Category Archives: Christian books

The 365-Day Storybook Bible

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Not a complete Bible,  Joy Melissa Jensen retells many well-known stories of the Bible in 365 brief sections.  It is an attractive book with thick, glossy pages and colorful illustrations.  Each reading lists the Biblical reference for the story, which is helpful for adults who may want to review the actual Scripture prior to sharing the lesson with a child.  There is also an index at the beginning, so that a particular story can be readily found.  It could be an excellent tool for starting the habit of a daily devotional reading with your child.  There is a page at the end of the book with a few thought questions, additional reading and activities.  More of this would have been a welcome addition.

Information about the book states the age range as 4-10.  Although the stories are short, some of the vocabulary is better suited for the top of the range.  Parents or teachers using it with younger students should be prepared to offer simple explanations for some of the words and concepts.

Interested in ordering this book?  Click on the link below:

http://www.bhpublishinggroup.com/products/the-365-day-storybook-bible-padded

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Talks On The Song of Songs — Book Review

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Bernard of Clairvaux (1090-1153), a French abbot and reformer, was a founder of the Cistercian monastic order.  He spent 18 years writing sermons which served as a commentary on the Song of Songs.  He died before completing an exposition of  the entire book. He only made it through the third verse of Chapter 3 in 86 sermons!  Bernard saw the bride in Song of Songs as a representative of both the individual soul and the entire Church;  The Bridegroom is, of course, Christ. The book became for him, an allegory of the spiritual life, and more personally his own life with God.

This book is not easy reading, and not for everyone.  The copy I have is edited and modernized by Bernard Bangley and is still slow going.  I used it as a devotional years ago, reading one small section carefully each day.   Here’s an excerpt from the very beginning:

You have studied, denied yourself, and meditated constantly for a long time.  I am sure you are prepared for a diet of solid spiritual food.  The Song of Songs is tasty bread.  Let’s break it and enjoy a substantial meal.

The Song of Songs is a book we don’t often study or spend time with.  You might give this book a try and find it well worth the effort.

SPURGEON JOURNAL – A Review

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If the fine black leather cover with Spurgeon’s signature wasn’t enough, the colorful, paisley designed spine just adds icing to the cake.  That’s right I am writing this review about a book of somewhat blank pages.  Journals are not created equal, this one would look right at home on any library shelf or your coffee table.  Sprinkled throughout these pages at the bottom are quotes and verses that inspired Mr. Spurgeon’s sermons, and the best part is that the inspiration is tied to the sermon number, so that if you wanted to you could research what the inspiration led him to.

This is a 144 page, lined on acid free paper, blank journal that has a place at the top for a date.  Now it may seem like a journal is just a book of blank pages, and why do I need a fancy looking one, but I must say that this is an absolutely beautiful book.

For those of you serious about your journaling, this is a must have.

http://www.lifeway.com/Product/spurgeon-journal-P005801147

 

From Embers to a Flame — Book Review

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I’m going to veer off topic in this post to blog about something our church is considering.  St. Paul’s is 191 years old and our congregation is small and growing older.  The church is not located in a “growth” area of our county.  Our pastor and leaders are concerned about the future:  Does God have a plan for us?  Will we be able to survive and thrive?  Who will carry the gospel forward in Leitersburg, Md.?

From Embers to a Flame: How God Can Revitalize Your Church by [Reeder, Harry L., Swavely, David]

The book, From Embers to a Flame, by Harry Reeder outlines a program for church revitalization.  It is about church health, not church growth and is very biblically based.  Topics include:  The Biblical Paradigm for Revitalization, The Gospel of God’s Grace, The Role of Prayer, Mission and Vision, Great Commission Discipleship.  So far our congregation has held cottage meetings, instituted a Wednesday evening prayer service,  and started a Sunday School unit on our vision statement to be followed by a study of 1 Timothy (which Reeder calls a handbook of church revitalization).

Later this month a representative from the Fanning the Flame ministry will be visiting with us to tell us more about what their program offers.  We will need to make a wise decision as it will require an investment of not just money, but personal commitment if we proceed.  I hope our readers will pray with us for our congregation, for discernment and for our spiritual growth of our members.  I also hope other authors from St. Paul’s will give their perspective on how things are going as we forge ahead!

