The Pathway To God’s Presence: Book Review

I am a Christian, and have been a Christian since I was a young child.  But as the case with many, it was not always a perfect story; I didn’t simply nod as the preacher spoke and went on my merry way.  I’ve wrestled with doubts, some as big as they come, and I have waded through despair, and misery, in my desperate search for Truth.  I have cried tears of woe as I stared into the depths of my soul, seeking God’s guidance even when I was not sure if the God that I had always worshipped existed.

So when I am speaking with someone who does not believe in God, and when they may think that I have never thought about the hard questions, I can assure them that I have thought extensively about my doubts, and I have felt the dark of hopelessness wrap around my faith hanging by a thread. And that is why I want to tell them about the faith that I have revisited; a faith that has lasted throughout my lifetime amidst times when I doubted its substance. You can read about this time in my life Here, and my recovery, Here.

Although I have recovered from the specific doubts that I had at that time, it took me a long time to really sense God’s presence back in my life like I felt it at all of those youth events, retreats, and missions trips, or at times when I was simply at a “better place”.  And it is still something that I pursue wholeheartedly; not that God has ever left me, for His Spirit abides in us throughout our life after our conversion, but that I had lost a Sense of His Presence, and that I always want to pursue Him.

How to regain that Sense of God’s Presence is what “The Pathway to God’s Presence” by Tom Elliff is written about. The book was published by CLC Publications in Ft. Washington, PA.  Printed in the USA.

Summary

The title of the book reflects the theme; searching for God’s Presence.  Elliff takes the reader through various stages of recognizing a lost sense of God’s presence, our reaction to that lost sense, and what we are to do to when we find ourselves there.  The author illustrates his point through referencing the story of Moses speaking with God on the mountain, when at the same time, the people of Israel are making an idol out of Gold because they lost their sense of the True God’s presence.

Elliff makes several key points in his book about how to regain your sense of God’s Presence, and those are found in chapters 5 & 6 predominantly, starting with the importance of prayer, and going into three C’s: Communion, Conflict (wrestling with the Lord), and Conformity.

Review 

As someone who has struggled with doubt, and as someone who has been in tears, many times, wondering where my passion for the Lord, and my awareness of His Presence has gone, this book has renewed my mind with that fact that this walk of faith that we are all on needs our attention, and immediate action.  When our lives are busy, and we can’t seem to find time to spend with the Lord, we need to realize that we DO have time, but we are not seeing spending time with the Lord as important enough to us. This NEEDS a change because He is the foundation of our being, and we are Called to seek Him, and Love others.  But how can we do this if we tell God, “I’m too Busy, try tomorrow, next week, or even next month”?  We NEED God, and we NEED a sense of His presence to guide us.

The positives that I see from this book is that the author really takes you on a practical walk through on how to notice and address the issue.  He breaks a lot of his chapters down into sub-section lists that are very helpful for the organization of the book, as well as the reader’s thought process.

The negatives would be that by the way that the author words some of his points, it makes it seem like he is saying something that would not be accurate to his beliefs.  For instance, on page 26, the author writes “The glory of God will be removed from your life any time you are unwilling to come to terms with Him regarding any known sin”.  In that quote, it would seem that the author is suggesting that the Holy Spirit would remove himself from us based on our unfaithfulness; which we know is simply unorthodox (not within Church tradition). But we also know that this was not what the author was trying to say because on page 75, after he quotes Duncan Campbell, he explains the quote by saying, “it was not that he felt he had lost his salvation, but rather there was a dryness, a lost sense of the presence of God”.

To get a better sense on his intent, watch the book trailer by Clicking Here

That being said, I know what he was trying to say, but Semantics is a BIG deal when it comes to discussing theology. And so I would caution the author on that. The author also makes various points about God not using someone in unrepentant sin (pg. 26, 28). Though the Lord commands us to repent, the Lord can call anyone, and change their heart.  However, I do not want to dock my rating of the book based on a different understanding of the Scriptures that is not a cut and dry issue on either side.

As far as the physical book quality:  The binding is tight, no pages are loose, the cover is attractive, the pages are thick and are easy to flip through, and the book was published and printed in the USA. CLC Publications produces just as quality books as larger publishing houses do.

Favorite Quotations

“If your attitude is that the presence of God should be sought after you have tended to an endless list of other responsibilities, Satan will insure that your list will grow increasingly longer. A lost sense of God’s presence signals that it is time for immediate action” – Pg. 67-68

A prayer that the author suggested praying to the Lord:

“Lord, I know I’ve lost the sense of Your presence.  I can’t seem to will myself back into a more spiritual state.  I’m both confused and helpless, and it’s in this state of distress that I call upon You” – Pg. 70

“Hours of study, doctrinal orthodoxy, feverish religious activity and compassionate ministry to others are each commendable, but they cannot take the place of knowing God” – Pg. 89

“It is the presence of God you should desire more than all else.  It is worth searching for.  It is worth staying in the search until you find it.  And once God blesses you with the restoration of His glory, it is worth going on in such a fashion that you have both the vital and visible signs that He is with you”. – Pg. 133

Recommendation

Yes/No: Yes, it is a book that would help someone if they find themselves dealing with this issue.

