life without fear?

29_NewsPGMPHovIn less than one month, my brother-in-law Paul who is a Navy Chaplain will get on a plane and head to Afghanistan to serve our country. He will say goodbye to my sister and four-year-old nephew for six whole months. Because of what’s going on over there, I have my share of worries and fears when it comes to Paul’s safety and God’s sovereignty.

But I’ve been encouraged today in reading Chapter 1 of Max Lucado’s new book Fearless. I downloaded the PDF off of The Fearless Times, a site that’s all about the book and is a great marketing tool for it.

In almost 25 years of writing, more than 65 million books filled with Max Lucado’s words have been sold. Max is so gifted when it comes to words that you’d think he was Jesus. But he’s not. He’s a human being with fears just like you and me.

Here are some of my favorite lines from Ch. 1 that I hope will tease you into heading over there and reading it for yourself:

“Fear herds us into a prison and slams the doors.”

“Christ-followers contract malaria, bury children, and battle addictions, and, as a result, face fears. It’s not the absence of storms that sets us apart. It’s whom we discover in the storm; an unstirred Christ.”

“Fear corrodes our confidence in God’s goodness. We begin to wonder if love lives in heaven. If God can sleep in our storms, if his eyes stay shut when our eyes grow wide, if he permits storms after we get on his boat, does he care? Fear unleashes a swarm of doubts, anger-stirring doubts.”

“And fear feels dreadful. It sucks the life out of the soul, curls us into an embryonic state, and drains us dry of contentment. We become abandoned barns, rickety and tilting from the winds, a place where humanity used to eat, thrive, and find warmth. No longer. When fear shapes our lives, safety becomes our god. When safety becomes our god, we worship the risk-free life.”

“If we medicate fear with angry outbursts, drinking binges, sullen withdrawals, self-starvation, or viselike control, we exclude God from the solution and exacerbate the problem. We subject ourselves to a position of fear, allowing anxiety to dominate and define our lives. Joy-sapping worries. Day-numbing dread. Repeated bouts of insecurity that petrify and paralyze us. Hysteria is not from God. “For God has not given us a spirit of fear” (2 Tim. 1:7).

I have always loved 2 Timothy 1:7 in that fear is not from God. Fear can make us do all kinds of crazy things.

As we get closer to Paul’s deployment, I know that God wants me to continue to trust that he’s in control and he’s directing Paul’s path no matter where he goes. The issue isn’t really about Paul going to a dangerous place, but whether I will trust and have faith in God that He is good and is sovereign over everything in life.

Book Review: Crazy Love (Ch. 1)

My friend Whitney and I are going through Francis Chan’s new book, Crazy Love. We met and discussed Chapter 1 yesterday and I’m just amazed by the truths in this book.

Francis talks about his view of God growing up in the church. For him, it was all about rules. Don’t drink. Don’t do drugs. Don’t have sex. Don’t cheat. You get the point. So he viewed God as a God who wanted to spoil his fun. He began to think: Is this it, really? Is this what being a Christian is? He didn’t want anything to do with Christianity if that was the case.

But he had an epiphany in his view of God. Through reading the Scriptures and through a few trips overseas, he realized his view of God was skewed, incorrect, and unbiblical.

God was not out to spoil his fun or take away from him. God’s commands were to give life to him, to protect him, and to show God’s love to him. Francis began to experience this love and it was so radical that he started to see that God, after all, was crazy in love with him. So much that God sent his son, Jesus, to come down to earth, die on a cross, and raise to life again so that he could be saved from his sins and have life to its fullest.

Francis goes on to say how incredible it is that Creator God would want to have a relationship with him. I resonate so much with Francis. I still think my view of God is sometimes jaded. I like to put him in a sweet little box as if I have him figured out. I sometimes think he’s casting lightning bolts down from heaven when I mess up. But I too am beginning to see that this is far from the truth. All I have to do is read God’s word to see that He is Wholly-different and it’s okay that I can’t comprehend him. I can still trust in who he is.

After watching the video below, I was in awe that God wants to have a relationship with someone as insignificant as me.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3Ya12I036lg]

DVD Bible Study Review: The Organic God

_organic-god-cover-final-full-sizeEven in our Christian culture, we have a tendency to not see God for who he is- natural, organic, essential and pure. We forget his beauty and the adjectives described in His word that make Him who He is. In The Organic God Kit, Margaret Feinberg invites you to know this “Organic God” for all that he is.

The name in itself, “Organic God” is an interesting one, but don’t look too hard for the meaning. It simply means knowing God for who he truly is—without all the additives or pollutants that often distort his awesomeness.

God’s Big-Hearted Love is an adjective Margaret taught on in Session 2 that stood out the most to me. God, as our heavenly father, is deeply in love with us. However, many of us carry experiences with our earthly fathers that have polluted our view of God. The real-life story produced in this section was powerful as a mid-aged woman describes her relationship with her earthly father and the impact it has had on her relationship with God.

The way to truly know God and what makes His heart beat is to know Him in the Scriptures. All of us have had a bruised heart some time or another, as Margaret describes, but we all have the opportunity to heal from that and run towards a relationship with Christ.

This DVD Bible study is filmed right on location near the glaciers, streams, forests, and mountains in Alaska. I have to admit that my heart was longing to be where Margaret was teaching from- it was longing to get out of the bustling city and into raw, organic nature! And it was incredibly refreshing to hear her teach in that setting.

The Leader’s Guide and corresponding workbooks complete the DVD study. It is in the written material, where you and your group will go more in depth and will be able to dive deeper into the topics Margaret addresses. The video will be the perfect catalyst for the content, allowing for life-changing discussion among your group.

