Archive for January, 2010

The freedom to dream – Mark 2

January 29, 2010

Today we are looking at Mark 2:23 through 3:6.

In these passages, Jesus and his disciples come head to head with the Pharisees about the Sabbath.

The Sabbath was from sundown Friday to sundown Saturday.  It was a time of no work whatsoever.  Presently, I think the movie “Fiddler on the Roof” gave us quite a bit of insight into what Sabbath preparations look like.  Frenzy – getting ready for Sabbath required lots of work because you weren’t allowed to even light a fire on the Sabbath.

Then along came Jesus.  His followers stopped spending time trying to figure out what they should be doing and started living holy lives.  In so doing, they broke some of the traditional rules.

Imagine this:  You are learning to ride a bike.  You are focused on everything you should and shouldn’t be doing.  A piece of paper flies across your path – do you hit the paper?  No!  You aren’t going fast, you stop, and have a personal meltdown on all the dangers on what could have happened if that paper flying had landed in your face, etc. (okay, I’m having fun, but you get the picture.)

Now imagine yourself on the same bike, only you now have your focus on riding free.  You are flying down the road.  A paper flies across your path.  Do you hit it?  Maybe – you hardly even notice it – and even if it lands on your face, you will just swipe it away because your focus is way down the road on the goal.

Now, imagine serving God.  You can either focus on all the shoulds – how do I get this right?  OR you can focus on God Himself and let the little things fall where they may.  Here’s what happens if you focus on God:

  1. Temptation doesn’t trip you as easily because you are highly focused.
  2. You have the freedom to dream wide and large because your focus is as big as the God of the Universe.
  3. You can receive all that God has for you because your focus is on Him instead of on rules.

Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath – we are supposed to take a day of rest every week – not so that God can control us and we can fulfill a religious obligation, but so that we can have the freedom to open up our focus wide and let God show us His dreams for us.

What dreams does God want to show you this week? 

Will you take time out to ask Him and let Him show you?

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Why Did God Give Us Emotions by Reneau Peurifoy

January 28, 2010

I have shelves of counseling books.  I have books that are written for professionals and lay people.

The books that are written for lay people are usually pretty basic.

Why Did God Give Us Emotions is pretty poorly titled.  This book is more of an analysis of our emotions.  The author looks at them from every angle, and discusses how they effect our lives.  Then, with remarkable skill and spiritual insight, gives us tools to properly handle them.

I have had this book for months.  I really didn’t want to read it because I was on emotional overload.  I figured that it was a book written for lay people with a feel-good theme.  Instead, I found a real tool book, with detailed descriptions on how our emotions are affected by our minds, our body chemistry, and our spiritual condition.  Then, the author gives great tools to help take control and win the battle. 

In my years of counseling, I have been frustrated with the lack of real resources for people who just needed to figure out how to control their emotions.  Finally, we have something to recommend.

You can buy the book at Amazon.com.

As a special bonus, I have an interview with the author that I’d like to pass along to you:

Q:  Let’s talk about the “elephant nature” of emotions.  Why are emotions such a mystery to us?
 
A:  A well-known Indian parable tells of six blind men who encounter an elephant for the first time.  As each one touches a different part of the elephant, they arrive at conflicting conclusions as to what the elephant is like.  The first man touches the elephant’s leg and states that it is like a pillar.  The second touches the tail and declares it to be like a rope.  The third touches the trunk and says it is like the thick branch of a tree, etc.  Although each man’s perception is accurate, none has really understood the true nature of the elephant.
 
The same thing can happen with emotions when individual aspects of emotions are studied without stepping back periodically to see how they interconnect.  The four main aspects of emotions explored in detail in Why Did God Give Us Emotions? include:
 
·         The subjective nature of emotions: This includes how they make you feel, how they focus your energy and attention and how they urge you to take actions to obtain the things you want and avoid the things you don’t want.  This aspect of emotions also includes the experiential understanding of events and concepts that is much more powerful than simple knowledge.
 
·         The physical side of emotions: This includes the various parts of the brain associated with emotions, the physical reactions they cause in your body and the ways injury, illness or other malfunctions of the brain can affect how you think and feel.
 
·         The mental side of emotions: This includes the role that your thoughts and beliefs play in generating emotions and how emotions, in turn, affect your thoughts.
 
·         The spiritual side of emotions: This includes the way emotions reveal both your true character and the nature of your relationship with God as you struggle to live in a broken world.  It also includes the way emotions give us insights about the nature of God.
 
Q:  Can some emotions be good and others bad?

