Monday, August 30, 2010

Evidence of Knowing God

There is a great difference between knowing about God... and knowing God. We may know a great deal of theology, we may understand the Bible from cover to cover, we may be able to rattle of God's redemptive plan of salvation, or we may be able to stand toe-to-toe against even the greatest critics--it is possible to fill books with our knowledge about God and at the same time, know nothing of Him.

In Knowing God, J.I. Packer gives 4 evidences of knowing God:

  1. Those who know God have great energy for God. The heart of those who know God beats with a desire to see His name and cause known. Those who know God will feel compelled to stand for Him... even at the great cost of their reputation (or even LIFE). Those who know God will also have a great deal of energy for PRAYER.

    "... we can all pray about the ungodliness and apostasy which we see in everyday life all around us. If, however, there is in us little energy for such prayer... this is a sure sign that as yet we scarcely know God (Packer)."

  2. Those who know God have great thoughts of God. The heart of those who know God understands that there is no other above God. Even in the face of our "losses or crosses" we understand that our God is in complete control. When the world around us crumbles, those who know God do not tremble... the know and trust.

    "Is this how we think of God?... Does this tremendous sense of his holy majesty, his moral perfection and his gracious faithfulness keep us humble and dependent, awed and obedient...? By this test, too, we may measure how much, or how little, we know God

  3. Those who know God show great boldness for God. The heart of those who know God beats with a courage that the world doesn't understand. They are not reckless, but they take great risks. They know what they are doing. They count the cost and do what is Right... no matter what the cost.

    "They may find the determination of the right course to take agonizingly difficult, but once they are clear on it they embrace it boldly without hesitation (Packer)."

  4. Those who know God have great contentment in God. The heart of those who know God rests easy. They have a peace which the world (and sometimes even they themselves) cannot understand. They are secure in the truth that Jesus has made peace with them. They rest in the fact that there is "no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1)."

    "There is no peace like the peace of those whose minds are possessed with the full assurance that they have known God, and God has known them, and this relationship guarantees God's favor to them in life, through death and on forever

Do we desire more that mere knowledge of God?

Do we desire to know Him? Then we must do 2 things: First, recognize that how much we actually lack knowledge of God. Ask (pray) Him to show your lack of knowledge to you. This keeps us humble and aware of our natural state. Second, seek the Savior. Jesus promises that as we seek Him, we will know God. The greatest single thing the followers of Christ can do is to seek Him through Prayer!

Saturday, May 22, 2010

April Book - Invitation to Solitutde and Silence

And now for the April addition of... "The world really does care about my opinion so I'll tell you what I think about the books I read." Or "Book Reviews" for short. I know nothing about literature. I can't tell you about imagery or prose or onomatopoeia... but I can tell you what I like or dislike so here goes.

Invitation to Solitude and Silence
by Ruth Haley Barton
pub. InterVarsity Press

"Ruth Haley Barton describes how she has discovered the real presence of God--the God who is present through the practice of solitude and silence. Her book invites you to meet God deeply and fully outside the demands and noise of daily life. It is a call to the adventure of spiritual transformation--an adventure that will lead you to freedom and authenticity, allowing you to become the person God created you to be ("

Book's premise (no spoiler)
: One of my goals for the year was to read a book on certain spiritual disciplines... specifically those I struggle with. This book is (as the title slightly suggests) and invitation to solitude and silence; that which our culture seems to fear. Blaise Pascal pointed out that the only reason prison is such a dreadful place is that "people so much love noise and stir... the pleasure of solitude is a thing incomprehensible." But he also points out that it is only in stillness and silence that we can truly be refreshed and restored.

What I liked about the book: I love Barton's use of the life of Elijah as an example of our need for solitude and silence. She also offers VERY practical tools we can use in our pursuit of silence.

What I didn't like about the book: It's just a little boring... that's all.

Random passage: "We don't always think of caring for the body as part of our spiritual practice, but the story of Elijah that many times this is where it all begins.(pg 14)."

My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars!

Monday, April 19, 2010

March Book - Vin†age Jesus

And now for the fourth addition of... "The world really does care about my opinion so I'll tell you what I think about the books I read." Or "Book Reviews" for short. I know nothing about literature. I can't tell you about imagery or prose or onomatopoeia... but I can tell you what I like or dislike so here goes.

