Taking Jesus Seriously

Started this book today:


Jethani has doodled and produced 72 devotionals based on the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7).


After reading the first nine, I encourage you to check it out. If you wonder what might be troubling you about followers of Jesus, you might discover it in this book. It’s possible we haven’t taken Jesus seriously enough.

How To Pray (book review)

A few months ago I received a copy of Ronnie Floyd’s book How To Pray, 20th Anniversary Edition. Was I excited? Ehh. Another book on prayer. I added it to the pile of books on my nightstand, and it waited its turn. That turn started a few weeks ago. Ended yesterday.


True to his promise, Floyd delivers a book for everyone. Whether you feel like a newborn or seasoned prayer, you will grow through his suggestions. He also delivers a book true to his objective-to be helpful. His help includes addressing barriers to giving keys discovering power and movement in your prayer life. All 19 chapters are practical, simple, and immediately applicable.

Of the books I’ve read on prayer, How To Pray is in the top three. I’d specifically encourage young (in age or in practice) Chistians to read it. Some books you read and pass along. Some books you read and add to your library. Then there are books that you read and reread. Floyd’s is a reread.

God of My 20’s: Doing For vs. Getting to Know

(Post #4 in a collaborative series)

Guest Blogger Bob Morrissey

May 11, 1992, as a 5th-grade boy in a revival service at our church I knew God called me to the ministry. I never doubted it – not as a teenager, not as a Bible college student, and not as a young married man in my early 20’s. However, my twenties were some tough years. I knew much about God, but I did not know Him very well personally. I could quote hundreds of verses of scripture. I could stand and teach my adult Sunday school class confidently. On the occasion that I was invited to preach to the church where I was on staff, I could hardly wait for the time to arrive and hated when it was over. I was living to do things for God without a deep and intimate relationship with Him.

The God of my 20’s was somebody I could do something for.

He was somebody I could impress with my abilities.

He was somebody that needed me.

The lost world around me needed me because they didn’t know God, and I did-or at least I thought I did. I was what was wrong with Christianity. I wanted God to use me to do something great to change people and to change the world, but didn’t realize God needed to change me before He could ever work through me to help people. The God of my 20’s was not the God I know now because I constantly judged people. I judged their piercings, tattoos, clothing, music, and everything I could see. I never truly saw people. I only saw their exterior.

Meanwhile at home, I was short tempered with my wife and kids. I often left her home to take care of our children while I was serving God in the ministry. Because I did not know the heart of God, I ignored my greatest ministry-being a godly husband and father. Thankfully my wife knew God better than me and was very patient with me.

The God of my 20’s was patient with me. He let me fail. He let me embarrass myself, and put me with a pastor who was not afraid to correct me, but loved me enough to endure my mistakes. In my late 20’s God brought a couple of older men my way who I was ready to seek advice from.

If I could encourage and advise those in their 20’s I would say:

  1. Spend as much time with God as you do serving God.
  2. God does great things with young people, but He is not in a hurry. Have patience.
  3. Those who do things for God without knowing God often use people to build their ministry instead of using their ministry to build people. Be a people builder!
  4. Get someone in their 50’s or older to be your close friend. Listen and Learn.

Maybe I Should Be More Prodigal

Our life group started a study of Tim Keller’s book The Prodigal God tonight. We highly recommend the book.


Here’s a great example why. 

The word “prodigal” does not mean “wayward” but, according to Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, “recklessly spendthrift.” It means to spend until you have nothing left. This term is therefore as appropriate for describing the father in the story as his younger son. The father’s welcome to the repentant son was literally reckless, because he refused to “reckon” or count his sin against him or demand repayment.

Makes you think, right? Under this definition, the story in Luke 15 has much more meaning and application.

As we discussed this tonight, a question came to me: How could we be more prodigal? 

  • Toward neighbors
  • Toward siblings
  • Toward friends
  • Toward coworkers
  • Toward anyone that is physically, spiritually, or emotionally disconnected 

If God, my Heavenly Father, recklessly forgives, loves, endures, welcomes, provides, embraces, longsuffers, probably means I should also. Maybe I should be more prodigal.

Known

(Post #1 in a 4-part series collaboration)

By Rick Howell (bio below)

Although it has been over 45 years, I can still remember the experience just like it was yesterday. It is even more shocking that I remember because it happened in the context of a relatively frequent occurrence. My friends and I were in a rousing game of hide and seek, which we played at least weekly. This particular moment, however, stands out because of the intensity of the feelings it evoked and the emotional dilemma it created.  I was hiding.  In fact, I was hiding in a perfect spot. When I identified it, I squealed inside because I knew I would never be found.  This was the perfect hiding place.  As I listened to the seeker count down to “0” and heard the familiar words, “Ready or not, here I come,” I was beside myself with anticipation. She was not going to find me! As time passed, my assessment that this was a great hiding space was confirmed. I heard friend after friend discovered, followed by the race to home.  As I remained hidden, my satisfaction grew.  As more time passed, however, I began to wonder what happens if I don’t get found.  And then what was pure joy for so long was no longer fun.  I wanted to be found, and I wanted to shout with excitement as I raced back home.  Never being found was not all it’s cracked up to be. So, I moved from a great hiding space to a space I knew would allow me to be found.

Unfortunately, more often than I want to admit, my Christian walk has been a similar experience. The idea of being known by God is disturbing. Being fully known, my struggles, my doubts, my insecurities, my failures, my inner most thoughts cannot coexist with God loving me. Therefore, I hide. Hiding from God is not easy.  I have to work hard at it…at least to preserve my illusion of hiding. Much like the child who hides her face and believes therefore that she is unseen, I live as if I can control what parts of me God sees and thereby ensure God loves me…or so I tell myself.  But as in the hide and seek game, hiding becomes undesirable. Disconnection from God results in an unbearable loneliness. My need to be truly loved by God is stronger than my need to hide from God. In desperation I remind myself of the truth my Sunday School teachers taught me: “Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so.”  I embrace my pastor’s proclamation, “There is nothing that I could do to cause God to love me less.”  Fortunately, my difficulty believing this truth does not make it less true.  As I embrace the scriptural promise conveyed by the words from the familiar chorus, I Am Loved, “The one who know me best loves me most,” hide and seek returns to being just a fun kid’s game.

With this assurance, I can take more risks by being vulnerable in relationships with whom I am pursuing more depth and authenticity.  I remember recently sharing, with two dear friends of mine, some thoughts and reactions I had had during a sermon for which I was not proud but which I did want to explore with them.  When they extended grace and patience to me rather than the expected condemnation, I believed I had experienced in the flesh the truth of which I share today.  I allowed them to know me more fully and they chose to love me more fully.  What a beautiful combination. Thanks be to God!


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Blogger Bio: Rick Howell has served as the Executive Director of Samaritan Counseling Services of the Gulf Coast for 20 years. Rick, a Tampa native, holds degrees from Stetson University and Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He and his wife Debbie live in West Bradenton. They have two adult children, Breanna and Ethan.