“Bible Trivia, Jokes, and Fun Facts for Kids” Book-Review

I might have called this “The Bible Joke and Quiz Book”. In places it’s not clear whether the author’s in joke or fact mode, and I’m not sure what age-group it’s aimed at. For instance, the most memorable joke – Why did Moses have a hard time as a baby? He was in de-nial – wouldn’t be easily understood by a 5-year-old. There are certain words the author explains, such as ‘Lame’, but then he’ll use ‘Prophet’ or ‘Apostle’ with no explanation. The reference to NFL teams is also a mystery to anyone living outside of the US.

On the positive side, it’s a very good concept to have questions parents can ask their children. I’m reviewing the eBook, and I don’t think it works in this format. It would work well as a hard copy so that someone could cover up the answers.

Considering the book as a whole, there were parts I liked, particularly the section on Jesus’ disciples, but there were also some discrepancies, E.G. Troy Schmidt says King Nebuchadnezzar saw an angel in the fire with Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego; however, many Christians believe this 4th figure was not an angel, but Jesus. Schmidt also claims Psalm 119 is the longest Psalm in the Bible with 150 verses; it actually has 176.

Bethany House were kind enough to give me a complementary copy in exchange for my honest review. While I wouldn’t recommend this book in its entirety, it may hold some useful ideas for parents; they might just want to have a Bible handy to check the facts.

Top 10 Books of 2016 + Some Upcoming Reads

Goodreads is great, though the app is much easier to use than the website. It’s fun to set myself a reading challenge and tick them off as I go through the year. I’m sure I’ve read more books because of it. These are a few that impressed me:

10. “21 Seconds to Change Your World”

About the prayer Jesus taught and the 23rd Psalm. This stayed with me because they’re Bible-passages I wouldn’t have ordinarily put together, but I saw their similarities, and the seconds they take to say can be life-altering. There are several books on prayer I’d still like to read. One is “Living the Serenity Prayer”. This is my mum’s favourite prayer and she’s been living it ever since I was born premature and one of twins.

9. “God is a Matchmaker”

Dealt with the topic of marriage extensively, even considering the way bride and groom interact with their parents – a subject rarely discussed in similar books. In 2017 I want to read “Sacred Marriage” by Gary Thomas because I’ve seen it quoted so many times, and I bought it when it was on offer.

8-7.

I’ve read several of Annie Downs’ books this year. “Let’s all be Brave” is a skilful piece of writing, with the chapters presented in pairs – the bravery of perseverance, or of letting go; the courage to say yes, and how saying no can be just as courageous. Because I loved this so much, I tried “Perfectly Unique”, even though it was written for teenagers. Really it would be just as good for adults. It’s the best book I’ve seen on glorifying God with your whole body. The only one of Annie’s I haven’t read is “Speak Love” – again because it was written for teenagers, but now I won’t let that put me off.

6. “God is Just not Fair”

Written by Jennifer Rothschild, who lost her sight when she was fifteen, this book about her wrestling with hard questions was hugely helpful and encouraging. Next I’d like to read “Mum’s List” – a list written to a husband and sons by their wife and mother, who was dying of cancer. I heard the husband interviewed on local radio and he sounded so nice, it made me want to buy the book.

5-4. Children

This year I reviewed “Jesus Talked to me Today”, which was better than expected. I also read a book I’d never heard of called “Touching Heaven” because I had an Email to say it was reduced, and I really enjoyed Leanne’s accounts of helping children in her hospital chaplaincy work. One child-focused book on my list for 2017 is “Always Enough: God’s Miraculous Provision Among the Poorest Children on Earth”.

3. “Watching the Wheels”

Written to a tight deadline, there are a few mistakes in this, but it’s an in-depth look at Damon Hill and how his early life shaped him as a person. The way he described depression is spot-on; I even shared it on Facebook with a link to the book. (I don’t know whether it got him any more readers, but Damon, I tried!) Aside from Formula One, I found some novels about NASCAR that I’m looking forward to: The RPM series by Chris Fabry. I had no idea he’d written so many books!

2-1. Novels

I read for the first time this year “Redeeming Love” by Francine Rivers (a modern-day take on the Biblical story of Hosea), and “This Present Darkness” by Frank Peretti (about the battle between good and evil). “The Visitation” looks another good one from Frank, and there are lots by Francine Rivers I haven’t got around to yet.

What were your best books of 2016 and why?

Link

Last year I read “A Year’s Journey with God” by Jennifer Rees Larcombe, and had the privilege of meeting her while I was in the middle of it! I’m currently reading Ann Spangler’s “Praying the Names of Jesus”, which lasts for 6 months and includes 26 of the different names for Jesus – Friend, Lord etc. I like the Monday-to-Friday format – explaining the name, praying you through it, and showing where it’s recorded in the Bible. It’s not date-specific, so you can break for a week here and there, or catch up at the weekend on the days you’ve missed. Next year, I want to read its companion – “Praying the Names of God”. If you started in January, you could buy both and let them take you through the year.

