Saturday, November 24, 2012

The promises of God

I recently watched a very encouraging video on the Desiring God blog (Krista Horning's Testimony) in which the speaker spoke from a list of verses she had memorized to remind her of the truth of what God has promised us. Krista was born with a disability and has wrestled with accepting it her whole life. Her parents and pastor encouraged her at a young age to dig deep into the word to see what God had to tell her about her disability. I don't have the disability that she does but sometimes my anxiety can feel disabling. It is so easy to get caught up in the lies my mind tells me that I often forget the truth of God's word. Inspired by Krista's testimony, I decided to make my own list of God's promises to go to when I feel discouraged and afraid.

God tells me in His word.....
1.He is in control of everything, including my health and well-being. (Ex. 4:11)
2. He hasn't given me a spirit of fear but of power, love, and self-control (IITim. 1:7)
3. I can have confidence in Him because He is faithful. (IITim 1:12)
4. No evil will befall me. Psalm 91:9-10
5. I am not alone (Is. 43:1-3).
6. His grace is enough (IICor. 12:9-10)
7. He tells me I have hope. Romans 5:3-4
8. He is a better possesion than anything I could have on earth (Heb. 10:34)
9. I am to walk by faith and not by sigth (or emotions). 2Cor. 5:7
10. God can give me more real, reliable, and wonderful things than what I can see with my eyes. Heb. 11:1
11. God's promises are more trustworthy than my natural perceptions Prov. 3:5-6
12. I have been given everything I need to live a godly life (2Peter 1:3-5).
13. The greatness of His power toward me cannot be measured. (Eph. 1:18-19)
14. The life to come will be far better than even the best day here on earth. (Phil. 1:21-23, Psalm 84:10)
15. He is my confidence. Prov. 3:25-26
16. I can face anything because He is with me. (Psalm 18:28-32)
17. Affliction is necessary to help me see Him more clearly and to learn his ways. (Psalm 119:67, 71-72)
18. I can get through any situation because He will give me His strength. (Phil. 4:11-13)
19. I have nothing to fret about because I have been spared from the day of His wrath (Psalm 37:7-8)
20. Hardships on earth prepare me for the uncomparable glory that awaits me when I see Jesus face to face. 2Cor. 4:17

I hope that you are encouraged by my list to search out God's word yourself for his great and precious promises that will carry you through all of life's trials. I pray that you will remind yourself daily of His truth so that you can stand against the lies of your mind and the schemes of the devil.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Debunking Bad Theology

The past couple of months I have been reading the book Christless Christianity by Michael Horton. It has been a fascinating and eye opening read. I knew that I had been taught a lot of bad theology when I was growing up, but I didn't know the extent of it till I read this book.  Probably the most striking realization this book brought about for me is understanding what the Biblical role of the church is. I grew up being taught that the church was a place to serve. I was to have low expectations of the pastor and his messages since my spiritual growth was entirely my responsibility. If I felt disappointed with the church services and Bible studies, well that was because I came with the expecation to get when it should have been to give, not because the preaching or study was lacking in depth. Can anyone relate to this? It wasn't until a year ago or so, and now in reading Christless Christianity, that I became aware that this teaching was completely wrong. Below is an exert that I just read last night that demonstrates the difference between the church mentality I grew up with and a Biblical church mentality.
               Imagine two scenarios of church life. In the first, God gathers his people together in a convenant event to judge and to justify, to kill and to make alive. The emphasis is on God's work for us - the Father's gracious plan, the Son's saving life, death, and resurrection, and the Spirit's work of bringing life to the valley of dry bones through the proclamation of  Christ. The preaching focuses on God's work in the history of redemption from Genesis through Revelation, and sinners are swept into this unfolding drama. Trained and ordained to mine the riches of Scripture for the benefit of God's people, ministers try to push their own agendas, opinions, and personalities to the background so that God's Word will be clearly proclaimed. In this preaching, the people once again are simply receivers - recipients of grace. Similarly, in baptism, they do not baptize themselves; they are baptized. In the Lord's Supper, they do not prepare and cook the meal; they do not contribute to the fare; but they are guests, who simply enjoy the bread of heaven. As this gospel creates, deepens , and inflames faith, a profound sense of praise and thanksgiving fills hearts, leading to good works among the saints and in the world throughout the week. Having been served by God in the public assembly, the people are then servants of each other and their neighbors in the world. Pursuing their callings in the world with vigor and dedication, they win the respect of outsiders. Because they have been served well themselves - especially by pastors, teachers, elders, and deacons - they are able to share the Good news of Christ in well - informed and natural ways. And because they have been relieved of numerous burdens to spend all of their energy on church - related ministries thoughout the week, they have more time to serve their families, neighbors, and coworkers in the world.
              In the second scenario, the church is its own subculture, an alternative community not only for weekly dying and rising in Christ but for one's entire circle of friends, electicians, and neighbors. In this scenario, the people assume that they come to church primarily to do something. The emphasis is on their work for God. The preaching concentrates on principles and steps to living a better life, with a constant stream of exhortations: Be more commited. Read your Bible more. Pray more. Witness more. Give more. Get involved in this cause or that movement to save the world. Their calling by God to secular vocations is made secondary to finding their ministry in the church. Often malnourished because of a minstry defined by personal charisma and motivational skills rahter than by knowledge and godliness, these same sheep are expected to be shepherds themselves. Always serving, they are rarely served. Ill-informed about the grand narrative of God's work in redemptive history, they do not really know what to say to a non-Christian except to talk about their own personal experiences and perhaps repeat some slogans or formulas that they might be hard-pressed to explain. Furthermore, because they are expected to be so heavily involved in church - related activities (often considered more important even than the public services on Sunday), they do not have the time, energy, or opportunity to develop significant relationships outside the church. And if they were to bring a friend to church, they could not be sure that he or she would hear the gospel. (Christless Christianity, 190-191)

