#Write31Days Challenge – Post 29 – Very Important Note

biblenotgena

An author and speaker that I follow, Carlos Whittaker, shared a picture similar to the one above on his Facebook page.  I was so taken with the simplicity of the message, I grabbed every Bible I own, and added the same message.

God created the heavens and the earth… Not Gena.

It really couldn’t be any simpler than that.  I didn’t create the world, I didn’t go through six days of ordered creation, nor did I take a day of rest.  I was not there in the beginning.  I didn’t have anything to do with that process.

Yet, humanity continually tries to rewrite history and rewrite His order into a way that makes sense to our own understanding.

His ways are not our ways.  His understanding is not His understanding.

We are a people entirely INCAPABLE of following the will of God (since the day man walked in the Garden of Eden with God), and yet some how we think that gives us the authority to change HIS creation, HIS order, and HIS statutes to fit the world and according to our standards.

In comparison to God, our standards are very low.

In comparison to God, our knowledge is very limited.

In comparison to God, our perspective is very subjective.

Our view of the world, and how we are apart of it, should never be based on how want God to fit into our own reasoning.  Instead, we must put aside our own reasoning, and look to the word of God.

There is nothing new under the sun.  Everything we deal with today, every sin and controversy, has been written about in the scriptures.  Time and culture haven’t changed all that much.  It is man who changes.  The further we get from that direct relationship with God that early Christians knew… the more we want God to fit into our ways & beliefs.  

God is unchanging.  His response to sin and controversy in the scriptures hasn’t changed, because His word is true.  If it was a sin then, it is a sin now.  Period.

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Bible Study – The Third Question

MBA

In the past two weeks, I have written a bit on bible study… what is the wrong question to ask, and what is the right question to ask.  We are about to head full circle, but let’s recap.

Our first question, when studying any scripture, should be:  How does this reflect or reveal Jesus?

All scripture, the entirety of the Bible, is God’s redemptive story.  It begins with creation, shuffles through man’s epic failure, resulting in man’s need for a savior, God’s deliverance of a savior and the redemption we receive through Christ’s sacrifice.   Every passage in the scriptures is not about me or you, our first response should never be to figure out how the scripture applies to us.  The first question needs to be 100% about Jesus, how is this passage about Jesus.

The second question is a two part question:  1) Who is speaking? and 2) Who are they speaking to?

When we take the time to look at who is speaking, or who is the author of the passage, as well as who the audience is…. a lot of information is revealed.  This information puts the scripture in context to the culture and the climate of the people.  Understanding history has always been important for future growth, it’s why we study it in school.  We must know where we come from in order to know where we are going.  History teaches us what we need to stop or not do, as well as what we need to start doing or do better.

Once we acknowledge Jesus in the scriptures, recognize who the speaker or author is, and identify who is being spoken to… THEN we get to come back to the question of application.

Asking how scripture applies to you and I is not an inherently wrong question, it’s just usually done in the wrong order.  If you have ever found yourself wondering why a piece of scripture doesn’t seem to apply to you, it’s because you asked that question first.  Had you taken the time to find Jesus, and understand the context of the scripture, application naturally follows next.  You begin to see the nuances you might have missed.

At that point, it may be obvious that this scripture applies to you because it is an important piece to a bigger story.   You just need to keep reading.  Or, you may see where it parallels to events in your life.   Because, the honest truth is if all scripture reveals Jesus, then all scripture is applicable to your life. It is the door that you open for Jesus to come in and do something amazing in your life.  Every time we find Jesus in the scriptures, it affirms our faith, gives us confidence in God’s Word and promises, and points toward hope.

How is any of that…  “not applicable”… to your life?

I know that I need to see Jesus in everything.

I know that I need to affirm my faith with the revelations of God’s Word.

I know that my confidence in the Word and the promises of God, is built through the scriptures.

I know where my hope is found, the scriptures tell me so.

It all applies to us, through Jesus Christ.