For Who: Individuals.  When you are dealing with these personal issues, although having a supportive and praying friend is helpful, as the book affirms, doing this book in a group setting would not be proper because those who deal with this issue will not receive the proper one-on-one attention that they would need from a mentor, or a good friend.

Ranking 1-10:  8  

Explanation of ranking:  Overall, the book is helpful, and it makes a lot of good points, but the wording is something that would be confusing to the reader, and it is possibly misrepresenting the author’s actual views, from what I can tell.

Closing

Right now, in the month of April 2014, this book is on sale for only $7.50, Plus shipping.

For $7.50, you can purchase a book that is written to address the issue of losing that “new” feeling of faith that may be lost.

Please SHARE this blogpost to your own blogs, and your social media sites if you would like to.  Also, please COMMENT and let me know what you think!

-Jon

Links

Book Trailer: Click Here

Purchase the book: Click Here

Author’s website: Click Here

Links for the Publisher – CLC:

Website: Click Here

Facebook Page: Click Here

Twitter Page: Click Here

Pinterest Page: Click Here

Sacred Marriage: Book Review

***This blog will mainly become inactive, to follow my new blog, please visit www.lambtheology.com***

To those who know me personally, you probably know, but to those who do not, some big news recently happened for me: I am now engaged to my girlfriend- now fiancee.  Being 22 years old, this was not just “something to do”, but was completely intentional. It frankly is not “normal” for a 22 year old guy to desire to “settle down” and get married this young.  But it has always been my desire to find whom I would marry, and once I found her, well, why wait pointlessly when I know that I desire to be with her, and serve her, for the rest of my life?

But it wasn’t easy. And I did not make the decision lightly. I listened to many sermons on marriage, some being good, some being less than desirable, but the most benefitting wisdom came from listening to Paul Washer.  But I wanted more than just an hour long sermon, or even a sermon series, I wanted something that I could chew and digest on my own time; something I could carry with me, and something that had sound biblical wisdom… I wanted to read a book on marriage. I wanted to overcome the apathy of my society by caring more about preparing for the marriage, than the wedding day.

And so, I started reading “Sacred Marriage” by Gary Thomas after having it recommended to me at Hackman’s Bible Bookstore. The book was published by Zondervan, Grand Rapids, Michigan in the year 2000.

Summary

The full title for Thomas’ book is “Sacred Marriage: What if God designed marriage to make us holy more than to make us happy?”. The title provides a good summary of what Thomas writes about; his main points revolve around what God desires for marriage, and he provides illustrations of what that covenant of marriage looks like; providing examples from others, as well as from his own marriage.  The book tries to take the theological truths of marriage, and couple them with the application of those truths.  Thomas brings a lot of his points back to Scripture, as well as concepts learned through the Gospel message such as “Reconciliation”.

For couples and groups, Thomas provides questions based on each chapter in the back of the book.  In addition, he has also published several helps, including a participants guide, and a devotional.

Review

I loved this book because it was a good mix of theological truths, and practical application.  Through looking through the marriage book section, it seemed to be that there were a lot of books from the theological and applicational sides, but not as many that seemed to provide the mix that I desired from a marriage book.  “Sacred Marriage” fits that bill.

Thomas does a lot to deconstruct selfishness, and show how harmful it is in a marriage.  He pin points specific situations in which he, or those he knew, let their selfishness get the best of them.  He does this most convincingly in talking about reconciliation, and how it needs to be lived out in our lives. He impressed me by his strong stand against Divorce, while still recognizing the biblical allowances for it to happen.

But the author also talks about the harder issues; specifically on how being single has long been seen, and still is sometimes seen, as being more committed to God than being married, or pursuing marriage.

The only negative that I found within the book is that some chapters seem to have a more noticeable biblical tie than others.  However, I do not think it would be fair of me to let that impact my overall opinion of the book too much because the book was not written to define the biblical covenant of marriage, and all of its distinctives, but rather as a helpful, biblical, aid for couples, and those preparing for relationships.

