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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From Challies.com – My Wife’s Plea to Christian Men

I am a voracious reader, I read pretty much all day long.  There are times I come across things worth sharing.  I will usually run to twitter, instagram, or my facebook page to share those articles.  However, occasionally, there are things that are too important, too poignant, too relevant, and too close to the words flowing through my own heart and mind.  Those, I share here.  When you read this article, please share it.  It speaks to the heart of many women and families, and the struggle they go through.  It speaks hard truths, that I know many echo in their hearts right now.

Share my link, the link to the original article… share it any way you wish.  Just share it.

Share it with the women you know, and the men.

Share it with the leaders of the home, and the church.

Share it with those who are married, and those who hope to be one day.

Share it with your daughters and sons, as their age deems appropriate.

Click on the Photo, or HERE to read the full article:

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To continue reading, click here!

Bible Study – The Third Question

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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.

How Does This Scripture Apply to Me? – WRONG QUESTION

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Early in my Christian walk, I read the bible to understand what Christianity was about.  I saw it as a collection of stories & history that explained how we (gentiles) came to believe in God, who Jesus was & why the crucifixion was needed, and to understand what awaits us in the future.  In time, as I would mature in my walk, I would begin to see that this was more than just a collection of information that justified or explained my faith.  It was the true Word of God, it had an enormous amount of value.  The scriptures are filled with stories of people, just like me, who failed miserably but that God could and would redeem.  It became a book of Hope for the weary, Faith for those who love Him, and Promises of an eternal heavenly future.

Under the teaching of some very respected bible teachers, study authors, and church leaders… I began to read the scriptures differently.  I was taught to read the scriptures and ask “How does this apply to my life?”. Now, in some cases of scripture, that is a really easy question to answer.  The Proverbs are full of wisdom that can be applied to every day life.   But there would be times, when I would read a passage of scripture, that I was left scratching my head.  It just didn’t seem to apply.  I wasn’t like the person in the story, the situations I was dealing with in life were different than the point of the story.  I just couldn’t figure out how it applied to me, at all.  In those cases, I would cast it aside for the time being.  My reasoning was that it just didn’t apply at that moment.  But, I figured God revealed it to me because at one point it will.  I will recall reading it, and at that point in the future, I will know where I can return to find the wisdom and encouragement I need.

I am certain many of you who are reading this, are shaking your head in agreement.  But, what if I told you … we are totally wrong.  What if I said that is not the right question to be asking?  Hold on to your hats, if you are, because I am about to rock your socks.

I had an opportunity to attend an amazing conference that would forever change how I viewed the Bible.  I have never looked at a passage of scripture the same.  I study the Bible in an entirely different way.  It came from a group of very well known teachers, that a new question was posed.

You see, the scriptures are not about you and I.   The Bible is the collective story about God’s ultimate plan of redemption.

The Old Testament serves as a witness, or testimony, to how fallen God’s people are.  God gave us everything, perfect and in union with Him.  Man’s choice to go against God’s wills happened in the very beginning… when Eve and then Adam, took a bite of that forbidden fruit.  As the Old Testament unfolds, we illustration after illustration of a repetitive cycle of sin and redemption.

God sets rules.

Man breaks or can’t keep rules.

Man should be punished.

God ultimately saves them from themselves.

They thank God, renew promise to follow his rule.

They do for a while.

Then the cycle repeats itself… again and again…. and again.

Because man continually repeats this cycle, atonement has to be made for these sins.  The Gospels of the New Testament deliver to us a Savior, who will be the final lamb sacrificed for sins of a stiff necked people.  The New Testament continues, with the Good News spreading to new areas, the real life experiences believers faced, and leads us to the end… when Christ comes back for His church.

The Bible from start to finish, isn’t about you… or me… it is about Jesus Christ, our Savior.  The question we should be asking, first and foremost, when we study scripture is:

How does this passage reveal Jesus Christ to me?

Does it reveal the promise of his coming, his birth?

Does it parallel his life to death, on earth?

Does it reveal the need & promise of his sacrifice?

Does it reflect the call He puts on those who follow him?

Does it establish his person-hood, his divinity, his character, his love, his compassion, his mercy, his grace, his obedience… his example?

The Bible was written about Jesus Christ, for you. For you to see that you are not alone in your failures, that just like others in the scriptures you can be redeemed.  But that comes by first KNOWING HIM, and you will get to know Him best when you look for Him in God’s word, before you look for yourself.

I am not suggesting we don’t ever ask how it applies to our life, if that were the case there would be no need for the wisdom scriptures.  I am suggesting that before we can understand the wisdom & themes of scripture (as they apply to us), we have to understand the ONE whom the wisdom originates.  We have to understand how these pieces of scripture, stories and history relate reveal Jesus, first.

I understand that for a good portion of my readers, this a “DUH” moment.  Either because you already know it, or you are simply trying to figure out how you missed it.. it should be a given.  It is very easy for human beings to get so wrapped up in themselves or the situation they are seeking guidance through the scriptures for, that they forget to start with Jesus.

This past summer, I had an opportunity to do an in depth study of the book of Nehemiah.  It was conducted by a panel of biblical scholars; who worked independently on their assigned sections of Nehemiah, while making sure they stood in agreement as team under the Word of the scriptures.

