Take Time to Be Holy, Samuel Logan Brengle - Book Review

I want to be able to experience the fullness of God in both the darkest of days as well as the mundane routines of everyday life.  I want to see beyond the surface, to see with His eyes, and for Him to fill me with His power so that He can use me to accomplish His purposes in this world.  I want to love more deeply.  I want to be like Jesus.  These are my deepest heart desires.  I wish they were more consistent with my actions.

Aside from reading the Bible, I have found that writings from great Christians in previous generations help me to be aware of my blind spots that result from my culture and generation.  Yes, they have their own blind spots that result from their own culture and generation as well, but there is much to glean from living in community with these people of the past.  All these are reasons why I was attracted to the devotional Take Time to Be Holy: 365 Daily Inspirations to Bring You Closer to God

Take Time to Be Holy is a classic little treasure of the 19th century writings of Samuel Logan Brengle, born in 1860, a leader in the Salvation Army denomination.  Editor Bob Hostetler selected Brengle’s writings and transformed them into a devotional format, replacing archaic language, and adding transitional sentences so that each one-page devotion reads smoothly. 

The writings focus on what it means to be holy, how to receive it by God’s grace, how to make ourselves available to the Holy Spirit’s fullness, and how He impacts our lives with grace and power.  Each page is thought-provoking and speaks into our lives today in an inspiring way that makes us WANT to be holy and to live in the Holy Spirit’s fullness.  This compact little book fit in my purse and inspired me and spoke peace and power into my life on my lunch breaks at work.

But this book isn’t for everybody.  I found some of the language confusing – entire sanctification, former baptisms, sanctified wholly, losing the blessing, crying out to God for “the blessing”. For those who don’t understand this terminology, there are not explanations here.  If you are Pentecostal, Salvation Army, or hold to charismatic views of the Holy Spirit, parts of this little book will make more sense.  While the book is based more on experience than Scripture, I think there is much value packed in this devotional, so if you don’t agree with some of the theology of sanctification, there is still much here to ponder.   

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

Oh, How He Loves You!

Not swirling and twirling
     in the gentle breeze,
         ignoring the tickling whispers,
             as before…

but now,

A gripping, pulling, engulfing
in the hurricane force
Unable to stand your ground
pulled along with the gale…

Will you ride along
Or will you resist

The winds of His lavish love that lead?

Real: Becoming a 24/7 Follower of Jesus - Book Review

If Sunday didn’t exist, would anyone know you were a follower of Jesus?  (Actually, would anyone know you are a follower of Jesus – for ANY reason?)  Many of us who grew up going to church knew that Sunday mornings were for putting on your Sunday best – best clothes, best behavior, best smile, best appearance.  For generations, Christianity has been defined by the Sunday morning experience.  If this describes you, Jamie Snyder asks if your faith spins on the axis of Sunday morning (or Saturday night) in his book Real: Becoming a 24/7 Follower of Jesus

Jamie Snyder, writer and pastor, says the problem for many church-goers is that the setting for their faith might be Sunday-centric in nature.  He goes on to explain what it means to pick up our cross daily and follow Jesus because the meaning has gotten lost in translation, culturally.

Many of us will not be asked to die for Jesus, but we are all called to live for Jesus – daily.  It might be easy to say we will go anywhere and do anything for Jesus, but just so long as we don’t have to risk being hurt, rejected, fired, or evicted.  Our faith is tested in how we respond in our daily circumstances.  We can’t dictate the circumstances, but we can choose how we affect the circumstances.  Following Jesus isn’t about which direction he is going, but about getting wrapped up in the things he is wrapped up in.

We are to be good news to people.  Everywhere we go, we should infuse hope and joy and peace and patience and kindness and self-control and love into the daily circumstances of the world.  Get rid of the testy tone or your condescending voice and usher peace into the hearts of people instead. 
Snyder goes on to explain what faith should be like – not contained or restrained, but unbridled, daring, risky, even rebellious and scandalous.  He challenges us to stop inviting to people to church on Sunday, where they might end up building a faith that spins on the axis of Sunday, but instead, invite them to follow Jesus.

Snyder’s writing style is fluid and conversational as well as thought-provoking.  Each chapter closes with a few questions for reflection and a prayer.  If you were raised in a ‘religious’ environment or if you answer no to the question “Would people know I’m a Christian if they didn’t see me at church?” then I would highly recommend this book to inspire you toward deeper transformation and to follow Jesus 24/7.

For more information about the book, the author, and an excerpt, check out Bethany House Publishing, here.

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

Turnaround God, by Charlotte Gambill - Book Review

The cross was the turning point for all humanity to receive their Savior. The price was paid for sin – the ultimate turnaround.  Charlotte Gambill shows us that we are custodians of that same turnaround power in her book Turnaround God: Discovering God’s Transformational Power. God wants us to work with Him to turn around our world, but she explains that we allow doubts and fears to question and limit this power in our own lives.

Charlotte Gambill, international speaker and author, speaks onto the page with an authoritative voice, alternating Bible stories with present day illustrations and her own personal turnaround stories.  She shows how to practice the turnaround adventure our own lives by giving perspective of the obstacles that hinder, urging commitment that comes through maturity, and then putting the turnaround experience into action.  Her passion shines on the pages.

Like the author, I am also passionate about how God illustrates redemption (turnaround power) in our own lives and many different levels, so I was excited to read this book.  However, I had a hard time finishing it.  Each chapter is divided into smaller sections that make it easy to set it aside and ponder – except there wasn't much substance for pondering.  In addition, the sections were short and choppy.  She writes with many one-liners that would be great for tweets, but it didn’t necessarily propel me onward to the next page.  Furthermore, nearly every other page was interrupted with a highlighted quote that would break my train of thought. 

While this book just wasn’t for me, I know women who feel desperately in need of a turnaround who might find hope here and be inspired by it.

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

Why Jesus Was Baptized

Imagine a long line of people along the bank of a river, the Jordan River. They stand, watch, whisper to each other, each waiting their own turn.  The next in line wades out to John the Baptist, publicly confesses their sins, and is then immersed under the water, symbolically freeing them of their sins.  

Why were they doing this? Where did their sins go? 

And the biggest question of all, why did Jesus arrive to be baptized too?  He didn't have any sins to wash away. He was the only one there who was without sin, and would in fact be rendered dirty by the water of sin instead of being cleansed by it.

Jesus wasn't there to purify himself.  Nor was Jesus there to set a good example.  It wouldn't make sense that the Father would express such pleasure and delight in His Son just for providing the demonstration for his followers to imitate.  It's bigger than that.  

In this one pivotal moment, Jesus, pure and sinless, took up our sin when he was baptized.  The water that symbolized washing away sin and a sign of repentance became a filthy frothy basin of sin that Jesus would bear upon his shoulders for us. Through his baptism, he initiated the act of taking away the sins of the world (John 1:29), beginning the forward motion of the divine plan. 

Jesus' choice to be baptized was showing His Father his willingness to take the journey to the cross.  And THIS is why the Father was so pleased with him.