Archive for February, 2009

Peppermint-Filled Piñatas

February 27, 2009

pfp1

Do you sometimes show up for church and think “same bat time, same bat channel”?

Does life seem to never change, just the activities vary from day to day?

Does your heart long for adventure, but part of you is saying “get over it, it’s time to grow up”?

Did you “sign up” for Jesus, only to find, years later, that you’d really just bought into middle class America, but with less alcohol and swearing?

Is your church shrinking and you can’t figure out why?

We are all hungry for reality.  A real Christianity that will make such a difference that life will never be the same.  We want to see ours and others lives transformed.  We don’t want to give out platitudes and placebos.  We want to see the Spirit of God make a difference in the lives of the people we touch.

Evangelism in our country has had a rough ride.  The one thing that has been consistent is that Christians are trying to help people who don’t know Christ come to know Him.

When I was very young, if you just presented the four spiritual laws, people would see their place in the world and come to Jesus.

Then, we were taught to corner people, ask them certain questions, and they would miraculously discover their lack and run to Jesus.

Then came what I call the multi-level marketing approach, better known as “friendship evangelism.”  In this approach, you targeted people, not because you wanted to know them, but because they didn’t know Jesus.  And, (if you’ve ever sat through a MLM course, the training is IDENTICAL) you target them by getting them to join you at events, getting them to become part of your life because of course, your life was so much more attractive than theirs.  I was a big failure at this approach, because my yard is always a mess, my kitchen is a WORKING kitchen…and I am not good at making myself look like the Barbie model with all the accoutrements required to be attractive.

Then, we all threw our hands up and said ‘phewy I can’t do that and it doesn’t make sense’.  I can’t abuse people in the name of Jesus.  They have lives and they are important just as they are. (Okay, some of us threw our hands up.  Others are still stuck in the 1960 – 1990 versions listed above.)

Now, there is a new wave of evangelism afoot, and Eric Michael Bryant does an excellent job of helping us to understand how we can live purposefully and evangelistically without being hypocritical and annoying.

Peppermint-Filled Pinatas: Breaking Through Tolerance and Embracing Love deals with real life.  Not the life of Leave it to Beaver, when coming to Jesus meant joining societal norm, but today’s life, where coming to Christ means leaving the norm and joining something extra ordinary.  He doesn’t shy away from the hard questions.  He discusses loving muslims, homosexuals, lawbreakers, rich and poor all the same.  He discusses them from the point of reality  – his own experience and discomfort as he faced himself and found that Jesus could love all people through him.

I was listening to the last part of this book in the car with my 17 year old daughter this morning.  I thought, since it is basically a theology book, albeit by a youth pastor, that she’d tune it out.  She was enthralled.  She commented to me as she got out of the car:  “Out of all the books you and dad listen to, this is the first one I really like.”

Jesus loves people.  He is calling them to a relationship with Himself.  He wants to use you and me.  He isn’t looking for converts, he is looking for relationship – and relationship comes from relationship.  We need to be relationship growers.  If you read this book, you will learn how we’ve been missing the mark as a church, but more importantly, how we can meet the mark as individuals and as a church.

You can buy this book on amazon:  Peppermint Filled Pinatas

You can also join the PFP group on Facebook

I challenge you to get the book and learn what Eric means by Party Theology.

Blessings.

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The Echo Within

February 24, 2009

the-echo-withinSome say that a pastor’s job is to “comfort the afflicted and to afflict the comfortable”.  This book more than fills that role.

First afflicting, then comforting – it focuses on the fact that God really does help us find out who we are – even if it takes a while.

Robert Benson spent his whole life knowing yet not knowing what he wanted to be.  He worked in the various parts of the publishing industry – but only started writing books in the last half of his life, and this, he says, is his true calling.

Benson makes the point that each of us we made to be ourselves.  In other words, I wasn’t made to be you, Jane Doe or Superwoman.  I was made to be me – and I can only be good at being me – not you, Jane Doe or Superwoman.

Hopefully, it won’t take a psychological break and years of searching to find our passion and perfect fit.

So how do you know what you are supposed to be?  That is what this book is all about – Robert takes us on a meandering through his life, showing us how he found his way to his calling.

Who would benefit from this book?

  • Those in transition.
  • Those feeling frustrated with their current vocation.
  • Those looking for their calling.

You can buy this book on Amazon.com here.

I have one copy of this book to give away.  Be the first to email me, and it’s yours.

More Wisdom from Tots

February 21, 2009

So, working with 2 year olds has caused me to remember my early childhood mantras that I developed with my own children.

This week, I heard pop out of my mouth, without thinking “we need to change our wanter (pronounced “want-er”), don’t we.”  Wow.

