Book Review – I Will: Nine Traits of the Outwardly Focused Christian

I picked up a book back in December, by Thom Rainer, called “I Will: Nine Traits of the Outwardly Focused Christian,” but it wasn’t until recently that I actually took the time to read it. It’s a short read–just a little over 100 pages–so this is going to be a really quick review.

wp-image-1867108290jpg.jpgI’m not sure what I expected when I picked up the book, but I think I thought it was going to be more about missions. So, I was a little surprised to find out that it’s actually directed towards believers.

It’s no secret that the state of the American church is in disarray. As Rainer put it, “Somewhere in the twentieth century, believers, particularly in America, began to shift from an attitude of self-sacrificing service to God and worship of God, to consumer-focused, self-servicing attitudes” (p. 30). This statement pretty much sums up the purpose of the book: to make believers aware of this fact (if we weren’t already) and to show us the way back.

Rainer talks about our attitudes as believers; the importance of being a growing member of a church, and worshiping in community; serving (both in and outside of the church); being a giver; sharing the gospel; and avoiding the traps of what he calls Churchianity— which he defines as “practicing our church and religious beliefs according to human standards rather than biblical guidelines” (p.93).

Overall, I think this is a good book for believers who find themselves often complaining or are unsatisfied with the churches they attend. If you find yourself constantly complaining about the music, the message, the parking, the ministries, etc., then perhaps you may want to pick up a copy of this book, take a step back, and rethink the purpose of the church. (Honestly, I think that most believers have felt frustrated with the church at some point in their walk, but our attitude and how we react–whether or not we allow God to change our heart–makes all the difference.)

After reading this book you should come away asking what you can do for the church, rather than what the church can do for you. So…what will you do?

Take care, and God bless!

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The Counsel of Elders

The other day I was flipping through my Flipboard (lol) when I came across this article about Silicon Valley and its Peter Pan Syndrome. Basically it’s a commentary, by Jeffrey Sonnenfeld, on how most technology firms these days like to keep a staff of young employees and often force out their older employees (or refuse to hire them). Sonnenfeld noted that the median age of Google employees, for instance, is 29. He then went on to describe why this is a mistake and how much we can gain and have gained from people over age 35 in various industries. It was actually a great commentary that I shared on my Twitter feed. (Additionally, just after I began working on this blog, I came across a similar article in the Washington Post discussing ageism in the workplace.)

After reading and contemplating the content of the article, I began thinking about another person who thought that those older than him brought little to the table: King Rehoboam.

Now, king Rehoboam took the throne after his father Solomon, son of David, son of Jesse (don’t ask me why I felt like providing the geneology, lol, maybe I had too much coffee), and Rehoboam had some pretty big shoes to fill. But in 2 Chronicles 10, we read about how after Solomon’s death, the people of Israel come to Rehoboam and request that their load be lightened–labor and tax-wise–and he tells them to let him think about it, and he’d have a response for them in three days. King Rehoboam first asks his father’s advisors as to how he should respond…

 The older counselors replied, “If you are good to these people and do your best to please them and give them a favorable answer, they will always be your loyal subjects.” But Rehoboam rejected the advice of the older men and instead asked the opinion of the young men who had grown up with him and were now his advisers. “What is your advice?” he asked them. “How should I answer these people who want me to lighten the burdens imposed by my father?” The young men replied, “This is what you should tell those complainers who want a lighter burden: ‘My little finger is thicker than my father’s waist! Yes, my father laid heavy burdens on you, but I’m going to make them even heavier! My father beat you with whips, but I will beat you with scorpions!’” ~ 2 Chronicles 10:7-11, NLT

We all know how this story ends. Rehoboam, rejects the advice given by his elders and responds as his peers told him to, and this was the wrong answer! In fact, this is the determining factor of Israel’s split from Judah; creating the northern and southern kingdoms.

When I first read this, I thought, “what a spoiled rotten, thoughtless, stubborn, little teenager!” but then, I went on to read in 2 Chronicles 12 that Rehoboam was actually 41 years old when he took over the kingdom! He was a grown adult behaving as a child!

So, here I am, having just read these two things–the article/commentary and 2 Chronicles 10–and I’m recognizing how we can, at any age, fall into this trap of ignoring and holding in contempt, the wisdom of our elders. I believe that we can become so consumed in the way we do things now and doing things “the right way,” or our way, or improving upon the way things have been done, that we negate the people who have been doing those same things in generations past. By doing so we attempt to deny the skill, wisdom, and knowledge of those who came before us; when the truth is, we couldn’t do or wouldn’t have most of the things we do today, if they weren’t out there “doing” before us. We don’t create from scratch…we simply build upon the foundation that’s been laid before us.

