Sunday, July 30, 2023

Yoked with Christ by Becky Van Vleet #devotional


 

Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. Matthew 11:29 (NKJV)

 

My mother liked to collect antiques. After she passed away, I was blessed to be the recipient of some of her antiques in my own home. One of the antiques I have is a wooden yoke which hangs in my house as décor with some artificial ivy dangling around it. My grandchildren have asked about the yoke, and of course I always seize teachable moments to explain to them how a yoke is used for harnessing oxen to enable them to pull heavy loads together, easing their work.

And so it is with our Lord. When we submit wholly to Christ, we are yoked with Him. Jesus promises when we stay with Him, He will lift our heavy burdens of trying to earn our way into heaven. The yoke of Jesus is gentle and lowly with only a singular commitment to follow Him.

When I think about my life journey, it’s a great feeling to know that I’m yoked with Christ. I’m trusting that He is helping me every step of the way, lightening my challenges. I know if I turn into a direction and He’s not turning that way, I will feel the friction and life is no longer easy.

My old wooden yoke is attractive in my home with its dangling ivy. But it is also laced with splinters, and I have to be careful when I dust it. I’m thankful I don’t have to worry about any splinters with Christ. His yoke is laced with grace, liberty, and rest. It provides us all that we really need, making our journeys in life so much lighter. 

 


Becky Van Vleet is a retired teacher and principal and award-winning multi-genre author. She has been published in Guideposts, The Country Register, and Christian Devotions Ministry. Her children’s picture books are the recipients of the 2020 Excellence in Editing award as well as the Purple Dragonfly award in 2020 and 2021. She and her husband make their home close to Colorado Springs where she enjoys gardening, hiking, oil painting, power walking, and spending time with her family, especially reading books to her grandchildren.

Becky is the author of Unintended Hero, a true story about her father’s battles, experiences, and adventures in WWII aboard the USS Denver. She is passionate about sharing the values from the Greatest Generation and enjoys speaking to high school classes about patriotism.

A member of ACFW, Allauthor, and Pikes Peak Writers, Becky has devoted her website to creating and preserving family memories and sharing family stories for the next generations through her monthly blogs. You can find her at: https://beckyvanvleet.com. She would love to hear from you, especially if you have a family story to share!

 

Social Media Links:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/authorbeckyvanvleet/

Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/becky-van-vleet-ms-806055181/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/becky_van_vleet_author/

Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/beckyvanvleet/ 

Amazon Central Author Page: https://amzn.to/3INHIPB 

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/125841473-becky-van-vleet

YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/@beckyvanvleet9907

Bookbub: https://www.bookbub.com/profile/becky-van-vleet

 

 



Friday, July 28, 2023

An #Interview with Mike McGarry, Author of Discover: Questioning Your Way to Faith

 

An Interview with Mike McGarry,
Author of Discover: Questioning Your Way to Faith

At some point or another, every Christian will have questions about God, the Bible, and how the gospel applies to life today. This is especially true for teens who are trying to find their way and develop their own faith. It is perfectly normal, and there is no reason to be embarrassed by such questions.

In his nearly twenty years as a youth pastor, Mike McGarry has heard just about every question students ask. Their questions are important—and they may prove to be the very thing that actually leads them into deeper faith. In Discover: Questioning Your Way to Faith, McGarry explores the twenty most common questions teenagers ask. In doing so, he wants students to see their questions as an opportunity to dig deeper so they can grow in faith.

Q: How did the students from the youth group that you led motivate you to write Discover? Did all the questions you answer in the book come from directly from them?

Over the last twenty years, I’ve had conversations with teenagers about each of the questions in this book. Some of them are questions teenagers ask directly, while others are indirect. For example, students will ask about whether or not Christians, Jews, and Muslims worship the same God. This is a direct question about the difference in religions, but it’s also an indirect question about the Trinity.

Writing this book, Discover, came out of my previous book for youth workers, Lead Them to Jesus. In that book, I addressed a number of theological questions teenagers commonly ask, and then offered counsel to help these leaders engage those theological conversations with confidence. I received my author copies of Lead Them to Jesus while leading a service project for my youth group, so a bunch of students flipped through the book, and one of them said, “Hey, if this was written for teenagers instead of adults, I’d totally read it.” Then a few others said, “Yeah, me too!”

After that conversation, the publisher and I agreed to revisit those chapters and develop them for a teenage audience. I also added new content to addresss questions that weren’t covered in the first book.

Q: The questions you cover in the book aren’t “fluff.” Are you ever surprised at the level of depth and maturity of the questions that teens ask?

