Saturday, January 30, 2010

Trusting God

Do I trust God to take care of me and do what is best for me, or do I tell Him, "No, God, if you allowed that to happen, or took him/her/it away, I would just give up"? I'm afraid Tim Keller's book caused a lot of soul-searching for me. It was good, though, because it brought me closer to Him, which is what I want (most of the time).

One of my favorite songs we sing in church contains these words:

"Every blessing you pour out I'll turn back to praise.
And when the darkness closes in, Lord, still I will say:
Blessed be the name of the Lord!" ("Blessed Be Your Name" by Matt Redman)

When I sing that song, I truly am desiring to let God be in control of my life and trust Him in ALL circumstances. But, of course, when real life happens, I struggle with "letting go".

It's a scary thing to think that I'm not the master of my little universe. However, when I really think about it, it's scarier to think what it would be like if God gave the controls over to me. I know it would result in utter chaos.

So, I praise the One who is the Master. And I fall at His feet and ask forgiveness for my pride and my unbelief. (God, be merciful to me, a sinner.)

Soli Deo Gloria!

Books Seized This Week

Here are the books that came into my house this week:

Brava, Valentine by Adriana Trigiani

How I "seized the book" - local library

This is the second book in the Valentine series. I read the first one (Very Valentine). Since I didn't like it too much, you may wonder why I would grab this one to read. Well, I like Trigiani's Big Stone Gap series, so I thought I'd give her another try. Besides, I'm a librarian who gets first pick at the new titles, so how could I resist picking it up and being one of the first to read it?

Because He Loves Me by Elyse Fitzpatrick

How I "seized the book" - my friend bought it online for me

I have asked a friend at church to be my spiritual mentor, and when we were talking about what to do in our times together, we decided to study a book. This is the one we chose. Elyse is one of my favorite Christian authors. I have already read the introduction and first chapter, so I know it's going to be good.

The Christian in Complete Armour by William Gurnall

How I "seized the book" - bought it at church

Amazon Product Description:

"The Christian in Complete Armour provides daily readings packed with tools for spiritual triumph. Written in the seventeenth century by Pastor William Gurnall and compiled into 365 readings by editor James S. Bell, Jr., this collection supplies Christians with a soul-searching and inspiring supplement to the Bible.'The best thought breeder in our library.' -Charles Spurgeon"

Crazy Love by Francis Chan

How I "seized the book" - another library pick

I have heard a lot about Francis Chan, this book, and his new one, Forgotten God. A lot of people seem to really like it. I know this may sound strange, but when a book is as popular as this, I tend to think I won't like it. I often don't enjoy books that get a lot of attention. But, who knows, maybe this one will surprise me.

Nothing But the Truth by Brian Edwards

How I "seized the book" - bought it at church

My husband's Bible study group is reading this one. I may give it a try as well. The subtitle of the book is: The Inspiration, Authority and History of the Bible Explained. Sounds good to me.

A Gospel Primer by Milton Vincent

How I "seized the book" - also bought at church

This book was recommended to all of us at church to read. The subtitle is : Learning to See the Glories of God's Love. It is a book that helps us to "preach the gospel to ourselves" every day.

From an Amazon review: "A Gospel Primer has one basic purpose: help Christians to clearly, confidently and consistently "rehearse" the Gospel to themselves. What does it mean to "rehearse", well, in short, it means to stir yourself up, by way of reminder. Remind yourself of the Gospel. The whole Gospel. And just as is characteristic of the Gospel, allow the truth of that Gospel to change us as we dwell and meditate on it."

Book Review: Counterfeit Gods by Tim Keller

I have read several books about idols (things or people that we put in front of or in place of God in our lives). I can say that this book is a great addition to the others. However, Mr. Keller takes a slightly different approach to the subject than I have seen before. He takes each of the four main categories of idols (love/sex, money, success, and power) and illustrates them from the lives of Biblical characters.

First, the author explains what an idol, or counterfeit god, is. He says, "A counterfeit god is anything so central and essential to your life that, should you lose it, your life would feel hardly worth living." Also, he states, "We look to our idols to love us, to provide us with value and a sense of beauty, significance, and worth." In other words, something is an idol if we expect it to do for us only what God can actually do. How many of us have said or heard someone say that we couldn't go on if a certain person or thing was taken away from us? Mr. Keller helps us to see how we are replacing our worship of God with these other "gods" and how that affects our relationship with Him.

