Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Not your parents' worship--and that's okay

     This was a difficult book for me to read, because it is a book that I needed to read. And even though I like to think that I'm eclectic in my tastes, and that I'm as contemporary as the next guy, I definitely have my biases.  What's wrong with the hymns written 200 years ago? Who says we need to update the contemporary worship music from the 70's?  Why do we need a worship leader instead of a choir director? What's wrong with piano and organ, with the occasional trumpet fanfare on Easter morning?
     Yes, I'm being facetious.
      My friend and co-laborer Fred Lopez of Ogden's Hope Resurrected Church has just released Rising Soundz: From Pain to Purpose. Several of his worship leader/music minister friends have corroborated with him and in addition to the book you can also buy a CD and/or DVD.

     Pastor Fred identifies the need for a sound that this generation can identify with, much as my parents liked centuries old hymns, and I could relate to Maranatha. But things have changed. More and more people in this country (USA) are not identifying as Christian; yes there are Muslims and Hindus and Buddhists, but there is a huge increase in the group that identifies as no religious preference. How does the Christian community reach out to them?
     Lopez paints a picture of the pain that exists in all generations, but is especially visible in a certain element within our culture. But pain doesn't have to end there. God has a plan for all of us, and in many cases our pain can lead to creativity, which in some ways defines our purpose. And that purpose just might be to join God on his redemptive, restorative mission.
     As a strategist, Pastor Fred is able to develop a plan for the worship leaders of this generation to be able to connect with others in their context and culture. He identifies biblical precepts and precedents for the role of worship leader, and just as, if not more, importantly, offers the encouragement that is so sorely needed if a musician is to put forth something 'new'--that is different from what we've been doing in church for a very long time. How do we become a part of the body when we don't fit in? (It's hard to believe that a church would be so picky about who's up in front of the congregation, but there you have it).

     Unity, leadership, creativity come together to make a major impact on those who wish to minister to the least and the lost. And that combination comes together in a number of ways, most of which don't look like your parent's Sunday morning worship experience. Worship is pleasing to God; we are created to worship. You're unique, and your worship is too. Don't let the pain of your past drag you down, allow it to help your soar into the worshiper that God has always intended you to be.

head to this site to order your book.


Thursday, September 14, 2017

Lean into the Whisper

Sometimes you have to yell to get my attention, but sometime a whisper is even more effective. And sometimes the voice of God is best heard in that still small whisper.  And Mark Batterson talks about that whisper in his latest book: Whisper: How to Hear the Voice of God. (Multnomah, 2017). 

                I think I’ve read most, if not all, of Mark’s books, and I have to say that I’ve enjoyed them all. Whisper is no exception. When you start reading a book and sense the passion of the author, you know you’re in for a good read.
                So why do we have to wait for God to whisper? The same reason we wait for others to whisper: we are prone to being so used to the noise and raucous clamor, that we become immune to it.  It might be that we lose our hearing in a certain range, or as is the case with many married couples that selective hearing sets in. Maybe it’s that everyone yells, so when someone is intentionally quiet, we take notice, and lean forward to better hear what is being said. So, God whispers with the hope that we’ll lean forward to hear what He has to say.
                One of the things I like about Mark’s books is the amount of detail he provides. He takes the most (seemingly) random things and puts them into the context of his prayer life and the story line.  I guess we all do it to some extent, but I have a hard time connecting the dots like he does.
                This is another book that I would love to lend to my friends, but I have underlined so many things, that I can’t bear to part with it.
                Simple prayers work. And we learn one in Whisper that is repeated throughout the book: “Speak LORD, for your servant is listening. It’s short, sweet, simple, and scriptural (1 Samuel 3:9)
                Batterson talks about the power of a whisper, and puts the power and the whisper in the context of seven languages: Scripture, Desires, Doors, Dreams, People, Promptings and Pain. God declares His love for us in so many different ways. And all we have to do is learn to listen. 
                I received an Advance Reader’s Copy of this book in exchange for my review. There was no expectation that I was required to write a positive review. This book will release soon!


Saturday, September 9, 2017

Is God Loving or Angry

For years I’ve heard about Jonathan Edwards famous sermon “sinners in the Hands of an Angry God”. I probably even read a manuscript of it at one time or another, so I jumped at the opportunity to read Brian Zahnd’s book Sinners if the Hands of a Loving God: the Scandalous Truth of the Very Good News. (Waterbrook, 2017)

The title intrigued me. I go to the local Rescue Mission on a regular basis, and while there are others who go there to preach fire and brimstone, I think what’s needed is love, mercy and grace. Most of the clients there know that they have a sin issue. They don’t need to be reminded of that, what they do need to know it that God loves them.
Brian makes some good points about Jesus being the fulfillment of the law and the prophets—He didn’t come to abolish them. And I liked how he used Old Testament examples and then showed how thanks to Jesus fulfilling, completing, perfecting the law, we no longer have to stone people to death, or exact an eye for eye. We can show compassion, and point people to Jesus. We can love them into the kingdom, instead of trying to scare them into it.
And then we have to talk about Hell. I saw some of the same tracks that Zahnd talks about. People burning in everlasting eternal fires. I didn’t like them when I was a teenager, and I don’t like them now. They’re creepy.  I believe that Hell is real, and I like to remember that hell is the eternal state of being out of God's presence. Is it a big room, very hot, flames licking at the edges and little demons with tails running around in red suits, jabbing people with their pitchforks? I think that is an artist’s rendering.  Regardless of what Hell is really like, it’ real, and if we listen to Jesus, the only way to avoid is to go, through Him, to the Father. And here’s where it seems like Zahnd may be straying a little from traditional Christian thought.
As I read through the chapter on Hell (Chap 6: “Hell…and Hoe to Get There”) it seems that Zahnd is suggesting that you can avoid Hell even without professing belief in Jesus. I hate to think that some really God-fearing people, people who worship God, will not be enjoying eternity in God's presence because they stayed true to their religious roots, but I can’t reconcile Jesus’ Words with desired, or aspirational belief system.  Having said that, Zahnd makes a strong case that our version of Hell is probably quite different than the biblical version.
Except for that one area, I enjoyed the book.
I received a copy of the book from the Publisher (WaterBrook) in exchange for a review.

4/5 because of some theological questions. 

Thursday, September 7, 2017

How Charles Dickens met Tiny Tim and Ebeneezer Scrooge

    Christmas is just a few months away....(I know some of you are already counting down the days), and for many families, reading a Christmas Carol is a favorite tradition.  This year you can add to the fun by planning on making time to watch "The Man Who Invented Christmas" starring Dan Stevens, Jonathan Pryce and Christopher Plummer.

We all know the story of Tiny Tim and Ebeneezer Scrooge, but other than his knack for taking life as he saw it in London, we know little of how Charles Dickens came up with his classic literature. All right, let's be real, after watching this movie, due in theaters on Nov 22nd, we still won't know for sure; but this is a whimsical idea of how it might have happened. Watch as Dickens 'meets' the characters that he brings to life in the pages of the novel that has brought so much joy to so many people since it was written in 1843.

