Tag Archives: faith

Review: The Forgotten Way, by Ted Dekker

The Forgotten Way, by Ted Dekker | #Christianliving #meditations #Christianity #faithThe Forgotten Way, by Ted Dekker (Outlaw Studios, 2015)

Most readers know Ted Dekker for his Christian fiction, but The Forgotten Way is a collection of 21 non-fiction meditations on “The path of Yeshua for power and peace in this life.”

With detailed reliance on Scripture, the author invites readers to discover and believe the Truth (about God and ourselves), the Life, and the Way. The readings focus on who God is, how He sees us, and how we can begin to believe His truth about ourselves instead of clinging to our temporal, human perspective. Beginning to believe this helps us live as His beloved children in this world without investing our identity solely in the world. This liberates us from a great deal of fear.

Readers are well advised to take time to read every Scripture end-note as flagged in the text, since they often have additional insights attached. There is a companion study guide, which includes the same Scriptures and a few application questions, but it’s more useful to see these quotations and notes in context of the specific portions of the meditations to which they refer.

The Forgotten Way stretched my thinking, and while I gained much, I’ll be following the author’s closing advice to go back and read the book again for a deeper understanding. There were a few minor points I didn’t entirely agree with, but that may be due to the particular words used. A second reading may help.

I did read carefully, and prayerfully, alert for anything that would lead me astray (although having heard Ted Dekker speak, I already respected him as one who seeks truth). Although the concepts are expressed in a different way than I was used to, there was no sense of treading dangerously. Instead, key points matched what I’d heard stated other ways by other teachers.

The individual study bundle comes with brief audio clips expanding on each day’s meditation, plus a few longer podcasts addressing key topics. I saved the longer ones for the end and haven’t yet listened to them.

The Forgotten Way is available for individual or group study. For more details or a taste of the contents, see theforgottenway.com/welcome. It’s not available in stores, and for those shopping outside the US, the shipping is quite expensive. I opted for the study pack, and while I didn’t feel the study guide book added a lot to the experience, I’ve valued the audio resources, and I’d recommend going for the study pack if possible.

Ted Dekker is a New York Times best-selling author of intense Christian fiction and more recently, historical fiction from the time of Christ. For more about the author, visit teddekker.com.

[Review copy from my personal library.]

Review: Grace for the Good Girl, by Emily P. Freeman

Grace for the Good Girl, by Emily P. FreemanGrace for the Good Girl, by Emily P. Freeman (Revell, 2011)

This is a book for all the women whose honest desire to be good sets up impossible expectations and leads to hiding behind facades and fearing to be found out. Anxiety grows, and we struggle in our own strength instead of learning to rely on God. Hence the subtitle: “Letting Go of the Try-Hard Life.”

The author says, “Somewhere along the way, I got the message that salvation is by faith alone but anything after that is faith plus my hard work and sweet disposition” (page 13). Many of us fall into that trap, and Grace for the Good Girl can help us reset.

One of my favourite lines is about giving ourselves “permission to sit down on the inside and live like I have a God who knows what He’s doing” (page 65).

The book is in three sections: the hiding (in which we find out how we’re not alone in this after all), the finding, and the freedom of being found. It ends with a small group leader’s guide for an eight-week study.

Emily P. Freeman writes with transparency and candour about her own struggles, and shares the stories of other “recovering good girls.” The book is easy to read and encouraging. It points us back to relying on the character and grace of God, and to learning to live by faith instead of by feeling. It addresses core issues like anxiety, identity, emotions, and self-reliance, and while you likely won’t recognize yourself on every page, don’t be surprised to relate to at least a few of the stories.

The “try-hard life” is exhausting. Grace for the Good Girl points to freedom. Emily P. Freeman has also written A Million Little Ways and Simply Tuesday: Small-Moment Living in a Fast-Moving World. For more about the author and her ministry, visit emilypfreeman.com.

[Review copy from my personal library.]

