Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Bible Study - 1st Peter 5

Today, we are wrapping up 1st Peter. I'm not sure what direction I want to head into next. I am getting a lot of books in the mail to review, so I foresee my blog becoming more of a blog about book reviews and less about lessons. I have shifted one of my major life goals from becoming an author to becoming one of the top Catholic book reviewers, and the only way to do that is by reading more books, and writing more reviews.

We could slowly walk through 2nd Peter, where I post a little on 2nd Peter and then post a good book to help you grow in your understanding and use of Scriptures. I don't really know. My blog is still in its infancy and is still a living and breathing organism. I would welcome some feedback. I haven't had any comments on my blog in a little while. I've had a lot of views, but not a lot of comments, so please let me know what you would like to see. Let's finish 1st Peter for now though.

Verses 1-4 is advice to presbyters, AKA priests. St. Peter gives this advice to them not as a Bishop giving an order, but as friendly advice from one priest to another. This is wise, because people are more likely to take advice than an order. His advice is straightforward in that he tells them to be good leaders, not leaders seeking a profit or glory. He tells them to be good examples for their flock, and reminds them that though they are shepherds of their church, Jesus is still THE SHEPHERD, and if you treat your flock rightly, you will be rewarded in Heaven.

The rest of the chapter (Verses 5-14) is advice to the community/congregation. We are first told to be humble and subject to the priests. The priests are the head of a church for a reason, and though we don't always agree with their every decision, we should respect them and listen to them, assuming they aren't doing  or saying stuff that is heretical.

Verse 7 reminds us that we can cast our cares on God because he cares about us. That is a truth we should already know, but is still reassuring to hear. I believe St. Peter tells us this because the next few verses can be scary. We are told that Satan is prowling around the earth like a lion and trying to eat us (take us to hell). That is terrifying imagery if you just read that verse on it's own, but we know God has already won. So we must resist the devil and know that just as we undergo these trials and sufferings, all other Christians do as well.

Last, like in all letters we have the closing. Silvanus is named as Peter's secretary. We see mention of Mark, writer of the Gospel. And finally, we receive a blessing of peace from St. Peter.

Monday, October 29, 2012

DOUBLE Book Review Monday

Greetings fellow readers! I am going to undertake an ambitious double review post today, because I feel that these books should be read together, not necessarily at the same time, but definitely in succession. Both of these books (as well as a box of others) were given to me by Our Sunday Visitor (OSV) in exchange for an honest review.

The first book I am going to review is called, Why Enough is Never Enough. In this book Gregory Jeffrey fills the pages with personal stories about "Making Peace with God and Money." There are chapters on trusting God, figuring out how much money it takes a person to truly be happy, giving to others in charity, and attitudes of greed vs. gratitude.

By design, this book will not give you advice on how to make money, budget your money, or what to do with your money. Instead, the whole premise is about helping the reader to become comfortable with the money they have and hopefully help them realize that they do have more than enough money to be happy.

I found this book to be good to very good, but lacking for me. I liked that each chapter included reflections and tasks/questions to complete/answer to make you think and grow in your understanding of your own personal and unhealthy want for more money. But I was disappointed with how many personal stories there were in the chapters and felt the entire book was a little too "fluffy" for me and could have been condensed. The message was solid, but you had to wade through a lot to get to the message I would give this book 3.5 out of 5 stars, because it was good, but not what I would want out of a finance book.

The second book I am reviewing is 7 Steps to Becoming Financially Free. OSV was GENEROUS enough to send me not just the book, but an entire kit to lead a small group session. The kit included the book, DVDs, a leader's guide, a workbook, etc. I was blown away by not only OSV's generosity, but the quality of this product. I have a small group study that I help lead now, and I know they would enjoy this as much as I did.

I don't have enough space or time to say enough good things about this book/kit, but I will do my best. Each chapter is well-laid out and in a logical order. It starts with us realizing that everything we own belongs to God and progresses from there. Chapters include finances with marriage, with kids, charitable giving, buying a house, getting off debt, saving, investing, etc. etc.

The advice is straightforward and backed up with Scripture references. The tasks to do at the end of each chapter are practical. The workbook supplements the book nicely. And the leader's guide (if you choose to buy the whole kit and lead a group) is immensely helpful and gives you great advice, not only on how to lead each session, but how to be a better small group leader overall.

