Literally, ONE word.
If the Lord was to give us one word for 2012 what would it be?
I knew mine before I was even sent the email from Compassion. The Lord gave me that word a few weeks ago...and it began with a dream! Actually, it began in January of 2011!
2011 has not been a good year at work. Staff went out with injuries and illness, clients were--how shall I say it--not on their best behavior, and things just seemed to snowball from there. At home my son broke his leg and shortly after he was back to good health, my daughter broke her arm! Not to mention my own health issues this year and some stressful church issues. I thought I was going to end 2011 in the fetal position, sucking my thumb and waiting for the bad things to go away!
Then I had the dream. It began with a tornado off in the distance. It looked so far away that my wife and I decided it was no threat and we went to sleep. We awoke to sirens blaring and when we looked out the door, we were in the eye of a tornado! We never felt it hit us, but once we woke to what was going on, the destruction was all around us. We began praying for safety and praying for the tornado to stop. The more we prayed, the smaller the tornado became. Finally, the tornado vanished and we saw clear skies everywhere.
I feel like my word is the one God gave me when I awoke from this dream! PRAYER.
I have been chewing on this for weeks and praying harder than I have in some time. I feel like the storms are shrinking...though they are not completely gone yet. So I will keep praying. Funny (scary) thing is, prayer has always been the area I have felt the weakest in my walk with the Lord. So this journey will be interesting, but I look forward to 2012 and all that God has planned for me. I am holding on to this word (prayer) and the Scripture God has been speaking to me all through the fall, "Be still and know that I am God" (Psalm 46:10)
I know that prayer does not always make the bad things disappear, but it does give us peace in the midst of the storm.
Prayer and the Word. Yeah I look forward to 2012!
So what is God speaking to you for the New Year?
I was sent this in an email and really liked it so I thought I would share it with all of you. Merry Christmas!
"Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation;
old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new."
2 Corinthians 5:17
I KNOW WHO I AM
I am God's child (John 1:12)
I am Christ's friend (John 15:15 )
I am united with the Lord (1 Cor. 6:17)
I am bought with a price (1 Cor 6:19-20)
I am a saint (set apart for God). (Eph. 1:1)
I am a personal witness of Christ. (Acts 1:8)
I am the salt & light of the earth (Matt 5:13-14)
I am a member of the body of Christ (1 Cor 12:27)
I am free forever from condemnation ( Rom. 8: 1-2)
I am a citizen of Heaven. I am significant (Phil 3 :20)
I am free from any charge against me (Rom. 8: 31 -34)
I am a minister of reconciliation for God (2 Cor 5:17-21)
I have access to God through the Holy Spirit (Eph. 2:18)
I am seated with Christ in the heavenly realms (Eph. 2:6)
I cannot be separated from the love of God (Rom 8:35-39)
I am established, anointed, sealed by God (2 Cor 1:21-22 )
I am assured all things work together for good (Rom. 8:28 )
I have been chosen and appointed to bear fruit (John 15:16 )
I may approach God with freedom and confidence (Eph.. 3: 12 )
I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me (Phil. 4:13 )
I am the branch of the true vine, a channel of His life (John 15: 1-5)
I am God's temple (1 Cor. 3: 16). I am complete in Christ (Col. 2: 10)
I am hidden with Christ in God (Col. 3:3).. I have been justified (Romans 5:1)
I am God's co-worker (1 Cor. 3:9; 2 Cor 6:1). I am God's workmanship (Eph. 2:10)
I am confident that the good works God has begun in me will be perfected. (Phil. 1: 5)
I have been redeemed and forgiven ( Col 1:14). I have been adopted as God's child (Eph 1:5)
I belong to God
Do you know
Who you are?
I have never reviewed a Bible before, so when I received The Names of God Bible in the mail I thought I should ask for some help.
I went to my teenaged daughter who checked it out and gave this heartfelt endorsement: "Awesome Bible!" Not receiving much help there, I went to my more articulate wife who looked through the Bible and said, "Cool Bible!"
So being left to my own devices, I decided this needed a more mature review. I really love this Bible.
Ok that wasn't it.
The Names of God Bible was like a breath of fresh air. I sat down and turned to Genesis Ch. 1 and right away I was drawn in by the beauty of the Hebrew names of God in the midst of the test. The Bible is advertised as restoring to the original Hebrew more than 10,000 occurrences of specific names of God--like Yahweh, El Shadday, El Elyon, and Adonay--to help readers connect with the Hebrew roots of their Christian faith and experience a deeper understanding of God's character.
I believe it achieves it's goal. My daughter is reading the Bible when we drive to town and my wife and I are both wanting to dig into the numerous features found in the Names of God Bible. I love the idea of following the use of El Shadday throughout the text.
Among the features found in this Bible include:
- background information associated with the most important names and titles of God
- key Scripture passages in which the name is revealed
- devotional readings for each of the featured names
- specific Bible promises connected to each of the featured names
- I should also note that this is the God's Word Translation.
If you get the chance to pick up one new Bible this year, I would highly recommend The Names of God Bible. You won't be disappointed.
When both of our children were born, when I shared that we had a new child, ladies would ask about weight, length, time, how long the labor was, etc!
(OK I know the women are now curious so here you go.)
Hanna – 8lbs 3oz, 22” long, 10:12 am
Caleb – 7lbs, 2oz, 22” long, 10:30 pm
When we sent out birth announcements for Hanna, they were printed on card stock and mailed to all our dear family and friends. When Caleb was born I did the birth announcement via email and sent it to all our contacts. Of course I was sleep deprived and had to send a corrected notice with his ACTUAL name.
I've been thinking about the Biblical birth announcement found in Luke ch. 2.
The angel said to them, "Don't be afraid! I have good news for you, a message that will fill everyone with joy. Today your Savior, Christ the Lord, was born in David's city.
How’s that for a birth announcement?
Notice the detail…in the announcement of His birth, his purpose for being born was also declared: YOUR Savior.
Jesus was born to die, to give His life on the cross and to save us from sin/death and hell.
When the Sheppard’s came to find Jesus in a manger, they told Mary about the heavenly birth announcement and she treasured these things in her heart and thought about them often.
