The Gospel & Marriage (The Gospel for Life Series)

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Though this is my first foray into The Gospel For Life series, I’m impressed with its potential. The series aims at major issues of our day and connects them to the Gospel. Once I learned what the series attempts to accomplish, I thought as I read this one on marriage that its presentation is ideal. Perfect for small groups or personal reading, this book edited by Russell Moore and Andrew T. Walker delivers the goods within the aims of the series striking the right balance between length and depth.

The first chapter by Mary Kassian gives a great overview that sees marriage as God sees it. Chapter 2 by Denny Burk was superb in presenting marriage roles in light of the Gospel—think biblical, conservative, and balanced. Familiar marriage author Dennis Rainey takes chapter 3 to discuss the practical work of marriage and sees it as a place for our Christianity to be displayed. Chapter 4 by Dean Inserra explains how the church should engage the issues of marriage while Andrew Walker explores the cultural shift on marriage in chapter 5. Both kept ties to the Gospel prevalent and wrote engaging help for us.

This book is one I’d be happy as a pastor to recommend to everyone. It’s not exactly a self-help book, yet it helps Christians orient their thinking in one of the most explosive issues of our day. If Christians can’t keep their thinking straight on this defining matter, the consequences will be dire. We need what this book says!

I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.

 

 

Defending Your Marriage by Tim Muehlhoff

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Here’s a marriage book that takes a fresh, new approach. Tim Muehlhoff looks at our marriage problems in light of the possibility of spiritual warfare. I hadn’t really given that possibility consideration, though I would have said: “the Devil sure fights us”.  My problem (among others) would be never probing what the Bible says about spiritual warfare in this practical way. The author works with Dennis Rainey at Family Life and writes with the graciousness and insight that belies a compassionate, experienced marriage speaker and counselor.

His introduction reminds us that our marriages are targeted by the Devil and that our job is for our marriages to showcase Christ in this world. That’s startling on both counts. Because our culture, including many Christians, is too spooked to entertain the possibility of spiritual warfare, he spends the first chapter making a clear case for it. There’s solid doctrine there. Next, he addresses why Satan cares about our marriages. Along the way, he exposes the failure of the prevalent contractual, or you-do-your-part-and-I’ll-do-mine, view of marriage. Since we all tend to overestimate our contributions while underestimating others, this approach has no hope. As you might guess, marriage as a covenant and as “an outpost for God’s Kingdom” is more appropriate. Covenant says I love like Jesus and not based on what my spouse does.

He discusses how to tell if it’s spiritual warfare rather than normal aggravations. He goes through open doors for spiritual warfare in 4 main categories of 1) sexual sin, 2) religious sins like idolatry, 3) relational sin against others, and 4) public sin. He further explains the 5 top indicators of spiritual warfare: 1) inappropriate anger, 2) sense of impending doom, 3) violent dreams, 4) no longer believing the best about God, and 5) no longer believing the best about you (your self-talk). He also probes how intimacy might play into all of this.

He has a thoughtful look at Adam and Eve and their temptation with great insights. There’s a chapter on using the armor of a Christian that gave real help (the best was the belt of truth). You wouldn’t have guessed it, but he makes great use of the Lord’s Prayer as well.

All in all, this is a fine book that covers a missing niche. I pray I will use many of its sage counsels.

I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.

Understanding Your Teen by Jim Burns

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Jim Burns is president of Homeword and a radio broadcaster. His other books are in the area of parenting or family issues. In this volume he comes right at the issues that are so prevalent for teens today. He makes you feel at ease by confessing his own shock when his children reach the teenage years even though ministering to families was already his lifework. At 200 pages it’s pitched just right for busy parents today.

