The Answer by Randy Pope — Book Review

I was asked to review this book for our Fanning the Flame team.  Here are my conclusions.

In his book, The Answer, Pastor Randy Pope attacks the question that most concerns all humans – “How can I find lasting satisfaction?”

According to Pastor Pope, the answer can be found by unpacking the meaning of three small words: glory, grace and truth.

The Answer: Putting an End to the Search for Life Satisfaction by [Pope, Randy]

Most people are familiar with the word glory when it refers to either the glory of God, or giving glory to God. However, glory also comes from God and is given to those who are prepared to receive it. The essence of this glory is satisfaction. Humankind was designed with full glory, fell from glory and now searches for glory in all the wrong places. The many objects we pursue (career success, popularity, the right spouse, material possessions, etc.) are counterfeits of the real glory and fail to satisfy. Satisfaction comes only when we begin to recognize and renounce these counterfeit glories and place our hope for satisfaction in God alone. On earth, life remains broken and we can never experience full glory. We can be satisfied with Christ, but we cannot be satisfied with life, in and of itself. In death, this changes. When Christ returns and raises us from the dead, we will experience glorification. This will be so wonderful, that as the apostle Paul writes,

The sufferings of this present time are not worthy to compare to the glory that is to be revealed to us.” Romans 8:18

 Glory becomes real to us through the second word– grace. Grace is the favor ascribed to us by what God has done for us. Pastor Pope calls this, “the great swap.” Jesus took upon Himself the sins of His people, and in exchange, gave them perfect righteousness. This doesn’t mean we will stop sinning, but it does mean that God sees us as forgiven. Many people distort the Gospel, creating a religion of performance. This creates the sense that there is something we need to do. The true Gospel teaches that the work is already done—completed with the death of Christ on the cross.

The final word is truth. We will only experience authentic glory to the degree that we embrace God’s absolute truth. Throughout history, Christians have held the belief that God has chosen to reveal His truth to us through His Word. However, today, most people believe that truth is relative. Only 22% of adults believe in absolute moral truth, and the percentage is even lower for those 36 and under. If truth is relative, and a matter of individual preference, there is no foundation for life, no markers to guide us. This leads to depression and a pattern of thinking that reflects a negative view of ourselves, God and the world. The good news is that when false reason encounters the truth, it doesn’t have a chance. Depression can be countered by “thinking on the truth” of God’s Word.

Pastor Pope concludes:

  1. Glory takes us to Christ
  2. Grace takes us to the Cross
  3. Truth takes us to the Word of God

 I think this book would be an excellent resource to explain the basics of the faith to young people and new believers. Pastor Pope includes many diagrams which would be helpful in a classroom setting.

P.S. You can get this as a Kindle book from Amazon for only $1.99!

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GraceFull by Dorena Williamson — Book Review

This is the third in a series of books for children authored by Dorena Williamson.  Like its  predecessors, ColorFull  and ThoughtFull, it has bright illustrations and a solid Christian message.

Hope and her family (who attend an ethnically diverse congregation) volunteer to serve the residents of Chen House, a local residence for homeless families.  Hope’s mother explains that this is a way to show God’s grace to others.  She explains:

“God showers blessings on all of us.  When we truly understand that, we can’t help but share grace and lift others up. … When grace is full and overflowing, we are graceFull. “

Hope takes the lesson to heart and shares by giving her new friend Anna Habib, from Chen House, her new pair of rain boots.  The Habibs are eventually able to move into their own home.

GraceFull

Grace is a difficult concept to explain to young children, and Gracefull does not really attempt to define it,  Instead it presents a portrait of how grace can be shown in daily life.  A suggested memory verse, further Bible reading and thought questions are included at the end of the story.

I didn’t enjoy this book as much as the first two, because the illustrations were not as engaging , and I found the story line predictable and unexceptional.  However, I give it 4 out of 5 stars.  It would be a worthwhile addition to a nursery library.

For more information or to order this book follow the link below:

https://www.bhpublishinggroup.com/products/gracefull/

I have a free copy of this book in return for an honest and fair review – Disclaimer pursuant to FTC 16 CFR Part 255

More Grace

I receive morning devotionals every morning from several sources.  One is from a pastor that I’ve known for years and he is the one that married my husband and I, and baptized both of our children.  I enjoy hearing from him every day.

The thought for today included this:

There is an infinite depth in our Lord that can never be exhausted. The excitement continues as the Lord draws us closer to Himself. Continue to read, think, and pray. There is always more grace, truth, and real excitement in walking day by day with Jesus Christ.

Wow, just wow.  This really hit me.  We cannot run out of His Grace, we can always receive more.  There is no “getting there”, we are always moving closer to our Lord.

As usual with me, when I think of things like this, a song came to mind.  Enjoy.

Extravagant Stewardship

Image result for images of she has done a beautiful thing for me“She has done a beautiful thing to me.  For you will always have the poor with you, and whenever you want, you can do good for them.  But you will not always have me.” Mark 14:7

In this passage of Scripture, an unnamed woman anoints Jesus with the costly ointment called nard.  Many of the people around him complain, finding this to be a waste of money.  After all, couldn’t the nard have been sold and the money given to those in real need?  Jesus rebukes them.  Evidently a grand gesture is sometimes appropriate.  Sometimes we’re called to give a gift simply to show our love for a particular person.  A gift like this is pure grace.

