Alive in Him by Gloria Furman

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I received a copy of Alive in Him from the Publisher for the purpose of reviewing.  The thoughts and opinions in this piece are my own.

On my flight out to Indiana, for The Gospel Coalition Conference, I brought my copy of Alive in Him by Gloria Furman.  Coincidentally, the theme of the conference plenary sessions was unpacking the book of Galatians.  And, here I find myself reading about it’s neighboring book Ephesians.

Alive in Him is an exploration of the book of Ephesians, and was designed to be read along side an open Bible.  I’ve been a fan of Gloria Furman for quite some time, and I love her intelligent writing style.  She tackles the Scriptures beautifully without underestimating the readers ability to comprehend.  Yet her written word flows with grace, beauty, and femininity.

You can tell that Gloria Furman loves the Word, and desires her readers to understand the depths of God’s promises to His children of redemption.  Then she takes this information and packages it in a way that makes it relatable to our every day life… what does this mean to me today?  How do Paul’s letters to the Ephesians matter in the world, city, and church that I live in today?  What do these letters mean to my personal life and circumstances?

So why read Alive in Him?  If there is anything that I can say comes through Gloria Furman’s writings and interviews is that she has a deep love of God.  It’s not lip service, but genuine and infectious… you want the world to see that same level of love for God in your own life.  However, we must each come to that place on our own … where we truly “get it”.  That is why you should read this book, because Furman desires for you to see God’s tremendous love for you in the same way she does.

This walk through Ephesians presses you not just into how Furman perceives the text, but sends you directly to the Word for your own participation in the conversation.  She shares her wisdom and what she has learned, but challenges her readers to view the text and experience it for themselves.  This isn’t a one way teaching, with a professor standing at a lectern.  Instead you are almost transported to her living room, as if you have been invited to Small Group at the Furman house.

Her approach is kind, loving, and graceful as she unfolds the Scriptures before you.

One of my favorite quotes from the book is:

“The Holy Spirit will not allow you to live satisfied on the rubbish heap; he will nurture a longing for the City of God to beat in your heart.”

~ Gloria Furman, Alive in Him

And I think that quote really does justice to the theme of the book, to help you fulfill that desire to have the “City of God” beating in your heart.   If that is your longing, this book is a great start to put you on the path.

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Lead Me…

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This isn’t going to be long, or all that profound.  Just a reminder.

Leaders need to be led too.

Your leaders are spending a lot of time leading others, make sure that someone is leading them… pouring into your leaders, on a regular basis.

Your leaders are pitchers that fill up the empty cups they serve.  Empty cups can’t be filled by an empty pitcher.  Someone must pour fresh water into the pitcher, so that it can continue to serve.

What do you do, in your church or ministry, to fill up and refuel your leaders?

Praying the Bible, Praying for Change (part 1)

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To be entirely honest, I have never been taught how to pray.  I’d imagine I am not alone, many of us are probably learning as we go.  We listen to how others pray and begin to model our own prayers after those whom we esteem.   While this often works out well for those big, public moments (praying at meal time, praying before a study, or at a conference), it doesn’t always translate into our every day prayer life.

I tried to make my prayer life more substantial,  I would pray the Lord’s Prayer.  That was how Jesus taught us to pray.   I started prayer journaling, and recording times when the Lord answered my prayers.  I even tried praying through the Psalms.

Yet is was still a struggle.

The Lord’s Prayer became repetitive routine, easing through the words because I said them so often.  It was easy to rush through them, checking off the to-do list item of prayer, during a hurried day.

Prayer journaling quickly turned into a laundry list of all the things that were wrong in my life that I wanted God to fix.  The blessings I wanted.  I was praying for the same things, day in and day out.

Praying the Psalms was a struggle at times, because of the text.  In many of the Psalms there are prayers about the Lord casting down our enemies.  I couldn’t pray that God would do harm to my enemies, especially if they were once friends whom I still cared about.  While our relationship was torn, I didn’t wish them harm.  I wanted reconciliation or at least for the Lord to bless them during times of difficulty.

I was at a loss.  I took a chance and ordered a book that was being mentioned on Twitter by several authors that I follow.  The book is Praying the Bible by Donald Whitney.  Immediately, I knew that this was the book I was looking for.  The very first points that Whitney addresses is the feeling that we are praying about the same old things all the time.  This was how I felt.  The same old prayers, in the same old way, over… and over… and over again.

