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A More Christlike God: A More Beautiful Gospel

Author Brad Jersak is a reader at All Saints of North America Monastery. Through his writing and public speaking, Brad teaches that anyone can learn to hear God’s voice. Brad’s most popular book, “Can You Hear Me?” offers training in how to develop a “listening prayer.” Those who practice a listening prayer will find that God heals and empowers and sends them out into a darkened world.

Brad’s newest book, A More Christlike God: A More Beautiful Gospel - asks the bigger question; What is God like? Becuase there are a lot of ideas out there in the world, some good, some bad… and some very very bad. Each of us grows up with a mental picture of who God is. For some He is an extension of our own Father, for others He’s an authority figure and for others He’s an abusive monarch. And then we come to the New Testament and start hearing about this gentile, soft, passionate Jesus.

And Jesus is God’s son? Or… He’s actually God? The same judge, dad, wish making, enemy slayer from the Old Testament? How can that be? What Brad Jersak tries to impart is that perhaps God is more like Jesus than we give him credit for.

Isn’t that a beautiful picture? In a world where we try to make Jesus more like God, why not the reverse? Even atheists are drawn to Jesus’ passion and acceptance, but at the same time are pushed away by God’s laws and absolutes.

As a pastor I am used to reading deep heavy theology books and I would say that’s exactly what you have here, this book is going to make you stretch and think, but don’t let that turn you off if reading deeply isn’t your thing.  Yes there are big words and even bigger concepts, but the author has an easy voice to listen to and I think it’s a good book that most Christians will enjoy reading.

This book also has a study guide built into it in that after each portion of the book there is a place to stop and go over key ideas, answer some questions and spend some reflection with God.

Again, I would agree that we have a poorly painted picture of God, and many of us are living with that portrait because it’s all we know. If you’d like to stretch your understanding and perhaps embrace a God that is a bit more like Jesus, I would invite you to pick up this book and check it out.

I was given a copy of this book by Speakeasy Publicity Group in exchange for an honest review.

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Believe Storybook Think, Act, Be Like Jesus

Randy Frazee a senior pastor out here in Texas. He is also the brains behind The Story and BELIEVE church campaigns.

I had previously reviewed the BELIEVE adult book, so my next two reviews will be for the kids edition (because I have kids) and the Believe story book.

As a pastor and Father of two boys, I am always looking for children’s books and bibles that do a good job telling the story of God. I was really looking forward to this book as I have enjoyed all of the BELIEVE books, but this book wasn’t everything I was hoping.

This book is supposed to be for kids 4-8 years old (my Son is 7) and it’s probebly just right on the edge of being “too childish” for him. My son is moving past large hard back picture books at 7, but I would argue that children as young as 3 would like this big beautiful pictures.

This book has sixty stories! That’s a lot! And of course, the author tries to cover a wife range of stories from both the old and New Testament. And just like the other books in the BELIEVE series, even this picture book is loaded with questions you can ask your child to help generate easy discussion.

The thing I didn’t totally love about this book was the consistency of the stories that were told. What I mean is, there is some irony in that the author also wrote a book called THE STORY which was a Bible study that followed the thematic narrative of the scriptures, but here in a children’s picture book that seemed to be lot.

You really have to read it like you would a bedtime book filled with “different” stories and less like a novel that had one continuous story.

Over all the illustrations are awesome! And I think a lot of parents will get some good mileage from this book.

Thank you to book sneeze and Zondevan for this advanced copy for a fair and honest review.

 

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Believe Kids’ Edition – book review

Randy Frazee a senior pastor out here in Texas. He is also the brains behind The Story and BELIEVE church campaigns.

I had previously reviewed the BELIEVE adult book, so my next two reviews will be for the kids edition (because I have kids) and the Believe story book.

Like it’s adult counterpart, the Believe Kid’s edition teaches readers the core beliefs of faith. No mind you my son is 7 going on 8 and he is a pretty good reader and while the suggested age is “8″ for this book, I found the book a little much for him and way beyond his reading. Maybe this is for a 8 almost 9 year old?

The book is broken into 3 big sections: beliefs, practices, and virtues— and each part takes your child deeper into the word of God and broader into such subjects as who Jesus is, who God is, how to pray, why we worship and the different spiritual gifts.

My son loves Bibles, and Bible stories, so I was eager for him to see this. It’s important that my wife and I build a foundation in him now while he is still young. I want his faith to be built on something strong so that when he is older his faith will be able to stand on it’s own.

And please don’t be intimidated if you’re not a veteran Sunday school teacher, or seminary graduate – the book could not be easier to read with your children. The author covers everything you need in the first few pages. Right now I am reading it to him for a quiet time and then we go over the discussion questions at the end of each chapter.