It’s easy to get caught up in selfmas. The purchasing of gifts for ourselves and others. We should strive to remember His birth year round, focusing on His birth and the purpose for which He came.
So how can we celebrate?
1. Counting our blessings.
2. Tell others of His love, birth, death and resurrection.
3. Focus on the reason He was born and how it applies to our life.
4. Worship HIM!
Just a few rambling thoughts on the season.
He said, "Why do we ask what would Jesus do? What we should be asking is what has Jesus already done."
I had to chew on it for a bit but what he said makes sense. Both are valid statements. "WWJD?" was all the rage a few years back and everyone seemed to be asking the question. Of course the number or people who actually dug into the Word of God to find out what Jesus would do in a certain situation may not have been as high as the number of people who wore the t-shirts, bracelets, etc. It did get some people thinking though.
I actually like the second part of my friends statement. What has Jesus already done? There are times that we, as believers, seem so indecisive when it comes to actually MOVING on the things God has called us to do. We are called to be imitators of Christ! (Ephesians 5:1) What did Jesus do?
He loved people. He showed grace and mercy. He prayed for the sick and wept with those who mourned. He would walk miles to share God with one person. He was passionate about His heavenly Father. He spoke truth...in love. He was about His Father's business.
Asking what Jesus already did makes me realize that I don't have to wonder what He would do in a situation, all I have to do is read His Word and see what He has already done. I need to "Just Do It".
This was the text I was going to preach on last week.
Maybe I will get to preach it this week.
It is hard to talk about not being anxious while struggling with not giving in to anxiety.
Maybe it started when my son broke his femur and spent 6 weeks in a cast and a month of physio. It could have been when my daughter fell on the ice figure skating right after that and developed a small fracture in her elbow. I guess it could have been the sinus infection I developed which has been followed by an abscessed tooth.
Or there is always work.
Whatever it was, this Scripture became more real to me as I began to question God and where He was in all this.
Maybe He was in the gentle reminder to be thankful in all circumstance! (1 Thess. 5:18) I found myself driving down the road giving thanks for my kids, their lives, etc.
Maybe it was in the unexpected way He answered a heartfelt prayer. On Sat. night I laid in bed and expressed my frustrations to God. My words were something like, "God, who pastors the pastor. I am tired and can use a little encouragement." The next day church started and for the first time in 3 years, no one walked in the door! 15 minutes later one of our members showed up and God used them to encourage Sarah and I for the next hour!
He is here, in the midst of these circumstances.
I'm so glad to know I am not alone!
It was an eye-opener to those who have never been outside N. America.
Produced by Missions in Action, this is an interactive web series that was created with the purpose to make a difference around the world. The team is:
- traveling around the world to identify problems that people are facing. (Right now, this team is in the Philippines.)
- highlighting the actions that individuals and/or companies are taking to help those in need. (The focus of this webisode is Compassion International.)
- providing a way for viewers to help out.
This, their 1st Webisode, shows you how much the work of Compassion can impact a life. As a sponsor myself, I am encouraged to see how my small donation can impact a child for a lifetime.
If you are not sponsoring a child with Compassion, why not do so today? We have for nearly 10 years and seeing our sponsored child grow has been a blessing to our family!
You can find links to sponsoring a child and stay connected to Compassion via any of these networks:
God In A Brothel, a book by Daniel Walker and published by InterVarsity Press, is not a book for the squeamish or faint of heart.
This book challenged me on many levels. I have tried to point people to various organizations that fight trafficking and feel passionate about this issue. Yet I have always thought of the victims and never gave much thought to the investigators who gather information about sex trafficking.
Daniel Walker changed that. This book is a look at his undercover journey into trafficking and how he gathered info to be used to rescue those caught in its clutches. As his story develops, you see how Daniel had a desire to be a "Superhero" and how this desire led him into dangerous and compromising situations. His sought the Lord but depended on his own strength at times.
This leads to his lines becoming blurred and impacted his life and marriage!
Daniel learns from his mistakes but still has to deal with the consequences of his actions. Ultimately, his experiences lead him to start an organization that seeks to reach those in bondage while also helping those doing the field work.
This book reminded me to pray not only for the victims of trafficking but for the investigators as well. I found this book riveting but it is not for everyone. If you read this book you will be challenged. My wife and I discussed this book together as it prompted many questions, thoughts and concerns. I cannot remember the last time a book did that.
Note: This book was provided for review free of charge by InterVarsity Press. I was not required to give a positive review.
How do you come to Jesus Christ?
I was looking at the various mentions of Martha, Mary and Lazarus in the new Testament this week and I found an interesting parallel between how they approached Christ and how we Christians approach Him today.
Let's just look at the various examples. You have Mary, whom we find at one point sitting at the feet of Christ. She came as one ready to learn at the Master's feet. (Luke 10:39) Mary also came to Jesus to anoint Him with oil and to wash his feet with her hair. I see this as an act of worship. (John 11:2). When her brother Lazarus died, Mary came out to Jesus with tears in her eyes. He called her and she responded She told Him that if He had been there this bad thing would not have happened. (John 11:32) Some of us, like Mary, come to worship Jesus--to listen to Him. We seek Him with our whole heart. Other times we may come to Him with accusations. (Why weren't you here?)
Martha also came to Jesus. She came in frustration, wondering why she had to do all the work! (Luke 10:40) When Lazarus passed away, Martha went out to Jesus with the "If" statement. If you had been here, this would not have happened. Yet she also believed He could do anything, though she was also confused by His statement that Lazarus would rise again. (John 11:21-24)
Finally we have Lazarus who came at the call of Jesus. He was dead and came to life when Jesus called him.
So how do you come to Jesus? Do you come like Mary, Martha or Lazarus? Are you feeling dead inside and needing to feel the life giving call of Christ? Do you come with questions or accusations? Are you frustrated? Maybe you are coming just to Worship! The neat thing about the way that each one came to Jesus was that He had the perfect response. He spoke truth, He spoke to the need. He had compassion and He restored those in need of restoration.