I used to be surprised, but I’m not anymore. I do think a lot of parents would be surprised by their teenagers’ theological curiosity. They wouldn’t call themselves theologians, but they have lots of questions about God and faith and spirituality—and those are theological questions.

This curiosity is especially true of church kids. They’ve grown up their entire lives hearing the same stories and truths from VBS through high school graduation. Of course, they can get bored with the Bible when we always keep the cookies on the lowest shelf. But when you dig into the meat of the text and challenge them to think deeply about doctrinal truths that you might expect to be over their heads, you may be surprised when they step up to the challenge.

Q: Do you really think teenagers care about theology enough to read this book? What are some of the theological questions you delve into?

Our teenagers are growing up in a hyper-tolerant culture, and that actually makes them really open to conversations about the questions in the book. While religious conversations among other generations might still be considered taboo, GenZ is spiritually curious.

Again, because “church kids” are often given the same basic message over the same basic Bible stories throughout their lives, digging deeper into theology is appealing to them. This is why they’re curious about the Trinity and the nature of the Holy Spirit and different views on much-debated issues like creation and Jesus’s return. Apologetics-related questions are always really valuable conversations with teenagers, too, such as examining the evidence that Jesus rose from the grave and discussing the reliability of the Bible.

Q: With so many teens and young adults leaving the church (or just not having a foundation of faith), how can parents, youth leaders, mentors, etc. provide welcoming environments for conversations to talk more about their questions and anchor them in strong doctrine?

If we want our youth to talk about their big questions with us but we shrug off their “smaller” questions, then we’re shooting ourselves in the foot. I think we need to take those small questions seriously and engage in the conversation without turning it into a lecture where we simply give “the right answer.”

It’s easy for parents to hear their kids’ questions or doubts and to fear the worst: They’re starting to doubt! What if they lose their faith? In an effort to help them continue following Christ, they jump into action with all the answers. But when that happens, we’re removing all the lessons our kids learn by discovering faith for themselves. We shouldn’t leave them all alone, but we also shouldn’t try to rescue them from asking hard questions. Instead, let’s lean into the questioning and walk that path with them, while helping them discover answers rather than serving up all the answers on a silver platter.

Q: You talk about how different generations have differing definitions of tolerance, which can cause frustration and conflict. What should both the younger and older generations know about each other in order to have more fruitful conversations?

I am passionate about helping older generations understand GenZ’s worldview because good communication isn’t about what’s said, but what’s heard. If we proclaim the good news of Christ without understanding GenZ, our message of hope and life might be heard as a word of condemnation or hatred. Of course, there’s a spiritual component here, and we need to pray for the Holy Spirit to soften hearts and open ears. But there’s also a very real sense in which understanding GenZ’s approach to tolerance can help us identify areas where the gospel will be heard and received as the good news it truly is.

For example, there’s been a lot of hand-wringing over cancel culture but there is much misunderstanding of what it is. From GenZ’s perspective, no one “gets cancelled”—they cancel themselves. You see, tolerance is the new golden rule, and safety is the new American dream. When someone says something that threatens another person’s safety (emotional or physical) then the community rallies around that person to protect them. That’s what cancel culture is; it’s an embodiment of protecting your peers from someone who is threatening to them. And this is why it’s really important for us to understand how to communicate important gospel truths in a way that the gospel is the only offense, not the way we say it.

Q: What are some of the topics you cover in the book that you wish would get more attention?

The first is the chapter, “What Is the Trinity?” Questions about the Trinity involve who God is, and I don’t think we talk nearly enough about this. After all, if you need to believe in the Trinity to be a Christian (which is a longstanding hallmark of the faith), then we need to talk about this truth with teenagers. Instead, it’s become a doctrine that’s so intimidating we rarely give it our attention, choosing instead to focus on felt-need topics that are more appealing to teenagers. Thankfully, there are some really good and accessible books coming out about the Trinity.

Another is “Why Is the Church Important?” This is a topic that many people don’t think would interest teenagers, especially since there’s this assumption that church is boring but youth group is supposed to be fun. And yet, if we want to make lifelong disciples then we need to help our students develop a deep and abiding love for the local church. Youth ministry is an expression of the church’s partnership with parents to evangelize and disciple the next generation. And yet, many youth ministries function independently from the church and don’t intentionally help students find a sense of belonging within the local church. I think this is a huge mistake and only sets students up to leave the church when they graduate.

Q: In what ways do the chapters on sex and LGBTQ+ issues go deeper than the typical discussions on these subjects?

