Category: Books

The Treasure of God’s Word Celebrating 400 Years of the King James Bible By Jack Countryman {book review}

The Treasure of God’s Word Celebrating 400 Years of the King James Bible is the perfect gift book! It’s beautifully bound with a leather like cover and the pages are all gold lined. This book is definitely appealing to the eye and would be picked up right away among many others, I’m sure!

In The Treasure of God’s Word Celebrating 400 Years of the King James Bible By Jack Countryman, you’ll find many things to hold near and dear including the history of the King James Version of the Bible. The rich history from it’s original 1611 to present-day versions was quite intriguing to learn about personally.  Included also are 45 topics of different scripture relating to God’s love, mercy, grace and more.

This little book would make a wonderful gift and I highly recommend it!

Disclaimer: I received a free copy of The Treasure of God’s Word by Jack Countryman from BookSneeze/Thomas Nelson Publisher for this review.

I’m Outnumbered! One Mom’s Lessons in the Lively Art of Raising Boys

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old…or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!

Today’s Wild Card author is:

and the book:

I’m Outnumbered! One Mom’s Lessons in the Lively Art of Raising Boys

Kregel Publications (July 2, 2010)

***Special thanks to Cat Hoort, Trade Marketing Manager, Kregel Publications for sending me a review copy.***

I’ll be posting my review in the next two weeks! 🙂

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Laura Lee Groves is a high school teacher. The mother of four redheaded sons, she has written for Moody Magazine, Focus on the Family’s Focus on Your Child, and Coral Ridge Ministries.

Visit the author’s website.

Product Details:

List Price: $12.99
Paperback: 192 pages
Publisher: Kregel Publications (July 2, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0825427398
ISBN-13: 978-0825427398

AND NOW…THE FIRST CHAPTER:

Great Expectations

You are my lamp, O Lord; the Lord turns my darkness into light.
With your help I can advance against a troop; with my God I can scale a wall.
As for God, his way is perfect; the word of the Lord is flawless.
He is a shield for all who take refuge in him.

2 Samuel 22:29–31

All moms all enter parenting with some preconceived notions. Most of us hope to have a mix of blue and pink in the household. We may have expectations for our child’s behavior or personality. We may be especially baffled by a little boy whose actions and reactions are so different from ours as a child. A valuable lesson for the mother of multiple boys is that expectations can be a trap. Expectations say, “I have this figured out. I know what will suit me, what I want, what is best for my life.” Check that verse again at the top of the chapter: “You are my lamp, O Lord; the Lord turns my darkness into light. With your help I can advance against a troop; with my God I can scale a wall. As for God, his way is perfect; the word of the Lord is flawless. He is a shield for all who take refuge in him.”

Scripture can help us through the trap of expectations, the snare of “I know best.” The prophet Samuel has some reminders for us:

• God is our lamp. He lights our way, no matter how large a flashlight we try to carry.

• God helps us advance against a troop and scale a wall. We can do it, but we don’t do it on our own.

• God’s way—not ours—is perfect. He gives us what we need, not what we expect or desire.

• If we hide in Him, He will be our shield. He will protect us.

He provides light, help, a shield, and refuge. And His way—not ours—is perfect.

Maybe You Were Expecting . . .

. . . a Girl!

Maybe you were expecting a girl the first time . . . or the second time . . . or . . . !

I know how it is. I had the “girl name” all picked out, too—four times. I haven’t given up hope, though. I’m hanging on to it for the first granddaughter. The first shattered expectation a boy mom often faces is that she’s outnumbered in this whole thing called family. With two boys and a husband in the picture, the opportunity for female companionship grows pale. Those little blue bundles tend to destroy the maternal expectations fraught with pink ribbons, lace, and tutus.

I tried to stave off those pink expectations the second time by preparing myself for another boy, figuring I’d be ready for the inevitable . . . but pleasantly surprised if a girl came along. That did help me prepare a bit. I’ve continued to repeat the mantra, “The Lord gives us what we need, and no more than we can handle” and I’ve read and reread 1 Corinthians 10:13: “And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear.” But in the face of four boys in the house, I’ve been tempted to throw my hands up and shout, “I give up! I just don’t understand boys.” I’d grown up with one sibling, a sister, so my frame of reference didn’t exactly include this boy thing.

Many mothers face this same dilemma. Dan Kindlon and Michael Thompson, in Raising Cain: Protecting the Emotional Life of Boys, write that many women are challenged in mothering a son: “They feel they don’t understand boys, because they have never actually experienced the world as a boy or they have expectations about boys . . . which color the way they view their sons.”1 But we moms can’t afford not to bridge that gap and connect emotionally with our sons. In his landmark book, Bringing Up Boys, Dobson calls the disengagement of parents “the underlying problem plaguing children today.”2

Today’s mothers, though, face an additional challenge from our culture. James and Thomas write in Wild Things that it’s all too easy to “absorb cultural messages about ‘real masculinity’” and push your two- or three-year-old son away emotionally. But, they advise, “A boy needs a connection with his mother all the way through adolescence. Be sensitive about invading your son’s privacy, but separating from him prematurely will do him more harm than good.”3

Even though our blue bundles may seem like alien life forms to us, we still know that children are blessings and the Lord does give us what He wants us to have. We just have to figure out how to raise and nurture what He has given us. Although ultrasound was available to predict my first son’s gender, we decided to be surprised. We were thankful for a healthy child, though I did allow myself to think about the little girl who “might come next”—my first big mistake. But I settled in, with all my expectations and preconceived notions, to enjoy my firstborn. Babies are babies after all, and most moms learn to be happy and thankful for a healthy baby. In the beginning, though, you don’t know what you’re up against. Those little blue bundles differ greatly from the muddy ten-year-old boy with a frog in his pocket!