I hadn’t thought about my “wanter” in a long time.  What happens when our wanter is out of control?  I know we get real unhappy.  Usually we also gain

  • unhealthy activities,
  • unhealthy attitudes,
  • and unhealthy appendages (pounds for example)

What do we do to unload ourselves of a wanter that has the upper hand?

2 Corinthians 10:5-6 is helpful in many circumstances, and this is one:

“We use our powerful God-tools for smashing warped philosophies, tearing down barriers erected against the truth of God, fitting every loose thought and emotion and impulse into the structure of life shaped by Christ. Our tools are ready at hand for clearing the ground of every obstruction and building lives of obedience into maturity.” (The Message)

In other words, it is back to the basics – know Christ, know his Word.

HALT

February 17, 2009

Just a reminder that’s been rolling around my head since I started to work with 2 year olds:

Stupid things will come out of your actions or mouth if you are too:

  • Hungry
  • Angry
  • Lonely or
  • Tired

This is so evident, even with the littlest of children.  They can be so easy to get along with until they are suddenly off schedule – naptime or lunchtime approaches, and their little worlds just fall apart.

How do you avoid hitting the edge, so to speak?  What do you do when you find yourself in that place of too something, where everything seems bad?

Midnight

February 14, 2009

I read an article in the Wall Street Journal today that listed everything wrong in the world today, well, not all of it.

Before that, I read that a huge group of gas stations in Nevada that has gaming devices in each station was being foreclosed on.  The federal government was a bit concerned about going into the gaming business, so they decided to sell the loan.  The family that owned the gas station company bought the loan for 50% of it’s original value, thereby cutting their debt in half.

Someone in Florida is naming a ball park after Alex Rodriguez.  Grrr.

In Acts 16, we find Paul and Silas in Philippi.  They are doing their best to teach and build the church.  A young girl starts following them around shouting “These men are servants from the Most High God, who are telling you the way to be saved.”

  • They were getting acclaim in the local “press”.
  • Someone, finally, was listening to them.
  • It all felt wrong.
  • Her words were very similar to that of a demonized man who spoke to Jesus in Mark 5:7
  • Getting acclaim for serving God isn’t usually the norm.
  • Having God called the Most High God by non-Christians is highly suspect.

Finally, Paul just turned to her and cast the demon out.

Now, things were back to normal, and before long, they found themselves beaten and thrown in jail.  Have you ever noticed that when things are going great, when we are getting acclaim, our temptation is to ‘lean on our own understanding’? We look to ourselves, our own resources, our thinking – the physical – for answers.  When the chips are against us, we are back to the only resource that really has power – Jesus.

I don’t know what midnight feels like to you.  Sometimes to me it is from emotional pressure, sometimes it comes from physical circumstances.  Sometimes it just comes from an insurmountable amount of negative news.

Paul and Silas experienced a midnight miracle that was not only personal, but it was transformational for those around them.  How?

They practiced praise.  Imagine with me:

“Paul, you awake?”

“Yeah… umph.” Paul groaned and he switched positions. “Boy they did me good this time.  How about you?”

“I’ll make it.  I was just thinking about the night sky and all those stars.  How many of them there are.  When they were beating me, I felt so…”

“Little?  Yeah – there might only be five of them, but there seems to be 10 or more standing around jeering – then the crowd.  You feel like you are an ant by the time they are done.”

“That’s what I’m talking about.”  Silas shifted, pushing himself up against the wall the held him captive.  “What I was thinking about was that if God can hold all those stars in place, then He is bigger than anything I can imagine.”

There was silence for a moment as both men took in the image.  The slowly, Paul’s old craggly voice began “My God is so great, so strong and so mighty…”

“There’s Nothing That My God Can’t Do” Silas joined in with gusto.  The stone walls seemed to lean in a bit at first to hear the song, then as the duo increased in strength, their song began to reverberate and the walls seemed to pulse.  When they’d sung that song through a couple times, their spirits were gaining strength.

“When I get to heaven gunna walk all around…” pretty soon the other prisoners could not only hear their songs, but if you could see their faces, you would see tears streaming down their faces.  The Spirit of God inhabits the praises of His people, and in that jail, that night, the presence of God’s Spirit was palpable.  First they were warmed, then their hearts shook.  In fact, when the earth started shaking, they didn’t notice at first, because they were being shaken from the inside as well.

As the earthquake strengthened, the jail doors fell open, shackles fell off. Prisoners were set free, but they had already been freed in their hearts.  They had experienced the true presence of God.  All anyone could do was sit in awe.

Does it really bug you that the rich seem to get richer while the poor get poorer?  I challenge you to read Malachi 3:6-4:3.

