A Valuable Message for Little Girls (Book Review)

Denhollander, Rachael (Illustrations by Morgan Huff). How Much Is a Little Girl Worth?. Tyndale Kids, Carol Stream, IL. 2019. 32 pages.

In her letter to Judge Neff during the Larry Nassar case, Rachael Denhollander posed the thought-provoking and heart-breaking question, “How much is a little girl worth?” In a world that is tempted to place a young child’s value on their intellectual capacity or athletic ability, kids need to hear a message that lets them know they are more than the grades they make or the games they play. Little girls who have been sexually abused need to the word of truth that their value comes from the One who made them, not devalued by those who abuse them. These children need to hear the voice of Rachael Denhollander. They can now in her new children’s book How Much is a Little Girl Worth?

Beautifully illustrated by Morgan Huff, the book paints a picture that girls of all shades of color have value. The message throughout the book is these young girls have value, not because of what they have accomplished or how much they know but that they have inherent value in who they are. Rachael lets little girls know they are created by God, and they find their worth as those made in His image and in the Savior who came to die for them. Girls will hear the message of their worth and that they are worth fighting for. As a sexual abuse victim, Denhollander makes it clear to little girls they are worth speaking up for and doing what is right for them. That is because they are valuable, and it is that message that shows the ultimate value of this book.

How Much Is a Little Girl Worth? by Rachael Denhollander is a book that needs to be read by every parent to their little girls. Little girls need to hear they are worth fighting for when they are wronged and cared for when they are abused. Across generations, little girls and women need to hear the message they have worth as those made in the image of God and redeemed by the blood of Christ. From the voice of Rachael Denhollander in this book, little girls will find their value in who they are.

I received this book from Tyndale Kids on behalf of the author in exchange for this review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own and are my honest review of the book.

A Personal and Powerful Invitation (Book Review)

Denhollander, Rachael. What is a Girl Worth? My Story of Breaking the Silence and Exposing the Truth about Larry Nassar and USA Gymnastics. Tyndale Momentum, Carol Stream, IL. 2019. 352 pages.

The stories they share haunt my thoughts. The wounds they bear break my heart. The weight survivors of sexual abuse carry I cannot begin to imagine. Yet, while my heart has been affected, my mouth has remained closed. When I should have spoken up, I have remained silent. After reading What Is a Girl Worth? By Rachael Denhollander, this has to change.

Rachael’s Story

Many will recognize the name of Rachael Denhollander as the one who broke the news to the Indianapolis Star of the sexual abuse that was done at the hands of Larry Nassar. In the span of 29 chapters covering over 300 pages, Rachael shares her courageous story as she recounts the trauma of being sexually abused and the determination to expose the truth about Larry Nassar and USA Gymnastics. She takes the first 12 chapters to recount the events leading up to her contacting the Indianapolis Star to expose Larry Nassar for who he really was. In the remaining chapters of the book, Rachael details the challenging process she faced in working with the hope the law and courts would convict Larry for his sexual abuse to countless girls over many years and to find justice in the end.

A Personal and Powerful Account

The book is a personal and powerful account of speaking up against the evil of sexual abuse and calling people and institutions to stand up for justice. Rachael opens up about the struggles she faced after being sexually abused, including wrestling with her Christian faith. She counsels readers on the issue of people not believing victims about their abuse and why some do not speak up sooner about their abuse. Hers is a voice both counselors and the abused need to hear.

By highlighting her case with Larry Nassar, Rachael shows this is more than a personal problem in our culture; it is an institutional issue. Even with Larry sentenced and behind bars, USAG and MSU still have a ways to go to reform the way they recognize, report, and respond to sexual abuse. Moreover, as it does so throughout the whole book, Rachael’s courage calls out the church to be better on this issue. Sexual abuse is not only an evil done in gymnastics but in the church as well, as Rachael knows and shows. The church has too often been silent, speaking up in theory but remaining quiet when it is in their own backyard. They focus on grace and forgiveness to the neglect of justice. Because she loves the church and is convinced the gospel is the only sufficient answer for justice (Denhollander 100-101), Rachael believes strongly the church must care well for the abused. The power Rachael’s words carry call for people in general and institutions like the church to love and protect those who may not always be able to protect themselves.

