"Note to Self" - Not a mere devotional book (5/5)

We're told that we've been given everything "for life and godliness," that the Bible is "useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in all righteousness," and that we are to meditate on the word of God both "day and night." But what does this mean? What does this look like? We know the Gospel is important, and we've been told to "preach the Gospel to ourselves." How? And to what end?

"Note to Self" answers these questions and more. Although each chapter is 2 pages at most, (the "Jesus is Enough" chapter is 3 pages), this is not a devotional. Or at least it is unlike any other devotional I have ever read. It does not merely dispense easy answers and pleasant thoughts and send you on your way. It does so much more because it is grounded not in the author's own opinions or self-help mantras, but firmly in the Word of God. Even starting with the Foreward by Sam Storms, I was challenged, strengthened, and encouraged. This book is full of the Gospel- what it is, what it means, and how it relates to every possible aspect of life.

"Note to Self" got me through my very stressful and hectic first week of work in a field I had no previous practical experience in. Here are examples of some chapters that I found useful in everyday situations:

- When my phone died the night before my first day (Rejoice, Give Thanks, Jesus is Big, Jesus is Enough, God Does Not Answer to - You, Stop Complaining)
- When commuting to my first day (Fear, Work, Worship in Private)
- When I heard my client's heartbreaking story (Love, Hate Well)
- When people on the train play their music without headphones, play first-person shooters without headphones, chew loudly, or have extended phone conversations about how their new business ventures "aren't about risk, but about opportunity!" (Stop Judging, Sow Grace, Forgive, Repent, You are Proud, Stop Complaining, Know Your Idols)
- When I was told my assignment would be due at 3:30, but the necessary report I needed for the thrust of my argument didn't come until 2 (There's no chapter on "Sheer Panic," but several of the aforementioned chapters were duly applicable)
- When getting to know my new boss and coworkers (Love, Sow Grace, Initiate)

And this was just after my first three days! Other chapters of "Note to Self" discuss how we interact with God, how we interact with our sin, how we interact with the Church, and how we interact with others. The term "practical theology" gets thrown around a lot, but I can't think of a better way to describe this book.

In my reviews, I like to pull quotes from the book to let it speak for itself. However, "Note to Self," has far too many good quotes. Every sentence is full of Gospel truth, exhortation, and encouragement. If I had to pick a quote to share, it would be Thorn's description of preaching the Gospel to oneself in the introduction: "The impact of preaching to ourselves is not found in dramatic moments of crisis, or in our ability to use words creatively, but in the ongoing, regular, and virtually plain preaching of the law and the gospel...to preach to yourself is to challenge yourself, push yourself, and point yourself to the truth." This book preaches the Gospel. "Note to Self" is an excellent tool for Christians, new and old, to preach the Gospel to themselves and to others.

(Disclosure: I was given a free copy of "Note to Self" by the publisher but was not paid for my review. The opinions and impressions expressed herein are my own.)

"Rid of My Disgrace" Book Review (5/5)

The (under-reported) statistics are staggering. At least one in four women and one in six men are or will be victims of sexual assault in their lifetime. This almost guarantees that "Rid of My Disgrace" will be relevant to either you, or someone you know.

For those who are like me, it may be hard to imagine the sort of pain that sexual assault victims experience, but we have to try. We are not resolved of our responsibility to bear others' burdens simply because it's "hard." Just as those who are victimized have to face the darkness before they can fully heal, we must also stand beside them and face that darkness as well. This is how we can share the love of Christ and provide a safe haven for those who have been victimized.

For those who have been sexually assaulted, my heart goes out to you, and so do the hearts of Justin and Lindsey Holcomb. I fully recommend this book because the authors do an excellent job of defining sexual assault, explaining its affects, and looking to the Gospel to heal a very real hurt.

The Holcombs recognize that the "internal trauma [of sexual assault] is not only done to, but also experienced by victims" and affects the victim physically, emotionally, psychologically, relationally, and spiritually. You may be experiencing denial, a distortion of your self-image, shame, guilt, anger, and/ or despair as the result of what was done to you. Know that these "emotions are important and valid. They are not just chemicals in your brain...they reveal what you believe about God, yourself, your experience of sexual assault, others, and the world."

This book aims "to integrate suffering, faith, emotions, and theology." I have read a decent amount of counseling books, and I must say that they do an excellent job at this. They do not just provide pithy and positive self-statements, but instead provide "God's statements about his response to [your] pain." "To your sense of disgrace," the authors write, "God restores, heals, and re-creates through grace. A good short definition of grace is 'one-way love.' This is the opposite of your experience of assault, which was 'one-way violence'...The contrast between the two is staggering." The authors will hopefully encourage you to "[refuse] to settle for the way things are" and be filled with a "relentless hope."

What you experienced was a destruction of shalom, the peace and harmony that God intended. What you experienced was a violation of your identity and value as an image-bearer of God. But God can, has, and will restore that harmony and identity to you- and so much more. "To your pain, the Gospel says, 'you will be healed.' To your shame, the Gospel says, 'you can now come to God in confidence.' To your rejection, the Gospel says, 'You are accepted!' To your lostness, the Gospel says, 'You are found and I won't ever let you go.' To your sin, the Gospel says, 'You are forgiven and God declares you pure and righteousness.' To your death, the Gospel says, 'You once were dead, but now you are alive.'"

(Disclosure: I was given a free copy of "Rid of My Disgrace" by the publisher but was not paid for my review. The opinions and impressions expressed herein are my own.)


I will be alternating between blind denial, sheer panic, and GOD-I-DON'T-KNOW-WHAT-I'M-DOING prayers for the next couple weeks. As a result, I decided to suspend my blog posting in the meantime. However, you will still be able to follow me Twitter if I can manage to maintain some semblance of coherent thought long enough to write 140 characters.

(Pray for me!) I'll see you in a couple weeks!