Meanderings of a Minister


Children’s Book or Serious Question?

In the book, What If He Had Not Come?, David Nicholson has undertaken the task of updating a well-known story that has captivated everyone from children to theologians for many years.  The question is:  what if Jesus had never come?  What would change?  Before you jump to the conclusion that it is just churches or religious stuff that would change, Nan Weeks first suggested that many other things would be affected including:  hospitals (most were started by churches or Christians), shelters for homeless people (most have Christian roots), retirement homes (mostly started by Christians as well), etc.

The pictures in this version are simple and yet effective at helping the reader picture what the main character goes through when being faced with the situation if Jesus had never come.

While I received the eBook of this title, I am sure that board book version would be just as helpful and durable for many readings which could even lead to a family tradition.

Nicholson’s version also comes with a discussion and study guide for those interested in using this to study together as a family or in a Sunday School setting.

This book will certainly help to focus the minds of young children on the real reason for which many families celebrate Christmas.

*This ebook was provided for review by BookLook*



My Bible Adventure: Much More Than A Book of Children’s Bible Stories

I recently received a copy of My Bible Adventure Through God’s Word.  I anticipated being a bit underwhelmed by yet another simplified and dumbed down children’s Bible, but I was completely pleasantly surprised.  This Bible is so much more than that!

First, you actually get some Bible.  Many of these Bible books don’t actually give you any Bible.  They just give you a pre-digested version.  This one actually gives you some text.  Additionally, the book gives you an explanation or commentary on the Bible passage.  It is written on the child’s level, but does not assume the child needs things so watered down as to not be recognizable.

After the commentary, comes a prayer that you can pray with your little one.  You can either have them read it and pray it or, as we do with my 7-year old daughter, you can pray the prayer together.

Lastly, the Bible has a feature that I have not seen before.  It is a section called, “Take It With You”.  This is a short restatement of the key truth from the passage you have read that night.  This helps to make sure that you can remember and restate what you have read.

The book is broken up into 52 weekly readings, but we have used it nightly and it has not been too much.

I would say this Bible is usable and helpful for preschoolers up to about 8 or 9 years old.

I received this book from Book look in exchange for my honest review.



Ever Wish You Knew the Bible Better?

Have you ever wanted more out of your Bible reading, or have you ever wondered why it seems that others get so much when you get so little?  Perhaps you should do more than read.  Perhaps you should think deeply about scripture, spend time with it, replay it throughout the day, or meditate on Scripture.

I know that you might be thinking, “That is too hard or complicated!   I wouldn’t even know where to begin!”  Actually that is the very reason that Robert J. Morgan wrote the book, Reclaiming the Lost Art of Biblical Meditation:  Find True Peace in Jesus.  Morgan’s book is like having a master walk beside the reader to help with Biblical Meditation.  The book is a treasure trove of information, inspiration, illustration, and rumination, with absolutely no condemnation for any who have not tried to spend more or more serious time in God’s Word.

Each chapter is designed to give the reader a benefit of Biblical meditation.  In the chapter, Morgan tells the reader why they should meditate on scripture and gives examples that flesh out the ideas into actual life lessons.

In addition to the chapters, there is also scattered throughout the small volume, on the green pages, specific suggestions for how to get started.  This helps to make sure that the whole process does not seem to be just for the professionals, but puts the cookies on the bottom shelf for the rest of us.

Additionally, there is a 10-day meditation guide at the back where Morgan walks the reader through the method with helpful pointers and suggestions along the way.  Each day gives the reader a scripture, context, and some thoughts to help with the meditation process.

As bonus, at the end of the book, Morgan gives the reader an additional list of scriptures so that the process can become a habit for life.

I have been meditating on scripture for years, and I found this book to be simple, yet helpful.  I found it to be inspiring without being so far above everyone’s heads to make it unreachable.  I also found it so immediately applicable and practical that there really is no reason that a person could come away from the book questioning the importance, impact, or impassable process so crucial to Christian Growth.