More Than a Book, It Is An Invitation

What Is a Girl Worth? My Story of Breaking the Silence and Exposing the Truth about Larry Nassar and USA Gymnastics by Rachael Denhollander is a personal and powerful story of Rachael’s courage to face evil and speak up for truth and justice. Yet, it is more than a book. It is a call to action. To fight against evil. To report what is right. To respond with care for the abused, seeking healing for the wounded, and loving well no matter what the cost. There is still work to do. Consider What is a Girl Worth? by Rachael Denhollander an invitation to listen well to the abused, to speak up for what is right, and to join the fight against sexual abuse.

I received this book from Tyndale Momentum on behalf of the author in exchange for this review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own and are my honest review of the book.

A Book for Dementia Caregivers (Book Review)

Glenn, Mike. Coffee with Mom: Caring for a Parent with Dementia. B&H Books, Nashville, TN. 2019. 208 pages.

One of the hardest experiences is seeing a parent or grandparent suffer with a disease like Alzheimer’s or dementia. Yet, one of the most honorable and humbling opportunities is to serve as a caregiver to that person in the midst of their suffering. Because it can come with moments of discouragement and despair, caregivers can struggle with feelings of loneliness and that no one understands the experiences they are going through in caring for a loved one. That’s what makes Coffee with Mom: Caring for a Parent with Dementia by Mike Glenn such a valuable resource.

Counsel from a Caregiver

Mike Glenn is the senior pastor of Brentwood Baptist Church in Tennessee and understands the desire to honor parents while caring for them in their declining health. Serving as a caregiver for his mother over a period of four years, Glenn had to make the hard choices of moving her from the comfort of her home to an unfamiliar place. He had to face the false accusations that come with having a parent lose their memory and not always knowing or remembering what is going on. This is what makes Pastor Glenn the perfect candidate to author Coffee with Mom. He opens the book with a call to caregivers to put on their oxygen mask (chapter 1) before helping those in need. Each chapter contains stories of Mike with his mother. He opens up about their conversations, sharing struggles he and other caregivers may face while also providing counsel to caregivers who may need it. The occasional “Coffee with Mom” sidebars feature quotes from his mom as well as tips from one caregiver to another.

An Open and Pastoral Heart

While a few places in the book seem to repeat stories or points already made (see chapter 17 for example), the author’s transparent and thoughtful approach helps walk anyone through serving as a caregiver for their aging parents. The author reminds readers they are not alone in this honorable, yet hard, work. Mr. Glenn does not shy away from highlighting the challenges, such as taking the car keys from his mother who was told previously she could no longer drive. His pastoral heart shines through in some of his counsel as he reminds caregivers, “A person doesn’t just lose their memories; they lose themselves” (Glenn 88). He is wise to take some time to speak to adult children who may not have had good parents or who have been wounded by abusive parents (Chapter 20). He offers a word of exhortation to all caregivers when he states upfront, “remember: this is a marathon, not a sprint” (Glenn 13). In Coffee with Mom, this marathon has been given markers along the way.

A Book of Conversation and Counsel for Caregivers

Coffee with Mom is a recounting of Mike Glenn’s own marathon of caring for his mother and dealing with his own grief. If you are someone who has been given the responsibility of making decisions and caring for your loved one as their health declines, then get this book and let it encourage you. If you are a caregiver of someone with dementia or Alzheimer’s, then you will want to get this book to help you grieve and to remind you that you are not alone. Coffee with Mom: Caring for a Parent with Dementia by Mike Glenn is a book of conversation and counsel for caregivers.

I received this book from B&H/Lifeway Bloggers Program in exchange for this review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own and are my honest review of the book.

A Gospel-Grasping Study for Students (Book Review)

Perritt, John. Mark: How Jesus Changes Everything. New Growth Press, Greensboro, NC. 2019. 128 pages.

The most important person you can introduce young people to is not the most famous musical artist or the most talented sports player. The most important person you can introduce young people to is Jesus Christ. But, in order to know Jesus Christ, you need to know His Word. In His Word, Jesus is introduced and His life is most detailed in the Gospel accounts. When you study those accounts, you begin to grasp the gospel of Jesus Christ. These realities are what drive Mark: How Jesus Changes Everything, a new study by John Perritt in “The Gospel-Centered Life for Students” series.

