Book Review: Organic Outreach for Families by Kevin and Sherry Harney

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This book takes us on a journey learning how to introduce our children, families, and communities to Jesus and His life through everyday life. It is full of practical applications and links to more resources in each area. Several times I thought the only way to improve on what they’ve done would be to have them visit each of us and help tailor things to our particular situation.

Starting with reaching our own children, moving through how to share with unbelieving relatives, and ending with practical ways to make an impact on our communities, the Harneys set themselves a big task and fulfill it winsomely.

The Harneys are experienced in many ways and it shows throughout the book. Their 3 grown sons each contributed essays to support their parents’ message, which is a wonderful testimony for a pastor’s family involved in the public school system. Sprinkled throughout the book are examples of how their lives have been used by God in each area they are covering.

Being a 3rd generation on-fire Christian, I was pleased to find there were specific ways to present Jesus which I’d never thought of before. For example, they would share their stories of finding Jesus with their children on a regular basis; I know my parents’ stories, but not because I heard them often! What I most appreciated about this book was the balance the Harneys achieved, both inspiring us to aim higher, and encouraging us no matter how far we have to go.

It was just a little discouraging trying to picture myself mimicking Mrs. Harney’s style of outreach. She’s a born server who revels in cooking and casual entertaining. I’m not. The book does point out outreach will look different for each person but doesn’t flesh out what this might look like. If you tend to think you have to “do it all” you’ll probably find parts of the book overwhelming!

My suggestion is to keep in mind your family’s spiritual gifts and ask God for wisdom to find how to consciously reach out to people around you based on the way He designed you. The Harney’s book is certainly a great place to start the conversation.

“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere—in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” Acts 1:8 NLT

Disclosure: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com blogger review program. I was not required to write a positive review;  this review reflects what Cheri Fields thinks of the book.

Black and Yellow Butterfly on a Leaf

The First Murder and the New Covenant

Cain and Abel; as in Genesis 4; illustration f...

Cain and Abel;

And to Jesus the mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling, that speaks better things than that of Abel. Hebrews 12:24

And Cain talked with Abel his brother: and it came to pass, when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel his brother, and slew him.   And the LORD said unto Cain, Where is Abel your brother? And he said, I do not know: Am I my brother’s keeper?   And he said, What have you done? the voice of your brother’s blood cries unto me from the ground. Genesis 4:8-10

It sure didn’t take long for people to start being terribly mean to each other did it?  Already what God had said about hatred between the seed of Satan and the seed of Eve was coming true.

God never overlooks a murder no matter how hidden a victim is from other people.  It stains the ground and there is only one thing that can clean it again. Guess what that is!

I really like the verse in Hebrews.  Jesus could have cried out to God like Abel’s death did and brought even more guiltiness down on us.  He could have told God His Father to just wipe us all out and forget about it.  But He didn’t!  Just after Jesus was nailed onto the cross He prayed out loud to God and said, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.” Luke 23:34

What a relief that is! We can get used to hearing about Jesus’ love for us. That we don’t have to worry about God rejecting us because Jesus paid for our sins.  It’s easy to forget that He had every right to abandon us to hell.  Praise the LORD, He didn’t.

Oh, Jesus’ love is so deep, so free, so huge.  What God the Father and Jesus schemed to do for us is something no one else in the universe would have ever dreamed of doing (I Corinthians 2:8).

We want to be good, earn our own way to God, make Him be happy with us.  That’s what every religion people have invented tells us to do.  But it’s not what God did.  Instead, God tells us all  we are hopeless and deserve nothing but hell.  “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way;” But then God tells us “and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.” Isaiah 53:6

Thank you, Father, for loving me enough to send your Son to suffer and die in my place.  Thank you, Jesus, for being obedient to Your Father and loving me enough to forgive me when my sins killed you.  Thank you for cleaning my whole soul and making me yours.  All that I have and am is Yours.  I am Your servant now and forever.  I love you.  Amen!!!

