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Jonah and the Great Big Fish

Undoubtedly from the title, you can ascertain that “Jonah and the Great Big Fish” is a children’s story book about the story of Jonah. Rhonda Gowler Greene is sticking true to the original Hebrew in that Jonah wasn’t necessarily swallowed by a “whale” and as a Bible scholar I appreciate that.

This book was first released in 2007 with Santiago Cohen as the Illustrator, now to be re-released July 29, Zonderkids has acquired a new illustrator Margret Spengler. I went back to look at the earlier illustrations and they were much more stylized (almost like modern art). As a story book for little kids, I much prefer Spengler’s art and think this makes a great addition to Greene’s work.

And even though this is a children’s book with very playful drawings, this is not a “simple” story, Greene has done a remarkable job getting to the heart of what makes this story a “Bible story” in the first place. It’s not just a story about a man who has a fascinating adventure.

Jonah and the Great Big Fish is about a man who disobeyed God and how God redirected the man back to where God wanted him.

As a pastor who is always on the lookout for good books for my kids, it’s important to me that the lesson of Jonah is told alongside the fantastic story – and this book delivers.

Well done.

Thank you to Zondervan and BookLook for providing this preview copy in exchange for a fair and honest review.

 

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The Journey Bible – Willowcreek

The Journey Bible is a seeker sensitive resource for the Willowcreek Community. Willowcreek is Bill Hybel’s megachurch out in Illinois. “The Journey” theme is one of the keywords / buzz phrases that Willowcreek uses a lot in their campus verbiage.

When I first received the Bible for review, I noticed right away how it reminded me of the “Good News for the Modern Man bible. The Good News came out in 1966 and was marketed as a Bible for the every day person and written in a “relevant” format. The Journey Bible is printed on newsprint and is very “tall” in its profile. So right away it feels and looks very substantial. Second, even though it is the familiar NIV translation, it has a very approachable layout.

The Journey Bible takes an “exploratory approach addressing key questions inquisitive readers may have about the Bible and its relevance for today.”

Of course there are notes and insights woven throughout the complete text, many of which are designed to draw busy readers into the Bible’s core message and point the way to a relationship with Jesus. In fact, if you look at the Bible from the edge, you will quickly see that key books are “highlighted” by markings on the paper’s edge – pointing “the way” from Genesis to the book of Romans.

The helpful iconography follow six “seeker themes” through the Journey Bible:

  • Discovering God
  • Addressing Questions
  • Strengthening Relationships
  • Reasons to Believe
  • Knowing Yourself
  • Managing Resources

I think this would make a great “gift Bible” for any new Believer, or it would also make a great “camp Bible” for a camper or counselor.

Thank you to Zondervan and Booklook for this preview copy in exchange for a fair and honest review.

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NIV Celebrate Recovery Bible

In case you don’t know, Celebrate Recovery is a biblical and balanced program that helps us overcome our hurts, hang-ups, and habits.  It is based on the actual words of Jesus rather than psychological theory.  20 years ago, Saddleback Church launched Celebrate Recovery with 43 people. It was designed as a program to help those struggling with hurts, habits and hang-ups by showing them the loving power of Jesus Christ through a recovery process. Celebrate Recovery has helped more than 17000 people at Saddleback, attracting over 70% of its members from outside the church. Eighty-five percent of the people who go through the program stay with the church and nearly half serve as church volunteers.

Celebrate Recovery is now in over 20,000 churches worldwide!

The Celebrate Recovery Bible is geared to be used with the Celebrate Recovery program or to be used as an introduction to those not in the program yet.

The “Road to Recovery” is based off of 8 Biblical principles (very similar to a 12 step program) taken directly from the teachings of Christ. So the CR Bible is assembled to include notes and helpful references that highlight the foundations of the CR program.

The Bible includes a small study on each of the 8 Biblical principles as well as a 30 Day devotional in the back.

The notes and references pay careful attention to highlight struggles and addictions as do the many character studies. The Bible also contains “Recovery Stories” which are modern day testimony’s from people who have successfully navigated the CR program.

The CR Bible is another testimony how diverse and rich the word of God is. This is a wonderful companion to anyone who has gone through the program and is highly recommended for anyone who struggles with recovery and healing.

Thank you to Zondervan for this preview copy in exchange for a fair and honest review.

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What do we know? / a look back at 1 John

So after these four tests – what do we know? – Well, we know….

