“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.

Everlasting Father

My dad’s a Scrabble champion. He makes the best apple crumble in the world. He talks to me and takes an interest in my life; I hope I do the same to him. I’m very grateful to still have him around, but I realise some children don’t have a close relationship with their fathers. Sometimes I don’t know what to pray for people who’ve lost their dads, except I know from the Bible that God is a Father to the fatherless, so I ask Him to be a Father to them – to somehow make up for all they’re missing out on. A friend once told me about a woman whose husband died, and in all the practical ways her husband would have provided for her, God met her needs. He’s a good Husband and Father.

If you’re a Christian and a parent, you can model God’s character to your children by loving them; by being there for them when they’re in a mess; by being generous with your time and resources; by being people of integrity.

“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on His shoulders. And He will be called Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6).

A Time of Remembering

This weekend is special to me. I can stand with other Christians as the Bible is read in the open-air, as we remember Jesus and His journey to the cross, but even more important, I can remember that I’m His. It’s personal. When Jesus asks us to be ‘In remembrance of Him’, I believe He would want our hearts to dwell on His presence – the tremendous privilege of being able to spend time with Him.

Isn’t that why He did it? So that impure, unclean people like me, so unworthy and unfit to be seen by a pure and holy God, could come to Him and find our rest? Come to Him as we are and breathe a sigh of relief, knowing He took the punishment for our unloveliness so we wouldn’t have to?

Because Jesus took that punishment, God can look at us. We don’t have to cower away, but can linger in the presence of the heavenly King – our Father the King! Once, Jesus couldn’t rely on His friends to stay with Him for even one hour; now His true worshippers can sing about resting in His presence, not rushing away.

Jesus went to the cross despite Peter, James and John failing to stay with Him. He didn’t need heavy-eyed humans in order to do God’s will, but we need Him – always, and His work on the cross has made a way, the only way, for us to get to know God. We could resist; sadly many do, or we could lean in to what He has for us. Saying yes to Jesus, trusting Him fully with our lives – it takes a simple, childlike faith to do that.

And when we have the faith to say yes, Lord, You died on my behalf, then we have something to look forward to! Like the child of a millionaire, you or I become an heir: An inheritor of God’s promises and a co-heir with Jesus, who’s unashamedly our Brother. We belong! We have a place in God’s family, but that’s not the end; not the happy ever-after. Instead, it’s a new beginning! It’s not just a metaphor when Christians talk about being baptised into Christ’s death, and being buried with Him when we go underwater. Asking God’s forgiveness and undergoing baptism is a burial of the old self, and the start of life as a new creation. Now every day, we can count ourselves dead to sin and alive to God.

I heard a story of when King George was still on the throne. Some children stood expectantly with a man and his dog. The man barked a command; it was always the same. “Rex? Die for the king!” The dog threw himself to the ground. However much the children poked and prodded, there was no sign of life. But as soon as the owner clicked his fingers, Rex sprang to his feet! We can count ourselves dead to sin. We can die for our King! And when He snaps His fingers, when He calls on us, we can be ready for complete obedience.

Obeying God wouldn’t be possible without getting to know Him, and the way to get to know Him was opened for us that dark day when Jesus laid down His life on a cross.

* * *

Thanks to Bonnie Gray, whose 7 OneWordLent prompts inspired this post, and to Rex the dog of course.

Joy in the Midst

Today is December 17th. 10 years ago, my church-family had just eaten a Christmas dinner. I came back home, but that light-and-fluffy Christmas feeling was the last thing on my mind. I was thinking about Christmas 2004 – a special one because my uncle and his family came for lunch. 6 months later, after a battle with cancer, my uncle was gone. 17 December was exactly 6 months after he died, and I sat there wondering what comfort I could offer his family. That was the day I wrote this song:
Last thing at night, Christmas Eve;
Excited children unable to sleep,
But she is rememb’ring Christmas last year,
Spent with an uncle no longer here:
She’s filled with love and compassion,
As she thinks of a card with a missing name –
A boy fatherless, a new widow,
And what can she find to give them?
The words of her pastor ring in her ears, spoken in these last weeks,
About joy in the midst of unhappiness; that’s what she wants them to know:
A joy that comes from peace with God, and peace with God only because
In the small town of Bethlehem, a Saviour was born to us.

Peace on earth, peace on earth!
Goodwill to men, on whom His favour rests:
Peace on earth, peace on earth!
Hope to the weary, bereaved, and distressed
.

You may be sat, listening,
Wond’ring why someone would write such a song,
But someday you may be in the same place,
Pond’ring a loved one you cannot embrace:
I hope – with love and compassion –
That even though things can’t be the same,
The truth of Christmas – the baby in the manger –
Will take on a sweeter meaning:
The words of the Bible will ring in your ears; tell you afresh of God’s love,
Healer of hearts and the Bread of Life; that’s who I want you to know:
The One who brings us peace with God, and peace with God only because
In the small town of Bethlehem, a Saviour was born to us.

Peace on earth, peace on earth!
Goodwill to men, on whom His favour rests:
Peace on earth, peace on earth!
Hope to the weary, bereaved, and distressed
.

Jesus is the Saviour,
And I would encourage you – while you have time –
To meet Him, love Him, cling to Him;
Don’t be robbed of your joy.

* * *

Bonnie’s OneWordAdvent focus for this week is joy, and that’s what I want to pass on to you: That you can be going through the most awful of circumstances, you can be in the most unhappy place, but you can still have the joy of knowing you’re right with God – of knowing that this Jesus, whose birth we celebrate on Christmas Day, came into the world to bridge the gap between you and a holy God, so that you could know Him personally. That’s something to be joyful about (whether it’s a loud celebratory kind of joy or a quieter, more reflective one), so I wish you a joyful, Christ-filled Christmas.