When you come to Jesus, He will meet you where you are and lead you the rest of the way. Step out in faith. Come! Don't think it will all be easy though. After Lazarus was restored to life, the chief priests sought to kill him to stop his testimony! Life with Christ is not easy in this world, but it is thrilling!
How will you come to Him today?
Following the journey and drawing comparisons between their journey and our own walk with the Lord, I have tried to draw out elements that can be used as a parallel.
This week I was going to talk about Jericho. Then I hit a wall. I encountered my own Jericho in the midst of preparing this message. My Jericho is fear. A wall of fear has been built up in my life that seems to stand strong and impenetrable in the midst of the Promised Land.
While enjoying the blessings God has provided, I still have this thing...this fortress to the enemy. I know when the wall was built, I know the history of this enemy camp....yet long has been the siege against it.
So this week I have been doing battle.
I look at what the Israelites did when they crossed the Jordan. They built a memorial to the Lord. I have been looking back at my own memorials. Remembering and celebrating what the Lord has done in the past in my life, particularly in these areas.
I am also looking at how the walls of Jericho came down....the people worshiped and sought the Lord but he did the work. They had to operate out of faith. I've been trying to do that. Praying more, seeking the Lord, worshiping. I am recalling Scriptures like 2 Tim. 1:7 and trying to stand on faith.
I believe the walls are starting to crumble. However I want to stand on guard, to keep at it...I know that after Jericho falls, there was still Ai. The Israelites let sin in the camp and got their hat handed to them by the enemy. I need to stand on faith but also to walk in victory!
"Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure." (Philippians 2:12-13 Emphasis mine)
Many people will go to the doctor for a regular check-up. They want to make sure everything is working ok and that there are no problems. If there are any problems they want to catch it at the earliest possible chance.
Others ignore their health, too their detriment, out of fear or ignorance.
Just as we shouldn't ignore our physical health, we should also pay attention to our spiritual health as well.
Sadly, many try to muddle through and do things in their own strength. Dare we forget Proverbs 14:12, "There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death."
God works in us. We need to let Him work out what He is working in. We should be willing to let Him shine His light of truth into the very crevices of our life.
What's the worst that can happen?
5 years ago, a man walks into an Amish schoolhouse and shot 10 young girls.
Five of these girls passed away.
The Amish community was devastated and yet they offered up Christ-like forgiveness in the midst of tragedy.
The story did not end there.
A new article in the USA Today shares the story of Terri Roberts, the mother of the perpetrator of this heinous crime.
She has been quietly serving the victims of this crime for years. One girl in particular was left paralyzed and unable to speak. Terri Roberts visits this girl every Thursday and helps care for her, read to her, etc.
It's a beautiful story and I encourage you to read it:
Mother Cares for Son's Victims
As you let that sink in you can see more on the story at Thinking Out Loud, an awesome blog by Paul Wilkinson that you should check out.
I don't want to comment too much on the story, beyond saying that I am appalled that this televangelist would make such a flip comment.
The issue it raises in my mind, though, is what value we, as believers, put on our marriages period.
I am saddened when I see the divorce rate among Christians equaling that of non-Christians. It seems that as we imitate the world, we are also forgetting the plain words spoken by Jesus on the matter:
"Haven't you read," he replied, "that at the beginning the Creator 'made them male and female,' and said, 'For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh'? So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate." "Why then," they asked, "did Moses command that a man give his wife a certificate of divorce and send her away?" Jesus replied, "Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard. But it was not this way from the beginning. I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, and marries another woman commits adultery."(Matthew 19:4-9)
Divorce was clearly not part of God's plan. In fact, it says that it was because their hearts were hard that Moses even spoke to the subject.
Hardened hearts should scare the HELL out of every Christian.
Divorcing a sick spouse is, in itself, sickening. And while we're thinking about it, might I add that way too much justification takes place in Christian circles, when it comes to the breakup of marriages--"I was lonely; I was bored; I was dissatisfied; He could never make me happy; she didn't meet my needs; I hated his job; she wasn't submissive; he didn't take leadership seriously..." Unless something's changed overnight, we don't live in a perfect world--we live in hopes of a perfect heaven, where Jesus meets our every need.
However, there is another issue at play here as well. While we may think we would never divorce because of illness, the enemy may gain ground in our marriages all the same. Are we even honoring our spouses? Where do we place our priorities? Are we chasing after our own pleasures or are we seeking to honor and bless the spouse (and maybe kids) that God has blessed us with?
Jesus loved extravagantly--sacrificially. He laid down His life for us out of love, yet in some marriages, it seems we forget to love as Christ loved and each seeks to get their own way.
It's a challenge to us all.
Can we love our spouses as Christ loved us? Will we put their needs and wants above our own? If both husband and wife seek to do that, then no matter what response it gains in the home, a harvest of righteousness is being sown, and there is peace in obedience.
Ultimately we are called to love though, without expecting a return!
I would love to see more Christians putting a priority on their marriages, above their own desires.
*Since this is about marriage, my wife and I wrote this piece together.
Today's Guest is Phil Callaway.
I've been enjoying Phil's articles in the Salvation Army magazine, Faith and Friends, for awhile now.
Phil Callaway is an award-winning author, speaker and daddy of three. The best-selling author of twenty-four books, Phil has been called "the funniest Canadian alive," but never by his high school teachers. He is a frequent guest on national radio and TV, and his humorous stories on family life have been featured in hundreds of magazines worldwide. But he insists that his greatest achievement was convincing his wife to marry him. Phil lives in Alberta, Canada with his high school sweetheart. They are married.
And now without further delay, on to the questions:
1. I have to ask about your new book, To Be Perfectly Honest. Why did you decide to write a book on honesty?
I've written somewhere in the neighborhood of 25 books. Only two titles have been at the suggestion of publishers. This was the second. For some reason they singled me out as a guy they could get to tell the unadulterated truth about my struggle to be 100% truthful. Or else they thought I have a problem telling the truth and this would be a good way for me to repent! They asked me to keep a diary of telling the whole truth for nothing but a year. It's been a grand adventure.