1. What a Christian is.

1 John 5:1-2

Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the Father loves whoever has been born of him. By this we know…

A Christian has faith in the finished work of Christ – and again – John is going to stress the previous tests we talked about – a Christian loves, A Christian is obedient. And a Christian knows the truth…. And as one who knows the truth – we also know….

2. What a Christian believes

1 John 5:6, 11 -13

This is he who came by water and blood—Jesus Christ; not by the water only but by the water and the blood. v 11-13 And this is the testimony, that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life. I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life.

And you know what, surprisingly not everybody agrees on this. But John says, if you don not know who Jesus is – you are not a Christian. And then John goes on to say… and God agrees with me

1 John 5:6-10

If we receive the testimony of men, the testimony of God is greater, for this is the testimony of God that he has borne concerning his Son. Whoever believes in the Son of God has the testimony in himself. Whoever does not believe God has made him a liar, because he has not believed in the testimony that God has borne concerning his Son.

John says God agrees that Jesus is the Messiah and if we reject the witness of God we call God a liar.

And lastly, as one who knows the truth – we know….

3. How a Christian acts

1 John 5:18-19

We know that everyone who has been born of God does not keep on sinning, but he who was born of God protects him, and the evil one does not touch him. We know that we are from God, and the whole world lies in the power of the evil one.

Now at first that might trip you up – to read “that everyone who has been born of God does not keep on sinning..” because I have not stopped sinning.. what about you? Of course Christians sin – we talked about that in chapter 1.

But John’s using the present/active tense of the verb. He is saying, if we are Christians we do not make a habit of sinning, we do not constantly, continually, habitually sin.

And the key really lies in the second half there, but he who was born of God protects him, and the evil one does not touch him. Who is “he who was born of God?” Christ. And so Jesus protects us. So it’s not that we have the power to overcome sin; but rather, the power to overcome sin – comes from Christ. You and I have no keeping power. We are no more able to keep ourselves than we are able to save ourselves. It is all from the Lord Jesus Christ. We are only saved by His marvelous grace.

We all know how to walk, right? – it’s so simple. But tell that to a baby. Tell a set of parents how ‘easy’ it is to learn to walk. That’s why parents are so excited when their babies take their first steps – because up until that point – walking was the most challenging, most difficult event of the child’s life.

And listen, just because you’ve accepted Christ in your life, doesn’t mean you’re learning to walk. This is why sometimes you’ll hear one believer ask another, “so how is your walk right now?” Or “Where are you in your walk?” It’s a journey. Listen, for the Christian, it’s not about making it, or arriving, or about waiting until one fine morning, I’ll fly away - no for the Christian it’s about the journey, it’s abiding, it’s keeping, it’s staying in step with our creator.

And I probably don’t need to even tell you this, but 1 John contain one of the most popular verses about love

1 John 4:7-8

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.

Real love – is like God!

And Christians love because God is the essence of Love.

And of course this is close to John’s heart, because John was there when Christ expressed this same thought at the last supper – Jesus said…

John 13:34-35

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

A love like Christ’s is the supreme mark of a Christian.

And love is at the heart of the Christian witness.

Love originated from God, it was manifested in His son and now it’s demonstrated by his people.

 

Love is holy and just and perfect just like God and if we truly know God and obey God – then we will love like God.

 

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A Christian knows the truth / a study of 1 John

1 John 2:21

I write to you, not because you do not know the truth, but because you know it, and because no lie is of the truth.

John says Christians know the TRUTH

Remember John’s purpose in writing this letter is to affirm the church and to combat false teaching. And now, almost a hundred years later, there are new enemies of the church – people who preach false doctrine.

And if Christ is the truth, and if He is the Messiah, then these false teachers are anti-Messiah’s – they are false Christ’s. John says,

1 John 2:18-19

Children, it is the last hour, and as you have heard that antichrist is coming, so now many antichrists have come. Therefore we know that it is the last hour. They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us.

John says Christians know the truth and they avoid the counterfeits. And don’t be mistaken a false-Christ doesn’t have to be a leader, or a pastor or some charismatic charlatan.  A false Christ could be a friend… it’s anyone who tries to sway orthodoxy and doctrine and tries to convince you that “there’s more to the story than just the Bible.” or that the church doesn’t give you the true gospel, or that through history Christians have tried to cover-up things that it doesn’t want you to know. A false Christ changes history – a false Christ contradicts….but a Christian TESTS the truth.

1 John 2:26 says I write these things to you about those who are trying to deceive you.

John cares so much about truth that he writes the word 25 times in his gospel and another 20 more times in his epistles.

3 John 1:4  I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.

1 John 5:20

And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true; and we are in him who is true, in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life.

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