Friday, May 28, 2010

Book Quotes: Can We Understand God?

From In God We Trust by Steve Ham (page 78):

So I accept that Scripture teaches that we have one God and I also accept that Scripture teaches that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are one. We cannot understand that. How can we? We are limited in power, presence, and knowledge. We have limited capacity to accept anything outside the realm in which we live. But that is exactly the point. If we could understand God, would He be any different to us? Would He be God?

....It is how I answer the question for people asking me about the Trinity. If we were to examine what the Bible teaches about God, we would find much more about God that we couldn't truly fathom or understand. It is at this point that we know that there is much that can be confirmed in God's Word that He has graciously allowed us to understand, and that gives us a great confidence in having faith in God for the things we can't understand. God has unique attributes that make Him the Creator and us the creation.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Book Review: God's Truth Revealed

book cover

God's Truth Revealed:
Biblical Foundations for the Christian Faith
by Kathy Howard

Trade Paperback: 192 pages
Publisher: New Hope Publishers
First Released: 2010

Author Website
Book Website

Source: Won a free copy from the author on a giveaway held by another blogger.

Back Cover Description:
You may be exploring Christianity for the first time. Perhaps you are ready to know God, not simply know about Him. Or maybe you are a new Christian and desire a strong biblical foundation on which to build your faith. This study is for you, whatever your personal situation might be.

God's Truth Revealed includes:
*Real-life stories of hope and redemption
*Questions for reflection
*Scripture memory and Bible reading plans
*A dictionary of "churchy words"
*Leader's guide for small-group use

God's Truth Revealed is a 12-session small-group (or individual) Bible study for those who are exploring what Christianity is about. Several of the sessions would also be good for new believers. The study covered: the Bible is accurate; God is real and how mankind can know Him; God created everything and made humankind special; the purpose mankind was created for; why the world and our relationship with God is so messed up; what God did to make it possible for us to have a fixed relationship with Him; why we can't fix this ourselves; how we can be made right with God; God also gave us a future hope; and what God wants from us once we're a Christian.

Each session started with a brief illustrative story then introduced a new concept. The author gave Bible verses for the participants to read (some of which were included in the book) and then discussed those verses. She gave cultural, historical, and scientific evidence to help the reader better understand the idea and verses. She defined the "churchy" words when she used them. She asked some good discussion questions based on the verses. Each session ended with a testimony of how God brought a person into a personal relationship with Him and a "Find Out More" page-long study with some more verses and questions.

At the end of the book, there was a "churchy words" dictionary, suggested Bible Reading plan, Scripture memory tips, and a leader's guide.

I thought that she picked good verses to study, that the questions were generally very good, and that the book was written in an easy to understand way, especially for people not used to Christian words or concepts. She included information on the accuracy of the Bible and why evolution isn't how God created. She promoted actively building a relationship with God through time spent with him in two-way communication (prayer) and reading God's Word.

There were a couple places where I felt the author didn't cover the full meaning of a phrase or concept or I would have defining them slightly differently. I also would have included another session or two to cover some more key concepts from the Old Testament. However, overall, I felt the study was an excellent one and would recommend it to seekers.

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 Session One
Any number of events or circumstances may have brought you to this study. You may be exploring Christianity for the first time. Perhaps you are ready to really know God, not just know about Him. Or maybe you are a new Christian and desire a strong biblical foundation on which to build your faith. This study is for you, whatever your personal situation might be.

I encourage you to explore the claims of Christianity with me for the next 12 weeks. Questions and even skepticism are welcome. All that is necessary is a real desire to know God. Are you willing to let God show you who He is and how He wants to relate to you? The fact that you are involved in this study is proof God is at work in your life. The Bible says no one can come to God unless God draws them. (See John 6:44).

True Christianity is knowing God in a personal way. Christianity boldly claims there is only one way to know God. Of course, so do other religions. Are they all right? Or has God established one way that is the way to know Him? And how can we know which is the one true way?

Friday, May 21, 2010

Book Quote: God Is Not My Copilot

From Crash Course: Forming a Faith Foundation for Life by Daniel Darling (page 98):

[A bumper sticker] I see a lot has me puzzled. It reads, "God is my copilot." Sounds good, but is that a good way to live? I'm not sure God is interested in being the copilot of your life. He'd rather be your pilot.

In fact, when we take our hands off the steering wheel and slide out of the driver's seat, we give God the freedom to steer us in the way that He knows is best for us.

