Feeling Stale? Here’s A Cure For Spiritual Dryness (New Day Book Review)

newday_med

For most, if not all Christians, there are times when our spiritual life feels stale, dry, or perhaps even empty.  You may read the Scriptures and spend time with the Lord, but it doesn’t seem to produce anything.  While these times are certainly tough to weather, it can be helpful to focus on the newness that is in Christ.

And He who sits on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.”  (Revelation 21:5 NASB)

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. (Lamentations 3:22-23 ESV)

New Day: The New Humanity Lives in the New Creation by Means of the New Covenant is a new book by Milt Rodriguez that may help provide a cure for spiritual dryness.

Milt writes in his typical conversational style, but in a unique way. New Day is written as a devotional style book as though Jesus is speaking to the reader, which makes the book more personal.

New Day reveals beautiful pictures of all that is new in Christ. The new day, the new humanity, the new covenant, the new command, the new creation, the new song, the new heart, and more – all of this is in our Lord, and it is growing newer and newer!

There are many Scripture references throughout the entire book, although it is recommended to read the book first as though you are reading a letter, and then read through it again looking up the specific Scripture references.

I really enjoyed this book as it daily drew me closer to Christ and helped me to focus on what is above, where Christ dwells in eternal newness. This book is a true gem!

Here are some quotes from the book:

“I am the rising One! I have not only risen (past tense), I am also still rising. In fact, rising is a part of my very life and nature. I am always rising. I live in perpetual rising. This continual rising gives light and warmth to all things. I am rising itself. And I am rising within you. This rising gives birth to newness inside of you. My newness, freshness, light, and warmth are rising in you.”

“My kingdom, my new creation is a massive place. The spaciousness of this place cannot even be grasped by the human mind. It is the place where all of my riches can be seen, known, and experienced. It is the place of the great expanse and the great adventure. It is the place of the glorious unknown and the wonderfully never ending discovery of me. And inside of me and only inside of me will you receive your fulfillment. This is the place where your life supply will be found. This is the place where you will discover all of your unlimited resources. So enter into this vast land where you can roam for the rest of eternity. You have been chosen before creation for such a destiny. You have been chosen before the old creation to live in the new creation.”

“You can of yourself do nothing. But as you abide in me, and live by my life, you will fulfill this new commandment. You will love your brothers and sisters as I love them because it will actually be me loving them through you. The foundation of this great love is my cross. It is the beauty and power of a life laid down and resurrected by the power of the Spirit. This love comes from a certain kind of lifestyle; the crucified lifestyle. That is, a life which is constantly being laid down for others.”

Thank you, Milt for this refreshing unveiling of Christ.

(This sounds like something to sing about… don’t miss the great new song below!)

Amazon (Paperback)

Amazon (Kindle)

Milt’s Website

Origin Stories

It seems that in Hollywood these days all the superheroes need an origins story.  Superman, Batman, Spiderman, Iron Man, Thor, Captain America, The Hulk, and so on.

In The Indwelling Life of Christ, Major W. Ian Thomas gives us a peek at Jesus’ origins story:

“It is not the nature of what you do that determines the spirituality of any action, but the origin of what you do. There was never a moment in the life of the Lord Jesus that was without divine significance, because there was never anything He did, never anything He said, never any step He took which did not spring from a divine origin. There was nothing in His life that was not the activity of the Father in and through the Son. He lived out thirty-three years of availability to the Father, so that the Father in and through Him might implement the program that had been established and agreed upon between the Father and the Son before the world was even created.

Why did the Father five all things into the Son’s hands? Because Jesus Christ was completely Man, and He was completely Man because He was completely available. For the first time since Adam fell into sin, there was on earth a man as God intended man to be.”

Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father in Me? The words that I speak to you I do not speak on My own authority; but the Father who dwells in Me does the works.   — John 14:10

An interesting question is: how much of what I do is originated by Christ’s life indwelling me?

God’s Favorite Place on Earth

BethanyBelow is the review I posted on Amazon for Frank Viola’s new book, God’s Favorite Place on Earth.  This is an excellent book full of practical wisdom.  For information on the book and to see a video trailer and download a free exerpt containing 20% of the book, go to GodsFavoritePlace.com.

