DVD Bible Study Review: The Organic God

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_organic-god-cover-final-full-sizeEven in our Christian culture, we have a tendency to not see God for who he is- natural, organic, essential and pure. We forget his beauty and the adjectives described in His word that make Him who He is. In The Organic God Kit, Margaret Feinberg invites you to know this “Organic God” for all that he is.

The name in itself, “Organic God” is an interesting one, but don’t look too hard for the meaning. It simply means knowing God for who he truly is—without all the additives or pollutants that often distort his awesomeness.

God’s Big-Hearted Love is an adjective Margaret taught on in Session 2 that stood out the most to me. God, as our heavenly father, is deeply in love with us. However, many of us carry experiences with our earthly fathers that have polluted our view of God. The real-life story produced in this section was powerful as a mid-aged woman describes her relationship with her earthly father and the impact it has had on her relationship with God.

The way to truly know God and what makes His heart beat is to know Him in the Scriptures. All of us have had a bruised heart some time or another, as Margaret describes, but we all have the opportunity to heal from that and run towards a relationship with Christ.

This DVD Bible study is filmed right on location near the glaciers, streams, forests, and mountains in Alaska. I have to admit that my heart was longing to be where Margaret was teaching from- it was longing to get out of the bustling city and into raw, organic nature! And it was incredibly refreshing to hear her teach in that setting.

The Leader’s Guide and corresponding workbooks complete the DVD study. It is in the written material, where you and your group will go more in depth and will be able to dive deeper into the topics Margaret addresses. The video will be the perfect catalyst for the content, allowing for life-changing discussion among your group.

Discover for yourself what the Organic God is all about.

Out-of-the-Box Gift ideas for Your Mom

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sm_mother_childsamanthakrieger.com

Mother’s Day is in one week. Here are some out-of-the-box gift ideas to show your Mom just how much you love her:

•    Prepare her favorite dinner. Arrange the table extra special with rose petals and a few wrapped gifts.
•    Take her on a scavenger hunt to a few of her favorite places- give her clues to the next place inside a gift box.
•    Buy all the necessities for a pedicure/foot wash and spoil her with a spa night at home (or schedule a professional spa out)
•    If you have kids, make a homemade card with them. (Write a poem or the “Top 10 reasons why I love you”). Buy poster-board for $.79 and fold in half to make a big impression as a card.
•    Write a favorite “memories of mom” book or create a video. (for print books: blurb.com, lulu.com, snapfish.com)
•    Print out a few digital photos and create a scrapbook, put them in a frame, or photo calendar
•    Monogram her initials onto something: jewelry, purse, stationary, etc.
•    Buy a gift-certificate to her favorite clothing store
•    Visit a museum or concert together
•    (Spouse) Clean the house while she is out or hire a maid to do it all.
•    (Spouse) Give her a coupon to keep the kids one evening.
•    (Spouse) Make your wife sleep in one morning and get the kids ready- take them to school.
•    Give her a magazine subscription
•    Give her an I-tunes Gift card
•    Put together an emergency box (fill with things like lotion, relaxing CD’s, movie tickets, chocolate, etc.)
•    Buy favorite specialty items: favorite candle, perfume, boutique cosmetics, shampoos, magazine, special chocolate, etc.
•    Frame a family portrait (blow it up to an 8×10)
•    Frame a really nice picture of Mom
•    Buy Customized Stamps (use stamps.com) to create a special stamp (a photo of you together, children, wedding, baby, etc.)
•    Plan a surprise picnic to local park with good scenery

Review: The Trouble with Paris DVD Study

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paris3We often live in light of the statement, “I will be happy when…” Being immersed in Western culture, we can’t deny the heavy influence of consumerism on our lives. In The Trouble with Paris DVD study, Mark Sayers communicates relevant truth to teens, young adults, and adults across the board in way I’ve never seen before.

