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World View: Seeking Grace and Truth in Our Common Life

World View: Seeking Grace and Truth in Our common Life by Marvin Olasky

World View: Seeking Grace and Truth in Our common Life by Marvin Olasky

In today’s contentious political environment where reason, sound inquiry, and critical thinking seem to have been overwhelmed by name-calling, shouting, and protests, Marvin Olasky offers a breath of fresh air in World View: Seeking Grace and Truth in Our Common Life.

Olasky, the former editor of World Magazine, offers 58 of his columns from 1997-2016 for our consideration. His reasoning and arguments remind me of the home school debate league our son participated in, where debaters were required to understand both sides of the issue. He suggests how we as Christians might understand and discuss current political issues, usually offering information or facts that were new to me.

A Variety of Topics

Through these columns, Olasky suggests a thoughtful Christian worldview, loosely organized into several broad categories including Basics, Changes, Institutions, Causes, and Conclusions. He covers such topics as abortion, the constitution, education, transgenderism, immigration, and more, and suggests how we might approach these issues. Some of his essays are twenty years, yet I was surprised how current his thinking was.

While this is an interesting read, it is probably more useful as a reference book. The Table of Contents is somewhat helpful, although many of his chapter titles don’t make clear the topic. But it is refreshing to read thoughtful commentaries on political and worldview topics.

 

 

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.

Thanksgiving Blessings

I’ve been quiet for far too long (more about that soon), but didn’t want to miss the opportunity to wish all of you a blessed Thanksgiving. I’ve come to realize that Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays. I love autumn in California. I love the fellowship. I love the food. And I love the reminders to be thankful, both historically and present tense.  Yep, I love Thanksgiving.

I'm thankful for Jesus -- the Light of the World

I’m thankful for Jesus — the Light of the World                                                                           Photo Credit: Chris Potako

We have so much to be thankful for in this nation. We’ve just experienced, or are experiencing, one of the greatest of these – the peaceful transition of government. Sure, it’s been a little rocky this year, but seriously, we still have so many freedoms that are unique both in today’s world and in history. And folks, we have these freedoms because of the blessings of God.

And we have a responsibility to pray for our government – whether we like the players or not. The reality is, some of us have not been happy with the present administration, and some of us will not be happy with the next administration. But if we are Christ-followers, that doesn’t relieve us of the obligation — yes, obligation – to pray for those in authority over us (Rom. 13:1, 1 Tim. 2:1-2) – whether we agree with them or not. It is the prayers of the Church, the prayers of the saints, that will give us a peaceable and quiet life. So may I encourage each of us to pause this Thanksgiving, and every day, to pray for our leaders – outgoing and incoming. To pray for peace in our land. To pray for the electoral process to proceed peaceably as it has for 228 years. To pray that the hidden forces of darkness be hindered. To pray that the Church will move into its God-ordained position in the country.

But most of all, may I encourage each of us to thank God for the privilege of living, here and now. To thank him for the many blessings, tangible and intangible, that we enjoy. To thank him for our nation and the freedoms we enjoy. To thank him — just because…

So friends, enjoy the turkey, the pie, the autumn leaves, and the fellowship. But while you are enjoying, remember to thank our heavenly Father for all of his many blessings.

Jesus and the Beanstalk: Overcoming Your Giants and Living a Fruitful Life

Jesus and the Beanstalk: Overcoming Your Giants and Living a Fruitful Life by Lori Stanley Roeleveld

Lori Stanley Roeleveld started with an intriguing idea: using the story of Jack and the Beanstalk as an outline for a book on overcoming our giants and living a fruitful life. After all, who doesn’t have giants threatening and sometimes even overcoming our lives? And after all, who doesn’t feel that the tools we have are indeed small, perhaps even worthless? And who hasn’t been surprised when Jesus takes our little tokens and turns them into a mighty beanstalk of power, capable of slaying giants? Now that’s a good story!

Roeleveld started with a great idea. Unfortunately, it fell flat for me.

There were so many directions she could have gone with the theme of “small” people overcoming huge giants. Sadly, she didn’t go to them. In the first two parts of the book, she loosely used the theme of Jack and the Beanstalk to characterize this very issue in the lives of believers. It was a fairly effective allegory. But she didn’t finish the story. She didn’t slay the giant. Then, leaving us longing to kill the giant, in Part 3, she switched over to the list of virtues from 2 Peter 1:5-8. Except she didn’t…

Each of these virtues constituted a chapter. But in exegeting the virtue, she wandered all over Scripture. I didn’t sense any glue holding each chapter together. I was never sure if she was in 2 Peter or somewhere else. And to make matters worse, she used a six-day devotional structure for each virtue but it wasn’t a consistent structure. Every week took a different approach. I know her intent was to switch things up and keep the reader interested. But it didn’t work for me.  I hadn’t realized how important a linear structure is to me until I read this book. I felt lost in the wilderness most of the time!

To her credit, the writing is excellent. Her ideas are good. I liked the “One Stone for your Sling” summary sentence at the end of each chapter. And I even liked her discussion questions at the end of each chapter, even though I couldn’t see using this book for a small group for the reasons mentioned above. Overall, it’s a fair read for someone who doesn’t need structure.

