Discipleship Essentials by Greg Ogden

*I received a free copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review*

An all new revised and expanded edition of Discipleship Essentials: A Guide to Building Your Life in Christ by Greg Ogden was published last month. This contains over 25 studies that were designed for groups of three, but can be done as an individual, one-on-one, or in small groups. This is a great tool for new and old believers alike.

When I first read there were 25 studies, I thought this would be a gargantuan book, but it’s less than 300 pages. This book is broken up into four parts: Growing up in Christ, Understanding the Message of Christ, Becoming Like Christ, and Serving Christ. Each chapter covers Core Truth (a topic each chapter is built around), a memory verse, and inductive Bible study, and a contemporary reading section with questions. I like how most of the reading sections had a book recommendation for further reading on that topic.

Each Core Truth includes a question and an answer. For example, chapter one says:

“What is discipling?

Discipling is an intentional relationship in which we walk alongside other disciples in order to encourage, equip and challenge one another in love to grow towards maturity in Christ. This includes equipping the disciple to make disciples who make disciples.”

Afterwards, there are some questions asking to identify key words or phrases in the question and answer, and to state their meaning in your own words. Then you’re asked to write down any questions or issues you have.

Next, you have a memory verse and study guide. To get the full context of your memory verse, you’re asked to read a chapter or section, then you write the memory verse down, and answer some questions.

The next section is an inductive Bible study where you read some verses or a chapter. I found that it was easier to answer the questions after reading the reading section… which is 3-5 pages long, and includes even more questions! Overall, each chapter has ~20 question that will definitely provide a long and deep group discussion.

The space for writing your answers is about an inch or so. Because I write fairly large, I used a notebook. The paper is thick enough to use a pen instead of a pencil, if you like living dangerously.

An example of some of the questions are:
“What does Paul mean when he writes that ‘the Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children?'”
“How does God satisfy his justice and mercy?”
“What does it mean that the righteousness of God ‘has been made known’ apart from the law?”

At the end of the book is an appendix on building a discipleship ministry and a leader’s guide. If you’ve never heard of this book and you’re looking for something to do with your church, small group, or even a family devotional, check this out! It’s really fantastic.

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7 Myths about Singleness by Sam Allberry

*I received a free copy from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review*

Synopsis: While singleness is often widely misunderstood by many in the church today and often viewed in negative terms, the Bible speaks about it very differently. This book sets forth a positive vision of singleness by responding to 7 common misconceptions, such as the notion that singleness is too hard, requires a special spiritual gift, is a hindrance to ministry, or is a waste of sexuality. Addressed to the church as a whole and written by a single pastor, 7 Myths about Singleness will help readers better understand, support, and empower the singles around them to contribute to the flourishing of the church as a whole.

I’m creeping up on thirty, and I’m not married. I’ve been told that I’m sinning because I’m not married and having children while I’m still young. I’ve seen and heard people tell singles that they’re not called to singleness because they struggle with sexual desires, and want marriage and children in the future, so they better just hurry up and find someone and stop being picky. Then of course there’s always the, “Just marry someone and get to know them, and fall in love after marriage.”

When I express my concerns about the church’s views and treatment towards singles I’m told, “The church shouldn’t focus on singles since most people will get married eventually.”

I’m fine with being single, I’ve learned to find rest in Christ. I know that if I’m ever married and have children, I won’t have as much free time to study and learn about God (and do other things I enjoy doing, ie: reading and reviewing books lol) without distractions. Similar to the author’s story in one chapter, since I don’t have a family of my own to worry about, if someone needs me, I can drop what I’m doing and be there for them. So right now, this is a special time for me, and I’m honestly enjoying it now.

What I’m not okay with is the way some married Christians treat me and other singles, like we’re not whole until we’re married. Then of course there are non-Christians who don’t understand celibacy, and make fun of you and try to push you to do things. Making friends as an adult is hard, guys.

I’ve talked to other Christian singles 25 years old and up (some even in their 40’s and 50’s), and a lot of us feel like second class citizens, or even complete and total outcasts. It hurts, a lot. Sam Allberry said in a short video clip about this book, “The church is a body, if one part hurts, all parts suffer.”

