A Relevant Work, Timeless Issues, Biblical Models

Mothers of the Bible Speak to Mothers of Today

Mothers of the Bible Speak to Mothers of Today

In her latest book, Mothers of the Bible Speak to Mothers of Today, award winning author Kathi Macias demonstrates her depth as author, speaker and bible teacher. Kathi selects 15 women from the Bible, from Old and New testaments, obscure and renowned, and makes their stories come alive through practical application. The reader will find that Kathi has the special talent that makes the lives and emotions of ancient moms relevant to post-modern American culture.

Each of the 15 women who are selected as role models are made real through in-depth, inductive Bible study as well as the author’s feminine insight. Like Kathi’s other books, this work is refreshingly personal. Still Kathi finds a way to press deeper by cross referencing scripture, explaining cultural influences, and spotlighting the text’s linguistic background. She fleshes out the personal side of God’s redemptive work as illustrated through her subjects.

For example, in the first chapter, Kathi examines the maternal side of Eve, whose name means: Life Giver. According to the author, Eve must have wrestled deeply with being the “first” at many things. Without role model or mentor, she was the first to have a husband, endure and fall in temptation, lose a son to violent crime and then lose a second to the consequences of his crime. Yet, through it all, God proved faithful to her name, and promise He had given her. Eve bore another son, Seth, through whom Jesus would eventually become the redemption of all mankind, the Eternal Life Giver.

Kathi brings her readers face to face with timeless issues which impose themselves upon today’s moms. Have you ever watched a mother play favorites with her children, and the ensuing chaos within a family. Have you experienced a mom’s deep struggle with isolation, competing with others due to personal insecurity, or laying down personal desires for your children as they forge their own way in the world? Each chapter concludes with review and application questions. Information without application aborts the disciple-building process, and Kathi makes room for both in this wonderful work.

I’ve interviewed Kathi a few times, and each time I’ve come to appreciate her deep commitment to God’s word, and desire to live biblical faith in a practical way. As Christ followers, we can mistakenly assume we can have one part of this equation, the practical faith, without a commitment to real discipleship built on a foundation of God’s Word. Kathi is an example that these two elements are conjoined twins. The only way to have one is to engage the other.

I give this book 5 stars out of 5, and recommend it highly. This latest work is insightful, balanced, scripturally grounded, well researched and highly relevant.

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“Confessions of an Insignificant Pastor” Book Review

Confessions of an Insignificant PastorWho sets the image of what is ‘normal’ in a Christian’s life and experience? Where does the place of transparency reside in a Christian’s life when our culture promotes accomplishment, size and performance? Pastor W. Mark Elliot, in his recent book Confessions of an Insignificant Pastor confronts the image of what too often is the ‘rugged individualist’ Christian persona. In its place, he reveals a transparent, genuine, real “pastor from nowhere, just a nobody from zip code 47492,” and he’s in good company.

I spoke with Pastor Mark. He said this book came out of a sensed call to put the message on paper. In a few days, alone on personal retreat, Mark recorded the lessons which had been birthed out of a “winter season of pastoring. It’s a negative title on a positive book.” When I asked him to identify the most important take-away, Pastor Mark replied, “Unplanned is a part of life. God call isn’t to achievement, but to faithfulness. After 28 years of ministry, my best accomplishment is that I have been faithful, I refuse to quit. I have found that God is still present in all of life’s circumstances.”

The book’s 16 chapters flesh out the image of a transparent man. Starting with “ I’m a Nobody from 47492”, to “I Work too Much” and “People Get on my Last Nerve” Pastor Mark openly shares his heart. Life is hard at times. We are all human, and walking through life as a Christian doesn’t mean the valleys will be filled in and steep hills leveled before we arrive. The climb (up or down) is taxing. Mark’s message is that our God goes with us, and we are not meant to walk alone.

The book is well researched, and Pastor Mark correlates a modern Christian’s similarity to men / women of the Bible. David was a nobody before he was king. Joseph was an arrogant teen, Jacob a manipulative entrepreneur, Moses a murderer, and the list goes on. The key, Mark writes, is that we begin to see ourselves the way God really does. We have value because we are his people, and we are meant to do life together rather than (pretending to) be a rugged individualist.