Thanks to Litfuse for offering me this book for review.

Ministry Team Training

Bay Area people, would you like to receive training to serve on a ministry team? I’ll be conducting training for The Collide ministry team on Saturday, June 18 from 1-5 pm at Neighborhood Church, 1290 Pomeroy Ave., Santa Clara, CA. and Pastor Del has opened it to my contacts as well. The training is free, but you must register at Register at www.thecollide.com/ministrytraining. Space is limited.

This class is for people of all ages, and denominational background. It’s a simple hands on training to teach us how to discern what the Holy Spirit is doing in a ministry moment, and how to partner with the Holy Spirit to help bring people into a breakthrough moment with the Lord.
*Please note that FREE lunch is provided, beginning at 12pm, however no childcare will be provided during this time*
This first training class will include some of the following subjects:
  • The Collide Mission and Vision
  • Goals for Ministry at The Collide
  • Basic Altar Etiquette
  • Theology of Healing
  • Diagnosing the Spiritual Need
  • Basic Deliverance
  • and so much more…

 

Happy Birthday to Me!

Forty years ago today I made the most important decision of my life. I stopped fighting and accepted Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior.

Happy Birthday to Me! Photo Credit: Abby

Happy Birthday to Me!                                                        Photo Credit: Flickr/Abby

Little did I know what that decision would mean. I was simply looking for a life preserver, a fire insurance policy. Since my friend, Jadene, had shared Jesus with me a few months before, I knew that day would come. I figured that when I hit bottom, I could just pull out Jesus – my “get out of jail free card” – and all would be well. It took me awhile to realize that I didn’t have to hit bottom. After all, how much lower could I go? And did I really want to go there?

I drove from San Francisco to the church her husband pastored in Fresno, and in a bucket of tears, surrendered my life to the Great Unknown. And that Great Unknown met me, right where I was. I didn’t have to clean up my act first. I just had to come.

Well, by the time I got back to San Francisco, He was already beginning to rearrange the furniture of my life. Within a week he threw me into a Christian singles group where I was loved, discipled, and given every opportunity to grow. And every time I said yes to an opportunity, they gave me another. Never since have I seen a better discipleship program, and these folks were all lay people, unpaid and untrained. But they nurtured me to maturity and laid a firm foundation for me. Many of these people are still my best friends, and one – the coordinator of the group – is my husband.

I want to offer a huge thank you to everyone who has played a part in my life over the past 40 years, and a monstrous thanks to Jesus, who rescued me from the miry pit and set my feet on solid ground. I couldn’t ask for a better life.

Merry Christmas

In the midst of the hustle and bustle of the season, I invite you to stop. Breathe.

Christmas cross

Born for a Cross

Take a few minutes to ponder the profound mystery of the incarnation. God, taking human form. Setting aside his glory and power to become one with the created. Jesus, the second Adam, who bought the salvation of mankind with his blood and began the process of redeeming not only humans but also the whole earth. Ponder what it means to you. Ponder that because he lives, we can indeed face tomorrow.

I wish you and yours a very blessed and holy Christmas. Don’t let the hundreds of details and urgent demands distract you from the beauty of this mystery. Christmas is here.  Don’t miss it.

Because You Care: Spiritual Encouragement for Caregivers


Are you a caregiver? Or perhaps you know one. If so, Because You Care: Spiritual Encouragement for Caregivers is a delightful little book by two caregivers: Cecil Murphey and Twila Belk. Cec has been caring for his wife with chronic illness since their marriage more than 50 years ago. Twila’s husband was diagnosed with a progressive rare muscle disease called “inclusion body myostitis” several years ago. They weave their faith-filled stories through 48 short pages of beautiful prose and photography.

I love the heart of both authors as they share their love for their spouses. As a burned out caregiver, I found hope and courage as I savored their stories. They gave me new ideas and new vocabulary for serving those I care for. Full of gentle wisdom, their personal stories of caregiving will help you face some of the ups and downs of your journey, including:

  • Feeling guilty for doing too much, too little, or nothing at all
  • Answering other’s well-meaning but insensitive questions
  • Watching someone you dearly love suffer or die

This is a wonderful gift book for the caregiver in your life. Maybe even for you.

Happy Resurrection Day!

He is Risen Indeed

He is Risen! Indeed!
(c) Pat J. Sikora 2014

Guests invited. Check.
Food purchased and prepped. Check.
Table set. Check.
Yard weeded and patio cleaned. Check.
Baskets filled. Check.
Centerpiece created.  Check.

Whew! I love entertaining, but I must confess I’m not as young as I used to be. I still love setting a formal table for holidays and sharing it with friends and family. My best friend does Thanksgiving and Christmas. Resurrection Day is my holiday. And since I only have one big one per year, I try to do it right.

But one of the reasons I delight in hosting Resurrection Day is that it is THE Christian holiday. After a year of trials and challenges, Resurrection Day reminds me that He is Risen! Indeed! And that hope is enough to keep on keeping on.

My hubby found this new version of Leonard Cohen’s Alleluia. The truth runs deep. We’re going to use this as our blessing for tomorrow’s dinner. Take a few minutes and let the truth penetrate your spirit.  Alleluia!!