On a side note, I had ambitions of writing a book with exactly this purpose in mind of personal finances from a Catholic perspective. After reading through this book and watching the DVDs, I can see my time is better spent elsewhere. Phil Lenahan does a masterful job of providing just such a product for Catholics (or any flavor Christian).

I wish I could give this book more than 5 out of 5 stars, but that's the highest rating possible. If your finances are a complete mess and you need to get them in order, buy this book or see if your Parish is offering this class and take it. If your finances just need some tweaking, or you need some practical advice, buy this book. I think anyone and everyone can and will find something beneficial from this book. It should definitely be on the bookshelf of every newly married couple too!

Well, that's all I have for you today. Thank you for taking the time to read these two reviews. I don't anticipate making Double Review posts in the future, but these books had a common theme of personal finances, and I just felt like it worked. Thank you all for taking the time to read this review! I'll see you next time in Stuart's Study.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Saints Museum and a BONUS Book Review

Well, my fellow readers. I have no Sunday School lesson plan for you again this week. This week we are doing a Saints Museum with the kids! What is a Saints Museum you ask? Good question! Each year our Parish Catechetical Leader has the 6th, 7th, and 8th Graders dress up as Saints, and act like they are statues in a museum. It's fun for the little ones, but not so much the older ones cause they hate dressing up. But I definitely love the idea of it and think it is an awesome activity to show that there are saintly and religious things going on, and not just ole pagan Halloween!

Since, I don't have a lesson plan for you this week, I am going to recommend a resource I received in the mail from the great folks at Emmaus Road Publishing. This is a great Catholic publisher that is true to the teachings of the Church and prints many great books. The book I am recommending this week is Getting the Marriage Conversation Right: A Guide for Effective Dialogue.

As a note, I would only recommend this as a teaching aid for High School and older. This 70 page book is a quick read, but it packs a powerful message. In this book, we get a definition of what is going on in our current society with regards to marriage, and how society is trying to rid itself of traditional marriage. This is sad indeed, because as the book states, "Marriage unites a man and woman with each other and any children born from their union." No other societal institution does that, and if traditional marriage was compromised, an institution would need to be created to fill the requirements of the quote above.

What I like best about this book is the Question and Answer section in the back. Even after reading through documents and books such as this, I still find that I have a hard time answering frequent objections and questions that people of the opposing viewpoint have. I also like that this book tries to answer the question from more than a religious standpoint. Those who disagree with us will always disagree with us if all we have to argue them is our "faith." Overall, I would give this book 4 out of 5 stars. It is orthodox, authentic, helpful, and necessary, but it wouldn't be a book I would actively seek out to read.

Tune in Monday for my review of Why Enough is Never Enough. Thank you and have a blessed day!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Bible Study - 1st Peter 4

Welcome back, fellow sojourners on the path of salvation. I'm doing my best to finish the blog posts on the book of 1 Peter about the time that my Bible Study Group moves on to the Catholicism Series by Fr. Robert Barron. That looks to be an interesting series, and it has a study guide and videos, so I don't have to lead it. Always a win for me! Let's see if we can knock out all of 1st Peter in this post.

Verses 1-6 deal with Christian Restraint. Christ suffered in the flesh, so we are called to do that as well. Why? Because if we suffer in the flesh, we are not focusing on our own human wants and desires that lead to sin, but focusing on the coming Kingdom. St. Peter then lists a litany of sins the Gentiles (not-Christians) still commit and that they are surprised Christians don't commit. St. Peter says they will be held accountable to God on the last day, meaning that we shouldn't judge them as it is not our place. And then he tells us again that Jesus preached to the dead, who died before His death and resurrection, to give them a chance to be saved.

Verses 7-11 deal with Christian Charity. St. Peter immediately starts off this section reminding the hearers of this letter that the end is near. Near to us and near to God are two completely different things. We are living in the last days, but so were the people in Peter's time, because the last days began when Jesus ministry was over. Also remember, that to God a day is like a thousand years.

