The War on Christmas, a New Leaf Publishing Group Launch Team Review

 Book Reviews, Celebration, Christ, Church, Faith, Holidays  Comments Off on The War on Christmas, a New Leaf Publishing Group Launch Team Review
Oct 302013
 

I was given a copy of The War on Christmas edited by Bodie Hodges for the purposes of this review. All opinions are mine and mine alone, no other compensation was received. I was not required to write a positive review.

 

Christmas.

Growing up I never realized that there could be so much controversy and raw emotion of the mention of celebrating such a thing. We always celebrated with a tree, presents, decorations, and a great meal. We would go to church and participate in the services and it was always great when we got to do the readings in the preceding Sundays for the lighting of the Advent candle on the wreath. It was a time filled with wonder and even some mystery.

I was an adult and married when I learned that more than one group of people chose not to celebrate Christmas at all. After doing some research, I wasn’t sure what to believe. I felt that both sides to the argument over whether or not to celebrate Christmas had some valid points and both sides were taking scriptures out of context to prove their point. I hate proof-texting.  And it really is bothersome when it is hard to draw your own conclusion because both sides are so compelling.

So, it was with great excitement that I got to review The War on Christmas, edited by Bodie Hodges. This book takes a good hard look at Christmas and the controversies surrounding it.

The War on Christmas takes a good long look at the origins of our modern celebration of the holiday, where did these particular decorations come from? What really happened the night Christ was born? What are the Greek translations of the words used in Scripture and do they line up with our modern words? Did the church hijack pagan celebrations in an attempt to “Christianize” them? Are we expressly forbidden from celebrating Christmas, or do we have the freedom to do so? Do we worship at the alter of consumerism or do we keep our focus on Christ, his Birth and ultimately the reason He was born? Do our Christmas celebrations point to the Savior, or do they point to self?

The War on Christmas is very easy to read and follow along with the major points. The text is set up in three columns, which I did find a bit choppy for the speed at which I read, but it works very well for the format of the book. The pages are a muted shade of pale blue and are thicker than most pages in other books. The book is full of gorgeous pictures which really add to the points being made. This would make an excellent gift book due to the design of it alone.  This book would make a superb gift for a pastor, teacher, lay person, and seeker. I would also highly suggest reading this book to understand the theological implications of Christmas and the reasons why you have chosen to celebrate or not.

Personally, we came to the conclusion years ago that Christmas is fine. It is fine to take a dedicated time to focus on the birth of our Savior, to dwell on what He has done for us from Creation to the Cross and beyond. Christmas is a great time of year to reach out and witness to our neighbors and point them to Christ and the reasons He came for us. It opens doors that may otherwise be closed to us. However, I won’t condemn those who have chosen to have no part in commemorating the Savior’s birth. As long as you have researched it for yourself, prayed over what you have found and are ready to give solid reasons for why you believe that. For us, it came down to the heart issue, as it should for everyone. We couldn’t find any place in scripture where it says not to commemorate our Savior’s birth or to do so. The Israelites had holidays commemorating their history (aside from the Biblically commanded feasts, they celebrate Hanukah among others, as a way to remember where they’ve come from, the miracles they were given and to celebrate their heritage), and as Christians I see no reason not to do the same. If it weren’t for Christ being born, none of us would be having this argument anyway.

 

Sep 252013
 

The following is a review of Rufus and Ryan Go to Church by Kathleen Long Bostrom, illustrated by Rebecca Thornburgh brought to you by Created for Home and Fly By Marketing. All opinions are mine and mine alone, no other compensation was received other than a free copy of the book and the opportunity to do a giveaway, stated to appease the FTC’s rules on bloggers and material connections. Affiliate links are not being used in the body of this post on the links for where to find Rufus and Ryan Go To Church thanks to my state’s new law on affiliate commissions. I do have a few affiliate links in my side bar that just earn me points and perks if they are used, not money.

 

Are you looking for a way to introduce your littles to how to conduct themselves in a church service and what church is like? Well, look no further and go out and get a copy of Rufus and Ryan Go To Church by Kathleen Long Bostrom.

Ryan and Rufus are a boy and stuffed monkey duo who attend church with Ryan’s parents. This book explains about coming to church, how we are to listen and be quiet, participate in the service and how we can look forward to being with other like minded believers every week.

I loved this board book. Ryan is an obedient child when he is told to hush by his mom, he participates in the song service, listens during the sermon and is friendly to others in the congregation and is excited to get to return the following week. The church in the book keeps the children in the auditorium with their parents for the entirety of the service, which I found impressive and really appreciate as we keep our children in the service with us.

