Showing posts with label Zondervan. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Zondervan. Show all posts

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Sacred Roots: Why the Church Still Matters

I requested Sacred Roots: Why the Church Still Matters for review because I love the church. It's where I learned "Jesus Loves Me," and decades later, this I still know: each church belongs to the Body of Christ. Some are an arm, some an ear; some are mouths of varying sizes, some all heart.

We need the church in all of its parts in order to be part of the larger body of believers – to remember we’re not alone, to have common-union with those who also believe.

We need the church, not to lift us into worship, but to lift our worship of God in greater measure as we join together in praise, prayers, hymns, and thanksgiving as one voice, heaven-bound.

And, we need to be obedient.

At the Last Supper Jesus told His followers to get together and stay together by means of His body and blood. It’s like eating bread and drinking wine together where each of us then has the same vital elements and spiritual nutrients inside of ourselves.

Although disciples of Jesus retain their own individual talents, personalities, and preferences, we become One Body in His Name. So this cannot possibly be a solitary job!

Being the Body of Christ is not something we do by ourselves. This common-union is what The Church is about – coming together as One Person in Jesus Christ and going out into the world to make a difference – a huge difference – a cosmic difference – as The Body of Jesus Christ becomes alive in our families, the church, and everywhere that we or our prayers go in Jesus’ Name.

But what about you? What does the church mean to you?

That’s what I wanted to know when I requested this book. i.e., I wanted to find out how other people think and what the church means to them. This reader-friendly book gave that information wonderfully well with statistics to show responses most of us probably wouldn’t know otherwise. And many of those statistics are alarming.

For example, when asked “What’s made your faith grow?” the church did not even make the top ten! Here are the answers given:

1. Prayer
2. Family or friends
3. Reading the Bible
4. Having children
5. Relationship with Jesus
6. Death or illness of a loved one
7. My own beliefs
8. Marriage or significant other
9. God provided during hard times
10. I have not grown spiritually

Did you notice the primary connection that each of those responses has? In all top ten answers, people equate their faith with themselves as the center!

This happens again noticeably when people were asked “What’s So Great About Your Church?”

39% said, “I enjoy the preaching and teaching.” (Notice the emphasis on I.)
38% said, “I agree with the teachings of that church.” (Notice the I.)
27% said, “I like the worship style.” (Yep, you noticed.)
27% said, “…I was raised in that denomination.”
18% said, “It’s friendly and welcoming.” (To whom? me, me, me!)

The book clarifies and describes this emphasis on the self and individualism as “sovereignty of self” where we elevate “self over others, self over community, self over inconvenience, and self over commitment. Our life and longings are formed around a vision of personal fulfillment at all costs. Everyone and everything exists for us.”

So what do we do about this?

As the author Jon Tyson wisely discerns and discusses, discipleship will be a big key in reuniting us to one another and the church. But, ironically, I can’t give this highly recommended book five stars for one reason – you!

Christian Poets and Writers, you are the fifth star!

You have the power, blessing, and responsibility to influence countless others by what and how you write.

Most people can do something about their own attitudes and responses, for instance, praying for God to help them forgive and forget any hurts caused by a church or other Christians. Most people can pray for God to bless the church and pray for insight as they read and study the Bible. And all Christians can ask the Holy Spirit to fill and empower their lives and the church, but the work of communicators for Christ is unique.

Christian Poets, Writers, Editors, Publishers, and other Communicators for Christ, the Church needs you!

The church needs you to prayerfully consider then write and publish works in all genres about every Bible verse that speaks of the need for the church and our need for one another in Christ, for instance, by using as your theme one of these Bible verses to heal the church Body of Christ.

The church needs you to get to know the whole Body of Christ as you learn about other denominations so you can focus on the beliefs we have in common in Christ.

The church needs you to speak lovingly, accurately, and well of God our Father, of Christ our Savior, of the Bible in all tongues and languages, and of the Church in all its parts as we Re-Member the Body of Christ in the love and power of the Holy Spirit.

And God needs us to BE the church at work in the world today as we submit to God’s sovereignty in our individual and communal lives in Christ. May God help us to heal, build, and bless all parts of the church Body of Christ in all corners of the earth in Jesus’ Name.

© 2014, Mary Harwell Sayler, reviewer

Sacred Roots: Why the Church Still Matters, paperback

I review for BookLook Bloggers

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Interview with Christian writer Diane Stortz

Diane, you've written numerous books for traditional Christian publishing companies, so I’m sure other Christian poets and writers will want to know, as I surely do, how you got started.

As I earned a BA in Journalism from Arizona State University, I realized I loved to write but lacked the confidence and sophistication needed to succeed as a newspaper reporter, which had been my goal. After graduation, God moved me (long story!) to Cincinnati, where Standard Publishing hired me to develop a new Sunday school curriculum for twos and threes. Eventually I led the book group at Standard as editorial director for ten years. In 2007 I left to pursue freelance editing and writing. Suddenly, I was on the other side of the table at trade shows and conferences, pitching my book proposals instead of listening to pitches.

Quite a change! In case our readers don't know what a book proposal includes, I'll insert a link to a post on that, but tell us what your workday is like now.

I wish I had one! Working from home has so many distractions, and I tend to be more go-with-the-flow than structured anyway. This year I’m working on being more organized, however!

What writing projects are you working on?

I just completed a bedtime Bible storybook that will be out next year, and I’m under contract for another book of Bible stories too. But before I begin that one, I’m focusing on improving my online presence and engagement.

Define your main focus.

I’ve used the tagline “Encouraging you to know, read, love, and live God’s Word, the Bible.” That’s still true. I changed the tagline recently to Psalm 78:4, “Tell the next generation about the glorious deeds of the Lord, about his power and his mighty wonder,” because I’m focusing, for the time being at least, on writing for children.