He then goes on to tell us to be serious and sober with our prayers and love everyone intensely. The key here is intensely. We're not just supposed to be passive about our neighbors, but love them so much and want them to go to Heaven. We are then called to use our gifts to help others. These gifts he lists in verse 11 are preaching and serving and we are to perform these gifts under God's power not our own, so that God will get the glory and not us.

Lastly, verses 12-19 deals with the Trial of Persecution. No Christian wants to think about these verses, but we all need to hear them. St. Peter warns his audience (and us) that we are about to experience a trial by fire but to rejoice in those sufferings we experience that Christ also experienced. We then see a beatitude in verse 14, calling us to be blessed if we are insulted for the name of Christ, because the Holy Spirit and God rests upon us. We are then told that if we suffer as a Christian, we should glorify God.

Lastly, we see that the time of judgment on the household of God (The Church) is about to begin. And if the judgement is going to begin with us, then those who aren't Christians will be judged next. It will not be good for those who aren't Christians to be judged, because we are barely saved and only saved by God's grace and Christ's death, so those who don't believe in God and Jesus and follow Him, will not be saved. But again we are reminded that if we suffer according to God's will, our soul is in His hands and that should be of extreme comfort!

That's all I have for my readers today. Next week, we will work on Chapter 5 and hopefully finish 1 Peter. Until then! Have a blessed day.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Book Review: A Year with G.K. Chesterton

A Year with G.K. Chesterton is my second book that I received from the program BookSneeze. I didn't read through the whole book, as this isn't the kind of book you read through in a week. But I read enough to review it sufficiently and intend to read it as it is supposed to be read in 2013.

G.K. Chesterton was a prolific Catholic writer and dubbed as "The Apostle of Common Sense." I always considered him to be a Catholic Mark Twain, as he had that same kind of wit Twain had. Some of his more well known books include Orthodoxy, Heretics, or the detective short stories with Father Brown as the lead character.

The tagline "365 Days of Wit, Wisdom, and Wonder" originally bummed me out, as it always irks me when people release these daily books and omit February 29th, but this book does not omit the leap day. So I think it would be more accurate to say "366 Days." That minor complaint aside, this is a very good book. Each day starts with a Scripture verse. You then get a quote from Chesterton. Some days also come with excerpts from his writing and/or facts about Chesterton's life on that specific day.

Overall, I would give this book a 4 out of 5 stars. It is definitely a meaty book that can teach you a lot about Chesterton and make you familiar with the basics of his writing. However, I would have liked to see more Scripture for the day than just a tiny verse. I also felt that on the days where you get a quote and a passage from a writing is a bit too much. You are bombarded with a lot of information to ponder and Chesterton's words, while poignant, overpower the short Scripture passage.

I'm not entirely sure what I will be reviewing next week. I directly contacted about a dozen publishers to see if they would send me books for free in exchange for reviews. I had about 7 different publishers agree to it, so it will either be one of those books I receive in the mail or one of my finds at the Little Sisters of the Lawn Party. Nine books for $4.05!! You can't beat that. Thanks for reading!

Friday, October 19, 2012

No Catholic Religious Education Lesson Plan Today

To my faithful Catechists who turn here for lesson ideas, I have nothing to offer you this week. So I will share a story with you. Last week, was a DISASTER. My wife got faint in Church so I stayed with her instead of teaching last week. I let our Catechist leader know, and she and I both assumed my aide would be there to teach the lesson plan I left her.

WRONG! Never assume. The aide didn't show either but didn't let our Catechist leader know. So the 7th grade "angels" basically locked themselves in the room for 30 minutes. Never trust a 7th grader to do the right thing and go to the 6th or 8th Grade teacher and let them know there is no teacher. UGH TEENAGERS! Or tweenagers...whatever they are called these days.

This week is Child Protection Sunday, so I have to do my favorite lesson plan, which involves having that awkward safety talk with the kids about good secrets and bad secrets, good touch and bad touch, at a 7th grade level. The kids hate this talk, but not as much as I. However, it is a necessary task in the climate we are in. Tune in next week. Maybe, I'll have a funny story to share or a great resource to use to help teaching your children. Blessings and prayers to the other Catechists who have taught, are teaching this week, or have to teach this class in the coming weeks.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Bible Study - 1st Peter 3:13-22

Well, we're back here at Stuart's Study for the 3rd blog post in 3 days. My wife is out of town for work, so we had to do Bible Study via phone. Not easy to pray that way, let me tell you. But we made it through it. Today, I'm going to finish 1st Peter 3. The last section deals with Christian suffering.