. . . or a Quiet, Calm Baby

The second set of expectations I dealt with related to my sense of peace, quiet, and motherhood. Perhaps the Lord was preparing me for the next twenty years, because the words peace and quiet usually don’t appear in the boy mom vocabulary. I never considered the possibility that Jonathan would be a colicky baby. In my research for this book, I found no statistics indicating that boys are more prone to colic than girls, but Susan Gilbert’s Field Guide to Boys and Girls does state that, as infants, girls as a group are more alert and more easily consoled. As infants, boys are more easily stressed. In other words, boy babies cry more often when upset and have a harder time calming down.4 Mothers of boys may be surprised at how much their sons need them.

It never crossed my mind that Jonathan would not be one of those “angel babies”—you know, one who sleeps all the time. Those expectations were shattered. Before long I discovered that he was, indeed, a colicky baby. I remember the afternoon I took him to the doctor and said, “He’s slept fifteen minutes today; that’s all. Something has to be wrong.” The doctor did a few tests and quizzed me, only to pronounce that Jonathan simply had an immature digestive system and most children grew out of it—by three months of age!

Suddenly I flashed back to a chance meeting with a mother and baby months ago. While shopping, I’d stopped to admire her beautiful baby. When I asked how old the baby was, mom replied, “Three months old, and not a day too soon.” Now I knew what she meant.

That first three months with Baby Boy #1 were the longest of my life. He was not at all the angel baby I’d expected. He cried so much, I told my husband, “I’m afraid he’s not going to be a happy child.” I could just see him frowning the rest of his life. I began to wonder if I could go through this with future babies. At one point, I held Jonathan up in front of my face and asked him, “Don’t you want brothers and sisters?”

The doctor told me I was fortunate because he slept at night and cried all day. What he failed to realize was that I had no help during the day. At night I had help in my husband, but I didn’t need it because little Jonathan was snoozing away. When my husband left for work in the morning, the wailing began. On some days I’d meet my husband at the door at five o’clock, thrust Jonathan into his arms, and go for a drive around the block or just take a walk.

Then I’d feel guilty! I had a healthy baby but I spent my time wishing away the hours with him because he just wouldn’t stop crying. I began to feel woefully inadequate as a mom. Think about it—Jonathan cried when he was alone with me but was an angel baby when Dad was there.

I knew other mothers who wouldn’t take their newborns to the church nursery until they were two or three months. Not me! I had to have a break. I knew the sweet lady there loved babies and had tons of experience, and I had no qualms about leaving him with her. When I asked her about the wisdom of leaving him when he was so fussy, she replied, “Well, honey, he’s gonna cry for you or cry for me. Might as well let him cry for me a few hours and give you a break.” Those were wise words—precious words to this mom! At least I didn’t need to feel guilty about missing church that first three months.

My expectations had crumbled so much, I couldn’t even listen to the stories of those moms who had twenty-four-hour angel babies. Such things just could not be true. Babies who ate and drifted off to sleep without a peep? Surely those mothers were lying. Things could not be so idyllic for them. They had no clue what life was like at our house. And how do you share that with friends? “My baby cries so much that I worry he’ll never be happy.” “I stand at the door at five o’clock and wait to pass him off to my hubby.”

I quickly came to the conclusion that the only person who could understand my life those first three months was someone who’d had a similar experience. For some reason, though, those moms don’t go around gushing about Early Life with Baby. That’s one reason I vowed to share those hard months with other new moms. Maybe that would make them either appreciate those golden hours with their angel baby or sympathize a bit with a friend whose expectations weren’t fulfilled.

If your expectations for motherhood include peace and quiet, keep those verses from 2 Samuel handy. You’ll need a shield and a refuge. Although Gilbert’s research sounds a bit daunting, remember her statement that boy babies, as a group, are easily stressed. That’s not to say that all boys are like boys as a group. But even if you have a quiet, placid little guy now, don’t hold too tightly to those expectations for peace and quiet. Babies grow, and toddlerhood ensues.

. . . That Boys Are Boys

My third big expectation was waiting to trip me up after we added another boy to the picture. When Jonathan hit two years old, we looked at him and said, “Oh, he’s not a baby anymore. We need a baby.” Several months later, we found we were expecting number two. It was an exciting period. Enough time had elapsed, and Jonathan had turned out to be such a charmer, the memories of colic had faded to oblivion. Besides, hey, we handled that—couldn’t we handle just about anything?

We decided against learning this baby’s gender; again, we wanted to be surprised. Yes, daddy did want a little princess, and I thought it would be so much fun to dress a little girl. And like most people, we thought, “A boy and girl would be nice,” even though we still intended to add to the family portrait. I tried to prepare myself for a boy. I figured that way I’d be pleasantly surprised if number two was a girl.

But as you already know, another boy it was. We named this one Matthew. He had the same characteristic fair skin and red hair as Jonathan, but the similarities to his brother as an infant ended there. Matthew was the angel baby. It was a whole new world. Now I knew that those other moms weren’t lying. Some babies really do eat and sleep and don’t cry much at all. That was Baby Boy #2.

I was also pleasantly surprised to learn that two children were, in some ways, easier than one. Baby Matthew had someone to watch, and Jonathan had an instant audience. This proved quite helpful. I could actually get farther than the mailbox before noon, which was unheard of with Boy #1. Of course, my standards for some things likely changed a bit, too. It’s incredible how much more quickly one can apply makeup when there’s a potential for chaos in the next room.

So far, so good, but the expectation snare was looming. By the time our second son came, we had weathered the terrible twos with the first one. We felt we’d hit upon a successful system of discipline for raising Groves boys. We had read all of Dr. Dobson’s books and watched all of his tapes, and I think we felt we had it all figured out. We thought, Oh, this is the way you handle that. We’ll do that with the second child, too. We knew how to handle rebellion with Boy #1; we’d just apply the same techniques to Boy #2. We expected that he’d react in the same way and all would be well.

