Tag Archives: Bible

The Gospel In Hard Times ~ a book review

Disclaimer: New Growth Press (www.newgrowthpress.com) has sponsored this post by providing me a free copy of the book for review. I was not required to write a positive post. All opinions are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with FTC guidelines.

The Gospel In Hard Times

Hard times come to us all. Some are easy to see from an outside perspective. Others are not so easy to see. The Gospel In Hard Times for Students by Joni and Friends takes a look at suffering and how God works in the lives of those suffering. This small group Bible study looks at personal stories of how God can use suffering to bring His children closer to Him, deeper into their faith. How one responds to and reacts to suffering can have long-term, life-altering impacts and this study will help students see this reality.

“Why me, God? How can such tragedies be part of your plan? Looking back on more than fifty years as a quadriplegic in a wheelchair, having endured chronic pain, as well as a battle with breast cancer, I can assure you that God isn’t afraid of our questions,” writes Joni Eareckson Tada in the book’s foreword. “In fact, he wants us to cry out—scream out to him if we must—because when we turn to God and his Word for answers, we’ll find a loving Father who promises to never let us out of his sight and who wants to turn our tragedies into triumphs.”


Designed with an eight-lesson format, this study will help students take a look at the hard parts of suffering through the eyes of many who have “been there, done that.” The real-life testimony is one part of the study. Combined with leader’s notes, discussion, biblical application, suggested video clips, and action plans to demonstrate how Jesus identifies with our sorrow, students will learn how God’s plan can be seen and followed, even through suffering.

The need to for strong, faith-based communities is another aspect of suffering that is explored in the study. Our brothers and sisters in faith not only meet our physical needs, they help meet our spiritual and emotional needs as well. Carrying burdens and helping to seek Biblical answers to the hard questions is something that is needed during suffering. This study will help students explore this need.

The age level for this study is junior high to high school. Set up in eight lessons, each lesson would take a minimum of 2 hours if you cover every section and utilize the videos. The time frame could possibly be longer with in depth discussions or less if you choose to not use some of the sections or the students are not very talkative in the discussion. However, you will lose depth and understanding if you leave out any of the sections.

My recommendation is to use the entire study, including the videos found online. (There is a link in the study guide.) You can either plan for long, possibly open-ended sessions or plan to break the lessons up over multiple sessions. A good way to use this is in a Sunday school setting by starting the lesson during Sunday morning class time and continuing it on Wednesday night class times. You would have to spend a bit of time refreshing everyone on what was covered previously or catching up anyone who wasn’t there before but it is very doable.

This study is quite appealing to teenagers. My 15 year old daughter is looking forward to finding a time where she can go through the study. The videos really bring the hardship and attitudes to life. As a video was playing on the computer for one of the lessons, both our 15 year old and our 13 year old became interested and sat down to watch the video. After it was done, they asked to watch more videos. These are high interest, personal stories that really enhance the study. Don’t skip them.

The study is a strong and much needed topic among our youth today. Joni and Friends do a good job with making the information relevant to the students. They take on a hard topic head on and students will really benefit from it.

Also available is a version of this directed towards adults and it is titled The Gospel In Hard Times: study guide with leader’s notes.

About Joni And Friends:
Joni and Friends is an organization that accelerates Christian outreach in the disability community. Founded in 1979, their mission is to communicate the gospel and equip Christ-honoring churches worldwide to evangelize and disciple people affected by disability.

The organization authors numerous books including the new releases The Gospel in Hard Times and The Gospel in Hard Times for Students (study guides about suffering in which participants are guided to look to Jesus to understand who God is in the midst of their own suffering and the suffering of others), God Made Me Unique (a children’s book helping parents and caregivers teach children that God creates every person in the image of God), and a series of minibooks providing personal insight & encouragement for tough circumstances.

You can learn more about Joni and Friends at www.joniandfriends.org.

Lori, At Home.

