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.



The Trouble With the Tongue
April 26, 2017, 3:20 pm
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In the 1970’s, the show, Star Trek, introduced an episode entitled, “The Trouble with Tribbles”.  The problem with tribbles was not that they were cute or even useful, but that they multiplied until they were everywhere.  Once everywhere, they disrupted the ship’s crew and even the ship’s physical plant.  The clogged up everything and caused the crew to be at each others’ throats.  Our tongue is much like a tribble.  A little slip here, a little slip there and, before you know it, the effects have multiplied and our progress in the faith has completely stopped and we are upset with everyone.  James knew this to be a difficulty as well and he wrote about the trouble with the tongue in James 3:1-12.

The first trouble with the tongue James mentions is that it can take down those that desire to be teachers and leaders in the church.  James makes the statement that we all fall in the use of our tongues, but when teachers fall, the impact is multiplied simply because of the influence they have over others.  When you read 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1:5-9, and see the high standards Paul, at the direction of the Holy Spirit, put on pastors and teachers, it is amazing to think that they would meet all of those high and lofty ideals only to be taken down by careless use of the tongue.

Additionally, the trouble with the tongue is that it can lead you to a changed life.  It can lead to changes that are good or changes that are bad.  James uses the illustrations of directing a horse with a bit and a ship with a rudder.  Both use small things to change the course of much larger vessels, but think about it.  A horse can be used to rob a bank (in the Old West) or it can be used to deliver mail (Pony Express).  A ship can be used to deliver humanitarian aid or it can be used by Somalian pirates to take lives and demand ransoms.  Our tongue is similar.  It can be used to steer us into deeper relationships (courtship) or it can be used to destroy those same relationships (testifying in divorce court).

Another problem with the tongue is the fact that it is so hard to control.  The example James uses is that of a fire starting with a small spark.  Smokey the Bear used to say it only takes a spark to start a forest fire.  In the 1990’s, a discarded cigarette started a blaze in California that claimed over a million acres, homes and even lives.  The tongue can do this as well.  Think about a time when a careless remark or a word that was not well chosen had serious ramifications for you and you understand completely.

The tongue can also blow hot and cold.  This is what James meant by saying we use it to worship God (hot) and we use it to tear down or curse others (cold).  Sometimes, if we are not careful, that usage can happen in the span of a few seconds.  We use it to sing Jesus Loves Me and use it to criticize, gossip or destroy a person’s reputation.  This may seem normal, but James says it should not be so.

Finally, James closes this section with the biggest trouble of the tongue.  It merely reflects what is in our hearts.  Jesus said so in Matthew 12:34 when he said, “For the mouth speaks out of that which fills the heart.”  Do you wonder why you are critical?  It is what your heart is filled up with.  Why do you struggle to control cursing?  It is what you fill your heart up with.  Why do you find it hard to focus on Jesus throughout the day?  You are not filling your heart up with Him.

Try something different.  Try spending time in God’s word today and leave off the TV.  Try listening to only Christian music for a week and see if your tongue improves.  Make a list of the good attributes of your spouse and see if you don’t begin to see them in a more positive light.  Spend time thanking God for all He has done for you and see if grateful speech does not come easier.  Try it.  It just might change your life.



Who Is This Jesus We Celebrate at Easter?
April 13, 2017, 9:02 am
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In Genesis…He is the Creator and the Seed of Woman that would overcome the Serpent

In Exodus…He is our Passover Lamb

In Leviticus…He is our High Priest, the Sacrifice for our sins, and our Cleanliness before God

In Numbers…He is the Cloud by day, the Fire by night, and the One High and Lifted Up

In Deuteronomy…He is the One True Prophet

In Joshua…He is the Captain of the Lord’s Army

In Judges…He is the Lawmaker, Judge and Jury

In Ruth…He is our Kinsman Redeemer

In 1 and 2 Samuel…He is the Prophet of the Lord

In 1 and Kings…He is our only King

In 1 and 2 Chronicles…He is the Source of Righteous Decisions and a Cleansing from Wrong