Healthy Repentance

I have had one message for Jews and Greeks alike—the necessity of repenting from sin and turning to God, and of having faith in our Lord Jesus.
Acts 20:21, NLT*

These days, if people say “that’s a sin” they either mean “what a shame; that’s unfortunate” or they mean “you’re disqualified; that’s offensive.”

But it makes sense that in the eyes of a holy God, we often do, think, or say things that fall short of His perfect standards. All of us, so there’s no ground for pointing fingers. We do sin. Sometimes even on purpose. It’s natural, but that doesn’t make it right.

The point is, for a healthy spiritual life, we have to repent of our sin. We acknowledge it as wrong and choose to change. We turn to God.

Anywhere but to God is pointing away from Him. We can only grow in wholeness if we’re moving in the right direction.

To do that that, faith in Jesus is essential:

  • for receiving salvation: cleansing from what’s offensive and damaged in us
  • for daily life: ongoing salvation and cleansing, also leading, power, growth, comfort, wisdom, courage, and the list goes on
  • for the future: He is our hope of heaven

God our Father, thank You for sending Your Son to be our Saviour. Thank You this gift is for everyone who will accept it. Thank You for the faith to believe. Please help us to grow in You and to share Your message with those who still need to hear.

Here’s the original Newsboys’ medley of “Where You Belong/Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus” (there’s a newer version on their Hallelujah for the Cross album, but this is the one I bonded with).

*New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

To Depend on God

So now, come back to your God.
Act with love and justice,
and always depend on him.
Hosea 12:6, NLT*

What does it mean to depend on God?

First, it’s an active reliance. We don’t sit and wait for Him to do what needs doing while we channel-surf.

We depend on His strength in us to equip us to serve. We depend on His Spirit in us to replace our natural reactions with the “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control” that He wants us to display. (Galatians 5:22-23, NLT*)

When we’re mistreated, instead of taking revenge, we depend on “Him who judges justly” (1Peter 2:23, NIV) and we dare by His Spirit to forgive the offender and to pray that instead of staying hard and receiving what he or she deserves, that person will surrender to God and receive mercy.

We read the Bible and learn about God’s character, His ways, and His will. And about His promises. We choose to depend on who He is and what He says, not on what we feel and see.

We learn to recognize how He speaks to us as individuals, and we step out in faith to obey Him.

We overcome our fears by choosing to depend on God’s care and His power – and on the assurance that His presence will be with us no matter what.

God of Abraham, of Isaac, of me: because You don’t change, we can know and depend on You. Draw us who love You nearer to Your heart, and grow us in our faith. Draw those who don’t yet know You. Help them see their need of You, and how ignoring and defying You diminishes their lives. Because of Your great mercy, don’t give up on them.

To depend on God, we need to remind ourselves of who He is. Brian Doerksen’s song, “Faithful One,” reminds us (sung here by Robin Mark).

*New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Trusting God’s Timing

All those listed above include fourteen generations from Abraham to David, fourteen from David to the Babylonian exile, and fourteen from the Babylonian exile to the Messiah.
Matthew 1:17, NLT*

“All those listed above” are the ancestors of Jesus. Matthew opens his account of the birth of the Messiah with a genealogy. A strange devotional verse? Perhaps, but it’s the one that touched my spirit for this week.

Did you notice the pattern? Fourteen generations each time. If the priests and scribes had been aware of it and had been counting, they’d have known the timing of God’s next big step.

But God prefers to work in surprising ways, ways we look back on and see clearly even though we didn’t anticipate them.

The same with the “where” of Jesus’ birth: One prophecy said Bethlehem, but another said He’d be called out of Egypt. Clues to keep the faithful anticipating, yet not to reveal the full picture.

If we had sight, we wouldn’t need faith. Which is why I don’t take this verse as a challenge to comb Scripture and piece together a timeline for Jesus’ return. He clearly said that was a secret.

Instead, what this verse says to me is that God has a plan. He knows the various details and intricate inter-weavings that will bring it all together in His perfect time. We know His character, His power and authority.