Gospel in hard times



The Mission Centered Life ~ a book review

Disclaimer: New Growth Press (www.newgrowthpress.com) has sponsored this post by providing me a free copy of the book for review. I was not required to write a positive post. All opinions are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with FTC guidelines. Mission Centered (1)

Most Christians see a part of their life as living for Christ, reaching out to others. Some  people are called to go abroad for this purpose but all of us can look around our own neighborhood and see a need for this. Bethany Ferguson has been abroad to serve others but has also seen the need to share her gained wisdom with those at “home” to do the same in their own lives.

The Mission Centered Life: Following Jesus Into The Broken Places by Bethany Ferguson shares many of the hard things Bethany has experienced in her mission work abroad. This Bible study has a gospel focus which means the study keeps the focus on Jesus and the good news of his love and power to save. The study will prompt you to go out to serve others, whether near or far.


This Bible study is set up with an introduction and then ten (10) lessons. The study can be done independently, though more will be gained from a small or large group study. Each participant will benefit from having their own book as some exercises have lists or charts and having the written discussion questions in front of you allows you to better consider answers and participate.

This is considered a topical study with each lesson approaching a different aspect of missions. Much of the scripture used comes from the book of John. I found that reading all the way through John before I began the study really helped me focus on the mission life being addressed. You can expect each lesson to take approximately an hour of group time, though I found I could easily spent close to an hour working through a single lesson on my own. I would expect, if I were working through this in a group, that it could be easy to spread each lesson out over two meetings or closer to an hour and a half.

Each lesson contains seven sections:

  1. Big Idea – summary of the main idea of the lesson
  2. Bible Conversation – reading and discussing a passage from the Bible, discussing what was read; this is intended to have several good answers for each question and to generate discussion
  3. Article – the main teaching section of the lesson, written by the author and including observations and stories from her life on the mission field abroad
  4. Discussion – questions following the article to apply the Big Idea to your own life
  5. Prayer – suggestions ideas and guidelines for a specific prayer time related to the mission aspect of the lesson
  6. Essay – a second article with additional scripture readings written by the author with additional teachings and reflections; can be used for personal study time
  7. Reflection – questions following the essay to consider more deeply the mission ideas addressed

The author’s purpose is to help the Bible student hear the call of Jesus for your own life. Hope is that you will see his love for you and the world, taking his salvation to others, joining his “life-giving mission.”

The mission aspects addressed include:

  • Going – article “Beauty and Brokenness”, essay “Beginning in Bundibugyo”
  • Identifiying – article “Who Are You Really?”, essay “Jesus Becomes Like Us”
  • Changing – article “A New Home”, essay “Believing in Jesus”
  • Praying – article “Daily Bread”, essay “The Bread of Life”
  • Seeing – article “Our Need to See”, essay “Seeing God’s Work In You”
  • Believing – article “Grief and Glory”, essay “Transformed Expectations”
  • Serving – article “Heroes or Servants?”, essay “A Life of Humility”
  • Suffering – article “A Mugging”, essay “Hope and Cynicism”
  • Repenting – article “Preparing the Way”, essay “Life in the Garden”
  • Celebrating – article “Grace and Celebration”, essay “Light and the Mission-Centered Life”

The ideas behind each of these articles honed in on challenging aspects of how a person who claims to be Christian lives their life. Reaching out to those around us is not necessarily second nature to us and this study will push us to push our own personal boundaries. It is a good study and the personal touch of the author’s experiences helps bring the ideas to life.

There is a good big of scripture in the study, though I do feel it would benefit from even more. That will be easy enough for the study leader to add while working through the ideas.

If you are looking for a challenging study about reaching those around you and around the world, consider taking a look at this study.

Lori, At Home.

mission centered life

Ruth: Redemption for the Broken ~ a book review

Disclaimer: New Growth Press (www.newgrowthpress.com) has sponsored this post by providing me a free copy of the book for review. I was not required to write a positive post. All opinions are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with FTC guidelines. 


Ruth: Redemption for the Broken, written by Jared C Wilsom, was a Bible study I enjoyed quite a bit. The historical account of Ruth is one I turn to often. There is so much to be gleaned from the account. From provision to acceptance to redemption, Ruth is a beautiful story for one who just doesn’t “fit in.” From the perspective of Naomi, the telling of Ruth is one of faithfulness, loyalty, and love regardless of the circumstance.