The Structure of the Study

This study is structured over the length of 12 lessons, each opening with a big idea along with a Bible conversation, article and discussion, exercise, and wrap-up with prayer. The study mentions up front the importance of reminding Christians of the gospel from a book classified as a Gospel. It does a solid job showing the importance of seeing how Jesus changes everything by the life He lived, through the death He died, and in the fact He has risen from dead. In each lesson, John Perritt does a terrific job of pulling out the main idea of the Scripture passage while also showing how it fits within the flow of Mark’s Gospel. The exercises in each lesson are practical and will provide concrete applications for middle and high school students.

More Attention Warranted

Yet, while the main idea in each lesson fits the context, two particular passages warranted more attention. The first passage, Mark 8:34-38, is one of the more referenced texts in Mark by pastors and Bible teachers. This is for good reason as it seems to be placed in a critical spot in the book. More detail could have been given to those verses. Aside from that minor critique, the greatest attention warranted but neglected in this study was Mark 16:9-20 (a passage not in the earliest manuscripts, which Bibles do note). To be fair, the author does mention it in the leader’s guide. The problem is he does not go into much detail and little is said of it out of that. Because students could possibly have questions on a passage about this note in the concluding verses of Mark, more guidance on how to respond would have been fitting.

Introducing Students to Jesus

Mark: How Jesus Changes Everything by John Perritt is a Bible study to equip students to understand the gospel of Jesus Christ through His life, death, and resurrection as accounted for in the Gospel according to Mark. With the Bible conversations and exercises, the study is designed for groups. The last few pages of the study are devoted to a leader’s guide. If you are a youth pastor looking to walk your youth, particularly ages 14-18, through passages of Scripture in order to introduce them to Jesus, then you may want to take a look at this latest addition in “The Gospel-Centered Life for Students”.

I received this book from New Growth Press in exchange for this review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own and are my honest review of the book.

A Book on Getting a Right Attitude (Book Review)

Brown, Steve. Talk the Walk: How to Be Right Without Being Insufferable. New Growth Press, Greensboro, NC. 2019. 160 pages.

I’ve noticed a problem among Christians and in churches. It has caused me to examine and evaluate my own heart too. As we find ourselves in a culture that does not believe in absolute truth, we see our role to be bearers of the truth. We have a message of truth we are called to share. The problem, though, is not in the content of the message we share. The issue I’ve witnessed is in the way we share it. This is what Steve Brown gets at in his book Talk the Walk: How to Be Right Without Being Insufferable.

Over the course of 13 chapters, Mr. Browns writes about the value of truth while also highlighting the importance of a humble attitude. The danger for Christians is the danger of being right. This is the case because one can be right but go the wrong way about it. They can hold to the right beliefs but can express it in careless ways and an arrogant manner. That’s why this book points to the Christian’s attitude. Each chapter opens with a Bible verse to set the tone for the content that follows. The author reminds the reader (and himself) that truth is shared with those who have been through life and are personal beings. He also takes time to speak to the place of silence in being truthful with a humble attitude. All in all, from the first chapter to the last, the thrust of the book is to how to be truth-tellers in a winsome way.

Only Suggestions

As bearers of truth, however, people will not always agree with us. Even within Christian circles, some do not see eye-to-eye. The case is true for this book as well. In a couple of places, Steve Brown makes suggestions to the reader that should be seen as just that. For instance, in chapter 3 he counsels to remain silent about sharing your faith unless given permission (see Brown 25-26). While one can understand his point, this general guidance should be taken as a suggestion based upon the context of the person’s relationship or conversation. A more perplexing suggestion comes in chapter 11 where he uses a phrase that is meant to translate what we culturally deem a cuss word. He then uses it throughout the chapter too. While he does use it to illustrate his point, I personally did not see it as necessary to the chapter and it may end up being a hindrance rather than a help in making his point.

Speak Truth with a Humble Heart

These critiques do not keep Talk the Walk from being a commendable resource. Steve Brown’s humble approach in this book, that he did not write it to correct others but to remind himself (Brown 3), offers an example to the character of the book. This resource reminds Christians what they say must be backed up with how they say it. If you are a Christian who wants to help others and remind yourself how to speak truth with a humble heart, then consider reading Talk the Walk: How to Be Right Without Being Insufferable by Steve Brown.

I received this book from New Growth Press in exchange for this review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own and are my honest review of the book.

