Uninvited by Lysa TerKeurst

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So many great quotes – I should have opened a twitter account so I could share them with Uninvitedyou all!  Uninvited: Living Loved When You Feel Less Than, Left Out, and Lonely is the most recent of Lysa TerKeurst’s books.  (Others we have loved are The Best Yes and Unglued.)  Lysa is very funny, self-deprecating, honest, and relatable.  She’s like the girlfriend who leans in and tells you her heart struggles, but makes you spit out your coffee from laughing so hard.

Uninvited invites you to consider the power of rejection and its roots, to evaluate where rejection is damaging your relationships today, and to grasp what it means to live fully loved by God.  The book is excellent reading.  In addition, the study guide and dvd series (6 sessions of 15 min) offer you the opportunity to really evaluate yourself, to study relevant scripture passages, and to be held accountable by your small group over a period of time.

Members of our group walked away from the study with many different learning points.  For some it was digesting what the unlimited love and forgiveness of Jesus really means.  For others it was making the shift from walking into a social setting in need of affirmation (a dangerous and unfulfilling game), to being the one who walks into a social setting full of love and able to overflow into the lives of those more needy.  For some it was embracing the pain of the past, but realizing that it does not define their future.  And many of us grasped the lessons of the olive tree – that the hard, crushing times are a key part of God producing valuable fruit in our lives.

Buy two copies, one for you and one to give to a friend who will read it with you!

Uninvited

Prodigal God by Tim Keller

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My husband kept telling me I would love Prodigal God (2008) and I finally picked it up as a study for my small group.  It’s a short book, and extremely powerful.

You are probably familiar with the story in Luke 15 often known as “the parable of the prodigal son”.  Keller argues that we’ve missed 80 percent of the meaning behind this story because we focus on the Younger Brother.  It is rather a story of two sons – both lost, both seeking fulfillment and happiness in ways that are empty and sinful.  Keller says the parable redefines sin and lostness, and helps us understand how the Older Brother is just as lost as the Younger Brother.  Keller explores Jesus Christ as the true Elder Brother, how we long for home and find it so difficult to return, and how our Heavenly Father welcomes us into a feast that is salvation.

Keller writes, “I have seen more people encouraged, enlightened, and helped by this passage, when I explained the true meaning of it, than by any other Biblical text.”  Read it.  Prodigal God book

And don’t miss the 30 minute teaching video Keller did to accompany the book:

5x5x5 Reading – Romans

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If you’re reading through the New Testament this year with us, then the final words of Jesus in Matthew 28:19-20 should still be ringing in your ears.  “Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, even to the very end of the age.”  Into all the world – including the very heart of the ruling empire.

Ah, Rome – the seat of a powerful kingdom that ruled the western world.  In the first century, Rome was the center of the western world in every way: law, culture, power, and learning.  In his letter to the Romans, the apostle Paul succinctly addresses the whole scope of Christian doctrine, which, at that time, was still being passed along orally from town to town.   Paul writes this letter from the city of Corinth, to believers in Rome (mostly gentile, but not entirely) a couple of years before Paul goes to Rome for the first time.

Paul structures a clear argument that unfolds point by point:

Romans 1-3 Introduction, the problem, and the need for the gospel (the end of chapter 3 is the theological core of the whole book, and the Bible for that matter);

Romans 4-5 Expanding the concept of how we become righteous before God

Romans 6-8 The working out of the gospel in a Christian’s life (chapter 7 is the famous “struggle with sin” that my family calls the Dr. Suess passage, and chapter 8 is full of well-known promises…)

Romans 9-11 Linking the gospel to the Old Testament for Jewish believers

Romans 12-16 Practical advice on specific problems

Great revivals in church history have been spawned by the study of Romans.  Augustine, Martin Luther, and John Wesley all trace their spiritual renewals to a reading of Romans.  Romans is a book to savor, read it slowly and carefully.  Though it is complex and requires concentration, it has no equal as a concise statement of the Christian faith!

Day6 (57)St. Peter’s Square, The Vatican in Rome, March 2017

A Seminary Adventure

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AsburyLogoI have no idea what I have gotten myself into.  Today I received an acceptance letter from Asbury Theological Seminary to start an M.A. in Biblical Studies this fall, as a long-distance learner.  Last week I asked Dr. Sandy Richter “Are you aware that God has used you to call me, thus disrupting my relatively peaceful sheep-herding existence?!”  Two months ago, seminary was not on my mind.  The call of God is sometimes like that – sudden, clear, unmistakable, and always life-changing.

This January God gave me, “And Abraham obeyed, not knowing where he was going” (Hebrews 11:8) as my verse for the year.  I raised my eyebrows a bit at that one – my first clue that this could be an interesting year!

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Renewal conference with Dr. Sandy Richter, March 2017

Then in March God called me to seminary,
through a weekend spent with Dr. Richter and the unanimous affirmation of my pastoral colleagues and students.  I will never forget my first discussion with my pastor-friend Rudy Olivo.  He listened to me for a long-time, and then he asked me three times, “Are you called?”  I nodded slowly, “Yes, I know this in my heart to be true.  This is what God is calling me to.”  So, my answer was “yes” even though I didn’t know exactly what I was saying yes to!

