Monday, November 30, 2009

Book Review: Already Gone

Already Gone cover

Already Gone:
Why your kids will quit church and
what you can do to stop it
by Ken Ham & Britt Beemer

Trade Paperback: 192 pages
Publisher: Master Books
First Released: 2009

Source: Borrowed from my dad

Back Cover Description:
If you look around in your church today, two-thirds of the young people who are sitting among us have already left in their hearts; soon they will be gone for good.

This is the alarming conclusion from a study Answers in Genesis commissioned from America's Research Group, led by respected researcher Britt Beemer. The results may unnerve you - they may shake long-held assumptions to the core-but these results need to be taken seriously by the church. Already Gone reveals:

*Why America's churches have lost an entire generation of believers

*The views of 1,000 twenty-somethings, solidly raised in the church but no longer attending-and their reasons why

*Relevant statistical data effectively teamed with powerful apologetics

The study found that we are losing our kids in elementary, middle school, and high school rather than college, and the Sunday school syndrome is contributing to the epidemic, rather than helping alleviate it. This is an alarming wake-up call for the church, showing how our programs and our children are paying the price. Though the statistics reveal a huge disconnect taking place between our children and their church experience, Already Gone shows how to fight back for our families, our churches, and our world. We can make a difference today that will affect the statistics of tomorrow in a positive and Christ-focused way!

Already Gone was an easy-to-read and -understand book which delved into three surveys which show (among other things) why people are leaving the church, what draws teens to church, and what adults that stayed found most helpful toward growing in their faith. The answers will probably surprise you.

Britt Beemer led the America's Research Group survey and helped explain what the numbers meant. All of the ARG survey questions and answers were in the back of the book. These range from the person's level of activity as a teen, why they went to church as a teen, what caused them to leave the church, what specifically caused them to doubt if they doubted the Bible, what they miss about church (if they miss it), if they plan on ever coming back and why.

There's a surprising percentage of 20-somethings that left, believe the Bible, miss worshiping God, and may return one day. Their reasons for leaving were (obviously) different than the similar percentage that left, no longer believe the Bible, and never intend to return to church.

The authors concluded that we need to actively invite that first group back to church and make them feel welcome (among other things). Also, that we do need to teach our kids the Bible but we also need to give them the answers to the "hard questions" they'll face about the truth and relevance of the Bible. A large section of the book was spent talking about the need to give our kids answers about the accuracy and authority of the Bible.

The book also included some black-and-white pictures and Bible verses that supported the conclusions the authors came to on how to deal with the problem. And there's a lot more in the survey questions than I summarized. I'd recommend this quick read to youth pastors and Christian parents.

If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.

[From page 24] The Barna research is showing that religious activity in the teen years does not translate into spiritual commitment as individuals move into their 20s and 30s (and our own research, you are about discover, will illuminate you with reasons as to why this occurs).

Most of them are pulling away from the church, are spending less time alone studying their Bibles, are giving very little financially to Christian causes, are ceasing to volunteer for church activities, and are turning their backs on Christian media such as magazines, radio, and television. What does this look like numerically for today's 20-somethings?

*61% of today's young adults...were regular church attendees [as a teen but] are now "spiritually disengaged." They are not actively attending church, praying, or reading their Bibles.

*20% of those who were spiritually active during high school are maintaining a similar level of commitment.

*19%...were never reached by the Christian community [as teens], and they are still disconnected from the Church or any other Christian activities.

[From page 32] Many parents will fork out big bucks to send these students to Christian colleges, hoping to protect them in their faith. But the fact is, they're already gone. They were lost while still in the fold. They were disengaged while they were still sitting in the pews. They were preparing their exit while they were faithfully attending youth groups and Sunday schools.

....This topic regarding when we begin to lose our kids is where the [ARG] study began to get very interesting and very illuminating. For example:

[Of] those who no longer believe that all of the accounts and stories in the Bible are true:

*39.8% first had doubts in middle school
*43.7% first had their doubts in high school
*10.6% had their first doubts during college

[From page 41] When [individuals in the ARG survey were] asked, "Does the Bible contain errors?" sadly, Sunday school made no difference. (About 39 percent of each group [those who regularly attended Sunday school and those who didn't] said yes to this question.) When asked, "Do you believe you are saved and will go to heaven upon death?" there was almost no statistical difference--which really is disconcerting.

"Fearless" Daily Devotional

This Daily Devotional is from Max Lucado's book, Fearless.

Read Romans 10:17:

NIV: Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ.

How does faith come, according to this passage?

What does this imply about regular Bible reading and study?

Sunday, November 29, 2009

"Fearless" Daily Devotional

This Daily Devotional is from Max Lucado's book, Fearless.

Read John 14:16-18, 26-27:

NIV: And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever— the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.

26 But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. 27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.

What promises does Jesus give us in verses 16-18?

How can these promises help us battle the fear of what’s next?

What is the vital connection between verses 26 and 27?

How does Jesus’ peace depend on the Spirit’s work?

How is the Spirit working in your life?

Saturday, November 28, 2009

"Fearless" Daily Devotional

This Daily Devotional is from Max Lucado's book, Fearless.

Read 1 Corinthians 15:20-27:

NIV: But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive. But each in his own turn: Christ, the firstfruits; then, when he comes, those who belong to him. Then the end will come, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father after he has destroyed all dominion, authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death. For he "has put everything under his feet." Now when it says that "everything" has been put under him, it is clear that this does not include God himself, who put everything under Christ.

How does this passage view death?

How can this passage calm our fear of death?

Friday, November 27, 2009

Book Quotes: God is Holy

From Diving into God's Words: A discovery of Psalm 119 by Alex McFarland (pages 10-11):

Q: Who is God?

A: God is holy.
Because GOD is self-existence and sovereign, His very character defines what is right and good or--to use a theological word--"holy." Something--or someone--is worthy of worship.

This kind of worship is the fall-on-your-face, don't-look-up-or-you-might-be-blinded-with-glory kind of worship (verse 120). It's when you realize you are in the presence of a supernatural, awesome, righteous, pure, unimaginable power.

....Because God is holy, we should approach Him with respect and reverence. When you ask the "why?" questions [of God], remember that the "Who" you are asking is infinitely worthy of all your devotion, honor, and praise.

From page 40:

When we take time to praise God with our lips, our minds, and our hearts, we reflect on His character and not on our own problems. If we learn to think this way, our minds will gradually transform and begin to reflect the character of God.

"Fearless" Daily Devotional

This Daily Devotional is from Max Lucado's book, Fearless.

Read John 14:1-3:

NIV: "Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. In my Father's house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am."

What commands does Jesus give in verse 1?

What promises does he make in verses 2-3?

How are these promises designed to lessen our fear?

Thursday, November 26, 2009

"Fearless" Daily Devotional

This Daily Devotional is from Max Lucado's book, Fearless.

Read 1 Timothy 6:6-10, 17-19:

NIV: But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.

Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life.

Amplified Bible: [And it is, indeed, a source of immense profit, for] godliness accompanied with contentment (that contentment which is a sense of inward sufficiency) is great and abundant gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and obviously we cannot take anything out of the world; But if we have food and clothing, with these we shall be content (satisfied). But those who crave to be rich fall into temptation and a snare and into many foolish (useless, godless) and hurtful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction and miserable perishing. For the love of money is a root of all evils; it is through this craving that some have been led astray and have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves through with many acute [mental] pangs.

As for the rich in this world, charge them not to be proud and arrogant and contemptuous of others, nor to set their hopes on uncertain riches, but on God, Who richly and ceaselessly provides us with everything for [our] enjoyment. [Charge them] to do good, to be rich in good works, to be liberal and generous of heart, ready to share [with others], in this way laying up for themselves [the riches that endure forever as] a good foundation for the future, so that they may grasp that which is life indeed.

What kind of contentment is described in verses 6-8?

How does one enjoy this kind of contentment?

Why does Paul condemn the desire to be rich?

What is wrong with the love of money?

What instructions does Paul give to the rich in verses 17-19?

What promises does he give them?

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

"Fearless" Daily Devotional

This Daily Devotional is from Max Lucado's book, Fearless.

Read Proverbs 23:4-5:

NIV: Do not wear yourself out to get rich; have the wisdom to show restraint. Cast but a glance at riches, and they are gone, for they will surely sprout wings and fly off to the sky like an eagle.

Amplified Bible: Weary not yourself to be rich; cease from your own [human] wisdom. Will you set your eyes upon wealth, when [suddenly] it is gone? For riches certainly make themselves wings, like an eagle that flies toward the heavens.

What attitudes are believers to cultivate regarding riches?

Why should believers not set their hearts on getting rich?

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

"Fearless" Daily Devotional

This Daily Devotional is from Max Lucado's book, Fearless.

Read Hebrews 11:35b-40:

Amplified Bible: Others were tortured to death with clubs, refusing to accept release [offered on the terms of denying their faith], so that they might be resurrected to a better life. Others had to suffer the trial of mocking and scourging and even chains and imprisonment. They were stoned to death; they were lured with tempting offers [to renounce their faith]; they were sawn asunder; they were slaughtered by the sword; [while they were alive] they had to go about wrapped in the skins of sheep and goats, utterly destitute, oppressed, cruelly treated--[Men] of whom the world was not worthy--roaming over the desolate places and the mountains, and [living] in caves and caverns and holes of the earth.

And all of these, though they won divine approval by [means of] their faith, did not receive the fulfillment of what was promised, because God had us in mind and had something better and greater in view for us, so that they [these heroes and heroines of faith] should not come to perfection apart from us [before we could join them].

What kind of violence was directed against people of faith as described in this passage?

What promise kept them going through all their troubles?

How is that promise meant to keep us going as well?

Monday, November 23, 2009

Book Review: The Sacred Meal

The Sacred Meal cover

The Sacred Meal
by Nora Gallagher

Hardback: 145 pages
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
First Released: 2009

Source: Review copy from publisher

Book Description:
This book is part of a series exploring traditional spiritual disciplines. The Sacred Meal is about the Holy Communion. However, it's not about the historical or Biblical view of Communion since the author doesn't believe that the Bible is accurate or that the Christian religion is true. So the book is a memoir about what Communion has meant to the author.

The author wrote a lot of things that sound good or even profound, but her teachings aren't found in the Bible or in the historical understanding of Communion. When she paraphrased the Bible, she didn't do so accurately. She quoted her friends on Communion much, much more than she quoted the Bible. One time, she quoted as insightful a bishop's thought about Communion then told the story of how he, in all seriousness, gave Communion to a flock of geese (p.64). I had to wonder why the editor asked her to write about Communion. Overall, I can't recommend this book.

The following are things in the book that make me not recommend it:

The author isn't a Christian but believes a mix of religious teachings. "I, too, grew to see that the Christian story was not the only story for me" (page 72). She thinks it doesn't matter how you worship or what you believe, it only matters how you live (p. 119).

The author doesn't believe that the Bible is historically accurate or reliable (p. 110) and, at best, thinks we can only glean very generalized, symbolic teachings from it (p. 33, etc.). She thinks that Jesus was not perfect but progressively learned the perfect way to do things as he taught (p. 123) and that he changed his beliefs as he was influenced by various people he encountered (p. 62). He also was primarily focused on social justice (p. 22-24) and "resisting the power of the Roman Empire until he got himself into real trouble" (p. 18)--as in, resisting the Roman empire was why he was crucified.

Oddly, many of her examples of how Jesus "protested social injustice" happened to be areas where the Jews were following the laws given them directly by God rather than the instances where they were following traditions later added on by man. Her other examples ignore the clear reasons given in the Bible for his actions. Example: "By healing a leper, Jesus exposes the fact that lepers are isolated and abandoned. By healing a woman who had been bleeding for years, Jesus reveals she has been unfairly ostracized for something she did not cause and could do nothing about. By feeding the five thousand, Jesus shows everyone that people are hungry. By practicing nonviolence at every turn, Jesus unveils the violence that was the underpinning of the empire" (p. 22).

She also thinks that the "Kingdom of God" that Jesus taught about was merely a goal of earthly social justice and peace--an alternate earthly government or society we can bring about by our own efforts (p. 34). "We are all practicing together to become more and more the makers of the kingdom that is both under our feet and right around the corner" (p.38). And so "The practice of Communion reminds Christians of a meal and many meals shared by followers of a man who wanted them to see a new kingdom" (p. 55) and "...we can add to [the Holy Communion's] meaning and history" by working for social justice (p. 56). And "When we as a people live for that bread and cast our lot with it, we create nothing less than the kingdom for which Jesus gave his life. It is all around us, all the time, this beautiful world, just about to happen" (p. 83).

The author totally misses what event the Holy Communion celebrates/represents. "On the night of his life, Jesus said, 'Do this to remember me' (Luke 22:19 NLT). Many of us think these words...mean we're remembering Jesus when we drink of this cup and eat of this bread....I don't think Jesus was interested in everybody just remembering him. What's the point of that? That puts Jesus in the category with the various celebrities who will do anything to get into the media so we'll remember they're still alive. Instead, I think Jesus wanted his disciples and everyone who came after him to remember what they had together. What they made together. What it meant to be together. How the things he wanted them to do could not be done alone. How the things he did could not have been done without them" (pp. 23-24).

The author describes what the Holy Communion is to her as "In the act of eating the wafer..., we open ourselves, our hearts and minds, to the place where there is no time and where everything is being remade and reborn, a mystery of recreation and reconstruction" (p. 85).

According to her, sin is "What holds me back from connecting to and deepening my relationship with timelessness and love" (p. 30).

