Beyond Politics: A Faith of Our Own

A book by Jonathan Merritt of faith and politics

Can a Christian vote for Barack Obama in good conscience? If you’re a Christian, do you have to be a Republican? In his book A Faith of Our Own, Jonathan Merritt tackles questions like these as he argues that Christian leaders have become too focused on gaining political power and influence and less on living the Gospel.

In fact, Merritt argues, many younger Christians are less likely to be staunchly Republican or even care so much about the political issues Christian leaders are concerned with. When today’s young Christians look at the Bible, they see Jesus providing help to the poor, those down on their luck and sinners of all types, regardless of what was considered acceptable by religious and political leaders at the time. 

So to them, issues such as whether gay marriage should be legal is less important than making sure homosexuals still experience the love of Christ.  Banning abortion take a backseat to loving on women who are even contemplating an abortion and helping them through trying times in their lives.

His point is clear. Today’s Christians need to be driven by faith, not politics. Instead of keeping people out of the faith through narrow viewpoints and divisive politics, we need to be welcoming people in, humbling ourselves to accept people and their imperfections and showing them the same love that Jesus showed sinners and his enemies. Whether you choose to vote as a Democrat, Libertarian, Republican or abstain from voting altogether, your commitment to Christianity is defined not by politics, but how you show love.

50 People Every Christian Should Know: Learning From Spiritual Giants of the Faith

It’s not easy being a Christian in a world that routinely insults and undermine the values we stand for. Too many people have been intimidated to leave their faith in order to join mainstream society. Many Christians are closet Christians.

They practice their religion, but don’t talk about it and shy away from questions about it. The good news is that Christians have been dealing with this for centuries and 50 People Every Christian Should Know: Learning From Spiritual Giants of the Faith can provide the help and encouragement that every Christian needs during these trying times.

The people featured in the book are well known to those in religious circles: Amy Carmichel, fanny Crosby, James Hudson Taylor and many more. You can find out about these people and learn how they traversed their own questions of faith and out the light of God led them from the darkness and into salvation.

50 People Every Christian Should Know: Learning From Spiritual Giants of the Faith should be on the coffee table or in the library of every Christian. It helps fill the hole that society tries to create with its derision. Christians are thought of as right wing fundamentalists, but that is only a very small percentage of the people that practice Christianity.

Don’t let public perception lead you away from the true path. 50 People Every Christian Should Know: Learning From Spiritual Giants of the Faith will provide the answers you need and bring the world of Christian living into focus.



The Culture-Wise Family: Upholding Values in a Mass Media World

As a father doing his best to teach and support Christian values in my home, it's no secret that the media presents some challenges. I work hard to keep my kids from being over-exposed to the sex, violence, drugs and other heavy adult topics which are clearly too “big” for them to comprehend at their tender ages. Filtering these images and messages isn't as easy as setting some parental controls or waiting for them to go to bed before turning on the nightly news. These themes are everywhere in the media, from the music on the radio to the front page of the Sunday paper.

While I'm not thrilled with our culture relying so heavily on the “sex and violence sells” mindset, it definitely has a heavy foothold, not just in the US, but globally. It's a perplexing reality for Christian parents. How do we navigate our children through the murky waters of the media and keep them on the right path? That's why I picked up a copy of Pat Boone and Ted Baehr's book, The Culture-Wise Family: Upholding Values in a Mass Media World.

This book was of particular interest to me, not only as a Christian father, but as a media specialist, writer and marketing professional. I literally support my family by being a part of the mass media world. This not only gives me an interesting—if not complex— perspective, but makes me think about what is out there differently.

I don't feel that the answer lies in keeping the media from my boys—which is impossible, outside of completely disconnecting—but rather reducing the superfluous gunk and helping my kids understand the rest the best that I can, little by little. It's still a tough job. So, I thought The Culture-Wise Family might offer some guidance.