2. How hard was it to tell the truth?
3. You use humor to convey Biblical truth. Do you find people respond well to that approach?
It's funny. When I hear that question the first thing that comes to mind is that many have raked me over the coals for my use of humor to communicate the good news of Jesus Christ. One guy phoned to tell me, "We're in the last days here, this is hardly a time for laughter." I said, "Is that you Dad?" He didn't find that funny. The truth is, I can't stop laughing because the greatest punchline in all the world is that God loves the likes of me. Amazing. The vast majority, maybe 99.6 percent, have applauded the humor approach. I'm able to speak 100 times a year around the world precisely because I use humor. I'm a rather dull preacher. You wouldn't want to hear me preach. But I can tell stories so people will listen and these stories contain Scripture and very good news, the truth that God's grace is there for all of us. Much of my speaking is to secular audiences and again, it's the humor that gets me there. But when I'm there they will hear the story of my life, how I learned to stop chasing stuff that won't satisfy, the importance of leaving a legacy, and how I'd be dead without faith. I'm criticized by some believers who haven't read my books or heard me speak. They think I'm just a funny, shallow guy. But we've been through deep difficulties and the best humor is always born in adversity.
4. You write regularly in the Salvation Army mag, Faith and Friends. How did that relationship develop?
5. What do you hope people take away from your writing?
Oh, I hope they have a grin on their face when they close the book. A grin that comes from knowing that what we see around us isn't all there is. THat no matter what we're experiencing right now, God loves us, He has a plan and it's amazing. And we get eternity thrown in, so that's not a bad little bonus!
Thanks so much sir!
You're very welcome, Rick. I wish you all the best with the blog.To see past 5 Questions guests see 5 questions page under the tab above.
Today's Guest is one of my all-time favorite authors, Philip Yancey.
He is also an author I highly recommend.
Philip Yancey began his career as Editor of Campus Life Magazine. More than 15 million people have read his books since he was first published in 1977. His books have been translated into 35 languages. Philip explores the most basic questions and deepest mysteries of Christian faith and invites readers to join him on his journeys. His books have earned recognition including two Christian Book of the Year awards and 13 Gold Medallion awards.
And now without further delay, on to the questions:
1. Of all the books you have written, do you have a favorite?
Yes, Soul Survivor is my favorite, because in it I wrote about 13 of my heroes, people (some dead, some living) who shaped my faith and had a profound effect on me. I recommend that exercise to everyone: to give serious thought to people who have helped formed you--more, people you want to follow as role models. Interestingly, my own favorite books are not necessarily the best sellers. I like Soul Survivor, The Gift of Pain, and Reaching for the Invisible God, none of which topped the sales charts. A writer seldom knows what will connect most strongly with readers.
2. What do you see is the difference between mercy and grace?
The classic distinction is between grace (getting what you don't deserve) and mercy (not getting what you do deserve). There's an element of truth. We believe that as God judges our behavior, much mercy is involved, and we don't get what we deserve. Grace goes further, lavishing on us God's forgiveness and love that go well beyond modifications of justice and turn upside down the laws of the universe. In my book, I coin the word Ungrace to describe the karma-like law of the jungle that applies in finance, nature, foreign policy, and so many places. Grace cuts right across that.
3. How do you balance grace and truth when it comes to issues of sin?
It's important to me to realize that I'm not the judge, God is. If I see someone engaging in behavior I disapprove of, my instinct is to declare myself, to feel superior, to point out the flaw in the other person. When I give in to that instinct, I become the Pharisee that Paul describes do well in Romans 2-3. I'm not the judge; more, my own judgmentalism may be worse than what I'm judging--after all, Paul's sense of superiority led him to torture Christians. My job is to love people of whom I morally disapprove. I let God worry about the balancing act; I'm incapable of that. Of course, there are roles we assume--youth director, pastor, employer, parent--which require us to make difficult choices between grace and truth because the role sets us up as a kind of judge. But in every day life I must remind myself that I'm called to present God's love to the undeserving. That God loves good people isn't Good News; it's old news you can find in every religion. The radical nature of grace expresses God's love for bad people.
4. Your most recent book, What Good is God, again asks the tough questions. Do you ever hesitate in verbalizing what many are probably afraid to say or ask?
5. You have encouraged people around the world, who encourages you in your relationship with God?
My "pastors" are mostly books, by people like Eugene Peterson, Jurgen Moltmann, Henri Nouwen, Frederick Buechner. I look to them for inspiration and wisdom. My encouragers are my readers who write me or post comments on my website or on Facebook reminding me that I am not alone, that my efforts do make a difference, that we struggle together along a path, always seeing through a glass darkly, in hope of one day seeing the light face to face.Well there you go. I would encourage you to check out all of Philip Yancey's books and to visit his website: philipyancey.com Philip Yancey is on Facebook as well!
To see past 5 Questions guests see 5 questions page under the tab above.
Yeah that works. Do you ever feel like that? Work, family, just life in general can seem to pile up to the point where you feel like screaming. At times, I feel like that metal ball in a pinball machine, bouncing all around, off the sides and just when you think you may be coming to a place of rest, you get smacked hard and start the whole process over again!
Maybe that's why I have been drawn to the Psalms lately. This past year, I felt God really talking to me about letting some things go. Nothing major. More like saying no to things, cutting out some of the distractions, just setting priorities. I was in a bit of a winter season.
As much as you would like it to, life doesn't slow down. Yet in reading the Psalms, I find my heart being renewed. The Psalms are awesome because there is so much going on. David and the other psalmists express a lot of emotion. At times it's like a roller coaster in the midst of the Psalms. Up and down, lamentations and praise. Then there is something more...a word found 71 times in the Psalms.
When coming across this word in the Psalms, the reader is invited to pause and to meditate or reflect on the message. At least that is what has been happening to me. I come across Selah and I stop and re-read the passage. I reflect on what is being said. I meditate on the Word.
My life feels like the Psalms. Up and down, lamentations and praise. Yet in the midst of all of it, I feel God calling me to rest. To slow down and reflect. To pause. A friend called it a Selah moment. I like that.
No mater where you are at right now, I invite you to take a Selah moment with the King of Kings!
Psalm 46:10, "Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations,I will be exalted in the earth!"