Vin†age Jesus
Timeless Answers to Timely Questions
by Mark Driscoll & Gerry Breshears
pub. Crossway Books
re:Lit books

"In Vintage Jesus, one of America's most influential young pastors teams up with a seasoned theologian to lead you on a hilarious theological journey chasing Jesus through Scripture and pop culture. The authors provide timeless answers to twelve timely questions about the most important man who has ever lived. Each chapter concludes with answers to common questions about each subject ("

Book's premise (no spoiler)
: Jesus Christ is easily the most influential name on the planet. His name is also one that stirs up the most controversy and confusion. Ask 100 people who Jesus is, you'll get 500 different answers. Driscoll and Breshears team together to evaluate the different views of Jesus throughout pop-culture and religion, and weigh those views against what the Bible says about Him.

What I liked about the book: Everything. No secret here, I am a big fan of Driscoll. I am very grateful for his writing and preaching and will continue to read and listen.

Specifically, I really appreciate Driscoll's depth. He is a very thorough teacher and gives a TON of information. And while you may think that might make this book read like a text book, Driscoll does a great job of balancing weighty information with stories and humor.

What I didn't like about the book: When I read books or listen to speakers/ sermons for my edification, I can't help but also think through the lens of what a non-believer (or even someone hostile to the speaker or the Gospel) might be thinking. There are times when Driscoll's sarcasm and humor makes me a tad uncomfortable. I catch myself thinking, "I think that this is hilarious, but someone else might use that as a reason to check-out."

Favorite passage: I don't think I will fully understand the impact that this passage has made on my ministry/ preaching/ relationships for a long time to come. I can't get this passage out of my mind.

Chapter 3 "How Did People Know Jesus Was Coming?"
pg 66

"Sadly, it is too common for churches not to speak of Jesus, which is a tragedy akin to a wife rarely uttering the name of her own husband. In our day when there are innumerable contradictory beliefs about who God is, Christians must be clear that their God is Jesus Christ alone so as to communicate the same central truth that Scripture does. No matter how many verses are used, the Bible has not been rightly understood or proclaimed unless Jesus is the central focus and hero (emphasis mine)."

Random passage: "There is even a Canadian nudist-arsonist cult that thinks the word 'Jesus' in the Bible is a code word for hallucinogenic mushrooms that are to be eaten before getting naked and lighting things on fire (pg 14)."

My Rating: 5 out of 5 stars!

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

February Book - Prodigal God

And now for the third addition of... "The world really does care about my opinion so I'll tell you what I think about the books I read." Or "Book Reviews" for short. I know nothing about literature. I can't tell you about imagery or prose or onomatopoeia... but I can tell you what I like or dislike so here goes.

Prodigal God:
Recovering the Heart of the Christian Faith
by Timothy Keller
pub. Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

"This volume is not just for seekers... Many lifelong Christian believers feel they understand the basics of the Christian faith quite well and don't think they need a primer. Nevertheless, one of the signs that you may not grasp the unique, radical nature of the gospel is that you are certain that you do... This book, then, is written to both the curious outsider and established insiders of the faith, both to those Jesus calls 'younger brothers' and those he calls 'elder brothers' in the famous Parable of the Prodigal Son." - Timothy Keller of Redeemer Presbyterian Church (Introduction)

Book's premise (no spoiler): It's one of Jesus' parables that many of us are quite familiar with. It's the story we call the Prodigal Son (Luke 15). His premise is that we tend to focus primarily on the "younger brother" and secondarily on the father. While it is appropriate and important for us to learn what we can from their examples, we cannot fail to learn from the attitude and response of the "older brother."

This was my introduction into the mind of Tim Keller. I'd never read anything by him or heard any of his sermons. I was actually skeptical of book because of its title (I know I'm not supposed to judge them by their covers, but I do... don't judge me). It wasn't until one of my students asked me about the book that I decided I needed to be familiar with it. I mean, if a teenager is picking up this book, it's probably either
really good... or really unsound/ unnecessarily provocative at the least, or theologically dangerous at worst.

