Category Archives: God

Book Review: It Couldn’t Just Happen by Lawrence Richards

It Couldn’t Just Happen is not simply a creation v. evolution book for kids. It’s a book that anyone can learn from. Though it is filled with color photos and x-rays, it is not childish in its presentation of scientific facts that shine light on God’s creation. To make it just a little more applicable, each chapter has a series of questions at the end.

The book is broken up into five parts. The first part looks at Earth, including its origins. The second part delves into the beginning of life, even answering the question of if life can begin in a test tube. The third part takes a closer look at the design of several animals and plants. The next part is all about human beings. The last part takes the reader into a quest to understand more about the Bible.

If you’re looking for a book that will answer some of your kid’s questions about the universe or life, this book will do that and much more.

**I reviewed this book as part of theBookSneeze review program**

If you work in children’s ministry, this would be a great book to have for reference when discussing creation, Genesis, the Bible, or God.

My advice (rating) – borrow from a friend (3 out of 5)

The Wise & Foolish Builder

In Matthew 7, Jesus tells a parable of two builders: one wise and one foolish. Without even reading the story, you already know which builder you would want to be, right? Nobody wants to be foolish. Before we say anything else, read the passage again.

24 “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. 26 But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. 27 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.”

I have heard this passage hundreds of times (not counting the times I sang the song that goes with it), yet I just read some thoughts on it that made me stop and think. Here is what the footnotes say in the Archeological Study Bible.

“The sand ringing the lake (Sea of Galilee) was rock hard during the hot summer. But a wise builder would dig down, as far as ten feet below the surface sand to the bedrock, knowing that this was the only way to erect a foundation able to withstand the winter rains, which were notoriously torrential and capable of causing disastrous flooding.”

For some reason, I have always pictured the wise builder finding a rock formation that was on the sand and building on that. This would have taken time and forethought, but not a lot of extra energy. The foolish builder, on the other hand, was pictured as simply lazy or apathetic, unwilling to notice the foolishness of not using the rock formation.

During part of the year, the foolish builder’s house would be perfectly stable and secure. He would have no worries or fears. His house would be safe… but only because there was no outside dangers. As soon as something negative began happening, the foolish builder’s house would be in danger of collapse.

The wise builder – who took the time to build on a strong foundation – would also have no fears or worries during the good part of the year. But even when the danger came, his house would stand firm because it was built on bedrock which would not collapse. The danger would be real and he would certainly feel some affects of the storm, but he would outlast the danger.

Jesus says that anyone who hears His words AND puts them into practice is like the wise builder.

As a follower of Christ, I have to ask myself one question. Am I putting Jesus’ words into practice in my life?

As a youth minister, I have to ask myself another question. How am I helping students put Jesus’ words into practice in their life?

Are you helping others be wise or foolish builders?

Withdrawing and Holiness

While researching the work of the Holy Spirit for an upcoming high school lesson, I came across some notes from one of my college classes that caught my attention. When talking about the Holy Spirit’s work in sanctification, my notes say this:

The Old Testament saints had to use an artificial means for sanctification: withdraw fellowship from the pagans.

Obviously I had read this before, but it stood out to me today in light of some conversations I’ve had recently. Alongside this note, I wrote this:

no Holy Spirit to help overcome evil influences

(You have to forgive the bad grammar, as I was trying to take notes and pay attention to the professor.) Recently, I have had several conversations with people about what it means to live out one’s faith alongside those who do not believe. I have found that it is far easier for Christians to live in a “bubble” (surrounded by those who hold the same beliefs) than to live in the world. This mentality gets carried over into youth ministries, too.

Why do we carry this mentality with us?

  1. Do we forget we have the Holy Spirit with us?
  2. Are we not as close to God as we want people to think we are?
  3. Have we become too comfortable in the “bubble”?

As we look at Jesus’ life, we see that he spent a lot of time with those who were considered pagans. He ate with them, stayed in their homes, and listened and talked with them. Yet, one of the big reasons Jesus was able to do this was because he spent as much (if not more) time with his Father. Jesus knew the importance of connecting with God and staying connected to him. And so should we!

If withdrawing is your means of holiness, might I remind you that the Holy Spirit is in the business of helping you overcome evil influences. Might I remind myself of the same thing, too!

Best of 2010: God’s faithfulness

In the past, I have come up with a few different posts on the “best of” the previous year. But this year, I can sum up the best part of 2010 in one post. Simply put, the best part of 2010 was….

The faithfulness of God.

What else can I say? For me personally, God took care of the needs of my family while I was without a full-time job. He has given us the opportunities to have some great people cross our paths, for which we are forever changed and thankful. He gave me a passion for youth ministry and sustained me through a period of struggle and doubt on that calling.

There were a lot of other great things that happened this year or things I would like to highlight, but they all pale in comparison to God’s faithfulness.

How did God show His faithfulness in your life this past year?

