This Is Our Time – Book Review

This review is longer than usual because this book deserves your attention.

Trevin Wax is a well-known evangelical millennial and after reading this book, I can see why.  He manages to take modern day situations and show how they relate to God’s word.

Starting with the introduction, Trevin engrosses the mind and engages the thought process by telling us that our neighbor is not where the battle is, but rather the battle is with the lies that are told by the powers and principalities that engage us daily through the media. There are 8 chapters in the book.  The first 4 deal with the habits that impact us on a day to day basis.  The last 4 are based on the larger myths that animate our society. Every single chapter holds a wealth of information that opened my eyes to things that I have been doing and not even been aware that I was doing them.  I enjoyed this book so much that I am going to give a chapter by chapter review.

Chapter 1 deals with how our cell phones, internet practices, and even our friends can lead us to have a formed opinion instead of an informed opinion of ourselves, by narrowing our information intake to model our “Christian beliefs.” This constant affirmation of our views leads us to the myth that our “beliefs” are always right.

Chapter 2 is about our interaction with movies, TV shows, etc.  As most of us realize, a lot of the things we watch are fictional but the constant immersion into this alternate reality can pervert our true reality.  Often, these movies and shows tell us the lie that our fulfillment is found not in God but in emotional and material things.

Chapter 3 – This chapter addresses how we use society’s goals to map out our future.  Often, doing that leads us on a faulty path away from God.  God’s word leads us on a true path with a glorious ending.

Chapter 4 – Our all-time favorite myth of all, shopping and material things can make us happy.  We have turned our year into one shopping event after another.  Instead of being thankful for what we have in November, we are planning to buy more on Black Friday so we can be happier.  Ads that target our longing to be accepted through the labels we wear, the car we drive or the newest electronic gadget have turned shopping into a substitute “Religious” experience.

In these first four chapters, there were several quotes that stood out.

“The primary myth the smartphone tells you every day is that you are the center of the universe.”

“Desensitization is not a sign of spiritual progress but of sensual dullness. Do not confuse the ability to be unfazed by depictions of sin with spiritual maturity.”

“True courage is not deciding for yourself what is “right and wrong” but seeking to discover what truly is right and wrong – for yourself and everybody else.”

“The lie is not that you wouldn’t be okay without it.  The lie is that you’re going to be happier with it.

“The American Dream is about shopping for happiness.  The Kingdom Dream is about experiencing joy in God.”

Now onto the last four chapters.

Chapter 5 – Here the Author reminds us that we are not “at home” on this Earth.  We forget that this is not where we will spend our eternity but it is only where we spend a short tie in the span of our lives.  We, as Christians, have become too much “of the world” and have failed to remember to just be “in the world.”  This chapter also delves into the trap of politics, where sometimes politics become so central to us it becomes our alternate religion.

In Chapter 6 Trevin deals with the thought that we look at marriage as the pinnacle of our relationships, instead of making it the foundation of our lives. He does a great job of delving into common fallacies that pervade our societal beliefs and shows how each and every one of them steers us wrong and why.

Chapter 7 – Another common myth – Sexual freedom is a sign of a mature society and a sign of our freedom.  We have gone from a society and culture where sexual restraint was a sign of maturity into believing that sexual relations are a sign of maturity.

Chapter 8 This chapter is titled “As the World Wobbles” I admit I was confused as to what the content of this chapter would entail.  After reading the chapter, the title fits perfectly. We, as a society, go back and forth with “the world is ending” to “the world is better now than ever.”  Read this chapter for more information on this.

The final four chapters of the book sum up the worldly myths we encounter daily.  Below are my favorite quotes from these chapters.

“So, if you want to put down roots somewhere, put them in the soil of a church.  After all, the gates of hell are shaking not because of an election but because of Easter.”

“All marriages are broken, but what makes a marriage is they are broken together.

“Staking your identity in sexuality or pinning your hopes for happiness on sex is too low of a goal for a human being made in God’s image.”

“We can’t be faithful in our own time if we’re always longing for another.”

As you can probably tell, I thoroughly enjoyed this book and believe it would make a great small group study.

I give this book 5 out of 5 stars.

Read it, Study it, Learn from it.  I sure did.

