Gods At War

gods at warIdols are defeated not by being removed, but by being replaced.” Kyle Idleman ends many of the chapters in Gods At Warwith that phrase. Through this offering, Idleman seeks not only to help the reader identify what idols strive to take the place of God in his/her life, but what steps to take to remove that particular idol.

Last summer we studied Kyle’s previous book, Not A Fan, with our youth group. I know of several individuals and groups that worked through that book and were challenged by what he wrote. I was anticipating much of the same in Gods At War and found it to be a good read. The author brought the issue of idolatry into our modern context and identified several ways that idols still exist in our lives.

While not just pointing out the problem, the author also provided tools to help the reader deal with the problem of idolatry. At the end of the chapter, Idleman offered questions that served to identify if a particular issue had become an idol and also some steps to remove that idol by replacing it.

An added bonus in the book were the stories of people who had overcome various idols. I was fortunate to read the Kindle version of the book which contained links to brief video clips of the people whose stories were shared. It brought to life not only the pain that idolatry can bring, but hope that those idols can be replaced.

Gods At War is a good read for both individuals and groups to work through together.

(I received this book through the BookSneeze program in exchange for my review)

Do I Want What I Want More Than What He Wants?

casteA couple of weeks I posted about the series we were doing on God’s Kingdom in our High School class. We took a look at what Jesus meant when He talked about the Kingdom of God and what happens when God’s Kingdom bumps into our own kingdom(s).

We concluded our series this weekend by looking at the description of God’s Kingdom we see in Revelation. When Jesus returns as King of Kings and Lord of Lords, all pain and suffering will be gone, every tear will be wiped away and everything will be made new (Revelation 21:3-7). Also, in Matthew 4, Jesus told people to “Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven was near.” We discussed the tension that exists as we strive to live out God’s Kingdom in a world filled with brokenness and pain, while waiting for the day all pain and brokenness will be taken away. What does it look like to live as if the Kingdom of Heaven is near?

Last week while listening to a podcast, I heard a good question we should ask ourselves. It will help us live as if God’s Kingdom is near. Remembering that God’s Kingdom means God’s will is done instead of our will, we can ask ourselves this question: “Do I want what God wants more than I want what I want?”

When I forgive, I’m living out God’s Kingdom. When I share with others or help meet their needs, I’m living out God’s Kingdom. When I love others like Jesus loves me, I’m living out God’s Kingdom.

This week, may we continue to ask ourselves that question: “Do I want what God wants more than I want what I want?”

Where Is Your Kingdom?

casteThis month in our High School class, we’ve been talking about the Kingdom of God and what Jesus meant by what He said about the Kingdom. One of the first questions we needed to answer is “What is your kingdom?” While we don’t live in a monarchy or look to someone who wears a crown, we all have our kingdoms – places where we exert control or influence. Our kingdom could be our set of friends on Facebook or our followers on Twitter. We determine who makes the list. Our kingdom could be our real-life relationships. All our decisions hinge on what our friends think or say. Our kingdom could be our job, our bank account, our hobbies…pretty much any part of our life where we maintain control. Once we established what our kingdom is, we had to think about what we do when our kingdom bumps into the kingdom of God. What happens when what we want doesn’t match up with what God wants for us.

One of the first verses we looked at was Matthew 6:10, a portion of the Lord’s Prayer: “Your Kingdom come, Your will be done.” The writers of the material we are using made an interesting point about this verse. They point out that Jesus is using a parallel statement here. Your Kingdom come = Your Will being done. If it really is God’s kingdom, then He is in control. He has the final word on what is done.

Where we struggle with the idea of kingdom is when we aren’t willing to submit our own personal kingdom (or kingdoms) to God’s Kingdom. Rather than His will being done, our will is done. I maintain control, I make the decisions, I determine the direction I go.

It’s an interesting question to wrestle with: “Where is your kingdom?” What area or realms of your lives to do you seek to maintain the control? Then, what does it look like for me to live in God’s Kingdom?

Jesus is ______________

Jesus-Is-3DAlong with a cool title (and a cool book cover), Judah Smith’s latest book was a good read. While I don’t think he really said anything brand new, he does write about Jesus in a fresh way to remind us of not only of who Jesus is, but how He looks at us. I appreciated Smith’s transparency about his life and ministry, his humor throughout the book and the way he presents Jesus.

