Review | Grace is Greater

Grace Is Greater: God’s Plan to Overcome Your Past, Redeem Your Pain, and Rewrite Your Story

by Kyle Idleman

Summary (from Goodreads)

The writer of the letter to the Hebrews said, “See to it that no one misses the grace of God.” Over the centuries much ink has been spilled on the subject of grace. Yet perhaps nothing is as hard to explain as God’s grace. It doesn’t make sense. It’s not fair. It can’t possibly cover over what I’ve done. The best way–perhaps the only real way–to understand it is to experience it. But too often in our churches we’re not getting grace across and grace is not experienced.

Bestselling author and pastor Kyle Idleman wants everyone to experience the grace of God. Through the powerful medium of story, Grace Is Greater leads readers past their hang-ups toward an understanding of grace that is bigger than our mistakes, our failures, our desire for revenge, and our seemingly impossible situations. No sin is so great, no bitterness so deep that God’s grace cannot transform the heart and rewrite the story.

Review | 4 stars

Short read with real, relatable stories and good scriptural references. A great reminder of the grace given to us and HOW we can pass that to others. Well-written and practical.

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Review | Make it Happen

Make it Happen: Surrender Your Fear. Take the Leap. Live On Purpose.

by Lara Casey

Summary (from Goodreads)

You were created for a purpose, and it’s time to make it happen.

Make It Happen is the story of how I surrendered my fear, took the leap, and got a life. In my case, a perfectly imperfect, fulfilling life as a mama, a working woman, and a grateful wife. This is the story of how I chose to make “it”—a greater purpose than mine—happen, and how you can too.

Make It Happen is for

  • women who find themselves worried, anxious, and completely overwhelmed by the constant chase for perfection
  • those seeking the courage to jump into a new venture
  • working women who are struggling to “do it all”
  • weary wives and moms looking for relief from burning the candle at both ends
  • anyone who dreams of a life lived not by accident, but on purpose

Your time has come to take a leap of faith. Join me as we surrender our fears, end the chase for perfection, and say yes to cultivating the meaningful lives God desires for us.

You know all those things you’ve always wanted to do? You should go do them.

Review | 4 stars

As a person who has not read anything by Lara Casey before, I appreciated the marriage of testimony and practical advice derived from her experiences contained in this book. Lara’s writing is relatable for women in any stage in their lives. The format made sense and was easy to navigate. I also like the writing prompts throughout.

Review | Bittersweet

Bittersweet: Thoughts on Change, Grace, and Learning the Hard Way

by Shauna Niequist

Summary (from Goodreads)

“The idea of bittersweet is changing the way I live, unraveling and re-weaving the way I understand life. Bittersweet is the idea that in all things there is both something broken and something beautiful, that there is a moment of lightness on even the darkest of nights, a shadow of hope in every heartbreak, and that rejoicing is no less rich even when it contains a splinter of sadness. It’s the practice of believing that we really do need both the bitter and the sweet, and that a life of nothing but sweetness rots both your teeth and your soul. Bitter is what makes us strong, what forces us to push through, what helps us earn the lines on our faces and the calluses on our hands. Sweet is nice enough, but bittersweet is beautiful, nuanced, full of depth and complexity. Bittersweet is courageous, gutsy, audacious, earthy. This is what I’ve come to believe about change: it’s good, in the way that childbirth is good, and heartbreak is good, and failure is good. By that I mean that it’s incredibly painful, exponentially more so if you fight it, and also that it has the potential to open you up, to open life up, to deliver you right into the palm of God’s hand, which is where you wanted to be all long, except that you were too busy pushing and pulling your life into exactly what you thought it should be. I’ve learned the hard way that change is one of God’s greatest gifts, and most useful tools. Change can push us, pull us, rebuke and remake us. It can show us who we’ve become, in the worst ways, and also in the best ways. I’ve learned that it’s not something to run away from, as though we could, and that in many cases, change is a function of God’s graciousness, not life’s cruelty.”

