Easter is Coming!–Book Review

Kudos to both author, Tama Fortner, and illustrator, Wazza Pink, on this lovely new children’s book.  The artwork is colorful and lively.  The text is easy to follow, and the repetitive phrase, “Easter is Coming!” will excite and engage young listeners.  This padded board book  looks sturdy enough to withstand years of handling.

Easter Is Coming! (padded)

Best of all, Ms. Fortner does an excellent job of connecting the stories of the Old Testament (beginning with Adam and Eve) to God’s plan of salvation.  Throughout history, no matter what is happening, God is in the mix and Easter is coming!  The story of the world is God’s story and He knows and uses everything for his ultimate purpose.

VERDICT:  5 stars!  A must-have for church and personal nursery libraries.

Want to learn more or purchase this book?  Follow the link below:

Easter Is Coming! (padded)

I have a free copy of this book in return for an honest and fair review – Disclaimer pursuant to FTC 16 CFR Part 255

 

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Zip It by Karen Ehman–Book Review

For many Christians, sins of the tongue are the most difficult to avoid.  Critical words, unkind words, even curse words flow out of our mouths willy-nilly because we often speak without thinking.  Sometimes we offend others with our speech without even realizing what we’ve done.  It’s important to remember that all of our words are a witness to Christ, and should edify and encourage, not tear down or feed our own ego.

Zip It: The Keep It Shut 40-Day Challenge

I wish I had discovered this little book earlier this year.  Subtitled “The Keep it Shut 40-Day Challenge, it includes daily devotions, take-aways, a specific Bible verse to contemplate, and a closing prayer.  It would be perfect to use as a spiritual discipline during the 40 days of Lent.  Even better would be using this book with a small group that provided accountability in following the many good suggestions for “taming the tongue.”

Karen uses both Biblical and personal stories to illustrate important points including::

  • The power of our words
  • The heart-mind-mouth connection
  • Taming out tempers
  • When to be silent and when to speak up
  • How God’s Words affect our words

and more.  Reading this book carefully and prayerfully will surely result in better habits of speech.  I recommend it, and would like to get a group together and give it a try.  It would be a big help in teaching us to love one another in word and deed.

“You are writing a gospel, a chapter each day,

By the things that you do and the words that you say.

Others will read what you write, whether faulty or true.

Say, what is the gospel according to you?”

VERDICT:   5 stars

 

The Answer by Randy Pope — Book Review

I was asked to review this book for our Fanning the Flame team.  Here are my conclusions.

In his book, The Answer, Pastor Randy Pope attacks the question that most concerns all humans – “How can I find lasting satisfaction?”

According to Pastor Pope, the answer can be found by unpacking the meaning of three small words: glory, grace and truth.

The Answer: Putting an End to the Search for Life Satisfaction by [Pope, Randy]

Most people are familiar with the word glory when it refers to either the glory of God, or giving glory to God. However, glory also comes from God and is given to those who are prepared to receive it. The essence of this glory is satisfaction. Humankind was designed with full glory, fell from glory and now searches for glory in all the wrong places. The many objects we pursue (career success, popularity, the right spouse, material possessions, etc.) are counterfeits of the real glory and fail to satisfy. Satisfaction comes only when we begin to recognize and renounce these counterfeit glories and place our hope for satisfaction in God alone. On earth, life remains broken and we can never experience full glory. We can be satisfied with Christ, but we cannot be satisfied with life, in and of itself. In death, this changes. When Christ returns and raises us from the dead, we will experience glorification. This will be so wonderful, that as the apostle Paul writes,

The sufferings of this present time are not worthy to compare to the glory that is to be revealed to us.” Romans 8:18

 Glory becomes real to us through the second word– grace. Grace is the favor ascribed to us by what God has done for us. Pastor Pope calls this, “the great swap.” Jesus took upon Himself the sins of His people, and in exchange, gave them perfect righteousness. This doesn’t mean we will stop sinning, but it does mean that God sees us as forgiven. Many people distort the Gospel, creating a religion of performance. This creates the sense that there is something we need to do. The true Gospel teaches that the work is already done—completed with the death of Christ on the cross.

The final word is truth. We will only experience authentic glory to the degree that we embrace God’s absolute truth. Throughout history, Christians have held the belief that God has chosen to reveal His truth to us through His Word. However, today, most people believe that truth is relative. Only 22% of adults believe in absolute moral truth, and the percentage is even lower for those 36 and under. If truth is relative, and a matter of individual preference, there is no foundation for life, no markers to guide us. This leads to depression and a pattern of thinking that reflects a negative view of ourselves, God and the world. The good news is that when false reason encounters the truth, it doesn’t have a chance. Depression can be countered by “thinking on the truth” of God’s Word.

Pastor Pope concludes:

  1. Glory takes us to Christ
  2. Grace takes us to the Cross
  3. Truth takes us to the Word of God

 I think this book would be an excellent resource to explain the basics of the faith to young people and new believers. Pastor Pope includes many diagrams which would be helpful in a classroom setting.

P.S. You can get this as a Kindle book from Amazon for only $1.99!

GraceFull by Dorena Williamson — Book Review

This is the third in a series of books for children authored by Dorena Williamson.  Like its  predecessors, ColorFull  and ThoughtFull, it has bright illustrations and a solid Christian message.

Hope and her family (who attend an ethnically diverse congregation) volunteer to serve the residents of Chen House, a local residence for homeless families.  Hope’s mother explains that this is a way to show God’s grace to others.  She explains:

“God showers blessings on all of us.  When we truly understand that, we can’t help but share grace and lift others up. … When grace is full and overflowing, we are graceFull. “

Hope takes the lesson to heart and shares by giving her new friend Anna Habib, from Chen House, her new pair of rain boots.  The Habibs are eventually able to move into their own home.