Theology, Church and Ministry – A Book Review

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Theology, Church, and Ministry

A Handbook for Theological Education

 

The book is put together by David Dockery, however, there are 3 sections with several chapters each that are written by esteemed members of the theological family.  I want to take just a few sentences to state that I checked the credentials of all of the authors and was happy to find ALL of them cited as being well learned, well respected, well versed and consistent.

This being said this book is not a quick, easy read.  It reads more like a reference book for persons interested in the role education plays in making sure that spiritual leaders can provide accurate, correct and reliable interpretations of the Bible.

Each sections deals with a different aspect of education;  such as, foundation of spiritual education, intellectual discipleship, languages of both the old and new testaments, systemic theology, and the list goes on.  Even though I am not interested in pursuing a theological education, the book actually had interesting parts that I enjoyed.  The review of why having a knowledge of Greek was enlightening as was their stance on online classes (they approve, with spiritual oversight by a pastor).

 

Overall, I would give the book a 5 star rating because it provides accurate, informative and necessary information to those with questions about the necessity of theological education of spiritual leaders, I do not think it is a book that everyone would appreciate but there are parts everyone can receive good information from.

 

I received a free copy of this book for a non biased review.

 

 

The book may be purchased through this link

http://www.lifeway.com/Product/theology-church-and-ministry-P005788294

I Am the Bread of Life — Book Review

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A few months ago when our theme was “Food, Feasts and Gluttony” I purchased a copy of I Am the Bread of Life by Sister Suzanne Toolan and Elizabeth Dossa.  Sister Suzanne is the composer of the song, as well as many others and is also a gifted teacher of music.  The book is made up of a series of essays –some are biographical, others Sister Suzanne’s thoughts on topics such as Silence, Liturgy, Ritual, Celebrations, and some contain practical advice on prayer, music and liturgy.

I Am the Bread of Life

As a Lutheran, I didn’t agree with everything in the book, but much of the material on liturgy resonated deeply with me.  It’s obvious that to Sr. Suzanne, music is a spiritual practice. She took care to make sure her students understood what they were singing.  She felt the music should encourage their faith. She speaks about liturgy not as something to study, but as a beloved and thoughtful discipline.  Here are some of her quotes:

“A good hymn is almost instructional.”

“Entertainment or liturgy as theater has no depth to it.”

“There is a unity of spirit in the singing.”

“The Liturgy is about leading the congregation to the Real Presence.”

Sister Suzanne is an amazing woman, and anyone interested in the liturgy and music of the church will enjoy this read.

 

Bearing Fruit – A Book Review

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“Bearing Fruit” is the third installment of Robby Gallatys’ Growing Up series. The series presents a biblical plan for spiritual growth.  In this book Gallaty discusses Christian maturity which is marked by the “fruit” it produces.  He rightly divides law and gospel and does an excellent job of defining some important theological terms:

 

We could say that justification frees us from the penalty of sin, sanctification frees us from the penalty of sin and glorification frees us from the presence of sin.”

 

“Bearing Fruit” focuses on the process of sanctification which Gallaty calls “the most misunderstood” concept of the three.”  He explains that no Christian can produce fruit on his own; fruit comes only from abiding in the true vine, Jesus Christ.  Our fruit is not our own and we do not earn righteousness through our good works.  Fruit is the work of God in the life of the believer.

 

VERDICT:  I would recommend this book as a study for individuals and groups and I would be interested in reading the others in the series.  It includes a plan for yearly Bible reading and memorization.

 

 

http://www.lifeway.com/Product/bearing-fruit-P005793617

 

Posting for Joan Culler

 

Eat This Book

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“I went to the angel and told him to give me the little scroll;  and he said to me, ‘Take it and eat;  it will be bitter to your stomach, but sweet as honey in your mouth.’  And I took the little scroll from the hand of the angel and ate it;  it was sweet as honey in my mouth, but when I had eaten it my stomach was made bitter.”  Rev. 10:  9-10

If you’ve never read anything by Eugene Peterson, you should.  Peterson is professor emeritus of spiritual theology at Reagent College, Vancouver, British Columbia.  He is author of the popular modern paraphrase of the Bible, The Message.  

