No More Mr. Nice Guy (Speaking the Truth in Love)

Jesus wasn’t just a “nice guy”.  Yes, he overflowed with love, compassion, and care.  He put these emotions into action by providing food to the hungry, healing the sick, comforting the broken-hearted, and offering forgiveness to the shamed.  But he also didn’t hesitate to get in their faces when they needed it.  He called the Pharisees a “brood of vipers”, overturned the tables in the temple, and pointed out things that needed fixing.  He told stories with shocking and thought-provoking endings that insulted some people and opened the eyes of others.  Jesus wasn’t “nice,” yet He was without sin.  He spoke the truth in love.

I don’t want to be just a “nice lady,” but I don’t want to be witchy either.  Being like Jesus is a little tricky – a sort of balancing act.  You can’t go around calling people vipers or pointing out their flaws and expect to have the same effect that Jesus did.  You can’t just give people whatever they want or need and flaccidly smile with the hope they understand God’s love.  You must speak the truth in love.

How do you speak the truth in love? A few things I’m learning and hoping to practice more:
1) Know when to speak and when to be silent.  Sometimes Jesus explained himself and sometimes he kept his mouth shut even in the midst of misunderstanding.  He allowed himself to be falsely accused for a time so that later people would understand.  It’s not only a matter of timing, but a matter of how many words as well.
2) Keep in step with the Spirit.  When I’m in a situation where an instant response is required, sometimes my response is a natural fleshly knee-jerk reaction that kicks in the wrong direction.  If I can keep in step with the Spirit and ask for His continual filling, in the critical moments of my response, I can answer rightly and reflect the words God would have me speak.
3) Seek God’s perspective and wisdom. I have to remind myself that it’s not about me, and it’s not even about them.  Rather, it’s about Him and showing off His greatness.  His bird’s eye view of the situation is not only global but encompasses all of time – past, present, and future. My street view is limited – I can’t even see around the next corner nor where I’ve been without a mirror, so I need to obey and trust His navigational system. I need to be courageous to speak as He leads.
4) Keep my eyes on the cross and the love and grace that emanates from it.  Only in grasping and remembering what Christ has done for me can I then possess enough love and grace to give to others.  If I have the greatest gifts but have not love, I have nothing. 
Love is essential.

It's Not About Me - Book Review

“God will heal you if you just have faith,” claim well-meaning Christian friends.  I have no doubt He is omnipotent and capable, but He hasn’t done it yet, and what if He doesn’t? Does it mean my faith has failed, or that God has failed me? I know the answer is “no,” but it’s easier to accept when I remember that it’s not about me.  It’s about God.  God’s priority is His glory, and my job is to make Him look great, even in the face of suffering.  A hospital room or difficult medical procedure can be the showcase.  “Your faith in the face of suffering cranks up the volume of God’s song,” declares Max Lucado in his book It’s Not About Me: Rescue from the Life We Thought Would Make Us Happy.

Before I read It’s Not About Me, I already knew it wasn’t about me, but now I have a stronger grip on just exactly what it IS about.  First, Max Lucado explains why it’s all about God and why God’s desire for glory is not egotistical.  If you are drowning in the cold dark sea after your ship just sank and a lifeboat approaches, you need the pilot of the lifeboat to let you know that he is there, he is strong, and he can save you! The passengers want the pilot to reveal himself.  In the same way, we need to witness God’s glory for our own good. 

In the second half, Max illustrates practical ways we can live out our purpose of reflecting God – in our work, struggles, successes, salvation, and even our bodies.  A study guide divided into sections that coincide with each chapter at the back of the book provides the opportunity to reflect on the theme and meditate on applicable Scripture.

The nuggets of simplified truth in this book have the potential to transform your thinking.  I highly recommend it to anyone who needs a boost in focusing eyes upward instead of inward. This quick and easy-to-read book fell into my hands at just the time I needed its message the most – a time when I must unselfishly and sacrificially set my self and my agenda aside for a season, maybe perhaps so that I can learn to do this for a lifetime. 

To comply with regulations by the Federal Trade Commission 16 CFR Part 255, I am disclosing that BookSneeze® provided me a complimentary copy of this book.  I was not required to write a positive review and the opinions I have expressed are my own.

Freedom From Performing - Book Review

I want to live a life of godliness  - REAL godliness – not one measured by how well I follow rules or meet expectations or by how nice of a person I am, but a life of transformation.  I want to live a life that is not about protecting an image, but instead, a life of authenticity.  I want to be someone who knows when to be silent as well as someone who is not afraid to speak the truth in love.  I want to learn to pour God’s grace on others while internalizing it myself.  I want to be free from performing and free from the desire for accolades except for a delightful nod from my Heavenly Father.

Becky Harling showed me how to be an image bearer instead of protecting an image in her book Freedom from Performing.  In order to illuminate the truths of God’s grace, she shares her own stories about peeling away the layers involved in living for the applause of many, and instead, internalizing grace to accept only the applause of the One who already loves, regardless of performance. 

Freedom from shame, living our passion and purpose, release from perfectionism, and putting away the measuring stick – these are just a few of the themes that Becky Harling develops to show how an understanding of grace impacts our lives in practical ways.  In each chapter, she shares what God has shown her using a parable or other biblical passage as the foundation. At the end of each chapter, she summarizes truth as a message spoken to the reader from God, provides a prayer for conversation with Him, and includes a Bible study with reflective questions for the week.

This book seems to be very specific toward a particular personality type.  If you are a high-achiever, multi-tasker, people-pleasing, or Type A personality, then this book may be a great fit for you.  If you are relaxed, easy-going, and never have a sense of urgency, perhaps you will find this book harder to relate to.  I thoroughly enjoyed this book and plan to keep it in an easily-accessible location on my book shelf so that I can periodically read the ‘message from God’ and the prayers at the end of each chapter until they are ingrained as truth in me.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from NavPress Publishers as part of their Blogger Review Program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

Grace - Amazing or Accustomed?

When you hear or sing “Amazing Grace”, is God’s grace still amazing to you?  If you’ve been a Christian for a long time, you might be able to relate more to the concept of “accustomed grace” instead of “amazing grace”.  I think there was a long stretch of time in my walk with Christ that His grace was customary to me, but as I have grown more aware of sin in my life as well as the incredibleness of the many facets of God’s character, grace has become an awesome thing to me.

Some people think you have to live a life of outward sin and immorality and then come to Jesus in order to really see His amazing grace.  But what if outwardly you’ve been a “good person”, living a morally good life and serving others? Charles Wesley realized that being an outwardly good person WAS his source of sinful bondage.  His “goodness” was really as filthy rags in God’s eyes compared to God’s holiness.  His morality was actually the chains that held him in prison. 

First we have to realize we are even in bondage.  “What is it that you cannot master, but master’s you?”  Charles Wesley lived an outwardly moral life of goodness and service – his chains were not visible.  For others of us, they are.  When we realize our bondage, that any chains make us all equally prisoners, even in the many ways God shows this to us, there is only one single remedy – Jesus set us free by being lifted up on the cross, publicly shamed, cruelly suffered, died so that we could be released from sins and dominion.

I did not become a sinner by sinning.  I sin because I am a sinner, even when I’m blind to it.  I used to think that I was an overall good person.  Then when I was confronted with the shocking realization I was not, I determined to be better.  But I only failed again.  And I keep on failing, but as the fog dissipates slowly, I see more clearly.  There will always be endless layers to unwrap.  And because of this, God’s grace is even more amazing.

The litmus test of the vitality of your spiritual growth is your ability to grasp the Gospel of Christ and His grace.  Two signs that your faith is not healthy are 1) You are not happy by seeing the grace of God touch lives of the needy; 2) You feel no special need for forgiveness for yourself. (By Grace Alone, by Sinclair Ferguson).

Satan is unable to destroy us, but He does seek to destroy our enjoyment of God and our understanding of grace.  He throws his fiery darts of accusations, and they can be so sneaky that we may think the thoughts are our own, and thus condemning ourselves for even having such thoughts.  Because of our ongoing sinfulness, we listen. 

We must keep our eyes on the cross and remember that if He was so prepared to bear judgment and suffer for our sin, that he will not withhold good things from us or keep Him from fulfilling His loving purpose for us. 

I read about the concept of accustomed grace versus amazing grace in the thought-provoking book By Grace Alone, by Sinclair Ferguson and published by the Reformation Trust.  If you are interested in reading more in depth, I highly recommend this book.

Futurecast, by George Barna - Book Review

I despise our current culture’s mantra “It is what it is.” It’s like throwing your hands in the air and saying “whatever”.  It’s an excuse to do nothing and just accept the world as it is.  Perhaps sometimes this is an appropriate response, but it’s never the place to end.  It can be the beginning point for moving forward.
George Barna, renowned researcher and founder of a leading research firm focused on the intersection of faith and culture, explains there are three types of people: 1) those who will watch what happens, 2) those who will make it happen, and 3) those who will wonder what happened.  In his book Futurecast: What Today’s Trends Mean for Tomorrow’s World, he challenges the reader to understand the societal changes in our world of readily-accessible information at the touch of a finger and to decide which type of person you will be. 
In this book, Barna explores American trends in the areas of lifestyles, hopes and aspirations, family life, relationships, attitudes and values, media and entertainment, technology, religious beliefs and behavior, churches, and demographics.  Using statistics from his research, he explains what is happening in various aspects of each of these areas and then reflects on what this means for the Christian.
I loved Barna’s discussion on the trend toward mediocrity, but my favorite chapter in the book was the last one in which he explains how we can redirect these trends. However, this chapter was much too short – I wanted to read more!  While the statistics could easily plummet you into depression, the author offers encouragement by suggesting that we allow God to transform us through a dynamic relationship with Him instead of the world, a starting point for impacting the world for Him. 

If you are interested in the current trends of our culture and how they may possibly shape the future through a Christian perspective, this book is a good read. I received a complimentary copy of this book for review purposes from Tyndale House.

The Waiting Place - Book Review

Everyday I am waiting for something.  Sometimes waiting is annoying or irritating, like waiting in traffic to get home.  Other times it produces anxiety or excitement, like watching for the plus sign on a home-pregnancy test.  Waiting in line, waiting for biopsy results, waiting for my kids to grow up a little more, waiting for my co-worker to quit clipping his nails and get back to work so I can concentrate…I constantly find myself in some sort of waiting place.  Sometimes waiting is boring, sometimes frustrating, sometimes thrilling, and even sometimes completely mind-bogglingly numbing.

“To live is to wait.  It’s how we wait that makes all the difference,” says Eileen Button in her book The Waiting Place: Learning to Appreciate Life's Little Delays.  This is not explicitly a how-to book on enduring waiting or developing patience.  It’s more about recognizing the challenges and changes that can take place there if you open your eyes.  Eileen demonstrates this through a collection of humorous essays written as poignant stories compiled during her lifetime of finding herself in various waiting places from the light-hearted waiting for fish to bite while at the lake with her dad to the heart-wrenching waiting to find out if her infant son born with numerous medical problems will live – will breathe.

God brought this book into my life at a time when I was waiting and simultaneously preparing for the arrival of life-altering change. Eileen’s light-hearted tales about the waiting places of her life provided a relief to my own exhaustion from preparation, causing me to laugh out loud as well as ponder my own waiting places that I had visited in my life and what God was doing in them.  She reminded me that “much of life is lived not in the spectacular but in the ordinary, day-in, day-out spaces.” The delightful way she invited me to peek into her life through this book left me feeling like she is a dear friend who shared a great appreciation for life’s little delays. 

BookSneeze® provided me a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.  

My Worries and God's Omnipotence

My occupation with multiple worries at one time means that I don’t have to worry about any single thing obsessively.  I can spread them out, switching the channel of my mind to a different fretful thought when one becomes too overwhelming.
Do not worry about tomorrow.
But what happens tomorrow could alter the destiny of many. So many things could go wrong, yet I feel powerless to stop any of them.   
Tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. (Matthew 6:34)
Very true – so why do I waste my energy on the “what-if’s” when there is so much to deal with this day? I fool myself if I think I have control over any of it.  But if I start thinking like that, I just sit back and get cynical. 
Beth Moore says: “At the end of the day, people do what they want to do.  You can’t make them do something else. You can’t force them.  You can’t change them.  You can’t deliver them.  Only God can.  And that’s why He’s omnipotent and we’re not.” (So Long, Insecurity)
BEFORE the end of the day, I know that God uses me to influence, to bring about His will.  At the end of the day, I need to know that I walked close to Jesus, leaned on Him, followed in His steps. At the end of the day, I want to hear Him say “well done, good and faithful servant,” regardless of the outcome around me and regardless of the choices people make. 
We are meant to reflect His character, to show some faint reflection of each of His attributes.  Even omnipotence to some degree (perhaps without the omni part).  In Paul’s encouragement to Timothy to be faithful, he says in 2 Timothy 1:7 “God gives us a spirit of power, of love, and of self-discipline.”  This is power expressed with control and a loving spirit.  Love is the goal of this dispensed power based on faith.  He gives us the power to bring about change, to alter the course of someone’s destiny, to bring about results.  He wants to bless us when we join Him in His work.
God is omnipotent and I am not. He has all the power to do whatever He decides He wants done.  The best part is that it is always consistent with His character – His holiness, His goodness, His love, and His grace.  He knows the passing of every sparrow.  He knows the number of hairs on my head.  This is a God who is in the details, a God who holds all the power, a God who cares more deeply than we can ever imagine.
Photo from

Trusting God for Everything: Psalm 23

Last year on the beaches of the Riviera Maya, I read the gospels and was blown away by the radical character of Jesus.  The impact altered my perception and compassion for the surrounding culture and people and infused me with boldness to project His love. 
When I travel on vacation, I seek a break from my usual routines with hopes of blending adventure and relaxation.  During my last few annual vacations, I started to pursue this even in my daily time with God after an abrupt realization that God doesn’t go on His own vacation when I do.  I yearn for some different and fresh way to connect with Him, either through a particular topic or a select book in the Bible for my focus.  The memories of a trip now include not only the adventures and refreshment but spiritual renewal and companionship with God as well.
I just found the perfect book for my next vacation!  Jan Johnson’s Trusting God for Everything: Psalm 23 nurtured my soul as she guided me through study and meditation of a very familiar passage that delivered me to new heights.  This book includes seven meditations focusing on connecting with God by trusting Him for everything you need, for soul restoration, in His leadership, in the Deep Valleys, during opposition, and in His continual companionship.  Each meditation begins with settling into a peaceful place with opening thoughts, then immersion in the Word, response with thought-provoking questions, reflection, and prayer. 
Warning: This is not a Bible study, but a tool for interacting with God through Scripture while shedding light on an overly-familiar passage. 
While the author provides suggestions on how to have an effective retreat time, this book can also be useful for stay-cations and Saturday mornings if you find that you just can’t get away, so long as you can get yourself alone to really commune with God.  I used this book for Saturdays and holidays for the purpose of this review and rushed through it faster than I would’ve liked, so I plan to take it with my on my next vacation.  Still, I will never read or recite Psalm 23 the same way ever again, and my trust in God has expanded. 
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from NavPress Publishers as part of their Blogger Review Program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."


I yearn to have a steadfast, trusting heart and to live in the knowledge that I am living a life where nothing is wasted.  Even in the foggy mist where I can barely see the next step in front of me, I desire to smile because I know His plan is good and right, and He is right at my side carrying me through everything. 
In Beth Moore’s book So Long Insecurity: You’ve Been a Bad Friend to Us, her use of Scripture from the perspective of insecurity slapped me upside the head and told me to live my identity in Christ – to be clothed with strength and dignity.  Here are some notes that I took while reading the book that I never want to forget:
Insecurity is
·         not a weakness, but an unbelief – not believing what God says about you.
·         a thief that steals your dignity.
·         a downward spiral that snowballs.
Signs of Insecurity:
·         Things come to you more as an offense rather than rolling off your back.
·         Perfectionism – an aspiration to be better than others or always feeling horribly inadequate
How to Walk in Security:
  • Determine your triggers of insecurity.  Decide whether or not you are going to take the boot.  You have a scriptural covering that should give you the courage to expose your most personal self.
  • Actively will to walk in security – it won’t happen by accident.  Renew your thinking. Don’t believe the lies. Remind yourself that a situation does not have the power to define or diminish you.
·         Attitude is everything – you have the power to choose to think the best or worst about someone.
·         Process something negative without letting it automatically make you insecure.  Who the other person is or how they react does not dwarf who you are. 
·         Give yourself to something greater.  Lose yourself to something larger.  Christ showed us the way.
·         Allow your heart to heal instead of harden. “Grace is the only thing you can give away that you can also keep.”  Grace is not meant to be an excuse for remaining in bondage but is meant for making you completely new. 

Beth Moore references scriptures and shares stories in a conversational style that helps you understand why you think and act the way you do along with solutions to kick insecurity out of your life.  I keep a copy of the prayer at the end (page 348) on my desk at work to read periodically – not just when I feel insecure, but when I feel fatigued or worried or just need to draw strength from my joy in Christ.

Let's Get Real - Book Review

God has a story in your marriage and in your life, and through your marriage He is crafting you into His image.  You can read more about this theme as well as how to bring authenticity and wholeness to your marriage in Let’s Get Real, by Dale and Jena Forehand. 
This book is divided into an 8-week study that can be read simply as a chapter book or used as a study to do together as a couple or small group.  Each chapter includes encouragement, advice, illustrations, and mini Bible study sessions with a listening guide at the end of the chapter should you choose to watch the DVD designed to supplement the book.   Learn what happened to marriage at the first Fall, how to be a safe mate, how to get off the shame train, dealing with conflict, forgiveness, and showing your love physically. 
I found particularly interesting the Forehand’s explanation of the shame train – the differences between conviction and shame, causes that lead to the stronghold of shame, and how it leads to either performance or destruction as well as other strongholds that keep us personally and relationally imprisoned.  They also adequately address how to experience authentic forgiveness when you are suffering the consequences of a conflict that wasn’t handled in a godly manner.
Aside from the shame-train topic, I didn’t find a lot of new information in this book that I didn’t already know, but perhaps that is a result of 19 years of marriage and my involvement in many marriage books/studies over the years.  This would definitely be a great resource for either newlyweds or those who find marriage difficult due to continual conflicts rooted in differences on how they were raised.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from NavPress Publishers as part of their Blogger Review Program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."