Each chapter ends with 3-5 questions meant to prompt discussion and reflection. The book, like life, is better when it’s shared. These questions flow well into discussions for small groups, and explore how we can become more genuine, authentic Christ followers.

I recommend this book highly. Too often we allow an image painted of what a Christian ‘should’ look like when the only real answer is this. A Christ follower should look like the One he or she is following. The lessons in this book will move the reader toward becoming genuine, transparent, authentic and real in their faith. There is a risk involved in this kind of lifestyle, but the alternative is to exist without really living.

by: Timothy Burns

Forged in the Fire – Shaped by the Master book review

forged031Often people do things haphazardly then justify their actions with these words – God knows my heart. The truth of the matter is – He really does.

“Forged In The Fire – Shaped By The Master” speaks to the issue of heart matters by bringing readers face to face with reality – we are ordinary people who can be used by God. How and to what degree depends upon the condition of the heart.

Author, Tim Burns has presented a study that invites its participants to the table of choice and self examination. Throughout this twelve week course the lives of four men chosen by God to lead Israel are examined. It is the presentation of the lives of King David, Joseph, King Saul and King Hezekiah that we come to see a little, (if not a lot) of ourselves.

Many today are hard pressed to see how biblical circumstances can be applied to their stressful conditions. “Forged In The Fire – Shaped By The Master”, through practical application, skillfully speaks to those concerns.

As with the aforementioned rulers, we too have choices. Examining circumstances and choices made by the biblical leaders shows the consistency of human nature and the faithfulness of God. David and Joseph sought to serve God with pure hearts. Saul and Hezekiah deviated from righteousness causing other to suffer the consequence of their choices. God’s response to each upheld the righteousness of His eternal word. As it was then, it is now.

Regardless of your station in life and level in your spiritual walk, “Forged In The Fire – Shaped By The Master” clearly shows that God has chosen you and wants you to chose a right relationship with Him.

-Dr. Linda F. Beed, D.R.E., author of “Business Unusual”
Flavah Reviewer

How this Small Congregation is Both Transformational and Emergent.

Engedi Church is a younger congregation with appx. 330 regular attendees / partners aged 50 and under. Pastor Brian keeps the messages real and funny, and the music is contemporary. His church is made up of “flaming liberals, political right wingers, and others who are apolitical – and they are all friends”

What attracts newcomers to Engedi? He replied “It’s the people. We are warm and friendly, not glitzy”

Brian and I further discussed what he sees as the attraction for those who come to a semi-abandoned strip mall for Sunday services when there is a church on every corner in the small community of Holland, Mi. For believers, a significant attraction is the time and emphasis dedicated to outreach. As is prevalent in many emergent churches, Engedi spends much of its energy making connections with those who are on the edges of their well woven community. Yet Engedi’s message is not typically emergent.

The message presented in some emergent churches is that truth is grayed around the edges. While black and white, right and wrong existed strongly in the past, today we need to wrestle with these issues and come to a mediated, fresh experience of truth.

Pastor Brian disagrees. While they make connections with those investigating Christ, by acknowledging the faith journey, God’s word is still presented as unchanging and all-encompassing truth. People in relationship with their God don’t have to defend his word, or confront others. We are on a journey, and accepting others like Christ did doesn’t mean the message changes. The message is one of hope and transformation, and the reason Engedi meets.

The attraction to those who are still seeking, or investigating the claims of Christ is, foremost that they are accepted. Secondly, those investigating Christ are often attracted to Engedi because of their emphasis on social justice and social outreach. In practice this means that a large number of Engedi partners are committed to and involved in compassion based outreach. Twenty five percent of Engedi’s budget is directed toward local and international outreach. While Engedi partners shy away from political causes, they have worked to expand public transportation in their home town and raise support for African relief projects.

In short, the appeal for those partnering with, and investigating Christ at Engedi is outreach. Pastor Brian believes that this the central issue which makes Engedi a transformational and prevailing church. “We present the clear teaching of scriptures. We don’t dumb down the message. The gospel is radical and demanding, calling people back to Christ. The demands of the gospel call us to create a new community, and God expects us to take action. The purpose of Engedi is to create meaningful change in people lives in that direction.”

