Friday, June 1, 2018

How to Be a Perfect Christian - Review

This book is Satire!

I just had to get that out of the way. Many of you have probably seen posts from The Babylon Bee, a satire "news" site similar to The Onion (spoiler alert if you didn't know they were satire too), but from a Christian perspective. It fills the hole that Stuff Christians Like left in me when Jon Acuff stopped posting there. The Bee recently published a book called How to Be a Perfect Christian: Your Comprehensive Guide to Flawless Spiritual Living. It's a step-by-step guide of how to be the best Christian possible by making sure you maintain a me-centered attitude in regards to spirituality. Remember...satire.

This book definitely had some funny parts, and I found myself laughing out loud on more than one occasion. And if you're willing, the satire will even challenge you on what you think Christianity is all about. The Western culture tries to make everything about the individual, and unfortunately, Christians are also affected. From the prominence of impersonal megachurches to the need to post every spiritual act on social media, Christianity in America is often not to far from the caricature presented in the book. My sarcastic self loves the use of satire to point out the ridiculous things we see in our culture and also cringes when I see some of those things in myself.

Unfortunately, while satire can open our eyes to the hypocrisy of the world around us, it doesn't do a lot to really direct us towards doing better. The last chapter stated the gospel, but it needed to do more towards showing a better way. A lot of people can't appreciate sarcasm, especially when it's directed their way, but for those who can, I would definitely pick up this book.

Some people may read this book or something else by The Babylon Bee and think the church is too broken. I've seen people comment on their articles with things like, "this is why I don't go to church anymore." That's the wrong response. Because the church is filled with sinners, it's inherently imperfect. Instead of shaking our finger at the problems with the church, we should be working to fix it from the inside with the help of the Holy Spirit. I wrote a post on the Church a while back so if you'd like to know more check it out.

I received a free copy of this book from WaterBrook & Multnomah and NetGalley in exchange for my honest review.

Some of the links in the post above are Amazon referral links. I may receive money or products from them, but it's at no cost to you.

A Defense of Honor - Christian Fiction Review

A Defense of Honor was the first book I've read by Kristi Ann Hunter, but it won't be my last. I very much enjoyed the first book of the Haven Manor series.

Kit FitzGilbert is in trouble. But there's nothing new there. She runs into Graham, Lord Wharton, at a London ball and he assists her in escaping the predicament she's found herself in. Graham is intrigued by Kit, but he can tell she's trouble. Kit can't help but be drawn to Graham, but she has people counting on her, and she can't allow her own desires to hurt the people she cares for...again. Between Graham's friend's missing sister and the enigmatic Kit, he doesn't think he'll be struggling with boredom anymore.

Kit has been hurt by past mistakes, both hers and those of others. Even worse, her best friend was caught in the cross-hairs. They now live outside of society and try to help others who have been hurt by the same social injustices that hurt them. She see's it as penance for her past mistakes. Kit has grown up a lot over the past decade, but she still has a lot to learn, especially about God's grace.

Graham has spent most of the past decade in one adventure after another. Knowing it's time to settle down, he returns home. But his restless spirit keeps him from being able to enjoy the London society around him. He is drawn into adventure once again when he meets Kit. He starts to care for her, but when certain truths come to light, he has a hard time showing grace. He also begins to see that even with his current discontent, not everyone has had the many advantages he's been afforded.

It was good to see both characters grow and mature through A Defense of Honor. The chemistry was there between them, but they had some of their own issues that needed to be dealt with before they could be together.

Honestly, some of the secondary characters were my favorite parts of this book. Hunter did a good job of giving you just the right amount of details that you couldn't help but be excited for the other books of the series. I could have used a few more details on the pasts of the main characters, but overall, Hunter did a great job.

This is a sweet story, but it doesn't shy away from some of the harder details of life in the Regency era. I'm definitely looking forward to the next book to read the stories of the characters I met in A Defense of Honor.

I received this book for free from Bethany House in exchange for my honest review.

Some of the links in the post above are Amazon referral links. I may receive money or products from them, but it's at no cost to you.

