Posted in From The Altar, On The Reading Chair

The Apologetics Study Bible Review

I’ve had this Bible for several months. I’ve been using it in my personal devotion time to get a feel for it and see what I think about it. Now, I’m ready to give you my full review.

I have the hardcover version, but it also comes in a hardcover thumb-indexed version, an eBook version, a brown imitation leather version, and a navy imitation leather version.

The Bible translation is the Christian Standard Version, which I really like for personal devotion. If you’re unsure of how you’ll like a translation, you can always go to BibleGateway.com and read some passages in the version of your choice. It can help you get a feel for the version without committing to buying it.

Apologetics is the defense of the faith, answering those big questions we might have. This Bible not only explains the Bible in the footnotes sections, but it gives some answers to big questions through articles peppered throughout by Christian apologists.

There are several articles in the front of this Bible to explain some more general concepts. These are articles that cover more than just one specific area of Scripture.

Each book of the Bible has a rather lengthy introduction. It sets the scenes, explaining the context of the book. It also covers some topics related to that specific book. For example, Genesis covers the reliability of the book of Genesis and the relationship of Genesis to Ancient Myths. Clearly, these are only short articles. If you wanted a full study in those areas, there are plenty of complete books, but these articles are enough to at least touch on the topics before you move into your Bible study.

Throughout, there are full articles on various topics, written by a variety of authors. Again, they won’t cover the topics in depth, and related to each of these articles are entire books written about the topic. But they do give you some TL;DR answers to some hot topic issues— maybe even some issues you’ve never even considered.

My favorite feature of this Bible is the Twisted Scripture blocks. They are just small, quick explanations of how some people misuse Scripture. I found those bits to be extremely helpful in my reading. Again, these quick writings are in no way in-depth discussions on the topics, but they will help you as you read to not get lost in the weeds of heresy.

The footnotes are quite expansive. You’ve got two layers of footnotes. The first is the standard Bible footnotes. The second layer is the bigger layer, and they explain the issues of the Scriptures on a deeper level. In some books, they are quite expansive; in others, they are more minimal, depending on the Scripture.

There is a full and pretty awesome concordance in the back. It is pretty lengthy and includes a lot for a simple Bible concordance.

It also has some pretty awesome full-color maps in the back. (I’m a sucker for a good map.)

Now, this Bible is not for those outside of the Orthodox Christian faith. If you believe something that isn’t in-line with the rest of the church, this is going to step all over your toes. If you don’t believe what is in the Apostle’s Creed, this Bible is not for you. (And you probably need to read it anyway.) It doesn’t take stances that I would say are denominational; however, it doesn’t shy away from tough issues. And it just straight “calls it like it is” and doesn’t “beat around the bush” about it.

It calls out bad theology by name. I found that helpful in knowing exactly who or what they were talking about. Some books try not to call out the groups by name, and it can be confusing who or even what they are talking about.

So, be aware that if you believe something that isn’t in the Canon, you will likely be offended at some point in your reading.

Honestly, that candidness is what makes me like this study Bible so much. It is very clear in what it is telling you. I really appreciate this Bible. I love the CSB version, I have several Bibles in that version, and that is my preferred version for personal Bible study.

I recommend this Bible pretty highly. I know the nature of apologetics doesn’t appeal to everyone. There are some who choose to be inspired rather than challenged. This would make an excellent Bible for a teen, young adult, new Christian, or someone solid in their faith who isn’t quite sure what they believe or who wants to deepen their understanding of their faith. They do make a version for students, but I am unsure how it is different from this version. This Bible is for anyone who really wants to get down to answering the questions they may have. Again, this is a Bible. It is intended to be a help as you read and study your Bible. There are entire books on apologetics that you can read if you want, but I do think this Bible will help as you are studying God’s Word to answer some of those big questions. This Bible can be a help to different people across many life situations. While perhaps not the right choice for everyone, I really like it.

**This post contains affiliate links. Using your favorite bloggers’ affiliate links is a great way to support them. You don’t pay any extra, but I get a small commission every time you purchase something using one of my links.**

Posted in On The Reading Chair, With The Kids

ESV Family Devotional Bible Review

The last few months, I have been using this Family Devotional Bible from Crossway. I wanted to use it for a little while before I gave my review of it. So, I’ve been pulling it out during family devotion time. I have the hardcover edition, but it is also available in blue or brown imitation leather.

