Sunday, 31 March 2013

Gods at War by Kyle Idleman

In Gods at War: Defeating the Idols That Battle for Your Heart, Kyle Idleman makes the argument that idolatry is not an issue, but the issue.  He explains how all sin and issues we face in our Christian lives are the result of idolatry and that it's not a matter of if we worship, but rather who or what we worship.  He goes on to examine in detail nine gods that are prevalent in our culture and in the church: food, sex, entertainment, success, money, achievement, romance, family, and me.

Kyle uses a conversational style in his book and helps make his points through stories and fact/research study boxes. He looks at a few gods that are perhaps not often addressed within the church.  I appreciated the Idol ID boxes with questions that helped identify whether or not something has become an idol in your life, followed  by a section on how to replace that idol with Christ.  I did find Kyle was a little repetitive at times.  Some of the stories and humour gave me a good laugh, but there were some points I thought were a little "cheesy."

I thought this book was good, although not amazing.  It helped me come to terms and address some idols that have taken hold in my life.  It provides a good evaluation of which gods may be present in your life if you're willing to look at yourself honestly.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher through and was not required to write a positive review.

Tuesday, 19 March 2013

Leading or Following?

 Do you want to walk with Jesus, or do you want Jesus to walk with you?

This thought came to me after I was reading My Utmost for His Highest on March 9 where Oswald Chambers discusses John 6:67.  Jesus had explained that no one could come to Him unless it was granted by the Father, and from that point on, many stopped following Him.  Jesus turned to the twelve and asks if they wanted to go away as well. 

After reading this, I thought about whether I was walking with Jesus, or if I was expecting Jesus to walk with me.  I do sometimes ask Jesus to walk with me, or be with me, when I think I'm going to have a difficult day. I want to feel His presence and I want things to go smoothly. Louie Giglio's Prayer: Remix series has challenged me in this, and I try not to ask God to be with me anymore, because He is already with me, and living in me.

There's a difference between me wanting to walk with Jesus and wanting Jesus to walk with me.  You see, when someone invites me to go for a walk with them, it's usually understood that I will walk where they want to walk.  Unless we come to a mutual agreement and we both know where we're going and how to get there, one of us is always leading, even if we're walking side by side.

When Jesus asks me to follow Him, or walk with Him, it's of the understanding that He's the One leading.  If I say "Yes, Jesus, I will walk with You", I'm going to go where He goes.  He gets to decide which roads we take, where we go, who we serve, etc.  He gets to decide whether or not we go to work, to the mall, to watch a movie, or if we go to the prisons, the orphans, widows, to another country, etc.

However, if I get up in the morning and ask Jesus to walk with me, what I'm actually saying is that I'm leading the way and I just want His company.  I want His God stamp on what I do, His blessings, and His encouragement on the uphill climbs.  I have a rough road ahead of me and I'm scared to go alone. 

The problem is, Jesus doesn't follow.  The only one He follows is the Father.  (The Bible doesn't say it exactly that way, but Jesus made it clear that He always did the will of the Father.)  He didn't walk with His disciples.  His disciples walked with Him.  They went where He went, served where He served, ate with the people He ate with, not the other way around.  He led the way, even if they were walking side by side.

Perhaps when you ask Jesus to walk with you, you really do have it in your heart to follow Him.  Then we perhaps need to change the way we say it.  Instead of saying "Jesus, would you walk with me today?", say "Jesus, I want to walk with You today.  I can't walk this road alone, so I want to follow You.  Where do You want to go?  Where do you want to take me?"  The scenario changes.  Now it's clear who's leading and who's following.  It's clear that it's about you wanting to do what God wants, not just wanting God's rubber stamper on your plans, as Louie Giglio would put it.

Where are you at in your life?  Are you walking with Jesus, or are you expecting Him to walk with you?

Monday, 11 March 2013

Praying for Your Man

The girls in my youth group are going through a book study again, and one of the first things we were reminded of is the importance of praying for our future husbands.  Now, this was no new concept to me.  I've been doing it for years.  But it's something some girls do struggle with, or don't think of doing, so I will write about my experience.  (And yes, I am still single.  I have not seen my prayers fulfilled, but I know God is in the process of answering.)

For some, praying for a person you don't know is kind of weird.  Yeah.  That was probably the biggest struggle I faced when I started.  How do I pray for someone if I don't even know who he is, or don't know what's going on in his life?  The wonderful thing is, you may not know who you will marry, or what's going on in that man's life, but God does, and He cares about this area of your life.

You may not know the specifics of what is going on his life, but you can still pray.  You can start by praying that He would follow after God whole-heartedly. You can pray that he would be a man of the Word and a man of prayer.  What kind of character qualities do you want to see in him?  Pray that He will grow in those areas.  Do you want him to be part of a ministry or serving in an area of the church?  Pray for that. Pray that he would walk in purity, that he would flee from temptation and youthful lusts, that he would keep his heart, mind and body for you.  Pray that he would cut off sin from in his life and walk in holiness. Pray that God would use him in his single years for His service and glory.