Just A Thought
This true story is about how British spies decided to deceive the Germans into believing they would be invading somewhere other than where they actually intended to invade. The ruse involved acquiring a dead body and over a 3+ month period creating a "life story" for this dead man. The spies created an entire fantasy around this body. They gave him a childhood, a fiance, character traits and a social life. All things the individual did not have in real life. The body was that of an individual devoid of family and friends who ultimately took his own life. His fake past was better than his real one.
For whatever reason, this story brought to mind the Israelites flight from Egypt. Specifically the lies they created and believed about their past. After fleeing a life of misery, when things did not happen the way they wanted on the way to the Promised Land, they looked back with longing to a life that did not exist. "Was it really that bad in Egypt?" The land they left sounded better than the future God had planned for them.
Sadly, I know many who say similar things today.
I have heard some Christians say that things were "easier/better" before they became Christians. When rough times hit they convince themselves that their "past" was not so bad after all. Hey I've done it myself.
We forget that we are dead to the past! We are new Creations in Christ Jesus!
Live like it!
Today's Guest is Andrew Farley. Mr. Farley did an interview with me back in May 2010 about his book, The Naked Gospel, and has returned for a discussion about his most recent book, God Without Religion.
Andrew Farley is a senior pastor of Ecclesia. He serves as the Faculty Adviser for InterVarsity Christian Fellowship and speaks to Christian Campus groups ad churches around the US and Canada. He is also an Associate Professor of Applied Linguistics at Texas Tech University.
He is also an author I highly recommend.
And now without further delay, on to the questions:
1. Why should people read your new book, God Without Religion?
The most empowering truth we can ever encounter is that we possess all of Christ in every moment, no matter what. That's grace.
Grace isn't just for those who already feel burned out. Grace isn't just for when we've sinned. In God's grace, He equipped us with the powerful presence of Christ himself.
In this book, I'm presenting the radical, Scriptural truths that lead us to a place of dependency on Christ like never before. We’re designed to live from Christ, not merely for Him. But we have to shift our eyes off of our selves and our sins in order to live from Christ. God’s grace enables us to do that.
2. As in your previous book, you tackle topics that many churches would consider to be untouchable. In your new book you touch on the Law, pre-destination, communion, baptism, forgiveness, etc. How are people responding to this book?
It’s love it or hate it.
I basically get two kinds of email – the kind that says “God used this book to refocus my life back on Jesus” or another kind of email laced with anger, accusation, and name calling.
Fortunately, I’m surrounded by encouraging friends who remind me that not everyone will be happy with the idea of “God without religion.” And the book is doing really well – it has already hit three bestseller lists (on Amazon, Christian Booksellers Association, and The Washington Post). These are early signs that loads of people love Jesus but have been burned by the performance mentality of religion.
3. Throughout God Without Religion you seem to be point out the context the Scriptures were written in. Do you think, as believers, we tend to forget to read the context?
Absolutely. Whether it’s wrestling with eternal security in Hebrews, or faith and works in James, or some other theological concern, I’m finding that many of us have grown accustomed to looking at Scripture in tiny chunks, void of any context at all.
At my website, AndrewFarley.org, I dialogue with dozens of Christians from all over the globe every day, and I’d say that more than half of the Scriptural questions I receive can be answered simply by looking to context – the surrounding verses.
In my own study, I have to continually remember that, because I grew up with a lot of Scripture memory and recitation of single verses. I have to remember to slow down, read a paragraph or a page surrounding an idea, or even begin back at the beginning of an epistle.
Getting the bird’s eye view is essential.
Identity is everything. Galatians 6:15 says, “neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything; what counts is a new creation.”
I’m going to live out who I believe I am. If I think I’m a dirty, rotten sinner at the core, then I’m going to live that out. If I believe I’m a forgiven, cleansed, righteous saint, I’m going to live that out. So which identity do we have?
Unfortunately, it seems like the popular answer to that question is “both.” Many Christians seem satisfied to live out a false duality as sinner and saint. We might think it’s humble to see ourselves as dirty, rotten sinners with wicked hearts before God. But true humility is saying the same as God says about us, no more and no less.
God says that we have become His righteousness. He claims to have given us a new heart, a new mind (the mind of Christ), a new spirit, and His own Spirit living within us. Given these claims, is it really humble (or accurate!) to think of ourselves as dirty sinners with wicked hearts that want to sin? No! Paul tells us that our old self died and that we became obedient from the heart.
Yes, we still commit sins when we are enticed by the flesh. But we aren’t dirty, ugly people. Jesus Christ changed our core when he recreated us for good works. In “God Without Religion,” I’m talking about the heart surgery God performed on us and why it matters for every moment of the day.
Identity is everything.5. Would it be fair to say a major theme in your book is for believers to stop trying to gain something God has already granted you?
Yeah, we’re asking for forgiveness as if God is going to zap us from Heaven with a new portion of forgiveness and cleansing. But the truth is that Jesus died once and it worked. His blood sacrifice means that we are forgiven people, “once for all,” as Hebrews put it. We don’t have to plead and beg for forgiveness. We Christians are forgiven people, period.
We’re waiting and hoping to get closer to God. We picture ourselves someday arriving at a place of intimacy with God, but we’re not there yet, we think. Well, the new covenant message is that we were united with Christ, raised and seated with Him, and we became “one spirit with Him”, 1 Corinthians says.
So how close is your Jesus?
Apparently, we are clean, and we are close. It’s time that we the church wake up to the reality of our birthright, the wealth of our inheritance that we already possess.
It’s time that we wake up to the reality of God, without religion.Thank You so much Andrew!
Thanks for the opportunity Rick!
Well there you go. I would encourage you to check out Andrew's website, AndrewFarley.org and if you haven't read it yet, pick up a copy of God Without Religion!
To see past 5 Questions guests see 5 questions page under the tab above.
I could not put a finger on my feelings of late. I just...I don't know, I want something more than humdrum Christianity.
I am tired of just the same old routine where Christians debate about the latest hot button issue, backed by Biblical texts proving their view is the right one and is the "ordained by God" way of looking at things.