Part one is made up of 11 chapters that deal with big picture ideas about parenting teens. The first two chapters aim at helping us understand our teenagers and how they develop. Then he gets into how it might affect behavior appropriately and help their spiritual life. His chapter on a media-safe home is very thorough and balanced. He tackles the subject of sexuality by suggesting we teach healthy sexuality. He further talks about how to handle homework, keep communication open, and our forcing ourselves as parents to understand the changing culture our teens live in. He wisely added the chapter on intimacy between the parents as a way to help your teams. Many overlook this important aspect. The final chapter of the first part is how to deal with a troubled teen. Everyone hopes that will not be their situation, but if the dreaded happened, here’s a great guide.

Part two has 13 chapters that are shorter and narrower. I almost see them as pointed discussions of how to implement the broader concepts learned in the earlier chapters. Here he covers bullying, dating violence, depression, dinnertime, driving, drug and alcohol abuse, eating disorders, obesity, self-injury, sexual abuse, sleep, suicide, and dealing with tragedy.

I appreciate the calm way in which he advises us. He seems at once to be telling us to be diligent and patient. He encourages us not to lose our cool, nor our resolve. He doesn’t suggest that parenting isn’t hard work, yet he explains how the individual responsibility of the teen can never leave the picture.

This book is a solid help in these difficult times for raising teens. I recommend it.

I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.

Walking Through Twilight by Douglas Groothuis

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This book grabs you. You pick it up, anticipate what you will find, and then get surprised. Though being real, or “raw” as they say, is all the rage these days, after you read this book you may decide, as I did, that you’ve hardly ever read something that’s “raw”. So much of the rawness of our day is merely façades more painstakingly crafted, but here the author detonates dynamite under his façades. He is a philosopher, an academic, an accomplished speaker, the man that is supposed to have it all figured out, but in the waves of bewilderment that crashed upon his soul as his wife descended into the twilight of dementia he found out he did not. What he could figure out when he forced himself to examine this bizarre, unexpected place is worth contemplating. It reminded me of my dark places, which were not as dark as his, and taught me what to examine the next time.

This effort is not along the same lines as the other titles Mr. Groothuis has produced, other than his quality writing skills. For example, I was greatly instructed by his “Philosophy in Seven Sentences”. He was able to marshal philosophy and especially the Bible for his struggles. He did it without an ounce of superficiality. He wasn’t able to tie everything up in neat little packages either. The profound part was that the more crushed he became the more sufficient his Savior became. I was moved.

Usually, when I review a book I overview the contents, but I think that would be a mistake in this case. Just experience it. Approach every chapter with a clean slate. You won’t regret it!

I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.

The Real Facts About the Latest Generation!

blog phoneI’ve heard it in bits and pieces and had already decided that the smartphone was the defining factor of this generation approaching adulthood. Now I came across a substantive article that has hard data behind what it says. The point is not to bash this generation. How could we? Wouldn’t it be more a reflection of we who are as the generation raising them?

The truth is that every generation has its strengths and weaknesses. That translates to the latest generation being better in a few categories, but its problems are of concern and worthy of our attention.

This generation lives with its parents knowing where they are far more than any generation alive today. For that reason, you could say that they are physically safer. They tend to be less motivated to drive and have fewer wrecks. Their average age of the first sexual encounter is actually older than the last several generations – that’s certainly a plus. If you dig through the data in the article, you will see more of this type of positive information.

Strangely enough, some of their biggest problems springs from the same areas. This is the least-interested-in-independence generation we’ve seen. If they have a nice bedroom, in which to lay and be on their smart phones, they are satisfied. The article mentioned several of them have an indention in their bed from lying there on the phone so much. Many of them are not really interested in driving. Does that surprise you as much as me? Many of them are developmentally at least two years behind.

While the rate of teen homicide is down (that’s a plus!), the rate of teen suicide is far higher. Quite frankly, many of them are not happy. The article explained how the ones who are on their smart phones over the average rank much higher on the chart of unhappiness and suicidal feelings.

The article, which was not in a Christian publication, mentioned sports, other activities, and less social media as having great improvement in the data on being happy and not feeling suicidal. Although the article wasn’t Christian in any way, I couldn’t help but notice that those young people very active in what the author called “religious activities”, fared much better as well. I suppose the data will always bear out that the parents who forget God in their home will reap a whirlwind in their children.