We were in for a rude awakening. With Boy #2, we learned there is no magic formula. This wasn’t a quick and easy lesson. No, I had to learn it the hard way. Little did we realize that, though our reactions to disobedient behavior remained the same, this child was a different boy. His reactions to us and our discipline would be different. Aye, there’s the rub. What to do now?

Looking back, I wonder how I could have been so naïve. I’d taught public school for about nine years, had taught siblings in my classes, and I realized they wouldn’t all be the same. I’d taught exceptionally bright students and later their siblings who didn’t have the same abilities. But when it came to my own boys, who looked so much the same and were treated in the same way, I just expected their reactions to be the same as well.

There’s that word again—expected. Maybe part of the problem was a little bit of parental pride. After all, we’d hit upon a successful system and, by golly, it had worked with Boy #1. It was hard to accept that things didn’t work the same with Boy #2. A preschool teacher was instrumental in getting something through my thick maternal skull that I should have realized all along. She said to me, “God has made your sons this way on purpose. It’s not an accident. As parents, we have to thank God for the children He’s given us and ask Him to help us grow them up to be the adults He wants them to be.” It finally began to sink in that different is not worse. It just takes a little more work on Mom’s part.

That early lesson became so important later. With a houseful of kids of the same sex, the temptation to treat them all the same is great. After all, they’re boys. Discovering their differences—their own individual bent—helped me mother them more effectively. You’ll read more about that process in chapter 3, “Intentional Parenting.”

The Expectation Trap

No matter what our expectations, our infant sons manage to surprise us. Here are some common elements of the expectation trap. Watch out for them!

• Regularity. We may expect regular sleeping and eating times from our infant sons. Some babies seem to be born on a schedule while others defy it. Then there are babies who keep to a schedule for two days—just enough to fool you into thinking you have it all figured out.

• Activity. It takes a while to figure out your son’s activity level, and that can change with age. Gilbert notes that after the age of one, boys spend more time “on the move” than girls do.5 Although most boys are a bundle of energy, not all are. If you’re open to change as you determine your son’s activity level, you’ll be able to decide how best to structure his active times and sleeping times.

• Passion. Some might call this intensity. This is often hard to gauge from an infant, but some little boys seem able to concentrate on one thing, and that ability follows them throughout life. Others are easily distracted. Again, this differs with age, so don’t label your son at three months.

• Responsiveness. Some infants respond overtly to stimuli, but others are more easygoing. Some boys get more “amped up” in a crowd, while others seem to get wound up in a quiet environment. Be sensitive to your son’s responses to different settings.

• Temperament. If I had gauged my colicky firstborn by his first three months, I would have believed that he would never smile. He’s such a people person today! Don’t fall into the trap of labeling your son’s temperament or expecting him to turn out one way or another.

So how do we avoid these traps?

Trust Helps Trump Expectations

I’m convinced the answer to the expectation trap lies in trust. If we truly trust the Lord, we know His way is perfect even when we can’t see why or how. I couldn’t have imagined why He would give me a colicky son, but I had to trust that the Lord knew what He was doing. I’ve wondered—at tough times—why He gave me four sons. Why not just one little girl to take to all those mother-daughter outings I’ve had to sit out?

But I’ve learned I have to let Him be my “refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble” (Psalm 46:1). Trusting in Him means staying close to Him. With a houseful of boys, my home did not exactly resemble an ivy-covered chapel. Quiet time was rare, and reading Scripture could be challenging. Here are some ways I discovered that can help you look up instead of in, even in a house hopping with boys:

• Try listening to praise music or hymns—that’s great for you and the boys.

• Socialization helps, too. When you isolate yourself, you tend to turn inward and focus on your own problems. Get out and take those boys. Take a trip to the library or the park, and enjoy God’s creation together.

• Try to get out alone once in a while, even for an hour or two. Call a friend and indulge in some girl talk, e-mail someone supportive. Don’t miss opportunities to worship.

Remember, expectations blind us to our blessings. It took me a couple more boys to learn that.

Discarding Expectations

As Boys #3 and #4 came along, I became convinced that expectations were, indeed, a trap. I didn’t shed them without struggle, but they had to go. Our third son, Andrew, was due on New Year’s Day, but he decided to make his debut on, of all days, Christmas Eve. I had the holiday all planned, and I didn’t expect this. I remember my tearful words before we left for the hospital: “I really didn’t want to have a Christmas baby,” to which my husband nervously answered, “Honey, I don’t think we have much choice here, so let’s just go.” Then three years later our fourth son, Benjamin, made an unexpected and dramatic debut via C-section—after I’d had natural deliveries with the first three. That really upset my apple cart, but this time it was my mother’s wise words that helped me pitch my expectations. She said, “Honey, you’re just paying a few extra weeks of recovery in return for a healthy boy.”

Discarding expectations allowed me to grow beyond my own fixed ideas and see what God, in His wisdom, had for me. In the raising of our four sons, I’ve discarded expectations time and again. Our first son was quite compliant to authority, a preschool dream. Matthew, on the other hand, had a bit more stubborn nature. Imagine my dismay when I arrived to pick Matthew up from preschool one day. He’d been playing in a big box, and the teacher had called him to Circle Time several times. The last time she encouraged him to do the right thing by saying, “We need to choose to obey.” Matthew calmly and matter-of-factly replied, “I choose to disobey.” I was appalled, certain that he’d be a juvenile delinquent—then his principal reminded me that stubbornness isn’t always a bad quality. She added, though, that we must teach our children to be stubborn for the right things, a lesson that has served me well as my boys have grown.