On the surface, you could easily pull out some very “me centered” themes.

* It’s a story about a man who chose to make a difference in his community.

* It’s a story about a man who brings his community back together, back to God.

* It’s a historical point of time, regarding the city of Jerusalem.

* It’s a story about what we can accomplish, when we work together, for the glory of God.

On their own, none of these things are bad.  However, they do not truly reveal the point of the book of Nehemiah.  They don’t get to the heart of the story.  They don’t get to Jesus.

If you really take time to look through the scripture in Nehemiah, you will find that is parallels the ministry & purpose of Jesus.

The city is in ruin, the people are far from God.

Nehemiah leaves his comfortable position, with the king to go to the city & restore it.

While Nehemiah is present, restoration begins.

Nehemiah sets the example & standard.

Nehemiah returns to the king, leaving the people to continue on their own.

The people fail miserably in his absence.

Nehemiah must return.

When you look at the book of Nehemiah, with intention of revealing Jesus… it’s right there, plain as day.  You just have to get yourself out of the way to see it.  This is why, we must come to the scripture first, seeking to reveal Jesus.  It’s not about us, it’s about Him.  Always has been, always will be.

I challenge you to start looking for Jesus, when you study the word.  You will find him. 

In the next installment, we will address what the second question you should be asking is.

BOOK REVIEW: The Hole in our Holiness by Kevin DeYoung

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This is a book about the importance of the gospel, being filled by the Holy Spirit to more toward holiness, understanding the balance of faith and works, understanding the importance of the law & heeding Jesus’ commands, facing the world that wants us to be anything BUT holy, repentance,  and the hope that while perfection will never be attainable… holiness can be found in us, through Jesus & He is our motivation for pursuing it.

In Regard to the Writer:  Kevin DeYoung

1) It’s not a short book, but not long either.  DeYoung does a great job of getting directly to his point.  Which for this reader, is HUGE.  You get enough information to drive home the point, without reading endless examples and illustrations.

2) The style in which DeYoung writes is comfortable & fluid.  You don’t find yourself back tracking to read a portion again because it didn’t click.  He transitions to new chapters and ideas smoothly.  His train of thought is easy to follow, as you move through the chapters &  DeYoung never loses track of the main idea of the book.

3) His word choice and sentence structures are familiar without being “dumbed down”.  My great uncle was a lay pastor, and I have heard him speak about theology a few times in my life.  Additionally I have sat in college classrooms with Pastors as teachers, and in churches where the Pastor has more degrees than a thermometer.  DeYoung clearly knows who his audience is, not over complicating thought processes, making relate-able parallels to every day situations and experiences, etc.  He balances writing for “every man” with doctrine and theological vocabulary that we should all be familiar with.  Yet, he makes a point of defining those words through the context of his writing.

In Regard to the Book:  The Hole in our Holiness

I often find myself looking to “experts” to get answers, in particular when I am having trouble understanding a part of scripture or Christian living.  This has a lot to do with my coming to Christ at a later age & possibly even more to do with my analytical brain wanting to get as many thoughts as possible on a subject.  What I tend to find in a lot of writings is that we assume a problem exists, we support with lots of scripture that it IS in fact a problem, throw in a bunch of stories of how others have had this same problem…. and yet fail to ever get to a real solution.  I end up no better of than when I started my research.

Fortunately, this book does NOT follow that suit.  DeYoung does a great job identifying the root problem, getting the scriptural support and even giving us some examples to build the credibility for his argument.  However, he doesn’t let it end there.  Nor, does he end the book with a simple suggestion that we should aspire to be more holy, or pray for it.  In fact, unlike other books I have read, DeYoung really put effort into clearly defining solutions and direction.

He identifies these solutions within each example he gives.  He wraps up the chapters with solutions to that particular facet or challenge to holiness.  Finally, DeYoung caps off the whole book with not only solutions but HOPE.  This book equally convicts us of the areas in which we stumble (or flat out ignore) in our pursuit of holiness, but also gives us hope in a God who sees our heart & desires to be holy.  You don’t walk away from this book feeling beat up, but instead it is more reminiscent of a locker room pep talk.  You may have fumbled.  But, the game is not over yet.  We are still in this.  We can still win.

Finally, the book concludes with study questions you can use on your own, or within a small group or book study group.  It is chock full of scriptural support and references, which are found throughout the text but also recapped in the final pages for quick reference.

Highlights from the Text:

Here are just a few excerpts from the book, that I hope will inspire you to pick up a copy for yourself.

“My fear is that as we rightly celebrate, and in some quarters rediscover, all that Christ has saved us from, we are giving little thought and making little effort concerning all that Christ has saved us to.”    (The Hole in Our Holiness- Kevin DeYoung)

“The Great Commission is about holiness.  God wants the world to know Jesus, believe in Jesus, and obey Jesus.  We don’t take the Great Commission seriously if we don’t help each other grow in obedience.”      (The Hole in Our Holiness- Kevin DeYoung)

“Many Christians have the mistaken notion that if only we were better Christians, everyone would appreciate us.  They don’t realize that holiness comes with a cost.”   (The Hole in Our Holiness- Kevin DeYoung)

 

 

The Hole in Our Holiness

Kevin DeYoung

Publisher: Crossway   http://www.crossway.org

ISBN: 13:978-1-4335-4135-3