Monday, July 8, 2013

At the Center of Every Pearl

I was reading the other day and came across the explanation we have all heard many times. The explanation of how a pearl comes to be.
The formation of a natural pearl begins when a foreign substance slips into the oyster between the mantle and the shell, which irritate­s the mantle. It's kind of like the oyster getting a splinter. The oyster's natural reaction is to cover up that irritant to protect itself. The man­tle covers the irritant with layers of the same nacre substance that is used to create the shell. This eventually forms a pearl. (http://science.howstuffworks.com/zoology/marine-life/question630.htm)
Tonight as I was talking with a few friends of mine who were recounting their personal history and what God had delivered them from I was reminded once again of the story of the pearl. What hit me was that at the center of every pearl is the source of irritation.

I have heard this analogy over and over in church. How God can take things in your life that are bad and turn them into something good if you let Him but what I had never thought of before and what I have never heard in a sermon on the subject is how the source of irritation is never removed. The oyster begins a process of covering the irritant with a substance called nacre as stated above. The same substance which creates the shell. The nacre is created from minerals in the oyster's food. The  more nutrient rich the oyster's diet the stronger the shell. The closer we walk with God and live on a steady diet of His Word the stronger we will become spiritually.
The LORD is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and he helps me. My heart leaps for joy, and with my song I praise him. Psalm 28:7
The shell is there to protect the oyster from harm. Like the oyster we have protection from harm as well in our Lord Jesus Christ. That protection is there inside and out! Even those things that we hide deep down inside away from every one else. God sees them and starts to coat them in his protective coating so that they don't continue to cause irritation and damage to us. The oyster must deal with the
irritation. It cannot simply ignore it and move on. It must move it around on all sides so that the whole things is coated creating a beautiful smooth surface. We too must deal with those things that are irritating or painful for us so that God is better able to create something beautiful out of them. This is by no means an easy process but it is necessary. God will not force you to deal with such things but if you let Him he will let you see the pearl that is created from them.

The pearl will always have the source of the irritation at its center. The thought of this really brings  Genesis 50:20 to life:
You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.
 Those things in your life that have been a great source of pain. The things that seems to constantly surface and remind you of the irritation are the things that God turns into something useable for...the saving of many lives. Yet we constantly ask God to remove those things from us or to deliver us from them. Instead we should pray that God would use them for good. For His good so that many lives can be saved. We should value them just as the world values and pays a high price for pearls - irritants and all. They can become our priceless treasures! These pearls are the very things that God will use to help you connect with someone who needs His touch in their life. The common ground that will open the door of someone's heart to welcome in the Savior.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

What's Your Mark by Jeremy Cowart

What's Your Mark is a book about making every moment of your life count. The idea behind the book is that everyone has a mark to make all you have to do is find out what your mark is. What's Your Mark includes interviews from a wide variety of people who have made their mark. From celebrities to the guy next door. Each mark is just as important as another.

I was excited to review this book because it was advertised as a book based on photographs. While the book does have photographs that are very nice I was disappointed in two things when it comes to them. The first disappointment is that the phtographs and the book itself are not bigger. I wanted to see large images that really made an impact. The second disappoint was that the photographs are not more artistic. They don't really tell their story as well as they could have. The photographs seem too cookie cutter like for my taste. The interviews are interesting. I cannot tell you that I enjoyed each one but there were a few that really impressed me.

What did impress me though is that in between each interview are whole chapters of the Biblical text the book is based on, the Gospel of Mark. The other thing that impressed me is that there is a website where people can go to and tell their story of how they made or are making their mark.

Overall this is a short book that is graphic driven. It would make a nice inspirational piece to have on a table or in a church foyer. I was not thrilled with this book because I expected larger more artistic photos.

 Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com <http://BookSneeze®.com> book review bloggers program. 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 <http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Blogging Samples for Linked In Profile

Firsthand by Ryan and Josh Shook
Firsthand deals with replacing secondhand religion with a faith that is your own, a firsthand faith. Secondhand religion is the religion that you accept as your own but it really belongs to someone else and has been passed down to you either by parents or teachers. You accept and believe things because someone else does. The book firsthand challenges you to look at what you believe and build a relationship with Christ for yourself.
I really believe this book is necessary. There are so many young people who are questioning whether the church or God are relevant in their lives. They are living the Christian life on shaky ground because they do not have a faith of their own. They have a faith that is borrowed from someone else. They will eventually find (read more...)


The Jesus Mission by Steven K. Scott
Steven K. Scott, Author of The Greatest Words Ever Spoken, gives us yet another compelling work in his most recent book The Jesus Mission published by Waterbrook Press.

Scott's book The Jesus Mission teaches us that Jesus came to earth with specific missions he had to accomplish in order to save the world. Twenty-seven of them in fact and each one accomplished! It then compels us to take up and accomplish the four missions that he assigned to each of us.

It was my great pleasure to read and review this book. Steven K. Scott does a great job of using scripture at every turn in the book. This is not a book of mere opinion but rather a book that shows us scripture and challenges us to (read more...)


