Book Review- Never Alone Again by John Featherston

My mom and dad surprised me with a Kindle Fire this Christmas. It was a gift I secretly wanted but did not want to ask anyone for as I knew it cost quite a bit of money. I was super surprised when I opened it up Christmas morning at my parents house and I could tell my parents were so excited to see me so excited about my gift! It truly has been a gift I have used everyday and I am amazed at how many free Christian books I can download everyday on Amazon!

One of these books was Never Alone Again by John Featherston. This non-fiction autobiography was too good not to share. I even got Bennett’s interest peaked and he just finished reading it as well. The basic premise of the book is about a pastor of a very conservative church who falls into drug addiction. He receives the treatment he needs, but the elders of the church kick him out of the church anyway. Right off the bat I admire the man because he never once names the church or even the denomination of the church that kicked him out-or once spoke poorly of them. The book goes on to show how God restored him and his ministry and he is now pastoring a church called “Serenity Church” which is geared toward those who struggle with addictions and modeled after the 12 steps. There is SO much more to the story, but below I will tell some of my favorite quotes and what stood out to me.

The second chapter he is on his way to his first AA meeting, in his suit as he is working at the church office that day (the church did not yet know of his addiction at this point). As he headed into the meeting, he noticed the various demographic and cultural variety of people within the room. At first he was uncomfortable, but then person after person began sharing their stories and one man in particular described as a ‘yuppie’ was telling his story of his wife leaving him and his strong desire to use but then he called his AA sponsor, scary-looking-Harley buddy Bob. Bob came over to his home, sat with him all night long, prayed with him and cried with him so he wouldn’t use.

“Suddenly, I (John) understood Bob and the yuppie. This was something I’d been looking for my whole life and hadn’t even know how to ask for. I was born on a Sunday and was in church the next Sunday. I had been taught and trained at two Christian universities and a seminary. I was 34 years old and the Senior Pastor for one of the largest churches of my denomination in the world. I was witnessing ‘church’ for the first time in my life. These were the people who would save my life, rewrite my theology, and change me forever”. (pg. 7)

By the second chapter I was drawn in. Life is messy. But THIS is how church is done. Bearing each others burdens. Living in the light, not in the darkness.

In chapter Nine of the book, John tells the story of how AA groups came into existence. It all started with God bringing together two men. One a current alcoholic and one a recovering alcoholic and them bearing each others burdens. An amazing story and one I never knew, but too long to type out here so read the book!

Several chapters later, after he is kicked out and he starts to pastor again another church of the same denomination (after he himself has gone through treatment and has gotten some recovery time under his belt). Many of his friends from the AA meetings come to his church but he realizes that there is a disconnect in a way. “It’s not the job of the ‘lost’ to adapt to, and learn the language of, the ‘found’. It’s our job to speak Christ in their language. To come to them where they are.” (pg. 112) He prayed about starting two services so that he could speak the ‘language’ to his traditional congregation and then another service to speak the ‘language’ to the recovering addicts. I loved this concept and it opened my eyes to a whole new way to look at this. I guess I had (wrongly so) been almost a bit judgmental when churches had two different type of services (traditional/contempary) – almost as if they weren’t unified. But just as Jesus has made Bennett and me with very different love languages, perhaps this is the same.

Here are some of John’s points:

-Expecting them (the recovering community) to adapt to us, to wade through our traditions and eccentricities, to find Christ wasn’t working and wasn’t right. (Phil. 3:4-7) (pg. 137)

It was equally wrong to stop ministering to our established congregation in the way that they hear, speak, are touched, and understand. The only way to truly reach both is to provide two times, to venues, for fellowship and worship where each “language” is heard and understood. (pg 138)

I understand to some people this can be portrayed as not taking a strong ‘stand’ one way or the other- but John felt passionate about both. Eventually pastoring both became to much for him but God provided the staff so that he could be freed up to focus more on the recovering community but this segment of the book opened up my eyes that what ministers to me isn’t the one and only way and that’s okay as long as it aligns with scripture.