 

Book Review: Heavens Proclaim His Glory

The Heavens Proclaim His Glory is a picture book. Although this is an accurate statement, it is not the complete truth. Yes, the book is filled with beautiful and amazing pictures – captured through the lens of the Hubble telescope, but it is really so much more. Along with these stunning photographs are quotes and Scripture verses, which allow you to see the greatness of God and the smallness of man in a new light.

For me, the value of this book is not in the photography (which will cause you to sit in wonder), but in the way it changes your view of yourself. The Heavens Proclaim His Glory is more than just a collection of stunning photographs, it is a brief glimpse into the massive universe in which we live. A universe that is smaller than God, and infinitely bigger than any one of us. I think this book needs to be on coffee tables and end tables around the world. This book is not only an awe-inspiring collection of amazing photographs, it is a conversation starter – conversations about the universe and the God who created it all.

**I reviewed this book as part of the BookSneeze review program**

Book Review: Where is God? by John Townsend

(this is a guest post/review by my wife)

Difficult times can be hard to define. They come in many seasons of our lives, and what may be a struggle for one is considered normal by another. One quality of difficult times that remains constant is that they are guaranteed to happen. The Bible even speaks this truth. Paul tells us to not be surprised when hard times arise. When life is not what we expected, where do we turn? How do we answer questions that arise in our minds and in our hearts? How do you respond when questions are asked of you by others whose lives have tumbled out of control? Dr. John Townsend refers to his many years in the counseling field and his knowledge of scriptures to compile a resource to turn to, not only in the difficult times but also to look at in preparation for the times that are sure to be coming. Where Is God? gives us hope in our dark times, when personal burdens have taken their toll and leave us feeling purposeless.

One aspect of Dr. Townsend’s book that I really appreciated is that he clearly states a common reason for our discouragement in the hard seasons of our lives. We have an inaccurate view of God. We cannot see the purpose for our trials until we see the truth of the God who is active in the midst of them. The true God that is presented in scripture is often very different from our misconceived view of God that is often a compilation of our experiences. God’s role in our lives is not to prevent trials but rather to use the trials we face for His greater purposes. As Dr. Townsend writes, “He (God) loves you and wants to help you, but He will do it His way and in His time.”

There are struggles that we face that will pass. Where is God? will help to point you to the God who is the only hope we have and will give us endurance to persevere. And when the struggles we face are terminal, permanent, and unchanging Dr. Townsend reminds the reader that in Christ we find a deeper hope than simply that the problem will go away (page 67). Ultimately, Christ is the anchor in our storms.

Where is God? is not an answer book in the sense that you walk away with every reason or purpose behind your difficult time. But it does clearly point you to the One who is the answer. It is full of scriptures and examples from Dr. Townsend’s experiences that help us to see the reality of our trials. When all else is shaken, He remains. When all else fails us, He remains. When all else is taken, He remains. His goodness, faithfulness, and intimate knowledge of our lives all remain constant. I know I am not alone in needing that reminder.

Best of ’09: Ministry Moments

The year 2009 A.D. is over. The past 12 months have brought with them many new things; some good, some bad, and some not worth mentioning. I would like to take some time and highlight some of my favorite parts of 2009. I will call this list the “best of ’09” – which simply means that, in my opinion, these are the best items in a certain category. I fully expect you to disagree with some of my choices or to be upset I did not add other items to the list. If you feel this way, please add your “best of ’09” ideas in the comments.

The seventh list will be ministry moments. This is a list of my favorite ministry moments from this past year. Some of these moments you might have experienced yourself, some of them might be just mine. This is not a comprehensive list, but is the list of those moments that stand out the most, and it is in no particular order.


Devotional at school

One Sunday evening during a jr. high lesson on getting the most out of your Bible, I provided a variety of devotionals for the taking. To my surprise, each devotional was taken by the jr. highers. I hoped they would use them as they read/studied their Bibles. The next day, while I was at the school, one of the students stopped me in the hall to tell me something. He told me that he had brought his devotional book with him to school that day and was planning on reading it when he had free time.

Youth Rally
It is an honor to be asked to speak to students. It is an honor and a great responsibility when another youth worker asks you to speak to students you do not know. I had the privilege of speaking at a few youth rallies this year and loved the opportunities to share from the Bible with teenagers.

My situation

I had the chance to watch God use our situation to encourage/challenge other people. Regardless of what situation you find yourself in, make sure you honor God and allow Him to work through you.

No title required

I was reminded that God wants to use me in my current situation, regardless of what my official title is. Just because you are not in “full time” paid vocational ministry, does not mean you are not being used by God to minister to students and their families.

Not complete yet

Knowing that God is not done with me and ministry, He still has a plan for using my gifts and passions to impact the Kingdom. This understanding alone might possibly be the best ministry moment of the year. God’s plan is bigger than me and bigger than I can imagine. I can’t wait to see what is around the next corner.

What were your favorite ministry moments from this last year?