Oh and yes, there are pictures!

Thank you to book sneeze and Zondevan for this advanced copy for a fair and honest review.

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Everest – Group Vacation Bible School (VBS) Sermon

It’s quiz time folks! That’s right! Name the tallest mountain peak in the World. A no brainer really… Mount Everest! No, that’s not the right answer. Does anyone know the “right” – right answer?

Pat yourself on your back, if your answer was Mauna Kea. Mauna Kea is off the Hawaiian coast and it “towers” over all other mountains. Mauna Kea is 33,000 feet tall compared to the second largest Mount Everest whose height is a mere 29,000 feet. The only problem with Mauna Kea is that nearly 54% of it is submerged below the Pacific Ocean and hence not immediately visible to the naked eye.

And so if I were to make a comparison (and I am) I would offer that nobody knows about Mauna Kea’s majesty because it is hidden.. and the part we can see.. seems small.

And I would almost argue that we sometimes view our faith the same way. Following Jesus certainly has it’s blessings …and it’s hardships, but for some reason our sacrifices and our struggles seem more visible and so those are the things we tend to focus on.

I don’t know that we always think about the things that we get… the things God provides. I think Christianity is more often associated with the things we give up. Christianity seems to come at a pretty steep price. Jesus tells us clearly that whoever wishes to follow him must lay down his own life; and so I think we’re all quick to see the cost and the price of our faith, but are there any benefits? Is there more to the mountain than we’re seeing?

Psalm 103 is a Psalm of joyous praise, here the writer reminds us of God’s blessings and benefits.

Psalm 103:1-5

Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name! 2 Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits, 3 who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases, 4 who redeems your life from the pit, who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy, 5 who satisfies you with good so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.

So what are the benefits of worshiping and following God? Because verse 1 says “don’t forget the benefits.” But I think before we jump into those – we have to first acknowledge that God is a God who provides benefits in the first place.

Verse 1 says, “Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name! Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits…” What are benefits? They’re perks, right? Provisions – thing you get for being a member, or being associated… and here in Psalm 103, these provisions come from the blessings of being associated with God, you could say there are the perks of being a Christian

1. God has the power to provide

This is Klymer – he is a snow leopard and he is going to remind our VBS students that God as the power to provide. What makes God a good provider? Well for one,  God knows you and he knows you better than you know you, and he knows what is going to happen today, he knows what’s going to happen tomorrow… and for all your days to come.

Paul says in Ephesians 3:20 that God is “able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us.”

And our God is an eternal God who doesn’t change. Therefore his provision will always be there for those who trust Him. Hudson Taylor, was a missionary to China and he said “God’s work, done God’s way, will not lack God’s support.” God would provide in every situation.  God provides us with a lot, and we have a lot to be thankful for.

But the scripture goes on in Psalms; and it lists the 4 provisions that we receive from the Lord. v3 (the Lord) who forgives all your iniquity, so the first provision we receive is forgiveness.

2. God has the power to forgive

This is Pike, he is a markhor. What is a markhor? It’s that…. a large wild goat with very long twisted horns, native to central Asia. Pike is going to teach our VBS students about God’s power to forgive.

And you know when we talk about forgetting God’s provision – forgiveness is not a simple or easy thing to grasp. There are those who look at their lives as being so stained with sin that they cannot possible believe that God could forgive them.  Of course there are others that look at the people whose lives ARE stained with sin, and THEY can’t believe that God can possibly forgive THEM …. either.

But the Bible teaches that God has the power to forgive regardless of how many or how great our sins might be.

Isaiah 1:18- “‘Come now, let us reason together,’ says the Lord. ‘Though your sins are like scarlet,  they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool.”

Hebrews 8:12- “For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.”

and check this one out….

Micah 7:18-19- “Who is a God like you, who pardons sin and forgives the transgression of the remnant of his inheritance? You do not stay angry forever but delight to show mercy. You will again have compassion on us; you will tread our sins underfoot and hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea.”

Did you know that in some parts of the ocean the ocean floor is between 5 and 7 miles down. It’s that deep. In other words, if you were to drive seven miles from  here in your car, that’s how deep the ocean can be. Or to put it with our theme this morning… if Mount Everest were submerged in the deepest part of the ocean, it’s peek would be a mile beneath the surface.

And the book of Micah says that’s where God places your sins.  Do you know why that’s important?  Because once something man made passes the five mile mark – it’s crushed. Nothing we create can survive being buried that deep in the sea – the water pressure is so strong and so great – that what God places there… is never coming back.

But let’s say that doesn’t sound far enough away for you… the Bible also says…

Psalm 103:12 As far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us.