Filled with trendy and engaging motion graphics and video, Mark hits on three main points when it comes to reality: Hyper reality, Reality, and God’s Reality. Most of us live in hyper reality or have been influenced by it in some way. This is the life we dream of where it’s all about “me”. There’s no work—only pleasure, fun, vacation… and no pain.  This is a world the media has created (in ads, shows, movies) and because it invades so much of our lives, we often don’t want what’s real anymore. We’d rather buy that product that will add meaning to our lives. But the fact remains that it’s still a plastic promise.

The truth is that reality is far from hyper reality. Life just isn’t neatly wrapped up like it is at the end of a show or movie. Conflict often lingers way after the credits roll and injustice, war, poverty, and death still exist whether we deny it or not. Awkward silence still pervades, forcing us to face the emptiness and loneliness we sense in our hearts.

God’s reality, however, is better. He has given us glimpses of heaven on this side of earth: genuine friendships, a wonderful vacation experience, marriage, laughter, the beauty in nature and much more. We must then place meaning under His reality. So to do that we need to have a biblical view of God’s reality and how we fit into His story.

Mark Sayers portrays God’s reality with creative, cartoon illustrations in how God came to redeem all of creation. I’ve never seen the biblical account quite like this before! (you’ll just have to see it)

You’ll do your youth, young adult, and even adult ministry a disfavor by not showing the truths in this DVD and then teaching from it. I am recommending this product to people who have been shaped by consumerism and the media (and that’s every American!)

Review any product you’d like on SmallGroupExchange.com and get The Trouble with Paris for FREE!

A Cheap Gospel

Over the past few years, I’ve been wrestling with several things that pertain to true salvation and people who claim to be “Christian.” It seems like many people say they are a Christian or at least go to church but when it comes to watching their life day in and day out, you wouldn’t be able to tell that they’ve been transformed by Christ.

And before I go further, I want to mention I’ve had instances in my life where people would probably have said the same thing. In no way, shape, or form was I acting like Who I proclaimed to follow. But my heart’s desire was truly to do God’s will, but because of the sin still in me, I struggled (and by God’s grace, today, many of those struggles are gone- though I’m still not perfect). But I’m wrestling with why deeds aren’t often matched with a faith that is proclaimed. Paul said faith without works, is dead. And that we will know if someone truly knows Christ by the evidence of fruit (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, and self-control).

For example, I have found myself really upset at people who claim to be Christian but hate others with a passion. When Jeremiah and I were at Bush’s Inaugaration in 2004, we ran into a sign (from a protester or something) by a “Christian” that read “God hates fags.” It made me so angry. This person had no clue about the true gospel. There are many churches out there that claim lots of things, but you can’t find an ounce of love in their blood. And you realize that it’s no wonder so many people hate Christians or won’t step foot in the church. I wouldn’t for one second, want to know to know about Jesus, if a person like that was all I had to learn from.

I won’t go too long on that soapbox but I think the gospel today has been sugar-coated, fit into a box of individual preference, and altogether cheapened. Because the gospel is nothing but costly. It calls us to come and die- to put Christ above self pleasures and to surrender our lives to Him. And if that happens to mean a serious illness, broken arm, or even death, it doesn’t matter because we live for Christ. And we can still have joy in the midst of trial.

It is about Jesus, coming down as a man, to die a criminal’s death to save us from our sin. The price of our sin was something we could not pay on our own. He bore our sins so that we might live for righteousness (again nothing we could ever do).

If this is the gospel we proclaim and if it’s a gospel that has truly transformed us, then we will go out into the world and love as Christ did and people will know we are His by the love that we give.

Is anyone else resonating with these thoughts?

My Latest article on Ungrind

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eveThis past summer, after finding her writing on Radiant Magazine, I had asked Ashleigh Slater to consider contributing to Small Group Exchange. She ended up submitting  two great articles on leading small groups.

Since then, we’ve been in touch as writer friends and I really appreciate her heart for God, her family, and her desire to reach others through writing. Ashleigh is the Editor of Ungrind, a webzine that encourages women in the daily grind of life. I recently wrote an article for her called Just Like Eve.