Purchase the book at the link below – You will not be disappointed

https://www.lifeway.com/en/product/this-is-our-time-P005789993

 

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Piety and Me

We’ve been blogging about piety this month and my thought is this:  What does it look like in real terms?  I usually get this vision of a person standing or kneeling with their hands together as in prayer with this light shining off them or a halo over their heads.  Hmmm, maybe not.  OK, how about someone who is always doing something “Godly” like going to church, doing good deeds for others….  No…  How about a monk or a nun who never leave the convent or cloister?

Since we live in a world where we can’t all just run to the nearest convent or cloister, we have to look at this from a real-world view.  We can’t withdraw from the world and spend all our time praying to the Lord and studying the Word.  We need to support ourselves and our families.  So, what do we do?  What does piety really look like and how do we go about starting to live this way?

Let me preface this with the statement that this is my personal view on piety.  I’m still working this out in my own life, believe me, it’s a process and I know that I’ll never see an end to it.  Why?  Because there is no end until Jesus returns.

Piety is personal and is between a person and God.  A person may think that if they do an hour of devotionals in the morning and an hour of Bible study every evening, go to church 2,3, or however times during the week, that they are “pious”.  Not that doing all that is bad, that’s not what I’m saying.  But why are you doing it?  Are you doing all that to impress God?  You want a gold star at the end of the world and a pat on the head? That’s not going to happen.  Doing “works” is good only if it comes from the right place in your heart.  Doing something to impress God or others doesn’t cut it.  Jesus said it like this:

 “And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward.  But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.  Matthew 6:5-6

I think that passage says more about personal piety than anything I’ve seen.  Pray in secret.  Just between you and God.  Stay humble.  Go to church, study the Bible, pray, do devotionals everyday or when you can.  Work it out in your life.  But keep it between you and God.  Cause when you start looking for pats on the head is when you are doing all this for the wrong reason.

Piety Part 1- by Jim Edgel

The following are excerpts from a talk on Piety given by Jim Edgel – They have been reprinted with his permission:

Piety is a word we rarely use and may think of it in a negative way such as the “pious” ways of the Pharisees.  But authentic Christian piety is a very good thing.  In fact, if we explain the life Jesus led, it was a life of true piety.  Brothers, as we become filled with the Holy Spirit, God calls each one of us to a new life, and this involves a radical change from within.  This change alters our relationship with:  Our self, with God, with other people, and with the world, we live in together.  We see ourselves differently, knowing that no matter how broken we may be, we are forgiven and very valuable to God.  We have a new direction for our lives as children of God, full of marvelous capabilities.  We begin to see other people through God’s eyes, loving them as brothers and sisters who were created with the same potential that God has given to us.  And as we continue to transform; we see our world, as messed up as it may be, as God’s gift to us, given for our enjoyment and care.  When we speak of piety, we are speaking of a full response in all areas of our life to God’s amazing love and grace. We must seek a personal relationship with God, not just knowing about God … But knowing who God is.  Being Christian, not just doing Christian things.  How can we discover our God-given potential and be the complete person that God calls us to be as we live a life of grace?  This consists of balancing three key dimensions of our lives.  All three are equally important and it takes all three, working together, giving equal stability and balance in order to support us as we live in a close relationship with God.  To better understand the importance of Piety in our daily walks as Christians; which includes taking the Good News of Jesus Christ and Him crucified for you and me to the world, we must understand the difference between authentic piety and false piety. Authentic piety is an intimate, revitalizing deepening relationship with God. Jesus explains this to us.  You may remember reading in the Gospel of Matthew when the Pharisees gathered to question Jesus and one of the group asked Him which was the greatest commandment in the law.  And Jesus using His words with great precision, as always, not only answers their question, He explains authentic piety and sums up all the commandments in three sentences.  22nd chapter of Matthew verses 37, 38, 39 – And Jesus said to him “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.  This is the great and first commandment.  And a second is like it:  You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”False piety is a superficial, inaccurate or deceptive practice that appears to be Christian.  False piety is destructive.  It distracts and diverts people from seeking and knowing God.  It prevents them from finding and living the fulfilled life God has planned for them.  Friends … any of us can respond to God’s call in either of two ways.  We can follow a path of faith and commitment as Paul described in his letter to the Colossians “And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.” Or we can devote ourselves to religious, regulations and practices that mark us as “A good Christian” who does “Christian” things.  Those who take this path do not understand the role of God’s grace in the lives of those who are in a relationship with Him.

