Excerpt, When Going with the Flow Isn’t Enough:

Question: Where do women belong in the twenty-first-century church?
Answer: Wherever God places them.

God has carved out places for every one of his daughters in his church, and he wants us to occupy the places he chose for us. Whatever spiritual gift or gifts you were given, you were given for a reason and a purpose, and he wants you to use it for the purpose he chose for you. He does not want you to hide it. If you choose to hide your gift(s), God is displeased. In his book The Purpose Driven Life Rick Warren states “You don’t bring glory or pleasure to God by hiding your abilities or by trying to be someone else. You only bring him enjoyment by being you. Anytime you reject any part of yourself, you are rejecting God’s wisdom and sovereignty in creating you.”

Link: https://www.amazon.com/When-Going-Flow-Enough-Upstream/dp/1625860714/

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Being a Christian is not about going to church, it’s about having a personal, intimate relationship with Jesus Christ and allowing yourself to be led by the Holy Spirit, rather than being governed by the law. Bruxy Cavey communicated this truth eloquently and clearly in his book The End of Religion (Colorado Springs, Colorado: NavPress, 2007). Some of my favorite quotes from that book are:

  • There is a difference, an important difference, between relating to God through systems of doctrine, codes of conduct, inherited traditions, or institutions of power, and relating to God directly, soul-to-soul, mind-to-mind, heart-to-heart. Jesus taught this distinction, lived this message, and was killed because of its implications.
  • Jesus’ call into a rule–free, principle–based spirituality is very difficult for religious people to fathom. Certainly, rule–less spirituality is only a constructive way to live if love is the guiding dynamic, the foundational principal of our lives. This is essential to Jesus’ message. Jesus never made rule–breaking a worthy goal in and of itself. His point was that rule–keeping should be a natural expression of something deeper, rather than a goal unto itself. Simply remove rules and you are left with anarchy. Transcend rules with love, and you are beginning to live like Jesus.
  • So here is the great irony – Jesus is happy to see his followers get organized in order to help spread the message that organizations are not the answer. Christ-followers read the Bible to learn of Jesus’ teaching that reading the Bible is not what makes us a Christian. We pray regularly in order to commune with the God who reminds us that praying regularly is not what makes us acceptable to him. We meditate to immerse our souls in the love of God that is already ours, not in order to somehow achieve a state of self-induced enlightenment. And we go to church to collectively celebrate the message that going to church is not what makes us God’s children.

Excerpt from When Doing Isn’t Enough:

Waiting is not popular in our modern society. Immediate gratification is popular. We want what we want now, and we do everything possible to get whatever it is we want now and avoid waiting…God appears to like waiting and seems to require it of anyone who will be used by him, particularly those who will be used in a significant way. When studying the lives of individuals in the Bible who have been used by God to accomplish extraordinary tasks there certainly seems to be a correlation between waiting and serving God in the extraordinary ways they were called to serve.

Link: https://www.amazon.com/When-Doing-Enough-Waiting-Plenty/dp/1625860838/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1508523850&sr=8-3&keywords=books+by+mary+detweiler

I am currently reading American Gospel by Jon Meacham. The following excerpt grabbed me, speaking to me very loudly. I am sharing it with you because I am hoping that it speaks to some of you as well. Here it is:

“What is essential–and what has long been part of religious intellectual traditions–is to draw not only on scripture but on reason and experience when contemplating the nature and problems of the world. In the seventeenth-century battle between the Catholic hierarchy and Galileo over whether the earth revolved around the sun or vice versa, it was Galileo–a Christian–who understood better than his persecutors how to reconcile apparent contradictions between faith and science. ‘If Scripture cannot err,’ he said, ‘certain of its interpreters and commentators can and do so in many ways.’ In other words, if reason leads humankind to discover a truth that seems to be incompatible with the Bible, then the interpretation of scripture should give way to the rational conclusion. In this Galileo was echoing Augustine, who wrote, ‘If it happens that the authority of Sacred Scripture is set in opposition to clear and certain reasoning, this must mean that the person who interprets scripture does not understand it correctly.’ … Augustine’s work enables thinking Christians to take advantage of scientific and social advances without surrendering the authority of revelation. Guided by these lights, believers have (however slowly) removed the biblical support for the ideas that the earth, not the sun, is the physical center of the universe, that women are property–and that slavery is divinely sanctioned. The lesson is that purely religious arguments may not be sufficient to get us to the right result. The faithful should see that God meant for them to use reason as well as revelation as they make their way through the world.”