This would be a great book to read on your own or with your children.  It would also be great to be used in church or in a small group setting.  It could also be incorporated into a discipleship strategy for new believers, but that is only the benefit to be had outside of the reader’s heart and mind.  Inside the heart and mind, there is no way to estimate its value or exhaust its uses.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers <http://booklookbloggers.com> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”



What Makes A Healthy Church Member?
August 4, 2016, 9:58 am
Filed under: Articles, Book Review | Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

What Makes a Healthy Church Member

Years ago, Thabiti M. Anyabwile wrote a book with that title.  On behalf of the IX Marks ministry, Dr. Anyabwile attempted to sit down and formulate what a healthy church member looks like.  His findings were a challenge to me personally, for in our denomination, I am a member of our local church.  Here is a synopsis of what he found.

First and foremost, a healthy church member is one who listens expositionally.  What does that mean?  Listening this way is akin to critical listening skills in other disciplines.  A healthy church member knows their Bible and can evaluate whether or not the sermon is accurate to the text because they are familiar with the overall story of the Bible.  Like the Bereans in the book of Acts, healthy church members should be able to search the scriptures to see if these things are so.

Similarly, the healthy church member should also be a Biblical Theologian.  This means that they are knowledgeable enough of the character and activity of God so as to be able to critically evaluate not only the Biblical message of the church, but also the lives of their fellow members to help them with any blind spots that might exist.

The healthy church member both understands the gospel and has personally had it applied to their heart and lives and are seeking to model it as well as share it with others.  A healthy church member is someone who understands that his or her sins have been forgiven and know what they deserve in separation from God.  Since they have been given grace, they extend it to others without simply turning a blind eye to sin around them or in their own lives.

The healthy church member is also a committed member.  Now, this does not mean just that they attend church every time the doors are open.  That was the old metric.  They attend, yes, but it is much more than that.  They are committed to following their leaders as long as their leaders are following Christ.  They are committed to sharing their gifts and talents in service to others.  They are committed to give to their church financially as much more than just the required ten percent.  They look for ways to help financially and even sacrifice their own plans for the sake of what God is doing through their church.

The healthy church member seeks out accountability and welcomes discipline when appropriate.  No one likes discipline. (Hebrews 12:11)  But the healthy church member realizes that her own heart might deceive her into thinking she is doing great when she actually is living wrongly.  (Jeremiah 17:9)  The healthy church member has a desire to live a holy life as a means of thanking Jesus for the cross and for the freedom we have been given.  Because of this, any pain or inconvenience the discipline of others brings is worth it.

The healthy church member is hungry to continue growing.  Whether it is effectiveness in prayer, understanding of scripture, development in evangelism, or discovery and deployment of spiritual gifts, the healthy church member wants to continue to grow.  They want to continue to mature in their belief and practice alike.  They read, study, pray, serve, and more for the purpose of growing in Christ.

The healthy church member is a humble follower who prays for their church.  They put the needs of others ahead of their own in practice and in prayer.  The healthy church member will embrace music that is not their style for the sake of those who might need it to connect them to ministry and the church.  The healthy church member would rather than church building be worn out by teeming masses being brought in than to keep it an unstained museum to the greatness of their sacrifices to build a nice facility.

While this is only a very brief synopsis of Anyabwile’s book, What Is A Healthy Church Member?. It begs the questioning of our hearts to ask if that is healthy, am I?



If You Can Keep It
July 7, 2016, 3:56 pm
Filed under: Articles, Book Review | Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

If-You-Can-Keep-it-Feature-e1465588198324

Eric Metaxas is a Christian author who specializes in historical biography.  He has written books of Deitrich Bonhoeffer and others who have had a major impact on church, world, and American history.  In his latest book, Metaxas reminded me of an event from our past that has major ramifications for today and certainly needs to be heard today.

In 1787, a woman approached Benjamin Franklin and asked what the founding fathers had given America in terms of a government.  Benjamin Franklin’s answer should be reverberating in our ears today.  He said, “A Republic…if you can keep it.”  What did Franklin mean by that statement?  First, he meant that we have a style of government that is a Democratic Republic.  What is a Democratic Republic?  Good question.  And while it is beyond the scope of a simple and limited newspaper article to exhaustively define it, basically this means that the government, “Of the people, by and the people, and for the people” is the intent and elected representation that then is free to interpret the will of the people and apply it on their behalf is the expression.