And, according to her, Jesus was not seen in human form after he was crucified (p. 135). The gospel writers were trying to convey something more metaphysical; that he became nature itself (p. 131). "Christ is everywhere. In the beans in your garden, in the waters of the lakes and rivers and mountains held sacred by the first American nations, in the rocks and the trees, and, yes, even in the fabric of the hoods that were placed over the heads of the prisoners in Abu Gharib prison in Iraq" (p. 136) and "Christ is everywhere, especially in bread and wine....By this we are to understand that God is meant to be breathed in, God is meant to be bathed in, and finally, God is meant to be eaten" (p. 136). And "If Christ is everywhere, he is in us. We are his body now, his hands and his feet. We are all the ongoing incarnation" (p. 137).

More to the topic, who should partake of Holy Communion? "Certainly, it makes sense to have some kind of relationship to the Christian story in order to take Communion" (p. 88), but "Communion is so important to me that I don't think there should be rules about who can take it and who cannot." So if you desire to take Communion, do so (p. 96).

Is the Holy Communion meant as a symbol or do the bread and wine literally become Christ's body and blood? According to the author, neither. "Holy Communion is an act of the imagination" (p. 94). Also, it is humans and their participation in the Holy Communion that make it sacred/sanctified (p. 84).

The book might be well-written in the grammatical sense, but her theology is whatever appeals to her. So I don't think she should have been the one to write on a traditional spiritual discipline even though she enjoys taking it.

"Fearless" Daily Devotional

This Daily Devotional is from Max Lucado's book, Fearless.

Read Daniel 3:1-29:

NIV for Daniel 3:17-18: "If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and he will rescue us from your hand, O king. But even if he does not, we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up."

Why were Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego threatened with violence?

According to verses 17-18, what stance did they take?

What happened to them? As a result, how did Nebuchandnezzar respond?

Sunday, November 22, 2009

"Fearless" Daily Devotional

This Daily Devotional is from Max Lucado's book, Fearless.

Read Genesis 50:15-21:

NIV: When Joseph's brothers saw that their father was dead, they said, "What if Joseph holds a grudge against us and pays us back for all the wrongs we did to him?" So they sent word to Joseph, saying, "Your father left these instructions before he died: 'This is what you are to say to Joseph: I ask you to forgive your brothers the sins and the wrongs they committed in treating you so badly.' Now please forgive the sins of the servants of the God of your father." When their message came to him, Joseph wept.

His brothers then came and threw themselves down before him. "We are your slaves," they said.

But Joseph said to them, "Don't be afraid. Am I in the place of God? You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives. So then, don't be afraid. I will provide for you and your children." And he reassured them and spoke kindly to them.

What kind of violence had Joseph’s brothers done to him (see Genesis 37:11-28)?

How did Joseph interpret this violence (v.20)?

How did he try to lessen his brothers’ fears?

What lesson is here for us?

Saturday, November 21, 2009

"Fearless" Daily Devotional

This Daily Devotional is from Max Lucado's book, Fearless.

Read 2 Timothy 4:14-18:

NIV: Alexander the metalworker did me a great deal of harm. The Lord will repay him for what he has done. You too should be on your guard against him, because he strongly opposed our message.

At my first defense, no one came to my support, but everyone deserted me. May it not be held against them. But the Lord stood at my side and gave me strength, so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed and all the Gentiles might hear it. And I was delivered from the lion's mouth. The Lord will rescue me from every evil attack and will bring me safely to his heavenly kingdom. To him be glory for ever and ever. Amen.

Amplified Bible: Alexander the coppersmith did me great wrongs. The Lord will pay him back for his actions. Beware of him yourself, for he opposed and resisted our message very strongly and exceedingly.

At my first trial no one acted in my defense [as my advocate] or took my part or [even] stood with me, but all forsook me. May it not be charged against them! But the Lord stood by me and strengthened me, so that through me the [Gospel] message might be fully proclaimed and all the Gentiles might hear it. So I was delivered out of the jaws of the lion. [And indeed] the Lord will certainly deliver and draw me to Himself from every assault of evil. He will preserve and bring me safe unto His heavenly kingdom. To Him be the glory forever and ever. Amen (so be it).

What adverse circumstances caused Paul some real trouble?

How did he respond to them?

How did the Lord himself respond to Paul’s troubles?

What does this suggest about the way he will respond to your troubles?

Friday, November 20, 2009

"Fearless" Daily Devotional

This Daily Devotional is from Max Lucado's book, Fearless.

Read Hebrews 5:7-9:

NIV: During the days of Jesus' life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with loud cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission. Although he was a son, he learned obedience from what he suffered and, once made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him

Amplified Bible: .... In the days of His flesh [Jesus] offered up definite, special petitions [for that which He not only wanted but needed] and supplications with strong crying and tears to Him Who was [always] able to save Him [out] from death, and He was heard because of His reverence toward God [His godly fear, His piety, in that He shrank from the horrors of separation from the bright presence of the Father]. Although He was a Son, He learned [active, special] obedience through what He suffered and, [His completed experience] making Him perfectly [equipped], He became the Author and Source of eternal salvation to all those who give heed and obey Him,

How does verse 7 describe Jesus’ experience on earth?

Why did even Jesus have to learn obedience (v.8)?

What does this suggest about our battling fear?

Book Quotes: Purpose and Passion

From Eyes Wide Open by Jud Wilhite (pages 97-98):

I've been through seasons when I was bored with my faith....During those times, my boredom emerged because I wasn't using the gifts God had given me to make a difference in other people's lives....Once I got out there and started doing something, I suddenly began to see God working again. The adventure of life and faith became real again.

Like the guy who wrote me a note:

My life used to be about one thing--me. I was a self-serving guy who had neither purpose nor passion....Then one day I walked into a church and heard the message of Christ: Give your life away to others, and you will find your life. I didn't have much to give up, so I decided to give it a shot.

That's when my life started to change and Christ became more real to me. I started serving teenagers and found a purpose--a reason for my existence....Today my life is richer than I ever believed it could be. Serving others made the difference.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

"Fearless" Daily Devotional

This Daily Devotional is from Max Lucado's book, Fearless.

Read Mark 14:32-42:

NIV: They went to a place called Gethsemane, and Jesus said to his disciples, "Sit here while I pray." He took Peter, James and John along with him, and he began to be deeply distressed and troubled. "My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death," he said to them. "Stay here and keep watch."

Going a little farther, he fell to the ground and prayed that if possible the hour might pass from him. "Abba, Father," he said, "everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will."

Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. "Simon," he said to Peter, "are you asleep? Could you not keep watch for one hour? Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak."

Once more he went away and prayed the same thing. When he came back, he again found them sleeping, because their eyes were heavy. They did not know what to say to him.

Returning the third time, he said to them, "Are you still sleeping and resting? Enough! The hour has come. Look, the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. Rise! Let us go! Here comes my betrayer!"

What was the worst-case scenario facing Christ?

What made him so troubled and distressed?