I also liked his ‘movement’ vs. ‘monument’ concept. “We constantly face the classic choice- are we a ‘movement’ or a ‘monument’? A monument is all about holding on to where we come from. Monument churches carefully tend ‘membership rosters’, build walls, and carefully hold what ‘belongs’ to them. There’s not even a whisper of a suggestion of our fiercely defended ‘local church membership’ principle in Scripture. Christ’s followers are by definition a movement…coming together to recharge and encourage each other…and then spreading out wherever He needs us to reproduce what He’s done for us.” (pg. 153)

The author is so respectful throughout the book. Like I said previously, he never bashes the elders that kicked him out of his church- even though he completed treatment and asked for forgiveness. He doesn’t even say what denomination he is from. He even says of his new church: “We’re not for everybody. Serenity Church is a very unique fellowship, given a very specific mission, to speak Christ to a very specific culture, in the language they speak and understand.” (pg. 184) This guy truly gets the we are all of One Body and that we each have a role. We aren’t competing as churches- we are in this together. I know it has challenged Bennett and me to pray and ask God what our ‘language’ is- both in receiving and speaking.

There is so much more in this book to read and be encouraged by- that God can use you in BIG ways even if you feel you have too far gone. I am so encouraged when I read stories such as these- because I know the story God is crafting of my life has its purpose. The tears and the pain, and the laughter and the joy. I can say today- I am grateful.


Forgotten God

Being in several southern and independent Baptist churches- the topic of the Holy Spirit was rarely discussed. Sure- we were told that when we have a relationship with the Lord that the Holy Spirit indwells us and that He convicts us of sin- but not much else. Then you have the other side, which I have experienced small tastes of as well- the ‘crazy charismatic’ who are pushing people on the floor proclaiming they have been healed of an unknown disease through the Holy Spirit. Because of these both views- I realized that for the most part I just flat out stay away from an ‘controversial’ learning or discussion about the Holy Spirit. And that truly does make Him the ‘Forgotten God’ in my life. Below I have included a quote or two and my own personal comments from each chapter of the book Forgotten God by Francis Chan. For those of you who have read this book- please tell me your thoughts. For those who haven’t- also tell me your thoughts and go read the book 🙂

Chapter One

“Had I ever sat down with the Bible and sought after its self-evident truth? Or had I passively ingested what I heard from other people much like my front-door visitors?…I began to read the Scriptures as thought I had never read them before. I asked the Spirit to make them “living and active” to me, though I’d been reading them for years. I ask God to “penetrate” the wrong and ill-conceived notions I’d collected along the way (Heb. 4:12). It’s a great exercise for those of us who have been immersed in church culture for years.” (pg. 29)

*I have lived most of my life being the passive ingester (yes, I know that is not even a word) of the scripture and ‘church lingo’. Whatever my sunday school teachers, parents, pastors, christian friends and family said- I instantly took as the Word of God. But those same teachers, parents, pastors, and friends are just human. God is still molding them and teaching them in different areas then He may be teaching me. And the bottom line is- we are all sinners. The only way we can find the real truth is to search for ourselves. (Acts 17:11)

Chapter Two

“I think the fear of God failing us leads us to ‘cover for God.’ This means we ask for less, expect less, and are satisfied with less because we are afraid to ask for or expect more. We even convince ourselves that we don’t want more- that we have all the ‘God’ we need or could want. I can’t imagine how much it pains God to see His children hold back from relationship with the Holy Spirit out of fear out of fear that He won’t come through. How much it grieves Him to watch His children ignore the promises He’s made throughout scripture due to fear that those promises won’t be kept! (pg. 48)”

*This particular quote gives me a mix of feelings- of conviction and just plain excitement! I am the person that ‘asks for less’ because I am scared of God ‘not coming through for me’- when I need to realize that the Holy Spirit is powerful and will do whatever He wants- but I must have the faith to follow Him and trust that He will do amazing works. That has been heavy on my heart and mind the past two weeks- I want to see the Holy Spirit do awesome things in my life. So awesome that nobody could attribute it to anything a human could do- but only God Himself.

And just because I like this quote…
“Are you afraid of getting ‘too much’ of the Holy Spirit and the possible ramifications of that? (Heaven forbid you gain a reputation for being weird or immoderate!) (pg.52)”

*I know I was classified by many as ‘weird’ and ‘inappropriate’ by baring all on my blog about our condition. I myself was up all night with stomach pains when I made that first initial blog post. But the Holy Spirit has shown up in a mighty way since–I have never felt more loved by God, more directed and empowered by the Spirit and more joyful in my entire life. Praise be to the Lord- even when people think I’m weird 😉

Chapter Three

“I believe that if we truly cared about the Holy Spirit’s grief, there would be fewer fights, divorces, and splits in our churches. I pray for the day when believers care more about the Spirits grief then their own (pg.73)”

*Can I be embarrassingly honest here? Before being challenged by this book, I rarely even thought much about the Holy Spirit. Sure I thought about God and the trinity and how the Spirit is the one that convicts sin- but I have never really thought much about how the Spirit grieves over me and that I should care more about His grief then my own. Not only does the Holy Spirit grieve when I sin- He grieves when I am suffering, hurting, lonely, upset. He is my Counselor and my Comforter.