I think this exert explains perfectly how the church should look and how it currently looks in today's society.Can you imagine the impact we would have as a church if we looked more like scenario one than two? That is the kind of church my husband and I long to be a part of, and hope to soon be a part of in Omaha. In the meantime we are praying for the churches in our town to have their eyes opened to what the Bible says is the church's roll. We pray that their leadership and congregation would long for the truth and to be equipped for everything pertaining to life and godliness (2Peter 1:3). One thing I want to point out is that the author (and myself) is not saying that you have no roll in your spiritual growth, but that the church's job is to aid in increasing it. We still must be in the Word and in prayer on our own as well.

How about you? Do you agree or disagree with this post? Does your church equip you to go into all the world and make disciples and to lead a godly life?

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Is Christian Fiction Safe?

An acquaintance and I were talking about books today, and she made a comment that got me thinking (and blogging). She said “This book is just fluff. There’s no depth to it, but it’s Christian  so I know it’s safe.” What constitutes as safe for a Christian anyways?  If I had thought of that question then I would have asked. I guess I was too busy trying to keep my mouth shut at the time.

I’ve read my fair share of Christian fiction in my day (back when I didn’t know any better), and I have to say most of it was rubbish. Here are a few reasons why:

1. I’ve read steamier love scenes in Christian fiction than in non Christian. Granted, the only non Christian romance novels I’ve read were by Nicholas Sparks, but still. Sparks stops at “and they made love.” Some Christian romance novels I’ve read described in detail a couple’s foreplay before sex. and some pretty erotic make out scenes.

2. Christian fiction usually doesn’t get the gospel right. Heck, Jesus, the center of the Gospel, isn’t even mentioned in most of them. Or if He is, it’s when the protagonist is urged to pray the sinner’s prayer. Most of the time there’s just a brief mention here and there of faith in God.

3. Sometimes they just plain suck cause they aren’t written well. Poor plot line and character development.

Now in saying all that, I have to say that some of my all time favorite books were written by “Christian” authors . Not all are rubbish. Just most. Smile

So back to my question, what is “safe” for a Christian to read? As I said before, I’ve read some pretty steamy love scenes in some “Christian” books. Is it then safe for a Christian to read a love scene described so long as the couple is married and the actual act of intercourse is left out? Speaking from personal experience, I’ve left some of these books feeling discontent with either being single or with my marriage. I felt hungry for more of the characters romance than I did my own husband.  Maybe that’s just me, but I’ve talked to other women who say they feel the same thing after reading romance novels. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for love stories, and I think God is too. But do we really need to be reading about other people’s make out sessions and foreplay?

Now what about heretical theology published under the label “Christian?” Is it safe for someone to read a “Christian” book and come away thinking that a belief in God is all they need to be considered “safe” with Him? Or that simply praying the “sinner’s prayer” saves them?

I think you can determine from this post that I don’t think that just because a book is under the label “Christian” doesn’t make it safe. There are some fantastic books out there that aren’t “Christian”, and it would be a shame not to read them just because of that. For a better explanation of why most “Christian” fiction isn’t worth reading, check out Honey for Woman’s Heart by Gladys Hunt.

So how do we as Christians determine which books we should read, Christian or not? The answer isn’t a simple pat answer, but here are a few things I consider when I pick a book to read.

1.  Does it encourage us to disobey God’s word? If the story makes sin look good, safe, and cool, it’s probably not “safe” for us to read. We are to flee temptation to sin, not be encouraged to do it.

2. Does it cause us to dwell on things that are not pure and godly? This will be different for everybody. What makes me think impure thoughts might not make you think the same and vice versa.

3. Finally, if you feel convicted by reading, don’t. If you can’t in good conscience read the book, stop. Romans 14:23 “For whoever has doubts is condemned if he eats. For the eating is not from faith. For whatever does not proceed from faith is sin.”

Check out further posts where I’ll be reviewing my top 10 list of favorite books!