The article centers around the pride and anger I’ve had at times and how it has hindered me from having the kind of marriage God intends. It deals with my struggle in allowing my husband to be the leader he has been created to be (ie. I have some control issues, dominating issues, etc. and I’m thinking I’m not alone). I paint a picture of a “blonde moment” that revealed a lot to me about my sin and marriage. And I talk about what it means to be a “help meet” and how when I’m functioning in that role, it’s exactly how God designed it to be. There’s peace and I’m not like the foolish woman who tears her house down with her own hands. So…

Head over to Ungrind and Just Like Eve is the second article down.

Review and Receive: Free Product from Max Lucado, Erwin McManus, Don Miller, or Rob Bell

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For my readers who lead or are active in small groups in the church: Please see the below info. It is the text from the email we just sent to over 25,000 churches.

Your opinion matters!

When making a purchase, nothing helps more than reading a candid review from a trusted source. At the small group exchange were committed to building a place where small group leaders can find the best resource for their group.

 The first 200 leaders who spend 10 minutes writing a review of a small group study theyve gone through, will receive a free resource of their choice.

Heres how it works.

 1)       Write a Review – Visit SmallGroupExchange.com, find a small group study, book or workbook that youve gone through. Be one of the first three people to write a review and rate the study, and dont be shy, the more you can share the greater youre helping the next small group leader on the site!

2)     Email Us - Email reviews at smallgroupexchange dot com - a link to the review that youve written on Small Group Exchange and any study from Erwin McManus, Don Miller, Rob Bell or Max Lucado under $30 that you would like to be sent for FREE. Be sure to include a full mailing address and phone number so we can get it to you in the next 7-10 days.

3)     Pass it On – Enjoy the free resource that we sent out to you, come back to Small Group Exchange and help another small group leader by writing another review.

This email went out to 25,000 small group leaders. So if you want some free stuff, you better move fast to be one of the first 200!

 Thanks!

The Small Group Exchange

By the way, some reviews will also be shared at ChristianBooks.com and LifeWay to help small group leaders on those sites as well

Reviewing Real-Life Make-Believe

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biopage_randy_grandsonsPhoto credit: Eternal Perspectives Ministries (www.epm.org).

I was asked to review an article featured in the May-June issue of Bible Study Magazine about Randy Alcorn’s writing and Bible study. The title is Real-life Make-Believe by Christy Tennant.

Alcorn is known for being both a non-fiction and fiction writer–which is impressive.  Not all writers can also create imaginary worlds. He is a best-selling author of over 30 fiction and non-fiction books, including Heaven, The Treasure Principle, The Ishbane Conspiracy and more.

As a fiction writer he claims that when he writes about God in a story, he is extra careful to make sure that the perception he gives of God is biblically based. Many a fiction writer who includes God as a character in his or her book, fails to portray God as He is in the Bible. Alcorn says, “If you’re going to put words in God’s mouth, they better be true to Scripture.” If I were to pick up a fiction book that had God as the character, I would want to know that what I was reading was an accurate depiction of His nature, character, attributes and more. And there is no better place (or I might say no other place) to find this than in God’s word.

I really appreciate how Alcorn is keeping in mind the non-believer when he writes. His hope is that if a person has never read the Bible or may not agree with the truths in the Bible, that he or she will still find biblical truth on the pages.  A story is what often opens the reader’s eye to truths he would have otherwise never seen. But the opposite is true also. If a writer conveys a non-biblical, anti-Christian worldview, than the reader’s perception of God could be jacked up and jaded forever– a mere tragedy altogether.

Personally, Alcorn relies on his wife Nanci to help him in the creative process of his writing, but also in his spiritual relationship. While they both have independant quiet times, they also come together and share truths they’re learning in Scripture. It’s like a double dose of sugar. It’s no wonder again, that his writing is biblically based because it stems from his own personal time with Christ and time studying with his wife.  