When I told my Isaiah class that God was calling me to seminary but I was not sure exactly why, they looked at me like I was crazy.  “To teach, of course!” they exclaimed.  I am passionate about teaching and I thrive in the classroom environment, interacting with students and helping them connect Biblical truth with their daily lives. Over the last two months, He has continued to give me courage and clarify the details of this new call.

And so the adventure begins.  It’s a two-year degree if you go full-time, but I hope to finish it in 4-5 years without leaving my current ministry (which should be about the time my youngest will finish high school).  By doing Biblical Studies I will mostly be dealing with inductive study of the text, some Greek and Hebrew, and some theology,  which fits what I’m really interested in.

Please pray for me, for continued direction and wisdom, for funding, and for my sweet family as I attempt to balance my current commitments and this new project.  I have experienced the emotional roller coaster of excitement and amazement that God would call me, then terror and fear as the task feels beyond me, and slowly I presume I will settle into a place of hard work and dependence on His grace!

Applying for this program really is an act of faith for me.  I am not certain what the outcome will be, but I identify with what Oswald Chambers wrote in My Utmost For His Highest, “One of the difficulties in Christian work is this question – What do you expect to do?  You do not know what you are going to do; the only thing you know is that God knows what He is doing.” (January 2)

 

 

5x5x5 Matthew and the Parables

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Dear 5x5x5 Readers,

We started this week reading Matthew 13.  You can go ahead and draw a big line in your Bible at the chapter break between Matthew 12 and 13, since it is a significant turning point and I don’t want you to miss it!  A good Bible study student sometimes needs to step back and look at the outline of the whole book.  This is what we find for Matthew:

Ch 1-2  Genealogy, birth, younger years
Ch 3-4  Baptism, temptation, start of Jesus’ public ministry (Year 1)
Ch 5-7  Sermon on the Mount
Ch 8-9  Many miracles, healings, casting out demons, and raising the dead
Ch 10   Disciples sent out to do ministry
Ch 11   More preaching and teaching
Ch 12   Huge conflict with Pharisees over the Sabbath, they begin to plot to kill him (end of Year 2)
Ch 13   Jesus begins to teach in parables (Year 3)

Throughout years 1-2 of His public ministry Jesus taught in a straightforward manner so that everyone could understand.  His sermons were full of Old Testament references, and his miracles gave evidence to all that He was the Son of God.  Jesus’ teaching style shifts after the conflict with the Pharisees, and from chapter 13 on He will teach primarily in parables.  For those who seek truth, Jesus is delighted to explain the meaning behind his parables.  But for those who seek only to agitate the crowds and who are not interested in learning, the meaning is veiled.  In fact, “Their hearts have become calloused, they hardly hear with their ears, and they have closed their eyes.” Mt 13:15

There are nearly 40 parables in the gospels, mostly in Matthew and Luke.  If you are intrigued by them, I recommend reading John Macarthur’s recent book Parables: The Mysteries of God’s Kingdom Revealed Through the Stories Jesus Told.

Happy reading!

5x5x5 intro to Matthew

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If you’re on track with our 5x5x5 plan, we have just finished the book of James, and are starting Matthew.  Though we have already read one account of Jesus’ life in the book of Mark, you will find that Matthew’s story is from a different point of view.  Imagine two of your close friends – if an outsider asked each of them to tell your life story, they would probably tell it slightly differently, each highlighting things they thought were important or particularly memorable.  Your life story hasn’t changed, it is simply told from a different perspective!

Matthew was a Jew, a tax collector who became a disciple of Jesus.  He writes to a Jewish audience using metaphors and references they would be familiar with.  In fact, Matthew quotes the Old Testament more than any other New Testament author. The book of Matthew is the first in our New testament because it serves a bridge from the Old to New Testament.  From the very first sentence Matthew makes it clear, he is connecting Jesus’ arrival with the Old Testament story line… a story that begins back with Abraham, Moses, the people of Israel, and a line of kings.

The Jews had been waiting thousands of years for a Messiah, a King – but Jesus and His kingdom were completely different from what the Jews expected.  We learn more about the King (Jesus) and the Kingdom of God in Matthew’s collection of Jesus’ teachings including the Sermon on the Mount (Mt 5-7), Jesus’ interaction with people, and the parables (Mt 13-25).

As you read and reflect on Matthew here are some ideas to help you discover the riches of this gospel:  Look up some the references to the Old Testament, highlight all of the commands Jesus gives, mark the word “kingdom” as you read, or simply ask the question, “Who is Jesus? What is he like?” and record what you discover in jour journal.

Persevere in your reading!  One chapter a day is not too much!  — Mindy

 

5x5x5 Reading Plan – James

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NT imageWelcome to the book of James!  The book of James is all about how we live as Christians – it’s about “doing”.  Sometimes this book is controversial because of its emphasis on good works, and readers wonder if it contradicts other parts of scripture.  Let me encourage you to see James through the analogy of motion – where there is life, there will be motion.  Movement does not cause life, but it does invariably follow life.  Movement is a sure sign that life is present.  The same is true in the spiritual realm.  Genuine faith in Christ always results in actions that demonstrate faith.  Actions are evidence of faith.

James is a simple preacher, perturbed that people are claiming Christ but are not living right.  His words are easy to understand, but are we doing what he says?  “Do not merely listen to the word and so deceive yourselves.  Do what it says. “ – James 1:22