The 23 Books I Read This Year

December 30, 2011

As promised here is a list of the books I read during 2011. I didn’t really start reading regularly until late March. I hit a stride and I think I may have doubled all the books I have ever read in my life (maybe not quite but I have never read this much). Following each book I will give a short description. There are 23 books listed here so it makes for a long post. Even if you do not read each description hopefully you will find some that interest you! These books will be in the order I read them, not in the order I liked them. Also, if you click on each book you will be taken to the page on Amazon for it (in a new tab). ENJOY!

Student Ministry that Leaves a Mark: Changing Youth to Change the World by Gary Blair Zustiak, Kevin Greer, John Mouton and Josh Finklea. I had to read parts of this book for a Youth Ministry class in college and this year I decided to read all of it. These four guys talk about youth ministry movements and trends. It is a very practical book and was really helpful as I was doing my internship.

Creating Your Personal Life Plan by Micheal Hyatt. This link will actually take you to Mr. Hyatt’s page. You can get a free copy by subscribing to his blog. In this book he discusses how we plan things all of the time. If we go on a trip, most of the time we plan it out. But most people do not have an idea of where they are going in life or how to get there. He breaks down how he sets up his life plan and then gives the reader resources to help him or her do the same. This was one of the best books I read all year!

Contemplative Youth Ministry: Practicing the Presence of Jesus by Mark Yaconelli. I read this during my internship as well. It is another great youth ministry tool. Yaconelli discusses the importance of planning and not just throwing a youth ministry together. He talks about how it is important to take care of ourselves as well as our youth ministry. UnChristian: What a New Generation Thinks About Christianity… and Why it Matters by David Kinnaman and Gabe Lyons. These guys really care about this generation. They want to prepare themselves and others the best way they know how to reach a generation that is falling away from the Church. There are some fairly up-to-date stats in this book and it is really an eye-opener. They discuss ways to talk with those who are not a part of the Church and some different ways to bring them in.

Radical: Taking Back Your Faith from the American Dream by David Platt. The more into this book I got, the more excited I became. Little parts of me wanted to sell everything I had give it all to those who had nothing. This book is an account of a struggling preacher. He preaches at a large church and he struggles when he drives in and sees all of the brand new vehicles in the parking lot. He struggles when he sees how much we have and how little others have. Then we pretend we cannot help those who have nothing because “things are tight.” He makes a call to think and to act differently. We live in this world but we are not a part of it.

In a Pit with a Lion on a Snowy Day: How to Survive and Thrive When Opportunity Roars by Mark Batterson. This is another book by a preacher who wants to live differently. He uses the account of Benaiah in 2 Samuel 23:20 where he “also went down and killed a lion in the middle of a pit on a snowy day.” Batterson says that we all have lions and snowy days in our lives but all too often we run from them because the odds are against us. Instead we need to chase down those lions and trust that God knows what he is doing. It is some great imagery, gets my adventurous juices flowing.

Uncommon: Finding Your Path to Significance by Tony Dungy. I am not a football fan. I just do not really get into the sport. My wife is a fan of the Indianapolis Colts and I like to give her a hard time when they lose (not that it actually bothers her). So when I got this book last Christmas I joked that I would not read it. I am so glad that I did! I have never really known anything about Tony Dungy but this man had some powerful things to say about being a man of God. He writes about putting God before everything else. It was so encouraging and uplifting to hear these words penned by a great football coach.

Fresh Wind Fresh Fire: What Happens When God’s Spirit Invades the Heart of His People by Jim Cymbala. I may not agree with everything Mr. Cymbala writes about his doctrine but I can certainly hop on board his enthusiasm for prayer. This preacher writes about his journey of faith to take over a small and struggling congregation. He discusses the importance of prayer in that journey and how it saved the congregation and how it now thrives. They conduct prayer services, something that many congregations should probably invest time into. I was deeply touched by this book and would recommend it to others.

Velvet Elvis: Repainting the Christian Faith by Rob Bell. I had started this book about three times but always put it down because I was busy with other things. This time I decided I would finish reading it no matter what. Rob Bell has a blogging type writing style which actually makes it easy to read. I like short paragraphs. He really pushes and challenges his readers in this book. Even if you disagree, hopefully it will prompt you to have a more firm belief in what you know rather than just railing the guy for pushing back. This is a great book about faith.