How did he respond to it?

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

"Fearless" Daily Devotional

This Daily Devotional is from Max Lucado's book, Fearless.

Read Romans 8:35-39:

NIV: Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written: "For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered." No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Amplified Bible: Who shall ever separate us from Christ's love? Shall suffering and affliction and tribulation? Or calamity and distress? Or persecution or hunger or destitution or peril or sword? Even as it is written, For Thy sake we are put to death all the day long; we are regarded and counted as sheep for the slaughter. Yet amid all these things we are more than conquerors and gain a surpassing victory through Him Who loved us. For I am persuaded beyond doubt (am sure) that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities, nor things impending and threatening 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 which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

What about the love of Christ is meant to help us battle our fears?

How can we become victorious, “more than conquerors,” even when facing overwhelming circumstances?

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

"Fearless" Daily Devotional

This Daily Devotional is from Max Lucado's book, Fearless.

Read Matthew 28:18-20:

NIV: Then Jesus came to them and said, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age."

Amplified Bible: Jesus approached and, breaking the silence, said to them, All authority (all power of rule) in heaven and on earth has been given to Me. Go then and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe everything that I have commanded you, and behold, I am with you all the days (perpetually, uniformly, and on every occasion), to the [very] close and consummation of the age. Amen (so let it be).

How does Jesus described his position in verse 18?

How should this help us battle our fear?

What promise does Jesus give in verse 20?

How should this help us battle our fear?

Monday, November 16, 2009

Book Review: The Practice of the Presence of God

The Practice of the Presence of God cover

The Practice of the Presence of God
with Spiritual Maxims
by Brother Lawrence

Paperback: 112 pages
Publisher: Spire Books
First Released: 1958, 1967

Source: Bought from

Back Cover Description (slightly modified):
At any moment and in any circumstance, the soul that seeks God may find Him, and practice the presence of God.

Brother Lawrence, a seventeenth-century French monk, learned to constantly seek God. His wisdom and spiritual insights have helped bring people closer to God for more than three centuries.

The Practice of the Presence of God is a collection of documented conversations with and letters by this humble monk on how he found such joy in the Lord at all times. He wrote, "The time of business does not with me differ from the time of prayer, and in the noise and clatter of my kitchen...I posses God in as great tranquility as if I were upon my knees at the blessed sacrament."

The Spiritual Maxims of Brother Lawrence, a lesser known but equally outstanding work, is a summary of his teachings. Throughout, he develops one great theme, best expressed by the psalmist, "In Thy Presence is fulness of joy."

Brother Lawrence was a Catholic monk, so he did some things that I don't agree are Biblical (like suppressing his outward expression of the joy he felt in God and deliberately increasing his suffering from a physical problem so that he could suffer for his sins). He also never quoted Scripture to support his points (though often there was Scripture he could have used). However, overall, the book was God-focused and had some good insights.

Due to the style of writing, it often took some thought for me to work out what he meant. The Spiritual Maxims were the more organized and easier to read of the two.

The book also contained "The Character of Brother Lawrence," written by someone who knew him, which seemed more focused on and worshipful of Brother Lawrence than of God.

Overall, this book may help people who are seeking insight on gaining a constant awareness of God and finding joy in His presence.

If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.

[From the "Conversations" section on pages 18-19. Brother Lawrence told the writer...]

That he had been long troubled in mind from a certain belief that he should be damned....That this trouble of mind had lasted four years, during which time he had suffered much; but that at last he had seen that this trouble arose from want of faith....That he had placed his sins betwixt him and God, as it were, to tell Him that he did not deserve His favors, but that God still continued to bestow them in abundance.

That in order to form a habit of conversing with God continually, and referring all we do to Him, we must first apply to [focus on] Him with some diligence; but that after a little care we should find His love inwardly excite us to it without any difficulty.

That he expected, after the pleasant days God had given him, he should have his turn of pain and suffering; but that he was not uneasy about it, knowing very well that as he could do nothing of himself, God would not fail to give Him the strength to bear it.

That when an occasion of practicing some virtue offered, he addressed himself to God, saying, Lord, I cannot do this unless Thou enables me; and that then he received strength more than sufficient.

That when he had failed in his duty, he only confessed his fault, saying to God, I shall never do otherwise if You leave me to myself; it is You who must hinder my falling and mend what is amiss. That after this he gave himself no further uneasiness about it.

[From the "Conversations" section on pages 21-22. Brother Lawrence told the writer...]

That all bodily mortifications and other exercises are useless, except as they serve to arrive at the union with God by love; that he had well considered this, and found it the shortest way to go straight to Him by a continual exercise of love and doing all things for His sake.

....That all possible kinds of mortification, if they were void of the love of God, could not efface a single sin. That we ought, without anxiety, to expect the pardon of our sins from the blood of Jesus Christ, only endeavoring to love Him with all our hearts. That God seemed to have granted the greatest favors to the greatest sinners, as more signal monuments of His mercy.

[From the "Spiritual Maxims" section on pages 74. Brother Lawrence wrote:]

To worship [God] in truth is to acknowledge with heart-felt sincerity what God in truth is,--that is to say, infinitely perfect, worthy of infinite adoration, infinitely removed from sin, and so of all the Divine attributes. That man is little guided by reason, who does not employ all his powers to render to this great God the worship that is His due.

[From "The Character of Brother Lawrence" section on pages 92. Someone recalled how Brother Lawrence said:]

In God we shall see more clearly what we lack than we could in ourselves by all our introspection; which in reality is but the remnant, unexpelled, of self-love, which, under the guise of zeal for our own perfection, keeps our gaze down on self instead of raised to God.

"Fearless" Daily Devotional

This Daily Devotional is from Max Lucado's book, Fearless. This devotional is also posted under the Fearless book discussion.

Read Matthew 14:22-33:

NIV: Immediately Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowd. After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, but the boat was already a considerable distance from land, buffeted by the waves because the wind was against it.

During the fourth watch of the night Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. "It's a ghost," they said, and cried out in fear.

But Jesus immediately said to them: "Take courage! It is I. Don't be afraid."

"Lord, if it's you," Peter replied, "tell me to come to you on the water."

"Come," he said.

Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, "Lord, save me!"

Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. "You of little faith," he said, "why did you doubt?"

And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down. Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, "Truly you are the Son of God."

Amplified Bible: Then He directed the disciples to get into the boat and go before Him to the other side, while He sent away the crowds. And after He had dismissed the multitudes, He went up into the hills by Himself to pray. When it was evening, He was still there alone. But the boat was by this time out on the sea, many furlongs [a furlong is one-eighth of a mile] distant from the land, beaten and tossed by the waves, for the wind was against them.

And in the fourth watch [between 3:00--6:00 a.m.] of the night, Jesus came to them, walking on the sea. And when the disciples saw Him walking on the sea, they were terrified and said, It is a ghost! And they screamed out with fright.

But instantly He spoke to them, saying, Take courage! I AM! Stop being afraid!

