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Food Triggers–a Godly approach to healthy eating
by Amber Lia
Amber Lia writes Food Triggers from the perspective of a certified health coach and a Christian. She began her journey to develop healthy eating habits when she was sixty pounds overweight. She views the journey to health as both a physical and a spiritual battle. She began her personal changes with a “medically designed plan” in consultation with a health coach for accountability. She combined that with examining her food triggers one at a time. This book does not tell you what to eat although she clearly avoids sugars and excessive carbs. She intends her book to be read one chapter per day for 31 days. Each chapter addresses a specific motivation or food trigger, some external and some internal.
Lia backs up the information with research and with Scriptures. She encourages the reader to “exchange unhealthy patterns for God-honoring habits.” Some of her chapters resonated with me and others did not apply. She addresses how others can try to sabotage your healthy eating plan and the temptations that may arise when you are in community settings that involve food. There are many difficult areas she addresses including travel, portion control, and boredom. Food Triggers is not a diet plan, but is another tool with insights and practical tips that those struggling with weight loss and/or healthy eating can add to their toolbox.
I received a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.
Category: Nonfiction, Christian
Notes: Although I am in support of portion control, I did not agree with the author’s emphasis on following the serving sizes indicated on packaging. I have always viewed those as the food industry’s efforts to simplify the nutritional labeling. The FDA, however, says that the goal for their newly revised labels is to “bring serving sizes closer to what people actually eat so that when they look at calories and nutrients on the label, these numbers more closely match what they are consuming.” In other words, the serving size is not what people should eat, but what the “average” person consumes. These revised figures have gone up for ice cream, but decreased for yogurt. The government in this case is not leading consumers to healthier eating. You know the old saying, “just because he jumps off a cliff, doesn’t mean you should too.” A good example of that is the marketing of soda in huge cups. Along with that we have a huge increase in obesity and diabetes.
Publication: January 4, 2022—Bethany House (Baker Publishing)
In many ways, our culture has brainwashed us with massive portions and helpings that are, well, NOT helping.
Your health journey will present you with hard choices, and it won’t just be saying no to onion rings—but saying no to people or jobs or places that are not moving you toward God’s best for us.
[part of a prayer from the chapter on holidays] Transform my thinking so that I learn to focus on the people and meaningfulness behind times of celebration, instead of all the things to put in my mouth.
The First Christmas–Eastern philosophical take on the Nativity story
The First Christmas
by Stephen Mitchell
While I am not a theological scholar, I have been a Christian for over sixty years. Those are years in which I have studied the Bible, and God has grown my faith. When the author of this book gives an interpretation that I disagree with, I can accept that as a difference of opinion. An example in Stephen Mitchell’s The First Christmas is the angel Gabriel’s appearance to Mary. In the Bible this event is reported in chapter one of Luke. I believe this account literally, that the angel Gabriel appeared to Mary in a physical form and spoke to her in an audible voice. In fact, there is a dialogue recorded there. The author wants to interpret the appearance as a bright light (“the best I could come up with,” he says) and its communication as “empathy and telepathy,” nothing “so gross as speech.” Based on the writings in Luke, the author is creating a fiction that, though unconfirmed, could have happened. Many describe near death experiences as a comforting, blinding, white light. So, here, the author is using his imagination within the context of an angel visiting Mary.
What is more believable in his telling of the story are the extensive thought processes that Mary must surely have engaged in during the days and months following the angel’s announcement that she had been chosen to bear the Son of God as He comes to Earth in human form. The Bible doesn’t give details of all of her thoughts and feelings, but it does record her song of praise often called The Magnificat (Luke 1:46-55). Luke also shows us that her response is meditative.
There were shepherds who had an angelic visitation. After that they came to worship the baby Jesus, explaining how they found the little family in Bethlehem filled with visitors paying their taxes. “Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart” (Luke 2:19). Using common sense and based on Biblical evidence that Mary was a reflective person, the inner dialogue the author creates is believable, even if you don’t agree with all the fictional details.
There are some larger issues with this novel, however, that bother me. Mary says “No one had ever prophesied that the Messiah would never die.” This statement skirts the issue that there were many Old Testament prophecies which predict the Messiah would be resurrected to reign in His eternal kingdom. Her statement feels like a deliberate distraction in the text. Author Mitchell is clear that Mary would know the Jewish teachings. Therefore, she would have been aware of the many prophesies that Jesus would be resurrected and sit on the right hand of God the Father (Psalm 110:1). Psalm 49:15 says “But God will redeem my soul from the power of the grave, for He shall receive me.” Interpretations are acceptable, but contradictions are not.
