Revelation Illustrated Book

Through the Gate of the Eternal City by Pat Marvenko Smith

Through the Gate of the Eternal City by Pat Marvenko Smith

I have been a fan of Pat Marvenko Smith’s artwork for several years. I have used them when teaching Bible study  – not just in Revelation but also Daniel and Ezekiel. She is a very talented artist. She also has a unique ability to illustrate scenes from Scripture. There are some very vivid descriptions of heavenly scenes in the books of Revelation, Daniel, and Ezekiel. Because the things described are other-worldly, it is difficult to form a mental picture of the scene, event, or creature. Pat has no such difficulty. She truly brings passages of Scripture to life through her art. They are not only beautiful but also biblically accurate.

She has a book that includes all of her paintings. It can be purchased here. She also has individual prints, cd’s, note cards, and digital downloads available for purchase here. These are great to use for teaching purposes.

You can watch a short video about her book here.

Dinosaurs: Stars of the Show

Dinosaurs Stars of the Show


I recently bought several new books for my 2 1/2 year old granddaughter. I read to her at nap time and felt like we needed to expand our literary horizons. I love reading to her the same books that I read to her daddy when he was little. Not just the same titles – the very same books. However, I wanted to find some books that both of us would enjoy and that would begin building a foundation of faith in her.

Dinosaurs: Stars of the Show by Amie Zordel was one of the books I purchased, and my granddaughter loves it. As in, I’ve-read-it-to-her-4-days-straight loves it. It tells the story of dinosaurs from a biblical perspective and is written in simple rhyme. It is very basic – which I love because it is simple enough for her to understand most of it. It also has lovely illustrations.

If you’re looking for an intellectual book with a deep, scholarly approach to the scientific questions about dinosaurs, this is not the book for you. If, however, you are looking for a book that is both scientific and biblical but is also simple enough for a toddler to enjoy, then this is definitely the book for you!

You can take a look at it here.

Heaven Is for Real

Heaven Is for Real

The movie Heaven Is for Real that opened in theaters a few weekends ago is based on the book of the same title written by Todd Burpo with Lynn Vincent. It tells the story of Colton Burpo’s brush with death and subsequent visit to heaven during a serious bout with appendicitis when he was almost 4 years old. Tales of “near death experiences” are nothing new and continue to be met with both skepticism and certitude in equal measure. Instead of automatically discrediting or endorsing these stories, they should be evaluated in light of Scripture. The Bible is God’s Word to us and is infallible. Any personal experience, near-death or otherwise, that contradicts Scripture must be abandoned. It must not be clung to or placed on equal terms with the inspired Word of God.

I haven’t seen the movie so I don’t know how closely it follows the book. However, I did read the book Heaven Is for Real: A Little Boy’s Astounding Story of His Trip to Heaven and Back. As told in the book, Todd and his wife Sonja did not learn of Colton’s visit to heaven until several months after his ordeal in the hospital. And it came out in a quite nonchalant way as they were in the car going on a trip. In the ensuing months, Colton’s parents delved deeper into his experience being very careful not to place thoughts in his head or words in his mouth. The more details he gave them, the more amazed they were. He told them things that he couldn’t have known such as his mom had miscarried a baby before he was born and his father was in a room alone praying while he underwent surgery.

People debate whether or not these things could have really happened. Some people are adamant that they could not. Just as many are adamant that they could and have happened. As I read Heaven Is for Real, I thought about 2 passages in the Bible. One is found in the book of Ezekiel. In Chapter 8, Ezekiel is in Babylon where he has been a captive for about 5 years. He is “caught up” and taken where he can see what is taking place in Jerusalem and even inside the walls of the Temple there. The other passage I think of is found in 2 Corinthians 12 where Paul talks about being taken up to heaven. He isn’t sure if he had a vision or was actually physically transported there, but either way the effect was the same. He saw things he couldn’t even articulate. So it seems clear to me that God can and has transported individuals to both earthly and heavenly places in ways that may be difficult for us to understand.

After reading the book Heaven Is for Real, the only real scriptural problem I have with it is Colton’s claim that everyone in heaven has wings just like the angels. I believe that the Bible clearly teaches that human beings and angels are different. People do not become angels and receive wings when they go to heaven. They do receive glorified bodies that seem to be similar to earthly bodies, only without the effects that sin ravages on those bodies in the way of diseases and aging. Examples in Scripture indicate that people with glorified bodies are somehow recognizable as who they were on earth.

In a nutshell, I don’t see anything unbiblical in the book (other than the aforementioned wings in heaven). I believe the Burpo’s have shared their son’s story to glorify God and His miraculous ways and not in order to bring any notoriety to themselves or their son. Colton himself, even at the tender age of 4, was adamant that a person must have Jesus in his heart in order to go to heaven which is absolutely biblical. (John 14:6 – “Jesus said, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through me.'”)