Chapter Four

“And like our Savior, who poured out His life and blood so we have reason to rejoice, we were made to lay down our lives and give until it hurts. We are most alive when we are loving and actively giving of ourselves because we were made to do these things. (pg. 96)”

*I am realizing how true this statement is. I felt alive when I went to Thailand- fell in love with a girl named Jang and had to say goodbye. I feel alive when I serve my husband through kind words or a home cooked meal. I feel alive when I read the Scriptures and books about my God- when I gain a deeper grasp of His immense love for me. I feel alive when I talk with other women who have Vaginismus-because it proves that God had a reason for it all. I have never felt so alive and truly blessed as I do right now in this season of my life.

Chapter Five

“Serving God and living faithfully can become a constant guilt trip of ‘trying harder’ and ‘doing better next time’. Maybe you can relate. I have spent much of my Christian life battling insecurity, never quite feeling sure of my salvation, living out of fear and a desperate determination to earn acceptance. (pg 104)”

*This quote sums up the majority of my life. Insecure. Unsure of my salvation. Trying to do better. I battled an upsetting summer of doubt and insecurity- so bad that I could barely eat and function because all I could fathom was that I wasn’t a child of God and what I could ‘do’ to make sure I was. It was a truly awful time in my life. Looking back- I am thankful to God for that experience. He simply wanted me to rest in Him and to quit trying because I’ll never be good enough-only by His grace can I be saved. It was like I was trying to fight the current of a rip tide instead of flowing down a river in a inner tube. It has just been within the past 6 months or so that I truly feel I am experiencing the freedom that Christ has to offer ALL of those who believe in Him.

And just another short quote that really got me…

“Why would we need to experience the Comforter if our lives are already comfortable? (pg.107)”

Chapter Six

“I think dwelling on God’s plan for the future often excuses us from faithful and sacrificial living now. It tends to create a safe zone of sorts, where we can sit around and have ‘spiritual’ conversations about what God ‘might’ have planned for our lives. Thinking, questioning, and talking can take the place of letting the Spirit affect our immediate actions in radical ways. God wants to see His children stake everything on His power and presence in their lives. (pg.121)”

*This quote expounds upon earlier in the chapter about how overused the phrase ‘God’s will for my life’ is, and I am sure guilty of overusing it. So often I focus on the future that I forget the here and now- and the here and now is what affects the future.

Chapter Seven

I just thought this quote was funny…
“He cares most about the faithfulness, not the size, of His bride. (pg. 143)”

Of course the author is talking about the size of the church but I couldn’t help but smirk and think that Bennett cares more about how faithful I am to him and not the size of clothes I wear 😉

“I don’t believe God wants me (or any of His children) to live in a way that makes sense from the world’s perspective, a way I know I can ‘manage’. I believe He is calling me- and all of us- to depend on Him for living in a way that cannot be mimicked or forged. He wants us to walk in step with His Spirit rather than depend solely on the raw talent and knowledge He’s given us. (pg. 143)”

*Self explanatory.

And I just want to end with this portion of the last chapter. It really struck me. I am thankful to be part of a church that truly is like a family and I pray it continues to be so.

“A while back a former gang member came to our church. He was heavily tattooed and rough around the edges, but he was curious to see what church was like. He had a relationship with Jesus and seemed to get fairly involved with the church. After a few months, I found out the guy was no longer coming to the church. When asked why he didn’t come anymore, he gave the following explanation: ‘I had the wrong idea of what church was going to be like. When I joined the church, I thought it was going to be like joining a gang. You see, in the gangs we weren’t just nice to each other once a week- we were family.” That killed me because I knew that what he expected is what the church is intended to be. It saddened me to think that a gang could paint a better picture of commitment, loyalty, and family than the local church body. (pg 152)”

Story Time.