Enemies of the Heart: Breaking Free from the Four Emotions that Control You by Andy Stanley. This is the second book I have ever read by Stanley and I was just as pleased with it. He writes about how we often neglect our hearts. When someone does something terrible we say “well they are really a good person.” He rejects that idea and says when we do something terrible it is because we have something terrible in our heart. He lists four of these diseases that destroy us: guilt, anger, greed, and jealousy. He does not list lust in with it and devotes a chapter to it at the end to explain why not. It was an interesting chapter. This book was also one of the best I read all year!

Fresh Faith: What Happens When Real Faith Ignites God’s People by Jim Cymbala. I was unsure about reading this book because it seemed like it may just be a weaker version of the first. Honestly it took me a few chapters to really get into it. Once I got that far though I like it. Cymbala writes about coming back to our first love and faithfully following God. He writes about people who struggle with this idea because terrible things have happened in their past but they overcome it to follow God wholeheartedly

Sex God:Exploring the Endless Connections between Sexuality and Spirituality by Rob Bell. This was another boundary pushing book with strange chapter titles that do not make sense until the end of the chapter. He writes about how our sexuality is a way to connect with God. When Bell refers to sexuality he is talking about us as humans. So he is writing about how we connect with God through being who God created us to be. We are not to strip off ourselves or strip of anybody else’s person-hood. He talks about using our whole beings in worship to God.

Average Joe: God’s Extraordinary Calling to Ordinary Men by Troy Meeder. I don’t think I was this author’s intended audience. There was really nothing about this book that clicked with me. I had a terrible time trying to finish it. His point was that you could be a man of God and have influence by being just an average run of the mill kind of guy. But his wording made it seem like if you weren’t that you were some corporate terrible person. I did not think this book was structured well and rejoiced the day I finished it.

Identity: Who You are in Christ by Eric Geiger. In this book the author goes through different pictures of who we are in Christ. He discusses our identity as God’s child, a priest, Christ’s bride, His servant, God’s friend, an alien, and an Ambassador. Each chapter was packed full of imagery and encouraging and challenging thoughts. I really enjoyed each picture this man used that we find in Scripture.

Transforming Discipleship: Making Disciples a Few at a Time by Greg Ogden. I got a lot of really great ideas from this book. Ogden discusses a way to disciple others that he has found to work. He goes through the process of selecting people and how many should be in the group and how they should run. I am actually in the process of putting many of these ideas to practice. It is a very practical book and I believe if the ideas are practiced they can change the lives of many people!

Where Has Oprah Taken Us?: The Religious Influence of the Worlds Most Famous Woman by Stephen Mansfield. I was not sure what to expect when I picked this book up but it was really great. Mansfield was not attacking Oprah or trying to get everyone to stone her for her terrible influence. He just talked about her life and what led to her being the leader she is today. He talks about the influences in her life and the ideas she has promoted. He confesses to be a Christian and that he has some biases that seep through but he tries to keep those in italic portions at the end of each chapter.

Standout: The Groundbreaking New Strengths Assessment from the Leader of the Strengths Revolution by Marcus Buckingham. This book took all of the categories of the Strengthsfinder assessment and narrowed them down to 9 categories. This is to help leaders pinpoint their employees or volunteers more accurately. It helps a leader to see how they work and how their employees operate best so they the can all work together most efficiently. It comes with a code so the reader can take the test and then goes though each category so you can read about yourself. It is a very helpful book.

Torn: Trusting God When Life Leaves You in Pieces by Jud Wilhite. This book is an incredible resource if you have ever gone through a difficult time or if you have ever or will ever need to help someone process pain in their life. He does not attempt to answer the question of why bad things happen (which I appreciated) but instead wrote about what we need to do when painful events happen.

Why Men Hate Going to Church by David Murrow. This author goes through and writes about practical things churches can do to gain more men. He believe the Church has been pushing men out for years and we need to gain them back. He does not discuss prayer, preaching better sermons, or things like that because he feels those are obvious. He writes about what men like, and how Scripture speaks to that but we have diluted the message. It was very eye-opening and I would high suggest this book!

Jesus Wants to Save Christians: A Manifesto for the Church in Exile by Rob Bell. Once again Rob Bell writes in a blog style format and has strange chapter titles. I pushed back in this book a lot. This book is about freedom and he compares the liberation of Israel to the liberation Christ gives us. It is a great word picture. Just once again, come prepared to study what he is saying and prepare to be challenged.

