exists for the Church at large! It deals with tough topics and gives a practical and theological way to work through various issues of conscience. If you’re expecting exact answers on what to believe, you’ll be disappointed. Instead, it walks you through every New Testament passage that mentions the conscience and helps you ask the hard questions to calibrate your conscience to the Word of God.

And it’s currently on sale! The electronic version is available on Amazon for only $2.99 for a short time. I encourage you to purchase a copy and dig into God’s Word as you calibrate your conscience (and learn how to love others whose consciences differ from your own).

May God show you His power and true, biblical freedom as you grow in grace and the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, calibrating your consciences to His Word. It’s not easy…but it’s so worth it!

 

 

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Helpful Thoughts on What to Read

I recently started a twice monthly book club at my house. It has been SO much fun! The goal is to create a casual space for women to share what they’ve been reading, get book suggestions, hear reviews (or cautions) from other ladies, and encourage one another to read more. And it’s a good excuse for coffee and fellowship…as well as a chance to invite neighbors and community friends in!

The Gospel Coalition recently published a short interview of Noël Piper, Gloria Furman and Kathleen Nielson discussing the topic of reading. These are some of my favorite authors, so I love hearing their perspective! And I thought you’d enjoy it too!

Help! My Friend Is Reading a Dangerous Book from The Gospel Coalition on Vimeo.

Book Review: Bittersweet, by Shauna Niequist

419sdwuncul-_sx321_bo1204203200_Niequist, Shauna. Bittersweet: Thoughts on Change, Grace, and Learning the Hard Way. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2013. 256 pages.

Shauna Niequist continues to be one of my favorite authors. I found so many parallels in her Bittersweet story to our own story, that by chapter two, I was in tears. Thankfully, that was the “change” part of the book, and the “grace” part was still to come.

This book was raw, relatable, and beautifully crafted. The chapters are short and easy to read on the run–which is perfect as a mom to a very active toddler! I’d read a chapter or two before bed or between tasks during nap time, and it was a retreat in itself. Be ready to do some soul-searching and “self-processing” when you pick up this book–and maybe have a box of tissues nearby.

Her book Bread & Wine is still my favorite, but this was a good companion book. It didn’t get too deep or offer Scripture references for thought, but it was full of wit and insight into the practical side of dealing with emotions during seasons of change and disappointment, while leaning hard on Jesus. It very much felt like diary entries over a season of time that Shauna graciously allowed us permission to read.

My favorite quote is actually found on the back cover: “I’ve learned the hard way that change is one of God’s greatest gifts, and most useful tools. Change can push us, pull us, rebuke and remake us. It can show us who we’ve become, in the worst ways, and also in the best ways. I’ve learned that it’s not something to run away from, as though we could, and that in many cases, change is a function of God’s graciousness, not life’s cruelty.”

Book Review: The Pastor’s Wife by Gloria Furman

9781433543838(Furman, Gloria. The Pastor’s Wife: Strengthened by Grace for a Life of Love. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2015. 156 pages.)

The Pastor’s Wife is a quick read and is summed up in its own introduction on page 20: “In case you don’t have time to read the rest of this book I’ll just put my cards on the table–I think wives of ministers need encouragement and refreshment in the Lord, and we find that hope and help in the gospel. This idea isn’t new or scandalous, but with all things clamoring for our attention I think we (I!) could use an opportunity to recalibrate our perspective and set our gaze on eternal things. After all, why would we want to wade around in shallow puddles of man-made ideals when there is the incomprehensible ocean of the love of Christ that surpasses all knowledge for us to dive into (Eph. 3:18-19)?”

While this book is called The Pastor’s Wife, with a few tweaks, it could apply to any believing wife (or woman, for that matter). But as it stands, it should still be read by all women (and maybe men too) because it shows at the very least how to pray for and encourage your pastor’s wife in her God-given role.

The Pastor’s Wife is saturated with Scripture and Gospel realities–every section pointing our hearts to repent from our sin and run to Jesus! Over and over, our need for the grace of the Gospel is revealed–not just for salvation but in every moment of every day. In fact, every page exudes Gospel grace. We all need “encouragement and refreshment in the Lord” (20), and this book continually points us back to the reality of our Redeemer and exhorts us to renew our minds in His glorious Gospel.

Here are a few of my favorite quotes:

“‘The Plan’ … was my functional idol, and I couldn’t fathom what life would be like if the plan failed” (44).

“We don’t take up the axe to chop down our idols so that our Father will love us. No, we reject our idols because we are our Father’s beloved daughters. … You know that a ministry opportunity is greater to you than Jesus if, when it is taken, hindered, or altered, you feel rattled, wrecked, preoccupied, anxious, insecure, insignificant, ignored, angry, sad, betrayed, or distraught. …when we design our lives around idols, we are setting up our own little kingdoms in which we insist that we are sovereign” (45).

“Sister, if the Lord is your shepherd, he will not leave you wanting. He provides abundantly for your needs and cares for you in seasons that are frightening. Of all the things we need on this earth, he provides it all, and he restores our soul. There is no shadow in any valley so dark that his Word does not illumine. Sister, you’re being followed. ‘Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD forever’ (Ps. 23:6). Held in our Shepherd’s unflinching grip, we are safely his at all times and in every circumstance. Your constancy is Christ. And at the end of all things created, in the most beautiful paradox of the ages, the Lamb is shown to be the Shepherd, ‘and he will guide them to springs of living water, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes’ (Rev. 7:17)” (54).

