99 Stories from the Bible


I’ve been on this kick recently of reading and reviewing children’s books, book I got in an effort to find resources to support me in guiding their spiritual development and growing their faith.  Some have been good, and some have been not-so-good; unfortunately, this book falls in the latter category.

The difficulty with reading books that take Biblical stories and water them down to levels kids can understand is that it’s hard to reduce the word of God at all – how do you take the fall and reduce it to just a couple of sentences without loose the truths contained in it?  Not to mention the story of the crucifixion and resurrection.  And that’s the problem with 99 Stories from the Bible – in trying to reduce the stories into “readable” versions for little kids, the truth is water-ed down (at best) or completely omitted (at worst).

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If you’re looking for a devotional to do with your kids, this book isn’t it – I would still recommend Sally Lloyd-Jones The Jesus Storybook Bible instead.  Overall I’ll give this book 1/5 stars; for the record, I did receive a complementary copy of the book from the publisher in exchange for an honest (though not necessarily favorable) review.

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My Princess Devotions Preschool Edition


Having two girls (currently 6 and 4), I am always looking for good books that I can use with them to build scriptural knowledge and invest in their faith development, so when I was given the opportunity to review the One Year My Princess Devotions Preschool Edition I was excited to have another tool in my tool box.  Unfortunately, the book didn’t live up to my (or my daughter’s) expectations.

Divided into 365 daily readings, the book selects a single verse, assigns, it a topic, then presents what it calls “Princess Thoughts”, a prayer, and a conclusion referred to as “Princess in Action.”  Overall, though, the thoughts, prayer, and action sections are short and shallow – even for pre-schoolers, each section ranging in length from just a single sentence to perhaps as many as four sentences.  But there is no context given for the verse, and little effort is made to tell the story of scripture.  If you’re looking for a devotional to use with your kids, this leaves much to be desired.  While it may supplement other training you do, I certainly can not recommend it to stand on its own.  I’ll keep it on my shelf and use it more for topical issues as they arise, but other than that it’s not something I will regularly pull down to use and, more tellingly, it’s not something my girls run to and get when it’s time for devotions.

978-1-4143-6905-1Overall, I’ll give this book a 2/5 stars.  For the record, I did receive a complementary copy of the book from the publisher in exchange for an honest, though not necessarily favorable, review.

Pray the Scriptures


Pray the Scriptures is listed as “40 day prayer experience” in which you study passages of scripture (by theme) and practice praying those scriptures.  It includes a daily reading as well as some pointed questions for the reader to meditate on and respond to every day.  At first I was a little nervous about the whole process, but I quickly came to look forward to my daily reading of the book.

One thing I particularly appreciated is that completing the book in order wasn’t necessary – since it is part-workbook and part-devotional, I was allowed to jump around and focus on the theme/topic that to me on that particular day was “where I was at,” so to speak.  Each chapter contains a scripture reference that you will read (typically a longer paragraph or even several paragraphs rather than a short 1-2 verse excerpt), followed by some questions to get your mind thinking and your heart meditating, and each question is actually a prayer “prompt” to get you started.  I found it a great exercise to do, and it brought a freshness to my prayers that had been missing for quite some time as well as taught me a method of praying I had not practiced much leading up to reading this book – but one I have continued after finishing it.

If you’re looking for a book to help renew your passion for prayer and your relationship with the Father, or even if you just want something to give you a new method for praying, I would strongly recommend this book.  Overall, I’ll give it 4/5 stars.

211030_w185For the record, I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest (though not necessarily favorable) review.

40 Days of Grace


Where the previous devotional I read fell flat on it’s face, 40 Days of Grace blew me out of the water.  Here was a book that every time I opened it I was brought face to face with my risen savior and my own unworthiness as a man, reminding and refocusing me on the grace of God found in Christ.  I found the book challenging, inspiring, convicting, and encouraging all at once.