I realized I am tired. As I walked through the Christian bookstore I saw lots of books about a wide range of topics but could not find the one I was looking for...the one that says, "Hey...forget everything else, there is a world outside your door and people are living and dying and going to hell...why don't you get off your butt, go deeper with God and do something about it."
I just want to know Him more and to share Him with those around me.
Then, tonight I saw this from Compassion:
It is so easy to get caught up in keeping up with the Joneses.
Why not do something else with your time and money.
Sponsor a child, save a life, share the good news.
Children, the elderly, the alcoholic, the addict, the abused and the abuser...they all need Jesus Christ.
If you can't give to great orgs like Compassion, can you give of your time to the homeless man on the street?
There is more to life than keeping up with the Joneses.
Today's guest is a true American hero. Louis Zamperini was an Olympic athlete and a prisoner of war during WW2. When his ship crashed in the Pacific, he drifted for 47 days and over 2,000 miles into Japanese controlled waters. He was tortured for 2 years before the war came to an end. His story continued and eventually wove it's way to the Cross of Calvary.
He has been featured on CBS, the Today Show and was most recently the subject of author Laura Hillenbrand's most recent book, Unbroken.
Today, at 94, Louis Zamperini maintains a busy speaking schedule and shares his story with audiences around the nation.
Here is my short interview with this legend of WW2.
Hello Mr. Zamperini,
1. You were an Olympic athlete (1936) and went to Berlin for the Games. What was the best part of that experience?
2. During WW2 you crashed at sea and drifted for 47 days and then spent 2 years as a POW. Was there a moment where you felt like giving up?
Just the opposite. I was too busy thinking about living to worry about dying.
3. After coming home you suffered from PTSD and struggled with alcohol before finding Jesus Christ. How immediate was the change in your life?
In the blink of an eye.
4. What has the Lord taught you about forgiveness?
Forgiveness is a gift you give yourself. Hate and anger make you grow old, quickly. Forgiveness is a complete healing. Mark Twain said, "Forgiveness is the scent of the flower on the heel that crushed it."
5. What do you hope people take away from your story?
1) Be Prepared (for all things)
2) Be Hardy (learn how to overcome obstacles)
3) Forgive your enemies.
Thank you so much for taking the time to do this Mr. Zamperini.To see past 5 Questions guests see the 5 questions page under the tab above.
Here are the 3 ministers I am talking about:
Francis Chan - I've never read Crazy Love. I know Francis Chan is quite popular though. I was impressed with this bit in Christianity Today:
According to one comment he made in a sermon, Chan gives away about 90 percent of his income (though his church administrator preferred the phrase "most of his income"). Chan doesn't take a salary from his church, and his book royalties, which total about $500,000, mostly go to organizations like International Justice Mission, which rescues sex slaves in foreign countries.Then last year, Pastor Chan decided to do more. He stepped down from the pulpit, went off the grid for a few months and he and his family went to minister overseas. He is back now and working in San Francisco. He is still writing. There was no scandal, he just wanted to go deeper with God.
John Piper - Many were shocked when John Piper announced last year that he would not preach, write or blog for eight months. He stepped away from ministry to spend time cultivating his marriage and to work on personal issues like pride. He surrounded himself with accountability partners and went out of the public eye. Again, no scandal...just a man wanting to go deeper with God.
In this case, Piper was grieved by the pride he noticed creeping into his life and saw the way it impacted his family and decided to do something about it.
C.J. Mahaney - This author and ministry leader stepped down recently when he was made aware of personal failings sch as pride, hypocrisy, etc. Again, no scandal, just a man made aware of his sin who decided to do something about it. In this case, Sovereign Grace Ministries, the ministry he leads, has also been examining their own failings in these areas as well.
All of this reminds me of the Scripture found in Philippians 2:12 which talks about, "Working out your salvation with fear and trembling!"
There's another one in 2 Cor. 13:5 as well: Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you fail to meet the test! "
I see these stories and it encourages me. I should be examining my heart as well and listening to my accountability partners. I pray God continues to convict not only the "well known" men and women of God but all of us!
I also pray we are humble enough to respond to his conviction!
HTV1....is a national television news network in Croatia. Recently they aired a piece on the Church of Christ in Croatia and the story was very positive. It has been translated into English and put on YouTube! I wanted to share it here so you would be encouraged to pray for our brothers and sisters in Croatia. On a side note, my wife Sarah and I know most of the ones interviewed.
Today's guest is Tom Davis. He is the president of Children's HopeChest, an international child advocacy organization. He is also the author of the fiction books, Scared and Priceless. His non-fiction works include Fields of the Fatherless, Red Letters and Confessions of a Good Christian Guy. He and his wife Emily have 7 children, including 2 adopted daughters from Russia.
Tom also maintains a blog on Beliefnet called Red Letters (Living the Words of Jesus). I would encourage you to check it out.
I had the pleasure of chatting with Tom Davis over the phone recently. This interview is an edited transcription of that call.
1. At what point did you know that you had to write about and model compassionate living?
That’s a long story. I was a youth pastor in Dallas, TX and we had a great youth group; looking at the number of kids it was very successful. I began my Masters in Theology and I started seeing all these verses about God’s heart for the poor, the widows, the orphans, the oppressed, the slave--verse after verse. Here we were, pretty comfortable in more of an affluent, middle upper-class neighbourhood. I thought, here is this huge chunk of the Gospel we are not living out as a church or as a youth ministry. So we really wrestled with that a lot and prayed about it a lot.
You know, in James 1:27 it says, pure and undefiled religion is caring for widows and orphans in their distress, so I felt like we really needed to do something to try to care for widows and orphans. I started looking around at ministries locally and couldn’t find any that were doing this. So, in 1997, I took about 35 people from our youth group and our church, and we went to Vladimir, Russia and did a camp for 150 orphans. I had no idea what I was walking into-- I just knew this was an orphan camp and we were going to go over there and do what we could to help.
