Adorned: Living Out the Beauty of the Gospel Together by Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth

When I discover something I really enjoy, I can hardly wait to tell people about it. I recently had a sandwich with lemon aioli on it, and that sauce was the best thing I’ve had in a while. Except for a tomato out of a friends garden. We should all be growing our own tomatoes, for now, I’m grateful he is. And, when we experience something on a better than average level, we should share it.  Adorned: Living Out the Beauty of the Gospel Together by Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth is a book to be shared, over and over again.

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth might be better known to you as Nancy Leigh DeMoss, writer of Lies Women Believe, Choosing Forgiveness, and the Revive Our Hearts series, among others.  I admit that it is hard for me to be objective about a new book by her, because she has been perhaps the most influential woman teacher of the Word in my Christian life. So I opened Adorned with high expectations, and it did not disappoint. Titus 2:10 says the purpose of the instructions in the chapter are “so that in everything they (those that learn them) may adorn the doctrine of God our Savior.”  Wolgemuth describes “adorn” in the opening chapter as a showcase of the loveliness of Christ. As we are adorned by His love and the beauty of the gospel, we reveal it to a world that desperately needs to embrace both. How do we become adorned?

Careful exposition of Titus 2 combined with gracious application make for a solidly biblical look at a passage that women of every age need to consider in a serious way right now. shareimg6Confusion and contention reigns far too much among women who say they love God but can’t seem to get along with each other, let alone build each other up. Adorned explores why women need each other, the way we can and should build these relationships and what happens when women of different generations minister to each other.

Part of the sweetness of this book is the authors own discoveries of being an older woman, in her late fifties, as a first time bride. The opening story of the late Vonette Bright, sharing as a momma with the about to be wed Nancy on her wedding day shows how we are all older, and younger, than someone else in the Lord. Her transparency of her own continued growth in the Lord throughout the book make these encouraging and relatable lessons.

This is a book about doing more than women’s Bible study together, it’s about the need and the biblical command to do life together. Adorned contains three sections: A Woman Under God, A Woman Under Control (some of the best writing about self-control I’ve read in a long time) and A Woman Under Her Roof.

In the first section, the chapter titled “Doctrine, You and Titus 2” is worth the price of the book. Starting with Paul’s opening verse in Titus 2, to “teach what accords with sound doctrine”, she makes this statement “But the fact is, every one of us and every situation we encounter in life is fueled by some kind of doctrine. It is the ground we stand on as we build our lives.” Everybody, even the atheist, lives by a doctrine, a teaching. Before Paul, (and this book) get into the practice of one-anothering, the foundation of right teaching (doctrine) has to be in place in our lives. I was challenged by this statement she makes-“I have come to believe that every failure and flaw in our lives flows out of some sort of doctrinal deficiency.” When I struggle, or fail, what teaching is influencing me? Biblical doctrine is critical.

Don’t let my personal love of the nuts and bolts of scripture scare you off, this isn’t a dry and scholarly read. In fact, as she progresses into the more practical aspects of what the Titus 2 model looks like in real life, there is an easy flow of encouragement and exhortation that lead you to consider prayerfully how it applies to you. If you’re a bit weary (or a lot weary, like me) of the mommy wars, social media feed spamming alarmist posts of women telling us how we’re getting it wrong, this book will be a sweet breeze of reason and inspiration for you.

Every chapter applies to both the woman in the younger woman season as well as the older woman, and ends with reflection questions for each group. To the younger women Wolgemuth says throughout that the type of older woman you will be begins with the choices you make today. Look for the women ahead of you who have spiritual lives that reflect the joy, peace and purpose of the gospel and find out how they got that way. Older women, what would you tell your 20 or 30-something year old self, in encouraging biblical terms, that you wished you knew then? Find those women and help them navigate this season with some of the wisdom the Lord has taught you. This book will help each age group on the path to fulfilling their respective Titus 2 roles, as we learn what it is to be Adorned.

Read well, friends

I received a copy of this book from the publisher for the purpose of this review. A free book could never make me tell you to read it if it wasn’t worthy.

Longings of the Soul by Rob Salvato

A few weeks back I teased about a new book that was about released, remember? No? What, just because you have one eye out for the delivery truck with your on line gifts and the other on the oven filled with cookie exchange baking while you hope the toddler or cat doesn’t pull down the Christmas tree-AGAIN, you don’t remember something from a month ago?

I forgive you, because I forgot to update you on it for a month. But here it is, and news of a give away!

Longings of the Soul: Discover What You Are Really Longing For by Rob Salvato, the lead pastor of Calvary Vista (and my pastor) is a small book with a big truth about discontentment, longingsbookcoverboth it’s source and it’s solution. The fact that my pastor wrote this book didn’t lend it to any bias from me, in fact, I was probably more critical of it than if it were written by someone I didn’t know. Would the Rob in the pulpit be able to communicate as effectively on the page?