I was a little disappointed. What bothered me wasn't that the overall message of the book was completely off base—because I agreed with a great deal of it—or that Boone and Baehr's Christian worldview differed from mine in intensity. My problem with the book, besides a desperate need for better editing, was that it gave loads of thought-provoking facts and statistics on the influence of media on our culture, but lacked answers as to how we can go about helping and nurturing our families in our own homes, as, in my opinion, the title itself suggests. From what I understood, the bottom line was to significantly limit our family's exposure to any negative influences—meaning anything that doesn't support a Christian worldview--by shifting the culture in general.

That's a pretty tall order, considering the media touches nearly every aspect of our lives, right down to the very blog I'm writing on right now, and our country is a melting pot of cultures and religions. A fact, incidentally, that I'm proud of. I couldn't help but wonder how I was to help my family now, in the current media-saturated world we're living in, and without feeling that I was compromising the personal values my wife and I share about the beauty of diversity and others' rights to their own cultural beliefs.

My overall feelings about the book are mixed. I think it's important for Christian families to understand what they're dealing with, but I would have liked to see a better written book with some answers that could help me be a better Christian parent and mentor now. Have you read the book? What do you think?

Finding God Outside of Christian Books

When we grow up and go to church, we are told that God is everywhere. He’s in the rocks and the trees and the animals and even us. Yet, when we look for answers and spirituality in books, the first place we look is the Christian book section of our local library or book store.

It’s filled with stories and parables about the Bible and topics range from everything from family values to living a better life. I admit that I was always one of those people myself. I thought there was no sense in going through more mainstream books because they aren’t Christian.

The writers who write all the books in the Christian section are obviously better and have a better understanding of my problems because they base their books on my beliefs. While it’s true that you are guaranteed to get a Christian centered book in that section, don’t discount others as well.

Spirituality is an important part of people’s lives and while they may not come right out and say it, the authors of many books in self-help and other arenas place a major focus on God. Christian books can help Christians. That’s their audience.

Non-Christian books have the potential to help people of all faiths. They may not focus specifically on the Christian God, but I can tell in the writing that he is the words. I am not saying that every book will be that way and you may find a few that you don’t agree with, but it’s worth giving it a try. You can find God outside of the Christian section if you just look.

Bad Girls of the Bible


  This one was recommended to me from my niece who says it is one of her favorite books…ever. Bad Girls of the Bible is written by Liz Curtis Higgs; a wife, mom, author, speaker, radio personality, and most of all: a daughter of God and former Bad Girl. This book gives a unique perspective on learning from the women of the Bible. Rather than study the great women of faith we seek to study the bad girls in the hopes that we will learn from their mistakes.

  Mrs. Higgs covers 10 women in this book and breaks them down into four categories. The first category has only one: First Bad Girl. It, of course, has Eve. The second one, Bad to the Bone, contains three women: Potiphar’s Wife, Delilah, and Jezebel. On a side note: personally I love the sound of the name Jezebel but it, unfortunately, has rather negative connotations so I can’t use it. OK, back on track; the third category contains three more who were Bad for a Moment. Rounding out the crowd is Rahab, the Woman at the Well, and the Sinful Woman who Mrs. Higgs labels as Bad for a Season, but Not Forever.

  Each chapter starts out with a fictional account based on the woman in the Bible and then moves into a study of the verses in the Bible.  Mrs. Higgs researched these women heavily and offers great insight into the scriptures. At the close of the chapters Is a section entitled What Lessons Can We Learn From Eve? Since most of us are normal, rather sinful women then we can gain much from this section as it deals with the actions of these women and how we can benefit from learning from them. The chapters close with Good Girl Thoughts Worth Considering show us ways to help us get through the same type of temptations that faced these women.  

  I’ve enjoyed this book and look forward to reading more my Liz Higgs. If you’ve got a chance I suggest that you give this one a shot. It’s a good read for those of us who are every day normal people.

Happy reading!

Parties with a Purpose

Sharing God's Love Through Fantastically Fun Parties

Children look forward to their birthdays every year. The celebrations are often treated as mini holidays built around the little guy or gal's special day, with phone calls, cards, gifts, cake and parties with family and friends. What's not to love?


