Getting the Big Picture of Scripture

Book Review: The Infographic Bible: Visualising the drama of God’s Word, by Karen Sawrey

In the same way that Jesus taught in parables to create an image to help his audience remember his teaching and the apostle Paul used the street language of his day, so Karen Sawrey has tried to combine both graphic images and text that can help people understand the message of the Bible. The author did not set out to illustrate every passage of Scripture nor cover every book or topic of the Bible. Her aim is to communicate the big picture of Scripture. “The main aim is to show that God’s word can be approached, wrestled with, analysed and meditated on.”

While the book is visually stunning and eye catching, I found it difficult to read because of the color scheme and size of the font. Most likely the target audience is millennials, of which I am not one.

Like its title, the book is written in graphic form, with most of the graphics being a double-page, or even multiple page spread. The graphics range from simple to complex. It seems like it would be a coffee table book or one you would use as a aid before diving into the details of a book of Scripture.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers <> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

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Posted by on November 14, 2018 in Bible Study, Books


The last leaf

Yesterday I mowed my lawn and mulched my leaves for (hopefully) the last time, put down a weed & feed treatment, and moved my snow blower to the front of the line. It appears fall is almost over and winter is on its way.

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Posted by on November 13, 2018 in Fall, Fun


Thank you for your service

Veteran’s Day 2018–Let me say, “Thanks!” to the men and women who have served, fought, defended, and died for our country to secure and protect our freedom. Thank you for your faithfulness and for doing your patriotic duty. In particular, I want to thank the ones I have known personally who have served in the military–Dad, Jack, Harry, Dave, Carl, Dan, Luke, Jarol, Alan, Harlow, Jerry, Bob, Norm, Ralph, Carol, Conrad, Chris, Jack, Joe, Dan, Joe, Josh, John, Kevin, Evan, Jason, Sheddy, Kim, Holt, Colin, Paul, Jessica, Ryan, and many others whose names I’ve forgotten–in WWII, Korea, Viet Nam, Iraq, Afghanistan, and peacetime. Thank you. We’re in your debt.

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Posted by on November 12, 2018 in Holidays


Statements of recommitment

Yesterday, I concluded my message on Joshua 8 by having the congregation voice their recommitment to the Scriptures. I modeled it after Joshua leading Israel in recommitting themselves on Mt Ebal and Mt Gerizim (Joshua 8:30-35). Here is what I said and the statements I used.


This morning, I would like to end our service by asking you to join me in recommitting ourselves as a called community of faith to following God and his word.  Please stand with me and face the center. I’m going to read a series of 12 statements that come from Scripture and express our values as a church.  After each one, would you please respond and say in unison, “Amen!”?

  1. We recognize that “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).  Amen.
  2. We know that “the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:23).  Amen.
  3. We have been saved by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone (Ephesians 2:8-9).  Amen.
  4. We believe that “Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38-39).  Amen.
  5. We will present our bodies to God as a living and holy sacrifice, which is our spiritual service of worship (Romans 12:1).  Amen.
  6. Since the Bible is God’s inspired word, we will base our decisions on the Scriptures, rather than cultural values (Acts 2:42; Romans 12:2).  Amen.
  7. We will become an Acts 2 community of faith—a family of families that is passionate about God’s Word, committed to prayer, expressing our faith, having a mutual ministry to one another, and having an impact in our local area.  Amen.
  8. We will become an Ephesians 4 equipping community—training people in the Scriptures and equipping them for ministry; a place where the members are the ministers and the pastors are the equippers.  Amen.
  9. We will become an Acts 13 sending community—a strong, established church, helping to strengthen and establish other churches around the world, and sending our best into ministry.  Amen.
  10. We will love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength and love our neighbors as ourselves (Matthew 22:37-40).
  11. We will be a witness for God as we live as salt and light in the Pioneer Valley and we will strive to make disciples around the world as far as we can reach (Acts 1:8; Matthew 5:12-16; Matthew 28:19-20).  Amen.
  12. We will serve the purpose of God in our generation and will glorify God in all we say and do (1 Corinthians 10:31).  Amen.

Turning Tragedy into Triumph

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the author of Sherlock Holmes mysteries, often told the story of how he sent a telegram to each of twelve friends, all men of great virtue and considerable position in society. The message was worded: “Fly at once, all is discovered.” Within twenty-four hours, so the story goes, all twelve had left the country!

