Tag Archives: devotional

Book Review: True Stories

True Stories to Remind You of Heaven When Life Hurts Like HellTrue Stories to Remind You of Heaven When Life Hurts Like Hell by Michael Branch
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

As a pastor’s wife, I always have one eye open for devotional books that are easily accessible, theologically sound, and deeply encouraging to people fighting the battle that is the Christian life. I found such a one in this book by Michael Branch.

“True Stories” is a delightfully convicting treasury of devotionals, which draw on the author’s life experiences and the truths about God that he finds in them. I think this is Branch’s elegance as an author: He sees through the messiness of life, fixes his eyes on Jesus, and magnifies the Savior by masterfully preparing a banquet of words for the rest of us to feast on.

The book is structured as such: Each narrative is preceded by a Scripture verse. After using a surprisingly small number of words (for the conviction wrought) to point the reader to Jesus, the author then offers a small word of challenge or encouragement for the day, along with a brief statement that reveals a pertinent facet of the gospel. Each story is quick—I took my time and rarely spent more than two or three minutes on one. I think this makes “True Stories” an excellent accompaniment to one’s quiet time—or a great book to keep on hand for down time throughout the day.

In particular, I was most spiritually challenged by the sections entitled “True Freedom” and “Hurting, Hoping, Heaven”. These sections stayed with me the longest, perhaps due to their vulnerable nature and my own experience with suffering. They forced me to linger on the hard questions they ask. When you buy this book, anticipate being moved by these accounts.

If you are in the market for a solid, joyful, Gospel-centered devotional to enliven your daily walk with the Lord, this is the one.

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Book Review: Seeing Jesus

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Jesus took them through the writings of Moses and all the prophets, explaining from all the Scriptures the things concerning himself. (Luke 24:27)

I am excited to share this book with you! It is not infrequent that I hear remarks that the Old Testament isn’t relevant, or that it is boring. This makes my heart sad, because the Old Testament points to Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith! The Old Testament is a dramatic story of God’s mercy and grace, and it should not be avoided. In my personal experience, I’ve found that reading and studying the Old Testament makes the New Testament even more alive for me. I am thankful that Nancy Guthrie wrote this little book, called Seeing Jesus: Seeking and Finding Him in the Scriptures, to clarify for the reader how we see Jesus in the Hebrew Scriptures.

This book is a collection of sixty short devotionals, ones that are ripe with content yet brief enough to consume in a matter of minutes (even if you’re not rushing). Each devotional is arranged as such:

  • a title (captures the main theme of the entry)
  • a Scripture passage from the Old Testament
  • a connecting passage from the New Testament
  • a thesis statement
  • ~2 page devotional that proves the thesis from Scripture
  • a brief prayer

I very much enjoyed reading every one of these pages! I don’t suggest reading multiple entries at a time, or even really one per day. Each entry portrays a beautiful characteristic of our Lord, and reserving time to process what you’ve read and meditate on the truths learned is imperative, in my opinion. Savor it!

Soli Deo gloria,

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I received a complimentary copy of this book from Tyndale House.

Book Review: Having a Martha Home the Mary Way

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The dedication page in this book says it all: “This book is for everyone out there who needs to know that being a “good” homemaker has less to do with having a clean home and more to do with loving others well.”

Bingo.

I wrestled with this beast a few years ago and have arrived at a decent balance in my own homemaking. Could it be better? Of course. But life has seasons, and some seasons are less inclined to facilitate the kind of clean house I truly desire. (For me, that season is called “the school year”.) And at the end of the day, what really matters is how I use our home to love others through hospitality and fellowship.

Having a Martha Home the Mary Way by Sarah Mae is a 31-day devotional. I’m not sure I knew this when I opted to review it, but that’s okay. It was what I needed, and clearly the Lord knew that. The book opens with a forward, followed by an introduction that is completely worth reading. I admit to being an introduction-skipper most of the time; I just want to get to the meat! But the author gives her own story in it, and I think it’s helpful to have a grasp on her perspective before diving into the experience the book offers. (She seems to start from a point of chaos; the house is out of control, and the overwhelm has created a mode of analysis paralysis.)

Each day is structured as such:

  • a short devotional (usually a page or so in length)
  • a “Mary Challenge” (Scripture reading with reflection questions)
  • a “Martha Challenge” (a cleaning/organizing goal for the day)

In my opinion, this book is like Whole30, but for your house. It’s devoting 31 days to examining your own heart—Why do I want a clean house? And how will I utilize it for the Lord once I’ve completed this journey?—and moving methodically through your home to purge and reorganize and deep clean. It sounds overwhelming, and if you work outside the home (like I do), it would likely be too much for one month, unless you clear a couple of your Saturdays and involve the whole family in the Martha Challenges (which she encourages). But I think the book could easily be adapted for each person’s lifestyle and still accomplish the main goal, which, as the subtitle states, is taking “31 days to a clean house and a satisfied soul.” I think the author does a good job of pointing the reader’s eyes to Jesus (thus the satisfied soul).

My main takeaway from Having a Martha Home the Mary Way is this: If you don’t have a theological basis and vision for your homemaking, this book will help you create one. Having worked through this in the past, I can say that having a vision for how the Lord would want me to use our home—instead of simply how I want to use it—helps me to stay motivated in homemaking. Sarah lists her homemaking vision in the book, but mine is really two-fold:

  1. Create a warm, comfortable, safe space to serve as a place of rest and rejuvenation for my family.
  2. Keep that space tidy and organized such that we can offer hospitality at a moment’s notice.

Everything stems from that. Notice I didn’t say perfect; no lived-in space will ever be perfect all the time because, well, you’re living in it! I appreciate that Sarah Mae differentiates between a comfortable, livable space, and the unattainable perfect one.

Even if you’re a naturally organized person who loves a good purge one a quarter—I’m raising my hand here!—Having a Martha Home the Mary Way still offers good reminders and ideas to reignite your passion for a good purge. Speaking of, I’ve got a capsule wardrobe to assemble. 🙂

Soli Deo gloria,

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*In exchange for my honest opinion, I received a complimentary copy of this book from Tyndale House Publishers.