Going Deep: Becoming a Person of Influence by Gordon MacDonald. This is another great book about discipleship. MacDonald breaks the book up into days or month time periods of his personal journey in creating a discipleship model in his congregation. It is a very easy read and very conversational. They talk a lot about cultivation and growing deep people. There are some wonderful images and ideas in this book. I am very excited to implement some of them in this coming year!

The Barefoot Executive: The Ultimate Guide for Being Your Own Boss and Achieving Financial Freedom by Carrie Wilkerson. If you want to read about becoming your own boss and starting your own business, then this is the book for you. Wilkerson gives some practical and meaningful steps in how to leave the humdrum life in the office and leading your own business. She gives plenty of examples of others who have also done this and tells of the success they have had. Although I do not plan to do this, there were still plenty of ideas I could glean from this read.

Why Church Matters: Discovering Your Place in the Family of God by Joshua Harris. This book seemed very “duh” to me. Perhaps that is because I work in the church and see how important it is. Harris gives examples of his own journey to finding how important the church is and why it should be so important. It is a short read and can really help someone who is on the fence.

There are the 23 books I read this year. Hopefully you will find something you like! I plan to make it through 30 in 2012. It is a big goal and I am excited to find a lot of good stuff out there!

What books have you read this year?

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Top Posts for 2011

December 29, 2011

I am going to spend these last two days of posting in 2011 putting up lists. Today’s list will be my top posts for the year and then tomorrows post will be a list of the books I have read and a quick summary of them. Enjoy!

Here are my top posts for 2011. I did not start blogging until late August so really this is only the top ten from 4 months and a week.

Tell God What You Are Thinking  November 17

What is Right for Me? December 14

Being Patient Now December 9

God and Athletics October 28

Peace that Surpasses Comprehension December 7

Being Stronger Does Not Give You More Rights October 20

Keeping the Important Stuff Important October 7

Kindness = Tolerance? December 13

Perspective Changes Things October 17

Offering the Hurting Something Special: Silence November 3

Those are currently my top ten posts. If you missed one go ahead and click on it. See what the excitement was about. As you can see not all of my top posts are from December which is pretty exciting. It shows that some posts have been revisited. Also 4 our of my top ten came from the series I did on the Fruit of the Spirit. Tomorrow I will have a list of the books I read this year and then I will start back blogging January 3, 2012!

If you have a blog what were your top posts for the year? 

God Did What?

December 23, 2011

Being my last post before Christmas I thought focusing on the account of Jesus coming to earth was fitting. Even if you do not celebrate Christmas because “this is not the time of year Jesus was actually born and we just hijacked a pagan holiday,” spending time focusing on this account is important for us.

If Jesus did not come to this earth, then His mission would have never been accomplished. He had to come to earth as a baby boy (Isaiah 9:6-7), born in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2). He had to have a virgin mother (Isaiah 7:14).

In Jesus’ life He fulfilled all of the Old Testament prophecies about the Messiah. That is amazing! That kind of thing cannot happen without the hand of God! Praise God!

Earlier this year I listened to Francis Chan tell the story about a time when he was preparing for a Christmas service. He was mulling over in his head how to make it fresh, exciting, and new. Then he stopped what he was doing and thought: “I should be able to stand in front of a group of people and say ‘God became human’ and we should just all go ‘NO WAY’ and fall on our faces and worship for an hour.”

No amount of fancy talking can make the coming of our Savior more exciting than that. Jesus was in the presence of God and He decided to give up certain qualities so that He could come to this earth and live life as a human.

He was born as a baby… God! This is God we are talking about. He had to rely on Mary and Joseph to provide the things a baby needs. Talk about being humble.

He was born in a stable. He was there with animals and all the things animals leave behind. Stokelan Drive Christian Church just put on our living nativity and we had a few sheep and a donkey. By the end of the week they stunk! Yet it was among that where our Savior chose to come into the world!

It is ridiculous to think that our God would humble Himself in this way. He was there at the creation of the world. He was there when Adam and Eve decided to disobey and created a void between themselves and God.

He was there over and over when mankind stabbed Him in the back with their rebellions and prostitution with other gods.

Yet He still came in this very humble way, to live a life in a frail human body. It’s funny how often we think we are the greatest beings ever but in comparison to God we are nothing at all. I like to compare God becoming man as us becoming cockroaches. Gross right? Exactly.

