“In the mess of church life, where we ricochet between a various assortment of church hurts, we’re failing at something far more significant than sinning against our brothers and sisters. We’re forgetting the reason we’re even able to call them brothers and sisters. We’re forgetting that because of Jesus, we share a brotherhood with eternal continuity due to the commonality we share in Christ. Has that ever occurred to you? Sometimes it feels as if the easiest thing to do when someone has slandered or gossiped against you is to break ties and run like a screaming hyena out of the foyer and speed away. Maybe the hurt from a trusted friend cut so deep that you don’t know how to move on, forgive, or trust him ever again. In the moment, these torturous thoughts and erratic emotions are hard to move past. But they’re problematic for the long term because this person who sinned grievously against you is someone who has also been forgiven for past, present, and future sins. Like you.”
Ronnie Martin in The Bride(zilla) of Christ
In The Berenstain Bears Bedtime Devotional, Mike Berenstain uses the characters in Bear Country to illustrate important Christian truths to a young audience. The layout includes a simple Bible verse, a short story featuring a member of the Bear family, an application section that helps tie in the teaching of the verse and story, and a concise two phrase summary that concludes the lesson. The book is divided into several themes including joy, thankfulness, and forgiveness with a number of chapters devoted to each theme allowing children to gain different angles of each focus. For example, one chapter talked about how joy is expressed in singing, dancing, and praising God expressively. The next chapter however provided another aspect in that we can experience joy through the quietness and peace that only comes from God. As such, each chapter aims to help young children recognize and focus on God as the ultimate source of all good things.
I would happily recommend this devotional to parents of toddlers as they establish a bedtime devotions routine. This book will be especially attractive to kids who have already been exposed to the Berenstain Bears through their leisure reading. I can remember reading dozens of Berenstain Bear books during my childhood and am quite pleased with how the younger Berenstain has able to integrate Christian truths into his parent’s work. I look forward to reading more of the “Living Lights” series and seeing how the Bear family continues to realize God’s truths in their everyday lives.
In compliance with Federal Trade Commission guidelines, I was provided a review copy of this book from BookLook Bloggers.
In Married for God, Christopher Ash defends God’s definition of marriage and discusses how marriage is to be used to fulfill the mission of God. This book is not about communication techniques or spousal personality compatibility but centers upon the purposes that God intends marriage to accomplish. The motto that Ash gives to his message is “sex in the service of God” which is a simplified form to describe all the fullness, benefits, and fruit that comes from marriage that focuses on serving and pleasing God. Instead of Western culture’s belief that marriage is for personal fulfillment, God intends for marriage to display His glory and illustrate His love for His people. In Genesis, God had commissioned Adam and Eve to be joined together and procreate more steward-gardeners to tend the earth. As such, marriage is not a private arrangement between two people who simply enjoy each other’s company and forsake all other obligations. Rather, marriage is God’s instituted means of establishing His kingdom on earth and married couples are to be faithful to this calling. The book explores several tough topics such as sex, children, and singleness which Ash discusses with scriptural support, pastoral counsel, and practical advice. Moreover, each chapter ends with probing questions suitable for group and individual reflection.
There is one chapter in the book in which I found quite challenging to digest. In chapter six, Ash states that marriage is an institution ordained by God since creation and that all marriages, whether Christian or not, have the same boundaries and shape (pg. 106). I agree that marriage is God’s institution and marriages between non-believing parties are to also follow God’s pattern for marriage as found in the Bible. In that sense, there is certainly no difference between Christian and non-Christian marriages. However, I wonder whether non-Christians would agree that all the same boundaries that Christian marriages uphold apply to them. One example is the oath-keeping aspect in a marriage. Civil weddings do not even require oaths anymore and bear little semblance to the covenantal promises whether verbalized or not in a wedding between two Christians. If Christian lovers commit themselves to each other and to serve God publicly, what are two unbelievers committing themselves to and what are they bound by? I would argue that marriages between believers carry much greater spiritual significance and implications. Although I agree with Ash that marriage is God’s instrument to realize society’s stability and prosperity, I hesitate to limit Christian marriages to the same shape and boundaries of two non-believers who may not care at all what the Bible says about marriage.
I would recommend this book to everyone and especially to those preparing to enter into marriage. The author’s concise defence of marriage is admirable and much needed in today’s culture which increasingly deviates from God’s intent for marriage. The arguments put forth are straightforward and filled with pastoral wisdom bringing clarity in the midst of society’s twisted understanding of marriage. Moreover, Ash also reminds readers that those who are single or are unable to have children should not despair thinking that they have somehow missed God’s purpose for them. Marriage is neither what earns one’s standing before God nor the only means by which one can serve God. Rather, both singles and couples are to faithfully serve in whatever circumstances that God has placed them in. Those who God has put together, God’s requirements are to commit every aspect of their marriages to bring honour, glory, and praise to the Bridegroom who will one day return to wed His Bride.
In compliance with Federal Trade Commission regulations, I was provided a free review copy of this book from Crossway.