Posted in Books, discernment, God's will, God's word, transformation by truth, Uncategorized

An important read

God’s will…that phrase is thrown around in the Christian subculture, and yet, I think no one grasps the concept. We know less about God’s will from what his word says about it than what we have gathered by the osmosis of people’s opinions. I have come to the conclusion that most have a mystical view of what God’s will is…these stirrings of direction, superstitions, inklings instead of actually learning what he calls us to…holiness.
Couple that thought with the lengthening of adolescence in our culture (I know because I lived it not having a clue who I was or what I was doing when I got out of college), and we have a lost generation of people looking for fulfillment in some direction that is floating in the wind.
There is a new book out by Kevin DeYoung that is a must read for young adults and all adults–“Just Do Something.” It is a concise book about God’s will. He points back to God’s word and really challenges how we have let our culture and generation shape our understanding of God’s will. It is much more, shall we say, sexy to think that God has this “plan” for us to decifer that is not plain. However, he is very plain about what our lives are to be about–Jesus. Pick it up…and let’s discuss.

Posted in Books, discipleship, discipline, sin, spiritual growth, the gospel, transformation by truth

Book Recommendation: The Discipline of Grace

This summer, I have been reading The Discipline of Grace with several of the young women I have been meeting with. I finally finished it this week, and I HIGHLY recommend it. It is written by Jerry Bridges…yes, the author in which I quote all the time talking about Respectable Sins. The poor girls I meet with are getting beaten down with me bringing it up in every conversation:).
The book goes into reminding us of the truth of the gospel and the need for God’s grace daily. For many, we struggle with trying to earn God’s favor after being justified by his grace…or we live in such guilt that we are imprisoned or live in self-righteousness as we compare ourselves to others. This book teaches and reminds how to apply the gospel to one’s life daily. Theologically, it is very sound and steeped in the word. It addresses the nature of sin and atonement. It also calls us to live and walk forward in holiness always stressing God’s grace in the gospel. The spiritual disciplines are addressed as the path for spiritual growth in grace. He touches on things such as prayer, Bible study, scripture memory and meditation, commitment, etc. all in the reminder that we must be reminded of the gospel and it’s power in the pursuit instead of simply our own willpower. He uses the phrase “dependant discipline” or also “dependant responsibility.” In our growth, there are two wings–dependence on the Spirit and discipline in growth. Just like an airplane, we cannot fly with merely one wing.
I think so much of this book, that I have decided to use it with all girls that I meet with and the women’s group I am going to lead to equip women to disciple other women. Again, do not pick this book up if you do not want to be challenged! It will challenge your habits and your thinking patterns. It will also hold a mirror up to your heart and the secret sins and habits that are there. Once that truth is revealed, there is a response that has to come. This book is great for a new Christian and a seasoned one.

Posted in Books, discipline, eternal things, idols, the cost of discipleship, transformation by truth, trusting God, Uncategorized

Ease

Have you ever learned or grown from things being easy? I do not think I have, yet I tend to strive for it and listen to voices that encourage ease. I spend a lot of money for ease and comfort, and yet, I have nothing to show for it.
The most fruitful parts of my life have been because of hard work and struggle and suffering. Pain is not easy, but it reminds me of what is true, important, good, lasting. Struggle causes me to look to the source of life, God. Struggle and pain and adversity stretch me beyond my limits to see that I need to depend on Christ and let go of things that I have valued above Him.
This week I read a challenging book and listened to a challenging sermon that have stretched me to think beyond comfort. The book is written for teenagers, but it is really for all of us! It is called Do Hard Things by Alex and Brett Harris. They have a website called The Rebelution that encourages teenagers to rebel against low expectations. I read it to check it out as a resource, and I was challenged with a fire lit inside me to do hard things.
They begin the book by addressing the concept of adolescence that began over a century ago. They proceed to show how adolescence has become a breeding ground for low expectations. I was convicted how I, myself, have encouraged teenagers to relax and not push themselves too hard. I have adopted a worldview of our culture instead of a biblical worldview about adolescence. I see even how I struggled in my early twenties with what I wanted to do. I stretched my adolescence out a lot. I see young adults do it all the time. We want to live as long as we can for pleasure when there is a lot of work to be done. We are created to live and work and be productive–as Christians for the glory of Christ.
The book shares many stories of teenagers who are pushing themselves to do hard things. They share their struggle and enjoyment in it–and their failure at times. They point out five things that one needs to do and be aware of when tackling the goal of doing hard things…they include: how to do hard things that step out of your comfort zone, how to do hard things that go beyond what is expected or required, how to do hard things that are too big for you to do alone (need for collaboration), how to do hard things that don’t pay off immediately, and how to do hard things that go against the crowd.
Reading this in light of my current path in life, I was challenged, encouraged and fired up in a way I have not felt since I was 18. I guess in my own way, I am a person of adventure, but I still struggle with fear. The older I get, the more safety becomes an idol in my heart. I am in the midst of working towards forming a non-profit, and before I left for the beach, I spent a week researching all I needed to do. I was what you call—overwhelmed and scared and intimidated. This book reminded me of hard work, trust in God, collaboration with others and perseverence. I felt energized after reading it. God also reminded me that this venture is not about me…it is about His kingdom and His gospel. It is about fighting the good fight by investing my life in teaching Truth. He can do it without me, but I want to surrender in obedience to the life He has called me to. I do not want to miss out because I want a nicer, newer house or a respected reputation or a heftier 401K. My friends, I want to live for the furthering of His kingdom through the good news of Jesus Christ. It is not a mere whim of faith. I was reminded that it will be hard…hard work. There will be times it feels or maybe is impossible, and then I am reminded that in God all things are possible.
The culmination of my week was listening to a John Piper sermon driving back. In his famous fashion, my heart was wrenched as I listened to Him speak on a Living a Radical life for the Supremacy of Christ. He reminded that the comfort that we worship is nothing. He reminded me that God calls us to meet Him (Christ) outside of the Gate (comfort and safety) (Hebrews). He spoke of suffering with Christ. My heart welled in me…my spirit soared because safety and comfort and new curtains do not bring joy–knowing and following Christ does. I have experienced it time and time again in the hardest parts of marriage and friendships and sickness and death–my Hope and life and joy is in Christ. I get sick and saddened when I see myself and friends and family living just like the world when we have such a higher hope.
I listened to two more sermons yesterday that reminded me, with clarity, of the gospel–our hope. My prayer is to remember these truths–this purpose. My prayer is that I store up treasures in heaven. My prayer is that we would sharpen one another toward this end. I am reminded of His grace that calls me to truth, gives me strength and courage and gently reminds me I am not alone. I am reminded that it is not my own power that I rely on.

