The Spirit of the Disciplines

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Individual practice is an important aspect of one’s relationship with their Father in Heaven.  Since we are human we must rely heavily upon what we do physically for our spiritual maturity and advancement.  We must physically, mentally, and emotionally work on becoming the best Christian we can, gaining the deepest relationship with God that we can, and trying to live our lives like Jesus Christ Himself.

In the book The Spirit of the Disciplines: Understanding How God Changes Lives, Dallas Willard states: “My central claim is that we can become like Christ by doing one thing – by following him in the overall style of life he chose for himself.”  (Preface ix)

Living our lives trying to follow the teachings and overall actions of Jesus will help us to become strong, mature Christians.  Willard goes on to state: “If we are to participate in the reign of God, it can only be by our actions.  And our actions are physical – we live only in the processes of our bodies.  To withhold our bodies from religion is to exclude religion from our lives.” (31)

Simply put, we cannot practice Christianity in our minds alone, for what we set our minds to should also be reflected in our daily actions.

The individual practices that we work on in our daily Christian walk are considered our spiritual disciplines, for they help us become stronger in the Lord, growing in spirituality and relationship.  “What then is the specific role of spiritual disciplines?  Their role rests upon the nature of the embodied human self – they are to mold and shape it.” (Willard, 92)  These spiritual disciplines are the physical things that we can practice to try to become more like Jesus in our thoughts, emotions, and overall actions.

In the Christian life there are many different disciplines that we have the opportunity to practice.  There are some more popular and more expected than others, but depending on the needs of the individual Christian there can be many various spiritual areas to work on and improve in discipline.  “Disciplines of Abstinence: solitude, silence, fasting, frugality, chastity, secrecy, sacrifice.  Disciplines of Engagement: study, worship, celebration, service, prayer, fellowship, confession, submission.” (Willard, 158)

The most practiced and common discipline of Christians in prayer.  Prayer can be explained simply as loving communication with God.  It is an act of love for a number of reasons: it is natural and not forced, it is honest and not deceptive, it is simple and not complicated, it is continual and not sporadic, and it is personal and not mechanical.  It is communication for two reasons which are we are talking to God and God is talking to us.  Just as it is important for people to continually keep some communication open between those who they want to have relationships with, one must also keep open the communication with God.

James 5:13-16 (ESV) says:

13 Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise. 14 Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. 15 And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. 16 Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.

Along with prayer comes the discipline of fasting.  Fasting has not been seen as very important in modern day society as much as it was in Biblical times.  Prayer and fasting were almost always intertwined together, as a way to focus on the Lord and show one’s reliance upon Him alone.

Fasting does not have to be days without food or water, but can be expressed in many different ways, such as skipping a meal to focus on prayer and meditation with God.  Adding aspects of fasting to one’s spiritual life with promote growth, for one’s thanksgiving towards the Lord as well as overall trust and reliance will surely improve and strengthen.

Solitude and meditation are two incredible disciplines which promote being alone with the Lord in an individual, quiet, personal, intimate setting.  There were many times throughout Jesus’ life, as seen in the Gospel, where He would go off alone and spend time with our Father in Heaven.  This was Jesus’ time to spend in quiet mediation with the Lord in order to receive wisdom, gain insight, intimately pray, and many other spiritually richening practices.

Intimate time spend with God creates an intimate relationship with the Lord, therefore strengthening one’s spiritual life.  Not only will a believe be able to listen to God, this time of quiet can be used to reflect on one’s Christian life, and possibly think of things that they might need to improve or work on further.  Setting aside time meant specifically for the Lord is a very important spiritual practice, especially in the fast paced, on-the-go, modern society.

The spiritual discipline and practice of simply reading the Word of God is one of the most important and beneficial ways to grow spiritually.  Diving into the Word can be one of the easiest ways to gain simple knowledge of the Lord and His teachings.  When one is familiar with the Word of God, then they will naturally begin to apply some of the teachings and concepts they learn into their daily lives.  The Word of God can be used as a guide in life situations, as well as a weapon against evil and temptation.