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Unimaginable - Review

What would the world be like if Christianity never existed or if it ever ceased to exist? This is a question Jeremiah Johnston seeks to answer in his book Unimaginable. Some might say the idea of counterfactuals (alternative history) is pointless and even impossible to know. But Johnston argues that looking at what the world was like before Christianity and looking at parts of the world where there is little evidence of Christianity can help us draw some conclusions about a world without Christianity.

Unimaginable is divided into three parts. I. The World Before Christianity II. The World Without Christianity and III. The World With Christianity. It's not hard to look at the world around us and see that many cultures which were previously defined as Christian are becoming more and more secular. Johnston makes the point that even though people are more educated today than they've ever been, we don't learn from history and what Christianity has done for the world.

He works through what the world was like before Jesus walked on the earth and we can see the hardships many suffered and the atrocities men committed against each other. Then he focuses on the dangers of more modern ideas (think Marx, Freud, Nietzsche, etc) and the horrors these ideas brought on mankind (Hitler, Mussolini, etc). These ideas are utterly counter-Christian and the consequences were devastating. In the last section, Johnston looks at the good Christianity has done in the world. When people are valued as created in the image of God, the world transforms.

Johnston did a wonderful job of gathering information. Sometimes it was even overwhelming. He obviously did his homework. He makes it easy to see the good Christianity has done over the last 2000 years, and it's not hard to imagine how much worse off we'd be if it hadn't been a prominent force in the world. He even makes it personal in the last chapter so you can see the impact of Christianity on your own life.

I had two main issues with his arguments. The first issue is that he ignores or glosses over some of the horrible things people have done in the name of Jesus. I think his argument would be that those weren't actual Christians and they would have committed those horrors in some other name if Christianity wasn't around. I agree with that, but I also don't think you can simply ignore things like the Crusades and those who justified slavery with Scripture.

The second issue is, I think, inherent in arguing counterfactuals. And that's knowing the difference between causation and correlation. Some of the good that has come from Christianity that he mentioned most likely was caused, at least in part, by something else entirely. The biggest example I saw was that students who attended private Christian schools were more successful. While I'm sure faith in schools makes a huge difference, studies have shown that high socioeconomic status and parental involvement play a large part of the success of students. These things are more common for those who can afford private school, but they are not always a result of Christianity (especially the wealth). There are just too many factors in some of these examples for them to be clear cut.

Overall, I thought Unimaginable was very well done. Some of the information was new to me, but a lot of it was just a good reminder of what I already knew. And the more we know about history, the better decisions we can make in the future.

I received this book for free from Bethany House in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

**Amazon affiliate links where appropriate. Thank you for supporting this blog.

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Falling For You - Christian Fiction Review

Disclosure: Some of the links below may be affiliate links. That means I may earn money or products from the companies mentioned in this post. Please read my full disclosure here.

Falling for You by Becky Wade is the second book in the Bradford Sisters series. I was definitely looking forward to this book after being introduced to the characters in the first book. It's about model Willow Bradford and former NFL star Corbin Stewart. When we met them previously we found out they had been in a relationship a few years ago, and it ended badly. Apparently, very badly. Somehow they both get wrapped up in a decades old missing persons case and are forced to face the reasons their relationship ended as they work together.

I thought Willow's fears within relationships rang true given her past, and I enjoyed seeing her deal with real struggles like guilt and unforgiveness. I thought Corbin's character was interesting as a new believer, but my heart hurt that there wasn't anyone discipling him. His understanding of the gospel seemed pretty self-focused (what does God do for me), and I really hope we can see him continue to grow in the future. In fact, the biggest thing that bothered me was how manipulative he could be, and it was never really addressed to my liking.

The other part I had a hard time with was the missing persons story. I can't quite figure out how three amateurs are able to uncover all this new evidence when no one else had been able to. And why wouldn't Corbin (who clearly had a lot of money) just hire investigators? I had to suspend disbelief a bit here, but it didn't detract too much from the story.

I'll definitely be reading the next book because Becky Wade has done a fantastic job of setting up the main characters. I really enjoyed this book and read through it quickly. Hopefully the next one will be even better!

