What Do We Do With God?

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I was immediately captivated by the quote on the back cover. “We fell in love with Jesus. Then we had to decide what to do with God.” Singer and songwriters Andrew Greer and Ginny Owens in their book Transcending Mysteries: Who God Is, and What Does He Want From Us? take us on a journey of reconciling the seemed differences many of us struggle with between the God of the Old Testament and Jesus in the New.

They begin the book with the paradox of desiring to surrender to God but not fully comprehending Him. BUT, “As we read, studied, researched, and opened our minds to God’s unyielding interactions wit the Israelites, we . . . discovered a relationship driven by love.”

I found the vulnerability of both authors to be the most compelling feature of this book. It allowed me (and I’m sure many other readers) to feel like I wasn’t alone and that God’s love and grace was available to me even at my worse.

“I tend to make decisions out of a need to control, fostering an environment of dizzying anxiety.”

“I still wonder if God loves me.”

“Feeling the weight of regret, my emotions surfaced, producing a pesky lump in my throat and blurry eyes.”

“If my journey had been different, my songs would have been different as well.”

The provided lyrics from their songs enhance each chapter and the artist inside of me resonated with each word of complaint, praise, questioning and exaltation. This book would make a welcome addition to any Christian’s bookshelf BUT especially those of us who yearn to know Him more but often find it difficult because His ways are often above our ways and just don’t make sense. I received this book for free from publisher through BookLook Bloggers in exchange of my honest opinion.

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Move Outside the Lines

 

“Jesus was offensive to smug, judgmental, religious people. He was a breath of fresh air to broken, nonreligious people. Can the same thing be said about His followers today?’

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No matter how hard you try, you can’t get away from the present day dissent and debate. Christians are quite often caught up in it all. Scott Saul, author of Jesus Outside the Lines, encourages his readers to be known for what they are FOR rather than what they are against.

I meant to post this review before now BUT maybe its perfect timing with the new clarity of the many stark differences among us during our current Presidential primaries. We are even reminded that “Christianity always thrived most as a life-giving minority, not a political majority”

There are many things that could easily distract or divide us. Although there are some things we should speak up for or against, many of us are (as the author poses) “tired of taking sides, labeling and being labeled” and we don’t like it when opinions are presented as facts.

The beckoning call of the book heralds “Christians from differing perspectives” to “learn and mature as they listen humbly and carefully to one another.” We are challenged to leave our comfort zones and listen. “The more we move outside the lines of our own traditions and cultures, the more we will also be moving toward Jesus.”

Screen Shot 2016-04-14 at 8.42.31 PMThe book covers a myriad of issues including abortion, money, hypocrisy, the church as an institution, accountability, and self-esteem. It speaks to us about how we process and react to our cultural differences: “When the grace of Jesus sinks in, we will be among the least offended and most loving people of the world.”

I highly recommend this thought provoking book. You will walk away from it challenged and if you let it all sink in, you will be a better person, friend and Christ follower who can hold firmly to his/her beliefs without causing un-needed division. I received this book for free from Tyndale in exchange of my honest opinion.

Don’t Hide From “The Talk”

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Our young people are living in confusing times when it comes to relationships and sexual identity. As Christians, homosexuality is possibly the most contentious cultural issue we are regularly confronted with. It is of utmost importance that parents are knowledgeable on the cultural changes going on around them and know how to wisely point their children in the right direction, especially when it comes to the matter of identity and loving our neighbors as representatives of Christ. Don’t hide from “the talk!”

The author begins “CRITICAL CONVERSATIONS: A Christian Parents’ Guide to Discussing Homosexuality with Teens” by using Scriptures to lay a foundation but quickly addresses the importance of a loving relationship and open communication between parent and teen. He then moves to the child’s other important relationships: his/her friends, teachers, professors and administrators.

I love it when an author or pastor takes the time think of the hard questions one might pose before confronting an issue. This book is packed full of the possible accusations and inquiries a Christian might face when approaching the topic of homosexuality. He categorizes these challenges around the areas of God and the Bible, social policy, intolerance and hate.

Screen Shot 2016-04-01 at 9.39.30 AMSome of the most important advice comes in his talking about our love in action, listening, humility and touch in our relationships with the LGBT community. Yes, I did say touch. The author states, “Next to listening, it (touch) seems the next most important way to connect in is a very simple one: a friendly touch or casual shoulder hug.” I am so grateful for this short but extremely important challenge and setting straight on the term homophobia.

This is an crucial conversation and vital book. We must communicate with our children wisely and this book helps us ask the right questions and seek the Bible for our answers. Although the issue of homosexuality is controversial and although individual Christians we may not agree with each other ()or a book on the topic 100%, I believe that this guide for parents was written from a heart of love and offers a world of well-thought through wisdom and advice. Well done Tom! Thank you to Tom Gilson and Kregel Publications for a copy in exchange for this honest review.

