The Bible is About Him

I closed my eyes and placed my finger on a random book in the Table of Contents in my Bible. I had been trying to decide what book to go though since the night before with no luck. If you know me, you know making decisions is not a strength of mine. I opened my eyes. My finger had landed on 1 Kings. I took a deep sigh. The prospect of reading 1 Kings did not intrigue me.

I then realized I hadn’t prayed before hoping somehow it would give me a way out. I spoke a quick prayer of divine appointment with a more interesting book and tried again. My finger landed in EXACTLY the same spot. 1 Kings it was.

You are probably wondering why I was so wary of reading 1 kings. In short: I’ve grown up in a culture that brings out my own sinful heart. One that believes everything is about me. My ethnic culture, my church culture, and my human nature all desire content that speaks directly to me and my current “season”. So as you can imagine, when I read through a book of the Bible, it NEEDS to be about me. It needs to speak into my life, speak into my heart, and encourage me where I am, because I am under the assumption that it was meant for me. I’m looking for a WORD FROM THE LORD. A divine moment. A supernatural, chill creating Scripture.

I sat with these things for a few moments. Why wasn’t I excited to read 1 Kings? Why was my automatic reaction “this will be boring”?

I wrote my first note on 1 Kings in the top right corner: “The Bible is not my story, but His.”

It just isn’t about us.
Now, don’t get me wrong. Jesus died for you. You are PART of His story. He loves this wretched world and He loves you more than even His own life.
You are
important,
valuable,
worthy in his sight,
and very precious to Him.

But don’t get that mixed up with this book He’s given us, this story we have. We are not the central characters in it. We just aren’t. To be honest with you, we aren’t the central characters in anything.

This life is not about us.

This moment is not about us.

Our gifts & talents are not about us.

Our placement in the world is not about us.

His book is not about us.

Everything and everyone is created and sustained in order to bring Him glory and to make Him known in the earth. Nothing about this is about you or me.

How do we read the Bible then?

I won’t pretend to have it figured out or know all the answers, but I do know that this book is a story. And it’s chock full of revelation. These Old Testament stories that we often deem irrelevant (whether conscious or subconscious) are actually meant to set up what is fulfilled in the new. The more we study what we don’t understand, what seems like a lot of useless facts, is actually all pointing to Jesus. And it’s these details that makes what he came to do so weighty and culture shifting. We are pushing aside the entire plot and focusing only on the climax if we do this, and in the end we are missing out.

If we decide to study, to soak in, and to learn all we can about the whole story, we will find so much beauty and hidden gems.

“How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to your word. With my whole heart I seek you; let me not wander from your commandments! I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.”
Psalm 119:9-11

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Born to Wander Book Review

“Every one of us carries a restlessness that runs as deep as the marrow of our born-again bones. Our relationships shift like tectonic plates. We change jobs. We switch churches. And our culture tells us the cure for our restlessness is to buy a new mattress, a new car, or a new tube of toothpaste.”

Distorted thoughts on what stability and commitment mean for a believer finds it’s foundation in our fleshly desires. Michelle Van Loon picks this apart and explains the struggle between comfort and safety vs our wanderlust spirit. She paints a picture of how the desires in us all point to our longing for home.

In this book, you’ll be taken on a journey through history to learn how God’s people have always been pilgrims, exiles, and sojourners. We have long been on the move to the promised land, our home, where we can finally rest. We will pilgrim as long as we’re on this earth. As the people of God, we are always an exile in one way or another. But this leads us to pilgrimage, which is our calling. To be transformed into one who goes wherever He leads, having Him as the light before us and recklessly living in complete surrender.

This book will explain how our God is always leading us home; right back to Him. Michelle picks apart real life scenarios and shows us how to surrender our comfort for the pilgrim lifestyle instead. With her questions and prayers at the end of every chapter, you are able to apply what you’ve just read to your own life as well as come before the Lord.

There is freedom in wandering. Not in aimless wander that points us back to ourselves. But in wandering with a purpose, we are pointed toward home.

We Can Be Different Together

One in Christ

The more time I spend walking with the Lord, the more I realize a shift in the people around me. This change in company isn’t a conscious decision, but it has become pretty obvious over time.

The people who surround me are not always like me. They’re in many ways different (or even my opposite) in personality, interest, and in gifting.

I’ve been wrestling with why this is. Growing up, I would always join those exactly like me. The ones who shared my similar interests and who acted similarly to me were the ones who would be in my corner. No correction, no friction, this equals a perfect friendship. Right?

But as I grow with the Lord, I recognize a pattern has developed. It’s almost as if I subconsciously choose those who cause me a little bit of discomfort.

When Jesus is our common ground, when Jesus is our mutuality, we stop trying to befriend the people who have our same hobbies and temperaments. There is a shift, and our friendships bring us back around to Him.

Our goal becomes spreading the good news, growing in our giftings, walking in our callings, and becoming more like Jesus. We don’t need carbon copies of ourselves as friends to accomplish these things. We need those who will challenge us, stretch us, disagree with us, confront us with truth, and love us through hard things. When you’re on the same mission, you don’t have to be the same.