He goes on, then, to tell of people in the Bible who did these very things: they allowed other gods into their lives. There's the story of Jacob, who put all of his deepest hopes and longings on his wife, Rachel; Zacchaeus, who had sacrificed everything for money; Naaman, who thought, because of his success and achievement, he could get anything he wanted from God; and Nebuchadnezzar, who sought power so much that he almost lost everything.

Keller shows us the signs which point out the idols in our lives and, thankfully, gives practical solutions. He says, "...idols cannot be dealt with by simply eliminating surface idols like money or sex....There is only one way to change at the heart level and that is through faith in the gospel." He speaks of Jesus and how He is our perfect example. Then he says, "Jesus is not only an example, however, he is a Savior. Only by admitting our sin, need, and powerlessness, and by casting ourselves on his mercy, will we finally become secure in his love, and therefore empowered in a way that does not lead us to oppress others."

So, there is hope! And this book tells us of the hope we have in Christ. Through faith and trust in him we can overcome the idols of our hearts.

I recommend this book for all who want a deeper relationship with God and are willing to humble themselves to achieve it. Mr. Keller has shown us the way.

A few thoughts of my own on this subject tomorrow. Until then, tolle lege!

Thursday, January 28, 2010

I Won a Book!

I recently joined Good Reads, a "free website for booklovers." I entered my name in a drawing for a free book to review, and I won! I will be reading and reviewing Second Time Around: A Novel by Beth Kendrick, to be released in March.

This is exciting! It looks like a good book. Here is the product description from Amazon:

Every summer, four college friends hold a mini-reunion. They laugh, reminisce, and commiserate about their soul-sucking jobs. Maybe they should have listened to everyone who warned them to study something “practical.”

Then an unexpected windfall arrives—one million dollars, to be exact—with the stipulation that they use it to jump-start their new careers. Almost overnight, a professor, a bartender, a copywriter, and an administrative assistant reinvent themselves as a novelist, an event planner, a pastry chef, and a bed-and-breakfast owner. But the changes in their professional roles create unexpected turbulence in their personal lives, and soon the secrets and scandals from their past start to resurface.

For anyone who has ever wondered “What if?,” this engaging novel provides a sweet, funny look at friendship, romance, and second chances.

I'll let you know what I think. In the meantime, Happy Reading!

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Book Review: Burn by Ted Dekker

I actually received a copy of this book when I went to The Gathering last year. All who attended got an advanced copy of Burn and several other freebies. I told myself I would read the book right away, but I put it on my bookshelf and forgot about it until now, when I saw it had come out in stores (I know, I know, how could I forget about a Ted Dekker book? Bad girl!).

The book begins with an intriguing scene between the main character, Janeal Mikkado and the sinister Salazar Sanso, who offers Janeal a million dollars to save her father's life. When Janeal attempts to do what Sanso has demanded, everything goes wrong and Janeal and her two best friends are fighting for their lives in a fire set by Sanso and his shady companions.

Fifteen years later, we see Janeal in New York, successful and oblivious to what has happened to her friends (she thinks they both died in the fire). Her best friend, Katie, has opened a halfway house for women. Her boyfriend, Robert, has become a DEA agent who has spent the last fifteen years chasing Sanso. He succeeds in capturing him, only to lose him again. The three find themselves in a struggle for survival as Sanso perseveres in his wicked schemes.

The book slows a little in the middle, then, just as I was ready to give up on it, it had quite a twist. Dekker (and Erin Healy, co-author) gives us a turn as he gets inside the minds of the trio and presents us with an inner conflict which becomes the focus of the rest of the book. There is a disappointing climax and ending. I felt a little cheated when I finished the book.

I found this book a little hard to read because of the turn that was made and what seemed to me to take away from the suspense. I understand why the authors wrote this into the book, but it only served to confuse me and caused me to lose what little interest I still had in the book.