Obviously, the Bible influences you greatly. How do you go about deciding on the next theme or topic?

I participate in a read-through-the-Bible-in-a-year women’s group, and last year I tried to blog each week about something related to that week’s readings. I have an interest in Scripture memory too.

Publishers sometimes refer in house to their books as “product”—and it helps me as an author to think that way too. For book projects, I study what’s out there and what’s missing and try to develop proposals that fill in the gaps besides being a good fit for me. Some projects, like Parents of Missionaries and A Woman’s Guide to Reading the Bible in a Year filled gaps and also came from my personal life experiences.

Tell us about those experiences. I’m wonder, for instance, if anything ever discourages you from writing.

It’s never fun to have a book proposal go to a publisher’s acquisitions committee and be turned down. And comparing myself to other more prolific bloggers and authors can be a real downer. But I am learning, I hope, to value and enjoy the gifts and the path God has given me and not concern myself too much with what others are doing.

Has the Internet helped at all?

I sometimes hear from blog readers I don’t know personally who were encouraged by something I wrote. I’ve received e-mail and Facebook messages from parents of missionaries and from women reading through the Bible using my book as a guide. And the Internet certainly offers an abundance of ways to provide information about my books, whether through blogging, social media, online retailer sites, or book reviews. I pray my books do help cultivate the hearts of children to enable them to receive Christ.

Where can we find your work online?

I have a website, an Amazon author page, and am on social sites such as Facebook and Twitter. I’m on Google+ too but still trying to figure it out ...

Me too! Before we close, I want to ask what suggestions you have for Christian poets and writers who aim their writing toward uniting Christians or finding ways to help strengthen the church Body of Christ.

Realize that the size of your ministry is quite relative. What’s small in your eyes or in the marketplace or online might be big in God’s eyes. Be confident yet humble and teachable. Be diligent and then leave the results up to God. He’s the one who makes it all work together.

Amen! Thank you so much, Diane. I had the pleasure of reviewing The Sweetest Story Bible and look forward to seeing your new book. God bless your good work.

(c)2014, Mary Harwell Sayler, reviewer

A Woman's Guide to Reading the Bible in a Year: A Life-Changing Journey Into the Heart of God, Paperback

A Woman's Guide to Reading the Bible in a Year: A Life-Changing Journey Into the Heart of God, Kindle Edition e-book

Saturday, June 23, 2012

The NIV Study Bible

If you love the New International Version (NIV) as much as my husband does, you might like to hear that we both highly recommend the NIV Study Bible produced by Zondervan. Once again, he let me borrow the one I’m looking at now – the second copy he's owned since wearing out the first after carrying it around for over 25 years before I got him this fully revised edition.

This is not the first time I’ve borrowed his NIV Study Bible though. Until he bought me the ESY Study Bible from Crossway, I repeatedly pilfered his study Bible every time I needed to double-check footnotes, typically discovering that the information I'd had to search three or four other study Bibles to find were right here under one cover. Oh, well. I needed the exercise.

You might ask, of course, why I don’t just get my own NIV Study Bible since I regularly use it, need it, admire it, and benefit from it so often, and I would – if it were in the TNIV.

At the risk of rants against TNIV – or worse, against me for being picky, I must tell you that I am not a “son of God.” Child, maybe, but no, not a son, so I have trouble with some phrases, which, in the archaic setting of KJV do not bother me at all. With no apologies for that particular penchant, my personal preference continues to be a word-for-word translation that's more interested in accuracy than anything else. But I digress.

NIV: Just as advertised by the International Bible Society (IBS) who commissioned both the NIV and the female-friendly TNIV, the New International Version offers readers a non-biased translation in contemporary English with literary clarity faithful to the thought-by-thought intentions of the most reliable biblical texts.

Binding: If you can find the NIV Study Bible in the fine-grained, beautifully finished, flexible Renaissance leather cover that I bought my husband, great! If not, the hardcover one shown below will make a sturdy desk copy you can also use for a 4.5 lb. workout when carried back and forth to church or your Bible study group.

Notes: Besides the notes that introduce readers to the Author, Date, Theme, Background, and Literary Features of each book of the Bible, footnotes flourish and flower at the bottom of each page but have been kept nicely pruned from overgrowing into the actual scriptures. (If you have ever seen a Bible with just a couple of verses squeezed up top and the rest of the page overrun with elucidation, you know what I mean.) This typical page-by-page layout deserves additional attention, too, because the footnotes have been well-packed with information to set verses in context, aid reader-comprehension, and present different views in the balanced perspective and soothing voice of a respected peacemaker. In addition to those biblical helps, cross-references have been provided down the middle of each page.

Other Study Materials:
In the front matter of the NIV Study Bible, you’ll find a two-page layout briefly describing “Ancient Texts Relating to the Old Testament” such as Sennacherib’s description of the siege of Jerusalem in 701 B.C. when Hezekiah became a prisoner in the city where he’d once reigned. Then, unlike other study Bibles where it’s hard to remember what went where, you go straight into Genesis with a few pages between testaments to summarize events that happened during that time. After the New Testament’s last amen in Revelation, several “Study Helps” continue with a “Table of Weights & Measures,” various indexes, “Concordance,” and colored maps, all of which can be easily found at the end of this well-balanced, well-designed study edition which I will now reluctantly return to my spouse.


© 2012, Mary Harwell Sayler. If you give your church, Bible study, or other group this information, please tell people where you found it. Thanks. For more Bible topics and articles on writing in all genres, see Blogs by Mary for hotlinks and information. Also follow The Word Center for quick updates on all postings and other helpful resources for Christian poets, writers, editors, and Bible students. If you like to read, write, or edit poetry, check out The Poetry Editor website and blog too.