Now, when I think of a family Bible, I think of an heirloom quality Bible. Something pretty and significant. I don’t think of a picture Bible. But this is not necessarily intended to be that stately family Bible. This is far more practical. It is a Bible a younger family can walk through together during family devotion time. I’m not sure if you’ve gathered this or not, but I am a very big advocate for family devotions.

This Bible has plenty of full color pictures. Now, the colored ink on the Bible paper does wrinkle the page a little bit. I’m not sure if you can tell from this picture, but there is a rippled texture throughout the picture pages. While the paper is thicker than standard Bible paper, it still didn’t hold up perfectly with the ink. But the pictures are beautiful.

They aren’t childish cartoons, you have these beautiful illustrations throughout. They do remind me a little of the Bible storybooks in doctor’s office waiting rooms, but I love the illustrations in those, so it works out.

There is a small amount of ghosting on the backs of picture pages, but they don’t interfere with being able to see the pages. It is very light on footnotes.

The devotions are the real highlight of this Bible. It has these interspersed throughout Scripture. They are with the Scripture you are talking about. I really like the questions they give. They are directed enough to stay on topic, but open ended enough to give real thoughtful discussion. Smaller kids won’t benefit from the questions as much as older kids, tweens, teens, and you will. I think that makes these devotions great for a family with a wide age range. While I wouldn’t say this devotion would be ideal for families with only teens in the house, it becomes ideal for those who may have a teen or two along with a younger kid. With the younger kids, the story and illustrations are going to be where they gain the most. For older kids, tweens, teens, and parents- the discussion is where you gain the most. If you have younger kids, you may want to skip the discussion or go light on it. But if you have kids who are older, definitely make sure you leave time for the discussion questions.

The devotions focus on the hero type stories in the Bible. You won’t find a single devotion in the book of Psalms, for example. They are Biblically based and don’t really veer into any specific theology. They stay focused on the Bible stories.

30 devotions are in the Pentateuch. (None in Leviticus.)

24 devotions through the historical books.

0 devotions through the books of wisdom.

2 devotions in the major prophets.

1 devotion in the minor prophets.

56 devotions are in the Gospels.

14 devotions in the book of Acts.

1 devotion in Philemon.

1 devotion in Revelation.

(For a total of 130 devotions.)

It is reasonable to think you could go through all these devotions in one year. And you can go through them in any order you wish. You could start at the beginning. Or, if you’re starting later in the year, start with the Gospels to get further into the life of Jesus around Advent time. You can go straight through or jump around. They do tell you what page the next devotion can be found at the end of each devotion, but there is also an index in the back where you could pick the devotion that best fits you right now. (Either fits what your preacher talked about this week, fits where you are in the liturgical year, fits what you are studying in school, or just fits where your mind and interests are right now.)

I love the ESV version for kids. It is on a 10th grade reading level, so it still has a poetic, non-childish feel. But when read aloud, it is easy for them to understand in modern language.

There are 8 really nice maps at the end of this Bible. I like how they illustrated them. They are very interesting for kids, but also easy for them to understand.

Overall, I have really enjoyed this Bible. I think the devotions are excellent for a wide range of ages. The illustrations are beautiful. The Scripture is right there with each devotion so you’re not flipping around to find what you’re reading. The ESV version is a great read aloud version of the Bible for kids. I think this is an excellent resource for families. I wouldn’t say this Bible is a good Bible for kids, but rather as a family resource.

**I received this Bible for free in exchange for my honest review. I am in no way obligated to review it favorably. **

***This blog regularly contains affiliate links. Affiliate links are a great way to support your favorite bloggers as we do receive a small commission if you buy using our links.***

Posted in Around The Church, From The Altar, With The Kids

Lent 2018

If you’re looking for my annual Lent family devotions, they are in book form this year! I was coming up with a way to make the family devotional more user-friendly. Scrolling through an entire week of blog posts is a bit messy. It is free, but it is messy. Then, I had this idea to add a personal devotional for moms to the front. In pitching the idea to The Pastor, we kind of thought, “Why just moms?” So, I enlisted his help in getting both a full 40-day devotional for all people and a 40-day family devotional written. We then put it on Kindle for ease-of-use. (It is also available in paperback if you’re not a digital person.)