A strong point of this study is the focus on the Bible account, not just finding the bits of history that are not included in the Bible that add to the story. While those things are interesting and can increase understanding, it is important that our primary source is God’s word. This study does this well by starting out with the Biblical account in each lesson.

With 8 lessons, this study is set up for a shorter time frame than is common with published studies of this sort. It is not, however, lacking depth of discussion and ideas to stretch the study a bit longer if needed. Each lesson includes 6 parts:

  1. Big Idea – the summarization of the main point of the lesson
  2. Bible Conversation – read a passage of scripture from the Bible and discuss it, using carefully crafted questions to draw your attention to the Big Idea and generate discussion
  3. Article – dealing with the Big Idea, this is the lesson’s main teaching section, written by the book’s author
  4. Discussion – a series of questions created to help apply the teaching to your life
  5. Exercise – an activity to help direct the application of the lesson to your life through varied individual exercises, the learning of which can then be shared with the group as appropriate
  6. Wrap-up and Prayer – a quick closing to the lesson that gives ideas for prayer and closing scripture

The end of the book also includes additional teaching notes for each lesson. These can be used as needed or desired by the teacher of the lesson, either in the teacher’s own preparation or read to the group during the lesson if this is done as a group.

The focus of the study of Ruth is on the final redemption of Ruth by Boaz as her kinsman. The lesson titles really show the way the story is studied.

Lesson 1 – Everything Falls Apart
Lesson 2 – The Blessing in the Bitter End
Lesson 3 – Things Take a Turn
Lesson 4 – Things Are Looking Up
Lesson 5 – The Plot Thickens
Lesson 6 – Getting to Work
Lesson 7 – Promises Coming True
Lesson 8 – It Ends With A Wedding

I used this study independently and studied about one lesson per day. Most days it took about 30 minutes. If it were used in a group setting, I imagine it would take closer to an hour to do the first four parts of the lesson. If you are shooting for an hour, you would have to break the study into two days. The last two parts of each lesson can really vary in the amount of time needed based upon how complicated the exercise is, how much introspection it take, and how much discussion occurs during the group time following the exercise.

I enjoyed this and was able to read well-written ideas that helped me consider the story in depth and in ways I had not necessarily thought before. It was a pleasant study and I can see this working well in a group setting.

This quote about the story of Ruth was interesting to me.

p 1 “Ruth is about God’s care in the midst of life’s disappointments, but it is also a story about family. There’s a legacy in this book, and an inheritance.”

Seek through this study of Ruth to learn about family, you being part of God’s family and redeemed, just as Ruth became part of Boaz’s family when she was redeemed. Embrace your redemption and your family. This historical account of Ruth with help you with just that.

Ruth study

Lori, At Home.

Other studies from New Growth Press on my blog include:

Grandparenting With Grace


NIV Beautiful Word Coloring Bible ~ a review & giveaway

Disclosure: I received a copy of the NIV Beautiful Word Coloring Bible for Girls from Zondervan (HarperCollins Christian Publishing) for this review. This post is sponsored by Zondervan.


Designed for girls ages 8 and up, this beautiful coloring Bible will help bring the word of God to life and allows space for personal artistic expressions.

Journaling and coloring are two ways of bringing to life the words of God that He gives us in His Bible. The NIV Beautiful Word Coloring Bible for Girls is a lovely Bible that incorporates both of these styles of expression.

NIV Beautiful Word Coloring Bible for Girls pink

The NIV Beautiful Word Coloring Bible for Girls is stunning with many lovely, quality features. These include:

  • Hundreds of verses illustrated in ready-to-color line art
  • Thicker white paper for enduring note-taking
  • Lined, wide margins for notes, reflections and art
  • Complete text of the accurate, readable and clear New International Version (NIV)
  • Easy-to-read black letter text in single-column format
  • Lays flat in your hand or on your desk
  • Ribbon marker
  • Beautifully designed Leathersoft-over-board cover featuring screen-printing and other cover embellishments
  • 8-point type size

With both full page and margin sized illustrated verses, there are plenty of verses to color.