But He did. Because He loves us so much! God loves us so much that He sent Jesus. He does not wish anyone would perish.

There is no way I can express how much that moves me. I am so thankful and full of joy that my God would come to this world and be born and live a humble life. Then, He has His life cut short and dies on a cross.

For me.

For you.

The thought of the Father and Son being apart for a short while; the thought of the Son going through the terrible torture and hours of death was more tolerable than spending eternity without us.

Even though we continue to mess up. Even though we are not always faithful, He still desires that we choose Him and come back.

There are no words to describe how beautiful that is!

So this Christmas make sure to spend some time focusing on why we celebrate. I really cannot believe there are any churches that are not having service on Christmas day. That is the reason we celebrate this holiday! Where else would you want to be?!

So Christmas eve, or before opening presents, or at the service Christmas morning (or at all three!!), make sure to spend time remembering the real reason we celebrate. Read the story (Luke 2 is my favorite account). Share the joy.

What Christmas traditions do you have that focus on the coming of our Savior?

Worshiping Night and Day

December 22, 2011

Think about something you are dedicated toward. What are you passionate about? Now think about all the time you devote to that thing.  Our passions command a lot of time.

When I was in high school I ran Cross Country. I took it very seriously. I described myself as a runner, probably above anything else. I would eat more (even though I didn’t look it) during the season to give myself more energy. I thought about previous races and spent time preparing my mind for the next.

I practiced everyday. Even on days when some of the team wanted to goof off, I needed to have a good workout because I wanted to get better. I would go to bed the night before a race and imagine myself running it. I was dedicated (or possibly obsessed).

The fact is, when something captures our hearts, we spend time, energy, money or any other resources we have on that thing. It may seem extreme or over the top to others but we just do not care because this “thing” is so important to us.

We find a woman in Luke 2 who may have seemed a bit extreme to others around her. In verses 36-37 we read,

There was also a prophet, Anna, the daughter of Penuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was very old; she had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, and then was a widow until she was eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying.

She never left the temple! This woman spent all of her time before God dedicating herself to Him!

We see that at one time she was married but just after 7 short years her husband died.

Trouble in our lives does not give us permission to become bitter or to no longer trust God. It is amazing to me that even though this woman has not had an easy life, she is not still wallowing in self-pity. She is not some bitter old woman who points to her past and explains she has the right to live that way.

Instead she rose above her trouble, realizing that God never left her, even though becoming a widow at a young age does not make sense. Because she never left the temple, it is obvious she had a great passion for God and His people.

We find Anna worshiping night and day. Her entire life was spent before God. Isn’t that what we as Christians are called to do? Romans tells us to offer our bodies as a living sacrifice. Our entire being is to be given over to God. We must worship Him all the time. It is more than just singing songs, although that is part of it. Having an attitude of glorifying God as we work is a great way to worship. It is hard to live a worshipful life night and day, but we are called to that commitment.

Fasting is one example we are given here. Anna spent time fasting. If you have never tried this or it has been a while I would highly encourage it! When you fast, have something in mind to fast for. It is amazing how you think about that thing every time your stomach growls or you smell some delicious food. There is a site (www.e5men.org) where men sign up and decide to fast once a month (for this site it is the first Wednesday of the month) for their wives.  There is also an e5 women link on the site. Fasting is a great opportunity to grow closer to God as well as bring an important request before Him.

Anna also spent time praying. This often seems pretty obvious, which is why we overlook it so often. Prayer is our connection with God. We bring our requests to Him.

Anna was so connected with God that she recognized the Christ even as a baby. We are not given the specifics about her prophecy but it had to do with Israel’s redemption.

What an amazing opportunity Anna had, to proclaim the Christ just a few days after He was born. We will become aware of more opportunities to serve God when we devote our entire lives to Him.

What can you do to spend day and night worshiping God?

Waiting Like Simeon

December 21, 2011

I am so glad my son does not yet understand the excitement that comes from opening a gift, or at least he does not remember. Most of the time he just meanders around the tree pointing to certain ornaments (including the one he made this year). Very rarely does he even tough one of the gifts.

 

 

Think back to when you were a child. It first starts with the month of December finally coming. It is now just 25 days until Christmas. Then the tree goes up. It is only a matter of time before those beautifully wrapped, or not so beautifully wrapped, gifts appear under the tree.