Other posts in this series:
Best of ’09 – Music
Best of ’09 – Youth Ministry Books
Best of ’09 – Non-Ministry Books
Best of ’09 – Websites
Best of ’09 – Blog posts
Best of ’09 – Web Apps
Best of ’09 – Ministry Moments
Best of ’09 – Random Favorites

Best of ’09: Blog Posts

The year 2009 A.D. is almost over. The past 12 months have brought with them many new things; some good, some bad, and some not worth mentioning. I would like to take some time and highlight some of my favorite parts of 2009. I will call this list the “best of ’09” – which simply means that, in my opinion, these are the best items in a certain category. I fully expect you to disagree with some of my choices or to be upset I did not add other items to the list. If you feel this way, please add your “best of ’09” ideas in the comments.

The fifth list will be blog posts. This will be a list of my favorite posts from this site, there are simply too many from other people to go into that list. These are the posts I liked the best, sparked discussion or simply got the most traffic. This list is in no particular order.

5 Ways to use the Super Bowl in Youth Ministry – I shared five ways to use the Super Bowl in your youth ministry. Maybe you could use these tips this year.

It’s Not About You – A reminder that your current situation may not be about you.

5 Things that would have been great April Fool’s Day jokes (had they not been real) – Just a fun list of products that would be funny if they were not actual products.

You Might be a Youth Worker if… – a startling revelation from a conversation with a student.

Finding Rest in the Summer – a few tips on how to find rest during the busy summer months.

An Open Letter to Youth Ministry Search Teams – I wrote this to the many search teams looking for a youth minister. I hope search teams read it and make needed adjustments.

Life, Death, & the Uncertainty of it All – A reflection on the shortness of life and what God promises to those who love him.

6 Saddest Verses in the Bible – a quick look at some sad verses in Scripture.

Youth Ministry Budgeting Series – a 5 part series with tips and thoughts on improving your youth ministry budget.

5 Year Youth Ministry Contract Series – some thoughts on what would happen if youth ministers signed a 5 year contract.

Other posts in this series:
Best of ’09 – Music
Best of ’09 – Youth Ministry Books
Best of ’09 – Non-Ministry Books
Best of ’09 – Websites
Best of ’09 – Blog posts
Best of ’09 – Web Apps
Best of ’09 – Ministry Moments
Best of ’09 – Random Favorites

Book Review: Primal by Mark Batterson

Have you ever really given any thought to the command to love God with all of your heart, soul, mind and strength? This is precisely the backdrop for Mark Batterson’s new book, Primal: A Quest for the Lost Soul of Christianity. Batterson wonders what Christianity would look like if we all truly loved God with compassion, wonder, curiosity, and power. As you read chapter after chapter, you will begin to see small and not-so-small ways that your life should be transformed by living the Great Commandment by loving God with every aspect of your life.

Primal is broken down into four sections, each digging deeper into the heart, soul, mind, and strength of Christianity. Each chapter flows with personal stories, scientific information, historical case studies, Scripture, and application. Even when he is writing about the intricate details of beta waves and alpha waves, Batterson writes with simplicity. This simplicity does not lead to less impact, rather I believe it pushes you in the opposite direction. You will not be able to read Batterson’s thoughts without being challenged and stretched in your understanding of what it means to love God.

As you live out the Great Commandment, remember these words by Oswald Chambers (quoted by Batterson in the final paragraphs of the book); “Let God be as original with other people as He is with you.” The way you love God will not be the same way your friend loves God. And that is the point – God created you to be unique and you need to be willing to love God as only you can and allow others to love God as only they can.

My advice (rating) – go out and buy it (4.5 out of 5)

(This was book was provided for review by WaterBrook Multnomah.)

Book Review: Treasured by Leigh McLeroy

My first impression of Treasured was that this was going to be another gift book. I do not usually like gift books, so I was not really looking forward to reading this book. Then I got the book and saw it was 190 pages and void of pictures – two signs it is not a gift book, in my opinion.

As I started reading the first chapter on “The Fig Leaf: The God Who Covers Me,” it was confirmed to me that this was not going to be a gift book. The premise of the book is that we can learn about God by looking at the small items he has used in the past. McLeroy starts by sharing the story of her grandfather’s box, which she received in the mail after his death. The box contained small items that were special to her grandfather. Just as she was able to know her grandfather better by looking at these items, we can know God by looking at the small things he might keep in his memory box.

McLeroy writes about 12 various Bible stories, such as the fall, the near-sacrifice of Isaac, and Balaam’s donkey. Woven between the points of each story is a personal story from the pages of McLeroy’s life. This openness makes the book real. I was truly engaged from the introduction til the final period.

I recommend Treasured for anyone who needs reminded of God’s overarching love for them. God treasures you more than anything else and reading this book will provide the evidence needed to cement that fact into your memory. Personally, I was encouraged and challenged as I read through these pages. There were a few specific parts of Treasured that were exactly what I needed to read during a specific situation. Go ahead and pick up a copy of Treasured, you’ll be glad you did.

My advice (rating) – go out and buy it (4.5 out of 5)

(This book was provided for review by the WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group.)