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 <> : “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 <> : “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

Please rank my book review: ranking tool can be found at the top of this post. Thank you!

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.”

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 <> : “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;> : “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