The daily readings averaged probably 4-5 pages each, comprising of some teaching (sometimes in the form of a story), scripture, a question to meditate on, and a daily prayer.  My wife and I have been going through the book together and it has sparked many conversations every morning – conversations that often times we need to end not because we run out of something to say but because I’ve got work to get to!  The message of the book focuses us squarely on God and his grace, leading us to respond to Him in worship and submission.  And isn’t that what a good book should do?  Show us Jesus and allow us to respond?  If you are looking for a devotional that will challenge and inspire, this is the one.  I give this book an enthusiastic 5/5 stars.

9780857214430For the record, I received a free ecopy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest (though not necessarily favorable) review.

Limitless


Limitless was actually a title that I had tried multiple times to get my hands on for a review copy, so when I finally did I was ecstatic.  I had heard much about Nick Vujicic, the man born without arms or legs who has been used by God to reach literally thousands of people; I had heard about his strong testimony, his incredible faith, and his ability to inspire and encourage people, so when the devotional came I told my wife about it and we set out reading it together.

But I’m not sure I could have been more disappointed in the book.  Some people may say that my expectations were too high, but it wasn’t my expectations for the book in general that weren’t met but rather my expectations for his theology that disappointed me.  Throughout the devotional we kept reading about what Nick had done – not what Jesus had done.  Granted, he referenced God, and every chapter started with a Bible verse.  But that was it.  After every day’s reading my wife and I would look at each other and say, “Really?  That’s it?”

Nick’s basic message (that we heard) seemed to be, “If you believe hard enough in your self then you can do anything.”  Not once did we ever get the message, “I can do all things through Christ, who strengthens me.”  Rather, we heard, “I can do all things.”  We weren’t directed towards trusting more in God, or even the prosperity-gospel message of “Just have more faith and it will be okay.”  No, we were just told to believe in ourselves, have more confidence in our ability, and everything will work out just fine.  It was, in short, a watered-down message of self-help and positive thoughts void of any real reference to a risen savior.

And I guess that’s why I was so disappointed.  I haven’t read his other books, nor have I heard him speak, but I’d like to give Nick the benefit of the doubt here and say that we just misunderstood him.  Unfortunately, in a review I don’t have that freedom.  There are books that after I read I put on my shelf to keep, there are others I share with friends because they are that powerful, there are those I donate to church libraries because even though I may not want to keep them they are worth passing on, and then there are those books that, honestly, after I read them go straight in the garbage because I refuse to keep them and I refuse to pass them on.  This book falls into that last category – I can not in good faith recommend it to anyone who wants to draw nearer to Jesus.  So, I’ll give it 1/5 stars, mainly for bad theology.

For the record, I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in return for an honest (though not necessarily favorable) review.

Deeply Loved


Over the past month I’ve done I’ve done four posts reflecting on Keri Wyatt Kent’s book Deeply Loved; this post marks my final post on the book and my review of it.

Deeply Loved Cover

The book is described on the back by saying “Jesus Loves You.  That profound fact has been changing lives around the world for centuries.  Yet, there are days when you don’t experience this completely in your own life.  So how do you get to the very core of that statement on a deep personal level?…Using the gospel stories of Jesus, reflection, and personal stories, Kent will guide you through forty days of how to create space in your life for Jesus to show up and love you.  Deeply.”  Over the course of 40 days she then guides you through 40 different disciplines meant to draw you closer to Jesus, or, perhaps more accurately, allow you to open up so he can draw you closer to himself.  Either way you look at it, I have to say that having gone through the book I can testify that the disciplines Keri shares did help me re-focus my thoughts, attitudes, and even actions on Jesus.

Though I read the book over Lent (which happens to be 40 days), and I did so with others from around the country as part of a blog tour, I can also reassure you that it would be appropriate to read any time during the year.  Each entry is only 4-5 pages long, meaning you can read it in just a few minutes a day.  But as you close the book each day you’re left with profound thoughts and reflections you’ll spend days meditating on (literally!).  This truly is one of the few books I’ve read that I will go back and re-read multiple times simply because it’s had an impact on my life that can’t be easily put into words; it’s by far the best devotional book I’ve read in a long time.

I’ll give this book 5/5 stars, meaning you need to add it to your “must read” list, especially if you want to read a book to draw closer to Him.