Proverbs 4:6-9, NIV

Rehoboam’s elderly counsel were the same men that counseled his father; and according to the Bible, Solomon was the wisest person to have ever lived. So, why do we, like Rehoboam, think that our way is best, and deny the wisdom and counsel of those who’ve gone before us? Why do we think that those older than us have nothing to bring to the table or have nothing of value to offer us?

Now, this isn’t to say that we don’t have something new or better to offer, but that we respect and accept the fact that our elders laid the foundation for us to have what we have, have provided a path for the future, and are still capable of providing much insight and wisdom; much like we are doing for those who will follow us. Neither does it mean that we neglect to seek the counsel and wisdom of God, for as the Word says, “true wisdom and power are found in God; counsel and understanding are His” (Job 12:13, NLT) and “God looks down from heaven on the entire human race; He looks to see if anyone is truly wise, if anyone seeks God” (Psalm 53:2, NLT).

Therefore, let us not neglect or scorn the wisdom of our elders, but take it into consideration, contemplate upon the words and advice of those who’ve gone before us, and compare it to what the Bible says and let’s not act harshly, rebelliously, or rashly, but be considerate and respectful of the opinions of others.

If you become wise, you will be the one to benefit.
If you scorn wisdom, you will be the one to suffer. ~ Proverbs 9:12, NLT

Fools think their own way is right,
but the wise listen to others. ~ Proverbs 12:15, NLT

Pride leads to conflict;
those who take advice are wise. – Proverbs 13:10, NLT

Wise people think before they act;
fools don’t—and even brag about their foolishness. ~ Proverbs 13:16, NLT

Walk with the wise and become wise;
associate with fools and get in trouble. ~ Proverbs 13:20, NLT

If you listen to constructive criticism,
you will be at home among the wise. ~ Proverbs 15:31, NLT

Treat People the Way God Treats You

Don’t treat people the way they treat you. Treat people the way God treats you. ~ Dave Willis

The other day I saw a meme shared by Focus on the Family in my Facebook news feed, with the above quote. I immediately shared it, thinking “Yes! Someone else gets it!”

The truth is, we live in a society in which we measure out things like, love, grace, and respect in the measure that it’s given to us; but the Word tells us to live otherwise.

In Matthew 7:12, Jesus Himself, says “Do to others whatever you would like them to do to you.” (We talked about this previously, in my R-E-S-P-E-C-T post, about a year ago.)

So, why are we revisiting this? Because we always need to be reminded, and like I said in a previous post (The Lamp of the Body), we’re called to be a peculiar people. We’re not supposed to think and act like those in the world. Is this difficult? Yes; but, again, we’re not doing it on our own, but by the power of the Spirit of God living within us. The verse we’ve been returning to again and again, in church this year, has been Zechariah 4:8: Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit says the Lord. This ties right in line with what we’ve been saying here for years.

Give Grace

So, what does it mean to treat others the way that God treats us? I believe it means that we’re showing people grace, as God shows us grace. The word grace itself, is described as free and unmerited favor, meaning it’s undeserved. God doesn’t provide grace for us because we deserve it, He provides it because of Who He is. In same, we shouldn’t offer grace towards others based on merit, but because of who we are in Christ; we forgive others because we’ve been forgiven (Matthew 6:14; Ephesians 4:32).

Discipline in Love

Secondly, it means that we discipline in love, the way God lovingly disciplines His children. Proverbs 3:11-12 and Hebrews 12 talk about discipline. I think we often equate discipline with corporal punishment, but as I believe we’ve briefly discussed before–in Correction–this is more like training and teaching than anything else. Basically, we’re talking about speaking Truth, gently and lovingly, into people’s lives and letting God do the rest of the work. Again…Our job is simply to share it, not to force people to believe (for more on this check out, For All to Hear).

Treat all Equally

Third, it means we treat all equally and with respect. Jesus died for all, not just a few of us and He gives us all equal opportunity to become children of God (Romans 2:11; Galatians 3:26-29; John 1:12; John 3:16-17; Acts 10:34). James asks in chapter 2, “how can you claim to have faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ if you favor some people over others?” This could be based on financial or social status, as it was in James’ time, but it could also include race or ethnicity. The Church of our Lord, Jesus Christ is global. There will be people of all races and tongues in heaven, whether we were rich or poor, married or unmarried, U.S.-born, Middle Eastern, African, raised in the church, or became a believer in our old age; none of it is going to matter when we’re all standing before God (Revelation 7:9).

