3/2/15

This I Know

July 31, 1984. 

This was the day I went forward at a vacation Bible school in East Tennessee, repented of my sins  and asked Jesus to be my Lord and Savior.

Like most new believers, I was filled with zeal and wanted to learn all I could about the Lord.  I began reading my Bible fervently, attending every service and trying to be a good Christian.

I now know I was not properly discipled. 

I began reading my Bible from the beginning.  (That's where you start a book right?)  I breezed through Genesis and Exodus, bogged down in Leviticus and gave up in Numbers.  It took me awhile to get back on track.  I finally had a fellow believer point me to the NT where I spent a season before eventually reading the whole Bible. 

I had a huge fascination with end times theology and read everything I could get my hand on.  I loved to debate (argue) the Bible and felt I had to defend God to the death!  I even made sure to hand a Bible tract to a kid who was holding a switchblade to my throat...so that I could at least die a martyr!

Ah, youth....

Nearly 31 years since my life changing decision, I have come to learn that less is more.  I have seen the highs and lows of faith.  The good, the bad and the ugly.  The older I get, the more comfortable I am with my faith.  I no longer feel the need to debate every line of Scripture.  In fact, I don't debate at all. 

As I reflect over my relationship with the Lord, I find comfort and peace in who He is and who I am in Him.

After 31 years, this I know:

Prov. 3:5-6 - "Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths."  The first Scripture that really challenged me.  I tried for too long to lean on my own understanding.  Now, I know that I know nothing.  I have found that as I lean on Him, look to Him, trust in Him...He truly does direct my path.  From TN to TX, Russia to Croatia, the US to Canada, God has directed my path, my days, my life.  I wouldn't have it any other way.

Jesus, Only Jesus - I remember hearing this quoted often by a man God used to impact my life.  He often said it boiled down to just that.  I used to think he was being so cliche.  Now I know, I truly want Jesus, only Jesus!

Jesus Christ and Him Crucified - "For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified." This passage in 1 Cor. 2:2 has become more and more important to me. I don't care to debate how long it took God to create the Heavens and Earth.  My opinion on when Jesus is coming back is just that, my opinion. What I am determined to know is Jesus Christ and Him crucified.

Galatians 2:20"I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me." The verse that changed my life.  In my darkest days, God reached out to a man contemplating his own mortality, He broke through the darkness when suicide seemed like the only way out, and He taught me who I am in Him. 

I'm not God - I am not called to judge.  I no longer see the need to point out the stick in your eye while ignoring the log in mine.  I now endeavor to speak truth in love and show the same grace and mercy that Jesus Christ has shown me.

The Two Greatest Commandments - Jesus is quoted in Matthew 22:36-40 as saying that the two greatest commandments in which are contained the whole law of God is to love the Lord with our whole heart, soul, mind and strength and to love our neighbor as we do our self!  It really is that simple.  We over complicate Christianity and Jesus boiled it down to this!

Jesus Loves Me - This I know.  I can rest in that. 

2/8/15

Blindsided by God

Blindsided by God is an interesting book.

The author, Peter Chin, shares the story of how his life of faith was brought to a low point over just a few months.  A miscarriage, a breast-cancer diagnosis and a break and entering were just some of the suprises that brought the Chin family to re-evaluate disappointment, suffering and the untamable goodness of God.

As I read their story, I found myself asking how I would have responded to this steady does of unexpected and often discouraging news.  I can't say my reactions would have been much different.  Yet in all of this, there were slivers of hope.  You could still see the Hand of God moving in their life. 

I won't spoil the biggest miracle of all but let's just say, God knows what He is doing.

Let's face it, if we are honest with ourselves, we probably have felt blindsided by God.  What we do with our dissapointment and suffering is the key.  Can we still see the goodness of God?   I would recommend this book for anyone who feels abandoned by God when life seems overwhelming.

"Book has been provided courtesy of Graf-Martin Communications and Bethany House in exchange for an honest review."

2/1/15

Unshockable Love

 I need to recommend this book!

Unshockable Love  by John Burke is a breath of fresh air.  It's a call to seeing yourself and the people around you through the eyes of Jesus.  Now I have heard that rather cliche statement before but John Burke delivers.

Originally titled Mud and the Masterpiece, Burke's book is filled with interesting stories. Part One of the book really challenges you to see others through the eyes of Jesus.  Each chapter ends with something to reflect on and something to try.  Both were challenging in their own ways.  Sometimes the reflection was harder than the action!

