Welcome once again to Mondays @ Soul Survival. Each week I’ll feature a book that I consider a valuable resource. This week’s selection is When Life Is Hard by James MacDonald, one of the best books I have ever read about tests and trials.
Pastor MacDonald wrote this book in the midst of what he calls “a storm and finally a category 5 hurricane.” What he learned can help each one of us as we go through our own tests, trials and storms.
Jeremiah 29:11 says “He knows the plans He has for you, plans to give you a future and a hope.”
Yes! That’s what I want to hear, you may be thinking. Let’s get on those plans right now—future, hope, blessing. I’m ready! But here’s the thing: God knows something else. He knows that we’re not always ready for the plans that He has for us. So He has some plans to get us ready for His plans. That’s really what this book is about—taking the difficult things that God allows into your life, and getting to the place where the blessing can be received.
The key truth he drives home throughout the book is from Job 23.10:
“He knows the way I take; When He has tried me, I shall come forth as gold.”
God knows what is going on in each of our lives and He has promised to use trials for good in our lives (Rom. 8.28-29).
Pastor MacDonald defines trials this way:
A trial is a painful circumstance allowed by God to change my conduct and my character. My conduct—that’s what I do. And then to a deeper level, my character—that’s who I am.
He goes on to help us first evaluate our hard circumstances. Are they trials or a consequences? This is an important distinction. The author: Continue reading →
Welcome once again to Mondays @ Soul Survival. Each week I’ll feature a book that I consider a valuable resource. Some will be about relationships, emotional struggles, or other areas of practical living. Some are books that have helped me in my personal devotional life. This week’s selection, Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy by Eric Metaxas is a biography.
I enjoy reading biographies and don’t have the time to read nearly as many as I would like, but I read this one a year or so ago. To say the book impacted me would be an understatement!
In case you’re not familiar with him, Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a pastor, theologian, and writer (The Cost of Discipleship) who came into his own during Hitler’s rise to power in Nazi Germany. While many pastors and religious leaders were wooed into believing Hitler only wanted the best for Germany, Bonhoeffer refused to close his eyes to what was happening. He was a founding member of the Confessing Church, those who went underground because they refused to fall in line as Hitler nationalized the German church. They understood and taught that God and His Word must be the final authority in life.
Friends who recognized his importance to the true church in Germany got him out of the country and safely to America. But a couple of weeks later, convinced he needed to stand with the believers in his homeland, he was on a boat back to Germany.
He eventually joined the German underground, working selflessly and in spite of great personal danger, to save and protect as many Jews as they could. Over and over he demonstrated great moral courage in the face of unspeakable evil. Eventually, he and others decided Hitler must be stopped.
Welcome once again to Mondays @ Soul Survival. Each week I’ll feature a book that I consider a valuable resource. Some will be about relationships, emotional struggles, or other areas of practical living. Some, like this week’s selection, Ordering Your Private World by Gordon MacDonald, are books that have helped me in my personal devotional life. I hope all of them will be helpful to you or someone you know.
Today we have all kinds of planners, apps, lists, and suggestions to help us get more organized and be more productive. So much in our culture points to the importance of getting more and more done. We have become a church of Martha’s when God wants us to first be Mary’s. That won’t happen without learning to order our own private worlds.
Maybe you’re a stay-at-home mom, a working dad or mom, a single parent, a business man or woman, or a grandparent. Maybe you work from home. Maybe you commute. Maybe home and family are your work. Maybe you’re a blogger, a Bible teacher, a homeschooler, or in full time ministry. Whereever you are in your life right now, you’re probably busy!
Busyness! There are probably few of us who haven’t experienced it. As we’ll see in a minute, sometimes it’s a good thing, but other times … not so much!
Maybe you can relate MacDonald’s story:
I was a young pastor in a sizable church, and I had accumulated several weeks of busyness (I mean really busy!) in my work. Now, there is a busyness that reflects a plan of activity, a pattern of priorities, and a sense of purposefulness. It is a good and satisfying busyness through which one grows and increases competence.