Treat Others as Better than Ourselves

Lastly, it means we treat others as better than ourselves. In Philippians 2:3-8 (NLT), Paul writes:

Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too.

You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had. Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. When he appeared in human form, he humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross.

Jesus, Himself, showed us what it looked like to pour out His life for others. Remember when Jesus washed His disciples’ feet in John 13?  He told them to use it as an example, and to wash each other’s feet as He washed theirs. Elsewhere, we’re told that we are to serve one another in love, to love our neighbor as our self, and to give to those in need, period (Leviticus 19:33-34; Galatians 5:13; Mark 10:42-45; Mark 12:31; Romans 12:20; James 1:27). And to top it all off, we’re to expect nothing in return (Luke 14:12-14).

Will this be easy? No. Will this be possible? Absolutely. But only by the power of the Holy Spirit at work in our lives. Are you up for the challenge? I know Paul was when he stated, “But I will rejoice even if I lose my life, pouring it out like a liquid offering to God, just like your faithful service is an offering to God. And I want all of you to share that joy” (Philippians 2:17).

Let’s act accordingly.

A Quiet Place

Yesterday, I woke up feeling ill. I ended up calling out sick for work and didn’t get out of bed until 10:30.

This seems to happen every so often–I later noted to Wilfredo, my husband–that I think that my body often knows what I need sooner than my mind or heart…but I needed some quiet time. I needed time alone to clean the house, relax, and reflect on what God’s been doing in my life through prayer (I love praying aloud during my quiet time).

In our Wednesday night Bible study, we’ve been covering 1 & 2 Samuel, and we’ve been discussing 2 Samuel 5 which takes place after Saul & his sons have been killed in battle, and David has become king. After running from Saul for so long, here, David comes face-to-face with a new enemy–the Philistines–the same army that just wiped out Saul’s family. It’s so interesting to me that the first thing David does when he’s threatened, is return to the place where he’d spent so much of his time seeking the Lord, crying out to Him in anguish, questioning, and praising Him, when Saul was hunting him down: his quiet place, his stronghold in the mountains. (Even more interesting are the words David often uses to describe the Lord: Rock, Fortress, Refuge, and Stronghold…Kind of sounds like a mountain to me. 😉 Just something else to think about; perhaps a discussion for another time.)IMG_3489 (2)

David’s a prime example of what God desires from us at all times. He desires that we go to our secret, quiet place, wherever that may be, and seek Him first; but not only in moments like these, when the enemy is knocking at our door, but in the mundane of everyday life! To just talk to Him about our day, to reveal our fears and worries, to ask Him to walk with us through the changes and growth processes in our marriages/relationships, as parents, in our careers and school, and to take us further and beyond what we could ever expect to do on our own, especially in areas of ministry and sharing the gospel–which we’re ALL called to do as believers. So don’t delay…find your quiet place.