A Personal Mega-Church

By the numbers, Trinity Church in Lansing, Mi would be considered a ‘Mega-church.’ With 3 services each weekend, an average 2700 adults attend pulling behind them 500 to 700 children.  However, if you were standing on the balcony between services, you would experience a unique culture within the congregation.  A large atrium stretches across the back of the auditorium, with light flooding in from a three story window wall. Before, after and between services, Trinity member and guests pause over coffee to genuinely partake of each other’s lives.  The attendance numbers haven’t pushed aside real relationships, genuine caring, and time taken to build lasting friendships.

Trinity started in 1952 as a home fellowship.  Students and adults associated with Michigan State University wanted a personal, relationally connected church fellowship. The congregation is still strongly composed of professionals from the East Lansing university and business community. However, since moving to Lansing’s south side, the congregation has grown in numbers, and diversity.

For the next couple weeks I will be highlighting Lansing Trinity for this reason: although the numbers are large, the relationships are intimate and those at the church’s core continually reach outward.  While a member there, I couldn’t walk through the atrium without a number of genuine friends finding me, and asking meaningful questions.  So often I hear/read complaints about how larger churches loose the personal touch.  Trinity is an exception.  As such, those of us in ministry can learn from their spiritual, relational, and community successes.

I spoke with the Director of Connection ministries, Jeff Schneider, and asked about this personal and genuine organizational culture that is at Trinity’s core.  As we discussed what the church practiced in the way of supporting practices, Jeff told me that 70% – 75% of the congregation is regularly involved in small group communities.  Most meet in homes during the week, and gather multiple times a month, with a few meeting in the church building

I asked Jeff to what he attributed this high percentage of small groups.  He replied these three points:

1.    The church leadership models small groups.  The church leadership, from the head pastor to children’s church teachers are committed to “doing life together.”
2.    Small group ministry as a model for Christian growth is supported from the pulpit.  Christian growth and disciple building is understood and taught as necessary fruit in a Christian’s life. Small groups are a consistent vehicle to bring about that deep, abiding growth.
3.   Each year, the church holds 2 connection events. In the worship program each week is an opportunity to indicate interest in small groups for the outgoing. What Trinity has found more effective is biannual connection events. Jeff related that face to face events, where those who are not involved in small groups can meet leaders and build relational bridges, are the most effective means to get a new person to take the risk of engaging deliberate Christian community.

Read more about Trinity Church, Lansing Michigan here.

Square One: Starting a Small Group

By Teena Stewart

Teena Stewart is married to an ordained minister and is a published author, ministry consultant and coach. She works in collaboration with DreamBuilders Ministry in Motion (ministryinmotion.net/), an organization that equips church leaders. Click here to order her new book, Successful Small Groups from Concept to Practice (Beacon Hill) or on her small groups page (www.inistryinmotion.net/group_bibles_studies.html.) The Stewarts are in the process of starting a coffee shop ministry in North Carolina. (www.javajourney.org/)

My husband Jeff and I just recently left behind church ministry positions in California to relocate to North Carolina. Our plan–to start a coffee shop ministry. One of our goals is to reach unchurched people for Christ. A small group community will, we hope, be a key feature of this coffee shop fellowship.

I’m already growing impatient as we put preliminary pieces in place to make this dream happen. But, as is often the case, we need to walk before we can run. We met with Dennis and Jeannie, our two key leaders out here in NC and talked about the direction to take. After batting around ideas, we all agreed that rather than wait until the coffee shop opens to start our ministry, we should move ahead and use a small group venue and meet in homes. (Only we can’t meet in our home since we don’t have one yet.)

Our next challenge, deciding who to invite to the group. We’re relying primarily on Dennis and Jeannie since they know people in the area. And we’ve got more of a challenge since we are starting a small group without already being part of a church. Dennis and Jeannie brainstormed potential group member contacts. But their spiritual standing was very diverse. One couple was notorious for church hopping and never seemed satisfied with whatever fellowship they chose to join. Another couple who came to mind fell into the seeker and possible new age category since the husband seemed open to spiritual discussion but the wife, who was from another country, had some peculiar beliefs. Then there was the potential couple we’d been told about by a friend who said they were unchurched.

Would inviting this odd mix of characters really gel into a small group? Though we want to reach the unchurched, we feel it is important to carefully consider who we inviteto the group because it will dictate the personality of the group andperhaps even its health.

TALK BACK
What advice would you give to us as we launch this new group? What lessons have you learned? What precautions would you take? Click on “comments” below and let us know what you think!