It's brought joy, and inspired people to become the new and improved Mr Scrooge.  For the last 8 years, the 6th graders at a local Jr High read  A Christmas Carol each year, and then do a Tiny Tim project on the last day of school before Christmas break.  For most of those years they've collected socks and hygiene items which are donated to the local Rescue Mission.   

Where did Dickens get his inspiration? Why did he write this book? we may never know, but thanks to a writer from 175 years ago, homeless people today are a little better off than they might otherwise have been.
watch the trailer here

Thursday, August 24, 2017

The Bible Story, but not the Bible

If you’re interested in the main themes of the story of the Bible, but don’t feel up to reading the bible, this may be the book for you.  Dr William H. Marty’s The Whole Bible Story: Everything that Happens in the Bible in Plain English (Illustrated Edition) (Baker Books, 2017) was originally published several years ago (2011) and this edition adds illustrations. Some of the illustrations, by the way, were enjoyable to look at and even enlightening.  I also enjoyed the brief intro to each chapter which presented the setting, and the main characters. The chapter conclusion was also as helpful or more helpful than the chapter itself.
                It certainly is in “Plain English” which might be a good thing for some people; but the way it’s written concerns me. Nothing is out of place, the themes are not misrepresented, but I didn’t get enough of a sense that this is not a bible—it’s a condensed version of the metanarrative. Yes, it might be good for the beginner, but unless there is someone to disciple that beginner and lead him or her to the complete Bible there are bound to be some serious misunderstandings down the road.
                This seems to be a fairly basic and elementary rendering if it is used with college students. I might have enjoyed it while in release time religious education when I was in 5th or 6th grade) many years ago) but by High School, much less college, I don’t think I would have appreciated it.
                Another concern I have is that much of the New Testament don’t seem to be adequately covered. The gospels and ACTS have sections dedicated to them, but much of Paul’s theology, found in the epistles, not to mention the Revelation, get pretty short shrift.
                Quite frequently I can pinpoint a specific target audience to whom I would recommend a book. Not the case with this one. My best advice, if you’re having trouble with some of the more literal translations of the Bible, get a paraphrase, or a translation that slants towards thought-for-thought rather than word-for-word. I’m not even sure what to do with this book. I guess it will sit on the bookshelf until I find someone who might be able to use it.

                I received a copy of this book in exchange for a written review.  There was no expectation that I would be required to post a positive review. 

Saturday, August 19, 2017

when generosity is transformational

How much does it take to make a difference for the kingdom? And in the broadest sense of the word, the answer has to be “it depends”.  There are all sorts of variables, but one common factor is the willingness to listen to God, and follow where He leads.
                Mac Pier has compiled 31 stories of people who have been willing to do just that, and then give in extraordinarily generous ways. In his latest book, A Disruptive Generosity: Stories of Transforming Cities through Strategic Giving (Baker Books, 2017) Piers relates the accounts of people from around the globe who are making a difference in their cities. 
                Pier explains that there are 3 themes in his book, 1) God's vision for the world as referenced in the book of Isaiah, 2) spiritual movement, and 3) relational networks.  The relational network is something that he builds on, and is a specific one, people that he knows, with whom he has worked, and who he counts among his friends. The spiritual movement is one that is happening world-wide. God is moving people to where they can hear the gospel, and by most accounts, the percentage of believers is growing faster than the general population.
And then there is Isaiah. My favorite part of this book. I was torn between wanting to read story after story, and wanted to read this book as a devotional to be savored over a period of a month.  Each chapter starts with a verse from the prophet Isaiah, then we are introduced to one or two of the people in the relational network, and Mac shares what they are doing in their part of the world. Each chapter ends with a brief statement about the scripture, followed by ‘points to consider” and a brief prayer.
Caution. This is not for the faint of heart. Much of the strategic giving involves tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars, and in some cases millions. This type of giving is far more than I can aspire too, but it inspires me to “give up to my potential”.
I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for a review.


Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Convicted: forgiveness like you've never seen before!

We all know what it’s like to hurt or be hurt, and many of us have experienced forgiveness in its many forms. In other words, we all have stories about forgiveness, but probably none of us quite to the extent of the story told in Convicted: a Crooked Cop, An Innocent Man, and an Unlikely Journey of Forgiveness and Friendship (Waterbrook , 2017).

Jesus told a story about a moneylender who held 2 outstanding debts, one much greater than the other. The characters in the story include a woman who had sinned greatly, recognized the extent of her sin, and had much for which to be forgiven. She was grateful.  At the same time another sinner refused to see that he also had sinned greatly, he felt that he was entitled to having his debt cancelled.  The same forgiveness was not forthcoming.  As Jesus tells the story, before telling the woman that her sins are forgiven, he makes an equally telling comment to the second sinner:  “Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven — for she loved much. But he who has been forgiven little loves little." (Luke 7: 47, NIV)
                Jesus spoke in a parable to illustrate a truth, and the book Convicted is a retelling of a true story. The authors are writing of their experience. Andrew a crooked cop, who had somehow gotten impressed with himself, and felt that he was above reproach. His entitlement mentality led him to places that he should never have gone. And Jameel, someone who, and excuse the cliché, happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Really. And that misfortune took him to a place where he never planned on going.
                Jameel’s hatred helps him for a time to survive prison, but hatred can’t sustain you forever, and by the time he meets Andrew again, things have changed.
                Andrew is finally held accountable for his crimes, and as you might expect the two men meet. What you might expect is that Jameel’s hatred would lead to a violent confrontation, but instead what we see play out is forgiveness that most of us wish we could experience, but might never have the opportunity to see. And after forgiveness, comes a friendship that crosses lines of race and strengthens the faith walk of each man.
Be looking for this book in Mid-September.

(privileged to be on the launch team, so I got an advance copy of the book) 

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

in, and out of, the pit

We all have those moments, those moments when it feels like things couldn’t get much worse, and we’re left grasping at anything that seems to offer us a way out of the pit. Beth Moore in her book Get Out of That Pit: Straight Talk About God's Deliverance (W Publishing Group, 20017), has a lot to say about that pit, or as may be the case, those pits.