GraceFull

Grace is a difficult concept to explain to young children, and Gracefull does not really attempt to define it,  Instead it presents a portrait of how grace can be shown in daily life.  A suggested memory verse, further Bible reading and thought questions are included at the end of the story.

I didn’t enjoy this book as much as the first two, because the illustrations were not as engaging , and I found the story line predictable and unexceptional.  However, I give it 4 out of 5 stars.  It would be a worthwhile addition to a nursery library.

For more information or to order this book follow the link below:

https://www.bhpublishinggroup.com/products/gracefull/

I have a free copy of this book in return for an honest and fair review – Disclaimer pursuant to FTC 16 CFR Part 255

Unraptured by Zack Hunt — Book Review

This book is subtitled, “How End Times Theology Gets it Wrong,” but it’s about much more than comparative theology.  It’s the story of one person’s faith, how it evolved over time, and how the things we believe affect the things that we do.

As a teenager, Zack Hunt became wrapped up (no pun intended) in the rapture.  His idol was Jack Van Impe and his prized possession the Jack Van Impe Prophecy Bible complete with a color coded guide to the apocalypse.  Understanding the “secret” Bible code that predicted the end times made Zack feel intelligent, superior and most of all safe — safe, since his salvation depended upon knowing and believing all the right things.

In college, Zack is dismayed to find that many professors of religion do not adhere to his beliefs.  Through study he comes to realize that the proof texts for the rapture are taken out of context, and that the book of Revelation has a spiritual rather than literal interpretation.  Even more, he sees that a fixation on the end times can prevent Christians from taking action in the here and now.  Why bother to try and fix what Jesus intends to destroy and remake anyway?  For Zack, at least, preoccupation with the end times led to a focus on his own personal salvation and future in heaven, and a lack of concern for the welfare of others in the present. This is not Christlike.

Unraptured is an interesting and easy read.  You’ll get an overview and history of apocalyptic theology (something Lutherans rarely talk about) along with the story of another Christian’s journey of faith.

I give this book 4 out of 5 stars, because I did not agree with some of the author’s political and theological conclusions and his writing style was a bit too informal for my taste.  Overall, still worthwhile reading.

Ministries of Mercy by Timothy Keller — Book Review

“Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?” The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.” Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise” Luke 10:36-37

These are some excerpts from a book review prepared by one of our Fanning the Flame Team Members, Ted, and presented at our last monthly meeting.

The phrase “ministry of mercy” comes from Luke 10:37 where Jesus commands us to “go and do likewise.”  Timothy Keller asks in his book, “Are we as Christians obeying this command personally?  Are we, as a church, obeying this command corporately?”

For decades we are told that evangelicals have avoided the radical nature of the parable of the Good Samaritan.  At most we have heard it telling us to prepare a fruit basket for the needy each Christmas or to give to relief agencies when there is a famine or earthquake in a distant nation.

It is time to listen more closely.  We are finally beginning to wonder why there are suddenly hundreds of thousands “stripped and lying half dead” in the streets of our own cities.  There are problems in the world that bring misery and violence into the lives of most of humanity.  These include war, injustice, oppression, famine, natural disasters, disease, mental illness, physical disabilities, racism, crime, scarcity of resources and class struggle.  We need to see that we are all living on the Jericho Road.

Under the principles of mercy, there is a call to mercy.  Love is essential in the call.  We are required to love God above all things and to love our neighbors as ourselves.  Mercy is not optional.  Although believers are to give their first and greatest aid to the needy within the church, mercy must also be show to all people.  Most of us have not come to grips with the clear directive that all Christians must have their own ministry of mercy.

“Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people.”  Galatians 6:10

A question to ponder (from me, not Ted):  What is your ministry of mercy?

Scrappy Church – Book Review

“Is your church dying from self-inflicted wounds?”

 

“Leading a church would be a lot easier if we didn’t have to deal with people”

 

“A God powered minority”

 

“God did not put the church at that address by mistake, there is a plan”

 

“Cultural Christianity is dead”

 

These are just a few of my most thought-provoking quotes from the book by Thom Ranier. Scrappy Church is not for the faint of heart. It gives a thorough review of all things that may be driving your church to extinction.

 

Author of over 20 books dealing with church health, Mr. Ranier gives an honest look through the eyes of members, leaders, and visitors to show how a church can kill itself without even realizing it. But he does not leave you hanging on for dear life. He also gives a blueprint for preparation to turn the church around, I will briefly overview this blueprint later.

 

He gives the main characteristics of a church to become “Scrappy”, focusing on prayer as one of the main and most important items. He tells us to remain positive, partner with other churches in the area and do not consider them the enemy, and focus on outreach.

 

Under his blueprint for preparation, Mr. Ranier lists three different areas to work on: Outward Deluge, Welcome Readiness, and Backdoor Closure. None of these points can be met honestly until the church undergoes an “Attitude Adjustment”. And it is not just the members, but also the leaders and even the Pastor that need to take part in this step. These three items focus on the structure of the church as a welcoming body of Christ.

 

I give this book 5 out of 5 stars and highly recommend it as a read to build or even maintain the health of your church.

You may purchase this book at:

 

https://www.lifeway.com/en/product/scrappy-church-P005812466

 

This book is also available as an ebook

 

 

I have a free copy of this book in return for an honest and fair review – Disclaimer pursuant to FTC 16 CFR Part 255