Thursday, November 21, 2013

Book Review: Awakening Faith


Awakening Faith contains 366 daily devotional readings on various topics. Each day’s reading contains a Bible verse along with a one-page passage taken from the writing of an early church leader. I really like the short and manageable length of each day’s passage, allowing even busy readers to easily keep up with the daily readings and gain exposure to the thoughts of these Church leaders from history. In this collection, you will find writings from Ambrose, Augustine, John Chrysotom, and other Christian thinkers and Church leaders from the first eight centuries (0-800 A.D.). The back of the book includes a section containing short biographies of each writer, which I really like, telling who they are, what they are known for, and when they lived. The short passages along with the brief biographies provide a good and digestible introduction to the early church leaders and their writings, giving us a glimpse at how our brothers understood the Scriptures in ages past. God’s Word truly stands firm throughout the ages, and this book is a great reminder of that.

The hardcover book is very attractive in subtle earth-tone colors and contains an attached brown ribbon bookmark. This would make an excellent gift for anyone interested in learning more about our Christian heritage and the legacy left by these early Church leaders.

Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book as part of the Awakening Faith blog tour with Cross Focused Reviews.

Friday, June 21, 2013

My Children's Ministry Experience

Let the little children come ...
This is the call of Jesus and my life mission. I have worked with diverse groups of children in a variety of settings. I have had the privilege of serving as Vacation Bible School director for four years. I have developed curriculum for our VBS programs as well as Sunday children's programs. I enjoy finding interactive, engaging methods to help children discover the truth of God's Word and of His great love for them, helping build a foundation of faith in their lives. I have directed special outreach events for children and taught both large and small groups. I have also had experience recruiting and leading teams of volunteers. On the administrative side, I have created and managed budgets, established safety policies and procedures, tracked attendance, created promotional materials, and prepared mailings to families. My calling is to give my life in service to others and proclaim God's truth. I want to help families and children know and grow in Jesus. Let the little children come to Him!

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Creation Rap

I came across a fun song today to teach children about God's creation. The song is actually a rap that goes through each of the seven days of Creation from the book of Genesis. I think boys especially would enjoy this one.

Click here to preview the song at HaveFunTeaching.com.

Disclosure: The Have Fun Teaching website has offered a free song download to bloggers who create a post about their website. Click here for more information.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Book Review: Christmas Uncut

Christmas Uncut: What Really Happened and Why it Matters was written by Carl Laferton. According to the publisher’s website, the book would make a good gift. The book is less than 70 pages long and available for under $5. I feel that it would be best suited for the young adult crowd, both Christians and non-Christians alike.

I have mixed feelings about this book. On one hand, I like the author’s intention to focus on the details of the authentic Christmas story as described in the pages of Scripture. However, his way of going about it bothered me a little. Throughout the book, he mocks the traditional children’s nativity play, beginning each chapter with a story of an acting scene gone wrong. He then continues each chapter by relating the true historical events of the Christmas story and their importance. I agree that some Christmas performances may not always be entirely faithful to the biblical text, but I do not think they are all bad either. I believe they can be a great way to introduce children to the true story of Christmas. As a children’s ministry leader, I couldn’t help but take offense.

With that aside, the book does help to correct false ideas that have become part of the Christmas story as it has been idealized over time in our culture. The author seeks to reveal truth and help readers look at the Christmas story in a new way, thinking on details often overlooked. Near the end of the book, readers are given ideas of ways they can explore more, and the closing sections seek to provide a rebuttal to some objections readers may raise. I appreciate the author’s desire to point people to the true hope, joy, and love found in the real Christ of the Christmas story.

Disclosure: I was provided with a free copy of this book from the Good Book Company as part of Cross Focused Reviews’ Christmas Uncut blog tour.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Book Review: How to Be a Bible Princess

How to Be a Bible Princess was written by Catherine Mackenzie. The book's pink cover featuring flowers and glitter is sure to appeal to young girls. The book helps girls understand how they can be part of God's royal family, clearly presenting the gospel message of salvation through Jesus. Each chapter begins with a quiz that introduces that chapter's focus. The book features stories of women in the Bible, both good and evil, including lesser known figures such as Jehosheba and Michal. Each chapter points to a passage in the Bible that girls can look up and read to discover more about these women. Each chapter also contains a section of princess tips to help girls learn what it means to really be a princess who lives according to biblical standards. Each chapter ends with a section relating to that chapter's theme that points to Jesus and gives additional relevant biblical passages to read. The book is written in a conversational style and has some illustrations throughout. One thing that I did not like was the use of the word "idiot" in one chapter; I do not consider that an appropriate term to use in a book for young girls in the intended age range of 8 12. As a note for American readers, the book was published by a company in the United Kingdom and contains some English phrases and spellings that may be unfamiliar to girls in the United States. 

Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book as part of the Christian Focus 4 Kids blog tour.

Monday, August 13, 2012

What is Family Ministry?

The 2012 Olympic Games have come to a close. Team USA walked away with the gold in some of my family's favorite events, including women’s gymnastics, men’s basketball and women's water polo. The hard work, training and dedication of team members paid off as they reached the goal they had all been striving for: the gold medal!

Sports competitions are a great reminder of the importance of teamwork. Each member of the team must fulfill his or her unique role in order to help the group accomplish their aim. Teammates must be on the same page as they cooperate and work together toward the same goal. 