 A:  Christians sometimes spend a great deal of time pondering this question, whether some emotions, such as love, are good and others, such as anger, are bad.  This is similar to wondering whether your hands are good or bad.  Emotions, like every other aspect of your being, were originally intended to help you enjoy and serve God.  However, just as the actions of your hands can be pleasing or abhorrent to God, your emotions can also serve good or evil.  What we need to focus on is the source of the emotion or action. The source of evil lies in a mind and heart tainted with sin.  The actions you take and the emotions you experience are just the outer expression of what is in your heart and mind.  Yielding to the Holy Spirit transforms your inner being into what God intended it to be.  As this occurs, your emotions, desires and thoughts are transformed so they function more closely to what God intends.
 
Q:  In the introduction to Why Did God Give Us Emotions?, you point out that this book was twenty years in the making.  Why such a long process?
 
A: When I completed my first book, Anxiety, Phobias & Panic: Taking Charge and Conquering Fear in 1988, I knew that I wanted to write a companion version from a Christian perspective.  However, after being back in church for only four years and with so many conflicting ideas from my wanderings still in my head, I knew I wasn’t ready.  In 1995, I started attending classes through Fuller Seminary’s extension program to deepen my understanding of the Bible.  At this time I learned Greek and began studying the New Testament in Greek.  A year later I wrote the first draft of this book but realized after several chapters that I was not yet mature enough in faith or understanding to write the book I wanted to write.  So, I put it aside.  I made another attempt to write it about five years later, but again was dissatisfied with the results.
 
Now, after twenty years of being humbled and growing in Christ, I believe that God has helped me write a book that will be useful to many.  From the very start, I’ve had two goals: I wanted to look at what science has learned about emotions from a biblical perspective, and I wanted to do it in a way that would strengthen the readers’ walk with God.  Over the last two decades I’ve seen the strengths of science and psychology in helping people and making our lives more comfortable.  I’ve also become acutely aware of the inability of science and psychology to address the true source of human misery: sin and our separation from God.

Tea with Hezbolla – free give away

January 27, 2010

Have you read my review of Tea with Hezbolla yet?  Well, the publishers were so gracious, they gave me a second copy of the book to give away.  If you want this free copy, just be the first to respond in a comment on my blog and the book is yours. 

If you miss the give away, you can purchase the book on Amazon.com or the Publisher’s site.   Hope you have a blessed day.

Tea with Hezbolla by Ted Dekker and Carl Medearis

January 26, 2010

Ted Dekker usually writes fantastic fiction.  How does someone who writes like that live in real life?

Tea with Hezbollah is just a glimpse.  He lives with gusto.

Have you ever had a dream and then just let it fizzle because it was just too big?  This book is the culmination of one of those dreams – what happens when the dream is allowed to live.  Carl and Ted wondered what it would be like to ask the movers and shakers of the Muslim world what they thought of Jesus’ commandment to love your neighbor as yourself, even if they are your enemy.

So, with a dream in their pocket, Carl and Ted zoomed off to the Middle East, meeting with leaders of thought from Egypt to Beirut.  Along the way, they met amazing people, like a Bedouin prince who loves Jim Carrey, and Sami Awad in Bethleham whose words are so poignant, they are worth the price of the book alone.  They ended their journey visiting a Hamas leader and a real live Samaritan.

This book is an amazing look at the different views from within the world of Islam.  I really enjoyed it.  I think you will find that it will stretch your thinking.  I hope it will challenge you to love people more. 

Special thanks to WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for providing me this book for review.  You can visit their site here for more information on this and other books.

Looking Forward to God’s ‘New Thing’

January 22, 2010
This week we look at the end of Mark 2. The language here is very picturesque. John’s disciples and the Pharisees were fasting. We don’t know the reason for the fast, we just know that everyone who was ‘in the know’ was fasting.Everyone except those who were following Jesus. Those following Jesus were busy learning new things.

Jesus gives a beautiful illustration:

You can’t pour new wine into old, dried up wine skins – they will burst.

Likewise, you can’t focus in two directions at the same time – you can either face forwards or backwards, but not both.

Jesus explained – (his disciples) “haven’t given up fasting, they will have time for that in the future – they are just focusing in one direction.” (Kim’s paraphrase)

Let’s look at the three groups in this story:

The Pharisees: They found their stability and identity in religious ritual. Fasting was how they ‘found God’. They missed God in their midst because they decided what He should look like and how He should act.

