Sunday, February 7, 2016

Blue Ribbon Trail Ride (Review)

This review is for the book "Blue Ribbon Trail Ride" by Miralee Ferrell. This is book four in her Horses and Friends series. This series is written for young kids but I really enjoyed it! In this particular book, Kate wants to raise money for her autistic brother to go to camp. Her friends join in and they all decide to create a horse scavenger hunt to raise money. The planning and preparing is going great, until Kate's mom's antique jewelry box disappears - holding ALL the scavenger hunt money! The kids are officially on a search to find the thief.

I loved many things about this book. First of all, I loved that it was an easy read but it also has some very challenging vocabulary. I actually passed this book to my 6-year old daughter to read when I was done with it. It is great for building vocabulary and reading in context. Also, I loved that you can read this book without reading the rest of the series - but I am actually starting with book 1 in the series so that I can read all of them chronologically. Another thing about this book is that the family in this book lives out their faith but isn't overbearing or too cheesy. The parents in the book are great about teaching their kids responsibility and leadership as well as forgiveness and prayer. I think if you have a child between eight and fourteen or so, they would really enjoy this book. If you have a good reader, a younger child can read it with ease as well. Definitely recommending this series and want to read more by Ferrell in the future!

Thank you to Litfuse Publicity for a copy of the book in exchange for my honest review.

Friday, January 29, 2016

Rediscovering Discipleship (Review)

This review is for the book "Rediscovering Discipleship" by Robby Gallaty. For the past 18 months or more, discipleship has really been on my heart. It seems like I think about it all the time and I just really have this excitement and passion to do discipleship in our church, or small groups, or meet with our youth group members. There are a few reasons why I have held back on this, and they probably are not going to be something I lay out in the middle of a book review... That being said, I was right on Gallaty's wavelength throughout this book. Discipleship has become lost in the quest for evangelism. Numbers of baptisms in the church, numbers of visitors, numbers of new members, or prayers being said, or lives being recommitted. Those things are great, don't get me wrong, but what about the AFTER of all of that? Are people being discipled? If not, what is it all for? I was making notes and folding down pages all over this book. Gallaty has a great style of writing that makes it more like a conversation. Very easy to read and it was hard to put down. I would love to read more of his stuff, but until I do I can HIGHLY recommend this book, particularly if your church does not have any discipleship programs put into place.

Thank you to Cross Focused Review for a copy of the book in exchange for my honest review.

Mermaid Moon (Review)

This review is for the book "Mermaid Moon" by Colleen Coble. I have really enjoyed every Colleen Coble book that I have read in the past. This is the second book in the Sunset Cove series, but I wasn't able to read the first one and I could certainly follow along easily with this one.

In this book, Mallory Davis has stayed away from her home for fifteen years, but when her father dies suddenly, she goes home to figure out some things. She believes her father was murdered, and gets an old friend, Kevin, to help her investigate. Unfortunately, Kevin and Mallory have an awkward relationship because they were childhood sweethearts that didn't have a great ending to their time together. Pretty soon, Mallory is entangled in a situation where she is receiving death threats, as well as those around her. Finally they are able to solve the mystery surrounding her entire family.

This was a great story of suspense with a little romance thrown in there. Like I said, I love Coble's writing style, so I can basically recommend anything she has written.

Thank you to Litfuse Publicity for a copy of the book in exchange for my honest review.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Evangelicals Adrift (Review)

This review is for the book "Evangelicals Adrift" by Matthew Ferris. Ferris holds to the idea that evangelicals have a tendency to pick and choose what helps to advance the gospel, while sacramentalists choose to hold traditions and other writings to the same standard as scripture. What Ferris has found is that in recent years evangelicals are actually converting to sacramentalism by way of Orthodoxy or Catholicism. I actually had no idea this was a trend. The entire first portion of this book seemed somewhat like a different language to me because it was very detailed in regards to Catholic principles and traditions, and I have no experience with anything related to Catholicism. In fact, I had almost given up on understanding the book at all, but then I came to the section on sacraments - namely, baptism, the Eucharist, and confession. This section was incredibly intriguing and sincerely made me think. I think Ferris does a great job of writing this book by using scripture and not so much his own opinion. His whole point is that we need to get back to reading the Bible and using that for our ultimate authority, which I completely agree with. The only problem I had with this book is some of the scripture references were off. There were a couple of times that a scripture was written - just the reference - and when I tried to look it up I could not find it. One author that Ferris referenced stated that Paul wrote in the scriptures "else would your children be unholy" (p. 161) yet I searched and searched and could not find any translation of the Bible that had any such statement. At one point, Ferris references 1 Corinthians 11:23-26, and then in the next paragraph the verses 16 and 17 are referenced. I immediately turned to 1 Corinthians 11:16-17 and it did not match up. I did a little digging and it turned out that the verses 16 and 17 that were being referenced were in 1 Corinthians 10. These are minor editing issues and do not affect the book as a whole, in my opinion. I think this is a great book to make you think. Thank you to Cross Focused Reviews for a copy of the book in exchange for my honest review.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Thoughts on Baptism