Christian suffering is something all Christians have to deal with at some point in their lives. Jesus wasn't shy when preaching to people. He told them that they would be rejected and have struggles. The path to salvation is narrow and tough. The path to hell is wide and easy.

In verse 13-16, we see a "beatitude," with Peter saying "blessed are you if you suffer for righteousness." This echoes back to Jesus' Sermon on the Mount. And if we do suffer, we should praise Jesus. This sounds like a contradiction and unusual, but we should always be given thanks to God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit. People might think you are nuts for praising God when you are being persecuted, but you must be able to tell them why you are still praising God, and that is Christ died and resurrected. So when you tell people of this, tell them but do it gently and reverently. Nobody likes a Bible beater. And if people still try and malign who you are in Christ, they will be shamed - maybe not in this world, but definitely in the next.

In verses 17-18 we are told that it is better to suffer for good than for evil. This is a fairly obvious truth, but it still bears hearing and repeating. We are also reminded that Christ suffered for everyone. The righteous (Jesus) suffered for the unrighteous (all of us), because we are all sinners, and need to remember that. We didn't save ourselves. And even though he died a physical death, Satan did not win, because he rose from the grave and defeated death by death.

Verses 19-20 always blow my mind when I read them. Jesus went to preach to the spirits in prison. This doesn't mean earthly prison. This means Sheol or Hades (not to be confused with Hell or Gehenna). So when Jesus died, he went down to the spirits of those who died before Jesus came to earth in bodily form, and preached to them. Why did He preach to them? Not to condemn them. Jesus is not hateful like that. They were given the chance to be saved, because they died before Jesus died and didn't have a chance to know God. I assume that this was a one time deal, because afterwards, people had the chance to know Jesus and be saved. But that is not my place to say, because God is merciful and wants all to be saved. (Do not interpret this as me believing everyone will be saved.)

Verses 20-21 talks briefly about Noah and the Flood, and how the Flood was a prefigurement of Baptism. The flood washed away the sin of the world, just like Baptism washes away Original Sin. And lastly, verse 22 talks about Jesus ascending into Heaven, sitting at the right hand of God, and with the angels being subject to Him.

Tune in next week for Chapter 4 of 1st Peter. Thanks for reading, and have a blessed day.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Meet the "Single Catholic Girl"

Welcome back to Stuart’s Study. I said in my about me before that I would like to eventually write a book about personal finance with a Catholic perspective. While, I have yet to post on my blog about the subject, Molly, another Catholic blogger, was gracious enough to let me write a guest post (click here) on her blog SingleCatholicGirl.com. Each Tuesday, Molly posts on different topics with 5 key points, and I got to write today's on budgeting. To tie in with her post and lead people over to her site, I decided it would be fun to interview her by asking only 5 questions.

1. If you had to summarize yourself in 5 words what would it be?
Goes where the wind blows. (see John 3:8)

2. What’s your ultimate dream/ambition for your life?

3. If you could meet one Catholic saint from any period of time, who would it be and why?
St. Peter, I feel connected to him; denying Christ, little faith, trying to reach Him by walking on water-but falling, I get that. For someone who walked so closely to Jesus and yet had doubt, I think is really prevalent in our culture right now. I know it is for me. Plus I would love to get some good fishing tips from the guy.

4. What’s one big (or little) thing you are doing in this Year of Faith to deepen your faith?
Pilgrimages-Shrine in Wisconsin, other various places in the States, Rome, maybe the Holy Land? I also would like to pray the Chaplet of Divine Mercy more this year. Such a beautiful prayer and so needed for our world.

5. As a Single Catholic Girl, what is one piece of advice you would give to other Single Catholic Girls (or Guys)?
Rest in His most Sacred Heart. This is where you will find peace, solace, comfort and hope. It's all about drawing closer to Him.