I received this book for free from Bethany House in exchange for my honest review.

Some of the links in the post above are Amazon referral links. I may receive money or products from them, but it's at no cost to you.

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

April Recap

Disclosure: Some of the links below may be affiliate links. That means I may earn money or products from the companies mentioned in this post. Please read my full disclosure here.

April was definitely a busy month for me, but I got a lot accomplished which I am excited about. Here are my updates on my April goals.

Starting a Podcast
I did it! I technically took The Collective Perspective Podcast live on May 1, but I was able to get a lot done in April.

  • Record the first few episodes - After figuring out the equipment I was able to record the Introduction episode and the first official episode. I'll post those two in consecutive weeks, but then I plan on having an episode air every other week.
  • Finish setting up Facebook page and Instagram - I wouldn't say that social media is exactly my forte, but I've got something set up that I'm happy with. If you haven't yet, you should check them out.
  • Get hosting set up - I set everything up with my podcast hosting site, but I'm still working on getting it to all the podcast apps. You should be able to search for it on iTunes and Google Play, but Stitcher is being fickle.
If you're at all interested in listening to the podcast I'd really love it if you would check out my website and/or take a listen to the introduction episode. I'm really looking forward to seeing how God uses this.

Personal Growth
I managed to get a bit of reading done this month. I met my nonfiction goal of reading two books this month which puts me at 9/15 towards my 2018 goal. As usual, I've linked to my personal reviews for some of the books.
Health & Fitness
  • Still continuing to incorporate healthy meals that everyone enjoys. One night when Lee was out I made this Instant Pot Teriyaki Chicken that was good.
  • I was finally able to get up early on some of the days I work to reach my workout goal. Yay me! Now to keep it up.
Home Improvement
  • My garden is (almost) done! Lee worked like crazy to help me get it ready and I got almost everything planted. We didn't get mulch on everything because we ran out, but we'll get to that when he gets back in town. Hopefully now I can keep everything alive!

  • I kind of fell off with the dates with the girls. Every weekend has been packed so I'm really hoping to get back to it this month. Plus, now that it's warm we can do some one-on-one time at the park! Oh, and snow cones. Don't forget the snow cones.

Anybody else still keeping up with their goals? How is it going?

Some of the links in the post above are Amazon referral links. I may receive money or products from them, but it's at no cost to you.

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

936 Pennies - Review

I just recently finished reading 936 Pennies: Discovering the Joy of Intentional Parenting by Eryn Lynum. This book really challenged my thoughts on parenting and gave me the encouragement to make some changes to how I interact with my girls.

The author, Eryn Lynum, was given a jar of 936 pennies on the day of their baby dedication at church. Each of the 936 pennies represents one week out of the 18 years that child will hopefully live in their home. Each week, she would take one penny out as a reminder to use that time wisely. The purpose of the book, 936 Pennies, was to help parents see how to invest the time a child lives in your home in an intentional way so that when they leave the home, they are prepared to live their lives according to the god-honoring example set during each of those weeks.

Eryn presents realistic and practical ways of "investing" those pennies in a child. From spending more time outdoors and less in front of a screen to relying on God when fears in parenting threaten to overwhelm us. Through stories with her own children she shares insight into the ups and downs of parenting.

As I mentioned before, many parts of this book really challenged me. I know I'm not always intentional with my time. I give into my laziness and selfishness and don't take advantage of enough opportunities to spend quality time with my children. I've recently found myself saying yes to my kids more often when they ask me to play with them because I know that is time I'll never get back. This book was a great reminder of the blessing my kids are in my life, and I would strongly recommend it to any parent.

The main issue I had with this book was how child-centered it made the family. And while she mentions the need for Jesus in parenting, she still sometimes makes it sound like how your child turns out completely relies on your parenting. What a terrifying thought! She wouldn't say that, I don't think, but she could have made it more clear in some cases. (For more of my thoughts on how important Jesus is in our parenting, see this post.) In spite of that, I highlighted many parts of the book, and I look forward to seeing how I transform my parenting through the principles I learned.

