Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Book Review: Grace

Grace: More than We Deserve, Greater than We Imagine
By Max Lucado
Thomas Nelson, 2012
English, 240pgs


We talk as though we understand the term. The bank gives us a grace period. The seedy politician falls from grace. Musicians speak of a grace note. We describe an actress as gracious, a dancer as graceful. We use the word for hospitals, baby girls, kings, and premeal prayers. We talk as though we know what grace means.

But do we really understand it? Have we settled for wimpy grace? It politely occupies a phrase in a hymn, fits nicely on a church sign. Never causes trouble or demands a response. When asked, “Do you believe in grace?” who could say no?

Max Lucado asks a deeper question: Have you been changed by grace? Shaped by grace? Strengthened by grace? Emboldened by grace? Softened by grace? Snatched by the nape of your neck and shaken to your senses by grace?

God’s grace has a drenching about it. A wildness about it. A white-water, riptide, turn-you-upside-downness about it. Grace comes after you. It rewires you. From insecure to God secure. From regret riddled to better-because-of-it. From afraid to die to ready to fly.

Grace is the voice that calls us to change and then gives us the power to pull it off.

Let’s make certain grace gets you.

I am a long time fan of Max Lucado's books. This one does not disappoint. It's a little light on theology, but very strong on Scripture, anecdotes and personal application. The chapters are quick and easy to read and there is a separate study guide in the back of the book.

My only complaint about the book is that the study guide is in a separate area. It makes it a little difficult to have to flip around the pages. It would have made more sense to just put the study/application questions at the end of each chapter. Also, the study guide has zero room for writing in your answers, so if you're going to do the questions, you may want a journal handy.

The content however is superb. The stories, both from Max's life and history, are engaging and applicable. I can see where this would make a good group study book.

I received a copy of the book from BookSneeze in exchange for a review. I was not required to write a positive review and no additional compensation has been, or will be, received.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Book Review: Courageous Teens

Courageous Teens
By Michael Catt
B&H Books, 2012
English, 176 pgs
Available September 15, 2012

Catt brings fresh insight to “stories of people in the Bible who displayed great courage when it would have been easier to play it safe . . . (who) challenge me to keep moving forward. They demand that I examine my priorities and deal with anything that brings fear to my heart.”
Teen readers will be inspired to resolve to live for God as they learn more about Abraham, Moses, Nehemiah, Ruth, Daniel, and many more.
Best-selling youth market author Amy Parker arranges the heart-stirring material into four categories: Courageous Faith, Courageous Leadership, Courageous Priorities, and Courageous Influence. Discussion questions are also included at the end of each chapter.
This book hooked me in the introduction with the line "Unless the people of my generation take the time to equip you, our young people, with spiritual courage, the church is always just one generation from extinction."

There are 4 sections and 10 total chapters. Each chapter has questions at the end and each section has a recap page. These would be really useful in a group setting.
The first section "Courageous Faith" is about learning to trust God.  It uses a lot from the life of Abraham to teach. It encourages teens to find what motivates them and to find courage regarding facing a future that we don't always plan for our selves. It uses the examples of Esther and Joseph.

The second section "Courageous Leadership" is about a personal relationship with God, finding courage to lead and be a humble hero. It used Joshua and Moses as some of the examples. I like the inclusion of Gideon here. That's a study in learning to be humble and let God have all the glory!!

The third section "Courageous Priorities" is about doing what's right. This is probably the hardest lesson for teens. So many are pulled in so many directions. It's good to ground yourself in your faith and let that be your guide. Examples are Elijah, Martin Luther and Moses. The chapter on facing persecution is, I'm afraid, going to be more and more relevant to teens. The Biblical example is Stephen.

The final section "Courageous Influence" is about taking what's been learned so far and using it to reach others. I like that this section uses modern examples as well as Nehemiah and Paul. The chapter regarding mentoring has really touched my heart and given me a desire to reach out to the youth in our church.