Well, that’s all the questions I have for Molly. Check out my guest post on her blog today, and be sure to add her blog (SingleCatholicGirl.com) to your reading list so that you can check it out daily. She's got some great advice for everyone, be they single or married, male or female. She also has a cool contest/giveaway the first Thursday of every month! Have a blessed day.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Book Review: Walking with God

Welcome back to Stuart's Study. I have been itching to finish this book, Walking with God, so I could write a review on it. Written by Dr. Tim Gray and Jeff Cavins, I knew immediately that I was going to get a quality book. Jeff Cavins is well known for his DVD series knows as The Great Adventure where he takes you through the Bible in a chronological order to help you make sense of the salvation story of the Bible. This book accomplished the same thing that the DVD series does.

You start in the book of Genesis and walk your way through the Bible until you get to the book of Acts. Not all books of the Bible are covered in great deal, as they do not provide the framework for the whole Bible, but they are mentioned as supplemental material to the core books of this scholarly work. In addition to a complete walkthrough of the Bible, there are also many helpful word and topic studies and maps and figures that help illustrate points that would be hard to understand just by reading.

I think my favorite part of the book was that it explained how different people and events in the Bible mirrored previous people or events.We see Joseph (Old Testament, not New Testament) as a prefigurement to Jesus. The Great Flood and Crossing the Red Sea are a prefigurement for Baptism. And time and time again, we see the Israelites making the same mistakes over and over again. Different generation...same sins.

I wish I could give this book more than 5 stars, but 5 out of 5 is my max rating. For anyone who has trouble understanding the big picture of the Bible, this is for you. For anyone who wants to deepen their knowledge of the Bible, this is for you. For anyone who has never read through the Bible but wants to, this is for you. Basically, I'm saying this book is for everyone. I've already given my mom a copy of the book, and I want to go back and read this book again. It has so much knowledge in it that I'm sure I missed a ton of stuff.

This review was written as part of the Catholic book reviewer program from The Catholic Company. Visit The Catholic Company to find more information on Walking with God. The Catholic Company is a great resource for tools to help you participate in the Year of Faith, including Year of Faith bible studies and exclusive Year of Faith personalized gifts. The Catholic Company also has all your Advent needs in stock, such as Advent calendars and Advent wreaths.

Tune in next week for my review of A Year with G. K. Chesterton. Yes, I am doing two Catholic book reviews in a row. I went through my library, and realized I have about two to three times the amount of Catholic books to Orthodox books. So I think, I am going to do one Orthodox book review a month on the first Monday of every month, and the rest will be Catholic. Maybe, in the future if I can find an Orthodox publisher that wants to send me books to review, that number will increase. Have a blessed day!

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Catholic Religious Education (CRE) Week #6

Welcome back to my weekly Catholic Religious Education Lesson! Last week, went well. The kids really enjoyed the skit on the Lord's Prayer. I'm not sure if it was because they thought it was interesting or that it gave them a chance to get out of their seat, but either way it was a success. This week we will be talking about the Gospels and Jesus (briefly). I am excited, because we are finally getting to use the Bible some, which these kids desperately need to know more about.

I may show them how to find passages in the Bible and what Bible notation is. It's real simple and is just Book Chapter:Verse or John 3:16, but so many of them don't realize that. I am also allowing my aide to talk more in class. It is good for everyone I think, as it builds her skills and confidence in front of the kids, gives me a break from talking, and gives the kids a break from hearing me talk the whole time.