The format of the book is interesting. The author states “my only agenda was to inhabit the characters.” He tries to put himself into an ancient time and experience it as each of the characters in the Nativity story might have. As he looks at the role each person or animal had in this pivotal moment, the author makes the decision to tell the story in the third person for the people and first person for the animals. He separates the chapters with an “Interlude” which is his opportunity to reveal his thoughts as an author and provide some background information. This format (which he explains in an Interlude is based on “the glorified sestet of an Italian sonnet) is a good choice for this book. Unfortunately, the author deviates in the second part of Mary’s story and interrupts the tale as he inserts his “authorial I” into her story rather than waiting for the Interlude. This happens again in Joseph’s story. In general I found Joseph’s tale more convincingly told. Oddly though, Mary and Joseph were approached in the book by angels who were totally different in appearance with Joseph’s angel not even culturally appropriate to the time period.
The section of The First Christmas that tells of the visit of the wise men is an elaborate fictional tale of two Jewish scholars who travel to the East studying Buddhism and other mystic philosophies that concentrate on meditation and finding the god within. It deviates from Scripture in many ways, most notably in the visions of the future of Jesus and his family that the men have as they sit with Mary, Joseph, and baby Jesus. (In the book, they visit the family in the stable whereas most Christians believe this visit occurred somewhat later as the Bible says the wise men or magi went to a house.) If you believe that Jesus is the Son of God and He was with God from before the creation of the world, as set forth in John 1:1-3, then much of this chapter is disturbing. They envision a confused young man, estranged from His family, and perhaps mentally deranged. A reading of any one of the four gospels shows anything but what they see for His future. He was fully man and fully God. Their supposed vision is not in character. They even shortcut and omit important parts of His death, fantasize his burial in a mass grave, and totally neglect His resurrection.
The last major section focuses on the donkey and is my favorite. The donkey tell the Nativity story from his perspective. Recalling ancient donkey traditions, he retells the Biblical story of Balaam’s donkey who could both see angels and could talk. He points out the good qualities of donkeys—intelligence, honesty, service, dignity, and trustworthiness.
I have an admiration for the author as a multi-lingual translator, well-versed in many Eastern religions and philosophies. He possesses a great imagination and makes connections from various works of literature. I hope that he will return to the Bible to connect with Jesus in a personal relationship. I don’t regret reading The First Christmas as an intellectual exercise, but I don’t recommend it as an Advent activity or as a pleasure read.
I would like to extend my thanks to NetGalley and to St. Martin’s Press for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.
Category: Religion & Spirituality, General Fiction (Adult)
Publication: November 9, 2021—St. Martin’s Press
[From the chapter Yosef (Joseph)] Where was the Lord now? Not here, not amid this swirling chaos. But if the Lord was not with him, it was his own fault. He knew that. God had not left him; he had left God. It could be no other way.
[From the chapter Yosef—speaking of Maryam (Mary)] She was graced with a quality he had been striving for all his life, ever since he had realized what his purpose, what the purpose of every Jew, was: to love God with all his heart and to fulfill His commandments as impeccably and with as much joy as he could summon.
[From the chapter The Donkey] …throughout the day angels from every order of the hierarchy descending to take a peek at the new little visitor. They don’t knock or announce themselves; they just fly in through the roof or the walls, without so much as a by-your-leave, and nobody greets or even notices them. When they see me, though, they nod to acknowledge my presence and to let me know that they know I know.
Ripple Effects–what you do affects others
by Pam Tebow
Author Pam Tebow is the mother of Tim Tebow, a football and baseball star. Tim uses his talents and fame as a platform to share God’s love and to make a difference in the lives of those who can’t help themselves through the many outreaches of the Tim Tebow foundation.
In Ripple Effects we learn how Tim Tebow and all of his brothers and sisters were affected by the Christian witness and guidance of their mom and dad. More importantly, Pam Tebow shares how what we do has ripple effects on those around us. When you take the time to help a neighbor or smile at a stranger, your actions can affect you, them, and the people they interact with.
Pam focuses on our relationship with Jesus, finding our purpose, mission and influence, reading the Bible, prayer, our mindset, and living with passion. She shows how all of these can and should be integrated into our lives. The book is full of anecdotes and examples demonstrating how she and her husband Bob learned to yield to God’s will as they followed His prompting to begin missions in the Philippines as well as speak and lead all over the world.