Then school gets out and maybe there is the first snow. All of these things make the anticipation worse. Remember just wanting to know what was in each gift? Perhaps you crept out of your room after your parents were in bed just to feel on or shake it. If you were really courageous you may have torn off a piece of the paper to see if you could figure it out, then put the gift back down with the torn piece toward the floor.

Some of us do not get any better with time. We love surprises. We love to get what we asked for or maybe even what was promised to us. But most of us do NOT like to wait. We may agree that the anticipation made the surprise better after we get it but up to that moment it just drives us crazy!

When I think about waiting a long time I have recently begun to think about an account in Scripture that happens just after the birth of Christ. In Luke 2:25-26 we find this:

And there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon; and this man was righteous and devout, looking for the consolation of Israel; and the Holy Spirit was upon him. And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ.

The Holy Spirit told this man that he would live until he saw the Christ! Although in this passage we are not told the age of Simeon a few verses later we get the idea that he may be up in age. In verse 29 he says, “Now Lord, You are releasing Your bond-servant to depart in peace,” implying that he is ready to die. If he were younger, this may not have been his wish. I imagine a younger man acting like most of the young men did when they came in contact with Jesus. They went and told others.

Simeon may very well have told others about Jesus, but that was not his focus. He was ready to die.

It is also not told to us how long Simeon waited, but we get the idea that he had been waiting for awhile. All he desires is to see the Lord’s Christ. He lives and waits in anticipation for this glorious appearance.

Can you imagine how he felt? The one thing he desired more than anything, he has to wait years to get.

How would we respond to that? I’ll tell you how Simeon responded: He continued to live a life pleasing to God.

In the first verses I quoted we are told that Simeon was righteous and devout. This man continued to live a holy life before God. He did not wallow in self pity because, “God has taken forever to give me what He promised.”

What an amazing example. I am not saying that God always waits a long time before fulfilling His promises, but sometimes He does. His timing is perfect!

Abraham and Sara waited their whole lives to have children. Hebrews 11:12 calls Abraham “as good as dead.” What a great description! Zacharaias and Elizabeth were the same way, waiting their whole lives to have a son (I know God had not promised them this but it was the desire of both of them).

Sometimes we must wait to receive what we want, or what God has promised us. What a wonderful blessing, to be able to consider ourselves worthy of God’s timing! Not to mention we are in some great company.

I understand that it is hard sometimes, but we cannot allow the difficulty to lead us astray. Can it be said of us that we have been “righteous and devout” as we wait for God’s promises?

Believe me, it will be worth the wait!

What other examples do we find in Scripture of people waiting for God’s promises? Was it worth their wait?

Living a God-centered life

December 20, 2011

I can’t believe we have finally made it to the last Fruit. If you have missed the others you can click on their names here: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, and gentleness. It has been a great refresher for me, and I hope it has been the same for you. I have never really taken a step back to consider each fruit. I love how they are all interconnected. I have also become downhearted because of the lack of fruit I see around me. The last one is no exception.

There are a lot of people who like to just ignore self-control. When a friend goes on a diet we are all very excited for that person, but don’t you dare turn the tables around and expect me to do the same.

We are so desire centered. What will make me feel good right now? That is what I am going to do. Do not try and stop me; do not try and get me to live differently. This way has worked and I like how it makes me feel. What a selfish way to live. But that is how so many people do.

We feel we have the right to live however we want. We live in the “land of the free and the home of the Brave.” We have right to do as we please.

Galatians 5:22-23 says, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” Self-control is in there too.

Paul points out to us in a different place in Scripture that just because we have the right to do something does not mean that we should.  In 1 Corinthians 6:12 he says, “All things are lawful for me, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be mastered by anything.” He is saying here that just because he can do something does not mean that he should. Is that thing profitable for the kingdom? If not then should we really be spending out time doing it?

Last night my wife and I spent some time watching the show Intervention. In each case someone has allowed themselves to be mastered by an addictive substance. They fall so deep into it that it messes with their minds to an extent that they can no longer reason. This is what happens when we allow ourselves to be mastered.

Even if it is not drugs or alcohol that we are giving in to, it can still mess with our minds. In order to keep up the habits we have, we must justify them. We have to keep telling ourselves over and over that what we are doing is fine. “I’m so busy, _________ just helps me to relax. I’m allowed one thing.”

