Book Review – Through the Bible Devotions by Mark Littleton

You cannot walk into a store this time of year without being taunted by those pastel packages of miniature candy. I immediately go into a candy stupor, just like when I was a little girl. Still to this day, I cannot fathom why my mom would load up our Easter baskets with giant chocolate bunnies and jelly beans and then spend the rest of the day trying to keep us from bouncing off the walls. Not only do we refrain from inundating our children with candy but we also make a concerted effort to dispense with the bunny. If you are looking for a Christ-centered non-candy Easter basket addition then I would like to recommend “Through the Bible Devotions” by Mark Littleton.

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What caught my eye in Lifeway was the orange circle on the front cover that reads “From Genesis to Revelation in 365 Days.” My children are young (5 & 8 years old) and up until that point we had jumped around in the bible reading favorite bible stories, stories about heroes, or following reading plans that corresponded with the holidays. I wanted to be deliberate about reading through the entire bible with our children.

This devotion is written for pre-teens.

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PROS: We have been using this devotional for going on 10 weeks. The weeks are marked but they are not dated so it makes a good gift no matter what time of year it is (it’s not necessarily a New Year devotional). Every day there is a theme, in the example above the theme is True Loyalty, which is supported by the main reading for the day. To truly cover the entire bible you will have to read the optional reading as well. I find that the devotions are age appropriate, applicable to social situations that our kids may face, and spark good conversation with the children. There is a one sentence prayers at the bottom of each lesson that we expand on as part of our bedtime prayers. In our reading we have covered the topics of: prayer, obedience to parents and God, misusing God’s name, idols, dealing with criticism, fear, forgiveness, loyalty and more.

CONS (for younger children): Because I am using this with my kindergartner we omitted the word “idiot” from the week 9 devotional. On another day Week 7: Wednesday [Speaking about rebellious children] “Sometimes young people start doing far worse things than coming home late or telling a little lie. Sometimes they get into drugs, drinking, sex, and many other things…,” I skipped the second sentence. Despite our families need for these small adjustments I award this book 4.5 stars.

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About the Author: Mark Littleton

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Mark Littleton is a graduate of Colgate University and Dallas Theological Seminary, and is a former youth pastor and pastor. He is the author of more than 2000 articles in such magazines as Discipleship Journal, Reader’s Digest, Christianity Today, Focus on the Family, Preaching, Group, and many others. He has had more than 98 books published, several of them bestsellers, including the NIRV Kids’ Devotional, the Edge Devotional Bible for Kids, the Sports Heroes Series, and the “Up” series for teens. He has been nominated three times and been in the final round for the Gold Medallion Award of the ECPA. He has won Campus Life Magazine’s “Book of the Year” Award twice.

Reflections on Easter

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By Sabrina McDonald

The Bradford pear trees are blooming.  Daffodils are peaking out in bright yellow.  I see buds sprouting on trees and bushes everywhere.  Spring is taking over winter, and it’s like the flowers are shouting out in all their glory, “I’m alive again!” Finally the death of winter is ending and the whole creation is experiencing resurrection. It’s a physical tangible example of the promise God has made to His people that we too will experienced new life—the perfect setting for the Easter holiday.

Most of my life I took Easter for granted.  I was certainly grateful for Jesus’ resurrection, but the power of overcoming death didn’t really reach my heart until my first husband, David, died in a car accident three years ago.  After he passed away it felt like death was all around me.  People told me story after story of other young men and women who had died unexpectedly.  I felt completely out of control, as if accidental death was around every corner.  I became preoccupied with the thought of dying, having panic attacks and experiencing symptoms of life threatening illnesses all the time.  I lived in looming fear that something would happen to me, especially with my children being just babies.

That first Easter following David’s death was like a washing baptismal rain, pouring down as a spring shower over my spirit.  The combination of watching the beginnings of spring life peeking through and the powerful reminder of Jesus’ resurrection sprouted in me a renewed hope.  I drank in its beauty and promise, tears streaming down my face all day long.  

It was at the resurrection of Lazarus that Jesus declared these words to a mournful Martha:

“I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in me will live even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die.  Do you believe this?” And I would read her reply as a declaration of my own soul, “Yes, Lord; I have believed that you are the Christ, the Son of God, even He who comes into the world.” (John 11:25-27).

In His statement, Jesus doesn’t mince words.  He doesn’t speak in mysterious parables in this mournful setting.  When I read Jesus’ conversation with Martha, I hear a serious compassion in his voice.  I hear Him speaking directly and authoritatively, as if He is saying, “Listen to me.  I’m going to make this plain because I know your emotions are raw, and it’s so hard for mere humans to see past the permanence of death, but believe me when I say, Death has been conquered.”  

Try explaining to a 2-year-old why his Daddy is never coming back.  It’s such a difficult concept to understand that I continue to have this conversation with my 5-year-old son even now, three years later.  There are still days when it hits me that David really died.  He didn’t leave us.  He isn’t on a trip or lost on an island.  No matter how hard I tried at the time to fix it, no matter how much I wished his return, there was no way for me to bring him back to life.  But Jesus walked to the tomb of Lazarus and called him out, and Lazarus came.

