Thursday, October 19, 2017

Street of Eternal Happiness

Street of Eternal Happiness *****
by Rob Schmitz

Overview: Rob Schmitz is a journalist living in Shanghai. He gets to know the small shop owners along the Street of Eternal Happiness. He knows the florist, the sandwich shop owner, the baker who sells hot onion pancakes, the couple whose house nearby was destroyed and left them homeless. As he learns about their backgrounds, families, hopes and dreams, he seeks to understand China's history and how it has shaped the Chinese culture today. 

Positive elements: Well-written. Schmitz captures the uniqueness of the each of these colorful Chinese characters. You feel like you are listening in on the screaming fight between the pancake maker and his scheming-to-get-rich wife. You feel the pain of the florist as she worries about her sons' futures and their poor jobs. You feel embarrassed when her son tries to court a country girl and his humiliated and rejected. You are angered when the elderly are taken advantage of in investment schemes.

Negative elements: Chinese history and economics is long and complicated. Parts of the book felt tedious. Parts I skimmed because I didn't care to understand quite so many details. The economy of China isn't something I've thought much about before.

Conclusion: I initially wanted to read this book because my sister-in-law is adopting a boy from China, and I have a friend who has taught English in China for a decade. But as I read, I was so intrigued by the Chinese culture. The Chinese people have been through so much. I loved this quote near the end of the book, "Who would've thought that, fifty years after such violent revolution and catastrophic famine, the Chinese would have enough spirit left in them to dream, much less have the means and freedom to try to pursue them?"

And that quote truly sums up the book. What does it look like when Chinese people of all ages and stations in life dream? 

I would recommend this book to anyone.

I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Mrs. Oswald Chambers: The Woman behind the World's Bestselling Devotional

Mrs. Oswald Chambers: The Woman behind the World's Bestselling Devotional *****

Overview: Most Christians have heard of the devotional My Utmost for His Highest, but few know the story behind the book. Michelle Ulu tells a detailed and inspiring story of the partnership and love of Oswald Chambers and his wife Biddy. The book tells of each of their childhoods, how they met, their service together from England to Egypt, the many lives they touched. Biddy was the one who compiled all the scriptures and devotional thoughts in My Utmost for His Highest. She self-published it, and it has never been out of print since.

In the middle of the book, there are some pictures from their ministry. And at the end of the book, there is an appendix about the themes in My Utmost for His Highest.

Positive elements: The book had the perfect balance of lots of facts and details and yet the story kept moving. A great biography.

Negative elements: none  

Conclusion: Biddy Chambers' life greatly encouraged and convicted me. She was so committed to the mission God had given her and her husband to tell people about Jesus where ever they were. In the midst of ministry, she and her husband made sure to care for their daughter personally. It was a good reminder that our kids only have one set of parents. 

I was also greatly encouraged by Biddy's daily prayer. She found herself serving people and welcoming them into her home constantly. She depended each day on God to give her the strength to keep serving well and all the provision of food, etc. Her prayer was: "I give the day over into God's hands, completely, so He will look over who comes."   

Oswald died young. After he was dead, Biddy continued teaching from her husband's books. She went on to spend almost fifty years typing up and publishing almost everything he wrote! 

Biddy was completely devoted to her husband only because she was completely devoted to God. And when her husband died, she carried on her calling, despite the overwhelming challenges. I want to be completely devoted to God, too, and serve others in His strength.

I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Transforming Grace

Transforming Grace *****
by Jerry Bridges

This 345 page book is all about God's grace towards us in its many forms. The author begins by saying that while many Christians understand that they are saved by God's grace, many believe that once they are saved, it is up to them to work hard to earn God's favor. But God's grace is complete...we add nothing to it.

Jerry Bridges goes through the whole topic of grace in the Bible and shows that we are completely lost without Jesus. It is only through His grace, His unmerited favor towards us, that we have anything.

I was really encouraged to keep thanking God for all his daily graces in my life. As a Christian, saved by God's amazing grace, I should be the most thankful and grateful of all people. I also appreciated the reminder that God's grace is shown to us through the truth of His word. We need to know His word so we can be comforted and changed by it. And so we can help others as well.

I would recommend this book to anyone. It's packed full of truth and scriptures. It is a book you have to read slowly so you can try and absorb it all.

The book also has an extensive Bible study in the back to do with a group or individually. The study is broken up into eight weeks.

I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review.