Later in 1 Corinthians we are told this: “Become sober-minded as you ought, and stop sinning; for some have no knowledge of God. I speak this to your shame (1 Corinthians 15:34).” When we allow ourselves to not practice self-control then we become anything but sober-minded. We “veg out” or we “escape.” There are other, more constructive ways to relax from a hard day or week other than giving into sin “just this once.”

Scriptures do not call us to act like Christ “most of the time.” God does not desire for us to practice self-control when we feel like it. This is a fruit, if we are in Christ then we should be producing this fruit! Step back and look at your life, are you producing the fruit of self-control?

Immediately following the fruit of the Spirit we find this verse, “Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.” I am not saying (and neither is Paul) that we cannot have a good time with family and friends eating and enjoying each other’s company this Christmas. Paul is commanding that we do not let these passions and desires rule us. They are not our way of life. Jesus has showed us how to live and we must live that way!

There has been a lot in the last 9 posts for me to digest. I would encourage everyone (I am doing this as well) to take a look at our lives and see which fruit we are producing and which we are not. Then spend a week trying to implement one. Then when that is down, start on the next, until you are producing all the fruit.

It is a wonderful life that God has planned for us. Let’s grab a hold of it and live the way He desires!

What fruit will you start on today?

Be a Champion of Gentleness

December 16, 2011

It feels like every time I turn around I hear about terrible acts being done against one people group or another. I hear about funerals being picketed, murders, thefts, abusive husbands or fathers, mothers doing terrible things to their children. It happens over and over and over.

It breaks my heart to hear about these things. So many times an individual has power and instead of using that power or position for good and to help people, they use it to only further themselves. They no longer care about what they have to do or who they have to hurt as long as they get more power or they feel more powerful at the end of the day.

The problem is, those actions are never satisfying. They lead to more thirst for power and more people being harmed as a result of their actions. One more person has to be taken out, one more act of violence must happen so that these individuals can attempt of find security or a sense of purpose and power.

This is not how God has called us to act. God has a completely different idea in mind. We have now entered into Galatians 5:23 but let’s look at verse 22 as well, just as a refresher. “But the fruit of the Spirit are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness goodness, faithfulness, gentleness…”

Now there may be some guys who come across this list to find gentleness put in this list and thing “Great! They want me to become some sort of soft, pansy, man. No thank you that is not for me.” That is just not the case.

The opposite of gentleness as we looked at above, is to be driven by selfish ambition or envy. The person cannot get enough. There is always one more thing to achieve, one more person to knock out of the way so that I can be the best. It is completely selfish. There is no concern for any one else but yourself. “I’ve got to watch out for number one.”

This is quite a sad existence. It leaves the person constantly on edge and having to defend themselves. They have to be on the lookout for those who might take their power away. This is even the case in an abusive relationship. The abuser has to continue to abuse to keep the other feeling worthless. The abuser has to keep the abused from going and meeting with others so they will not find out and try to take his power away.

Gentleness on the other hand looks out for others. To be gentle is to consider the needs of others before your personal goals. It is okay to be goal driven and to want to keep climbing some sort of corporate ladder. But once reaching that goal becomes more important than human life, our motivations are wrong.

James 1:27 tells us that pure and undefiled religion is to take care of widows and orphans in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world. As Christians we must be reaching out in humility and helping others.

We must not be afraid to roll up our sleeves and reach out the the hurting. We cannot be afraid to get a little dirty along the way. There is no job to small when it comes to helping the needs of others (especially their spiritual need for salvation). We are never to high up in the world to reach out the the most lowly of people.

Being gentle at heart does not mean we run around with flowers and hearts on our shirts and play gently on the acoustic guitar (If you do this that is fine, but it is not for everyone).

Being gentle means our hearts are soft for the hurting and the people we would consider the lowest. That hurt prompts us to action. We must help take care of others. We must help meet their needs.

Do not get so caught up in the busyness of our world that you forget to reach out and help others along the way. Find someone to show gentleness toward. If you know of others who are in harmful situations, show them gentleness instead.

Allow yourself to be like Jesus and reach out to the hurting. Be a champion of gentleness.

When is is most difficult to show gentleness? Why does gentleness often get such a bad name?

Show Me Your Faith

December 15, 2011

I was reading an article the other day on murder and how this author believes that much of the problem is religion. One of his examples was Abraham and Isaac when God asked Abraham to kill his son. Abraham then followed through with the request until the angel of the LORD stopped him.

