A Fresh Batch of Book Reviews #16

I have a new batch of book reviews today, like four loaves of fresh bread, warm and inviting right out of the oven. Hopefully, at least one of these resources will provide the nourishment your soul is craving right now.

Unwrapping the Names of Jesus: An Advent Devotional

I remember seeing this author slip by me during one session at She Speaks 2017. I wish I could have said hello and congratulated her on her publishing contracts. But it was nice to settle into this Christmas devotional and get to know her a little better through her written words.

Asheritah Ciuciu writes with a quiet, contemplative style. She did not grow up observing Advent (like I did as a Lutheran school girl), but she decided to study Advent practices as an adult. She created this lovely, brief book based on her studies.

The book is divided into four weeks of devotions to reflect the four weeks of Advent. Each day dips deep into biblical and historical contexts to unpack the names of Jesus. I like that each day includes a thoughtful challenge and a beautiful prayer. But what I like most is that each week includes a group devotional option and fun activities you can do with your family (including service activities).

I’m a mom to one teen and two tweens, and this book is perfectly suited for the ages of my children. If your children are younger, you can easily modify the weekly group readings and questions to accommodate their level of understanding. This book is suited to personal study, perfect for busy moms due to its brief length.

In my family, we light an Advent candle on a wreath each Sunday night and read a Christmas devotion. This book will help us focus on Jesus with reverence and awe during our family Advent devotions.

Win a copy of this book!

You have the chance to WIN a copy of Unwrapping the Names of Jesus by entering the drawing below! Simply follow the Rafflecopter prompts and choose the “answer this question” option to tell me you’d like to win this book, right in time for your own Advent devotions.

I received a free review copy of Unwrapping the Names of Jesus from Moody Publishers–I am grateful for their generosity.

All Things New: Heaven, Earth, and the Restoration of Everything You Love

Some books hold the power to change your entire perspective. All Things New did that for me, and I consider it a rare and beautiful treasure I will never forget.

Many books have been written about heaven, but few focus on the renewal of earth and God’s promises of rewards. I was moved to tears again and again by the glimpses of pure joy, hope, and love I had never recognized before in scripture. I love how John Eldredge illuminates familiar Bible passages with such rich meaning, and does so with almost whimsical, boyish glee.

Even though I’ve been a Christian my whole life, hope has been a struggle for me. As one who has suffered from emotional abuse, depression, and rejection for decades, I clung to my faith for survival. Only in the past couple years have I learned that God has an abundant life waiting for me beyond survival mode, and this book powerfully pulls back the curtain on the wonderful treasures Jesus was preparing for me while I was suffering, and is still preparing for me now.

A Powerful Quote

I highlighted many passages for further reflection, but this long one gave me the most pause, based on Isaiah 60:5:

Imagine–after your enemies are judged and banished, great treasure chests are then brought in and set before you…Jesus tells you to open them. You ask, “What are these, Lord?” and he replies, These are the gifts I meant for you in your former life but were stolen or prevented from making it to you. I return them now, with interest…You hear laughter coming from one, for so much of what has been lost are memories and joy…Then you turn to your right and ask, “And what are these chests, Lord?” These are the rewards for your life’s choices, your victories, your perseverance, and your service. In addition to your estates, of course, he says with a smile.

Those treasure chests are yours, friends; their contents will thrill your heart and redeem so much of what you have endured here…You will open those chests, look, and be radiant. Your heart will throb and swell with joy.

Does that passage whisper hope and joy to you like it does to me? I am not exaggerating when I say this book is in the top 10 most life-changing books I’ve ever read. The best thing of all is that the inspiring message comes straight out of scripture. John Eldredge simply unlocks God’s glorious truth in a winsome, powerful way and seasons it with poignant insights and anecdotes.

Hope That Lasts

I give this book my highest recommendation to anyone looking for hope that lasts. And oh, how we need hope in these difficult days. If you have ever suffered from injustice, rejection or abuse, this book will help heal your wounds like nothing else has done before. If you want to give yourself the best early Christmas present ever, order All Things New today.

I received a free review copy of All Things New from the BookLook Blogger program. Thank you so much for this life-changing gift, friends at Thomas Nelson!

Transforming Grace

Jerry Bridges’ books have had a profound impact on my faith. His book The Practice of Godliness helped transform my thinking as a teen. Trusting God was a rock I clung to during marriage woes. Respectable Sins helped me weed out some long-held habits that didn’t seem so bad.