The entire thing is really cohesive: The personal devotions and family devotions tie into each other, so you’ll all be walking the same spiritual path together. And as usual, the family devotional includes activities to do! Fun!

The theme of this year’s Lenten devotional is Refocus. Lent is a great time to look over everything and evaluate if you’re living the way you think you should be living. “Does my life reflect Christ?” It’ll challenge you to reevaluate where you put your time and money. It will ask you to reevaluate your priorities and commitments. Basically, it is going to step all over your toes and probably make you uncomfortable and you might even hate me for it. Or… you might refocus your life on the cross and do big Jesus-work this coming year. I think it’s worth the risk.

If you want a free devotional, all my previous years of Lent family devotions are still available here on the blog. Since Lent is always 40 days, always starting on Ash Wednesday and always ending on Easter, any of these can be used any year.

Lent Family Devotional 2017 – This family devotional looks into the life and ministry of Jesus.

40 Holy People – This is a Lenten devotional looking at the lives of those who have followed Christ with great courage and wisdom.

Fruit of the Spirit Family Devotional – This is not a Lenten devotional, but you can use it during Lent if you’d like. It is 9 weeks, so it is a little longer than Lent.

Click here to buy this year’s Lent devotional on Amazon.  My hope and prayer is for families to come together around a table and talk about Jesus. So, whatever you chose to do this Lent, be it using Refocus, using one of the free devotions on my blog, using another devotional book, or just reading through a book of the Bible together after dinner— make sure that you don’t miss Jesus during this season. Let the season bring you closer to Him and closer to your family.

Posted in From The Altar, On The Reading Chair

ESV Illuminated Bible Review

I might be a little bit of a Bible fanatic. I am always looking at the new Bibles coming out soon and admiring them. When I saw that Crossway was releasing the ESV Illuminated Journaling Bible, I was immediately obsessed. All the pictures just looked so beautiful! I couldn’t wait to get my hands on it.

Just know the pictures don’t even come close to capturing the beauty of this Bible! Crossway made this Bible in 4 editions. This is the green hardcover version. You can also get a burgundy imitation leather or navy blue cloth bound hardcover. They also had a black topgrain leather version that is no longer available. And yes, they all feature the beautiful gold patterns on the cover. The green hardcover, this one, has a book jacket. The other three have a slipcase box. I’m honestly never a fan of either and both end up getting tossed in my house.

Each book of the Bible has a beautifully illustrated title page. Every illustration in this Bible is shiny gold. It is a best of both worlds kind of journaling Bible. It already has beautiful, finished illustrations. But it also has plenty of room to add your own illustrations or notes.

As you can see, there is a bit of ghosting in the margins. The paper is thick for Bible paper, but it is still Bible paper. It is thick enough that you don’t have to be precious about which highlighters you use. I find Crossway journaling Bibles to be thick enough to color and even paint on. It just takes a little practice getting your paint thin enough or your paper prepped so it won’t bleed.

There are small illustrations in the margins throughout the Bible. They are all so pretty. You could leave this Bible on your coffee table just to flip through, it is so lovely.

You can see that even though it is full of beautiful gold illustrations, there is still room to add your own doodles, art, and notes. The margins are completely blank, but I still think this would make an excellent Bible for someone who wants a beautifully illustrated Bible, but is more of a note taker. You can also see that the pages lay pretty flat.

Really, the only “extras” in this Bible are these pages at the end (there are more than pictured) that have pictures of each book’s cover page and a brief explanation of the art you see there. I would absolutely love to have these as art prints to frame on the wall, but there are so many! But they are so beautiful! I just want them out where I can see them all the time. But there are no maps, no concordance, no topical studies. This is just a single column ESV Bible text with wide margins and lovely gold illustrations throughout. Very simple. Very beautiful.

This Bible ended up being so much more beautiful in person than I imagined, which was a difficult task because everything I had seen was amazingly beautiful. The Illuminated Journaling Bible is just so beautiful and such high quality. This is just another great way to fall in love with God’s Word.