Suprised by Oxford by Carolyn Webber

An agnostic turned Christian...this is Surprised by Oxford.  Can God get through to even the most non-trusting of souls?  Is there such a thing in this world as a genuine Christian?  Does God really care? These are all questions that Carolyn Weber asked on her journey to discover her need for Christ.

Carolyn Weber is a beautiful writer.  I thoroughly enjoyed her wonderful use of language and her descriptive sense of style.  The people and places were so vividly described I could almost taste the scones and feel the cool British rain on my face.  This book was an absolute joy to read.  There were times when I almost could not put it down.  What a treat!
Her story is sadly one with which all too many people can relate.  Surprised by Oxford is the story of an absentee father, an emotionally and financially struggling mother, and a young girl who had hardened her heart to God and love.  I enjoyed experiencing God's sense of humor throughout this book as He used anything and everything to get Carolyn's attention - even street signs.  I appreciated how transparent she was (read more...)

Monday, June 3, 2013

firsthand by Ryan & Josh Shook

Ryan & Josh Shook sons of Kerry and Chris Shook authors of One Month To Live have written a very relevant and necessary book for this generation in firsthand.

Ryan & Josh grew up in church but as they got older they realized their need to find their own faith instead of relying on the faith of their parents or teachers. They have used their own personal struggles in achieving an authentic faith to write firsthand.

Firsthand deals with replacing secondhand religion with a faith that is your own, a firsthand faith. Secondhand religion is the religion that you accept as your own but it really belongs to someone else and has been passed down to you either by parents or teachers. You accept and believe things because someone else does. The book firsthand challenges you to look at what you believe and build a relationship with Christ for yourself.

I really believe this book is necessary. There are so many young people who are questioning whether the church or God are relevant in their lives. They are living the Christian life on shaky ground because they do not have a faith of their own. They have a faith that is borrowed from someone else. They will eventually find their own faith the hard way or turn away from Christianity all together. Firsthand's goal is to help people who are struggling with second hand religion find their own firsthand faith. Each chapter in the book is followed up by questions for the reader to answer as well as testimonials from others who have struggled to find their own faith.

This book was a pretty easy read. Usually I am not a fan of easy read books but I think that in this case the fact that it is an easy read is a good thing. The reader really needs to focus on their own lives and answer some pretty challenging questions in order to gain their firsthand faith. If this book's difficulty level were any harder it would get in the way of the purpose of the book especially when dealing with a generation of readers who are use to reading online in the format of blogs, wiki's, Tweets and Facebook.

I am recommending firsthand as a Christian growth and development tool not as a Bible Study. If you are struggling with your experiences in church, with the Christian life, or are a ministry leader who has noticed that people in your ministry may be struggling you could very well benefit from using this book.


 “I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review”.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Something New is Coming!!

Something new is coming to Auntie M's Bookshelf!  Words of Wisdom from a few other Minister's Wives. Please check back soon to find out who will be joining Auntie M at the Bookshelf and what they have to say.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Unexpected Love by Julie Zine Coleman

                

Julie Zine Coleman does a fantastic job of showing how Jesus related to women throughout the Bible in Unexpected Love. Julie uses the stories of nine different women in the Bible to show us God's heart concerning women. The stories are full of valuable insights that will change the way you think about God's love for you.

Julie explains the issue of Jesus' comparison of dogs and women in the story of the Syrophoenician Woman in Matthew, the interaction between Jesus and Mary, his  mother, at the wedding at Cana, as well as seven other conversation Jesus had with women. In chapter six Julie gives us three red flags to look for to see if our service has become more about ourselves than about the One we serve. In chapter three she points out that sometimes our worship becomes more of a to-do list to check off when contrasting the actions of Simon the Pharisee and the Sinful Woman in Luke 7 and so much more.

This book is full of scripture and powerful insights. Julie starts out each chapter with the complete scripture where each woman's story is told. She also gives the reader an easy to follow sources annotation throughout each chapter so it is easy to check context or historical significance.

What a wonderful book! I learned quite a bit actually from this literary work. Some of the things that I had been taught as a child but never made sense came into clearer view for me through Julie's words and then there were some things that I had never noticed before.

If you are a woman who has been a bit puzzled with how Jesus talked to women in scripture I encourage you to grab a copy of this book and read it through like I did with notes on almost every page. If you are a man and would like to understand Jesus' relationship with women I encourage you to read through this book. This book does a wonderful job of dispelling religious myths while at the same time giving us a beautiful picture of how much our Savior knows, understands, and loves each of us.

If you would like to know more about the author visit her website at www.juliecoleman.org. Free resources including lesson plan ideas for groups using Unexpected Love can be found at www.unexpectedlove.org


Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com <http://BookSneeze®.com> book review bloggers program. 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 <http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”


Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Watch My New Commercial!

    Watch Auntie M's new commercial on YouTube.

Background Music:
"Bye Bye 2010" by Pitx (feat. SmoJos)
http://ccmixter.org/files/Pitx/29923
is licensed under a Creative Commons license:
http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

What should I review next?

    

Auntie M Video Promo!!!!

   
I am so excited! I have been asked to read and review the book firsthand by Ryan and Josh Shook and then shoot a promo video of my review!

My book just arrived today!

Be sure to Follow Me and I will let you know when the video will air. Just click the Follow Me link and sign up.