Being able to read, comprehend, and apply the Word of God to one’s life in a purposeful and disciplined manner will help a Christian grow spiritually, and gain a deeper more intimate relationship and understanding of the Lord.

In the large pool of spiritual practices and discipline, one can find solitude, silence, fasting, frugality, chastity, secrecy, sacrifice, study, worship, celebration, service, prayer, fellowship, confession, submission, and many more.  All of these physical practices can be used to directly improve and strengthen the spiritual lives and overall relationship one has with Jesus Christ.

As a Christian one is expected to transform their lives and begin living as Jesus Himself as taught.  Doing so is not always easy in the world we live in, however, practicing spiritual disciplines can help us hone in on our spiritual qualities and attributes and develop them to maturity.  Just as a child must progress through the various levels of schooling in order to mature in their knowledge, a Christian must continually practice and progress in their walk with Christ and knowledge of the will of God.

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Letters from Paul

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The apostle Paul, Christianity’s first and utmost theologian, was most likely born in Tarsus, what is now modern day Turkey, likely around the year 5 A.D.  Though Saul, as he was originally named, was clearly born outside of Rome, he inherited Roman citizenship from his family.  As Paul states, he was a Hebrew of Hebrews, meaning that he was circumcised on the eighth day.  From early on in his life, Paul was associated with higher learning and strict Jewish laws and teachings.  Paul knew more than one language, including Hebrew, Aramaic, Greek, and possibly others.  Pursuing education fervently he gained knowledge from Gamaliel, and other such sources to gain a better overall education with a wide range of perspectives and viewpoints.

Paul states that he was zealous for ancestral traditions, meaning that he was extremely strict in his views and lifestyle towards the Jewish law and customs.  Paul’s life was dedicated to the point that he was to be a Pharisee, as to the Law, Shammai, being the strictest of all the sects.  He was so extreme in his ways that as he advanced in his education, he began to persecute those who were not aligned with proper Judaism, focusing intently on Christianity, known as the Way.

Paul grew to violently oppose all who followed a criminal who people would call the Messiah, for to Paul at that time, such a thing was surely blasphemy against the Lord.  Paul’s intense passion and dedication to upholding the Law to perfection led him to campaign against those who believed in Jesus, killing them.

Paul’s violent actions against Christians would not last forever, for on the road to Damascus Jesus personally confronted him and changed his life eternally.  Paul discovered that his dedication and zeal towards the Jewish Law had led him to killing and persecuting the very God whom he thought he was serving and obeying.  The people he thought were committing the crime of blaspheming were actually worshipping and following the true Messiah.  Surely, at this moment in time Paul thought he was going to be struck down and killed by the Lord for the horrible acts he committed against Jesus and the true Kingdom of God.  However, that same Jesus who he persecuted was the same God who accepted him and forgave him.  The Lord looked past his wrongdoing and called and converted Paul to become an apostle of Jesus, and a prophet of the Lord Himself.

Paul, being the educated man that he was, knew that simply adding Jesus and the concepts of His death to his thought processes and beliefs, after living his life as a dedicated Jew and Pharisee, would be complicated and difficult.  Surely distraught and confused, for his whole world had been turned upside down, Paul spent years of time in the desert thinking, praying, and pondering God and the Scriptures, educating and reeducating Himself on how this could all fit together.  This is the point in time where theology practically began, for the greatest theologian and Christian thinker reshaped what we know today as Christian theology and doctrine.  Paul used this time in the desert to understand and piece together how it all fit as one, and make it presentable and understandable for mankind.

It’s my belief that there never was a day in Paul’s life, after his call and conversion, where he did not dwell or think about the road to Damascus.  Paul experienced grace beyond all measure, something completely incomprehensible, amazing, and almost haunting.  Surely Paul thought that he deserved condemnation and judgment for the actions he committed against the Messiah Jesus, but the unexplainable grace that only God could give was the only reason he was not turned immediately into dust.  These occurrences and fact has shaped and molded Paul into the apostle and man we have come to know and love in the epistles.