And Peter answered Him, Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water.

He said, Come! So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water, and he came toward Jesus. But when he perceived and felt the strong wind, he was frightened, and as he began to sink, he cried out, Lord, save me [from death]!

Instantly Jesus reached out His hand and caught and held him, saying to him, O you of little faith, why did you doubt?

And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased. And those in the boat knelt and worshiped Him, saying, Truly You are the Son of God!

How many times is some form of fear mentioned in this passage?

How did Jesus respond to each of these fears?

Sunday, November 15, 2009

"Fearless" Daily Devotional

This Daily Devotional is from Max Lucado's book, Fearless. This devotional is also posted under the Fearless book discussion.

Read Genesis 22:1-18:

NIV: Some time later God tested Abraham. He said to him, "Abraham!"

"Here I am," he replied.

Then God said, "Take your son, your only son, Isaac, whom you love, and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains I will tell you about."

Early the next morning Abraham got up and saddled his donkey. He took with him two of his servants and his son Isaac. When he had cut enough wood for the burnt offering, he set out for the place God had told him about. On the third day Abraham looked up and saw the place in the distance. He said to his servants, "Stay here with the donkey while I and the boy go over there. We will worship and then we will come back to you."

Abraham took the wood for the burnt offering and placed it on his son Isaac, and he himself carried the fire and the knife. As the two of them went on together, Isaac spoke up and said to his father Abraham, "Father?"

"Yes, my son?" Abraham replied.

"The fire and wood are here," Isaac said, "but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?"

Abraham answered, "God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son." And the two of them went on together.

When they reached the place God had told him about, Abraham built an altar there and arranged the wood on it. He bound his son Isaac and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. Then he reached out his hand and took the knife to slay his son. But the angel of the LORD called out to him from heaven, "Abraham! Abraham!"

"Here I am," he replied.

"Do not lay a hand on the boy," he said. "Do not do anything to him. Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son."

Abraham looked up and there in a thicket he saw a ram caught by its horns. He went over and took the ram and sacrificed it as a burnt offering instead of his son. So Abraham called that place The LORD Will Provide. And to this day it is said, "On the mountain of the LORD it will be provided."

The angel of the LORD called to Abraham from heaven a second time and said, "I swear by myself, declares the LORD, that because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son, I will surely bless you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore. Your descendants will take possession of the cities of their enemies, and through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed, because you have obeyed me."

Read Hebrews 11:19:

NIV: Abraham reasoned that God could raise the dead, and figuratively speaking, he did receive Isaac back from death.

Amplified Bible: For he reasoned that God was able to raise [him] up even from among the dead. Indeed in the sense that Isaac was figuratively dead [potentially sacrificed], he did [actually] receive him back from the dead.

What do you think of God’s test of Abraham?

How do you think he tests you regarding your children?

What conviction allowed Abraham to successfully pass this difficult test (see Hebrews 11:19)?

Do you put this much faith in the promises of God? Explain.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

"Fearless" Daily Devotional

This Daily Devotional is from Max Lucado's book, Fearless. This devotional is also posted under the Fearless book discussion.

Read Romans 8:31-32:

NIV: What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?

Amplified Bible: What then shall we say to [all] this? If God is for us, who [can be] against us? [Who can be our foe, if God is on our side?] He who did not withhold or spare [even] His own Son but gave Him up for us all, will He not also with Him freely and graciously give us all [other] things?

How does it change things if you know God is for you?

What proof does the apostle Paul offer to show that God is more than willing to give you what you need?

Friday, November 13, 2009

Book Quote: Finding Filfillment

I haven't read Becoming More Than a Good Bible Study Girl by Lysa TerKeurst, but I love this quote from chapter one:

Fulfillment means to be completely satisfied. How might our lives look if we were so filled with God's truths we could let go of the pain of our past, not get tripped up by the troubles of today, or consumed by worries about tomorrow? Sound impossible? It is impossible when we try to make it happen on our own by doing more good...things. Praying, reading the Bible, doing another Bible study, going to church, and being nice are wonderful and necessary. But just going through the motions of these activities will not in and of themselves fill our souls. They must be done with the great expectation and heart cry for God to lead us into a deeper and more life-changing connection with Him.

"Fearless" Daily Devotional

This Daily Devotional is from Max Lucado's book, Fearless. This devotional is also posted under the Fearless book discussion.

Read Luke 8:40-56:

NIV: Now when Jesus returned, a crowd welcomed him, for they were all expecting him. Then a man named Jairus, a ruler of the synagogue, came and fell at Jesus' feet, pleading with him to come to his house because his only daughter, a girl of about twelve, was dying.

As Jesus was on his way, the crowds almost crushed him. And a woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years, but no one could heal her. She came up behind him and touched the edge of his cloak, and immediately her bleeding stopped.

"Who touched me?" Jesus asked.

When they all denied it, Peter said, "Master, the people are crowding and pressing against you."

But Jesus said, "Someone touched me; I know that power has gone out from me."

Then the woman, seeing that she could not go unnoticed, came trembling and fell at his feet. In the presence of all the people, she told why she had touched him and how she had been instantly healed. Then he said to her, "Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace."

While Jesus was still speaking, someone came from the house of Jairus, the synagogue ruler. "Your daughter is dead," he said. "Don't bother the teacher any more."

Hearing this, Jesus said to Jairus, "Don't be afraid; just believe, and she will be healed."

When he arrived at the house of Jairus, he did not let anyone go in with him except Peter, John and James, and the child's father and mother. Meanwhile, all the people were wailing and mourning for her. "Stop wailing," Jesus said. "She is not dead but asleep."

They laughed at him, knowing that she was dead. But he took her by the hand and said, "My child, get up!" Her spirit returned, and at once she stood up. Then Jesus told them to give her something to eat. Her parents were astonished, but he ordered them not to tell anyone what had happened.

Amplified Bible: Now when Jesus came back [to Galilee], the crowd received and welcomed Him gladly, for they were all waiting and looking for Him. And there came a man named Jairus, who had [for a long time] been a director of the synagogue; and falling at the feet of Jesus, he begged Him to come to his house, for he had an only daughter, about twelve years of age, and she was dying.

As [Jesus] went, the people pressed together around Him [almost suffocating Him]. And a woman who had suffered from a flow of blood for twelve years and had spent all her living upon physicians, and could not be healed by anyone, came up behind Him and touched the fringe of His garment, and immediately her flow of blood ceased.

And Jesus said, Who is it who touched Me?

When all were denying it, Peter and those who were with him said, Master, the multitudes surround You and press You on every side!

But Jesus said, Someone did touch Me; for I perceived that [healing] power has gone forth from Me.

And when the woman saw that she had not escaped notice, she came up trembling, and, falling down before Him, she declared in the presence of all the people for what reason she had touched Him and how she had been instantly cured. And He said to her, Daughter, your faith (your confidence and trust in Me) has made you well! Go (enter) into peace (untroubled, undisturbed well-being).