Yes. This passage from the introduction captured me the first time I read it:

They are intently searching for something.They sense a longing in their hearts or something else, something more, something better. But they don’t know what it is they are searching or longing for. So life becomes this proverbial quest for that which is gong to bring purpose, satisfaction, and lasting fulfillment.  And this is not just the plight of the person who has yet to come into a relationship with Jesus. One of the great paradoxes of the Christian life is how Jesus can fill our hearts with peace because we’ve been forgiven….yet we can still struggle with feeling of discontentment.” (emphasis mine).

This insight is what makes Longings a book that is for every Christian, those who are following Jesus closely and those who, having once believed are now at a distance, wondering why God didn’t “work” for them.

While we try to find satisfaction in things we do and have, Rob reveals three distinct longings that are both spiritual in nature and at the core of all the longings we struggle with.  Until we address what they are and why we have them, we won’t have the abundant life we expected to have with Christ. What are they?

  • Intimacy with God
  • Heaven or eternity
  • Eternal purpose and impact

This probably doesn’t sound like things you think are the source of your dissatisfaction with circumstances or people in your life. Why they are, and the role they play in your life is explained in a conversational style that isn’t filled with theological terms you have to Google. Instead, short chapters with illustrations that are easy to understand and wisdom that is easy to apply, Longings is a book that will change the way you look at discontentment.

To help you do that, we’re having a Three Ladies give away! Subscribe to the Three Ladies of Lit by Monday, December 19th and we’ll choose one winner of a signed copy of Longings. As 2016 winds down and we head into the new year, make it the year you find satisfaction for your Longings of the Soul.

Read well, friends.

 

 

What Does God Really Promise? By Carolyn Larsen

Tyndale has produced another versatile book that I’m happy to recommend. What  Does God Really Promise? 101 Questions and Answers About God’s Promises, the Church and the Futures is part of Tyndale’s’ line that brought us the Gratitude Prayer and Coloring Journal. This little book has short answers supported by scripture that bring clarity to God’s promises-both what they are and who they are for. This is a quick reference for someone new to or asking questions about Christianity, and an encouragement for those who have been following God for many years.

whatdoesgodreallypromiseThe second part of the book answers often asked questions about the church and the future in a concise and balanced way. This isn’t a comprehensive tool for answering the deep questions of life, death and eternity. It can be a springboard, especially for people not familiar with the Bible or church culture, that reveals that there are answers, and they can be given in an objective manner.  As I read it, I thought it would be a great youth group discussion book, or  gift for newer followers of Jesus. It’s charming layout and colors make it something to leave out as an invitation to take a moment to be reminded of the promises and hope that we have in God.

Read well, friends!

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher for my honest review.

 

Searching the Scriptures by Charles Swindoll

Most of us have heard the saying “give a man a fish and you feed him for a day, teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” This is certainly true of being nourished by the Bible, and in Searching the Scriptures: Find the Nourishment Your Soul Needs, Chuck Swindoll teaches us how to both be fed and feed others.

With sections titled Finding the Food (understanding the basic story of the Bible), Preparing the Meal (observation, interpretation, correlation and application) and Serving the Feast (presenting the truth) Swindoll gives us many useful tools. From the basics of swindollinductive study methods to recommendations for study tools like concordances, dictionaries and commentaries, this is a practical book on many levels. He not only shows you how to study, but does so by taking you through sections of scriptures using the methods he is describing. His opening chapter dealing with an overview of the Bible was gold, and my favorite part of the book.

Each chapter ends with a section titled Your Turn in the Kitchen, where we get to put into practice what we just learned about how to study while digging into a portion of scripture. A lot of the book is classic Swindoll, lots of stories and illustrations, and many challenging encouragements to apply what we are learning.  He is on point when he states, “We are foolish if we don’t make a careful study of His Word…no study, no stability. There is no shortcut to maturity. It comes slowly but surely to those who search the Scriptures.”

While helpful to someone just starting out in purposeful Bible study, it may be less so to a person who has done inductive study, unless they are a hard core Swindoll fan. I took away some good nuggets, and reading Searching the Scriptures might be the resource you’re looking for to get you nourished in the Word.

I received this book from Tyndale for the purpose of reviewing it, and my opinions are my own.

Read well, friends!

Spiritual Warfare for Your Family by Leighann McCoy

Spiritual warfare is a topic often fraught with the extreme-routinely dismissed or a demon behind every bush. In Spiritual Warfare for Your Family, Leighann McCoy finds the middle ground between the extremes.