What I liked about the book: Just about everything. It's a short book and easy to read. I'm not very smart so those are always wins for me. Aside from its brevity, I thoroughly appreciate what Keller has to say. I don't want to spoil it, so I won't expound beyond saying that like Keller hints in the introduction, the book has rekindled in me a desire to be ever close to the heart of the Father.
What I didn't like about the book: I was a little too long. I know I just said that its brevity appealed to me, but there were a few times where the book was a little redundant. And since I have a short attention span to begin with, I struggled at times to keep my eyes from glazing over.

Favorite passage: In Chapter 7: The Feast of the Father, Keller recalls the time a woman came to him to respond to a sermon in which he had just finished preaching about the fact that we are "accepted by God by sheer grace through the work of Christ regardless of anything we do or have done (pg 120.)"

"She said, '
That is a scary idea! Oh, it's a good scary, but still scary.'

"I was intrigued. I asked her what was so scary about unmerited fee grace? She replied something like this: 'If I was saved by my good works, then there would be a limit to what God could ask of me or put me through. I would be like a taxpayer with rights. I would have done my duty and now I would deserve a certain quality of life. but if it is really true that i am a sinner saved by sheer grace-at God's infinite cost- then there's nothing he cannot ask of me.' She could see immediately that the wonderful-beyond-belief teaching of salvation by sheer grace had two edges to it. On the one hand, it cut away slavish fear. God loves us freely, despite our flaws and failures. Yet she also knew that if Jesus really had done this for her-she was not her own. She was bought with a price (pg 121)."
Random passage: "In that society, most meals did not include meat, which was an expensive delicacy (pg 23)."

My Rating: 5 out of 5 stars!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

January's Book - Religion Saves

And now for the second addition of... "The world really does care about my opinion so I'll tell you what I think about the books I read." Or "Book Reviews" for short. I know nothing about literature. I can't tell you about imagery or prose or onomatopoeia... but I can tell you what I like or dislike so here goes.

Religion Saves
by Mark Driscoll
pub. Crossway Books

"Religious people mistakenly think that they are saving people from such things as a fruitless life, sinful sex, bad relationships, unholy humor, wayard churches, evil birth control, and what they call 'strange fire.' However, religion never saved anyone, and religious answers to complex questions are simply misconceptions." - Mark Driscoll of Mars Hill Church (back of book)

Book's premise (
no spoiler): "... we tried an experiment, opening up a section of our church's Web site for people to post any question, make comments about posted questions and vote... for their favorite question. ...And in the end, 893 questions were asked, 5,524 comments were made, and 343,203 votes were cast. I (Pastor Driscoll) answered the top nine questions in a sermon devoted to each. Here in the book we'll start with the ninth most popular question and work our way to the most popular question." - take from the first page of the book's introduction

What NINE questions does Mark answer in the book:

Question 9: Birth Control - There's no doubt the Bible says children are a blessing, but the Bible doesn't seem to address the specific topic of birth control. Is this a black-and-white topic, or does it fall under liberties?

Question 8: Humor - Why do you make jokes in sermons about Mormon missionaries, homosexuals, trench coat wearers, single men, vegans, and emo kids, and then expect these groups to come go know God through these sermons?

Question 7: Predestination - Why does an all-loving, all-knowing, and all-sovereign God will into creation people he foreknows will suffer eternal condemnation - and the Romans 9:20 answer seems like a cop-out!

Question 6: Grace - Of all the things you teach, what parts of Christianity do you still wrestle with? What's hardest for you to believe?

Question 5: Sexual Sin - How should Christian men and women go about breaking free from the bondage of sexual sin?

Question 4: Faith and Works - If salvation is by faith alone, then why are there so many verses that say or imply the opposite - that salvation is by works?

Question 3: Dating - How does a Christian date righteously, and what are the physical, emotional, and mentally connecting boundaries a Christian must set while developing an intimate relationship prior to marriage?

Question 2: The Emerging Church - What can traditional or established churches learn from "emerging" churches?

Question 1: The Regulative Principle - Do you believe that Scripture not only regulates our theology but also our methodology? In other words, do you believe in the regulative principle? If so, to what degree? If not, why not?

What I liked about the book: Just about everything!! I have to admit, I'm a big Driscoll fan. Admittedly, this is the first "book" I've read of his (although I have downloaded and read some of his free e-booklets). But I do listen to his sermons online and I am a regular reader of his church's blog. Pastor Driscoll tends not to pull his punches. He makes no apologies for his theology... regardless of who may be offended. That said, he doesn't offend needlessly. The book itself is pretty thorough yet not too lengthy. Good questions - Challenging/ encouraging answers.