I really, really, really like this book as a way to show our younger children their expected behavior during the service in a very friendly, non-overbearing way. I think that Rufus and Ryan Go to Church (and the other Rufus and Ryan book[s]) would make a great first or second birthday gift for young children in your congregation.

Rufus and Ryan Go To Church!

In Rufus and Ryan Go to Church!, four-year-old Ryan explains to his stuffed monkey, Rufus, what is happening as they attend church on Sunday morning. He lets Rufus know when it’s time to sing and to pray and to be quiet. Author Kathleen Bostrom brings a delightfully light touch to the text as she provides an introduction to an experience that most children are exposed to long before they understand why. And children everywhere will relate to the idea of explaining their surroundings to their favorite companions as they go about their daily activities.

This is just one of the first titles in a new series of inspirational books for preschoolers.

About the Rufus and Ryan

Rufus and Ryan is a new series of books for preschoolers, featuring Ryan, an energetic little boy, and his stuffed monkey Rufus. Basic Christian and church concepts serve as the foundation of the series, with an additional focus on character traits and development. The text is presented in young Ryan’s voice as he teaches Rufus about the concepts he is learning himself. Each story is about 150 words, using age-appropriate vocabulary and themes.

Also available now, Rufus and Ryan Say Their Prayers
 
WHO is this book for?
– Children ages 2 to 5 and their parents, grandparents
– These faith-based board books make great gifts during any season: Christmas, Easter, baby
– Toddler birthday
– Gift from grandparents
– Gift for your child’s Sunday School teacher of children’s minister
– Perfect for church nurseries, Sunday school classes, preschools, and church worship settings
About the Author

Kathleen Long Bostrom is a published children’s author in both the Christian and trade markets. She has a Master’s in Christian Education and a Doctorate of Ministry in Preaching, and she has worked in children’s ministry for many years. Kathy and her husband, Greg, have three grown children and live in Illinois.

 
About the Illustrator 

Rebecca Thornburgh began illustrating children’s books full-time in 1996 and today has almost 100 books to her name. Rebecca’s vibrant watercolors have been showcased in previous Ideals titles, including the new edition of The Story of Christmas. She lives in Philadelphia with her husband and two daughters.

Rufus and Ryan Go to Church! 

Written by: Kathleen Long Bostrom

Illustrated by: Rebecca Thornburgh

Publisher: Ideals Books

Board book
$7.99
Available at IdealsBooks.com

Now, if you want to win a copy for yourself, fill out the handy dandy Rafflecopter form below! Winner will be chosen on 10/4/2013! Open to residents of the US only (or if you have a US forwarding agent).

a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

 

Aug 062013
 

I’ve gone to the effort of preparing the most wonderful pot roast, complete with tomatoes and carrots and potatoes, a side of steamed veggies and a wonderful desert. You pour hours into your meal, it is Have you ever made your family a great meal? I mean a meal that legends are made of? When it is finally done, you are excited, and you call the family in to eat.

The family gathers, and your picky eater decides to sit there and stare at her plate while everyone else is partaking of this wonderful, nutritious meal.

The meal progresses, the youngest still has yet to take a bite. Of anything. You get frustrated because of all the work you put into it, plus you know that your child will be very hungry later if she doesn’t eat now. You know there is nothing wrong with the food, it is very nutritious and it is what your child needs to grow and be healthy. And so you begin to be angry. You try and gush over how wonderful dinner is. That doesn’t work so you start telling your sweetums how much they need to eat to not starve to death before they are permitted to have desert. She has resorted to glaring at you at this point. And now things really start to go downhill. You try every trick you can think of and insist on her taking at least one “no thank you bite” to prove to herself that she really may end up liking it.

And so, war is waged around the dinner table at a time that is supposed to be full of fellowship and peace. Eventually peace talks resume, and everyone feels like they have been wrung through the wringer and are the losers in the situation. Sweetums is now crying hysterically, you are furious and feel like a horrible parent. Sweetums wants nothing more than to escape the table and go live her life the way she pleases, you want to force her to see reason. And yet, all that anyone can agree on is that everyone is angry; stubbornness and pride have gotten in the way.

Later in the evening, after dinner is put away and the family has finally moved on to other pursuits, your youngest comes to you complaining that they are hungry and asks for food. Upon asking her why she wants to eat now, she says she is hungry. You point out that you made food available earlier and she chose not to eat it, so her being hungry is her fault. And yet she still blames you for it. You know you are not at fault, you made a great meal that most of the family partook of earlier (and then they jumped to help you with the cleanup), she chose not to eat when it was available. And yet you still feel like a horrible person because your child is hungry.

