Friday, December 9, 2016

Advent with Coloring and Music...

Here we are at Advent again! I took a peek at what I suggested for reading a good book during our last Advent, and it was Bud Holland's book of stories, called Advent Presence, from Morehouse Publishing.  We enjoyed Bud's stories as we began Advent, and learning more of the biblical stories and the people who lived through those times.

With this Advent, we have new possibilities to add to our preparations for the coming of the Lord. It may sound strange or funny to you, but a Coloring Book? Am I kidding you? No, because I am actually used to the idea of coloring books to relieve stress. I worked in a company that produced just-passed new laws for local, small-town officials. These books had to be perfect. Changing where a comma was could change the law and that thought was stressful. So if our boss saw we were upset and stressed, he would say, "Take a break, and do a page in the coloring book," (thanks, Bill) and it usually worked.

Today, there are new ideas and combinations of helpful materials to guide and teach us as we think over the biblical stories we know, or are learning. As we think about the angel speaking to Mary and saying, "Be not afraid." And Joseph, rethinking his plan about caring for and helping Mary with her news, and his being told by an angel to take her as his wife. Could that be real, he thought, and he decided "yes," it was real, and he began his plan for a new life.

In our minds, thinking of what happened, I'm sure we could use a 24-day Advent Coloring Calendar from Paraclete Publishing, and also two cds, one called Keeping Christmas: Beloved Carols and the Christmas Story; and for those who are interested in Gregorian Chant, they offer The Coming of Christ: A Celebration of Faith in His Name. I am impressed by the idea of doing this, especially putting the coloring together with the music as we remember the biblical stories. Try it! And see if it works for you!

---Lois Sibley, ireviewreligiousbks

Friday, December 2, 2016

A Reformed Church?...

According to my list, I began reviewing religious books on my blog on June 11, 2012. That was quite awhile ago and I have enjoyed every minute of it. Today's review is #100, although I admit that sometimes I did put together two reviews that seemed important to be together.

Today's book is called What is a Reformed Church? and its series title is Basics of the Faith.  It's only 28 pages, but those are important and informative pages. Author is Stephen Smallman, who is a pastor in Philadelphia, and publisher is P&R Publishing, at What is a Reformed Church? is part of a series of books on questions people ask. Pastor Smallman says that during his many years as pastor, he was often asked this particular question and this book began as answers to those who shared this question.

Pastor Smallman planned to cover six themes in this book and he begins his answers with historical roots of the Protestant Reformation. In the 1500s, committed Christians, such as Martin Luther, were trying to reform the established church of their day, known to us as the Roman Catholic Church. Luther joined his voice to others calling for corrections of abuses in the churches, and Luther came to the "unshakable conviction that, to be faithful to the Lord, the Church must build on the absolute authority of Scripture." Luther's "uncompromising stance forced him to leave the Church of Rome in 1520, and the new movement was under way."

Some of the churches followed Luther while others in Europe were labeled "Reformed" churches, and one of the leaders of the Reformed was "the Frenchman John Calvin, the principle teacher for the church of Geneva." Even today, terms such as Reformed and Calvinist are nearly synonymous. Calvin's Institutes began as a tract but was revised and enlarged four times. The final edition of 1559 is still studied today.

Smallman continues, describing the six themes of Reformed heritage. They are: Scripture, Divine Sovereignty, The Covenant, The Law of God, The Church, and The Kingdom of God. He describes each theme, giving some of its history. explaining where it is now and what we should look for in future. I highly recommend this book. As the Reformers said, "True reform is never finished---a Reformed Church will be continually reforming. God is the same. His word is true." But our world is changing. We need "new ways of speaking about the God who is our Rock."

---Lois Sibley, ireviewreligiousbks