Move Outside the Lines

 

“Jesus was offensive to smug, judgmental, religious people. He was a breath of fresh air to broken, nonreligious people. Can the same thing be said about His followers today?’

Screen Shot 2016-04-14 at 8.45.28 PMBOOK REVIEW
No matter how hard you try, you can’t get away from the present day dissent and debate. Christians are quite often caught up in it all. Scott Saul, author of Jesus Outside the Lines, encourages his readers to be known for what they are FOR rather than what they are against.

I meant to post this review before now BUT maybe its perfect timing with the new clarity of the many stark differences among us during our current Presidential primaries. We are even reminded that “Christianity always thrived most as a life-giving minority, not a political majority”

There are many things that could easily distract or divide us. Although there are some things we should speak up for or against, many of us are (as the author poses) “tired of taking sides, labeling and being labeled” and we don’t like it when opinions are presented as facts.

The beckoning call of the book heralds “Christians from differing perspectives” to “learn and mature as they listen humbly and carefully to one another.” We are challenged to leave our comfort zones and listen. “The more we move outside the lines of our own traditions and cultures, the more we will also be moving toward Jesus.”

Screen Shot 2016-04-14 at 8.42.31 PMThe book covers a myriad of issues including abortion, money, hypocrisy, the church as an institution, accountability, and self-esteem. It speaks to us about how we process and react to our cultural differences: “When the grace of Jesus sinks in, we will be among the least offended and most loving people of the world.”

I highly recommend this thought provoking book. You will walk away from it challenged and if you let it all sink in, you will be a better person, friend and Christ follower who can hold firmly to his/her beliefs without causing un-needed division. I received this book for free from Tyndale in exchange of my honest opinion.

The Antidote to Restlessness

Poison-and-Antidote-Clean-Crop-1038x576

“People look desperately for things to make them happy, often without realizing what they’re missing spiritually.”  ~ Jan David Hettinga

A BOOK REVIEW

Jan David Hettinga in his new book Still Restless: Conversations That Open the Door to Peace does an excellent job explaining that our restlessness comes from within – a longing that is in our DNA. We were all created for a kingdom bigger than ourselves and yet we try so hard to find inner peace and contentment our own way.

31yemfd3il-_sx321_bo1204203200_Spiritual peace is available to us and often comes with our being real with Christ, asking the hard questions, and finding true peace. These one-on-one conversations (thoroughly examined throughout the book) show us that we build kingdoms that crumble but Christ offers peace to our restlessness when we are willing to step through the door of repentance, faith and trust in Him.

Our straight forward gut-wrenching communication with Christ will allow us to “abandon our failed experiments with independence and self-rule” and be replaced “unexplainable peace” our “antidote for fear and restlessness.”

No book explains the kingdom of God, our profound purpose and God’s ultimate plan of redemption and peace any better that this. I highly recommend this book to all and especially those who are Still Restless.

Thank you to Jan David Hettinga and Kregel Publications for a copy in exchange for this honest review.

Stuck On Saturday

Light_hope__light_on_darknessA REMINDER TO THOSE OF US WHO LOVE THE RESURRECTION
BUT FEEL STUCK ON SATURDAY

Easter is a time when we remember both the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ. It is natural and good that we think of those two events together. In fact, to have one without the other is to lose the power of both.

However, when Jesus died, his disciples were not offered the same comfort. For a full day, there were no answers. There was no joy, no hope, no God. He had just died on the cross. When we think of Christ’s death, our minds often turn to the pain and suffering of torture. But the full horror of the crucifixion is not pain and suffering. It is God’s absence. It is in this absence, however, that our faith is tested. It is here that faith is formed.

Holy Saturday is the name given to the 24 hours between the crucifixion and the resurrection. It is a day that speaks of the absence of God, and it is as much a Christian experience as the day before and the day after.

Holy Saturday ridicules the idea that it is only the irreligious who can experience the absence of God, for in reality it is the religious who can miss what they have already known. This is analogous to waiting for a friend at a café. The later they are, the more we experience their absence. Our beloved is absent to everyone in the room, but we are the only one who feels it.

Who among us does not find ourselves dwelling, from time to time, or perhaps at all times, in the space of Holy Saturday? How often do we feel his absence from our lives? Yet this day is rarely spoken of and if so, it is only tolerated rather than embraced.

On Holy Saturday we find true faith. It questions our allegiance without satisfying the desire for reward. If there was no heaven, no joy or peace, if there were no blessings from God, would you still serve him? If God remained absent, would you still follow him?

It is only here that we can ask if we have truly offered ourselves to God for no reason other than the desire to offer ourselves as a gift. Faith does not die here, rather it is forged here.     borrowed

10 Intriguing Books On My 2015 Want To Read List

booksBelow you will find a list of books that are on the top of my want-to-read list for the new year. I own the last three and I’m hoping to be able to purchase the first seven sometime soon. I like a good challenge and I love a good book. Take a moment to read a little background about each book and maybe consider joining me on an intriguing new year reading journey?