I know this isn’t much of a review, more like a rant. I apologize. Haha. I’ve never read a book on singleness before, and I’m glad I picked up this one. It helped with my feelings towards others, and was thought-provoking. I hope singles read it and find comfort. I hope married people read it and realize how they’re treating singles.

Something to keep in mind that this book talks about… Jesus willingly became a fully human male who never got married, and he lived a celibate lifestyle. His life shows us that romantic fulfillment, marriage, and sex aren’t necessary to be human.

100 Days of Peace by Steve Arterburn

*I received a free copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review* 

100 Days of Peace is a daily devotional by Stephen Arterburn. This book was published by Hendrickson Publishers/Rose Publishing. This devotional is set to release on March first, and will be available in paperback, leather-bound, and digital.

Stephen Arterburn is the founder and chairman of New Life Ministries— a faith-based non-profit organization for counseling, support groups, etc— and is the author of over sixty books, some of which are: The Life Recover Bible (New Living Translation/NLT), Restoration Bible (Christian Standard Bible/CSB), The Every Man series, The Arterburn Wellness Series, 100 Days of Prayer, and 100 Days of Character.

In 100 Days of Peace, each entry is two pages long, and begins with a Bible verse taken from the New International Version (NIV). After a short devotional/commentary, there are some Bible verses for further reflection, a few quotes from well-known Christian authors and theologians, and a prayer.

Some of the daily themes are… God Offers Peace, Turbulent Times Build Character, God is Sufficient, Trust God’s Timing, Make Peace with the Past, and Guard Your Thoughts.

Some of the entries were thought-provoking, some felt a little fluffy, and some didn’t really give me peace and comfort… I had a PDF to review, and if the physical book is exactly like the e-book, then the layout is visually appealing. I like the alternating page colors, too.

The authors and theologians quoted are, how shall I put this… quite diverse. C.S. Lewis, Billy Graham, Oswald Chambers, Max Lucado, Corrie Ten Boom, Rick Warren, Beth Moore, D.L. Moody, Charles Spurgeon, Kay Arthur, Charles Stanley, A.W. Tozer, St. Augustine, Matthew Henry, Elisabeth Elliot, Joni Eareckson Tada, Joyce Meyer, Amy Carmichael, J.I. Packer, Lee Strobel, Lysa TerKeurst, Arthur W. Pink, Martin Luther, Warren Wiersbe, Eugene Peterson, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, John MacArthur, John Piper, and Tim Keller (there are a few names I missed).

I personally have problems with some of the people who were quoted. Some of them don’t hold to orthodox views of the trinity and Jesus’ divinity. Some are women “preachers” and believe they’re sinless, or are involved in the prosperity gospel/Word of Faith (WOF). I think it’s dangerous putting them next to men like Spurgeon, Tozer, Matthew Henry, Piper, and MacArthur. Christians with little discernment may pick up their books or watch their videos after reading their quotes and get sucked into their heresy. A broken clock is right twice a day, but I would have preferred not having the quote section.

Here’s an example of a daily entry. This is from day 4.

God’s Promises
Cast your cares on the LORD and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous be shaken.
PSALM 55:22

As we have become accustomed to, and at times almost numbed by, a steady stream of unsettling news, we are reminded that our world is in a state of constant change. But God is not. So when the world seems to be trembling beneath our feet, we can be comforted in the knowledge that our heavenly Father is the Rock that cannot be shaken.

Remember that God is far bigger than any problem you may face. Put your faith in the Father and his only begotten Son. After all, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8). And it is precisely because your Savior does not change that you can face your challenges with courage for today and hope for tomorrow.

Take your anxieties and troubles to God. Seek protection from the One who cannot be moved. Our heavenly Father stands ready to comfort you, to guide you, and—in time—to heal you. The same God who created the universe will protect you if you ask him . . . so ask him . . . and then serve him with willing hands and a trusting heart.

When I am secure in Christ, I can afford to take a risk in my life. Only the insecure cannot afford to risk failure. The secure can be honest about themselves; they can admit failure; they are able to seek help and try again. They can change. – John Maxwell

Let God’s promises shine on your problems. – Corrie Ten Boom

God does not give us everything we want, but He does fulfill His promises, leading us along the best and straightest paths to Himself. – Dietrich Bonhoeffer

For Further Reflection
Deuteronomy 7:9; Psalms 31:3; 54:4; 2 Corinthians 1:20–22

TODAY’S PRAYER
Dear Lord, because of you, I can face the uncertainties of life with courage, with hope, with wisdom, and with faith. So today and every day, Father, I will study your Word; I will trust your promises; and I will follow your Son. Amen.