**This Bible was sent to me from Crossway Bibles free for review. I am in no way obligated to give a favorable review. Because I received this item free for review, none of the links in this post are affiliate links.**

Posted in From The Altar, With The Kids

We Can Bless Others- Week Four

“Then the King will say to those on His right, ‘Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in; I was naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me.’ Then the righteous will answer Him, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, and feed You, or thirsty, and give You something to drink? And when did we see You a stranger, and invite You in, or naked, and clothe You? When did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ The King will answer and say to them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.’” Matthew 25: 34-40 (NASB)

Think about a time when someone blessed you. I remember when I just had two little babies. I felt very overwhelmed much of the time. I’m not the most organized person, so I was rarely prepared. Well, one day, we were out and one of the babies had a huge blowout diaper. Of course, I had exactly one wet wipe on my person. I could have kicked myself. Then a complete stranger, another mom, noticed my predicament and “loaned” me her pack of wipes. That was an extremely simple gesture, but in that moment, it was such a blessing. It made that situation bearable for me. I am still grateful for those few wet wipes.

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Imagine if we all just gave a little of ourselves to one another. Imagine what a huge blessing we could be to each other.

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We often find ourselves saying, “But what can I do?” We think we do not HAVE enough to give. But think of it: You HAVE Jesus. You HAVE all that there is to give.

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We can find ways to give. We can find ways to bless others. Through acts, time, words, or things. We can be a blessing. You may not be able to feed all of the homeless people in your area, but you CAN feed one. You may not be able to clothe all of the poor, but you CAN donate your used clothing and clothe some.

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This week, let’s focus on ways we can bless others. Let’s write notes of encouragement. Let’s take food to the hungry. Let’s open our eyes and see how we can bless our world.

Discussion Questions:

  • In what ways are you a blessing to others?
  • Do you recall a time someone was an unexpected blessing to you?
  • What more could you do to bless others?

Activities:

  • Start a Family Food Drive! Decide on a budget, and go shopping for a local food pantry. You can also shop your own pantry. It doesn’t matter how MUCH you give, simply THAT you give.
  • Take on some Neighborhood Trash Duty. Take a family walk armed with a garbage bag. Pick up trash around your neighborhood. This is especially helpful on trash day ― when things might have gotten dropped on the ground. It may not seem important, but it is something you can do to show love for your neighbors.
  • Become a family of Secret Helpers. You can run this two ways. Way one: Each member of the family draws a name from a hat, and they secretly do things to try to bless that person this week. The alternative: Just let them play “Spy and Try” to secretly bless the family through the week. Either way works. They aren’t working for a Thank-You; they are trying to secretly be a blessing.

My Prayer for You:

Lord, open our eyes to the needs of those around us. Prick our hearts and let us be moved to action. Show us how we can be a blessing and give us the courage to do it. Let our hearts be burdened for others. Let us be moved to action and show others the love You so freely give. Let us be a blessing. Amen.

Posted in From The Altar, With The Kids

We Are Thankful – Week Three

“Rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 (NASB)

“Therefore I will give thanks to You, O Lord, among the nations, and I will sing praises to Your name.” 1 Samuel 22:50 (NASB)

“O give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; for His lovingkindness is everlasting. Then say, ‘Save us, O God of our salvation, and gather us and deliver us from the nations, to give thanks to Your holy name, and glory in Your praise.’” 1 Chronicles 16:34-35 (NASB)

“Through Him then, let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that give thanks to His name.” Hebrews 13:15 (NASB)

Clearly this thankful-thing is Biblical. Last week, we listed all our blessings, and for these, we should give thanks.

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Expressing gratitude can be difficult for some of us. Sometimes it is because we are not grateful because we are not focused on being content and counting our blessings.

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Sometimes it is because we aren’t sure how to adequately express our gratitude. Other times, it may be because we try to suppress our emotions, thinking only intellectualism matters. (God made your emotions and uses emotional language to express Himself to us. Your emotions are God-given and can give glory to God. Don’t always suppress them.)

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Gratitude and expressing thanks is a matter of the heart. We have to see the blessing to be thankful for it. We sometimes have to practice this to get to where it is our natural response.

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This week, let’s focus on actually giving thanks. Let’s say, “Thank You,” to God. Let’s say,  “Thank you,” to one another. Let’s learn to express our gratitude.

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Discussion Questions:

  • Do you thank God for your blessings enough?
  • Do you thank others when they are a blessing to you?
  • Do you need to work on seeing things from a grateful point of view?

