Tag Archives: Christianity

Who Do You Think You Are: Review

My generation doesn’t know who they are. We are constantly trying to define ourselves by which start-up, which brand, which branch, which group, which career, which university, which personality . . . get it? We want so badly to be someone, but at the same time, we don’t want to be like everyone. It is a dilemma to be sure, and many of us are approaching adulthood and struggling through identity crises. But there’s good news. However, for Christians, our identity has been defined, and who we are has been cleared. We are in Christ.

This was a very timely read for me. I feel like I could read it again already, although I have just finished it about two weeks ago. Mark Driscoll, pastor of Mars Hill Church in Washington State, presents a very easy, clear, and challenging look at our identity as found in Ephesians in his book Who Do You Think You Are? I thoroughly enjoyed this journey through Ephesians because it challenged my ideas of identity and finding my identity in what I did or who valued me. Rather, as Driscoll points out, our identity is bound up in Christ and His finished work on the cross.

Driscoll walks through each section of Ephesians and shows us what our new identity in Christ looks like. What does it mean to be redeemed? How does my interaction with others change? How do I act if I really believe I am forgiven? This book was really helpful for me to hold up a model for what my life ought to look like since I have been bought with a price, and since my identity has been changed. It was an encouragement to see how I could let go of the things that were holding me back, and at the same time it was a challenge to actually let go of those things that are holding me back. I am now a child of God. What happened in my past cannot weaken His power or grace. I cannot grovel in my past failures, or boast in my successes, because all of it has been stripped away, and I have been given a new persona. I am Christ’s image-bearer here, in this world, for this time.

Driscoll has also been preaching the same series at his church in Washington, so I have been listening along online. It has been great for me to really revel in the Gospel and in the finished work of Christ and what that really means for my life. Listening and reading to the same message has challenged me to seriously think through how I am living and who I view myself as. Because that view really does invade and influence the rest of my life and interactions.

I would highly recommend this book for any Christian who has ever struggled with their identity in Christ and what that practically looks like. If you have ever wallowed in guilt and wondered how to rise up from it? If you have found yourself struggling with pride and wanted freedom to truly serve Christ, then this book will help you to explore who you now are and what the new you should do and look like.

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New Beginnings: Resolute Resources

Perhaps one of your resolutions this year was to spend less time on technology, which in my opinion isn’t a bad a resolution! But, at the same time, I think that there are some technological resources available to help you achieve more of your goals this year. I want to share just a few that I have been either looking at or using recently.

1. Exercise

My favorite resource for staying fit so far in 2013 is POP Pilates on Youtube (for girls!). What I really like about this is that there is a wide range of videos that are simple, upbeat, a good workout, and of different lengths. I did complete a month of Insanity earlier this year (which consisted of about 40 minute workouts), and I had stopped that because I simply did not have the time. So, I figured that if I wanted to do something sustainable, I needed to start short. The Pilates videos range from 10-30 minutes, and they do not require any equipment. So, if you are looking for something to get into to help build a habit of working out, I really suggest checking out this channel!!

2. Faith

I had really wanted to find a way to motivate myself to read my Bible more in 2013, and I have really been loving this app from iTunes. Faithlife allows you to connect with other people and follow a Bible Reading plan together (you can choose from several available reading plans.) The app shows you where to read each day and marks when you have finished. You can also add notes and share them with your community group. On top of all of that, there are a lot of in-app resources like pictures, videos, free books, etc.

3. Language

This app is awesome!! Duolingo is one of the best language learning apps I have ever seen. I have really enjoyed it so far for refreshing my Spanish, but I am hoping to start French very soon as well.

4. Social Networking

Maybe this isn’t a goal for you, but I know for myself, I want to get better at keeping up with blogs and twitter for professional development purposes as well as for work on my own blog. So, the app that I have been really enjoying for this purpose is Flipboard. Flipboard takes the blogs, tweeters, RSS feeds, and Youtube channels you follow (as well as other popular or trending topics) and puts them into a beautifully designed layout that is really easy to read quickly and gives you easy access to the original articles as well. If you have an iPad, I especially recommend it as the iPad app is really nicely laid out and useful.