I have been reading this book which goes really in depth in the study of evangelicalism and sacramentalism. Apparently in recent years, some Evangelicals have made the transition to Catholicism or Orthodoxy. The author goes through many differences between Evangelicals and Catholicism in particular, such as praying to Mary, confessing to a person rather than God, and using text other than scripture as the word of God. When the author started talking about baptism, I got very interested. We have some friends who believe in infant baptism, some friends who believe you must be baptized to be saved, some friends who believe if they are baptized, their whole family is saved, and some that believe you do not need to be baptized to be saved, but you do it as an outward sign of your repentance and commitment to God (I personally believe in the last option). What follows is from the author, Matthew Ferris. Whatever your viewpoint, I think this is a good topic to discuss and think about. I think you should look over scripture for yourself and decide what you believe. I enjoy a good debate and I also enjoy hearing why others believe differently from me, so this interests me, and my intent is not to offend anyone in this discussion. (Please forgive any mis-types as I typed this in quite a hurry and don't have time to re-read it at the moment.)

Excerpt from the book "Evangelicals Adrift" by Matthew Ferris.

In sacramentalist understanding, one enters the Church and is granted forgiveness of sins through the sacrament of baptism. The evangelical usually holds to a believer's baptism, or credo-baptism. One must profess faith in Christ to be a candidate for baptism. baptism presents a physical picture of the spiritual reality of death, burial, and resurrection with Jesus. "Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life." Romans 6:3-4. The picture of one going under the water accurately depicts death and the grace - our dying with Christ. 

Thomas Schreiner notes, "It is striking that there is no sustained discussion of baptism in any of the epistles, presumably because the NT authors were writing to those who were already believers to whom the significance of baptism was explained upon their conversion. When Paul does refer to baptism, he assumes that all believers are baptized. Hence, we cannot deduce from the infrequent references to baptism that baptism was unimportant." The concept of an unbaptized Christian is simply foreign to the New Testament. The extent to which evangelicals have failed to call attention to the importance of baptism as something obedient Christians should do demonstrates their failure.

Within sacramentalism, the importance of baptism is stressed, albeit at times to an outsized proportion. Sacramentalism practices infant baptism as both an entrance rite into the new covenant with God and as that which cleanses from sin. Indeed, in this view one cannot be saved apart from baptism. "Through baptism we are freed from sin and reborn as sons of God; we become members of Christ, are incorporated into the Church and made sharers in her mission." (Catechism of the Catholic Church, p. 342). The sacramental view ascribes profound accomplishments to baptism: regeneration itself, and cleansing the baptized one from the stain of sin.

How did the sacramental church move away from believers' baptism in favor of infant baptism? In the New Testament, we meet with no certain evidence of infant baptism. In the book of Acts, where we find various instances of baptism, it is always upon belief. After Peter's Pentecost sermon, "So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls." Acts 2:41. The Ethiopian eunuch, hearing Philip expound the gospel says, "See, here is water; what doth hinder me to be baptized?  And Philip said, If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest. And he answered and said, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God." (Acts 8:36-37). 

In Acts 10, Peter had been called to the house of Cornelius, a Roman centurion, who was a God-fearer, or a Gentile who attached himself to the Mosaic Law. After his gospel preaching, all who heard believed, causing Peter to ask, “Can anyone withhold water for baptizing these people, who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?” And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they asked him to remain for some days." Acts 10:47-48. Baptism obviously followed belief in both of these cases.

The Philippian jailer's conversion is sometimes cited as evidence of infant baptism, or of household baptism, but this can only be by inference: "And he took them the same hour of the night and washed their wounds; and he was baptized at once, he and all his family." Acts 16:33. Were there small children or infants in the family? It is conjecture to assume this, as nothing is stated in the text. In short, nothing in the New Testament demonstrates any evidence of infant baptism. Rather, baptism upon profession of faith is instead seen again and again.

New Testament scholar James D.G. Dunn comments, "It is one of the standing ironies of the diversity of Christian theology and practice that the chief means of accomplishing regeneration for so many centuries has had so little foothold in the New Testament, and has not clearly been encompassed even within the wide-ranging diversity of first-century Christian practice. For it has to be recognized that infant baptism can find no real support in the theology of baptism which any New Testament writer can be shown to espouse."