I am looking forward to reading The Bride Collector, which is due out in April. It looks like it will be more like Boneman's Daughters, which I think is one of my favorite Ted Dekker books. He is a great author (in fact one of my top ten fiction writers), but the Dekker/Healy team has not been, in my opinion, much of a success. If you have never read any of Dekker's books, you would do well to read Boneman's Daughters, or Adam, one of his older books.

By the way, if you are a Ted Dekker fan and you get a chance to go to The Gathering 2.0, which is scheduled to be in Chicago and Dallas in April, then you should go. Last year was great. I highly recommend it. Mr. Dekker is a nice man and his wife is a sweetheart. If it wasn't so far away, I would go.

Tolle lege!

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Book Review - Have a Little Faith by Mitch Albom

Have a Little Faith is a "feel good" type of book. One that makes you sigh and say, "Ahhhhhhhhhh.... there ARE still good people in this world." One where the author points out the good in man and helps us to realize that hope still exists.

The book is about a Jewish rabbi, a Christian pastor, and a boy-turned-man whose life is greatly impacted by spending time with the two. It is about discovering differences in others and being able to accept those differences with respect.

The author relates the story of how he becomes better acquainted with the rabbi of his youth. The rabbi has asked Mr. Albom if he would perform the rabbi's eulogy when the time comes. Therefore, the author feels obligated to spend time with the rabbi in order to learn more about him and thus be able to render a proper eulogy. In the meantime, Mr. Albom also meets a man who is the founder and pastor of a homeless ministry. The book mostly relates the stories of the two while also describing the journey of faith that the author travels during this time.

Although I understood some of the statements Mr. Albom made about Christianity vs. Judaism and other religions, I couldn't help but feel sorry for this man as he grappled with what Christians actually believe. He seemed to think that we are not so very different in our understanding of God in spite of the fact that we hold many contrasting views. He also gave the impression that all you need in this world is faith and love. I repectfully disagree. Christianity is about faith, yes. But it is especially about faith in Jesus Christ.

One thing I did like about the book is that I came away with a better understanding of the Jewish faith and what it is like to be Jewish among others with different beliefs and customs. One passage in particular made me sad:
(The rabbi relates) 'I remember one time a congregant came to me all upset, because her son, the only Jewish boy in his class, had been cast in the school's Christmas play. And they cast him as Jesus.

'So I went to the teacher. I explained the dilemma. And she said, "But that's why we chose him, Rabbi. Because Jesus was a Jew!"'

(Mr. Albom continues) I remember similar incidents. In elementary school I was left out of the big, colorful Christmas productions of "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen" or "Jingle Bells." Instead, I had to join the school's few other Jewish kids onstage, as we sang the Hanukah song, "Dreidel, Dreidel, Dreidel, I Made It Out of Clay." We held hands and moved in a circle, imitating a spinning top. No props. No costumes. At the end of the song, we all fell down. 

I swear I saw some gentile parents hiding their laughter.  

All in all, not a bad book, but not one I would write home about. On a scale of one to five, I would give it a two. 

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

I Have a Dream

Martin Luther King, Jr., had a dream. I have one, too.

Mine may not be as noble as his was, but it is one I think about often.

There I am, in a large room, several tables scattered throughout. Food covers every table, and there are many people, talking and laughing. I travel from table to table, listening in to all the conversations and adding my brilliant  smileys (65) comments. This goes on for several hours, with everyone in the room having the time of their lives.

Now, the best part of this dream is all about WHO is in the room. Who else but my favorite Christian authors, pastors, and other wonderful people. The guest list includes: John Piper, Ligon Duncan, Albert Mohler, Jr., Kevin DeYoung, Ted Kluck, R. C. Sproul, John MacArthur, Michael Horton, Randy Alcorn, Elyse Fitzpatrick, Mark Dever, Stuart Scott, Martha Peace, Ravi Zacharias, C. J. Mahaney, and many, many more (I know I have left out more of my favorites, but I can't recall them right now). If I could, I would also invite people such as C. S. Lewis, John Owen, Martin Luther, Jonathan Edwards, Charles Spurgeon, and other past giants of the faith. I would love to get inside the minds of these people and grasp the wisdom that they possess. I would truly enjoy talking theology with them and just getting to know them.