This man argues that faith in a god blinds mankind. In the comments below there was some discussion. One comment the author left went something like this: “Everyone has the right to believe whatever they want, just not to practice it.”

I have been thinking about that line ever since. It really shook me to my core. Everyone can believe but not practice. How does that work? If I believe something, don’t I then act it out?

Today we are looking at faithfulness. “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,” we have finally reached the end of Galatians 5:22.

Faith is a little more than some cognitive action. It is not just a nice thought I have every once-in-a-while. It is not something I keep to myself. See here the fruit is faithfulness. It is the act of being faithful. Faith requires action alongside it.

James 2:14-17 says :

14 What use is it, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but he has no works? Can that faith save him? 15 If a brother or sister is without clothing and in need of daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and be filled,” and yet you do not give them what is necessary for their body, what use is that? 17 Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself.

James points out that it is necessary to have action behind our faith. If there is no action, then the faith is dead. It is absolutely useless.

What good is it to proclaim to believe in one thing but then never live like it? It should be questioned as to whether or not that is really a conviction you hold to!

I believe that Jesus was born of a virgin in the city of Bethlehem. I believe that He is the Son of God and lived a perfect life. He did not give into temptation and walked in the ways God desired of Him all the days of His life. He then was crucified because the Jewish leaders gave Him up and the Romans carried out the punishment. He died and was buried. Then a few days later, He rose from the dead. He has defeated death and we are now offered salvation from God through Jesus.

That kind of thought changes the way I act. It should change the way we all act, if we truly have faith.

Look at the examples of the Apostles. These men were afraid for their lives when Jesus died. They did not have faith that He would come back to life as He had told them. But then they saw Him and when the Holy Spirit came upon them that changed their entire way of living. They did whatever they could to get the message out about Jesus! All of the Apostles suffered a martyr’s death, except John who was exiled.

These uneducated men were empowered by the Holy Spirit and they proclaimed the gospel wherever they went. They stood up against false teachings, they did not back away timidly. They knew the truth and the needed to share it!

It should be the same with us. The Bible calls us to be different than the world. We are to be lights in the darkness. Stop hiding your light. Go and live out your faith, wherever you are; because as we saw, faith without works, is dead.

How can you live out your faith in your life situations?

What is Right for Me?

December 14, 2011

My wife and I were watching one of the Star Wars movies. It was actually episode III. There is a scene where young Anakin Skywalker is talking one on one with Emperor Palpatine. They get to talking about the good and dark sides of the force and the Emperor utters these words, “Good is a point of view, Anakin. The Sith and the Jedi are similar in almost every way.”

Those are some powerful words to live by. Really! I see it all around me all of the time. I hear about people talking about what is “right for me” or “right for you.” It all depends on our point of view.

How does this thinking make sense? What someone is really saying is “everything is right.” If I view something as right but you do not, it is at least right for me, which makes it right. We can never tell anyone they are in the wrong because it might not be to them. However you would view telling someone they are wrong as a wrong but I would think it is right, but you cannot tell me I’m wrong because it is wrong to you (read that again. I’m sure it makes sense, somehow).

This kind of thinking is nothing more than just babble. There also seem to be exceptions to these rules. Most people would argue that you cannot tell someone something is wrong unless they are drastic moral issues, like murder. But who draws this line? Who is to say at this point in our history we are just too weak to accept murder and one day we will rise above these preconceived lines to a higher mental state and where murder is allowed.

That illustration may seem a bit drastic but my point is, where do we draw the line? What is the standard for right? What is the standard for wrong?

The first part of Galatians 5:22 goes like this, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness…” In order for us to find a proper understanding of goodness there must be a standard. It cannot just be based on each of our individual feelings. For goodness to really exist is must be greater than each of us. There must be a higher standard.

That standard is Jesus. Jesus was good all of the time. I am finding more and more how all of the fruit of the Spirit intertwine. It is hard to talk about one without the other. Each of these other fruit are good. They produce a kind of goodness not offered anywhere else.

You cannot have true goodness a part from love (remember, love is doing what is spiritually best for someone). Jesus did this all of the time. Jesus did not beat around the bush when it came to following God. He made sure others knew what they were getting into. He was honest with them and led them to a closer relationship with the Father. That is goodness.