Tertullian favors a delay in baptism: "The delay of baptism is preferable; principally, however, in the case of little children." He goes on to indicate that it is better if those who come for baptism can themselves understand what they are entering into: "Let them 'come', then, while they are growing up; let them 'come' while they are learning, while they are learning whither to come, let them become Christians when they have become able to know Christ." Tertullian indicates an age of accountability, implying that it is better if people attain an age when they are themselves able to understand the faith.

The Augustinian concept of original sin dovetails with that of baptismal regeneration. If the stain of original sin is removed through baptism, as the Catechism notes, then it is evident why sacramentalism assigns such prominence to baptism. Stated differently, if baptism is absolutely necessary for salvation, then its importance becomes clear. A catena of scriptural references can be cited to show that salvation is conditioned upon faith in Jesus, rather than on an external act done on their behalf without their knowledge or consent, but evangelicals should know these. For an evangelical, moving to sacramentalism requires the paradigm shift in the basis of authority to accept the hierarchical church's redefinition of what baptism is, and what it imparts.

Does the New Testament teach that baptism is a requirement of salvation? Peter's plea to his hearers at Pentecost ends with the appeal, "And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit." (Acts 2:38). This passage is often cited as proof of the necessity of baptism. But Peter's insistence on repentance carries the implication of faith with it. To repent is to change one's mind, and the change of mind Peter pleads for is to believe that Jesus is the Messiah. Here baptism is in no way separated from faith, but accompanies it.

The other passage often brought forth is in 1 Peter 3:21 - Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ... Concerning this, Schreiner observes, "Peter immediately qualifies the statement that baptism saves. It does not save mechanically or externally as if there are magical properties in the water. Peter comments that the mere removal of dirt from the body does not bring salvation, demonstrating that the water itself does not save. Baptism is only saving if there is an appeal to God for a good conscience through the resurrection of Jesus Christ. The one receiving baptism also appeals to God for a good conscience, which means that he asks God to cleanse him of his sins on the basis of Christ's death and resurrection."

In  Corinthians 1:17, Paul states, "For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power." If baptism were an act that imparted new life, why would Paul not seek to baptize infants and children at every opportunity? As he writes later, "I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some." 1 Corinthians 9:22. 

On one side are those who insist, as sacramentalism does, that baptism is efficacious to save, to wash away sin, and to put one into the body of Christ. The fact that an infant cannot himself believe or exercise faith is entirely unimportant in this view. The parents are acting as proxies; their answers render as the infant's answer, their faith as the infant's faith. The practice that came to prevail of baptizing all infants led to a situation where faith is entirely unimportant; on the part of parents, or children, baptism was simply something one did as a member of a society dominated by the hierarchical church.

The deleterious effects of this are evident. It has emptied baptism of any of the meaning assigned to it in the New Testament. The identification with Christ in his death, burial, and resurrection is changed to a rite of initiation into the professing family of God. The looming question which sacramentalism must answer is this: If baptism is indeed effective in imparting new life, in washing away sin, in putting one into the church, how is it that so many people who have undergone infant baptism manifest no signs of divine life whatsoever? There are huge numbers of people who are considered part of the Roman Catholic Church or part of the Orthodox Church because they have undergone infant baptism, yet do not participate in the church or cannot be considered members of the church in any realistic way. The only conclusion is that the effectiveness of the sacrament has failed. 

Infant baptism is not limited to sacramentalism. High church Protestantism kept the practice, though its ministers changed the underlying meaning somewhat. Adherents to this draw parallels with circumcision as a rite of initiation into the covenant. Calvin and other magisterial reformers were something in agreement with Catholics on the church as a visible society of the faithful. Infant baptism was the initiation into this christened society. When pressed to explain exactly what the significance of infant baptism is, Protestants who hold to infant baptism equate it with infant dedication. None of these Protestants would insist that it removes sin, or imparts the life of Christ, and so it has a very different meaning from what the sacramental church affirms.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Ready to Return (Review)