One of more compelling quotes from the book was this one: “If you want to know what God thinks of you, or what God would say about your sin, or how God would respond it he were face-to-face with you, just look at Jesus, and you’ll know.”

Judah Smith’s church launched the “Jesus is                       ” campaign in Seattle to get Jesus on the minds of people in the city.  In this book, Smith offers a look at Jesus that is far from what people might think about Him.  In one chapter he shares how Jesus is Grace.  Some people (especially church people) don’t want to go too crazy on the grace angle because people might start sinning.  I really like what Smith wrote next and it depicts his humor pretty well:  “News flash: they are already sinning.  People don’t need grace to sin.  They need grace to deal with the sin they already have.”  Jesus is not surprised or shocked by our sin; that’s why He came.

Smith gives us a picture of Jesus who knows us deeply, knows all about our sin and humanity, yet still invites us to relationship with Him.  He even loves us.  In the book, Smith shows Jesus as Friend, as Grace, as The Point, as Here and as Happy.

It is a good read for an individual seeking to know who Jesus is and for the person who is a follower of Jesus.  The book would also make a good study for a small group to really dig into the passages Smith presents to talk about who Jesus is.  If you get a chance, grab a copy of Jesus is                        .

(I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com <http://BookSneeze®.com> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own)

90 Day Challenge – The Home Stretch

GOYOIt seems hard to believe, but we are in the home stretch of our 90 Day Challenge. If you have kept up with each day’s reading, we are in the final week. This week takes us into the last book of the Bible – Revelation. While this book can be confusing at times, one thing is clear: Jesus wins! He defeats Satan, sin and death and “makes all things new!” No matter how the details unfold, Jesus will remain King of King and Lord of Lords. Our job is to be faithful to Him, no matter what events occur. As you continue through the challenge, be encouraged! While we don’t know how many chapters there are remaining, we know how The Story ends.

Next week, for those who have finished the challenge, we want to have some resources available to encourage you in continue in your habit of spending time in God’s Word.

Perhaps you want to repeat the 90 Day Challenge and read through the New Testament again. I have a resource on my desk right now called “31 Days with Jesus.” It is a 30 day plan to read through the Gospel of Matthew. We will have a few more that are designed to encourage you in your time with God.

Thoughts on The Bible Mini-Series

bibleWe were talking about The Bible Mini-Series today for a few minutes today in the office. I’ve only seen two nights of the series, but overall have liked what I have seen.

What has been surprising to me is the response of people, especially “church people,” to the mini-series. I say surprising. What I really mean is disappointing. In the times I have watched, I follow along on Twitter to read people’s reactions. Several comments have also appeared on Facebook. Much of the response I have seen from people I think are believers has been negative. We don’t like this. We don’t like that. It appears that for many out there, we don’t like much.

The thing that really grabbed my attention was the comparison between Satan during the temptation of Jesus and President Obama. Really? That’s what you took away from it? Seemed to really take the whole point of the mini-series in a different direction than what I think it was intended.

I saw a statistic earlier this week – Over 68 MILLION have viewed The Bible in 15 days making it the #1 cable series of the year. I think that is great. I’m going with the assumption that a good number of those people are already believers. They accept God’s Word as truth and read it on a regular basis.

What would be interesting to see is the number of people who either don’t believe in the Bible or ever read it that are tuning into the show. If they are watching the series, become engaged and actually spend time reading it to see what it says or start a conversation with someone they know reads the Bible, isn’t that a win? While I do agree we need to be accurate to God’s Word, it would be incredibly difficult to do a mini-series on the Bible and include everything. If the producers’ goal is to engage people and point them to God’s Word, I think they are moving in the right direction.

I guess my surprise is the number of comments being made by those who know God’s Word. I don’t think we are the audience the producers were aiming for. I know there are many opinions on the show. This is just my two-cents.

Who Do You Think You Are – a review

who-do-you-think-you-are-bookIn his latest offering, Mark Driscoll writes about the importance of finding our identity in Christ and not in our accomplishments or failures. Through the pages of the book Driscoll shares stories from people who have wrestled with their identity in Christ in light of past experiences. One woman talks of surviving brain cancer along with struggling with some issues with her family. In referring to her past experiences she says this: “They may help explain me, but they don’t define me.”