John’s Disciples: John’s disciples had just found a ‘new thing’. They had even left normal life to follow a guy out into the desert. John was preaching that The One was coming. John’s disciples, however, had grown up in a religious system. They were trained to follow certain custom and pay attention to the opinions of other religious leaders. Since John was preaching to the Pharisees, and many were being baptized, these two interests weren’t necessarily competing. John’s disciples kept one foot in the old and only hoped for the new. They remind me of a runner who runs while constantly looking back over his shoulder…eventually he’s likely to trip and fall.

Jesus’ Disciples: Jesus’ disciples grew up in the same religious system, but they left the old system and followed Jesus wholeheartedly. They experienced an entire paradigm change. This new system didn’t uproot the old, it put the old in a new framework.

I heard about a painting that was discovered. (This might have actually been in a movie, but it is still a great illustration.) On it’s face was just an ordinary, plain painting. A family owned it, and hadn’t really appreciated it much because it was dull. Then, a restorer got a hold of it. Upon removing the top, dull painting, he discovered one of the great master’s works. Apparently, during Nazi times, someone had sought to hide the painting in plain sight by covering it over.

The old religious system was like the plain painting. When the new paradigm grew into a full picture, it became apparent that within the old paradigm was a beautiful plan of God that was fulfilled in Jesus. The old religious system wasn’t to be abolished like the Pharisees feared, it was to be completed.

God spoke to the people through Isaiah another time. Here are the words He used:

Forget the former things;
do not dwell on the past.
See, I am doing a new thing!
Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the desert
and streams in the wasteland.
(Isaiah 43:18-19)

We live in a day of constant change. However, we know that God stays the same. He is dependable, lovely, and on our side. Most of all, He is more interested in having a relationship with us than we can ever muster up the desire to have a relationship with Him. We don’t have to jump up and down to get His attention.

Here our challenge today:

  • What are you doing instead of just being with God?
  • Are you looking forward for what He is doing now, stuck in what you hope He is going to do, or are you really stuck in what He has already done?

My question is this:  What do you think God’s ‘new thing’ is – for you personally, or in general?

I pray that when people spend time with us, they will know that we have been with Jesus.

Join Jesus at the Table

January 15, 2010

Jesus said to them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” (Mark 2:17)

Jesus was having a good time with his friends. The problem, it turns out, is that people who are running for office are supposed to ‘win friends and influence the ‘right’ people’ and Jesus was spending his time with people of little consequence and even some who had bad reputations. The Pharisees sidled up to some of his followers and put the bug in their ear, so to speak.
 

You know he’s going about this all wrong? Those people are going to drag him down, and get him no where. He is spending time with ruffians and people of ill repute. The masses are going to figure out that he isn’t ’in the know’ and start looking elsewhere for someone to follow.

Okay, that isn’t what they said in the bible, but that is the underlying tone.

Jesus’ answer, at first, looks like he is saying that he didn’t come for the people who ’have it all together’, but for those who the Pharisees would consider ’sinners’. However, when you consider the greater Gospel, you begin to realize that Jesus was issuing an invitation.

The Pharisees thought they had it figured out, but Jesus knew that they didn’t. Many times, it is easy to think of our lives as ’put together’ – especially when compared to people who…don’t.

The day before Christmas, I was approached by a woman on the street who was running a pretty decent panhandling scam. She had an elaborate story that, were it not for her obvious hard core addiction, would have been heart wrenching. I realized within myself conflicting emotions – compassion, anger, sadness. The reality is that each of us is no better than that woman. We are desperate. We survive each day utilizing acceptable means of survival to get by. 

We may not end up on a street corner lying through our teeth to scam others. Instead we have placed persuasion among the arts.  Many people see their relationships as tools in the game of survival. 

Jesus came with a better way.  In God’s economy, each of us was created for a purpose.  That purpose is fulfilled when we meet Jesus at the table with all the other ruffians.  We become one of the sick and needy, and the Healer of the Universe recreates us into the people we were intended to be.  Interesting that Jesus invites us to partake in communion on a regular basis – to remember all that He did for us so that we could sit at the table with Him and let Him do the healing work in us. 

In the first part of Mark 2, Jesus healed a paralytic.  At first, he said “your sins are forgiven.”  This freaked out the Pharisees, so he changed his wording, and said instead “pick up your bed and walk.”  Some of us need to hear “your sins are forgiven” in order to allow Jesus to do the healing that we need so desperately.  Others need to hear simply ‘now is the time, pick up your bed and walk.’ 

One thing is certain.  We need a savior. We need someone to save us from our day to day existence and help us to become the human beings we were created to be.  Human beings find life beyond mere survival.  They find creative purpose.  Are you looking for something deeper?  God is the answer.  He issues the call today “Join me at the table.  Your sins are forgiven, pick up your bed and walk.”