A Stress Reliever for Students (Book Review)

Abbott, Shelby. Pressure Points: A Guide to Navigating Student Stress. New Growth Press, Greensboro, NC. 2019. 160 pages.

It has been said that we live in an age of anxiety. This would help explain the fad of stress balls. At my previous workplace, each employee received their own. The purpose of the stress ball is as you begin to feel stress or anxiety come upon you, grab this object and repeat the process of squeezing and releasing it with your hand until you feel less tense than when you started. While, for some, the stress ball seemed to work, others still faced the anxiety they were experiencing before. The fact is whether this particular object works or not everyone deals with stress. This is especially true for high school and college students. As they prepare and face new seasons and experiences in life, the squeeze and release of a rubber ball will not do the trick. Students need more than a fad in navigating stress, and that is exactly what campus minister Shelby Abbott puts forth in Pressure Points: A Guide to Navigating Student Stress.

Understanding Student Stress

As a college campus minister who has served with the ministry of Cru for many years, Shelby Abbott is well acquainted with challenges and stresses college students face. He has been there for young people as they walk into a new season of life. As a natural fit to write a book on this topic, Mr. Abbott approaches student stress by observing the pressure to find purpose, the pressure of relationships, and the pressure because of difficulty. Under these three headings are additional counsel on more specific details such as relationships both in romantic interest and in parental authority. Since not every student faces the same set of stresses, the book reminds the reader stress comes in all shapes and sizes (Abbott 2).

Transparent and Truthful Counsel

Shelby Abbott does not shy away from the complexities of anxiety either. The constant refrain that makes for the characteristic of the book is it is both honest in the struggles and hopeful in the solutions. Abbott is transparent as he opens up to readers about where he has faced stress and dealt with anxiety. The solution goes beyond fads and leads the students to see it lies in faith. This faith is founded upon Jesus Christ and is based on God’s Word. The opening pages lay out the presentation of the gospel (Abbott 4-5). The book hits on relevant themes in the life of a student with rich with counsel from God’s Word. From calling and God’s will to relationships of romantic interest and with parents, this book covers many areas where stress levels of students may flare up. In place of fear, Shelby Abbott offers more than the latest fad; he points to faith in the provision and wisdom of God. He encourages students to not only hear this truthful counsel but to heed it as well with reflection questions at the end of each chapter for application.

A Sturdier Biblical Foundation

In a culture of shaky foundations, Pressure Points is a solid work on navigating student stress with biblical counsel. That said, this solid work could have been made even sturdier with more references to Scripture in some of its counsel. One particular example comes from the section on romantic relationships. In its discussion on sex and its context for marriage, counsel is offered but in the guidance given Hebrews 13:4 is nowhere to be found. This is worth noting since Hebrews 13:4 counsels, “Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled”. In a chapter on this matter, it would seem most appropriate to include such a verse. (As a side note, there is a great appreciation for the author’s intentionality to speak on sexual shame while writing on purity since readers may be survivors of sexual abuse and struggle with that.) Regardless, this small critique does not reveal any cracks in an overall solid work.

A Stress Reliever for Students

If Abbott’s guide on navigating student stress is described as a solid work, then the effectiveness of the stress ball can be relayed to its squishiness. While it may work for some, it is not a firm foundation in handling stress. Rather than squeezing and releasing to relieve stress, one needs to take their cares and cast them on the One who can handle them and who cares for them. That is what Shelby Abbott’s book reminds us to do. If you a student facing anxiety and stressing out over matters of life, relationships, and hardships, then find rest in reading Pressure Points by Shelby Abbott. You will find relief as Abbott shows you where you can find your rest.

I received this book from New Growth Press in exchange for this review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own and are my honest review of the book.

Dads, You Need This Resource (Book Review)

Fitzpatrick, Joel. Between Us Guys: Life-Changing Conversations for Dads & Sons. New Growth Press, Greensboro, NC. 2019. 128 pages.