Here’s the great article that you will want to ingest slowly: Has Smartphones Destroyed a Generation?

There’s so much more in this article. Read it for yourself. We parents need some deep reflection about whether our homes are just going to be like the average of the world today, or are we going to swim upstream to go after different results. May the Lord help us all in the choppy waters that we Christian parents now navigate.

That Rough Patch Called Transitioning To Adulthood

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I’ve been reminded of late just how tough that period in life where you have to figure out what you’re going to do when you grow up really is. I can remember that in my own life, but it seems so long ago that the memories are in black and white. My oldest, Briley, is at that place where she has to decide, and her brother, Caleb, the meticulous planner, is engulfed in it as well. Sadly, if anything, it’s harder to figure out these days.

An article in National Review by Oren Cass entitled “Teaching to the Rest” highlighted just how tough it is. According to the author, the 3 million recent high school graduates can be divided into approximately five equal categories. The first group didn’t even make it to high school graduation (remember one fifth of 3 million is 600,000!). The second group will pursue no further education. The third group will enroll in college but never graduate. The fourth group will graduate college, but will never work in the field they got their degree in. Only the final group will go through college and work in a field that they studied for. I don’t know about you, but those statistics shock me.

As you can imagine in that particular magazine, the article goes on talking about the political changes that need to be made in our educational system. The author’s ideas were wonderful, but excuse my cynicism in thinking that either the government or teachers unions would give his thoughts the time of day.

He alludes to, and you’ve probably heard it from other quarters as well, that there is a dearth of young people going into trades. In other words, a college education may not be the best case scenario as was universally believed when I graduated high school. Besides the fact that many public universities have lost their way and are so out of the mainstream that they actually steer young people away from success, there’s the issue that you might be financially worse off to go to college. On the one hand, many college students today embark upon their career with a disastrous financial situation because of college debt. A trade could be learned for a fraction of the cost with a similar starting salary but without the oppressive debt.

It grieves me to say this, but even for my children who want to follow my steps into the ministry, the possibility of making a full-time income from it over the course of their whole working lives seems unlikely. The rapid decline of Christianity in our day means that all in ministry may be tentmakers like Paul in the years ahead. That likelihood means even young people considering ministry will need a trade or profession to fall back on. I haven’t lost faith that the Lord can provide what’s needed for our calling, just that He he may actually start calling more to a bi-vocational ministry.

I’m totally sympathetic to my children. The gravity with which they view their choices for the future is commensurate to current events. I never want to be guilty of calling my children to the ministry or any other profession. My wife, Alicia, has already been warning our children of the need to have a trade for some time.

I’ve decided this rough patch of transition into adulthood is tough for parents too. You’d like to make it easier for them. You’d like for them to be able to pick it without reservations and feel perfectly at peace with their choices, but the reality is they go through all kinds of options. You have to balance telling them the ideas they have that probably will not work out well to not being overly controlling and telling them what they have to do with their lives. It’s tough. It’s times like this that I’m so happy that my children know the same Lord that I do. I’ve had times of not knowing the way and being afraid, and had to learn to wait on the Lord.

I guess this post is not really instructional. I really can’t see that I gave any good advice. But I guess I’m just putting in writing a plea to my children to trust the Lord with an acknowledgment that Daddy loves you and has confidence in you. I’m tempted to close my eyes and hide until the Lord grows your faith and leads you through this, but by faith let’s just go through it together.

Your Marriage Masterpierce by Al Janssen

I’ve read several great marriage books, but what stands out about this one is how inspirational it is. Others are better in explaining key Bible teaching on marriage, and yet others in practical detail, but this one stands out in making you want to be what you should be in your marriage and fulfill God’s will in showing grace.

Janssen clearly excels in creative writing. The book is a joy to read. He uses Bible stories and personal marriage vignettes to make his point. In his Bible stories, he stretches some of them a little beyond what the text can bear, but he makes some great points too. His use of Adam and Eve was his best and most thought provoking.