I know this dream will never be fulfilled here on earth, but I know that even if I don't meet any of these people here, I will meet them one day in heaven.

(BTW, I have met C. J. Mahaney. And, yes, he's as nice as he seems. I only wish I could have had more time listening to him. I also regret not being able to meet his wife, Carolyn).
Oh, what a time that will be. When I will see my Savior's face and sit at his feet. When I will worship the Lord and enjoy His majesty forever.

And, I will share with all the saints in the marriage supper of the Lamb.

Hmmmm, maybe that's what my dream really is. A vision of heaven.

See you there, guys.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Reading in Bed

So Many Books Blog tells us about a book I know I want to read. I'm going right now to my library website to see if we have it!

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Reading Project Clarification

Since several people have asked me questions about my NYT bestseller reading project, I thought I would write this post to clarify a few things and tell you my progress so far.

I will be reading only the #1 books on the non-fiction list, not fiction. I love to read fiction, but I don't think I would want to read any Dan Brown or Michael Crichton right now. Nothing against these authors - they're just not my cup of tea.

I will attempt to write a review on each one. This may be hard, but I'm going to give it a try. It may be a challenge in itself just to read them, much less write a review, but I will do my best.

The first review will be for this week's #1, Have a Little Faith, by Mitch Albom, author of Tuesdays With Morrie. I am almost finished reading, and the review should be posted within the next few days.

Book Review - 9 Marks of a Healthy Church - Mark Dever

Yesterday I gave a link to a video of Mark Dever’s study. Today I want to share with you a book that he wrote.

The 9 Marks of a Healthy Church came into my hands just when I needed it. I was having some questions that just wouldn’t go away, and when I read this book, I felt like Mr. Dever was talking directly to me.

This book is an excellent tool for assessing the health of a church. It is helpful for pastors as well as church members. It will help you see where you are thriving, and where you may need some work. If we were to follow all the recommendations in this book, we would be well on our way to a great revival in our land.

Here are the 9 marks:

1. Expositional preaching
2. Biblical theology
3. The Gospel
4. A biblical understanding of conversion
5. A biblical understanding of evangelism
6. A biblical understanding of church membership
7. Biblical church discipline
8. A concern for discipleship and growth
9. Biblical church leadership

If you love your church, you will want to get this book.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Mark Dever's Study

I just have to share this one! I came across this link from a comments page, and when I saw what it was, I was curious. So, I went to it, and….. WOW! I’m really having to fight jealousy right now, because this man’s study is amazing. I could spend hours in a place like this (if I had chocolate and plenty of herbal tea).

In our Bible study at church tonight, we talked about self control. One of the ways to be self controlled is to be thankful for all you have. So, if I am going to practice self control, I will thank God for all my wonderful books and, of course, His Word. I will daily remind myself that I don’t need anything but Him for life and godliness.

Enjoy the video (but remember, be thankful!).

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

10 Million Words in One Year?

Tim Challies, you have made my mouth drop. Are you really trying to read 10 million words (give or take) in one year? Will you be reading other books as well? I mean, what if someone like John Piper or Michael Horton writes a new book this year - will you put it aside and read only what is on the New York Times bestseller list? Surely not! Tim, you must be able to read in your sleep!

Actually, I am impressed and challenged by this project. You said that you wanted to read these books because "America’s bestselling books tell us, I’m sure, who America is, who her people are, at this time and place. Surely they will give me a glimpse into the world’s most powerful, the world’s most fascinating nation." I think you are right. Sometimes we isolate ourselves so much in our reading. When we limit ourselves to only one or two genres, we tend to forget there's a whole other world out there. We begin to think that other people read what we do because surely we read the best! Why would anyone want to read anything else?

The answer is: because people are different. And we all have different beliefs and interests. What a boring world we would live in if we were all the same. There could be no debate or much discussion because we would just all agree on everything. Some people may think that would be nice, but not me. I like good, rousing conversations where everyone is allowed to express their thoughts on a given subject. I learn so much from others that way.

