Strengths-Based Marriage (reading plan review)

Normally on Tuesdays, I post book reviews here, but I’ve been reading a couple of YouVersion reading plans with my wife this summer that I felt I must share with you. Both of them are by Jimmy Evans—One: A Marriage Devotional and Strengths-Based Marriage. 

If you are unfamiliar with YouVersion Bible, there is both a web-based site and a mobile app that you really should check out. I spend a lot of quality time in the Scripture using the app on my iPhone each day. One of the cool features YouVersion has recently introduced is the ability to read devotional plans with friends. This offers:

  • accountability with your reading partners 
  • a set schedule of reading assignments
  • access to all the biblical texts that correspond with the day’s devotional reading
  • a place to share your thoughts just with your reading partners, and inaccessible to anyone else on YouVersion

Strengths-Based Marriage focuses on exactly what the title leads you to expect—the strengths in you and your spouse. Instead of trying to “fix” something in your spouse, Jimmy Evans turns your attention toward the God-implanted strengths in your spouse, and then gives you some practical counsel for calling out those strengths. 

For example, in one of the devotions he wrote, “Each of us is remarkably unique, and to minimize that irreplaceable uniqueness is to rob the world of a contribution that cannot come any other way.” And in another devotional he says, “You cannot separate your treasures from your passions. In other words, you will always be most passionate about the people, pursuits, and places where you are investing the best of your life. Your passions will always follow the investments of your time, energy, and strengths.”

One: A Marriage Devotional is a much more daily nuts-and-bolts approach to our marriages. In this devotional he shares relationships principles, and then gives us a “Talk It Out” and a “Walk It Out” assignment to put into practice. 

In one of these devotionals he writes, “God created marriage to operate as the most important human relationship in our lives, and it only succeeds on that level. … Priority must be proven daily in real terms and not just in words. Good intentions mean very little in marriage. The only thing that matters is what you do and continue to do consistently. For your marriage to work, you must establish it as the first priority and be willing to protect it against good or bad things that try to distract you.”

Whether your marriage is in need of urgent attention, it could use some minor improvements, or it’s already pretty great, both of these devotionals will give you practical tips, time with your spouse in God’s Word, great conversation-starting questions, and some highly practical tips you can use right now. 

The Way Of Abundance (book review)

About a year ago I read and reviewed The Broken Way by Ann Voskamp. And now that I share a review of her newest book—The Way Of Abundance—you might be tempted to think that brokenness and abundance sound contradictory, but you would be wrong! 

In The Broken Way, Ann wrote, “Unless we die, unless we surrender, unless we sacrifice, we remain alone. Lonely. But if we die, if we surrender, if we sacrifice, that is when we experience the abundance, that is when we dance in communion. The life that yields the most—yields the most” (emphasis mine). 

Now in The Way Of Abundance, she shares this opening thought, “What would happen if the scars you carry are what God uses to carry Christ to a scarred and broken world? Weak is the real strong. Brokenness is the real abundance” (emphasis mine). 

Brokenness cannot stop meaningfulness. God wants to work through your brokenness to do something abundantly more than you can even imagine. And He can and will do it if only you will yield your pain to Him. 

The Way Of Abundance is given to us in 60 shorter devotional-style chapters. It’s a two-month journey into getting to see our pain, disillusionment, brokenness, and questions in a new light. It’s a journey to get us to change the focus from our brokenness to Christ’s abundance, and in so doing, discovering how Christ can enrich the world through our yieldedness. 

What I wrote a year ago is just as true for this book: “This is a book of healing. A book that will remind you that you are not alone in your pain, in your questions, in your searching for answers. This book is a gift to anyone who feels broken, cut up, cut off, or beaten down.” 

Read this book for yourself. Read this book for other broken people. Read this book with other broken people. And then watch the abundance of Christ’s life explode like you’ve never imagined! 

I am a Zondervan book reviewer. 

Brothers, We Are Not Professionals (book review)

I’ll state it right up front—every pastor should read Brothers, We Are Not Professionals by John Piper.

The pastor is called upon to do lots of things, some of which are considered by both pastor and parishioner to more “spiritual” or more “business.” But in reality, all that a pastor (or any Christian for that matter) does is spiritual, because it is all to be done for the glory of God. Over time, many pastors have lost sight of the sacred nature of their calling, turning what they do into a professional pursuit.

Piper explains, “First, professionalism should always be marginal, not central; optional, not crucial. And second, the pursuit of professionalism will push the supernatural center more and more into the corner while ministry becomes a set of secular competencies with a religious veneer. … When I look back, my regret is not that I wasn’t more professional but that I wasn’t more prayerful, more passionate for souls, more consistent in personal witness, more emotionally engaged with my children, more tender with my wife, more spontaneously affirming of the good in others.”

Every chapter is chockfull of biblical insights, personal examples from John Piper’s ministry, and historical sources that have stood the test of time. I’ll say it again: every pastor should read this book!

I’ll add my own “amen” this prayer John Piper offers: “Banish professionalism from our midst, O God, and in its place put passionate prayer, poverty of spirit, hunger for God, rigorous study of holy things, white-hot devotion to Jesus Christ, utter indifference to all material gain, and unremitting labor to rescue the perishing, perfect the saints, and glorify our sovereign Lord. In Jesus’ great and powerful name. Amen.”

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