“The Lord is my rock and my fortress [on the mountain] and my rescuer;
My God, my rock, in whom I take refuge;
My shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold and my refuge,
My Savior—You save me from violence.
 “I call on the Lord, who is worthy to be praised,
And I am saved from my enemies.
“For the waves of death encompassed me;
The torrents of destruction overwhelmed and terrified me.
“The cords of Sheol surrounded me;
The snares of death confronted me.
“In my distress I called upon the Lord;
I cried out to my God,
And from His temple [in the heavens] He heard my voice;
My cry for help came into His ears.
“Then the earth shook and quaked,
The foundations of the heavens trembled
And were shaken, because He was angry.
“Smoke went up out of His nostrils,
And devouring fire from His mouth;
Coals were kindled by it.
“He bowed the heavens also, and came down
With thick darkness under His feet.
“He rode on a cherub and flew;
He appeared upon the wings of the wind.
“He made darkness canopies around Him,
A mass of waters, thick clouds of the skies.
“Out of the brightness before Him
Coals of fire were set aflame.
“The Lord thundered from heaven,
And the Most High uttered His voice.
“He sent out arrows and scattered them;
Lightning, and confused them. 
“The channels of the sea appeared,
The foundations of the world were uncovered
At the rebuke of the Lord,
At the blast of the breath of His nostrils.
“He sent from above, He took me;
He drew me out of great waters.
“He rescued me from my strong enemy,
From those who hated me, for they were too mighty for me.
“They came upon me in the day of my calamity,
But the Lord was my support.
“He also brought me out to an open place;
He rescued me because He delighted in me.
“The Lord has dealt with me according to my righteousness;
According to the cleanness of my hands He has rewarded me.
“For I have kept the ways of the Lord,
And have not acted wickedly against my God.
“For all His judgments (legal decisions) were before me,
And from His statutes I did not turn aside.
“I was also blameless before Him,
And kept myself from wrongdoing.
“Therefore the Lord has rewarded me according to my righteousness,
According to my cleanness in His sight.
“With the loving and loyal You show Yourself loving and loyal,
With the blameless You show Yourself blameless.
“With the pure You show Yourself pure,
With the perverted You show Yourself astute.
“And You save the afflicted people;
But Your eyes are on the haughty whom You abase (humiliate). 
“For You, O Lord, are my lamp;
The Lord illumines and dispels my darkness. 
“For by You I can run upon a troop;
By my God I can leap over a wall.
“As for God, His way is blameless and perfect;
The word of the Lord is tested.
He is a shield to all those who take refuge and trust in Him.
“For who is God, besides the Lord?
And who is a rock, besides our God?
“God is my strong fortress;
He sets the blameless in His way.
“He makes my feet like the doe’s feet [firm and swift];
He sets me [secure and confident] on my high places.
“He trains my hands for war,
So that my arms can bend (pull back) a bow of bronze.
“You have also given me the shield of Your salvation,
And Your help and gentleness make me great.
“You enlarge my steps under me,
And my feet have not slipped.
“I pursued my enemies and destroyed them,
And I did not turn back until they were consumed (eliminated).
“I consumed them and shattered them, so that they did not rise;
They fell under my feet.
“For You have surrounded me with strength for the battle;
You have subdued under me those who stood against me.
“You have also made my enemies turn their backs to me [in retreat],
And I destroyed those who hated me.
“They looked, but there was no savior for them
Even to the Lord [they looked], but He did not answer them.
“Then I beat them as [small as] the dust of the earth;
I crushed and stamped them as the mire (dirt, mud) of the streets.
“You also have rescued me from strife with my [own] people;
You have kept me as the head of the nations.
People whom I have not known served me.
“Foreigners pretend obedience to me;
As soon as they hear [me], they obey me.
“Foreigners lose heart;
They come trembling out of their strongholds.
“The Lord lives, and blessed be my rock,
And exalted be my God, the rock of my salvation. 
“It is God who executes vengeance for me,
And brings down [and disciplines] the peoples under me,
Who also brings me out from my enemies.
You even lift me above those who rise up against me;
You rescue me from the violent man.
“For this I will give thanks and praise You, O Lord, among the nations;
I will sing praises to Your name.
“He is a tower of salvation and great deliverance to His king,
And shows lovingkindness to His anointed,
To David and his offspring forever.”

2 Samuel 22:2-51, AMP

2016 – A Midyear Review

It’s hard to believe that we’re already halfway through the year, but here we are in the middle of June! I know it’s been a while since I last wrote a post, however, if you’ve been following my blog, you already know that last month…I got married!

I do apologize for my absence, but I’ve been keeping pretty busy with wedding plans, and then trying to become accustomed to living with someone, which is a challenge in itself. I will say there will be plenty of new posts about marriage coming soon, but I won’t neglect my single readers, either. 😉

So much has happened within the first half of this year, in addition to our wedding. Four of my friends have had babies, my sister gave birth to my niece, and I recently found out that another friend has a baby on the way, as well. Needless to say, I haven’t had a lot of time to get to all those 2016 goals I raved about in my January post, although, I have started walking/running with the new hubby this week (i.e. exercise!) and I’ve started becoming slightly more involved in the worship ministry.

One of the things I’ve been struggling with this last month–one among many–is making sure I have time to read and think without interruption. I mean, how can I share things that I’ve been learning or that God has been revealing to me if I don’t have the quiet time that I need to reflect on such things? Lately, I’ve just barely had time to think and jot down a note here or there. Balancing home, work, church, and trying to take care of all those newly married details–such as changing your last name–have my head spinning. Nevertheless, you will not become my last priority, and I will learn to balance my time a little better.

So, married ladies, my question today is for those of you with full time jobs. How do you balance work, home and church (particularly if you’re an introvert, like me)?

Talk to you soon!

An Endless Supply

One day the widow of a member of the group of prophets came to Elisha and cried out, “My husband who served you is dead, and you know how he feared the Lord. But now a creditor has come, threatening to take my two sons as slaves.”

“What can I do to help you?” Elisha asked. “Tell me, what do you have in the house?”

“Nothing at all, except a flask of olive oil,” she replied.

And Elisha said, “Borrow as many empty jars as you can from your friends and neighbors. Then go into your house with your sons and shut the door behind you. Pour olive oil from your flask into the jars, setting each one aside when it is filled.”

