Sunday, November 16, 2014

Why Are We Here?

A few months ago we stopped attending our church's contemporary service because I questioned some of the content in our congregation's worship music.  There's been a slow drift over the past couple of years toward bringing in popular secular music as a worship response.

Sure it's fun, and you can dance to it, but are we neglecting the gospel?  When I've shared my concerns I get mostly blank stares or half-hearted attempts to justify.  People automatically assume that I don't like contemporary Christian music.  Not true.

I'm not trying to be a spoilsport. It's just that my mouth can't sing "Lean on Me" when my heart, soul, and mind want to sing "Leaning on the Everlasting Arms."

Thus, it saddened me today to see the juxtaposition of Offeratory music between the contemporary and traditional services.  I wasn't at the contemporary service, but a sympathetic friend told me she thought of my decision this morning.  Since I wasn't there, I grabbed a bulletin from the 9:30 service and there it was.

In praise to our glorious Father in Heaven, our contemporary service offered "We are Here" by Alicia Keys (who sang it on the Today Show--so that makes it OK!)

We are here for all of us.
We are here for all of us.
That's why we are here, why we are here.

Good news indeed!

In contrast,  the traditional service responded to the Word of God with   "My Jesus, I Love Thee"

My Jesus I love thee, I know Thou art mine;
For Thee all the follies of sin I resign;
My gracious Redeemer, my Savior art Thou;
If ever I loved Thee, my Jesus, 'tis now.

What is our purpose?  What is our witness to the world?  Whose gospel do we preach?  What encouragement do we give to believers?  Go ahead and call me out of touch, a traditionalist, or whatever name you will.

I know why I'm here.

Thursday, November 06, 2014

The One Year Devotions for Active Boys (book review)

I would really love to get my boys into a devotion book with me. I use the YouVersion app to read my daily devotion and my boys (and I)  love watching any of the What's in the Bible-themed devos (produced by Phil Vischer of Veggie Tales fame), but I have trouble getting them to listen to a written devotional.

The One Year Devotions for Active Boys is my best hope right now as they approach the preteen years.  This devotional is divided into days of the year and each page contains a theme for the day: expressed in a story, a skit, or a passage to read and think about.  This is followed by a puzzle or instructions for an activity, a brief prayer, and a Bible verse.

The passages lend themselves well to being read out loud as a family, the puzzles are fun (but not too challenging), and the activities definitely appeal to my active boys.  April 1 has some harmless pranks; May 6 includes a balloon sword fight. There are jokes and tongue twisters and weird facts about different things.

I like the writing style of the messages: conversational and not too heavy-handed, but with a solid Biblical foundation. The daily activities are fun to try as a family.  I just wish the Bible portion was labeled as that and not as coming from "Life's Guidebook".  I understand where the authors are coming from, just wish they would not shy away from the word Bible.

It's meant to be used as a family, perhaps after school or dinner or during some downtime (not before bed!).   Fun and thought provoking and not a video screen in sight.  Not for preschoolers.  Best for ages 9 and up.

I received this book from the Tyndale Blog Network in return for an honest review.

Brave Mom: Facing and Overcoming Your Real Mom Fears (book review)

Brave Mom by Sherry Surratt
Fear, at the appropriate moment, is a good thing. However, sometimes we let our fears about our children dominate our lives and we can wind up spending much of our time worrying about things that are not likely to happen.

What mom doesn't battle fear at some point:
*  Can I handle being a mom?
*  Is my toddler always going to have behavior problems?
*  Will my child be safe?
*  Will my teenager go astray?
*  Will my adult child succeed?

Sherry Surratt, President and CEO of MOPS International, addresses these fears--and more--in her book Brave Mom: Facing and Overcoming Your Real Mom Fears.

Surratt reveals the havoc that fear, anxiety, and perfectionism can play in our lives. She has us examine some common safety-related fears to see how reasonable and probable they are. She specifically addresses the fears that accompany the life stages of being a mom. Then she addresses how we can face and manage our fears and not only become brave moms, but raise brave children as well.

