Christian Book Review – @stickyJesus: How to Live Out Your Faith Online

I’ve been reading an enlightening book about sharing faith in Christ online. I wanted to share the following passage as it’s inspiring for those of us who blog and use other means to tell our stories online:

http://www.amazon.com/stickyJesus-Live-Your-Faith-Online/dp/1426741898

40 And with many other words did he testify and exhort, saying, Save yourselves from this untoward generation.

41 Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls.
(Acts 2:40-41)

Simply through hearing, more than three thousand people confessed Christ that day. The disciples didn’t form a committee, write a communication plan, or hold a big conference (complete with a worship band) to figure out how to share the most incredible message in the world.

They told the crowd who Jesus was and how everyone within earshot could receive forgiveness, salvation, and the same Holy Spirit power that had lit up all of them. They walked onto the dusty streets of Jerusalem with believing hearts and the willingness to be consumed with and led by the Holy Spirit.

God could have done this without the disciples. Supernatural is supernatural. He could have let loose a light show on the streets of Jerusalem that day that would have left the masses speechless. But He loved us too much to leave us out of His story and His glory. He was and is a God of relationship, love, and community. He wants to raise His kids by experiental relationship, not dead religion.

The same holds true today. God doesn’t need you to share your faith to save the world. There’s no cape required. He’s almighty. He can touch any heart at any moment, anywhere, in any way He chooses. The glory and gift of this holy equation are that He has called you. He’s called you out of your stunted, insular self and into a limitless and vast relationship with Him. He will do a holy work in you and others each time you recount that story. Now that’s a transformational mission worth logging on for.

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The Velveteen Rabbit – Lessons on Love and Eternity

My husband, who is not yet a believer in God, read an old children’s story today called “The Velveteen Rabbit.” He texted me later to say that it was “very enjoyable” so I decided to revisit the story to see what it had to say about the eternal themes of love and sacrifice.

It’s a very gently written book that I was planning to give to my two-year old niece Alexis to help shape her heart and conscience.

Some beautiful passages that struck me, that I thought others might like to read too:

“The Rabbit could not claim to be Real, for he didn’t know that Real rabbits existed; he thought they were all stuffed with sawdust like himself.” This is our condition when we are alone spiritually, without God in the world. As it is written:

That at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world…(Ephesians 2:12)

“Real isn’t how you are made’, said the Skin Horse. “It happens to you when a child loves you for a long time, not just to play with, but really loves you. Then you become Real.”

“Does it hurt?” asked the Velveteen Rabbit.

“Sometimes,” said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. “By the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off and you have become very shabby. But these things don’t matter, because once you are Real you can never be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”

“Are you Real?” asked the Rabbit.

“Yes, said the Skin Horse. “The Boy’s uncle made me Real a great many years ago. Once you are Real you can’t become unreal again.”

What is this longing we have to be truly loved, in spite of our many defects, to be honoured in spite of the many actions we undertake that show simply that we do not deserve it? Where does the longing for transcendence over the bitterness of our earthly struggles come from? Hasn’t God placed eternity in our hearts? As the Bible teaches us:

He hath made every thing beautiful in his time: also he hath set the world in their heart, so that no man can find out the work that God maketh from the beginning to the end. (Ecc. 3:11)

And don’t we seek His face everywhere, like pilgrims setting out on a long and arduous journey for the faith we had so easily when we were little ones? The scriptures tell us that the longing for Christ is universal:

And when they had found him, they said unto him, All men seek for thee. (Mark 1:37)

Here then is our hope. We do have someone who loves us unconditionally in spite of our sins and difficulties: God. By accepting His love and being “born again” spiritually we can transcend our old, earthly nature and become truly Real. Just as the Velveteen Rabbit became Real due to the Boy’s enduring love for him. One of the greatest passages in scripture, from the book of John, reveals God’s beautiful promise for all people:

4 Nicodemus saith unto him, How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter the second time into his mother’s womb, and be born? 5 Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. 6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. 7 Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again. 8 The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit. (John 3:4-8)

Christian Book Review – “Dark Journey Deep Grace” by Roy Ratcliffe with Lindy Adams

Jeffrey Dahmer’s old life saw him as one of the most infamous serial killers of our time. The question this book poses is: can God forgive even Jeffrey Dahmer? I had to buy it and read it to really learn about the heart of God, in particular His mercy and redemptive love for mankind. I wanted to know how it is that He can behold even the most (to human eyes at least) unpromising of sinners and yet patiently seek their higher good.