What I didn't like about the book: Only this: Pastor Mark writes like he speaks. He is at times a little long-winded. And his thought train, while perfect for conversation or sermon, can be just a tiny bit confusing to read. Seriously, that's the only bad thing I have to say about this book.

Also, if you're a fan of guys like Bell, McLaren, Pagitt, Chalke, etc... you will HATE chapter 2.

I loved it.

Favorite passage:
Hard to say. My favorite chapter is the one on Grace (chapter 6). Try this: "Therefore, my sin is not the hardest part of Christian truth to believe. What I sometimes find hard to believe is that God responds to me with pure grace. I receive grace not despite being undeserving--as one who has not merited grace--but actually as one who is ill-deserving because I am a sinful rebel at war with God (Chapter 6 - pg 110)."

Random passage: "Proverbs makes fun of all kinds of people, especially the sluggard, who, by definition, is someone so lazy that he experiences devolution on his way to becoming a slug (Chapter 2 - pg 54)."

My Rating: 5 out of 5 stars!

Friday, January 29, 2010

A post I never thought I'd write

These all seem pretty doable, right?

11 – Lose 35 lbs
34 – Learn to love vegetables
35 – Do something I hate to challenge myself
47 – Cook an exotic meal
75 – Go a month without eating at a restaurant
79 – Learn to cook 5 organic meals
83 – Buy all organic produce at a Farmer’s Market

Not necessarily easy... but doable. Well I think I can accomplish ALL of these bu focusing on another. But this one's not so easy. Not for me.

28 – Be a Vegetarian for a month!!!

Perhaps I was in the midst of a momentary lapse of judgment when I wrote that. I don't know. But I do know one thing, if I'm going to go a whole month meat-free, then I better make it February. It's the shortest month, after all.

I need some good vegetarian recipes. After doing some research, I've discovered that there are varying degrees of vegetarianism. There are vegans, who avoid any and all animal products in their food (going as far as to exclude gelatin and honey). There are lacto-ovo vegetarians who include dairy and eggs. Lacto vegetarians include dairy but exclude eggs. Ovo vegetarians swing the other way by including eggs by excluding dairy.

Then there are pesco vegetarians who allow some eggs, dairy and fish. According to Dr. Sears, this may be the healthiest form of vegetarianism for most people. And since I like fish, I'll opt for that.

Only thing is, I don't know any good vegetarian recipes!

So here's where I'm enlisting help. I start on Monday.

Keep a few things in mind:
NOT allowed on a vegetarian diet - beef, chicken, turkey, pork, venison, etc. For me, this will be especially painful in the pepperoni category.

These ARE allowed on a vegetarian diet - Any and all edible plants, whole grains, fish, eggs and dairy.


Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Still Resolute

I know it's nearly the end of January, but I've decided to share a few of my 2010 resolutions. I have my goals broken down into 4 categories, Physical, Financial, Professional and Spiritual. I won't bore you with all of my goals, but I will share a goal from the Spiritual Category.

As much as I would like to call myself a reader, I'm not sure that I deserve the title. Coffee drinker? Yes. TV watcher? Of course. Costco Pizza connoisseur? Without a doubt.

But reader? Probably not. I have the best intentions. Even worked through some pretty thick books during the Christmas break (3 of the Harry Potter books hardly makes me literati) .

The reality is, my stack of unread books is getting taller... as is my stack of "books I tell people I am reading but in reality I stopped somewhere around chapter 3."

In an effort to remedy this, I have given myself the lofty goal of reading at least one spiritually focused book per month. Here's my list:

1 Mark Driscoll book (my January choice... book review next week).
1 John Piper book
2 Brennan Manning books (this will get me closer to #16 on my 101 list).
2 Philip Yancey books (this will get me closer to #15 on my 101 list).
Donald Miller's new book, A Million Miles in a Thousand Years.

Here's where I need your suggestions!
I want to read 4 books on specific spiritual disciplines (Prayer, Meditation, Fasting and Scripture Memory). - suggestions?
That leaves me with one wildcard book. - I'm taking suggestions here too.

Thanks for reading.