After the video airs I will be hosting a Book Give Away Contest to give away a couple of copies of the book firsthand. Check back or Follow Me to be informed of when the contest begins.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Rainbows and God's Order

    I was talking with my daughter the other day about Adam and Eve and the fall in the garden. She was very upset when she read Genesis 3:16. Specifically the part about "and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee." She very honestly stated that she didn't like that part. My husband and I saw this as an opportunity for a teaching moment. He asked her why and she couldn't come up with a reason she just knew that deep down in her something about that bothered her. The more we talked the more upset she became until she was in tears which broke my husband's heart. Not knowing what to say he just looked at her.

I knew why this particular passage bothered her because when I was younger it bothered me as well. To this day whenever someone misinterprets this passage it still bothers me. This was a result of the fall not God's intended plan. The Bible does however talk about submission or subjection. This submission issue has been misrepresented for years. Many combine the verse in Genesis with the verses in the New Testament that deal with submission. If you take the whole Bible in context (as good Christians are taught to do) you will learn that the submission is for both the husband and the wife. They are to submit to each other. Not one to "rule" the other. You see if you take scripture in its entirety you know that God's intention is not to put one human being above another and if somehow you missed that all you need to do is read James 2, Romans 12, or Philippians 2.

In my head I was trying to figure out how to explain to my daughter what God meant by this passage.

 That is when God gave me the wisdom I needed for the situation!

 My daughter loves rainbows. She has loved them since she was little. She is also very strict about portraying the rainbow. You see the rainbow has a certain order to its colors. That never varies - R.O.Y. - G. - B.I.V. (red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, and violet) Anytime someone gets the order wrong it really ruffles her feathers to the point that she can't help but to verbally correct them. This has been the case with her since she was very little.
God showed me that the rainbow could be used to teach her what He meant! The rainbow has this order and the only time it gets out of order is when man tries to recreate the rainbow himself using his own rules.

I looked at my daughter and asked her this simple question:
Which color in the rainbow is the most important color?
She looked at me puzzled as this question seemed completely off topic to her. I repeated the question. She answered none of them. They are all the same.

  I had her!
With a smile I said, "that is how it is with God."  She admitted she didn't understand. I told her no one color in the rainbow is of greater importance than another and yet some colors appear at the top of the rainbow while others appear at the bottom. She agreed. I explained that God's order was  the same way. His intention was never to make men more important than women either in heaven or here on
earth.

He is a God of order. He set things in a certain order so that He would be glorified. He didn't set men as the head of the household so that men would be more important but rather because that is the order that would best glorify Himself.

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Sunday, March 10, 2013

Who Is Auntie M?

    Welcome to Auntie M's Bookshelf! 



 My name is Martha and I am Auntie M.

am a Disciple of Jesus Christ, a book review blogger, and an aspiring author. I believe in studying, mentoring and personal growth.

I am the wife of a Southern Baptist Minister who is currently on staff at Country Meadows Baptist Church as the Worship Leader. I have two children, a 17 year old and an almost 2 year old. I can tell you from experience...you can start planning what you are going to do when the kids are out of the house but God may have a different plan. My husband and I adore our daughter and, one of the biggest surprises of our lives, our sweet little boy!

I grew up down on 10th Street in Kansas City, MO and attended a Christian school which is now closed in Independence. I was saved at the age of 18. Throughout my school career I attended several academic competitions where I competed in categories of Scripture Memorization, Speeches on the topic of Biblical Characters, Art, Vocal Music, and Poetry. I also hold a Bachelor's of Religious Studies and Church Leadership from Central Christian College of the Bible (Summa cum laude).

I have a desire to dig deep into Scripture and grasp all that God has for me. I don't believe that there is anything in His Word that is unknowable for me. I am assured in Scripture that if I seek Him with my whole heart He will be found. This is what I aim to do; seek Him with my whole heart. I don't look for Sunday school answers or church rhetoric. I am in search of His Words and His heart. Hopefully, what I write here will inspire others to do the same.

I also from time to time write book reviews. I love to watch people grow spiritually. I love to see them empowered by God's love and design for their lives. That is why I decided to seize the opportunity to write reviews for Christian Spiritual Growth studies. My desire is to help those who read my blog to know what studies are out there for them. I do not believe that what is currently happening in the U.S. in the area of church small groups has really been beneficial or effective to the Christian faith or to believers individually. Please hear my heart on this subject. I do not believe that lumping people into large groups and employing the most popular studies of the current day is as good for the cause of Christ as we would like to believe.

For years churches have been employing the use of these studies and yet we do not see our nation, communities, churches, families or ourselves as individuals changing. These studies can be powerful tools for growth and connection but unless we study scripture first and foremost while using these studies as aids to our understanding and thinking we are fooling ourselves by thinking that they will produce any kind of significant change.

My sincere desire is spark your interest in God's Word; to intrigue you as I have been intrigued. I also desire to give you the tools necessary to be able to sift through the current studies that are out there, and maybe even introduce you to some authors you may not have heard of otherwise and pick books and topics that are relevant to where you are in your spiritual walk or where your church or congregation may be in its spiritual walk.

Thank you for reading.