Activities:

  • Think of someone you have not/did not thank for something they have done in your life. It could be a teacher, pastor, friend, family member, librarian, crossing guard, etc. Write them a Thank-You note. Be specific about what you are grateful for. It doesn’t have to be long, but be specific in your thanks. For kids that are too young to write, Mom and Dad can help with the writing, and they can do the decorating!
  • Consider how a Thank-You feel, and share that feeling. Mom and Dad, tell each of your children something you are thankful to them for. (Some examples: Thank you for always being willing to help. Thank you for sweeping the porch today. Thank you for being kind to your siblings. Thank you for giving me lots of hugs and kisses.) After you tell each child, “Thank you,” discuss as a family how it feels to be told, “Thank you.”
  • Have a Thank-You Relay. You’ll need spoons and cotton balls. Give each kid a spoon. Pass the cotton ball from spoon to spoon without using hands. Remember to say, “Thank you,” when you receive the cotton ball! If you have enough people, you can split into teams. You can amp up the intricacy for older kids if you need to or keep it simple for little ones. To take things up a notch, make them spin around, jump, run, or not bend their elbows while they pass the cotton ball! Grab a spoon yourself! This is full-family fun!

My Prayer for You:

Lord, help us to give thanks, to speak from our lips what our heart fully feels. Give us the courage to give thanks out loud and often. May it be a blessing to the people around us. Amen.

Posted in Concerning Strangers, From The Altar, Out Of My Head

How Else Will They Know?

no neutral

My brother and I used to do these goofy plays. Don’t think Shakespeare in the living room. This was more like SNL. Anyway, the big ending to one of our plays was, “Somebody must tell them!” said very dramatically to the audience with great pause. (Then my brother would say, “The Meme!” which we thought was oh so hilarious, but no one else got, which was what made it so funny! Note, this was not yet a thing, since this was 1996. Nonsense was the name of our game. But that bit doesn’t pertain to this right now.) We find ourselves at a place in our culture where we all yell, “Somebody must tell them!” We neglect to see that *we* are telling *them* every single day with every single interaction.

Have you ever thought about the above quote? That you will either build someone up or tear them down in each exchange you have with them? That is some heavy weight. That burden is not feeling light about now. But you know you’ve been there.

Sitting in a waiting room trying to wrangle all six kids to be quiet, don’t touch the fake plants, do not tear out all the cards from the magazines, don’t put their feet on the couches, dear Lord stay off the ground! A woman looks over and says not to you, but to the air, “Some people should not have kids!” And just like that- pfft. Punched in the gut. All your air is gone. Your struggle just ended in defeat. You’ll question what you could have done better. Then your humiliation will turn to anger. And you’ll be mad at that idiot. Mad at the world. Mad at your culture.

Sitting in a waiting room trying to wrangle all six kids to be quiet, don’t touch the fake plants, do not tear out all the cards from the magazines, don’t put their feet on the couches, dear Lord stay off the ground! A woman looks over and says, “You are doing a good job. They are well behaved and lucky to have you to teach them.” And just like that- you feel lighter. All that work and someone noticed! She said you’re doing a good job! She knows you are trying. She sees the kids really are trying and doing a really great job considered how long you’ve all been sitting here. You are happy. You are doing this hard work well! What a great community to build one another up.

I have literally had both of those things happen to me. Not on the same day, mind you. Different days. Different people. Different waiting room. Same me. Same kids. Same eternal struggle. And there were some people who said nothing, but gave me that judgy look. That unhappy to be sharing the same space with you look. And others that give you the “been there, done that” smile and nod. They’re with you. They understand.

We all have this power. Every day. Every interaction. I can build this person up. I can make their day a little brighter. I can be a little bit of sunshine. OR I can tear them down. I can make their day a little darker. I can be the rain on their parade. That is a lot of power. A lot of power in the small things.

John 13:34-35 I give you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, so you also must love each other. This is how everyone will know that you are my disciples, when you love each other.

I have a funny t-shirt that I still wear that was The Pastor’s in college. It says, “They will know we are Christians by our t-shirts.” And it was funny tongue-in-cheek poking fun at the Christian culture of the day. Wear your Jesus shirt, slap an ichthus on your car, burn your secular CDs and we all know you love Jesus, right? I don’t know what our modern equivalent is. Maybe tell everyone how perfectly broken you are, Instagram your devo time, and talk about how authentic you are? Maybe that isn’t fair. The point is, the WAY to know we are Christians is by our LOVE for each other. So simple. We haven’t grown past this. This is basic. God loves us. He LOVES us. Like, love loves us. We are loved. And what do we do? We love!