Discarding expectations is hard, but it results in growth for our sons, for us as moms, and for our relationships with our sons. Our boys need to know that even if much in the rest of their lives is performance-based, our love isn’t. We love them because they are ours and they were crafted by the Father and given to us as gifts. As we endeavor to raise our boys to be godly men, we need them to see their uniqueness and their potential. If they’re taught to be cookie-cutter boys who fit neatly within Mom’s expectations, they’ll never find out who they really are and what God’s unique purpose for them is.

Beyond My Expectations

As the boys grew and multiplied, so did the noise and the activity—beyond my expectations. Unless you had brothers, you don’t really expect the racket, the constant motion, the physicality that comes with a combination of boys. And even if you did grow up around brothers, you likely weren’t in charge of them. But noise and activity come with the territory, so one of a boy mom’s first lessons is to relinquish those expectations and free ourselves to look at life from a different perspective—a boy’s perspective. What if . . . I could climb from the top of that tree to the roof of the house? What if . . . I buried ants in mud; would they suffocate? What if . . . I could slice a banana with the ceiling fan?

Most boys will not only ask these questions, they’ll experiment to see if they can answer them. In Wild Things, James and Thomas discuss the differences between the mind of a boy and the mind of a girl. They note that on the whole, boys tend to be

• spatial instead of relational. They understand the lay of the land, for example, and how things are connected.

• aware of objects instead of faces. They’re more attracted to objects than they are to people.

• action-oriented instead of process-oriented. They’re oriented to movement rather than to emotions.

You see the differences. Moms relate to faces and emotions; our boys generally relate to things and movement. Armed with this understanding, it may be a little easier to determine why that little boy did what he did. At the very least, being aware of the general differences can make a mom aware that she needs to step back and assess her son through different eyes.

Chaos, Creativity, and Control

My best description of a household of multiple boys would be this: controlled chaos and creativity. Boys do have to be allowed to explore, to try the boundaries, to create—but with controls. All children need creative outlets, but with a boy’s penchant for movement and his innate desire to figure out the process (What makes that toaster glow?), controls are imperative. I’m not saying that chaos is preferred or necessary; it’s simply a foregone conclusion with multiple boys. Perhaps chaos isn’t exactly the right word. Maybe the word upheaval is more accurate. Upheaval can indicate anything from change to explosion . . . and both are likely in a household of boys. Upheaval and change are unsettling words for most moms. We prefer predictable and manageable.

Boys can be very manageable if you sit them in front of the mesmerizing television all day. But eventually you have to turn it off—and then you pay for it . . . at bed time and later in life. Boys need to be able to entertain themselves safely, and they need to exercise creativity to do that. Provide them with toys that will foster creativity:

• Manipulative toys. Your first purchase for your sons should be blocks. Boys need tactile toys, and they love things they can take apart and sometimes even put back together. Toys that teach cause and effect are important—turn this, and that pops out; push this, and something else happens. Remember, they’re process-oriented and love movement.

• Books. Don’t wait until your boys can read to provide books. Start them with cloth and plastic books when they’re infants. Look for books with pull tabs and doors that open, or books shaped like trucks with wheels. Try to appeal to what boys innately adore in a creative, interactive way. Reading is a challenge for many boys later, so use these early years to engender a love for books and stories.

What about control? Some moms do more controlling than anything else. If you’re guilty of that, you may need to sit back, sit on your hands if necessary, and let your boy try it on his own. You should be present, however, even if you seem to be in the background. Even though my sons are pretty much grown up, I still put on my makeup at the mirror in the front hall. That started when there were two boys in the den; I could keep an eye and ear on them more easily from that vantage point. When we looked for a house, we simply planned for the family room to be for the boys, and I wanted an adjoining kitchen. I figured I would be spending most of my time in the kitchen, and I could be there while keeping an eye on the boys. You’re the mom, and some control is obviously necessary.

Creativity can be messy, though—I won’t deny that. But keeping boys occupied and productive is worth the mess, at least temporarily. That’s why I suggest you keep a few things around for the boys:

• String

• Sticks

• Boxes

• An “art box” full of markers, stickers, paints, and so forth

You have to be careful, of course, and age-appropriate with these things. If you happen to have a boys-plus household, your girls will enjoy creating as well. Whether they work together or on separate projects, a creative outlet will be good for sons as well as daughters.

My boys still remember some of the masterpieces they crafted from such materials—boxes taped together to build a robot, string used as an imaginary dog (or lion) leash, sticks laid end to end and parallel to form a highway . . . and they all tell the story of the huge appliance box that served as a fort, a pirate ship, a skyscraper. The day it fell apart in the rain was perhaps the most fun, as they slid down a hill on the leftover pieces.

A Healthy Expectation

Although expectations can be a trap, there is one expectation you should hold on to. This is an essential piece of advice for the mothers of multiple boys. Greet each new day with the expectation that it will be a wild ride. Then you’ll be ready for anything! If for some reason things are calm at day’s end, you’ll simply be pleasantly surprised.

Be Available (Judges): Accepting the Challenge to Confront the Enemy (Be Series: Ot Commentary) by Dr. Warren W. Wiersbe

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old…or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!

Today’s Wild Card author is:

and the book:

Be Available (Judges): Accepting the Challenge to Confront the Enemy (Be Series: Ot Commentary)

David C. Cook; 2 edition (September 1, 2010)

My Thoughts…

Once again, another fantastic study book in the “Be Series”. Be Available, takes it’s readers through the book of Judges. This book is quite the challenge for those wanting to personally wanting to learn how to confront the enemy and to win in the victory in their own lives.

Most people tend to want to study the books of the new testament because they find them a bit easier but I found this Old Testament book of Judges brought to light quite well. This is fantastic study guide full of powerful insights. I highly recommend this book as a personal or group study between fellow believers.