Auntie M
(Martha Burton)
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What Else Is Auntie M Reading?

    I am currently reading the book of Jeremiah. I believe the Old Testament is an important part of the Christian life and am saddened that a good majority of believers in America today feel that it is irrelevant for our lives today.

I noticed in Jeremiah 23:19 that God mentions "... a whirlwind of the Lord is gone forth in fury, even a grievous whirlwind..." and of course I started thinking. 




I recently watched (again) a documentary on the Dust Bowl. Ever since I first heard about the Dust Bowl that took place in the U.S. in the 1930's I have been intrigued by it. Yes, even drawn to it! I am in awe every time I think about this disastrous phenomenon. It was just so much bigger than anyone or anything ever known before. It takes my breath away to think about being there and witnessing something so huge. I always feel so small deep down inside. I love that feeling. 

                               

I love being presented with something so much bigger than myself because it makes me stop and consider just how very incomprehensibly big God is. Somehow that feeling reminds me that I am safe because no matter how big whatever I have been presented with is, or no matter how much it takes my breath away I know that God, my Father, is so much bigger. In fact He is the one who created the things in this world that I consider "BIG". 

Maybe that is why God uses big things in nature in His Word to describe things because he wants to remind us how very small we are so that we will be humble and how big He is so that we will be comforted.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

The Jesus Mission by Steven K. Scott

After you read this review please rank my review with the publisher. Thank you.


Steven K. Scott, Author of The Greatest Words Ever Spoken, gives us yet another compelling work in his most recent book The Jesus Mission published by Waterbrook Press.

Scott's book The Jesus Mission teaches us that Jesus came to earth with specific missions he had to accomplish in order to save the world. Twenty-seven of them in fact and each one accomplished! It then compels us to take up and accomplish the four missions that he assigned to each of us.

It was my great pleasure to read and review this book. Steven K. Scott does a great job of using scripture at every turn in the book. This is not a book of mere opinion but rather a book that shows us scripture and challenges us to do what that scripture is telling us.

I  LOVED this book and here is why. First of all if you have been following me you know that in my opinion a book that contains little or no scripture can not and should not be called a Bible Study. That doesn't necessarily mean it is a bad book. It could be described as a Spiritual Growth or Christian Life study but not a Bible Study. Steven's book The Jesus Mission can indeed in my opinion be called a Bible study. Scripture is the basis for everything in this book. Secondly, the way the book is laid out excited me. It is almost like a "How To" type model. He plainly lays out the 4 mission that Jesus left us with but then he goes a step further by breaking each mission into several "Action Items" so that the reader isn't left wondering how to accomplish the missions.

Several of the insights in this book left me with "Aha" moments or sparked other revelations about God that I had never seen before. The biggest of these "Aha" moments was in chapter 6 when Steven talks about that idea that the Salvation process may not look like what we think. He points out that the words confess and believe are two vastly different words and the difference may be leaving people "lost". He is also quick to point out that Jesus never mentioned a formula for Salvation like we see in so many churches today. It definitely leaves the reader with something to think about.
Steven also mentions the eleven ministries of the Holy Spirit and other things like being the salt of the earth, how to treat the sheep Jesus has entrusted you with and how to avoid the roadblocks, booby traps and deadly detours to following Christ.

I strongly encourage you to read this book and keep it on your bookshelf to read over again and again. This is definitely going to be one of my number one picks for 2013! Read the embedded chapter below just to get a taste of this exceptional book.
Click here to go back and rate my review please.

                   
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through their book review bloggers program. 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 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Nearing Home: Life, Faith, and Finishing Well by Billy Graham

Billy Graham makes a plea to an older generation not to retire from life in the book Nearing Home. He talks about his own personal revelations and struggles as he grows older and encourages others to use their golden years to honor the Lord. He touches on everything from influencing the impressionable around you to addressing your fading strength and building roots.

Seniors deal with a myriad of trials and struggles and Billy Graham addresses most of them in his book. He talks about depression and how feeling sick can turn you into a selfish person if you choose to focus on the circumstances in your life that are less than desirable. On the issue of money he tells them to make sure and not let their fears allow finances to become their master. On every issue he speaks as someone with personal experience. He opens up about his own personal struggles and what the Lord has taught him through them all.

I really appreciated the subject matter of Nearing Home. If the older generation quits serving then the generations to follow have no example to follow and what a shame that would be. There is just something beautiful about an older Christian leading by example. It is something special that cannot be found elsewhere!

My only criticism of this book is that each chapter seemed to go on a little to long. The format was confusing. It would seem like a chapter was summing up to a conclusion and then there would be a whole segment more on the issue. I eventually found it hard to get through a chapter due to this frustrating format. Other readers may not find the same to be true. I will say the content of this book is much needed and I have a great deal of respect for the author for not only addressing the subject but for using his own life as an example.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through their book review bloggers program. 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 <http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

I Never Thought I'd See the Day

(Originally Posted Friday, November 11, 2011)

I Never Thought I'd See The Day by Dr. David Jeremiah

An examination of a "culture at a crossroads" I Never Thought I'd See The Day shows us the 10 signs that our America is in trouble!  Dr. David Jeremiah shows us a new spin on Atheism, how Persia went from a protector of the Jewish people to persecutor, the reduced influence of the Bible on the Church of today and other very important topics Christians, and our culture are facing.
"...the big question Christians are asking:” says Dr. David Jeremiah "What do we do in light of the devolution of society around us?  When we ask the question in that way, we betray a misunderstanding of the problem.  We mistakenly think the problem is outside us-that it originates with the non-Christian population.  We sometimes adopt the attitude of the Pharisee who prayed, “God I thank you that I am not like other men-extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector"(Luke 18:11).  The truth is, we can echo the words of Pogo in the old Walt Kelly comic strip: “We have met the enemy and he is us!”  ..."