                The story line is pretty linear—the horrors of being in the pit; how we get into the pit (we slip in, get thrown in or jump in; acknowledging that there is a way out of that pit, and the steps to getting out (cry out for help, confess to God the nature of the problem, and consent to let Him help). Then we wait for God to show up and show off. Hopefully it doesn’t take too many pit experiences to convince us that we’ve had enough, and so we can make up our mind to try to avoid the things that got us there. And once we’ve allowed God to pull us out we should change out tune, and live a different life, one that keeps us focused on God, which in turn helps us to avoid the pits in the future.
                  I admit that I had not read any of Beth Moore’s material previously, but I know a lot of people who have engaged with her Bible Studies, and have enjoyed them. So I welcomed the opportunity to look at this book.  I should have passed on the opportunity.  Beth Moore writes for women, and I guess I was aware of that, but I figured that this is Bible Study material, so it should have a somewhat universal appeal. It doesn’t.
                I found this book to be rather simplistic in nature, which may be more indicative of her intended audience (and for baby Christians this might be a good start).  In my opinion the cover set the tone for the book. Ms Moore is very nicely dressed, every hair in place, flashy jewelry and nicely applied makeup.  There is no way I was going to be convinced that this woman had ever been near a pit, much less wallowed in one.
                I received a copy of the book in exchange for a review…I was not required to write a positive review.


Thursday, August 10, 2017

We all have a prodigal-- but there's hope

Even if you don’t attend church regularly you’ve probably heard the parable of the Prodigal Son as told in the Gospel of Luke. There have been sermons preached on it, books written about it, it’s been adapted, and I imagine that without much difficulty, one could find movies or plays which at least touch on the major themes of these verses.  So why do we need still another book based on that same passage?
                The simple answer to that complex question is probably because most of the people I know, myself included, have a prodigal in their life. Maybe it’s a parent, a child, a sibling, a spouse, or a longtime friend. Maybe your prodigal is you. Those people are in our lives, and we all need help in learning to love them the best way we can. We don’t want to slam the door in their face (well maybe at times we do), and we don’t want to enable them in their addictive or inappropriate behaviors, and at the same time we want to help.  And that’s where this book may be helpful.
                Is there hope?  Jim Putman with his father Bill Putman think so, and they explain why, along with a lot of helpful tips in their recently released book Hope for the Prodigal: Bringing the Lost, Wandering, and Rebellious Home (BakerBooks, 2017).

                The book is broken into three sections I: the Ideal, II: the Ordeal, and III: the New Deal. And those section headings are enough to give you the main idea of each section. We know what we should be striving for in our relationships, but sometimes stuff, often horrible stuff, happens, but there is hope for restoration.
                Although I enjoy the Parable of the Prodigals, and the book is based on the story and the main points within, I found this book slightly difficult to follow. Although there were some helps as to who was writing [ I (Jim) or I (Bill)], it was often confusing because the stories were repeated—once in the first person, and once in the third.
I received a copy of the book from BakerBooks in exchange for a review, I was not required to write a positive review.


Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Who am I and What do I do? Pastoral Theology

Who am I and what do I do? Important questions for the Pastor, and Daniel L. Akin and R. Scott Pace have done a wonderful job answering those questions. And in doing so, they may just have added a new field of study for Seminary students, or those who feel called to the pastorate: Pastoral Theology. The results of their work are found in an engaging and readable book: Pastoral Theology: Theological Foundations for WHO a Pastor IS and WHAT He DOES (B&H Academic, 2017)
                If you’ve ever struggled through a book on systematic theology, and wondered ‘Why?”, you’ll appreciate this book. No, it doesn’t cover everything in great deal, because it’s intended to answer questions that pertain to pastors, it’s a guide to the road to being a successful pastor. What makes a Pastor a good pastor? Of course, that varies some depending on the personality of the individual but there are certain constants. New pastors struggle to find their identity, and often get bogged down in making friendships, figuring out who the power players (official or unofficial) are in the church, add probably have to deal with the politics that happen in any group as leaders fight for their particular ministry. All that can make it difficult to stay true to the theological basis of being a pastor.  
                The book is divided into 3 sections, each with a particular emphasis. Part 1 deals with the Trinitarian Foundation, part 2 focuses on doctrine, and the 3rd part address some practical issues.
                As I started reading this book, it wasn’t long before I was thinking about a sermon series based on Part I. The 3 persons of God. The authors address theology, Christology and Pneumatology. God the Father, God the Son, and God the Spirit. Yes, these chapters are geared towards pastors, with discussions of God's character, Christ as God's champion, and the Spirit as God's Companion. But at the same time, if the Trinity is important to an understanding of my role as pastor, the congregation should also be taught about the three persons. Most pastors talk about the Father and the Son, but, and I’m guilty, many pastors neglect the Spirit. The Spirit is often hard to understand—so  He is often forgotten in the life of the church.
                Part II addresses Doctrine, again with three C’s : God's Compassion, His Community and his Commission; so we are introduced to a basic study to the theology of man, of the church, and of mission.  What is the pastor’s role in each of these areas? Yes, they are definitely all important, but sometimes the Pastor is called to take an active role and sometimes he is called to teach the church it’s role.
                But it’s not all book learning. Part III addresses how to put some of these things into practice. How does the minister deal with God's congregation? What is important in the preparation to Communicate God's Word through preaching? What is God's covenant, and how does it apply to families? Especially the family of the Pastor? How do we make sure that our families aren’t being neglected because the congregation is needy, and the demands of the ministry are so great?
                Everything in this book is grounded in scripture, and the appropriate passages are included in the text, so there is no reason to doubt what is being said. Have a doubt? Turn to your Bible and check the reference.
                This should be required reading for Seminary students, and those called to the pastorate. Members of Pastoral Search Committees should read this book, and carefully question candidates based on some of the things put forth on these pages.  Many thanks to the authors for doing such a thorough job of defining the role of Pastor in such an understandable and scripturally grounded way.

                   I received a copy of this book for review.  B&H Academic provided the book in exchange for my review. I was not required to post a positive review

Friday, August 4, 2017

First Friday Coffee with the Ogden Police Department

What a great idea! Diana, Ogden Police Department’s Community Outreach Coordinator arranges a monthly event designed to allow members of the community to interact with members of the department. This morning, it was held at The Daily Rise.  Several officers are there, there’s free coffee, and a great atmosphere.
            I went because there’s something about coffee, but also to show support for the Department. Others showed up because they had questions, and one lady even showed up with a thankyou note for the officers who had responded to a recent 911 call.
            I think this is such a great idea on so many different levels, first and foremost being that getting to know the officers who are likely patrolling in your neighborhood before you need them makes it easier to ask for help later. Personal relationships are so important in every other aspect of our life—family, school, work, church, and the sports or other social activities—why should this be any different.
            In my work as a corporate chaplain, I often hear that a lot of problems can be avoided when people know in advance where they can turn for help. Like a school principal or the HR person at work, a police officer is not your enemy. They might have to respond or react to your inappropriate behavior, but the goal would always be to address the issue before it becomes a major problem.
            These men and women have a tough job, somedays you can make it a little easier for them, just by offering a smile when they drive by.  And by the way, I would imagine that on a regular basis they see things that no human being should ever have to see. Pray boldly for their safety and peace of mind.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Thoughts on Bezet's Real Love