Favorite Quotations:

On Reconciliation:

“Everything I am to say and do in my life is to be supportive of this gospel ministry of reconciliation, and that commitment begins by displaying reconciliation in my personal relationships, especially in my marriage” – Thomas, pg. 34

“This is a fallen world.  Let me repeat this: You will never find a spouse who is not affected in some way by the reality of the fall.  If you can’t respect THIS spouse because she is prone to certain weaknesses, you will never be able to respect ANY spouse” – Thomas, pg. 69

“If there is one thing young engaged couples need to hear, it’s that a good marriage is not something you find, it’s something you work for.  It takes struggle.  You must crucify your selfishness.  You must at time confront, and at other times confess.  The practice of forgiveness is essential” – Thomas, pg. 133

“Our faith can infuse a deadened or crippled marriage with meaning, purpose, and – in what we so graciously receive from God – fulfillment.  Christianity doesn’t leave us in an apathetic stupor – it raises us and our relationships from the dead!  It pours zest and strength and purpose into an otherwise wasted life” – Thomas, pg. 151

Recommendation

Yes/No:  Yes.  In fact, I already have.

For Who:

“Sacred Marriage” has become the book that I would recommend to any Christian I know who is married, engaged, in a relationship, or even someone who is single and desires a marriage relationship in the future.  I would recommend it because it has such a high view of God, putting him first in your relationship, and Thomas does a really good job of convicting the reader of even the “little things” that we do, or think, that could be harmful to our marriage.

This book would be great to do for counseling sessions, church small groups, or even as a book a youth group looks at when discussing what a God-honoring marriage is supposed to look like.  As a Youth Leader for several years, I have seen and heard of how churches talk about love and relationships, and honestly, most of the time its just “Don’t have sex until you are married”, and “Don’t get a divorce”, which are both true things, BUT more could be done in actually preparing our youth, and reminding our adults, about what true biblical love and marriage is supposed to look like.  Sacred Marriage would be a benefit for this cause.

And I highly recommend this book to you.

Please SHARE this blogpost to your own blogs, and your social media sites if you would like to.  Also, please COMMENT and let me know what you think!

-Jon

Links

To Buy the Book (and support a Christian Bookstore): Click Here

To learn more about the author: Click here for his website, Here for his facebook page

To learn more about the publisher: Click here for their website, Here for their facebook page

 

The Dream: A Revealed Purpose

In my last blog post, I challenged my readers to think about their priorities, their passions, and their dreams.  I also told them my own which I will restate:

“My priorities would be things that are most important to me, which would have to be my faith, my family, and my girlfriend; to be honest, a “career” to me is simply a way to allow a possible future family to exist…unless I find something I love.  My passions would be things that are at the root of my being, and/or things I get excited about, and they are helping people, building peace & community, and seeking to grow, spiritually.”

The thing is though, I can think of a career I would love.  Several actually. But there is one that hit me this past year that I can’t shake.   So what is that dream, you ask? I’ll get there.  But right now I want to lay out what led me to that dream.  Don’t worry, its just the next two paragraphs.

As I said before, I’m a Christian family man, and less focused on having a career where I make 6 figures but am rarely home.  As I have started to think more about getting married in the future, I realized how ridiculous a 9-5 (or more hours) job is.  You work most of your day because you (in my case) want to provide for your family, but your working takes a lot of time away from them.  There HAS to be a better way than that.  And with all that time working, that leads little time for ministry and faith growth unless I can do that at the workplace.

My passion is to help people. I am a people person.  And I can’t do that effectively by working a 9-5 at a company I am not passionate about.  I desire to be in the front of being able to help, and not the guy working for the guy, who works for the guy, that does more of the relational business things.  I am a youth pastor; I have been able to tell teenage boys an argument against sex before marriage that even made them say I had a point, so based on that event alone, I have some experience.

So where do my priorities and my passions intersect?

What if I could work with my wife in the future? What if my kids could grow up around us as well in that environment? What if I could help people, daily, and give them a place to come?  What if I could help tie families, friends, and even whole communities closer together?  What if I could help people deepen their relationship with the Lord? But for all of that to happen, I would probably have to be “the boss”, or at the very least have a lot of leeway as a manager..

So this is my idea:

I dream to own a coffee house. I like coffee, maybe even love it, but its not my “passion”.  However, through a coffee house, I could do my true passions, and give time to true priorities.  I also enjoy making things that people appreciate.

But the dream does not stop there.  The dream continues to include a coffee shop that operates as a community “hub”; a place people gather.  How often do you really feel comfortable to stay at a starbucks? Its too cold, too industrial…at least the ones I have been to.  What if you went to a coffee house that thrived with events like trivia night, open mic night, local bands, local artists work displayed..the typical great indie coffee shop stuff.  But there is more…

What if that coffee shop hosted a book club that read books that are popular that year? Like in the past year, The Hobbit, perhaps?  What if that same coffee shop also had a bible study?  These two clubs would meet on separate nights, but most likely, some members would come on other nights during the week.  A book club member, and a bible study member could come to the coffee shop on the same night to have a nice caramel Macchiato, and walk out with a new friend, who may have slightly different interests.  Community.