I did enjoy this book and think that is has definite relevance to our world today.  I believe Dr. David Jeremiah gives an accurate account of not only what is happening in our culture today but also what the Bible has to say about it.  I was raised in a Christian home, went to a Christian school and was taught on a weekly if not daily basis that these things would take place in my lifetime so my question is: How did a man who has been in the ministry for more than five decades really never think he would see the day when these things would take place?  That is really my only question concerning this book and I would love the opportunity to ask Dr. Jeremiah just that.  Not as a point of accusation (because I have to admit even though I truly believed I would see the day these things would come about I haven't always lived in a way that would prevent it) but rather to gain his insight as to how we as Christian can so often mislead ourselves about Biblical timelines and events much like the way teenagers all too often believe themselves to be immortal, and impervious to physical harm.  If I get the chance to talk with him about it I will most definitely share his answers with you!
I found this book to be a very interesting read.  My favorite chapter was chapter 8: When a Muslim State Could Intimidate the World.  I learned a few things I did not know and was able to get answers for a couple of questions I have been asking and studying about for a while now.  In addition to that, I was quite pleased that Dr. Jeremiah did not follow in the footsteps of the authors of "In The Fight of Our Lives.  (A book that if you remember did not get a good review from me...if you do not remember look through the blog and read my review.)  Dr. Jeremiah instead took me on a journey of education as to the history of Persia and the Muslim religion in that region of the world so that I now have a better understanding of history.  He also chose to end that chapter with stories of how God is reaching people in that region of the world and how they are turning to Him for salvation.  He chose to inspire his readers to hope instead of condemnation.
"While many are coming to Christ through the showing of films like The Passion of the Christ or The Jesus Film, there are dozens more stories of people who are being brought to Christ through dreams."
I really enjoyed this book and believe it would make a great sermon series or it might be better in a small group setting as I believe this book lends itself well to challenging its readers to think and discuss. 
I leave you with a verse from Hosea, a verse that Dr. Jeremiah also chose to quote in his book.
"My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge.”  Hosea 4:6


Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through their book review bloggers program. 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 <http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Living Close to God

(Originally Posted Saturday, October 29, 2011)


Living Close to God - When You're Not Good At It by Gene Edwards

Please rank my book review:

   Intended to be a guide to help those who are not spiritually inclined to have a closer walk with God this book, Living Closer to God, falls short of the mark.
Living Close to God starts out by explaining that some people are not as spiritually inclined as others. The author then uses the example of his completely illiterate grandfather to prove his point that you do not need to be highly educated to have a deep personal relationship with God. While I do not disagree with this belief I still would have liked to have been given some examples of his grandfather's walk with the Lord instead of just being told that he had a good one.
I also would like to know why Gene Edwards, the author of this book, believes he is spiritually inept.  Gene Edwards seems to focus on how he feels about his spiritual aptitude instead of the reality of it. You cannot and should not gauge your spiritual success by how you feel at any given moment.
As you read further into the book you are given steps to follow in order to have a deeper walk with Christ which would be good except for three problems:
  1. Christianity is not a one size fits all kinda thing.
    It is about a relationship and the neat thing about relationships is that each one is different because each person is unique.
  2. The author seems to only focus on the 23rd Psalm and believes that only some of the scriptures can be used by God to speak directly to a person. I am one of those strange people who believes "all scripture is given by inspiration of God." I also believe that God can use any of His scriptures to speak to a person including the genealogies if He chooses.
  3. The author rewrites the 23rd Psalm and instructs the reader to focus on his version of the scripture rather than actually focusing on the Word of God.
Overall, I did not appreciate the tone of this book nor its methodology. Instead of breaking this book up into nineteen chapters and six parts each one seeming to reiterate what was stated previously...over and over again. The author could have condensed the book's contents into a step by step pamphlet to hand out on Sunday mornings.
While I do agree with the author that we should keep our speech plain so that all can understand, I do not believe in totally disrespecting your reader by treating them as though they were a complete dolt.
So to sum up, I would not recommend this book on several factors. The authors tendency to rewrite scripture and encouraging his readers meditate on his version rather than on the actual word of God.  His tendency to talk down to his readers. And the fact that the content of this book was seriously lacking.
Look, we all from time to time can benefit from a little help with our spiritual walk but I do not believe that any of us is more spiritually inclined than another. None of us has the natural ability to stay close to God. It is God in us that enables us to do so. It is an even playing field. We are told in scripture that if we seek Him with our whole heart we will find Him, that He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him and if any of us lack wisdom we can ask God and He will give it to us all equally.
-Auntie M