Print your own pages to color by visiting Zondervan.

Zonderkidz_BeautifulWordColoring_page2Okay – so now you know the stats, let’s talk about this in my own words, right? This cover is beautiful. The pink with silver is cheerful and bright. It is a comfortable book to hold and the printing is lovely. It does sit open well so that you could easily have it open on your lap while taking notes and following along during a sermon.

The pages have a nice feel to them. They are not super smooth, which means a bit of grip to help a colored pencil cover well. I do like that. They are a bit thinner than I would like to see in a Bible that is designed for coloring. I can see how they could easily tear, especially when I consider how my middle and youngest girls were at age 8. A couple of years can make a big difference and I feel confident that my 10-almost-11 year old will do well with these pages.

The margins are nice and wide. This allows room for note taking, journaling, or designing personal illustrated verses. With faint lines to guide the writing or drawing, the wide margins are perfect for personal expressions. Every page includes either the lined margins or an illustrated verse.

There is both a Table of Contents and an Alphabetical Order of the Books of the Bible at the front. Each has the page number where that book can be found. As far as appendices, there is only a Table of Weights and Measures and an Index of Artists and Their Work. There is not a concordance or an index for names, places, etc.

Zondervan has given us a nice Bible that will appeal to girls in the 8+ age range. It feels sturdy and is cheerful. If you are interested in winning a copy of this Bible, please visit the Rafflecopter for this giveaway by clicking on the link below.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Christmas background. Traditional Christmas decoration with snow

I am pleased with the all-new NIV Beautiful Word Coloring Bible for Girls from Zondervan. I think it will be a hit with my preteen girl.

Lori, At Home.

Jonah: Grace For Sinners And Saints ~ a book review

Disclaimer: New Growth Press (www.newgrowthpress.com) has sponsored this post by providing me a free copy of the book for review. I was not required to write a positive post. All opinions are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with FTC guidelines. 


Last week, I completed another Bible study, this time on the book of Jonah. Titled Jonah: Grace For Sinners And Saints, this study is a part of the series The Gospel-Centered Life In The Bible and is written by Iain M. Duguid. Did you read my review of the study of Mark? This one is very similar and was just as interesting.


What It Is

Jonah: Grace For Sinners And Saints is a 119 page softback book. It is designed as a small group Bible study with the overarching purpose of not just learning about Jonah but to discover God and his saving grace and power. It is also designed to help the student learn to see others who need God and share God with them, as Jonah did with the Ninevites. It is best if each participant has their own study guide. While designed for discussion and small groups or Bible classes, I found it easy enough to use individually and was able to learn a lot on my own.

The guide is set up with an introduction (About This Study), ten chapters, and leader’s notes. Each chapter is structured the same throughout. The first part of each lesson introduces the Big Idea for that chapter. This Big Idea might be about disappointment, judgment, or response to God’s call for repentance.

Next there is a Bible Conversation. This is a short section that has the student opening up their Bible and reading the text directly from God, hearing what the Bible says. There are some questions included to help the student start to understand the Big Idea of the chapter. These questions are not designed for right and wrong answers, but rather to generate discussion.

The article follows the Bible Conversation and is the main teaching part of the lesson. It is an article written by the author to address the Big Idea from the Bible text included in the lesson. Designed to be read out loud, it is the lead in for the discussion about the article and Big Idea. There are some discussion questions at the end of this section to help guide the process.

Following the article the study turns to practical application. These Exercise sections are designed to get the student really thinking about how to apply to their own life what was talked about in the lesson. These exercises may be questions to answer, lists to complete, boxes to check, or an activity to do. Each of the exercises make the study very personal and applicable. In Jonah, it really forces the student to evaluate whether they are running from God, whether they are sharing God’s message with the unsaved, whether bitterness exists in their own life, and more. This is where it gets real.

To end the study, there is a guided wrap-up and prayer.