My favorite chapter was the final chapter about God being glorified in our weaknesses. Without spoiling the end too much, I found this chapter refreshing. So much emphasis is placed on finding and utilizing our strengths–for the Kingdom, for business, in marriage, etc. But God’s ways are not our ways and He chooses to use the foolishness of man to show forth His immense wisdom (Isaiah 55:8; I Cor. 1:27-31). Life and ministry is not about me or my strengths, but about the strength of Jesus to redeem us from our sin into His righteousness, and to use our weaknesses to show forth His surpassing glory (II Cor. 3:3-10). Amen and amen!

Book Review: Celia Garth by Gwen Bristow

Set in Charleston, South Carolina, during the American Revolutionary War, Celia Garth is a historical fiction novel about a young seamstress learning to make her own way in the new world. Through love and loss, grief and joy, and even a little intrigue, follow Celia through the streets and coasts of the low country. Even though this book is a little over 400 pages, it’s masterfully written and hard to put down!

Charleston is one of my favorite cities in the world, so I could see the steeples and cobblestones, hear the bells and horse hoofs, and smell the salt air as I read this novel. Definitely worth the read! And, please, someone make a movie out of this amazing classic!

Book Review: Word-Filled Women’s Ministry

51wwy59ejal-_sx322_bo1204203200_(Furman, Gloria, and Kathleen B. Nielson, Eds. Word-Filled Women’s Ministry: Loving and Serving the Church. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2015. 272 pages.)

My number one resolution for this year is to be a Word-filled woman, so it was only natural to pick Word-Filled Women’s Ministry as my first book to read in 2017. And I was not disappointed. On page 205, the editors describe Word-filled women as “women who clearly understand and pass on the Scriptures through both life and teaching.”

This book is different than many, as it’s a compilation of several authors, edited by Gloria Furman & Kathleen B. Nielson. Gloria and Kathleen add their own chapters too, of course, as they both have unique perspectives on and experience with women’s ministry in the local church. Here’s an overview of the parts, chapters and authors:

Part 1: The Heart of Women’s Ministry

  • 1: The Word at the Center: Hearing God Speak (Kathleen Nielson)
  • 2: The Word on Women: Enjoying Distinction (Claire Smith)
  • 3: The Word Passed On: Training New Leaders (Carrie Sandom)

Part 2: Contexts for Women’s Ministry

  • 4: The Local Church: Finding Where We Fit (Cindy Cochrum)
  • 5: The World around Us: Practicing Evangelism (Gloria Furman)
  • 6: The Ends of the Earth: Thinking Global (Keri Folmar)

Part 3: Issues in Women’s Ministry

  • 7: Older and Younger: Taking Titus Seriously (Susan Hunt and Kristie Anyabwile)
  • 8: Sexual Wholeness: Affirming Truth with Compassion (Ellen Mary Dykas)
  • 9: Gifts and Giftedness: Finding the Place to Serve (Kathleen Nielson and Gloria Furman)

Part 4: The End of Women’s Ministry

  • 10: Ultimate Goals: Heading for That Day (Nancy Guthrie)

I especially appreciated that the forward and several endorsements were written by men. It’s invaluable for men, especially pastors, to recognize the value and unique giftedness that women have among other women and as part of the Church at large. Women and men are equally gifted with being image bearers of God, and we all have the responsibility and privilege to study the Scriptures and share a personal relationship with Christ.

So many young women in the Church are desperate for older women to mentor them–single women, hurting women, young moms, women new to being empty nesters, and the list goes on. We all need to have two levels of accountability: looking to the more mature generations and speaking truth into the younger generation. But so many in the mature generations were never trained to mentor other women, so they feel inadequate or ill-equipped. And so many in the younger generation are tired of asking women to mentor them and feeling rejected when the answer comes back, “I just don’t think I have time right now,” or “You don’t want me to mentor you; why don’t you ask someone else.”

Word-Filled Women’s Ministry challenges each of us to not only pick up our Bibles and read them, but to apply the truths to our lives and then share those truths with those in our sphere of influence–and if we don’t think we have a sphere of influence, it challenges us to find a sphere of influence in our local church and community. It’s about time! And I give a hearty “Amen” to this!

If we are truly filled with the Word, it will naturally spill out of our lives as we move through our homes and classrooms and churches and grocery stores and…well, you get the idea. It’s not just about learning the Word, or even teaching the next generation, but there’s also an exhortation to teach the next generation HOW to teach their next generation! And we need to be willing to give them opportunities to practice this.

This book has lots of perspectives and voices and practical examples of how this can be done. Most importantly, it encourages us to cling to the grace and truth of the Gospel as fresh and vital to every moment of every day, and to use the gifts and abilities God has gifted us with for His glory and to point those around us to His great redemption story!

 

2017 Reading Challenge: Overview

This year, a couple of friends and I are attempting to read one book per week on average. Some weeks may be just a few chapters of two or three different books, and other weeks may be finishing multiple books, but by the end of the year, the goal is to have read 52 books! I was inspired by Tim Challies’ 2017 Christian Reading Challenge (pictured below), so I thought I’d give it a try. And I’m going to attempt to do at least a mini review of the books as I go. I tend to have at least one theology book, one fiction book, and one either self-help or other genre going at any given time anyway, so this just motivates me to finish the books I start (unless they’re really not worth reading by chapter 3), branch out into new topics and authors, and watch TV less. 😉 Who’s with me?!reading-challenge-2017copy