Tell me something, how far is that?  That is the power of forgiveness that God provides through Jesus Christ. He says, “I forgive all your iniquities.” Everything that you’ve ever done wrong…everything that you’ve ever made mistakes on, God forgives. Think of that!

I want you to be encouraged from this provision, and if you still as of yet don’t know how to receive that forgiveness, it’s as simple as asking….

Acts 2:21 says, “Everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved”, the Bible says. Confess your sins to Him, come to Him and say, “Jesus you died in my place. I believe in you. I have faith in you.” And then what…. and then your sins are taken to the depths of the ocean. And then your sins are carried as far away as the east is from the west.

It’s a wonderful promise of scripture…it’s one of the provisions of God, that being one of His children, is having the forgiveness of sins.  Then the scripture in Psalm 103 goes on. It says that not only does God forgive all of our sins, but that He heals us.

3. God has the power to heal

This is Mallory, she is a bar-headed goose.  Also from Central Asia, the bar headed goose lives in colonies of thousands near mountain lakes and winters in South Asia. And the bar-headed goose lays three to eight eggs at a time in a ground nest. (see all the fun things you can learn at church?)

You know, over the years, I have had numerous opportunities to pray for the sick and I am a firm believer in God’s healing power.

Exodus 23:25 You shall serve the Lord your God, and he will bless your bread and your water, and I will take sickness away from among you.

Psalm 30:2 O Lord my God, I cried to you for help, and you have healed me.

At times, life can really hurt; both from our physical ailments as well as our spiritual ones. But even though we know that life can sometimes be a painful struggle, we also know that there is help from the pain. Life can hurt but God has the power to heal!

All through the Scriptures we see example after example of God miraculously healing someone from their physical ailments. And probably most of us here could attest to seeing someone we know and care about who’s been miraculously healed. So we’ve either read about healings or we’ve seen them with our own eyes.

People ask if we should pray for healing? Of course! It’s biblical, it’s right, and many times the Lord works as a result of our prayers. But… when He does work a miraculous healing of the physical body, let’s make sure that we see it as a picture of how He can heal our spiritual body. Because the two are linked.  If God can heal the sick, if God can raise the dead, then God can surely cleanse us from all things.

You know when you are sick, your life isn’t what it could be. Pain changes our perspective. Ailments slow us down. Injuries can even paralyze us and prevent us from living like we should. And sometimes it’s even these things that make us lose our perspective of all of God’s provisions.

Or you might be here this morning and you’re in perfect physical health – but you’ve got some spiritual sickness that’s keeping you from living like you should. Maybe you’ve allowed sin to take over in some area of your life and because of it you have a spiritual sickness that you just can’t shake on your own. Our souls, our spirit, our lives are plagued with sickness and darkness and even death.

- Your thought life is sick with impurity
- Your attitude is sick with negativity
- Your self-discipline is sick with weakness
- Your relationships are sick with unforgiveness

But listen, whatever the sickness is, God wants to heal you of it; and if God can heal the body He can heal the soul and help you become spiritually healthy so that you can live out your faith in an incredible way.

What else does Psalm 103 say God provides? v4 who redeems your life from the pit, who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy,

4. God has the power to love us forever

This is Yeddy he is a brown bear from the Himalayas – he is going to teach our VBS kids that God has the power to love us forever.

What is love? You can think about that for a bit and what the word love means to you. But the word love in our society, is so over used, misused, that it is often abused. People today say it without even thinking. They say it to their spouse – and yet divorce rates have never been higher. People say it to their kids – and yet children are abandoned, forsaken, and at times, even worse.

And instead of love being something that comes from the heart and having a valuable meaning, love has become just a sloppy sentimentality. Love is hastily added to cards, letters and conversations, just to seem sociable. “Love ya.” And we do discredit to God to say that “His love” is like our love.

We can see this principle at work in Psalm 136, sometimes called a “Hallelujah Psalm” because it contains no petitions, no complaints, and no problems. Instead, Psalm 136 is a list of moments where God worked in history, each answered by the refrain “His love endures forever.” Probably because the worship leader would read the first line of each verse, and the congregation would respond, “His love endures forever.”

Psalm 136:1-3

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good,
for his steadfast love endures forever.
Give thanks to the God of gods,
for his steadfast love endures forever.
Give thanks to the Lord of lords,
for his steadfast love endures forever;

The Hebrew word here translated for “love” refers to loyal love, a faithful love, or you might call it “covenant love.” It’s love that lasts because it is based on an unbreakable promise. It’s the love of a husband for his wife or the love of a mother for her children.

God’s love is eternal because his promise is eternal. He cannot – not love – His children!

God’s love endures. It outlasts all the problems of life. It transcends all the troubles we face every day.