As impressive as the story of Lazarus is, the resurrection of Jesus far surpasses even such magnificence.  It’s one thing to come out of a grave when someone calls you.  It’s quite another to rise up from the dead according to the sheer power of the Holy Spirit alone! The Bible says that death could not keep Jesus in its grip (Acts 2:24).  When we are called by God from our resting place, we too will awaken perfect and complete, just as our Savior, the first-born of the Spirit.

I don’t understand the workings of life after death.  What will we look like?  Where is heaven?  How long does it take to get there?  Will we remember this life? Will we see people on earth?  There are so many questions, but I love the way Job describes his future state of being when he joins the Lord, “Even after my skin is destroyed, yet from my flesh I shall see God.”  (19:26). 

I just love knowing that things in heaven don’t work the way they do on earth!  I don’t have to understand it.  The heavenly world works on a whole new set of physiological laws.  There is so much I can’t know until I can see with spiritual eyes.  As 1 Corinthians 13:12 explains, “For now we see through a glass darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then I shall I know even as also I am known.”  

But I do know that I will never die.  I know that David is not really dead, but in Heaven.  I know that in some future time, hopefully soon, the trumpet will sound and all the dead in Christ will rise! And I know that anyone who believes in Jesus will enjoy the same benefits, just as He declared to Martha.

Having experienced the repercussions and aftermath of death, and living under such great fear of its looming inescapable presence, Easter has become to me a yearly praise offering poured out in the form of tears and singing and maybe a little dancing birthed out of hope, the only hope there is.

 

About the Author:

Sabrina McDonald is the author of the devotional book for women Open the Windows of Heaven, and a former senior writer and web editor for FamilyLife, a ministry of Campus Crusade for Christ.  Over the years she has written of her engagement, wedding, and marriage to David Beasley, her experiences as a mother, her adjustment to widowhood in 2010, and her re-marriage in 2013 to Robbie McDonald.

A Liberation Project

Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30

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God grants us freedom from other “gods” that we allow to take that #1 position in our lives – success, pride, addictions, covetousness, comparison, busyness, laziness, procrastination, or even sexual promiscuity. Do you need to lay down a heavy burden today and put God back in His rightful place (#1) in your life? If you are doing well with your own spiritual walk, is there someone else that you could come alongside – believer or non-believer? Ladies look around, you are probably standing in the mission field that God intended you to work. Go liberate someone!

Be Doers of the Word

When I joined First Baptist Church a year ago I had never attended such a mission minded church. In order to be a member at First Baptist you must attend the Life@First class. This was a good place for me to start because I had not attended a Baptist Church before either. As part of the welcome package, Pastor Avey reviewed the mission opportunities available though FBC. I was immediately attracted to the Bangladesh Mission Trip but when I mentioned it to my husband he asked me, “Why that one, why not…” So I let it go.

April showers bring May flowers and June brings VBS. As a new member I wanted to get connected so I tossed my name into the pool of volunteers. Where did Tammy assign me? Teaching the mission message to preschoolers.

November at FBC was all about missions. In fact, it was during the last missions message that a video clip moved my spirit. Images of the crowed streets and train station in Bangladesh moved me to tears and my heart broke for those people. So many. So lost without Christ. After that message I contacted John Carney, the mission team leader.

Through my time in scripture, those series of events, and my scripture verse for 2013 – I felt God calling me to Bangladesh. My scripture verse for 2013 was James 1:22 – we are to be doers of the word, and not hearers only. What does His Word tell us about missions? From the beginning…

The Lord had said to Abram, “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you. “I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.”

This blessing is repeated in Genesis 26:4 & Genesis 28:14. Now read it again in light of Galatians 3:29, “If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise” and Galatians 3:14 “He redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit.” You don’t need a calling to be apart of missions because you are part of the family. God intended to use us to reach others from the very beginning, it was part of his divine plan. Will you yield your heart to his purposes and let Him bless others through you?

How dare we adopt a hostile or scornful or even indifferent attitude to any person of another color or culture if our God is the God of “all the families of the earth”? We need to become global Christians with global vision,  for we have a global God.  ~John R. W. Stott

For further study. These verses speak to Gods desire for his name to be know among the nations:

1 Sam 17:45-46 …the whole world will know that there is a God in Israel

1 Kings 8:41-43so that all the peoples of the earth may know your name and fear you

Ps 46:10I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.

Ps 67:1-2 …so that your ways may be know on earth, your salvation among all nations

Dan 3:29-30 …for no other god can save in this way

Isa 49:6that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.

Jer 16:19-20to you the nations will come from the ends of the earth and say, “Our ancestors possessed nothing but false gods, worthless idols that did them no good. Do people make their own gods? Yes, but they are not gods!”

Hab 2:14 For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.

Zeph 2:11 The Lord will be awesome to them when he destroys all the gods of the earth. Distant nations will bow down to him, all of them in their own lands.