Part Two is more of a practical call to action and gives you a process in which to develop a community that reaches out to the world around them in more practical and relevant ways.  It is really about living in community on mission with Jesus.

The tonal shift between the two parts was obvious but both tie together nicely.  I ended up buying a couple copies to give away before I even got a third of the way through the book.  Something I have never done before finishing a book!

Get it, read it, act on it!

Find out more at www.unshockablelove.com

"Book has been provided courtesy of Graf-Martin Communications and Baker Books in exchange for an honest review."

1/18/15

That Loving Feeling

Today in church, our guest speaker shared from Matthew 22:36-40.

“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

This is a passage I have come back to again and again over the last few years.  In fact, I share it quite frequently from the pulpit myself.  I have found this passage to be convicting and challenging on one hand yet very encouraging as well.

It is convicting because Jesus lists these 2 commandments as the ones that ALL the Law and Prophets hang on.  He could have listed anything in response to the question.  The first one makes sense to me.  Love the Lord with every part of your being!  I find that to be very convicting.  Do I love the Lord with all of my heart, all of my soul, all of my mind?  I would love to say YES to that.  Sadly, it is not always true.  I know there are times I put other things before the Lord.  In that I am convicted.

It is challenging because the second commandment he lists is to love our neighbors...as we do ourselves!  Honestly, I am often challenged by that. I want to ask who my neighbor is but I already know the answer to that.  It is everyone I meet from the moment I wake up until the moment I go to bed!  It includes my family, my friends, my co-workers and my enemies.  I find loving my enemies to be the challenging part.  I remember one of our special needs volunteers putting it plainly to me once.  He said if God calls us to love our enemies, that means loving the terrorists as well.  God does not make distinctions when He calls us to love!

It is encouraging because as Lamentations 3:22-23 says, "The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness."  I am guilty of not always loving others as I should. There are times I need to repent when I fail to apply Matthew 22:36-40 to my life.  God is faithful and forgiving, calling me to something more, something better.  

As the speaker this morning shared, as we love God more it becomes easier to love our neighbor and as we do so, it impacts those around us.  I would say our lives are changed as we embrace that loving feeling! 

1/7/15

More Than A Review, 5 Questions Too!

http://jasonwiedel.com/persecution-complex/

A long time ago (20 years) in a land far, far away (Texas) I first met Jason Wiedel.  Jason, my future wife Sarah and I joined 30+ others at a ministry school deep in the heart of Texas.  We were young, idealistic and had many plans for the future.  Jason's future has invoved his current job with Habitiat for Humanity and now author of the recently released Persecution Complex.

I sat down to read his new book and had trouble putting it down.  I was hooked by the introduction and read two chapeters the next day.  By day three I couldn't stop and devoured the rest of the book in one sitting.  Jason has written a book that is challenging, engaging and much needed for today!

Persecution Complex looks at the problem of the persecution narrative among Evangelical Christians in America. Jason then follows this narrative through history and examines the psychological reasons that we embrace the position of victim. He then lays out the ways that this perspective has been damaging to Christianity, and the ways that we can move forward to become more loving and life-giving people.

You may be challenged when reading this book and that's a good thing.  I believe as believers we should never rest in entrenched positions without examining the basis of why we believe as we do.  This book will open your eyes if you let it.
 
Jason took time to answers some questions  re. Persecution Complex. 

Welcome to 5 Questions With.....

Today's guest is Jason Wiedel.   

Jason serves the needs of the people in Surry and Sussex Counties. He also works to help people understand God in new ways. Jason works for Habitat for Humanity and blogs at JasonWiedel.com.

OK, let's get started:

1. Your book, Persecution Complex, really tackles the topic of persecution head on.  What made you want to tackle this particular subject matter? 

I have been examining the relationship of American Christians to the broader culture for many years. I have become increasingly concerned by the contentiousness of this relationship. I see certain segments of American Christianity exacerbating this problem rather than being the peacemakers that Jesus called us to be. Encouraging Christians to stop seeing themselves as the victim and to stop categorizing others as enemies is important to me.

2. You mention 1 John 4:18 and how the Scripture calls us to not fear and yet many of our church leaders seem to use fear in addressing moral issues.  Fear is often called a great motivator, yet Jesus calls us to something more.  How do we move from fear to love?