Posted in Books

Abunga

Just a shout out to a new book site that I found.

Why you should be interested:
1) They are a family friendly site that does not sell porn, etc.
2) They had cheaper prices on many of the books I compared with Amazon.
3) They are a company out of Knoxville, TN that gives 5% of your order to charities around this area, and you choose which ones are benefitted.
4) Like Amazon, once you hit a certain amount, you get free shipping.

I have had a hard time lately finding certain Christian books in stock at retailers around the area, and they had all but one book that I was looking for in stock.

Posted in Books, discernment, The Shack

Discernment with “The Shack”

      There is no book that has receiving more buzz than “The Shack” this year (at least in Christian circles).  I have read the book, and, in it, I saw the beauty of an emotional story that draws the reader towards a certain view of God mixed with some serious error.  The danger comes when, emotionally involved, one openly reads and applies something as truth that may not neccessarily be so.  Usually in a fiction book, theology is not so readily mixed, so it almost creates a new paradigm to “learn” through.

     I know there are many hot sports opinions on all sides about this book. Tim Challies has posted a very thorough and readable review. It may take about 20 minutes of your time, but it is an educational read. No matter what you thought of this book or how it affected you, I think this is a discipline to learn about Biblical discernment through it. This will not be the last book that seriously seeks to redefine the image of God through fiction. We, as people of the word, have to train our minds to discern what is true and what is not.

Posted in Books, respectable sins, trusting God, ungodliness

Discontent anyone?

I am plugging along in “Respectable Sins” by Jerry Bridges, and I have reached the chapter on discontentment.  Whoa.  I also have read chapters on anxiety and frustration…yeah, I have had opportunity and experience in practicing all three of these acceptable sins.  I could say that I am an expert at them, and that makes me sick. The further people move into adulthood, the more they fall into discontentment (I mean, just watch Oprah for the lovely examples).  The world tosses you this grand picture of the hope of life–relationships, 2.5 kids, SUVs, houses in the suburbs, exotic vacations, fashion, meaningful jobs with grand salaries.  Then, you actually live life and find that these things only satiate your palate for a brief instance before you realize…this is all there is?  or, why can’t I have what they have?  insert… loving husband, kids, fufilling job, nicer house, being free from pain, etc. because I know that will fufill me for sure. It is interesting for me to see people as they prepare for a wedding and then as they are actually living married life.  The more romantic illusions were in place beforehand, the harder the transition to the hard work of marriage.  Last night, I told my small group girls that I hated that more people were not honest about marriage to people.  I think people experience greater discontentment because the truth was not shared with them as to what the committment entails.  When you are prepared in truth, you live more in truth and trust that God is working this for a greater good than your circumstantial happiness–He is working for your sanctification (making you more like Christ). Last night at Crossroad, Greg said that “good doctrine allows good living” and “what you feel is a result of what you think.”   (The sermon was on Romans 12:1-2–worshipping God with your life…renewing your mind in Him.)  This thought goes hand in hand with what Jerry Bridges proposes in the chapter I read about discontentment as a sin.  He said that:

 ‘Our ability to respond to [circumstances] in a God-honoring and God-pleasing manner depends on our ability and willingness to bring these truths [that God is sovereign, wise and good in all the circumstances of our lives] to bear on them.’