“Atlas Girl” Sequel: “Making it Home” Book-Review

Emily offered her Facebook-friends a free copy of “Making it Home” in exchange for an online review. Having reviewed “Atlas Girl” for Revell last year, I was interested to read the next instalment.

Sadly, I didn’t enjoy the sequel nearly as much. The parts I most enjoyed were those that were others-focused. Since the days of watching “Home and Away” as a child, I’ve been interested in foster care, so I loved reading about Emily and Trent’s fostering experience, and I liked the ‘Daughter’ theme that ran through the book, but the spotlight was frequently on insecurities I felt she already covered in the prequel. It’s a great shame more wasn’t made of how The Lulu Tree came into being. As a founder, Emily could probably tell the story better than most, and it seems deserving of more than just the end of this book.

I’d recommend Emily’s memoirs if you’re a reflective sort of person, and she puts in enough backstory that you can read “Making it Home” as a standalone book, without having read “Atlas Girl”.

31 Jesus-Benefits: Meeting Every Need

“Seek first God’s kingdom and what God wants. Then all your other needs will be met as well” (Matthew 6:33).

Day 28 and originally, I thought of financial provision, but I’ll widen it instead to give thanks for:

The way God provides for His people.

Because it’s not limited to financial provision: God wants to meet every need – to set the lonely in families (Psalm 68:6); be a Husband to the widow (Isaiah 54:4-5); a Father to the fatherless (Psalm 68:5), and yes, also to provide finances (Malachi 3:10). We can’t look exclusively to one person to meet our needs. They won’t always be able to. We saw earlier in the month that only God is forever and never disappoints. How does that make you feel?

“My God will use His wonderful riches in Christ Jesus to give you everything you need” (Philippians 4:19).

* * *

As a thank-you for being a reader who’s supported Write31Days, you could enter the Dayspring.com giveaway to win a $500 shopping spree on their website. It’s open till the end of the month.

31 Jesus-Benefits: A Perfect Father

“If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31).

Day 18 and I appreciate having:

A perfect Father, who delights in my wellbeing. As Melanie wrote in her post earlier this week, He’s for us. He’s got our best interests at-heart, and He knows better than we do what those are. It’s awesome to think that if something’s within His good plan for my life, nothing will hold Him back from accomplishing it.

“What are mere mortals that You should think about them, human beings that You should care for them? Yet You made them only a little lower than God and crowned them with glory and honour” (Psalm 8:4-5).

* * *

And here it is again – that link to the Dayspring.com $500 giveaway, if you want to enter as a thank-you for supporting Write31Days.

Absolutely Stunning: “Forgiven” Book-Review

(Interrupting my Write31Days just briefly to tell you about this book. When I signed up to review it for Bethany House, I really hoped I’d be selected, and they obliged by giving me a free copy.)

Terri’s autobiographical account of how a tragic school shooting rocked her family is a compelling one. She has you right from the prologue, and more than once, she’ll use a chapter’s final sentence to give a teaser about the next one. Great writing.

“Forgiven” is an apt title. This is the best book on forgiveness I’ve ever read, and if you want to learn more about Terri’s family, you can find her daughter-in-law’s story in “One Light Still Shines”. While it’s impossible to imagine how I would respond in Terri’s situation, I feel honoured that she would take readers on her own journey. Terri says, “Survival is not the only word starting with S.” She writes about surrender, but I can think of a third one: Terri shone through the pages of her story. It was an inspiration to read.

Lessons from Whom? “Dear Mary” Book-Review

If you’ve read this blog for a while, you’ll know I enjoy reviewing books. I’ve recently received a free copy of Sarah Jakes’ latest from Bethany House in exchange for an honest review.

The title is “Dear Mary: Lessons from the Mother of Jesus for the Modern Mom”, but as I read, I wondered whose life I was supposed to be learning from. The author seems to spend the majority of the book discussing her own life and family-situation. Before you’re 2 chapters in, she’s telling you about the memoir she’s already written, should you want to study her life in even greater detail!

I did like some of the thoughts she shared on parenthood and on the life of Christ, but if you’re expecting to learn something new about Jesus’ mother, “Dear Mary” is the wrong place to go.

Very Like a House Group: “The Beauty of Grace” Book-Review

Imagine for a minute that friends from all over the globe have gathered in your lounge (there probably aren’t enough chairs). There’s Joy Forney, the one who lives in Uganda; Annie Downs, who turns 35 this year (like me) and lives in Nashville; Kristen Strong, whose daughter’s accident gives her authority to write on sacrifice; Maggie Whitley, who’s focused on Compassion; Emily Freeman, author of “A Million Little Ways” and more; Holley Gerth, the one you feel like telling all your problems to, to name a few. You’ve handed out the cookies and mugs of coffee, picked up your pad of paper to make notes, and you go round the room asking each one to share their thoughts. Very like a house group your church might have midweek, and just as in a house group you’re faced with different personalities, you are here too. Perhaps you’ll like the hard-hitting style of Melanie Shankle, who maintains it’s too easy to sit on your couch and let life pass you by, or you might prefer a gentler voice – someone you sense has endured through tough times.

‘Stories of God’s love from today’s most popular writers’ is a lofty tagline. Really it’s a selection by a bunch of folks you will have heard of if you regularly visit the (in)Courage website. I would have preferred it if the contributors’ bios had been at the tops of their first posts. It would have given Sara Frankl’s added poignancy if readers could have seen at a glance that her illness was over and she was now with the Lord, but overall, I would recommend “The Beauty of Grace”. Many of its writers are familiar to me. It’s what my mum would call a ‘Coffee table book’ – one you can dip in and out of, and keep going back to … and I might do just that.