Discover Your Hidden Self – review

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Discover Your Hidden Self: Opening the Door to Who You Really Are! by John Murray

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


It is for a time when crisis hits that John Murray has penned the helpful volume Discover Your Hidden Self: Opening the Door to Who You Really Are! In it he uncovers problem areas that may hinder us as we face life-altering challenges of health, relationships, and unpredictable turns of events that are inevitable. The goal is to help us gain calmness and serenity whatever comes our way.

In twelve chapters Murray tackles relevant subjects like grappling with suffering and unfairness, harnessing the power of thoughts and attitudes, extending forgiveness, finding significance and contentment, and being neighbourly. Throughout he sprinkles stories of people who have faced these issues and achieved success at overcoming them.

A penultimate chapter on life’s spiritual side lifts the reader from looking for help only within themselves to establishing a relationship with God—the God of the Bible–for wisdom, courage, strength, and support through life’s perplexities. Here’s a favourite quote from this section:

“Someone once said, ‘Adversity introduces a man to himself,’ which has an element of truth to it, but I think it should read, ‘Adversity introduces a man to his faith.’ In our adversity, in the midst of our emotional turmoil, our faith becomes real or it proves non-existent” – page 82 (Kindle edition).

Murray’s insights are wise and his tone is warm, sympathetic, and encouraging.

This book would be a great read for when you’re in the middle of a trial, or before, to be prepared for when that next challenge comes your way

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Storm (review)

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Storm: Hearing Jesus for the Times We Live InStorm: Hearing Jesus for the Times We Live In by Jim Cymbala

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Jim Cymbala, who experienced Hurricane Sandy in 2012, likens it to the storm he expects will soon hit the evangelical church of North America. In Storm he gives advice to pastors and lay people about how to get ready so that the light of faith won’t be snuffed out like the city lights of Lower Manhattan were in Sandy’s wake.

“I believe followers of Jesus in America are on the cusp of something horrible. I, and many others, see the early warning signs all around” – Jim Cymbala, Storm, Kindle Location 148.

Three areas that cause him to be concerned about the American church are:

    1] The church isn’t as big or popular as it thinks it is.
    2] Personal transformation is rare.
    3] Biblical literacy is declining.

To remedy this he addresses lacks and needs in a variety of areas:
* The failure of modern models of church planting and growth (he calls them “fads and trends”).

* The need for prayer, both personal and corporate intercessory prayer.

“… the deepest secrets of prayer are only learned by spending time with God” – K.L. 805.

“Think about the people we love and worry about but rarely pray for” – K.L. 2641.

* Godly, exemplary leadership.

“… the quality of spiritual leadership can only be measured by how it looks in the Lord’s sight” – K.L. 1096.

* The need for the presence and power of the Holy Spirit in our churches and ministries.

* A clear, Christ-centered gospel message.

* Clarity on the difference between the Old and New Testament Covenants.

“Old Testament passages are only properly used when they ultimately point us to Jesus and the New Covenant” – K.L. 3006.

* How to live in anticipation of Christ’s return.

First person stories of people from his church whose lives illustrate the point he has just made follow chapters of teaching.

The book’s ideas are logical and the points well supported with Scripture. Cymbala speaks from a wealth of pastoral experience which gives his voice and message credibility,  passion, and urgency.

There is nothing new here, really, just a plea to get back to basics, made urgent because of how quickly events are changing the political and social landscape in America and the world. For those who have lost fervor or gotten bogged down in esoterical theology, this easy-to-read book is an invitation back to Bible essentials.

I received Storm as a gift from the publisher via BookLook Bloggers for the purpose of writing a review.

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Stopping Words That Hurt (review)

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Stopping Words That Hurt: Positive Words in a World Gone NegativeStopping Words That Hurt: Positive Words in a World Gone Negative by Michael D. Sedler

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

We all know it’s not a good thing to gossip. But have we ever considered that listening to gossip, negative talk or an “evil report’ about an individual or situation might be just as bad? That’s the premise of Stopping Words that Hurt: Positive Words in a World Gone Negative by Michael D. Sedler.

“It’s the purpose of this book to define and emphasize the magnitude of injury that takes place when we are involved in negative conversation,” says Sedler early in the book.

“Just listening to an evil report can do tremendous damage to your perspective, viewpoint and overall spirit” – Stopping Words that Hurt, Kindle Location (KL) 39 & 150.

Sedler, a trained counselor, social worker, educator, and pastor builds his case with lots of practical insights. In one of the first chapters he lists eight ways that speakers let us know they are about to give us what he calls “defiling information.” These include:
– Looks for support from you for beliefs, attitudes, and actions.
– Attempts to create disunity and division.
– Flatters and praises the listener.
– Exaggerates a situation to make it worse than it is.

In a chapter titled “Why do we gossip?” (Chapter 5) he likens an evil report to a locomotive “barreling down certain ‘tracks.’” One of these tracks is confusion. This can flesh itself out in us taking up another person’s offense and being overly concerned about the acceptance of those around us.

Confusion can shunt us onto the track of contamination (Chapter 7) where we are tempted to join in the negative conversation of backbiters, busybodies, complainers, slanderers, gossipers etc.

In other chapters Sedler unveils the cleansing process, the benefits of speaking healing words, and how to deal biblically with negative talk in various settings, including the church. In the final chapter he discusses the impact of our attitudes, words, and actions on our children and those who look up to us.

Sedler’s style is clear and easy to read. I enjoyed the illustrations he gives from his life. He quotes many Bible passages in their entirety and retells many Bible stories at length so sometimes I felt like I was reading sermons.

Though in the main I appreciated Sedler’s argument and the way he made his case, one of his tendencies bothered me. More than once when using a Bible example, he built his argument on a part of the story that he imagined or embellished from the Bible account. For example in the chapter “When Fear Talks” (Chapter 9), he retells the story of Mary and Martha and their response to Jesus not coming to heal Lazarus. Sedler interprets Martha’s conversation with Jesus as showing a lack of faith. He maintains this has been brought about through listening to the negative talk of neighbours:

“My impression is that Martha and Mary had been polluted by the words of those around them …. Mary and Martha were not able to seize upon their active faith because they had been polluted by discouragement and confusion …. Where did this ‘pollution and fear’ come from? The words spoken to Martha and Mary had indeed penetrated deeply. John 11:19 speaks of how people gathered around to ‘comfort’ them …. Was godly solace for the bereaved really taking place? More likely the comforters gave in to the temptation to speak negative comments about Jesus and his ‘unwillingness’ to come when He knew that His friends desperately wanted him” (KL 1422 and on).

These things may have been so but they really aren’t in the Bible. I take exception to writers spinning the Bible account to undergird their theories in such a way.

Aside from such quibbles, I would say that this is a book Christians young and old, new and mature, would do well to read. It contains practical wisdom that reveals how our negative attitudes and talk affect others and carries on to show how we can be contaminated by even listening to gossip, hearsay, complaining, and all kinds of “evil reports.” I would recommend this book for all those serious about safeguarding their spiritual health and the health of those whose lives they touch.

I received this book as a gift from the publisher (Bethany House – Chosen Books) for the purpose of writing a review.

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