Sagittarius Dwarf Irregular Galaxy (SagDIG)

He has not treated us as our sins deserve; nor given us the reward of our iniquities.  For as the heaven is high above the earth, so great is his mercy toward them that fear him. As far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.  Like as a father pities his children, so the LORD pities them that fear him. For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust. Psalm 103:10-14

Black and Yellow Butterfly on a Leaf

Jesus, the Seed of the Woman

Blumeneck-Kapelle rightContinuing from Yesterday’s Post:

Who is the one person that came from a woman but not from a man?  Who was good enough to please God and strong enough to not be destroyed when He was bruised by Satan?

There is only one answer to this: Jesus.  He was made by God with only Mary’s seed.  He never sinned, so He could keep God’s Laws for us making it possible for God to be pleased with us as well (Ephesians 2:15-18; Colossians 2:14).

Jesus is so powerful that He could take our sin into Himself, and destroy it for all people.

For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him. II Corinthians 5:21

Who his own self bore our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes you were healed. I Peter 2:24

The only thing left to us is whether we will believe this Good News of Jesus or not.  But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: John 1:12

Everyone from Adam and Eve to today has had this choice.  Will I believe Jesus opened the way to God for me?  Am I willing to let Jesus be my master or will I stay a proud slave of sin? Being then made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness. Romans 6:18

A scepter of Tsar Boris IIIOh, yes, Jesus won the right to rule the world back from Satan by His death on the Cross.  Someday soon, God will present Him with the title-deed to the earth and Jesus will destroy His enemies and come back to rule forever.

For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.  Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this. Isaiah 9:6,7  

And they sung a new song, saying, You are worthy to take the book, and to open its seals: for you were slain, and have redeemed us to God by your blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation;  And have made us kings and priests to our God: and we shall reign on the earth. Revelation 5:9,10

Continued here: Covering Sacrifice

Black and Yellow Butterfly on a Leaf

Covering Sacrifice

Ukrainian folk leather coat, Buchach muesum, B...

Ukrainian folk leather coat, Buchach muesum, Buchach, Ukraine

For Adam and his wife the LORD God made coats of skins, and clothed them. Genesis 3:21

What was the very next thing that God did after telling Adam and Eve a savior would come and they were going to have pain and hard work?  The very first death that the universe had ever known happened.  It doesn’t actually quite say it, maybe because it blew Adam’s mind when he wrote it down for us, but it did happen.  In order for God to take the skin of an animal, He had to kill it.

This tells us something really special about God.  He knows that we can never cover our shame by ourselves. We would never be comfortable in His presence (Remember those fig leaf girdles?).  God Himself provided a sacrifice for Adam and Eve; He was the first priest between God and people.

Does this remind you of another time in the Bible?

Jesus, through Kind David and others prophesied that, “Sacrifice and offering you did not want, but you prepared a body for me: In burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin you have had no pleasure.  Then I said, see, I come (in the volume of the book it is written of me,) to do your will, O God.”  [By God’s]  will we are made holy through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.  Hebrews 10:5-7,10

God didn’t really want a bunch of dead, cut up animals,  He wanted a pure, holy offering that could truly wash away our sin stains.  Before Jesus died, we needed a way to remember our need for someone else to pay the price and cover our sins.

Adam and Eve were really smart people.  They had hundreds of years to think about what they had done and what God did. We aren’t told how they realized God wanted sacrifices to show honor to Him, but we know their sons offered things to the Lord when they were still young enough not to be fathers yet.

Sacrifice of Cain and Abel

Sacrifice of Cain and Abel

And in process of time it came to pass, that Cain brought of the fruit of the ground an offering unto the LORD. And Abel, he also brought of the firstlings of his flock and of its fat. And the LORD regarded Abel and his offering: Genesis 4:3,4

What kind of offering did Abel bring to God that He wanted to look at?  It was a first-time mother’s new lamb, cut up on the altar.  It could be that God had earlier killed a sheep so they knew that was the kind of animal God wanted.  We don’t know.  But we do know lambs are the most common sacrifice God asked for.