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Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through their book review bloggers program. 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 <http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Suprised by Oxford

(Originally Posted Saturday, October 8, 2011)


Suprised by Oxford by Carolyn Weber

 An agnostic turned Christian...this is Surprised by Oxford.  Can God get through to even the most non-trusting of souls?  Is there such a thing in this world as a genuine Christian?  Does God really care? These are all questions that Carolyn Weber asked on her journey to discover her need for Christ.
Carolyn Weber is a beautiful writer.  I thoroughly enjoyed her wonderful use of language and her descriptive sense of style.  The people and places were so vividly described I could almost taste the scones and feel the cool British rain on my face.  This book was an absolute joy to read.  There were times when I almost could not put it down.  What a treat!
Her story is sadly one with which all too many people can relate.  Surprised by Oxford is the story of an absentee father, an emotionally and financially struggling mother, and a young girl who had hardened her heart to God and love.  I enjoyed experiencing God's sense of humor throughout this book as He used anything and everything to get Carolyn's attention - even street signs.  I appreciated how transparent she was when describing her difficulty in trusting Christians and God. 
 *There is a word used in the prologue that is considered strong language so be forewarned.  This is not used gratuitously but rather in the recounting of a conversation Carolyn had with a professor which shocked her enough that God was able to start getting her attention.
This book is a memoir.  An actual account of Carolyn's first year at Oxford University and for me, the most beautiful and inspiring part of this book was the realization that God only needs one moment from us to start seeking Him.  Just a moment.  A blink of the eye and He is there answering the questions, "Where are you?”  "Are you real?”  "Do you care?".  He does not need some cataclysmic event He just needs a split second of searching.  Carolyn's moment of searching began when she challenged by a professor to discern the real stuff from the garbage in this world began to take personal responsibility for finding the meaningful in a world full of meaninglessness.
I would recommend this book to both those who have found Christ and those who are searching for Him.  If you have found Christ then you will be encouraged by this memoir.  Encouraged that it isn't always the "right" words that get through to someone.  That real Christians living a real life can have an impact on those who are searching.  If you are searching for Him then be encouraged by Carolyn that you can ask God the hard questions and He not being offended will answer...sometimes in the most unconventional of ways. 


 Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com book review bloggers program. 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 <http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

So Crazy It Just Might Work!

(Originally Posted Saturday, September 10, 2011)


So Crazy It Just Might Work!


    Radical Together by David Platt is a much-needed call to action in a    desperate time. Radical Together is a call to the church in America to stop and take a serious look at the effectiveness of all our building projects and community programs. David Platt, pastor of the Church at Brook Hills in Birmingham, Alabama, asks us as the body of Christ to consider all that we are doing for the cause of Christ and ask God to show us if we are making the best use of His resources for the time and place in which he has each of us. The author puts it this way, "How can we in the church best unleash the people of God in the Spirit of God with the Word of God for the glory of God in the world?" (pg 11 e-book)

Radical Together is written from the viewpoint of a mission minded family whom God called to pastor,much to their surprise, an old southern church who had turned inward rather than reaching out with the Gospel. Radical Together takes us on a journey that ultimately begs the question, "Are the good things we do in church in the name of God, our understanding of the Bible and who God is the very things that are keeping us from winning a lost world to Christ?"
Radical Together challenges us to  evaluate the good things we do in church to make sure they are the necessary things. It shows us our misunderstanding of the Gospel, when God is speaking, our task as believers, whom God exalts and dealing with the "wrong" people.
Radical Together is written in sections. The first is the book content itself. Six chapters each dealing with how we do "church" in America today and how it can be different. In the back of the book you will find questions for small group discussion and after this section you will find David Platt's notes section in which he shows you all the resources he used in writing this book. I can't tell you how happy I was to read the notes section. Ninety five percent of the resources used in the making of this study are from the Bible itself. I almost jumped for joy. Here is an author who is challenging us to change the way we do church. He is challenging us to live differently. He actually used God's Word to show us how. What a concept! Bravo David!
For me, this book was affirmation that I am not crazy nor am I alone. I have known that how we do "church" in America is not the best way to glorify God or reach the lost but didn't know how to change it. David Platt was able to put into words the hard questions that need to be asked if the church in America is going to be reformed.

Don't forget to rank my review and be entered in a drawing to win a free copy of this book!


Radical Together by David Platt (Chapter 1)

FTC DISCLAIMER: “I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review”.

The Fight of Our Lives

(Originally Posted Friday, August 26, 2011)


The Fight of Our Lives by William J. Bennett & Seth Leibsohn - The Double Edged Sword

    This book is about Islam and what has happened in America since the events on 9/11.
 The title of this book The Fight of Our Lives Knowing the Enemy,Speaking the Truth & Choosing to Win the War Against Radical Islam is a bit misleading. I had high hopes for this book that was somehow mistakenly placed in the Christian book section. I say mistakenly because first of all Scripture is only used a couple of times in this book and that is only because quotes from Lincoln and Washington happened to contain them. Secondly, the authors seem to have no understanding of who the real enemy is and while they may want you to choose to win the war against Radical Islam they never actually get around to helping the reader truly discover how to do that. Anyone can point out what's wrong but only the truly wise can help you know how to change it.

