Small Groups Made Easy – A Book Review

Ryan Lokkesmoe is a well-known author of several books on small groups, as well as, small group curriculums. The book is divided into 2 parts. The first part addresses the practical applications of small groups. He covers logistics, planning, leaders, childcare, and location, as well as many more.

He gives practical, simple principles to follow to make sure the group is instituted, planned and lead well so that it can succeed in the first part. I found the principles to be easy and effective if a bit simple.

The second part is based on 12 basic Christian studies which I enjoyed more than the first part. I felt that the studies were well thought out and provided ample questions to engage all participants. He backs up his study material with ample scripture references and ends each study with the most important thing – Prayer.

I give this book 4 out of 5 stars. I felt it was well-written and gave sound advice but could have given a little more detail in the implementation part.

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

Confronting Christianity – A Book Review

Rebecca McLaughlin has written a book that tackles 12 hard-hitting questions that most Christians should be able to answer but shy away from, whether from an inability to answer or afraid of the answer, remains to be seen.

The chapters are divided into topics such as slavery, the denigration of women, homosexuality, and God allowing suffering are just a few.  Each chapter gives detailed Biblical reference to the position stated and additional references from noted theologians.

The book is so detailed in the response to the questions that I would argue it is more than a one time read. It is an armchair reference manual to be studied regularly and absorbed. I feel more comfortable in explaining several of the questions asked but will take more time to read and digest them all. I applaud the author for this undertaking and feel that she has done a tremendous job of equipping Christians to answer those hard-hitting questions.

I give this book a stellar 5 stars. This review is based on the thorough, detailed explanation and thought that went into the compilation.

You may purchase this book at the link below:

https://www.crossway.org/books/confronting-christianity-hcj/

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

What’s So Wonderful About Webster? by Stephen and Alex Kendrick–Book Review

Webster’s 4th grade class is participating in the school Field Day and Webster is worried — he’s not good at any of the events!  This will be the worst day of his life!  He prays for a flood, an earthquake, a snow storm or ANYTHING that will save him from the embarrassment of failing in front of everyone.

Of course, we find that Webster is good at something very important, leading and encouraging others.  He serves water, makes helpful suggestions, picks the winning relay race team and notices a math error that allows his class to win Field Day.  His teacher and classmates praise him for having an important part in their victory.

This engaging tale for grade school children is inspired by the movie, Overcomer. It makes the point that we are all “fearfully and wonderfully made.”(Psalm 139:14) through a story line that children will understand and relate to.  Team work and encouragement are highlighted.  The Parent Connection page at the end contains a Bible verse, explanation and thought questions for further discussion.  The illustrations by Daniel Fernandez are excellent.

VERDICT:  5 stars

If you would like to purchase this book, follow the link below:

https://www.lifeway.com/en/product/what-s-so-wonderful-about-webster-P005813513

The Lutheran Ladies received a free copy of this book in return for an honest and fair review – Disclaimer pursuant to FTC 16 CFR Part 255

For Reviews of other books for children see these posts:

The Society of Extraordinary Raccoon Society by Randall Goodgame–Book Review

GraceFull by Dorena Williamson — Book Review

The Promises of God Storybook Bible by Jennifer Lyell–Book Review

A Life of Lovely – Book Review

A Life of Lovely

 

It is hard for anyone to find the lovely in the ugliness that can sometimes surround us.  The author, Annie Downs, does a wonderful job of helping young, and older, women navigate the sometimes disappointing journey of life with humor and perseverance.

 

The author takes the reader through all aspects of modern life using humor and scripture to help ease the reader into finding the “lovely” where it does not appear to exist.

 

I like the upbeat style and humor that makes the book an enjoyable read; I give it 4 out of 5 stars and found her words a fun way to look forward to finding my “lovely.”

 

 

Purchase this book at this link: https://www.lifeway.com/en/product/a-life-of-lovely-P005802325

This Is Our Time – Book Review

This review is longer than usual because this book deserves your attention.

Trevin Wax is a well-known evangelical millennial and after reading this book, I can see why.  He manages to take modern day situations and show how they relate to God’s word.