Fess up—you know someone who is far from lovable. Well, at least you don’t find them very loveable, even if their mother does. It would be nice if everyone with whom we ever came in contact was one of those nice people, but God in His infinite wisdom created all of us as individuals, in His image, but still individual. Which means that Tab A doesn’t always fit Slot B.  It doesn’t come naturally to us to love some of those Tab A’s that don’t fit our Slot B. And then God decided that even though we’re different in many respects that we’re supposed to love our neighbor. Even when we find that neighbor fairly unlovable. Oops!
            And my take away from Rick Bezet’s book Real Love in an Angry World: How To Stick to Your Convictions without Alienating People (Baker Books, 2017) is that speaking the truth in love is, in God's eyes, a much better alternative some of our natural tendencies. And of course the flip side is also true, quite often I’m one of those unlovable people; maybe you are too.
            Bezet looks at some of the problems we have dealing with other human beings and offers some suggestions for getting on track. Sometimes that means learning to listen, sometimes it’s seeking counsel before acting on what we think we’ve heard, and sometimes it’s asking for help interpreting what we just heard. And maybe it means getting a different translation of a bible, one written in language that you understand.
            The book is an easy read, and Bezet has a charming sense of humor that comes through in his writing. And it’s all interspersed with solid theology, and pertinent biblical references.
            An enjoyable read, and helpful pointers for loving the neighbor—even when.
            I received a copy of this book from Baker Books in exchange for this review.


faith lessons from a horror story

Sometimes blessings come from unexpected places, and sometimes valuable lessons come from pretty strange sources.  For example, would you expect a horror movie to be a source of valuable Faith lessons?
                Yeah, me neither. At least not usually. But sometimes that happens.  In fact, there’s a scary movie being released next week that offers some valuable insight into how when we’re at our weakest, we are ever so susceptible to falling prey to temptation.
                Annabelle: Creation, the story of a possessed deal releases in theaters o Friday August 11.watch the trailer here
                And one of the main lessons we can learn from films about the supernatural is that evil is real. It’s real, it’s frightening, and when we’re at our best, we tend to walk away, but in moments of weakness, and despair, we’re much more likely to embrace it, especially if it seems that we’ll be able to find answers to our questions, or relief from pain and sorrow.
                So no, I’m not recommending OUIJA boards, I’m not suggesting tarot decks, just offering a commentary on the whys of their use.
                So, ‘Annabelle: Creation’ starts with every parent’s worst nightmare: the unexpected and sudden death of a child. And in the midst of their broken heartedness, opportunities arise for them to find answers. The problem is that by the time they realize that the hoped-for answers aren’t forth-coming, they have been drawn down a dark path.
                Horror exists, horror I evil, but Christians have read the book, and we know how the story ends. God defeats evil. So instead of turning to the supernatural instead of God, we should know that we need to use our faith, to use prayer, to call upon God. He has the answers to our questions. He can help us in our times of grief.

                The movie tells a story, and like all stories it teaches a lesson.  Let the lesson you learn from this be that God is the answer, in our darkest moments, God can heal our bodies and our souls. 

Monday, July 17, 2017

Quality Time with the Local Police Department

I have a great deal of respect for members of the Police Departments, here locally and across our country. They get to work interesting hours, and although they know what time their shift starts, depending on what might be happening several hours later, they aren’t always sure of what time they might get to sign out and head home.
                Recently I thought it might be interesting to spend a few hours on patrol in the neighborhood of the church where I’m a pastor, so I reached out to the local Police Department. Diana Lopez, the Community Outreach Coordinator, was able to make the arrangements. Thanks, Diana! Last weekend, Officer Ken Huckaby was kind enough to let me spend a few hours riding with him. And a couple of hours into the shift, we realized that we work in the same area of Ogden, and we’re also neighbors where we live.
                I’m not a big believer in coincidences, but there are a lot of “God-Moments” in my life. Shortly after Diana had arranged this ride-along, a blog post appeared in my inbox. The author listed 14 ways to better understand the community in which you’re doing ministry, and one of those 14 things was “Ride with a Police Officer or Firefighter”. Police officers and firefighters tend to be great resources when it comes to learning about the community. And Officer Ken was no exception—more later on that.
                There are always some conditions: you have to agree to some things ahead of time…nothing out of the ordinary, just things to keep you safe. And signing that waiver was just the first of the paperwork I saw that evening. And by the way, that was the only paper work actually done on paper. Computers can make life easier, help with a quicker response—and save trees.
                When I walked into the Francom Public Safety Building, there was a man in a wheelchair on my side of the window. He said something to me, but he was looking down, and I couldn’t hear him very well, so I assumed that he was talking on the phone. It was only when I sat down to wait for someone to escort me back to fill out the waiver, that I realized that he was talking to me. His motorized chair needed to be charged and he couldn’t get home, so he stopped in to use an outlet.  I don’t know if that’s the norm, but it was gratifying to see that this man’s needs were being met.  His appearance and mumbling might have made him a persona non-grata in many places.  He wasn’t hurting anything, or bothering anyone, he just needed enough charge on his battery to get home. And as we talked, the discussion turned to faith. An answer to prayer: “Lord, bring me to people who want to hear about Jesus”. A friend of mine qualifies that when he says that he can make small talk all day long, but he’d rather talk about God's Kingdom.
                It was a slow start as my Ride had paperwork to finish from calls during the first part of his shift. As he worked, we chatted about a number of things happening in the community. Some of the biggest problems were no surprise.  Mental health issues, gangs, and overcrowding in the jail system all contribute to the problems on the streets. Add in drugs and alcohol, and it’s no surprise that the Police Department keeps busy. (Except on this shift. Officer Ken said it was a boring evening, and I should try again some other time. Note to self: try to get a repeat ride)
                How long does it take to become so aware of what’s going on? I thought that I was pretty observant, but it didn’t take long to figure out that situational awareness is a strong point for those who patrol our streets. I could barely make out what the dispatcher was saying, and Ken was responding. After one call in particular we left Ken’s area, and there were several other patrol cars heading the same way. I was pretty amazed at how, without any obvious coordination, each of the responding officers could determine in which direction he needed to head. Ken recognized the person who had called in for assistance, and stopped her to get some more information about her call. It’s interesting how some people who have a lot of contact with the police have a lot of contact with the police!
                Has your car been reported stolen? The oncoming shift is told about it, and as they patrol, they’re looking for it. Concerned about loved ones with whom you can’t get in touch? Someone might be dispatched to check on them.  Something suspicious going on in the neighborhood? The patrol officer might just be driving by, see it, and stop to make sure everything is all right. Something missing and presumed stolen from your apartment? You guessed it, the officer on shift will be sent to investigate and take your statement.
                Of course, there’s a shortage of officers in most departments across the country, there’s a shortage of jail beds, a shortage of funding, and even though mental health issues rank high on the list of problems that an officer might see during any given shift, there aren’t enough Psych hospitals or beds to handle the magnitude of the problem. There is a lot of latitude given when it comes to dealing with issues. Sometimes, usually, a ticket is a much better option than a trip to the 12th street jail.
                What did I learn about police? If Officer Huckaby is any indicator, most police officers are a lot more like Jamie Reagan on Blue Bloods than they are like Hank Voight on Chicago PD.  Ogden is lucky to have officers on the job who care about the community and the people they serve. And a lot of those serving the community have also served their country by spending time in the Armed Forces.  I’m retired from the Air Force, and frequently people tell me “thank you for your service”.  It’s about time members of our Police Departments (and Fire Departments) get the same measure of respect.
                So, what did I learn about my community?  A lot had to do with the people. Seems like the people who show up at homeless shelters and churches aren’t always strangers to the police. And then there are the gangs. I’ve heard of a few of them, but the list is longer than I thought. There are also some places in the neighborhood that are more prone to trouble than others. Interestingly enough a couple of the areas which were pointed out to me, are areas where I’ve recently done prayer walks. Some people might think they should stay away from those areas. I’m thinking I should up my Situational Awareness quotient, and spend more time in those dark areas, praying for God's light to shine there even more brightly.