Walk with the wise and become wise

The quickest way to go backwards in the progress Jesus has made in your heart is to surround yourself with those who do not sharpen you.

When you’re trying to look like Jesus, the things you look for in close friends change. They have to change. You will start to look like those you are around no matter what. If you’re around those who gossip, eventually you will gossip. If you’re surrounded by those who complain, soon you will find yourself constantly complaining. If you are around those who want to dig deeper into scripture, you will find yourself engaged in life giving conversation. If you are around those who love others without restraint, you will see yourself loving without restraint.

Our character, our sanctification, so much of it depends on who we pilgrim through this life with. We are by nature those who begin looking like the people we spend our time with and those we admire. God knew this. And that’s why he called us into relationship with one another with this disclaimer: bad company corrupts good character.

We can choose wisely not based on common interests or mutuality in small things, but based on those whose eyes are fixed on our goal: looking more like Jesus.

One Blood Book Review

When I first picked up One Blood, I knew it would be one of the heaviest and important reads I would face. It proved to be exactly that. This book addresses the topics of racism, prejudice, ignorance, injustice, and fear of our differences- head on. It then gives a blueprint for how we should look as Christ’s church according to the Bible. God knew what He was doing when he placed this call on the life of John Perkins. For someone who has experienced so much personal pain at the hand of those who are ignorant, yet chose to live the life he lived, is truly only the work of the Holy Sprit. By the grace of God He traded bitterness for a life committed to getting deep into the trenches to help shape things into the way they should be. John sees what this world could look like if the church walked the way we were called. Every tribe, nation and tongue living in unity together. With everything going on in the world right now, a book like this is desperately needed. One Blood walks us through exactly why and how things should and can change. He explains many misconceptions in the Word and in our biology. This book is a gift to the church and it will challenge our beliefs on how we see ourselves as one body.

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I received a copy of One Blood from Moody Publishers for the purpose of this review.

Obedience, Discipline & Covenant

Obedience. Discipline.

These are among the words I despise on most days. But they’re ones that have been resounding in the ears of myself and those closest to me for the past few months.

In the Christian world, legalism is a bad word, as it should be. And for this reason, we shy away from these words a lot of the time for fear that they will become legalistic tendencies. But this is love! That we walk in obedience to his commands (2 John 1:6). Obedience is not a bad word. Neither is discipline. In fact, we have been given a spirit of self-discipline and the one who loves discipline loves knowledge. But these go further than running from temptation and hating the sin that lives in us. It goes further than asking God to keep us from gossip and hate lying. Discipline and obedience fall into our every day actions, our minute-to minute decisions. And you know what most of it has looked like for me lately? Preaching to myself, and preaching to those I love.

You are going to go through dry seasons. Ones where the thought of getting up early to go to church, reading your bible when you’re tired, or praying when you don’t feel it are not activities that excite you. You will walk through times where the thought of making decisions that are uncomfortable in career, relationships, or finances will be the last thing you want to do. You will go through seasons of being tired, burnt out, and just wanting a break from obeying God and following where He leads. But guess what? Excitement and butterflies are not the foundation of commitment.

You are in covenant with God, and covenant means putting in the work when you don’t feel it.

But here’s the catch. It is the best news we could hope for. When you put in the activities that feel like work, you are in the process of building. And the return for the hard work of building is the luxury of a firm, solid, and steady structure when the storms do come. A stable foundation that is “firmly rooted, and now being built up in Him, and established in your faith.”

There will be times in this walk when we simply feel nothing at all. No desire, no anticipation, no passion whatsoever. There is not something wrong with you, you have not broken, you are walking the path and experiencing the trials that are on it.

But the more you put into your relationship with God, the more you hunger and thirst for more of Him, the more you do the things that you know will grow you even when they don’t excite you, the more “we will grow up in all aspects into Him who is the Head”.

In my relationship with Jesus, in my marriage, in my friendships, and in my dreams, goals and passions, I am learning that most of it is just pushing through when it’s hard, draining, or uncomfortable. The day to day is not always exciting, but every minute is worth what we’re building.

“Be diligent in these matters; give yourself wholly to them, so that all may see your progress.”
1 Timothy 4:15

Just Let Go Book Review

Just Let Go is a sweet story of a small town romance. But this book isn’t just your typical small town romance. It’s as down to earth and realistic as a small town romance gets. The characters have real life struggles that we all face in different ways at different times in life. The themes of resentment, bitterness, fear, forgotten dreams, and
forgiveness are explored. Best yet, everything does not work out in the end, and that is just fine because something better takes place in the hearts of these characters: the promise of redemption and new life. We see both extremes from being too fearful to take any risks to taking risks recklessly, the range actions of those who have been hurt and experienced loss. This story leads us through a realistic vision of what life is like when we hand over our wounds to the care of Jesus and what beauty He can make of them through our surrender. The subtle gospel theme that’s woven into the story really reels you in. It isn’t in your face, but it’s there. All in all, God changes and redeems any heart regardless of how badly you have been hurt or have hurt others. The best taste this book will leave in your mouth is the power of forgiveness. God enables us to love and forgive ourselves and others for even the worst offenses, and that is one the most comforting truth.

