Category Archives: Renewing the Mind

Do You Want to be Transformed?

Transformed: Challenging Myths About the Power-Filled Life by Christy Wimber

Transformed: Challenging Myths About the Power-Filled Life       by Christy Wimber

For those of us who are serious about our faith, the idea of becoming transformed is always a priority. We’re always looking for the next step in our metamorphosis into Christlikeness. That’s why I was excited for the opportunity to review Transformed: Challenging Myths About the Power-Filled Life by Christy Wimber (Kregal). I was eager to learn what John Wimber’s daughter-in-law would add to my Christian walk. Her chapter topics increased my enthusiasm: what Jesus said yes to, mercy, renewing the mind, identity, grace, and calling. She identifies transformation as a journey, not a destination and focuses on deliberate, sacrificial choices as vehicles for transformation. All good ideas.

Unfortunately, the book fell short of my expectations. I think there were some good ideas in it, but they were often lost in a rambling narrative that would have benefited from a strong editor. Her writing was not tight and she often didn’t choose the best words or phrases to make her arguments. Her points were weakened by redundancy and rambling. Callout boxes didn’t reinforce or repeat important concepts. They were simply the next sentence, with little reason for being set apart. There were few stories or examples – just narrative. And while she offered some good theories, there was little in the way of practical “how to.” The result was a book I was not eager to return to and few memorable points.

I would love to see this book rewritten and re-edited. It’s clearly a concept needed by today’s Christians. But sadly, this edition doesn’t cut it.

Brave is the New Beautiful

Brave is the New Beautiful:

Brave is the New Beautiful: Finding the Courage to Be the Real You by Lee Wolfe Blum

Life is hard. It seldom goes like we planned. Bad things happen to good people. Life comes crashing in — or oozing in. And we’re expected to be brave?

As Americans, we want easy answers, quick resolutions. As Christians, we want Jesus to wave his magic wand and make it better. The reality is, answers are seldom quick or easy or perfect. The big question is then, what do we do? How do we react or respond? How do we find hope in the midst of the hopeless?

Lee Wolfe Blum is brave. And beautiful. As a therapist in an addiction and eating disorders program, she explores what it means to be brave, facing her own demons and telling the stories of other women who have faced theirs. In the process, she makes it clear that while there are no easy answers, there is Jesus. But not just the “right answer” Jesus. No, the real, gritty Jesus who meets us in the mess.

Blum weaves her own story of burnout and her resultant quest for wholeness with the stories of other women in a gracious and gentle way. But this is not the typical namby-pamby “isn’t Jesus sweet?” book that I so often review. Blum tells raw, authentic stories of vulnerability laced with faith. Her writing is beautifully crafted, but not every story has a happy ending. Some don’t even have an ending. Just like in real life.

Brave Is the New Beautiful: Finding the Courage to Be the Real You reads smoothly, but I wouldn’t call it an easy read. It moves deeper with each chapter and offers hope without guarantees. Just like real life. It will be a resource in my ministry. My only complaint is that she wrote it for women only. I would love to give a book like this to many men who are also facing tough stuff. Who also need to be brave.

 

You’ve Got Power!

You've Got the Power!

The Very Same Explosive Power That Raised Jesus From the Dead Lives in You!

Do you ever feel like it’s Good Friday all the time? Like your life is a walking death, filled with pain and defeat? Like God forgot you and threw away the key? Frankly, that’s a common mindset among Bible-believing Christians. So many Christians I know exhibit more of a victim spirit than a victory spirit. And yes, sometimes I do too.

I get it. Life can be hard. Sometimes very hard. We hear every day of the unfairness, the hardships, even the atrocities that seem to plague the inhabitants of this little green planet. We feel as if nothing we do can or will make a difference.

But is that true?

I know. It seems like it. We seem to be helpless. We feel like the ten spies who returned to Moses with a message of defeat after discovering that the inhabitants of the Promised Land were giants. “We seemed like grasshoppers in our own eyes, and we looked the same to them.”

Do you ever feel like a grasshopper in the face of the giants in your life? Do you feel defeated before you begin? If so, then today is for you. Today is the day you can take back your power. The day you can begin to conquer your giants.

How so, you ask? Sure, Jesus’ resurrection bought our salvation. That’s all well and good for eternity, but what about today? What about the giants I face today? What about my depression? My fears? My debt?