I highly recommend Frank Viola’s newest book God’s Favorite Place on Earth. Viola points to the little town of Bethany just a couple of miles from Jerusalem as Jesus’ preferred resting place while He was on earth in human form. Bethany was a place where Jesus was accepted and adored; therefore, Jesus chose to “rest” in Bethany rather than Jerusalem, where He was rejected. Viola pieces together the various stories in the Gospels related to this small town (such as Jesus being anointed by Mary and raising Lazarus from the dead) along with first century history to reconstruct the story through the eyes of Lazarus thirty years after his resurrection. The story is really beautiful and brings the Bible to life – a feat not too common among authors today. Readers will get an insight into first century life, and more importantly, into the life and character of Jesus Christ. Viola follows each segment of the Bethany story with a “Walking it Out” section that provides invaluable and practical insights. These include how to not be offended by others, the value of giving our all to and for Christ, how to deal with suffering and rejection, what to do when God doesn’t seem to respond the way we want, what it means to receive Christ, and more.

God’s Favorite Place on Earth is a short and easy read that accomplishes:

– Bringing the Scriptures to life
– Revealing the height, depth, breadth, and width of Jesus Christ
– Demonstrating how the Holy Spirit is leading Christians to live by Christ’s life today.

Not Judging Others Part 1: Our Opinions Often Cause Misjudgment

I’m starting a (probably short) series dealing with how people tend to view and judge others negatively.  I’ve observed that this can be a very dangerous habit, and unfortunately it is a habit among Christians as well.

I’d like to begin this series by highlighting something that I have found true in my own life: jumping to conclusions based on my opinions (not facts) causes me to misjudge people and situations.

One of the best books I have read on the art of communication is Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life, by Marshall B. Rosenberg, Ph.D.  In the book is a chapter titled Observing Without Evaluating which demonstrates the importance of separating what we see (or have direct evidence of) with what our opinion of that thing is.

Here is an excerpt of a poem written by one of Rosenberg’s colleagues, Ruth Bebermeyer, that illustrates this point:

I’ve never seen a lazy man;
I’ve seen a man who never ran
while I watched him, and I’ve seen
a man who sometimes slept between
lunch and dinner, and who’d stay
at home upon a rainy day,
but he was not a lazy man.
Before you call me crazy,
think, was he a lazy man or
did he just do things we label “lazy”?

Rosenberg explains:

Observations are an important element in nonviolent communication, where we wish to clearly and honestly express how we are to another person.  When we combine observation with evaluation, we decrease the likelihood that others will hear our intended message.  Instead, they are apt to hear criticism and thus resist whatever we are saying.

Here’s a couple of examples from the same chapter to make this really practical:

Observation/Evaluation Mixed:  Doug procrastinates.
Observation without Evaluation:  Doug only studies for exams the night before.

Observation/Evaluation Mixed:  Hank Smith is a poor soccer player.
Observation without Evaluation:  Hank Smith has not scored a goal in twenty games.

It was very eye opening for me to realize how impulsively and maybe even subconsciously I tend to jump from observation to conclusion or judgment!

Imagine finding that the trash has not been taken out and asking your spouse, “Why are you being so lazy today?”, or “Why don’t you appreciate me?”  Obviously these are assumptions about what the other person is feeling or thinking.  As Rosenberg points out (and you might guess yourself), this kind of communication makes us sound critical of others.

Instead of saying, “Why are you being so lazy today?”, perhaps one could say, “I noticed that the trash hasn’t been emptied, and you usually take care of it.  Have you had a rough day?”  The latter approach is clearly less judgmental and more loving and invites the other person into expressive communication.  This allows the other person to express themselves without feeling the weight of judgment or criticism, and it keeps us from jumping ahead to faulty conclusions.

As Christians, I think it is clear in the Scriptures and through the Spirit that we are not intended to judge each other in this way.

I’ve found that a good place to start evaluating if you do this yourself is to observe your own attitude and language towards others.  You might even ask those closest to you if you have a habit of doing this.