I hoped to finish the devotional I was on by the beginning of December, but it doesn’t look like I will now. There were a couple of Advent books I fancied trying – “Unwrapping the Greatest Gift”, for one. This is the family-friendly alternative to Ann Voskamp’s “The Greatest Gift”. I know she’s quite a flowery writer, so I thought the family version might make the same points as the adult book, but in a less longwinded way! This year though, I was going with “Make Him Room” by Kirsten S Oliphant. I loved her Lent devotional (“Consider the Cross”) and wanted to give the Advent one a try, but two dailies plus my regular Bible-reading might be a bit much.

So, I may not read anything special to mark Advent this year. “Advent: A Gentle Journey to the Prince of Peace” could be good if it was on Kindle. Written by a busy single mum and illustrated by her sisters, this book teaches about the history of Advent and includes one devotional for each of its four weeks. Now that, I could do.

These are by no means all the devotionals you can get. ChristianityWorks do an eDevotional, and Bible Gateway publish several that you can subscribe to free of charge. Theirs can be seasonal or topical, such as devotions on marriage you can read as a couple. I like the sound of the Gary Thomas two-week one and may just sign up for it anyway, even though I’m not married!

And if you’ve read this blog for some time, you might remember I partnered with Jess to take you through “Unglued”, chapter by chapter. Well, Lysa has published a companion to the book – “Unglued Devotional: 60 Days of Imperfect Progress”. Quite a few Christians do this – write a book and then publish a devotional to go with it. My very favourite author has just done exactly the same, and Holley makes the point that all of hers is new content. I’m very much looking forward to reading it.

Is there a particularly good devotional you’ve read? One I’ve missed out that you think I should recommend? Please tell me in the comments.

Insecurity

A friend was talking on her latest radio-show about someone daunted by their new job, who really needed peace. If anything’s unusual or doesn’t go the way we think it should, it can cause panic, can’t it? Because we don’t know what a future employer, a spouse, or whoever, might be thinking.

I remember another friend telling me about her husband’s funeral – how people said such lovely things, and she wished he had known what he meant to them. That’s why I try to point out the good in people. It does no harm to give encouragement, and better now than when it’s too late, but not everyone expresses themselves in words. If you haven’t read it, I’d really recommend Gary Chapman’s “The Five Love-Languages” for ideas on various ways people can show their feelings. They might buy you a gift, or do something extremely kind. If I expect a certain response from someone, eventually, they’re going to let me down. That’s not their fault; it’s just that nobody’s perfect, and (thankfully) nobody’s exactly like me.

My lovely friend Becky from New York is a reader of this blog. After her husband proposed, he wrote her a poem. It’s really beautiful and I’ll just share a little of it here:
When you feel your feet slipping down into the deep and you’re looking for something to stand on,
My love will never be enough …
When you are determined to rely on God and not give up,
Then my love will be enough
.”

Can we take a leaf out of Becky and Dave’s book? If we feel the weight of insecurity, let’s give whatever’s troubling us over to God. “In Him all things hold together” (Colossians 1:17). That means if I haven’t been the person I’d like to be or if I feel let-down, God can help us with our shortcomings. It’s only through Him that real transformation is possible.

If this has brought to mind a situation in your family, or the family of someone you know, why not pray about it? “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble” (Psalm 46:1).

Persecution

How do you find the positive from someone put in prison for their faith? In North Korea, it’s even done by association. You might be imprisoned because an uncle believes in God, and if you’re pregnant, then your children are born in captivity. “Escape from Camp 14” showed me they’re not taught about love; they only know survival. Families have so little that they’re in competition with each other, even for daily food.

“The righteous person may have many troubles, but the LORD delivers him from them all” (Psalm 34:19). Christians can hold onto this truth: Rescue is coming. “Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, because great is your reward in heaven” (Luke 6:23). We may not be persecuted the same way as North Koreans. For us it might be people showing hostility, or mocking our faith. Perhaps your relatives follow a different religion and are doing their best to steer you away from Jesus. “They will seize you and persecute you. They will hand you over to synagogues and put you in prison, and you will be brought before kings and governors, and all on account of My name. And so you will bear testimony to Me. But make up your mind not to worry beforehand how you will defend yourselves. For I will give you words and wisdom that none of your adversaries will be able to resist or contradict. You will be betrayed even by parents, brothers and sisters, relatives and friends, and they will put some of you to death. Everyone will hate you because of Me. But not a hair of your head will perish. Stand firm, and you will win life” (Luke 21:12-19). “Everyone will hate you because of Me, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved” (Mark 13:13). “If you do not stand firm in your faith, you will not stand at all” (Isaiah 7:9).