While He was still speaking, a man from the house of the director of the synagogue came and said [to Jairus], Your daughter is dead; do not weary and trouble the Teacher any further.

But Jesus, on hearing this, answered him, Do not be seized with alarm or struck with fear; simply believe [in Me as able to do this], and she shall be made well.

And when He came to the house, He permitted no one to enter with Him except Peter and John and James, and the girl's father and mother. And all were weeping for and bewailing her; but He said, Do not weep, for she is not dead but sleeping.

And they laughed Him to scorn, knowing full well that she was dead. And grasping her hand, He called, saying, Child, arise [from the sleep of death]! And her spirit returned [from death], and she arose immediately; and He directed that she should be given something to eat. And her parents were amazed, but He charged them to tell no one what had occurred.

What challenges stood in the way of Jairus’s receiving help from Jesus?

How does this passage show that a delay in receiving an answer to a desperate prayer does not necessarily mean a no?

Thursday, November 12, 2009

"Fearless" Daily Devotional

This Daily Devotional is from Max Lucado's book, Fearless. This devotional is also posted under the Fearless book discussion.

Read John 15:7:

NIV: If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you.

Amplified Bible: If you live in Me [abide vitally united to Me] and My words remain in you and continue to live in your hearts, ask whatever you will, and it shall be done for you.

What does it mean to abide or remain in Jesus?

What does it mean for Jesus’ words to abide or remain in you?

What promise does Jesus make in this passage to those who follow his commands?

How does the context affect your understanding of this promise?

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

"Fearless" Daily Devotional

This Daily Devotional is from Max Lucado's book, Fearless. This devotional is also posted under the Fearless book discussion.

Read Read John 6:1-13:

NIV: Some time after this, Jesus crossed to the far shore of the Sea of Galilee (that is, the Sea of Tiberias), and a great crowd of people followed him because they saw the miraculous signs he had performed on the sick. Then Jesus went up on a mountainside and sat down with his disciples. The Jewish Passover Feast was near.

When Jesus looked up and saw a great crowd coming toward him, he said to Philip, "Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?" He asked this only to test him, for he already had in mind what he was going to do.

Philip answered him, "Eight months' wages would not buy enough bread for each one to have a bite!"

Another of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter's brother, spoke up, "Here is a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish, but how far will they go among so many?"

Jesus said, "Have the people sit down." There was plenty of grass in that place, and the men sat down, about five thousand of them. Jesus then took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed to those who were seated as much as they wanted. He did the same with the fish.

When they had all had enough to eat, he said to his disciples, "Gather the pieces that are left over. Let nothing be wasted." So they gathered them and filled twelve baskets with the pieces of the five barley loaves left over by those who had eaten.

Amplified Bible: AFTER THIS, Jesus went to the farther side of the Sea of Galilee--that is, the Sea of Tiberias. And a great crowd was following Him because they had seen the signs (miracles) which He [continually] performed upon those who were sick. And Jesus walked up the mountainside and sat down there with His disciples. Now the Passover, the feast of the Jews, was approaching.

Jesus looked up then, and seeing that a vast multitude was coming toward Him, He said to Philip, Where are we to buy bread, so that all these people may eat? But He said this to prove (test) him, for He well knew what He was about to do.

Philip answered Him, Two hundred pennies' (forty dollars) worth of bread is not enough that everyone may receive even a little.

Another of His disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter's brother, said to Him, There is a little boy here, who has [with him] five barley loaves, and two small fish; but what are they among so many people?

Jesus said, Make all the people recline (sit down). Now the ground (a pasture) was covered with thick grass at the spot, so the men threw themselves down, about 5,000 in number. Jesus took the loaves, and when He had given thanks, He distributed to the disciples and the disciples to the reclining people; so also [He did] with the fish, as much as they wanted.

When they had all had enough, He said to His disciples, Gather up now the fragments (the broken pieces that are left over), so that nothing may be lost and wasted. So accordingly they gathered them up, and they filled twelve [small hand] baskets with fragments left over by those who had eaten from the five barley loaves.

What shortage faced the disciples?

How did they respond to it?

How did Jesus use it to expand their spiritual vision?

How does verse 6 affect your understanding of this passage?

What does it say about the very real shortages that you face?

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

"Fearless" Daily Devotional

This Daily Devotional is from Max Lucado's book, Fearless. This devotional is also posted under the Fearless book discussion.

Read Matthew 6:25-34:

NIV: "Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?

"And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

Amplified Bible: Therefore I tell you, stop being perpetually uneasy (anxious and worried) about your life, what you shall eat or what you shall drink; or about your body, what you shall put on. Is not life greater [in quality] than food, and the body [far above and more excellent] than clothing? Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father keeps feeding them. Are you not worth much more than they? And who of you by worrying and being anxious can add one unit of measure (cubit) to his stature or to the span of his life?

And why should you be anxious about clothes? Consider the lilies of the field and learn thoroughly how they grow; they neither toil nor spin. Yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his magnificence (excellence, dignity, and grace) was not arrayed like one of these. [I Kings 10:4-7.] But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and green and tomorrow is tossed into the furnace, will He not much more surely clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not worry and be anxious, saying, What are we going to have to eat? or, What are we going to have to drink? or, What are we going to have to wear? For the Gentiles (heathen) wish for and crave and diligently seek all these things, and your heavenly Father knows well that you need them all. But seek (aim at and strive after) first of all His kingdom and His righteousness (His way of doing and being right), and then all these things taken together will be given you besides. So do not worry or be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will have worries and anxieties of its own. Sufficient for each day is its own trouble.

What reasons for not worrying does Jesus give in this passage?

What are we to do instead of worrying about a lack of things?

How does this work itself out in a practical sense?

Monday, November 9, 2009

"Fearless" Daily Devotional

This Daily Devotional is from Max Lucado's book, Fearless. This devotional is also posted under the Fearless book discussion.

Read John 6:37-40:

NIV: "All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away. For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all that he has given me, but raise them up at the last day. For my Father's will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day."

Amplified Bible: All whom My Father gives (entrusts) to Me will come to Me; and the one who comes to Me I will most certainly not cast out [I will never, no never, reject one of them who comes to Me]. For I have come down from heaven not to do My own will and purpose but to do the will and purpose of Him Who sent Me. And this is the will of Him Who sent Me, that I should not lose any of all that He has given Me, but that I should give new life and raise [them all] up at the last day. For this is My Father's will and His purpose, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in and cleaves to and trusts in and relies on Him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up [from the dead] at the last day.

Why did Jesus come down from heaven?

What was his purpose?

What is God’s will for those who believe in his Son?

Book Review: He Speaks to Me

He Speaks to Me cover

He Speaks to Me:
Preparing to Hear From God
by Priscilla Shirer

Trade Paperback: 208 pages
Publisher: Moody Publishers
First Released: 2006

Author Website

Source: Bought from Books-A-Milion

Back Cover Description:
Are you longing to hear God's voice but feeling disconnected?

