Becoming More Saintly

How Come It’s Taking Me So Long to Get Better? By Lane Adams—Book Review

This book was recommended by our Fanning the Flame coach, so I decided to read and review it. Although I have some theological differences with the author (mainly along the lines of people “accepting” Christ, altar calls and the like), overall this is an excellent resource on the topic of sanctification – which we might also call growing more saintly.

Lane Adams begins by explaining that we often expect too much of other Christians, even ourselves; sanctification, or maturing in the faith, is a process. Instead of showing patience, we believe that becoming Christians means that we will stop sinning; that our personal lives will match our professed ideals. We become disappointed and dismayed when this fails to happen. To illustrate, Adams uses the example of the Apostle Paul. We remember Paul’s conversion experience on the Damascus Road and then immediately jump forward to his missionary trips, his theological letters, his imprisonment in Rome and so on. In actuality, Paul spent three years in the desert (presumably studying and meditating) and then about ten years in Tarsus (probably pastoring a church, before he grows into the hero of faith we admire. Reading carefully reveals Paul was not always successful either: remember his poignant lament:

Adams likens the Christian life to warfare – once we become a Christian, Christ has established a beachhead within us, but there are many more battles to be fought! Some of these are things we are not even aware of at the beginning of the journey.

He also touches on topics such as legalism, religious experiences, our testimonies, spiritual gifts and marriage. Most Lutherans would agree with his explanation and take on these important issues in the walk of faith.

VERDICT: I liked this book very much, and have recommended it to my husband as a resource for training Elders and other church leaders. It is not too long, or technical and will encourage serious thought and discussion as well as help in relating to other Christians who are at different points in their walk.

Who’s Your Daddy? by Lisa and Missy Harper — Book Review

Father to the fatherless, defender of widows–this is God, whose dwelling is holy.  God places the lonely in families.  Psalm 68:5

In today’s society, many children experience the pain of broken homes and missing parents.  This book gently explains to young children how even those without a “skin daddy” have an awesome Father God in Heaven.  Based on the true experience of the authors, Lisa and Missy Harper, it tells the story of Missy, from Haiti.  Her biological mother, Marie, is dead, and she has been adopted by a single mother.  The book addresses situations such as death, divorce, grief, absent parents and adoption in terms that are easy to understand, and most importantly tells children, “you don’t have to figure it all out now.”

The illustrations are bright and attractive, and the book includes Bible verses, questions and further reading for use by parents and teachers.  It offers a way to begin discussions with children about some difficult issues.

Verdict:  I give this book five stars.  Go to this link if you’re interested in purchasing it:

http://www.bhpublishinggroup.com/products/whos-your-daddy

 

 

Saints Gathering Together

In church last Sunday we sang this well-known “Thanksgiving” hymn which speaks to me about the strength we find in gathering together as saints of God.  You may be surprised to learn something about its’ history!  It is actually of Dutch origin and refers religious persecution which occurred long before the first Thanksgiving.  The melody can be traced back to 1597.  It began as a folk song but was transformed into a hymn dealing with overcoming religious persecution on January 24th 1597.  That was the date of the Battle of Turnhout, in which Prince Maurice of Orange defeated the Spanish occupiers of a town in what is now the Netherlands.  At this point, the Dutch Protestants, who were prohibited from worshiping under the Spanish king, Phillip II, celebrated the victory by borrowing the familiar folk melody and giving it new words.  “We Gather Together” connoted a heretofore forbidden act—Dutch Protestants gathering together for worship.  It first appeared in print in a 1626 collection of Dutch patriotic songs.  Listen to the words and give thanks for the blessings we receive when we gather together.

Who Sang the First Song by Ellie Holcomb — Book Review

This delightful little book was written by Ellie Holcomb, a musician who began her career touring with the Americana band, Drew Holcomb (her husband) and the Neighbors.  She was named Best New Artist at the 2014 Dove Awards.  Maybe some of her music could be reviewed on an upcoming post?  Beth Ann?

At any rate, this children’s book combines Ellie’s love for music with thoughts of God and His creation.  Who sang the first song?  Was it in the wind?  The waves?  The roar of the lion? Of course, we learn that the original singer was God Himself, who as Ellie says, “He wrote His song into everything.”  Everyone of us, and all of God’s beloved world are invited to make a joyful noise, because we were made to sing.

I enjoyed the fanciful illustrations(thank you Kayla Harren) and the brief, but inspiring text, and I think young children would enjoy this book as well.  A copy is definitely going on the Christmas list for my yet-to-be-born granddaughter, Hailey!

I give this book five stars!  If you want to purchase it, you can go to the following link:

http://www.bhpublishinggroup.com/products/who-sang-the-first-song

 

The Anatomy of Peace by the Arbinger Institute –Book Review

A friend who belongs to another denomination loaned me this book.  Her church is encouraging reading it and having “book club discussions” around it, so I thought I would do a review.

