Culture

THE LIFE WE NEVER EXPECTED

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Book Review by Debbie Huber

“The Life We Never Expected: Hopeful Reflections on the Challenges of Parenting Children With Special Needs”

Knowing that I have a special interest and love for people with special needs, Kyle bought this book for me to read on my Kindle. As an occupational therapist I want to have a better understanding for the struggles of families with special needs. 

But this book is much more than what I expected. I believe that what the authors have to say will help all who read it have a better understanding of the goodness and dependability of God and His sovereignty over suffering. 

The authors, Andrew and Rachel Wilson, have two autistic children. The children were both meeting their normal developmental milestones until the age of three when their development started going in reverse. This is called regressive autism. Their challenges are many and they share their pain with raw honesty however this is not just a book about children with disabilities…

This is a book about God. 

I was expecting anecdotes about being parents of autistic children.  But in the midst of sharing difficulties and humor, the reader is pointed to the Gospel.  They share their journey to find that God is all sufficient through it all.

For example, the Wilson’s ongoing, earnest prayer is to get a full night’s sleep. That has not yet happened for them which is physically, emotionally, and mentally draining. Andrew says that “I think the greatest single challenge to my prayer life has been the fact that so many prayers for sleep have gone unanswered.”  But he has learned that even when we do not know why God is not answering our prayer, we can still trust him and be thankful. 

Andrew was having a particularly frustrating and angry evening while praying for healing for his children and feeling that nothing was changing.  Not knowing where to go in prayer he started to pray the Lord’s Prayer. 

“I talked to God and meandered through parts of the Lord’s Prayer I had never seen that way before.  God heard me. I heard God.” He says, “I remember… that praying for healing and blessing at this point, after spending a while responding to God’s love, knowledge, glory, and beauty, meant that my prayers for the children were framed in a right attitude of trust and security, rather than a sofa-thumping anger and frustration.”

Their perspective of God’s grace is so encouraging.  Andrew and Rachel know that they have so much and deserve so little which brings them to a place of humility and gratitude. 

They have begun to notice even the smallest milestones or graces from God every day.  They have chosen to celebrate God’s grace in how much they have and how little they deserve so bitterness is rooted out and gratitude thrives. 

Sometimes we want to “redeem” the story, to write our own happy-ending, to glorify God in the way that WE think is best.  But God’s timing and His ways are often very different from ours. 

Rachel shares a lesson which stood out to me in a new way: 

“So I have to remember: the story is not mine to save.  The pressure to write a story that makes sense of what has happened to us, as acute as it can feel, must be resisted; God is the great storyteller, the divine happy-ending maker, and I’m not.  I am a character in God’s story, not the author of my own, and it is God’s responsibility to redeem all things, to make all things work together for good…(including)every single thing that the curse of sin has touched or tarnished.”

I highly recommend this book to everyone who wants to love and trust our God more. 

CHURCH HUNTERS

This tongue-in-cheek video cleverly exposes many of the casual and self-centered attitudes our culture has toward church life.

 

HELP FOR THE OFFENDED

unoffendable

 

I read books in heaps.

But it is not often that a book impacts me as strongly as the one I am recommending to you this month.

After a few pages, it was hard to concentrate on the book, because I was so excited about reading and recommending it.

Let’s get right to it.

Beg, buy, borrow (please don’t steal), “Unoffendable: How Just One Change Can Make All of Life Better” by Brant Hansen.

Here are some reasons you should make reading “Unoffendable” an immediate priority:

 1.  Being offended is a common occurrence. We are all regularly touched by offendable stuff, and we need help in maintaining a godly attitude.

 2.  Being offended has become a profession. There are people who appear to get offended as their main purpose in life.

 3.  Being offended is seen as a right. It’s not.

 4.  Christians polish their ‘offendability’ by telling themselves it is righteous anger. Brant does an excellent job clarifying what the Bible says in this area.

 5.  Brant writes well, with a sense of humor – which always helps. Unless that offends you.

 6.  Your life will be challenged in good ways, because you will be encouraged to live with a focus on serving Christ rather than your own sensibilities.

TOO DESTRUCTIVE TO IGNORE!

Destruction is a word we use to express radical loss.

Destruction is a fearful word for good reason, and destruction is an accurate way to describe the consequences of pornography.

Pornography is a monstrous problem in our culture, in the church – and perhaps in your life.

If you don’t struggle with pornography, you know many people who do!

A struggle that was thought to be mainly a problem for young men, has now seeped into every corner of the culture, affecting men and women – young and old.

Tim Challies regularly provides excellent articles and resources on the subject of pornography through his blog @Challies

In time for Valentine’s Day, he gathered 10 of his best articles covering many aspects of this plague. There are articles specifically geared for men, women, and parents. His list contains a brief synopsis of each article to help you choose which to read.

