I always enjoy talking about books, so it is my pleasure today to share with you about three that I’ve enjoyed recently.
Nice by Sharon Hodde Miller
Why We Love To Be Liked And How God Calls Us To More
“Be nice to each other.”
“If you can’t say something nice, say nothing at all.”
Niceness is something many of us have had instilled into us since an early age. We’re taught to be pleasant and polite, not to offend others, to play by the rules. And it’s all too easy to equate niceness with being a “good Christian.”
In this challenging book, Sharon Hodde Miller attempts to dispel that myth, encouraging us that:
“God did not call you to be nice.”
In the first half of the book, she examines the fruit of niceness and identifies some of the traps we can all too easily fall into:
“My devotion to niceness has won me a lot of acceptance and praise, but it has also inhibited my courage, fed my self-righteousness, encouraged my inauthenticity, and produced in me a flimsy goodness that easily gives way to disdain.”
“Niceness has the appearance of serving others, but it exists primarily to serve ourselves, and that is why niceness is a false virtue.”
In the second half of the book, she goes on to explore how we can tackle this idol of niceness and cultivate a tree that bears better fruit.
It is a thought-provoking read with some relatable real-life stories and some memorable illustrations that bring the points to life. I don’t think I’ve highlighted quite so much in a book since I read Sharon Hodde Miller’s last book “Free Of Me,” and there are several parts I plan to return to in order to reflect some more.
I’d highly recommend it for anyone who wants to follow Jesus, after all:
“Following Jesus means following a man who spoke hard and confusing truths, who was honest with his disciples – even when it hurt – who condemned the hypocrisy of the Pharisees and turned over tables in the Temple… Jesus was loving. He was gracious. He was forgiving. He was kind. But he was not nice.”
The Whole Armor Of God by Iain M. Duguid
How Christ’s Victory Strengthens Us For Spiritual Warfare
I’m sure that anyone who has been attempting to live the Christian life for even a short time will recognise that it is a challenge. As Iain Duguid points out:
“According to the Bible, life is not a picnic but a battle, an armed struggle against a powerful adversary… the choice is not whether you will be a Christian soldier or a Christian civilian, but whether you will be a prepared Christian soldier or an unprepared one.”
Ephesians 6 encourages that God has supplied us with armour for the battle and urges us to put it on, but while the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, the helmet of salvation and so on sound like they will be helpful, they can also seem a little abstract. It can be hard to understand exactly what they are and how we can practically put them on in everyday life.
This is exactly the issue this book tackles. It includes a chapter on each piece of the armour, exploring what it is, why it is so important, and how it can assist us in the battle. Each chapter includes questions for reflection, which can be used by individuals but could also be used for small group discussion.
The book is full of helpful insights. It is easy to read and achieves a good balance between theology and practical application. Great encouragement for the battle!
The Bathsheba Battle by Natalie Chambers Snapp
Finding Hope When Life Takes An Unexpected Turn
I think I was eight years old when I first heard Bathsheba’s story, in more detail than was probably appropriate looking back. It certainly got my attention. I remember my shock and confusion vividly, though it was more to do with David than with Bathsheba. Did the heroic and faithful giant-killer really do that?
I was interested to read this book to focus on the story from Bathsheba’s perspective. It explores the emotions Bathsheba must have experienced as she is brought to the palace, discovers herself unexpectedly pregnant, and then has to deal with the loss not only of her husband Uriah, but also of her child.
While our situations are different from Bathsheba’s, we all experience unexpected and often devastating circumstances at times, and this book attempts to draw lessons from Bathsheba’s story that can help us find they way forward in our own situations.
If I’m going to be honest and not just “nice,” (see above) I found some of the links with Bathsheba’s story a little tenuous. There are so many gaps in the Bible’s accounts of her story that I felt a lot of the lessons in this book were based on imagination and supposition. The author freely admits this, and I think the points she presents are helpful. I just found it a little frustrating to constantly be reminded: “We don’t really know how Bathsheba felt but…”
Leaving that aside, I think it will be a helpful book for many struggling with difficult circumstances, and it provides encouragement and practical advice for turning away from shame, anger, comparison, and fear, and towards forgiveness and hope.
“Our pain and suffering, the very thing none of us wants, is actually the vehicle God uses to invite us to the narrow path – the one where we find life.”
What about you? What books have you enjoyed recently? Feel free to share a recommendation in the comments.
I’m grateful to Baker Books, Crossway, Abingdon Press, and Netgalley for access to complementary digital copies of these books. I only share books here that I genuinely believe will be beneficial to my readers.
Amazon links are not affiliate links, but simply provided for your convenience.