In Ezra…He is our Inerrant Scribe

In Nehemiah…He is the Repairer of Broken Down Walls and Lives

In Esther…He is our Advocate and Deliverer

In Job…He is our Dayspring and Living Redeemer

In Psalm…He is our Shepherd and our Song

In Proverbs…He is Wisdom Personified

In Ecclesiastes…He is the Goal of All Pursuit for Meaning

In the Song of Solomon…He is the Shepherd-Lover of our Souls

In Isaiah…He is the Coming Messiah and the Prince of Peace

In Jeremiah…He is the Righteous Branch

In Lamentations…He is the Weeping Prophet and the God of Faithfulness and Truth

In Ezekiel…He is the Son of Man and the Wheel within a Wheel

In Daniel…He is the Striking Stone and the Fourth Man in the Furnace

In Hosea…He is the Husband and Healer of the Backslider

In Joel…He is the Baptizer in the Holy Spirit

In Amos…He is the Heavenly Husbandman and Burden Bearer

In Obadiah…He is Our Savior

In Jonah…He is the Resurrection and the One Who Forgives

In Micah…He is the Messenger with Beautiful Feet

In Nahum…He is the Avenger of God’ elect, the Stronghold in the Day of Trouble

In Habakkuk…He is the Great Evangelist, and the God of Our Salvation

In Zephaniah…He is the One Who Restores the Lost Heritage

In Haggai…He is the Desire of All Nations and the Cleansing Fountain

In Zechariah…He is the Fountain of Life and the Son Who Was Pierced for us

In Malachi…He is the Sun of Righteousness rising with healing in His wings

In Matthew…He is the promised Messiah

In Mark…He is the Wonder-working Servant

In Luke…He is the Son of Man

In John…He is the Word Made Flesh and God the Son

In Acts…He is the Ascended Lord, Voice from the Heavens and the Source of the Church

In Romans…He is the One Who Justifies

In 1 and 2 Corinthians…He is our Sufficient Lord

In Galatians…He is the One Who Brings Liberty from Sin and the Law

In Ephesians…He is the Christ of Great Riches and our All in All

In Philippians…He is our Joy and the Meeter of All Our Needs

In Colossians…He is the Fullness of the Godhead Bodily

In 1 and 2 Thessalonians…He is our Blessed Hope and the Coming King

In 1 and 2 Timothy…He is our Mentor and Mediator

In Titus…He is our Example and Devoted Pastor

In Philemon…He is our Friend and Brother

In Hebrews…He is our High Priest That Understands

In James…He is the Great Physician and Our Pattern for Daily Living

In 1 and 2 Peter…He is the Chief Cornerstone of Our Faith

In 1, 2 and 3 John…He is Love Everlasting

In Jude…He is the Lord coming with Ten Thousands of His Saints

In Revelation…He is the Lamb that was Slain, the Triumphant King, the Bridegroom, the Lord of Lords and the Final Say

How do you respond to a Savior like that?  You surrender in worship to Him!  No wonder we shout “He is Risen!”

 



Diagnosing Your Spiritual Health

Don Whitney, in his book Ten Questions to Diagnose Your Spiritual Health, gives the following ten questions as a means of determining if you are growing in your faith, treading water, or actually backsliding:

  1. Do you thirst for God?
  2. Are you governed increasingly by God’s Word?
  3. Are you more loving?
  4. Are you more sensitive to God’s presence?
  5. Do you have a growing concern for the spiritual and temporal needs of others?
  6. Do you delight in the bride of Christ?
  7. Are the spiritual disciplines increasingly important to you?
  8. Do you still grieve over sin?
  9. Are you a quicker forgiver?
  10. Do you yearn for Heaven and to be with Jesus?[1]

Chances are very good, if you are like most Christians, you have not really spent much time thinking about these things lately.  Whitney suggests that these questions provide a sort of spiritual pulse in the life of a growing believer.  If you answered know to most or all of these questions, you are probably spiritually backslidden, or perhaps not yet a believer.  If you answered no to some of the questions, but not most, you may be seeing the beginning of a spiritual growth problem.  If you answered yes to all of the questions, honestly, then you are growing and are probably relatively healthy.  If you are offended to be asked, you probably have some other issues.