Excerpt from my latest read- Forgotten God by Francis Chan. (Will post book review once completed).

“Years ago, Dave Phillips and his wife, Lynn, had a talk about the callings they felt God was stirring in them. As they discussed what they were most passionate about, they agreed that bringing relief to suffering children and reaching the next generation with the gospel were at the top of the list. The thought of starting a relief agency was considered, but Dave’s response was, “But that would mean I have to talk in front of people.” By nature, Dave is a very quiet, behind-the-scenes man.

But after much prayer, Dave set aside his fears, and he and Lynn started Children’s Hunger Fund out of their garage. Six weeks after CHF was launched, in January of 1992, he recieved a phone call from the director of a cancer treatment center in Honduras asking if there was any way he could obtain a certain drug for seven children who would die without it. Dave wrote down the name of the drug and told the director that he had no idea how to get this type of drug. They then prayed over the phone and asked God to provide.

As Dave hung up the phone, before he even let go of the receiver, the phone rang again. It was a pharmaceutical company in New Jersey asking Dave if he would have any use for 48,000 vials of that exact drug! Not only did they offer him eight million dollars’ worth of this drug, but they told him they would airlift it to anyplace in the world! Dave would later learn that the company was one of only two that manufactured this particular drug in the United States…”

As I read this story I was convicted of what I would have done. I would have told the man that there was no way I could help him, that I was not a doctor and had no connections with anyone who may have the medication.

But as I am learning through the scriptures and this book- with the Holy Spirit the impossible happens. Not the impossible ‘can’ happen- but the impossible does happen if I let the Holy Spirit control every part of my life instead of myself trying to control the Holy Spirit.

I am thankful for a dear friend of mine- Jessica Walker. Upon boarding a flight home from her mission field in Philadelphia for the past three months- Jess really had no direction to what she would be doing back in Roanoke. No set job. Done with school. No clue. On the flight, she sat beside an older woman and struck up a conversation with her. This woman works at Gentle Shepard Hospice, a Gospel-centered hospice company, and Jess just texted me an hour ago to tell me that she received a clerical job there. Jess could have let the uncomfortableness of sitting next to someone she didn’t know overtake her, and not have spoken to the woman- but she didn’t. She allowed the Holy Spirit to lead, she now has a job with a ministry degree attached- so who knows what the Lord is going to do through her through this job!

I am loving this book and the scriptures it has been pulling out about the Holy Spirit and I am loving to watch the Holy Spirit lead in my life. The Lord has led several women to contact us that have Vaginismus and it has been such a blessing-and I have seen God do incredible things already. I do not have permission to post about them and I want to protect their privacy- but already since we have returned from New York six women have contacted us through church connections and the majority from reading this blog. Several of them are local and myself with Jessie Hatter are praying about starting a local support group.

The Holy Spirit will do the impossible if we let Him- and it is so exciting when He does because it has nothing to do with us and everything to do with Him. Praise be to the Lord.

The Prodigal God.

I have just recently finished reading “The Prodigal God” by Timothy Keller. I thought I’d share my thoughts with you as well as hear your feedback if you have read it. If you have not read it- I greatly encourage you to do so. The basic jest of the book is the parable of the Prodigal Sons and how most people tend to focus on the rebellious, scandalous younger brother and his sinful ways, but do not focus on the self-righteous, prideful older brother and his sinful ways. I find this book extremely applicable to those like myself who have been raised in church from the time they were born. Often I go through my list of- I’ve never done drugs, I didn’t have sex before marriage (ha, and even after marriage up until a week ago. Sorry-sad attempt for humor ;)), etc. etc. and check that all is well and God must be pleased with my life because I am not the younger brother. In reality- I am just as sinful as the older brother who equates his life of self-righteousness to being right with God- when in the end he is just as sinful as the younger brother. I feel often times the church, whether by innocence or intentional, teaches us that we must ‘complete these four steps’ of being obedient to God- then God will accept us and we will live a happy life. And whether innocently or intentionally, I feel this has been my most recent mindset. And that is not at all what the Gospel is about.