Mal 1:11 My name will be great among the nations, from where the sun rises to where it sets. In every place incense and pure offerings will be brought to me, because my name will be great among the nations,” says the Lord Almighty.

Matt 24:14 And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.

1 John 2:2 He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.

We are blessed to be a blessing. Far more than a duty – it’s our destiny.

~ John R. W. Stott

Are you ready to be more than a hearer of God’s Word? There is still room on the Bangladesh mission team and others. If you cannot commit to GO this year then please pledge to pray for our mission teams, our church plants, and our international missionaries.

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Summer Reading Club

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Cherished Women at First will be hosting a Summer Reading digital book club. It may seem a little premature to be talking about summer when just two weekends ago we were scraping ice off our windows. However, this little tease of warmer weather has me thinking about pedicures and escaping into a good read – poolside of course. I’m also a bit of a bibliophile so if you are too then lets plan to meet up!

Basics to Participating

The big rules for our book club: No spoilers that take place in the rest of the book, and only post after you’ve read the section (which helps prevent you from being “spoiled”).  We do allow spoilers for each section, though.  For instance, if this week’s reading was on Ch 1-3, you can talk all about everything in Ch 1-3, spoilers and all, but do not share anything from Ch 4+. 

  • Read the book and comment during the allotted time. Our goal is to chat about the book, so all we want to know are your book-related thoughts.
  • Go back and comment on other people’s responses.  The purpose is discussion, so don’t stop by once, stop by a few times.
  • Don’t talk about anything AFTER the assigned section.
  • If you read ahead, it’s okay!  Just stop at the assigned points and jot down some notes (before continuing to read!).  That way, you can comment along with everyone else without giving spoilers by accident.
  • Have fun with it.  It’s a book club, not an assignment.

Where We Meet

Only on Facebook! This way you can participate no matter where your summer activities and travel plans take you. Request to join the group at https://www.facebook.com/groups/CherishedBookClub/. Can you invite friends, aunts, cousins, or mom to join? Sure. We will be choosing Christian fiction and non-fiction books only so this could be an indirect way to present the gospel.

When Do We Meet

We will start reading June 1st and our first discussion question will be posted on Friday, June 6th. Since we are doing our discussion in a Facebook group the comments will never go away. If you fall behind you can read the comments from the session you missed and rejoin us at the next discussion time.

How Books Are Chosen

May 1st you may start making suggestions right to our Facebook wall. I will compile the suggestions and we will vote directly on our Facebook page. Don’t worry if your suggestion is not picked the first time. We will read as many books as we can over the course of the summer. The length of the books we choose will determine the number of weeks that we spend on each selection.

I look forward to chatting with you and I pray that we will be mutually encouraged through great Christian literary works!

~Amanda Geaney

Cherished Women at First

Social Media Coordinator

Book Review ~ In the Shadow of Jezebel

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Christian author Mesu Andrews displays her literary prowess in her fourth historical fiction work “In the Shadow of Jezebel.” Although Jezebel makes a cameo appearance in the book the story speaks more to her far reaching influence over the Southern Kingdom of Judah through the arranged marriage of her daughter Athaliah. Once King Jehoram is struck by illness, Athaliah seizes power through fear and manipulation and attempts to dismantle the worship of Yahweh in Solomon’s Temple. By arranging a marriage between Jehoram’s daughter, Jehosheba, and a priest of Yahweh, Jehoiada, Athaliah plots to lead a nation into idolatry. However, God’s love for His people and His promise to keep a descendant of David on the throne will not be thwarted.

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This intriguing novel never slows but continues to draw the reader in through it’s entirety. Prepare to be transported  back in time through vivid descriptions of Temple architecture, palace decor, city landscapes, and Old Testament feasts. The well researched details are truly insightful and enrich the storyline without becoming arduous. I was captivated by the characters – chilled by the calculating and evil persona of Jezebel and Athaliah, distressed by the brokenness of Jehosheba, and warmed by the passion and devotion of Jehoiada. These characters are relatable because they struggle with the common problems of fear, insecurity, anger, and budding faith. Readers are reminded of how God pursues our hearts, that He is always in control, and always faithful to fulfill His promises. Mesu has done a remarkable job of glorifying God through a fictional retelling of the story.

Find it in scripture: 2 Kings 11 and 2 Chronicles 20-23

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Note: Available on the authors website is a bible study to accompany the book. Though not necessary, I felt it enriched the reading experience. By starting with scripture you are able to discern the parts of the story that are factual from those that are created. Also available is a discussion guide. I personally will be recommending this book to our Women’s Ministry summer reading club.

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About The Author:

Mesu Andrews is the award-winning author of Love Amid the Ashes, Love’s Sacred Song, and Love in a Broken Vessel. Winner of the 2012 ECPA Christian Book Award for New Author, she has  devoted herself to passionate and intense study of Scripture, bringing the biblical world vividly alive for her readers. She lives in Washington.

Mesu’s Website * Facebook * Twitter * Goodreads

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