***Special thanks to Karen Davis of The B&B Media Group for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Dr. Warren W. Wiersbe is an internationally known Bible teacher and the former pastor of The Moody Church in Chicago. For ten years he was associated with the “Back to the Bible” radio broadcast, first as Bible teacher and then as general director. Dr. Wiersbe has written more than 160 books. He and his wife, Betty, live in Lincoln, Nebraska.

Product Details:

List Price: $12.99
Paperback: 208 pages
Publisher: David C. Cook; 2 edition (September 1, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1434700488
ISBN-13: 978-1434700483

AND NOW…THE FIRST CHAPTER:

It Was the Worst of Times

(Judges 1—2)

FAMILY FEUD LEAVES 69 BROTHERS DEAD!

POWERFUL GOVERNMENT LEADER CAUGHT IN “LOVE NEST.”

GANG RAPE LEADS TO VICTIM’S DEATH AND DISMEMBERMENT.

GIRLS AT PARTY KIDNAPPED AND FORCED TO MARRY STRANGERS.

WOMAN JUDGE SAYS TRAVELERS NO LONGER SAFE ON HIGHWAYS.

Sensational headlines like these are usually found on the front page of supermarket tabloids, but the above headlines actually describe some of the events narrated in the book of Judges.1 What a contrast they are to the closing chapters of the book of Joshua, where you see a nation resting from war and enjoying the riches God had given them in the Promised Land. But the book of Judges pictures Israel suffering from invasion, slavery, poverty, and civil war. What happened?

The nation of Israel quickly decayed after a new generation took over, a generation that knew neither Joshua nor Joshua’s God. “And the people served the LORD all the days of Joshua, and all the days of the elders that outlived Joshua, who had seen all the great works of the LORD, that He did for Israel.… And there arose another generation after them, which knew not the LORD, nor yet the works which he had done for Israel” (Judg. 2:7, 10; and see Josh. 24:31). Instead of exhibiting spiritual fervor, Israel sank into apathy; instead of obeying the Lord, the people moved into apostasy; and instead of the nation enjoying law and order, the land was filled with anarchy. Indeed, for Israel it was the worst of times.

One of the key verses in the book of Judges is 21:25: “In those days there was no king in Israel: every man did that which was right in his own eyes” (see 17:6; 18:1; 19:1).2 At Mount Sinai, the Lord had taken Israel to be His “kingdom of priests,” declaring that He alone would reign over them (Ex. 19:1–8). Moses reaffirmed the kingship of Jehovah when he explained the covenant to the new generation before they entered Canaan (Deut. 29ff.). After the conquest of Jericho and Ai, Joshua declared to Israel her kingdom responsibilities (Josh. 8:30–35), and he reminded the people of them again before his death (Josh. 24). Even Gideon, perhaps the greatest of the judges, refused to set up a royal dynasty. “I will not rule over you,” he said, “neither shall my son rule over you: the LORD shall rule over you” (Judg. 8:23).

Deuteronomy 6 outlined the nation’s basic responsibilities: Love and obey Jehovah as the only true God (vv. 1–5); teach your children God’s laws (vv. 6–9); be thankful for God’s blessings (vv. 10–15); and separate yourself from the worship of the pagan gods in the land of Canaan (vv. 16–25). Unfortunately, the new generation failed in each of those responsibilities. The people didn’t want to “seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness” (Matt. 6:33); they would rather experiment with the idolatry of the godless nations around them. As a result, Israel plunged into moral, spiritual, and political disaster.

One of two things was true: Either the older generation had failed to instruct their children and grandchildren in the ways of the Lord, or, if they had faithfully taught them, then the new generation had refused to submit to God’s law and follow God’s ways. “Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people” (Prov. 14:34 NKJV). The book of Judges is the record of that reproach, and the first two chapters describe four stages in Israel’s decline and fall.

1. FIGHTING THE ENEMY (1:1–21)

The book of Judges begins with a series of victories and defeats that took place after the death of Joshua. The boundary lines for the twelve tribes had been determined years before (Josh. 13–22), but the people had not yet fully claimed their inheritance by defeating and dislodging the entrenched inhabitants of the land. When Joshua was an old man, the Lord said to him, “You are old, advanced in years, and there remains very much land yet to be possessed” (Josh. 13:1 NKJV). The people of Israel owned all the land, but they didn’t possess all of it, and therefore they couldn’t enjoy all of it.

The victories of Judah (vv. 1–20). Initially the people of Israel wisely sought God’s guidance and asked the Lord which tribe was to engage the enemy first. Perhaps God told Judah to go first because Judah was the kingly tribe (Gen. 49:8–9). Judah believed God’s promise, obeyed God’s counsel, and even asked the people of the tribe of Simeon to go to battle with them. Since Leah had given birth to Judah and Simeon, these tribes were blood brothers (Gen. 35:23). Incidentally, Simeon actually had its inheritance within the tribe of Judah (Josh. 19:1).

When Joshua was Israel’s leader, all the tribes worked together in obeying the will of God. In the book of Judges, however, you don’t find the nation working together as a unit. When God needed someone to deliver His people, He called that person out of one of the tribes and told him or her what to do. In obedience to the Lord, Moses had appointed Joshua as his successor, but later God didn’t command Joshua to name a successor. These circumstances somewhat parallel the situation of the church in the world today. Unfortunately, God’s people aren’t working together to defeat the enemy, but here and there, God is raising up men and women of faith who are experiencing His blessing and power and are leading His people to victory.

With God’s help, the two tribes conquered the Canaanites at Bezek (Judg. 1:4–7), captured, humiliated, and incapacitated one of their kings by cutting off his thumbs and big toes. (See Judg. 16:21; 1 Sam. 11:2; and 2 Kings 25:7 for further instances about being disabled.) With those handicaps, he wouldn’t be able to run easily or use a weapon successfully. Thus the “lord of Bezek” was paid back for what he had done to seventy other kings, although he may have been exaggerating a bit when he made this claim.