This common courtesy is honey. It draws people in. It builds them up. It plants seeds in their life that will grow when the soil is ready.

“Healing becomes the opportunity to pass off to another human being what I have received from the Lord Jesus.” -Brennan Manning, The Furious Longing of God.

But WHY? I don’t have time. I am busy. Can’t I just ignore everyone and keep my head down and get through? (1) Where is the victory in that? (2) No. Sorry. This isn’t about you. If you are too busy to show some common courtesy, you need to reevaluate your calendar. If you are too busy to be kind, you need to evaluate your priorities. If you need more reason…

“According to that mysterious substitution of Christ for the Christian, what we do to one another we do to Jesus.” -Brennan Manning, The Furious Longing of God.

 Galatians 5:13 You were called to freedom, brothers and sisters; only don’t let this freedom be an opportunity to indulge your selfish impulses, but serve each other through love.

“Lodged in your heart is the power to walk into somebody’s life and give him or her what the bright Paul Tillich called “the courage to be.” Can you fathom that? You have the power to give someone the courage to be simply by the touch of your affirmation.” – Brennan Manning, The Furious Longing of God.

I’d like to leave you with the following challenge. go in love

Posted in Around The Church, Out Of My Head

Fundraising, Charity, and The Church

funraising, and the church

I’m writing this blog post for the Church. Not just my church, but the Church. This isn’t for those outside the Church. Just the Church. I’m also writing this as a Protestant. And I’m writing this as someone knows the inner working of churches. That makes it a little more awkward. And I’ll tell you, most of the pastors I know, including the one I am married to, have a hard time talking to you, the people, about this. First, it directly affects them. Their livelihood comes from the Church. Second, some pastors, and we won’t name any names, give giving a bad name. They are self-centered and have no vision for the Kingdom, only their wallets. But the majority of pastors I know aren’t like that. The majority of the ones I know live on small salaries, sometimes working more than one job to provide for their own family, all while trying to do the thing God has called them to do. They often don’t know if they’ll have income by the end of the year. They often don’t know if they’ll have income next month. So, drop your preconceived notion about pastor millionaires flying around on personal jets. Now, on to the money talk.

I’ve been listening to quite a few podcasts lately. It is just something I do while washing dishes, folding laundry, or cooking dinner. While folding laundry and listening to an old Freakonomics Podcast (called How To Raise Money Without Killing A Kitten) about charity giving and the economics and research behind Americans giving, it just really hit me that (1) Christians aren’t the super charitable people they like to think they are and (2) the Church often tries to pull a lot of the same “tricks” other organizations do to compete for the Christian’s dollar.

Now, there are a couple of issues going on here. And I don’t call myself an expert, and really this is more of a rant to raise awareness than anything.

The average American gives 2% of their income to charity. Now, a Gallup poll in 2008 said 77% of Americans identify as Christians. (Who do they poll? I’ve never been polled. Anyway, moving on.) I think that is a very high estimate. Huffpo in 2013 said 20% of Americans no longer identify with any religion. (This source says 83% identify as Christian.  This source says 70.6%.  This source says there are 247 million Christians in the US.) My point is, something is wrong. The majority of the country is Christian, yet they obviously aren’t tithing.

Dun. Dun. Dun. I said the big bad word in today’s evangelical circles. Tithing. It is a Biblical concept you’re all aware of. Give God 10%. Now, we can debate gross or net. You can even try to debate that tithing is an Old Testament concept not relevant for a New Testament Church. And if you want to go there, fine. Pattern your life after the New Testament Church in Acts 2 when they sold everything they had and gave the profits to the poor and lived sharing everything with one another. That’s cool. I was just asking for 10%. But I guess everything works, too.