Today, the words of Solomon, the wisest young man who ever lived, ring true, "In all your ways acknowledge God, and he will make straight your paths."

What does it mean to acknowledge God? It's making a vow that you will consider God in every single choice you make. What does God think about my boyfriend or girlfriend? What does God think about the college I'm considering? What does God think about this new job?

I must admit, this is an easy thing to write, but a hard thing to do. Opening up your life to the lordship of Christ swims against the tide. It might not make you popular.

But you'll go through life with wisdom others don't have, and you'll avoid the pitfalls of a life without God's guidance.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

DVD Review: Prophets & Kings of Israel

DVD cover

That the World May Know:
Faith Lessons on the Prophets & Kings of Israel

Length: 2 hours 15 minutes
Publisher: Zondervan
First Released: 2005

Source: Rented it from Netflix.

Netflix Description:
The wisdom of the Bible will fill your heart as you experience Israel through the lives of its kings and prophets. You'll learn about how far a soul can sink as you witness Baal worship. And you'll wander the wilderness with David and know the heart of the shepherd. You'll learn to fully realize your responsibility to represent God to a troubled world. This video is the second volume of the "That the World May Know" series.

Prophets & Kings of Israel is the second volume of the "That the World May Know" series. If you've never had a chance to travel in Israel and you can rent or borrow this series, then I'd highly recommend you do. It has nice footage of the Holy Land so that you can get a feel for what the land looks like now. It helps to bring the Bible alive.

I've heard most of this information before in "cultural background to the Bible" books, but it was nice to see visuals for a few of these things, like the temple in lesson 5.

The lessons were filmed like you were a part of a tour group, but with added graphics, pictures, and aerial shots when appropriate. The format was that at each new site the teacher would give us the history related to the site, describe what the site originally looked like (if it was now in ruins), and give a faith lesson related to "impacting the culture" based on what we learned at that site. The faith lessons on this disk were pretty decent and related to the site.

Lesson One: Megiddo and the Jezreel Valley - the group sat in the ruins of Megiddo overlooking the plains and were taught about ancient trade routes, the water system at Megiddo (a tunnel to the spring), and about Baal worship (while sitting near the ruins of an ancient altar).

Lesson Two: Mt. Carmel - the group sat on Mt. Carmel overlooking the plains toward the sea. Related Scripture was read.

Lesson Three: Lachish - the group toured various parts of the ruins of Lachish. The gate and gateway were show as well as sewer channels in the streets. A brief aside showed the tunnel which Hezekiah dug at Jerusalem to bring spring water into that city. He talked about the assault on Lachish by Shalmaneser king of Assyria and showed the frieze and record of this attack which was found in Shalmaneser's palace in Assyria.

Lesson Four: Beduin in Negev - the group sat in a tent of some beduin and watched them herd a group of sheep and goats past. The lesson was on shepherding in the wilderness.

Lesson Five: A temple in Arad - This temple was a well-preserved smaller version of the Jerusalem temple that was built in Arad back before Hezekiah's reign. The lesson was about how the Jerusalem temple was laid out and what went on in the temples. He also explained covenants.

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

Monday, May 17, 2010

Giveaway for two books!

I'm hosting a chat with Steve Ham, author of In God We Trust and co-author of Raising Godly Children in an Ungody World.

Join the chat on May 19 anytime from 9am to 9pm CDT, and you'll have a chance to win these books. If you help promote the chat, you have a chance to win In God We Trust and one New Leaf Publishing book of your choice. The details are on the chat page.

To participate in the chat, you do have to sign up on Creation Conversations (which is free) and join my Book Talk group there.

Book Review: The Anatomy of the Soul

book cover

The Anatomy of the Soul
by Curt Thompson, M.D.

Hardback: 304 pages
Publisher: SaltRiver
First Released: 2010

Source: Review copy from Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.

Back Cover Description:
Do you want to improve your relationships and experience lasting personal change? Join Curt Thompson, M.D., on an amazing journey to discover the surprising pathways for transformation hidden inside your own mind.

Integrating new findings in neuroscience and attachment with Christian spirituality, Dr. Thompson reveals how it is possible to rewire your mind, altering your brain patterns and literally making you more like the person God intended you to be. Explaining discoveries about the brain in layman’s terms, he shows how you can be mentally transformed through spiritual practices, interaction with Scripture, and connections with other people. He also provides practical exercises to help you experience healing in areas where you’ve been struggling.