One of the challenges with youth ministry can be there is an expectation the pastor overseeing that ministry is the one in charge of discipling the children and youth of the church. While it is true the role of a youth pastor is to focus on making disciples in the youth, the mission of disciple-making is not merely or primarily his toward the youth. It is the parents. The youth pastor is meant to come alongside, discipling and equipping the parents, while sharing the load in discipling the youth. If this is the call, though, then why is the expectation for the pastor to head the task of disciple-making? While many reasons could be presented, one I have witnessed as a pastor overseeing youth and family ministries of the church is parents feel ill-equipped. If this describes you as a parent, especially to you as a father, then I’d like to introduce you to Joel Fitzpatrick and his new resource, Between Us Guys: Life-Changing Conversations for Dads & Sons.

A Conversation Starter

As a father himself, Joel realizes the crucial role parents, and in particular, fathers, have on the lives of their children. He also understands the call for dads to step up and lead their children in discipleship. This means not only using formal moments for sharing biblical truth but seeing everyday conversations as opportunities to share the gospel. That is exactly what he has done in writing the 14 talks featured in this resource. From friends and school to girls and sex, Joel walks through each of these talks presenting the intention of creation, the brokenness of sin, and the redemption found in Jesus Christ. The book opens up answering the question, “What is a man?” (Fitzpatrick 2) and is structured to guide dads through talks with their sons. Questions listed along the way aim to jumpstart conversations between dads and their sons.

A Relationship Builder

Between Us Guys not only serves to start gospel conversations between fathers and their sons but as they walk through these topics together, dads will see this resource seeks to be a relationship builder too. These talks are not meant to be read verbatim by the father in a way sounds like lecturing; rather, these chapters encourage dads to take pointers from what Fitzpatrick writes. What Mr. Fitzpatrick puts forth is with the intention of guiding fathers into conversations of relevant topics with redemptive themes. The most important talks fathers will want to be intentional on are the talks on family (highlighting both biological family and the spiritual family made up of the church), girls, and sex. The book wisely includes critical counsel on facing and responding to sexual abuse (Fitzpatrick 84). Yet, for all the topics the book includes, it would have made sense to split one topic into two distinct talks. Talk 14 on heaven certainly takes a look at death, but the impact of the talk would have been more effective if a whole talk would have been devoted to death followed by a talk on heaven. That said, the book does end with a talk on heaven, followed by 3 appendices which seek to equip the father to share the gospel with his son and set the example in family worship.

A Go-To Resource for Dads

As a conversation starter and a relationship builder, Between Us Guys will be the go-to resource for Christian dads who want to show their sons what it means to be changed by the gospel and share with them how the gospel impacts every area of life. This resource is especially a fit for fathers who are in the midst of raising elementary-aged sons. If you are a Christian father (or know a father) who needs guidance and encouragement to speak the gospel into your son’s life, then this is the book for you. If you want to go beyond just the formal times of instruction and learn how to intentionally turn topics of everyday life into conversations of eternal significance, then get this resource. If there was ever a guide to equip you to share how the gospel shapes every area of life even for the elementary student, this would be it. Dads, you need this resource!

I received this book from New Growth Press in exchange for this review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own and are my honest review of the book.

A Book For Such A Time As This (Book Review)

Greear, J.D. Above All: The Gospel Is The Source Of The Church’s Renewal. B&H Books, Nashville, TN. 2019. 240 pages.

At a critical point in Israelite history, God set His plan in motion to use Esther in saving and sustaining the people of God. Esther 4:14 puts this well as we read Mordecai offering these words of encouragement to Esther, “And who knows ether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” As we look across our cultural landscape today, we face a crisis both outside and inside the church. As tensions and troubles grow within the church and hostility continues against the church, now is the moment of truth. How will we, as those who profess Christ and make up the church, respond? J.D. Greear provides us with an answer in his new book, Above All: The Gospel Is The Source Of The Church’s Renewal.

The Solution to Our Challenge

As the pastor of The Summit Church and president of the Southern Baptist Convention, J.D. Greear knows well the challenges the church faces in this day and age. He has also heard from others the proposed solutions to these problems. Often they involve varying philosophies, divisive politics, and focused programs. Pastor Greear shows none of these have the power to do what only the gospel can do. He backs this up by laying the foundation of understanding gospel change, mission, multiplication, hope, and grace (chapters 1-6) before going beyond generalities and shepherding readers what it looks like to place the gospel above culture, preferences, and politics (chapters 7-9).

