Saturday, September 30, 2017

What Is the Bible?

   Once again, here is a book that did not lure me in of its own power or weight or merit, or even cover. I read this book because of controversy - the controversy and debate around the person of Rob Bell and authors like him. A little while ago I reviewed one of his earlier books, Love Wins. You can read my post by clicking here.

   "What is the Bible?" is not a question that I would consider "safe" for a number of different reasons. It's a question that sparks conversation and makes people think. It's a question that brings people to ideas and conclusions that will inevitably differ and disagree one from the other, from the other, from the other. Rob Bell does this in such a way that I am enveloped in questions, rather than answers. I am overloaded with wonder rather than conclusion, idea rather than opinion, suggestion rather than hard-and-fast rule. He writes in such a way that leaves my thoughts fluid, shifting, dancing (Mennonite-Brethren-heritage-say-what?), and open to change.

   As a child of Mennonite-background parents and grandparents, where dancing was once strictly forbidden, that may be a very terrible metaphor. But that was then, and this is now.

   That was then, this is now, and who is to say that the defensive, angry, debating reaction to Rob Bell's perspective won't change in much the same way in the years to come? Perhaps it will be gradual, over many years. Perhaps not at all. Perhaps some parts will come to be accepted with open arms, other parts discarded in search of further truth...

   That is the way of the world, isn't it? The world is never static, always changing. I am not suggesting that the Bible itself should be open to change - having a closed canon is not a bad thing. The thing that could be open to change is our opinion, perception, and interpretation of this "ancient library of poems, letters, and stories".

   Bell is painting a picture - he is hand-crafting a masterpiece of colour, wonder, and beauty with the black and white ink of words on pages, and it can "transform the way you think and feel about everything". That's the wonder of thoughtful art, and the wonder of what Rob Bell keeps doing with thoughts and words and questions and ideas. This book takes a look at the Bible and talks about how it should be read and understood. He talks about context and history and origins. What is the Bible? is a book about questions:

   - Why should we bother with such an ancient book?
   - Isn't it all myths and fairy tales?
   - What about all the violence?
   - And the contradictions?
   - Isn't it dangerous to take seriously?
   - Isn't it only for Christians?
   - Is it inspired?
   - Can it help us?
   - Just what is the Bible?

   It's all about the questions, and not just these. And rather than becoming all about the answers, Rob Bell has an incredible way of remaining in the sea of questioning. Instead of pretending that he has it all figured out, he is content to sit with the questions - the hard questions - and listen for the wealth of answers that could be.

   --Elise T--

For more information on What Is the Bible? by Rob Bell, visit our website here.

Monday, September 18, 2017

"What do I get a new believer??"

     We get this question ALL THE TIME. So in order to make it easier for you (the customer) and for us, I've found several books for kids all the way to adults, to help you and your friend, parent, brother, grandmother, uncle, and your cousin twice removed into a better understanding of Christianity!

Let's start with the youngest:

     This book is great! It has so many helpful and useful pages to help your littlest understand this simple and huge idea that Christianity offers: that Jesus LOVES us and wants us to understand His word. From the serious questions that even we adults struggle with, to knock knock jokes, and why are there so many translations, this book covers the basics.

For more information on Bible Basics for Kids by Terry Glaspey, visit our website here.

     This book is a-w-e-s-o-m-e. It's hard to summarize because this book covers SO much. Champ Thornton describes to adults that his purpose is that kids will love, trust, and follow Jesus. He also says "I hope this will encourage young readers to keep on learning about his Word, his gospel, his church, and life in his world".
     I'd say the approximate age group that would enjoy this book and find it helpful would be ages 8-14. It'd also be helpful for parents and teachers for either devotions or discussions.

For more information on The Radical Book for Kids: Exploring the Roots and Shoots of Faith by Champ Thornton, visit our website here

For our teenagers:

     Just flipping through this book, I would DEFINITELY recommend it to Youth Pastors who want to give their "newly accepted" students a little extra help. Scott Rubin has done a great job at making this book "cool". It looks pleasing to the eye and it's written in a language that our youth will understand and accept. In the second section, Rubin talks about how there are no perfect Christians and he answers the (possible) question of "how can I be sure I'm a Christian"? In the very last section, Rubin goes through and answers the questions like what is baptism, communion, etc. But most of the book would be a walk through of how the life of your teen is going to change. A great little book!