The Anatomy of the Soul wasn't very well written. The information on how the brain works was information I already knew--mostly things I learned 14 years ago in college.

I found the writing repetitious and unnecessarily wordy and complex. The author made up new, Christian-sounding terms for some old, proven ideas I've heard elsewhere and then put in a lot of filler ("this really changed this guy's life, so keep reading to learn how!) or repetition before revealing a pretty simple concept. To give credit where due, his "Memory and the Brain" and "Implicit Memory" sections in chapter 5 were concise, helpful in nature, and clearly showed how how-the-brain-works directly related to changing behavior. Chapter 7 also had some interesting information on child development.

However, I didn't like how the author often said "this is what this Christian term or phrase really means" when it didn't and how he often quoted verses from the Bible out of context or with incorrect context so that they sounded connected to the point he was making.

God also came across as limited in power and knowledge. In chapter 4, the author portrayed God as being pleasantly surprised that Moses is curious about his burning bush trick and so decides to reward Moses by talking with him. (p. 51: "God was pleased enough that Moses was paying attention to him that he went further than lightening a botanical candle. He decided to talk with him.")

Other statements that I don't agree are biblical: The author said, "Jesus came to touch our minds" (p.84)--but no mention is made of His intent to make atonement for our sins. Also, "[God] does not seem to be in a hurry to clean up our personal scandals, much less the world at large, all by himself. He is looking for serious partners. The first partner, Adam, failed miserably, as did several others. Some partnered more helpfully than others, but only when Jesus came did we see what partnering with God really looks like....We have been invited to add our chapters and verses, to be coauthors in this Story" (pages 133-134). And " get the sense that the [Bible] is not so much about how to simply clean up the mess [of our lives], but how creative you can get with the mess you have" (p.141). And page 142 implied that, when Jesus was a child, he behaved in ways not pleasing to God but God was pleased with Jesus anyway. That God is always pleased with us and feeling that makes us act in ways pleasing to him (p.144). And "[Jesus'] deep awareness of God did not happen automatically. In fact, no one has ever worked harder at knowing and being known by God than Jesus" (p.180). Sin is merely being disconnected from God (p.183) but "the good news is that Jesus has shown us this new way to be human" (p.222) because even when things got really bad (on the cross) he kept a perfectly integrated brain (p.225). Jesus defeated "mindlessness" on the cross (p. 226). Likewise, we need to "kill off" our old neural pathways (p.229). And so on.

He repeatedly said that when people tell you "the Holy Spirit will transform you" that's of no practical help, but we can perfect ourselves using this knowledge of how our brains work. From other statements the author made, it appears that he believes God created using evolution--letting creatures perfect themselves over time from imperfection--so I guess he's just being consistent in his thinking: that God intends for and enables humans to perfect themselves. The author did credit God with hinting about this information in the Bible and using His knowledge about how our brain works in His interactions with us. But the author apparently doesn't see God as personally working the transformation, just using this transformation process.

The author encouraged reading the narrative and poetry portions of the Bible. He also suggested meditation--closing your eyes and visualizing God saying how much He loves you and is pleased with you--and movement exercises such as yoga and tai chi to enhance your awareness of your body's sensations and breathing. He briefly mentions prayer (which promotes an awareness of God's constant presence), fasting (to put us in touch with our bodies), reading and writing (to integrate the brain), and confession (to make us aware of old neural pathways [habits] and to create open, trusting relationships).

I don't recommend this book due to my problems with his theology. I'd recommend The Search for Significance by Robert McGee if you want to change your bad habits and hang-ups.

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.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Book Quotes: Love God or His Gifts?

From Crazy Love by Francis Chan:

Pages 100-101:

In his book God Is the Gospel, John Piper essentially asks whether we are in love with God:

The critical question for our generation--and for every generation--is this: If you could have heaven, with no sickness, and with all the friends you ever had on earth, and all the food you ever liked, and all the leisure activities you ever enjoyed, and all the natural beauties you ever saw, all the physical pleasures you ever tasted, and no human conflict or any natural disasters, could you be satisfied with heaven, if Christ was not there?

How many of you will read those words and say, "You know, I just might be okay with that"? If you are as deeply in love with God as Grandma Clara was, you know you could never be satisfied in a heaven without Christ.

Page 139:

...I used to be driven by my fear of God. I also used to work hard to prove that I was committed to God. Now I have tremendous fear and awe of God, but that doesn't motivate me. Now I work hard to serve God, but it isn't to prove my devotion.