So she did as she was told. Her sons kept bringing jars to her, and she filled one after another. Soon every container was full to the brim!

“Bring me another jar,” she said to one of her sons.

“There aren’t any more!” he told her. And then the olive oil stopped flowing.

When she told the man of God what had happened, he said to her, “Now sell the olive oil and pay your debts, and you and your sons can live on what is left over.”

(2 Kings 4:1-7, NLT)

This evening, as I read over 2 Kings 4 I noticed that the widow’s oil only stopped flowing after she ran out of containers to put it in. I thought to myself, “the oil probably never have run out if she had an endless supply of containers!”

Olive OilThroughout the Bible, oil is used to symbolize the Spirit of God, the anointing, and the presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives. We see this as the priests are anointed in Exodus (30:30-32), when Saul & David are anointed King of Israel in 1 Samuel 10 & 16, and we see this in the Parable of the 10 Virgins in Matthew 25 (1-13). So, I couldn’t help but view the story of the widow and Elisha in 2 Kings, in light of what I know about the oil being symbolic of the Holy Spirit.

God tells us that He wants to pour out His Spirit on all people and I can’t help but wonder, are we prepared?

“Then, after doing all those things,
    I will pour out my Spirit upon all people.
Your sons and daughters will prophesy.
    Your old men will dream dreams,
    and your young men will see visions.
In those days I will pour out my Spirit
    even on servants—men and women alike.

(Joel 2:28-29, NLT)

I mean, God offers us an endless supply, but I often feel like we’re satisfied with just a few measly drops of the Holy Spirit’s power and authority in our lives. The widow ran out of containers; but that’s impossible for us, because according to 2 Corinthians 4:7, we are the containers! The only limitation put on God, in our case, is our willingness to be filled. So, the question is, are we going to allow God to fill us to the brim, to overflowing? Or are we okay with the few drops we received a few weeks ago? Because if we’re okay with just a few drops of the Spirit’s power and authority in our lives, we are, in essence, telling God, “Oh, no thanks! I still have a little oil leftover from last week?” when He desires to make us overflow! 

And ladies and gents…The Holy Spirit is as necessary to the believer as air is to every living creature who walks the earth, and we could never have too much of Him in our lives! It is the Spirit Who leads us, convicts us, draws us near to God, teaches us, gives us understanding of the Word and authority to teach and share the gospel, and so much more. Therefore, let us not be satisfied with the meager leftovers of the Spirit’s power in our lives, but let us seek His face by studying the Holy Word of God, seeking His will in prayer, and lifting Him up in praise, that His power and authority may be evident in our lives and overflowing into the lives of those around us.

Book Review – Forgotten God: Reversing Our Tragic Neglect of the Holy Spirit

I finished Forgotten God: Reversing Our Tragic Neglect of the Holy Spirit, by Francis Chan, a few weeks ago and have been meaning to work on this book review, but I’ve just been so busy. On top of that, I wasn’t really sure how I felt about this book. Coming from a background, in which we recognize the Holy Spirit as part of the trinity, and on equal footing with God the Father and God the Son, it was a little difficult for me to understand where Chan was coming from. However, after I thought a little more about it, I realized that even coming from this background, even I sometimes forget the true power of the Holy Spirit in my life and I’m sure I’m not the only one.

So how do you know if this book is for you? First off, if you have no idea what I’m talking about when I mention the Holy Spirit, then this book is definitely for you. If you’ve never studied or heard of the theology of the Holy Spirit (see below), then book is for you.

Theology of the Holy Spirit510f+LEaDML._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_

  1. The Holy Spirit is a Person.
  2. The Holy Spirit is God.
  3. The Holy Spirit is eternal and holy.
  4. The Spirit has His own mind, and He prays for us.
  5. The Spirit has emotions.
  6. The Spirit has His own desires and will.
  7. The Spirit is omnipotent, omnipresent, and omniscient.

If you’re afraid of the Holy Spirit, because of things you’ve heard or have been previously taught, then this book is for you. If you take a look at your life and can’t see a difference between the life you’re living and the lives of unbelievers around you, then this book is for you. If you want to better understand the Bible, then this book is for you. If you want help surrendering and submitting your life to God, then this book is for you. If you want to align your life with the will of God, and see the world from His perspective, then this book is for you. If you want to love people more, then this book is for you. If you desire an intimate relationship with the Lord, then this book is for you. If you want to experience joy and peace in your heart, then this book is for you. If you need help turning away from sin, and walking towards the Father, then this book is for you; because the power of the Holy Spirit living inside us is absolutely necessary for all of these things, and more!

So…is this book for you??