If you are new to this particle parable in the Bible, or need a refresher on the parable, here is the scripture below :

1 Now the tax collectors and sinners were all gathering around to hear Jesus. 2 But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.”
3 Then Jesus told them this parable:
11 Jesus continued: “There was a man who had two sons. 12 The younger one said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of the estate.’ So he divided his property between them.
13 “Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living. 14 After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need. 15 So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. 16 He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything.
17 “When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! 18 I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired servants.’ 20 So he got up and went to his father.
“But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.
21 “The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’
22 “But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. 23 Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. 24 For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate.
25 “Meanwhile, the older son was in the field. When he came near the house, he heard music and dancing. 26 So he called one of the servants and asked him what was going on. 27 ‘Your brother has come,’ he replied, ‘and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.’
28 “The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. 29 But he answered his father, ‘Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. 30 But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!’
31 “‘My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. 32 But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’”

Below I list some specific quotes from the book and my thoughts and perception regarding the quotes.

“The targets of this story are not ‘wayward sinners’ but religious people who do everything the Bible requires. Jesus is pleading not so much with immoral outsiders as with moral insiders. He wants to show them their blindness, narrowness, and self-righteousness, and how these things are destroying both their own souls and the lives of the people around them.” (pg. 12)

-This portion majorly socked me in the gut. I am such a ‘rule follower’ and until recently was extremely blinded by my own narrowness and judgmental attitude that can come across to people without me really even noticing. It had become part of my nature and as this quote says- that can destroy the people around me and myself.

“Why doesn’t the elder brother go in? He himself gives the reason: ‘Because I’ve never disobeyed you.(vs. 28)’ The elder brother is not losing the father’s love in spite of his goodness, but because of it. It is not his sins that create the barrier between him and his father, it’s the pride he has in his moral records; it’s not his wrongdoing but his righteousness that is keeping him from sharing in the feast of the father.” (pg. 40-41)

-This portion I am so disgustingly full of self-righteousness. I am the typical ‘goody-two shoes’ and have always been proud of that fact- with sinful thoughts flooding through my head (e.g. At least I didn’t get pregnant in high school, I never have gotten plastered, I always go to church every Sunday, Sunday night, and Wednesday night-and anytime the doors are open, etc.) and that makes me just as sinful as the non-admitting alcoholic or the adulterous woman.

“If, like the elder brother, you believe that God ought to bless you and help you because you have worked so hard to obey him and be a good example, then Jesus may be your helper, your example, even your inspiration, but he is not your Savior. You are serving your own Savior.” (pg. 44) and along the same lines “Elder brothers obey God to get things. They don’t obey God to get God himself- in order to resemble him, love him, know him, and delight him. So religious and moral people can be avoiding Jesus as Savior and Lord as much as the younger brothers who say they don’t believe in God and define right and wrong for themselves.” (pg.49)

-Yup. So guilty of this. I have reasoned in my head for as long as I can remember- “If I read my bible daily, pray several times a day, obey my parents, not gossip, etc. God will be happy with me and I will live a good life”. And it’s not that I thought I’d live a perfect life- but I thought if I prayed enough dark days of anxiety and vaginismus would go away. If I read my Bible enough-the temptations of dating back in the day would flee from me immediately. If I obey my parents to a T I will live a long and prosperous life with no pain and little trials. This way of thinking and living is self-serving and it is showing that I depend on myself for my ‘life to be good’.

“But Jesus says: ‘The humble are in and the proud are out’ (see Luke 18:14). The people who confess they aren’t particulary good or open-minded are moving toward God, because the prerequisite for receiving the grace of God is to know you need it. The people who think they are just fine, thank you, are moving away from God. ‘The Lord…cares for the humble, but he keeps his distance from the proud’ (Psalm 138:6 NLT)”. (pg.52)

-Enough said.

“If a group believes God favors them because of their particulary true doctrine, ways of worship, and ethical behavior, their attitude toward those without these things can be hostile” (pg.61).

-Again, enough said.

“People who are no longer sure that God loves and accepts them in Jesus, apart from their present spiritual achievements, are subconsciously radically insecure persons….Their insecurity shows itself in pride, a fierce, defensive assertion of their own righteousness, and defensive criticism to others.” (pg.62)

-I think I mentioned this above that I struggle with being judgmental and critical. And I also feel that I am a rather insecure person. I didn’t connect the two until reading this book.

“Ultimately, elder brothers live good lives out of fear, not out of joy and love” (pg.66).

-Reminds me of 1 Timothy 1:7 “For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.”