Steve’s book writing adventure: “NOT A MALE FAIL: Finding Hope & Identity in a World of Macho Stereotypes” Here’s his blog post “You May Not Be Gay”

The Antidote to Restlessness

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“People look desperately for things to make them happy, often without realizing what they’re missing spiritually.”  ~ Jan David Hettinga

A BOOK REVIEW

Jan David Hettinga in his new book Still Restless: Conversations That Open the Door to Peace does an excellent job explaining that our restlessness comes from within – a longing that is in our DNA. We were all created for a kingdom bigger than ourselves and yet we try so hard to find inner peace and contentment our own way.

31yemfd3il-_sx321_bo1204203200_Spiritual peace is available to us and often comes with our being real with Christ, asking the hard questions, and finding true peace. These one-on-one conversations (thoroughly examined throughout the book) show us that we build kingdoms that crumble but Christ offers peace to our restlessness when we are willing to step through the door of repentance, faith and trust in Him.

Our straight forward gut-wrenching communication with Christ will allow us to “abandon our failed experiments with independence and self-rule” and be replaced “unexplainable peace” our “antidote for fear and restlessness.”

No book explains the kingdom of God, our profound purpose and God’s ultimate plan of redemption and peace any better that this. I highly recommend this book to all and especially those who are Still Restless.

Thank you to Jan David Hettinga and Kregel Publications for a copy in exchange for this honest review.

Beyond the Fence: Create Again!

Create Vs. Copy BOOK REVIEW

“Creativity elevates us. It’s standing on our tiptoes
and looking over the backyard fence.”
  Ken Wytsma

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I’m a fan of Ken Wytsma’s writing and so I was super excited to read his newest contribution on creativity and it doesn’t fail to fascinate. He does a great job in sharing how creativity is for all of us. We were created to be co-creators and our creativity is a response to God’s image and call to each of us. I often tell others that we were created to create – our purpose is to help bring hope, joy, peace, love and restoration to a broken world. Ken said it well when saying it’s about “being fully human”!

We are introduced to two kinds of people: those who create or copy. It’s not that learning from others is a bad thing, but when we allow ourselves to always copy instead of considering new ideas or relationships, we are selling ourselves and others short – our creative individualities and purposes fail. Creation brings with it many beautiful things: possibility, exploration, imagination, and intervention to name just a few.

“After dealing with the real world so long, we get stuck inside the parameters we encounter. We lose our ability to accept that crazy ideas and big dreams are possible. We become standardized and learn that wrong answers are bad. We stop dreaming and don’t try for fear of failure. Surprise and wonder become things of the past.”

We are reminded in the book that creating often requires change and risk. Although it might be uncomfortable at first (and we will have our critics), the experience is freeing both for the artist and the receiver. This is what Christianity, redemption and restoration is all about!

12513829_10153802946797649_1949842254889753932_oOne of my favorite reminders is that we should not allow a fear of failure stop us. Things “can be left unfinished.” “Not all creativity has to be perfected to be beautiful.” If we don’t challenge ourselves to create and just copy everything else around us – how will we truly see new and better results? This is what drove me to begin writing my own book on masculinity stereotypes. God wants us to take our story and learn how to creatively use what we learn along the way to make this world a more beautiful place!

And what would a book on creating be without some great and creative illustrations? Once again, Create Vs. Copy doesn’t fail to deliver. There’s even great suggestions for further study and helping our “creative juices” flow. A well-written book that I highly recommend, especially for those who feel stuck or needing a reminder that their story can make a difference in the lives of others. It’s time to get on your tippy-toes, look over the fences that are holding you back, and create once again!!

PURCHASE YOUR COPY HERE

 

Invisible Church: Ministering From a Place of Privilege?

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“One thing I know from both the taxi and life, is that being invisible is hard and it is lonely and it hurts.”

Author Pat Green is my friend and I felt humbled and blessed to be at the pre-launch of his new book. I was saddened that the pub was not bursting at the seams with the scores of Christians and congregants that once followed his ministry. I’m sure that he was not surprised.

“Night Moves: An Ex-Preacher’s Journey to Hell in a Taxi” is a poignant account of Pat’s story and how rejection, divorce, brokenness and unemployment led him to driving a taxi and nightly encounters of human tragedy and loneliness.

It was just a couple of months ago that I realized that I was no longer seeing Facebook updates from Pat. I’m glad I found him and his writings once again but I am embarrassed to say that I never knew that his world had been turned upside down. To others, and myself Pat became invisible and there are many living just outside the walls of our churches who remain unknown. Pat’s introduces us to some of their stories.

“In a city that spans seven zip codes with well over 100,000 people, that boasts over 200 churches and has signs claiming all are welcome, she has to pay retail for her community.”

