BOOK GIVEAWAY: Becoming Dallas Willard

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Five years ago this month Dallas Willard, after a battle with cancer, entered into the presence of his Father in Heaven. Dallas left a lasting impression on innumerable amounts of people through his teachings, books, and personal influence.

In his recent release, Gary W. Moon explores the life and spiritual journey of Dallas Willard in the biography entitled, Becoming Dallas Willard (IVP, Formatio).

In celebration of Dallas’ life and the book’s release, I want to give away one physical hardcover copy to a reader of this blog.

Simply comment below with your name and please also mention the title of your favorite Dallas Willard book or resource.

The winner will be notified on June 1st 2018.

(USA mailing residents only please, unless you are willing to help pay for international shipping rates).

Thank you!

“Dallas Willard was a personal mentor and inspiration to hundreds of pastors, philosophers, and average churchgoers. His presence and ideas rippled through the lives of many prominent leaders and authors, such as John Ortberg, Richard Foster, James Bryan Smith, Paula Huston, and J. P. Moreland. As a result of these relationships and the books he wrote, he fundamentally altered the way tens of thousands of Christians have understood and experienced the spiritual life.”

“Whether great or small, everyone who met Dallas was impressed by his personal attention, his calm confidence, his wisdom, and his profound sense of the spiritual. But he was not always the man who lived on a different plane of reality than so many of the rest of us. He was someone who had to learn to be a husband, a parent, a teacher, a Christ follower.”

“The journey was not an easy one. He absorbed some of the harshest and most unfair blows life can land. His mother died when he was two, and after his father remarried he was exiled from his stepmother’s home. Growing up in Depression-era, rural Missouri and educated in a one-room schoolhouse, he knew poverty, deprivation, anxiety, self-doubt, and depression. Though the pews he sat in during his early years were not offering much by way of love and mercy, Dallas, instead of turning away, kept looking for the company of a living, present, and personal God.”

“In Gary W. Moon’s candid and inspiring biography, we read how Willard became the person who mentored and partnered with his young pastor, Richard Foster, to inspire some of the most influential books on spirituality of the last generation. We see how his love of learning took him on to Baylor, the University of Wisconsin, and the University of Southern California, where he became a beloved professor and one of the most versatile members of the philosophy department.”

“The life of Dallas Willard deserves attention because he became a person who himself experienced authentic transformation of life and character. Dallas Willard not only taught about spiritual disciplines, he became a different person because of them. He became a grounded person, a spiritually alive person as he put them into practice, finding God, as he often said, “at the end of his rope.” Here is a life that gives us all hope.”

(From the description found on IVP’s website, found here)

IVP has made available Chapter One of Becoming Dallas Willard available on their website, linked directly below:

Read Chapter One of “Becoming Dallas Willard” by clicking HERE

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Finding Favor by Brian Jones – Book Review

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“We’re all looking for “the thing” that will help us become everything God created us to be in every area of our life. God’s favor is that thing.” – Brian Jones

Finding Favor: God’s Blessings Beyond Health, Wealth, and Happiness is Brian Jones’ fourth book; and quite like his other three, this one was a fun, informative, pleasure of a read. In this book, Jones, a pastor of a large multi-site church outside of Philadelphia, thoughtfully and good-humoredly draws in the audience with entertaining, enjoyable, easy to follow stories that apply directly to the purpose of exploring God’s favor. For Jones, even as a seasoned pastor with graduate degree, the notion and perception of God’s favor didn’t really hit him until a significant moment in his life changed all that.

This book is a much-needed look at a topic that, although we may have heard the term: favor, can easily be misunderstood, misapplied, mistreated, and mishandled. In a culture and society that flocks to hear the latest message of health, wealth, and prosperity, it is refreshing and relieving to receive such real-world, beneficial teachings built on Jones’ own experience and knowledge of the Bible.