Do you want to develop a more intimate prayer life? Even more, do you want to hear from God in practical ways? God wants to speak directly to each of His beloved children--not to just a few "spiritual elite." Priscilla Shirer looks at God's call to Samuel and uncovers six characteristics essential for hearing from God:

A simple RELATIONSHIP--unfettered by sin or pride.
A single-minded WORSHIP--focused on God and His glory.
A set-apart HOLINESS--determined to live a life that honors Him.
A still ATTENTIVENESS--willing to be silent before Him.
A sold-out HUNGER--passionately pursuing God's presence.
A servant SPIRIT--submitted to God's call.

Her warmth and honesty, combined with a wealth of practical help, will inspire you to cultivate these traits in your own life. By doing so, you will prepare yourself to draw closer to Him and to hear His voice more clearly.

He Speaks to Me was an excellent God-focused and Scripture-focused book. If you're interested in hearing from God, I'd recommend this book to get you prepared to hear from God and Listening For God by Marilyn Hontz to help you with practical ways to hear His voice and guidance.

Priscilla Shirer used the story of when Samuel heard God call to him as a boy as the frame for the points she made, then she explored what the rest of Scripture had to say. She used examples from the Bible and from her life to illustrate her points.

The book was easy-to-understand and had a lot of good, Biblical insights. While the author was writing this to a female audience (she referred to the reader as "sister"), the information does apply to men, too. I'd highly recommend this book to anyone who feels disconnected or distant from God.

If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.

Excerpt from the Introduction
As believers, we oftentimes get used to and even become dependent upon hand-me-down revelations about God. We allow others to spoon-feed us the Word of God. But as you mature spiritually, don't you want God to send you a special gift-wrapped message with your name on it--for Him to reveal something very specific about your life? When that time comes, you need to know how to listen for His voice.

I believe that Scripture tells us how we can prepare ourselves to hear what God wants to say specifically to us. Please don't misunderstand. This isn't just some pie-in-the-sky religious issue. It's down-to-earth and intensely practical. When I began my study, the demands of life were threatening to overwhelm me. With a husband, two small children, and a ministry, I desperately needed to hear from God for instruction, guidance, and power. Yet I wasn't hearing from Him nearly enough.

The Lord doesn't speak in a whisper or in a dark corner somewhere where people can barely hear; nor does He try to trick us because He knows we can't understand what He's saying. "You are my witnesses," declares the Lord, "and my servant whom I have chosen, so that you may know and believe me and understand that I am he" (Isaiah 43:10). God doesn't have a case of cosmic laryngitis, and nothing is wrong with His transmitter. Our receiving equipment, however, often leaves a lot to be desired.

When I wasn't hearing from God, I got into the Bible for myself to find out how I could hear His voice more clearly. As I searched Scripture, I saw that God often spoke to people because they were prepared to hear from Him, and I realized that maybe He was waiting on me to position myself to hear His voice.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

"Fearless" Daily Devotional

This Daily Devotional is from Max Lucado's book, Fearless. This devotional is also posted under the Fearless book discussion.

Read John 3:16-18, 36:

NIV: "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God's one and only Son.

Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God's wrath remains on him."

Amplified Bible: For God so greatly loved and dearly prized the world that He [even] gave up His only begotten (unique) Son, so that whoever believes in (trusts in, clings to, relies on) Him shall not perish (come to destruction, be lost) but have eternal (everlasting) life. For God did not send the Son into the world in order to judge (to reject, to condemn, to pass sentence on) the world, but that the world might find salvation and be made safe and sound through Him. He who believes in Him [who clings to, trusts in, relies on Him] is not judged [he who trusts in Him never comes up for judgment; for him there is no rejection, no condemnation--he incurs no damnation]; but he who does not believe (cleave to, rely on, trust in Him) is judged already [he has already been convicted and has already received his sentence] because he has not believed in and trusted in the name of the only begotten Son of God. [He is condemned for refusing to let his trust rest in Christ's name.]

And he who believes in (has faith in, clings to, relies on) the Son has (now possesses) eternal life. But whoever disobeys (is unbelieving toward, refuses to trust in, disregards, is not subject to) the Son will never see (experience) life, but [instead] the wrath of God abides on him. [God's displeasure remains on him; His indignation hangs over him continually.]

Why did God send his Son into the world?

What was not the Son’s purpose?

What is true of those who believe in the Son?

What is true of those who do not believe in the Son?

Saturday, November 7, 2009

"Fearless" Daily Devotional

This Daily Devotional is from Max Lucado's book, Fearless. This devotional is also posted under the Fearless book discussion.

Read Colossians 1:13-14:

NIV: For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

Amplified Bible: [The Father] has delivered and drawn us to Himself out of the control and the dominion of darkness and has transferred us into the kingdom of the Son of His love, In Whom we have our redemption through His blood, [which means] the forgiveness of our sins.

From what have believers in Christ been delivered or rescued?

How have believers been redeemed?

What does this redemption entail?

Friday, November 6, 2009

Book Quotes: God's Priorities

From Because He Loves Me by Elyse M. Fitzpatrick (page 138):

...God is in control and...he is more interested in my holiness than [in] my work for him.

"Fearless" Daily Devotional

This Daily Devotional is from Max Lucado's book, Fearless. This devotional is also posted under the Fearless book discussion.

Read Ephesians 2:10:

NIV: For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

Amplified Bible: For we are God's [own] handiwork (His workmanship), recreated in Christ Jesus, [born anew] that we may do those good works which God predestined (planned beforehand) for us [taking paths which He prepared ahead of time], that we should walk in them [living the good life which He prearranged and made ready for us to live].

Why did God create us?

Why should this give us confidence?

Why can we feel confident that we can find God’s best plan for us?

Thursday, November 5, 2009

"Fearless" Daily Devotional

This Daily Devotional is from Max Lucado's book, Fearless. This devotional is also posted under the Fearless book discussion.

Read Psalm 139:14-18, 23-24:

NIV: I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be. How precious to me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them! Were I to count them, they would outnumber the grains of sand. When I awake, I am still with you.

Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.

Amplified Bible: I will confess and praise You for You are fearful and wonderful and for the awful wonder of my birth! Wonderful are Your works, and that my inner self knows right well. My frame was not hidden from You when I was being formed in secret [and] intricately and curiously wrought [as if embroidered with various colors] in the depths of the earth [a region of darkness and mystery]. Your eyes saw my unformed substance, and in Your book all the days [of my life] were written before ever they took shape, when as yet there was none of them. How precious and weighty also are Your thoughts to me, O God! How vast is the sum of them! If I could count them, they would be more in number than the sand. When I awoke, [could I count to the end] I would still be with You.

Search me [thoroughly], O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there is any wicked or hurtful way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.

What kind of thoughts does God have toward you?