All of these sections are complemented by the Leader’s Notes. These notes may include historical information, ideas to consider to help guide discussions, or give additional Bible references that will help understand the ideas considered. The notes do not give “right or wrong” answers but rather information to assist in discerning God’s way from His word.

What I Thought

Once again, I really like the way this is set up. I appreciate that the Bible is the dominant text referred to in the study and that the author’s article expounds upon that without replacing it. So often, we find the author’s words being the focus rather than God’s words. This series seems to be doing a great job of keeping the focus where it should be: God’s Word. I do wish the Leader’s Notes were integrated with the chapters, though I understand why they are not. If I was a participant in a group study, I think I would like them being at the back. However, doing the study as an individual, the notes being at the back means I often forget about them when doing each section so I lose out on that information being helpful to me.

Salvation Discussion

Since this is an Old Testament book, there is not as much of a discussion about the process of salvation for you and me but rather the process of God sending his message of necessary repentance to Ninevah. The focus of the study of Jonah is more on the power and sovereignty of God, the need for repentance, and understanding the nature of God rather than on the element of eternal salvation through the New Testament covenant. I did not note anything of concern in this study.

Final Thoughts

I do really like this series so far. I have one more to review from this series: Ruth. I am looking forward to starting the study this evening.

Screenshot 2019-11-25 at 2.46.51 PM

Be sure to visit New Growth Press, who has sponsored this post by providing me a free copy of the book for review. I was not required to write a positive post. All opinions are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with FTC guidelines.

Lori, At Home.

Jonah_ Grace For Sinners And Saints



Grandparenting With Grace ~ a book review

Disclaimer: New Growth Press (www.newgrowthpress.com) has sponsored this post by providing me a free copy of the book for review. I was not required to write a positive post. All opinions are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with FTC guidelines. 


My initial thought upon reading the formal description of Grandparenting With Grace: living the gospel with the next generation by Larry E. McCall was that it looked really interesting and might have some good ideas to implement now, either myself or with my girls’ grandparents. Part of the description talks about building “a legacy worth following and how to faithfully pray for grandchildren.” Both of those ideas should be appealing to anyone of Christian faith. So, I asked to review it.


What It Is

Grandparenting With Grace runs 111 pages and is a softback book. It includes a foreword, an introduction, seven chapters, a conclusion, an appendix, an annotated list of additional resources, and endnotes.

The main thrust of the book is about how to live out a life of spiritual growth, influencing and assisting the same in children and grandchildren for the sake of salvation. This ministry is an important one and the book was born from the research behind teaching a class on grandparenting intentionally. Searching the scriptures for instruction and training (isn’t that the purpose of scripture?), the guide here is intended to be an encouragement tool and instructional tool for grandparents with their grandchildren.

The chapters are titled

  1. Learning About Grandchildren From God
  2. My Grandchild Needs A Savior
  3. Developing God-Honoring Relationships With My Grandchildren’s Parents
  4. Intentional Grandparenting
  5. The Power Of A Praying Grandparent
  6. Gospel Grandparenting In Today’s Culture
  7. How Do I Leave a Godly Legacy?

Each chapter delves into the scriptures that the author used to teach that idea, as well as the author’s thoughts and take on the topic. Each chapter ends with discussion questions to get the reader considering the topic more specifically and deeply. It also includes some action steps, allowing the reader to put ideas into practice.

Salvation Discussion

Something I always pay attention to when sharing a book about God’s word and living a Christian life of faith is the presentation of salvation. Many sources stop short of God’s word in the Bible on salvation. They do not state that baptism is a requirement of that. (I would be happy to discuss this part with you through email but I am not going into depth here since this is a book review.) I did find that this book talks about knowing God, studying God’s word, praying, believing in Jesus and his mission and purpose on earth, but it stops just short of stating that baptism is one of the requirements by God.

There might be a misleading statement in one of the chapters that I didn’t get read thoroughly, but I did not see anything that caught my attention.