“God’s favor is rarely understandable or predictable. But it is always exactly what we need.” – Brian Jones

Finding Favor is a thorough, useful, engaging, and practical examination of what it truly means to live in, seek after, and recognize God’s favor. At 170 pages with ten chapters, the only disappointment was realizing that I was finished reading it so quickly.

I highly recommend grabbing a copy for yourself and a friend!

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary publicity copy from the publisher (IVP Books). (This in no way affected my honest review of the book)

Talking with God by Adam Weber – Book Review Repost (Re-released today)

 

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A lot of books on prayer read in a typical format.  They define prayer.  They explain the definition of prayer.  They give examples.  Then they conclude with a challenge to pray.  This book, Talking with God: What To Say When You Don’t Know How To Pray by Adam Weber, is a different breed of prayer books.

Talking with God is sectioned into four parts: The God We Talk With, The Way We Pray, How to Pray When…, and Only The Beginning.  These sections essentially function to help the reader understand a small momentum shift has occurred in the focus of the topic.  Other than that, the author maintains what I found was a wonderful conversational style of writing, which made for extremely fast reading.  Also, the type font is super easy on the eyes, which makes this book very enjoyable to digest.

I highly recommend this book.  It is clear, concise, yet full of Weber’s personal stories of reflection, humor, and typical life situations to bring a “realness” to prayer.  One can understand the definition of prayer, but applying that to the often hectic, busy, overwhelmed lives that most of us live becomes a challenge.  Weber simplifies prayer into what it should be: talking with God.

Don’t think that because the book is a quick read and a simplification of prayer that it lacks depth, because it certainly does not.  Weber cites and addresses many passages of Scripture, explaining how they apply to the prayer life of the individual.  Weber also pulls from past prayer teachers such as Brother Lawrence.  Beyond the research, Weber uses many personal stories from his church and pastoral ministry to give the reader insight as to why this book was written and why it’s necessary in the climate of our culture.

One thing that I kept thinking about while I read, was that this book seemed to be targeted directly at my age group.  (25 to 40)  Weber uses a lot of illustrations that relate to someone who grew up during the 80s and early 90s.  I do not see this as a hindrance to anyone younger or older, but there might be a small disconnect.

Let me share one of my favorite paragraphs from the book:  “We don’t need to impress God.  He’s the one who wants to be friends with us.  Just be you.  The real you, not some weird version of you.  Don’t try to sound all prim and proper.  Don’t use strange religious words.  Don’t worry about saying the wrong thing.  Don’t make it complicated.  Just talk with him.  We can’t mess it up!  My best advice on prayer: say exactly what’s inside you.  Don’t edit your words.  Say whatever you’re feeling.  Tell God in a few words.  But don’t hesitate to ramble either.  Let it be unpolished.”

If you feel like your prayer life is lacking.  Or if you don’t have one at all.  I urge you to give this book a try.  It’s a prayer book unlike most prayer books.  It’s a call into a deeper, intimate, yet real-life, raw, conversational relationship with God.

Talking with God re-releases today (February 27th 2018) in paperback.

You can order it on Amazon HERE

 

 

Disclosure: I received this book from the publisher for this review.

Life Without Lack by Dallas Willard – Book Review Repost (Released today)

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Dallas Willard has been instrumental in my life at helping me move from being simply someone who says that believe in Jesus, to someone who actively and intimately loves Christ Jesus. I was presented with Willard’s The Divine Conspiracy at a point in my life when I was heavily considering walking away from my calling into ministry. I was done. I didn’t want to go down that path anymore. I still “believed in Jesus”, whatever that really means, but I didn’t find significance or purpose in ministry. I’d rather just watch from the sidelines. Exposure to Willard’s books changed all that. Not that Willard pushed the for call back into ministry, but his explanation of the intimacy found in Christ Jesus and what he means to truly follow Him, helped me to see life through a new lens, a new perspective. I will forever be grateful and thankful for Dallas Willard.

When Dallas Willard died in May of 2013 I was heartbroken. No one knew it until today, but I cried in my car on my way to work after finding out. Although I knew Dallas was experiencing the wonderful presence of Christ, I grieved the loss of an incredible man of God and the end to his books and teachings.