At the end of the post, Challies gives his suggestions on the most beneficial books to read on purity and pornography, for men and for women.

Pornography is too destructive to ignore.

 

SERMON LEFTOVERS 1.23.16

Rest in the Wisdom and Power of Christ        

1 Corinthians 2:1-5

In chapter 1, Paul tells the Corinthians they need to change their categories for “wisdom” and “foolishness”

Human wisdom is foolish, because it doesn’t bring anyone to God (1:21)

The gospel of Christ crucified seems foolish, because Jesus died! Yet, it is wonderful wisdom, because it solves our sin problem!

Until we see wisdom and foolishness correctly, our priorities of life will be mixed up. This point is so crucial, Paul doesn’t move on, he keeps digging into it in chapter 2

 

Paul uses the example of his ministry with them

He describes his ministry to them with two sets of contrasts

1. The 1st contrast, involves the wisdom he used (vs 1-2)

Paul did not present the gospel with “lofty speech” or with “wisdom”

This means he did not use the stylized oration of the time, and he did not try to make the gospel fit into their sensibilities

Instead, Paul made the “decision” to preach nothing but Christ crucified

This doesn’t mean he ignored all other doctrines (Acts 18:11), but that in all his teaching, the gospel remained central and foundational

2. Paul’s second contrast, presents the power he depended on (vs 3-4)

Acts 18 tells us his initial ministry to Corinth was strongly opposed. The opposition was so threatening, the Lord had to reassure Paul in a vision!

This helps us understand what Paul means by coming to them ‘in fear and trembling’

Paul recognized his ministry would only bear fruit by the power of the Holy Spirit

Only the Holy Spirit can give eyes to see and a heart to believe

“The Holy Spirit will convict the world of sin, righteousness and judgment” John 16:8

“Unless one is born of the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God” John 3:5

Paul was not hesitant to admit his weaknesses, because they were not an obstacle

In fact, the opposite is a danger to us, when we rely on ourselves

3. Paul sums up the reason for his approach (v5)

He wanted their faith to rest on God alone, because he alone can sustain them

As Christians, we talk about relying on God’s strength and wisdom; but do we practice it?

 

What does it mean to rest on the “wisdom” and “power” of God?

1. Trust the Bible – where all wisdom for life and godliness has been placed (v5)

Do you have complete confidence in God’s Word?

Do you see it as being fully sufficient for your life and wonderfully good?

You must decide where The Truth is found

The Bible doesn’t allow for half-hearted approval or partial trust, God expects complete submission and obedience

Guard against the seepage of the world’s wisdom

The world’s wisdom is not only prevalent, it sounds good, because it elevates us

Since Eden, human wisdom has been pride based; it tells God to move aside

Be prepared to rise above the world’s mockery: 

Keep in mind who has last word

God’s word will never be popular with the world’s culture; because the Bible condemns it. But the gospel will always be powerful to save any individual who bows to it

Parents, are you protective of God’s Word in your home?

Make sure you allow nothing to keep your family from reading the Bible together

2. Depend on the Holy Spirit – who empowers us

Paul could not change his situation, and he felt overwhelmed (vs 3-4)

Yet, he did not stop persisting in his calling, because the Holy Spirit was the one enabling him

Your life is meant to serve God; so, we can serve him regardless of circumstances

Evidences, that we are not depending on the Holy Spirit

(1)  When we think if a famous person was saved, they would accomplish a lot for God. No, believer, if God has all your heart, He will accomplish a lot through you!

(2)  When we habitually walk through our day without spending time with God – it shows we think we can handle it

(3)  When we think we cannot change an attitude or a behavior – this denies the power of the Spirit 

(4)  When our first response to problems is to try fix the situation, or the person ourselves

 

3. Keep the implications of the cross at the center of how we live (v2)

The cross cuts against the values of human culture, because it cuts against the values of self

Life will drift, if the values of the Cross are not kept freshly in mind

The values of the Cross declare:

(1)  Sin is a serious issue! God hates sin, so we must not allow any resting place for it

(2)  Humility is the only path to a Christian lifestyle. Pride has no business guiding us

(3)  God’s commitment to us should overcome all doubt, fear, hurt or loss

SOMETHING TO SAY

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I thought this cartoon brilliantly captures our culture.

We all have something to say, and every person should be heard; but not all of what is said has equal value.

If you are interested in hearing words that are always worthy, then read the book that is eternally true and valuable!

 

MESSY GRACE

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“Messy Grace” is an unusual story

The author, Caleb Kaltenbach was raised by a militantly lesbian mother and a homosexual father.