                And I’m off to pray for a couple of streets in my neighborhood, and for the officers that patrol those streets! 

Thursday, June 29, 2017

get the on line reviews your book deserves

free ebook at Amazon from 4-6 July 2017
If you’re reading Jason Ladd’s new book, it’s probably because you’re writing one of your own. And if you write, you want someone (preferably lots of someones) to read it. When I blog (fairly rarely, but still) I’m writing and hoping that someone will read what I’ve taken the time to write. Writing a book means more hoping than a mere blog post. 
And that’s Jason’s premise in Book Review Banzai: The Unknown Author’s Ultimate Guide to Getting Amazon Reviews (Boone Shepherd LLC, 2017).  It’s a short read, and Ladd has an engaging writing style. I’m not very techno savvy, but even some of the technical stuff seems doable the way he describes and explains it.
I happen to have a young adult living in my house who can help me with some of that techie stuff, importing, extractions, spread sheets and the rest, so while he’s doing that, I can use some of the other techniques that Jason talks about to find the right people to  read the book and write a review. The title should have given you that clue.
Most people who I know have a book waiting to be written, but like me they don’t know where to start with the fun stuff that comes after the book is written: getting it sold. I like to read, and I notice that a lot of the books that I buy have an invitation to write a review and post it on my blog, but also, and especially on Amazon and other sites. I do that frequently, and as a result often get asked to read and review a book. (Free books, YAY!!!) But it never really dawned on me just how important those amazon reviews are when it comes to marketing the book.
So in a nutshell, this book is about finding the people that will read your book, and post the reviews that make Amazon and other online booksellers sit up and take notice (and when they notice, your book goes to the top of the list—can’t beat that for part of your marketing strategy.
Is it easy? Probably not, but if you’ve gone to the effort to write the book, and you want others to read it, you better be willing to invest the time.
And just so you know, Jason follows his own advice. He ‘found’ me and asked me to review his book. What are the connections? I frequently review books on my blog, and because he checked my profile, he’s seen that I retired from the Air Force. That military connection gave him something with which to personalize his emails. (That’s how he got me to review his book One of the Few)
            He also suggests that the author be willing to offer review copies of the ebook for free. Some of them go out before the release date, and sometimes you have to be willing to offer the free ebook even after publication. This is another tip he follows: Book Review Banzai is free on Amazon from 4-6 July.
                That’s right, you can get your own free copy of the ebook from the 4th to the 6th of July. Head to amazon dot com, next Tuesday morning, and start using Jason’s techniques to market your book on Tuesday afternoon.


Monday, June 26, 2017

Their Pain, My Perspective, and Finally a Response

We’ve all been in situations where we’re in close proximity to someone who doesn’t look like us. Some of the situations are temporary, and some much longer lasting.  Some people are forced into situations, and some make a conscious decision to experience life at a different pace than they might otherwise be used to. Immediately missionaries come to mind. They leave family, friends and home to go to a faraway place.
            And then there are people like Michelle Warren. Michelle and her husband made the decision to exchange lifestyles, but they didn’t go to a different continent to do so. Instead they settled in an area of Colorado. The only thing is, Michelle and her husband don’t look like most of their neighbors, and if they weren’t willing to study another language, they wouldn’t even be able to communicate with some of them. Their journey to proximity is detailed in The Power of Proximity: Moving Beyond Awareness to Action, (IVP Books, July 2017)

            I did more underlining in this book than I have in a long time, and have already used some of what I learned as part of a message for a chapel service at the local Rescue Mission.  Justice is a primary theme, and reading this book helps us see that we have a part to play in seeing justice come about. Biblical, not legal justice, restoration of people, not just punishment for wrongs (p 28). Life among people who are struggling helps us to identify that need for restoration.
            So, what is the deal with proximity? The simple answer is that it gets us close to the pain of an issue, changes our perspective, and most importantly requires a response. And as you can tell, from that 3 part answer, the simple answer is anything but simple.  
            Take a look at the communities that frame the lenses through which you see things. Do you live in one and work in another? Do you truly experience what others created in the image of God are living on a daily basis, or do you just brush shoulders with it during the short periods of time that you are in the vicinity, and then forget about it as you drive away? Michelle is truly experiencing it.
            Part I “Proximity Transforms Us” helps the reader understand what is meant by proximity, including the fact that to truly understand a different culture, we need to do more than attend some conferences or read a few books. It enables us to look beyond the surface for the underlying causes, and the possible solutions to some of the issues. And as we are confronted with the brokenness of others, we are also confronted with our own brokenness, which tends to help us understand even better what others are living through.
            Part II “Proximity Compels Response” is a little bit harder to read, simply because it forces the reader to decide “what am I going to do about it?” It’s one thing to read about an issue, to see it from a distance, and perhaps send a check, or ‘like’ on social media platforms. But when it becomes part of who you are, then a response is required. When proximity to the poor is a choice, you are privileged (108), and with privilege comes responsibility.
            And with Part III “Proximity for the Long Haul” there are some pointers. We can choose to move past fear, we can recognize and pray for healing for our churches, we can continue with our choice to be proximate, even when it is more difficult than we expected. We can live by faith, and stand with those who are already boldly making a stand, making the statement that enough is enough. In God's Kingdom we are all created in His image, and as such we should be willing to stand by our brothers and sisters.
            Earlier this year I was indirectly asked by a friend to choose a word for the year, a word which might shape and frame my actions and attitudes. The word I chose was justice, and this book is helping me with that effort. Michelle wears several different hats, but whichever one she is wearing at any given time is a reminder that proximity shapes us and has not only the potential to make our world a better place, but also the potential to mold us more closely to the Imago Dei in which we were created.
            I received a copy of this book from the publisher.  