The Male Factor by Shaunti Feldhahn

January 13, 2010

A couple years ago, someone told me that I needed to read Mars and Venus in the Workplace by John Gray.  I desperately needed the information, so I tried for two months or more.  I don’t think I ever got past page 25.  The reason?  I had no idea.  It wasn’t until I began reading The Male Factor that I realized the real problem was that John Gray is a man, and I needed someone who spoke female to explain things to me.

Finally, that book has arrived.  Shaunti Feldhahn has written a FABULOUS book.  I have carried this book with me for the last two weeks, reading it on the bus, on break – it is perfect to help us girls learn to speak guy.

If you are like me, you want to be effective and learn as many skills as possible to be the best at what God has called you to be.    If you were to go to another country, you would learn that language and how to communicate with their nuances.  Cross cultural communication has many facets – there are aspects of the male-female communication bridge that bear a resemblance.  

Let’s face it – men and women have different brain structures.   Although we each bring incredible strengths to the marketplace, sometimes our different brain structures make communication … interesting.  The Male Factor will help you learn to communicate so that the men you work with are hearing what you mean to say.

Want to buy the book?  Check out the publisher’s website.

This book was provided for review by the WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group.

Two Terrific Books

January 12, 2010

I want to tell you about two fantastic books:  Blind Sight by James Pence and Terror by Night by Terry Caffey and James Pence.

First, let me tell you why I like the books: They are riveting. I think I have finally found a Christian author other than Frank Peretti and Ted Dekker who can thrive in the mainstream market. I picked up Blind Sight on Saturday morning, and finished it Saturday evening. I read Terror by Night in two halves, Sunday afternoon and the following Friday evening. It has been a long time since I have found books that would allow me to curl up and block out the world from beginning to end.

Blind Sight was actually written several years ago. It is a fictional account of a man who has lost his family and needs to find a way to go on. I have discovered that God often will show us a story in order to give us a prayer project. In this case, it appears that James was given a story in order to save a man from the brink. How could he know that just a few years later, the father of two of his students would be in a situation so similar that God would use a page from his book to give new hope and direction?

Terror by Night is Terry Caffey’s story.  After midnight on March 1, two men broke into the Caffey home, killed Terry’s wife and sons and left him for dead. After crawling to his neighbor’s home in order to identify the killer, Terry’s only wish was to die. Then his daughter was accused of master minding the plot to kill her family. Just a few short hours before the devastation, Erin wrested and played on the floor with her dad and brothers.  Terry walked through the next few months, alternating numb and suicidal while the state of Texas charged Erin as an adult in the capital murder of her mom and brothers.

As you know, I seem to have read a plethora of heavy books this year. I avoid those that bemoan life and heave sentimentality. I didn’t want to put this book down. This book is a monument to how Terry lived. He talks openly about his depression and grief – but not as one who still walks in depression, and not as a mood disorder personality. He walked through his grief, and found joy in the morning. Warning: bring your tissues. I sobbed through huge sections of this book.

For anyone who has experienced grief or loss, this book is a righteous companion. For those who wonder how bad things can happen, this book addresses the question without trying to give placebo answers.

Want to buy these books? You will find them on Amazon.com:

Blind Sight

Terror by Night

Enter Jesus – Mark 1, part 2

January 7, 2010

Last week, we started on the book of Mark.  We were introduced to John the Baptist.  According to Peter (who tradition tells us is the writer behind the book of Mark), John the Baptist’s arrest was the catalyst for Jesus’ public ministry to begin.

In this first chapter, we are shown a picture – Jesus is a magnet, and people are metal.  Wherever Jesus goes, people are drawn to him with incredible magnetism.  What’s so amazing about Jesus?

He speaks with authority.

The leaders of the day always quoted someone else – and argued incessantly.  Jesus just told people what was.

He heals people.

Signs and wonders followed him… they were so plentiful around him that pretty soon he couldn’t enter a town without causing an uproar.

Here’s an interesting point:  In John 14:12 Jesus said:  I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.”

If you have received Jesus into your heart, then you have the Holy Spirit living inside of you.  You can speak with authority.  God is still in the healing business – we can pray with authority if we know how to hear what God is saying.

The last point that needs to be made in this passage is:

Jesus took time to recharge

This first chapter is setting the tone for the whole book.  Jesus enters the world by a ministry of wonders, but right off the bat we see him taking time to recharge.  You need time to recharge your batteries

Jesus, as he began his ministry on earth, was truly remarkable.  People’s lives were changed because they had been with him.  I pray, that as we walk through our days this week, that those who don’t know Jesus will be changed because they have been with us.  May we make a difference – because of Christ’s goodness shining through us.