Niequist, a keen observer of life with a lyrical voice, writes with the characteristic warmth and honesty of a dear friend: always engaging, sometimes challenging, but always with a kind heart. You will find Bittersweet savory reading, indeed. “This is the work I’m doing now, and the work I invite you into: when life is sweet, say thank you, and celebrate. And when life is bitter, say thank you, and grow.”

Review | 3 stars

As much as I want to say that this book changed my life, it didn’t. It was an insightful yet easy read that was relatable, even though I had not experienced the exact situations and types of loss and change Niequist described. The chapter/essay that struck home for me was entitled “twenty-five”; my favorite line of the book resides in those pages. We must learn to “[walk] away from the good-enough, in search of the can’t-live-without.” This resonated with me unlike the other quotable moments in the book. There’s beauty to each essay, most definitely. I would not say that these significantly altered any perspective that I currently have, however. 3 stars for a nice read and a few great sound-bites.

Review | Knowing God

Knowing God

by J.I. Packer

Summary (from Goodreads)

For over 40 years, J. I. Packer’s classic has been an important tool to help Christians around the world discover the wonder, the glory and the joy of knowing God. In 2006, Christianity Today voted this title one of the top 50 books that have shaped evangelicals. This edition is updated with Americanized language and spelling and a new preface by the author.

Stemming from Packer’s profound theological knowledge, Knowing God brings together two important facets of the Christian faith:

  1. Knowing about God and
  2. Knowing God through the context of a close relationship with the person of Jesus Christ.

Written in an engaging and practical tone, this thought-provoking work seeks to transform and enrich the Christian understanding of God. Explaining both who God is and how we can relate to him, Packer divides his book into three sections: The first directs our attention to how and why we know God, the second to the attributes of God and the third to the benefits enjoyed by a those who know him intimately. This guide leads readers into a greater understanding of God while providing advice to gaining a closer relationship with him as a result.

Review | 4 stars

Though a bit boring at times, J.I. Packer’s Knowing God is a great look into who the God of both the Old Testament and New Testament is, how he is the same then and now and forever, and how Jesus makes knowing him possible. One of my biggest takeaways is that knowing about God does not equate to knowing him.

Highlights: Emphasizing the importance of the Bible, Packer keeps God’s attributes and character in context by providing scriptural references. He doesn’t shy away from discussing the Holy Spirit! I appreciate that Packer frequently reminds us that God fully and intimately knew us before we knew him, and that we have the opportunity reciprocate this knowing, this love. Packer hits hard on the concepts of propitiation, atonement, and grace – all vital aspects of the Christian faith. He consistently focuses on building relationship with God – not checking off boxes on the “good” list, but truly living out faith. God is more than enough for us!

Review | 101 Questions You Need to Ask in Your Twenties

101 Questions You Need to Ask in Your Twenties: (And Let’s Be Honest, Your Thirties Too)

by Paul Angone

Summary (from Goodreads)

Adulting got you down?

Whether you just polished off your college graduation cake, are in your twenties or thirties struggling through a quarter-life crisis, you’re simply trying to figure out how to become all grown up, or you’re a parent looking for that perfect college graduation gift or Christmas gift for your twentysomething, 101 Questions You Need to Ask in Your Twenties is the book for you.

To find important life answers in your 20s, you need to start with good questions. Author, speaker, and blogger Paul Angone has dedicated the last 12 years to helping twentysomethings and in this book he culminates his work to give readers wisdom through major life questions like:

  • What’s the best way to know if you’re actually ready to get married?
  • Where’s the future of work headed and what does having a successful career look like today?
  • How do I make a choice when I don’t know what to choose?
  • How do I stop networking and start “relationshipping”?
  • Why do some people have great marriages while others have complete wrecks before they even make it to the highway?
  • Am I seeing the other side of people’s Instagram photos (you know, the side they’re not exactly posting pictures of)?
  • What are the Pivotal Plot Points of my story?
  • Do I have anyone on my “Dream Team”?