In the opening chapters Driscoll identifies a distinction between a biography and a testimony. A biography is about person’s life, accomplishments and determination. A testimony is about Jesus and how He steps in to be our Savior. Our story is more about our testimony – who we are in Christ and what He has done for us – than a biography based on our own efforts and experiences.

Each of the chapters start with the phrase “I Am” and each spells out a different aspect of our identity in Christ. To help explain our identity, he walks through the book of Ephesians and uses Paul’s words to help us see who God wants us to be.

While I thought all of the chapters were well written, I thought the chapters on suffering and spiritual gifts were well written. Driscoll ends each chapter with the scripture references he used. It is obvious he spent quite a bit of time in study as we wrote this book.

Who Do You Think You Are is a good read on our identity in Christ and a good resource for those studying the letter to the church in Ephesus. He uses a lot of scripture throughout the book, but also adds personal stories from people who have walked through these identity issues. It is a good read.

(I received this book from BookSneeze.com in exchange for my review)

90 Day Challenge – Week 5

GOYOYesterday’s reading completed Day 35, which signified the end of week 5 in our 90 Day Challenge. Now that we are over one-third of the way through, hopefully we are saying consistent in our reading and, more than that, growing in our understanding of God and His Word.

We are moving swiftly through the book of Acts and it presents such a great picture of what the church should look like. As they met together, they shared whatever they had with one another and met each other’s needs. Because of how they loved each other and treated each other, God brought more people into their fellowship. Who wouldn’t want to be a part of a group that loved genuinely and served selflessly?

As persecution comes on the church, the followers of Jesus spread out from city to city and village to village. As they went, they shared what they knew about Jesus. As you read the sermons and testimonies that were shared, the followers of Jesus always came back to His life, death and resurrection. It was simply about Jesus.

Hopefully we are reminded and encouraged to simply share what we know about Jesus with those we encounter. Keep up the good work in your 90 Day Challenge.

90 Day Challenge – Week Four

GOYOYesterday we concluded week four in our 90 Day Challenge. Today’s reading concludes our time in the Gospels and moves us into the book of Acts and then into the letters of the New Testament. Also, after completion of Tuesday’s reading, we will be one-third of the way through out challenge! I’m hoping that all of those who have accepted the challenge are staying with it or trying to get caught up. Again – remember – the goal is to create a habit of spending time with God through His Word. We gain when we grow in our walk with God.

As we read through the Gospel of John, we were reminded why spending time in His Word is important. In chapter 15, Jesus uses the word picture of vine and branches. He states very clearly in verse 5 who plays what role: “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.”

Sometimes we need that simple, yet straightforward reminder that we need to stay connected to the vine. Regardless of our best efforts or ideas or plans, apart from Him, we can do nothing. Only by staying connected to Him can we bear fruit.

As we continue to go through our 90 Day Challenge – or use whatever reading plan you are on – remember that image. He is our source of life and health and growth and we need to remain connected to Him.

Keep it up!

90 Day Challenge – Week Three

GOYOWe are done with week three of our 90 Day Challenge. Yesterday was day #21 and we are beginning week four today. If you are taking the challenge, stop for a moment and give yourself a hand (go ahead, I’ll wait)…

I do think it is important to celebrate our progress along the way. Maybe for some of us, this has been the most consistent we’ve been or even the longest we’ve stayed with a reading plan. Even if you have fallen behind, don’t get discouraged. Remember – our goal is to develop the habit of spending time regularly with God. The 90 Day Challenge is just a tool to do that.

One thing that has grabbed my attention as we have gone through the Gospel of Luke is Jesus’ teaching on prayer. In Luke 11 the disciples ask Him to teach them to pray. He gives the model prayer and then tells a story about a neighbor who comes at midnight and knocks on the door asking for bread. In Luke 18 we hear the Parable of the Persistent Widow. In both stories, the point seems to be that a request is granted because the person was persistent in asking.

In Luke 11, the NIV uses this phrase to describe the request: “shameless audacity.” In Luke 18, the judge grants the widow’s request because she “keeps bothering” him.

Jesus characterizes God as a Father who cares about His children and loves to give good gifts to them. So, rather than seeing God as a judge to be bothered or a neighbor to be woken up, we should see God as a Father who wants us to ask. The takeaway from these two teachings for me has been that I should ask God for the things on my heart. As I look at the decisions that need to be made in the coming months, I should ask God for His direction. I guess the question I could ask myself is this: have I brought my requests to God with “shameless audacity?”