God has the power to love us forever. So, His love is an everlasting love. And while you may not be with the ones you love at all times, you ARE surrounded by His love and nothing and no one can ever take you away from his embrace.

It goes on and on and on and on – even when our life comes to an end.

So hold on to that promise as you would hold on to any life-preserver. And don’t keep your struggles to yourself. Share them with a believer you trust. Let them encourage you and show you God’s love in tangible ways; that love will help you endure in whatever challenges you face.

v5 (the Lord) who satisfies you with good so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.

5. God has the power to comfort

This is Cliff, he is a marmot and he’s going to teach our VBS students about the comfort that comes from God.

And the truth is, even though we experience seasons of joy and happiness where we feel like we have it all together, all of us also go through difficulties and hardships as well. At times we may even find ourselves in despair, wondering if God understands or even notices us.  But, He does understand, and He cares so deeply that He comforts us when we hurt.

And if you look up the word “comfort” in the dictionary, you’re going to find one definition, and it’d be the definition that we all know. But take a look at John 14:16, and you’ll discover quite a different meaning. Jesus says to his disciples…

John 14:16 I will pray to the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you forever.

In that verse, Jesus describes the work and ministry of the Holy Spirit and calls Him “the comforter.” But here that word takes on a new meaning… a Godly meaning.

When we think of comfort, we think of sitting on a beach watching the waves, and drinking something cold and delicious while someone rubs lotion on us. Or if it is winter we see ourselves sitting in a cozy recliner before a roaring fire. But the idea of comfort comes from the two Latin words: com fortis – literally translated it means “with strength.”

God’s way of giving comfort is to give us the strength to do what needs to be done.  His Spirit brings us comfort, because as His strength comes, our grief and sorrow goes. True, the situation may not have changed, but now we have a new ability to face it and deal with it – and it comes in the form of God’s comfort.

And because believers have this Comfort residing within, there is no need to search elsewhere for it. We don’t have to look to worldly distractions and pleasures in order to escape our trials and heartaches. We have the source of all comfort dwelling within us.

This means that when we feel as if we’re collapsing on the inside and crying out to God, “I can’t take it any more!” we can expect to sense a little whisper that encourages us: “You are going to make it because I am here.”

God has the power to comfort and —His comfort is worth more than anything this world has to offer.

I love the last part of Psalm 130 v5 (the Lord) who satisfies you with good so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.

The writer says  “your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.” Today, we’re all looking for youth and miracle cures to give us our vitality back.  The writer here is speaking to a people whose strength is gone and who perhaps have no desire to continue. They even seem to imply that even the young people were feeling defeated. But there is comfort to be had.

The writer says that those who place their hope and trust in God do not lose heart, and they do not lose strength — regardless of their age. Their hearts and minds soar as they think about what God is going to do in their lives. And as new strength and courage enter their hearts it begins to affect their bodies to. They gain a new enthusiasm for life and a new strength to go on.

And since this is VBS Sunday, it’s only fitting that we close by talking about our children. You know, someone once said, “There are two lasting things we can give our children; one is roots; and the other is wings.”

In other words, we can teach our children foundation that there is a strength that comes from God that is greater than our own. We can teach them to wait on him, to trust him, even when everything looks impossible. We can teach them about an everlasting hope, an everlasting comfort, an everlasting truth, an everlasting kingdom, and an everlasting love.

But the very best thing we can do, is to show them the reality of God’s faithfulness as we model it in our lives. We can give them wings by being the living examples of this hope and love. Living sources of comfort. Living proof of the reliability of God’s Word. Living examples of a strength that comes from God.

Don’t forget about the provisions that God gives us, it might seem hidden like a mountain beneath the ocean, but it’s in enjoying those provisions that will cause you to sing, Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name!

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Life Is _____ by Judah Smith

Who is __________ Judah Smith? Quite simply he is the Pastor of The City Church, author, speaker and social media celebrity.  To those who know him, follow him and love him he is the über-cool pastor from Seattle with a church over 7,000 and another 250,000 followers on Twitter. You might have seen him in a few selfies with Justin Bieber and pro golfer Bubba Watson.

His latest book Life Is_____ is a follow up to Jesus Is______

So how would you finish that question? “…like a box of chocolates?”

32?

In this book, Judah Smith attempts to answer that question through each chapter; to be loved and to love, to trust God in every moment, to be at peace with God and yourself, and to enjoy God. Each chapter feels close and personal as id Judah was right there talking to you.

Smith does a good job communicating with millennials, he talks their language and understands their humor and I would say this book is targeted more at your younger new believer, or for someone who is curious about the Christian faith.

This isn’t a “deep book” or a “profound book” but at the same time it does cover deep subjects and has profound points. I would certainly pass his book on to a friend or family member.

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

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