Screenshot 2019-11-25 at 2.46.51 PM

About The Author

From the Grandparenting With Grace page on the New Growth Press website:
“Larry E. McCall has served as a pastor at Christ’s Covenant Church of Winona Lake, Indiana, since 1981. He has written a number of articles and is the author of Walking Like Jesus Did, Loving Your Wife as Christ Loves the Church, and Grandparenting with Grace. He is a graduate of Grace College, Grace Theological Seminary and has a doctor of ministry degree from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. Larry has been married to Gladine since 1975. They have three married children and seven grandchildren.”

Final Thoughts

I do believe there are some good thoughts in the book. It has definitely come at the wrong time in my busy schedule to capture my attention like it did when I first read about it. (It is one of the books that was massively delayed in shipping and arrived here for review approaching one of the busiest times of year, thus my interest in it is not as strong.) I will be holding onto it to take a look at it when things are a bit less harried because I do believe there are some solid ideas in it.

Be sure to visit New Growth Press, who has sponsored this post by providing me a free copy of the book for review. I was not required to write a positive post. All opinions are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with FTC guidelines.

Lori, At Home.


Mark: How Jesus Changes Everything ~ a book review

Mark HOw Jesus Changes Everything

Disclaimer: I was given a free copy of this book for the purpose of this review. I was not required to give a positive review. All opinions are my own.

A bit ago, I was offered the chance to review a few different books from New Growth Press. I thought a couple of them looked good and this was one of them. This is a study of the Bible book of Mark and part of the series The Gospel-Centered Life For Students. Mark: How Jesus Changes Everything is written by John Perritt.

This study of the book of Mark is set up to be utilized as a small group study or a Bible class. It includes an introduction, 12 lessons, and Leader’s Notes. Each lesson is broken into 3 parts: introduction, article, and exercises. The Leader’s Notes are set up by lesson, as well.

Each lesson deals with a section of the book of Mark and the study is structured somewhat like the book: the first 10 chapters of the book of Mark cover the majority of Jesus’ ministry while the last 6 books cover just one week, the last week, of Jesus’ life and ministry. The study is somewhat the same in that the first 5 lessons cover the first 10 chapters of the book. The remainder of the lessons cover the final 6 chapters and the final week of Jesus’ life. The mirroring of the book of Mark in the study guide is really interesting and emphasizes what it should – the salvation and Jesus’ sacrifice.Mark cover

Each lesson deals with a Big Idea, which is stated at the beginning of the lesson. It is simply a summary of the main point of the lesson. There is also a Bible Discussion, which is designed to guide the students’ minds toward the main idea of the lesson. This is where the students are directed to read the text from the Bible if they have not yet done so.

Next comes an article. This article is written specifically to the students, addressing the main idea. The article is also the main instructional section of the lesson. There are questions that follow the article to help direct a discussion. The article is followed by the exercises. These vary in style from a checklist type of exercise to fill-in-the-blanks. The exercises are to guide the student into deeper understanding of the big idea and to help the student see the importance of Jesus. The exercises are very personal and the application of it is extremely personal. There is no skipping over these with an expected answer so you can move on without any discomfort.

The lesson is wrapped up with some additional thoughts and a direction for prayer.


I really enjoyed this study. I worked on it in a more compact time frame than it is necessarily designed for since I was working through it on my own. I worked on one lesson per day, working through the book in about 2 weeks.

I like that the student is directed to read from the Bible first, not relying on the author’s perspective of the Bible reading for instruction. The Bible comes first and that is so important. The focus throughout the study is on Jesus, his life and ministry. It is not on the thoughts of the writer.

I also really appreciated just how personal the exercises and discussions are made. They are not discussions that can be answered with a “Bible” answer and then you move on. The exercises are hard to skip over or gloss over for the very reason that they are personal application. You have to actually think about your life and Jesus’ role in it. It is deeply personal and that is such a refreshing thing to get in a Bible study.

I highly recommend this study. It gets you into God’s word, focused on Jesus and what He did for me and you. Be watching over the next week or so for two more reviews on study guides from this same series: The Gospel-Centered Life.

Lori, At Home.

Mark_ How Jesus Changes Everything



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