More to follow

 

A Long Obedience In the Same Direction by Eugene Peterson — Book Review

Psalms 120-134 are known as “Songs of Ascent.”  They were sung by Hebrew pilgrims as they traveled the road to Jerusalem, the highest city in Palestine, for the great worship festivals.  Eugene Peterson uses each of these songs to describe a portion of what takes place along the walk of faith, as we travel upward toward God.  The chapter titles include:  Repentance, Worship, Service, Security, Joy, Perseverance, Humility, Community and more.  I love Eugene Peterson!  He never fails to engage and enlighten me.

A Long Obedience in the Same Direction: Discipleship in an Instant Society / Edition 20

In the updated edition, Peterson uses his modern version of the Psalms, from his translation, The Message.  Many will like this, but I preferred to go back and read from the NIV, as I enjoy the familiarity.  His goal is to encourage people to once more pray the Psalms, as an encouragement to pray all their emotions, good, bad and messy.  We can take it all to God, in fact we must if we want to progress in the Christian life.  According to Peterson we won’t change overnight:  it takes “a long obedience in the same direction.”  This is not a popular idea in our “give it to me now” culture.

“There is a great market for religious experience in our world; there is little enthusiasm for the patient acquisition of virtue, little inclination to sign up for a long apprenticeship in what earlier generations of Christians called holiness.”

This book was recommended to me in a comment by my friend, Nancy, and I heartily recommend it as well.  It’s not a difficult read, and the chapters could easily be read one per day, as part of a devotional practice.  Has anyone else read this book, or others by Eugene Peterson?  If so, let us know what you think, we’d love to hear.

P.S. Check out the archives for another Peterson book I reviewed, Eat This Book.

A Bike Ride With God

I used to think of God as my observer, my judge, keeping track of the things I did wrong, so as to know whether I merited heaven or hell when I die. He was out there, sort of like a president. I recognized His picture when I saw it, but I didn’t really know Him.

But later on, when I met Jesus, it seemed as though life was rather like a bike, but it was a tandem bike, and I noticed that Jesus was in the back helping me pedal. I didn’t know just when it was He suggested we change, but life has not been the same since I took the back-seat to Jesus, my Lord. He makes life exciting. When I had control, I thought I knew the way. It was rather boring, but predictable. It was the shortest distance between two points.

But when He took the lead, He knew delightful long cuts, up mountains, and through rocky places and at break-through speeds; it was all I could do to hang on! Even though it often looked like madness, He said, “Pedal!” I was worried and anxious and asked, “Where are you taking me?” He laughed and didn’t answer and I started to learn to trust. I forgot my boring life and entered into adventure. And when I’d say, “I’m scared”, He’d lean back and touch my hand.

He took me to people with gifts that I needed, gifts of healing, acceptance and joy. They gave me their gifts to take on my journey, our journey, my Lord’s and mine. And we were off again. He said, “Give the gifts away; they’re extra baggage, too much weight.” So I did, to the people we met, and I found in giving I received, and still our burden was light.

I did not trust Him, at first, in control of my life. I thought He’d wreck it, but He knows bike secrets, knows how to make it bend to take sharp corners, jump to clear high rocks, fly to shorten scary passages. And I am learning to shut up and pedal in the strangest places, and I’m beginning to enjoy the view and the cool breeze on my face with my delightful constant companion, Jesus.

And when I’m sure I just can’t do any more, He just smiles and says… “Pedal.”

(Author unknown)

Cycling, Cyclists, Tandem, Bicycles

The Hymn/Song That Moves You?

“Next to the Word of God, music deserves the highest praise. The gift of language combined with the gift of song was given to man that he should proclaim the Word of God through Music.”

This is one of many quotes said by Martin Luther regarding our praise through song.

Think about it, I am sure there is a hymn/song out there that seems to touch you more than others.  I know that it can be a hard decision but I believe that God speaks to us in the song that touches us the most.  Now I also believe that the song can change as we grow in our faith or even as we surmount obstacles in life.  My song used to be “In the Garden” but recently I feel compelled to follow in the footsteps of “Here I Am”.  These words seem to resonate deep within me to be a witness in Christs’ name, without fear of rejection.  I am posting the lyrics to follow:

Here I am, Lord

I, the Lord of sea and sky,
I have heard my people cry.
All who dwell in dark and sin
my hand will save.
I, who made the stars of night,
I will make their darkness bright.
Who will bear my light to them?
Whom shall I send?
  Here I am, Lord.  Is it I, Lord?

            I have heard you calling in the night.
I will go, Lord, if you lead me.
I will hold your people in my heart.