We can trust Him to look after all that, and we can be about the daily elements of our Father’s business, loving our families, caring for our neighbours and co-workers, conducting ourselves as Christ-followers in a very confused world.

God who is the Author and the Finisher of our faith, help us to trust You. Please keep us from discouragement when we don’t see Your plans unfolding, and keep us equally from trying to “hurry” or “help” You. Keep us from fear when we look at the world around us. Reassure us of Your perfect wisdom, power, and timing. Help us to live each day in confidence in You.

This week’s song is one I’ve loved and found comfort in from way back in my university days: Sheila Walsh’s “In Your Way.”

*New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright© 1996, 2004, 2007, 2013 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

It Matters How We Live

But you are not like that, for you are a chosen people. You are royal priests, a holy nation, God’s very own possession. As a result, you can show others the goodness of God, for he called you out of the darkness into his wonderful light.
1 Peter 2:9, NLT*

“You are not like that…” Not like what? They’re not like the people who are still stumbling “because they do not obey God’s word” (1 Peter 2:8b).

Peter’s been reminding his readers that they’ve been saved from an empty way of life and that they’re being saved… growing and being built into God’s glorious kingdom. And that they will be saved on the last day.

It’s a process, and they’re living for God.

This isn’t about coming to Jesus and then carrying on with life, theirs or ours. We belong to Him now, and our lives need to reflect that.

Can our neighbours or co-workers see the goodness of God in how we live? In our behaviour? Our words, not just about Him but about one another? Our developing peace, patience, etc. as we grow in Him? If we’re learning to bring our thoughts under His authority, that will affect our attitudes, our body language, and what comes out of our mouths.

It’s not about being saved and then forgetting God in our busyness. (click to tweet) It’s about an ever-deepening relationship with Him, craving that “pure spiritual milk” (1 Peter 2:2), actively loving Him. Obeying Him.

If we don’t let our faith affect us, we’re missing a huge opportunity – and a huge blessing. And we’re letting down both God and the people He’s placed in our lives.

Father God, we have no words to thank You for saving us, for adopting us into Your Kingdom and giving us purpose. Forgive us for our distraction, and help us to focus first on You. Change us, so that others will see Your goodness.

This week’s song is Carolyn Arends’ “This is Who You Are,” sung here in concert with Steve Bell. It’s a good reminder of our identity.

*New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright© 1996, 2004, 2007, 2013 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Expectant Life

All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. It is by his great mercy that we have been born again, because God raised Jesus Christ from the dead. Now we live with great expectation…
1 Peter 1:3, NLT*

Peter’s talking about new life in Christ, and along with this “great expectation” we’re to live with, he speaks of our future hope of Heaven. Since he mentions these separately, I think the expectation is for the daily here-and-now.

I’ve been impacted by the invitation to become more aware of the presence of God, exemplified by Brother Lawrence and Frank Laubach. It’s a slow progress for me, with more forgetting than remembering. The key, says Brother Lawrence, is to simply turn back to God in prayer, acknowledging the lapse, and start afresh with Him.

This is the sort of prayer we can expect God to answer. Of course He wants to draw us closer to Himself. That’s the Gospel. And He has great patience in the drawing.

I think part of this great expectation Peter mentions is expecting God to be with us. This isn’t excited anticipation of a specific event, but a security, a calm trust.

What else might we expect, thinking of His presence?

  • Wisdom and guidance, not usually via angelic messenger, but as we quiet our spirits in submission to Him, He will communicate His leading.
  • Protection, of our souls, even if He allows our hearts and bodies to experience hurt.
  • Comfort, because He is with us and loves us.
  • Opportunities to serve Him through the people around us… and the strength to do so.
  • Insights and spiritual growth, as we rely on His grace and learn to see as He sees.

God of all grace and mercy, thank You for bringing us into relationship with Yourself and for Your promise to never leave or abandon us. Your patience and love are beyond any limits we could imagine. Help us to grow in faith, and teach us to rely more and more on Your presence.