Discover for yourself what the Organic God is all about.

Review: The Trouble with Paris DVD Study

paris3We often live in light of the statement, “I will be happy when…” Being immersed in Western culture, we can’t deny the heavy influence of consumerism on our lives. In The Trouble with Paris DVD study, Mark Sayers communicates relevant truth to teens, young adults, and adults across the board in way I’ve never seen before.

Filled with trendy and engaging motion graphics and video, Mark hits on three main points when it comes to reality: Hyper reality, Reality, and God’s Reality. Most of us live in hyper reality or have been influenced by it in some way. This is the life we dream of where it’s all about “me”. There’s no work—only pleasure, fun, vacation… and no pain.  This is a world the media has created (in ads, shows, movies) and because it invades so much of our lives, we often don’t want what’s real anymore. We’d rather buy that product that will add meaning to our lives. But the fact remains that it’s still a plastic promise.

The truth is that reality is far from hyper reality. Life just isn’t neatly wrapped up like it is at the end of a show or movie. Conflict often lingers way after the credits roll and injustice, war, poverty, and death still exist whether we deny it or not. Awkward silence still pervades, forcing us to face the emptiness and loneliness we sense in our hearts.

God’s reality, however, is better. He has given us glimpses of heaven on this side of earth: genuine friendships, a wonderful vacation experience, marriage, laughter, the beauty in nature and much more. We must then place meaning under His reality. So to do that we need to have a biblical view of God’s reality and how we fit into His story.

Mark Sayers portrays God’s reality with creative, cartoon illustrations in how God came to redeem all of creation. I’ve never seen the biblical account quite like this before! (you’ll just have to see it)

You’ll do your youth, young adult, and even adult ministry a disfavor by not showing the truths in this DVD and then teaching from it. I am recommending this product to people who have been shaped by consumerism and the media (and that’s every American!)

Review any product you’d like on SmallGroupExchange.com and get The Trouble with Paris for FREE!

Review and Receive: Free Product from Max Lucado, Erwin McManus, Don Miller, or Rob Bell

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For my readers who lead or are active in small groups in the church: Please see the below info. It is the text from the email we just sent to over 25,000 churches.

Your opinion matters!

When making a purchase, nothing helps more than reading a candid review from a trusted source. At the small group exchange were committed to building a place where small group leaders can find the best resource for their group.

 The first 200 leaders who spend 10 minutes writing a review of a small group study theyve gone through, will receive a free resource of their choice.

Heres how it works.

 1)       Write a Review – Visit SmallGroupExchange.com, find a small group study, book or workbook that youve gone through. Be one of the first three people to write a review and rate the study, and dont be shy, the more you can share the greater youre helping the next small group leader on the site!

2)     Email Us – Email reviews at smallgroupexchange dot com – a link to the review that youve written on Small Group Exchange and any study from Erwin McManus, Don Miller, Rob Bell or Max Lucado under $30 that you would like to be sent for FREE. Be sure to include a full mailing address and phone number so we can get it to you in the next 7-10 days.

3)     Pass it On – Enjoy the free resource that we sent out to you, come back to Small Group Exchange and help another small group leader by writing another review.

This email went out to 25,000 small group leaders. So if you want some free stuff, you better move fast to be one of the first 200!

 Thanks!

The Small Group Exchange

By the way, some reviews will also be shared at ChristianBooks.com and LifeWay to help small group leaders on those sites as well

Reviewing Real-Life Make-Believe

biopage_randy_grandsonsPhoto credit: Eternal Perspectives Ministries (www.epm.org).

I was asked to review an article featured in the May-June issue of Bible Study Magazine about Randy Alcorn’s writing and Bible study. The title is Real-life Make-Believe by Christy Tennant.

Alcorn is known for being both a non-fiction and fiction writer–which is impressive.  Not all writers can also create imaginary worlds. He is a best-selling author of over 30 fiction and non-fiction books, including Heaven, The Treasure Principle, The Ishbane Conspiracy and more.

As a fiction writer he claims that when he writes about God in a story, he is extra careful to make sure that the perception he gives of God is biblically based. Many a fiction writer who includes God as a character in his or her book, fails to portray God as He is in the Bible. Alcorn says, “If you’re going to put words in God’s mouth, they better be true to Scripture.” If I were to pick up a fiction book that had God as the character, I would want to know that what I was reading was an accurate depiction of His nature, character, attributes and more. And there is no better place (or I might say no other place) to find this than in God’s word.

I really appreciate how Alcorn is keeping in mind the non-believer when he writes. His hope is that if a person has never read the Bible or may not agree with the truths in the Bible, that he or she will still find biblical truth on the pages.  A story is what often opens the reader’s eye to truths he would have otherwise never seen. But the opposite is true also. If a writer conveys a non-biblical, anti-Christian worldview, than the reader’s perception of God could be jacked up and jaded forever– a mere tragedy altogether.

Personally, Alcorn relies on his wife Nanci to help him in the creative process of his writing, but also in his spiritual relationship. While they both have independant quiet times, they also come together and share truths they’re learning in Scripture. It’s like a double dose of sugar. It’s no wonder again, that his writing is biblically based because it stems from his own personal time with Christ and time studying with his wife.  

In the last sentences of  this article, Alcorn says how the study of God’s word  has shaped his writing. Christy concludes in saying, “The effects of Alcorn’s bible study are evident throughout his writing. When God’s word is at the center, so is His story.” Alcorn’s intense study of the word has been the launching pad for his writing. This can challenge all of us as Christian writers to know where we must begin in the often intimidating process of writing.

Because Alcorn has put first things first, it cannot shock us that Alcorn has become one of the greatest writers of our day.

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