I would encourage you to be careful about judging the Burpo’s story if you’ve only seen the movie. Based on some of the reviews I’ve read, I think the producers have taken some liberties with the story and watered down the message of the book. Read the book and get the real story. Read the book and line it up with Scripture. Read the book and see the glory of the amazing God of the universe. I believe that’s the real message here and the intention of the Burpo family. It’s not about them, their son, or even a miracle. It’s about the God of Miracles!

The Apostle John says it best: “Many other signs Jesus also performed in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name.” John 20:30-31

Life after Art

Life After Art

In college I took a lot of art classes which were required for my major, and I loved creating all of the projects that went along with those classes. I’ve always loved creating, and I think it started with that first whiff of Play Doh® in kindergarten and rolling out my first “snake.” But somewhere along the way of a too-busy life, creating has been put aside to make way for the tyranny of the urgent. And I’ve missed it. I’ve missed it terribly.

In his book Life after Art: What You Forgot about Life and Faith since You Left the Art Room, Matt Appling not only reminds me of what I’ve missed and forgotten, but he also gives me hope that I can get it back. That I need to get it back. He says, “I suspect humanity’s drive to create is one of the keys to what it means to be ‘made in the image of God.'” That is incredibly validating to me. He reminds me that God placed this need to create within me. He is the Master Creator of all and I am made in His image. Not only is creating not a waste of time, but it is also a way to honor God and display His presence in my life.

One of the most refreshing and intriguing aspects of this book is the author’s insistence on “following directions” when it comes to art. It seems like following directions has become a negative thing – especially when it comes to creativity. In fact following directions is viewed as practically anti-creative. But Matt says, “Trying to rebel against the constraints in your life, trying to color outside the lines that have been laid out for you, is not a recipe for success. . . It is a recipe for frustration, for discontentment, for defeat in life.” There are rules for creating art, and the first one is NO GLITTER. (LOL – you’ll have to read the book to understand that!)

Don’t get me wrong. This book is not a legalistic list of do’s and don’t’s for art or for life. However, there are certain limitations or constraints that have been put in place by God for both art and life. If we try to color outside of those lines, as Matt says, then the result is chaos. And chaos is rarely beautiful or beneficial in life or in art.

Please read this book. Even if you think you are not the creative type and are completely uninterested in art, I promise you will learn so much more than you think you will. Do like I did and read it with a highlighter in your hand. My copy is glowing with neon yellow lines. And I plan to re-read this book as soon as possible. Matt is smart, witty, compassionate and understanding. I believe you will relate to him on many levels. And, who knows? You just might find you have an inner artist lurking deep inside!

You can order a copy of this book here. You can visit Matt Appling’s blog here.


If by Amy Carmichael

A few years ago I picked up a small book by Amy Carmichael called If. I had been introduced to the writings of Amy Carmichael through the ministry of Elisabeth Elliot who had been greatly influenced by her. She wrote an excellent biography about Amy and her 55-year ministry in Dohnavur, India, called A Chance to Die. I cannot recommend it highly enough.

But the book I want to tell you about is If. It is only 94 pages long, but it is one of the most powerful and convicting 94 pages you will ever read. Each page begins with the statement “If I. . .” and ends with the statement, “. . . then I know nothing of Calvary love.” She cuts to the motives of the heart with each statement testing the true depth of our love and comparing it to the love of Christ – the love which led Him to give His life at Calvary.

Here’s one: “If I covet any place on earth but the dust at the foot of the cross, then I know nothing of Calvary love.” That convicted this Navy wife on more than one occasion when faced with orders to change locations. How about this one: “If I take offense easily, if I am content to continue in a cool unfriendliness, though friendship be possible, then I know nothing of Calvary love.” Ouch. That hurts.

If you want a better understanding of Calvary love. . . If you want to hold your heart up to a mirror. . . If you aren’t afraid of the ugliness you may see there. . . If you want to love like Christ. . . then get If. Read one page per week. Contemplate it. Meditate on it. Then love with a Calvary kind of love.

If and A Chance to Die are both available in the Precept Camden Store in the right sidebar.

God’s Smuggler – Free!


In this post I told you about the book God’s Smuggler by Brother Andrew and the tremendous impact it has had on my life. I am very excited to tell you that you can download the audio version of God’s Smuggler here. And it’s free! Whether you listen to the audio book, read the e-version on your e-reader, or hold a real book in your hands and read it the old-fashioned way, I encourage you to read this book. Christian biographies are my favorites and this one is definitely in my top 5.

Click here to learn about Brother Andrew’s book God’s CallAnd click here to see a recent interview with Brother Andrew by The Christian Post.