Transforming Grace is no less powerful or profound than his other books. Jerry Bridges’ writing style reminds me of the Apostle Paul. He unfolds God’s truths simply in a systematic fashion, and each word holds quiet power. I like the orderly way he explains Bible passages in such depth, yet with such practical application.

Grace for the Entitled

The primary scripture he uses to explain our broken view of God’s grace is the parable of the workers in Matthew 20. He says we live in an age of great entitlement, and we secretly feel that we earn God’s grace through works. I never saw myself as entitled, only others, until I read this book. His words convicted me of my prideful and skewed viewpoint I didn’t even realize I was holding. I’m grateful for the gentle correction.

Even though Jerry Bridges was a gifted theologian who shared deep truths (he passed away in 2016), his personal stories are so humble and inviting that you feel at home while you read this powerful book. This updated edition includes over 100 pages of discussion questions for small group use and even a “Help for Leaders” section. My small group will LOVE this deep, thoughtful reflection on God’s abundant grace–I can’t wait to tell them about it!

I received a free copy of Transforming Grace from the Tyndale Blog Network. Thank you, friends at Tyndale, for sharing this wonderful book with me!

Worthy of the Calling Online Study of Ephesians

Back in May 2017, I was blessed to interview Sarah Koontz for my Meeting God in the Garden series. She opened her heart and home to us then, and I’m happy to share about her newest online Bible study now.

Is November a good time to begin an online Bible study? Even if you are pressed for time, the answer is yes. Staying in God’s Word will help you trade your holiday anxiety for peace. Sarah’s study is uniquely designed to give you a small, digestible dose of Ephesians for 31 days via email.

Sarah is a talented graphic artist as well as a talented writer. She combines her skills with insight, humor, and relevance in the Worthy of the Calling study. You receive free printables and other sweet goodies in this online study.

It’s not too late to sign up for Worthy of the Calling. You’ll enjoy the bite-sized portions of Ephesians delivered in Sarah’s fresh, funny, down-to-earth voice. I enjoy every one of my visits to her blog and I’m excited that more women will learn about her ministry through this online study.

I received a free copy of this study from Sarah Koontz. Thank you Sarah!

Giveaway Time!

In celebration of one year since my first book published, I’m happy to offer my three books in my 12 Days of Christmas Giveaway, along with nine other great books I’ve read this year. I’ve reviewed many of these books on my Book Reviews page. These books are great resources for you, or you can use them as Christmas gifts for family and friends. I’m so grateful for the generosity book publishers have shown me, and now I’m sharing their gifts with you.

Now it’s time for you to register!

12 days to enter this huge giveaway of 12 Christian books, Nov. 2-13, 2017!

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Rules: Open to U.S. residents only. No purchase is required for entry. All entries will be verified. Entries that do not meet verification requirements will be disqualified. Twelve winners will be selected based on the top number of entries. Books will be mailed via USPS on or before Nov. 17, 2017. 

This promotion is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest. You understand that you are providing your information to the owner of this page and not to Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest.

Come back every day between now and Nov. 13 for more entries. Answer one of these questions for an entry (make sure to mark the entry form when you comment):

Questions for you:

  • What is your favorite Christmas devotional, and why? Please share with us!
  • Have you ever read a truly life-changing book? I’d love for you to share the title in the comments.
  • Have you done an online Bible study? If so, which one has been your favorite? I love recommendations. 🙂
  • Are you giving books as Christmas gifts this year? Which book in the giveaway would make a perfect gift, and for whom?

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40 thoughts on “A Fresh Batch of Book Reviews #16

  1. Sarah,
    The quote, based on scripture, from John Eldredge’s book really spoke to me to. Oh how I long to hear words like those. I think this might have to be a book I pick up. Like you, I’ve battled with so many things like depression and anxiety and I know God holds special treasures for us in heaven for persevering through it all.
    Bev xx

    1. Hi Bev! The book’s beautiful message is still resonating with me. I was thinking about it when I fell asleep last night and it helped me sleep very peacefully. I think you’ll love it, and since you’re such a thoughtful, talented writer, a review of it on your blog would be a treat to read. Blessings to you, friend!

    1. Hi Nicole! I’m searching for hope in this season, and these books delivered powerfully. Blessings to you, friend!

  2. I admire people that have a gift for reviewing books. What a beautiful way to share a piece of you through what you have read. The quote from John Eldredge’s book is amazing. I can only imagine what the rest of the book will be like. I also love Asheritah. She is a beautiful person inside and out.

    1. Hi Mary! Thanks for coming by today. Yes, his book is incredibly insightful, and I am obviously gushing about it here. I’m becoming a devoted fan of Asheritah too!

