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.”



Be Strong in the Lord

The Easter celebrations are over.  The family has returned home or you have returned home.  You have been back at work for a week.  The decisions you made to be more faithful have been tried.  How do you keep the momentum going and maintain the growth that has started in your heart and in your walk with Christ?

While a different setting, David dealt with similar issues when he wrote Psalm 27:

The Lord is my light and my salvation; Whom shall I fear? The Lord is the defense of my life; Whom shall I dread? When evildoers came upon me to devour my flesh, My adversaries and my enemies, they stumbled and fell. Though a host encamp against me, My heart will not fear; Though war arise against me, In spite of this I shall be confident. One thing I have asked from the Lord, that I shall seek: That I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, To behold the beauty of the Lord And to meditate in His temple. For in the day of trouble He will conceal me in His tabernacle; In the secret place of His tent He will hide me; He will lift me up on a rock. And now my head will be lifted up above my enemies around me, And I will offer in His tent sacrifices with shouts of joy; I will sing, yes, I will sing praises to the Lord. Hear, O Lord, when I cry with my voice, And be gracious to me and answer me. When You said, “Seek My face,” my heart said to You, “Your face, O Lord, I shall seek.” Do not hide Your face from me, Do not turn Your servant away in anger; You have been my help; Do not abandon me nor forsake me, O God of my salvation! For my father and my mother have forsaken me, But the Lord will take me up. Teach me Your way, O Lord, And lead me in a level path Because of my foes. Do not deliver me over to the desire of my adversaries, For false witnesses have risen against me, And such as breathe out violence. I would have despaired unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord In the land of the living. Wait for the Lord; Be strong and let your heart take courage; Yes, wait for the Lord.

First, David believed that he did not need to fear anyone or anything that opposed him because he believed God to be more powerful than his enemies.  God is more powerful than the enemy within and the enemies without.  He did not let the fear of failure, loss, or even war cause him to fear to the point that he took his eyes off of God.  We must not allow our fears and failures to take our eyes off of God either.

Second, David continued to hold the Lord and worship before his eyes throughout his life.  He was constantly reminded that, even if his enemies would prevail, he would spend eternity in the house of the Lord in Heaven.  If his enemies did not prevail, David would dedicate himself to worshiping at the Tabernacle.  We need to have this confidence as well.  If you have repented of your sins and surrendered your life to following Christ for the rest of your life, then heaven is your ultimate destination.  Until then, nothing can separate us from Him and from the privilege of worshiping Him.

David hungered to learn from God.  He wanted to know God.  He wanted to understand God’s character so that he could become more and more aware of and convinced of God’s love for him.  You and I have a privilege that David did not have.  We have the whole Bible to read and study and use to understand God and His plan for our lives.  In order to keep the momentum going with the decisions we made during the Lenten season and Easter, we must make the study of and obedience to God’s word a constant priority.

Lastly, David was honest with his frustrations as he went along.  He said that he was concerned to the point that he would have despaired if he did not believe that he would see the goodness of God in the land of the living.  David said he was really close to despair, but he was reminded that, even when he was not faithful, God still is.  You and I have that promise as well.  Jesus is coming again to get His children.  When things are hard here, we must keep this future deliverance in mind.  We must let that encourage us not to give up, give in, or give out.



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
Filed under: Articles | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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.



Why Are You Good?
March 22, 2017, 1:53 pm
Filed under: Articles | Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

There is a bad joke that sometimes runs around churches.  It goes like this: “Pastors are paid to be good.  The rest of the church is good for nothing.”  While people sometimes laugh at the joke, the bigger question that this joke poses is, “Why are you good?”

There are many answers to this question, depending upon each person’s motivation.  Some people are good because they hope that they can somehow be good enough to earn God’s love.  They think that they have to stop doing bad stuff, start doing good stuff, or increase their output of good stuff so that God will love them.  The problem with this kind of thinking is myriad and manifold.  First, the Bible clearly tells us, “For all of us have become like one who is unclean, And all our righteous deeds are like a filthy garment; And all of us wither like a leaf, And our iniquities, like the wind, take us away.” (Isaiah 64:6, NASB95)  The best we can do, compared to God, is like filthy rags.  We could never do enough to earn God’s love.  Even trying to earn God’s love is such a cheapening of the value of God’s love that we are continuing in sin just for thinking so.

Others might think that they are good because it is what God demands.  With no real love in their hearts, they attempt to obey God out of a sense of religious duty.  Like the older son in the Jesus’ parable of the prodigal son, they think, “’Look! For so many years I have been serving you and I have never neglected a command of yours; and yet you have never given me a young goat, so that I might celebrate with my friends;” (Luke 15:29, NASB95) Or like the servant given one talent, ““And the one also who had received the one talent came up and said, ‘Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow and gathering where you scattered no seed. ‘And I was afraid, and went away and hid your talent in the ground. See, you have what is yours.’” (Matthew 25:24–25, NASB95) They think that obeying God is their duty.

Still yet others, wrongly think, like Paul anticipated some of the Romans would think, “What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase?” (Romans 6:1, NASB95) In other words, they think that sin is no big deal.  They will simply commit the sins they want to commit and then will turn to God for His forgiveness once they have gotten their way, achieved their goal, etc.  The problem with this sort of thinking is that they forget two things.

First, they forget, “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:23, NASB95) They forget that God takes sin so seriously that He sent His Son to die on the cross for the sins that kept people from a relationship with Him and that prevented them from recognizing that He is sovereign and on the throne.

They also forget that Paul’s reaction to the question posed in Romans 6:1 is Romans 6:2 and following: “May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it? Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death? Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.” (Romans 6:2–4, NASB95)

So, what is the answer.  Why are we good?  Romans 6:2-4 above hints to the answer, but the answer is given so plainly within this and many other passages.  For instance, “Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all defilement of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.” (2 Corinthians 7:1, NASB95)  We are good because we get to be. (1 Cor 2:14).  We are good because we have been so blessed by God and that goodness has so infected our lives that we want to be good because to be good is to be like God.  We want to become more like Him every day.  That is the mark of a true believer.

So…why are you good?