I’m not sure that I necessarily go deeper than typical discussions, but I address them from a different perspective. I explain why homosexuality simply does not reflect what the Bible says sexuality represents—perfect intimacy between Christ and the church. That’s a biblical/theological foundation that isn’t mentioned often, and students are simply left with messages about “do this” or “don’t do that.” I tried to present a short and accessible biblical theology of sexuality to present a bigger picture of the biblical message.

Q: Mental health and suicide are extremely important topics you address in the book. What advice do you have for the parent or youth worker who doesn’t feel equipped to walk a teen through these chapters?

Recent statistics suggest nearly one-third of students regularly struggle with anxiety and depression, while two-thirds consider it a major concern among their peers. Everyone walks through sad or anxious seasons in life, but many are experiencing something deeper and more overwhelming: a sense of despair with no hope for improvement.

It’s important for parents and youth workers to educate themselves about anxiety and depression in order to help their struggling teenager navigate their trials. We should not be afraid of mental health diagnoses as if it’s a mark of shame or failure. Instead, let’s confess our struggle, bring it into the light, and walk in the grace of Christ. He is our strength and our Savior, so let’s channel our anxiety and depression in a way that propels us into fellowship with Christ (“Father, I’m struggling, would you strengthen and comfort me?”) rather than away from him (“Why would you do this to me?”).

Q: What are the three ways teens can read the book? Why are the discussion questions important, even if the teen is reading the book on his or her own?

Discover was written to be read either independently, with a parent/mentor, or in a small group setting. Teenagers can read this book on their own, though I strongly recommend middle schoolers to read the book along with a parent/mentor or in a small group since some of the topics may be confusing or difficult. If you read the book in a small group, I strongly recommend you literally read the chapter together and then discuss the questions, since they’re written to help ensure you understand the content and application of that chapter’s message.

Q: Tell us more about Youth Pastor Theologian.

Youth Pastor Theology (YPT) is a ministry that empowers youth workers to pursue theological depth. I started the ministry a little over two years ago and am currently transitioning to lead it as my full-time ministry moving forward. I’m excited to provide more resources and coaching to help youth workers build their ministry on a biblical and theological foundation. We currently publish a blog post and podcast each week during the school year and we’re working on developing some exciting new resources.

Discover: Questioning Your Way to Faith
By Mike McGarry
July 10, 2023 / Retail Price: $16.99
Print ISBN 978-1-64507-353-6
Religion / Christian Ministry / Youth

About the Author

Mike McGarry, DMin, served as a youth pastor for nearly twenty years and is the founder/director of Youth Pastor Theologian, and organization committed to training youth workers to practice theology in youth ministry. He is passionate about investing in the next generation.

McGarry is the author of A Biblical Theology of Youth MinistryLead Them to Jesus, and Discover and was a contributor to Gospel-Centered Youth Ministry. He is also a regular contributor to LeaderTreks and the Rooted Ministry, and cohosts the podcast Thanos to Theos, which covers comics, the gospel, and youth ministry.

He is married to Tracy, and they have two youth group aged kids. The McGarrys live in Norton, Massachusetts.

Find Mike McGarry’s blog at www.youthpastortheologian.com or follow Youth Pastor Theologian on Facebook (@youththeologian) and Twitter (@YouthTheologian).






Thursday, July 27, 2023

Countdown (Extreme Measures) #RomanticSuspense






Countdown 

(Extreme Measures)

August 1, 2023


 A stalker who wants to finish what he started. A US Marshal who's vowed to protect his charge. And one woman who is determined to put the past to in the past.



Flight paramedic Raina Price has been running so long it's hard to stop. To escape a dangerous stalker, she changed her name and disappeared, building a new life with the help of a friend from her time in juvie. It feels good to put her energies into saving people's lives, but because her stalker was never found, she's never stopped looking over her shoulder. And one can only run so far before the past finally catches up.

US Marshal Vincent Corelli's job is to hunt down fugitives and protect those who are assigned to him. When Raina is almost killed right in front of him, he vows to protect her at all costs--whether it's his job or not. Together they work to solve the mystery of Raina's past. But someone is out to make sure Raina doesn't live long enough to do it.


My thoughts: COUNTDOWN is the latest suspense by Lynette Eason.  I love her books and was anxious to get my hands on this one.  Raine is a loveable character with a lot of painful history. She tends to hold people at arms length and keep her pas hidden and it takes a special man to break down her defenses.  The romance is subtle, the faith message is nonintrusive and somewhat weak, but the suspense is really good. If you like romantic suspense you'll want to read COUNTDOWN. Preorder your copy now.  I was given a copy free and all opinions are my own.