I started studying about the orphan problem in Russia and at the time there were millions of kids in state-run orphanages. I learned that they are forced to leave at 15-16 years old. Within 2 years, because of hopelessness, about 15-20% of them will commit suicide. About 60% of the girls will end up in prostitution or being sexually trafficked. About 70% of the boys will end up in prison or living on the streets. (This is all still true today.) It just broke my heart; I couldn’t believe that this is what these kids were facing at such a young age—the same age as the kids in my youth group. I started thinking about these kids getting out, not having a mom, a dad, any support system anywhere and being put in a situation where they would have to prostitute themselves in order to have a roof over their heads. It was the height of injustice to me, I just couldn’t believe in our world, with all our technology, all the forms of media available, that all of this is going on.
When we went, I expected to find kids with lots of problems-- you know, that we would be breaking up fights in the camp and kids wouldn’t want to have anything to do with us. It was the exact opposite. Once we showed these kids a little love, they just came alive. We were throwing them in the air, playing with them, tucking them in at night--they became like our kids for those 2 weeks. I had heard about God’s heart for orphans, the broken and the poor, but that was the first time I really experienced God’s heart for the poor. Here were these kids whom He loved, cared about, wanted good things for, whom He had created in His image, yet because of their circumstances were not experiencing the abundant life that Christ wanted. The enemy had come to kill, steal and destroy.
So out of that trip, (that was my whole foray into this,) we met a little girl. I came walking down the stairs one day and my wife had this little girl, Anya’s hand in one of hers, and some Russian wildflowers in the other, and we were just smitten with her. We couldn’t imagine her getting out in a few short years having to face what she was going to face. We were 22 and 26 years old when we started the adoption process and it took us a year. We adopted Anya, who was 11 at the time, and she came home with us in 1998. Our hearts had been broken for these kids, so we began looking at what we could do to help them not end up in those circumstances when they could no longer stay in the orphanages. That’s why I kept going back and helping establish programs and how we ended up with Children’s Hope Chest and all that we do now.
2. So how do you maintain hope with all the brokenness, pain and suffering you see around the world?
That is a fantastic question, Rick. It’s what I am doing my doctorate on right now believe it or not. The content of my doctorate is, “Where does hope come from? Especially in the midst of some of the most difficult circumstances, how do people maintain hope?”
I have personally met some people with heart-breaking stories. There were 2 girls in that camp in 1997, named Sveta and Lida . (At the time we were just beginning some of the programs we now have for girls. Today we place girls in what are called ‘family centers,’ where they live with a Christian couple, in an independent living program where 4-5 girls live together and get their education. They receive help from people who love them and care about them while they establish themselves in life.) Sveta got really involved in our programs; Lida didn’t. Sveta got married, got in our Family Center program, graduated college, and did incredibly well. She’s doing great to this day.
Lida, because we lost track of her, didn’t have the benefit of the programs; she got caught in the wrong crowd and was promised a better life from these people she did not know were traffickers. She was forced to do what traffickers do to girls, and have 20-30 clients a day. She was working this truck stop and a trucker, one of her “clients” had his way with her, killed her and threw her out the door and she was found in a ditch. She was buried in a tomb, in a graveyard; police never investigated. We never found her grave. She was buried among hundreds of girls who had nothing more than a wooden plaque saying “Unknown Girl,” over their graves among the weeds. Those situations are incredibly heartbreaking.
I think the hope comes from realizing that, for one, you are making a difference as an organization; with our partners we are seeing the lives of girls change. In fact, in the regions we work in, instead of the 60% of girls ending up in prostitution, it’s less than a half a percent. We know where the girls are and with God’s help and many other peoples help, we are transforming what’s happening to those kids. So I am a real firm believer in John 10:10 which says that “the thief comes to kill, steal and destroy, but I have come that they might have life and life abundantly.” How does the abundant life come? It comes when God’s people begin to get the heart for the things He has the heart for, to get engaged in His work and begin to make differences and instead of 60% of the girls ending up in prostitution and sex trafficking, it’s virtually 0% because people are praying, people are involved, people are helping to establish programs; they are taking a personal interest and it changes everything. To me that is where the hope comes from. It’s seeing the people of God being who they are supposed to be on this earth by combating issues of injustice, by using their voice to make a difference, no matter how small or how big of a circle they have. Everybody has influence, everybody can do something.
3. You started off writing non-fiction books and then moved to fiction books. Do you feel people respond differently to the 2 types of books?
What I have found is that there are 2 totally different audiences. I wrote the non-fiction because, at the time of the first book, Fields of the Fatherless, there was virtually nothing out there on these issues, on God’s heart for orphans, on why people should be involved, how to be involved, etc…, so the non-fiction ones are kind of ‘how-to’ books. What I started to realize was that people hear so many statistics all the time and get statistic weary. They don’t know what to do with that, they don’t know what to do with those numbers and the numbers don’t connect to lives for them, so I thought, what if I could write a book that was based upon one of these statistics but it was a real life story of a real little boy or girl that goes through these kinds of things every day and to put flesh on that statistic, and let people see the world through their eyes, walk in their shoes and experience what it would be like to be them? That’s how the novels were birthed. People are probably moved a lot deeper by reading the novels, but you have fiction readers who predominately read novels, and then non-fiction readers and that’s predominately what they read. It was just a way to reach more people in a different way, in a way especially for people who are thinking about going over to a place like Africa or Russia or who have never been and want to know what it is like, [so they can] enmesh themselves in these stories based on true life, and see what’s going on, see the spiritual battle and all that is happening and that there is a thread of redemption throughout ,so that it does bring hope.
4. So what is the ministry of Children’s Hope Chest?
The ministry of Children’s Hope Chest is primarily to live out to the best of our ability James 1:27, which is caring for widows and orphans in their distress. So we seek after the least of these. We try to go into places where many people don’t. Russia would be an example: there are not a lot of big organizations in Russia. Swaziland, [which has] the highest rate of HIV infection in the world, -- over 40%-- is just a devastated place, which needs a lot of hope, a lot of help. We go into those areas where we provide not only emergency assistance-- we see these orphan communities are starving to death, so we have to do emergency aid, food, clean water-- but we have a three-prong development plan: approximately a 10-year plan called Survive, Thrive and Succeed. The Survive phase is all about meeting the emergency need. Then it moves from ‘survive’ to ‘thrive’, so we start looking at how can we rebuild this community or the lives of these kids, how can we help them overcome this cycle of poverty and orphanhood by helping to get them educated, and by teaching them life skills. The final phase, the ‘succeed’ phase, is a micro-enterprise approach where we are working ourselves out of a job. We will establish leadership academies where we are training people how to be Christian leaders, how to have job skills, how to start a business, how to be entrepreneurial; we’re giving them seed money to help start their own local businesses that work in their context.