5. Goal-setting

This final resource I wanted to share was one that I stole from my friend over at the Everyday Language Learner. I have actually just signed up tonight, so I can’t give an in depth review yet, but it looks like a pretty cool program. The program is called AskMeEvery. Basically, you sign up for an account, and then you enter questions that you would like to be asked every day. They can be yes or no questions, but they can also be numerical questions. For example, I have entered these questions:

  1. How many pages did you read in Turkish today? 
  2. Did you do pilates?
  3. Did you read your Bible?

You set the time, and every day at that time, the program will send an email asking you those questions. You simply reply to the email, and the program can keep track of your statistics and chart them out over time. I will have to see how the program works out for me, but it sounds like a great idea!

What resources are you using to help yourself achieve your goals this year? I’d love your suggestions!! Leave them in the comments below!

Walking on Water When You Feel Like You’re Drowning: Review

Christians usually do not talk about depression, because believers are – so I thought -not supposed to experience it. Depression is seen as a moral failing. To admit to it is to admit weakness and sin.


I recently read the book Walking on Water When You Feel Like You’re Drowning by Tommy Nelson and Steve Leavitt. The book addresses the topic of Christian depression. As the quote above signifies, this is a topic that is often avoided, or written off as a spiritual problem, without addressing the physical issues that are at times connected to clinical depression. In my opinion, it is true that depression can come from spiritual issues, but after reading this book, I have also realized that depression can also be a very physical problem, and it may require medical help, and it will certainly require time and love in dealing with the problems.

I had always been of the opinion that if someone suffers from depression, that is their problem, and they need to just toughen up and get over it. Tommy Nelson, a pastor from Texas, and Steve Leavitt, a Christian counselor, both give detailed accounts of their journey through depression. Through their stories, it was clear that even people who are serving God can fall into severe depression, and they can require medical help to get back on track. This part of the book, the story telling part, helped create the backdrop for all of the advice and help that was offered in the second half of the book.

In the second part of the book, Leavitt provides a lot of details and advice concerning depression and how to deal with it. Leavitt looks at where depression comes from, what it feels like, how to know what it is, and what is actually happening physically in your body.

In the third part of the book, Leavitt looks more specifically at how to recover from depression. He addresses the issue of medicine and how to know when and what to take. He also looks at strategies to implement into your life to help you deal with depression in relationship with those around you.

Overall, I felt like the book was well-written. I found it very easy to read, and interesting. I do think that this is a topic that is important for Christians to understand. The book was grounded in Scripture, but also dealt with very practical issues for people going through depression. Anyone who has been feeling like this is a problem in their life would benefit from this book and the advice it has to offer. I certainly think that anyone who is struggling would realize that they are not alone, and this book can offer some encouragement and direction for where to go next.

My one biggest critique of the book was that the tone presented by Pastor Tommy Nelson was difficult for me to swallow. I have looked him up online, and he has indeed been very successful as a pastor and spiritual guide, but I still found it difficult because his tone came across as arrogant. In my opinion, it was the biggest problem of the book. I kept expecting that he was going to resolve his self-sufficiency when he talked about how God helped him through the depression, but it never really came.

I still recommend the book, especially for anyone who is going through, or has a loved one who is going through depression. It was helpful and informational in a way that often seems to be lacking in Christian spheres. Nelson and Leavitt honestly do offer helpful advice and ideas. But in the end, it does all come back to God, and who He is, and what He’s doing in your life.

Remember this: Anything that feels like the end of the world is not what it appears to be. Have hope. God is the God of hope. He is not a God of fear, worry, and stress. Grab onto his hope like a lifeline, and cling to it.