What this system was designed to accomplish is a liberty not seen in other parts of the world up to this time.  The people would have the freedom to elect their officials.  They would cast votes and one vote would be one vote.  For many of us who have grown up here, this only seems like the logical choice and is expected, but this is not the way the rest of the world still lives.  Now, many countries have followed our example and there were examples of democracy before us, but none that combined this with a republic style of government and a stated dependence upon God and the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Once our officials are elected, they are expected to represent the interests of those whom they represent.  Under a republic style of government, these officials are free to interpret those intentions and vote according to their interpretations.  What this was intended to accomplish was to keep from bogging down the system waiting to hear from constituency before a vote can be cast.  With a nation as vast as ours, any other system would be untenable at best or inconsistent with democracy at worst.

Now, what did Benjamin Franklin, a self-professed non-Christian, mean by, “If you can keep it.”?  Quite simply, Franklin knew that this type of system was susceptible to decay from apathy, disruption from enemy, and cooption from deception.  As we pray for our nation, which we should, we should remember these warnings.

Jeremiah 29:7 says, “Seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf; for in its welfare you will have welfare.”  This was God telling the Israelites to pray for Babylon because that was where they had been taken into exile.  If God wanted the Israelites to pray for a corrupt, wicked, evil, and barbarous nation so that they would be blessed, how much more should we pray for our nation?

Would you join me in praying for our nation?  Let’s pray that God would protect us from decay.  That He would protect us from the decay that comes from a people that have grown to expect the blessings God has granted our nation and take it for granted.  The decay that comes when people make the responsibilities that come as a citizen of this great nation the duties of others and think they are only aboard for what they can receive.

Would you pray that God would protect us from the disruption from our enemies?  Some of our enemies are not foreign powers.  Some of our enemies are those who exploit our citizens through financial bondage, chemical bondage, sexual bondage, and spiritual bondage.  Would you pray that those who are trying to lead our nation astray would dry up and blow away?

And would you join me in pray that God would protect us from the cooption from the deceivers that live in our land and who want to take away our liberties.  Those who actively work against the Republic we have been given and want to keep.

There is a group of people who pray for our nation every evening at 8 PM.  Would you set an alarm on your phone, computer, or alarm clock or set up some kind of reminder that will remind you to stop and pray for our nation, for in its welfare you find your own and it just might be the only way we can keep our Republic.

God bless America.



Ten Commandments of Christian Social Media, Part II
April 11, 2016, 3:21 pm
Filed under: Articles, Book Review | Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

Struggles_home_ads_sidebar

Last week, we started looking at Craig Groeschel’s book, #struggles.  At the end of this book, Groeschel gives Ten Commandments for how Christians should use social media so that the usage matches their claim that Jesus is Lord of their lives.  The first five were as follows:

  1. Put God first in all you say and post.
  2. Love others as you want to be loved.
  3. Use social media to facilitate, not replace, real relationships.
  4. Use social media instead of being controlled by it as an idol.
  5. Turn your virtual other cheek to posts that offend you.

Sixth, do not post out of emotion.  When you are emotional, this is not the time to address sensitive issues in real life.  What makes us think it would be any better online?  If you are mad, sad, way too glad, or some other emotion you may be feeling extremely high or low, this can be a dangerous time to post.  Much like the syrupy love letters you wrote in middle school, emotional posts can be an embarrassment later.  The difference is that they live on forever in cyberspace and you never know when they will come back to haunt you.

Seventh, always reflect Jesus, loving God whether online or off.  The hallmark of a believer in Jesus is that they ought to love God, Jesus’ Father.  They ought to love Him in the way He desires to be loved.  How is that?  1 John 5:3 says, “For this is the love of God; that we keep His commandments; and His commandments are not burdensome.”  So how do we love God?  By obeying God.  How has God told us to treat others?  With love (1 Corinthians 13:1-3).  How has God told us to use our mouths?   Cleanly (Ephesians 5:3-5).  How has God told us reflect His character?  In truth (Colossians 3:9).  Make sure that the posts, texts, emails, pins, and anything else you do online reflect your obedience to those commands.