If you’re a believer in Jesus who’s being persecuted, keep relying on His Spirit to give you the right words and attitudes. Hold on till the end, and focus on your heavenly reward.

Self-Preservation

In a magazine, I found a book called “Jesus Through Middle-Eastern Eyes”, that looked very good. It’s not on Kindle, so my mum very kindly bought it and said that when we meet up, from time to time, she’ll read me a chapter. Last weekend, we started it and I’m quite enjoying reading it together.

The introduction was much more highbrow than the book itself, but I still found it interesting. One passage it talked about was Luke 16:13, and that’s the verse I want to write about today. Here’s how the New King James Version of the Bible puts it: “No servant can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.”

Most modern translations take that Greek word mammon to mean money, and certainly someone who’s greedy for money is going to be reluctant to give God control of their entire life, including their finances. What’s really interesting, though, is that the Amplified Bible says mammon can be translated as: ‘Anything in which you trust and on which you rely’. Wow! That’s a challenge. We can’t serve two masters; either we trust God, or we trust that other thing – money, relationships, ourselves …

I wondered what to call this post. I had planned for it to be about greed, but I read God’s Word and it expanded! I suppose to hold anything back from God is really self-preservation, and the opposite of that would be surrender.

Can you give God control of your life? Do you trust Him to act in your best interests?

Doubt

I’ve heard it said that doubt and faith can co-exist. To me, it seems clear from Jesus’ conversation with Thomas that they can’t. I’m not sure where Thomas was the first time Jesus appeared to a group of His close friends after His resurrection. They were locked in a room for fear of the Jews. Maybe Thomas had braved the streets to go and get them something to eat, but anyway, he missed the big moment. They told him about it afterwards and he said: “Unless I see the nail marks in His hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe.”

Later Jesus came again and specifically said to Thomas: “Put your finger here; see My hands. Reach out your hand and put it into My side. Stop doubting and believe.”

Faith and doubt may not co-exist, but faith and questioning can. After all, a question Thomas asked brought us one of the most central truths in Christianity – Jesus’ statement that: “I am the Way and the Truth and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14:6).

I’m reading a book at the moment about when Christians are faced with the hard questions in life. Why does God supernaturally heal one person but leave another to cope with their disability, when we read about those wonderful miracles, and that Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever? Why does one person have a supportive network of family and friends, while others grieve loved ones and appear to have very little? We really don’t understand, so what can we do? We can hold onto what we know. We know that Jesus is our good Shepherd and our admission ticket to heaven. I’ve told you before about the time this verse came into my head immediately: “These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life” (1 John 5:13).

“Faith means being sure of the things we hope for and knowing that something is real even if we do not see it” (Hebrews 11:1). We may not see the full picture; we might still have questions, but in the midst of those questions, our faith in Jesus can triumph over doubt.

Marriage

If you want the positive spin on marriage, “Your Marriage Masterpiece” would be a good place to turn. Bethany House sent me a free review copy. Having read books on the subject previously, I wasn’t sure whether this would be anything new to me, but it certainly was.

Al does an amazing job of taking personal anecdotes and stories from the Bible, even some you wouldn’t expect to find in a book like this, and looking at them in the context of God’s marriage to His people. I have seen Christian titles with separate study guides, but this has one included at the end (great value for money). I also loved the bibliography. It made me wonder if I should start an Amazon list just for books on marriage!

I would recommend this excellent read to anyone who appreciates writing and storytelling, whether married or single.

Wish I’d Read Much Earlier

“Answers to the Most Important Questions About the End Times” does what it says on the tin. Each chapter deals with a specific question. I’m really glad I received a free copy of this to review from Bethany House. I loved the way the author explained passages in Revelation or Daniel that I hadn’t completely understood. My only note of caution would be to check any unfamiliar Bible-verses against several translations.

Having said that, I really would recommend this book. The author’s explanations are thorough and uncomplicated. Whether you agree with his precise beliefs or not, he makes it very clear where his views have come from. Even those who aren’t Christians themselves but have Christian friends or relatives might find this interesting. I’d like to heartily thank the author and say I wish it had been available much earlier in my Christian life.

“Jesus Talked to me Today” Book-Review

“Jesus Talked to me Today” is a collection of over 40 short accounts of God moving powerfully in children’s lives. I was very glad to review this for Bethany House; there are some lovely stories in here. My favourites are the ones about the giant angels and the pink vanity set, but if I read it again, I would probably change my mind!

You’ll like this if you’re the sort of person who’s uplifted by other people’s stories of what God’s done for them. As you read, you could feel one of two things: Thankful and encouraged to ask God for similar displays of His power in your own life, or sad and discouraged about your situation. This book leaves the impression that even at your most broken, God is willing to come in at the eleventh hour and turn things around.