Who Do You Say That I AM? by Becky Harling

*I received a free copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.*

What comes to mind when Jesus asks, “Who do you say that I am?” (Matthew 16:15)

Who Do You Say That I AM?: A Fresh Encounter for Deeper Faith by Becky Harling is an eight-week Bible study reflecting on the “I am” statements of Jesus found throughout the Gospels. Becky Harling is a pastor’s wife and women’s speaker with a degree in Biblical Literature. Becky has survived both breast cancer and sexual assault, and uses her personal stories as a message of hope and healing.

This Bible study is eight weeks long, and each week is broken up into five days. This study can be done individually or as a group, and is great for women of all ages in all walks of life. I did one week a night, since some of the days are pretty short, and really enjoyed it! I wrote in a notebook instead of the book in case I ever want to do this study again (I’m pretty sure I will want to do it again next year!).

This Bible study is very solid. It shows you that the Bible is very clear about defining who Jesus Christ the Son of the living God is, His character, and that it’s only through the true Biblical Jesus Christ you can be saved. Here are the contents:

  • Week 1: Who Do You Say That I am? Matthew 16:15
    I Am He. John 4:26
  • Week 2: Do you still not understand? Mark 8:17-18
    I Am the Bread of Life. John 6:35
  • Week 3: Why are you so afraid? Matthew 8:26, Mark 4:40
    I Am the Good Shepherd. John 10:11
  • Week 4: What do you want me to do for you? Mark 10:51
    I Am the Light. John 8:12
  • Week 5: Do you believe that I am able to do this? Matthew 9:28
    I Am the Resurrection and the Life. John 11:25
  • Week 6: Do you want to get well? John 5:6
    I Am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. John 14:6
  • Week 7: Can you add to your life by worrying? Matthew 6:27, Luke 12:25
    I am the Vine. John 15:5
  • Week 8: Has no one returned to give praise to God? Luke 17:18
    I Am the Living One— The First and The Last. Revelation 1:17

Each week has sections titled: Explore (where you make observations of the verses or chapter you just read), Reflect (where you answer questions about the verses you just read, or reflect on your personal growth), a memory verse, and a praise section that includes a song to look up and listen to. Each day opens up with a quote, then some story from Becky about herself or someone she knows. I really enjoyed reading some of the stories and hearing how God worked in other people’s lives. I was also introduced to a lot of new songs with the praise section.

This is the first Bible study I’ve done by Moody Publishers. I’m looking forward to checking out the others they have to offer. Have you done any of their studies? Which one is your favorite?

Children’s Picture Book | Jelly Bean Blessings

*I received a free copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Jelly Bean Blessings is seasonal board book illustrated by Maddie Frost. This book was published by Tommy Nelson (Thomas Nelson’s children division, a registered trademark of Harper Collins Christian Publishing, Inc.). The target audience is toddlers and pre-schoolers.

Last year, I got Candy Apple Blessings and it was a hit with my nephews, so I was really pleased to see Maddie Frost illustrated this book, and another one coming out this summer called Ice Cream Blessings.

This book features a pig, a fox, and an alligator (or is it a crocodile?) doing spring activities like picking flowers, jumping in puddles, planting a garden, flying kites, riding bikes, going on hikes, spring cleaning, and of course eating jelly beans (because Easter?).

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I love how colorful this book is compared to the previous one! The little fox looks so cute when she is wearing sunglasses. The rhymes are a little odd to me, but there are repetitive words children will enjoy.

While this is sold as a Christian book, God isn’t mentioned until the very last page.

Reformed Preaching by Joel R. Beeke

A culture that is so riffled with variations of truth being preached, a breath of fresh air is needed. The pulpit has turned into a stage, with big productions, huge screens and flashing lights. Music is played longer than a sermon is taught, and people flock to these productions’ week in and week out. We have given up doctrinal teaching for feel good messages, and motivational speeches. With so many churches falling away, Joel Beeke’s Reformed Preaching is that breath of fresh air the church has so desperately been seeking.