  • Preparation for the Lesson
    • Bring the Annunciation and Nativity Icons 
    • Write the words Good News on the board
      • Ask the students to write/reflect on what the phrase Good News means to them and to list examples of Good News they received recently.
  • Introduction
    • Good morning. Today we are going to talk about the Second Person of the Trinity – God The Son or Jesus. Before we discuss what is written on the the board, I would like you to turn to page 51 and begin with the opening prayer.
      • I need 1 reader and the rest of you will respond to All.
    • Okay! While waiting for class to start, I had y’all write and reflect on what Good News means to you.
      • Let’s first start with a definition of Good News.
    • Good. Now let’s go around the class and give some examples of Good News you recently had.
      • Explain to them that the word Gospel means Good News.
      • Ask them what the Good News of the Bible is?
    • Read selections of 51C to them.
      • Summarize that the Good News is God came to us in human form to make Himself better known.
Chapter 5
  • Now I would like you to turn into your books to page 54 and we will begin reading.
    • There are two BIG concepts covered in these three paragraphs.
      • The first is Incarnation.
      • What does it mean?
      • Would you define this as something easy to understand?
      • If not, what is the term we gave for a concept we have to accept on Faith but can’t easily explain?
        • A Mystery
    • The other Mystery we encounter comes to us in the last line on these page.
      • Jesus was both true God and true Man.
      • That doesn't mean he was one or the other and could swap back and forth. He was both at the same time.
      • Talk about something that will blow your mind.
      • So if Jesus was a human like us that means that he ate, slept, got sad, etc. He was like us in every way but one. Does anyone know?
        • He didn’t sin!
  • Now let’s get back to the text on page 55.
    • So here we see how the Four Gospels developed.
  • On page 56 and 57, we get a more detailed explanation about each Gospel.
    • What does the term synoptic mean?
      • Similar
    • What are the three synoptic Gospels?
      • Matthew, Mark, and Luke.
      • Matthew was written primarily for Jewish Christians
      • Mark was written primarily for Christians living in Rome.
      • Luke was written for Greek speaking people.
    • This is why the Gospels are similar but not identical.
    • The author wanted to explain Jesus’ life and teaching in a way that was easily understood to their audience.
  • Pass out Bibles
    • Let’s take a look at the three passages:
    • Matthew 9:1-8
    • Mark 2:1-12
    • Luke 5:17-26
      • How are they similar?
      • How are they different?
  • Alright, let’s conclude with the material on page 57.
    • John’s Gospel was written for all Christians.
      • It is deep and theological and focuses on explaining that Jesus is God.
      • That may seem like a simple concept to us, but back in the 1st Century, people struggled with this idea.
      • A lot of people then saw Jesus as:
        • Only human
        • Someone in between human and God.
  • Real-world application
    • We are all called to be Disciples of Jesus and spread the Good News.
    • So think about people you know in your life
      • Family
      • Friends
      • Classmates
    • How many of them seem to be hurting or not realizing the ultimate Good News of Jesus?
      • What would you tell these people about the Good News?
        • Jesus loves them
        • Jesus wants to forgive their sins
      • What are ways you can share this Good News to people?
        • Tell them
        • Facebook message
        • Be loving to them
        • Read the Bible with them
  • Talk about Year of Faith if anytime is left over in the class.
  • Remember Saint Museum is in two weeks. I hope y'all have started on your costumes.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Bible Study - 1st Peter 3:8-12

Greetings all. Today is going to be a short post. The good news is our Bible Study group finally met. The bad news is that we only got through the first seven verses of chapter three, which I already covered last week in this post. My group also decided they want to go in a different direction with the Year of Faith starting tomorrow. I can't say I blame them. It's been a real struggle for us doing this Bible Study with none of us ever having led one before. Fear not though my readers, my wife and I are going to at least finish 1 Peter 3, so I will still post on it every Wednesday like I have been until 1 Peter 3 is finished. After that? Who knows? On to my commentary though.

If you'll recall, last week we read about Christian spouses. This week, Peter deals with Christian conduct. We are call to be of one mind and loving toward one another. This sounds obvious and easy to do, but whenever you get people together, personalities conflict and disharmony can occur. Why do you think we have 1000s of Christian denominations? Because people can't get along and think they are right. So if an argument occurs, instead of working it out, they leave. Walking away has become too easy in our modern world. Look at divorce. 1 in 2 fail. Those aren't good odds. So ground your marriage in God and His Church. As Fulton Sheen wrote, "It takes three to get married."

Next, we are told to not return evil for evil. This echoes the teachings of Jesus, and stands in sharp contrast to the "eye for an eye" mentality. This too is hard to do, because if someone hurts us, we generally want to get even with them. But no, Peter says to bless those who do evil to you, so that you might inherit a blessing, i.e., eternal life.

Then, we see in verse 10 we need to keep the tongue from evil. First, James tells us this in James 3, and now Peter does the same thing. Taming the tongue is hard to do and generally regarded as the last step to Christian perfection. That's how hard it is to do! Verse 11 is straight forward. Turn from evil. Do good. Seek peace. All obvious things, but all not easy to do. If it was easy, Peter wouldn't have had to tell people to do it. They just would.