Many kids choose a theme for their parties, often selecting a favorite TV characters, superheroes or even general themes like princesses or dinosaurs. These party themes are a lot of fun, but aren't the only options for a great birthday bash. In fact, Karol Ladd wrote a whole book full of ideas that aren't just fun, but also tie in Christian values. It's called Parties with a Purpose: Sharing God's Love Through Fantastically Fun Parties.

The book comes with a wide variety of party themes that are simple to put together, friendly to a family or church budget and offer tons of fun to both boys and girls. Each theme is designed around a biblical story, so every party offers entertainment while spreading the word about Christian values. Wouldn't it be nice to see kids having fun with a Noah's Ark theme rather than playing out a scene from a violent children's cartoon?


Some of the themes included in Parties with a Purpose are: The Glad Scientist, Prince and Princess Party, Time for Tea and Wet and Wild Water Party. There are so many different ideas that are appropriate for children from 2 to 15, you can host amazing parties for years, making it a great party planning resource for parents and Sunday school teachers.

The Christian Dad's Answer Book

Being a father and family man means more than just financially providing for your family. It's a lifelong commitment to contributing your love, wisdom and faith to those who are most important to you. It is without a doubt the most rewarding challenge a man can accept, but it is indeed challenging. Every day reveals new mysteries, opportunities to grow and never-ending questions that you not only have to answer, but ask yourself.


You're not alone. Every family man has to answer his children's tough questions. Every husband has rough patches in his relationship with his spouse. These are universal truths. They're all a part of living even the happiest, most blessed of lives.

When you need support answering your family's questions or finding the answers to your own, where do you turn? As the head of the household and provider for your family, it can feel lonely or seem like you should already have all the answers, doesn't it? Don't worry, you're not the first guy need some advice—trust me. If you're seeking answers or advice, there are people and resources you can turn to. Your minister. Your friends. Your spouse. Or even a good book.


I recently discovered a book that brought me comfort and gave me some great advice myself—Mike Yorkey's The Christian Dad's Answer Book. It's a compilation of great advice and support from some of the leading Christian experts, past and present, including Max Lucado, Larry Burkett, Gary Smalley and more.


It was clear that these men could relate to some of the cringe-worthy and puzzling situations that I and many others face on a regular basis, from talking to your kids about sexuality to understanding, supporting and connecting with your wife. It's a great resource and you can read it through or reference it when a new challenge presents itself.


Nurturing a family is a challenge for every man, because it's a never-ending roller coaster with all kinds of unexpected twists and turns. Having somewhere or someone to turn to is a gift that God gave us in those we love, respect and whom have all taken turns walking in our shoes.

A Few Recommendations

from my other half

I’ve been attempting to read some light fiction these past few weeks and just can’t come up with anything decent. I get many of my books from the free e-book section on Amazon and honestly haven’t been impressed with my latest finds. They were poorly written with horrific plots and content that probably shouldn’t be classified as “christian fiction.”

In lieu of my own reading   I decided to pick my husband’s mind. He gave me a rundown of a few of his favorites and why he enjoys them.  

3:16 The Numbers of Hope by Max Lucado . It’s not just a systematic bible study that picks apart an entire book of the bible; rather it picks apart one singular verse. It breaks down probably the most beloved verse of the bible and dives into the meaning. It talks of how God loves the world as it is, not necessarily a holy and righteous world.

More than a Carpenter by Josh McDowell – short, quick read. The part that really struck him was chapter 3 titled Lord, Liar, or Lunatic. Jesus couldn’t have been just a good man since he claimed to be God, if that statement isn’t true then he was a liar. If he wasn’t God then His statements and actions would have qualified him as a lunatic. He is the Lord.

Way of the Master by Ray Comfort. This book lays out a method of presenting the gospel that relies on showing people that they are sinners. It teaches a presentation that Jesus Himself used when He showed people their sins, gave them the opportunity to repent and to receive grace.

One Heartbeat Away by Mark Cahill – This is a great book for someone wanting to learn how to share their faith. He gives logical rational on why the Bible is fact. In one particular part the author takes on Darwinism with evidence against evolutionism via the animals that are on earth now.