One of the things that he gives us that I find too often missing is his call to sacrifice in our marriages as our Lord does for us. He believes in protection from gross abuse and practicing tough love in serious situations, but he compels us to sacrifice in our relationship. Sacrifice can feel like pain at times, but that is exactly too what the Lord has done. So many run when loving endurance would not only have honored the Lord, but also likely yielded a great marriage. Simply sticking it out helps many as most couples who dedicate themselves to the marriage, usually rate their marriage great five years later. Selfishness makes many run. For example, he uses Hosea and Gomer, as well as a modern-day Hosea and Gomer to well make his point. (Chapter 14 is riveting).

This turns out to be an updated edition, but somehow I missed the earlier one. In any event, it is a jewel. 

I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.

A Bird, a Girl, and a Rescue by J. A. Myhre 


Here’s a children’s book that will be loved in any Christian home. The plot is set in Africa and has the unique thrills of that continent. The author, J. A. Myhre, is a doctor in Africa. Her 20 years in Africa makes her able to visualize accurately situations there. The stories here began as stories for her own children and it’s a blessing that they are available for children everywhere.

The story transports us to the life of an amazing girl named Kiisa. She is dropped by her father at a school where she feels out of place and has to take a stand to do right and suffers for it. A little bird befriends her and encourages her. Later, the story becomes riveting when the school is attacked. What Kiisa does makes the story ( I don’t want to give away the plot!).

Beyond the gripping nature of the story itself is the description of the unsugarcoated nature of evil in our world and the right kind of courage in its presence. This story challenges our children to be righteously courageous in our world. I recommend it.

I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.

A Helpful New Marriage Book

It’s a marriage book unlike any other. It’s specifically for the scenario of a strong women, so strong they use the word “fierce”,  and a more naturally easy-going guy. Written by a couple, Leroy and Kimberly Wagner, who fits this description perfectly, who made all the mistakes, learned from them, and by God’s grace triumphed in Christian marriage. It must resonate dramatically in our day as its impetus was their discussion of what they learned being the #1 segment of 2015 on Focus on the Family. 

The book barely touches on how we may have such an increase in this type of marriage situation, things like the gender confusion of our day, and just focuses instead on what two people who love the Lord must understand. This book is geared toward the men, how they have failed even if she is too strong, and how Servant Leadership can be brought to bear to get the Christian marriage we sincerely want.

One of the biggest failures a man in this type marriage can do is be so passive he checks out. It actually leads to making her more fierce and he carries some blame. The key is fixing your part, taking your responsibilities and doing it for Jesus’ sake if you can’t push through to do it for her.

The book is amazing. I assure you it isn’t trite platitudes as some marriage books tend to be, but real substance that you can get your heart and mind around. I give it the highest possible rating.
I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.

Eternal Salvation–A Christian Movie Review

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Eternal Salvation is an excellent Christian movie. The wooden acting that has plagued some Christian films is no where to be found in this movie. The plot will grab your attention throughout. My wife and children watched this film with me and we give it a family thumbs up. You will love this Dove-approved Eternal Salvation DVD.

The story is of an unsaved family man who is a high-profile investment banker. He survives a brain aneurysm, but faces struggles in recovery and with his job and protege. Through that difficult time and the help of a Christian friend he finds Christ. There are more issues after his salvation that help him deepen his faith. His wife and daughter find the Lord as well. There is fine drama in telling this story that makes for a fine viewing experience.

I might quibble over the portrayal of his daughter’s conversion. It was not made clear that she had to have  a personal faith herself. Plus my children all noticed that she was an older girl than the part she was playing. Still, this is a film I recommend for your family.

You can check out a variety of similar Christian DVDs here. Fishflix is allowing me to offer you a $5 coupon to their site if you join their email list. You can join by visiting www.fishflix.com/5gift or texting 5-GIFT to 44222. I get no kickback on this coupon, but am happy for other families to have this resource.

I received this DVD free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.