Pat found scores of broken people in need of community and found himself loved by his new TeleCab co-workers while at his lowest. When his father died of a heart attack, he returned to work and a card filled with warm condolences. His operations manager “did better than many ministers I know and we are trained for that stuff,” he shares. He continues, “I have almost every word in that card memorized.”

Where were we, church? Invisible.

Throughout the book there are convicting passages that exhort the church and her leaders to “stop trying to ‘minister’ from a place of privilege.” He recalls his time as a pastor thinking he was “the hero” with the answers but comes to grips with the disquieting truth that we have no solution.

11390067_1623615991243432_9128950744981564004_nI highly recommend this book – especially to my local pastor friends. These stories from the streets of Joliet are a wake-up call to those who may spend the majority of their time with planning and processes and miss what’s really going on with people. Real ministry takes place when we get involved in the real and raw everyday life of those in our communities. Pat reminds us that we “are never going to change the streets with a church. All a church can be is an oasis…” “Jesus did not go out among the people and help them find a synagogue home. He invited them to live together in the trenches.”

I am a non-fiction reader and usually have a hard time reading short stories, but Pat has a way with words and making every scene come to life. I loved every easy-to-read chapter and was astounded by Chapter 28 “We’ll Fix It.” I didn’t even use a highlighter until the end of the chapter leaving behind a brightly inscribed WOW!

If you pick up your own copy of the book – you will laugh, you will cry, and hopefully you will be changed forever. The lives of others depend on it. We cannot remain invisible!

WARNING: This book does contain language, but so do the streets.

 

The Imaginative & Inspiring Parenting World of YES

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A BOOK REVIEW

There are several Christian parenting books out there but very few that take us through the imaginative and inspiring parenting world of YES. Mark and Jan Foreman’s new book “Never Say No: Raising Big Picture Kids” is by far one of the best parenting books I have read in years!

Many words have been used to describe the book including: holistic, road map, inspiring, wise, authentic and game changing. I agree wholeheartedly. The central theme of the book is the premise that “God is one big YES for us, and we want to pay it forward to our own kids.”

This book will challenge you to connect with the heart of your child and delight in raising wise young people who will one day leave your home well-rounded and ready to take on the world! Because I’d love for many of you to purchase your own copy, I’m only going to share a few tidbits of advice the author’s share in their book:

  • Screen Shot 2015-05-16 at 9.29.52 AMHow you were raised matters. You need to struggle with your past (the good and bad) in order to make a better future for your own children.
  • Your children want to matter. When they ask you to be a part of their world, take time for them. Never say no.
  • Include your kids in the things you do. They learn from us and how we act/ react to every day life. In the same way, don’t segregate your home into kid and adult areas, travel, experience different cultures and people – say YES to every experience that will make life richer.
  • Be a parent whose face lights up when you talk about your children. How? Never stop seeing “the poetry of God” in your children!
  • My biggest challenge was the encouragement to continue (as a parent) to make my own life interesting in order to foster interesting children!

This book is packed full of advice on how to make parenting an adventure of saying YES to the incredible things God wants us to experience, love, and embrace together as a family. In turn, we will raise well balanced children who will appreciate others, step forward in confidence, and change the world they live in.

“If we’ve raised our children to live creatively on the edge, loving God’s world, they will likely be drawn to a part of the world that need their light.”

LEAVE A REPLY BELOW.
Share your favorite parenting advice or let me know what you think about the Foreman’s new book!

FOLLOW MY BLOG on raising unique, well-rounded young men!

Stuck On Saturday

Light_hope__light_on_darknessA REMINDER TO THOSE OF US WHO LOVE THE RESURRECTION
BUT FEEL STUCK ON SATURDAY

Easter is a time when we remember both the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ. It is natural and good that we think of those two events together. In fact, to have one without the other is to lose the power of both.

However, when Jesus died, his disciples were not offered the same comfort. For a full day, there were no answers. There was no joy, no hope, no God. He had just died on the cross. When we think of Christ’s death, our minds often turn to the pain and suffering of torture. But the full horror of the crucifixion is not pain and suffering. It is God’s absence. It is in this absence, however, that our faith is tested. It is here that faith is formed.

Holy Saturday is the name given to the 24 hours between the crucifixion and the resurrection. It is a day that speaks of the absence of God, and it is as much a Christian experience as the day before and the day after.

Holy Saturday ridicules the idea that it is only the irreligious who can experience the absence of God, for in reality it is the religious who can miss what they have already known. This is analogous to waiting for a friend at a café. The later they are, the more we experience their absence. Our beloved is absent to everyone in the room, but we are the only one who feels it.

Who among us does not find ourselves dwelling, from time to time, or perhaps at all times, in the space of Holy Saturday? How often do we feel his absence from our lives? Yet this day is rarely spoken of and if so, it is only tolerated rather than embraced.