I believe that the words of Jesus regarding the treatment of enemies is key. In what we call the sermon on the mount Jesus instructs his listeners to turn the other cheek, go the extra mile, willingly give to those who try to take what we have, and love our enemies. To follow these directives we must stop seeing our enemy as an enemy, and begin seeing them as a person. Jesus is completely aware that putting another person in the position of enemy allows us to remove them from the position of human being.

Fear encourages us to maintain enemies. When we fear secularism, or liberalism, or Islam, or a homosexual agenda, we lose sight of the human beings involved with these issues, and we only see them as enemies. Jesus wants us to stop seeing people as enemies. That is the way we learn to love better.

3. One statement from your book that I loved says, "Jesus had a lot to say about the way His followers treated others. He talked about their care for the hungry and helpless. Never once though did He tell His disciples to fight for religious freedom or to stand up for what they believed."  How did the train go off the rails and how do we get back on the right track?

In Persecution Complex I assert that this has a lot to do with politics. In many cases, politicians have convinced us that we are on a slide toward immorality, or that we are losing our religious freedoms. We then become advocates for a political cause, rather than advocates for Christ. When Christianity becomes the ally of political powers, we can easily lose sight of Jesus' sacrificial identification with the poor, the weak, and the powerless.
 

4. What do you hope people will take away from your book?  Do you think your views on the persecution complex will be a hindrance to a "fair reading" by those feeling among the persecuted?

Ultimately I want Christians to become the self-sacrificing, life-giving people who follow the example of Jesus. I want us to be people who are concerned about bringing the love of the God to the world rather than being distracted by the culture war. I know this book will be a hard pill for some Christians, but perhaps it can be the start of a journey away from the persecution complex afflicting many Christians.

5. Who would you recommend read Persecution Complex?

Everyone! The book is directed at Evangelical Christians who live in a world that is dominated by the persecution narrative. I want to see these Evangelicals read the book, even though many of them will object to my conclusions. I would also encourage the Christian who has become weary of narrow or un-loving forms of Christianity to read Persecution Complex. I think it may offer them hope for a faith that is better than what they have experienced.

 
Thank You Jason!

You can order Persecution Complex here and read Jason's blog here.

1/1/15

Just One Word

A couple years back Compassion sent a challenge out to their bloggers  to seek the Lord for a word for the new year instead of making a New Years Resolution.  I enjoyed the idea so much I have asked God for a new word each year since.

Literally, ONE word.

If the Lord was to give me one word for 2015 what would it be?

In 2013 I felt that word was PRAYER and pray I did.  Lots.  Things happened which forced me to my knees in prayer before the Lord.  In fact I think I only survived that year due to prayer!

Last year that word was TRUST. Looking back over the last year, I have seen areas both personally and professionally where I have had to trust God more than ever.  I have also seen God open amazing doors as I learned to trust Him more.

Now with 2015 upon us, I asked the Lord what word He wanted to give me for this year.  I feel that the word He has for me this year is PEACE.

As I prayed about this year I felt the Lord remind me of two passages from His Word.

"Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid." (John 14:27)

"Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." (Phillipians 4:6-7)

I don't know what 2015 holds.  I am making plans (vacation in Tennesee, book promotions, church, ministry) but I also know God can take things in any number of directions. My ultimate goal is to know Him and His will more. 

I am excited to see how this word applies to the coming year.

So what is God speaking to you for the New Year?

12/19/14

Take Note of the NKJV Note-Takers Bible


I love to take notes in my Bible.  Sadly, deciphering my notes is like studyingy heiroglyphics.  I have scribbled notes with arrows pointing in different directions, tried to squeeze words and thoughts between lines and gone down the side of very thin edges.

What I needed was a Note-Takers Bible.  I was excited to get this Bible and start taking new notes.  I put it to use right away by transcribing notes from my other Bible into this one.  I love the wider columns along the side and bottom of this Bible.  It is wide enough to allow me the freedom to put down thoughts in a clear manner without squeezing my writings in, around and on top of the text.

This is a minimalit Bible in many ways. It features:
  • Deluxe wide margins for note takers
  • Complete NKJV text
  • Double column text for easy reading
  • Words of Christ in red letter
That's pretty much it.  However, it works for the purpose of this Bible.

In actuality, the only problem I have is that there is only room to take notes on one side of the column.  Despite that minor issue, this is a Bible I will use for many years to come.  If you are a note-taker, this is the Bible for you!

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLookBloggers.com review program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.