Tag Archives: suffering

Book Review: Sure Mercies: Hope for the Suffering

Sure Mercies

40 stories. 40 witnesses for the work of God through Christ. Sure Mercies: Hope for the Suffering highlights figures from the pages of history as well as present-day martyrs. Why is this an important book? When you’re hurting, it is a lonely place to be. Suffering feels isolated. The testimonies of others who suffered help us to see we’re not alone. They were victorious through God’s strength and we can be, too.

I started in the back with the Study Guide, and immediately liked Megan Vance’s style of writing. Her voice is easy on the ear, yet polished and carries depth of character. She describes Sure Mercies from the viewpoint of a hurting girl who connected with the cries of a hurting boy in the book of Psalms. She says David didn’t just memorize the Scriptures as a religious exercise, “he believed what they told him about Jehovah.”

And so this work continues to unfold accounts of those who believed God at His word, and stood for Him in unthinkable circumstances. William Borden gave up his family wealth to pursue missions among the Muslims of China. He died of meningitis. Corrie ten Boom came from Dutch descent and suffered in the Ravensbruck Concentration Camp. Richard Wurmbrand spent years in solitary confinement in Communist prisons. Nate Saint and his friends were murdered deep in the jungle of Ecuador by Auca Indians. Yet, in all of these lives, and more, they resolved to follow Christ knowing a life spared would not be worth a witness sacrificed.

Sure Mercies is a compilation of short stories that are tall on inspiration. They tell the back story of those who are part of “God’s chain of grace” extended across time. And they bring hope! Ever wonder if you would be resolute under trial? Megan prays, “Lord, we need not fear our own inadequacy, but only behold Your Son and His finished work. Thank You that He works as we merely yield our lives to Him.”

The Meditation Prayers lead us to remember our future is not our own. The faithful testimony of those within these pages will encourage us to remain steadfast in difficult times. And, as she remarks about Gracie Parker Rosenberger, “Watching Gracie, it’s easier to believe impossibilities can create abundant possibilities.”

Bravo to Megan Vance on a thoroughly researched, well recorded progression of God’s Message over the ages. It is a timely dose of encouragement for us all!

Sally

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Bible Study Review: Grin with Grace

Grin with Grace

When suffering hits, the last thing I want to do is grin; rejoice; be content. But Kathy Carlton Willis contends we not only will do those things, but we will thank the Lord for the trials that grow us. Her book, Grin With Grace is a call to return to the Source of life, the One who can use all things for His good purposes.

Kathy is well versed in the suffering department. From health issues to the nitty gritty of living life, she knows the need for a dose of joy. Her goal is to help all of us who feel so far from the goal. Is it a lofty goal? I don’t think so, because the pursuit of wisdom brings us closer to the One who gives it freely to those who ask. And that’s a good place to be.

Grin With Grace is sectioned off into humorous real-life stories, Bible study, life-application steps, turning faith into ministry and challenging scenarios to consider. The sections invite journaling and that reflection invites action. Never does she leave us to sit on our discoveries, but pushes us to share them with others. Our women’s group found the conversation starters helpful and the personal approach to faith, endearing. We used the material as a springboard toward more transparency in our faith and encouragement of each other. The last chapter, especially, created an opportunity to voice our support through benediction, or blessing.

One of the ways Kathy teaches us about the dependability of Grace, is to cause us to look at the effects of our promises. Do we say what we mean, and mean what we say? She calls us to a higher accountability as we mirror the character of God. And such is the tough love found throughout the book; spoken with compassion, yet straight and to the point. She reminds us to seek the One who is enough, so that we won’t try to be sufficient in our own resources. And that is the power in Grin With Grace; truth cushioned with kindness and love.

Make time for this study on grace. It will open your worldview to the characteristics of a grace-filled life, and equip you to look for the touches of God in grace-filled moments!

Sally

Check out the Bible Study Expo, for an interview with Kathy Carlton Willis!

 

 


Book Review: Squeezing Good Out of Bad

Squeezing Good out of Bad

Ever have a sour day? James N. Watkins wrote the book on it! With his characteristic pun-filled humor, Jim Watkins has somehow managed to put a lemony twist on the serious side of life and called it, Squeezing Good Out of Bad.