Have you read 936 Pennies? If so, what did you think? Do you have any other awesome parenting books to recommend?

I received this book for free from Bethany House in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

**Amazon affiliate links where appropriate. Thank you for supporting this blog.

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Unity Vs Uniformity

Some of you know that I've been a part of a virtual group in BSF (Bible Study Fellowship) this year. I'm a big fan of the model of BSF so I was excited when they opened it up virtually for those of us who can't make it to a physical class. We've been going through Romans and I've loved being able to discuss this book from Paul with people from around the world. Being a part of such a unique group has hammered home the idea of unity in Christ.

One of the things the book of Romans shows us is that if the Jews and Gentiles could be unified in the redeeming work of Christ on the cross, then anybody could. God had chosen the Jewish people, not based on their own merit, but because of his mercy. They were a set apart people and they had God-given rules to keep them holy (set apart). But they took God's gift of being his people and allowed sin to warp it into hatred for anyone who wasn't like them. They added even more rules and spit in the face of those Gentiles who did want to worship the one true God (Jesus getting crazy in the temple). They assumed that if God was going to reconcile the Gentiles to himself (which he promised over and over in the Old Testament) that he would make those Gentiles into Jews. What he did instead was something totally different.

God's plan was a new covenant. One in which Jews and Gentiles were on even ground at the foot of the cross. This was difficult for some of the Jews to understand, but with the power of the Holy Spirit, bitter enemies became brothers and sisters. That same Holy Spirit lives in all believers today, so why can't we get along with our neighbor whom we have way more in common with than the Jewish and Gentile peoples? Why do we find ourselves so divided when all Believers are part of the family of God?

A couple of phrases that I liked from the BSF notes for Romans 15:1-13 are these: "Christian unity does not happen automatically" and "the diversity of the Church is not accidental." I think these two statements represent two big misconceptions about unity within the church.

Intentional Unity
Unity in the church doesn't just happen. If the church weren't made up of a bunch of sinners then it would. But it IS made up of a bunch of sinners. Unity takes effort. Romans 12:16 says, "Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight." These statements require effort on our part. Earlier in the chapter is one of the places in Scripture that it talks about parts of ONE body. But unity is not something we do on our own either. Romans 15:5 says, " May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus." God is the one who enables unity. And it's not just for our good either. It goes on to say in verse 6, "that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ." Our unity is for His glory!

The book of Romans is full of practical ways to move towards unity. One is to "Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor." (Romans 12:10) Truly loving one another leads to unity. All of Chapter 14 is about not judging other believers on disputable issues. Allowing for everyone to be in a different place in their journey with Jesus is critical in building unity. And Chapter 14 goes on to discuss giving up Christian liberties for the benefit of others. Unity requires action to achieve and to maintain.

Purposeful Diversity
The flip side to unity within the church is the diversity of its members. None of the verses mentioned above say to build unity by striving for uniformity. In fact, some of the verses (especially the ones on the body in Chapter 12) speak to the fact that diversity is necessary within the church. If we were all the same, then we wouldn't be as effective in reaching others for Christ. We shouldn't expect the members of the Church to all look, act, or think the same. God has a purpose for differences within the church and we should seek out a church that models that.

How do we get diversity in the church? Make sure others feel welcome to be there and to be themselves. Find ways for people to use their giftings within the church and celebrate what God is doing in and through them. Make it a priority. But remember, the goal is to glorify God. So we aren't to strive for unity at all costs. Especially if that cost is sin.

I could pull from many other verses to talk about unity and diversity within the church (and I have included just a sampling below). They are just as relevant today as they were in the first century church. So what are you doing to seek out unity and diversity within your church?

This very idea is one of the reasons I wanted to start a podcast. I wanted to hear from individuals who are unified under the cross but are being used by God in different ways. It is critical to have honest yet gracious conversations with people about topics that are important to us. If you're interested in hearing such conversations then stay tuned because it's coming very soon!

Other verses about unity:
John 17:20-23
1 Corinthians 1:10
Ephesians 4:3-13
1 Peter 3:8
...and many more

**All verses quoted are from the English Standard Version (ESV)