In the last sentences of  this article, Alcorn says how the study of God’s word  has shaped his writing. Christy concludes in saying, “The effects of Alcorn’s bible study are evident throughout his writing. When God’s word is at the center, so is His story.” Alcorn’s intense study of the word has been the launching pad for his writing. This can challenge all of us as Christian writers to know where we must begin in the often intimidating process of writing.

Because Alcorn has put first things first, it cannot shock us that Alcorn has become one of the greatest writers of our day.

Video Friday: Masterpiece

Ever since I can remember, my mom told me that I was a masterpiece created by God. God has fashioned us all in his image. We are beautiful because He is beautiful. Every day he is chiseling us into his image. Because of the cross, we now have healing from the stripes and death for life… as Amena beautifully articulates.

(low-res version)

Kristin’s Miracle House

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at_the_gatesI just finished transcribing one of the most powerful stories I’ve ever heard (that will be included in our Bluefish 2010 Youth Series releasing in the fall). Kristin Elliott (her middle name happens to be Elizabeth- reminding me of the missionary Elisabeth Eliott) is no typical young woman.

Elizabeth grew up in a Christian home, went to a Christian school but desperately wanted a story of hope to give to others. At the end of her high school career, she found a lump in her leg. The lump ended up being a cancerous tumor. A life-threatening one. She was operated on and the Make A Wish foundation found out about her. They came to her house and allowed her to grant one wish. She could either meet someone (a celebrity), go somewhere, or have something (an object). She told them she wanted to build an orphanage in Africa. They were perplexed. They’d never had a request like that from anyone. They went back to their headquarters to see what they could work out.

Her desire for an orphanage went back to the need Kristin saw on a special on TV. She thought that someone needed to go to them and that she could be it. So her and her family decided to take a trip to Africa shortly after her operation. She wanted to meet the needs of those children who didn’t have a home or love. When she returned from the trip, she was rediagnosed with this dangerous form of cancer and it was now in her lungs. She was operated on again. Doctors were able to get all of the cancer out. Around that time, Make a Wish responded to her and they were able to give her their maximum amount of money (around 2k) to jump start her funds towards the orphanage in Africa.

The news then got a hold of her story and many people began donating to her wish. She raised the 60k that was needed to build the orphanage and then some. The orphanage would hold 12 orphans and 2 adults to oversee the home.

Kristin began to heal and is now cancer free.  She’s in her first year at Baylor and has had opportunities to spread the hope of Christ just as she prayed for- even though cancer may not have been her first choice.

I’m just blown away by Kristin’s heart. She experienced the most difficult trial of her life and yet she was willing to give of herself fully (reminding me so much of the life of Christ). A dream was fulfilled that she never would have imagined coming true at only 18 years old. Her legacy will certainly be marked in Zambia forever, as the house for orphans is now called Kristin’s Miracle House.

This young girl has definitely inspired me today.

Check out Kristin’s site and story here.

Getting Rid of Stuff Part 2

This Saturday, we sold so much “stuff” at  a community wide yard sale on Saturday. We did this last year and sold about $400.00 worth of stuff. For some reason this year we accumulated more stuff again and ended up selling about $300 on Saturday. The funny thing is is that my Getting Rid of Stuff post from last year receives tons of hits still to this day. I’m beginning to think that we (Americans) have an issue with stuff but what is so funny to me is how one person’s trash can be another person’s treasure.

I can’t even tell you how much “junk” I think I sold. If familiarity can breed contempt when it comes to “things” than the latter would explain it. There’s just something about wearing the same old clothes day in and day, looking at the same painting or eating out of the same dishes. You grow to hate it because you’re so tired of it- it’s just too familiar. I think this explains much of my own heart. I’m often never satisfied- I want more and I need something to fill the voids. I need the next thing. A different hairstyle, lip stick shade, outfit, piece of furniture, car, and whatever else. It’s when I get back to reality and realize that I can’t take anything with me when I leave this earth, that it all gets back into perspective. God has created me to need Him- not stuff. He’s the only one that can fill my longing heart and I’m so thankful that He does anytime I call on him for help.

Maybe next year we’ll get down to selling $200.00 worth of stuff.

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