What the Fireflies Knew by Kai Harris–Book Review

Kenyatta (KB) is an eleven-year-old girl on the cusp of becoming a young adult. She loves to read, and she loves her family. When her drug-addicted father dies of an overdose, life begins to fall apart. The family home is lost, her mother is suffering from clinical depression, and KB and her sister are sent to live with her maternal grandfather, who has been estranged from their mother for years.

This is a story of learning to understand others, to forgive and to move forward when tragedies strike. From her grandfather, KB learns about another book she comes to love (the Bible) and how Bible study can help us to navigate difficult times. Her grandfather tells her:

“The Bible is filled with stories, just like them books you always reading. But the stories are bout God, and they teach us how we should live our lives.”

At the end of a difficult summer, KB’s small family comes back together with renewed hope and faith in their future together.

VERDICT: 4 STARS. Not deep, but an easy and inspiring read with excellent characterization. A good book to take on vacation with you this year!

For more book reviews see:

The Seven Whispers by Christina Baldwin–Book Review

The Great Good Thing by Andrew Klavan — Book Review

Deeper by Dane C. Orland — Book Review

Exodus Chapter 3–What Stands Out

Recently, as part of my daily Bible reading plan (Plan to Read the Bible), I’ve been studying the book of Exodus. Here’s what stood out for me in Chapter 3:

“… I know their sufferings” Exodus 3:7b

I don’t know about you, but if there’s one thing I like even less than suffering, it’s admitting that I’m suffering. That may come in part, from being raised in a family that was pretty stoic. The attitude was, “don’t complain, just get on with what you need to do.” My grandparents survived the depression, and life was pretty hard for them. They didn’t want to hear whining about things or circumstances that weren’t life threatening. Then there’s the part of me that doesn’t like to admit to suffering because it makes me look (and feel) weak. I should be able to handle whatever life throws at me. Sometimes I even tell myself that keeping my suffering to myself is what I’m called to do as a Christian. What kind of example am I if I let life get me down? Christians are supposed to be joyful, aren’t they?

Well, there’s probably some truth in all of these ideas, but I do suffer and so does everyone else. I sometimes suffer from anxiety or feel depressed. I suffer from physical discomforts as I age. I suffer from disappointment when things don’t turn out the way I hoped they would. I suffer when others don’t seem to appreciate me. Most of the time, I try to ignore my suffering because I don’t think anyone else really wants to hear about it. They have problems of their own.

This verse tells me there is someone who cares, and already knows every little ache and pain, whether it involves my body or my heart. God knows my suffering, and the verse goes on to say,

“I have come down to deliver them.” Exodus 3:8

During the time of the Exodus, He sent Moses. For us, He sent His own son, Jesus. We don’t have to suffer alone. So, if you’re suffering, turn to the One who already knows and who has compassion on our weakness. God is always waiting to hear our prayers and ease our suffering.

For another posts about suffering see:

Suffer Strong by Katherine & Jay Wolf–Book Review

Exodus Chapter 1–What Stands Out

I’m continuing my Bible Reading Plan for the year ( Plan to Read the Bible ) by reading the book of Exodus and the book of Romans. It’s important to read the Bible as history, and as theology, but also to see how it applies to our own lives, here and now. The verse that stuck out for me in the first chapter of Exodus is this one:

“Then Joseph died, and all his brothers and all that generation.” Exodus 1:6

A generational change occurred. The chapter goes on to explain that the Pharoah who knew Joseph also died, and the new ruler began oppressing the people of Israel. Times were hard.

I’m at a similar point in my life. My husband and I each lost a sibling this year, as well as a couple of dear friends. We are now the “old folks” of the family, and our cohort is dying off. We see changes in our culture that are disturbing and unsettling. Technology is a boon in some cases, but our privacy is compromised, and we are increasingly dependent upon our machines, and on the products that are necessary to build and maintain them. Conflict seems to be an increasing fact of life. Racial conflict, political conflict, religious conflict. We worry about what will happen in the coming years and how our children and grandchildren will cope. It won’t be the same world we grew up in and lived in.

It’s important when I begin to feel this way to remember the message of Exodus, and the entire Bible for that matter. God is still in control. He led the people of Israel out of their slavery in Egypt and established them in a new land. He had a plan, even when they couldn’t see it.

God still has a plan for His people, the Body of Christ, the Church. Changes may be coming. Persecution may be coming. The Christian view of the world may be rejected by many. But we don’t need to fear because as Jesus promised Peter:

And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” Matthew 16:17

Take heart. Our generation my pass away, but the Church and the work we have done for God will not. He will make a way–through the sea, through the desert, through our messy world.

For more about the Bible study see:

Interactive Bible Study-Hebrews Chapter 13

What Do You Study?

The CSB Study Bible for Women – Book Review

Plan to Read the Bible

Have you ever decided you wanted to read the entire Bible? Without a good plan, you’ll probably bog down somewhere around Leviticus and give up. If you have a good study Bible, check in the back — often you will find a plan there. If not, you might try what I’ve been using recently–the M’Cheyne Bible Reading Plan.