BOOK REVIEW: REFORMED MEANS MISSIONAL By Samuel T Logan Jr.

missional

I received a copy of this book at a Christian Writers Workshop, as part of a conference I attended.   Before I get into the review, I need to preface that I read this book stand alone.   I knew nothing of it, or it’s author, or that it was an expansion on the WRF Statement of Faith section on “Mission and Evangelism”.    Therefore, some bits of information (that were assumed the reader would be recognize) went right over my head.  I am not familiar with the World Reformed Fellowship organization or their Statement of Faith,   However, that doesn’t mean the book wasn’t a worthy read.  There are some great bits of information I gleaned from it, so I wouldn’t count it as a loss.  Quite the contrary, it has inspired me to look into the WRF more.   Anything, in my opinion, that stirs up the desire to read further is a victory.  Fortunately, the internet helped me fill in some of those gaps.

In Regards to the Author:  Samuel T Logan, Jr.

Technically Samuel T Logan, Jr. is listed as the editor of the book.  There is no “author” as it is a compilation of various authors, scripture and WRF related information into a singular book.  I can’t entirely give him credit as the author, and to be honest, a good portion of the bits I underlined can be contributed to other authors.  However, Mr. Logan does a great job of binding this information together, transitioning from thought to thought and using his own knowledge and writing skills to fill in the gaps.  There are some thoughts or statements that stood out to me, that are entirely his own.  One must go into reading this book understanding, though, that this is a compilation of thought vs. one man’s perspective.

In Regards to the Book:  Reformed Means Missional

The book is broken down into two parts, the first is “laying the foundation”.   To understand what it means to follow Jesus into the world, our mission, we need to understand the WHY.  But even before you get into the first chapter, the Forward and Introduction are important reads.  In a nutshell the book helps us understand what it means to be missional, a look into the WRF ‘s stance on it, what a missional church will look like, and hitting The Book to understand what Romans has to say about missions.  One of my favorite portions of the first section took a look at the question “What does a Christian look like?”.  Readers, the way the book handles this question alone makes it worth reading.

In the second section of the book, Logan moves us beyond the WHY and into practical application.  Instead of it being a general step by step guide however, the subsequent chapters are devoted to very specific topics of global importance.  Such as violence toward women, poverty, child sexual abuse, etc.  This portion is where we get to see the other authors shine.  Each handling one topic, and handling it well.  This makes the second portion of the book a great reference guide for the future when you need guidance on one of these topics.  Instead of sifting through pages upon pages looking for a paragraph, you can narrow the field to the chapter of the book.  These are important chapters that cover the challenges facing the church today on a global stage and cultural platform without neglecting that these are also issues that can be found in our own backyards.  I am also pleased that these subjects were covered in a very straight forward, yet gentle way.

Highlights from the Text:

“It is not so much that God has a mission for his church in the world; rather God has a church for his mission in the world.  Mission was not made for the church; the church was made for mission – God’s mission.”    Christopher J.H. Wright, Foreward to “Reformed Means Missional” by Samuel T. Logan, Jr.

“When we ask what makes a person a Christian, we are asking about what a person seeks first.”  Reformed Means Missional by Samuel T Logan, Jr.

“I learned the love of God bent down, way into the muck, and mire of this world, into the darkest corners running with rats.  “He was despised… he was pierced… he was crushed… He was opressed, and he was aflicted. I saw that his love led him to become like us so that we might actually become something like him.”  Diane Langberg from Reformed Means Missional by Samuel T Logan, Jr.

Reformed Means Missional

Samuel T Logan, Jr.

New Growth Press

ISBN 13:978-1-938267-75-8

BOOK REVIEW – United by Trillia Newbell & GIVE AWAY!

newbell

*Giveaway information at the end!

I have had the pleasure of hearing Trillia Newbell speak live twice before reading her book, United.  I admit, that was part of the reason I selected her book.  I really enjoyed hearing her speak, her perspective, her approachability, and her genuine concern for women & diversity in the church.

Regarding the Author:  Trillia Newbell

Having the opportunity to hear Newbell speak live, gives me a unique perspective on her writing.  She writes exactly as she speaks, and she speaks like you are having a personal conversation with her.  She is comfortable with her thoughts and what she is expressing.  Her writing style is authentic, easy to follow and from the heart.   While this is not a small book, it is a quick read that reflects more than just her life, but more importantly the call to be sisters in Christ regardless of our skin color.