Does this sound familiar to you? This scenario is played out countless times in homes and churches across the land on a regular basis.

Wait, did I just say churches?

I did. Now before you think I’ve lost it, let me explain.

I’ve been in several churches in my life. And it never fails that some people start to complain that they aren’t being “spiritually fed” at the church. It is a slow start, some comments here, some comments there, and then it moves to grumbling and complaining. Next thing you hear, people complaining that they aren’t getting “spiritually fed” despite the fact the Bible is preached from the pulpit and is doctrinally sound. People start just not showing up for services as they are trying out new churches where they claim they can be fed spiritually. When asked what it is they need to be “fed spiritually” a lot of these people are hard pressed to answer. So they leave, and the cycle starts again after they have settled into a new church and the novelty of a new approach to services wears off. They feel something lacking and figure they aren’t being spiritually fed in this church either.

The starving congregants have a lot in common with my picky eater. Food is made available for both, yet both refuse to partake of it for one reason or another. And then they blame others for their hunger when it could have been avoided altogether if they would have partaken.

We live in a miraculous time in history. At what other time did we have available not only our local congregations for corporate worship, the Bible in our language, a large choice of Bible studies that have already been written, a myriad of books written for the edification of believers on all sorts of topics that pertain to the Christian life. We have blogs we can read, podcasts to listen to and sermons to watch online for our edification, to learn new truths and to help us study on our own.

Yet if we choose not to use what is available to us, we will starve. Even going to church on Sunday for a few hours will not be enough to sustain us, so we will feel the lack. We (collectively) end up blaming others for our lack, when really, isn’t it our fault?

Who is responsible for your consumption of the Bible? Is it the pastor at your church? Is it your elders? Or ultimately, is it you? Do you read your Bible on your own? Do you take the time to study it? Do you seek out and listen to sermons from all over the world (how great is technology now?), read books to help you in your walk? Are you involved in service? Are you an active participant in the buffet of all that is so easily available to help you in your faith, or are you being spiritually anorexic? Consuming just enough church to not die, but be very ill spiritually? What can you do about it? Changing churches is probably not the answer (disclaimer here, assuming of course your church isn’t teaching false doctrine or spreading lies, then it is time to find a new congregation that embraces truth.), changing yourself and your approach to your faith is.

So, how about it? Are you being spiritually anorexic, or are you partaking of the nutritious offerings so easily available to you?

Oct 012012
 

The occult is unfortunately a very present entity in our lives. At least in the area we happen to live in. It seems to permeate nearly every segment of society and it has gotten to the point where we hardly notice it anymore. As Christians, that is something that needs to change. We need to better understand what the occult is, how it operates, the many facets of occult practice and what we can do about it.

A good resource to help us in this endeavor is Escaping the Cauldron by Kristine McGuire and newly published by Charisma House. Kristine is a former witch, medium and ghost hunter who has since repented.

In Escaping the Cauldron Kristine explains the different terms used in the occult, explains what is done, why it is done and yet doesn’t glorify it. She simply explains how one could end up down that road, what truly happens while being on that journey and offers hope that one can come out of that lifestyle. This book did a great job in educating me more about what the occult is, how it is embraced by so many people and even as to how it has infiltrated the church. Yes, there are those who call themselves Christian Witches and think nothing is wrong with it. She uses scripture to back herself up and explains how she has come down on her positions very clearly.

I honestly think that this is a book that every adult must read to have their eyes opened to the world that exists around them. And if you have a high schooler who is mature enough to handle it, I highly suggest that they read it also and have discussion with you about it. This book should be read by every pastor and anyone over a ministry that reaches out to people in the world. It will help you understand their position, how they got there and will aid you in reaching out to them with the Truth.

After I started reading this book, it was really driven home to me about how the spiritual world can work. I received this book and the day after I started reading it, I got tons of emails for horoscope readings, tarot cards and from mediums in thankfully my spam file (which I do check on a regular basis). I had never received that kind of email before, even in my spam box. It was very disconcerting to see the correlation.

I received a a copy of Escaping the Cauldron by Kristine McGuire from Glass Road Media Management for the purposes of this review. All opinions are mine and mine alone, and no other compensation was received.

Zombie Church, A Review

 Book Reviews, Church, Litfuse  Comments Off on Zombie Church, A Review
Oct 062011
 

About Zombie Church:

A creative, entertaining approach to resurrecting the undead church.

There is something missing in the church today. Stuck in a rut of routines and rituals, the church is caught up in doing what it is “supposed to do” but is lacking the true essence of what it is supposed to provide: life. Real faith–and a real relationship with Jesus–is not about playing by the rules, attending services, and praying before meals. Real faith is more than religion.