Thankfully, through the work of Gary Black Jr., Gary Moon, John Ortberg, Jan Johnson, and more, Dallas’ influence and work has continued.

Life Without Lack: Living in the Fullness of Psalm 23 is another beautiful continuation and extension of Willard’s work posthumously. Through the efforts and collaboration of Larry Burtoft (a friend of Willard) and Becky Willard Heatley (Willard’s daughter) another public addition to Willard’s catalogue has been preserved.

Life Without Lack is a compilation of Willard’s eight-week teachings series on Psalm 23 originally taught in early 1991 to a group of roughly thirty people at Valley Vista Christian Community. The teaching was preserved on cassette tape, and transposed into this book, a project that Burtoft had planned on for years, but never found fruition until after Willard’s death. As a Dallas Willard enthusiast, I was absolutely delighted to hear the news of the release of this book.

The book is broken into eight chapters, which follow the eight original teaching sessions. Each chapter richly and deeply defines and explains life with God, through the context of God’s ever-present character. Psalm 23 provides the foundation of the teaching yet is not overly expounded. If one were looking for a commentary on Psalm 23, this is not the book for that. What is elucidated is the fact that the Good Shepherd as described in Psalm 23, offers true freedom and peace in an intimate relationship with Him.

Life Without Lack is meaty. It is not a quick read. It is a book that is meant to take time to digest, time to apply to one’s life, and time to dwell upon. This is not a new concept to those who are familiar with Willard. For me, at least, while reading Willard, to read and re-read the same chapter in a sitting, is commonplace. Good content takes time and reflection to grasp and process.

Overall, I highly recommend this book. Read it slowly. Read it purposely. And read it with the hopeful expectation that you’ll be enlightened, encouraged, and invigorated by it. May you grow deeper in your relationship with Christ Jesus through it. If this is your very first Dallas Willard book, then I recommend you borrow or purchase Hearing God, The Spirit of the Disciplines, The Divine Conspiracy, or Renovation of the Heart to read beforehand or closely afterward. Dallas Willard writes and speaks with a breadth of knowledge, worth taking the time to ponder and apply.

Life Without Lack released today (February 27, 2018). It is available in hardcover, ebook, audiobook, and more. You can order on Amazon, Christianbook, and through all major book retailers.

Disclaimer: I received an Advance Reader Copy from the publisher. (This in no way affected my honest review of the book)

God-Soaked Life by Chris Webb – Book Review

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I first became acquainted with Chris Webb when he was the president of Renovaré USA. For those unfamiliar with Renovaré, it is a Christian ministry “that models, resources, and advocates fullness of life with God experienced, by grace, through the spiritual practices of Jesus and of the historical Church.” Currently, Webb acts as Deputy Warden of Launde Abbey and Diocesan Spirituality Adviser to the Diocese of Leicester.

God-Soaked Life (InterVarsity Press – Formatio) is Webb’s second book, after previously releasing the delightful and beneficial The Fire of the Word in 2011, and it certainly lives up to his previous accomplishment.

God-Soaked Life takes the reader through seven chapter-sections each with four sub-chapters within, all pointing and progressing towards the aim of living one’s life in the presence of God and in the reality of the Kingdom. Webb reveals and emphasizes the significance of the Christian living in community. Living alert to the Kingdom and conscious of the ever-loving care and compassion of the Father, motivates the Christian to live with that same desire. A loving Christian community is the natural outworking of a God-soaked life.

Chris Webb beautifully articulates the deep meaning of living as the community of God, the church, here on the earth. Life is not a precursor to eternity. Life is not a waiting room before we get to Heaven. Life is the marvelous opportunity to live in the presence of Christ, furthering and continuing His ministry, His Kingdom, now.

A quote from the book that summarizes well the direction the author is leading the reader, comes near the end of the book: “To follow Jesus is to accept his call to participate in the gift of God’s kingdom realized in our own time and place, and so to live as members of the God-soaked community of love” (Webb 2017, 170).