So, Tim, I think I will be joining you in your project. Well, sort of. I'm not going to read all the bestsellers. Just the #1 bestsellers. I'm thinking that will be only 30-40 books in one year. That will be enough of a challenge for me, considering I will be reading other books as well. I would also like to see more of how others think by reading what "everyone else" is reading. Maybe I will begin to be more understanding of others by the end of the year as a result.

Tim, I wish you well as you read this year. May we both grow and learn much. And, if by some small miracle you happen to actually read this, tell me: can I have your autograph? :)

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Book Review: The Kingdom Series by Chuck Black

When my son heard I was starting this blog, he asked if he could contribute with his own reviews. Since he is such an eager reader and aspiring writer, I told him I would love for him to be a part of this blog. So, here is his first review:

Chuck Black is the author of The Kingdom Series, an amazing allegorical version of the Bible in six fast paced books set in the Medieval Era, with sword fights, adventures, narrow escapes, tragic twists... all make up The Kingdom Series. I give this series 4 out of 5 thumbs up.

More About Seize the Book

As you may have already noticed by the banners and links on this blog, I primarily read Christian books. Although I enjoy all kinds of fiction, this will be a place where I discuss and review non-fiction (not just Christian). Occasionally, my 13 year old son will join me to share his thoughts on the fiction he reads.

I will give you links to the blogs I read, including other book review blogs. There will also be links to the websites I find helpful and those that are entertaining. Sometimes I will tell you about the reading projects I am working on, and lists of books I have read and liked. An Amazon link to these books is in the sidebar.

Don’t hesitate to give suggestions on what you would like to see in this blog. I want it to be a good resource for you, and your input will help me in that endeavor.

Thanks for stopping by.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Al Mohler on the Kindle

One person I love to read is Al Mohler. The comments he has made on reading and books are ones that I completely identify with. Last month, he wrote a post about the Kindle and its increasing popularity. I myself have a Sony E-Reader. I love the size and portability. I also like how it can hold so many books at one time. However, lest you think I am wanting to replace all my printed books with my electronic versions, think again. There are advantages to both. To quote Mr. Mohler:

"Do not think of the Kindle as replacing the book. Bury that thought. Bury it deep. Then go and hold a favorite book in your hand. Enjoy. Then pile 50 of your favorite books and carry them with you all day, through airports, onto airplanes, checking into hotels, sitting in meetings, reading in bed at night. You get the point. You sit (gloriously) in a library. You take a Kindle in your briefcase."

I agree. I bought mine primarily for use on trips. My husband is happier now knowing we won't be hauling around so many books (I won't say how many :)) on a one or two week excursion. Me, too. There's more room in the car to bring home the new books I buy along the way.

What do you think? Do you own an e-book reader? Are you glad you do?

Semicolon Rocks!

My sister is the greatest! She wrote a post on tips for new bloggers and told her readers about this blog. Wow! What a wonderful welcome to the blogosphere. I have gotten several comments already. Thanks, Sherry! And thanks for all the words of encouragement from all of you. I feel the love........

Go visit Sherry's blog, if you haven't already. I'm sure you'll enjoy it.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Money for Books?

One of my favorite quotes about books is by Erasmus. He said, “When I get a little money I buy books; and if any is left I buy food and clothes.” Although I don’t deprive my self of food very often (as shown by the evidence on my hips and thighs), I certainly understand the passion (and priority) for books and reading expressed by this man. I began reading at the age of four and I haven’t stopped reading since. Whether it has been Encyclopedia Brown, Shakespeare, the Bible, or John Piper, books have had a major influence on my life. And the more I read, the more I learn - about God, our culture, and myself.

Which leads me to the reason for this blog. In many of my conversations with friends and family as well as acquaintances, I am asked, “What have you been reading lately?” and “ What books would you recommend that I read?” I am always eager to answer such questions. Sharing what I have read with others is almost as fun as reading itself. So, I decided that if I put all this into a blog, then perhaps more people would benefit. I am not under the delusion that this will become a hugely popular blog, but maybe, as a result of my efforts, I will be able to encourage others in their quest for good reading.

Therefore my friends, enjoy this blog. May it be a blessing to you. If you find it helpful, please tell others. And, don’t forget to leave comments. I want to know your thoughts as well.

I look forward to sharing my passion with you!