Do you need a midnight miracle?  Join me in a chorus.  “My God is so great, so strong and so mighty, there’s nothing that my God can’t do.”

Learning From Others’ Stories

February 13, 2009

i-do-again I picked up this book out of obligation, after all, some of the books I read are so that I can review them.

What I found was a book that was a delight.

First, about the actual book:  I Do Again is a book about the long journey back from a marriage that was once destroyed through infidelity.

I thought it was a book that wouldn’t pertain to me.  I found out it was a book about a journey. Here’s a sampling from some of the segments that really struck me:

“What I wrote next was a question that sounded like it was being whispered in my ear.

“What do you want the most, Cheryl?”

An easy one.  “I want to restore my family.”

“And what if that never happens?”

I stopped writing and fought the gut reaction of anger and frustration.  I thought carefully before writing.  “I want to follow your plan for me, whatever it is.”

The next thing I heard was mind boggling.  “And what if it’s not about the plan, Cheryl? What if it’s about something else?”

I didn’t know what that meant.  I threw myself back in my chair, and let go of my pen, wanting to give up.  “Well, what then?” I nearly yelled.  What is this about?”

How many times have I prayed “God, help me to be the woman you created me to be?”  “Help me to do what you want me to do?”  As I read this book, I discovered again the importance of seeking God’s face – not His gifts, not just His will, not the affect of His presence, but His face.

More and more frequently, when I went to God with a “what about me” plea, it was as if he handed me a camera lens to look through. The lens was one that could be adjusted to focus either on the foreground or the background, and I’d see the picture change right before my eyes.  When a situation that I’d seen as “all about me” shifted slightly, I’d suddenly see God in the picture, front and center…The focus needed to be on God, not me.

When we sin, there are repercussions.  Climbing out of any of life’s holes is difficult.  This book isn’t just about repairing a marriage, although if you need hope there, it is chalk full of it, it is about repairing a life and learning to live again, this time with God at the center.

The writers are both very transparent, sharing with us the ups and downs of their journey – wrestling with their own emotions and with God – sometimes giving up only later to return to the journey.  Also, this book would be excellent to give to a couple struggling with their relationship who don’t really know God.  The couple in the book discuss their journey back to faith as well as their journey back to each other, and how God stretched them and taught them along the way.

This is a book of hope.

You can buy this book at amazon.com.  As of tonight, it looks like it’s 20% off.

I have one copy to give away.  If you want it, be the first to email me and it’s yours.

What I Learned From 2 Year Olds

February 12, 2009

I spent time with two-year-olds yesterday – about 10 of them.  Here are some things I learned:

  • Cute babies get attention easy
  • So do older kids who are helpers
  • When you scream, you get attention, but nobody likes you.
  • Throwing toys doesn’t work either.
  • When people try to take your toy, it doesn’t work to hit them.
  • Kids who have more words get more attention.
  • Making a stinky will get you attention, but only your bottom gets the attention – so that doesn’t work well either.
  • Making a mess at snack time will get you put in the high chair, or get your snack stolen by someone who is quick.
  • “More” is a good word to learn.
  • Making eye contact is a good way to get attention, especially if you hold a toy or book towards the person you are looking at.

From the day we start to interact with others, we begin to learn how important it is to control ourselves in order to get what we need.  We also learn how to contol other’s action through use of our own actions.  If we came out with all our capacities, we would miss some of those lessons.

What lessons are you learning today?

Intimate Issues – Women Only

February 11, 2009

intimate-issues

God made you a beautiful, sexual woman – full of grace and the ability to grow.  One of the areas that we often ignore when we concentrate on personal growth, is the area of our sex life.

Did I just say that??  Yes, and if you are married, you hope to have a great sex life.  However, there are seasons where you feel like you are just two ships passing.  You wonder…How can we relate? What is wrong?  How can I get answers to these questions without getting TOO much information?

Finally someone has written a book that will help.  Here are only a few of the 21 questions this book addresses:

  • How can I relate when He’s a Microwave and I’m a Crockpot?
  • How can I be Godly and Sexual?
  • What does God think about Sex?
  • What Do I Do When I Don’t Want to Do it?
  • How Can I Remain Faithful in a Faithless World?
  • How can I get Rid of Guilt over My Abortion?
  • Is It Possible to Get Beyond the Pain of Sexual Abuse?
  • What’s the Big Deal About Orgasm?
  • What’s Not Okay in Bed?
  • How Long Does it Take to Become a Godly, Sensuous Woman?

If this doesn’t have you jumping to go to Amazon and buy the book, consider this:

When my kids are 10 or 11, I have had them read So You Want to Be a Teenager by Dennis and Barbara Rainey.  What I found, is that by reading a book on sex at their level, it gave them language to have an honest conversation when the issues hit their life a few years later.  It also protected them from the misinformation that came their way at the lunch table.