Living Close to God: Review

Gene Edwards gives us a book in Living Close to God (When You’re Not Good at It): A Spiritual Life That Takes You Deeper Than Daily Devotions that takes us with him through his journey to a closer relationship with God. Edwards points out several ways to make God a part of your everyday life and how to make sure that you are learning how to have a really deep and personal relationship with your Savior whether or not that is your natural inclination. Edwards shares several ideas for how to incorporate aspects of our physical lives into ways to enrich our spiritual lives. He talks about walking and eating and how these things can relate us back to God throughout the day.

One of the main points that Edwards points out is that a relationship with God is not only for the learned or the educated. Rather, Jesus came and ministered to those who had never had a formal education and could not read the Scriptures for themselves. He taught even them how to walk with Him and how to truly know Him. So, in our day and age, there is no reason to believe that one must be educated or have a deep knowledge of theological concepts in order to know and walk with God.

Rather, there are lots of simple ways to develop a relationship with the God of the universe by learning how to use scripture to talk with Him, by learning how to walk and slow your heart so that you can reflect and dwell on Him, by putting reminders in little places so you will stop and think about Him, by putting a song in your heart so you are constantly praising Him. These are some of the ideas that Edwards shares to help us learn how to commune better with God.

I have to say that when I first started this book, I was really excited about it. I felt like this was the kind of book that I needed right about now, something that would re-invigorate my love and desire for God. I will say, though, that I was rather disappointed with this book. I think that there are a couple of reasons for this.

To begin with, I personally did not appreciate the literary style of the book. I am not saying that it was poorly written, but it is not a style that I appreciate. The author tended to repeat himself and give emphasis in places where I felt it was unnecessary. It read to me like a book written for simple people. Perhaps that was the aim of the book, and there is absolutely no problem with that. I just do not enjoy books written down to an audience.

The other problem with this book is that I think it is very difficult for an author to adequately write about a spiritual experience in a way that his audience can understand and share without cheapening or lessening the importance of the experience. I am not doubting Edwards’ journey to a deeper relationship with God, but there is something that happens between his heart and the paper that makes it difficult for that journey to retain the intensity and the excitement that it must have had for him. I don’t think this is a foreign concept. Surely you have experienced moments which to you were tremendously meaningful, but when you go to tell your friends, you cannot do the moment justice. I felt like this was a bit of a problem with the book. In trying to describe a relationship building with God, it is hard to write that in a way that other people are going to understand, because of the very fact that what has happened is special between you and God.

The final thing that I will say in critique of this book is that I was very disappointed with the final chapter. I am not sure what background Edwards is coming from in writing this book, but he spoke negatively about the church in the final chapter saying that if you strive to have a deep relationship with God, the church may cause problems for you, because there are people that don’t want you to actually know God, but rather to just go along with what has been prescribed. I am not saying that the church is perfect, but I do hope that in the true church, the true body of Christ, those who have believed in Him, His death and resurrection, and the fact that only faith in Him can secure eternal life, and that are living in expectant hope of His return, that there is a desire for every believer to have a vibrant and real relationship with God.

I personally would not recommend this book, though my reasons are mainly personal with the exception of the last chapter. I would not say that the writing of this book is anti-Biblical by any means, it just was not a book I enjoyed or found extremely helpful in my Christian life.

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I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group to review. I received it through their Blogging for Books program which allows bloggers to sign up and receive free books in order to write reviews for the Publishing house. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

So You’re Religious?

I was asked this last night, and after thinking back, I wish that I would have answered better. I hope that it is no surprise to you that I am a Christian. I have not tried to hide that. I have personally chosen for myself certain choices like: I don’t drink, I didn’t have sex before marriage, I don’t swear . . . and sometimes, that leads people to the conclusion:

“Oh, so your rather religious.”

No, actually, I have a relationship with Jesus Christ. He died for me, to buy back my soul after I had betrayed Him by being born as a sinner. He has a master plan for this world, and that includes me knowing about Him, and believing in Him. I truly do believe in Him, and if I believe that God humanized Himself so that He could die to pay a price that I was incapable of paying, raised from the dead, because it is impossible for a real God to stay dead, and in doing so has created a hope that I could live with Him eternally, I don’t really see how I can have another response than to live in a relationship with Him.