With many pastors coming out of seminary with a progressive mindsets and little concepts of preaching biblically it is easy to see how Churches are being led down a path of destruction. Joel’s sole purpose with this book is to bring the church back to the days of the Reformers and their successors, the Puritans. To show us how they led their churches and preached in a manner that was honoring to God. Reformed Preaching is a biblically sound look at historical church survey that brings back the need for practical divinity on experiential reformed preaching. Experiential preaching addresses the vital matter of how a Christian experience the truth of Christian doctrine in their lives.

The book opens with the first few chapters laying out the need to come back to this type of preaching verses continuing on in our destructive manner of teaching. We examine the need for experiential teaching the different elements of reformed experiential preaching along different styles. Beeke then moves on in part two to discuss various styles of Reformers, and Puritans preaching and the impact them made on the history of preaching. He concludes the book with a look at modern experiential teaching and breaks down how preachers can apply this to their teaching.

Reformed Preaching is the book that every serious pastor must have on their book shelf, and one that should be revisited often. Any man standing in the pulpit should examine and study the contents and seriously apply them to their ministry. This book hits right at the heart of the preacher and keeps driving forward, as a means to mold the preacher into the man of God he is called to be. There should be no other way of preaching than expository preaching and that is perfectly laid out in Reformed Preaching.

*I received a free copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
Alex from Reformed Wretches read and reviewed this book for me. Check out his blog, and give him a follow on Instagram!

Duck Commander Happy, Happy, Happy Stories for Kids

*I received a free copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review*

Duck Commander Happy, Happy, Happy Stories for Kids Fun and Faith-Filled Stories was written by Korie Robertson and her mom Chrys Howard. The illustrations are by Holli Conger. This book was published by Tommy Nelson, Thomas Nelson’s children division, a registered trademark of Harper Collins Christian Publishing, Inc.

This is a children’s hardcover story book with fourteen stories about the Robertson family that teach kids important life lessons. Some of the stories are about Easter, building a treehouse, a ski trip, a kids camp, etc. At the end of each story is a Bible verse, some questions about the story, then two pages called, “Duck Commander in Action” with a lessons and things to remember.

I didn’t read the synopsis before requesting this book for review. Had I known all the stories were about the Robertson family, and not fictional stories, I would not have requested it (oopsie, my fault lol). I’m not a super huge Duck Dynasty fan. This book is definitely for the fans who are obsessed with the family. My nephews have no idea who the Robertson family is, I also think there are better book out there, so I will be giving this book away.

It’s still really cute, though!

Afraid of All the Things by Scarlet Hiltibidal

*I received a free copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review*

Synopsis: What does the gospel say about your fears? What does it say about the irrational ones, like sinkholes in the Target parking lot? How does it speak to the rational ones, like pet scan predictions? And does the gospel have a word for the fears you feel you’ll have for life, like the possibility of losing the one you love most?

Growing up in the green room of SNL, being born to a fire-eater and adopted by a SWAT cop, having internal organs explode, and adopting a deaf girl from China, Scarlet Hiltibidal has been given some strange life experiences—and lived in fear through most of them.

But life changed for Scarlet when she learned to hold the gospel up to her fears. She realized that though she can’t fix herself or protect herself, Jesus walked into this broken, sad, scary place to rescue, love, and cast out her—and your—fear.

Seeing life in light of the cross will help you avoid fear, overcome fear when you can’t avoid it, and live beyond fear when you don’t overcome it. You don’t have to be afraid of all the things.

Trigger Warning:
This book talks about miscarriages and eating disorders.

Afraid of All the Things is about Scarlet’s life full fear and anxiety, and how the gospel helps overcome even the worst fears.

“The Jesus who had only felt like the answer for my salvation became the answer for everything.”

This book is broken up into three parts. Part one is titled “My Fears Do Not Define Me”. In this part, Scarlet talks about things like her hypochondriac collapse in a grocery store and her fear of flying. In the second part, “My Fears Will Not Defeat Me”, Scarlet tells the story of the time she slept through hurricane Andrew, when her mother was diagnosed with cancer, and her health. The third part is titled “My Fears Aren’t Forever” and is about her Matron of Honor Toast, and adopting her deaf daughter from China.

