Books That Shape Us

old-books

From time to time someone will mention a book to me and I find myself saying, “Oh! That’s in my Top Ten List!” So, I figured I would sit down and see if I really do have a Top Ten List. These are ten books that shaped me as a younger believer, or that shaped my thinking about ministry. None is academic; I think all are accessible. Here they are, in no particular order. There might just as easily have been twenty, I suppose.

1. Spiritual Authority, by Watchman Nee
2. God Meant It For Good, by R. T. Kendall
3. The Making Of A Man Of God, by Alan Redpath
4. The Prophetic Ministry, by Rick Joyner
5. Humility, by Andrew Murray
6. How To Be Born Again, by Billy Graham
7. The Holy Spirit And You, by Dennis & Rita Bennett (so helpful back in the day!)
8. Rees Howells, Intercessor, by Norman Grubb
9. Prayer Series, by E. M. Bounds
10. Power Healing, by John Wimber

What about you? Do you have a Top Five or a Top Ten you’d like to share?

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The Facebook Dream

dolphin-203875_1280

The other night, I had a strange dream. In this dream, I jumped onto Facebook and to my surprise my feed was full of stories about men who thought they were women, women who thought they were men, and even one guy who had his ears removed and otherwise altered himself so he could live as a dolphin.

What’s worse, there were pictures!

But then I woke up and discovered that it was not a dream at all. It was all true, every bit of it.

Even the dolphin guy.

Then I woke up spiritually and I realized that I was in a different world from the world I had known. In the world I had known, gasoline was 29 cents. In that world, men wore hats, and women wore dresses. There was no designated-hitter rule, and in that world I sang “Silent Night” and “The Dreidel Song” in public school Christmas concerts with my Jewish friends. In that world I had marched on the Fourth of July in my Cub Scout uniform while World War II veterans in their 40’s marched with us in civilian clothes, laughing and having a good time. I realized that the world I had known was really gone.

Suddenly I realized something else, too. I realized that Christians had stepped into an online mousetrap.

I saw that God’s people were discouraging and even defiling themselves by keeping tabs on the disintegration of society. They were studying with great earnestness all the latest shocking evils and sharing stories about these evils with their friends. Without knowing it, they were even causing their children to learn things adults didn’t yet know when I was a boy. They had forgotten the warnings of Scripture: David had said he would set no wicked thing before his eyes; Paul had said it was a shameful thing even to speak about the things that wicked people do in secret. But God’s people had become knowledgeable about many evils.

I remembered how Jesus said that because of iniquity the love of many would grow cold. But looking at iniquity, learning about iniquity, and getting enraged at iniquity was how we Christians were spending our moments of relaxation. The Bible and prayer had become neglected things for many, and instead of moving in the power of the Spirit, we were actually fighting against the Dolphin Guy with weapons that could never un-dolphin him. Much like Lot, sitting in the gates of that other Sodom, we were vexing our souls day and night instead of being refreshed in God’s Presence with Abraham.

Now fully awake, I had learned that what we needed was not to study the darkness and keep announcing its triumphs, but rather to shine the Light. That Light would help other people wake up, too.

Betraying the Son of Man

Photo posted by U2 on Instagram
Photo posted by U2 on Instagram (https://instagram.com/p/2-ON_VAF1Q/?taken-by=u2)

An interesting bit of news. As Ireland votes on whether to allow homosexual marriage, U2 frontman Bono has come out in favor of a “Yes” vote and was quoted as saying, “Marriage is now an idea that transcends religion.”

So you see, this is how you can claim to be a committed Christian and yet not have to face the scorn of the world for saying that marriage is only between a man and a woman. You just say that marriage has nothing to do with religion.

That may be a coherent line of thinking in the opinion of someone who does not profess to be a follower of Jesus Christ, but it can never be considered “wholesome words” for someone who truly loves God and His Word.

No Christian can ignore the fact that the very first recorded words of a human being are these:

“This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.” (Genesis 2:23 KJV)

After telling us this, Moses, the founder of Western Civilization (may it rest in peace), immediately comments, “Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.” (Genesis 2:24 KJV)

Read the beautiful creation story in Genesis 2 and you will see that marriage was God’s idea. The man-woman bond was reinforced in the Law of Moses and, despite what homosexual activists say, was restated by the Lord Jesus Christ and His Apostles Paul, Peter, Jude, and John in the New Testament.

And U2? The band posted on its Instagram (see photo above) a phrase from Bono’s song, “Pride (In The Name Of Love).” The song, which has a social justice theme, contains a line about Jesus:

“One man betrayed with a kiss…”

I wonder if we’re doing the same.