Now I think I'm actually in love. Maybe that sounds corny to you, but I can't think of a more appropriate way to say it.

If a guy were dating my daughter but didn't want to spend the gas money to come pick her up or refused to buy her dinner because it cost too much, I would question whether he were really in love with her. In the same way, I question whether many American churchgoers are really in love with God because they are so hesitant to do anything for Him.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Book Review: In God We Trust

book cover

In God We Trust
by Steve Ham

Trade Paperback: 240 pages
Publisher: Master Books
First Released: 2010

Source: Review copy from the publisher.

Back Cover Description:
Biblical faith is being undermined and criticized with an increasing fervor in schools, on job sites, and in the marketplace. Are you equipped to face the onslaught of secular, anti-Christian values and viewpoints? Can you clearly state why you believe in Christ and the authority of the Bible? How does this work in your daily life? In God We Trust is a guided journey that will help you:

• Identify the influence of the secular worldview and how it attempts to compromise the Word of God.

• Distinguish between genuine authority and the counterfeit authority of so many at present.

• Realize how your commitment to God’s authority will impact your church, family, and others for Christ.

In God We Trust is a mix of Christian Living, theology, and apologetics. It basically says that we have every reason to believe that the Bible is the authoritative and accurate Word of God, so we need to use it to interpret what we see around us rather than using what we see around us to interpret "what the Bible really means." By accepting Biblical authority, our whole way of living will change because we know with assurance what God wants from us and has promised us.

The author wrote in a somewhat formal tone, but it was still easy to understand his points. The author used Scripture to make his points. I'd highly recommend this book to all Christians, especially pastors and teachers (both for youth and adult).

Chapter One was about why we need a solid reason to believe in the gospel rather than simply assenting to it "just in case hell turns out to be true."

Chapter Two was about why the gospel is hard for non-Christians to believe.

Chapter Three asked who can be the real, final authority on God and what He wants and then explained why human reason and philosophy, science, personal experiences, government, or culture and tradition can't be the ultimate authority on God.

Chapter Four showed that God is the authority about Himself, the Bible is His Word, and the Bible is reliable and without error.

Chapter Five showed that, if the Bible is reliable and without error, then it needs to be our authority on life--our "first and final source" for truth. It explained the difference between the specific, "special" revelation found in God's Word and the "general revelation" found by studying nature. You need special revelation to properly understand general revelation or you'll likely draw some wrong conclusions.

Chapters Six was about the authority of God. It talked about His characteristics and how we can't fully wrap our minds around some of these concepts, like the Trinity, based on our human experience, and that's because He's God...He's not like us. But we can still accept the things He tells us about Himself.

Chapter Seven was about how God the Son is also God and has all of God's authority. If Christ is "the Word," then he "spoke" the whole Bible, not just the red-ink parts in the gospels.

Chapter Eight was about how Christians are tempted to make changes to the gospel to make it sound nicer, more appealing, or less foolish to non-Christians. But when we do that, we deny the authority and work of the Holy Spirit whose job is to (among other things) convict people of the truth of the gospel.

Chapters Nine through Thirteen were about how accepting Biblical authority changes how we live. It changes our focus in life (chapter nine), how we view and practice worship (chapter ten), how we live and value our family roles (husband, wife, father, mother, etc.)(chapter 11), how we view the purpose of the church (chapter 12), and how we share the gospel (chapter 13).

The Appendix contained what I had expected to be included in the first section, chapters 1-5. Here the author stated that if the Bible is true, then we would expect to see it confirmed in the word around us. He listed some confirmations found in science and fulfilled Bible prophesy.

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 pages 64-66
The axiomatic approach stands on the claims of Scripture first, with the foundation that God's Word is already the full, sole, and final authority. The evidentialist position, while often in agreement with the principle that God's Word is the authority, is also an attempt to interpret Scripture on the basis of how a supposed neutral assessment of the evidence determines the meaning of the passage being read. The problem is that a "neutral" assessment is never really neutral. At some stage, autonomous human reasoning is adapted as part of the interpretative method, rather than Scripture being the foundation for the interpretation of evidence.

As an example, some from an evidentialist approach have come to the conclusion that human death, as a consequence for sin, can only be a spiritual rather than a physical death. This position has been adopted by and large to account for the popular belief that death has been in existence before man, as illustrated by a fossil record that supposedly precedes man by millions of years.

