February 28, 2016

Book Review: Money and Marriage

Money and Marriage: A Complete Guide for Engaged and Newly Married Couples, by Matt Bell is a practical guidebook for figuring out finances.  Couples (and individuals) “can learn to use money in a way that minimizes financial disputes, contributes greatly to your marital happiness, and gives you a sense of deep joy and satisfaction,” according to page 14.

With a strong biblical emphasis, this book is divided into three main parts: Decoding Each Other’s Financial DNA, A Ten-Step Action Plan for Financial Success, and Fostering Financial Oneness.

Part one, Each Other’s Financial DNA, primarily focuses on outside and inside influences.  According to page 15, “By talking about the various influences that have impacted your use of money, you will gain empathy for each other, identify potential sources of financial conflict, and better understand each other’s financial strengths and weaknesses.”

Part two, A Ten-Step Action Plan for Financial Success, includes ten steps that focus on the following: Plan to Succeed, Work Wisely, Give Some Away, Put Some Away, Ruthlessly Avoid Debt, Manage Your Credit Score, Patiently Pursue Interest, Build Walls of Protection, Spend Smart on Housing, and Spend Smart on All Other Expenses.

Part three, Fostering Financial Oneness, focuses on more financial details, including the following topics: One in Love, One in Money, Details, Details, Get Organized, and What It’s All About.  Chapters in parts two and three end with a Take Action section that consists of two parts: What to Do and What to Discuss, which are useful guidelines and questions that summarize each chapter.

Throughout eighteen chapters, there are questions to consider, worksheets and mini-quizzes, helpful financial tips, and it’s based on biblical guidelines.  This financial handbook also includes spreadsheets for Recommended Monthly Spending Guidelines and Recommended Housing Guidelines.

According to page 15, Bell states, “If you put the principles in this book into action, you will experience money as a great blessing in your marriage rather than the all-too-common sense of stress and conflict.  I say that with complete confidence because these are not my principles; they are the timeless truths about money found in the Bible.”

Money and Marriage is a quality resource and a wonderful way to review, even if you are on track with your finances.  It’s primarily geared towards engaged and newly married couples (as the title indicates), but this book is worthwhile for singles and seasoned married couples…simply anyone who wants to enhance and/or realign their finances in a practical and biblical manner.

Note: I received this book from Litfuse Publicity, which is a program designed for bloggers to write book reviews in exchange for books, yet the opinions expressed in this review are my own.

February 27, 2016

Book Review: Nehemiah

Nehemiah: Standing Firm in the Face of Opposition, by Warren W. Wiersbe, is a part of The Wiersbe Bible Study Series.  On page seven, Wiersbe said, “Doing God’s work has never been easy, and in these last days it is getting more and more difficult to serve….  But the same great God who enabled Nehemiah to finish building the walls of Jerusalem will enable us to finish our course with joy and accomplish the work He has called us to do.  There is no reason to quit or even to despair!”

This nine-lesson study guide is based on the book of Nehemiah.  It starts with two sections: Introduction to Nehemiah and How to Use This Study, which includes Tips for Small Groups. The nine lessons are titled: A Caring Attitude, Workers, Selfishness, Pressures and Testing, People of the Book, Grace, Dedication, Sacrifice and Promises, and Bonus Lesson: Summary and Review.

Each of the eight main lessons is dedicated to one or two chapters from Nehemiah.  These lessons each have fifteen questions within the following sections: Getting Started (with two questions), Going Deeper (with eight questions), Looking Inward (with three questions), Going Forward (with one question), Seeking Help (with one question), and Notes for Small Groups.

In addition to the Nehemiah scripture passages (and other scripture references), there is a heavy focus on the commentary excerpts from Be Determined, by Warren W. Wiersbe within the eight main lessons.  According to page nine of this study guide, “While reading Be Determined is not a prerequisite for going through this study, the additional insights and background Wiersbe offers can greatly enhance your study experience.”  Throughout the main lessons, there are also various additional materials with the following headings: From Today’s World, More to Consider, Real-Life Application Ideas, From the History Books, and Tips for Small Groups.