But there is also a busyness (a destructive busyness, actually) that reflects a chaotic way of life—a way of doing in which one is simply responding to the next thing in the day. The next thing! It makes no difference whether or not it has significance; it’s just the next thing, and one does it because it’s there to do.
In that thirtieth year I was swept along in that second kind of busyness much like someone being swept along in the rapids of a raging river. Out of control. Fearful of capsizing. Feeling quite unprotected.
He goes on to describe a breakdown of sorts where all that busyness came to a head:
Many times I have looked back wondering what I was crying for that day. Perhaps it was some of the wounds and sorrows that had been handed down from father to son from previous generations. Then again, perhaps I was weeping for my own sadnesses, the ones I had lived through as a boy and never brought to resolution. What about the possibility that I was simply reflecting weeks and weeks of stressful life in which there had been no pause and no inner, spiritual maintenance? How about the chance that it was all of these possibilities?
That Saturday was the day I learned, the hard and frightening way, that I could not go on living the way I was living and expect to be a spiritual leader (or any other kind of leader) of people. I often refer to that morning as the day I hit the wall.
The chapters that follow describe the things he learned as he began to “order his private world.” As many of us have already discovered in some measure, this is an “inside-out matter, not an outside-in matter.” MacDonald says:
There must be a quiet place where all is in order, a place from which comes the energy that overcomes turbulence and is not intimidated by it.
The book itself has five sections:
Use of Time
Wisdom & Knowledge
Each one is packed full of helpful thoughts, quote, stories, suggestions, and reasons for ordering your private world.
One of my favorite chapters is entitled “Order in the Garden,” talking about the garden of our soul. In it the author talks about the restlessness and lack of spiritual satisfaction many of us feel. He also points out some of the “quick fixes” we attempt and the shallow level of inner life we have come to accept. He says this:
Today Christians talk about the importance of “quiet time,” a daily devotional often reduced to a system or method that is swift and streamlined. We boil it down to seven minutes or thirty minutes, depending on how much time we have available. We use Bible study guides, devotional guides, devotional booklets, and carefully organized prayer lists, all of which are nice—better, I suppose, than nothing—but not nearly as effective as what the mystics had in mind.
This book is not an in depth study of all the spiritual disciplines. Others have done that thoroughly and well. Instead, MacDonald focuses on those that are most often neglected: the pursuit of solitude and silence; regular listening to God; the experience of reflection and meditation; and prayer as worship and intercession.
Ordering Your Private World, along with two others that I’ll share with you later, impacted my life in a profound way about 20 years ago and have done so again and again through the years since. It has been updated and a study guide has been added, but the principles are timeless and life changing.
If you, like so many of us do from time to time, feel that restlessness and dissatisfaction, grab a copy, find some quiet time and dig in!
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Motivational speaker Charlie “Tremendous” Jones said, “You will be the same person in five years as you are today except for the people you meet and the books you read.”
I believe that, especially when those books have eternal value. Good Christian books have the potential to help us grow in our relationships with God and one another. They can help us understand how God might be working in our lives, help us be better witnesses to the world around us, and help us deal biblically with the tests and trials of life.
Welcome to Mondays @ Soul Survival for 2016. As many of you know, last year we went through The Jesus Code by O.S. Hawkins, chapter by chapter. This year I plan to feature a different book each week by sharing a few key concepts from each one.
A month or so ago I started a series of posts on homosexuality and transgender issues. Now that the holidays are over I want to pick up where I left off. Last year I attended the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors annual conference where homosexuality was the main theme. Much of what I’ll share comes from my conference notes. I’ll endeavor to give specific credit wherever I can.
In the second post, Homosexuality: Many Voices, I talked about the various view points on homosexuality and why biblical Christianity and the relevance of God’s Word are at stake.
In this post I want to discuss 10 practical ways we as Christians can love biblically when it comes to our transgender and homosexual friends and family members.