This summer, the Family Ministry Blog Tour has asked individuals to consider the question, “What is family ministry?”

To me, family ministry is about a TEAM – church leaders, congregations, parents and families all working together with the same goal in mind: the salvation and spiritual growth of individuals.

Family ministry acknowledges that children are under our care at the church for approximately an hour or two each week, while they are with their family for many more hours per week. It acknowledges how much of an influence family members have on one another, and that the family is the bedrock of society. Family ministry considers the whole of the family unit, not just one individual in that family. Family ministry looks at the needs of the family and ministers to the whole family – parents and children. We must be praying for them, encouraging them and equipping them.

I believe that family ministry seeks to break down those walls that may have separated and segmented our ministries in the past. Children are often downstairs in the church basement learning and doing activities while their parents are learning something else upstairs. When church is over, parents pick their children up, ask if they had fun, and the conversation about church ends there.

Family ministry is intentional about keeping parents informed and involved. I want the families of children in our ministry to know what their kids learned on Sunday morning, so that they can continue to talk about it and review and reinforce that message with them throughout the week. We should partner with parents as part of the team to help children grow and develop in faith. Church leaders have a responsibility to teach and train these children, giving them a solid foundation in the Scriptures, but the responsibility for spiritual training also must belong to the parents and family. Part of our calling as leaders is to equip God’s people for the work of ministry (Ephesians 4:12). Some parents may not feel qualified to teach their children about biblical matters or may not know where to start. As church leaders who may have the professional training in Christian education and child development, we must be equipping parents to daily guide their children to grow in faith in the Lord. We can help provide families with the tools, resources, training and encouragement they need to help their children grow and learn and to help them survive the ups and downs of family life. In today’s busy culture, we can also provide special family times, opportunities that encourage families to spend time together and talk about their Christian faith with one other.

Of course, the success of these kinds of family ministry efforts requires the cooperation of the parents to accept and embrace their God-given roles as spiritual guides for their children. Sadly, this does not always happen in our congregations. Many children attend church on their own, and their family may not share their faith. Nevertheless, we must continue to encourage and love both the children and their families, reaching out to them and continuing to cultivate the children’s faith as they are in our care. Perhaps the child’s life, faith and behavior will be a witness to their own family members.

Family ministry is about a team. As church leaders, we are one part of that team and must work wholeheartedly as we seek to see children and families grow in the Lord. With continued love, prayer, patience, and the power of God’s Spirit, families will be transformed through Jesus.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Book Review: A Theology of Luke and Acts

A Theology of Luke and Acts, by Darrell L. Bock, is part of Zondervan’s Biblical Theology of the New Testament Series. The hardcover volume is divided into three sections. Part One gives readers an overview of the context and content of Luke and Acts, and the unity of these two biblical books. Part Two takes a closer look at some of the major theological themes in Luke-Acts including the role of the three Persons of the Trinity, salvation, Israel, the Gentiles, the Church and ecclesiology, social dimensions, the Law, eschatology, and the Scriptures. Part Three looks at the inclusion of Luke-Acts as part of the canon and its comparison to other New Testament books.

I decided to focus my review on chapter 9, which looks at the integral role of the Holy Spirit in Luke-Acts. In the book of Luke, there are 16 references to the Spirit, more than either of the other Synoptic Gospels. The book of Acts contains almost four times as many references to the Spirit as does Luke, with a total of at least 57. Obviously, the Spirit's role is central in Luke's writings.

From the beginning of Luke's gospel, the Spirit is present. The infancy narrative contains references to the Spirit including John's being filled with the Spirit from birth and the coming of the Spirit upon Mary, resulting in the birth of Jesus. Bock cites Luke 3:16 as a key verse that is alluded to several times throughout Luke's writing, and he examines various views regarding this verse in great detail. The endorsement of the Spirit is given at the baptism of Jesus. Throughout Luke's writing, the Spirit is seen to provide encouragment, help in times of persecution, direction, revelation, wisdom and enablement, and is associated with power. At the end of the gospel of Luke and the beginning of the book of Acts, the disciples are told to wait in Jerusalem until they receive the gift of the Spirit, power from on high. The Spirit transforms and enables believers to complete the work to which God has called them, equipping them to be bold witnesses. The Spirit now dwells in all believers, not just a select few, but all who come to God through Christ Jesus. The gift of the Spirit is poured out among the community of believers at Pentecost, and later the Spirit comes on Gentiles as well. Believers receive forgiveness, cleansing, the Spirit and life. According to Bock, the Spirit's equipping signifies the salvation of an individual, as well as the coming of the new era ushered in by the Messiah. The conclusion of A Theology of Luke and Acts highlights what Bock considers to be the six most important theses about Luke's theology, one of which is "the Spirit as the sign of the new era." The important role of the Spirit in Luke-Acts is evident.

A Theology of Luke and Acts presents a thorough look at these two books, with Scripture references throughout and a Scripture index at the back. The book also contains bibliographies and footnotes referring to other sources used in Bock's study, which could also be consulted for those desiring to study more on each topic. After reading the chapter on the work of the Spirit in Luke-Acts, I myself have been encouraged to dig more into the subject.

Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book from Zondervan as part of the blog tour for A Theology of Luke and Acts.