Starting with the introduction, Trevin engrosses the mind and engages the thought process by telling us that our neighbor is not where the battle is, but rather the battle is with the lies that are told by the powers and principalities that engage us daily through the media. There are 8 chapters in the book.  The first 4 deal with the habits that impact us on a day to day basis.  The last 4 are based on the larger myths that animate our society. Every single chapter holds a wealth of information that opened my eyes to things that I have been doing and not even been aware that I was doing them.  I enjoyed this book so much that I am going to give a chapter by chapter review.

Chapter 1 deals with how our cell phones, internet practices, and even our friends can lead us to have a formed opinion instead of an informed opinion of ourselves, by narrowing our information intake to model our “Christian beliefs.” This constant affirmation of our views leads us to the myth that our “beliefs” are always right.

Chapter 2 is about our interaction with movies, TV shows, etc.  As most of us realize, a lot of the things we watch are fictional but the constant immersion into this alternate reality can pervert our true reality.  Often, these movies and shows tell us the lie that our fulfillment is found not in God but in emotional and material things.

Chapter 3 – This chapter addresses how we use society’s goals to map out our future.  Often, doing that leads us on a faulty path away from God.  God’s word leads us on a true path with a glorious ending.

Chapter 4 – Our all-time favorite myth of all, shopping and material things can make us happy.  We have turned our year into one shopping event after another.  Instead of being thankful for what we have in November, we are planning to buy more on Black Friday so we can be happier.  Ads that target our longing to be accepted through the labels we wear, the car we drive or the newest electronic gadget have turned shopping into a substitute “Religious” experience.

In these first four chapters, there were several quotes that stood out.

“The primary myth the smartphone tells you every day is that you are the center of the universe.”

“Desensitization is not a sign of spiritual progress but of sensual dullness. Do not confuse the ability to be unfazed by depictions of sin with spiritual maturity.”

“True courage is not deciding for yourself what is “right and wrong” but seeking to discover what truly is right and wrong – for yourself and everybody else.”

“The lie is not that you wouldn’t be okay without it.  The lie is that you’re going to be happier with it.

“The American Dream is about shopping for happiness.  The Kingdom Dream is about experiencing joy in God.”

Now onto the last four chapters.

Chapter 5 – Here the Author reminds us that we are not “at home” on this Earth.  We forget that this is not where we will spend our eternity but it is only where we spend a short tie in the span of our lives.  We, as Christians, have become too much “of the world” and have failed to remember to just be “in the world.”  This chapter also delves into the trap of politics, where sometimes politics become so central to us it becomes our alternate religion.

In Chapter 6 Trevin deals with the thought that we look at marriage as the pinnacle of our relationships, instead of making it the foundation of our lives. He does a great job of delving into common fallacies that pervade our societal beliefs and shows how each and every one of them steers us wrong and why.

Chapter 7 – Another common myth – Sexual freedom is a sign of a mature society and a sign of our freedom.  We have gone from a society and culture where sexual restraint was a sign of maturity into believing that sexual relations are a sign of maturity.

Chapter 8 This chapter is titled “As the World Wobbles” I admit I was confused as to what the content of this chapter would entail.  After reading the chapter, the title fits perfectly. We, as a society, go back and forth with “the world is ending” to “the world is better now than ever.”  Read this chapter for more information on this.

The final four chapters of the book sum up the worldly myths we encounter daily.  Below are my favorite quotes from these chapters.

“So, if you want to put down roots somewhere, put them in the soil of a church.  After all, the gates of hell are shaking not because of an election but because of Easter.”

“All marriages are broken, but what makes a marriage is they are broken together.

“Staking your identity in sexuality or pinning your hopes for happiness on sex is too low of a goal for a human being made in God’s image.”

“We can’t be faithful in our own time if we’re always longing for another.”

As you can probably tell, I thoroughly enjoyed this book and believe it would make a great small group study.

I give this book 5 out of 5 stars.

Read it, Study it, Learn from it.  I sure did.