While this book title puts the emphasis on warfare that affects the family, the book itself really doesn’t focus on that in practical ways until chapter 20. Yes, chapter 20. More on download (2)that in a moment.  Part one of the book is an introduction to the existence of spiritual warfare, who the enemy is and what he can and cannot do. This is pretty basic stuff, helpful for someone who has never really had any teaching on the topic. Subsequent sections deal with why we lose battles and don’t need to, lies of the enemy and how to combat them, weapons of our warfare (and they aren’t what you’d expect), taking responsibility for your children and issues common to families.

There is some valuable information here, Part 4, Desperate Times Call for Desperate Measures is particularly good and goes beyond the usual look at the armor of God. In fact, the most valuable aspect of this book is that she focuses more on the actions of the believer than on that of the enemy. Spiritual maturity equips us for warfare, and the emphasis on growing in our knowledge of God, His word and applying it to our lives give this book a fresh perspective on the topic of spiritual warfare. Each chapter has a few discussion questions at the end, making it a good book for a group study. She also has a website that has more information specific to the topic as it relates to the family, and while I haven’t looked at it yet, it sounds like a good resource.

I have mixed feelings about this book though, and it has nothing to do with the content. The handling of the topic is biblical, helpful and McCoy is an easy read. This isn’t a book geared toward women, she keeps it pretty gender neutral and there are not specific mom/dad directed applications. That makes it a good book for either parent.

But…there is a four and a half page introduction, six parts, thirty nine (albeit short) chapters, and a closing thought.  I love order, I love outlines, I love bullet points and the like, but about half way through this book, I started to feel like I was reading something I’d just read a few pages earlier. Subjects (i.e. prayer, Bible study, guarding your heart, etc.) are all treated as a snapshot; instead of staying with a subject, bits are tossed like croutons in salad among the chapters. As a reader, I would have been better served if the book had less and longer chapters that covered the subject in its entirety. It’s a style thing, it may not be a big deal to you, but it did leave me feeling like the book could have lost a quarter of its length and been just as good if not better treatment of the topic.

I do recommend the book, she’s written other books on the topic and she clearly has a good understanding of the subject.  Don’t let this be the only book on spiritual warfare that you read, Warren Wiersbe’s Strategy of Satan is a must read for every Christ follower. Small but powerful, I read it every couple years.

Read well, friends.

I received a commentary copy of this book from Bethany House Publisher for review purposes, and my views are my own.

 

The Blessing of Humility by Jerry Bridges

When I was very young, there was a house fire on our street. It happened in the night, and the next day we walked down to look at the damage. I was just learning to read, and I remember noticing that the words on the front of one emergency vehicle looked wrong.MOpMB My dad explained that the word was “Ambulance” and it was backward so you could read it in your rear view mirror.

Sometimes understanding scripture is like trying to read backwards writing without a mirror. You need something to help you flip the image so you can comprehend the words. The topic of biblical humility is something that is often backward writing to our pride infused natural self.

In the Blessings of Humility, the late Jerry Bridges focuses on the topic of humility through the lens of the Beatitudes. What is biblical humility? A study of the scriptures led Bridges to this definition- “These expressions of Christian Character (in the Beatitudes) are a description of humility in action…that’s what humility looks like. That is humility in action in everyday life.”

An everyday life application of the scriptures was a goal in Jerry Bridges life. In this book, he surely achieves that goal. In the opening chapter titled Precepts and Promises, he lays a download (1)foundation for the precept (command) of God for His people to manifest humility, and the promises for those that do. Every thing in the Beatitudes is  backwards to the traits the world seeks to cultivate in order to obtain what we believe to be blessings.  The counter-cultural blessings in the Beatitudes offer “a portrait of humility in action, something which God commands, and which God promises to bless.” This book is the mirror to turn our view to one that can clearly understand what Jesus was teaching, why He was teaching it, and how we can respond so our character can be transformed.

This is a small book, yet each short chapter is every essential thing you need to have an understanding and application of the character traits. Using scripture to define and illustrate each trait concisely and clearly, Bridges then gently reveals how we, lacking humility, fall short of its perfect expression. Immediately he applies the balm of grace, and with firm exhortation and hopeful encouragement points us to the path of progress.

Jerry Bridges was a master at teaching hard truths without being hard on the saints. Never compromising on the goal of Christ-likeness, he points us there from a place of, well, humility, knowing himself to be one who needed God’s grace as much as those he sought to minister to. He went home to be with the Lord earlier this year and there aren’t many living authors who can write with the combination of  scholarly  knowledge and heart of a disciple-maker that he possessed.

This book is one for the must-read list. The newer Christ follower would be wise to read it early in the beginning stages of their walk, it would be a great discipleship book. The more seasoned follower would benefit from the exhortation to continue to grow in these character traits, and to have humility in action more evident in their life. There is a short discussion guide for each chapter, it is totally worth spending some time working through.