I just finished reading Tim Tebow’s book Shaken. I liked it very much. Parts of it resonated with me on a deep level in a very affirming way.

Two of my favorite quotes from the book are:

o So many times we are paralyzed from forward movement because we hold ourselves down. We compare our journeys, our losses, our victories, our marriages, our jobs, our dreams, our families with everyone else’s. And in our minds, in some way, we fall short…When our self-worth crumbles, when we’re not feeling confident, when insecurities overwhelm us, we have to remember whose we are…remind yourself how much God loves you and that He has a unique purpose and plan for your life.

o Trophies don’t last. Awards come and go. Impressive titles move from one person to the next. But how we live can make an eternal impact.

Excerpt from When Religion Isn’t Enough:

Followers of Jesus are called to love with a calvary-type love. What is a calvary-type love? It is a verb. It is a choice. It is a selfless love. It is choosing to do something for someone else regardless of the cost to self. It is not a feeling. It is an action. It is Jesus carrying his cross to Calvary in Jerusalem and allowing Roman soldiers to nail him to it, and then staying nailed to it until he died.

This is selfless love. Jesus did something for us that we could not do for ourselves—he created the way for us to get to heaven. He explained this to his disciple Nathaneal in the first chapter of the gospel of John, verse 51: “I tell you the truth, you will all see heaven open and the angels of God going up and down on the Son of Man, the one who is the stairway between heaven and earth.”

During the last meal Jesus shared with the twelve apostles before he died, he told them “I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples” (John 13: 34-35).

This command still holds true today for all of his followers. Gregory Boyd, in his book Repenting of Religion, provides a description of calvary-type love. He says “While nonbelievers can be expected to love those who love them, disciples are called and empowered to love even their enemies and pray for those who persecute them. While nonbelievers can be expected to do good to those who do good to them, disciples are called and empowered to do good even to those who harm them…our love must be given without consideration to the relative merits or faults of the person we encounter…we are to love without strings attached, without conditions, without any consideration whatsoever of the apparent worthiness of the person we encounter.”

Bruxy Cavey, in his book The End of Religion, provides another description of calvary-type love. He says: “The way of Jesus is the way of risky love. Religion is the way of safety, security and shelter within the structure of rules, regulations, rituals, and routines. Jesus and his earliest followers were relentless in pressing people to see two things. First, loving people is the primary way we love God. Second, this love of humankind must always take precedence over religious ritual or ethnic obstacles… Christ-followers are called to be, according to the standards of this world, ‘foolish.’ Real love is, from a purely human, self-serving perspective, irrational…religious traditions can be a trap that keeps us from moving into unchartered territories of bold love and radical compassion. Irreligious people, on the other hand, are free to be more loving. Jesus calls people to love in such a way that all social barricades are broken, penetrated, subverted—including and especially those erected by religion. And to love like God wants, we must be willing to put practical service ahead of safety, comfort and convenience.”

After writing my last post I was reminded of an article I wrote a number of years ago titled 12 Steps=the Christian Walk. Here is the article beginning at Step 2:

Step 1, if worked properly, leaves us feeling empty and ready for Step 2 – We came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity. When we begin to see that help is available to us and as we reach out and accept what our Higher Power has to offer, we start to feel hopeful that our life will improve and we’ll feel better. To take this step we need not understand what lies ahead. We need to trust that God knows what lies ahead and that He loves us and will take care of us.

Taking Step 2 positions us to take Step 3 – We made a decision to turn our lives and our wills over to the care of God. In the first 2 steps we became aware of our condition and accepted the idea of a power greater than ourselves. Step 3 is decision time. When we take Step 3 God becomes the manager of our life and we learn to accept life on His terms. Many of us initially take Step 3 by turning over only certain parts of our lives to God. We are willing to turn over the problematic parts of our lives when we see they are making our lives unmanageable, however, we hold onto other parts of our lives thinking we can manage them just fine thank you very much. We eventually realize, however, that we cannot barter with God. We must surrender our entire will and every area of our life to His care if we really want to recover. When we are finally able and willing to accept this reality, our journey to wholeness begins for real and we are ready to work Step 4.