Pam is very practical, explaining the importance of memorizing Bible verses. She made up tunes to go with the Scriptures to help herself and her children remember them. One example of the ripple effect is that her grandchildren can now sing these same Scriptures as they have been passed on to a new generation. Bob and Pam used teachable moments in their daily lives to share Biblical truths through life experiences. They taught humility and giving God the glory with consistency in their teaching and lives and by always drawing their children’s attention back to God, the source of their talents and gifts.
Although a lot of the book focuses on raising children from a pioneering homeschooling mother’s perspective, the lessons of ripple effects are for everyone. People are watching you; what will they take away about you and your God?
I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Tyndale House Publishers for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.
Category: Christian, Self-Help
Publication: May 7, 2019—Tyndale House Publishers
Put simply, faith is trusting God, even when we don’t have a clue how His plan will unfold.
The most effective way to influence people in our sphere to trust God is for them to watch us trust Him…Influence is not accidental; it results from making deliberate, determined, and repeated choices, beginning in the mind and then acted out day by day. Choices empowered by God and HIs Word.
Reading, memorizing, and meditating on Scripture has had an unmistakable impact on me, and it has served as one of my greatest opportunities to influence others—with ripple effects on my family, my friends, and the people I meet along the way.
Loving people is hard, but next to loving God, it should be our number one priority. You may have someone in your sphere who is not especially lovable…But when people are at their worst, they need love the most.
Our Gift-Giving God: A Devotional
Our Gift-Giving God: A Devotional
by Andrea Levin Kim
In Our Gift-Giving God, Andrea Levin Kim centers the devotional around eight gifts from God to us, each paired with a traditional Christmas symbol. The author suggests beginning on the first day of December and learning about and meditating on each gift for three days. Each gift and supporting Bible verses are followed by questions and a prayer. The book concludes with the gift of Christmas. Alternate schedules are provided for those who would like to associate the gifts with Hanukkah or with the use of particular Christmas symbols throughout the season. Regardless of how you choose to use Our Gift-Giving God, you will be blessed as you prepare for Christmas by studying Scriptures that focus your thoughts on the role of Jesus in your life, not only as a child in a manger or a humble miracle-working man, but as the Savior of the world who sacrificed his own life so that you can have eternal life.
Our Gift-Giving God is sweetly illustrated by Carissa Robertson with simple line with watercolor pictures. The symbols are traditional for Christmas but may be associated with a gift you might not have anticipated. For example, a decked out fireplace is paired with new beginnings and angels with the concept of mercy. Andrea Levin Kim makes her points quite well, and you will come away with a deeper understanding of God’s love, provision, and sacrifice. I recommend this book for a scripturally based devotional with a fresh approach to the Advent season.
I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Lucid Books for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.
Category: Christian, Religious
Notes: 1. The purpose of this book is not to address the historical origins of various Christmas symbols, but to help prepare the reader’s heart for a celebration of the birth of Christ.
2. The suggested timelines for reading the book are truly only suggestions. I worked my reading of it into my schedule and was blessed by it.
Publication: November 19, 2018—Lucid Books
Accepting this gospel gift of approval humbles us and fills us with a deeper desire to love and serve the Giver with all our heart, soul, and mind, and to love others out of that secure place of the covering of His approval. He will never love you less and He cannot love you more because His love and approval are perfect…
God’s words about real joy are like notes that together sing of the truth of a gospel gift that cannot be drowned out, that never lies, that is never upstaged or outshined by an emotion or circumstance, a song that never gets old or outdated but invites us to dance in step with Him. His word reveals a joy that is not only catchy, but catching, not only memorable, but lasting; not only uplifting, but a reminder that the Savior raises us up and seats us with Him.
The secret ingredient of the Lord’s gift of joy is the Lord Himself—God with us, Immanuel. It’s not what He can do for us or the multitude of blessings He delivers, although they are certainly good.
Who Do You Say That I AM?: A Fresh Encounter for a Deeper Faith
Who Do You Say That I AM?
by Becky Harling
Welcome to Who Do You Say That I AM?, an eight week Bible study by Becky Harling. I knew this was a study I wanted to experience as soon as I read the title. Jesus’ question to His disciples “Who do you say that I am?” has always made me pause. He was giving them an opportunity to think through what they knew about Him and make a declaration of faith. This Bible study gives us a chance to do the same thing. It examines what Jesus said about Himself in eight I AM statements, all recorded by His disciple John in the New Testament of the Bible.
Harling has a comfortable style of writing as she sets up her lessons (5/week) in a way that encourages the reader to delve into Scriptures looking for meaning based on the original Hebrew words. She guides the reader in the process so it is a facet of the study: it is not overwhelming or overly pedantic. The reader is always encouraged to apply the truths to her own life. There are practical tips as well, such as compiling an emergency Scripture kit for the tough times. She also emphasizes praise songs and prayer in each lesson. Each lesson is put in a cultural context including a Bible story or a recounting of personal experiences in contemporary settings.
