Sep 23, 2014

book reviews // Bittersweet, Explicit Gospel, Desiring God


Back in January when I proposed my 2014 goals, I set a reading goal to help motivate me to start reading more consistently. I had dropped the ball in the previous year because I would be exhausted when I would get home from a long shift at the clinic, but wanted to get back into reading books for pleasure since it gave me quality quiet time. 

My goal was 10 books in 12 months, but by September I am past my goal (yay!) at 13 books! I have now changed my goal to 16 books by the end of 2014.

I had hoped to share more book reviews, but dropped the ball on that one after a few months. Although I enjoyed them, they were time consuming, and again, due to my emotional and physical strain from work in that season, blogging book reviews was not at the top of my priorities, so I had to press the pause button for a while. However, I figured now that I have surpassed my goal and have made a new one, it would be good to slowly share short blurbs of a few books at a time that I enjoyed in 2014. 

I'll start with three of my favorite books in 2014:
Bittersweet by Shauna Niequist
Desiring God by John Piper
Explicit Gospel by Matt Chandler 
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Bittersweet by Shauna Niequist
Bittersweet is my introduction to Shauna Niequist's storytelling style (I am currently reading Cold Tangerines by her). I kept reading about her books through the blogging world, so I finally bought a few books by her. Bittersweet is a beautiful narrative full of personal experiences that paint the portrait of life, namely that we have both bitter and sweet moments in life and they are equally important. I'll follow along my painting analogy for a while longer: Imagine a painting of a scene in nature, such as a forest or a turbulent river. The artist needs to add both bright "sweet" colors as well as darker "bitter" colors to reflect shadows. The shadows aren't meaningless even though they may not make sense all the time. Rather, they often bring more beauty to the painting because of the depth they add. Similarly, the hard, painful seasons of life (such as Shauna's heartbreaking miscarriage) should not be skimmed over or ignored. They are painful and confusing, but they are not meaningless or accidental. They often are a pathway to a deeper understanding of God's faithfulness in all seasons of life as well as a great appreciation for the sweet moments that often go unnoticed and unthanked. Don't expect deep theology in this book (check out the next two books in this review for that!), but DO expect to be challenged to look at both the bitter and sweet moments differently in your life. 

Desiring God by John Piper
It took me many months to get through Desiring God because of it's depth. I did not want to skim it and consequently found that I often needed a break to process all of the theology-heavy material. That said, it is a great read, especially if you are interested in digging deeper in Christian doctrine. Piper's main idea is based on the Westminster Shorter Catechism: The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever. But Piper uses the whole book to explain why he chooses to switch the 'and' with a 'by' and why this makes all the difference: The chief end of man is to glorify God by enjoying Him forever. His term 'Christian Hedonism' is aimed at explaining how we are called to desire and enjoy God in all aspects of life. Christians are not supposed to be in the doldrums, fretting and fearful. Instead, we are to see the gospel as a treasure of great worth (Matthew 13:44) and experience the limitless joy that comes from glorifying God. Piper explores various areas of the Christian life that can be transformed by the idea of Christian Hedonism (joy embedded in glorifying God) including personal finances, living missionally, prayer, studying the Bible, experiencing suffering, and marriage. We are called to joy. This does not mean our lives will be void of pain and suffering. But it does mean that when our end goal is to bring glory to God, joy will be a result. 

The Explicit Gospel by Matt Chandler
Whether you grew up in the church or are new to the teachings of Christianity, The Explicit Gospel is an excellent study on the gospel. Chandler expertly digs into the gospel and how it applies to us personally by understanding God and responding through repentance (this personal aspect is what he calls 'the gospel on the ground'). He then explains the 'gospel in the air', which includes doctrines on creation, the fall, and reconciliation. He drives home the understanding that the gospel is the heart of the Bible. His introduction includes a quote that explains this very well: "Everything in Scripture is either preparation for the Gospel, presentation of the Gospel, or participation in the Gospel" (Dave Harvey). The good news is needed in all aspects of life, for it transforms and brings hope. Chandler does an amazing job bringing the gospel in a fresh light while maintaining and upholding what the Bible says about the gospel. Prepare to be challenged and to fall deeper in awe of the gospel. 


Are you reading any good books right now?
Also, find me on goodreads (I am a bit obsessed with that website!)

10 comments:

  1. I always see Bittersweet when I visit the bookstore. I guess I'd have to pick it up next time. Thanks for this review.

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    1. Thank you for your comment! I kept hearing about it from bloggers and am SO glad I finally gave it a try! I Loved it!

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  2. I love these book reviews! Doing reviews like this on a blog is a huge commitment and I'm so impressed with what you've written here. I definitely want to pick up Bittersweet. It's the first I'm hearing of this book but it sounds beautiful.

    <3 Daisy @ http://simplicityrelished.com

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    1. Thanks so much! It's easier to write short paragraphs rather than one long review, so it was fun this time around! You should definitely grab Bittersweet! it is an awesome read!

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  3. Thanks lady, can't wait to read Matt Chandler's book…I read the others!! xoxo

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    1. Oooh, hope you read it soon! It is awesome!

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  4. I just put Shauna's books on my "get to these soon" list earlier this month! I sat another blogger down and asked her to give me an official into to Shaunaand telk me why I should read her books...She did and now I know that I've been missing out! ;)

    John Piper is one of my favorite teachers! Both Desiring God and Don't Waste your Life have been the perfect soul stirrers/kick in the pants for me!

    And Chandler...That guy is an excellent teacher as well! That book was no exception. :)

    I'm off to click on your goodreads and send you a friend request!

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    1. Thanks, girl! I accepted and just searched through your books too. You have quote the list! I am going to look into some of the books you put as favorites because they look so interesting!

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  5. Those three are definitely up at the top of my favorite list, and I'm so happy you enjoyed them all! Glad to see your face on Goodreads too!

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    1. Yes! Thanks for telling me about it! I LOVE it! And Greg is going to make an account soon, too :)

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Elle Alice