I’ll be reading this again, slowly and well to lay hold of its wise and helpful teaching. This is a book I would highly recommend, so that you too would know The Blessings of Humility.

Read well, friends.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Tyndale House Publishers for the purpose of review.

Breaking Busy: How to Find Peace & Purpose in a World of Crazy

breakingbusyI put the word “busy” into the search field of an online Christian book site and 1,476 products came up. While some of them were different versions of the same title, the search revealed one more way we define ourselves-busy. Released this month is yet another- Breaking Busy: How to Find Peace & Purpose in a World of Crazy by Alli Worthington.

Alli Worthington is no exception to this self-definition, and she is, in fact, busy. Throughout her book we learn some of her personal story as she navigates family and career busyness.  Married with five sons, Alli and her husband were close to burnout-he worked full time, she ran her own business. They led a small group in their church, both taught Sunday school, he coached peewee football and again, she has five sons. FIVE. That’s busy right there, amen?  Together they found themselves in a busyness that took all the joy out of what should have been the most enjoyable pursuits.

The book opens with a story we can all relate to-the panicked search for something seemingly lost but is in our hand/purse/pocket, or in Alli’s case, her…well, you’ll just have to read for yourself. It is that moment when too much on your mind meets I don’t know what I’m doing, and it’s a sure sign you’ve reached capacity. Using the metaphor of a cell phone to demonstrate our limitations, (needing to be recharged, limited space and functionality, each brand unique and different) we’re introduced to personal cost of busyness. She identifies seven signs of capacity overload:

  1. Inability to control your emotions
  2. Lack of self-care
  3. Illness
  4. Chronic lateness
  5. Self-medicating and excess
  6. Neglecting important relationships and the most damaging of all
  7. Neglecting God

On this final point she says, “Staying connected to God is what keeps me operating within my capacity and what helps me understand that God made me with limitations on purpose. Having a limited capacity is not a flaw in my character. It is by glorious design and for an incredible purpose: to realize my need for Him.”

She doesn’t leave us hanging with only our warning signs to condemn us, but offers three things to identify the what, when and why we are exceeding our capacity. This is something every reader of this book needs to ponder, it is the foundation needed in order to apply any of the insight and practices outlined in the rest of the book.

Each subsequent chapter topic focuses on both the reasons for and the responses to busyness in our lives.  Notice the sense of moving forward toward something in each subtitle:

  • Relationships-Finding your connection in a world of acquaintances
  • Calling-Finding your purpose in a world of striving
  • Editing-Finding God’s best in a world of options
  • Thoughts-Finding your peace in a world or worry
  • Traditions-Finding your groove in a world of expectations
  • Time-Finding your rhythm in a world of overwhelm
  • Decisions-Finding your confidence in a world of choices
  • Communication-Finding your voice in a world of noise
  • Worth-Finding your value in a world of never good enough

Most of us will find at least one of these chapters hitting us right where we currently live. Especially helpful for some might be the realization that it is attitudes more than activities that is causing their crazy busy. Each chapter ends with a few action steps to help you identify and apply the breaking of busy in your own life.

Some books I’ve read on the topic of busyness give only passing nod to Biblical insights and spiritual practices, this book is more balanced in this area than some I’ve read. Using her own experiences of busyness as the illustration of her points, she also shares the ways her relationship with God directed the changes in her outlook and actions. I really appreciated that, though there were times I felt I was reading her autobiography. Occasionally this wore a little thin for me, some of her stories go on a little too long with a few too many details. This is something I’m sensitive to in books, a purely personal preference of style, so don’t let that discourage you. Her ability to bring the takeaway by the end of the chapter redeemed those portions.

On her writing style, another note: I always enjoy a southern writer! She has that friendly, conversational style that must come from having a drawl when she speaks and honing her writing chops on a blog. She’s open, honest, funny, insightful and encouraging.

I received my copy of Breaking Busy as a member of the launch team before the book was released. Being on a launch team carries a certain anxiety for me-what if I hate the book? What if I can’t recommend it? I wasn’t far into this book when I was confident that I would be able to recommend it without reservation. This is an accessible book with realistic application for something each of us needs to be addressing in our lives. We may not all relate to her struggles or find value in solutions that worked for her, but we will all see that there is path available for the life we are intended to live.

In the epilogue, she makes an important distinction that I leave you with to inspire you if you’re on the fence about the book.

“As we close out our time together in this book, I want to be sure we never confuse a busy life with a full life. To me, a busy life is frazzled, harried lived at a pace I’m not meant to live, doing things I’m not meant to do. A busy life is a life the Enemy has created in order to keep me from God’s purpose. A full life on the other hand, is a life lived in step with what God has called me to do. I like how Jesus said it in John 10:10: “the thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.””

Consider making room for more fullness in your life by taking on the challenge of Breaking Busy.

Read well, friends.