            Highly recommended. 5/5

Thursday, June 15, 2017

The NIV Bible comes alive for young readers

Another Bible for kids, and you should care, why? I was thinking something along the same lines, until I got my hands on a copy. NIV Kid’s Visual Study Bible (Zondervan, 2017) is the Complete New International Version Bible, and it’s especially geared for kids from 8 to 12 years old.

                What makes this one special? I’m glad you asked. Almost every page highlights one or more verses and offers an explanation. In a regular study bible, these notes would probably be at the bottom of the page, but here they are in the margins, and stand out, so your junior scholar can read them and get a better appreciation for the customs and culture of Bible times. Sometimes, as in an adult study bible, some of the linguistic nuances are explained.
                Additionally there are pictures, tables, and maps throughout, (cover material indicates ‘over 700 images’) that help to explain the context of a particular passage.  Although I’m MUCH older than the 8-12 years old group, I enjoyed looking at the pictures and reading the notes.
                I was so glad to see that the illustrations weren’t what one usually sees in a kids’ Bible; in this version, with the complete text instead of stories, excerpts, and paraphrases, the illustrations match a level of maturity that the 12 year old will enjoy (they’re not treating me like a kid anymore) but still at a basic enough level for the 8 year old to enjoy. 
                Sure to become a favorite for the young ones in your family, and I can envision a 9 or 10 year old not only reading this bible, but looking forward to reading it aloud to younger siblings or cousins.
                This has all the potential to become THE preferred Bible for Sunday school classes because the teacher has handy access to the supplemental information needed to help prepare a lesson (and encourage further study) and the students will delight in the graphics and explanations.


I received a copy of this Bible from Handlebar Central (and Zondervan) in exchange for the review. 

Questions to ask when you're trying to get out of the rut

Sometimes it feels like things get stuck, and when they do you want to do something to get out of the rut. With that in mind I was excited to have the opportunity to read When Your Church Feels Stuck: 7 Unavoidable Questions Every Leader Must Answer by Christ Sonksen (Baker Books, 2017).

                As promised, Sonksen discusses seven questions, things like what’s our mission, what are our values, how do we get to where we want to go, and do we have the right people in the right positions. The questions weren’t new for me, and neither were the answers provided. So chapters 5-11 were mostly review of things I’ve read from other experts, some of whom Sonksen mentioned. .
                I did have a problem with his approach to metrics (chap 8: How do we measure a win?) Things like “we look at our music and ask if it’s done with quality”, or “we look at the messages…are they being presented in the highest quality possible?”  And how do you measure if the kids are “learning, growing, and having fun” during the hour of Sunday school. It’s easy to count “butts and bucks”, “nickels and noses”, but quality of the music or the message is a little more difficult to measure. Ask 20 people in a Baptist church, and you’ll get 25 different opinions!
                Having said that, I think the introductory chapters were probably more beneficial to me than the 7 questions. There are some good reminders of what ‘stuck’ looks like, and the review of the stages of church life, although different than others I’ve read, is an encouragement to look at what’s going on long-term (past and present) rather than just look at numbers for the past few weeks and go into panic mode.
                And of course, it’s nice to be reminded that God can do a lot of things through the people whom he calls to serve. Since God uses people, there are often going to be mistakes, but instead of whining about it, making excuses, and pointing fingers, we can learn from our mistakes and move forward.
                If this is new material to you, I would suggest that it’s a good place to start, but I don’t think Sonksen’s answers to the 7 questions are quite deep enough to really get the church out of its rut. The questions are probably the right ones, but the path that is presented to get out of the rut is probably overly smooth.

                I received a copy of this book from the BakerBooks in exchange for my review.


Monday, June 12, 2017

Prayer Tips for Everyone

Another book on prayer? But don’t Christians already know how to pray? And would a non-Christian, a pre-Christian be interested in a book about a typical Christian practice? The short answers are as follows: Yes. No. Yes.
                There are a lot of different ways to write about prayer, depending on your intended audience, and the purpose of your book. And when it comes down to it, a lot of Christians don’t really know much about prayer, or how to pray, other than to recite from memory prayers that they learned as a child for church, meals, and bedtime. And there are a lot of people out there searching for something, without even knowing what, and many of them will turn to prayer even though they might reject the idea of organized religion.
                And those are just some of the reasons that Sherry Harney’s book Praying with Eyes Wide Open: A Life-Changing Way to Talk with God (Baker Books, 2017) is well worth the read.  Sherry challenges some of the things that I grew up thinking about prayer. There were prayers at meal time, prayers at bedtime, and prayers for church. And prayers were said in a reverential pose: head bowed, eyes closed, and hands folded.  And here’s Sherry, suggesting that it’s alright to keep your eyes open, that God won’t be offended; and yes, some of those scripture passages that suggest we pray at all times and in all circumstances are not just for shock value, these God-breathed words say exactly what God meant to say.

                The book is divided into 4 sections, teaching us to pray with eyes, ears, hearts and lives wide open.  Each chapter of each section includes prayer techniques that the author has learned to use throughout the years, including, in many cases the stories of how she learned those techniques. Quite often Harney offers examples of how those prayers have been answered, and there is also a practical aspect. She closes each chapter with a short segment called “Your Prayer Journey” in which she assigns a specific task for the reader to practice during the week.
                Whether you’re new at prayer, or have been at it for a long time, there’s something for everyone in this book. Highly recommended.

                I received a copy of the book from BakerBooks in exchange for an unbiased review.

Monday, May 22, 2017

NOSES ON! Red Nose Day 2017

For several years I’ve been seeing commercials for RED NOSE Day, but really, other than knowing I could go to WalGreens and buy a red nose, I wasn’t really sure what it was all about. And since I don’t pay too much attention to commercials, I never explored it any further. Then I heard a little more about it, and realized that one of the goals of this project is to make people aware of childhood hunger and what they can do to help.  Noses On!

Then I was invited to blog about Red Nose Day, and because chronic hunger is such a problem, impacting children in so many different ways, it was a no-brainer.  Kids go to school hungry, and don’t perform well. Before long they’re below grade level, and suddenly their future is dim. Without the education, it’s sometimes hard to get a job, and generational poverty rates spike.
When kids are hungry and there doesn’t seem to be a solution, they become prey to so many of society’s ills. Gangs look like a good alternative. Selling drugs means they have money to help feed the family. Prostitution, with its own set of nightmares, allows them to escape the harsh realities of chronic hunger and chronic poverty. Generational poverty is, to my way of thinking, one of the biggest problems in our society today.
Some schools in our area send food home for weekend meals, but that’s just a bandaid, and there’s so much more that can be done. The school districts offer lunch during the summer, but weekends aren’t included, and there is often an overlap between school ending and lunches starting. Then at the end of the summer, lunches end, but school hasn’t started yet.  This year, because we can, our church is stepping up to fill the gap in our neighborhood. A couple of times a week, during those gap periods, we’ll be handing out free lunches.  It would be nice if all it took was money, but someone needs to go shopping, someone needs to fill lunch bags. Who is going to clean up after lunch? And beyond a full stomach, how are we going to gain their trust and learn what other needs they have?
Although this didn’t start out to be a Red Nose project, it’s easy to say that we proudly stand with this project. Ending poverty, ending hunger and empowering children, worldwide and here in this country, are goals that we should all get behind. 
Since Red Nose Day started over a billion dollars has been raised globally.  Since 2015, Red Nose Day has raised over $60 million in our own country. Wear the nose. Join the fight. Be a part of the solution
Watch some of the video clips showing what a difference we can make:

You can donate here

And remember that this Thursday, May 25th is RED NOSE DAY 2017.  Check listing for the television coverage!