“A sign of the elder-brother spirit is a lack of assurance of the father’s love. You simply aren’t sure God loves and delights in you. What are the signs of this lack of assurance? We have already mentioned one sign: Every time something goes wrong in your life or a prayer goes unanswered, you wonder if it’s because you aren’t living right in this or that area. Another sign is that criticism from others doesn’t just hurt your feelings, it devastates you. This is because your sense of God’s love is abstract and has little real power in your life, and you need the approval of others to bolster your sense of value. You will also feel irresolvable guilt. When you do something you know is wrong, your conscience torments you for a long time, even after you repent. Since you can’t be sure you’ve repented deeply enough, you beat yourself up over what you did.” (pg.72)

-Can I openly say I have struggled with all three of these significantly in my life at some point or the other? Especially the last one. I remember a particular summer where I was ridden with severe guilt and doubt. I confessed every sin in the book I could think of. I prayed and prayed and prayed for those feelings and thoughts to go away. I read my bible constantly. Looking back, I think God wanted me to quit trying. He wanted me to simply accept His love and grace and quit trying to ‘earn’ my salvation or His acceptance.

“The elder brother’s problem is his self-righteousness, the way he uses his moral record to put God and others in his debt to control them and get them to do what he wants…The main barrier between Pharisees and God is ‘not their sins, but their damnable good works.’” (pg 86-87).

-Yikes. But true.

“Our future is not ethereal, impersonal form of consciousness. We will not float through the air, but rather will eat, embrace, sing, laugh and dance in the kingdom of God, in degrees of power, glory, and joy that we can’t at present imagine” (pg.117).

-I have crazy views of heaven. When I think of heaven, my minds picture is a huge flat glass like floor and everything is gold and eye-hurting bright and we just sit and sing all day long. Everything is stoic and solid. Everyone is all formal- no laughing- just going around shaking hands with everyone. Funny. My thoughts of heaven are very reflective of ‘older brother thoughts’- everything is picture perfect, hardened, and everyone is putting on a fake face. I loved this quote as it shatters that picture in my mind and instead I picture lush green fields and majestic waterfalls with the most delicious looking fruit gardens. Everyone is laughing and dancing and shouting for joy. I can’t wait.

“Younger brothers are too selfish and elder brothers are too self-righteous to care for the poor” (pg. 126)

-Which one are you? I tend to be either, or both.

“Religion operates on the principle of ‘I obey- therefore I am accepted by God.’ The basic operating principle of the gospel is ‘I am accepted by God through the work of Jesus Christ- therefore I obey’”. (pg. 128)

-Love this.

“Human approval, professional success, power and influence, family and clan identity- all of these things serve as our hearts, ‘functional trust’ rather than what Christ has done, and as a result we continue to be driven to a great degree by fear, anger, and a lack of self-control” (pg.129)

-Another, enough said.

And a quote to sum it up “ ‘Wait’ I have heard people object, ‘You mean that in order to grow in Christ, you keep telling yourself how graciously loved and accepted you are? That doesn’t seem to be the best way to make progress. Maybe the motivation of religion was negative, but at least it was effective! You knew you had to obey God because if you didn’t, he wouldn’t answer your prayers or take you to heaven. But if you remove this fear and talk so much about free grace and unmerited acceptance- what incentive will you have to live a good life? It seems like this gospel way of living won’t produce people who are as faithful and diligent to obey God’s will without question’. But if, when you have lost all fear of punishment you also have lost incentive to live an obedient life, then what was your motivation in the first place? It could only have been fear. What other incentive is there? Awed, grateful love.” (pg. 134-135)

Oh- and why is the book called The Prodigal God? According to the Merriam-Websters dictionary-prodigal means recklessly extravagant, having spent everything (Intro). Isn’t that the perfect description of Jesus? He is recklessly extravagant with His love and acceptance and he spent everything- even His life- for us.

Sorry for the length- but bravo if you read it all. Please comment with your thoughts, criticisms, questions, etc.

Blue Like Jazz

So it has been two months since I have posted. Not too much to update about. Life is good. Loving my husband. Loving my job. Learning alot. Will hopefully have a post soon with some of our anniversary pictures, but lately I have been reading quite a bit and thought I might blog a little about it- and maybe continue to blog about whatever book I happen to be engrossed with on that particular day.