For more information on The Essential Guide to My New Life With Jesus by Scott Rubin, visit our website here.

Two things about this book: each "chapter" or question is followed by a Bible verse that has to do with, or answers, the question being asked, and Greg Johnson's answers only cover 1-2 pages. And he covers all the FAQs that teens are facing or asking, or their friends are asking. This book would be good all on its own or would be a good pairing with the book above.

For more information on If I Could Ask God Just One Question by Greg Johnson, visit our website here.

And lastly, for the adults:

    This book is a great option for someone who has just accepted Christ as their Lord and Savior. The introduction celebrates the decision of your loved one (or yourself) and then acts as a basic guide for how your life is going to change. Alex Early says this in his introduction for the book: "One of the early themes of this book is the simple fact that life with God is not always fun. Abundant? Yes. Fun? Not necessarily". I'm happy he addresses this out front. Being a follower of Christ does not mean that life gets automatically easier. Likely, it will get harder, but fundamentally sweeter. 
     Besides a guide for entering into this new life, Early goes through a bunch of topics that will come up eventually. For example: identiy, prayer, obedience, baptism, church membership and money. And each chapter ends with "questions to consider" for personal or group study.
For more information on The New Believer's Guide to the Christian Life: What will Change, What Won't, and Why it Matters by Alex Early, visit our website here.

     This book is also a great option for someone who has just accepted the Lord. I'd recommend getting this book and The New Believer's Guide to the Christian Life together, as they both talk about basic concepts but talk about different topics. James Sire says in his introduction, "The chapters are organized around a simple scheme: creation, the fall, redemption, new life in Christ, and glorification." Also, in this expanded edition, he adds a chapter on the person of Jesus.
     An all around good introductory book. Easy to read, not too deep; a great starting point. Each chapter concludes with "questions for reflection" for either personal or group study.

For more information on Beginning with God: A Basic Introduction to the Christian Faith by James W. Sire, visit our website here.

--Elise F--

Monday, September 11, 2017

The Boy Who Grew Flowers

   For the quiet ones, the shy kids, the ones who are a little bit different than "everyone else", The Boy Who Grew Flowers is an excellent reminder of the delight and wonder and power in being outside of the norm, depending on how you carry that title.

   This is a wonderful, colourful, beautiful children's book, written especially to the ones who don't seem to fit in anywhere else, and a powerful reminder that everyone is a little bit different than everyone else. We just have to give them the chance to show it, purely and proudly, with all of its wonder and beauty and colour.

--Elise T--

   For more information on The Boy Who Grew Flowers by Jen Wojtowicz and Steve Adams, visit our website here.

Friday, September 8, 2017

Toward a Secret Sky

   I read the four part series of Doon a while ago (you can read my blog post about the series here) and I would present Toward a Secret Sky to anyone who resonated with the series. Heather Maclean uses a similar writing style and directs her narration toward the same age group - 13- to 18-year-old girls looking for a bit of paranormal, world-hopping, and innocent romance. Not to mention, it all takes place in Scotland, with their accents in brogues and lilts, and kilts of course.

   This story begins with a funeral, oddly-placed screaming, and a sudden move to the small town of Aviemore, Scotland. Maclean doesn't go overboard with the Scottish accent by writing in every quirk and sound, so I enjoyed trying to emulate the sound in my mind as I read the dialogue of the different characters as they were introduced. The main character, Maren Hamilton, is a 17-year-old American, recently orphaned, who moves to Scotland to live with her newfound legal guardians - grandparents she has never met. So begins a tale of twists, turns, and tragedies involving humans, angels, and demons in a battle for truth, life, and forbidden love. The journey spans from America to Scotland to the underground city of London and back again.

   Essentially it's everything I could have possibly asked for in a book when I was 13- to 18-years-old.

 --Elise T--

   For more information about Toward a Secret Sky visit our website here.

Courageously Soft by Charaia Rush

  Courageously Soft: Daring to Keep a Tender Heart in a Tough World …. as I picked up Charaia Rush’s beautiful new book, the subtitle caug...