Can you share an experience or example where this has been true for you?

In part 2, I’ll suggest some potential alternatives to this behavior.

Mawage is wot bwings us togeder tooday

If you are wondering about the strange title, and maybe feeling like correcting the clearly poor grammar, please view the video below before hurling any virtual stones. 😉

On a serious note, I would like to pass on something I read recently that I have found to be all too true in my own experience of marriage and the experience of many couples that I know.

I’ve been reading Sacred Marriage by Gary Thomas. First off, I have to say that if I were going to right a book of marriage advice based on my experience, this would be it. Much of what is in this book is rings true to me. I wish I had read this book years ago. Not only do I agree with much of this book (I don’t agree with everything, but these are minor points in the scope of this book), but I believe it also points us to Christ’s desire for marriage and other relationships.

The premise of the book is that to have a loving marriage that displays Christ, one should keep in view the many opportunities to be built up in Christ that marriage affords. The tag line of the book reads, “What if God designed marriage to make us holy more than to make us happy?” The author’s point (I’m paraphrasing) is that marriage isn’t supposed to be easy work, because it is not “easy” work to crucify our flesh and to live by the self-sacrificing life of Christ that indwells us. But marriage certainly gives us many opportunities to do just that, and through those experiences we are made into Christ’s image. Personally, I have found the most freedom, peace, joy, and fulfillment when I have loved my wife as Christ loved the church: sacrificially and unconditionally.

I would like to share a short passage from the book that I think hits the nail on the head in regard to living the marriage life and living by Christ’s life.

“Contempt is born when we fixate on our spouse’s weaknesses. Every spouse has these sore points. If you want to find them, without a doubt you will. If you want to obsess about them, they’ll grow – but you won’t!

Jesus provides a remedy that is stunning in its simplicity yet foreboding in its difficulty. He tells us to take the plank out of our own eye before we try to remove the speck from our neighbor’s eye (see Matthew 7:3-5).

If you’re thinking “but my spouse is the one who has the plank,” allow me to let you in on a little secret: You’re exactly the type of person Jesus is talking to. You’re the one he wanted to challenge with these words. Jesus isn’t helping us resolve legal matters here; he’s urging us to adopt humble spirits. He wants us to cast off the contempt – to have contempt for contempt – and learn the spiritual secret of respect.

Consider the type of people Jesus loved in the days he walked on earth – Judas (the betrayer); the woman at the well (a sexual libertine); Zacchaeus (the conniving financial cheat); and many others like them. In spite of the fact that Jesus was without sin and these people were very much steeped in sin, Jesus still honored them. He washed Judas’s feet; he spent time talking respectfully with the woman at the well; he went to Zacchaeus’s house for dinner. Jesus, the only perfect human being to live on this earth, moved toward sinful people; he asks us to do the same, beginning with the one closest to us – our spouse.

Begin to find contempt for contempt. Give honor to those who deserve it – beginning with your spouse.”

Sacred Marriage, pages 70-71

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us not have contempt for each other, whether it is in marriage or otherwise, but may we have contempt for our own flesh when it causes us to resent, demean, or take advantage of someone else. The life of Christ chooses the way of love because He is love; often this is a very difficult way for our flesh, but Jesus tells us that if we come to Him with our burdens, His way is light.

To try to do this in our own power is foolishness. But to trust Christ, listening to and following the still, small voice within, is to find peace and joy on this difficult path.

I pray that this brief insight is helpful to you if you are struggling in your marriage or other relationships.

May the Lord direct your hearts into God’s love and Christ’s perseverance.

(2 Thessalonians 3:5)

The Myth of Wealth

This seemed like a good follow up to my post last week on cleaning out the garage…

While listening to the audiobook Celebration of Discipline, by Richard J. Foster, I was astounded at the amount of Scripture that was quoted in the chapter on simplicity related to money, possessions, and wealth. I’m sure I’ve heard and read all of these verses before, but I’m not sure I have ever heard so many of them put together at once.