Each letter Paul wrote had different purposes and interests, always with intent to teach, inform, and share the message, love, and grace of Jesus Christ.

His interest in Romans is to show that faith, by either Jews or Gentiles, in the death and resurrection of Jesus is the only means to gain acceptance by God the Father.  Paul wants followers to stop focusing so strictly to the Laws, as to their means of salvation, but rather their faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.

Paul’s interest in 1 Corinthians is to address and answer various questions for the church in Corinth, upon hearing about negative aspects going on within the congregation and receiving questions from the church itself.  His overall interest is to realign the church in love to promote love, unity, and proper worship of the Lord.

His interest in 2 Corinthians is to explain himself to the church at Corinth and rebuild a relationship which seemed to be a bit rocky after his second visit to the church.  Paul shows great care and love for all the churches wanting to regain respect, unity, and love amongst his fellow Christian brothers and sisters at the church in Corinth.

Paul’s interest in Galatians is to change the wrong teachings and thoughts of the church in Galatia.  The letter is largely concerned with the problem of Gentile Christians being told they had to be circumcised and to keep the Jewish Law in order to stay true to the Lord.  This is an instance where Paul focuses on faith in Jesus over the actions of the Law, in which one gain salvation.

His interest in Ephesians is to promote Christian unity amongst all believers of Jesus.  It is through unity and love in their relationships with others in Christ that they truly demonstrate Christian behavior.

Paul’s interest in Philippians is to spread joy and to thank the church for the generous gift that they gave to him.  Paul is writing from house arrest, so though his personal situation was not the best, he wrote to the church at Philippi with words of encouragement and love.

His interest in Colossians is to realign and refocus the church at Colossae to continue to believe in Jesus Christ alone, and to not acquire other belief systems or distorted viewpoints.  Paul did not found the church at Colossae nor had he ever visited them.  However, he heard about the mixed views spreading through the church, and wanted to make sure that Jesus was the only topic being taught, and not other philosophies.

Paul’s interest in 1 Thessalonians was to answer questions and continue to teach the church at Thessalonica.  The church needed some further guidance to help them grow deeper in Jesus, perform better as a church, and understand Jesus’ return.  His interest in 2 Thessalonians is similar to the first letter, continuing to teach on various topics, again focusing a lot on the return of Jesus.

His interest in 1 Timothy is to teach and build a good leadership within the church.  The topics of correct doctrine and how to appoint headship all revolve around the theme of church guidance and leadership.  His interest in 2 Timothy is to personally give advice and encouragement to Timothy so that he may mature and grow as a great leader and man in Jesus Christ.

Paul’s interest in Titus is to give instruction and encouragement to Titus so that he may shape, mold, teach, and discipline the Christians located in Crete.  His interest in Philemon is to give advice and teaching to Philemon concerning his slave Onesimus.  It is a letter focusing on Onesimus’ actions and eventual conversion to Christianity, and Paul’s response and explanation to Philemon about the whole situation, promoting grace.

Though Paul is not alive today, churches and individual Christians can use his letters as framework for correct Christian behavior and proper doctrine.  It would be interesting to see what Paul would have written to our modern day churches concerning the actions and behavior that go on in today’s congregations.

I believe that the typical framework in which Paul would follow for writing a letter to a contemporary church would remain similar to those which he wrote to the first century churches, with minor changes.  Paul would surely begin all contemporary letters with a greeting, a thanksgiving, and praises for all that the church is doing in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ.  The body of Paul’s contemporary letters would definitely include discussions and teachings on the topic of love and unity, how all churches must strive for both qualities.  As well, his letters would include many church specific issues, and how the individual church could tackle and issue or improve in certain areas.

