Thursday, July 7, 2016

Book Review: Habits for Our Holiness by Philip Nation

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"Not your typical spiritual disciplines book
Most books on the spiritual disciplines follow the same pattern: introduce the discipline, prove it from Scripture, and give tips for how to do it.
Habits for our Holiness does more than that: It connects the disciplines to all of life. By showing how the disciplines have their greatest power when practiced in community and on mission, Philip Nation gives Christians a bigger reason—and greater desire—to pursue spiritual disciplines. He also warns us of what happens when we neglect them.
With plenty of examples, stories, and illustrations, Habits for our Holiness will inspire you to nourish your life with discipline, enjoy the fruit of godliness, and have a hand in building the church."

Summer is here. My freshman year of college is now a pleasant memory. One year down––three more to go. With the arrival of summer break comes more leisure time and what better way to use those extra hours in a day than by reading a good book (of your choice and not assigned by a professor, I might add)? 

Rather than dive head-first back into the fictional worlds I love, Habits for Our Holiness caught my attention and seemed like the perfect read to kick-off my summer vacation for two reasons. 1) Life gets busy––my first year of college revealed how I can slowly begin to slack-off in the spiritual disciplines despite my best intentions. Summer is a great time to evaluate and strengthen my relationship with Christ. 2) One of the students in my college asked me to lead a small Bible study group for the upcoming school year and I want to gain a deeper knowledge on the spiritual disciplines that I can put into practice as well as share with the girls in my small group. 

I have to admit (and I'm sure lovers of fiction can relate) that non-fiction doesn't always hold the attention. I've tried and failed time and again in the past. Habits for Our Holiness, however, does not disappoint. 

Philip Nation communicates his message in a clear, concise way that is easy to understand. Although his writing is simple, his message is profound. Mr.Nation defines a spiritual discipline as "a mental and physical act and a habit that expresses our love for God and fosters a greater display of His glory in our lives and a deeper understanding of His character and agenda." The author successfully shows how love is the common factor in all spiritual growth because "love is the central discipline of the Christian life."

Each chapter in the book is focused on a different discipline ranging from the commonly heard practices of worship, Bible study, and prayer to practices not normally identified as disciplines such as fellowship, rest, and simple living. I especially enjoyed Mr.Nation's insight into how practices like the last three mentioned can be applied in daily living as spiritual disciplines. The author breathes new significance into the more well-known disciplines by explaining their importance and showing how each discipline applies to God's mission at large. 

Habits for Our Holiness is a book that will provide a deeper understanding of the spiritual disciples to all people––whether they have much or little knowledge on the spiritual disciplines. For those seeking to deepen their relationship with Christ, breathe new significance to the spiritual disciplines, and learn how to practically live out the spiritual disciplines in everyday life and God's kingdom at large, this book is a necessary addition to your non-fiction, "practical life" library. I highly recommend it and give it 5 stars. (Don't worry––those fictional worlds will still be waiting for you when you're done!)

** Thanks to Moody Publishers and PR by the Book for providing a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review, which I have given **

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. Read CBRB's full disclosure here.

Monday, January 4, 2016

Life Update + Top Books of 2015

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Writing this post feels like coming home after a long absence. I don't know where to begin––so much "life" has occurred in the last few months that it's hard to summarize in a few short sentences. Shall I start with the good news? 

• I have successfully completed my first semester at The King's College. One semester down . . . seven more to go. 
• I have made great progress in figuring out the NYC subway system. Yes, I'm a native New Yorker. Yes, I should be a pro by now, but I was homeschooled since seventh grade––that should explain everything.
• Because of the reading I've done for my college classes, I've branched out and read a lot of non-fiction in the last four months. A lot. Too much actually––which brings me to the bad news.

I have read very little fiction this past year. In the last four months alone, I have read not one fiction book. NOT ONE. There were a few times during this semester that I "tortured" myself by looking up new releases by my favorite authors with the understanding that I couldn't read any of them. #SoMuchToReadSoLittleTime. For this reason, CBRB's Top Ten Books for 2015 will be a little different. 

• Included in the Top Ten are a couple books I really enjoyed this year and . . .
• Eight books I was unable to read, but I'm confident they would've made the list

Without further ado here are CBRB's Top Ten Books of 2015 (in the order of their release dates except for the last two):
10. Sabotaged by Dani Pettrey

Feb. 3, 2015
9. The Choosing by Rachelle Dekker

May 19, 2015
8. In Good Company by Jen Turano

June 30, 2015
7. Through Waters Deep by Sarah Sundin

July 28, 2015
6. Luther and Katharina by Jody Hedlund 

Oct. 6, 2015
5. The Painter's Daughter by Julie Klassen

Nov. 24, 2015
4. Until the Dawn by Elizabeth Camden

Nov. 24, 2015
3. The First Hostage by Joel C. Rosenberg

Dec. 29, 2015
2. Exodus by Cliff Graham

May 3, 2015
In Exodus, Graham breathes new life into the Bible character of Caleb. Because the Bible does not offer much information on the life of Caleb, this book does use a lot of creative license. But if you're looking for a captivating and eye-opening glimpse into the life of a courageous Bible warrior, definitely pick up a copy. This is Biblical fiction at its best.

1. Together With You by Victoria Bylin

April 7, 2015
I haven't read a book this wonderful in a long time. I learned about fetal alcohol syndrome, related beautifully with the heroine, and experienced spiritual encouragement. I love a book where I learn something new and connect with the character(s). Especially a book with a strong spiritual thread.

Carly Mason is a girl after my own heart. She's strong in her faith and in her convictions. She doesn't sugar-coat her decision to "save herself for marriage" and her compassionate, godly character stands out to Ryan and others around her. Because Dr. Ryan Tremaine is an atheist, he is distinct from most Christian fiction heroes. Oh, he's still a wonderful father and a "perfect" gentleman, but his spiritual journey sparkles because of his initial there-is-no-God philosophy. A large obstacle to Carly and Ryan's growing attraction is her faith in God––I enjoyed this unique approach and how, despite her feelings, Carly was unwilling to compromise.

Some of my favorite scenes were those written from Penny's point-of-view. Her voice seemed very realistic for a child suffering from fetal alcohol effects. I loved how Penny called her Heavenly Father "Dr.God." Seeing the relationship development among Ryan and his children––especially Penny––was heartwarming. 

Since Carly and Ryan are not in their early-twenties, their perspectives on life are mature and realistic which is a refreshing change. The depictions of Los Angeles and even Kentucky, Carly's home state, came to life. I could see the smog, feel the salt-laden ocean breeze, and imagine the rolling, green hills of Kentucky. 

While the plot of Together With You held my interest, the characters are what attract attention. They are real. Additionally, the ending was sigh-worthy and tied all the loose ends wonderfully. If you're looking for a novel driven by characters that leap to life––whose commitment to Christ is real––and that will stay with you for a long time afterward, pick up a copy of Together With You. I highly recommend it and give it five stars.

What were your favorite books this past year? Did you read any of the books included in CBRB's Top Ten?

My second semester of college begins in a week and, unfortunately, this may be my only post for a while, but I would love to connect and stay in touch with you (that should motivate me to use social media more frequently;)! What is your favorite social media platform? Twitter? Instagram? Let me know––it is always wonderful to find readers who have similar tastes. If I could run into one lover of Christian fiction among the streets of NYC . . . that would be the day. 

Readers, I pray God blesses you abundantly in this new year. Keep living for HIM and . . . keep reading good books. 

Until next time!

~ Aizess