As a disclaimer, I want to say up front that I am not against owning things, having money, a house, car, and so on. I have these things, and while I don’t consider myself wealthy at all, there are always those less fortunate who would disagree with me.

The point here is not a poverty versus wealth debate, as if one or the other is absolutely right for everyone. That is certainly not my belief. But the power of money often leads to greed and selfishness, and both of those qualities are anti-Christ; they have no part in Him. Christ is generous and selfless, and so I believe there is benefit for reflection and continuous transformation in this area.

Neither is the point to condemn anyone into changing their lifestyle out of guilt, shame or fear. I don’t believe God works in that way, and I certainly don’t desire to either. I am suggesting that there is an opportunity here for internal reflection, and that internal reflection may result in external actions.

To denounce all material possession is to become legalistic, as Foster points out. God certainly blesses us with things in this world, either for our pleasure or to advance his kingdom, or both. At the same time, we live in a materialistic, consumer culture. Many people are driven to anxiety for the latest gadget or trendy item. There is an obsession with owning things (when it is often wiser to rent, borrow, or do without).

The solution to balancing the budget (at least in many cases) is not to make more to get more, but to be content with what you have already. If you want to add joy to your contentment, give away whatever you don’t need. Don’t be worried about your earthly net worth; you are infinitely valuable because you are a part of Christ!

Remember that everything has a price, but everything also has a cost. As Christians we must count both the cost and the price in light of Christ’s life in us. If you don’t think you can do this, just spend some time getting in touch with the Christ who indwells you, for He is Contentment and Joy, and He will lead you in His way.

I’m doing some soul searching on this topic after listening to and reading this chapter on simplicity. I highly recommend it to you, especially if you are struggling to “keep up with the Jones'”. 😉

I have listed below the Scriptures cited from the simplicity chapter in the order they appeared. I have expanded some to add context, and I have used some different translations. The book gives much narrative on this topic and these verses.

23 “The land must never be sold on a permanent basis, for the land belongs to me. You are only foreigners and tenant farmers working for me. (Leviticus 25:23 NLT)

10 Do not trust in oppression, Nor vainly hope in robbery; If riches increase, Do not set your heart on them. (Psalm 62:10 NKJV)

28 He who trusts in his riches will fall, But the righteous will flourish like foliage. (Proverbs 11:28 NKJV)

13 “No one can serve two masters. For you will hate one and love the other; you will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.” (Luke 16:13 NLT)

20 Then Jesus turned to his disciples and said, “God blesses you who are poor, for the Kingdom of God is yours.” (Luke 6:20 NLT)

24 “What sorrow awaits you who are rich, for you have your only happiness now.” (Luke 6:24 NLT)

19 “Don’t store up treasures here on earth, where moths eat them and rust destroys them, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 Store your treasures in heaven, where moths and rust cannot destroy, and thieves do not break in and steal. 21 Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be. (Matthew 6:19-21 NLT)

21 Jesus told him, “If you want to be perfect, go and sell all your possessions and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” 22 But when the young man heard this, he went away sad, for he had many possessions. 23 Then Jesus said to his disciples, “I tell you the truth, it is very hard for a rich person to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. 24 I’ll say it again—it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the Kingdom of God!” (Matthew 19:21-24 NLT)

21 “Yes, a person is a fool to store up earthly wealth but not have a rich relationship with God.” (Luke 12:21 NLT)

30 Give to anyone who asks; and when things are taken away from you, don’t try to get them back. (Luke 6:30 NLT)

9 But people who long to be rich fall into temptation and are trapped by many foolish and harmful desires that plunge them into ruin and destruction. 10 For the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil. And some people, craving money, have wandered from the true faith and pierced themselves with many sorrows. (1 Timothy 6:9-10 NLT)

3 He [one aspiring to be an elder] must not be a heavy drinker or be violent. He must be gentle, not quarrelsome, and not love money. (1 Timothy 3:3 NLT)

8 In the same way, servants in the church should be dignified, not two-faced, heavy drinkers, or greedy for money. (1 Timothy 3:8 CEB)