One I just finished up a few minutes ago is “Blue Like Jazz” by Donald Miller. Took me about three weeks to finish it. Not because it was particulary long or boring or anything- just a whole lot to soak in. For those who haven’t heard of the book, it’s basically a guys personal thoughts and perceptions on Christianity. I can’t say I agree with everything. I don’t completely agree with any book I read except for the Bible, but I feel the book challenged me in a whole new way about the difference between Christianity as a ‘religion’ and Christianity as a ‘personal spirituality’.

So here are some thoughts, opinions, etc. that I pulled from the book. This first quote, more of a story, is an excellent example of Christ’s unconditional love and acceptance of us- and how He truly is right there with us all the time, always wanting to be our Rescuer if we just simply trust and follow.
“The folksinger said his friend was performing a covert operation, freeing hostages from a building in some dark part of the world. His friend’s team flew in by helicopter, made their way to the compound and stormed into the room where hostages had been imprisoned for months. The room, the folksinger said, was filthy and dark. The hostages were curled up in a corner, terrified. When the SEALs entered the room, they heard the gasps of the hostages. They stood at the door and called to the prisoners, telling them that they were Americans. The SEALs asked the hostages to follow them, but the hostages wouldn’t. They sat there on the floor and hid their eyes in fear. They were not of healthy mind and didn’t believe their rescuers were really Americans. The SEALs stood there, not knowing what to do. They couldn’t possibly carry everybody out. One of the SEALs, the folksingers friend, got an idea. He put down his weapon, took off his helmet, and curled up tightly next to the other hostages, getting so close his body was touching some of theirs. He softened the look on his face and put his arm around them. None of the prison guards would have done this. He stayed there for a little while until some of the hostages started looking at him, finally meeting his eyes. The Navy SEAL whispered that they were Americans and were there to rescue them. Will you follow us? he said. The hero stood to his feet and one of the hostages did the same, then another, until all of them were willing to go.
The story ends with all of the hostages safe on an American aircraft carrier.
I never liked it when preachers said we had to follow Jesus. Sometimes they would make Him sound angry. But I liked the story the folksinger told. I liked the idea of Jesus becoming man, so that we would be able to trust Him, and I liked that He healed people and loved them and cared deeply about how people were feeling.” (ch. 3 pgs 33-34)

“Self-discipline will never make us feel righteous or clean; accepting God’s love will. The ability to accept God’s unconditional grace and ferocious love is all the fuel we need to obey Him in return. Accepting God’s kindness and free love is something the devil does not want us to do. If we hear, in our inner ear, a voice saying we are failures, we are losers, we will never amount to anything, this is the voice of Satan trying to convince the bride that the groom does not love her. This is not the voice of God. God woos us with kindness, He changes our character with the passion of His love.” (ch. 7 pg 86)

“A friend of mine, a young pastor who recently started a church, talks to me from time to time about the new face of church in America- about the postmodern church. He says the new church will be different from the old one, that we will be releveant to culture and the human struggle. I don’t think any church has ever been relevant to culture, to the human struggle, unless it believed in Jesus and the power of His gospel. If the supposed new church believes in trendy music and cool web pages, then it is not relevant to culture either. It is just another tool of Satan to get people to be passionate about nothing.” (ch. 10 pg 111)

Chapter 11 is entitled “Confession”. This chapter was one of my favorites. It’s too much to quote so I will try my best to summarize. The author of this book, Don, took a few classes at Reed college in Portland Oregan. The college is known for being quite immoral. They have a weekend once a year where the college students sleep around, get drunk and do drugs and what not. Don and his group of Christian friends had the idea to make a ‘Confession Booth’- with the idea that the college students would think it would be to confess their ‘sins’ of drinking and doing drugs and what not. But instead, Don and his bible study friends did the confessing. They confessed that Christians as a whole, including themselves, were judgemental, unloving and were not portraying Jesus Christ for who He truly is. What a statement and impact that it made on that college campus.

“It was the affection of Christ, not the brutality of the town, that healed Zacchaues.” (ch 15 pg 183)

Oh, how I could go on and on. Those are just some highlights-some things that hit home for me. I am about to start reading J. I. Packer “Knowing God” next. Quite the contrast in views and writing styles, but learning all the same. My goal is to write a review on each chapter-we’ll see how that goes considering I haven’t blogged in two months- but I think it will help to keep me focused on what I am reading as well as to help process certain thoughts and ideas. And by all means, feel free to comment and put in your two cents worth (or more).