Who Do You Say That I AM? will get you involved in really examining what Jesus says about Himself. If you don’t have a relationship with Jesus yet, this could be the book that helps you understand the claims of the Bible (God’s Word) and make a decision. If you are already a follower of Jesus, this book is a great way to learn more about Him and turn your focus on Him moment by moment as you make your way through each day.
I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Moody Publishing for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.
Notes: Bible study
Publication: February 6, 2018—Moody Publishing
In a culture that devalued women, Jesus makes His first I AM statement to a woman! While religious systems often devalue women, Jesus honors women.
The two best weapons I know for fighting Satan when he tries to throw guilt and shame at you are: Praise and Scripture.
Human love, wonderful as it is, will at some level disappoint us and let us down. It is only Christ’s perfect, infinite, complete love that comes with the promise of satisfaction.
As I began to be intentional about worshipping Jesus Christ every morning, the Holy Spirit began to radically change my life. Fear turned to courage, worry turned to calm, and doubt turned to faith. I now believe that becoming intentional in the realm of praise is essential for every believer.
Lies Women Believe–and the Truth that Sets them Free
Lies Women Believe
by Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth
Lies Women Believe is a hard hitting book that encourages women to overcome problems in their lives by following Biblical principles rather than the lies of Satan as broadcast through the untrue words of others, whether family, friends, the media (both news and social), books, and movies. The author, Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth, has written chapters on various problem issues for women such as parenting, sexuality, and marriage. After explaining how sin began with lies that Satan told Eve in the garden of Eden, Wolgemuth starts each chapter with an imagined journal entry depicting Eve’s life experiences and the consequences of sin as it applies to that chapter’s topic. She then discusses the topic in depth including lots of Scripture to support her stance and many related examples from friends and from women who have attended her conference sessions. She ties up each chapter with the lies Satan tells about the topic and counters each lie with God’s truth and supporting Scripture references.
One of the chapters I think is excellent is “Lies Women Believe About Children.” In it Wolgemuth discusses the “Mommy Wars” where mothers engage in the comparison game considering themselves failures or better than other mothers. She clarifies that there are many choices that parents make that are simply that—choices. There is no Scriptural basis for the decision. She writes that parents need to pray about the choice as each family is different. An example would be schooling—homeschool, private, or public? Mothers should not look down on others based on their choices in areas like that.
As a reviewer I read this book over the course of several days, and I must admit to being overwhelmed about three-fourths of the way through. The book is Scripturally based, well written, and has great organization. The problem is that as I read each section, I found myself second-guessing past decisions and choices that I feel sure were made with God’s leadership. I suspect this kind of condemnation and doubt is not what Wolgemuth intended. I think God wants us to step out in confidence based on trust in Him. I do not think the unease in my heart is God moving in my life, but Satan using a good book to sow seeds of doubt. I understand the importance of thinking and praying about our choices in the light of God’s Word and because of this book I will be more aware in the future of the way Satan uses lies and half-truths to change our thinking.
I found the last part of Lies Women Believe to be especially helpful; so if you are having a hard time with some of the issues, I suggest you keep reading. The chapter “Lies About Circumstances” addresses this all encompassing part of life, which we all go through in various ways, in a very practical manner. Suddenly I didn’t feel like I was reading about condemnation and perfection, but about how real women survive real circumstances with the help of a very real God. I also found the last two chapters “Countering Lies with the Truth” and “The Truth that Sets us Free” to be very practical and an offering of hope for the future.
In conclusion, my “take away” from Lies Women Believe is to be more aware of the many subtle forms of attack by Satan. At the same time I will keep Isaiah 26:3 in remembrance: “ You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in You, all whose thoughts are fixed on You!”
I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Moody Publishing for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.
Notes: This is a major update and expansion of the original version.
Publication: February 6, 2018—Moody Publishing
What we read or hear may sound right, may feel right, may seem right—but if it’s contrary to the Word of God, it isn’t right.
Like a rock thrown into a pond, the ripples caused by sin go on and on. If only we could see that every single sin is a big deal, that every sin is an act of rebellion and cosmic treason, that every time we choose our way instead of God’s way, we are revolting against the God and King of the universe.
Through His sinless life, His death on Calvary as the sinner’s substitute, and His victorious resurrection, we can be fully forgiven for all our sin, we can be reconciled to the God we have offended, and we can have the power to live holy lives.