Those seventy kings illustrate the sad plight of anybody who has given in to the enemy: They couldn’t walk or run correctly; they couldn’t use a sword effectively; they were in the place of humiliation instead of on the throne; and they were living on scraps and leftovers instead of feasting at the table. What a difference it makes when you live by faith and reign in life through Jesus Christ (Rom. 10:17).

Jerusalem (v. 8) was Israel’s next trophy, but though the Israelites conquered the city, they didn’t occupy it (v. 21). That wasn’t done until the time of David (2 Sam. 5:7). Judah and Benjamin were neighboring tribes, and since the city was located on their border, both tribes were involved in attacking it. Later, Jerusalem would become “the city of David” and the capital of Israel.

They next attacked the area south and west of Jerusalem, which included Hebron (Judg. 1:9–10, 20). This meant fighting in the hill country, the south (Negev), and the foothills. Joshua had promised Hebron to Caleb because of his faithfulness to the Lord at Kadesh Barnea (Num. 13–14; Josh. 14:6–15; Deut. 1:34–36). Sheshai, Ahiman, and Talmai were descendants of the giant Anak whose people had frightened ten of the twelve Jewish spies who first explored the land (Num. 13:22, 28). Even though Caleb and Joshua, the other two spies, had the faith needed to overcome the enemy, the people wouldn’t listen to them.

Faith must have run in Caleb’s family, because the city of Debir (Judg. 1:11–16)3 was taken by Othniel, Caleb’s nephew (3:9, Josh. 15:17). For a reward, he received Caleb’s daughter Achsah as his wife. Othniel later was called to serve as Israel’s first judge (Judg. 3:7–11). Since water was a precious commodity, and land was almost useless without it, Achsah urged her husband to ask her father to give them the land containing the springs that they needed. Apparently Othniel was better at capturing cities than he was at asking favors from his father-in-law, so Achsah had to do it herself. Her father then gave her the upper and lower springs. Perhaps this extra gift was related in some way to her dowry.

The Kenites (1:16) were an ancient people (Gen. 15:19) who are thought to have been nomadic metal workers. (The Hebrew word qayin means “a metalworker, a smith.”) According to Judges 4:11, the Kenites were descended from Moses’ brother-in-law Hobab,4 and thus were allies of Israel. The city of palms was Jericho, a deserted and condemned city (Josh. 6:26), so the Kenites moved to another part of the land under the protection of the tribe of Judah.

After Judah and Simeon destroyed Hormah (Judg. 1:17), the army of Judah turned its attention to the Philistine cities of Gaza, Askelon, and Ekron (vv. 18–19). Because the Philistines had iron chariots, the Jews couldn’t easily defeat them on level ground, but they did claim the hill country.

What is important about the military history is that “the LORD was with Judah” (v. 19), and that’s what gave them victory. (See Num. 14:42–43; Josh. 1:5 and 6:27; and Judg. 6:16.) “If God be for us, who can

be against us?” (Rom. 8:31).

The victory of Joseph (vv. 22–26). The tribe of Ephraim joined with the western section of the tribe of Manasseh and, with the Lord’s help, they took the city of Bethel. This city was important to the Jews because of its connection with the patriarchs (Gen. 12:8; 13:3; 28:10–12; 35:1–7). Apparently it hadn’t been taken during the conquest under Joshua, or if it had been, the Jews must have lost control. The saving of the informer’s family reminds us of the salvation of Rahab’s family when Jericho was destroyed (Josh. 2, 6). How foolish of this rescued people not to stay with the Israelites, where they were safe and could learn about the true and living God.

2. SPARING THE ENEMY (1:21, 27–36)

Benjamin, Ephraim, Manasseh, Zebulun, Asher, Naphtali, and Dan all failed to overcome the enemy and had to allow these godless nations to continue living in their tribal territories. The enemy even chased the tribe of Dan out of the plains into the mountains! The Jebusites remained in Jerusalem (v. 21), and the Canaanites who remained were finally pressed “into forced labor” when the Jews became stronger (v. 28 NIV). Eventually Solomon conscripted these Canaanite peoples to build the temple (1 Kings

9:20–22; 2 Chron. 8:7–8), but this was no compensation for the problems the Canaanites caused the Jews. This series of tribal defeats was the first indication that Israel was no longer walking by faith and trusting God to give them victory.

The priests possessed a copy of the book of Deuteronomy and were commanded to read it publicly to the nation every sabbatical year during the Feast of Tabernacles (Deut. 31:9–13). Had they been faithful to do their job, the spiritual leaders would have read Deuteronomy 7 and warned the Israelites not to spare their pagan neighbors. The priests also would have reminded the people of God’s promises that He would help them defeat their enemies (Deut. 31:1–8). It was by receiving and obeying the book of the law that Joshua had grown in faith and courage (Josh. 1:1–9; Rom. 10:17), and that same Word would have enabled the new generation to overcome their enemies and claim their inheritance.

The first step the new generation took toward defeat and slavery was neglecting the Word of God, and generations ever since have made that same mistake. “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables” (2 Tim. 4:3–4 NKJV). I fear that too many believers today are trying to live on religious fast food dispensed for easy consumption (no chewing necessary) by entertaining teachers who give people what they want, not what they need. Is it any wonder many churches aren’t experiencing God’s power at work in their

ministries?

But wasn’t it cruel and unjust for God to command Israel to exterminate the nations in Canaan? Not in the least! To begin with, He had been patient with these nations for centuries and had mercifully withheld His judgment (Gen. 15:16; 2 Peter 3:9). Their society, and especially their religion, was unspeakably wicked (Rom. 1:18ff.) and should have been wiped out years before Israel appeared on the scene.