So, disconnect number one is that 2% of income from Americans is going to charity (all of them, not just the Church). Shouldn’t that number be higher since the majority of America is “Christian”? (I use the quotes because I am not sure we have that many followers of Christ; I think more of them are cultural Christians.) So, clearly, some of you (again, talking to the Church, here) aren’t giving as you should. (I should also note here that neither I nor the Pastor has now or ever known how much any individual or family in any church we’ve been in have given. We’ve made it a point to not know those things. I don’t want you thinking I cooked you dinner when you were having a tough time because you gave the church money. We’ve also made it a point not to touch the money. So, I have never seen a single check in the offering plate or a single name on the PayPal summary. I really have no clue.) And you can justify that decision until you are blue in the face, but the facts will not change. You need to be giving 10% to YOUR CHURCH. I don’t care who you are. I don’t care where you attend. You need to be tithing to your church. If you don’t trust them with your money, why are you trusting them with your spiritual health and the spiritual health of your family? You can dislike this if you want, but you need to be giving 10% to your church. You don’t need to be earmarking it for what you want it to be used on. You need to let go and give it to God. Period. No strings attached. No splitting the amount between all the good things you want to give to. 10% to your church. Then give to the other things. (And don’t forget to give of your time and talents as well.)

Back to the podcast, they listed six reasons people give to charities: (1) altruism– you really want to help the person or cause; (2) “warm glow” altruism or as I called it, selfish altruism– you want to feel good about giving, you want bragging rights, you want the warm fuzzies knowing you are a good person or knowing other think you are a good person; (3) guilt– you feel bad not giving, you don’t want to look bad by not giving; (4) herd giving– you give because others around you are giving or someone you look up to gives; (5) private good– you give to get or keep (not loose) something you want; (6) public good– you want the thing to exist, not just for yourself, but for your community or others. Now, often your reasons are a mix of things. And often churches use these same things to get you to give. (I don’t necessarily think it is intentional for the most part, just something that happens when we do things because it is the way things are done. Think about passing the offering plate for a minute. You play on herd giving: everyone else is doing it, possibly even someone I look up to. You play on guilt: I don’t want to look bad not giving. You play on public and private good: I need to give for the church to continue and I really like this or that program; plus, I want this place to exist for my community. “Warm glow” altruism: you feel good by giving; some churches will even tell you the blessings of God are directly tied to your giving. Altruism: you really do want to support the Church and the cause of Christ. Now, clearly all those are not bad things. There are a few negatives, but some positives. We don’t pass a plate at our church because of the negatives. I don’t think passing a plate is wrong. We just don’t do it.) But isn’t there another BIG reason to give to your church? Yes, I hope there is altruism in your gift. But isn’t there something else? Obedience. It is a dirty word in our culture. Obedience. But that is how we grow. That is how we grow as children. That is how we grow as Christians. I don’t know how to put others before myself until I practice it. I don’t know how to become less self-centric until I practice it. I don’t know how to be obedient until I practice it. Tithing is bare-minimum obedience practice. It is the absolute easiest form of obedience. God asks us first for the small things. When that becomes easier, it becomes easier to give the big things. To give up our lives for full-time ministry. To give up our children for full-time ministry. To give up our time for someone in need. To give up our comfort for someone else. To give up ourselves for the cross. 10% of your money is the starting point.

So why is it so hard? Why are churches closing the doors because they don’t have the funds to carry on? Why are pastors working two or three jobs just to be able to bring God’s word to God’s people? Why are churches not being planted? 70% giving 10%– we shouldn’t have problems funding any aspect of Christian work. The widows should easily be taken care of. The orphans should be well loved and cared for. The missionaries shouldn’t have to come home to beg, but come home to share the fire in their bellies for the people. Why is 10% so hard for us to let go of? And is 10% in your pocket really worth limiting the Church?

So what do donors or givers like to get? Well, according to the podcast, they like getting something in return. An inflated ego, for sure. They want to win something. They want to gain something. They want control. Sadly, how much does this all sound like Christians? (Ahem. Especially that control part. Ahem.)

But what do we actually get by tithing? What is in it for you? Well, the fact that we ask that question highlights the problem. If you’re more concerned about yourself than others then you clearly haven’t quite gotten the message of Christ.

Now, I could go through the list of what your pastor does, what your church does. I could add copies of the budget and account for hours spent and what they were spent doing. But really, the bottom-line is obedience. And your church shouldn’t have to use gimmicks and tactics to get your support. You should support them because you love God and you love the Church. You should give because you are invested in the Gospel of Christ. We should give because God tells us we should. The Christian life is a life lived for others– from our pocket books to the hours in our days. Giving isn’t to make you feel good. It isn’t to make you feel bad. It isn’t to purchase your mansion in glory. Giving is about obedience to God and love for others.

Now, I know my editor is going to give me grief about this post. All I have to say to him is that I was led to say something and that I did it out of love, not self. I think it is a message worth sharing.