5 Don’t love money; be satisfied with what you have. For God has said, “I will never fail you. I will never abandon you.” (Hebrews 13:5 NLT)

4 What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? 2 You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God. 3 When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures. (James 4:1-3 NIV)

5 You can be sure that no immoral, impure, or greedy person will inherit the Kingdom of Christ and of God. For a greedy person is an idolater, worshiping the things of this world. (Ephesians 5:5 NLT)

11 I meant that you are not to associate with anyone who claims to be a believer yet indulges in sexual sin, or is greedy, or worships idols, or is abusive, or is a drunkard, or cheats people. Don’t even eat with such people. (1 Corinthians 5:11)

17 Teach those who are rich in this world not to be proud and not to trust in their money, which is so unreliable. Their trust should be in God, who richly gives us all we need for our enjoyment.18 Tell them to use their money to do good. They should be rich in good works and generous to those in need, always being ready to share with others. 19 By doing this they will be storing up their treasure as a good foundation for the future so that they may experience true life. (1 Timothy 6:17-19)

11 Not that I was ever in need, for I have learned how to be content with whatever I have. 12 I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little. 13 For I can do everything through Christ,who gives me strength. (Philippians 4:11-13 NLT)

31 “So don’t worry about these things, saying, ‘What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear?’ 32 These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs. 33 Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need. (Matthew 6:31-33 NLT)

An Interview with Christian Smith on “The Bible Made Impossible”

If you are frustrated by the WWJD mentality, or have run into the mindset that the solution to every situation you could possibly face is explicitly spelled out in the Bible, then you may appreciate Christian Smith’s book The Bible Made Impossibe and the interview below conducted by Frank Viola.  The real gem of the book is actually part 2, where Smith presents the framework for a re-newed (Jesus and the apostles used the OT writings this way) view of all Scripture as a compass pointing us to Christ.

Read the complete interview with Christian Smith on “The Bible Made Impossible.”

Some Articles to Inspire You: Highlighting the Work of Others

Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other. (Romans 12:10 NLT)

I’d like to point you to the work of some other bloggers today.

First is the continuation of the What I’ve Learned In Organic Church series. RC Babione posted a really wonderful piece this morning that I believe you will find encouraging. Read it here.

Last week, as part of the same series, Carrie Walters posted a beautiful piece about finding our source of worth in Christ.  Read it here.

I’d also like to highlight two important interviews by Frank Viola with N.T. Wright and Scot McKnight.  I’ve read books by both Wright and McKnight and found both to be very valuable.  These interviews will introduce you to their latest works and give you some behind the scenes info.  Click below to read each of them.

N.T. Wright Interview: “Simply Jesus” & Wright Responds to Critics

Scot McKnight Interview: “The King Jesus Gospel” & McnKnight Responds to Critics

Lastly, I’m working on a new post that deals with a common problem in relationships.  I think it will be helpful.  I hope to post it later this week or early next week.

Highlighting Two Great E-books

I would like to point your attention to two great e-books that I have read recently.

The first is Epic Jesus, by Frank Viola.  This was originally delivered as a conference message, and was then converted into a short e-book.  This little book brings a stunning revelation of Christ throughout the scriptures, and brings God’s eternal purpose into view.  The book is about 20 pages, and can be purchased here for $3.99.  The original audio message is available for free at this link as well.

Secondly, I would like to point you to an e-book titled Junia is Not Alone, by scholar Scot McKnight.  It’s another short read, but well worth your time.  Here’s the product description from amazon.com:

In this fierce essay, leading Bible scholar Scot McKnight tells the story of Junia, a female apostle honored by Paul in his Letter to the Romans—and then silenced and forgotten for most of church history. But Junia’s tragedy is not hers alone. She’s joined by fellow women in the Bible whose stories of bold leadership have been overlooked. She’s in the company of visionary women of God throughout the centuries whose names we’ve forgotten, whose stories go untold, and whose witness we neglect to celebrate.

Not only does this book highlight the important role women play in the scriptures, it gives some insight into how we have arrived with our english translations of the Bible.

You can order the Kindle version of the book here.  The Nook version is here.  Both are $2.99.