Lastly, we see that God listens to the prayers of the righteous people. This is something we should all do well to remember. If you aren't honoring God by loving Him and loving others, then why would you expect Him to listen to you? Well, that's all I have for you today. Come back Friday for my Sunday School lesson. Thanks for reading, and have a blessed day!

Monday, October 8, 2012

Book Review: Lifted by Angels

Greetings all. Today, I am going to review the book Lifted By Angels by Joel J. Miller. I received this book from Thomas Nelson's program BookSneeze. In exchange for the book, all I have to do is provide an honest review on my blog and a website like Amazon. This program is primarily a Protestant book source, but occasionally you find a Catholic or Orthodox Gem, and Lifted By Angels definitely falls into that category.

This 150 page book is a quick read as it is only 7 chapters long and each of them is more fascinating than the next. He starts by explaining how the angelic realm makes and our world make up one big world with so much interaction between the two, whether we are aware of it not. We next get a picture of fallen angels and how we as humanity fell too. After that we get chapters on who angels are, what their jobs are, and how they interact with us and watch over us. The whole book has Bible passages, Apocryphal passages, and Early Church Fathers teachings woven throughout.

I truly loved this book, and at first I was disappointed that it was only 150 pages long. I was thinking this book should be way longer, but Mr. Miller points out excellently in his book that we can make a cult of angels. So yes, angels are here to help us and assist us on the path of salvation, but we are not supposed to make gods of them or worship them. That would indeed be in error.

This book also made me want to reach out to my guardian angel. I talked to my guardian angel after reading this book. I thanked him for always being there for me, even when I didn't deserve it, and for watching over me. I also apologized to him for the things which I did wrong and that offended him, because these are creatures that see God, and for them to look upon us in our sin and fallen nature must make them very sad.

I would recommend this book to anyone who wants to learn more about angels, no matter how much knowledge they have about angels. This book is packed full of information, but is written in a way that makes it easy to read and easy to understand. I give this book 5 stars easily, and recommend everyone buy it and read it. Stay tuned next week for my review of Walking with God by: Tim Gray and Jeff Cavins.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Bible Study - Revelation 1

Well, tonight is my other Bible Study group. Luckily, I don't have to read this one. I just have to read in advance, show up, and provide my thoughts if I feel the need to speak. It is a bit easier, not being the leader. There isn't as much pressure on you to make sure that conversation flows and stays on topic. People also don't look to you as the authoritative answer. Anyhow, since I am not leading the Bible Study, my posts concerning Revelation will be just on points I find interesting or might want to talk about.

Most of Church tradition states that John the Beloved, the Evangelist, or Theologian is the author of this book. However, Bishop Dionysius of Alexandria claims that he thinks it is another John who wrote this book, as the Apostle John never named himself in the Gospel or Epistles, so why would he in Revelation? The author isn't super-important. What is important is that we believe this book is inspired by God.

It also important to note that this book is not to be read like a road map to track the end of the world. You can open the book of Revelation and a newspaper and think you can match up horrible stores to obscure passages in Revelation. You would be missing the point of Revelation, and you would also be very presumptuous to assume the book of Revelation is only about your time, when the book is 1900 years old and addresses Christians from John's time til Jesus comes back (whenever that may be).

Onto my comments. This book starts off like both the Pauline and the Catholic Epistles. We see an indication of who is writing this book/letter and then are revealed the order of revelation. It goes from God to Jesus to an angel to John to us. Angels truly are awesome creatures, and I have a new found amazement for them after reading Lifted By Angels. Check out that book review tomorrow. Shameless plug, I know.

In Verse 3, we see a blessing for those who read the word and those who hear it. This is one of the 7 "Beatitudes" or blessings in Revelation. We then have the greeting to the 7 churches in Asia Minor, probably churches under John's guidance and shepherding. Truly, this must have been an awesome and terrifying vision what John saw and then wrote about.

He saw Jesus standing among the seven lampstands. These seven lampstands are the seven churches, which John is writing to, and Jesus being in the midst of them is symbolic to John that even though he has been banished to Patmos, Jesus is still in the midst of these churches and watching over them.