Let me stop right here and clarify something. I am not a supporter of Islam, terrorism, or Radical Islam. I do not believe that what has happened in the United States over the past few years concerning terrorists and their extremist actions are right. I love America and I am extremely grateful to those men and women who have fought and continue to fight for our freedom. Thank you doesn't say nearly enough! With that being said let me explain why I find this book dangerous and why I titled this post "The Double Edged Sword".
The authors choose to spend their time rehashing the past events since 9/11 and pointing out every politically correct mistake that Reagan, Bush and Obama have ever made. The overall tone of this book is one of negativity and halfway through the book the authors seem conflicted or confused when they change their stance from all Islam is bad and is not a religion of peace in any aspect to a stance that says their is such a thing as moderate Islam and Muslims and that those Muslims need to stand up and reform their religion yet they never addressed their change in their view of Islam. It was as if halfway through the writing of this book they changed their minds but didn't have time to go back and rewrite the first half of the book. Nor did they educate the readers on their change of view or what sparked it. I found it confusing.

The authors use the word fundamentalist to describe extremist groups, they claim that Christianity does not have a violent past like Islam and that God is a God of peace. I have to stop and wonder...have they ever read the Bible? Yes God does want peace, He is love but He is also just, righteous, and jealous. My God wiped Sodom and Gomorrah off the face of the Earth, told the Israelites to wipe out the people who occupied their promised land and so on. The author does comment on the fact that any violence employed for the cause of Christianity is merely historical and should not be viewed as a belief by the religion as a whole. To which I do partially agree. Christianity to a Christian is not a violent religion except for our extremist groups.Notice I said to a Christian. To us the Bible makes sense and we have an understanding that all the things in the Bible that were violent happened for a reason. To an unbeliever though the Bible and Christianity can seem violent. The authors seem to have conveniently forgotten about the Crusades in which hundreds of "infidels" were slaughtered in the name of Christianity - convert or die. And what about the abortion clinic bombings of the past in which innocent lives were taken in the right to life campaigns. The authors do mention the abortion clinic bombings but in a very dismissive whitewashed way. 

What is my point? Just this, the very words and facts the authors are using can very easily and have been in the past used against Christianity especially fundamentalist Christians. If we are quick to jump on the bandwagon to condemn Muslims we must be willing to accept that fact that someday that very sword can be turned against us to condemn us as well.

Here is what the Bible says about our enemy and how to win a war against them.
Ephesians 6:12
For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.
Did you see it? Our war is not with flesh and blood; that means people. Our war is not against the people who choose to follow Islam. It's not against people period! Our war is against spiritual wickedness. How do we fight against spiritual wickedness. That is the hard part. That is the part we do not want to look at. We fight spiritual wickedness by taking a good hard look at ourselves and eradicating anything and everything that is not of God.The writers of this book don't seem to address that or even understand it.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com &lt;http://BookSneeze®.com> book review bloggers program. 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 &lt;http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and
Testimonials in Advertising.” 
King James Version (KJV)




I could go on but I will choose not to in the interest of brevity. Just know that I did not like this book and would never recommend it to any Christian individual or group as a study or otherwise.


I want to leave you with a couple of definitions and some things to think about.
The definition of Radical is 
"of or going to the root or origin; fundamental: a radical difference".

That is what we are called to be as Christians. We are to be radically different from this world but are we seeing evidence of that today? The definition of an infidel is as follows.
A person who does not accept a particular faith; an unbeliever.







Muslims call us infidels. Stop and take a good hard look at yourself and how you live. You say you believe in God but are you living it? If you really believed it wouldn't you? Is your belief and faith in God as strong and devout as their belief in Allah? Maybe we are infidels or at least acting like it. Maybe this is God's love trying to wake us up and show us exactly who we have become. Just something to think about.


A Little Background

(Originally Posted Wednesday, August 24, 2011)

A Little Background

I, Martha Burton, am the voice behind Auntie M's Universe. I thought some of you might be interested to read a little bit about my background.

I grew up in a Christian School (an Independent Baptist background) and was saved at the age of 18. Throughout my school career I attended several academic competitions where I competed in categories of Scripture Memorization, Speeches on the topic of Biblical Characters, Art, Vocal Music, and Poetry. I met my husband while attending college. We were married in the fall of 1993. We started a life of ministry together in 1994 with the Southern Baptist Church. My husband, an ordained minister in the Southern Baptist Convention, and I have served in various ministry positions including but not limited to Associate Pastor, Youth Pastor, Church Planter, Worship Leader, Children's Choir Director, Youth Leader and Sunday School Leader. The stories we have collected over the years amaze and tickle us even today.

After 18 years of marriage we are currently in a new phase of our spiritual journey together and are waiting on God to direct us where He would have us to serve and in what capacity He desires. Our daughter who is now 14 recently began her high school career and we are excited to see how the next four years play out for her.

As of 2 days ago I sent in my first article for the Metro Voice Christian newspaper and hopefully, I will have more opportunities to write for them in the future. Then there is the subject of this blog.