Pray that God would direct his heart to you and have wisdom as to when and how to initiate and lead your relationship.  Pray that God would prepare him to be the spiritual leader and provider for your home, that he would have wisdom in raising your children when God so blesses you.  It's probably also wise to pray that your parents and other counselors in your life would have the wisdom to help you discern God's best for you, and allow yourself to be open to their counsel.  

Now, remember, this isn't all about who you want your husband to be.  Chances are you have lofty dreams of this man and, if you're smart, you're praying about some great and amazing things for him.  I know I do.  But if you want to marry Mr. Awesome, you have to be a woman suitable for him.  So instead of just praying for him, pray that God will prepare you to be the woman, the help meet that he needs.  Keep yourself pure, and conduct yourself in a way that would be pleasing to your husband if he was watching you.  Honour him, even now, with your life.  And keep yourself busy and productive, serving the Lord and others while you wait for God to bring you together.

I have prayed about all these aspects at some time or other, and most on a very regular basis.  I admit though that there are still times when I definitely feel stuck.  What do I pray for?  How do I pray about this man?  Sometimes I feel like I say the same thing over and over.  One of the things I have done at times is ask God how He wants me to pray for my future husband.  I ask God to lead me as I pray.  Something changes in the way I prayed when I do that.  At times, I don't understand why I am asking God for the things I am, but I trust it's His leading.  One day, the purpose of it all will be revealed to me.

It could also be that as you pray for your future husband, or ask God to lead you, that you will start praying in a way you don't necessarily understand.  You may start praying for qualities you otherwise didn't consider.  It may be that God will guide you to pray about someone specifically.  I don't know how God moves in everyone's prayer times.  I don't know what He will do when you seek His direction in this area.  But I encourage you to pray boldly, persistently, and daily about this area of your life.  When you marry the man you're praying for, you will enter into a covenant that is a representation of Christ's relationship with His church.  That's not something to take lightly, and thus, it's something to pray about diligently.

Some who will read this post will certainly be familiar with the song "Faithfully" by Eric and Leslie Ludy.  The idea of waiting faithfully is not a very popular one in our world.  Many may not understand why you're giving up pleasure now for something they don't believe exists, or why you're praying for someone if you don't even know who he is.  Listen to this song.  It may give you an ache in your heart, but I also hope that you will take the words to heart and commit to faithfully waiting and praying for your man.

Monday, 4 March 2013

Is Following Jesus Worth It?

I saw this justice video by Micah Bournes a few weeks ago.  Like most videos by this word artist, I really liked it.  Near the end, I thought you could almost replace the word "justice" with "following Jesus" in this video.  There are many striking similarities between pursuing justice and following Jesus, and how it is perceived by the world around us. (Please watch the short video before reading further.)

Following Jesus does seem to be a very futile pursuit for many people.  It doesn't promise success and prosperity, although some try to make it sound that way.  You probably won't see a grand increase in the world's goods if you follow Jesus' command to deny yourself daily, take up your cross and follow Him.  It likely won't be very profitable if you try to measure it in those terms.

The thing about following Jesus is, we'll never reach a point in this life where we'll be able to say "I've made it.  I'm done working for God, and now I can sit back and relax until Jesus comes."  No.  We work until He comes or your physical bodies die.  Only then have we finished the race.  We can give up along the way if we want to.  But if we understand the price Jesus paid, and the reward that follows, we won't. 

Most people in this world don't perceive following Jesus as worth it.  Many Christians at some point wonder if it's worth it.  I know I have.  (I also think our churches are full of people who are tired of the idea of following Jesus, because they're not actually doing it the way they should.)  But as in pursuing justice, I don't think the question "Is it even worth it?", comes very often from those who have laboured for years for Jesus Christ, who have given their lives to the ministry, to preaching the Gospel.  I don't think it comes often from those who have spent years in the mission field, feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, healing the sick, caring for orphans and widows, freeing the captives and being the hands and feet of Jesus to the least of these. 

Oh, I'm sure they get tired.  I'm sure there are days some have no strength of their own and only God's strength sustains them.  But as tired as I'm sure they often get, I don't think they often wonder if it's worth it.  They know it is worth it.  They know because they have communed with Jesus.  They have spent time in His presence and they have grown to have a heart for the things He has a heart for, for the people He has a heart for.  They have developed a Christ-like love that empties and pours out self for the good of someone else.  They have given their lives for the broken-hearted, for the wounded.  They have toiled to see souls come into the kingdom and set free from the power of sin.  Like Jesus, they have come to see that their lives are worth the sacrifice.  And for those who follow Jesus like that, I think it would be offensive for them to be asked if it was worth it.

Where's your relationship with Jesus?  Are you busy following Him, or have you grown tired of the idea?  For myself, I admit I have at times probably grown tired of the idea.  But I don't want it to stay that way.  I want to come to the place where I commune and identify with Christ, where I have a heart for the people and things He has a heart for, so much so that it becomes offensive to me to be asked or to wonder if following Him is worth it.  I want to be able to cry out myself "What do you mean, is it worth it? Of course it's worth it!"  How do I know?  Because I was worth dying for to Him.