Robert Murray M’Cheyne (sometimes spelled McCheyne) was a 19th century Scottish minister. His plan was developed to help people read through the New Testament and Psalms twice a year, and the Old Testament once. It involves reading about 4 chapters per day.

I began using it as part of my daily devotions because it is included with a book I recently reviewed: Be Thou My Vision by Jonathan Gibson–Book Review. However, you can download a copy at: M’Cheyne Reading Plan-Robert Murray M’Cheyne.

An app is also available for purchase at https://apps.apple.com/us/app/the-mcheyne-plan/id1577234350.

It’s not too late to make a resolution for 2022 — read the Bible this year.

For more Bible study resources see:

The CSB Worldview Study Bible

The CSB Study Bible for Women – Book Review

AFLC 2019 Bible Study for Women


Deeper by Dane C. Orland — Book Review

Subtitled, “Real Change for Real Sinners”, this book is about the process of sanctification. At first, I found it a bit simplistic — but that is actually the author’s point. We all need to go back to the basics in order to grow. Real, positive growth happens when we go deeper and deeper into the basics that we may have known for years.

The first step, if we’re growing in Christ, is to know what Christ is like. Then we need to despair — despair of being able to save ourselves on our own. We have to see and admit the sin that is always with us. When we collapse into the love of Christ, we are united with Him. We’re transformed, and our future is no longer bound up in the sinful Adam –we’re a new creation in Christ. All of this is the necessary foundation that leads to the dynamics by which believers change. We have been acquitted, or justified and are now reconciled with God.

The author then turns toward the question of how we practically, absorb the truth of our salvation into our daily lives. He focuses on two tools which he considers most important — the Bible and prayer. Our relationship with Christ must be nurtured and fed.

So, yes, this is a book about basics, and the most basic instruction is this — Look to Christ. We need to reminded, and to follow His teachings and example every day.

VERDICT: 5 STARS.

The Lutheran Ladies received a free e-copy of this book in return for a fair and honest review. Disclaimer pursuant to FTC 16 CPR 255.

For more book reviews see these posts:

Pure In Heart by J. Garrett Kell–Book Review

Ordinary Grace by William Kent Krueger–Book Review

Every Which Way to Pray by Joyce Meyer–Book Review

Don’t Get Ahead of Yourself

I’ve been doing a lectio divina study of the works of John and this week I read his second letter. This is what jumped out for me:

Anyone who runs ahead and does not continue in the teaching of Christ does not have God…” 2 John 9a

John is cautioning his readers (and us) about false teaching. I don’t know about you, but I’m easily attracted to something new — the latest style, a novel recipe, a unique way of looking at the world. There’s nothing wrong with curiosity, or with shaking up our usual routines now and then. However, when it comes to the faith, we must make sure we stick to the foundational truths.

In order to do this, we must first know the truth. That means studying the Bible, and also knowing something about theology. Yes, this can be difficult — I sometimes accuse my Pastor husband of giving me a headache when he tries to explain doctrinal concepts to me–but as someone once said, “if you don’t know where you stand, you’ll fall for anything.” We’ve recently been studying the trinity, and some of the ideas that sound right to my human understanding — for example, that the three members of the trinity each have a different function– is actually a heresy known as modalism. God is one, the trinity is a unity, and each member is involved in everything God does.

We can “run ahead” for other reasons as well. Sometimes a new idea is just what our itching ears want to hear — things like God wants to bless us by making us healthy and wealthy (the prosperity gospel–another heresy). Or we crave the new because it gives us a spiritual “high” at least for a while. We forget that our faith is tested and matured through trials. Maybe we bounce around from church to church seeking the most charismatic leader or preacher — when what we need to grow is to root ourselves in a Christian community and bloom where we are planted.

We need to remember that running ahead can lead to false teaching and false teaching leads to our word for the month: SIN. So don’t get ahead of yourself. Study the Word until you know the Word. Understand the theology behind what you believe. Test the spiritys. Be committed to your congregation and serve the community. Don’t get ahead of yourself.

For more lectio divina study see:

Deceiving Ourselves

Honor Everyone

James Chapter 2 — What Stands Out

Getting to Know God

Recently, going through old newsletters and other things I’ve written, I came across this article I wrote years ago. I’ve adapted it a bit and I think the thoughts are still valid.

One Sunday I was sitting in the sanctuary before service and I had a really wonderful experience. My mind was wandering (I shouldn’t admit this ever happens, but it does) and I started looking at the people around me. I realized that I had some sort of special connection with just about everyone there! I saw coworkers (former and present), classmates from Bible Study, special Sunday School and VBS leaders who have taught my children, friends who have helped and encouraged me in many different ways. My list just kept growing and I know each of you could compile your own. I guess that’s what gives a congregation that “family” feeling.

I also realized that this sense of warmth and belonging doesn’t happen overnight. It takes time and effort; a willingness to get involved and stick with the process of getting to know one another and become part of each other’s lives.

Isn’t that true of our relationship with God as well? If we want to feel close to God, to know His will for us and be comforted by His presence in our lives, we need to devote some time to building a relationship with Him. One way to do this is by studying His word.