Paul would surely also include a section of answered questions that the church possibly would have asked him, or had obviously been in need of hearing.  Then finally, I believe that Paul would end with practical applications, personal advice, more encouragement, and prayers.  I could see each letter fitting a similar Pauline style format, but being perfectly tailored to the needs and concerns of each individual church.

A letter from Paul to my church or your church, would surely be a great blessing.  Though such a letter could never occur, I believe searching and studying the Scriptures and applying Pauline principles to current church issues can give great insight to possible improvements and changes that might need to be addressed or worked on.  Using correct knowledge of context and application with Paul’s teachings and concepts properly, should guide and improve the modern church as well as individual Christians.

Paul is the greatest Christian theologian and missionary of not only his time, but of all time.  Understanding who he is, what he believed, the concepts and ideas he created and explained in our terms, and all that he wrote, is essential to any Christian’s belief system and overall faith in God.

Lens Crafter

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Jesus, being God Himself, humbled Himself completely, so much so that, as we are told in the Bible, He took on the form of a human man and came to this earth.  Jesus, the human being, obviously was forced to therefore live His humanly life on this earth.  This fact forced Jesus to acquire a worldview.  A person’s worldview is the “lens” by which someone views the world around them.  The “lens” that Jesus used was composed of fulfilling the will of God according to prayer, the Word, direct revelation, and through His intimate relationship with the Father.

In a book that I had to read back in Bible college, Think Like Jesus, George Barna writes that Jesus had a foundation, focus, filter, and faith in His life.  Jesus’ worldview foundation was the Word of God, in which He used to guide His entire life in all situations.  Jesus’ worldview focus was knowing, doing, and fulfilling the will of God the Father.  Jesus’ filter in relation to His worldview was spiritual in nature, allowing for the thoughts and actions of everything one did to be a spiritual matter in some form or another.  Jesus’ faith was firmly and solely in God the Father alone, which influenced His worldview in every aspect.

Jesus was able to view the world around Him unlike anyone else in the world ever has, or ever will be able to do.  Jesus knew directly the will of the Father in Heaven, and could see what the world around Him needed in order to help fulfill it completely.  Jesus died to fulfill the will of the Father, as well as to keep the worldview in which He so deeply had faith.  Keeping His mind on the will of God, the Word of God, the spiritual welfare of others, and always in love, helped to make Jesus’ worldview what we see in the New Testament.

Think Like Jesus also lays out the ten Biblical admonitions to “think like” Jesus.  This aspect of thinking like Jesus relate directly to Jesus’ worldview, which included: Seek God’s wisdom, Don’t be fooled, Commit to what’s important, Be transformed, Fight appropriately, Rely on God’s guidance, Get fit spiritually, Pay attention, Fear God, and Trust God alone.

Modern Christians can learn to “think like Jesus” by gaining a deep and intimate relationship with Him, by learning from the Word of God, by trying to let their life be guided by the Holy Spirit, and by trying to live like Him according to some of the attributes that are listed above in Barna’s list of Biblical admonitions.  When we seek the wisdom of God, we are directly looking for perfect guidance and perfect knowledge from above.  God knows what is right and needed in our lives, and seeking His wisdom will help us act in the correct ways.

Transformation is another vital aspect which is completely needed for modern Christians to begin living and thinking like Jesus.  The transformation of the heart, mind, and soul is necessary for a worldly person to become a spiritual person in Christ.  Becoming a Christian takes more than simply making a decision; it takes an entire life change.  Giving one’s life over to Christ means to completely change the humanly way of thought process, and to try one’s best to acquire Jesus’ view of the world and of the spiritual.  Focusing on the kingdom of God, and on one’s relationship with God Himself, will help to make the change.

Relying on and trusting God alone in one’s life will help to mold someone into a thought process that could be like that of Jesus.  Jesus did nothing on His own accord, for He referenced God the Father in everything He did.  It was not Jesus’ will, but Jesus carrying out the will of the Father who sent Him.  A modern Christian who treats their life the same way will become much closer to thinking like that of Jesus, if they put the Father first in every aspect of their lives.