It doesn’t need to be monetary — it might be the gift of forgiving a friend or relative for a great wrong;  it might be giving time to take over a task that is burdening a neighbor;  it might be an act of kindness to a complete stranger.  The point is it’s good to sometimes give what’s unexpected, and  even unnecessary.  After all, doesn’t God give us gifts like this every day?  Don’t we get not just the things we need, but things that make life beautiful, interesting and fun?  God’s grace rains down on us, and we should spread that love and grace around!

“As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of Gods’ varied grace …” 1 Peter 4:10

What are some gifts of grace you’ve received?  I’d love to hear those stories.

Learning Grace: Book Learning #3

We Lutherans are big on grace.  It’s one of the five “solas” of the reformation:  we are saved by grace alone.  If you’re interested in reading a spiritual autobiography about someone who believed in God’s grace in his life, check this one out:  it’s an easy read, I finished in one day..

Brennan Manning was a Catholic priest who left the priesthood to marry;  he eventually divorced;  he was an alcoholic who struggled with his addiction on and off throughout his life.  He made many mistakes.  He was also a writer, speaker, teacher and evangelist who touched many with his spiritual insights.  Throughout everything he continued to believe that God loves us, and extends grace to us, wherever we are in our lives.

“Like Christian, the everyman character in The Pilgrim’s Progress, he progressed not always by making right decisions, but by responding appropriately to wrong ones”

from “All is Grace” by Brennan Manning

I like this quote because isn’t it true of most of the “heroes” of the Bible, David, for instance?  His life was a mess, too.  He committed adultery and murder, among other things.  However, he was also “a man after God’s heart.”  He sinned, but he repented, he never turned away from God, he accepted what came from God’s hand, the good and the bad.  Like all of us, he was saint and sinner.  Just like Brennan Manning.  Just like you and me.

Come To The Table

I have recently been hearing this song on the radio and it strikes a chord deep inside – Remember He came for the sick and sinful – of which I am one. So come join me at His table I look forward to seeing you there.

“Come To The Table”

We all start on the outside
The outside looking in
This is where grace begins
We were hungry, we were thirsty
With nothing left to give
Oh the shape that we were in
Just when all hope seemed lost
Love opened the door for us

He said come to the table
Come join the sinners who have been redeemed
Take your place beside the Savior
Sit down and be set free
Come to the table

Come meet this motley crew of misfits
These liars and these thiefs
There’s no one unwelcome here
So that sin and shame that you brought with you
You can leave it at the door
Let mercy draw you near

Come to the table
Come join the sinners who have been redeemed
Take your place beside the Savior
Sit down and be set free
Come to the table
Come to the table

To the thief and to the doubter
To the hero and the coward
To the prisoner and the soldier
To the young and to the older
All who hunger, all who thirst
All the last and all the first
All the paupers and the princes
All who fail you’ve been forgiven
All who dream and all who suffer
All who loved and lost another
All the chained and all the free
All who follow, all who lead
Anyone who’s been let down
All the lost you have been found
All who have been labeled right or wrong
To everyone who hears this song

Ooh
Come to the table
Come join the sinners you have been redeemed
Take your place beside the Savior
Sit down and be set free
Oooh
Sit down and be set free
Come to the table
Come to the table
Just sit down and rest a while
Just sit down and rest a while
Come to the table

Credit for song to Sidewalk Prophets

Graceful Relationships

Sarah’s post on symbiosis told us that relationships are a two way street.  If we want our relationships to survive and thrive, we have to extend a little grace — that’s a word we Lutherans like to use, which basically means getting something you didn’t earn and don’t deserve.  There are times in every relationship when we have to be willing to put aside our own needs and sacrifice for the other.  There’s a great “how to” section in the 13th chapter of 1 Corinthians.  You’ve probably heard this many times, but have you really thought about it?

“Love is patient and kind”

Am I patient with my friend, even when she forgets my birthday?  Or goes on and on about her favorite topic (which doesn’t interest me)? Am I kind and willing to listen to her problems, even on the days I’m tired and really don’t want to talk at all?

“love is not jealous or boastful.”

Am I sincerely happy for my brother when he gets a promotion while I am struggling financially?  Can I congratulate him without bringing up my latest success?

“it (love) is not arrogant or rude”

Am I respectful and courteous to the people who serve me at the restaurant, the bank, the grocery store?  Do I ask how their day is going?  Or do I ignore them in my rush to get on with my other errands?

“Love does not insist on its own way”

Do I give my husband and children a say in our family life and daily routines?  Or do I expect them to go along with my preferences?

“it (love) is not irritable or resentful”

Am I understanding when my co-worker needs extra time off?  Or do I feel put upon and angry?

“it (love) does not rejoice in the wrong, but rejoices in the right.  Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”

Do I try to put the best interpretation on the behavior of others?  Am I will to forgive them when they’re wrong and keep encouraging and believing in them?  Or do I give up and walk away?

In all our relationships, the greatest asset is love.  Use it daily.