Posted in On The Reading Chair, Out Of My Head

Half The Church Book Review

My review for you is different than what I posted on Amazon. Mostly because this book brought up plenty of personal issues that wouldn’t be appropriate for a book review on their site. Also, in the interest of full disclosure, Amazon gave me this book to review. However, they do not require me to write a kind review, nor do I feel obligated to do anything but give my honest thoughts.

 

 

First, let me say that I had high hopes for this book. I have not read anything by Carolyn Curtis James before, but loved the premise of the book. I was not prepared for the graphic stories in this book. This book tells stories in just about every chapter about atrocities done to women and girls around the world. Nothing in the description of the book prepared me for that possibility. I do not think such stories should be quieted, however, a warning to readers about such things would have been nice. Had I read this book 2 months ago while very pregnant and sensitive, it would have been the cause of a lot of emotional distress. (Seriously, I don’t allow the news to be on where I can hear it while pregnant because of the stress it causes me.)

 
After reading the book, it seems I should have read Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide (Vintage). Carolyn Curtis James seems to reference this book in almost every chapter, telling you something else she read in that book. It was quite annoying. It almost made the book feel like a very long book report or something. It’d be like me writing a book based on my reading of this book. Which, I know is what they did back in the day (like John Wesley), but it isn’t quite the same in this modern sense.

 
This book felt very disjointed to me. Carolyn doesn’t do a very good job of making clear, concise points. In fact, I had a hard time figuring out just what she was getting at constantly. I don’t think the book accomplished it’s purpose, which would be to “recapture God’s global vision for women.” There was nothing clear about what women should be doing that they are not currently. No insight into the cultural vs. Biblical tug of war we find ourselves in. Instead, the book mainly focuses on trying to get women to see their global calling to help other women who are oppressed. I get that is important and I agree that the church should be looking out for the widowed and ophaned. However, global women’s missions is not everyones calling. Nor is it a calling for women only.

 
What this book did do was start an internal dialogue for me. It started me toward thinking about where women are in my own church. It prompted me to begin thinking about how I am using my gifts for the Kingdom. It made me consider, “Are women’s roles in the church a Biblical issue or a cultural one?” It also made me think about my sometimes limited vision for my daughter. When each of my sons were born, I thought of them growing up and doing big things. Maybe they’d be theologians, missionaries, extreme sports enthusiasts, pastors, professors, doctors, engineers, etc. With Imogene, I didn’t think like that. I thought, I wonder if she’ll grow up and be happy with herself. My vision then was maybe she could be a teacher. Yep. Not a professor like the boys or a writer, but a teacher. (Not that there is anything wrong with teaching. I’m just saying my vision for her was clearly much more limited.) And why? I see women as being equal and strong. Why would I automatically limit her? (I really think it is not an intentional thing. I think I am just programmed to see women that way. I was raised to be subservient and check my brain at the door. I’d be a very rich woman if I have a dollar for every time I was told that I wasn’t “allowed” to have an opinion. Clearly, I am getting beyond that brainwashing, but I do think I need to be more intentional about it.) If you’ll also notice my list of things for my boys didn’t include anything like chef, fashion designer, florist, interior designer, stay-at-home-dad, etc. Why? I have no clue. It jut wasn’t the first thing I thought of. It isn’t that any of those things is lowly. They are all awesome things to do. I think I need to work on retraining my initial reaction to be what I know in my head. That I want my children to do something that they love, something that gives them a sense of fulfillment. I want them to be the people God created them to be, without being worried about gender lines and places. I want them to pursue what they are gifted toward and have a heart for, whatever that might be.

 
I do see that half the church is left out, or sold a smaller version of the gospel. I see that women are not given the ministry opportunities within the church. I do see how the church’s view of women can harm our evangelistic efforts. However, this book didn’t give me anything to rectify the situation in my life or in my circle of influence. It only gave me points to begin thinking on.

 

If we, the Body, are going to continue to reach people in our culture that is increasingly turning from Christianity, we are going to need everyone using their God given gifts to the fullest. That means we are going to have to check some of the patriarchy at the door.

 

I gave this book 3 out of 5 stars. Honestly, the book itself probably only earned 2 out of 5 stars for me, but because of the various strands it started me thinking about, its value increased for me. It wasn’t entirely about what was written, but what it forced me to think about.