“Messy Grace” is an unusually helpful story

Caleb helps us to think about how Christians come across to those who are outside the church community. You will be challenged in how God uses you in the lives of those who are broken.

“Messy Grace” is an unusually powerful book

If you have a heart to reach people with abundant grace and uncompromising truth, this book will help you. And if you are not interested in those things, then you probably should read it twice!

I benefited by reading “Messy Grace” and I have been recommending it ever since. One of my small groups found that this book stimulated wonderful and needed conversations.

Buy it

Read it

Use it

IT MAY BE WHAT YOU THINK, BUT IS IT NECESSARY?

I have been corrected (rightly so) for sins I have committed.

I have been corrected (rightly so) for careless words or actions that were unintended.

I have also been criticized to my face (and more often behind my back), for actions that were treated as sins, when in reality, my critic simply had a different opinion.

I have been criticized in people’s hearts and to others (without me being present) for reasons that were misinformed, misunderstood, or simply arrived upon by speculation.

None of these situations were pleasant.

Some of these situations were necessary.

But many of these situations were unbiblical.

If there is any lesson we should learn from the aftermath of the recent Presidential Election, it is that there are bad ways to express our disagreement and our disappointment.

As people of the gospel, Christians should have a clear grasp of what is an appropriate expression of disagreement, and what is an inappropriate – or even sinful outflowing of our heart.

What are the guidelines to how you express your disagreement?

Are you careful to make sure you came by your opinions and attitudes by a biblical process?

Has it occurred to you that holding negative opinions about people without valid information is slanderous? Even if you have not spread your opinion, you have slandered that person in your heart.

The famous “Love” passage in 1 Corinthians 13 ends with this description of how love acts:

“Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things”

It would be worth spending a few minutes to consider how this declaration about love should affect the way we think about other people. The Bible is not telling us to ignore the truth about people, but it is instructing us to think the best we can about them. This is “Treating people the way you want to be treated 101″

Accountability is good for the soul, but so is being gracious

For more thoughts on “confrontation”, read this excellent article by Tim Challies as he describes an incident when someone aggressively confronted him after a speaking engagement.

 

QUACKERY FOR THE SOUL

 

 

In 1685 Charles II of England suffered a stroke

For treatment, the royal physicians drained the king of two cups of blood. 

Next they administered an enema

and a purgative

followed by a dose of sneezing powder 

Afterward, they drained him of another cup of blood.

All of this had no positive affect.

So, they rubbed an ointment of pigeon dung and powdered pearls onto the king’s feet. 

And they seared the king’s skull and bare feet with red-hot irons.

Still nothing helped!

After all this treatment, the king fell into convulsions so the king’s doctors prepared a potion whose principal ingredient was “forty drops of extract of human skull”.

After four days Charles died.

We immediately see the foolishness and quackery of these treatments which not only did not help the King, they increased his suffering and probably hastened his death.

Great attention was given to the King’s condition, but the doctor’s ignorance distracted them from helpful care.

 

This may seem like a detached incident from history for us.

Yet, it is an all too accurate parallel of how the leaders of our age are trying to treat the ills of the human soul today.

The sickness of the human soul is caused by sin and the only possible cure is to put our faith in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

For those who are followers of Christ, continuing spiritual health comes through feeding on the Word of God and applying what it says in our lives. Living on a diet of some biblical truth and some of our own wisdom is a sloppy mix that will leave our soul enfeebled.

None of us want quackery for our bodies, so why would we want it for our soul?

 

MY ELECTION DAY MUSINGS

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When I am in Belarus, people are fascinated by American elections. During each election cycle, I have many people ask for my opinion about the various candidates.

It amazes them that candidates can openly criticize and even mock the sitting President.

Our system is rather messy and in many ways I believe it is seriously flawed. Yet, in the context of world history, the American presidential election is strikingly special.

Our voting privilege is a responsibility to be taken seriously. We should vote and we should use discernment as we vote.

There are no perfect candidates and sometimes the choice is harder than others. The best practice to my understanding is to vote for the candidate who will represent your values.

Two significant factors to include in our decision making:

1.  Which voices will be influencing the candidates?

2. What type of people will the candidates be putting into positions of power? This includes cabinet level offices, but most concerning is who they will be appointing to the Supreme Court.

The warning I give at election time is to recognize that if you think the person you vote for will solve your problems and those of the world – you are greatly mistaken.

The problems of the world and the great needs of our life are met by the person who went to the cross for us. Jesus Christ is the ultimate problem solver. Outside of him, the significant burdens of humanity are a hopeless mess.

If this election is depressing to you, take heart – the kingdom we hope in is not our country, it is the kingdom of Jesus Christ which cannot fail. That kingdom is not only our shining hope, it is our eternal home