With the phrasing the NLT gives our focus verse, what better song could I leave us with than Steven Curtis Chapman‘s “Great Expectations“?

*New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright© 1996, 2004, 2007, 2013 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Opportunity or Threat?

Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy.
James 1:2, NLT*

Do you see troubles as an opportunity?

Maybe I’m still too much of a child inside, but I have the child’s response (mentally) of cowering and shrinking. Of thinking the trouble is too big, and fearing it will overwhelm me. Of seeing a threat.

Another part of me raises my defenses. It’s a win-or-lose struggle, and I can’t afford to lose.

James gives us a much broader perspective. Of course the pain and risk of trouble is great. (In verse 12 he talks about how “God blesses those who patiently endure.”) But he reveals a higher level of stakes.

Trouble isn’t one more bout with a larger danger that will eventually overcome us, as if life is really out to get us.

Trouble is one more opportunity to grow spiritually and to deepen our relationship with the God who loves us. (click to tweet)

It’s not a case of “fight until you can’t get up.” James says trouble tests our faith. To that he adds:

For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing. (James 1:3-4, NLT*)

How can we reach a perfect state of needing nothing? By becoming fully reliant on our God, who we’ve discovered is all-sufficient for any trouble that threatens us. Will that happen this side of Heaven? Maybe not, but we can grow toward it.

God who loves us and redeems us, please open us to see opportunity where our natural selves see only threats. Help us to allow the troubles in our lives to help develop our endurance. Give us the faith to trust You, so we can experience Your all-sufficient care for us.

We have another Matt Maher song this week, because it fits perfectly: “Everything is Grace.”

*New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Messages that Encourage Me

Messages that have resonated with me lately:

“God has given you praise as a weapon to defeat despair. ” Victory Over Despair, by Nike Chillemi

The Weapon of Praise, posted by Grace Fox.

“How do we most glorify God? By being completely satisfied in Him, realizing that the neediness we have is designed by our Creator in order to be fulfilled by Jesus. ” Satisfaction for a Thirsty Soul, by Jake Riddle

“Wait on God and He will work, but don’t wait in spiritual sulks because you cannot see an inch in front of you! Are we detached enough from our spiritual hysterics to wait on God? To wait is not to sit with folded hands, but to learn to do what we are told.” (Oswald Chambers, quoted at ochristian.com)

“Inadequacy can be one of the best blessings in your life if you respond properly.” The Good Side of Inadequacy, audio message by Dr. Charles Stanley (Do take 25 minutes and listen to this…)

Offline, what is God using most to speak to my spirit? Matt Maher‘s newest album, Saints and Sinners, and Eugene H. Peterson’s classic, A Long Obedience in the Same Direction.

Abraham’s Example

Abraham never wavered in believing God’s promise. In fact, his faith grew stronger, and in this he brought glory to God.
Romans 4:20, NLT*

Abraham believed God. He obeyed, went where he was told, and tried to live a righteous life, but it was his faith that made him “the father of all who believe.”

Perhaps the hardest thing for him to believe was God’s promise to give him and his wife a son. Especially when the years kept passing with no sign of pregnancy. Humanly speaking, it was impossible for this elderly, childless couple to reproduce.

But “Abraham never wavered in believing God’s promise… his faith grew stronger.” He didn’t know how, or when, or even why (except that God said so). But he knew Who.

God gives some people “impossible” promises, but He gives all of us the promises in His word. Promises like “I am with you always,” and “whoever believes in Me will have eternal life.”

Abraham’s example shows us how – and why – to live in the big challenges and the small ones. Our purpose is to bring glory to God. That doesn’t have to involve doing great things. Sometimes the greatest thing is just to hold onto our faith and to act in obedience.

Father God, help us to trust You with our honest questions. Grant us the faith to keep holding onto Your promises, no matter what. Help us trust You and wait for what You will do. Help us hold onto You, and to know that You are holding onto us. Your grip is sure.

Let the Newsboys‘ song, “Stay Strong,” encourage us today.

*New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.