Rather than simply defining or outlining how one should live, think, or act within the Kingdom, or God-soaked life, Webb also sympathizes and identifies some of the struggles and mistakes we all make as human beings. This establishes authenticity and credibility between the author and reader, but also allows for feasibility, user-friendliness, tangibility, and practical application into one’s life.

I highly recommend reading God-Soaked Life. It is an easy read (under 200 pages), but not lacking in profound communication and insight. Although the intriguing stories and illustrations keep the reader turning pages, I suggest reading this book slowly, prayerfully, and contemplatively. The magnitude of the transformation that a God-soaked life necessitates is worth the time and patience.

One characteristic of the book that I absolutely loved was the Scripture and Reflection pages, found at the end of each of the seven sections. These extra reflections allow the reader to not only engage the topic in a more profound manner, but also to provoke thought and behavior change. Don’t read past these. Take the time and effort to “soak” it all in.

Overall, God-Soaked Life was a thorough, comprehensive, and transformative look at what it truly means to live in the Kingdom of God right now.

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary publicity copy from the publisher. (This in no way affected my honest review of the book)

Silence & Solitude – Five Minute Moments

Today in Five Minute Moments, we explored the spiritual disciplines of silence and solitude.  A practice of removing oneself from the hurry and busyness of one’s life, in search of quiet and isolated time with God.

In the video presentation we read a brief excerpt from Ruth Haley Barton’s book Invitation to Solitude and Silence, as well as practice a short meditative devotional listening time focused on Psalm 46:10.

I hope you enjoy, as we seek to connect deeper and more intimately with God through the spiritual disciplines.

Life Without Lack by Dallas Willard – Book Review

LWL

Dallas Willard has been instrumental in my life at helping me move from being simply someone who says that believe in Jesus, to someone who actively and intimately loves Christ Jesus. I was presented with Willard’s The Divine Conspiracy at a point in my life when I was heavily considering walking away from my calling into ministry. I was done. I didn’t want to go down that path anymore. I still “believed in Jesus”, whatever that really means, but I didn’t find significance or purpose in ministry. I’d rather just watch from the sidelines. Exposure to Willard’s books changed all that. Not that Willard pushed the for call back into ministry, but his explanation of the intimacy found in Christ Jesus and what he means to truly follow Him, helped me to see life through a new lens, a new perspective. I will forever be grateful and thankful for Dallas Willard.

When Dallas Willard died in May of 2013 I was heartbroken. No one knew it until today, but I cried in my car on my way to work after finding out. Although I knew Dallas was experiencing the wonderful presence of Christ, I grieved the loss of an incredible man of God and the end to his books and teachings.

Thankfully, through the work of Gary Black Jr., Gary Moon, John Ortberg, Jan Johnson, and more, Dallas’ influence and work has continued.

Life Without Lack: Living in the Fullness of Psalm 23 is another beautiful continuation and extension of Willard’s work posthumously. Through the efforts and collaboration of Larry Burtoft (a friend of Willard) and Becky Willard Heatley (Willard’s daughter) another public addition to Willard’s catalogue has been preserved.

Life Without Lack is a compilation of Willard’s eight-week teachings series on Psalm 23 originally taught in early 1991 to a group of roughly thirty people at Valley Vista Christian Community. The teaching was preserved on cassette tape, and transposed into this book, a project that Burtoft had planned on for years, but never found fruition until after Willard’s death. As a Dallas Willard enthusiast, I was absolutely delighted to hear the news of the release of this book.

The book is broken into eight chapters, which follow the eight original teaching sessions. Each chapter richly and deeply defines and explains life with God, through the context of God’s ever-present character. Psalm 23 provides the foundation of the teaching yet is not overly expounded. If one were looking for a commentary on Psalm 23, this is not the book for that. What is elucidated is the fact that the Good Shepherd as described in Psalm 23, offers true freedom and peace in an intimate relationship with Him.