The last lesson, titled Bonus Lesson, is a summary and review of this study and the book of Nehemiah.  It’s a shorter lesson with eight questions and new section titles, including Looking Back (with three questions), Progress Report (with two questions), Things to Pray About (with three questions), and a Blessing of Encouragement.

With in-depth questions and practical applications, this Biblically based study guide is an extremely useful way to assist with reading the book of Nehemiah.  This study guide is geared towards both small groups and individuals of any age—from teenagers to grandparents.  Readers will benefit from using Nehemiah: Standing Firm in the Face of Opposition to learn more about the Word of God, particularly the book of Nehemiah.

Note: I received this book from B and B Media, which is a program designed for bloggers to write book reviews in exchange for books, yet the opinions expressed in this review are my own.

February 25, 2016

Book Review: Lazarus Awakening

“I never planned on writing a trilogy about Mary, Martha, and Lazarus, the siblings from Bethany that we meet in Luke’s and John’s gospels,” said Joanna Weaver, on page six, of Lazarus Awakening.  However, this book is a perfect follow-up to Having a Mary Spirit [which my ladies Bible study is currently reading and studying, this year] and Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World [which I’ve yet to read, so I'm unable to fully recommend this one].

As the third book in this unplanned book series, Lazarus Awakening: Finding Your Place in the Heart of God, by Joanna Weaver, is a challenging and encouraging book about the love of God through the story of Lazarus.

With a primary focus on scripture, there are ten thought-provoking chapters.  In addition to scripture passages, the author shares her personal experiences and includes supplemental sources and references throughout the book, regarding the chapter’s topics.  Plus, there are six appendixes, including The Story (John 11:1-12:11), Study Guide, Resources for Resurrected Living, Who I Am in Christ, Identifying Strongholds, and Hints for Unwinding Graveclothes.  Each chapter’s study guide is divided into two sections: Questions for Discussion or Reflection (with two questions) and Going Deeper (with six questions). 

Lazarus Awakening is a great resource for a small group Bible study to utilize, particularly a ladies Bible study, as well as for an individual’s personal reading.  Please note that it’s not necessary to read this series in order: Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World, Having a Mary Spirit, and Lazarus Awakening. 

Note: I received this book from Litfuse Publicity, which is a program designed for bloggers to write book reviews in exchange for books, yet the opinions expressed in this review are my own.

February 24, 2016

Book Review: A Billion Reasons Why

A Billion Reasons Why, by Kristin Billerbeck is an ideal modern-day fairy tale that expresses underlying faith-based values.  As the story unfolds, more of Katie’s past is revealed, particularly her relationship with Luc, her father’s secrets, and the current location of her family's heirloom engagement ring.

Currently, Katie McKenna enjoys a pleasant life in northern California, as a school teacher for special needs students, and she is happily engaged to Dexter Hastings.  Only eight years ago, she was living in her hometown of New Orleans in the Irish Channel neighborhood with her parents, as well as working through college as a 40s-style singer and dancer.  Due to an embarrassing public breakup with her boyfriend and various family issues, Katie left New Orleans with no plans to return.

However, Katie’s past—Luc DeForges—waltzes back into her life with a seemingly simple request…return to New Orleans with him to attend and sing at his brother’s wedding.  With the daunting decision of returning home continues to burdens her, Katie must face her past.

Yet, as her past unfolds into the present, Katie is left wondering if her solid and predictable engagement to Dexter is the right decision.  She’s thought of a billion reasons why she should marry Dexter, but there are a billion reasons why she still might be in love with Luc.

This book is geared more towards women readers, particularly those who enjoy reading modern chick-lit with a clean romantic storyline.  While the plot is slightly typical, A Billion Reasons Why is a captivating book and definitely worth reading.

Note: I received this book from B and B Media, which is a program designed for bloggers to write book reviews in exchange for books, yet the opinions expressed in this review are my own.

February 17, 2016

Book Review: Unstuff

Unstuff: Making Room in Your Life for What Really Matters, by Hayley and Michael DiMarco is an intriguing book that challenges readers to Unstuff their lives.

