Wednesday, June 29, 2011

The Blessing: Giving the Gift of Unconditional Love and Acceptance Revised & Updated by John Trent and Gary Smalley

John Trent and Gary Smalley in The Blessing: Giving the Gift of Unconditional Love and Acceptance present the principle and practical details of providing blessing especially for our children.  The authors note the need of all humans to be accepted and the power of blessing in giving this gift of acceptance and love to our children as they grow into adulthood.  Trent and Smalley look to Genesis 27 and the retelling of Isaac’s unintentional blessing Jacob instead of his oldest son Esau.  Using this as the model of blessing and providing historical context to blessing in a Jewish world view the authors present their readers the five elements of blessing:
           
            “1. Meaningful and appropriate touch
              2. A spoken message
              3. Attaching high value to the one being blessed
              4. Picturing a special future for him or her
              5. An active commitment to fulfill the blessing (Trent and Smalley, 45)”               
The author’s argue that a blessing consisting of these five elements will help children to more fully emerge as balanced adults who can then spread the blessing to others including their own children.  Blessing creates a legacy.  The authors then document the devastating impacts of when blessing is withheld from children, the obstacles to blessing in some households (such as children of divorce and death or desertion) and how to overcome obstacles to provide blessing.  Trent and Smalley conclude their text by providing examples of the ultimate blessing expert in action, Jesus. 

Over 15 years ago my grandmother sent me a letter while I was in college.  In that letter she told me of her pride in me and how special I was.  Additionally, she spoke about the future she expected I would have.  A few years later, she passed away.  It was one of the last significant interactions I had ever had with my grandmother, with who I was very close.  Throughout her life my grandmother with me applied some the elements of blessing in our interactions.  And this letter served as the capstone to that blessing.  Today, the letter is framed and sits in a place of honor in my home office.  As I look back, she was just one of several relatives (an uncle and my wife’s grandmother immediately come to mind) and teachers who most likely unknowingly worked to speak blessing into my life.  And that’s not even counting my parents who also spoke messages into my life of blessing.  Where I have confidence and success today, is largely as an impact of that blessing.  As I consider this in light of The Blessing, I wonder how much more powerful could these gifts have been if the blessings had been intentional, because honestly they have a powerful hold on me today even as accidents.  And I am lead to consider how can I even more intentionally speak blessing into the lives of my children, family members and children in my ministry today?  The blessing as I can see in my own life is a powerful tool that cannot be ignored.

This text is an updated version of Trent’s and Smalley’s The Gift of the Blessing in honor of its 25th anniversary.  Along with reissuing the book, the author’s have created a website at www.TheBlessing.com with supporting video and text materials.  Throughout the book and the site, they call for parents to accept the Blessing Challenge, one million adults pledging to bless another.  This book and challenges helps to remind us that God has spoken into his story,
 2-3 I'll make you a great nation
      and bless you.
   I'll make you famous;
      you'll be a blessing.
   I'll bless those who bless you;
      those who curse you I'll curse.
   All the families of the Earth
      will be blessed through you (Gen 12:2-3, The Message)

We have been blessed and because of it we must bless!      
    
Review Copy Provided by Thomas Nelson

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

The Spirit in Football by Kathryn Nixon and Ana Boudreau


Kathryn Nixon and Ana Boudreau in The Spirit in Football presents the fruits of the spirits from Galatians 5:22-23 to children through images and word pictures related to football. For example, they present to children the idea of gentleness by not reacting badly to a penalty. Or one learns about joy through the excitement of a touchdown. Each of the nine fruits of the spirit is presented in two pages, with one page providing a supporting verse and the other page matching the specific fruit of the spirit to a concept familiar to those who enjoy football. The book also includes an introduction from National Football League player Matt Hasselbeck and a football themed prayer.

I’m a sports fan and looked forward to sharing this book with my son. He really enjoys playing with sports balls so I thought the pictures would grab his interest. He, a young three year old, sat patiently through a full reading of the book. But on a personal level he was more engaged with the author’s baseball book on the fruits of the spirit. At this time, the fruits of the spirit are over his head. But, this book does help serve to introduce concepts like kindness and self control to young children and begin the foundations of character building.

Review Copy Provided by The B&B Media Group, Inc.