Somehow, for something so personal, we seem to need language to process what we think and feel – otherwise all we have are the images, suggestions and often crass words put out there by the media.  (Did you know that every man over 50 who uses Viagra ends up in a bathtub on a beach or deck watching the sunset with his partner in a neighboring tub?)  With expectations like that, how can we compete?  By bringing your real questions to this book, you will get new language to have honest conversations with your husband and yourself.

You are a beautiful, competent woman.

You can buy this book here:  on Amazon.

I have two copies of this book to give away.  If you want one of them, please email me.

How to Survive a Storm

February 10, 2009

In recent days I’ve talked to many people who are in crisis.  Many more are concerned because of our nation’s economy.  In reflecting on this, I realize that we each have our ways of dealing with stress, but once in a while we realize we aren’t just having a bad day – we are in the middle of a 3909storm.

The boat is rocking, your stomach is churning.  One thing after another hits until you know you aren’t seasick because you don’t have good sea legs, this is indeed a storm.  Here’s how to survive a storm:

1.  Acknowledge your situation.  Sometimes it helps to just list the issues, hopefully in a prayerful attitude.

2. Put on a life vest.  In this case, your life vest is a determination that God really is in control.  This sounds so trite, but it is really hard work some days.

3.  Anchor yourself to the vessel.  Get some prayer partners.  We all need people who will pray for us.  The battle we fight isn’t against flesh and blood, but against principalities and powers…we need prayer partners.

4.  Set your compass.  Know the bible, know it well, and use it.  “For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” (Hebrews 4:12)!

5.  Ride the waves.  When Peter was walking on the water, we learned that the only way to stay on top of the waves is to keep your eyes on Jesus instead of the waves.  The key to this is thankfulness – and cries for help.  Some days this seems like a cycle – practice thankfulness, sink, cry for help, repeat…  but Jesus walks with us every step of the way.

Today I was encouraged that Jesus calls his disciples into the storms.  He is there, and He wants to teach us, to show us some new aspect or more of Himself.  The whole excursion where Peter finally walked on the water started with Jesus being absent in the middle of a storm.  At the end of these excursions, land did come, and quickly.

In Isaiah 60, the prophet is talking about a time when Israel will no longer be in bondage.  When those who have been on the bottom will be on the top. (I think it would be a fair argument that he might be talking about the second coming of Christ, but he could be talking about the time when the Israelites returned to Jerusalem to rebuild the temple.)  At the end of this passage is a verse:

I am the LORD;  in its time I will do this swiftly.”

Look at 1 Kings 17.  Elijah told Ahab it wouldn’t rain.  God told him where to go, and provided for him (eating what ravens brought him, not exactly Denny’s, let alone Cheesecake Factory) – and left him there for a while – no communication, just left him sitting by a brook.  Then, after the brook dried up, God spoke and told him where to go next.  While he was with the widow, “the Lord heard his cry” and healed the boy who died.  Three years into this exhausting drought, God spoke to him and told him to talk to Ahab again.  That means that God showed up only 4 times in three years if you don’t count the fact that Elijah was kept alive with minimal daily sustenance – which you should count, but we often only look for the feel good stuff.  Yet Elijah through it all, walked in Power – because He knew God.  The end of the drought did come swiftly, and Elijah got to participate through prayer.

I don’t know about you, but I’m looking for God to show up, and I want Elijah-type knowledge of God.

Books, Books, Books

February 9, 2009

love-as-a-way-of-lifeThis week, I have four books to preview for you.  The first one, I previewed already, and if you missed it, or the free giveaway, please go back and take a look.

This is the second installment.  One of my all-time favorite ministry books is The Love Languages of God by Gary Chapman.  I’ll have to tell you another time why, but  in a nut shell, it isn’t because I’m a chick, like some people think.  It’s because of the incredible outreach repercussions of that book.

Anyway, Gary Chapman, along with Elisa Stanford, has created a devotional called The Love as a Way of Life Devotional.

This devotional has great 2 minute reads on different attributes: kindness, patience, forgiveness, courtesy, humility, generosity and honestly.

To be honest, I usually don’t really like devotionals.  I get those ones they hand out at Mother’s Day and pass them on.  This one, I like.  I don’t know if it’s the writing or the depth, but it hits me where I’m at and helps me think about doing life with people better – God’s way.

You can find out more about this book, and it’s companion Love as a Way of Life,  at Amazon.com

You can also learn more about Gary Chapman at his website, here.

I have one free book to give away, so if you would like it, email me.

Blessings on your day.