Eat This Book, has been sitting on our bookshelf for some time and I decided that as it went along with our November theme, now was the time to delve into it.  As usual, I’m not disappointed with Peterson’s work.  It deals with the topic of “spiritual reading.”  According to Peterson we need to read the Bible not just for information;  not just for inspiration and comfort; not just as a guide for ethical living.  We need to “eat” the Bible –digest it, and take it into our lives so that it nourishes us and affects us on a very basic level.  Most of the time, we use the Bible to help us in our life;  we need to take the Bible in so that it uses us — instead of making the Bible part of our lives, we need to become part of its’ life and narrative.

In the quote above from Revelations, an angel gives John a scroll to eat;  first it is sweet, but it becomes bitter.  According to Peterson, when we become Christians, our first taste of Scripture is wondrously tasty — however, as we continue in the Word, we find that there are many things that are hard to digest, understand and accept.

“We are fond of saying that the Bible has all the answers.  And that is certainly correct.  ….But the Bible also has all the questions, many of them that we would just as soon were never asked of us, and some of which we will spend the rest of our lives doing our best to dodge. …you can’t domesticate this book to what you are comfortable with.”  from Eat This Book

I hope some other authors and readers will take a look at Peterson’s book this month.  You’ll be challenged to a whole new level of reading the Scriptures.

 

“The Oath” by Frank Peritti

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My mom gave me this book a couple of years ago and I finally read it about 6 or 7 months ago. I was expecting the usual horror genre we usually exchange, but was I in for a shock.

This is a fictional story that addresses the very real sin that dwells within each of us.   What makes The Oath memorable is its metaphor for sin and how it can numb the sinner.   Peretti’s dragon is a great analogy for how sin blends in around us and works almost unseen until it devours us.  His opening remark “Sin is the monster we love to deny”  is absolutely brilliant.

I won’t say too much, since this book is hard to explain without giving spoilers, but I will say that The Oath is a deep, thought-provoking novel with a theme that sticks with you long after you’ve read the final page. It’s creepy, as in don’t-read-before-bed creepy, and is definitely not a fun, light read. But I love how Frank Peretti isn’t afraid to include overt Christian themes in his books.

 

 

 

 

Stewardship of My Reading

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“All things are lawful, but not all things are helpful.  All things are lawful, but not all things build up.”  1 Corinthians 10:23

Anyone who reads our blog regularly knows that I am an avid reader.  I read all sorts of things:  suspense novels, historical fiction, novels that address ethical questions, legal thrillers, nonfiction books about the brain, mental illness and other medical issues, spiritual autobiographies, books on prayer and other aspects of Christian living, the Bible (of, course) and more.  None of these books are “unlawful” and sometimes I use my reading time to just relax and take my mind off my responsibilities and the stress of everyday life.  Of course, we learn something even when we read books that seem merely escapist — we increase our vocabulary, travel to foreign cultures, grow in understanding people very different from ourselves, etc….I’m sure you could add to the list.  However, it is also true that some books are more edifying than others.

Gracious Uncertainty: Faith in the Second Half of LifeMost of the time I am reading two books at once:  one that is just for fun, and one that builds me up in some way.  I read my serious book for a bit first thing in the morning (when I’m fresher) and the other one throughout the day and before bed. Right now my morning book is called, Gracious Uncertainty: Faith In The Second Half of Life by Jane Sigloh.  In the forward, Jane is described as a “wife, mother, grandmother, teacher, poet, vintner, cook, gardener, and story keeper.”  The book is a serious of short essays, starting with a memory about her spiritual life, many from her childhood and youth.  It has inspired me to look back on my own spiritual journey and consider writing some of those memories down for my children and grandchildren.

I also try to do my Bible study early in the day.  I’ve been reading through the book of Acts (that’s what we’re studying in our Tuesday morning class at church) and parts of 1 Kings (our Sunday School unit this quarter is called ‘Kings and Prophets–we’ve been using material from Concordia Publishing, if anyone is interested).

My point in all this is simply:  if you’re a reader, like I am, be a good steward.  Read to relax, but also try to also spent time with things that are truly worthwhile.  Don’t have much time?  Pick a book like the one I mentioned or a devotional that has short chapters or essays and read one a day.  Read through the gospels in small bites.  Read a Psalm each day.  Then think about what you’ve read.  Write down quotes or verses that strike you.  Talk to others about what you’ve been reading. Build yourself up.

P.S.  The Lutheran Ladies recently signed up to be B&H/Lifeway Bloggers, and review new books.  Look for our book reviews on our blog and B&H Publishing website.  Hopefully our reviews will point you toward some edifying reading!