Jesus’ worldview was that of fulfilling the will of His Father in Heaven, building up the Kingdom of God, and making all decisions with love in mind.  Jesus had a foundation, focus, filter, and faith which completely molded His worldview.  Though we are not perfect like Jesus, we are surely strive to acquire such a worldview, which puts the Kingdom of God first, trying our best to view the world in the spiritual since, and always with love.

N.T. Wright’s Lenten Prayer

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Yesterday, I was reading N.T. Wright’s Lent for Everyone devotional on the YouVersion Bible App.  For those of you who know me, I love Tom Wright.  Since discovering him during college, his works have shaped and molded me as a Christian.  I still have not had the pleasure of meeting him face to face, but one can hope.

Like many times previous, Wright’s words make me stop and think, and consider the amazing wonder of God.  This section on prayer did just that, so I thought I would share it with you.

“Prayer is a mystery. I’ve often heard people saying, with a sneer, ‘It doesn’t go beyond the ceiling, you know.’ But the point of prayer, at least the way Jesus saw it, is that it doesn’t have to. Your father, he says, is there in the secret place with you. He sees and knows your deepest thoughts and hopes and fears. He hears the words you say. He hears, too, the things you can’t put into words but want to lay before him anyway. Prayer, in fact, isn’t a mystery in the sense of ‘a puzzle we can’t understand’. Prayer is a symptom, a sign, of the mystery: the fact that heaven and earth actually mingle together. There are times when they interlock; there are places where they overlap. To pray, in this sense, is to claim a time and place — it can be anywhere, any time — as one of those times, one of those places.

If prayer is about heaven and earth overlapping in time and space, it’s also about them coming together in matter, in the stuff of this world, the clay from which we are made. To pray, in this sense, is to claim — think about it and realize just how daring this is! — that the living God, enthroned in heaven, can make his home with you, within you. To make this point vividly, go into your room in secret and pray there. Take God seriously.

But, when you do so, realize one more thing. If prayer is about heaven and earth coming together at one time, in one place, within the lump of clay we call ‘me’, then it’s going to change this person called ‘me’. In particular, it’s going to make me a forgiver. Jesus was quite clear about this. All of us have been hurt, wounded, slighted, annoyed by other people. How much more have we ourselves done that to God! Yet we want him to be with us, to hear us, and — yes! — to forgive us. How can we not be forgivers too?

So the great prayer comes together. Utterly simple, utterly profound. A child can learn it; an old, wise saint will still be going deeper into it. Heaven is not far away, and it’s where we meet the God who, with breathtaking confidence, we can call ‘Father’. Familiarity must not imply contempt. His very name is holy, and we must honour it as such. And what we most want — the strange phenomenon of which prayer itself is a supreme example! — is that his kingdom should come and his will be done on earth as in heaven. When we pray, we pray for that goal but we also pray within that promise.

We then place our needs, whether simple or complex, within that framework. Bread for the day ahead. Forgiveness of debt — the debts we owe to God, the debts too (this may surprise some) we owe one another. And then, importantly, rescue: rescue from the time of testing, of trial, whether that be personal temptation, frequently repeated, or the ‘tribulation’ which Jesus, like many others of his day, believed would come upon the world before God’s deliverance finally dawned.

And rescue, too, from the evil one. Much of Jesus’ public career was a battle with the powers of darkness. That isn’t surprising, since he was announcing that God was taking back control of the world from those powers. When we pray this prayer, we are caught up in that battle, too. But we don’t face the danger alone. We claim his victory, his rescue, rather than face danger alone, his deliverance. The mystery of prayer. This prayer lies at the very centre of the ‘sermon on the mount’. It should be at the centre of our life, our own kingdom-obedience.

PRAYER
Lord, teach us to pray; teach us to forgive; make us your people. Yours is the kingdom, the power and the glory.”

If you don’t have the YouVersion Bible App, please consider downloading it.  It has multiple translations of the Bible to read, along with a massive selection of daily devotionals.  And it’s free!