I like the description of Jesus, but more than that, I like how John fell as if dead at seeing Jesus. I imagine this is how most of us would react if we saw Jesus in his full glory. That's also how people reacted in the Bible at the sight of angels. Why do you think they always told people to not be afraid? The last interesting part to me is that each church had it's own angel, like they are watching over them and helping protect the flock. It's very comforting thinking about that.

To my readers, what do you find interesting in the 1st chapter of Revelation? Have you ever read Revelation or does the thought of it scare you? Stay tuned for my next post on the book of Revelation in 2 weeks.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Bible Study - 1st Peter 3:1-7

Well, our Bible Study got cancelled again this week. I swear, I am starting to think it is not meant for us to make it through the 1st Epistle of Peter. I considered not posting today, but my brother-in-law is overseas serving his country, and he said these are the posts he likes to read on my blog, so I am doing this for him. The wife and I read through 1 Peter 3:1-7 and have a little bit of commentary on it.

Verses 1-2 says that women should be submissive to their husbands. This may sound familiar, because Paul writes about it as well. Back in those days, and even in places around the world today, women are more or less property. However, in those days, it wasn't uncommon for the wife to be a Christian and her husband not to be one. So Peter is encouraging the women to be submissive to their husbands in hopes that they can win their husband over to the Lord through their deeds and not just their words.

Verses 3-4 advises the women to focus more on their inner beauty. It is not a call for women to give up all nice things like makeup, jewelry, or clothes. Sorry, husbands. Your wallet will still be hurting, and you can't say but Peter said you should dress in a potato sack!  Inner beauty means the soul. Peter is tell the women whom he is writing to, to focus on treasures not of this earth and shine their soul up.

In verses 5-6, we see Peter use Sarah as the example of subordination. If you look back in Genesis, Sarah addressed Abraham as lord, so she was subordinate. However, her subordination wasn't that of a slave with no say in anything. Sarah  didn't mind speaking her mind/opinions, and she got her own way on various occasions...sometimes to the detriment of her and Abraham. The primary example of this is Hagar, Ishmael, and Sarah and Abraham trying to fulfill the covenant through their power and not God's power.

Lastly, verse 7 Peter addresses the husbands. Don't think we're getting off easy just because we only have 1 verse addressed to us. Men are required to treat our wives as equals, even though back then, they were not in equal social standing or physical strength as men. Blessed Pope John Paul II wrote an Apostolic Letter addressing The Dignity and the Vocation of Women.

One last note for deference in regards to wives deferring to their husbands. If we look through the New Testament, Jesus deferred to God the Father all the time even though both of them are equal. So, there's nothing wrong with a little deference, as long as the person you are deferring to is doing something morally right. Never defer to evil.

This Sunday the wife and I will be attending our twice a month Bible Study on the book of Revelation (not Revelations). So look for my notes on Chapter 1 on October 7th. Thanks for reading!

Monday, October 1, 2012

Book Review: Night of the Confessor

Welcome back to my Study. Today, I am reviewing the book Night of the Confessor: Christian Faith in an Age of Uncertainty by Tomas Halik. This is the first book that I received as part of the Blogging for Books program. It's a pretty sweet deal. They send you a free book, and all you have to do is give it an honest review.

Tomas Halik is a Czech priest, who was clandestinely ordained a priest due to Communism being rampant at the time. Blessed Pope John Paul II appointed him as an advisor to the Pontifical Council for Dialogue with Non-Believers and in 2009, Pope Benedict XVI granted him the title of Monsignor - Honorary Prelate of His Holiness. So it seems like this priest would know his stuff, and would be a good read.

Unfortunately, the book was near impossible for me to read. I'm not sure if it is because the book was translated from Czech to English, and there was something to be desired in the translation or if Msgr. Halik is just too smart and scholarly for writing, but this book was dense, dry, and tough to read. Perhaps, it that each chapter is its own essay, and it's hard to get the full effect of an essay reading it.

I do however agree with and like the overall message of the book, and that is that Christianity is a paradox. We must die to live, loving those who persecute you, and decreasing to let the Father increase. These paradoxes and others are the underlying themes in the book, which Msgr. Halik echoed in every chapter and which he also believes are the only way worth living in our culture. I would like to recommend this book to the average reader, but I simply cannot.

Tune in next Monday for my review of Lifted by Angels by: Joel Miller.