When Abraham was stopped from sacrificing his son Isaac, there was a ram to take his place.  Jesus Himself is called the “Lamb of God” who takes away the sin of the world (John 1:29).  When Jesus is finally given the scroll to take back power over the earth, He appears as a slain lamb (Revelation 5:6).

Thank you, Lord Jesus for being our covering, our Passover Lamb, the one who goes to God for us so God can be pleased with us again!!!

That God in all things may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom be praise and dominion for ever and ever. Amen. I Peter 4:11b

Lacy Ferns

The Opposite of Faith

Saint George Preca has been likened as a succe...

Last night my husband started a series on the book of Romans starting out with an overview of the history and main focus of this letter by Paul. He took us to chapter 1 verses 16 and 17 which have been favorites of mine since I was a girl. Pondering them is a great place to start when preparing to share our faith with people God brings to us:

 For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believes; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. For in it is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith.

There’s so much you could focus on in this short section! I decided to look up the Old Testament passage Paul said He was quoting. Something leaped out at me this time, probably from the many interesting conversations I’ve been having on facebook over the past months. 😀

“Look at the proud: he is inwardly not upright;
but the righteous will attain life through faith. Habakkuk 2:4

As I was considering this verse, my husband asked the most amazing question, “what is the opposite of faith?”

Naturally, we think of these kinds of things: disbelief, distrust, doubt, misgiving, skepticism, suspicion

But is this what the verse says? One thing I’ve learned from reading the Psalms and Proverbs is how fond the Hebrew mind was of analogies. You know, the kind you use in the ACT. Like x is like y; c follows b; z is the opposite of k, that kind of thing.  You can often tell you’re dealing with an ‘opposites’ analogy by spotting the “but” in between the contrasting elements and Habakkuk uses “but” right in the middle of our verse!

Let’s see if considering the verse as an analogy makes sense. If the first part is being contrasted with the second, giving you an equation like this:

The crooked proud person is the opposite of the justified trusting person.

In everything I’ve personally experienced (for a taste you can check out the comments on THIS POST) and a lot I’ve heard from others, doubters aren’t a big problem. Actually, genuine seekers are a lot of fun! It’s people who know all the evidences for God and refuse to humble themselves and admit it who cause trouble.

Habakkuk is hardly alone pointing out this truth. Here are a few of many Scriptures to give you the idea:

Contempt

[God] scorns the scornful,,
but gives grace to the humble. Proverbs 3:34

The wicked, through the pride of his face, will not seek after God: God is not in all his thoughts. Psalm 10:4

The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God. They are corrupt, they have done abominable works, there is none that does good. Psalm 14:1

Standard wrong-way sign package used on all fr...

 

 

And Pharaoh said, Who is the LORD, that I should obey his voice to let Israel go? I know not the LORD, neither will I let Israel go. Exodus 5:2

Lest I be full, and deny you, and say, Who is the LORD? Proverbs 30:9a

 

I have spread out my hands all the day unto a rebellious people, which walks in a way that was not good, after their own thoughts; Isaiah 65:2

Because, although they know who God is, they do not glorify him as God or thank him. On the contrary, they have become futile in their thinking; and their undiscerning hearts have become darkened. Romans 1:21

May we never lose the ability to put our brains, emotions, and actions under God’s loving protection!

 

Lawn With Hundreds of Dandelions

Jesus Says, Look to Creation!

English: Wildflowers

“So I tell you, don’t worry about the things you need to live—what you will eat, drink, or wear. Look at the birds. They don’t plant, harvest, or save food in barns, but your heavenly Father feeds them. Don’t you know you are worth much more than they are?