And if you’re not yet familiar with N.T. Wright, I recommend starting with his books Simply Christian and Surprised by Hope.  When you’re done with those, there are many more to dive into!

The Heart of the Matter

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The Sermon on the Mount is probably the most well-known and most read sermon in the history of Christianity.  Jesus teaches many important and ground-breaking spiritual concepts which the world had never heard before the Sermon on the Mount.  One of the most important aspects of the sermon was Jesus’ concept and view of the heart of the individual.  Jesus states in Matthew 5:8: “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.”

The late Dallas Willard speaks about the heart in his book, The Divine Conspiracy, when he states: “It is the “will” aspect of personal/spiritual reality that is its innermost core.  In biblical language the will is usually referred to as “heart.”  This it is that organizes all the dimensions of personal reality to form a life or a person.  The will, or heart, is the executive center of the self.” (Willard, 80)  The heart is not simply an organ, or a symbol of love, rather the heart is a representation of one’s entire spiritual core and focus.

Willard also explains that the term “heart” is also more than just one’s spiritual core, but also one’s actual spiritual foundation, our entire Christian internal focus: “The heart, or will, simply is spirit in human beings.  It is the human spirit, and the only thing in us that God will accept as the basis of our relationship to him.  It is the spiritual plane of our natural existence, the place of truth before God, from where alone our whole lives can become eternal.” (Willard, 81)  Our heart, being our spiritual center and source of self, then becomes the source of motivation and desire for the Lord in our Christian lives.  Overall, spirituality does not have it’s origin in the mind or in what is physical; rather it derives from our internal core, or heart.

Jesus, in Matthew 6:19-23 (ESV), says:

19 “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, 20 but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.22 “The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light, 23 but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!

Our heart follows our treasure, which means that our spirituality will follow our focus, priorities, and core concerns.  The Christian is to set their heart on the kingdom of God, therefore in every word, deed, and thought one should be promoting and advancing themselves and others in the name of Jesus Christ.  There are to never be separate times when the building up the kingdom of God is not our focus, for in everything we do, we are to live for our Father in Heaven.

Willard states: “Remember that our heart is our will, or our spirit: the center of our being from which our life flows.  It is what gives orientation to everything we do.  A heart rightly directed therefore brings health and wholeness to the entire personality.  To bring this truth home to us, Jesus compares our “heartsight” to our eyesight.  We know how our eyesight affects our body in its environment.  “The eye is the lamp of the body.”  If the eye works well, then the body easily moves about in its environment.  As Jesus puts it, “Our whole body is well directed” is “full of light.”” (Willard, 206)

The direction and focus of one’s heart will result in the same direction and focus of one’s spiritual goals, actions, and destinations.  Our physical actions do not evolve from nothing at all, for they faithfully disclose what is in our heart, and we can know what is in the heart by the way one speaks, acts, and lives.  It is the internal life that Christians must intend to transform, for then one’s behavior will naturally begin follow and mimic that of the heart.
Faith and works must compliment each other in one’s Christian lifestyle.  It is through faith that we acquire our Christianity, and it is through faith that our works derive.  Our works do not make our faith, for it is our actions that naturally come from our faith.  It is our heart that therefore controls our actions.  It is through faith that we begin to spiritually transform our heart, and through our heart that we begin to change our physical actions.

“The person who treasures what lies within the kingdom sees everything in its true worth and relationship.  The person who treasures what is “on earth,” by contrast, sees everything from a perspective that distorts it and systematically misleads in practice.  The person who is addicted to a drug or to some activity is but an extreme case.  All else is seen only in its relation to the object of the addiction and enjoyment of it – even one’s own body and soul.” (Willard, 206)

A Christian’s treasure is that of the kingdom of God.  The treasure is not just the eternal life one receives in Heaven, but also the present life one lives in Christ Jesus.  This must be so, for if we are constantly living for the future, then we cannot effectively live in the present.  Our treasure is the kingdom of God now, and into forever.  Having a present treasure in our lives, allows us to work hard and show dedication for the building up of the kingdom of God, actively spreading it around to the lost and showing it in our daily words and deeds.