Jim is an author and speaker, with over 2,000 articles published. His editorial work and lecturing have opened many doors, but his biggest qualifier for writing this book? “He’s felt the squeeze of cancer, unemployment, family crises, and chronic nose hair.”

The book promises to squeeze good out of those life-puckering problems and delivers with seasoned advice, the benefits of laughter and great perspective (“Is this truly a hand grenade or is it more in the category of a hangnail?”). I love the reminders (“We don’t need to take responsibility for the things that we had no control over.”) and action steps for working through topics of forgiveness, suffering and learning to let God have complete control.

“Squeezing Good Out of Bad” is an important addition to my library, because Jim has added so many seeds of truth. It is a reference book on those days when nothing is going right, and provides insight into the issue of pain. He says Romans 8:28-29 offers a clue: the Lord works all things for good, so that Jesus may be revealed in us.

Make time for this book and receive a dose of inspiration. It includes quotes from Flannery O’Connor, G.K. Chesterton, Cecil Murphy, Henri Nouwen, Philip Yancey, Brother Lawrence, Saint John of the Cross, Watchman Nee, Brennan Manning, and many more. It highlights the servanthood of Francine Rivers and recommends works of other authors. It is not some fluff piece of work, but one with depth and courage.

Need a recipe for those lemons? You’ve come to the right place!

Sally


Book Review: Possible by Stephan Bauman

Possible
Does poverty, injustice and world suffering bother you? Get ready to be bothered more. Stephan Bauman has written, Possible: A Blueprint for Changing How We Change the World, with a look at the worst our generation has been offered. But Bauman also offers hope, by presenting a blueprint that will ignite a new approach to problem solving.

Bauman is the president and CEO of World Relief, who has lived with feet on the ground in developing countries struggling to fight AIDS, trafficking and factions. He says, “We owe it to subsequent generations to honestly ask ourselves if we are responsibly stewarding our moment in history.”

But what does it mean, to steward our moment? Bauman says we need to step up to use our skills and abilities to find solutions to the problems that plague our world today. He provides tools for groups to access what their unique contribution can be and invites all to lives of radical obedience marked by sacrificial love. He says the invitation of Jesus to be vulnerable is one way of accepting glorious grace into our lives.

Bauman says reformation begins with a complaint. When we care enough to get upset, then it can turn into prayer. Prayer galvanizes courage. Courage fosters commitment. And commitment becomes the foundation for action.

Bauman sends the clarion call to abandon narcissism, self-absorption and insecurity in order to take up a higher calling to pursue a relationship with God instead of addiction to ministry. Indeed, Bauman says our world’s problems are all relational. People will change when they experience a love that collides with their belief systems.

Possible is a compelling book. It awakens the call to more, by asking hard questions about character and motive. I believe this generation is ready for change, and this book helps us to see that change is Possible!

Sally

Disclaimer: I received this book from the Blogging for Books program in exchange for this review.
 

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Book Review: The Stress Cure: Praying Your Way to Personal Peace

Stress Cure

Do you think The Stress Cure: Praying Your Way to Personal Peace might be an unrealistic premise? Anytime you use a hook and promise a “cure,” you set the bar high. Can Shepherd deliver?

Linda Evans Shepherd “is the author of over thirty books, including How to Pray through Hard Times (which won the 2012 Selah Christian Life Award), Experiencing God’s Presence, When You Don’t Know What to Pray, and When You Need a Miracle (which won the 2013 Selah Christian Life Award).” But her qualifications are born in the school of suffering, where she struggled with the questions of life’s fairness in her eighteen-month-old daughter’s injurious car accident.

There are gems sprinkled throughout the book:

“Building a bridge to peace involves gaining a better understanding of God and the tools he’s given us, which include prayer and God’s Word.” (p. 15)

“Having (God’s) Spirit inside us doesn’t necessarily mean we know how to yield to him. And this yielding could very well be the key to experiencing less stress in our lives.” (p. 31)

“If everything always went our way, how would we ever discover that God can flip our difficulties into good…?” (p. 38)

“The best way to develop a grateful heart is to learn how to walk in step with God.” (p. 66)

“Jesus changes our hearts from a slum to a palace fit for his presence.” (p. 94)

“If you are caught up in situations beyond your control, the solution is not figuring out how God can save you; it’s trusting that he will.” (p. 97)

“When our negative attitude comes because we don’t like where we are or what we have, we need to do a ‘will’ check: God’s will versus our will.” (p. 137)

Shepherd is a gifted storyteller, weaving details of Scripture in narrative form in order to clearly illustrate God’s truths. She’s so good at the craft, in the middle of a story, she turns the point back home to point out personal application. So much so, that you don’t see it coming!