I love to watch people grow spiritually. I love to see them empowered by God's love and design for their lives. That is why I decided to seize the opportunity to write reviews for Christian Spiritual Growth studies. My desire is to help those who read my blog to  know what studies are out there for them. I do not believe that what is currently happening in the U.S. in the area of church small groups has really been beneficial or effective to the Christian faith or to believers individually. Please hear my heart on this subject. I do not believe that lumping people into large groups and employing the most popular studies of the current day is as good for the cause of Christ as we would like to believe. For years churches have been employing small groups and yet we do not see our nation changing, we do not see our communities changing, we do not see our churches changing, we do not see our families changing, and we do not see individuals changing. Once again, please hear my heart, I am  not against small groups by any means. They can be a powerful tool for growth and connection but unless we employ the strong use of scripture in these groups we are fooling ourselves by thinking that they will produce any kind of significant change. I have been in several small groups in several different churches in several different geographical areas and the story is always the same. The top selling study of the day is brought into the church and is preached on from the pulpit, praised in the congregation, and taught on in Sunday School. It's like the summer camp experience all over again. We get energized, excited and all hopped up on emotion and new friendships but the percentage of individuals who make lasting change due to their experience is disappointingly low. Oh how I loved summer camp though. It was so fun and different from my normal everyday experience. I was able to do and experience things that I would never have if I hadn't gone. There were some lasting changes that occurred but they were always due to strong scriptural teaching not due to a persons ability to be a great speaker. The same should be true about our small groups. The studies themselves are not necessarily innefective but rather what we have chosen to do with them. We (and by we I mean Christians in America) have jumped on the bandwagon of the most popular writers of the day thanks to great advertising. We need to stop and re-evaluate why we choose the studies we choose and if they fit us as individuals.

My sincere desire is to give you a tool to be able to sift through the studies that are out there, maybe even introduce you to some authors you may not have heard of otherwise and pick books and topics that are relevant to where you are in your spiritual walk or where your church or congregation my be in it's spiritual walk.

Thank you for reading,

Auntie M
(Martha Burton)

"When in doubt...get your Bible out!"

"Untamed" by Lisa Harper

(Originally Posted Friday, August 5, 2011)


"Untamed" by Lisa Harper

  I have to say, I went into the reading of this book expecting not to like it mainly because I am not a big fan of Devotionals/Christian study materials.  I cannot stand being lumped into the same group as everyone else in America as though I were a non-individual following the crowd as they chase after the popular reading material of the time.  That is just not me.  I do not have a "one size fits all" Christianity but I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised!

Lisa Harper wrote "Untamed" because she realized that the image of Jesus she had created while safe and easy to control was not strong enough to trust with the difficult parts of her life.


     "...the emasculated Redeemer of my imagination was shaped by my own fear and; insecurity.”  "...until one day I realized that my squashed caricature of Jesus wasn't big enough to calm my anxiety or heal my wounds or defeat the wickedness in our world."
          - "Untamed" by Lisa Harper


 Lisa Harper is not your conventional female spiritual leader.  She talks about her Harley motorcycle, skiing, and tormenting cattle while still being girlie enough to enjoy a good tree swing.  I have included an interview with Lisa as she talks about her personal discovery that her image of Jesus was less that what she needed.

         
      
 "Untamed" helps to free the reader from the watered down, politically correct and powerless Jesus that has been adopted into our culture today.  There are twelve sections of this book each one dealing with a different wild side of Jesus from his wildly unconventional side to his wildly confident side. "Untamed" reintroduces us to the sides of our Savior that have made men uncomfortable for centuries.  Another thing I was pleasantly surprised by was how often Lisa used scripture references in each chapter.  I have always found it confusing how we can call some books Bible Studies when there is actually very little Bible contained in them.  On average, Lisa invites her readers to dive into the Bible 15 times per chapter.  Why does this matter?  Bible studies can be a great tool to help you start thinking in a new direction or to grow in a certain area but only if they actually study the Bible.  Without God's Word as the primary focus they are nothing more than self-help books and the world has plenty of these already.  I also appreciated that fact that Lisa has taken the time to study Jewish culture and Biblical history and given her readers little tidbits sprinkled throughout each chapter.

"Untamed" is for anyone who wrestles with real world hurts and struggles and needs a wild and courageous Savior to depend on.

Blogging About Books

(originally posted Friday, July 8, 2011)

Blogging About Books

I have started a new adventure. Once a month I will be reviewing a current devotional or Small Group Study book. With so many choices on the market it would be nice if there were a real person out there to let you know which ones are winners and which ones aren't. That's what I will be doing for you. I will be reading these books/studies and giving you my personal perspective no holds barred. So come back in 30 days to see what I've read this  month and what I think of it. I will also give you a heads up on the next book review I will be doing.

The first book I am reviewing is "Untamed" by Lisa Harper. Come back in 30 days to hear what I think of this book!
Please tell people about my blog and encourage them to sign up to follow my blog. Don't be afraid to comment either. If you've read the same book/study let me know what you thought of it. Agree/disagree I want to hear it all. I do ask that you keep it clean. Any posts containing obscene language or having an obscene nature will be removed immediately. Thanks for helping my blog to be successful.
Auntie M