 “And why do you worry about clothes? Look at the wildflowers in the field. See how they grow. They don’t work or make clothes for themselves. But I tell you that even Solomon, the great and rich king, was not dressed as beautifully as one of these flowers. If God makes what grows in the field so beautiful, what do you think he will do for you? It’s just grass—one day it’s alive, and the next day someone throws it into a fire. But God cares enough to make it beautiful. Surely he will do much more for you. Your faith is so small!” -Jesus Christ

Reading through Job thoughtfully is quite an experience. You feel the tragedy and helplessness of Job, especially when his “friends” start pounding his character into the dirt. The tension mounts as the speeches build to Job’s call on God to defend Himself. Finally, God does come to Job in an audible way and begins to speak:

Earth Full South Pacific

“Where were you when I made the earth?
If you are so smart, answer me.
 And who decided how big the earth should be?
Who measured it with a measuring line?
 What is the earth resting on?
Who put the first stone in its place
 when the morning stars sang together
and the angels shouted with joy? Job 38:4-7

Search as you might, you won’t find God explaining to Job why He allowed his suffering. Someone was told eventually, or we wouldn’t have the first two chapters telling us what happened in Heaven. But, God didn’t use those scenes to “defend” Himself to Job.

Instead, He turned Job’s attention to the Creation. Verse after verse, chapter after glorious chapter, we are asked scientific questions and introduced to amazing processes and creatures.

Did God’s technique work? Have a look at Job’s response to God:

“Behold, I am vile; what shall I answer you? I will lay my hand on my mouth.
Once have I spoken; but I will not answer: yes, twice; but I will proceed no further.” Job 40:4,5

 

 

Carl-Sagan-Pale-Blue-Dot

Carl-Sagan-Pale-Blue-Dot

Now, let’s think about Jesus’ use of creation. He makes the same point as the Father did to Job, but in a much gentler way. Jesus tells us to turn over our worries to God because He is big and knowledgeable enough to handle what we can’t. He doesn’t promise a bed of roses, but He does promise God knows about our needs.

Perhaps my favorite point is, creation shows God can find us no matter how tiny a speck we are in the universe!

Some people may consider focusing on the natural world a minor issue compared to serious theology or “practical” Christianity. This would be true if all a person did was sit around dreamily looking for cloud pictures their whole life.

Hug

But, if you’ve ever spent time looking at the clouds or learning about bumble bees with an awareness of their Designer, you know how powerful an encouragement they can be. If God knows when a little bird dies and when a deer gives birth, He knows and cares about the pain and sorrow of His human children even more.

Caring for, protecting, and valuing an art work is proof of someone’s respect for the artist. We have the awesome opportunity to prove our love for God by protecting, guiding, and strengthening God’s magnum opus: humanity.

God made the effort to create such an intricate and vast world and universe for many reasons. Giving us visual proof of His care so we wouldn’t worry is one of them.

So don’t be afraid. You are worth more than a whole flock of birds.- Jesus

 

 

Lawn With Hundreds of Dandelions

Sin is Like an Infection

God doesn’t tell us not to sin because He’s mean. God loves us and knows how miserable we are when we choose sin.

You probably already know what happens to friends when one lies about the other. So, God told us not to do it (Exodus 20:16). All of God’s rules are like that.

But God knows we can’t be good all the time. The very first people ever made, our first parents, disobeyed God and we’ve been sunk ever since. The Bible calls anything we do or think against God “sin.” It’s a tiny word for a terrible thing. Kind of like germs!

English: These are e Coli.

E. Coli

This is just how Isaiah (64:6) talks about us. He says we are like wash clothes left scrunched by the kitchen sink. You know what happens to them, they grow a swarm of bacteria! There’s no point washing dishes with them, it would be more disgusting than before.

The sin deep inside us is like that. Before we’re even born, it starts growing in us and messes up everything we do (Psalm 51:5). The more we try to be good, the more God wrinkles His nose because it’s so gross.

 

IMG_3823When a wash cloth gets like this, we put it in some disinfectant to kill the germs and take away the bad smell. But we can’t do that to ourselves to kill sin!

If nothing changed, we would be good for nothing but the trash pile. But God loves us too much. He knew there was one way to clean out the sin all the way through us.

  • If there could a man born to Adam’s family who didn’t have any sin,
  • who was powerful enough to suck all our sin into himself and zap it gone,
  • he could make a cleanser for us.