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Discipleship by Dad

     Batterson does it again.  I have to confess from the beginning that I am a huge fan of Mark 

    Batterson’s books. I think I have read all of them without being disappointed, and Play the Man: Becoming the Man God Created You to Be (BakerBooks, 2017) is no exception.

     What I particularly like about this book is that it is personal and practical at the same time. There are far to man books that claim they have the answer to a specific issue, but turn out to be nothing more than an excuse for the author to brag about what he (or she) is doing or has done.

     This is Dad Discipleship at its finest, and when things don’t go as planned, Batterson is Man enough to admit his mistakes.

     Part I is titled Play the Man: Seven Virtues and Batterson goes through some of the attributes that a godly man possesses. Things like being tough, but not hardened, being a gentleman, without being a doormat.

     Bottom line is that God would like for men, created in His image, to think, speak and act in a certain way. And if Dads don’t teach their sons to be godly men, then someone else, or society will teach them something…and it may not be what you want your son to learn.

     Batterson has talked about the rites of passage that he created for his sons in at least one of his other books. I enjoyed reading more about it in Part II.

    Baker Books sent me a copy of this book in exchange for a review. I was not required to write a positive review. 


Thursday, May 18, 2017

A great book on discipleship

What’s your gospel? Jared C. Wilson tells us that his is “sweaty and ragged around the edges”, it’s ‘smudged”, it’s an “old hymn”, it “broadcasts on a different frequency”, and it’s been “both a welcome mat and a place mat”.  And a few other things. In other words, you may not see it as perfect. But that’s what his latest book, The Imperfect Disciple: Grace for People who Can’t Get Their Act Together, (Baker Books, 2017) is all about.

                I remember sitting in church, watching pastors, elders, deacons, lay-leaders, and almost everyone else in the church. And the common thread was “I could never do that”. How can they do that, how can they be so Christian? And more importantly, why can’t I?  Doomed to failure before I even started. And then one day it was my turn to be approached with “I could never do that, I’m not spiritual enough to do that, can you help me be as Christian as you are?”
                But that was a different time, people used to behave themselves in church. We dressed up, and everyone knew the unwritten rules about church: you have to behave, you dress nice, you watch your language, you show up on time every time the door is open, and volunteer and volunteer for everything. The pendulum seems to have shifted, and we don’t expect quite as much, but is that a good thing?
                We’re so used to telling people that God loves them just as they are, that we forget, that He loves us way too much to want us to stay that way. God wants us to grow in our faith, he wants us to grow in our love for Jesus, but along the way, the church seems to have forgotten how to pass on those basic lessons. And so Wilson has written this book about following Jesus for those of us who don’t wake up each morning and spend all day everyday as the Christian who has it all together. That is at least 99.999% of those who identify as Christians.
                There are good lessons here, reminders that if we were all that perfect, we wouldn’t need to be following Jesus in the first place, much less need someone to help us on that path. It’s a reminder that you don’t have to be perfect before you get to church, and although church—community and fellowship—is important, we don’t see perfection there, (or, except when we encounter Jesus, anywhere this side of paradise).
                Discipleship is all about following Jesus, and Jared makes good use of these pages reminding us that a faith walk doesn’t start at the pinnacle of success. He reminds me that church is not a museum for saints, it’s a hospital for sinners. If we were well, we wouldn’t need to be there. Didn’t Jesus say something like that? (Matt 9:12 , Mark 2: 17 and Luke 5: 31)

                I received a copy of the book from Baker Books in exchange for my review.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Stories to warm a young girl's heart

If you have young children, you’re aware of how excited they are when the mailwoman stops and there is a letter for them. In Love Letters from God: Bible Stories for a Girl’s Heart (Zonderkidz, 2107)   by Glenys Nellist (illustrated by Rachel Clowes), there are over a dozen letters to your girl.
                The book is made up of stories. Wonderful stories about some amazing women in the bible. Women like Eve, Rahab, Deborah, Esther, and a couple of different Marys.  There are even some unnamed women; and all of these women have something in common, their stories teach a lesson. There is a character trait identified for each of these women, things like strength, patience, and generosity are highlighted.
                Each story is a short paraphrase of a Biblical account, and several things stand out. They are short, they stay true to the sacred text, they are written at a level that girls 5-10 will understand, and they are written in such a delightful way that girls (and women) will enjoy. There are bound to be some jealous boys in families where a daughter gets this book—the boys are certain to be asking where the book for boys is.
                On each page, you’ll also find a “love letter from God.” The note is attached and opens up like an actual note-card, there is a place to fill in your girl’s name, and ‘God’ recaps the story, encouraging the girl to be prayerful or grateful, and the note is signed with a descriptor, like ‘your strong friend’, or ‘your caring friend’
                I would recommend this book for girls from 5-10 years old, but the book is so appealing, that they’ll probably soon be reading it to their younger sisters, and showing it off to older sisters, cousins, aunts, grandparents and friends.
                A definite must if your household includes young girls.

I received a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. 

Monday, April 3, 2017

Some context and culture of Jesus' time

For many years, I have found the Old Testament to contain a wealth of information about Jesus. And quite frequently I find myself in the minority. There are a lot of people who miss out on so much of the richness of the New Testament, because they discount or discard the Old Testament.  What they seem to be missing is that while Jesus was living and teaching what would become the New Testament, he was living in an Old Testament culture, and the bible that he was reading, that he was memorizing, that he was quoting, that he was using in his ministry, that he was living, was the Old Testament. The New hadn’t yet been written.
And so, I jumped at the chance to be a member of Robby Gallaty’s Launch Team for his new book The Forgotten Jesus: How Western Christians Should Follow and Easter Rabbi. (Zondervan, 2017).
First and foremost, and something we shouldn’t ever forget, is that Jesus was a Jewish man living 2000 years ago in a Jewish culture.  He also didn’t have blond hair and blue eyes. Still today context and culture are important things to be aware of, and the same thing was true in Jesus' time.  Gallaty has obviously done his research and we benefit from his hard work.
If you’ve been around church for a while, you’ve heard the stories, the parables, the accounts of miracles. Hopefully if you’ve been around church for a while, you’ve also read those stories for yourself. They’re found in a book called the Bible.  The thing is though, that things that would have been so apparent and obvious to the people with whom Jesus had contact, often leave us scratching our heads: what are they talking about?
Granted, not everyone has the desire to become an Old Testament scholar so that they can better understand the New Testament. And that’s assuming that they’ve also become a New Testament scholar so they can better live out their Christian faith.  Having said that, insights into the prevailing culture help us to better understand the gospel. And Robby does a great job of giving examples.  He explains why finding a man carrying a jug of water would be easy in a crowded city (see Mark 14:12-15, and remember that carrying water was considered to be woman’s work). What about a fig tree with no figs so upset Jesus (Mark 11:20-21)?
Many people have a mistaken idea of who Jesus really was. We look at the Renaissance era paintings and get a picture in our minds; we hear sermons, and take the preachers word that he knows what the passage really means.  At some point we need to dig a little deeper and find out just who Jesus was, and then make the decision to follow.
Bonus information includes the F-260 reading plan. A bible reading plan that allows you to read Mon-Friday, with time on the weekends to catch up if you happen to miss a day.