Matthew 22 in the New Living Translation says this:
34 But when the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees with his reply, they met together to question him again.35 One of them, an expert in religious law, tried to trap him with this question:36 “Teacher, which is the most important commandment in the law of Moses?”
37 Jesus replied, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’38 This is the first and greatest commandment.39 A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’40 The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.”
We are called to love our spouses, to love our neighbors, and to love our friends and family members. We are even called to love our enemies. While we don’t want to confuse love with acceptance in the area of lifestyle, it doesn’t matter where on that continuum someone is, we are called to love.
One of the most powerful testimonies at the conference was that of Rosaria Butterfield. Rosaria is a former tenured professor of English at Syracuse University. In spite of what she termed a normal childhood and adolescence, she became a feminist and lesbian, even more, a vocal spokesperson for that agenda. Continue reading →
Welcome to Mondays @ Soul Survival for 2016. We just finished going through The Jesus Code by O.S. Hawkins chapter by chapter. I’m going to do something a little different this year. I plan to feature a different book each week.
I read Glynnis’ book a couple of months ago after reading Michele’s review on “Living our Days” and was extremely blessed by her biblical perspective on priorities, procrastination and organizing our time. I have already incorporated many of her suggestions into my own life and plan to go back through it and fine tune as we start off on a new year.
The first few chapters of the book deal with procrastination, but it’s not a “stop it” approach. Glynnis helps us understand the “whys” of procrastination. Some of them are personal to each one of us (for example: Is it fear or overload rather than laziness?) and others may be the result of living in our fast-paced media driven world with its instant messaging and demands for our quick response.
Glynnis, also, takes on the challenges we face when determining our priorities and how our changing culture, perfectionism, and people pleasing, among other things, play a role in our struggles. She helps us sort out God’s view of our priorities with a series of questions. She says:
I’m always having to rein myself in and reevaluate my priorities. In fact, I do this weekly, and I’ll explain that more in a later chapter. But for now, perhaps a series of questions I ask myself will help you if you struggle with knowing your priorities. These would be good questions to write in a journal or notebook and answer during the next week. To answer them effectively, take time to pray before you start. Open your heart to hear the Lord and His voice. Quiet your heart and just listen. Then ask yourself:
1) What Can Only I Do? There are some jobs in my life no one else can do. For example, no one else can nurture my personal faith in God. I am the only wife my husband has. God has given me five children to mother. Plus, no one else can eat the right foods or exercise for me. Those four areas of life (plus a few others) are no-brainers and will always be at the top of my priority list.
2) What Has God Entrusted to Me? We’ve all been entrusted with something— a certain amount of money, a home, talents, and intelligence. Some of us have paid jobs and volunteer responsibilities.
3) Am I a Good Steward of What I Already Have? This is where I do a painful assessment of reality. How am I doing with what God has already given me? Are my finances a wreck? Have I neglected my husband? Have I honored my parents? God is always watching to see how I’m doing with what He’s already given me. When He sees I manage things well, He entrusts me with more. When I’m neglectful, the opposite happens.
4) What Passion (or Dream) Has God Put in My Heart? Perhaps this dream is buried in your heart— but it’s there. When we submit to God’s plans for our lives, and those dreams don’t contradict His Word or character, we can be confident God placed those dreams in our heart for a reason.
5) What Has God Asked Me to Do That I Haven’t Done Yet? This is where things get touchy for a procrastinator. It’s likely there are items we’ve put off that God has called us to do. This moves our procrastination into the realm of disobedience. I once heard this statement: “Old orders are standing orders.” Meaning if God asked you to do something years ago, and didn’t revise the directions, He still expects you to do it. It’s never too late to be obedient.
Other chapters deal with taming our perfectionist tendencies, changing bad habits, and organizing our work, along with a host of other helpful subjects.
One of my favorites was the chapter entitled “Small Changes Matter.” In it she says about a difficult period in her own life: Continue reading →