MY 2014 TOP SIX LIST

The Rise of the Nones: Understanding and Reaching the Religiously Unaffiliated
Author: James Emery White
Amazon Link
This book comes highly recommended from my friend and author Drew Dyck. James Emery White lends his voice to one of the most important conversations the church needs to be having today. He calls churches to examine their current methods of evangelism, which often result only in transfer growth–Christians moving from one church to another–rather than in reaching the “nones.”

Our Great Big American God: A Short History of Our Ever-Growing Deity
Author: Matthew Paul Turner
Amazon Link
Matthew Paul Turner says that God didn’t just change America-America changed God. As a result, we may not even recognize the “real” God. Turner examines how American history and ideals transformed our perception of God. This book challenges us reconsider the way we think about America as a “Christian nation,” and helps us re-imagine a better future for God and country.

The Artisan Soul: Crafting Your Life into a Work of Art
Author: Erwin McManus
Amazon Link
With poignant, inspirational stories and insights from art, life, history, and scripture interspersed throughout, McManus calls us to reclaim our creative essence and reveals how we can craft our lives into a work of art. We all need to create, to be a part of a process that brings to the world something beautiful, good, and true, in order to allow our souls to come to life. 

Is God a Moral Monster? Making Sense of the Old Testament God
Author: Paul Copan
Amazon Link
In this timely and readable book, apologist Paul Copan takes on some of the most vexing accusations of our time, including: God is arrogant and jealous God punishes people too harshly God is guilty of ethnic cleansing God oppresses women God endorses slavery Christianity causes violence and more Copan not only answers God’s critics, he also shows how to read both the Old and New Testaments faithfully, seeing an unchanging, righteous, and loving God in both.

The Divine Magician: The Disappearance of Religion and the Discovery of Faith
Author: Peter Rollins
Amazon Link
Peter Rollins (known for pushing the boundaries of theology) presents another stirring vision at the forefront of re-imagined modern Christianity in his new book. He explores a radical view of interacting with the world in love and uses his “magical” framework to explain the mystery of faith that has been lost on the church.

Beauty Will Save the World: Rediscovering the Allure and Mystery of Christianity
Author: Brian Zahnd
Amazon Link
Brian Zahnd presents the argument that a loss of beauty as a principal value has been disastrous for Western culture, and especially for the church. For thousands of years, artists, sages, philosophers, and theologians have connected the beautiful and the sacred and identified art with our longing for God. Now we live in a day when convenience and practicality have largely displaced beauty as a value. The church is no exception. The full message of the beauty of the gospel has been replaced by our desires to satisfy our material needs, to empirically prove our faith, and to establish political power in our world–the exact same things that Christ was tempted with and rejected in the wilderness.

Beyond the Broken Church: How to Leave Church Problems Behind Without Leaving the Church
Author: Sarah Raymond Cunningham
Amazon Link
One of the favorite books on my self is Sarah’s “Dear Church.” This is the revised and expanded version that revisits the existing book with additional chapters, fresh statistics, new insights into why people are leaving the church, and a resource guide for those who care about the disillusioned and want to understand them better.  Beyond the Broken Church will be a breath of fresh air to others who have experienced frustration in church as well as an insider’s guide for those seeking to understand current trends in church attendance, particularly among the younger generation.

Miracles: What They Are, Why They Happen, and How They Can Change Your Life
Author: Eric Metaxas
Amazon Link
I’ve already began reading this one and can’t wait to dig in deeper! “Miracles” is a powerfully winsome challenge that miracles are not only possible but are far more widespread than most of us ever might have imagined. Metaxas provides the measured and wide-ranging treatment the subject deserves, from serious discussion of the compatibility between faith and science to astonishing but well-documented stories of actual miracles from people he knows. 

Both-And: Living the Christ-Centered Life in an Either-Or World
Author: Rich Nathan
Amazon Link
We find ourselves caught between competing factions, secular or religious, conservative or liberal. We are pulled between extremes on one side or the other. But the Christian faith holds together seemingly contradictory ideas: Jesus is both human and divine; God is both three and one. There is a paradoxical power in the both-and. Rich Nathan and Insoo Kim show how Christians can live out the fullness of the gospel through the both-and. They affirm that we believe in both proclamation and demonstration of the gospel, justice and mercy, and unity and diversity as one body with many parts. The answer is not to choose one or the other, but to hold both together for a richer, more holistic experience of Christianity.