The Last Word by Kathy Herman

January 4, 2010

I just finished a Christian suspense novel that you  might enjoy.  By way of introduction, I’d like to let you hear an interview with the author:

Why do you consider your novels to be Bible studies without the homework?
 
I guess because my characters ask the hard questions that we all ask—and struggle until they find answers. Even though my books are exciting and entertaining, I weave the morality struggles through the storyline right along with the suspense elements to keep the reader turning the pages. I like to think of my books as “no guilt” reading. It’s fiction, but with a biblical, inspirational message that is relevant to everyday life.
 
For those who didn’t catch the first installment in the series, can you give us a little background about Sophie Trace and its main characters?
 
Sophie Trace is a fictional town in the shadow of the Great Smoky Mountains (not far from Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge). It’s pretty town of 13,000 and tourism is big. Many people who grew up here believe that a history of unexplained crimes is the work of the red shadows—the spirits of the departed Cherokee who roam the countryside seeking to do wreak havoc on the descendants of those who took their land.
 
In the first book, The Real Enemy, the main character, Brill Jessup, is the first female police chief in Sophie Trace. She took the position after a stellar eighteen-year career on the Memphis police force—mostly to escape some painful memories.
 
Brill and her husband, Kurt, are struggling through marital problems and are staying together to raise their youngest child, nine-year-old Emily. Their two oldest children, Ryan and Vanessa away at college.
 
While Brill is trying to cope with her unrelenting bitterness and un-forgiveness, she is faced with a series of bizarre disappearances in Sophie Trace—the biggest crime in the town’s history. She has to come to grips with the superstition around the red shadows legend and how it affects the community’s thinking—and figure out the truth of what’s going on.
 
Meanwhile, Kurt commits to winning her back by taking seriously the words of Romans 12:21, “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” He strives to overcome the very evil he has created and put his family back together.
 
Tell us about the Scripture verse upon which The Last Word is based.  Why is this theme so important to you?
 
The Last Word, the second book in the series, is based on Romans 1:16, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes…” 
 
I chose Romans 1:16 and built a story around it because there’s never been a time in history when believers have had a greater chance to make an impact on  lost and dying world. With the Internet all the social networking venues, each of us has a chance to share our faith in ways never before possible. But so often, we don’t speak up. In fact, we don’t look or sound any different than the world. It’s as though we’ve lost our zeal for the Great Commission or simply don’t feel comfortable acting on it. My hope is that this riveting story will inspire believers to be ambassadors of the faith as we’ve been empowered to be.
 
Full of suspense, The Last Word follows Police Chief Brill Jessup as she tries to catch a killer on the loose.  Can you describe Brill for us?
 
To quote her detective captain, “She’s a redheaded spitfire.” Brill’s intuition has served her well, and she can crack open a case faster than almost anyone. She’s an honest cop who brings a lot of experience to this town that is starting to experience big city crime. She’s principled. Fair. Tough. And prayerful. Her faith has been tested many times, not just on the job, but in her marriage. For Brill, law enforcement is much more than a job—it’s a calling. Though she doesn’t wear it on her sleeve, Brill strives hard to honor God in the way she treats her officers and the way she protects the community.
 
What dilemmas does Brill’s daughter, Vanessa, encounter during the book?
 
Vanessa has to decide whether or not to keep the baby she’s carrying or give him up for adoption. She’s single and still in college. The baby’s father is her psychology professor. And after she told him she was pregnant and then refused his ultimatum that she get an abortion, he disappeared without a trace. Vanessa is heartbroken but is crazy about the baby. She has no way to support him.
 
As if that weren’t enough, Vanessa is also friends with an old man who is dying—and she’s forced out of her comfort zone by some of his taunting spiritual questions and must decide whether she’s willing to stand up for her faith and tell him he needs Jesus. Especially when she knows she’s not a shining example of what a Christian should be.
 
Ultimately, Vanessa must confront the affair she had with her professor and admit to herself that it was sinful—and allow God to take away the guilt she doesn’t realize has crippled her relationship with God.

I really like way that this author deals with issues.  She has her characters confront real life issues, and she doesn’t give contrived or easy resolutions.  She does seem to feel the need to present the gospel more than once during the story, but she was far less contrived than the last Christian fiction author that I read. 

The suspense, plot and real conflict in this story are very good. 

You will find this book on Amazon.com.