Throughout all her stories (some funny, some heartbreaking… all totally relatable), Scarlet constantly points back to the gospel and how Jesus defeated everything at the cross. She reminds the reader that God is more powerful than the evils we see here on earth, and that we need to meditate on God’s Word day and night because His Word is living and active.

“When the Holy Spirit gave me the grace to see God as my Good Father and Comforter in this world broke by sin, I stopped running away from Him and started running to Him. When the gospel made clear that God has already given me His own Son, I stopped being afraid of the ‘scary’ situations that bring me close to Him.”

The one potential issue I found is on pages 22 and 23. Scarlet suffered from an eating disorder and begged God for healing… Rather than healing her instantly, God kept directing her to Proverbs 28:13, “The one who conceals his sin will not prosper, but whoever confesses and renounces them will find mercy.” She then says:

“I didn’t want to confess because it was such an ugly sin, but that verse kept coming after me until I did it. It’s been a decade now since I confessed and He healed me that very day and it went away instantly. His Word led me to the greatest moment of freedom I’ve never known.”

As someone who suffered from an eating disorder, I think this can be very dangerous for sensitive readers struggling with an ED. Other than that, I really enjoyed the book, and recommend it. I’m glad to have a new author on my radar.

Children’s Book Review | God, I Know You’re There

*I received a free copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.*

God, I Know You’re There was written by Bonnie Rickner Jensen and illustrated by Lucy Fleming. This book was published by Tommy Nelson, Thomas Nelson’s children division, a registered trademark of Harper Collins Christian Publishing, Inc. This is a twenty-four page board book for young children.

God, I can’t see You.
Still I know You’re there.
You’re in the love I give away—
The sparkle when I care.

And if Your love is what I show,
My heart is fuller still, I know.”

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First page

God, I Know You’re There is a simple and poetic way to teach your children about the presence of God, and that He is still there even though they can not see or touch him. The animals and colorful illustrations will surely grab their attention. (There is a diverse ethnic representation, for those wondering.)

So far, this is my favorite children’s book for this year. I really love the illustrations… One of them reminded me of Van Gogh. I also like that this is a smaller board book, so it’s easier to hold with a toddler and baby on my lap.

 

Children’s Book Review | The Backward Easter Egg Hunt

*I received a free e-book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.*

The Backward Easter Egg Hunt is a children’s book by Meadow Rue Merrill. This book was published by Hendrickson Rose Publishing under Rose Kids. This book is part of the Lantern Hill Farm series for children of all ages. This book will be released in March and will be available as a board book and hardcover.

Other books in this series include: The Best Birthday, Light Parade, and The Christmas Cradle.

It’s almost Easter and six-year-old Molly is over the moon with excitement. Like many kids (and some adults) Molly doesn’t know the real meaning behind Easter. She thinks Easter is about sparkly new dresses, baby chicks, fuzzy lambs, and her Aunt Jenny’s annual Easter egg hunt at Lantern Hill Farm.

When Easter finally comes around, Molly’s mother says Aunt Jenny has something different planned for this year. Instead of hiding eggs around the farm for the kids to find, Aunt Jenny gives the kids empty eggs and a list of things to fill the eggs up with.

The list:

  • Something prickly
  • Something red
  • Something living
  • Something dead
  • Something heavy
  • Something light
  • Something dark
  • Something bright

Aunt Jenny uses the Easter egg scavenger hunt to teach the children about the real meaning of Easter… Something prickly was for the nails and crown of thorns, and the red was for Jesus’s blood. Something living and dead was for Jesus’ life and death. Something heavy was for the stone that rolled over Jesus’ tomb, and when Jesus rose it was rolled away like a feather. Something dark and something bright were for Jesus taking away our darkness (she doesn’t call it sin) and filling us with light… I would have liked to have seen some Bible verses, and a little more depth.

Children will definitely love this book! The illustrations are bold and colorful, and the characters are racially diverse. The artwork style looks very familiar, but I can’t place it.

I have never heard of backward Easter egg hunts until now. Did the author just invent this? Or have I been living under a rock? I think it would be a really awesome to do with your family or church youth group (or students if you teach at a Christian school).

For those who hold to images of Jesus being a 2nd commandment violation (2CV), there is a picture of Jesus on one page that can be easily covered.

Pre-order here:
Christian Book Distrubuters
Hendrickson Rose
Amazon
International Ordering