Wednesday, July 26, 2023

An Unexpected Gift Kindle Edition

 


An Unexpected Gift 

Kindle Edition




EMT Jenna Zimmerman is happily married to handsome Eli but she feels crushed after having two miscarriages, especially since her birth mother has gotten pregnant after having cancer. But living with Eli’s parents, specifically his mother, makes Jenna’s life stressful, which is most likely contributing to her inability to carry a baby to term.

When Jenna gets called to a severe buggy accident, she helps to transport an Amish teenager, Isabella, and her fiancé, Justin, to the hospital. Isabella is a few weeks pregnant, and they’ve managed to keep the secret to themselves while waiting to get married in a couple of weeks. When Justin dies from his injuries, Isabella tells Jenna her strict parents will kick her out of the house once they inevitably discover her pregnancy.

Isabella is part of the conservative Swartzentruber Amish community where strict laws abide. And there’s no way her parents will allow her to keep the baby. So she asks Jenna and Eli to adopt her child. But Isabella’s parents are furious when they learn of their daughter’s pregnancy and the potential adoption. They won’t allow their grandchild to be adopted by parents that belong to the Old Order Amish, a more liberal sect. They demand that Isabella’s child, even if it will not be in their home, be raised under the tenets of the Swartzentruber community.

Jenna fears her dreams of having a child with her husband may be out of her reach once again. As much as she trusts God is faithful in all things, she doesn’t understand why she can’t have a child. And if she can’t adopt Isabella’s baby, and she can’t get pregnant on her own, she’ll never be a mother. Jenna strives to accept what might never be while still clinging to hope.



Marilyn's thoughts:  


An Unexpected Gift is an incredible story with true to life characters. Craver penned a heart touching tale with the beloved characters from book one and new ones. I appreciate the themes of sharing with others, assisting when there was a need, faith, forgiveness, God’s love, and romance.

This tale is filled with the blend of Englischers and different communities of the Amish.  Craver weaved detail into the tale about each community along with how the Englisch and Amish could come together to celebrate. The struggles and trials of the characters are true to life. Will the beloved characters have their prayers answers and find acceptance of God’s will?

Fans of Amish stories that are filled with charming characters, an unusual plot, complex situations to overcome, a spiritual message will not want to miss Craver’s Amish Adoption series. This is book two which can be read as a standalone; however, I fully recommend reading book one, The Amish Mother’s Secret, for the full background of these beloved characters.

I received an advance copy of this book without any obligation to write a positive review. I have expressed my own thoughts.




Tuesday, July 25, 2023

Hidden Amish Target (Amish Country Justice, 16) #Amish #RomanticSuspense

 


Hidden Amish Target 

(Amish Country Justice, 16) 

July 25, 2023


Now she’s running for her life…

Witnessing a murder puts a target on Molly Schultz’s back, and now she’s on the run from a gunman dead set on silencing her. She turns to family friend Zeke Bender for help, but when Molly’s identity and location are exposed, they’re left with a criminal among her Amish community. Can Zeke safeguard Molly long enough to catch the culprit—or will they fall prey to their merciless hunter?

From Love Inspired Suspense: Courage. Danger. Faith.

Amish Country Justice

Book 1: 
Plain Target
Book 2: 
Plain Retribution
Book 3: 
Amish Christmas Abduction
Book 4: 
Amish Country Ambush
Book 5: 
Amish Christmas Emergency
Book 6: 
Guarding the Amish Midwife
Book 7: 
Hidden in Amish Country
Book 8: 
Plain Refuge
Book 9: 
Deadly Amish Reunion
Book 10: 
Amish Country Threats
Book 11: 
Covert Amish Investigation
Book 12: 
Amish Christmas Escape
Book 13: 
Amish Cradle Conspiracy
Book 14: 
Her Secret Amish Past
Book 15: 
Crime Scene Witness
Book 16: 
Hidden Amish Target
Book 17: 
Hunted at Christmas


Marilyn's thpughts: Hidden Amish Target consumed me from the opening page where I lost sleep that night. Molly’s life had not been easy and witnessing a murder made her a target for the shooter. Zeke Bender, a past family friend, was determined to protect Molly. The drama and suspense in this story is outstanding. Lynn’s stories are rich with complicated plots of suspense, depth in the narrative, the characters personalities are relatable while weaving a gentle faith and romance into each tale. I look forward to the next book in her Amish Country Justice series and the Bender family.

 

I received an early copy of this book from the author without any obligation to write a positive review. I have expressed my own thoughts.

 

 

 


Troubled Graves (Lantern Beach Exposure Book 4) by Christy Barritt

  Troubled Gra \  (Lantern Beach Exposure Book 4) by  Christy Barritt (Autho r) Some things are best left buried . . . Gunner Mathias is try...