Jesus Calling For Christmas (book review)

I love how Sarah Young turns Scripture into Jesus addressing us in the first-Person! As we are approaching the Christmas season when we celebrate Christ’s First Advent on Earth, Sarah has used her God-given talent to tell us what Jesus Himself says about His Advent, and what the joyful implications are for us today, in her newest book Jesus Calling For Christmas. 

Most people usually think of Christmas as a time of joy, peace, and celebration. But this season should carry even greater meaning for Christians who know that we are celebrating Joy and Peace personified in Jesus Christ. So Sarah, reminding us of what Jesus would say, tells us, “In the midst of this busy Advent season, keep bringing your focus back to My holy Presence. Remember that Immanuel has come, and rejoice!” 

This book is easily readable around a family dinner table, or as a bedtime reading with children. The Christmas scenery captured in this book is beautiful, the words of Jesus are easy to understand, and the corresponding Scriptures make it easy to see how Christ’s arrival on Earth fulfilled all that was prophesied about Him. 

Children already seem to have a wide-eyed wonder about Christmas time, and adults would do well to learn from them. In fact, Sarah writes Jesus saying, “Gaze at the Glory of My birth, just as the shepherds did, and respond with childlike wonder.”

Children of all ages—even the “grownup” ones!—can experience Christ’s Advent in a whole new way by reading Jesus Calling For Christmas together this season. 

I am a Thomas Nelson book reviewer. 

Love Like That (book review)

Over the years, I have gleaned so many helpful relationship lessons from Dr. Les Parrott so I was excited when I heard about Love Like That. But what Dr. Parrott taught in this book was completely unexpected—how to love like Jesus loves. 

The title of the book is taken from The Message paraphrase of a verse in the Bible: Observe how Christ loved us. His love was not cautious but extravagant. He didn’t love in order to get something from us but to give everything of Himself to us. LOVE LIKE THAT (Ephesians 5:2).

Wow! Love like Jesus? How can we do that? Let me jump to the end of the book first. If you’re like me, sometimes you think the meat of the book is in the chapters and there is little value in a conclusion or appendix, but that is definitely not the case in Love Like That. In these two valuable sections, Dr. Parrott answers the question more specifically for us: HOW can I love like Jesus? 

The five main chapters of the book identify five ways Jesus loved. Each chapter has a definition of that trait, a self-test on how you currently measure up (which you can also take online), an example of how Jesus loved like that, the hindrances that keep us from loving like that, and how to overcome those hindrances. 

This book opened my eyes—and my heart—to how I can do a much, much better job of loving like Jesus loves. The way Dr. Parrott presents this information makes it seem like something even I can do. For the sake of others in your life, please read Love Like That.

I am a Thomas Nelson book reviewer. 

The Nehemiah Code (book review)

I love studying biblical leadership principles, the people who follow or violate those principles, the outcomes of their decisions, and the lessons that we can apply today from those stories. Probably everyone has had something fall apart in their lives that needed to be rebuilt. If so, you will love the biblical leadership principles that O.S. Hawkins reveals in The Nehemiah Code. 

Nehemiah comes on the scene after the Jewish people have been in exile for 70 years, but they are now allowed to return to their homeland. However, there’s an embarrassing problem: the walls around Jerusalem are in utter disrepair and the city gates have been burned away to ash. The returning exiles are wringing their hands over this sorry state of affairs for a long time until a rebuilding leader named Nehemiah comes on the scene. 

O.S. Hawkins shares the leadership principles Nehemiah employs to get the walls rebuilt and the gates rehung—a massive project that he was able to accomplish in just 52 days! But the powerful thing about the way Rev. Hawkins shares these principles is that they are all applicable to rebuilding projects we face today. 

Maybe you don’t have city walls to rebuild, but perhaps your marriage has crumbled, or your status at work has fallen apart, or you’ve done damage to your integrity. Whatever rebuilding project you need to undertake, you will find principles in The Nehemiah Project that you will be able to put into practice today! As Rev. Hawkins says over and over: It’s never too late for a new beginning. 

Whether you have a rebuilding project of your own, you would like to come alongside a friend who is rebuilding something in their own life, or you are simply a God-honoring leader that wants to expand your leadership capacity, this book will help you soar. 

I am a Thomas Nelson book reviewer. 

Developing The Leader Within You 2.0 (book review)

I not only read John Maxwell’s Developing The Leader Within You for myself many years ago, but I have used the content from this book in numerous teaching settings. When I heard that a 25th-anniversary edition of the book was being published, I originally thought of young people to whom I could introduce this helpful book. 

But I was totally blown away to discover that although Dr. Maxwell had promised his publisher that he would revise 15 percent of the book, he actually revised 89 percent of the book! So not only am I excited to get this book in front of people who haven’t read it previously, I’m also encouraging those who read the first edition to get a copy of Developing The Leader Within You 2.0.

In leadership it’s quite simple—you cannot teach accurately what you haven’t internalized yourself, or else risk being called a hypocrite. So any leadership teaching must start with the leader being educated and expanded as a leader himself or herself. I can think of no better resource on the market than this book. 

