Thursday, December 26, 2013

How to be Rich

How to be Rich by Andy Stanley is not the type of manual you may think it is. It is not a manual to help you earn more money. It will not talk about portfolios or investments. In fact, the book actually assumes you are rich already. Now, I know I often do not think of myself in that way. I worry about my finances, I cut coupons, and I do not have a large savings account. However, according to Andy Stanley, I am rich. And when I look at the facts he states, I guess I would have to agree. I live in one of the wealthiest societies ever. I have enough money to provide for my family, and I have a roof over my head. Stanley says if you have ever had to decide whether or not to upgrade your cell phone, or choose which restaurant in which to have dinner, that you are rich. So following Stanley's logic, if I admit to being rich, what does this mean for me? This book is a guide to help you become more generous. To learn how to handle your riches in a way that is honoring to God. The Bible tells us to store up riches in Heaven, and Stanley argues that the way to do that is to be a good steward with the materials you have on earth. Stanley reminds us that everything belongs to God. The money I have in the bank, the house I live in, even the food I eat, is not mine. God provides all of it. I could argue that I work hard for those things, and that may be true. But in reality, God gives me the ability to do that hard work. He provides the job, the intellectual and physical ability, and the means for me to do those things. When I look at my possessions and money in that mind-set, I realize none of it is mine. When I tithe, I am not giving part of my money to God. I am honoring Him as the Lord of my life by returning what is His to Him. However, Stanley says tithing is not enough. God does not want us to simply obey a principle and then feel we are free to do whatever we wish with the remainder of our money. Stanley says generosity is a lifestyle that stems from the right understanding about God and our role as stewards. When we realize what God has done and continues to do for us, we want to honor Him by acting in a similar way. We want to share His blessings with others. The heart of being rich then, is to be generous. God never says money or possessions are evil. But what we do with them matters. God gives us things so we may bless others, so others may see a generous God. Our actions need to be a reflection of understanding His blessings toward us. Stanley incorporates true stories and Scripture to make these truths understandable. His writing style is appealing and draws you in. It is like listening to a true friend who loves God with all of his heart. And it makes you want to live that type of lifestyle too. If you don't feel rich, or you worry about finances, but you love God and want to share Him with others, this is a wonderful book to help you see how all of those thoughts and feelings can go together. Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

The War on Christmas edited by Bodie Hodge

The War on Christmas was a book I received from Handlebar Publishing. This is an interesting book, as it addresses many concepts of Christmas within the Christian tradition. When I first received it, I imagined it to be about pagan culture and how it is attempting to remove the traditional idea of Christmas from society. In some ways, I was right. It does discuss cultural ideas and issues Christians may deal with while celebrating Christmas. But it does much more than that. The book begins with the concept of Christmas itself and why it is important. There is a lot of history in the book to remind us of the origins of Christmas. Overall, it reminds us that Christmas is a celebration of the birth of Christ, regardless of any other associations we may have with the holiday. Culture often overshadows the purpose of Christmas. Sometimes even Christians are known for focusing solely on Christ's birth, rather than His entire purpose. Christmas, as any other day, should be a time for gratitude, reflection, and acknowledgement of the Christ. It is much more than His birth. It is a celebration of His willingness to be a sacrifice for us, and to come to earth in the form of an infant in order to fulfill His purpose. The book walks through many of Christmas's traditions and gives the history and explanations for them. For example, the book discusses the date of Christmas and why it is celebrated in December. This book also discusses other parts of the Christmas tradition, such as the wise men, the manger, and whether or not X-mas is an appropriate way to write Christmas. The book did seem repetitive at times, and sometimes asked questions in an attempt to move the narrative forward. Overall, though, the information made me examine my celebration of Christmas more deeply. It made me stop and reflect on my motives during this time of year, and helped me focus on Christ as the purpose of celebration. I think it is a worthy read.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

31 Days to Happiness

31 Days to Happiness by David Jeremiah is a study of Solomon's words in Ecclesiastes. Jeremiah walks readers through Solomon's thoughts and musings from Ecclesiastes 1-12. Jeremiah uses personal stories, biblical stories, and commentary to explain the process Solomon goes through to understand the meaning of life and happiness. Solomon was given the choice of a gift from God, and he asked for wisdom. Because of this, he enjoyed a blessed life, yet as he reached the end, he felt devoid of meaning. He began pondering all of the blessings he had witnessed and all of the tragedies in life to find the true meaning of all it. Jeremiah walks readers through 12 chapters of Solomon's thoughts on vanity. Foe each area of life where Solomon feels there could be meaning, he finds it empty without God. Solomon looks for meaning in his career, justice, government, finances, questions, misery, rebuke, pleasure, humility, wisdom, the little things in life, and leadership. For each of these areas, Jeremiah shows how Solomon examines them and decides each one is nothing but vanity, a short span in life, that is here one day then gone like a vapor. Instead of looking for happiness in these vain pursuits, Jeremiah says Solomon realized true meaning comes from the giver of life, not from aspects of life itself. Instead, people can find happiness by knowing they are living a life for the Lord. He concludes that life is uncertain, but we are to embrace it. Because life is short, we need to enjoy it, and look for the blessings from God. We are to examine life because it is mysterious. Everything comes from God, and the only meaning we can find, must come from living for Him. Jeremiah takes readers through the journey made by Solomon to show the wisdom in his conclusion. The book is easy to read and follow, although if you are looking for a how-to manual, this is not it. Instead, Jeremiah explains Solomon's conclusions and allows the reader to decide how to adapt these ideas for themselves. It is a worthwhile read, although not what I expected based on the title. This is a book one must read carefully and thoughtfully, allowing each chapter to be absorbed and digested. Although the title suggests a monthly reading plan, I think to get the most from this book, one may need to re-read or allow several days per chapter to take it all in. It is not meant to be light reading. Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”