You don’t often let someone sacrifice something great for you and then ignore them for the rest of your life. I’m not religious. I am not working to attain something better after I die. I have been given something better that is being reserved for me for after I die, and I live in a relationship with God here, realizing that all of what this world has to offer is but a shadow of the better things that He has in store. I set standards for my life because I don’t want to be so caught up in the here and now that I miss out on a relationship with Jesus. As Christian, I have taken on His name, and I represent Him now. If He was willing to die to start a relationship with me, then I am willing to give up some things here to keep a relationship with Him.

I’m not religious, I’m friends with Jesus.

And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Homesick

I’m sorry I’m a day late. I had a date last night. 😉

I shared a post on Wednesday about a book I’d been reading that made me think a lot about where I am and what I am experiencing as an American living in a foreign country. Thoughts have been romping around my head the last few days, refusing to sit still and let me make sense of them. But every now and again I catch a snippet of their truth, and I am content to know that there is indeed some truth hidden inside of them. I don’t have to understand it all now, one day I will.

Homesick

There are a lot of things here
that remind me of there.
They point and mimic and echo.
But they aren’t there,
and they never can be.
So, I’m stuck holding onto a  shadow.

The shadows are fleeting,
and never give fulness,
I’m always groaning for more.
I’m searching for ways
to make sense of the days
that I’m left without sight of home’s door.

Despair can come quickly
Fear threatens daily
I’ll never fully fit in.
But hope reassures
One day He will return
and I’ll be home . . . forever . . . with Him.

CC12: Christ in Culture

My husband and I had a really good conversation tonight. It’s Christmas time again, so time for the questions about where we can and cannot have Nativity Scenes again. I’m not really going to touch the subject.

But, Jeremy and I were talking about tonight about how important it is for everyone, and Christians in particular to understand culture and how it relates to religion and life. This semester has been an eye-opening adventure for me in respect to issues such as religion, race, class, and ability. There’s a lot that goes into it, and because I doubt my ability to clearly and adequately articulate it tonight, I’m not going to expound.

I would like to mention however, the topic that started our conversation in the first place. The offensiveness of the Gospel. In hearing people get upset and raise issue with Nativity Scenes at this time of year, or many other things that seem to aggravate people at other times during the year (take for instance the Tim Tebow phenomenon), we Christians should not get up in arms, we should not respond with harsh criticism or anger, we should not tell all of the people they’re wrong. Why?  Because, the Gospel IS an offense. The Gospel does make people uncomfortable. It still makes me uncomfortable at times. The people are responding the only way they know how to without Jesus.

We’ve known that this is the case, we’ve read it in the Bible.

Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon? And are not his sisters here with us?” And they took offense at him. 4 And Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor, except in his hometown and among his relatives and in his own household.”  And he could do no mighty work there, except that he laid his hands on a few sick people and healed them.  And he marveled because of their unbelief. –Mark 6:3-6

Israel who pursued a law that would lead to righteousness did not succeed in reaching that law.  Why? Because they did not pursue it by faith, but as if it were based on works. They have stumbled over the stumbling stone, as it is written,  “Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense; and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.” –Romans 9:31-33

But if I, brothers, still preach circumcision, why am I still being persecuted? In that case the offense of the cross has been removed. –Galatians 5:11

For it stands in Scripture: “Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone, a cornerstone chosen and precious,and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.” So the honor is for you who believe, but for those who do not believe, “The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone,” and “A stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense.” They stumble because they disobey the word, as they were destined to do.
I Peter 2:6-8

So, just don’t forget. This is how it’s supposed to be. Not in God’s perfect, restored world, but in a world confronted by the truth of Jesus Christ. Rejoice in that, and pray for opportunities to share the offense.
And, on the topic if Nativity Scenes, isn’t this one beautiful?