Here’s what today means for you:

I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is like the working of his mighty strength, which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way. (Ephesians 1:18-23)

That’s God’s promise to you on this Resurrection Day. Whatever you are facing, however low you feel, the very same power that raised Jesus from the dead is available to you! The word for power in verse 19 is dunamis, from which we get our word dynamite. And if that weren’t enough, Paul modifies dunamis with two other superlatives, incomparably and great, which basically mean “to surpass or exceed in greatness.” It’s as if he were reaching to find a phrase that would express the incredible magnitude of this power. And then he goes on to explain the impact of this power. Not only did that power place Jesus above everything, including your problem and the demons activating it. It also put everything, including your problem and the demons activating it, under his feet!

So the next time you feel discouraged, disheartened, or defeated, remember that power which raised Jesus from the dead and let it enlighten your heart with hope. Rise up and take your rightful place. Look your problem in the eye and put it under the feet of Jesus.

Have a blessed Resurrection Day!

Photo Credit: Brendan Sceroler

Hunting Hope

When I receive a book for review, I can usually tell within a few pages if it’s one I want to keep or pass on. If it’s one I’ll tell clients about or one I’ll shelve and forget. Hunting Hope: Dig Through the Darkness to Find the Light by Nika Maples is not only a book I’ll keep and recommend, but also one I’m ordering for my ministry’s bookstore. I began underlining on page 2 (page one was very short) and I have tabs throughout. My indication of a good book.

So what’s so great about this book? Other than everything?

Authentic Voice:

First, Maples speaks with an authentic voice. She is a survivor of systemic lupus and a massive brainstem stroke that left her a quadriplegic at age 20. She fought her way back and became a public school teacher in her native Texas. She still struggles with the lupus and with falls. But she has learned how to mine God’s character and conform hers. She doesn’t sugarcoat her points, but rather shares from the depths of her discipleship.

Excellent Writing:

Not only does Maples make good points. She makes them well. She has the ability to turn a phrase, and then illustrates her points with great stories—most of them aimed at herself. Hunting Hope is a good read, a compelling read.

Transformational Points:

Maples has been tested in the fire. She had to learn to trust God or die. Her writing isn’t theoretical. It’s real. And transformational. If readers will pay attention, she offers hope for those trapped in situations that don’t seem fair. She shows God to be faithful. She says, “when we have nothing left to lean on, we learn to lean on God.”

It seems that most writers are either all miracle—believe God will heal everything all the time. Or no miracle—just thank God in the suffering. Maples says, “We should always ask for a miracle, but while we wait, God’s calming presence in our lives is a miracle in itself.” She focuses on obedience: “God unfolds His plan after the person takes a step of obedience, not before.” She affirms that wounded warriors have a vital place in the church: “Our worst life experiences may be exactly what qualify us to lead with authority…. The darkest moments of our lives might be the beginning of our divine mission on earth. So many times, the battlefield is a training ground.” And she recognizes that trials are just an exercise. An opportunity to grow in godliness.

My Only Complaint:

I’m usually not a fan of discussion questions in books. They are usually trite. But this is one book I wished Maples had added discussion questions. Now I’m going to have to write them myself. I’m pretty sure I’ll be teaching this book.

So please, I don’t say this often, but BUY THIS BOOK.

Hunting Hope Nika Maples

Come Empty: Pour Out Life’s Hurts and Receive God’s Healing Love

Come Empty: Pour Out Life’s Hurts and Receive God’s Healing Love by Saundra Dalton-Smith

Come Empty: Pour Out Life’s Hurts and Receive God’s Healing Love by Saundra Dalton-Smith

Dr. Saundra Dalton-Smith is a physician who has seen the impact of emotions on physical health. As a speaker, she teaches women how to eliminate negative emotions, find grace in difficult places, and experience personal renewal by drawing near to God. In Come Empty: Pour Out Life’s Hurts and Receive God’s Healing Love, she puts all this together in 80 devotionals, divided into seven categories. Each devotional includes ‘Your Heart’s Cry,” “His Reply,” a scripture reading, and two questions for “Growing Deeper” in two pages.

Her topics are generally right on, and her understanding of the issues is generally excellent. She addresses single and married women in all stages of life, so her audience is pretty generalized. Her approach is to allow the reader to vent through the first section, and then to hear God through the second section. I generally like such a format.