Purchase the book at the link below – You will not be disappointed

https://www.lifeway.com/en/product/this-is-our-time-P005789993

 

Good Leaders Encourage

“Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.” 1 Thessalonians 5:11

Long ago (1990) and in a universe far, far away (Camp Hemlock Overlook, Va.) I walked with Christ on Women’s Rainbow Via de Cristo #21 where I sat at the table of Deborah. Years later someone asked what I received on that weekend that I would most like to pass along.

I thought long and hard and I can boil it down to one word: encouragement. A VDC weekend is probably the only place in the world where all you have to do to get a round of applause is stand up and state your name! It’s a place where virtual strangers (who quickly become sisters in Christ) will hug you. On a VDC weekend, people really listen to what you have to say and they don’t judge you. They pray for you and with you. It’s a place that feels safe, and very, very, encouraging.

Here’s the best part: the weekend happens only once, but you can pass it on by giving someone else that great feeling of encouragement EVERY SINGLE DAY for the rest of your life. Encouragement is listed as one of the spiritual gifts that build up the Church, and every one of us can prac-tice it. Here are just a few suggestions:

  1. Send a birthday card
  2. Write a thank you note
  3. Give a pat on the back –“great job!”
  4. Hug someone
  5. Bake/cook someone’s favorite
  6. Say “I love you”
  7. Help someone with a job or project — before they ask
  8. Ask someone to pray for you (yes, that is encouraging, because it shows you trust them)
  9. Listen, really listen when someone shares with you
  10. Pass along a book you found helpful/interesting/inspiring

Well, you get the idea.  It’s not very hard.  It won’t cost you much.  And it can change somebody’s day, maybe even their life.  It may change your life as well.  Give it a try.  Go out and pass it on.  That’s what good leaders do.

Piety Part 1- by Jim Edgel

The following are excerpts from a talk on Piety given by Jim Edgel – They have been reprinted with his permission:

Piety is a word we rarely use and may think of it in a negative way such as the “pious” ways of the Pharisees.  But authentic Christian piety is a very good thing.  In fact, if we explain the life Jesus led, it was a life of true piety.  Brothers, as we become filled with the Holy Spirit, God calls each one of us to a new life, and this involves a radical change from within.  This change alters our relationship with:  Our self, with God, with other people, and with the world, we live in together.  We see ourselves differently, knowing that no matter how broken we may be, we are forgiven and very valuable to God.  We have a new direction for our lives as children of God, full of marvelous capabilities.  We begin to see other people through God’s eyes, loving them as brothers and sisters who were created with the same potential that God has given to us.  And as we continue to transform; we see our world, as messed up as it may be, as God’s gift to us, given for our enjoyment and care.  When we speak of piety, we are speaking of a full response in all areas of our life to God’s amazing love and grace. We must seek a personal relationship with God, not just knowing about God … But knowing who God is.  Being Christian, not just doing Christian things.  How can we discover our God-given potential and be the complete person that God calls us to be as we live a life of grace?  This consists of balancing three key dimensions of our lives.  All three are equally important and it takes all three, working together, giving equal stability and balance in order to support us as we live in a close relationship with God.  To better understand the importance of Piety in our daily walks as Christians; which includes taking the Good News of Jesus Christ and Him crucified for you and me to the world, we must understand the difference between authentic piety and false piety. Authentic piety is an intimate, revitalizing deepening relationship with God. Jesus explains this to us.  You may remember reading in the Gospel of Matthew when the Pharisees gathered to question Jesus and one of the group asked Him which was the greatest commandment in the law.  And Jesus using His words with great precision, as always, not only answers their question, He explains authentic piety and sums up all the commandments in three sentences.  22nd chapter of Matthew verses 37, 38, 39 – And Jesus said to him “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.  This is the great and first commandment.  And a second is like it:  You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”False piety is a superficial, inaccurate or deceptive practice that appears to be Christian.  False piety is destructive.  It distracts and diverts people from seeking and knowing God.  It prevents them from finding and living the fulfilled life God has planned for them.  Friends … any of us can respond to God’s call in either of two ways.  We can follow a path of faith and commitment as Paul described in his letter to the Colossians “And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.” Or we can devote ourselves to religious, regulations and practices that mark us as “A good Christian” who does “Christian” things.  Those who take this path do not understand the role of God’s grace in the lives of those who are in a relationship with Him.

More to follow