Our fundamental belief is that if you reach a generation, a generation will reach itself. So once we start to care for those orphans and turn their lives around, they become successful. They go back into those orphanages and those communities where they used to be; they know what it was like better than anybody, then help provide those solutions and transform what’s happening in their own country.
5. Not everyone can go overseas so what are some steps the average person can take to make the need known and to help the hurting?
I think there are so many things people can do. Globalization has provided a way for anybody to get connected and to make a deep and significant impact in the life of somebody else. We do that via the internet where we have people who pray-- praying is a big part, I’m a big believer in that. Many of these orphans don’t have anyone to pray for them. They have no physical covering/protection and no spiritual covering either. We just did a big youth conference with about 5,000 kids and had a significant time of prayer and they caught the heart and vision for this and now they are praying for these orphanages by name. I think there are ways people can get involved by being advocates. Educate yourselves, first of all, on these issues. If your concern is sex-trafficking for example, read books like Priceless, read other books. Get educated so you know what’s happening and what’s going on.
Secondly, gather a group of people around you who have the same heart, and began to say “God what can we do?” I just got a letter from a family in NY, that heard that they could change the life of an orphan by helping to pay for their education. Their little girls, who are 7 and 9 years old, couldn’t believe that another little girl would not have the opportunity to go to school. They gave up all of their birthday money, they are doing lemonade sales, whatever they can and they are providing for a little girl in Africa who has touched their heart and they are seeing that she is completely taken care of, she’s going to school and these girls’ lives are just changed; they are looking for any way that they can help this little girl. These are young kids who have never been over to Africa but they are helping this other little girl just like them. I think it’s just a matter of saying “God, you show me what can I do?”
Look at it in this respect:150 million orphans in the world is a huge number, but if less than 7% of people did something like what those little girls did for an orphan, less than 7%, there’d be no orphan problem! Orphans wouldn’t be subjected to malnourishment, dying of preventable and treatable diseases and being trafficked. Because there are plenty of places and programs they can get into if people would just mobilize themselves and take some steps in the right direction to say “ok, what can I do?”
Children’s Hope Chest is a small to medium size organization, but there are a lot of those kinds of organizations out there who have a waiting list of kids to get into programs and into schools, into homes, if people just get involved. So I would start asking those questions of “what can I do?”, and making those prayers of “God you show me what to do and I’ll do it,” and gathering other people around you. I’m telling you, you can do incredible things that way!
Thank you so much for taking the time to do this Tom.
Insert a gagging noise here.
Who hasn't experienced the happy, happy, joy, joy Christians who want no one to mention adversity and seem to deny the reality that bad things DO happen? I remember one time someone asked how my wife was, I mentioned she had a cold and then was blasted for "negatively confessing" these things.
What does the Bible say about joy? I like Proverbs 17:22, "A joyful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones."
What do we have to be joyful about anyways?
"For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a FUTURE and a HOPE." Jeremiah 29:11
We have a HOPE AND A FUTURE! That is what we have to be joyful about.
Yeah bad things happen. However we should remember this: 2 Corinthians 4:8-9 says, "We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed."
There is also this passage in Romans: Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, "For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered." No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:35-39
Life isn't always peaches and cream...my prayer for you is this: May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy, giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. Colossians 1:11-14
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope. Romans 15:13
I also love to be challenged.
Then I read 3 books by Tom Davis.
Fields of the Fatherless, Scared and Priceless - These 3 books have so disturbed me, so challenged me, I never want to go back to resting on my laurels...and the last 2 are FICTION books!
This was the first book I read. Scared.
This was the first fiction book that made me cry. It also had me praying harder than I ever have for those suffering in Africa. I already sponsor a child via Compassion but this made me want to sponsor a dozen more via Compassion and Tom's ministry, Children's Hope Chest. Though the story is fiction, the entire novel is based on true events and THAT is very disturbing. My wife and I spent time talking about this book and trying to figure out ways we can help. Africa has been on my heart since I was a teen, now even more so.
After reading his previous novel, I decided to pick up his next one, Priceless.
Priceless deals with the sex-trade industry, primarily in Russia. Readers of this blog know that I have made quite a few posts regarding the sex trade industry and ways to help those people caught in its insidious web. From interviews with the head of the International Justice Mission and Free the Slaves to links to Salvation Army programs, I feel this is an often overlooked area that we as believers should do more about.
The great thing about Tom's books are that they give you just such an opportunity. He doesn't want you to just read a novel and walk away. You are given the means to act.
This book, Fields of the Fatherless, is all about being the hands and feet of Jesus to a hurting world. It is not one of these guilt trip type of books. You don't feel beat over the head with misery and guilt. Instead, I found myself INSPIRED to act.
All 3 of these books have left me discomfited in a good way. It has been nearly a year since I read them and I still chew on the lessons learned and try to come up with new ways to reach out to those in need.
I challenge you to pick any and all of these books.
Today it is Independence Day in the US. This is the day, for you history buffs or those without a knowledge of US History, that the US gained independence from England and set a new course.
However, for me it is DEPENDENCE Day. Today is just another day for me. Another day where I cannot do things in my own strength. Another day where I recognize that I need help, the help only God can give. I am fully dependent on Him.
You see I know I am a weak person. James 3:2 says, "For we all stumble in many ways. And if anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle his whole body."
I stumble in many ways. I have done this literally as well. I used to be a bit of a klutz. The thing about stumbling is that when you start to stumble or fall, you invariably reach out for something secure to steady yourself. I do that to. I grab a hold of the ROCK!
I know I am weak and need help. I fully admit that I am dependent on the King of Kings. I would not have it any other way!
"But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong. " (2 Corinthians 12:9-10)
If you are not ashamed to admit how weak you are then I say to you as well, "Happy Dependence Day!"