Jesus also calls us to pay attention to more than just our verbal dedication and commitment to the Lord, as well as the habitual memory of doing and not doing certain religious activity.  What truly matters is one’s heart, the overall spiritual core of the human being.  It is not through what we say verbally or our works physically that God judges us.  Rather, we are judged by our internal being, which is exclusively that of our heart.

A Christian with a heart focused on the teachings of Jesus, the commitment to the kingdom of God, and a dedicated, committed, intimate relationship with our Creator is a Christian with a strong spiritual heart.  It is a heart committed to the kingdom of God which will reflect the teachings of Jesus and actions of a true Christian witness and lifestyle.

The Sermon on the Mount Jesus calls believers to begin living for more than just the physical law and what can become habitual.  Believers are called to live lives of entire purity of heart, completely focused on God in every aspect.  One should do or not do something completely, and that means much more than just doing or not doing it physically in action.  Our minds and emotions must also match that of our actions, something a focused heart does easily.  A heart transformed by Jesus Christ will resonate throughout every aspect of the believer’s existence.

When God Made You Book Review

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When the opportunity came for me to review a children’s book I was excited!  Being a father of three (soon four) has turned me into a bit of an expert.  (To an extent)

The book arrived at my house while I was at work, and since my kids love getting mail they were excited for me to open it as soon as I walked through the door.  The moment I pulled the book from the mailer, my kids were immediately drawn to the colorful cover.  “Woah!  What book is that?”  My kids are used to books arriving in the mail, but usually they’re “church books”, but today this was a book for us to read together.  When God Made You by Matthew Paul Turner and illustrated by David Catrow.

Evening came.  Baths.  Snack.  Teeth brushed.  Now it was time for the story.

The most glaringly positive thing about this book is the color.  I mean, this guy left no color unused.  The illustrations are absolutely rich and beautiful.  For me, this is definitely the highlight of the book.  Not that the writing is poor, because it’s not.  The book is written in a wonderful poetic rhyme, which makes for a fun read.  However, the issue I had with my kids is that they weren’t understanding how the words connected with the pictures.  The book is listed as being for children ages 3 to 8, but I would lean more toward the older side.

Throughout the book, the reader is reminded again and again how special they are to God.  How God made them.  How God thinks about them.  How God loves them.  All while the illustrations unfold a story of a girl who is creatively using the gifts God gave her to explore and use her imagination within the world around her.  Each reminder and promise about God is creatively paired with an illustration that shows the main character implementing a portion of that trait into her imaginative play.  She’s coloring and creating a fantastical world of color and beauty, thereby expressing her God-given talents and abilities.

Overall, this is a creative book that vividly explains the ever abundant love of God, for kids.  Like I mentioned, wonderful poetic writing combined with beautiful illustrations.  The main negative being that my children struggled to connect the words with the pictures; with the over-arching theme being a bit over the head of a typical child.  I even had trouble understanding how the poem matched what was being illustrated on the last few pages.

Theological note: I was disappointed theologically in this book.  The first 5 or 6 pages were on target and encouraging for a child.  However, as the book continues I feel like the rhyming aspect sacrificed the overall quality of the original message.  The book began geared towards God’s love and creation of the child, turning into the child’s amazing qualities impressing God.  “You being you is God’s dream coming true.”  Yet, the writer never implies that the girl loves God in return, believes, has faith, recognizes God’s existence, or any other such things.  Finally, when the writer speaks of what God expects from the girl, all is listed is that she is to live by three words: “love one another”.  The author clearly missed loving God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength.  (The first part of the two-part greatest commandment)  Also, in the book God was never identified beyond just “God”, with which I always have trouble.

More info on the book can be found HERE

More into on the author can be found HERE

Disclaimer: I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.