While all of us are acquainted with failure, very few are willing to admit it. John F. Kennedy once said, “Success has many fathers, but failure is an orphan; no one wants to claim it.” Henry Ford, the inventor of the automobile took a different view when he said, Failure is “the opportunity to begin again more intelligently.”

Joshua 7 closes on a sad note with the judgment on Achan for his disobedience at the battle of Jericho. No one would have blamed Joshua if he threw up his hands in defeat and gave up. And yet, God turned the tragedy of Achan’s failure into a new opportunity for Israel to trust God and gain success.

A Fresh Start (1-2). Knowing that Joshua might be tempted to doubt or fear another defeat, God encourages him and promises victory. The phrase, “Do not fear and do not be dismayed” appears seven times in Scripture, all in the context of an individual facing the challenge of accomplishing a great task commanded by God. If God calls us to do something, we can be confident he will equip, encourage, and enable us to accomplish it.

No matter how badly we may have failed, we can always get up and begin again. Our God is the God of new beginnings and fresh starts.

A Fresh Strategy (3-13). Rather than allowing Joshua and the leaders of Israel to depend on their personal experience, God introduced a fresh strategy for conquering Ai. They are to take the entire army into the battle. One group is to hide behind the city and another group is to guard their flank between Ai and Bethel. The third group will attack and feign a retreat. When the city gives chase, the ambush will be sprung. As important as strategy is, it is more important that we seek the Lord and follow his directions for each challenge we face.

A Fresh Success (14-29). Fully aware that the battle belonged to the Lord, Joshua waited for God’s instructions. God was going to use Ai’s pride and overconfidence against them. At the right time, God instructs Joshua to spring the trap. Israel cut down all of the people save for the king who was executed later.

The conquest of Canaan was God’s judgment on an evil society. They engaged in moon worship, child sacrifice, and displayed pornographic statuary. God had been patient for over 500 years before bringing judgment on the people.

The victory over Ai reminds us that we are called to faithful obedience. When we follow God’s instructions and believe his promises, we will be victorious.

A Fresh Statement (30-35). Following the victories at Jericho and Ai, Israel pauses to renew and restate their commitment. They journey north to Shechem, located between Mt. Gerizim and Mt. Ebal. There, they followed Moses’ instructions to renew their commitment to obey the law.

God is looking for people who will declare their allegiance to him. He desires people who will follow him wholeheartedly.

This is the synopsis of a message preached at First Central Bible Church in Chicopee, MA, on November 11, 2018. It is part of a series of sermons on the book of Joshua. Please click on the link to download a copy of the sermon notes.


Prayerfully planning a church budget

At a recent elders’ meeting, our church administrator and the chair of our finance board joined the council to discuss how to prepare our 2019 budget. The finance chair said he was praying about four questions. He encouraged the elders and the congregation to join him in seeking God’s face regarding these issues.

Here are the questions if you would like to pray with us, or adapt them for your church’s use.

  • What do we believe will be our level of giving in 2019? How much do we think God will provide?
  • How should our budget be distributed? How much of the budget should go to staff, missions, ministries, maintenance, etc?
  • How aggressive should we be in next year’s budget? How do we find the appropriate balance between self-reliance and faith-stretching?
  • How can we best use the remaining funds in the parsonage proceeds account?

An Overview of the book of Philippians

Book Review: Basics for Believers: The Core of Christian Faith and Life (A Study of Philippians), by D. A. Carson

In his book, Basics for Believers: The Core of Christian Faith and Life (A Study of Philippians), author and professor D. A. Carson provides a broad overview of the book of Philippians. The book was originally published in 1996 and has been repackaged for republication in 2018. The five short chapters were prepared as a four-part series for Holy Week 1994 at the “Word Alive” conference in Skegness, England.

While not an in-depth study of Paul’s letter to the Philippians, the book provides a good overview and understanding of the major themes of the book. The author emphasizes five themes in the book. Put the gospel first (1:1-26), Focus on the cross (1:27-2:18), Adopt Jesus’s death as a test of your outlook (1:27-2:18), Emulate worthy Christian leaders (2:19-3:21), and Never give up the Christian walk (4:1-23). By studying this book, the reader will gain an understanding of the basics of Christianity and how to withstand the storms of life.

Disclosure: I received this book free from Baker Books through the Baker Books Bloggers program. The opinions I have expressed are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review.

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Posted by on November 8, 2018 in Bible Study, Books, Scripture