Eighth, do not use social media to fuel temptations.  Wait!  I know many people are automatically going to think of pornography when they read this statement, but temptations do often include pornography, even for believers.  Nearly one half of all website visits each year are for the purpose of pornography.  80% of Christian men responded to a survey from Focus on the Family indicating they had visited a pornographic website in the previous week.  But temptation does not only come from pornography.  For some, it is visiting amazon.com and shopping.  For others, it is zappos.com and shoes.  For some others, it is online gambling.  For still others, it is the temptation to be fake on social media to impress people and make people think you are better, richer, prettier, stronger, or more connected than real life.  Paul told Timothy, But flee from these things, you man of God, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, perseverance and gentleness.”  (1 Timothy 6:11)

Ninth, form your own opinions and don’t just follow the crowd.  For many people, seeing the trends of online activity causes them to want to adopt the same thoughts, values, or opinions.  For instance, many people were doing the bucket challenge to raise awareness of ALS.  Soon, celebrities were posting their videos as well as just about everyone.  People donated a lot of money to the research for ALS until they realized some of the money was used to harvest embryos for stem cell research.  Another trend is the self-promotion that comes from selfies.  Should we always be shouting to people, “Look at me!”  Should we instead have the same attitude as John the Baptist, “He must increase.  I must decrease.”

Lastly, do not base your identity on what people think of you.  Many people can become joyful of depressed depending upon the number of people who “like” their pictures, repin their pictures, retweet their tweets, or mention them and their blog.  We need to be careful that we don’t make public acceptance the measure of our worth.  Some people spend their time worrying what people think of them until they realize how seldom others actually do.  Instead, why don’t we adopt the stand of David in Psalm 139:14, “I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Wonderful are Your works, And my soul knows it very well.”

Let’s use social media, but let’s make sure it matches the rest of our lives in living for Jesus.

 



The Ten Commandments of Christian Social Media, Part I

Struggles_home_ads_sidebar

Craig Groeschel is the author of Lifechurch.tv.  This is a multi-campus church that reaches several thousand people each week.  Craig has written a new book, #struggles.  In this book, he asks the question if we are addicted to social media.  Are we more impacted by and committed to social media than we are to the One we call our Lord.  After eight chapters designed at helping us to see our problem, redirect our attention and refocus our lives, Groeschel listed the Ten Commandments of how a Christian should treat social media.  I found this list helpful and thought I would pass it along as a means of helping us to loosen the grip social media has on us, but also as a means of ensuring that our use of social media reflects the relationship with Christ we claim.

First, put God first in all you say and post.  It is too easy to use the distance of social media to embolden us to be ruder than we would be in person.  It can enable us to be careless or even to be deceptive in only showing others what we want them to see or to even try to fool them into thinking we are more than we really are.

Second, love others as you want to be loved.  What does this mean in social media?  Don’t be unnecessarily harsh, critical or demeaning on social media.  Just because you can respond to something does not mean you should.  There are some things we let go in real life, but feel we must say something on the web.  In addition, you should “like” people and things online as much as you wish others would like or repost your stuff online.

Third, we must use social media to facilitate, not replace, real relationships.  It is much easier to sit behind your desk and comment on posts than to actually go have a conversation with someone.  It is much easier to send an instant message telling someone you are sorry for their loss than it is to actually go and visit them and hug them and look into their tear-reddened eyes and suffer with them.  Don’t allow virtual relationships to replace actual relationships.

Fourth, use social media instead of being controlled by it as an idol.  We must make sure that a good thing never becomes the ultimate thing.  If your cell phone is the last thing you check before you go to sleep, and the first thing you check in the morning when your eyes open, then you have a problem.  Social media has become an idol.  It is something that can control our moods, schedules, and even where we will travel.  This is the place of a master and Christians have said Jesus holds that place.

Fifth, turn your virtual cheek to posts that offend you.  Again, just because you can respond does not mean that you should.  When someone posts something against your favorite team, school, restaurant, or even your church or religion, you don’t have to respond.  I know this sounds like I am saying you should be ashamed of the Lord, but that is not the point at all.  When someone posts a blast like this, they are egging people on to engage in online warfare.  They are not interested in open debate and are not willing to consider anything other than their point of view, so engaging them is a lot like wrestling with a pig in the pigpen.  You both will get dirty, but they like it!  You don’t have to respond.

This is just the first half of the Ten Commandments of Christian Social media, but even just following these five would already eliminate much of the poor testimony of many Christians when using social media.  Just following these five brief instructions would take the teeth out of the criticisms of many online that Christians are hateful, uncaring, and hypocritical.  Look for the final five next week.