This is a powerful book, with a powerful message. I cannot wait to hand it to one of the youth group leaders at church and suggest that this be the Spring Bible study. 

I received a copy of the book in exchange for a review. No additional compensation has been received and I was not required to write a positive review.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012


Need a chocolate fix?
Tired of artificial ingredients and corn syrup?

You need to try UNREAL candies. They are made with only natural ingredients and I cannot taste a difference at all between them and the "regular" brands they're modeled after.

The chocolate caramel nougat bar is far and away my favorite. The chocolate is a bit firmer than what I'm used to on the national brand, but this tasted better and like a higher quality. I did notice a slight aftertaste, but it was not unpleasant. This variety has 5g fiber, 4g protein and lower sodium, sugar and fat content than it's national counterpart. I like that I can pronounce and recognize every ingredient on the label! Also, the chocolate didn't melt all over my fingers. I appreciate that!

My husband claimed the peanut butter cups and I wasn't able to try them, but he said he really liked them! They do contain the lowest amount of sugar of all the types, but the fat and calories is similar to the rest.

All in all, these are a win for us, but I can't see us paying $1.19 for each (my local CVS price). I will look for these to be on specials and hopefully some national coupons will be coming in the papers!

I received coupons for free and BOGO product from BzzAgent to enable me to test the product. No additional compensation has been received and I was not required to write a positive review.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Book Review: Twelve Unlikely Heroes

Twelve Unlikely Heroes: How God Commissioned Unexpected People in the Bible and What He Wants to Do with You
By John MacArthur
Thomas Nelson, 2012
English, 240 pgs

What kind of people does God use to accomplish His work?

Far from the children’s tales depicted in picture books and nursery rhymes, the men and women highlighted in the Bible were unnervingly real. They faltered. They struggled. And at times, they fell short. Yet God worked through them in surprising and incredible ways to accomplish His purposes. Scripture does not hide their weaknesses, caricature their strengths, or spin their stories as a display of human nobility. Instead, it describes these heroes of the faith with unflinching honesty and delivers an unexpected ending: “God is not ashamed to be called their God” (Hebrews 11:16).

In Twelve Unlikely Heroes, pastor and best-selling author John MacArthur uses his deep knowledge of the Bible and history to take us back to see these three-dimensional men and women in their own times and cultures. In doing so, it becomes clear how their dramatic stories apply to us today. People who might at first seem foreign quickly become familiar and unforgettable—particularly as they reveal the true Hero behind every witness, the power counterbalancing every weakness, “the Author and Finisher of our faith” (Hebrews 12:1).

I have not read the other books by this author which highlight "ordinary men" and "extraordinary women". So I cannot compare this book to past books. I can only comment on this book, by itself. 

I was pretty excited, at first, to read this book because of the "heroes" highlighted in the chapters. The order of people is: Enoch, Joseph, Miriam, Gideon and Samson, Jonathan, Jonah, Esther, John the Baptist, James and Mark and Onesimus. I was hoping for a fresh look at their lives and to learn something new that I hadn't studied before about them.

I was pretty disappointed. The chapters are basically a retelling of their life story. There are a few lines interspersed into the narrative about what makes their lives "heroic" and a very short synopsis at the end of each. I could have learned just as much from reading the extended chapter headings (Enoch: The Man Who Walked With God for example). 

 The point of the book is to show that everyone has a chance to be used by God. There isn't anything that can't be forgiven and there isn't anyone who can't be used by God. No matter what they've done or who they were before.

 Enoch had a life dedicated to God. Joseph lived out faith and forgiveness. Miriam was a courageous leader. Gideon and Samsom show that strength comes from God, not ourselves. And so on...

 Don't get me wrong, this is a well written book, I was just expecting more. There was probably more "meat" in the introduction and epilogue than in the chapters themselves.

I received a copy of the book in exchange for an honest review. No additional compensation has been received.