The Grave Robber: How Jesus Can Make Your Impossible Possible
Author: Mark Batterson
Amazon Link
I plan to read this one while also delving into Metaxas’s “Miracles.” In this book, Batterson reveals the incredible power of the seven miraculous signs of Jesus found in the Gospel of John. He shows how they were not simply something Jesus did in the past, but something he wants to do now, in the present. He shares true stories of people today who are experiencing miracles in their lives. And he brings to light countless miracles, big and small, that we take for granted every day that point us toward the One who healed the sick, calmed the storm, and yes, even raised the dead. “There are miracles all around us all the time,” says Mark Batterson, “but you won’t see them if you don’t know how to look for them.”

She’s Back!

(written for my college creative writing class one year ago)

I’m glad she’s back around.

                             I waited way too long.

        She speaks my language, warms my heart,
                provides me comfort and daily motivation.

                                        She’s hot.

I love her scent.
                I miss her company.

                              I no longer must dream for she is near.
                                       She’s finally here – my email told me!!
                                                                         pumpkin spice latte

psl

Ready to Move

MOVINGWe are ready to move and we are so ready for God to make His move and use us to do something BIG for His glory. We have been waiting and it seems like God has been closing many doors. We are ready for the BIG door to be opened!! We are ready for God to move. This is our prayer.

I was reminded this morning of God’s purpose in the waiting. Maybe these words can also be an encouragement to you:

“Stand still” – keep the posture of an upright man, ready for action, expecting further orders, cheerfully and patiently awaiting the directing voice; and it will not be long ere God shall say to you, as distinctly as Moses said it to the people of Israel, “Go forward.”

If the Lord Jehovah makes us wait, let us do so with our whole hearts; for blessed are all they that wait for Him. He is worth waiting for. The waiting itself is beneficial to us: it tries faith, exercises patience, trains submission, and endears the blessing when it comes. The Lord’s people have always been a waiting people.  Charles Spurgeon

Be There.

bravadoThis week,
my heart broke.

I looked him in the eye and asked how he was doing. His bravado was extinguished by familial dysfunction and he couldn’t keep back the tears. He shared and I listened. I reassured and reminded him I would be there. He walked away and I wanted to do so much more.

Another young man breaks down. He shares how much he loves his dad and how we would do anything to see him in church and sitting by his side. I give him a pat on the back, encourage him, and give him a simple game plan. I struggle with what to do or say further. He leaves and I weep.

He’s shaken and I know he’s troubled. This student’s eyes are crimson and he tells me he’s worried about his momma. He’s “never seen her this way” and he’s worried, but he has hope and says thank you because something I did may have changed things just a bit. He sits down in class and I pray a prayer for him and his mom, but I only wish there was more I could say or do.

He returned. Expulsion didn’t keep this young man from restoration and resurrection. My tears flowed. Another young man pats me on the back because he knows I’m overflowing with emotion. I leave my seat and give “the prodigal” a hug and lift him off the ground, but he still has to face reality when he leaves this place and it makes me mad and sad.

They noisily gather in the classroom. Lunch is over and they’re clowning around as usual. I start each class with a prayer and today was not different, except . . . I paused. I made mention that a few had come my way and that they had troublesome conditions at home and so I asked, “Is there anyone else who could use a prayer because things at home just aren’t right?”

The room gets silent, many of them lower their heads, and almost every student raises his/her hand. I wept while praying and then handed out the worksheet for the day. There’s so much more I wish I could do. It was then that I hears a still small voice say, “Just be there.”

Sometimes all it takes to illuminate someone’s day is being there, giving a hug, and maybe saying a prayer. Sometimes there’s nothing more we can do and I was reminded today that sometimes IT’S ENOUGH.

Know someone who is hurting? BE THERE.

________________________
ADDED THURSDAY MORNING (4/17/14):
‘Dear Father, Please wrap your loving arms of compassion around each of these young men today and remind them that they are loved, they are Yours, and that You will never leave them nor forsake them!”

Jump In

A gold leaf falls down hard upon cold ground.
Green leaf hangs on to life yet knows her end.
Each day we pray true life and joy be found.
Moments matter enjoying time we spend.

She fell and we cried hard. She’s missed. It’s cold.
Death came before winter and took her life.
Winter had not started. She was not old.
How dear the autumn bring this bitter strife!

But who are we to stop or slow this fate?
Seasons do not control or change her grip
nor does she stop or care when asked to wait.
Felled leaves in heaps. Living trees fully stripped.

Young child steps back, jumps high into leaf piles.
Spring comes. Resurrection. Life wins. Big smiles.fall-leaf-01

This sonnet was written for my wife on the loss of her sister. It was meant as reminder that death leaves us feeling empty and yet for some of us, we believe in a resurrection – that there’s always a Spring after death in Winter.

No Voice.

written at the end of the school day | first day back | with no voice

No Voice.
There were times today that
Frustration got the best of me
They couldn’t see
Me waving my arms
Asking for help
Needing attention
Not getting through
No Voice.
(and then I thought, there are many poor, hurting, lonely in the world today
who could say the same)

Be someone’s voice this year.Image