“So what do I do if I am not doing so well in growing spiritually?”  I am glad you asked!  Jesus addressed this in his letter to the church at Ephesus in Revelation 2:5 “Therefore remember from where you have fallen, and repent and do the deeds you did at first; or else I am coming to you and will remove your lampstand out of its place – unless you repent.”[2]  The best place for you get help in these and other matters is your local church.  I am not saying you must go to my church in order to grow.  That would be prideful and ridiculous!  But you must attend a Bible-believing church that preaches and teaches and disciples people in the Word of God.  With the holidays on us shortly, what a great time to plug in to a local church and get started making some good habits that could just make this your best year yet!

[1] Donald S. Whitney, Ten Questions to Diagnose Your Spiritual Health, Navpress, Colorado Springs, CO, 2001.

[2] New American Standard Bible, The Lockman Foundation, La Habra, CA, 1995.



Count Your Many Blessings
March 31, 2017, 1:50 pm
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Have you ever stopped to think about all of the blessings you have been given just by virtue of the fact that you are a believer in and follower or Jesus Christ?  Ephesians 1 lists seven of these blessings.  Perhaps in reading through the following list, we can embody Proverbs 14:30, which says, “A tranquil heart is life to the body, but envy makes the bones rot.”  Here is that list from Ephesians 1.[1]

Blessing #1:  God has chosen us to be holy and blameless.  (Ephesians 1:4)

This means that, if you are a believer in Jesus Christ, God has chosen you and drawn you into relationship with Him.  He has begun a good work in you and will complete it. (Philippians 1:6)  He is giving you the desire daily to live for Him.  (Ephesians 2:13)  God already sees you the way you are going to be when you become what He is leading you to want to become.

Blessing #2:  God has adopted us into His family.  (Ephesians 1:4-6)

This means that you are wanted by God.  He is not stuck with you.  He knew you before you were born (Psalm 139).  He wrote your name down in the book of life before you came to be.  (Revelation 13:8)(Ephesians 1:4)  He chose you.  He loves you.  You are part of His family with all of the privileges that come along with being a child of the King!

Blessing #3:  We are redeemed and forgiven.  (Ephesians 1:7-8)

This means that the ransom has been paid to deliver us when we were incapable of delivering ourselves.  He loosed us from the demands of sin.  (Romans 6:23)  He purchased us and set us free.  He cancelled our debt.  We owe nothing for our sin because He already paid for it.  When we sin, He advocates on our behalf.  (1 John 2:1)

Blessing #4:  God has shown us the mystery of His will.  (Ephesians 1:9-10)

This means that we no longer have to worry about living for or carrying out the will of God in our lives.  For most of us, we get to a fork in the road of our lives and wonder, “What is God’s will for me in this situation?”  We really don’t have to ask this because we already know the answer.  God’s will for me in every situation is to glorify Him.  To point people towards praising the grace of God.  For many of life’s situations, we needn’t stand paralyzed at the fork in the road because in Christ, we should be living out this will everyday.  Jesus showed us the example in that He lived for and glorified God in every circumstance.  (John 17:4)

Blessing #5:  We are chosen for an inheritance.  (Ephesians 1:11-12)

This means that we are chosen to receive not just heaven, although that would be enough.  We are also chosen for an inheritance of God’s love, nearness, and presence in our lives.  We are also to receive an inheritance such as is described in the promises to the overcomers in Revelation 2-3.

Blessing #6:  We are included in Christ.  (Ephesians 1:13)

This means that I am in Christ.  Inside, covered by His righteousness, identified by His Name and considered His brother and fellow heirs (Romans 8:17).  When God looks at us, He does not see the sin we so struggle with.  Instead, He sees the righteousness of His Son that is being accounted unto us by grace, through faith.