This review is for the book "Ready to Return" by Ken Ham, with Jeff Kinley and research completed by Britt Beemer. I have always been a huge fan of Ken Ham. Although I have never read any books that he has written, I have seen him lecture many times and I follow his work with Answers in Genesis very closely. I trust what he has to say, so I was ready to read this book. This book is about bringing back the church's lost generation, and I feel very strongly that this is something we "older" Christians must focus on. As a person who has worked with youth in church for close to ten years, I am very passionate about these kids. I feel them falling away after high school. I see them leave and never come back. And I always question what we could have done differently for them. In this book, Ham covers research about faith and the basic foundational concepts of Christianity. It is appalling to me how little people know, or are being taught, or are studying on their own. It is a sad time, to be honest. In this book, Ham discusses some of the questions that people have about the Christian faith, and how to defend the correct answers. He discusses how people are being taught one thing (either from the pulpit, or from news articles, or textbooks, or teachers) and they cannot match it up to the Bible, so they believe the Bible to be trustworthy. If you read this book, a fire will be lit under you to help young Christians. Mentor them and disciple them so that they have that strong foundation that the Bible is 100% true. No errors. We can believe all of it. Help them with the answers so that when they come across questions, they can defend their beliefs. Teach them to ask the tough questions and research them. Equip them. The one and only thing I have to say about this book that is negative is that I felt like there was a lot of redundancy. I would read something and feel as though I had already read it, and it turned out I had - just a few pages back. I don't know if Ham is repeating things so that the reader knows how important it is, or if it was an oversight. I still highly recommend this book.

Thank you to Cross Focused Reviews for a copy of the book in exchange for my honest review.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Dinosaurs: Marvels of God's Design (Review)

This review is for the book "Dinosaurs: Marvels of God's Design" by Dr. Tim Clarey. I was extremely excited to read this book. I have always been very interested in the history of dinosaurs, although I admit I have not taken the time to really do a lot of in-depth research on the subject. This book is a wealth of knowledge. I mean, if you have been asked a question about dinosaurs and how they line up with scripture, and you ever had to admit that you did not know the answer, this is the book for you. The best thing about this book is the amazing pictures that go along with it. My kids are now begging me to take them to New York to see the Natural Museum of History! The book begins where it should... the beginning! The author discusses creation, the ark, and the flood. He talks about the basics of dinosaurs and explains about the discoveries that have been made in regards to these creatures. There are so many different families of dinosaurs, and he takes the time to go through each one. The book ends by explaining about dinosaur eating habits, behaviors, and their extinction. I will say that the book is not an "easy" read, for kids anyway. My kids (5 and 6) sat with me while I read highlights from each page, but the pictures are what really got them. I mean, let's face it - who doesn't love dinosaurs? This book is a hit from beginning to end. It's going right on my shelf so I can reference it whenever I need to. I highly recommend this book. I think it's important to be able to answer questions about the dinosaurs from a biblical perspective.

Thank you to Cross Focused Reviews for a copy of the book in exchange for my honest review.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

L is for Lighthouse Craft

I got this craft idea from No Time for Flash Cards.

Get a blue piece of construction paper and let your child color some waves on there. On the NTFFC blog she had her son put on some stickers that were fish and ocean sea life creatures, but we don't have any of those, so we just have waves.

Cut out a lowercase "l" from a white sheet of paper. Have your child glue it onto the blue sheet. Cut out a red triangle for the roof, and a yellow light shape. Glue them on in the appropriate places. Voila! You have a fancy "l" lighthouse!

Monday, January 11, 2016

M is for Mountain Craft

 I got this craft from one of my favorite blogs - No Time For Flash Cards. It's really simple.

Get a piece of blue construction paper for the background. Get a green piece of construction paper and let your child scribble all over it. Cut out the letter "M" shape and glue it onto the blue piece of paper. Cut out two white clouds and two white snow caps and glue them on in the appropriate places. Voila!

M is for Mountain!

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Beyond the Silence (Review)

This review is for the book "Beyond the Silence" by Tracie Peterson and Kimberley Woodhouse. In this book,we begin by reading an argument between Lillian and her grandfather. Lillian wants to travel, while her grandfather is completely against the idea. In fact, he says if she leaves, she can consider herself disowned. While that destroys her, she still knows she wants to strike out on her own. She accepts a nanny position in Angels Camp. Unfortunately, as soon as she arrives, she hears gossip about her new employer... and the fact that basically the entire town thinks he murdered his wife! His son saw what happened but has gone mute. So Woodward Colton (the man) and his son and housekeeper are very reclusive so they don't have to hear threats and jabs from those in town - even though Colton was tried and found innocent. It doesn't take long before things start happening. Attacks on the house and attacks on people make them think that perhaps the person who killed Colton's wife is still hanging around... but why?

This is a story full of emotion, especially when you read the little boy's version of events. The reader knows why he can't speak. It is a story full of suspense, because the reader also knows what the attacker is thinking throughout the story - and who it is.You are just waiting for everyone else to figure it out! And of course it has some romance in it, as Lillian and Colton fall in love. I think this story was great. It kept my attention and I couldn't wait to find out how everything was brought together in the end.

Thank you to Bethany House for a copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.