I had mixed feelings as I read through this book.  The conclusions it comes to are certainly good:

  • Treat people as people, not objects
  • Get out of the box of justifying oneself by blaming others, feeling superior to others, or needing to look good to others all the time
  • Build strong relationships with those with whom we have conflicts
  • Teach and communicate, listen and learn
  • Remember you cannot change others until you change yourself
  • Take action to and do the things we feel drawn toward when we are thinking outside of our box of blaming, categorizing people, justifying ourselves, etc.

In following these behaviors, you will gain a heart of peace within yourself and will become peaceful toward others.

The Anatomy of Peace: Resolving the Heart of Conflict by [The Arbinger Institute]

All worthwhile stuff, right?  However, the right conclusions are reached for all the wrong reasons.  According to this book, when we treat others badly, this is an act of self-betrayal — implying that we are basically good people at heart.  WRONG!  We are basically sinful, and I don’t think we can rely upon our inner feelings to tell us what is the right thing to do.  We need God’s word for that.  The book then goes on to say when we betray ourselves, our behavior becomes “crooked.”  Again WRONG!  The correct word would be sinful.  We then need to justify ourselves by blaming, demonizing, etc.. The correct way to fix our “crooked” thinking is instead to  get outside of the box we have made and see people as people, not objects.  WRONG!  We cannot justify ourselves by any psychological maneuver or corrected thinking on our own — we need a Savior.

Conclusion:  I would not use this book, certainly not at my church, because it does not have a saintly worldview (I talked about this in a prior post).  What do others think?  Does the conclusion take precedence over the premises and reasoning?  I’d like to hear some other opinions.  I want to listen and learn.

 

Small Groups of Saints #2 — Joan’s Experience

Small groups work.  I know it because I’ve seen them work in my own life.  Years ago, my husband and I noticed that just about every time we made a big leap forward in our spiritual lives, it was because of participation in a small group.  They’ve been an integral part in my journey of sanctification(The word sanctification is related to the word saint; both words have to do with holiness.)  Justification is something we already have through Christ’s sacrifice, but sanctification is a process in which every Christian participates, a process to become more and more Christlike.

My first group, was a Bible Study group.  I think there were eight of us, plus our Pastor, and together we did a through-the-Bible study of the entire Bible called Divine Drama.  It lasted for two years.  Terry and I had young children at the time, so we took turns going to the weekly meeting. Whoever attended the meeting took a tape recorder and recorded the lesson for the person who stayed home.  Believe it or not, people talked to the recorder to send the missing member messages!  It was lots of fun, I learned to put all those Bible stories into the correct chronological order, and grew very close to the other participants.

Later we attended Marriage Encounter and Via de Cristo weekends, both of which recommend follow-on small groups.  They encourage deep sharing about the personal and spiritual life of the members.  You learn how others are struggling, or succeeding in relationships with God, family and others.  You pray together.  You encourage one another.  You engage in evangelism or other Christian activities together.

I can’t explain exactly how all this works, except that if you are open and patient, the Holy Spirit does all the work.  It doesn’t even matter if you have a lot in common, because you have this one big thing in common — you are all followers of Jesus, and you have a desire to grow in your faith and understanding of His will.

So, my advice to you is this:  if you haven’t experienced a small group, find one or start one!  Do a Bible study, talk about your spiritual life, pray together, find a group project.  Be consistent;  give it some time.  You’ll be amazed at what you, God and your brothers and sisters in Christ can do together!

Would anyone else like to post about their personal walk and how small groups have played a part?

Fanning the Flame #19 — Small Groups of Saints

Recently our Fanning the Flame team gathered to listen to a lecture on CD about Small Group Discipleship.  Here are some of my take-aways.

Many Christians have never experienced true Biblical fellowship;  they are not being discipled or discipling others;  they frankly are not interested in making disciples.  The commission within the Great Commission is “Make Disciples!”  so as saints of God, we need to take steps to make sure that is what we are about.

These are the elements of a Biblical Small Group Fellowship:

  • Worship
  • Evangelism
  • Loving
  • Learning

As you can see they form the acronym WELL.  A healthy small group will include these activities.

There is a strong biblical basis for small groups in both the Old and New Testaments.  The father-in-law of Moses advised him to form small groups in order to spread out the responsibilities of leadership (Exodus 18).  Jesus chose twelve men to disciple (Luke 6:12-13) and the early church met in small groups in the homes of Lydia, Priscilla and Aquila and others.

To be maximally successful, small groups must:

  • Be a church-wide ministry
  • Have strong pastoral and leadership support:  leaders must be in small groups
  • Have clearly defined faith goals — each group should have a kingdom project, something outside of the congregation they will do together
  • Establish relationships with non-believers
  • Have periodic entrance and exit times

Some of the blessings of small groups include:

  • Facilitation of  discipleship — they are relational, not just informational
  • Exponential expansion
  • Provides a core of trained leaders
  • Helps the Elders to fulfill their responsibilities to love and know the flock

Of course, there was more.  Our Small Group Task Force is already hard at work, and we are hoping this will become a focal point for our revitalization.  Facilitators are being selected and trained, and a “practice” small group, comprised of those people will start soon.

Keep praying for us as we continue on this journey to fan our embers into flames!