The book was fascinating. Yes, there are sections that are difficult for anyone, let alone a Christian to read. Chapters 3 and 4 describe in detail Jeff’s crimes that he committed and they make for heavy going. But persevere, and you uncover precious gems such as this: Jeff was receptive quite early on to God’s grace:

Grandmother Dahmer was very religious and read the Bible daily, and living with her had a positive influence on Jeff at the time. Still, he wrestled with his urges and began to act upon them again. (Dark Journey Deep Grace, p50)

Then this:

A prisoner can grow more resentful for the treatment received in prison. Many certainly do that. Or a prisoner can develop new criminal skills and figure out how not to get caught the next time. Some also do that. Or, a prisoner can reflect on the crimes and the lifestyle that lead to such a place and make a new decision: “I’ll never do that again, so help me God!” Imagine the thoughts of serial killer and mutilator Jeffrey Dahmer when he ended up in prison. He felt great remorse, which he confessed on several occasions. He had ruined his life beyond repair…Who could he turn to except God? Certainly, no human would hear the cries of his heart and believe the depth of his sorrow. Only God could. Jeff remembered going to church with his parents as a small child…In his adult years, when Jeff lived with his grandmother, and especially as he struggled with his internal urges to kill, he took an interest in his grandmother’s church and her Christian lifestyle. But he never invested enough in her faith to ease his tortured mind or get whatever help he could for his inner Armageddon…But after Jeffrey’s arrest, a veil was lifted. He began to see order and design in the universe. He began to see the case for God and to see Jesus as the only answer for the havoc he had wreaked in his life. He began to have hope for his ultimate fate. Is it possible that God could really love him – Jeffrey Dahmer? Could the salvation that Jesus offers be available to him, too, despite his heinous acts? Did Jesus die for Jeffrey Dahmer too?

The answer this book gives is a joyful and resounding “yes.” Jeff’s conversion was sincere though some – even some Christians – questioned his sincerity. At least one person stated that if Jeffrey Dahmer was in heaven they didn’t want to go there (see p84 in the book). Such comments made me ashamed to be a human being and a Christian. There are two issues here: the first is the old saying, “there but for the grace of God go I.” The second issue is that we are all sinners in God’s eyes, he puts no difference between any of us. All are undeserving yet were awarded mercy and grace by Christ’s sacrifice on the cross.

It is worth noting that Jeff received no benefits whatsoever after converting to Christianity. His sentence remained the same and he eventually died in prison. He underwent persecution, in fact, which is what is promised to every true follower of Christ. As it is written:

These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.
(John 16:33)

Some examples of the difficulties Jeff experienced post-conversion:
* Every time he tried to testify of his faith in Christ on national television, those segments were cut out of the broadcast
* He had his tiny prison allowance cut to be distributed to victims’ families
* He received unopened pornography in the mail (when every other package sent to him was opened and checked by guards), which nearly resulted in him being defeated in his Christian walk

What was wonderful to read about, however, was how the Spirit of Grace moved in his life. He felt compelled to evangelise his new found faith with others, to support and encourage them, which is a sign of the Spirit of the Lord working in someone’s life. On page 110 Jeff commented that he was glad that a prison attack recently made on him was not fatal. He said: “There is so much I want to do for God here in prison, so many people I want to share the gospel with. I want to talk to my mother about my faith. I can’t imagine God taking those opportunities away from me now. I am so thankful that I survived.”

As final reflections, I would like to close with three scripture passages. The first was read by Jeffrey Dahmer in his statement to the court in 1992 where he likened himself to the worst of all sinners who was yet shown mercy, Paul:

This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief. 16 Howbeit for this cause I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might shew forth all longsuffering, for a pattern to them which should hereafter believe on him to life everlasting.
(1 Tim. 1:15-16)

Then some reminders that were given to me by the Spirit of Truth after I finished reading this book:

but God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; 28 and base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are: 29 that no flesh should glory in his presence.
(1 Cor 1:27-29)

Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels: 42 for I was an hungred, and ye gave me no meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink: 43 I was a stranger, and ye took me not in: naked, and ye clothed me not: sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not. 44 Then shall they also answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto thee? 45 Then shall he answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me. 46 And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal.
(Matt. 25:41-46)

Further excellent Christian resources

Our Daily Bread

1. Our Daily Bread (http://odb.org/)

Since it was first published in 1956, Our Daily Bread has become the resource for which RBC Ministries is best known. The daily devotional thoughts published in Our Daily Bread help readers spend time each day in God’s Word.

Our Daily Bread is published and distributed worldwide in more than 40 languages by RBC Ministries offices around the globe. RBC Ministries also produces a variety of other Bible resources, which are available for the asking. RBC Ministries is not funded or endowed by any group or denomination. Many people, making even the smallest of donations, enable RBC Ministries to reach others with the life-changing wisdom of the Bible.

Our Daily Bread radio is a daily audio program that features insights from the pages of Our Daily Bread. Each daily thought is designed to draw the listener into a closer relationship with Jesus Christ and to evoke responses of worship, love, trust and obedience.

2. My Utmost for His Highest (daily devotionals by Oswald Chambers)

http://utmost.org/

My Utmost for His Highest is a classic of devotional literature. One of the most enduring bestsellers of our time, these devotionals have touched the lives of millions, leading them into a deeper and more passionate walk with God.