Step 4 – We made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves – opens our eyes to the weaknesses in our lives that need changing and helps us to build on our strengths. We examine our behavior and expand our understanding of ourselves. As we begin to see ourselves clearly, we learn to accept our whole character – the good and the bad. As our self-discovery unfolds, we begin to recognize the role that denial has played in our lives. This realization is the basis for embracing the truth of our personal history. An honest and thorough inventory leads to self-acceptance and freedom.

Step 5 – We admitted to God, to ourselves and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs – gives us the opportunity to set aside our pride as we see ourselves through the lens of reality. Step 5 is a pathway out of isolation and loneliness, and results in freedom, happiness and serenity. Working Step 5 lays a new foundation for our life of relationship to God and commitment to honesty & humility. Our growing relationship with God gives us the courage to examine ourselves and reveal our true self to ourselves, to God and to another human being. Self-disclosure is an important part of our Christian walk. We were created to live in community with both God and people. Authentic community requires disclosure. It is tempting to believe that telling God is all that is necessary because He ultimately forgives all sins. While this is true, confession to another human being provides special healing and wholeness and releases the grip of hidden sin. Once we share our inventory with God and with another human being we are ready to move on to Step 6.

Step 6 – We were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character – provides us with a needed rest as God works in us to create needed change. Our task in this step is to develop the willingness to respond to God’s desired action in our lives. We may believe the saying “God helps those who help themselves, so get busy and change.” This, however, is not true. Change comes from God, not from our self-will, and it comes when we are willing to Let Go and Let God!

In Step 7 – We humbly ask Him to remove all our shortcomings – we Let God. We work this step on our knees in humble prayer, asking God to remove our shortcomings, one defect at a time. Asking God to remove our defects is a true measure of our willingness to surrender control. For those of us who have spent our lives thinking we were self-sufficient, surrendering control can be an extremely difficult task. It is also an extremely freeing task. It takes much faith & trust to work this step. We need to remember that God hears us and wants to answer our prayer. We also need to remember that God works on His timetable, not ours. He will remove our defects when He knows we are ready.

Step 8 – Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all – begins the process of healing damaged relationships. Up to this point in our recovery we have been looking at and dealing with how our hurts, habits and hang-ups affected us. We now begin to look at how they harmed others. Reviewing our Fourth Step inventory helps us determine who belongs on our list. Once our amends list is done we are ready to move on to Step 9 – We made direct amends to such people whenever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others. This step gives us the opportunity to take concrete action to heal the damage of our past and to move further along on the pathway out of isolation and loneliness. Accepting responsibility for the harm we’ve done to others is a humbling experience because it forces us to admit the effect we have had on people that we care about. It requires much courage to successfully complete this step. It is not easy to admit to someone face to face that we have hurt him or her and to ask for forgiveness. Doing this, however, leads to increased self-esteem, serenity, and peace, both in ourselves and in our relationships.

Steps 8 & 9 help us repair our past. Step 10 – We continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it – is a maintenance step that is designed to help us stay on track in our recovery. Doing a daily inventory and making amends as needed strengthens and protects our recovery and is a vital part of walking a healthy Christian walk.

Step 11 – We sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and power to carry that out – is another maintenance step. Our relationship with God is our most important relationship. In order for that relationship to be vibrant and alive, ongoing honest communication is critical. As we draw near to God in prayer and meditation, we draw close to our source of power, serenity, guidance and healing. To ignore communication with God is to unplug our power source.

Step 12 – Having had a spiritual experience as the result of these steps, we try to carry this message to others and to practice these principles in all our affairs – is an action step. Step 12 calls us to reach out to those who are hurting and struggling, and to share with them our experience, strength and hope. 1 Peter 3:10 tells us: “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have”. The most powerful way that we can work Step 12 of carrying this message to others is to actually WALK the Christian walk, to walk the walk, not just talk the talk. When working Step 12 a good rule of thumb is “Actions speak louder than words”. There is no more powerful witness of God’s transformational love and power than a transformed life that lives that transformation day in and day out.