Something else is true: These nations had been warned by the judgments God had inflicted on others, especially on Egypt and the nations east of the Jordan (Josh. 2:8–13). Rahab and her family had sufficient information to be able to repent and believe, and God saved them (Josh. 2; 6:22–25). Therefore, we have every right to conclude that God would have saved anybody who had turned to Him. These nations were sinning against a flood of light in rejecting God’s truth and going their own way.

God didn’t want the filth of the Canaanite society and religion to contaminate His people Israel. Israel was God’s special people, chosen to fulfill divine purposes in this world. Israel would give the world the knowledge of the true God, the Holy Scriptures, and the Savior. In order to accomplish God’s purposes, the nation had to be separated from all other nations, for if Israel was polluted, how could the Holy Son of God come into the world? “God is perpetually at war with sin,” wrote G. Campbell Morgan. “That is the whole explanation of the extermination of the Canaanites.”5

The main deity in Canaan was Baal, god of rainfall6 and fertility, and Ashtoreth was his spouse. If you wanted to have fruitful orchards and vineyards, flourishing crops, and increasing flocks and herds, you worshipped Baal by visiting a temple prostitute. This combination of idolatry, immorality, and agricultural success was difficult for men to resist, which explains why God told Israel to wipe out the Canaanite religion completely (Num. 33:51–56; Deut. 7:1–5).

3. IMITATING THE ENEMY (2:1–13)

The danger. In this day of “pluralism,” when society contains people of opposing beliefs and lifestyles, it’s easy to get confused and start thinking that tolerance is the same as approval. It isn’t. In a democracy, the law gives people the freedom to worship as they please, and I must exercise patience and tolerance with those who believe and practice things that I feel God has condemned in His Word. The church today doesn’t wield the sword (Rom. 13) and therefore it has no authority to eliminate people who disagree with the Christian faith. But we do have the obligation before God to maintain a separate walk so we won’t become defiled by those who disagree with us (2 Cor. 6:14—7:1). We must seek by prayer, witness, and loving persuasion to win those to Christ who as yet haven’t trusted Him.

The Jews eventually became so accustomed to the sinful ways of their pagan neighbors that those ways didn’t seem sinful anymore. The Jews then became interested in how their neighbors worshipped, until finally Israel started to live like their enemies and imitate their ways. For believers today, the first step away from the Lord is “friendship with the world” (James 4:4 NKJV), which then leads to our being “unspotted from the world” (1:27). The next step is to “love the world” (1 John 2:15) and gradually become “conformed to this world” (Rom. 12:2). This can lead to being “condemned with the world” (1 Cor. 11:32), the kind of judgment that came to Lot (Gen. 19), Samson (Judg. 16), and Saul (1 Sam. 15, 31).

The disobedience (vv. 1–5). In the Old Testament, the “angel of the Lord” is generally interpreted to be the Lord Himself, who occasionally came to earth (a theophany) to deliver an important message. It was

probably the Lord Jesus Christ, the second person of the Godhead, in a temporary preincarnation appearance (Gen. 16:9; 22:11; 48:16; Ex. 3:2; Judg. 6:11 and 13:3; 2 Kings 19:35). The fact that God Himself came to give the message shows how serious things had become in Israel.

The tabernacle was originally located at Gilgal (Josh. 4:19–20), and it was there that the men of Israel were circumcised and “rolled away the reproach of Egypt” (Josh. 5:2–9). It was also there that the Lord appeared to Joshua and assured him of victory as he began his campaign to conquer Canaan (Josh. 5:13–15). To Joshua, the angel of the Lord brought a message of encouragement; but to the new generation described in the book of Judges, He brought a message of punishment.

The Lord had kept His covenant with Israel; not one word of His promises had failed (Josh. 23:5, 10, 15; 1 Kings 8:56). He had asked them to keep their covenant with Him by obeying His law and destroying the Canaanite religious system—their altars, temples, and idols. (In Ex. 23:20–25, note the association between the angel of the Lord and the command to destroy the false religion; and see also Ex. 34:10–17 and Deut. 7:1–11.) But Israel disobeyed the Lord and not only spared the Canaanites and their godless religious system but also began to follow the enemy’s lifestyle themselves.

In His covenant, God promised to bless Israel if the people obeyed Him and to discipline them if they disobeyed Him (Deut. 27–28). God is always faithful to His Word, whether in blessing us or chastening us, for in both He displays His integrity and His love (Heb. 12:1–11). God would prefer to bestow the positive blessings of life that bring us enjoyment, but He doesn’t hesitate to remove those blessings if our suffering will motivate us to return to Him in repentance.

By their disobedience, the nation of Israel made it clear that they wanted the Canaanites to remain in the land. God let them have their way (Ps. 106:15), but He warned them of the tragic consequences. The nations in the land of Canaan would become thorns that would afflict Israel and traps that would ensnare them. Israel would look to the Canaanites for pleasures but would only experience pain; they would rejoice in their freedom only to see that freedom turn into their bondage.7

No wonder the people wept when they heard the message! (The Hebrew word bochim means “weepers.”) However, their sorrow was because of the consequences of their sins and not because the wickedness of their sins had convicted them. It was a shallow and temporary sorrow that never led them to true repentance (2 Cor. 7:8–11).

4. OBE YING THE ENEMY (2:6–23)

The sin in our lives that we fail to conquer will eventually conquer us. The people of Israel found themselves enslaved to one pagan nation after another as the Lord kept His word and chastened His people. Consider the sins of that new generation.

They forgot what the Lord had done (vv. 6–10). At that point in Israel’s history, Joshua stood next to Moses as a great hero, and yet the new generation didn’t recognize who he was or what he had done. In his popular novel 1984, George Orwell wrote, “Who controls the past controls the future: who controls the present controls the past.” Once they got in control of the present, both Hitler and Stalin rewrote past history so they could control future events, and for a time it worked. How important it is for each new generation to recognize and appreciate the great men and women who helped to build and protect their nation! It’s disturbing when “revisionist” historians debunk the heroes and heroines of the past and almost make them criminals.