Discover the wisdom of Oswald Chambers, a man who challenges you to give yourself fully to God. The powerful content of this visionary work speaks straight to the heart, helping you hear what God wants to say to you each day of the year. Shedding fresh light on the Scriptures, Chambers explores the depths of our humanity and our profound need for a God-focused life.

3. A Woman God Can Use and a Woman Jesus Can Teach Set
http://www.dhp.org/Products/A-Woman-God-Can-Use-and-A-Woman-Jesus-Can-Teach-Set__KU436.aspx

Gain a fresh perspective on balancing life’s priorities and making wise decisions in “A Woman God Can Use” and “A Woman Jesus Can Teach.” Exploring the lives of Old and New Testament women, author Dr. Alice Mathews shares insights to help you strengthen your faith, align your priorities with God’s will, and be used for His glory. Addressing the everyday issues faced by women, this inspiring combo is perfect for individual or small group study.

Helpful Christian Resources – the Old Paths

Jeremiah 6:16
Thus saith the Lord, Stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls…

Malachi 3:6
For I am the Lord, I change not; therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed.

Here are some helpful Christian resources I have found in my walk with the Lord Jesus. I’ve listed them here, with brief descriptions, in the hope that they may help someone else in their Christian walk:

1. How to worship Jesus Christ (by Joseph S. Carroll)

Amazon.com: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/266946.How_To_Worship_Jesus_Christ as a Kindle eBook or hard copy.

Review taken from Good Reads:
http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/266946.How_To_Worship_Jesus_Christ
Can a normal person enter the presence of Christ or is that something that only happened for biblical characters? Maybe that question leads you to ask “What does it even mean to be in Jesus’ presence?” In How to Worship Jesus Christ, Joseph Carroll explains what it means to enter Christ’s presence and that it is something available to every Christian – through true worship.

There is much more to truly worshipping Jesus than simply church services and personal devotions. True worship requires complete commitment of emotions, intellect, and will, but the reward is great. Carroll points the reader into the presence of Christ by teaching practical steps of personal worship. He also draws on the habits and experiences of some of history’s greatest saints to serve as examples and guides.

This deeply practical and personal book will help you know Jesus more intimately on a daily basis. It will draw readers close to Christ in a real way, to experience His presence, and to worship Him in ways far better than what most imagine to be possible.

2. The Knowledge of the Holy (by A.W. Tozer)

Review from Amazon.com (http://www.amazon.com/The-Knowledge-Holy-Attributes-Christian/dp/0060684127/ref=pd_sim_b_5/180-5909967-2392810):

“Love and faith are at home in the mystery of the Godhead. Let reason kneel in reverence outside.”

A true classic of faith and devotion, The Knowledge of the Holy by A.W. Tozer attempts to restore the majesty and wonder of God in the hearts and minds of all Christians. Informative and inspiring, this remarkable and important work shows us how we can rejuvenate our prayer life, meditate more reverently, in order to more deeply understand God and experience His presence in our daily lives. The Knowledge of the Holy is a superb aid to strengthening and deepening the spiritual life by returning the towering Christian concept of God to the center of the religious mind.

3. Morning and Evening – Classic KJV Edition (by Charles Spurgeon)

Review from Amazon.com (http://www.amazon.com/Morning-Evening-Classic-KJV-Edition/dp/0943575532):

For tens of thousands of Christians over the last century, Charles Haddon Spurgeon’s “Morning and Evening” has been a daily devotional guide through life’s ups and downs. New generations can once again enjoy Spurgeon’s beautiful prose and elegant command of the English language in this completely revised edition. “Morning and Evening “offers readers the best of Spurgeon’s insight and wise counsel on themes that are as relevant to our day as they were in his day. In this updated version, Spurgeon’s work is returned to its former brilliance while retaining the beautiful language of the original King James Version.

Special Features:
– Each day’s devotions are presented on a two-page spread for complete ease of use.
– Each of the 732 devotions–one for every morning and evening of the year–provides inspiring meditations on portions of Scripture drawn from every book of the Bible.
– A new topical index helps readers discover Spurgeon’s thoughts on various topics important to Christian life.
– An index of texts lets readers find what Spurgeon had to say about a particular Bible verse. Spurgeon has penned meditations, expressed simply but eloquently, that continue to draw readers to faith and obedience.

Though Spurgeon published thousands of sermons and many books, “Morning and Evening” remains by far his most popular work.

4. The Book of Common Prayer (Episcopal Church) – Special Kindle Edition
http://www.amazon.com/Book-of-Common-Prayer-ebook/dp/B0029ZALLC

My own reflections:
I have found it is vital to have some time alone with God each day, preferably morning and night, to ask for grace and strength to serve Him each day faithfully. This involves prayer, hence reference 4) above to the Book of Common Prayer.

I have found that praying the Psalms aloud, particularly the ones extolling God’s virtues and praising Him, really helps orient the heart towards Him in love, gratitude and obedience.