‘We must do this by faith;  that is we must believe that the Bible’s teaching about these attributes really is true and that God has brought or allowed these difficult circumstances into our lives for His glory and our ultimate good [sanctification].’ 

Ungodly discontentment comes when we do not factor His presence or purpose in every aspect of our lives.  That makes us no different from the world.  Psalm 139 speaks of how God knows us and formed us and purposed our lives.  In Psalm 139:16, David says

 ‘All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.’

Bridges proposes that when we begin to be nourished from the truths of God’s plans and purposes for us in his word, then we are more apt to accept things from the hand of God and live to glorify Him through whatever he brings.  I know this could sound trite when you think on your struggles, but that is only when framed in a worldview that bases the goodness of our lives on our comfort instead of our becoming more like Christ.  And becoming more like Christ is more good and fulfilling than ANYTHING this world has to offer.  I am most satisfied and filled in life when I am following Him fully and trusting Him to glorify himself through me. Bridges spoke of moving from the attitude of a victim of circumstances to the attitude of a steward of circumstance.  Thinking along the lines…”how can I use_____________  to serve and glorify you?”  He does not deal with merely trivial issues in the chapter…he mentions several sources of discontentment in the lives of Christians.

 an unfufilling/low paying job

singleness well into midlife and beyond

inability to bear children

an unhappy marriage

physical disabilities

continual poor health 

If all the days are ordained for us, none of this is outside of his hand.  We can choose to brood and turn bitter in our hearts, or we can fight to bathe ourselves in His Truth.  This is NOT EASY, but I have seen it evidenced in my life that when I turn to the truth of His word and believe it, good living comes out.  When I choose to stay in bitterness and despair and measure things on the world’s scale, I choose sin that leads to further discontentment (sin).   Jesus prayed this for us:

 “Sanctify them in the truth;  your word is truth.”  John 17:17

Some of the greatest times my soul was weary with discontentment in marriage and physical pain and emotional pain, I have been comforted by His truth and presence.  I experienced deep joy in Him being strengthened to walk back into the trying circumstance.  Bridges and I agree that we are not minimizing pain or hardship, but we know the benefits and righteousness (instead of sin) that comes from bathing in God’s truth to live.   For God’s reasons (and I do not assume to understand or know them all), He has chosen to put us in the places that we are whether they be seasons or lifetimes, and they are to be for His glory and our good.  (Romans 8:28-29) So, the question to myself is:  Am I stewarding those to his glory and renown or am I playing the victim in my sin?  Today, I pray that I trust and be filled with his word that they might be for his renown and glory.  I encourage you to do the same. 

Posted in Books, ungodliness

Respectable Sins: ungodliness

Wow.  I just read the first chapter that dealt with a specific sin in Jerry Bridges “Respectable Sins:  Dealing with the Sins We Tolerate.”  He proposes, quite well, that our root sin is ungodliness.  He uses the illustration of a tree where the trunk is pride with the roots being  ungodliness.  He defines ungodliness as living one’s everyday life with little or no thought of God, God’s will, God’s glory or dependence on God.  Gulp…           He speaks of four specific ways where we live ungodly  lives.

  1.  Making plans without recognizing our UTTER dependence on God to carry them out (James 4:13-15)
  2. Praying prayers about what we need or want (quick fixes to make ourselves feel better)–treating him like our bell-hop while not praying that our lives be God-centered (Colossians 1:9-10)
  3. Living life in every activity with no thought of glory to him before him alone and before others (1 Corinthians 10:13, Matthew 5:16)
  4. Lacking desire for the development of an intimate relationship with God (Psalm 42:1-2)

I guess we all catch the drift that we are all ungodly.  I was ashamed after reading the chapter, and then, in his great grace, he reminds me again of the gospel.  He has made a way for me to walk in obedience and godliness with him.  Jesus lived in perfect godliness, but we fall somewhere on the spectrum.   1 Timothy 4:7-8 says

“Have nothing to do with irreverent silly myths.  Rather train yourself for godliness;  for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.”  

  I am reminded of how I seek to be on the easy road of how I appear to others.  Training myself for godliness takes time and energy everyday.  It takes courage to listen to the Spirit and dig through the cobwebs at the recesses of my heart.  Training takes surrender.  I think upon hours and hours of prayer and study to connect with my heavenly Father, and I think about the conscious decision each time to do that.  I do not think it ever gets easier.  I always have something that calls to me…house projects, the newspaper, the computer, people, the telephone, chores, shopping.  Oh that everyday I consciously pray through the day that I be mindful of him in all things…living as if he is the only relevant thing.  If I do not foster that daily fellowship with him, I cannot genuinely desire to please him or glorify him during our days.   Bridges asks these questions which we need to ask ourselves:

  •  How ungodly am I?
  • How much of my life to  I live without any regard for God?
  • How much of my daily activities to I go through without any reference to God?
  • How far do I go in a positive direction to seek to glorify God before others?
  • Do my prayers reflect a concern for God’s will and God’s glory and a desire that my life be pleasing to God?
  • What specific areas do I tend to live without regard for God?