Blessing #7:  We have the guarantee of the Holy Spirit.  (Ephesians 1:13-14)

This means that I already have the down payment for what is to come.  I have the seal of God that is an indication of His promise that I am His and will be for eternity.  (1 Corinthians 12:3)

With all of these blessings, why do we chase after others that don’t even come close to measuring up?  We are encouraged by some to seek parking places close to the store, bigger cars, fancier clothes, etc.  All of these “blessings” will burn up and will be gone in an instant.  The blessings described in Ephesians 1 will never go away.

Count your blessings!

[1] Holladay, Tom.  Great Chapters of the Bible:  Ephesians Chapter One, Discover Your Spiritual Blessings.  Rancho Santa Margarita, CA: Saddleback Resources, 2010.



What Does It Mean to Be Holy?
March 22, 2017, 2:03 pm
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A girl walks up to a group of boys at the local high school.  The boys stiffen up and straighten up as she nears.  Their raucous tones turn to hush.  As she walks by, one of the boys says, “There she is!  Who does she think she is?  She acts ‘holier than thou’.”  What would make someone look at another person and say they are holy?  What does “holy” even mean?

The Nelson’s New Illustrated Bible Dictionary defines “holy” the following way:

HOLY — moral and ethical wholeness or perfection; freedom from moral evil. Holiness is one of the essential elements of God’s nature required of His people. Holiness may also be rendered “sanctification” or “godliness.” The Hebrew word for “holy” denotes that which is “sanctified” or “set apart” for divine service.[1]

So being holy means being different than everyone else around you.  Ironically, the word for “church” in Greek is ekklesia.  The direct translation means “to assemble out of or away from”.  In the New Testament, Paul refers to all believers in Jesus Christ as “saints” (see Romans 1:7, 8:7, 12:13, 15:25, 26, 15:31, 16:2, 16:15, 1 Corinthians 1:2, 6:1, 2, 14:33, 16:1, 16:15, 2 Corinthians 1:1, 8:4, 9:1, 9:12, 13:13, Ephesians 1:1, 1:15, 1:18, 2:19, 3:8, 3:18, 4:12, 5:3, 6:18, Philippians 1:1, 4:22, Colossians 1:2, 1:4, 1:12, 1:26, 1 Thessalonians 3:13, 2 Thessalonians 1:10, 1 Timothy 5:10, Philemon 5, 7)  The word saint is the noun form of the word that is translated holy.

So, the church is called out from world.  Believers are set apart and different.  By extension, then, Christians are holy.  So when you come upon someone who says that you are “holier than thou” what do they mean?  They simply mean that you are different than they are.  You are set apart by God for a special purpose and a certain affection by and through Him.  So what they are actually saying is that you are just who God called you, saved you, is transforming you, and how God already sees you to be.  You are different.

Maybe what we need in our day are not men and women who shrink back and are ashamed of being considered or called different.  Perhaps what we need are men and women who lean into the work of the Holy Spirit in their lives.  Possibly what we need are believers who will own God’s stamp of approval over their hearts and lives as badges of honor and who look for opportunities to let their lights shine before men so that they might glorify our God, Who is in heaven.  We need men and women who will live out the part of the Lord’s prayer that we pray for so easily.  “Our Father, Who art in Heaven, hallowed be Thy Name.  They Kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven.”

So the next time someone accuses you of being “holier than thou”, thank them.  Tell them that it is the work of God in your life and that He wants to do that work in them as well.  Tell them that you are not perfect yet, but you are not who you used to be either.  Tell them how they can become a follower of Jesus as well.  And then ask them if they would like to.  Who knows.  They might have started the conversation God wanted to use to save them.

[1] Youngblood, R. F., Bruce, F. F., & Harrison, R. K., Thomas Nelson Publishers (Eds.). (1995). In Nelson’s new illustrated Bible dictionary. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, Inc.