Stuff is typically defined as cars, homes, clothes, electronics, d├ęcor, etc.  However, Unstuff also focuses on the other aspects of stuff, including relationships, church, money, thoughts, etc.  On page one and two, the DiMarcos write, “This book is about taking a look at your life and all the stuff in it to determine if said stuff is making your life better or derailing it….  Stuff is essentially anything other than God.”

As a married couple, the authors decided their family of three would live in a motor home on the road for three months.  Since they could only bring the necessities, this adventure provided them with the opportunity to Unstuff their lives from material possessions, as well as the extra stuff in life.

It’s a very reader-friendly book with important sentences marked in bold font, mini-lists and questions to ponder, quotations and scripture verses, and even tweets.  Throughout the book, the DiMarcos share personal examples from their own lives and tips they have learned along the way, as well as diary excerpts from their three-month road trip, titled Life on Road, Day #.

Following a Product Disclaimer introduction and eleven reasons answering the question: Why Unstuff?, the six main sections include these topics: Wallet Stuff, Mind Stuff, Body Stuff, Love Stuff, Worship Stuff, and Future Stuff.  Most chapters end with Some Final Stuff.

This interesting book is geared towards all ages, particularly those who want to Unstuff their lives from the aspects that are hindering a deeper relationship with God.

Note: I received this book from Tyndale Blog Network, which is a program designed for bloggers to write book reviews in exchange for books, yet the opinions expressed in this review are my own.

February 13, 2016

Book Review: Jesus in the Present Tense

Jesus in the Present Tense: The I AM Statements of Christ, by Warren W. Wiersbe provides an in-depth look into the Bible, by focusing on the I AM scripture passages.

The book’s preface nicely summarizes the I AM significance.  On pages eleven and twelve, Wiersbe writes "Past history, present reality, and future certainty all unite today in Jesus Christ, the great I AM.  The I AM statements recorded in Scripture reveal the depths of the Christian life and how God’s children can go deeper by living with Jesus in the present tense.”

The twelve chapters focus on various aspects of the I AM statements, including The Bread of Life, The Light of the World, The Door, The Good Shepherd, The Resurrection and the Life, The Way, The Truth, and the Life, The True Vine, etc.  Most chapters begin with several scripture passages to read and reflect upon, yet the entire book is saturated with scripture verses from the Old and New Testaments.

While individuals will benefit from a personal read and study, this book would be worthwhile to also implement as additional study materials for small group and/or family Bible studies.  Jesus in the Present Tense is recommended reading for anyone interested in learning more about living their Christian faith fully in the present tense.

Note: I received this book from B and B Media, which is a program designed for bloggers to write book reviews in exchange for books, yet the opinions expressed in this review are my own.

February 10, 2016

Book Review: Voices of the Faithful

Voices of the Faithful: Inspiring Stories of Courage from Christians Serving Around the World, by Beth Moore and Friends Who Put Their Lives on the Line for God (compiled by Kim P. Davis) is a daily devotional book.

In the book’s primary introduction, on page XVII and XVIII, Beth Moore summarizes the main focus of this daily devotional, by writing, “While I was humbled to write the introductions to each month’s devotions, each of the daily entries has been written by a different missionary serving on the international field.  By the time you finish the book, you will have traveled the entire world with them….  Whether we’re called to pray, to give, to go on short-term mission trips or two-year mission stints, or to surrender entirely to career missions, we’re all called to the nations.  For God so loved the world.”

In addition to the book’s primary introduction, each month has an inspiring introduction (about two to three pages) written by Beth Moore.  Each month focuses on a main topic, including God’s Character, God’s Word, Prayer, God’s Grace, Witnessing, Persecution, God Working, Contentment, God Before Me, Spiritual Warfare, Compassion, Christmas Around the World.

There are one-page devotionals for every day of the year (including February 29, for leap year).  These daily devotionals contain the date, devotional title, scripture verse (typically one or two verses), the devotional story, and short prayer relating to the story and scripture verse for the day.  These devotional stories are written by missionaries serving the Lord around the world.  The devotionals provide a small glimpse into the missionaries’ lives and how the Lord is working through them and the people in their communities.