Jesus was full of joy. Again, He did not spend His time just pleasing the ears of others. He spoke the truth; He lived truth. He was constantly at odds with the religious leaders. They hated Him so much that they put Him to death. However, He knew He lived the life that God desired and He found great joy in it. He offered that joy to others. He never promised rainbows and butterflies. He did say that there would be persecution but he instructed His followers to rejoice when it happened (Matthew 5:11-12). There is great good in rejoicing no matter what circumstances we find ourselves.

In John 16 Jesus tells His disciples He will be leaving. He tells them of hardship that they will face, but then in verse 33 He says He told them this so they will have peace. Most of us would not experience peace when told of hardship to come, but when we find ourselves in Christ then that is what we have. Jesus knew He would die but found peace in following the will of God. Goodness is found in the peace offered to us from God.

Goodness is found in patience. We we are blessed with God’s patience we know that is good. It is also good for us to offer patience to others. It it to be Christ-like when we do this. Jesus showed us patience with His disciples as well as others who had questions. We find ourselves once again in the will of God and that is good.

It is even good to be kind (not tolerant) to others. To offer true kindness by taking care of the needs of others (physical, emotional, spiritual, etc) is good. Jesus fed people, healed them, and also spoke about God’s will and showed others how to be right with God. God’s goodness flows from us when we are kind to others.

We are finding that by following the will of God we find ourselves doing good. The Scriptures give us the example of goodness. God sets the standard for us and gave us the example of Jesus who lived a life in goodness. Before we decide what is “right for me” we need to take a look at the Bible and see what God considers right. God’s plan and His will are the only things that are “right for me” as well as anyone else.

What are ways we see goodness in living out the other fruit of the Spirit?

Kindness = Tolerance?

December 13, 2011

“I heard the bells on Christmas day/The old familiar carols play/And wild and sweet the words repeat/Of peace on Earth goodwill to men.”

I thought since we are coming up on Christmas I would start out with a line from a pretty popular Christmas song. It got me thinking though, about how much we really see the last line happening. How often do we hear about peace on Earth and goodwill to men.

I’m not even referring to all the fighting that happens in third world countries, or making a reference to Iraq or Afghanistan. For just a few minutes I want to focus on the recent events of Black Friday.

I choose to not go shopping the day after Thanksgiving. At least I choose to not go when everyone else goes. I travel out later in the day when I can still find some pretty good deals without running into a whole lot of people.

But there are those who do go out, and all too often it turns into chaos! There are reports of people being trampled by each other. Sometimes fights break out because there is only one item left on sale. Each shopper only cares about themselves and making sure they do whatever is possible to get the best deal. There is no concern for the well-being of others, only ourselves.

When we live with greed or anger in our hearts, goodwill toward men, or kindness does not flow from us. We are only concerned with “looking out for number one.”

This should not be! “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness…” That’s right! Kindness is on the list.

So what is kindness? It is includes acting benevolently or for the benefit of others. Kindness is looking after someone else before yourself.

This would mean (I’m going to pick on Black Friday again) sometimes not getting the absolute best deal because it would mean having to spray mace in someone’s face in order to get to it.

It might mean taking someone in because the situation they are currently living would only harm them.

It could mean going up to someone you have been at odds with for years and apologizing and letting them know you will be acting differently now (and sticking to it).

I don’t think I would put kindness in the same boat at tolerance though. Tolerance sounds like a good idea until someone’s soul is on the line. As Christians we wish for everyone to be saved. We want all to come into the faith so they can be freed from sin and walk in newness of life.

We should live like that is what we desire. That means standing up against wrong behavior, especially in the Church. It is not okay for us to act like everything is fine when people are living in sin and claim to be a part of the Church. We need to address that for the sake of their salvation as well as the reputation of the Church.

It is okay, in fact it it good, for us to talk about our convictions with those who believe differently. How else will they hear about beliefs that are not their own? Romans 10:14 raises these questions: “How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?”

See keeping quiet about our beliefs may be the tolerant thing to do but it is not kind. As I mentioned before kindness includes concern for the well-being of others. The ultimate well-being we should concern ourselves with, is the well-being of someone’s soul.

What good is it if we take care of someone’s physical needs but never tell them of Jesus? As we take care of the physical we should be proclaiming Christ.

Do not be afraid to be kind. Let kindness pour freely from your heart. And let that kindness include reaching out to a lost world so that one more may be saved.

How have you been showing kindness to others?