But the biggest “ah ha” for me, came in the stories of her own battles surrounding her infant daughter’s car accident, coma and resulting disabilities. Shepherd clearly understands the need for stress relief in its many forms, and her narrative is a reminder of the power of story to connect a reader to the greater truths of God’s love, care and compassion.

This is an important book, because Shepherd brings hope. She reminds each one that “God is with you. He’s at work in your circumstances now.” (p. 77)

Is there anyone who does not experience stress in some form today? This book is a must-read for all. It provides space to stop reading in order to write out a personal application, as well as modeling steps of prayer to process the change needed. It provides fresh insight into troublesome stories in the Bible and reminds us of our calling to love and be loved.

Could Shepherd deliver on her promise to bring a stress cure? Yes, she did! The illustrations, Scripture passages and written-out prayers all served as a stress reliever, ushering in the peace of Christ!

Sally

Disclaimer: I received this book as a contest giveaway in The Book Club Network, Inc.


Book Review: Bethlehem Road

Beth

Bethlehem Road is a journey through the book of Ruth and looks at the cultural nuances disrupted when a Moabite joins lives with an Israelite.

Michael Whitworth is a preacher and also the author of The Epic of God and The Derision of Heaven. He regularly blogs at Start2Finish.

The book promises to comfort others who have walked the road of suffering and to strengthen faith in the providence of God. While that was a tall order, it fulfilled the task by showing how God’s hand worked with the initiative of His people to bring events around for their good and His glory.

An interesting theory was raised in the idea that Ruth parallels the Proverbs 31 woman. I find that thought exciting, because I can relate to Ruth more than the other gal. But, if written about David’s great grandmother, then the book of Ruth would be a likely target for the woman exalted in Solomon’s annuls.

Although most people don’t pick up a commentary for their reading pleasure, Bethlehem Road reads more like a conversation and shows the relevancy to current events. It brings hope to a world in bleak circumstances.

One of the things that gave me pause was the assertion that Ruth’s actions were more memorable than Abraham’s leap of faith, because she didn’t receive a call from God like Abraham did. Abraham followed God because of his relationship with God. Ruth followed God because of her relationship with Naomi, and that is a beautiful reminder of the responsibility we all have to lead others to the Lord, as we are in relationship with them.

I also appreciated the affirmation that we all need someone who will be faithful to us when we go through the storms of life. The explanation of the word hesed, or God’s blessing, is one of loyalty and faithfulness, and especially in reference to caring for one who is unable to do so on their own. It is an act of imitation, in the highest form, as one imitates the kindnesses of God.

This book is an interesting read; it draws the reader into the story of a woman who took a chance in the middle of her own heartache, and found a greater blessing through serving others.

The author compares the loss of his own father to the loss Naomi, Orpah and Ruth suffered. Indeed, “death comes knocking, leaving behind in its awful wake three graves and three widows unable to pick up the pieces of their shattered lives because some of the pieces are now missing.” (p. 26) But, the author also concludes that God comes alongside us when we suffer. God uses others to comfort us when we face shattered dreams, and His silence does not equate to His absence.

The author makes use of a vast Bibliography to substantiate his views, and the result is a well-rounded research into the hidden work of God in the daily events of our lives.

I especially appreciate the reminder that God can and will use us in the mundane as well as the spectacular. Our calling is to obey and, in the natural course of living, to act with integrity.

Every once in a while, there comes along a book that is a pleasure to recommend, and this is one of those books. It provides detail with heart, and draws the reader to understand that

Sally

Disclosure of Material: I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher through the BookCrash.com book review program, which requires an honest, though not necessarily positive, review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s CFR Title 16, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”