But every child ever born was already dirty with their own sin infection! How did God do it?

You know the Christmas story: God sent part of Himself to be made into a man using only a young woman’s egg. The sin infection was passed on by fathers (Romans 5:12), so He never caught it. An angel told her what to call Him: Jesus. In Hebrew, His name means God is Savior, or Rescuer. God became our Brother!

When it was time, Jesus told His followers He had to die, but He would be alive again three days later. They couldn’t figure out how they could be rescued by their hero dying!

Goalfinder Blood-RBCGod’s rules tell us how it worked. He told Noah and his family (that’s all of us) not to eat blood because that’s where the life is (Genesis 9:4). He told Moses to always use a sacrifice with blood to cover sins (Hebrews 9:22).

Peter tells us we are bought back from sin with Jesus’ perfectly clean blood (I Peter 1:18). He also said Jesus pulled your sins and mine into Himself on the cross. When He did that, He killed the sin so we could be right with God (I Peter 2:24).   The infection is gone so we can be clean again.

There’s only one problem left. Imagine you bring a birthday present to someone’s party, but they’re mad at you and won’t take it. You did what you could, but the present isn’t theirs until they change their mind and open it.

John 1:10-12 tells us many people didn’t recognize Jesus. They wouldn’t believe Him. Only people who take Him can be the children of God. Jesus has done all the work already. All that’s left for each of us to do is believe Him and ask Him to wash us clean (Revelation 1:5).

Have you asked Jesus to wash away all your sin germs? All the work has been done, but Jesus won’t make you clean unless you want Him to.

But if we are living in the light, as God is in the light, then we have fellowship with each other, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, cleanses us from all sin. I John 1:7 NLT

excerpt from my book manuscript

Suffering and the Christian

I was going to just share this on facebook, but realized the topic is too important to let fall into the archives. You will be able to find this post whenever necessary under “Teens” (since working through issues like suffering are a big part of growing up).
Ivan Kramskoy- Unconsolable Grief

Ivan Kramskoy- Unconsolable Grief

Over and over the issue of a good God vs. suffering comes up. Unbelievers throw pain and injustice in the teeth of Christ’s followers, expecting them to crumple under the weight of sheer misery. Sadly, many of us do.

I’m recommending this interview to arm yourself to keep upright through the thorny, shadowed walk of life.

Author Talks with Shaun Tabatt- Paul Grimmond, Suffering Well

It doesn’t take long for most of us to realize you don’t have to be in physical pain to suffer. Suffering comes in many forms large and small. Why does it happen to us? Does God know? How can I love someone who lets us hurt like this?

All these questions are legitimate and deserve answers. God gave answers and encouragement in the Bible for those who will listen.

One of the reasons this particular talk is worth listening to is Pastor Grimmond’s realization that we need to start asking, and answering, these questions before suffering takes over. If we pretend nothing bad will happen to us as long as we can, we will be knocked down for sure.

Here’s an analogy:

Traffic

It wasn’t quite this backed up, so the cars were moving faster!

When my brother had just gotten his license, we drove to downtown Chicago on the freeway. It didn’t take long for bunches of cars to pass us by, including a pickup truck with a mattress set tied to the top. My brother said to me, “if a mattress like that ever falls off in front of me, I’m going to go straight over it rather than risk an accident trying to avoid it.”

Not a minute later we watched as the mattress flew off the truck and landed less than 100 ft [30m] in front of us. Sure enough, we went right over the top, felt a slight bump, and continued safely on our way.

Thinking thinks through

Brainstorming

  • when you aren’t stressed out
  • when your body isn’t screaming at you
  • when there is time to search for answers

is the smartest thing any of us can do.

Following Jesus means we don’t have to pretend bad things can’t happen to us. It means being able to stare down the worst life can throw at us and know we’ll make it because we’re not alone. Of course, it also makes us cling to our Savior like crazy, but isn’t that a good thing?

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. Psalm 23:4

Creation Sunday Update

February 10th isn’t very far away!