After his success with 101 Secrets for your Twenties and connecting with millions of twentysomethings around the world through speaking engagements and his blog AllGroanUp.com, Paul Angone captures the hilarious, freakishly-accurate assessment of life as a modern-day twentysomething (and thirtysomething) facing real Millennial problems, but now he’s digging even deeper.

If you’re drowning your anxieties in Netflix and ice cream, are afraid you’re failing, going crazy, or both, or are just longing for a little guidance to get past “just getting by,” grab this book and start thriving in the most “defining decade” of your life.

Review | 3 stars

While I like that this asks good questions, I can’t say I haven’t heard them before. A good starting point for someone who needs to take a life inventory.

Note: I just looked through the questions I wrote down while listening and didn’t feel compelled to write any of them here. So, while helpful, this book isn’t anything out of the ordinary. 3 stars.

Review | Why Her?

Why Her?: 6 Truths We Need to Hear When Measuring Up Leaves Us Falling Behind

by Nicki Koziarz

Summary (from Goodreads)

If success is defined in the eye of the beholder, who are you letting behold your success? Nicki Koziarz is confronting the comparison question: Why her? 

Through two striving sisters in the Bible, Nicki uncovered six truths’ we need to hear when trying to measure up leaves you falling behind. These six truths will help you:

  • Stop staring at her success and find satisfaction in yours.
  • Find contentment with your life without being complacent in who you are becoming.
  • Gain godly wisdom to answer the Why Her silent question of your soul.

Someone will always be ahead. But that doesn’t mean you’re behind. Because Truth, like always, will set us free. And free women don’t have to measure up to anybody. Not even her.

Review | 4 stars

I appreciate that Nicki not only shares her life path but brings an Old Testament story to life! Nicki doesn’t take sides in describing what Rachel and Leah go through, instead showing that comparison by any person for any reason is detrimental not only to the relationship, but to living a God-filled life. We cannot manipulate God into blessing us, and life honestly isn’t fair. I needed to hear that from this book. We aren’t always going to be able to explain how goodness flows into some lives for some seasons and in other times we see hurting or lack. But we can rely on God, knowing he loves and holds us.

Nicki’s writing style keeps me coming back for more. She keeps it simple, providing a clear structure to her books and hitting the main points home throughout so you don’t forget what the next point is built on. This helps her maintain consistency and avoid conflicts. It may be a sign of my age, but I love this list-style book, and the fact that she narrates herself!

Review | Erasing Hell

Erasing Hell: What God Said about Eternity, and the Things We’ve Made Up

by Francis Chan

Summary (from Goodreads)

How could a loving God send people to hell? Will people have a chance after they die to believe in Jesus and go to heaven?

With a humble respect for God’s Word, Francis Chan and Preston Sprinkle address the deepest questions you have about eternal destiny. They’ve asked the same questions. Like you, sometimes they just don’t want to believe in hell. But as they write, “We cannot afford to be wrong on this issue.”

This is not a book about who is saying what. It’s a book about what God says. It’s not a book about impersonal theological issues. It’s a book about people who God loves. It’s not a book about arguments, doctrine, or being right. It’s a book about the character of God.

Erasing Hell will immerse you in the truth of Scripture as, together with the authors, you find not only the truth but the courage to live it out.

Review | 3.5 stars

Chan admittedly doesn’t do a stellar job of defining why universalism is incorrect, and a lot of the text seems to just stand as an argument against Love Wins by Bell, instead of making an independent commentary on the Bible and its contents regarding hell. However, the last three chapters which discuss actions Christians can take to show the love of the Gospel is what I needed to hear in this short book. Not taking the actions God commands is just as sinful as disobeying his commandments because the first and foremost goals we have are to love God and his people, and share the good news. If we don’t do that by undercutting others or not helping people in need, we are neglecting our calling and that puts us in a place of lukewarmness. I’ll have to reread to reassess the first few chapters, but overall this is an informative look at the existence of hell and who may be sent there at the end of life.