Life Without Lack is meaty. It is not a quick read. It is a book that is meant to take time to digest, time to apply to one’s life, and time to dwell upon. This is not a new concept to those who are familiar with Willard. For me, at least, while reading Willard, to read and re-read the same chapter in a sitting, is commonplace. Good content takes time and reflection to grasp and process.

Overall, I highly recommend this book. Read it slowly. Read it purposely. And read it with the hopeful expectation that you’ll be enlightened, encouraged, and invigorated by it. May you grow deeper in your relationship with Christ Jesus through it. If this is your very first Dallas Willard book, then I recommend you borrow or purchase Hearing God, The Spirit of the Disciplines, The Divine Conspiracy, or Renovation of the Heart to read beforehand or closely afterward. Dallas Willard writes and speaks with a breadth of knowledge, worth taking the time to ponder and apply.

Life Without Lack releases on February 27, 2018. It will be available in hardcover, ebook, audiobook, and more. You can preorder on Amazon, Christianbook, and through all major book retailers.

Disclaimer: I received an Advance Reader Copy from the publisher. (This in no way affected my honest review of the book)

Five Minute Moments

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When I reflect on spiritual formation and disciplines, my mind always seems to lean towards Paul’s words in Romans 12, when he said: “I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect” (Romans 12:1-2 NRSV).

The process and progress found in spiritual formation is the lifelong transformation of the heart, mind, and soul in one’s connection, relationship, and pursuit of God.

Dallas Willard once said, “Spiritual formation in the tradition of Jesus Christ is the process of transformation of the inmost dimension of the human being, the heart, which is the same as the spirit or will. It is being formed (really, transformed) in such a way that its natural expression comes to be the deeds of Christ done in the power of Christ.”

As one draws closer to Christ Jesus, in relationship, obedience, and connection, their very whole being begins to change and transform, becoming more Christlike. This moral, character, and soul change activates within the depths of one’s self through the workings of the Spirit.  As Richard Foster said in Celebration of the Disciplines: “The classical Disciplines of the spiritual life call us to move beyond surface living into the depths. They invite us to explore the inner caverns of the spiritual realm” (Foster 1998, 1).

The practice of the spiritual disciplines is not limited to certain exercises, although the classics are presented. Rather, the practice of the spiritual disciplines flow from within, in a natural stream towards a connection with God.

Although these practices and disciplines are beneficial, they achieve nothing outside of a deep connection and relationship with God.  Jan Johnson, in her book When The Soul Listens, said: “The contemplative approach isn’t so much about doing these practices as about living with Christ in the midst of them so that they shape my life with God” (Johnson 2017, xx).

I am in the process of creating “Five Minute Moments”, a video series focused on living a life with Christ.  Through these videos I hope to engage certain topics within Christianity, and focus on how to apply them to our spiritual lives.

In this “first season” of Five Minute Moments, I will be concentrating my attention on the spiritual disciplines.  You can check out the introductory video here:

It is my goal that you grow closer and deeper in your relationship with Christ.  Even if it takes just five minutes at a time.

I believe that the life-long process of spiritual formation and the practice of spiritual disciplines are a fulfilling and transforming path towards Christlikeness in the believer through the power of the Holy Spirit. This God ordained transformation can and will naturally lead followers into a deeper relationship with Him as we seek to become disciple-making disciples of Christ Jesus here on earth.

New Beginnings, New Pursuits

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Sorry it’s been a while. I’ve had some major changes occur in my life over the past few months. New ministry. New baby. New home. New city. All new, and all wonderful blessings. Nevertheless, busy.

In the coming weeks and months, I plan on gearing this back up again with some continued insights on the disciplined life (spiritual formation), as well as some new book review entries. I have been gifted with a few advance review copies of some upcoming books, that will be sure to please. Also, along with my spiritual formation blog entries, it has been stirring within me to begin a short vlog series on my YouTube page on the same topic. I am currently working on these things, so keep an eye out.