Everyday Conversations, Eternal Impact

Measuring little more than 4″ x 7 ” and a mere 107 pages, Everyday Conversations, Eternal Impact by Lloyd Pulley is a powerful little book. The subtitle of the book is Lessons Drawn from Jesus and the Woman at the Well. Pulley, senior pastor of Calvary Chapel Old Bridge, New Jersey, carefully examines an unlikely encounter recorded in Scripture in the book of John Chapter 4. Jesus – a teacher, a Jew, Creator of the universe, a man  – sits down at a well in Samaria during the heat of the day and asks for a drink of water from a woman – an adulteress, a Samaritan, a woman. Pulley dissects this encounter and offers the reader a beautiful example of how to share the message of the gospel in our own everyday conversations with real people.

I agree with Pastor Pancho Juarez who says in the book’s foreword, “I love that Lloyd offers no slick formulas or evangelistic methods.” He gives no one-size-fits-all, fill-in-the-blank, tried-and-true methods. He does use the simple acrostic S.H.A.R.E. to help you stay focused when evangelizing. He is careful to say that evangelistic “methods in themselves are not necessarily a bad thing. . . However, when believers rely more heavily on methods than on the Holy Spirit, problems can arise.” (p. 44) Thus, S.H.A.R.E. which stands for Sensitive to the Spirit, Humbly Build a Bridge, Arouse Interest, Reveal Sin, Explain the Plan of Salvation. A chapter is dedicated to elaborating and illustrating each of those.

Something I really like that Pulley uses in this book are real stories from real people. Some of these stories are wonderful examples of how to effectively share the gospel much like Jesus shared with the woman at the well. Others, not so much. But even those stories serve as tools to learn a better way to bridge the gap in a conversation and lead it from the commonplace into the spiritual. I also love that Pulley stresses the fact that NOTHING can replace “waiting on the leading and empowering of the Holy Spirit.” (p. 58)

If you’re looking for a step by step guide to witnessing – do A, B, and C and get results today! – then this probably isn’t the book for you. But if you want to learn how Jesus engaged people within their own cultural understanding and led them into conversations about eternal matters, then you should read Everyday Conversations, Eternal Impact  by Lloyd Pulley. It is concise, profound, biblical, and powerful. I highly recommend it.

Under the Overpass

I just finished reading Under the Overpass by Mike Yankoski. I was going to begin my review by saying that it is an easy read, but easy is not the right word. What I mean to say is that it is a relatively quick read at 224 pages. But easy? No way.

Under the Overpass is the story of 2 men, Mike Yankoski and Sam Purvis, who spent 5 months living as homeless men on the streets of 6 major U.S. cities. The idea for this journey began in the heart of Yankoski as he sat in church one Sunday and had something of an epiphany concerning the disconnect in his life between what Christ calls His disciples to be and to do and what he realized was his “comfortable upper-middle-class life.” Yankoski says, “I sat there in church struggling to remember a time when I’d actually needed to lean fully on Christ rather than on my own abilities. Not much came to mind.” Thankfully, Yankoski wasn’t content to ignore this disconnect or bury it in the depths of religious busyness. Instead, he says he “walked out of church that morning seized by a big idea, assaulted by dozens of questions, and sure that I had heard deep in my heart a still, small voice saying, ‘Follow Me.'”

This book will challenge your perceptions of homelessness and the homeless. It will force you to confront the hypocrisy and prejudice that may be lurking not so inconspicuously within your own church and heart. It will force you to reflect on what it really means to take up your cross and follow Christ.

I don’t think you can read this book and stay the same.  I hope that you can’t. Living this story changed Yankoski and Purvis for the better, I’m certain. Reading it did the same for me. If I am a disciple of Jesus Christ, then I must love the unlovely, embrace the repugnant, and serve those that the world has deemed unworthy but that Christ calls “the least of these” (Matthew 25:40).

Jesus said the harvest is abundant but there is a shortage of workers (Luke 10:2). It’s time to stop the busyness and be about the Father’s business. It’s time to repair the disconnect.

Stuff Christians Like

Watch the news on any given day and chances are it won’t improve your mood. It’s a downer, man. The truth is – life can be a downer. Srsly. I’m talking big-time downer.

Now I know that as a believer in Jesus Christ, I can do all things through Him who strengthens me. I know that with God NOTHING is impossible. I know that greater is He who is in me than he who is in the world. I do. I really do. And I claim each one of those promises and cling to it like there’s no tomorrow.

But sometimes, just sometimes, even the most spiritual of us gets down. I’ll bet even Billy Graham needs a good laugh every now and then. I’m no Billy Graham but I definitely need a good laugh every now and then. And, boy, did I get one today. I stumbled across this blog while I was surfing the net at work. (Don’t get all bent out. It’s part of my job to surf the net and stay connected to my peeps.) I laughed. I laughed much. Then I came across this post on said blog. And I laughed even more.

Jon Acuff, by his own admission, has had many jobs. But he has finally found his dream job working with financial planning expert Dave Ramsey. In addition to writing the blog Stuff Christians Like, he authored a book by the same name. If the two posts mentioned above are any indication, this book has to be hilarious. I can’t wait to read it!