Most churches offer a number of opportunities to do this. For example:

*Pick up a copy of a monthly devotional if your congregation makes one available. Portals of Prayer is an example.

*Go to Sunday School — it’s not just for kids! You’ll get to know fellow members and God better.

*Join an evening or daytime Bible study, or even start a small group study yourself.

*Volunteer to teach — teachers must first be learners!

For more information on getting to know God through study or educational offerings, speak with your Pastor or someone on your church education committee. They will no doubt be excited by your interest and glad to help you!

Growing Up, Part 4

Since those early days I’ve been in many different kinds of Bible study groups. There was the two year “Crossways” study Terry and I attended when our children were small. In that class, for the first time, I began to get the chronology of all those Sunday School stories straight. I made some good friends, too. I could still list for you every person who took that class with me.

Another study that had a big impact on my life was one that our pastor taught on spiritual gifts. I hadn’t really thought about my gifts before. Of course, I knew there were things I liked to do and things I didn’t. But when it came to doing things at church, I was pretty haphazard. I did things because somebody asked me to help, or because something needed to be done, or because I was interested. Sometimes this approach worked out– I was fine at many things like teaching the children, serving on the altar guild, and editing the newsletter–but I also made mistakes. There was the time I agreed to bake a lamb cake for Vacation Bible School. I baked three cakes and the final one still wouldn’t stand up the way it was supposed to! I can laugh now, but at the time it was a frustrating and unpleasant experience and one I certainly wouldn’t want to repeat.

In the gifts class, I learned there was a better way to go about serving. By evaluating my God-given talents I began to sort jobs around the church into three categories– things I was especially good at that included writing, studying and leadership; things I certainly could do like making coffee, cleaning, helping at the yard sale or visiting someone in the hospital; and things I really shouldn’t do– in my case that’s anything involving arts and craft or a high degree of organizational skill.

I’m not finished yet, so come back tomorrow for installment #5!

For more posts about spiritual gifts see:

Spiritual Gifts from the Holy Spirit

What are the Spiritual Gifts?

Let Your Spiritual Gifts S–T–R–E–T–C–H You

Growing Up, Part 3

When Terry and I joined the congregation, I didn’t have any experience at being an active, adult member. As a child, a family friend took me to church, Sunday School and Vacation Bible School. As a teenager and young adult, I attended services sporadically. Then after Terry and I got married, we decided to join a church, but basically, we just sat in the pew on Sunday morning. I thought that’s what belonging to a church was all about, but I was wrong. When we joined Peace In Christ, there were maybe 50 or 60 members, and God must have known just what I needed, because it’s hard to hide in a group that size. In fact, I was elected Recording Secretary at the first congregational meeting I attended. What a shock! I didn’t realize that in a small church agreeing to serve meant you got the job. Soon the pastor found out I liked to write and he suggested I get involved in helping with the newsletter and writing articles about the church for the local newspaper. I really enjoyed that, but I still wasn’t studying the Bible. After all, I knew all those stories from Sunday School class, and had even taken some courses about the Bible as literature in college. I didn’t think I needed any more.

Life has a way of moving along and changing, though, and pretty soon our first child was born. Before I knew it, she was two years old, and the nice people at church were asking if she could stay for Sunday School. Of course, that meant that Terry and I joined the adult class–what else was there to do for that hour? There I got another surprise–I discovered that the Bible is more than history or literature, it’s a guide for living life. In 1 Timothy 3:16-17 we read:

All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”

I got to know other Christians — the ones in the Bible, and the ones in class–most of whom were more mature in the faith than I was at the time. I saw how, despite their flaws and mistakes they had a living faith–vibrant and growing. Here were people who prayed before making a decision–I had never done that. They loved and served some of the most unlovable people. They had a purpose in life. I admired them and I began to want to be more like them.

Stay tuned for more tomorrow …..

For more posts about Bible study see:

The Greatest Bible Study

Study Resources for Ladies

A Prayer Before Study

R. C. Sproul on God’s Word

Do you study God’s Word, the Bible? God chose to communicate with us through words, and we won’t grow in our faith if we never bother to read them R C Sproul addresses the question of why we don’t study the Word of God this way:

“Here then, is the real problem of our negligence. We fail in our duty to study God’s Word not so much because it is difficult to understand, not so much because it is dull and boring, but because it is work. Our problem is not a lack of intelligence or a lack of passion. Our problem is that we are lazy.” – Knowing Scripture, 1977

I’m sure, like me, you find the time to study the things that are really important to you. Sports fans memorize statistics about their favorite teams and players, employees take courses so they can advance their careers, teenagers (and many others) comb the internet to find out what’s going on in the life of that special celebrity. We all have our passions, but these things are all temporary. Make sure you also study the only subject that’s permanent. In the book of Matthew, Jesus tells us:

“Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.” Matthew 24:35

So, don’t be lazy. Study the Word.

For more about R. C. Sproul see:

The Holiness of God–R.C. Sproul–Book Review

Flee to the Scripture– A Quote by R.C. Sproul

A Quote From R.C. Sproul