I received a copy of this book as a member of the Launch Team. Thanks Robby, for the pleasure and the privilege!

Great answers to your questions about God

     What would it be like if Dear Abby or Ann Landers were to compile all the questions they have had to answer about God, and published them in an easy to read book. I can’t even begin to imagine what it be like, but luckily, we don’t have to wonder, because someone else has taken on the task.  Eric Metaxas’ book Everything You Always wanted To Know about God (but Were Afraid to Ask) was first published in 2005, and is now being re-released by Waterbrook in 2017.

     I enjoy Metaxas’ work (have you read his tome on Bonhoeffer?), so I was a little surprised at the format of this book, since it’s such a different writing style. But the more I read the more I found myself enjoying it.

     People have questions about God, about Jesus, about the Bible, and about dinosaurs. Some people turn to a pastor for answers, but a lot of people who have questions but no pastor to whom they can turn, so this book is a good resource. The answers are short, engaging, and tell the truth without being deeply theological (the kind of stuff that people with questions usually are not interested in reading. Too much info is simply that: too much, so it typically doesn’t get read.)

     In addition to being a fun book to read, this is an instructional book. It teaches the reader how to answer some of those politically sensitive issues. And maybe even answers some of our own.  A great resource for those who minister with/to children, seekers, and yes even those who have been in the pews for a long time but still have questions!


I received a copy of this book in exchange for a review. 

Thursday, March 23, 2017

If you had to pick someone who could save the world, the Moast team probably wouldn’t be your first choice.  But God doesn’t always look for the most qualified when there’s a big job to be done—sometimes instead of calling the qualified, He qualifies the called instead.  A group of friends meet regularly to study the Bible together, that is when they’re not off on adventures like most of us could never imagine.
And so the story begins. Queen of Atlantis: A Moast Unusual Bible Study by Edmund Lloyd Fletcher (Total Rewind Publishing, LLC, 2016) is indeed a most unusual Bible study. Enter Jane, a young woman with a form of autism, who arrives in a new town, attends church, and gets invited to a Bible study hosted by Mr. and Mrs. Michael Moast. There’s an announcement indicating that the study group would appreciate having someone with some familiarity with cameras, which seems strange, but those fears area allayed when Jane arrives and the group is actually studying the bible, but they rise up again when she looks for the study the next week and can’t find it. Can’t find it, and indeed has all sorts of adventures trying to find the other members of the group.

Eventually Jane does become a part of the Bible study, against the better judgment of one of the members—who finally agrees to give her a chance, and just in time because this group of people spends a lot of time solving perplexing problems with global implications. And they have a case.  Someone is gathering poisonous sea life and setting out to take over the world.  Luckily the Moast team has their newest member, and her skills with a camera come in very handy as they solve the case, save the world, and make an incredible find in the process.
                This is not a book that I would have bought for myself, mainly because it has a couple of things going against it: 1) it’s not a genre that I typically read, and 2) it’s a children’s’/young adult book (and I don’t have kids or grand-kids in that demographic). However, I was asked to read it and write about it on my blog, and so here we are.  
                Actually, it was a fun read, and if I had been reading it aloud to a child or group of children, I think I would have enjoyed voicing the part of each of the characters (a fairly interesting group!). Although this is not a ‘Christian story’, there are some Christian overtones, and it’s enjoyable to read something where you’re not expecting the next page to have situations which you might not be ready to explain to your child. Also having one of the heroines having to cope with her autism was a nice touch in an age when we don’t always deal well with character flaws in other people.
                The jacket copy indicates that the author is writing for his children because he was having trouble finding clean, kid-friendly adventures, and wanted to make sure that the current generation had such stories.

                I found a few typos, and at times it was difficult trying to follow the story line because action was taking place in several parts of the globe at once, but overall, I give it an A.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Thoughts on "Abandoned Faith"

Lately it seems like we’re reading more and more about millennials, and with good reason. As least if you’re a pastor, or in some sort of leadership role at a local church.  In older, established churches, we often have to ask where the millennials are, or at least why they’re not filling the pews in our church on Sunday morning. And everybody has answers, one of them being that this generation doesn’t like pews. Really good news for the people who sell chairs especially designed for use in churches. Except, that even after chairs replace the pews, the millennials are often still missing.
And so, we look at other reasons. And one of them tends to be that an entire generation is abandoning their faith in favor of a new belief system. The tenets of our faith seem to be lost on a group of people. Researchers have identified the problem, but is there a solution?
According to authors Alex McFarland and Jason Jimenez there is. In their book Abandoned Faith: Why Millennials Are Walking away and How You Can Lead Them Home (Tyndale House, 2017)

Too adequately address any major problem, it’s first necessary to determine what the problem is, and the first few chapters of this book take a look at what went wrong. Although this book is written for many different subsets of our society, as the pastor of an aging church, which isn’t doing a good job of attracting and keeping millennials, one chapter especially stands out: “How the Church is Failing Millennials”.  The answers are fairly simple. Churches tend to value things like tradition, safety and comfort. There’s nothing wrong with those things until they get in the way of valuing people, service and community.
Part 2 helps those of us who aren’t part of the millennial generation understand what is shaping the worldview of this age group. And unfortunately, it’s not always Sunday mornings spent in church. We need to understand what drives them and what their struggles are. And once we’ve learned what’s going on, we move on to Part 3, where we learn that it is possible to address how to deal with the problem.  Sometimes we need to learn how to love our prodigals. Often that requires tough love, but there has to be a bit of tenderness also.
The authors conclude with some practical suggestions for drawing your wayward son, or daughter, back into the fold. Not surprisingly since this book deals with a generation that seems to have lost its faith, the suggestions include prayer. But beyond that, parents and other adults who want to engage in the conversation need to do some work themselves. They need to know what they believe, and why; and then they need to be able to voice the biblical truths that are necessary for a firm faith foundation
Great book for anyone dealing with those questioning if their childhood faith is still relevant and pertinent to their life.   5/5

I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for a review.