The Specific Realities of Our Challenge

The strength of this book is in how the author goes beyond the generalities in application to address the specific realities the church faces. He writes in a manner that speaks to this current age. He gives counsel on the use of Facebook and Twitter. He engages the topic of politics, specifically dealing with the current political administration. Yet, this characteristic of the book is most evident in chapter 7 of the book entitled “Gospel Above My Culture”. In this hard-hitting chapter, Greear takes a look at where the church needs counsel most and spends his time helping Christians thinking through the superiority of the gospel against the cultural issues we face in our ethnical differences. For anyone who is aware of the problem of racism and the racial divide our country is facing, this chapter is a path forward for the church. In everything, Above All doesn’t lose sight the main mission of the church is the mission of making disciples.

Guidance in General Principles

For all of its specificity, though, the book still would have benefited from incorporating more guidance in general principles. For example, in the chapter just mentioned regarding the gospel above culture, giving some general guidance alongside specific counsel could further help the church think through how the gospel impacts various facets of the culture. Additionally, providing a more general chapter on how the gospel is above personality might have served the book well as this is an area that tends to be a matter not often considered and addressed in churches.

A Book For Such A Time As This

These minor squabbles do not squander the value of this book. Greear does a fine job reminding the church what is of first importance. He highlights ways in our current climate we can wrongly make secondary things primary and calls us back to delve deeper into the gospel. If there was a time for the church to hear and heed the counsel to remember and return to the gospel, it is now. If you are a Christian desiring to dive deeper into the gospel and are passionate in seeing a spiritual renewal in the church, then you need to grab your copy of J.D. Greear’s Above All: The Gospel Is The Source Of The Church’s Renewal. It is a book for such a time as this.

I received this book from B&H/Lifeway Bloggers Program in exchange for this review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own and are my honest review of the book.

5 Reasons I’m Grateful I Went to the Philippines

“A long time coming.” That is how I would frame my initial thoughts as I look back on my trip to the Philippines last month. For nearly the last decade, I’ve known Antonio Ner, a dear brother in Christ who serves as a missionary in the Philippines. For that same length of time, he has encouraged me to visit him and his ministry, expressing this desire numerous times. Yet, it was not until this summer I finally resolved to go. I’m grateful I did. Along with eight other people from my church, we traveled to the Philippines to spend a week observing Antonio’s ministry, witnessing the work he does, and coming alongside and serving with him and his wife as we were able. As I continue to reflect on my trip, there are many things I could share but I would like to share 5 reasons I’m grateful I went to the Philippines.

  1. I’m grateful because this trip brought to mind the power of God and partnership in the gospel.

    Living in the midwest section of the United States, the Philippines is literally half a world away. It takes more than a day to travel from where I live to arrive in the Philippines. Then, imagine once you have finally arrived, the next week has been planned out to serve and observe. When you consider the trip we went on in these terms, it does not sound like something that would ever pop up on a vacation brochure. That is because if you are looking for comfort, this is not the place to find it. However, if you are looking to grow in your faith and be more conformed to Jesus Christ, this is one of the opportunities that will draw you. But you will not have this goal in mind unless the power of God is in your life. That happens through a relationship with Jesus Christ and being conformed into His image. At the same time, the power of God is so mighty, as it was on this trip, because it was complemented with partnering in the gospel. When I read Philippians 1:3-5, which says, “I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, because of your partnership in the gospel”, I think of Antonio Ner and the ministry leaders he has with him. I am truly grateful to have met them all.

  2. I’m grateful because I went with a great team from our church.

    As I am thankful for my new Filipino friends in the faith, I praise God for the team that the Lord sent from our church. This trip was my fourth international short-term ministry trip (the previous three being to Haiti from 2012-2014), and I am always amazed at the team God puts together. With each group, I’ve noticed we have been a people made up of different economic backgrounds and different personalities. That’s because what unites us is not our backgrounds or our personalities; what unites us is the gospel. I’m grateful for the different personalities and characters that went on this trip, which includes John and Jo Glover, Rob and Joanna Yeend, Cristian and Braden Monroe, Bill Skinner, and Brandon Sutton. I am especially grateful for the two teenagers who went, Cristian and Braden, as the trip served as an intense discipleship opportunity with their youth pastor.