Regarding the Book:  United

When I read the first personal accounts from Newbell on her negative experiences regarding race, I sat back my chair shocked.   I saw her in person, I couldn’t believe she was actually older than I.  Surely that would be the case, for her to have the experiences she shared.  Yet, as I continued reading, I would find that in fact my first assumptions were correct.  Trillia is younger than me.  Then, I was saddened.  Racism is a subject that I can not wrap my head around, and  I find myself ever grateful for the family and community I grew up in.

As I continued to read through the book, I stopped at a familiar story.  Newbell shares how she would face criticism from other black classmates for being “too white” due to how she presented herself.  This story brought me back to a conversation I had with a fellow classmate, Tasha, in high school.  In our honors classes, Tasha was always very articulate and spoke with far better grammar and articulation than most of our class.  Yet, I would notice that when she would get around her friends, there would be a change in her speech patterns and word choices.  When I asked her about it, she shared that she couldn’t speak the same way to her friends as she did in class.  She would be criticized for it.  Apparently, while a lot has changed, a lot still hasn’t when it comes to how we perceive each other in this world.

Which means, this book is very important.  Newbell references other great authors and scripture to support her case for the need of diversity within the church.  She provides thought provoking questions, challenges the readers to get out of their comfort zone, and encourages us all to be united as brothers and sisters in Christ while embracing our differences.

I went into this book with a mental road block, that I carried from hearing her speak live.  The idea of diversity in the church is great, and I support it entirely.  In fact, I have been blessed to live in communities that are culturally diverse.  Of my friends I can account just about every country and ethnic background.  Yet, in our church, there is not the diversity I would wish.  Part of the problem we face is a language barrier.  We have a lot of immigration into our communities in South Florida.  Churches that can accommodate those foreign languages are not just something that is desirable, but rather a necessity.  Many will come upon our shores without knowing a single word of English.  It is natural for them to find a church that speaks their language in order to find community, friendships and the Word.  Our neighborhoods and circles of friendships are diversified, but our churches are not.  In a recent conversation, I found my daughter’s friend was going to a Spanish speaking church.  Although he, and his parents, are fluent in English.  When talking with his parents I found out they sought out the Spanish speaking church to specifically engage him back in to their culture and help him to become more fluent in Spanish (he has relatives that are no English speakers).  It is the “use it, or lose it” mindset.  Our second problem with diversification in our churches comes from a place where our immigrants feel they are losing connection to their roots.

So, how do we begin to diversify our church when our differences go beyond the color of our skin or the type of music we prefer… and to something much deeper, more cultural, and more committed to preserving their traditions?  I didn’t expect that Newbell would answer that question, coming from a town that may be rich in color but not facing the same language and culture barriers that would be found in my community.  Yet, Newbell came through.  From the most obvious solution, prayer… to the suggestions of intentionally looking at our staff and leadership in the church.  And, the most difficult, being authentic with the leadership of the church your heart for diversity in the pews.

Highlights from the Text:

While I can’t quote the whole thing here, in the appendix of United, Trillia Campbell includes a transcript of an interview with Thabiti Anyabwile on the subject of race, and his desire to rid the world of the notion of race, as well some of his recommended readings on the subject or race in the church.

I’ll leave you with this compelling quote from United, as some food for thought:

“How can we fulfill the Great Commission to go and make disciples of all nations if we all seek only churches in which we are comfortable?”      (United, Trillia Newbell)

giveawayj

Leave a comment about diversity in your church,  and you will be entered to win your own copy of Trillia Newbell’s book “UNITED”.
Comments can be related to diversification programs working in your church, hurdles your church faces in diversifying or even a solution to another commenter’s question.  As a community we can learn from each other.  Comments here or on my facebook page count, and will be put into a drawing.  One drawing winner will be randomly chosen.  Entry deadline is July 21, 2014.  Winner announced on July 22, 2014.
Good luck and lets start talking about diversification in the church!