Voices of the Faithful is easy to implement into life with simple, yet encouraging and challenging one-page daily devotionals.   This book is ideal for men and women of all ages and nationalities.  While those who are highly interested in missions might lean more towards this daily devotional, everyone would benefit from reading through this book.  It’s a small glimpse into the life of over 300 missionaries from around the world.

Note: I received this book from Book Sneeze, which is a program designed for bloggers to write book reviews in exchange for books, yet the opinions expressed in this review are my own.

February 8, 2016

Book Review: Love Food and Live Well

Love Food and Live Well: Lose Weight, Get Fit, and Taste Life at Its Very Best, by Chantel Hobbs is an inspiring and realistically helpful book to enjoy a healthier way of life.  Hobbs shares her personal story of how she revised her life to lose two hundred pounds…and continues to keep the weight off.

In the introduction, on page seven, Hobbs writes, “If you think losing two hundred pounds is hard, try losing that much weight and then learning how to enjoy life again.  It’s not as easy as it might sound.  But I learned that living well while loving food is entirely possible.”

This book includes tips relating to a healthy life, such as understanding calories, discovering your body type, meal planning and recipes, exercises and training, etc.  Within sixteen chapters, there are five main sections: 1) Choose a Deal That Really Delivers; 2) Start Your New Life Today; 3) When It Comes to Food, Here Is the What and When; 4) Getting Strong—Inside and Out; 5) Living Well for the Rest of Your Life.

With faith-based undertones, Love Food and Live Well is honest, encouraging, and extremely readable, since it’s written as if the author is chatting a close friend.  It is perfect for women (or even men) who simply want to focus on a healthier way of life, by loving food and living well.

Note: I received this book from B and B Media, which is a program designed for bloggers to write book reviews in exchange for books, yet the opinions expressed in this review are my own.

February 4, 2016

Book Review: It’s Your Call

It’s Your Call: What Are You Doing Here, by Gary Barkalow “is not your typical how-to, tips-and-techniques book.”  According to the preface, on pages 15 and 16, “This book is not about what you can do, but about who you are.  This is not about what you are good at, but what the good is that God has created in you.  This is not about finding a job, but finding your life.  This book is not about finding a solution to the situation you are in, but about deciphering your life as it unfolds in and around that situation.”

By providing personal anecdotes mixed with scripture verses and various quotes, Barkalow shares interesting excerpts from his life, including his successes and mistakes throughout the years, as he searched to uncover his call in life.

According to the author’s bio, included on the back cover, Barkalow is the director and founder of The Noble Heart, “a ministry that helps men and women find their lives in God and their calling in this world.”  Throughout the book, it is evident that the author is passionate about helping others determine how to discover God’s calling for their lives and proceed to live that calling fully.

It’s Your Call seems to be written more for older adults, particularly those who are unsure about their place in life and who are willing to discover more.  However, it would be a great gift for recent high school or college graduates.  This book provides a feasible challenge for readers (of any age) to implement in their lives.

Note: I received this book from B and B Media, which is a program designed for bloggers to write book reviews in exchange for books, yet the opinions expressed in this review are my own.

February 2, 2016

Book Review: It’s No Secret

It’s No Secret: Revealing Divine Truths Every Woman Should Know, by Rachel Olsen is an encouraging Bible study book.  The author shares personal stories from her life, intermixed with Bible scriptures and stories…with every chapter revealing various secrets, such as responding to God, cost of following Christ, humility, living generously, etc.  On page 22, Olsen said, “In the pages of this book, you and I will find a dozen hidden treasures of wisdom Christ longs to reveal to us.”

In a methodical manner, this intriguing book challenges readers to deepen their relationship with Jesus Christ.  According to page 22, “The secrets contained in the pages of this book are nothing new or hidden at all.  They’ve all been wrapped up within the Word of God and the person of Christ for thousands of years, readily available through the ages.”

It’s No Secret is ideal for a ladies small group Bible study or a personal Bible study.  It is geared toward women of all ages, particularly older generations.  Plus, the Bible study questions are conveniently located at the end of every chapter.  Ladies, prepare to focus on discovering (or re-discovering) divine truths for your life.

Note: I received this book from B and B Media, which is a program designed for bloggers to write book reviews in exchange for books, yet the opinions expressed in this review are my own.