How to “Reach the World”

earth and sunWorldly thinking and worldly ways can never help the Christian reach the world.

Why?

It’s because the Kingdom of Christ is upside down. It doesn’t work by the principles of this world. It enters this realm as a face full of cold water, demanding that we awaken to our real condition and hear the heavenly summons.

The Kingdom of God, no matter its benefits, is distasteful to Man. Jesus said that the things which are highly esteemed by men are an abomination to God. This is strong language, to be sure, and yet Christ is the King of a Kingdom where God deliberately chooses things that are weak to confound the strong, and picks foolish things to humiliate the wise.

Mighty kings of Earth make golden statues to their own supremacy and boast of “thousand-year reichs,” but the One who really is coming to reign 1000 years took the form of a servant. He washed the dirty feet of those who had pledged to obey him.

Only those who possess that holy, upside-down kind of life and love will thrive in the new kind of world we seem to be entering. It is only the people who truly know their God, as the angel told Daniel, who will be strong and do exploits at the “end of days.”

So do we know Him? Not just in the sense of “being saved,” but knowing His ways, knowing the things He approves and the things that grieve Him? Can we embrace the reproach of Christ and His Kingdom and be willing to be “the Other?”

The apostles of Christ would counsel us that only there, in the embracing of the reproach of Christ, do we find the release of Resurrection Life that we and the world stand in need of:

…I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith; that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead. (Phil. 3:8-11)

Debbie Downer or Joy Unspeakable?

joyful

Which are you? Which should you be?

Some Christians take verbal swipes at other believers whom they consider too frivolous, urging them to be more sober. Others poke their fellow saints for being too serious and tell them to lighten up.

Consider that both kinds of “tweaks” can be soulish in their source. While we’re always called to have have the joy of the Lord in our hearts, there is a time to be measured, reflective, and serious. There is also a time to celebrate, rejoice and be “exceedingly glad.” The key is to know how the Holy Spirit is moving – how is He expressing His own powerful emotions at the moment?

There is an off-putting kind of spirituality which interrupts a meditative moment with a call to be light-hearted — and the opposite is of course true, when overly-serious saints stifle the praises of Zion. By following the Spirit we will reflect His own heart, as He mingles joy and sobriety without confusion or unseemly behavior.

It’s worth recalling that Peter begins his first Letter by telling us to be sober, while only a few verses before he had reminded the believers that their walk was characterized by “joy unspeakable and full of glory!”

Wanted: Obedient Ears

"Listen," by Ky
Like an earring of gold and an ornament of fine gold is a wise rebuker to an obedient ear.
— Proverbs 25:12

Rebuking has gone out of style. Authentic and loving rebuke is rare, because few can deliver it. Few are discerning enough to see when someone has embarked upon a harmful path; few know a friend well enough to find a suitable way to deliver words calculated to bring salutary change; and, few love someone well enough to place a relationship at risk by delivering a loving reproof in any case.

We hear much today about how to correct people properly, although much of it is gleaned from the world of business and not the Word.  And there’s no shortage of hand-wringing among the saints over the fact that we don’t “speak the truth in love.”  Every American under 40 has grown up hearing that “when you point a finger at someone there are three fingers pointing back at you.” Yet I can’t help wondering if the greatest need of American Christians isn’t actually the other side of the coin: ears that can hear rebuke

Yes, we know that Paul tells those of us who are “spiritual” to restore with gentleness those who are caught in sin. (Galatians 6:1) But certainly there is no hope for adjustment of the offender’s life and no hope for him to reach the high calling to which he is called unless he himself has an ear that can receive a word of loving correction.

David prayed in Psalm 141 – no, not prayed – invited rebuke from the righteous: Let a righteous man strike me—it is a kindness; let him rebuke me—it is oil for my head; let my head not refuse it. (Psalm 141:5a, ESV)

Which of us is seeking this? Our generation is insolent, even surly. We accept no correction and our first instinct is the instinct of all flesh – to protect the precious life and self. Isn’t this what John the Baptist and Christ Himself meant when they called people vipers?  An outstretched hand or a flame too close will causes a snake to lash out, and in just the same way, the old man defensively bites at anyone who suggests there may be a better way than the way he’s doing it.

May the Lord give us grace to not only hear correction, but begin to actively seek His judgments in our lives. One of the most life-giving forms of spiritual poverty is this: to know that not only Christ but others, too, have what I need and that they may be able to see where I’m missing it, even when I cannot.

Is the real problem the fact that I’ve been rebuked or is it that my ear cannot hear it?

[Photo Credit: “Listen,” by Ky on Flickr, used under Creative Commons license.]