  Now you’ve had a peek into his mind and can see some of the books he has enjoyed in the past. I hope you see one that piques your interest and you have an opportunity to check it out.

How to Start Your Own Christian Book Club

Have you thought about starting a Christian book club in your town? It's not as hard as it may seem, all you really need to do is put together a reading list, find a location to meet and other Christians who wish to read and discuss books with your group.


Starting a Reading List


There are so many types of Christian books to choose from, an ongoing book club wouldn't be hard-pressed for new material at each gathering. You can choose from Christian studies to Christian fiction and the titles are plenty. If you need inspiration, you can talk to your minister for suggestions or check out sites like ours for a variety of titles to get you going. Unless you want to keep your book club focused on one kind of Christian literature, vary your list with several selections from each category, and don't be afraid to choose compelling and possibly slightly controversial books. That's when the discussions can get really deep and interesting. Once you've gathered a good list of books that interest you, you can begin to look for folks to share in your discussions.

Finding a Meeting Place


If you're only planning on a small group gathering, you might want to have your first meeting at your home or a local cafe. If there is great interest in your book club and potential for a large number of participants ask if you may have your first meeting at the church. It's hard to say how many people will show up for the first gathering, so trust your gut. You'd rather have too much space than not enough. Once you've had your first meeting and have a solid idea of the number of participants, then you can discuss with the group what would work better for them on a long term basis. If your group will be small, than you might rotate hosts and meet in each others homes. If there is an overwhelming interest, you might want to ask if there is a night and time when you can gather at the church.


Finding Participants


After you've found your location and made your beginning list of titles, choose one to start your group with. Then make a poster announcing the start of your Christian book club and what title you'll be reading first. If you are from a large church with a big congregation, you might want to start by posting your flier at your own church first. Also, ask if an announcement can be made in your church bulletin and, if there is a time set aside for announcements during services, have it added in too. If your church is small or there is little interest, ask other local churches and libraries to post your flier. Just be prepared for a large turnout if you look outside your own church.


Putting together your own local Christian book club can be a rewarding experience. You can each share your favorite books and enjoy deep discussions from your unique perspectives.

4 Days to a Forever Marriage

Whether you've been married for two or 20 years, marriage is a twisting, turning roller coaster ride full of ups and downs. When you say your vows with stars in your eyes, you know it takes work, but until you've navigated the sometimes choppy waters for awhile, it's really hard to get a clear perspective on just how challenging it can be.


I've been married for over 12 years and know without a doubt that my wife is truly my soulmate. That doesn't mean that the road hasn't been a bumpy one. Beyond the everyday messes and challenges, in 2004 life threw us a curve that has brought many a happy marriage to ruins, we lost our infant son. It was a terrible time in our lives, but we chose to keep our faith, hold on to one another and work through it as a loving couple, rather than letting our marriage crumble in our grief.

Since then, we've been blessed with three more sons. I truly feel that they're God's gifts to us for staying strong and believing that he was with us and would carry us through.


Having a healthy, happy marriage requires making these choices again and again. And, since every situation and couple is different, sometimes we need a little outside help. After weathering the loss of our son together, we knew our love was true and would stand the test of time.


That hasn't kept time from testing our love, though. As we mature, change and our family goes through new stages, we constantly work at our relationship. And, because my wife is crazy about books that bring us closer together, we've had the privilege of reading many Christian couple books together. The most recent was Gary and Norma Smalley's 4 Days to a Forever Marriage.


The book is a quick, easy read, and is quite different than a lot of other titles we've read together. It's written from both their perspectives and integrates both Scripture and anecdotal advice. The other thing I like about it is that it's not a situational book. The topics of love, communication, connection and understanding are universal to many tough, stressful challenges that occur in every marriage.


We had a great marriage before we read 4 Days, but we definitely had some breakthroughs along the way that strengthened our understanding of each other and have continued to keep us making our relationship better ever day. Whether you're weathering a storm or just want to improve a wonderful union, it's a helpful tool for to improve your bond and strengthen your marriage.