Today, I wanted dive a little deep, into a passage I have been studying: Romans 12:1-14.

Most Christians find Romans 12:1-4 to be a well-known, frequently referenced, set of verses. New Testament scholar Douglas Moo goes as far to say that it’s “one of the best-known passages in the NT.” (Moo 1996, 748). The reputation and recognition of this portion of Paul’s letter to Rome is due in part to its robust language and use of “vivid imagery” (Moo 1996, 748). The use of strong and concise verbal imagery paints a picture in the head of the reader, fully encapsulating Paul’s main drive, which is to promote the appropriate response and behavior in and of Christians, despite the world around them.

The struggle, that has lasted for centuries and beyond, is resisting the urge to live and act like those in the surrounding community and culture. No matter where or when in history, the problem of living as a Christian, while being influenced by society and ruled by a government system has weighed on the religious and moral life of the individual and the church. Although Christians desire to live within the framework lived and modeled by Christ Himself, the world is fallen and sinful, limiting the believer’s ability to flourish. New Testament scholar James Dunn calls the current condition of the world, this side of sin, “the age of Adam”, when he says that “a redefined people of God, no less than ethnic Israel, must address the question of how it should relate to the power structures within which it must live in the age of Adam.” (Dunn 1988, 705). So, then how ought Christians to live in a world surrounded by unchristian structure? New Testament scholar Stephen Westerholm, though basic and rudimentary, says that “Christians are to align their behavior unequivocally with the good.” (Westerholm 2004, 159). Paul mentions exactly what the good truly is when he says, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Rom 12:2 NRSV). Ultimately, Christians are to align their thoughts, actions, and lives with the will of God.

Worship must be done on a much larger and wider scale than just some singing and music on a Sunday morning and/or Wednesday evening. Worship must fully encapsulate the individual and drive the church body. “By the mercies of God” (Rom 12:1 NRSV) we are to worship our Father in Heaven. This is so much more than a list of what we should do, or what we shouldn’t do, it’s an attitude and lifestyle of constant and consistent worship. Just as an Israelite brought to the altar their sacrifice of worship, Christians are to bring to the figurative altar their entire lives. Christians are to stand out among the crowd, becoming the loyal and devoted example of Christ Jesus, until He returns. The knowledge and understanding of God’s grace and justification is the motivation and inspiration behind fully dedicating one’s life to Christ in worship and renewal. Paul expects all Christians to be the exceptional example of faith, because they know and understand God’s word, God’s promise, and God’s plan through Christ Jesus. Those who believe and accept Christ have access to a right relationship with the Father, and therefore want to and learn to walk in His ways and follow His teachings. This example is twofold, however, not only must the Christian live within the framework of Christ’s teachings individually, they must also live, love, and come together fully as a unified body of believers. God not only expects individuals to grow in their ability to transform and conform to Christ Jesus, but He also expects them to associate together as His family and people in a pagan world.

“Children of God” (Rom 8:14 NRSV) are called to live to the fullest within the framework of a family, or a body of believers. When Christians respond to the gospel, they find that they function as only a small part of a bigger mission. Paul said: “For as in one body we have many members, and not all the members have the same function.” (Rom 12:4 NRSV). Paul is urging all Christians to break away and live counter-culturally, but also to come together within the loving, close-knit, community of the body of Christ. Westerholm says: “The good life is not lived in isolation, not even in a solitary pursuit of the good. A worthy response to God’s goodness includes participation in the community of the redeemed.” (Westerholm 2004, 159). This concept of drawing closer to God through the community of God is something Paul is familiar with promoting. To the church in Corinth Paul said: “For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ” (1 Cor 12:12 NRSV).