The scope and definition of "death" as a consequence of sin is truly determined by the reader's approach being "axiomatic" or "evidential." It is an important issue because the Bible tells us in Romans 5:12 and 17 that we have salvation through one Man's death (Jesus) and that this has saved us from the death consequences of one man's sin (Adam).

The difference between an axiomatic position and an evidential one in relation to the subject of "death" as a consequence of sin is real and has real ramifications in the way we assess both our need for Christ and the impact of His death on the Cross. Ultimately, it is an issue relating to the authority of Scripture itself.

The only consistent understanding of the gospel comes from an axiomatic approach. This approach allows the reader to know that physical (and spiritual) death is only normal because we live in a sin-cursed world. Death is our enemy: "The last enemy that will be destroyed is death" (1 Cor. 15:26). It is a consequence of sin that has separated us from God and His designed purpose for our lives to glorify Him. We then find perfect consistency in Jesus as the sinless sacrifice, dying and then rising to conquer death--so that in Him we can have life. We can have confidence knowing that Christ will one day restore all things back to the perfection of His original creation where there will again be no death nor suffering and perfect union with our Creator: "And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, or sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away" (Rev. 21:4).

Even so, there are still many from the evidentialist camp who have recognized that human death prior to sin is a direct contradiction with Romans 5 (and other similar Scriptures). As a result, these people, still maintaining an evidentialist approach, have asserted that the death consequence in Genesis 3 must be of a physical nature but restricted to humanity--not animals. One of the main reasons for this is that the fossil record contains billions of animal fossils, supposedly (as the secularists claim) laid down millions of years before humans came into existence. From the evidentialists' perspective, they then assert that when the Bible talks of death as a result of sin, it is only talking of human death. In this way, the evidentialist approach has already placed a human belief system as the authority in interpreting Scripture rather than allowing Scripture to give us the framework of assessing the fossil record evidence. To support their philosophical input into the text of Genesis, many further assert that the beginning chapters of Genesis are poetic (or mythological) rather than literal history.

In an attempt to be neutral, the evidentialist has assessed the evidence with a presupposition of "millions of years," which then becomes the basis of assessment before even considering that Scripture itself may have a perfectly logical and historical explanation for the evidence of the fossil record. In other words, man's wisdom is placed above God's.

[Note from Debbie: the Biblical explanation is that many animals died in the world-wide Flood that occurred during Noah's life and that most fossils were created at that time. Experiments have shown that the layering effect was caused by the sorting action of the moving water based on weight and shape.]

Friday, May 7, 2010

Book Quote: The Origin of Our Actions

I haven't read the book, but I like this quote from The Knowledge of the Holy by A.W. Tozer (page 1):

What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us....Worship is pure or base as the worshiper entertains high or low thoughts of God. For this reason the gravest question before the Church is always God Himself, and the most portentous fact about any man is not what he at a given time may say or do, but what he in his deep heart conceives God to be like.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Book Review: Crazy Love

book cover

Crazy Love
by Francis Chan
and Danae Yankoski

Trade Paperback: 186 pages
Publisher: David C Cook
First Released: 2008

Book website

Source: Borrowed from a friend.

Back Cover Description:
Have you ever wondered if we're missing it?

It's crazy, if you think about it. The God of the universe—the Creator of nitrogen and pine needles, galaxies and E-minor—loves us with a radical, unconditional, self-sacrificing love. And what is our typical response? We go to church, sing songs, and try not to cuss.

Whether you've verbalized it yet or not...we all know something's wrong.

Does something deep inside your heart long to break free from the status quo? Are you hungry for an authentic faith that addresses the problems of our world with tangible, even radical, solutions? God is calling you to a passionate love relationship with Himself. Because the answer to religious complacency isn't working harder at a list of do's and don'ts--it's falling in love with God. And once you encounter His love, as Francis describes it, you will never be the same.

Because when you're wildly in love with someone, it changes everything.

Lately, I've heard or read several good quotes from Crazy Love, so I asked a friend if I could borrow it. She said she'd heard a lot of people say it transformed their lives, but she questioned something the author said and was looking forward to hearing my opinion of the book. So I did a quick check on Amazon. After reading a certain one star review, I almost decided not to "waste my time" reading it since it sounded like it had some bad theology. But my friend wanted my opinion, so I read Crazy Love...and I'm so glad I did.