I decided that I wasn’t going to fly through this book like I normally would.  Instead I really wanted to be intentionally slow.  Reading just a few pages per day, I was able to really see that my prayer life could be so much more.

In the book, Donald Whitney approaches prayer directly through the scriptures… all of them.  Using the scriptures that we are reading to help inspire our prayers each day.  Reading and praying.  Reading and praying.

If it convicts you, pray about it.

If it motivates you, pray about it.

If it reminds you of a person or situation in your life, pray about it.

The scriptures were opening up my eyes to all of the countless things that I was NOT praying for.    I highly recommend this book, it’s going to rewire how you think about prayer.

In a few days, I’m going to write another post on how this book challenged my personal prayer life.  So please, pop back over later on this week.

 

SEMINARY? How can I justify it?

 

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Autumn comes, and your church starts making announcements regarding the upcoming Small Groups and Bible Studies.  Sign up sheets are at the information desk, emails come from the church with more information about the studies.  You find yourself looking through the menu of possible studies…

Beth Moore’s Daniel Study

Lisa Harper’s study on Malachi.

Dave Ramesy’s Financial Peace class.

Love & Respect for Married Couples.

The MOPS group is doing the “Frazzled Female” study.

A women’s expository study on the book of Acts.

and the list goes on and on.

They are all good studies, and you wish you could make room for them all, but you can only choose one!

For one second, did it ever occur to you that you shouldn’t study the bible, or what the bible has to say on certain topics?

Did you question if you could afford the book?

Did it ever cross your mind as to whether or not it would be worth it?

I mean, really, what would you do with it?

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You may think those are ridiculous thoughts, but I would like to tell you that those questions are the exact ones I heard when sitting in a workshop about women in seminary.

In the New Testament, we had women sitting at the very feet of Jesus to learn from him.

In 2015, we have women questioning… trying to justify… getting formal biblical training.

There were women in the workshop who were trying to grapple with the commitment it would require to get formal biblical education.  Do I have enough time for it?  Can my family spare the time it would take for me to study?

There were women who were trying to justify the cost of seminary, when we live in a time where information is just a few clicks away.  They were wondering if the family could afford, and if they were being good stewards with their money, by investing in seminary.

The number one question asked:  “What would I do with it?”

So, let me get out my soap box for a moment.  And, let’s talk.

Ladies….

You are teachers of God’s word, every time you give scriptural advice to a friend, teach a Sunday School class or lead bible study.

You are messengers of God, when you show up at the homeless shelter, fly into another country to install water filters, or lean into a coworker who is struggling.

You are image bearers of God, charged with being godly women, honorable wives, and shapers of your children.

If all of our thoughts, words and actions should be God centered, revealing God to the world around us…

… how better is it then, that we get to know God’s word in a deeper way?

We should NEVER have to justify digging deeper into the scriptures.

It shouldn’t need to be justified, it should be a PRIORITY.

Can we afford NOT to?

And the good news is this… if God’s calling you to formal biblical training, God is making that more and more possible every day.

You can download a bible app for your phone or device, for FREE.  We have access to commentaries from trusted sources, at our finger tips, a google search away!

We have books that we can borrow from libraries, download into our kindles, and buy off of amazon on every subject from Early Church history to Apologetics for Women In Ministry.

These are all the right steps to take to digging in deeper.

And if God is calling you to formal education, there are affordable options out there.

There are certification programs and degree programs online, which are less expensive than brick and mortal schools.  Christian Leaders Institute offers a certification on a donation based model.   You give what you can afford.

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Christian Leaders Institute, as well as some other online colleges and seminaries offer degree seeking programs.  The cost for these degree programs are a less than traditional schools, and offer you the ability to work at your own pace.  You can take one class at a time, or a full course load.  There are payment plans and scholarships available for seminary education.

For some, there will be the option of attending seminary on a campus.

The point is that there are options out there, for those who are being called. 

I can not believe that God would ever admonish any of his children for investing money, time and energy into formal biblical knowledge.  Too much of the scriptures instructs us to not just listen to The Word, or read The Word, but to CONSUME it.

If you feel God is calling you, pray that He will reveal to you how to go about it.

Even if it begins with you, a couple of friends, and an open bible.