In typical fashion, Dr. Maxwell masterfully weaves together leadership principles, supporting quotes, transparently personal stories of how he has—sometimes painfully—learned the principles he is teaching, historical and contemporary examples of those who followed or violated these principles, and up-to-date findings from researchers and other front-lines leaders. 

Bottom line: this is a book that is loaded with content but is also very easy to read and apply. At the end of each chapter, you will find some very helpful application ideas for each of the ten principles Dr. Maxwell presents in this book. 

If you’ve already read 1.0, I encourage you to get a copy of 2.0. John Maxwell has learned so much since the first edition and he liberally shares it with us here. 

And if you’re an emerging leader, or simply want to take your leadership to a higher level, this is an excellent foundational book for you to digest and apply.

Faithlife Illustrated Study Bible (book review)

If you’ve ever looked at the list of books I’ve read and reviewed at the end of each year, you will quickly discover how much I enjoy reading! I read science, biographies, theological works, philosophy, financial resources, relationship helpers, and on and on. But hands-down, not-even-close to second place, I read the Bible more than anything else. Not only do I read the Bible extensively every day, I then read all of my other books through the lens of Scripture. 

So whenever I come across a resource that helps with Bible reading and study, I’m absolutely thrilled to share it with you. One such resource I’ve been so excited about is the Faithlife Illustrated Study Bible. 

I originally purchased this study Bible because of the “illustrated” part. I glanced through it and found several things that make the biblical accounts more understandable. Things like: 

  • timelines 
  • genealogical records
  • “blueprints” of notable buildings and structures
  • infographics 
  • maps and tables 

Then I was excited to discover the wealth of articles embedded in the notes section next to the biblical texts. 

But the happiest discovery I made was the ability to combine the written text with so much additional online content. Using the Faithlife Study Bible app on my iPhone, I can access all of the content in the print version in addition to more resources that have become available since this study Bible was published. My favorite way to do this is via the “reference scanner” in the app. I use my iPhone camera to take a picture of the part of the Bible I’m studying and then the app pulls up all of the resources associated with nearly everything on that page. Amazing! 

If you already love studying the Bible, this book/app combination will take you to a whole new level. Even if you’re just getting started in a Bible study, you will love how much fullness these resources quickly bring to your fingertips. 

Praying The Promises (book review)

There is no more powerful way to pray than to pray using the Scriptures. If you are a parent, you probably know what it is to have a child say to you, “Mom/Dad, you said….” When we pray to God using God’s Word we’re essentially doing the same thing. A great resource to help you learn how to do this is Max Lucado’s newest book Praying The Promises. 

In the introduction, Max says, “As people who believe God’s promises, we have an advantage. We can determine to ponder, proclaim, and pray the promises of God. We can be like Abraham, who ‘didn’t tiptoe around God’s promise asking cautiously skeptical questions. He plunged into the promise and came up strong’ (Romans 4:20 The Message). We can choose to filter life through the promises of God. For every problem in life, God has given us a promise. When struggles threaten, we can find hope by praying those promises.”

Every chapter contains: 

  • a short “unshakable hope” reminder, 
  • a handful of biblical passages that are the foundation for our unshakable hope, 
  • a model prayer using those passages of Scripture, 
  • a simple declarative “I am” or “I will” statement to carry with you the rest of the day. 

In our hurly-burly, topsy-turvy, anxiety-prone world we need something that can put our feet on solid ground. There can be no more unshakable truth than to know that God keeps His Word, and that we can stand on those rock-solid promises. The prayers in Praying The Promises will, I trust, help you read the Bible in a new light, as you see more and more promises which you can turn into prayer to our All-loving, All-powerful Heavenly Father. 

I am a Thomas Nelson book reviewer.

Yours, Jack (book review)

C.S. Lewis might be one of the best known Christian apologists of the twentieth century, but he started out as an avowed atheist scholar. I’ve read biographies about Lewis’ conversion, but in Yours, Jack you can read in his own words the transformation in his thinking. 

Paul F. Ford served as the editor for this book and has compiled a marvelous collection of personal correspondence from C.S. Lewis (or Jack, as most called him) to inquirers from all over the world. The letters cover samples of his letters from 1916 to 1963, and have been selected to give us insights into Lewis’ spiritual maturing, as well as to read some of the “seed thoughts” that would show up as fully-formed ideas in later books. 

Ford wrote, “The purpose of this collection of letters are (1) to draw attention to how, indirectly and directly, C.S. Lewis experienced spiritual direction, wrote about it, and practiced it, and (2) to allow the reader to benefit from having Lewis as a director.” 

But I got so much more out of these correspondences. I could see relationships deepening, spiritual thoughts being forged and sharpened, and feel the tenderness that comes out of Lewis’ pen to each and every person to whom he wrote. And for those who have read any of the other books C.S. Lewis authored, you will smile as you see the fledgling thoughts being tested out on his friends before they appear in his classic and well-loved books. 

This book is a must-read for all fans of C.S. Lewis. 

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