The Spirit in Baseball by Kathryn Nixon and Ana Boudreau


Kathryn Nixon and Ana Boudreau in The Spirit in Baseball presents the fruits of the spirits from Galatians 5:22-23 to children through images and word pictures related to baseball. For example, they present to children the idea of patience through waiting for one’s turn at bat. Or one learns about joy through the excitement of a homerun. Each of the nine fruits of the spirit is presented in two pages, with one page providing a supporting verse and the other page matching the specific fruit of the spirit to a concept familiar to those who enjoy baseball. The book also includes an afterward from Mrs. Nixon’s husband Trot Nixon, former Major League Baseball player, and a baseball themed prayer.

I’m a big baseball fan, so this book caught my interest since I could share faith and baseball at the same time with my son. But to be honest, as a young three year old what engaged him was finding the baseball in every picture. He really likes sports balls. So the great news was he would be willing to sit through multiple reads since he could find the baseball every time. But alas the fruits of the spirit are at this time over his head. But, this book does help serve to introduce concepts like kindness and self control to young children.

Review Copy Provided by The B&B Media Group, Inc.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Jesus, My Father, the CIA and Me by Ian Morgan Cron




Ian Morgan Cron in Jesus, My Father, the CIA, and Me recounts key moments in his life and his growing relationship with God. Cron was born to affluent parents, including a father who was an executive for Screen Gems working in the United Kingdom. His parents socialized with the rich and famous in London, but the senior Cron’s entertainment career was wasted by a curse, the curse of alcoholism. Oh, and his father worked for the fledging CIA on an occasional basis! Cron grew up in fear of this father and seeking to gain his approval and at times just approval. As a young man he developed his own substance abuse problem, which he struggled and struggles with. Along with Cron’s need to connect to his father, Cron also describes hs desir to connect to God in a meaningful way and how he used substance abuse to replicate feeling close to God.

Overall Jesus, My Father the CIA and Me is a highly readable book. The episodes from Cron’s life are typically engaging and you are able to enter into the incidents with Cron. My biggest complaint is Cron occasionally uses phrases or makes cultural references that belong to today and not Cron’s earlier years. For example he makes a reference to “$#*! My Dad Says” which simply removed me from his storytelling taking me a few minutes to return. Cron provides his readers a generally enjoyable tale, which records one man’s walk with addiction and God. It is the sort of summer read that one can both find entertainment and meaning in.

Review Copy Provided by Thomas Nelson

Thursday, June 2, 2011

We Shall See God: Charles Spurgeon’s Classic Devotional Thoughts on Heaven by Randy Alcorn

Randy Alcorn in We Shall See God collects fifty experts from Charles Spurgeon’s sermons on the topic of heaven. Alcorn has selected from Spurgeon’s vast treasury of sermons excerpts that show Spurgeon’s thoughts on heaven and the importance of Jesus in a theology of the afterlife. After every two to five page Spurgeon excerpt, Alcorn provides commentary on Spurgeon’s thoughts and helps provide linkages to the modern day. Alcorn for his modern reader additionally edited each section to meet modern conventional grammar, often resulting in rearranging large paragraphs into smaller chunks. Alcorn along with the excerpts provides biographical information on Spurgeon for readers unfamiliar with his life and ministry.

For the purposes of this review, I want to focus primarily on Spurgeon’s thoughts. Though Alcorn’s commentary is helpful and helps readers get to the point of sermons written in the language of the 19th century. Spurgeon overall paints a picture of heaven that is exciting, better than one can expect and adventurist. Spurgeon chaffs at those who view heaven as a boring uninteresting existence that humans would not want to spend an eternity in. Instead heaven is a place of rest and sabbath where believers will finally know Jesus in a personal manner. The saved will live in heaven as kings, redeemed by the work of Christ. In heaven there will be no place for sin, but there will be room for laughter and joy. Spurgeon believed that believers would retain their personal identities and friendships, deeper than we could have in the old earth, in the restored creation. This is a devotional book and the cheery and exciting picture that Spurgeon paints of heaven is highly encouraging. On a side note there have been a lot of discussion about heaven and what does it mean to be an Universalist. Spurgeon makes clear that he believes that he believes that there will be more in heaven than those that are lost to hell, an existence without God. Alcorn states his belief that Spurgeon is not an Universalist in anyway, as Jesus is the key to salvation. But it does lead to questions about what does it mean to be an Universalist and the importance to provide each other grace in this debate. In my opinion, we are currently experiencing an vigorous theological debate amongst believers about heaven. In short, it’s nice to see where we have been already to help us determine where we are going.

Review Copy Provided by Tyndale House Publishers