Crazy Love is a Christ-focused, Scripture-based Christian Living book. Each chapter built on the last. It was easy to read and understand and was written in a causal tone. The author sometimes referred to online videos that the reader should go watch before continuing. I didn't do that, but it might enhance his points in the first few chapters if you do.

Overall, I'd highly recommend this book. Don't get tripped up by the author's wording in chapter five and stop listening. Ask God what things in this book He wants you to hear and let work on your heart. And then read a book like More Than a Carpenter by Josh & Sean McDowell or In God We Trust by Steve Ham so that you can rest assured, deep down, that you can trust what the Bible says about God's promises to us and what Jesus wants from us.

Chapter One: The character and nature of God--God is Creator, holy, eternal, all-knowing, all-powerful, fair, and just--and what this means.

Chapter Two: We're not in control, but God is. This is why we don't need to worry or stress out.

Chapter Three: How God's love is different from human love.

Chapter Four: Our response to God's it's usually not to value God above all else or to act in a way consistent with a full understanding of what He's done for us. The author gave a profile of the lukewarm Christian (and he pointed out that we all do some of these things some of the time...he means here long-term, unchanging attitudes.)

Chapter Five: Based on his readings of the Gospels, the author believes that you must surrender your life to Christ and desire to be obedient to Him to truly be saved (which I agree with) if you fit the profile of a lukewarm Christian, you were never really saved (which I don't completely agree with since full surrender of every part of one's life often happens over time and a bit at a time). I think his phrasing--especially the use of "lukewarm"--may be tripping some people up. But I agree with the overall idea of the chapter--that Jesus asks us to surrender control of our lives to Him and actively become his disciples.

Also, the author pointed out that if we're not actively pursuing God then the "current" of the world will naturally pull us further away from Him. So we need to be active & deliberate in our pursuit.

Chapter Six: Let God place a longing and a love for Him in our heart. Jesus didn't die just to save us from the punishment for sin but to transform our lives and draw us into a closer relationship with Him.

Chapter Seven: Finding life's greatest fulfillment in surrender to God...or...Living like you believe God (what He says in the Bible).

Chapter Eight: It's about loving differently than the world, not just "being nice." Which is "crazier," investing most of our time, energy, and money in things that are temporary or investing it toward that which will last for eternity?

Chapter Nine: Stories about people who live with what the world sees as "crazy love."

Chapter Ten: How is God asking you to apply this to your life? (And he points out that not everyone is supposed to become an overseas missionary or pastor or sell their house. God wants to use us all in unique ways.)

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 pages 103-104
Are we just fooling ourselves that we really can be in love with God and that it is more satisfying than anything else? I don't believe so.

God wants to change us; He died so that we could change.

The answer lies in letting Him change you. Remember His counsel to the lukewarm church in Laodicea? "Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me." (Rev. 3:20). His counsel wasn't to "try harder," but rather to let Him in. As James wrote, "Come near to God and he will come near to you" (4:8).

Jesus Christ didn't die only to save us from hell; He also died to save us from our bondage to sin. In John 10:10, Jesus says, "I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full." He wasn't talking about the future. He meant now, in this lifetime.

The fact is, I need God to help me love God. And if I need His help to love Him, a perfect being, I definitely need His help to love other, fault-filled humans. Something mysterious, even supernatural must happen in order for genuine love for God to grow in our hearts. The Holy Spirit has to move in our lives.

It is a remarkable cycle: Our prayers for more love result in love, which naturally causes us to pray more, which results in more love...

Imagine going for a run while eating a box of Twinkies. Besides being self-defeating and sideache-inducing, it would also be near impossible--you would have to stop running in order to eat the Twinkies.

In the same way, you have to stop loving and pursing Christ in order to sin. When you are pursuing love, running toward Christ, you do not have opportunity to wonder, Am I doing this right? or Did I serve enough this week? When you are running toward Christ, you are freed up to serve, love, and give thanks without guilt, worry, or fear. As long as you are running, you are safe.

But running is exhausting--if, that is, we are running from sin or guilt, out of fear. (Or if we haven't run in a while.) However, if we train ourselves to run toward our Refuge, toward Love, we are free--just as we are called to be.

As we begin to focus more on Christ, loving Him and others becomes more natural. As long as we are pursuing Him, we are satisfied in Him. It is when we stop actively loving Him that we find ourselves restless and gravitating toward other means of fulfillment.

Read an excerpt from chapter one.