They forsook what the Lord had said (vv. 11–13). Had they remembered Joshua, they would have known his “farewell speeches” given to the leaders and the people of Israel (Josh. 23–24). Had they known those speeches, they would have known the law of Moses, for in his final messages, Joshua emphasized the covenant God had made with Israel and the responsibility Israel had to keep it. When you forget the Word of God, you are in danger of forsaking the God of the Word, which explains why Israel turned to the vile and vicious worship of Baal.

They forfeited what the Lord had promised (vv. 14–15). When they went out to fight their enemies, Israel was defeated, because the Lord wasn’t with His people. This is what Moses had said would happen (Deut. 28:25–26), but that isn’t all: Israel’s enemies eventually became their masters! God permitted one nation after another to invade the Promised Land and enslave His people, making life so miserable for them that they cried out for help. Had the Jews obeyed the Lord, their armies would have been victorious, but left to themselves they were defeated and humiliated.

They failed to learn from what the Lord did (vv. 16–23). Whenever Israel turned away from the Lord to worship idols, He chastened them severely, and when in their misery they turned back to Him, He liberated them. But just as soon as they were free and their situation was comfortable again, Israel went right back into the same old sins. “And the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the LORD.… Therefore the anger of the LORD was hot against Israel, and he sold them into the hand of …” is the oft-repeated statement that records the sad, cyclical nature of Israel’s sins (3:7–8, see also v. 12; 4:1–4; 6:1; 10:6–7; 13:1). The people wasted their suffering. They didn’t learn the lessons God wanted them to learn and profit from His chastening.

God delivered His people by raising up judges, who defeated the enemy and set Israel free. The Hebrew word translated “judge” means “to save, to rescue.” The judges were deliverers who won great military victories with the help of the Lord. But the judges were also leaders who helped the people settle their disputes (4:4–5). The judges came from different tribes and functioned locally rather than nationally, and in some cases, their terms of office overlapped. The word “judge” is applied to only eight of the twelve people we commonly call “judges,” but all of them functioned as counselors and deliverers. The eight men are: Othniel (3:9), Tola (10:1–2), Jair (10:3–5), Jephthah (11), Ibzan (12:8–10), Elon (12:11–12), Abdon (12:13–15), and Samson (15:20; 16:30–31).

The cycle of disobedience, discipline, despair, and deliverance is seen today whenever God’s people turn away from His Word and go their own way. If disobedience isn’t followed by divine discipline, then the person is not truly a child of God; for God chastens all of His children (Heb. 12:3–13). God has great compassion for His people, but He is angry at their sins.

The book of Judges is the inspired record of Israel’s failures and God’s faithfulness. But if we study this book only as past history, we’ll miss the message completely. This book is about God’s people today. When the psalmist reviewed the period of the judges (Ps. 106:40–46), he concluded with a prayer that we need to pray today: “Save us, O LORD our God, and gather us from the nations, that we may give thanks to your holy name and glory in your praise” (Ps. 106:47 NIV).

QUESTIONS FOR PERSONAL REFLECTION OR GROUP DISCUSSION

1. When is it hard for you to obey God? Why?

2. Read Joshua 24:23–31 and Judges 1:1—2:13. Why did Israel end up obeying her enemies instead of God?

3. Read Deuteronomy 7:1–6. What was God’s plan for the people of Israel when they entered the Promised Land? Why?

4. How well did the Israelites obey this plan?

5. What was the key to their victory over their enemies? (See Judg. 1:19 and Rom. 8:31.)

6. What happened when they failed to overtake their enemies?

7. Review Judges 2:11–23. The Israelites repeatedly went through a cycle during the days of the judges. What were the steps of this cycle?

8. How is our society like the days of the judges?

9. How is today’s church like those days?

10. What temptations do God’s people face today that cause them to serve other gods?

11. How can we avoid these temptations so we don’t get caught in this type of cycle?

©2010 Cook Communications Ministries. Be Available by Warren Wiersbe. Used with permission. May not be further reproduced. All rights reserved.

Jackson Jones: The Tale of a Boy, an Elf, and a Very Stinky Fish written by Jenn Kelly and illustrated by Ariane Elsammak

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old…or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!

Today’s Wild Card author is:

Jenn Kelly

illustrated by:

Ariane Elsammak

and the book:

Jackson Jones: The Tale of a Boy, an Elf, and a Very Stinky Fish

Zonderkidz (August 6, 2010)

***Special thanks to Pam Mettler of Zonderkidz for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Jenn Kelly lives in Ottawa, Canada, but her heart lives in Paris. Or Hawaii. She hasn’t decided yet. She is an undercover garden guru, painter, and chef, which has absolute nothing to do with this book. She won a writing award in grade 4, failed English Lit in university, spent many years writing bad poetry, and then decided to write a book. This is it. She is married to her best friend, Danny, and is mom to a five-year-old boy and a dog who worries too much. She embraces the ridiculousness and disorganization of life.

Visit the author’s website.

Ari has worked as a freelance illustrator for a variety of projects, mostly in children’s media. Her specialty is character design and she most enjoys illustrating humorous and wacky predicaments.

She studied editorial and children’s book illustration at the School of Visual Arts in New York City and the DuCret School of Art in New Jersey. She uses a variety of media to create my images both traditional and digital.

Visit the illustrator’s website.

Product Details:

List Price: $12.99
Reading level: Ages 9-12
Hardcover: 272 pages
Publisher: Zonderkidz (August 6, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0310720796
ISBN-13: 978-0310720799

PLEASE CLICK THE BROWSE INSIDE BUTTON TO VIEW THE FIRST CHAPTER: