How to Release Control

I was a control freak.  I’m not sure what broke me from it.  Perhaps it was rooted in feeling fiercely disappointed when I tried to control the outcome and yet still things didn’t turn out ‘right’.  Perhaps it was a result of perceived failure, taking fault upon myself when the circumstance I tried so hard to control didn’t turn out as I expected.  Or perhaps it has just been a part of my Father’s work, gradually transforming me into the image of His Son, teaching me to release control to Him, but not in a way that makes me passive.  I still have to buck control-freak tendencies sometimes, but here are some ways to release control into His hands:

1)   Insulate yourself from power brokers (people who make you want to keep track of how well you are doing or who you want to impress).

2)   Make decisions as a result of listening to the Spirit of God and obeying rather than just on what is expected or what makes sense or what you want.

3)   Die to yourself and to your neurotic tendencies to manage and protect everything. But remember – the main point isn’t in dying but in the living that comes from dying to self.

4)   Live in today, humbly receiving that comes your way instead of pining for more stuff or a better future.

5)   Let God work.  He is working, so abandon yourself to Him fully each day without holding back.

This post was inspired by Francois Fenelon’s writing “Let God”. Thank you, my friend John, for giving me this book!

Linking up with the Soli Deo Gloria party at Finding Heaven

One Forever: The Transforming Power of Being In Christ - Book Review

In the New Testament, Paul describes believers with two simple words - in Christ. What exactly does it mean to be in Christ? It sounds like a sphere, a location, somewhere you can be.  Does it mean to be saved by Christ? Inspired by Christ? Taught by Christ? In submission to Christ?  Rory Shiner unpacks the real meaning of this theological idea of union with Christ in his book One Forever: The Transforming Power of Being In Christ.

Union with Christ, being in Christ, is not impossible to grasp, nor is it impractical.  It is substantial.  And it is deeply liveable.  Rory Shiner explains the meaning and practicality with vivid, simple, memorable illustrations that bring clarity to the concept, and he follows it up with Scriptural basis.  He shows that the doctrine of union with Christ is precisely the doctrine Paul calls on when it comes to actually living the Christian life, overcoming sin, and growing in holiness.  In Christ is the place where we can never ever be separated from the love of God, the place where we are justified before the Father.

This straightforward book, less than 100 pages, will help the follower of Christ understand the full impact of being united with Christ and how transformational it can be when we grasp the concept. This book would be great for either individual reading or small group study, though no discussion guide is included.  

For more information about this book, click: MatthiasMedia.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Matthias Media in exchange for my honest review.  

Seven Lessons Learned from a Heart Attack

My husband had a heart attack  6 weeks ago.  It was unexpected, shocking.  But God walked with me through the darkness and had a few things He wanted to show me.

1)      I am not alone.  The first moments in the hospital waiting room on a Saturday afternoon, it was entirely silent, only my body in the quiet space.  But I did not feel alone. I relished the quiet as the presence of Jesus engulfed me, filling me with peace and strength.  The moments of clinging to Jesus in quietness were precious.

2)      God manifests His presence in the form of loving family and friends, but does not mean for them to replace Him. Loving friends barged into the waiting room with hugs and encouragement, infusing me with strength.  I welcomed the interruption.  They helped divert my thoughts off myself and the crisis.  God did not intend that they squeeze Him out, but to be a physical reality of His nearness.  Later when they all left, He didn’t leave.  In the days after, I had to remember to turn to God and not let people take His place.

3)      I’m stronger than I thought I was, by His strength.   I always thought that if anything happened to my husband or children, it would be hard to even take the next breath of this life and function.  Sometimes people really do endure more than they can bear – they crack up, fall apart.  But God promises His grace is sufficient, and that His power will be made greater in our weakness.  I learned that maybe I really can survive without falling to pieces, that my life could go on, and that He would give me the strength I need if I will open my hands to Him and receive it.

4)      Joy is found in cherishing the moments and not taking the little things for granted. The hospital’s ICU kicked me out when visiting hours were over. When I returned to my empty, quiet house, all I could do was clean and try not to think about the “what if’s”.  As I swept my floor, I thought about my husband’s strong hands that laid the ceramic tile.  As I dusted, my heart melted at the thought of the book shelves he built with love for me.  As I slept alone in my bed, I longed to hear his heavy breathing next to me (even if it was his snoring). He wasn’t there, but the evidence surrounding me that he had been touched me. I never even really noticed before.

5)      It’s easy to let fear take the driver’s seat.  When I woke up early the following morning post crisis, I was attacked by the “what if’s”, starting with the biggest one of all – what if he had died?  Unless I hit the brakes on the circle of thoughts as they explored various avenues of my future, fear will take control and lead my emotions down a road to anxiety and panic.  I can’t just stop the fear or quit the “what if’s”. As soon as I catch myself, I have to replace those thoughts with something else, like remembering the things to be thankful for instead.  It’s not about being in denial of reality; it’s simply not worrying about what will be or what won’t be, preparing for the future but living in the present.

6)      I’m not in control, even if I try to be.  There’s a difference between being out-of-control and releasing control.  I couldn’t keep it from happening. I couldn’t control the speed of the doctors.  I couldn’t just close my eyes and make it all go away.  However, it wasn’t all utter chaos.  Someone else was in control, and I had to release myself to His control.  He already knew in advance this would happen.  It didn’t take Him by surprise. 
7)      God is good, regardless of the outcome.  I didn’t know if my husband would survive. Still, in those uncertain moments, God was assuring me He was good and He was in control, and it was okay if I didn’t understand.  He just wanted me to trust Him and remember His goodness and love for me.
He still has chest pain.  It scares me sometimes.  And the tornado that wiped out our old house and decimated the former neighborhood where we once lived in Moore, Oklahoma, I am reminded that a crisis could occur at any moment.  Any kind of crisis.  I could keep busy with worry.  I don’t want to live worrying about the next crisis, but when it happens, I know now that I have these seven lessons learned that I can hold onto firmly, and that the list of lessons will continue to grow.  And so will I.

Victim of Grace - Book Review

Everything is redeemable.  “My redeemed life in Christ could only be experienced to the fullest by living in the unforced rhythms of His grace,” declares Robin Jones Gunn in her book Victims of Grace: When God’s Goodness Prevails.  She claims to be a victim of grace, and through her gift of storytelling, she shows how God showered His grace in her and around her by telling her life story.  But not just her story.  She weaves in the lives of women in the Bible and women she has known, kindred victims of grace, to show how God pours His grace on us as He transforms us into the image of Christ in times of pain.

Robin shares how she learned she was not a victim of her circumstances, but instead, a living sacrifice, a victim of God’s extravagant grace. Blessings happen inside our obedience, and inside the blessing, God delights in adding a hidden sweetness.  In her vivid storytelling ability, she explains how she traded her companions of Fear and Doubt for Hope and Faith.  In circumstances that seemed to shatter her dream as a young woman, through other seasons of life, her Dream That Would Not Go Away was transformed into a Dream come true in unexpected ways, much more magnificent than her original dream. 

This book is uplifting and encouraging.  It is a light and easy read for a topic that could have potentially been very heavy.  Robin’s giftedness in story-telling shines through as she shows how we can glimpse God’s goodness and grace when our hopes or dreams are shattered.

Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Zondervan Publishing in exchange for my honest review.

A Christian Perspective of Health

We have a tendency to compartmentalize various aspects of our lives, like keeping the physical separate from the spiritual.  In actuality, it is all linked together, and you can try to blindly build the separating walls, but it doesn’t change reality.  For example, let’s consider our health.  Some of us neglect taking care of our bodies, claiming to focus on things that are really important.  But according to the Bible, health is a spiritual issue.  Our bodies are on loan to us by God and He expects us to take care of them.  God created it, Jesus died for it, the Holy Spirit lives in it, so we should care for it. 

What we do with our bodies either honors or dishonors God.  There is nothing in between. You can be in poor health circumstances even if it is not a result of your choices, but how you handle those circumstances will either honor or dishonor God. 

I grew up in a church where honoring God with your body meant don’t drink, don’t smoke, don’t dance.  I’m rebellious at heart, so if you give me a “don’t” rule, and I want to prove it wrong.  So, what if, instead, we looked at what we should DO instead of DON’T do?  There are three key areas:

1.    Eat nutritious food.  What we put into our bodies, affects our bodies.  We have been immunized to this idea in the United States.  Ease of access, cost-effectiveness, and speed of preparation has become our priority over the contents of the food.  Are you eating for pleasure or have you been eating for health?  God DID give us food to enjoy, but when we eat, we should look at our motivation.  Eat to give glory to God and care for your body rather than making pleasure or ease your priority.  Look for foods you enjoy that are nutrient rich and good for you.  Think through what you eat in the context of whether it glorifies God.  This motive will last longer than any other temporary motivation, such as losing weight, and will create a good habit in your life.

2.    Live a healthy lifestyle.  Lifestyle habits are not prescriptive in Scripture and are culturally diverse, rooted in were we are born and what is available.  The American lifestyle is the most sedentary of any culture in all of history, now that we generally have desk jobs and the chores required of most of us do not involve as much physical activity as they did even 100 years ago.    We spend a lot of time on screens, even looking at multiple screens, and only when we turn them off, we are more likely to move around.  We are to look at what the Word has to say and apply biblical concepts to our choices.  Anytime we put Jesus first, we are bound to take good steps. 

3.    Keep fit.  A mind and body that is fit may have more opportunity to serve and to care for others, pointing toward the glory of God.  Fitness is an area where we need caution to not go too far in either direction.  Taking care of our body is a step we take to glorify God.  But you can also take it too far and forget the purpose of bringing glory to God and taking the glory for yourself  – to look good, to look hot, to look young. 

Knowing that all our activities have eternal significance, we should put first things first.  When we focus on just ourselves and our bodies, it makes it about us, so we must re-focus and put first things first.  Put God first.  Then, we are to put others second.  When we do this, it indirectly impacts how we look at our habits and lifestyles.  We are not our own. We were meant to honor God with our bodies while seeking Jesus and living in community with others.  

Based on the sermon at Fellowship Bible Church.  You can listen to the message, which is called "Seven - Health" at 

It's Not Fair!

God is fair. God is just. God is good.  I really truly believe this with all my heart.  But I’ve been known to ask, why do you get more than me?  Or why do I get more than you?  I’m not just talking about possessions or money.  I’m talking about talent, health, opportunities, strength, personality, ability to connect with others, etc.

Why does one get perfect health while I get a rare liver disease?  Why am I born an introvert with a heart that wants to be an extrovert? Why do I get to be born in a Christian culture while another is born into in Islamic culture in Afghanistan? Why do I get to be a mother, but another must struggle with infertility?  Why do I get a childhood of relative ease while another struggles growing up jumping from one foster home to another? 

God isn’t giving away the answers quite yet.  He doesn’t have to, even if it seems unfair.  But He has a reason.  Just read the parable of the talents, where the master gives varying responsibilities to each of the servants according to their abilities.  God is not obligated to treat us all equally or give us all the same things.

So some have more than me while I have more than others.  That’s how life is – a sort of pecking order – some above, some the same, some beneath.  This reality leaves us with three choices:
  1.  We can use what we have or don’t have as an excuse for why we do or don’t do something.
  2. We can waste away our lives playing the comparison game, complaining about the some that others have that we didn’t get.
  3. We can gratefully accept what we have been given and do everything we can with it – give it all we’ve got.

 So rather than asking “Why don’t I have that?” or “Why didn’t got make me more like that?” or “why did that happen to me?”, I resolve to ask more often “what” to do with what I it, instead.

Holding the Truth High without Putting People Down - Book Review

Are we giving as much energy to obeying and being transformed by God’s Word personally as we are to criticizing its detractors? This is Joshua Harris’s test question for determining whether we are pursuing humble orthodoxy, which he explains in his new book Humble Orthodoxy: Holding the Truth High without Putting People Down.

I think it’s embarrassing when I hear Christians bludgeoning each other with their pet doctrines or pounding others over the head in judgment.  Humble orthodoxy is committing ourselves to holding on to truth and never giving up on showing love to others.  It doesn’t mean being hesitant where God has been plain and clear.  It means standing for truth with a tear in our eye.  And it means living it – embodying the truth that you know and teach.

Joshua Harris points out that there is a difference between having a critical mind that carefully evaluates and having a critical spirit that loves to tear down and belittle.  Humble orthodoxy squelches pride as it holds out the truth while loving his neighbor and his enemy.

Maybe you believe that hell is a real place and your Christ-following friend does not.  Before trying to spout out all of the supporting Scripture, think – do you live like you believe it?  Are you trying to “save” as many people from hell as you can because you know how horrifying it is?  Maybe your friend believes in a health-wealth gospel, and you don’t.  Are you living a life of accumulating things and feel like God is blessing you because you are so good?

This is a short book of 60 pages that offers much food for thought and discussion.  The size and depth of this book along with the discussion guide in the back would make it a great one-month study for a small group, for partnering with a friend, or even just to ponder alone.  I highly recommend this short read to any Christ follower who is passionate about what they believe.

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Waterbook Multnomah Publishing in exchange for my honest review.

Reclaiming Love: Radical Relationships in a Complex World - Book Review

Like many other couples, my husband and I arranged for the reading of 1 Corinthians 13, “the Love Chapter”, at our wedding.  My best friend printed 1 Corinthians 13 on elegant paper and framed it for me to put on my wall, replacing the pronouns with my name and with my husband’s name as the object of my love.  But how often have I ever considered that chapter in the context of God’s instructions on what it means to love your neighbor as yourself?  Uh…never?? You mean I should keep no record of wrongs not only with my husband but also my boss and my crazy next-door neighbor?? I was awakened to this blind spot in my life by Ajith Fernando in his book Reclaiming Love: Radical Relationships in a Complex World.

The greatest love comes at the greatest cost.  Ajith Fernando would know.  He grew up and ministered in Sri Lanka, and has not only studied 1 Corinthians 13 in depth, but has counseled with it, discipled with it, and lived it for at least 50 years.  In 19 chapters, he dissects the verses in 1 Corinthians 13 touching on topics of patience, kindness, envy, honor, boasting, arrogance, sensitivity, anger, truth, bitterness, forgiveness, judgment, perseverance, and grace.  He holds the reader captive with illustrations and practical explanations and remains faithful to the whole counsel of Scripture. 

The journey from the head to the heart can be long and complex, so we must repeatedly open ourselves up to the healing work of the Holy Spirit.  Ajith Fernando shows how we must learn to find a way to handle the weaknesses of others and then get on with the business of loving and enjoying them.  He reminds us that attempts to show kindness to others do not render us immune from misunderstanding and pain, yet he provides a list of things we can practice to exercise caution. 

Ajith Fernando says there is great value in a life devoted to love, even though it is costly.  Those who live in love experience joy, and joy, like love, comes from God and not from within a person.  We may be inconvenience or we must act against our natural instincts to follow a loving path.  Love might not be reciprocated, but the suffering of rejection deepens our love relationship with Christ.  He tells us why it’s worth it.

This book is not fluffy and frivolous, nor is it too academic or difficult.  Ajith Fernando strikes a perfect balance in between, and he inspires while being thought-provoking.  But Zondervan sure could have found a larger font that would have been easier on these over-40 eyes!  I would recommend this book for every Christian who wants to know what it really means to love one another and what that looks like, and I would recommend a magnifying glass or special reading glasses for those who have difficulty reading tiny print.

Disclaimer:  I received a complimentary copy of this book from Zondervan Publishing in exchange for my honest review.