Surratt loads Brave Mom with anecdotes and advice that is based in faith and common sense. In the tradition of MOPS-related books, it's filled with practical, down-to-earth advice that most women can relate to.  My children are school-aged, but I remember having some of those early fears (that never came to fruition) and I eagerly read the section on teenagers, since that's the stage that's on the horizon.  I feel encouraged by her words and by the words of other women whose contributions Surratt included in this book.

Brief chapters, questions and answers, and end of chapter reflection/discussion questions make this ideal for a mom's group.  Highly recommended!

I received this book from BookLook Bloggers in return for an honest review.

Brave Mom: Facing and Overcoming Your Real Mom Fears
Sherry Surratt
Zondervan, 2014

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Book Review: Moses Leads the People (An I Can Read! book)

I just love the I Can Read! book series for beginning readers and I'm happy to find that they have a series of Bible stories from ZonderKidz. 

This book, Moses Leads the People, is based on the Adventure Bible and is rated at "Level 2: Reading with Help".  Level 2 books are meant for children who are beginning to be confident readers, but who still need a little help with unfamiliar words.  Books like Amelia Bedelia and Frog and Toad are Friends also fit in this category.

There are 28 pages of text with large print, 2-4 sentences on each page, and plenty of colorful pictures.  The editors try to be sensitive to difficult subject matter (death of the firstborn shown as mother sitting on an empty bed with face in hands) while staying true to Scripture. 

Because this is meant for children beginning to read longer sentences, they're probably in 1st or 2nd grade and have heard the story of Moses, the 10 plagues, and the Exodus before. However, adults might want to be on hand to answer any questions.

There are a few words kids will need help with: plagues, Pharoah,  Israelites, Egypt.  But there's plenty of repetition so that kids can practice their reading skills.

I love the fill-in-the-blank bookplate inside the front cover that says "Hooray, ________________ can read this book!" What a terrific confidence builder for a young reader. 

This is a  great starting point for kids learning how to read Scripture on their own.

Moses Leads the People  (Adventure Bible)
Zonderkidz/I Can Read! book

I received a review copy of this book from Book Look Bloggers (Thomas Nelson) in return for an honest review.

Sunday, September 07, 2014

Book Review: The Spirit-Filled Life by Charles F. Stanley

Once in awhile a book comes along---just at the right time--with a message that I need to hear. This is one of those books.

In The Spirit-Filled Life: Discovering the Joy of Surrendering to the Holy Spirit, Charles Stanley examines contemporary ideas about Christian living (the "Adequate Christian Life") and challenges us to go deeper into a relationship with the Holy Spirit to find peace and joy.

Chapters address who the Spirit is...and isn't.  Stanley discusses the difference between gifts of the Spirit and fruits of the Spirit (everyone has gifts; not everyone bears fruit).  He reminds us of the importance of reading and memorizing principles from Scripture (the sword of the Spirit).  He counsels us in how to recognize the ways that the Spirit speaks to us: Scripture, wisdom, conscience, and peace.

There's so much that I loved about this book, that it's difficult to fit it into a review.  What I liked best was the practicality and the way Stanley's writing ministered to me, particularly in the area of discernment and allowing the Spirit to guide me:
  • Instead of memorizing Scripture promises, learn Scripture principles: truths that can help me take thoughts captive and deal with temptation
  • How to prepare my heart to be neutral while waiting on the Spirit (instead of doing something and asking the Spirit to bless it)
  • Discerning the leading of the Spirit through looking for the markers of peace, wisdom, and Scripture, and allowing the Spirit to use my conscience.
I filled this book with post-it notes. Time to go back with a highlighter, pen and paper.  One read through was not enough.

Highly recommended.

The Spirit-Filled Life: Discover the Joy of Surrendering to the Holy Spirit
by Charles F. Stanley
Thomas Nelson, 2014

I received a review copy of this book from Book Look Bloggers (Thomas Nelson) in return for an honest review.