 

I, the Lord of snow and rain,
I have borne my people’s pain.
I have wept for love of them.
They turn away.
I will break their hearts of stone,
give them hearts for love alone.
I will speak my words to them.
Whom shall I send?

Here I am, Lord. ……

I, the Lord of wind and flame,
I will send the poor and lame.
I will set a feast for them.
My hand will save.
Finest bread I will provide
till their hearts be satisfied.
I will give my life to them.
Whom shall I send?

  Here I am, Lord. …..

What hymn/song moves you?   I mean really moves you deep down.  I am interested to see the responses and why those particular words move you.

Now do not be shy, I WANT to know.

God Loves You And So Do I

Michele

Advent – Part 3 – Final Installment

This is the third and final installment in the Advent sermon given by Jim Edgel.

 

Last week Michele and I were driving home from a friend’s house and were struck by the number of homes that already had Christmas lights brilliantly lit.   And during this week it has become even more so. It was my feeling that this year there are more lights than past years and I wondered why. Especially why there are so many on the homes of those who do not believe in the one who’s birth we celebrate in just a little over three weeks from now. Those who do not understand the treasure that is contained within our faith. I believe the lights that we see everywhere we go are expressions of defiance in the face of hard times. A tangible way to show that when all is increasingly dark – that there is hope. These lights are an attempt on the part of believers and non-believers alike to show that there is goodness and joy to be had. We all need beauty, we all should defy darkness, and we all need hope. The lights of Christmas provide or represent all three. Sadly, however, they do it differently for different people. For many people the lights that they string up represent a sad and futile hope.
                                 The hope of a Christmas like they had as a child and did not know the sorrow of this world –                                           a  Christmas of warm fires, cold snow and sweet aromas
                                 The hope for a family gathering – and a family life like that before they knew the pain of                                                  divorce, the agony of untimely death and the grief that separation brings.
                                  The hope for a world of magic, a world in which Santa Claus and his elves really make and                                            deliver all the toys that our children could possibly desire.
                                  A world in which all the problems and pressures of daily living can be erased if only the                                                  carols are played from the rooftop speakers loud enough.

But for those that do not have the real hope that Christmas represents… this is all in vain.

— The lights of Christmas cannot and will not make Christmas like it was when we were children.
— The lights of Christmas cannot and will not hold back the darkness of sin and sorrow.
— The lights of Christmas cannot and will not change the world and bring us the salvation we desire.

Only the Christ that was born on Christmas day can do that. Only the hope that we have in him, who was crucified for our sins and who rose from the dead and who has promised to return can change our lives and make them worth living. Only the risen and living Lord can make the celebration of his birth something that is more than a brief, frantic and senseless time of feasting until we are sick of sweets, drinking until we are sick of drink, and spending money we don’t have on gifts that our children don’t need – until the rest of the world is sick of our wasteful and self-indulgent ways. For too many people the lights of Christmas are a reminder of the joy that existed in the past, rather than the promise of a joy to come – the joy that is to come when the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established as the highest of the mountains. For too many the decorations and the preparations are an attempt to capture for a brief moment the peace of forgetting the pain of the world rather than the triumphant proclamation that the Lord if light, the living God, will soon come and judge between the nations – and that on that day they shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks – and that the pain of the world will be ended. Nations shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore. There are many kinds of hope my friends, some are false hopes and some are true.

— It is a wonderful thing to prepare for Christmas by hanging lights and decorating trees and preparing gifts for those you love
— It is a wonderful thing to defy the course of the world and to proclaim that there is a special day – a day in which family and friends may gather and dine together in peace and with joy.

— But it is even more wonderful – when in doing so – you have reason to believe that a day is coming when the whole world will be at peace – reason to believe that when your life is done you will enter into a joy that is eternal – when you have reason to believe the light which only briefly defies the darkness during our Christmas celebrations, will be established forever.

We have such reasons – we have such hope.
And because of that – I – and you – can rejoice at Christmas time.

–Even when the money is tighter than we have ever known.

— Even when jobs are not secure or our health if failing.

— Even when our children have moved far away or our parents have died.

Because of the one who came at the first Christmas – because of his life – his death – his resurrection and his promise to come again – and because even now he is present in the hearts of all those who believe in him – you and I can face the world as it is – and make a difference to it – and be at peace in it.
The light of the world has come – may his light shine from your homes this Advent season and in all the seasons of your days. Amen.