On Holy Saturday we find true faith. It questions our allegiance without satisfying the desire for reward. If there was no heaven, no joy or peace, if there were no blessings from God, would you still serve him? If God remained absent, would you still follow him?

It is only here that we can ask if we have truly offered ourselves to God for no reason other than the desire to offer ourselves as a gift. Faith does not die here, rather it is forged here.     borrowed

Max Lucado’s “Miracle at the Higher Grounds Café”

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What do you get when you add one part hometown comfort and two parts nostalgia to a mixed up and boiling bowl of struggle, throw in a pinch of “It’s A Wonderful Life,” mix in some Skywalker and top it off with an frothy espresso for a Hallmark ending? You get an easy-to-read, page turning first novel written by one of everyone’s favorite inspirational storytellers – Max Lucado.

I am not an avid novel reader, in fact, ninety-eight percent of my reading bookshelf consists of non-fiction titles. My top 100 books list only includes a few pieces of fiction. So, why even offer to do a blog review for Miracle at the Higher Grounds Café? Because the author is Max Lucado and I love his short attention-getting illustrations that frequent his books. I’m glad I gave this novel a chance.

Chelsea Chambers, Higher Ground’s protagonist, is doing her best to move on in life after a very public split with her formerly famous NFL husband. She takes big steps forward by restarting the family’s old-fashioned coffee house. The café reminds everyone of simpler times; however, the struggle to move on continues to nag at Chelsea as she does her best to be entrepreneur and a hard-working, heartbroken mother to her children Hancock and Emily. “Baking was therapy for Chelsea . . . The complexity of her recipes had a funny way of matching the complexity of her problems.” We learn early on that these complexities also include a torn relationship between she and her father, who’s life is slowly being stolen by alzheimers.

The book is about prayer and miracles but most of all about a God who never leaves or forsakes Chelsea and her family. It takes awhile for her to see exactly what is going on behind the scenes, but just like in real life, she eventually sees that every mishap and struggle “works together for good” and that God never lost control of her situation even when it was at its worst.

Miracle at Higher Grounds Café is about misfortune, struggle, God-sized questions and the meaning of life. The book was a delight to read and even for someone who reads little fiction, I anticipated each new chapter searching for the answers and blessings that God had in store for Chelsea and the happy ending planned for all of us. “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”  I received my complimentary copy of the book for review from Litfuse Publicity Group and Thomas Nelson.

Max Lucado and Thomas Nelson would like to invite you to have coffee with MaxTuesday, March 24th join Max and his daughter, Jenna Lucado Bishop, via a LIVE webcast where they will be chatting over coffee about Max’s new book and much more. Click here for more details and to RSVP.


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One grand prize winner will receive:
  • An iPad Mini
  • A copy of Miracle at the Higher Grounds Cafe

Enter today by clicking the icon below. But hurry, the giveaway ends on March 23rd. Winner will be announced March 24th on the Litfuse blog.

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No Ordinary Cross

Jesus-On-the-CrossA BOOK REVIEW Have you ever heard a story so many times that you cringe when someone starts to share the same news all over again? I heard messages and stories about God’s will, presenting our bodies as a living sacrifice, and the cross so often (I grew up in a Christian home) that even as an adult, I still try to dodge hearing them all over again. I know that may sound horrible, but it’s the honest truth. I think to myself: “Please. No! Not again.”

Now don’t get me wrong. I love the story of the cross but the shared narratives often and almost always come packaged in the same monotonous way. This is why I was not eager to read and review the new book Last Words of Jesus; however, it didn’t take long for me to realize that Stu Epperson’s journey would be no ordinary or boring adventure. Every chapter led me to think about the cross and Savior in new and challenging ways.

The author walks us through seven lessons left through the last words of Jesus: lessons about prayer, pardon, paternity, pain, passion, perfection, and peace. Some of my favorite quotes form the book include:

“The second thief’s simple request as a response of faith brushes aside all our modern ‘sinner’s prayer’ rules.”

“In an instant, a common, worthless, condemned thief becomes a royal son of the Most high and is given a promise of eternal paradise.”

“Amid his pain and suffering, Jesus cares for Mary’s pain and suffering. Care for the widow and orphan is directed from Christ Himself at his darkest moment.”

My favorite chapter talks about Jesus asking “Why?” The author reminds us that “it is at the foot of the Cross that all why questions find their answer.” He shares Martin Luther’s agonizing proclamation: “God forsaken by God, how can this be?” Jesus who made the world was being unmade. But, don’t worry. This chapter and several other pages in the book don’t leave you hanging, they contain powerful words of grace and encouragement.

Maybe you’re a little or a lot like me and you rather not hear it or read it all again. Consider giving the story of the Cross another chance. Grab a copy of Last Words of Jesus by Stu Epperson and find yourself loving the tale all over again. Better yet, each chapter comes with its own set of discussion questions so you can take the journey with others.

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