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. 

No more excuses. God's grace has it covered

We all need to be reminded once in a while that God is bigger than our, well, our everything. Lately I’ve been talking about how Jesus helps us deal with our fears. We just need to turn to him and put him in charge of our insecurities, our circumstances, and our lives. Much easier said than done.
And generally, when we have trouble turning those things over, it’s because we think that God won’t help us because of our past mistakes. But here’s the kicker, God's grace is greater than all of that.
Kyle Idleman explains it a lot better than I can, and his newest book Grace Is Greater: God's Plan to Overcome Your Past, Redeem Your Pain, and Rewrite Your Story (Baker Books, 2107) is the written version of his explanation.

This book is an easy read, and Idleman is the consummate storyteller. It could be easy to stay at the surface, and just enjoy his engaging style, but it doesn’t take much effort to go beyond the humor and sense the pain that so many people experience because they won’t or can’t acknowledge God's Grace.
The book is broken into three sections all of them dealing with Grace being greater. It’s greater than our mistakes, our hurts, and our challenges. And when we put all that together, grace is still greater!
This book could be used in so many different settings—anyplace where there are hurting people who need to understand that God loves them, and that His grace is sufficient

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

Friday, March 10, 2017

Jesus in Your High School

For quite some time, as we as a country have insisted on being politically correct, it’s been harder and harder to talk about God or Jesus in public schools. Not that we haven’t always been able to, just that we’ve been afraid to. After all, someone might be upset. We don’t always grasp the concept that it’s not illegal to talk about Jesus with people who are interested in talking about Jesus. There’s a big difference in forcing someone to accept your belief system, and opening the door to someone who is interested in learning more about why you believe the way you do.
Luckily there are people like Brian Barcelona, who heard from God, and rather than hide behind political correctness decided to follow God's call on his life.  That call, and the resulting journey, is the story being told in Brian’s book: The Jesus Club: Incredible Stories of how God Is Moving in our High Schools (Chosen, 2017). 

Brian didn’t grow up in church, but as a teenager entered into a walk with Jesus. The relationship grew, and shortly after he graduated from High School, God spoke to him in a way that really left him no options but to obey. It’s often hard for us to imagine what God and will do when we are willing to do as he asks, and stay out of his way the rest of the time. But Brian had this God-sized dream of reaching high school students for Christ, and doing it right there in the schools.
Like many other dreams, this one started small, then grew and grew, and it seems like each time things were about as big as Barcelona thought they could get, God added something else to the equation, and things got even bigger.
As the press release puts it: What happens when a former teenage atheist hears God's call to do the impossible—and decides to act on it?
You’ll want to read this book to see how with God, it’s not impossible.

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

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Not the Treasure I Was Expecting

Leanna Cinquanta tells an interesting story, but it’s more than just a story—it’s her story. 

Unfortunately, it took me a while to figure out just how powerful of a story it is. Her story is called Treasures in Dark Places: One Woman, a Supernatural God and a Mission to the Toughest Part of India (Chosen Books, 2017)

Based on the title I was really expecting more of the story of her time in India; and the back cover copy hints at tales of sex trafficking. But this is an autobiography, and the first part of the book is about how Leanna grew up in a basically faithless home. I was confused as she shared stories of living in poverty, but the family was always saving for something, and managing to put enough aside to get it. Impossible wasn’t a word in the Cinquanta family’s vocabulary

And then comes her conversion story, and some of the mysteries that young Leanna had experienced start to make sense. Jesus, was making himself known to her.  And even though for her entire life, her parents had been telling her that she could be and do whatever she wanted to, it took Jesus to prove it to her.  

Leanna is one of those people who hears Jesus speaking to her on a regular basis, and many of us would like to be in that enviable position. But like so many of us, even when it’s clear what God is asking us to do, we want to bargain. In Leanna’s case that call was to India. She pleaded with God to send her anyplace else, but God had plans for her, and He wasn’t about to change His mind.

There are some incredible stories of her life in India, but the big disappointment in this book is that there is only a little about what is being done to rescue children from the sex trade. The little there is seems to have been added in the last couple of pages as an afterthought, almost as though some editor had decided at the last minute that the addition of the story of an abused child would increase sales.

A compelling story, but it needed to have been told in a more dynamic and engaging manner

I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for this review. 3.5/5