How many thoughts does he have of you?

How do verses 14-18 give the psalmist the confidence to make his request in verses 23-24?

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

"Fearless" Daily Devotional

This Daily Devotional is from Max Lucado's book, Fearless. This devotional is also posted under the Fearless book discussion.

Read Luke 12:4-7:

NIV: "I tell you, my friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that can do no more. But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear him who, after the killing of the body, has power to throw you into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him. Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God. Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don't be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.

Amplified Bible: I tell you, My friends, do not dread and be afraid of those who kill the body and after that have nothing more that they can do. But I will warn you whom you should fear: fear Him Who, after killing, has power to hurl into hell (Gehenna); yes, I say to you, fear Him! Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? And [yet] not one of them is forgotten or uncared for in the presence of God. But [even] the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Do not be struck with fear or seized with alarm; you are of greater worth than many [flocks] of sparrows.

Of whom are we not to be afraid? Why not?

Whom are we to fear? Why?

What kind of fear is meant?

What reason does Jesus give for not succumbing to fear (v. 7)?

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

"Fearless" Daily Devotional

This Daily Devotional is from Max Lucado's book, Fearless. This devotional is also posted under the Fearless book discussion.

Read 2 Timothy 1:7:

NIV: For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline.

Amplified Bible: For God did not give us a spirit of timidity (of cowardice, of craven and cringing and fawning fear), but [He has given us a spirit] of power and of love and of calm and well-balanced mind and discipline and self-control.

What kind of spirit has God not given to his children?

What does this imply about the origin of most of our fears?

What kind of spirit has God given to his children?

What difference should this make to us when fear strikes?

Monday, November 2, 2009

"Fearless" Daily Devotional

This Daily Devotional is from Max Lucado's book, Fearless. This devotional is also posted under the Fearless book discussion.

Read John 16:33:

NIV: "I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world."

Amplified Bible: I have told you these things, so that in Me you may have [perfect] peace and confidence. In the world you have tribulation and trials and distress and frustration; but be of good cheer [take courage; be confident, certain, undaunted]! For I have overcome the world. [I have deprived it of power to harm you and have conquered it for you.]

What promise does Jesus give here about living in this world?

What does Jesus offer his followers and on what is this offer based?

Book Review: Respectable Sins

Respectable Sins cover

Respectable Sins
by Jerry Bridges

Hardback: 192 pages
Publisher: NavPress
First Released: 2007

Source: Review copy from the publisher.

Back Cover Description:
What ever happened to sin?

Have Christians become so preoccupied with the major sins of our society that we have lost sight of our need to deal with our own more subtle sins? Jerry Bridges returns to his trademark theme of holiness and addresses a dozen clusters of specific "acceptable" sin that we tend to tolerate in ourselves--such as jealousy, anger, pride, unthankfulness, and judgmentalism. Jerry writes not from a height of spiritual accomplishment but from the trenches of his own battles with sin. In his admonitions, Jerry offers a message of hope in the profound mercy of the gospel and the transforming grace of God as the means to overcome our subtle sins.

Respectable Sins frequently referred to Scripture and pointed the reader to God for help. I appreciated that it stressed the seriousness of all sin ("small" and "large") and it pointed out that wrong attitudes are serious, too.

Since the sins listed on the back cover are all ones of attitude (jealousy, anger, pride, unthankfulness, judgmentalism), I assumed the point of the book was about attitudes--how the Bible teaches that we might get our behavior outwardly correct, but as long as our attitudes are wrong then our wrong behavior will keep slipping through despite our best efforts. Thus, we need to have changed attitudes in order to have permanently changed behaviors.

However, the author didn't clearly point this out and treated attitudes the same way as behavior--this is a wrong attitude that makes us act in these ways; don't act this way, but act this way; ask God for help. Most of each chapter was focused on how we act--behavior--rather than staying focused on the root of the problem (the heart/attitudes) and the solution (Christ). Some chapters were better with this than others.

I had problems with chapters 3-6. The author previously stated that those who have accepted Christ as their Savior are now saints and that God sees Jesus' righteousness when He looks at us. Great! But then he stressed multiple times that our identity is really still "a great sinner" and that we are constantly sinning and can do nothing without selfish motives.

Um. Christ's work means my identity is no longer SINNER even if I sin. Also, I'm not constantly sinning and I can do things with no selfish motives--and all the credit, praise, and glory for this goes to God. If this isn't happening, I have to wonder if the person is allowing God to work in their life.

The author also stated that our progress on changing can be very slow, so much so that it appears no progress is being made. This isn't how it has to be. Generally, the Holy Spirit convicts me of sin, I fall on my knees in sincere repentance, and I pray "Lord, I know this attitude is not pleasing to you, but I acknowledge my inability to change it. I surrender. Please take Lordship over this part of my heart. Give me your heart / an attitude pleasing to you about this situation." I'm delighted to find that my attitude has truly and lastingly changed within minutes to hours of saying this prayer. (Though sometimes I also have to add "help me to see this sin the way you do so that I can sincerely reject this attitude and want to change.") It's then easy and joyful to behave correctly--not to mention restful since I don't have the burden of making this impossible change on my own.

Which brings me to a statement the author made on page 49:

...while depending on the Holy Spirit, we must at the same time recognize our responsibility to diligently pursue all practical steps for dealing with our sins....Here the wisdom of some of the older writers will help us: "Work as if it all depends on you, and yet trust as if you did not work at all."

I agree that we play a role--sincere repentance and surrender, asking God to transform our attitudes, and not repeating actions we know are going to put us in the way of temptation. However, I don't agree that we should act as if anything depended on us. The whole point is that it doesn't. Besides, since when does God share the glory? If we can claim credit for getting ourselves part of the way to perfection, then we're stealing some of the credit and glory that belongs only to God.

Obviously, I have mixed feelings about this book. Parts were good, and I'm sure there are people who would find it convicting. However, I think that books like Because He Loves Me by Elyse M. Fitzpatrick, Believing God by Beth Moore, and Eyes Wide Open by Jud Wilhite do a much better job at explaining how to become free of these sins.

If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.


Read chapter one.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Book Discussion for Fearless


If you're reading our Nov/Dec book, Fearless by Max Lucado, this is where you can make comments on the book, ask questions, or answer questions that I post here.

If you aren't, you can still participate! Max Lucado included Bible study questions in the back of the book. I'll be posting one of these each day until they run out (in about a month and a half). They're quick but insightful. So come join us!

Click on the title of this post to see the discussion.

If you're not familiar with blogger, you can then leave a comment by:

1) Scrolling down to the bottom of the discussion (preferably after reading the discussion ;) ).

2) Click on the "Post a Comment" link. The comment box will pop up as a separate webpage. Write your comments in the text box.

3) Look below the text box and the "Choose an identity" line. Choose the "Name/URL" option. Type your first name into the correct place and click the "Publish Your Comment" button.

4) Your comment should now be posted.