  3. An inspirational book: Shattered Dreams by Larry Crabb and I Don’t Wait Anymore by Grace Thornton. My favorite Christmas Devotional: the one I pieced together from a variety of sources and use every year. Online Bible study: SOAP, through Love God Greatly, currently in the book of Philippians. Giving books for Christmas: of course. One of your previous book reviews, The Daniel Dilemma for my grandson. As always, I love reading your reviews.

    1. Debbie, I always appreciate your book recommendations! Heading over to Goodreads to plug them into my Want to Read list. I hadn’t heard of that online Bible study either! Thank you for sharing. I remember you said your grandson would like The Daniel Dilemma. It’s another gem from 2017.

  4. The book I recommend to read is Hope Prevails by Dr Michelle Bengston insights from a Doctor’s Personal Journey through Depression. Having suffered with depression and other medical issues, this book is a God send.

    1. Hello Debra! Thanks for sharing your book recommendation. I read her blog from time to time, and I am familiar with the book. But I haven’t read it yet. I have struggled with depression too; I’m glad you found the help you were looking for. Thank you for stopping by to visit!

    1. Hi Becky. It’s such a fabulous read. Definitely my favorite book of 2017, one of my all-time favorites too. Blessings to you!

    1. Hi Lesley! They are both good reads–I hope you get your hands on a copy soon! Blessings to you.

  5. Thanks for sharing these reviews of what sound like very edifying books!

    I love devotionals that are specifically geared toward Advent. It really helps to keep focus on what Christmas is truly all about.

    1. Hi Karen, I love Advent devotionals too. Ann Voskamp’s The Greatest Gift is probably my #1 favorite. Thanks for stopping by!

  6. What a wonderful round up of books. The last time I stopped by your page to read a book review, I ended up ordering two from Amazon: Stealing Jesus and of Mess and of Moxie. Thanks for sharing!

    1. Hi Tiffiney! Have you have cracked open those two books yet? They are laugh-inducers. I need to open my copies back up for a dose of laughter today!

  7. Thanks for reading and reviewing so many incredible books for us, Sarah. I will look into getting John Eldridge’s book, since you gave it your highest rating here. He’s always been one of my favorites and I love the passage you shared. I didn’t know that Jerry Bridges passed away. So sad, but so glad they are continuing to offer his content and wisdom to new generations. Thanks for this roundup and giveaway, my friend!

    1. Thank you for your kind words, Beth! Your current series is AMAZING! Knowing you well, I think you will LOVE the All Things New book. Maybe we can talk about it in our little FB group? I’ll let the other gals know too. Blessings to you. P.S. I’m looking forward to a conversation with Jerry Bridges in heaven, which John Eldredge’s book inspired me to think about.

    1. Hi Linda! Thank you so much! I loved your blog post about emotional health. Can’t wait to read more in that series, friend.

    1. Yes, dear! I am so happy to offer your beautiful book that you gave me on the launch team to someone else who will treasure it, like me! Blessings to you, friend!

  8. As usual, all your books sounds wonderful to me, Sarah. I’ve actually read Transforming Grace already and loved it. Such powerful truths from Jerry Bridges. I’m sorry that he’s no longer here to give us new insights, but I’m thankful for the ones he did lay down for us. The advent book sounds great so I’m heading now to fill in an entry. Thanks!

    1. I agree, I wish Jerry Bridges was still here. When I was setting up my links, I noticed that his last book, The Blessing of Humility, was published after he passed away. I want to check that one out too! Thank you so much for entering the giveaway, Lisa! I love your book reviews too–I always learn something new from them. Blessings to you!

    1. Hi Donna! Thank you for stopping by. It’s a great read, and I think you’ll love it. Blessings to you, friend!

  9. Sarah what a massive giveaway!

    I was stopped in my tracks as I read, “Many books have been written about heaven, but few focus on the renewal of earth and God’s promises of rewards.” I so agree!

    That book sounds amazing and I could stand to benefit so will put it on my reading list!

    Thank you for being so generous both in description and tangibly. I know I was meant to find you along my path because of your testimony. So glad you share like you do, friend.


    1. Thank you Meg! Thoughts from the book keep popping into my head this week. It’s truly a perspective-changer. Glad you have it on your list. Happy Friday to you!

  10. Full, food, Jesus and the battle for satisfaction , was my life changing book I read this year! Asheritah Ciuciu is the author and her book changed my life!

    1. Hi Melinda! I have seen that book too, but I haven’t read it yet. Thanks for sharing the recommendation!

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