However, I had mixed feelings about this book. While the content is excellent and useful for many of the women I minister to, the writing is flat. It was hard to pinpoint the weaknesses; it just lacked pizazz. I’m sure it will be useful for many women, especially those still struggling with the issues Dalton-Smith addresses.

Thanks to Litfuse for this review copy.

How to Get What You Don’t Want

Did you know there’s a sure-fire way to get what you don’t want? Yep, and many people practice this method everyday. They speak their reality into existence with their words, and what they speak is what they don’t want rather than what they do want.

Sometimes we Create Our Own Mess

Sometimes we Create Our Own Mess

How often have you heard someone say, “I’m so bummed because I’m not married yet.” Or “I’ll probably never have children. It’s getting too late in life.” Or “I’m sure I won’t be able to get a job as good as the one I had before.” Or “I’m hopeless! I’m such an idiot!” Maybe you’ve said at least one of these yourself.

Do you realize that your words have creative power? Do you realize that, like the God whose image we are created in, we can speak reality into existence. Matthew 9 is filled with such stories: the man whose daughter died, the woman with the issue of blood, the two blind men. In each case, Jesus healed them and commended them on their faith. After healing the two blind men he said, “According to your faith be it done to you” (Matt. 9:29). All of these people spoke in faith, believing that Jesus could and would heal them.

Jesus hasn’t changed. He still acts according to our faith. What do you have faith in? What would happen if you stopped speaking in faith that the negative will happen, and rather, spoke in faith that Jesus will indeed provide what you need or desire? If you’re creating a reality you really don’t want, there is a way to change that.

 

Where Do You Want to Be? | Contentment

Are you satisfied with where you are and what you’re doing? So many people aren’t. Single people want to be married. Married people wish they weren’t. If a job isn’t perfect, some people complain, threaten to quit, and sometimes even orchestrate their firing. They believe they will be happy when… And they can’t be happy unless…

One of my favorite songs from one of my favorite bands (The Show Ponies) has a perfect line:

“You’ll never be where you want to be until you want to be where you are.”

Think about it. Instead of always wanting to be somewhere else, doing something else, being someone else, what if you were simply able to be content. Right where you are? To rejoice in being. Just who you are. Every day. What would it take for you?

Would you need to set aside your visions of what your life was supposed to look like? All too often we have our preconceived ideas about the course of our life, and when it doesn’t work out, we blame God. Or ourselves. Or someone else. We strive to accomplish our goals, even if they aren’t God’s goals. In the process, we drown in discontentment. We want to be anywhere other than where we are.

Try it. Just be where you are, and decide that you want to be there. Practice contentment and see what a difference it makes.

Skin in the Game: Living an Epic Jesus-Centered Life

One of the myths I teach in Obstacles to Healing is the myth that “God is my fairy godmother,” which is the lie that I can heal with no skin in the game. That God will wave his magic wand and everything will be OK. I can’t tell you how often I run into this belief. Everyone wants to heal, but few want to pay the price.

Rick Lawrence challenges this mindset in his book Skin in the Game: Living an Epic Jesus-Centered Life (Kregal, 2015) . Using stories from the Gospels, he urges readers to face their shame, receive grace, embrace their true identity, own what they want, confront their fears, take a risk, and wait when all hope is lost. Through it all he encourages readers to make Jesus their first and last resort. These are all issues I see in virtually every ministry session, and Lawrence’s story-based approach makes them attainable by those with little understanding of healing.

The book is simple, yet filled with practical truth critical to healing and discipleship. I expect to recommend it to ministry clients as a way of challenging their beliefs and practices and moving them a step closer to Jesus. Without the magic wand.

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Change You Can Count On–Every 37 Seconds

Do you have trouble implementing a change in your thinking, emotions, or behavior? Most of us do.

Whack a mole

Whack that Emotion or Thought Every 37 Seconds

 

 

Here’s the problem. Most of us address change like we do mouthwash – once in the morning does it. Problem is, once in the morning doesn’t do it. When we want to make a change, we need to attack that sucker like our greatest enemy. The way I recommend is what I call “every 37 seconds.”

What does that mean? It means that every time the feelings come up, you whack them down. You use your words to tell that emotion, that thought, that demon, to back off. Get out. Change. When the emotions come back, you whack it again. When the emotions come back, you whack them again. Every 37 seconds. All day. Every day. Over and over. Every 37 seconds.

If you do this consistently, I guarantee that you will conquer that negative emotion within a month to six weeks. Seriously!

Photo Credit: Laura