It is clear throughout Romans, but especially in 12:1-4 that Paul is imploring and advocating for all believers to put aside the ways and desires of the world they live in, and pursue only that which glorifies and worships God. There are many ways to gain the approval of mankind, many ways to gain status within a community, and many ways to build upon one’s own ego and pride, but Paul pleads for us to resist the temptation and instead to accomplish the opposite. The world tells you to gather wealth and to focus on your own needs and desires; ultimately to seek that which is beneficial to yourself. Paul claims that one must sacrifice that desire. To present oneself as a sacrifice is to fully submit to the will and power of God. Laying down the desires of the selfish heart, and acquire the heart of Christ, seeking only that which is within the ways and will of God. This circumstance is doubled and magnified by the fact that Paul also wants the believer to renew one’s mind. To give over one’s thoughts and former focuses in life to pursue and practice only that which God desires and plans. The Christian must align their thoughts and lives with the Word of God and the leading of the Spirit, in order to fully discern and determine the will of God.

The critical and most challenging engagement Paul implores is that we are to accomplish all these things within the framework of living together, fully united within the fellowship and community of believers, the body of Christ. The gospel requires transformation, and Christ-like transformation lays down the needs and wants of the individual in humility, boosting the needs and wants of others. Genuine love and humility towards others and towards God is the only true way to appreciate, and live out that appreciation of what was done on the cross. The gravity of the sacrifice of Christ, the faithfulness of God through Christ, the gift of grace, and the ability to have a right relationship with the Father should naturally permeate all aspects of the believer and affect the way they live their lives in all contexts and circumstances.

As one matures and grows in their understanding of God, becoming more Christ-like in the process, a noticeable difference will arise. Paul is quite clear in stating how indeed that difference must look. In terms of description, I believe that Romans 12:1-4 and Colossians 3:12-17 pair nicely in what it means, and how it appears, to truly trust and follow Christ while alive on earth.

Paul said: “As God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. Bear with one another and, if anyone has a complaint against another, forgive each other; just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in the one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly; teach and admonish one another in all wisdom; and with gratitude in your hearts sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” (Col 3:12-17 NRSV).

May this be our pursuit in 2018.

 

Sources:
Dunn, James D. G. 1988. Romans 9-16: Word Biblical Commentary 38B. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson.

Moo, Douglas. 1996. The Epistle to the Romans: New International Commentary on the New Testament. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans.

Westerholm, Stephen. 2004. Understanding Paul: The Early Christian Worldview of the Letter to Romans. 2nd ed. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker.

Filling Up Fasting

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As we approach the end of the year, the holidays will start coming to mind, as we plan, organize, and begin marking up our calendars.

We will be stressed, busy, and sometimes overwhelmed. But with all of this comes some joy and celebration around the holiday tables. Thanksgiving feasts, Christmas dinners, desserts, candy, etc.

So I thought, what better time to write about fasting!

Fasting and prayer may not necessarily be commands, but we should be doing it. Often.

Typically focus of prayer and fasting is on abstaining from food, but it should be more than just that. The motivation behind our fasting should be to take our eyes off the “stuff” of this world and focus our thoughts and prayers on God Himself.

Fasting should always be restricted to a certain amount of time because not eating for awhile can obviously be damaging to the body. Fasting should never be a way of punishing our bodies to the limit, and it is not be used as a “weight loss plan” either. Prayer and fasting should allow us to gain a deeper fellowship with God our Father and Provider.

Author Dallas Willard said: “The role of fasting is to teach you about the sufficiency of God while you are deprived.”

Depravity is not something a lot of Americans are used to. We have an overabundance of food and goods. Stores on every corner, fast food off every exit, and excess of material things everywhere you look.

If we’re not careful, our reliance starts coming from what we can buy, rather than on God. What is being provided to us, becomes more important than the Provider. The more saturated we become in our consumer culture, the less we even recognize the simple blessing of having our daily bread.

So this month, I urge you to go without.

Maybe it’s one meal. Maybe it’s a day’s worth. Keep the right attitude, and focus on God.

Matthew 6:16-18 (ESV):

“And when you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, that your fasting may not be seen by others but by your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.”

What is the reward? In my experience, a deeper reliance on God and a thankful heart.