The Creation Sunday blog has a reminder post about why speaking out for our Creator Jesus is so important in today’s society.

Best of all, they have a post on How to Celebrate a Creation Sunday with lots of ideas. There are suggested readings, hymns, sermon ideas and videos resources for all kinds of churches. Just pick the elements which fit best and plug them in.

I’m going to pass this on to my church. Those hymns are some of my favorites anyway and it would be fun to sing a number of them back to back. 🙂

A Psalm of David. I will praise you, O LORD, with my whole heart; I will retell all your extraordinary works. Psalm 9:1

PS If you ever dabble in poetry or lyric writing, it looks like we could use some more Creation songs. All the ones they mention are over 100 years old; although I know Patch the Pirate and Buddy Davis have written a number of songs recently.

Video Review: Incredible Creatures that Defy Evolution

Creatures-II-3D

Thanks to a doting grandma, my family got a set of these 3 videos for Christmas. We finally remembered to pull them out the other night and quickly devoured them!

I’m planning to make a page of recommended resources so you all can make well-informed decisions on how to spend your valuable money. This set will make it on the list, probably on the 2nd rank just under the “GET THIS FOR SURE” necessities. 😀

Here’s why. I learned stuff from these films. Rather a lot of stuff, way more than I expected to since animals are a favorite subject of mine. That puts it firmly in the “get this to share with your local group” category by itself.

Then there is the filming. Some parts come across at less than BBC and National Geographic quality, but that didn’t bother my kids. Sometimes it is nice to spend a few minutes just hanging out with manatees and giraffes without something dramatic happening or being yanked on to the next jaw dropper after just a few seconds. There was one spot on the 3rd video with horses that could make you ill if you’re prone to that, but it was just for a few moments.

I was a bit surprised when my kids volunteered to put in the 2nd video the day after watching the 1st. Although I had found the information interesting, it hadn’t seemed nearly as exciting as their usual kid’s animal programs. But, even my younger boys wanted to see it and all but the 2-year-old stayed to watch the whole show. That put the ranking higher by itself.

Besides cool nature footage, these videos are built around the testimony and teaching of Dr. Jobe Martin. It’s rather like listening in to a lecture with really good graphics. At first I considered this a drawback to recommendation, but I’ve been thinking about his style for a bit now and here are my thoughts.

thought

One of the most important things to guarding our minds and training our children to guard their minds is to learn how to think. Dr. Martin was fully immersed in the Evolutionary worldview for a number of years, he knows how they explain everything. He also understands the void such thinking leaves.

Every video opens with Dr. Martin’s testimony, although it is presented in more detail in the 1st one. It was the complete lack of ability to explain animal’s survival features that eventually forced him to look for a different answer to explain reality. Praise the Lord, his search eventually led him to Jesus Christ as the solution to the puzzle of life.

I suppose it could get old listening to Dr. Martin point out how impossible it is for Evolutionary thinking to account for feature after feature. The way he does it isn’t grating, though, and I have the feeling hearing this line of thinking repeatedly will be helpful to my kids. Without having to think about it, they will be aware of some of the major hurdles blocking the way for any animal to develop from a less complicated one.

Some of the other materials I plan to recommend are going to be over my kids’ heads until they reach their teens. These videos meet them where they are. Even a 5-year-old animal lover can begin to see how much more sense it makes to believe in a “genius” Designer than random chance.

It is also a lovely break to have piece of media that already has praise for our Creator God built into it. This is true of every video put out in the creation science field, but it is important to consider as well.

You can watch the 1st film through Netflix (with snide reviews on the order page) or purchase the set for yourself. There are more places you can get these (my mom got them at AiG) but CBD has the best price (surprise, surprise) and Creation Today is the one I’d appreciate you helping out if you can spare a couple extra dollars.

“Do you find food for the lions?
    Do you feed their hungry babies? Job 38:39

Who feeds the ravens when their babies cry out to God
    and wander around without food? Job 38:41

“Have you given the horse its strength
    or clothed its neck with a flowing mane? Job 39:19