  3. I’m grateful because I was encouraged and challenged by Antonio’s ministry.

    As a youth pastor, too, I was encouraged and challenged by Antonio’s ministry. One of the consistent themes of Antonio’s ministry is how he equips the youth and sends them out to serve in ministry. During our Saturday morning time in the villages, we were witnesses to the youth who lead in these ministries. As we helped serve these impoverished villages food, we heard these young people sharing truths from Scripture to these kids in their respective villages. What a blessing to see the upcoming generation invested in the gospel!

  4. I’m grateful because I was touched and convicted by the heart of the Ner family.

    I could go on and on how Antonio’s ministry has encouraged and challenged me, but what really has left an imprint on me is the heart behind the ministry of the whole Ner family. To know this entire family is a blessing. His wife, Liza, has a true servant’s heart and is such a sweet woman to befriend. Where most believers would run from a troubling situation with the excuse they are involved in ministry, Antonio and Liza run to the troubling issue, because they realize that it is the ministry. From the street ministry to using any and every opportunity to share the gospel, they are representatives of being sold out for the cause of Christ. My prayer coming back is I might use the conviction I feel to grow in my heart for the lost and share my faith with the opportunities I get.

  5. I’m grateful because Jesus is Lord over all the earth, from America to the Philippines.

    The reason I share my faith in the first place, truthfully, is because I serve a God who has saved a people from every tribe, tongue, and nation (see Revelation 5:9-10, 7:9-10). He is not sovereign over merely part of the world but over all the earth. His Lordship extends from one side of the world to the other. In our conversation, Antonio’s daughter, Princess, put it well when she said, “It amazes me how we all were born and raised on both ends of the world but we all have one heart to serve God and his people.” I am amazed as well. I am in awe in the grace of God in saving me and I am grateful to God for having me go on this trip! Friendships have been formed and family members in the faith have been met. I only hope that my next trip to the Philippines won’t be a long time coming but a time coming soon!

A Gospel Conversation for Families (Book Review)

Machowski, Marty. Don’t Blame the Mud: Only Jesus Makes Us Clean. New Growth Press, Greensboro, NC. 2019. 32 pages.

It has been said one of the most neglected mission fields is right in our homes. For parents with children, there is a unique opportunity to not only share the gospel with their sons and daughters but to also live out the faith before them. This does not happen on accident but takes intentionality on the part of the parent, seeing problematic situations as opportunities to show God’s grace and share the gospel with their kids. A picture of what this looks like can be found in Marty Machowski’s latest book Don’t Blame the Mud: Only Jesus Makes Us Clean.

A Story about Max and the Mud

With wonderful illustrations drawn by Craig McIntosh, Don’t Blame the Mud takes parents and children on a journey with Max, a youth on his way home from school. Dressed in his proper school uniform, Max is reminded of his mother’s command and warning to not get his clothes dirty. However, Max finds it too tempting to not make a maze out of the mud that seems to be along the pathway home. One misstep and he finds himself with mud on his shoes and clothes. Dirty on the outside, he tries to quietly arrive home and sneak into his room. With the trail he leaves behind him, his mother catches on and confronts him on the matter. Before she and his father speak with him, though, he is told to take a shower. While he is washing the mud off on the outside, Max still feels the muck inside of him. Upon facing his parents, he dares to shift the blame on the mud but his parents are swift to tell him where the fault lies, in his own heart. Thankfully, they do not leave the conversation there. Max’s parents use this incident with the mud to help their son understand sin and share with him the hope of the gospel. The closing pages of the book leave notes for parents to make sure their child understands sin and has a grasp on the gospel with Bible verses to remember along the way.

Creating Gospel Conversations For Families

What Marty Machowski has accomplished in this children’s book is helping children understand how their heart desires may reveal their sinfulness and where their hope of salvation can only be found. While some pages can be harder to read as the words and background blend together in color, the blending of everyday life and the truth of the gospel equips parents and encourage sons and daughters. It equips parents to see how everyday circumstances can lead into gospel conversations, and it encourages children to see how their sin shows up in their lives and how Jesus Christ alone can save them and make them clean. While this book may be referenced as a children’s book, Don’t Blame the Mud is not just for children. It is for families, parents and their children, to read together. If you desire to have gospel conversations in your home and with your family in the everyday stuff of life, then you need to read and glean from Don’t Blame the Mud: Only Jesus Makes Us Clean by Marty Machowski.

I received this book from New Growth Press in exchange for this review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own and are my honest review of the book.