Believing there is a way to breathe life back into the church, Tyler Edwards adopts a contemporary and entertaining metaphor–zombies–to highlight and challenge the problematic attitude of today’s believers.

Written for the discouraged, disenfranchised, and anyone unsatisfied with their same-old church routine, Zombie Church challenges readers to turn away from hollow religious practices, which characterize “zombie Christianity,” and turn toward a radical relationship with Jesus.

While other books have addressed legalism in the church, this is the only book that effectively capitalizes on a popular entertainment genre in order to diagnose and correct the problem. Realizing that even his own church is part of that problem, Edwards has written an accessible and often humorous book that will help believers change the Spirit-draining (or life-draining) habits that stop them from achieving a full, fulfilling life in Christ. Order a copy here.

Link to buy the bookhttp://www.amazon.com/dp/0825424593/ref=as_li_ss_til?tag=sprightly-20&camp=213381&creative=390973&linkCode=as4&creativeASIN=0825424593&adid=1XBB9CNE5N30WACVQ3DX

About Tyler Edwards:

Tyler Edwards is the lead pastor at Cornerstone Christian Church in Joplin, Missouri, where he works to help people learn how to live like Jesus, love like Jesus, and look like Jesus—so they carry out the mission of Jesus to the world. He graduated from Ozark Christian College with bachelor’s degrees in both Biblical Literature and Christian Ministry. He has written articles for Lookout Magazine, spoken at various campus ministry events in Missouri, and served overseas in Mbale, Uganda.

Tyler loves cheesy horror films. He is particularly fond of movies like Dawn of the DeadThe Signal, and 28 Days Later, where zombies run wild and threaten to infect an entire town. Connect with Tyler on Facebook.

My take on the book:

What do you imagine when you think of zombies? For me, I think of evil, of something not edifying and a genre of books and movies that really have no place in the Christian’s life. Never would I picture the church in the context of zombies.

Tyler Edwards, however, thinks that the church is full of them. Not the flesh eating, un-dead creatures prevalent in today’s horror films and books. But of people who go through the motions, not making an effort and turning the Church into something that isn’t living, breathing or being relevant. I will agree, that the American Church has grown increasingly apathetic in recent years especially and some hold to ideas that are not biblical in the least. I have been in several like that over the years. I’m sure a lot (if not most of us) have been to a church like that at some point in our lives.

This book does have several good points. Yes, a good many churches in this country are apathetic and dying. They aren’t reaching the lost, and really aren’t dong what we are called to do (love God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength Mark 12;30).

To an extent, this book is just preaching to the choir. And a very limited one at that. With the reference to zombies, I’m not sure that most would be apt to pick up and read this book. I was leery to do so as I don’t feel that is a genre that deserves my attention with my worldview and I’m sure that a lot of others will be turned off by the title alone. There are many other books on the market today addressing the sins of the church, and this just adds to it. At least Edwards took the final few chapters to say what he thinks the solution is unlike some other books on the market. I would add to his solution of basically loving on people and being the hands and feet of Christ that we do need to hold ourselves and each other accountable. As Christian brothers and sisters, we do need to hold each other accountable for our choices and do call each other out on things that we observe to be wrong. That would also help to keep us from slipping down the slope of laziness (hey, someone else will go and do that….) to apathy (as iron sharpens iron…Proverbs 27:17).

You don’t have to take my word for it, go see what others on this blog tour have to say for themselves here.

The publisher is sponsoring a $50 Amazon.com giveaway!

To enter all you have to do is send a tweet (using @litfuse) about Zombie Church or share about it on Facebook!

If you tweet we’ll capture your entry when you use @litfuse. If you share it on Facebook or your blog, just email us and let us know (info@litfusegroup.com). Easy.

Not sure what to tweet/post? Here’s an idea:

TWEET THIS: Zombie Church by Tyler Edwards – a fair-minded & tenderhearted critique of the churchhttp://ow.ly/6Nv05@litfuse RT for $50 to @amazon

FACEBOOK THIS: Don’t miss Edwards – a fair-minded and tenderhearted critique of the church. http://litfusegroup.com/blogtours/text/13424384 Written for the discouraged, disenfranchised, and anyone unsatisfied with their same-old church routine, Zombie Church challenges readers to turn away from hollow religious practices, which characterize “zombie Christianity,” and turn toward a radical relationship with Jesus. Share this for a chance at $50 to Amazon.com

I was given a copy of Zombie Church by Tyler Edwards by the Litfuse Publicity Group in exchange for my reading it and posting a review. All opinions are mine and mine alone and no other compensation was received..