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I received a copy of this book from Tyndale House Publishers for the purpose of this review.

Ten Tips For Tackling Your TBR Pile

I try to read about one book a week. Yes, you saw that right. One every 7 days. That may sound crazy to some, but the rate at which I order books and the time between receiving them and the required review period is so short that I should probably be doubling my average. You see, I only started tackling my reading goals when I began reviewing books and having set times they needed to be posted. That’s my main motivation, but it hasn’t happened overnight. I’ve learned to be creative in creating new habits and making them part of my daily life. I want to share the most effective ones I’ve found with you.

1. One Chapter A Day

This is the hack that will take you further than any other, in my opinion. One chapter a day is simple and easy to follow. On top of that, reading is a good activity to pick up if you want to be soothed. So it’s good to incorporate this into your nightly routine anyway. Most books will have between 15-30 chapters. At one chapter a day, you will finish an entire book between two weeks-a month. A book a month is most peoples goal, so you’re on the perfect track.

2. Set A Goal (and stick to it)

We are creatures of habit. We love to-do lists, schedules, and setting goals. On the flip side, we are also creatures of PROCRASTINATION. And the things we do for enjoyment usually fall into the procrastination category because, you know, responsibilities and adulting come first and all that. But if reading is something you’re serious about, something you value, something you know will better you and add to your life, then make it a priority. Set an attainable goal (I.e, one book a month!) and follow through. You’ll feel accomplished and proud of yourself when you complete it.

3. Rewards System

This may seem obvious, but it’s much harder said than done: stop taking in new books! In my case, I have an amazing list of new books thrown at me every single month to choose from and saying no is not something I DO NOT enjoy doing. I try to stay away from book stores, but I was at the dollar store the other day and Lord have mercy, I bought a book from there! They are EVERYWHERE! Taunting, begging, nagging, and crying for me to adopt them. Instead, use your TBR pile to motivate you. Is there a book you want badly? Well, determine a system. Finish two, reward yourself with a new one. Find a way that works for you and it will motivate and excite you all the more to get through your TBR pile!

4. Just Start

Have you ever had a book that just stared at you for weeks, maybe even months? You know what I’m talking about. It goes with you everywhere. It sits beside you while you sleep. You’ve read the back of it a thousand times. But you just cannot force yourself to BEGIN? I’ve had a few of those. I’m looking at one now. I know I’ll love it, but for some reason, I can’t start reading it. You wanna know the solution? Just start. Once you do, you’ll most likely be pulled in and then wonder why it took you so long to dig into it in the first place.

5. Put It Down

For the love of all that is good and holy, put the book down if you are not enjoying it. This is a LEISURELY activity. But also remember that if you keep reading, it’s likely you’ll begin to like it. So don’t write it off until you’ve given it the proper amount of time to appeal to you.

6. Lend Them Out

One of my favorite things to do is lend out my books to friends. Unpopular opinion: even the ones on the TBR list. If a friend wants to read a book I have, they will come back and let me know about it. If their review is exciting, it will encourage me to read it as well. Seems kind of backwards, but it’s worked for me.

7. Don’t Write Off The In-Between Moments

One of my favorite times to squeeze in a few extra pages or even a chapter is on my 15 minute break at work. This may seem like not much time for reading, but you’d be surprised by how much of a book you can get through just by utilizing that 15 minutes. It adds up. Find those spare times in your day and use them!

8. Switch Shows To Movies (for a bit)

Are you the kind of person who always needs to have a show that you’re watching? Always searching for the next best one to have on your Netflix list? Let me just say this, TV is the enemy of reading. Truly. If you struggle to have self-control, you will end up using all your spare time watching your new favorite show. Then the next. It’s a vicious cycle. It’s easier to numb your mind with picture than engage it in text, especially after a long day. So if you want to tackle this pile, finish your current watch and switch over to watching movies instead. This will mean once you’re done, you’re done. And you can then get on with your TBR list. This is what I do in times where the pile is sky high. Don’t write off tv, just readjust.

9. Get The Audiobook Instead

Though I love the feeling of fresh new pages running through my fingers and the smell of new book, I also love anything audio. You can listen to the book on your commute to work, walking the dog, doing household chores or even showering. It’s an amazing invention, that audiobook. You’ll FLY through your reading list this way. So ditch (donate) the book and get the audiobook instead.

10. Donate!

When I first moved out of my parents house, I needed to downsize my bookshelf. When moving across the country (multiple times) your most loved books are all that can come along. So I did one of the hardest things and decided that if I did not love it or was not truly interested in reading it, it was getting donated. When it comes to your TBR pile, it’s likely it has existed for years. Go through it and determine only the ones you truly want to read. The rest of them, get rid of. Here is a great link with an extensive list of up to date places where you can find a good home for your unread books!

No matter what you decide to do to get the pile down, choose to read instead of hoard. It’s better for everyone involved!