If the book club person is a Christian, the two Christians may have a nice talk on theology and/or Christian living, and possibly how the book the one guy is reading connects to the book the other guy is reading, and both could join the other club as well.  If the book club person is not a Christian, then the Bible study person has an opportunity of sharing they are part of a bible study, that bible study that would equip the person speaking on how to talk to people, share the gospel, and share the love of Christ.  At the end of the day, the non-Christian may have a Christian friend who is one of the few Christians they know, and/or of the few loving Christians they know. Community.

I could then talk to people about their lives, provide advice, or simply listen.  We would also have Christian support for us from the Bible study, as well as kind support from satisfied customers.

That’s the dream. To be an asset to a community. To blend Christian and secular culture, while retaining a common ground on being a family-friendly place to go.  A place not just open on weekend nights, or only geared towards youth (which those places have their place), but a place where all are welcome.  And a place that gives out free bibles to all who want and need one, as well as free soup to families or individuals in need…That’s what i want.

So how does that “dream” become a reality?

I have to practice my barista skills for sure…but there is more than that.  There is practical stuff like budgeting, strategic planning, market analysis, etc..

And guess who is doing a strategic plan for the company he is interning for? Yep. Experience.  I also drafted an estimated start-up capital needed spreadsheet, including an estimated 3 month advance in rent, as well as started brewing coffee and tea to sell in mason jars last year, making a website: http://www.baumanbrewers.webs.com.  I had/have a successful little business selling to college kids. Marketing and a good product will do that.

When is it (the big dream) going to happen?  I am shooting for 10 years or less from when I am 22 (next February, 2014).  I want to be young enough so that I can be with the business to see it grow, and financially suited enough to take the risk, or to find potential investors.

That’s my dream. And its a real dream. A dream that CAN happen. A dream that I am working towards, even now.   What is your dream?  What are you doing to work towards it?

-Jon

Evangelism: Where is the love?

Evangelism:  Why is it that when many hear this word they think of people shouting from street corners that the unbelievers are all going to hell, and that Jesus is the answer?

There are a few problems that I see with this method:

-The “unbelievers” that they are trying to reach have NO authority of Scripture, and therefore, quoting the bible and telling them that they are going to hell will do little to NOTHING for the intended audience.

-By doing this type of evangelism they are already setting themselves up as higher then the intended audience. Some even take it further and literally stand on crates and shout into a formerly quiet park.

-Even if they say that they are a sinner as well, how many Christians actually admit to currently struggling with sin?  Not too many. So no, the audience wont believe that the person condemning them actually view themselves as sinners.

-By starting off their “Gospel message” with statements that the audience will go to Hell if they don’t have Christ, is automatically going to turn the “unbelievers” away, and it would also turn me away.  How is that showing love?  How is that showing humility?

Its not showing Love because they seek to convict their audience. Thats not their job, its God’s.

So, although their hearts are right in wanting to share the good news of the Gospel…I really don’t know how effective it is to the majority.  I really don’t know if the majority will even have respect for these types of street preachers.

What if we didn’t have to do ministry this way?  

I am not trying to say that preaching in public areas is wrong; in fact, I would like to see it continue…but maybe we could try for a better approach. There has to be a better way of telling people about Jesus…

What if, instead of quoting scripture and condemning people to hell upon meeting them, we actually tried to talk and listen to our intended audience?  What if instead of reading bible passages, we Tell them?

People love stories.  Just look at how Jesus taught in parables quite frequently.  He told these stories without quoting the old testament(which was then the Tanakh) often, and the people listened to Him. Some even understood Him, and He had a way of saying these famous words, “He that has ears, let him hear”, indicating that He was not forcing it, He was telling it.

So, what if we broke down our self-righteous pride…and met people where they were at, instead of trying to force them to come up to where we are?  Jesus met with the worst of sinners, why can’t we do the same?

If we want to preach on the streets, then lets talk about our testimonies. Lets tell some stories.  Lets try to meet the real needs of people around us as well. And lets preach the Love of God, instead of starting out our message with a message of the wrath of God.  People are tired and fed-up with the “fire and brimstone” Gospel message.  So instead, lets give and show them the real Gospel through our actions and words, and that Gospel is the message that Jesus Christ is Lord, Messiah, King, Friend, Brother, and a lover of our souls who earnestly desires us to become more like Him.

By the way, no, you can’t just forget about the truth that Christ is who saves us from hell.  Hell is real, and so is the individual “hells” that people deal with individually; so lets try to address both of those problems with genuine Love.(This idea was taken from Rob Bell’s book “Love Wins”).

In addition, how about we do relational ministry in our everyday life as well.  Instead of getting mad at the waiter for bringing you a coke instead of a pepsi, show him love and respect even if you don’t always get what you want.  In your friendships and campuses, show love to all, not just the people you “prefer”.  How do we show Love?  Show respect. Listen. Care. Cry. Pray.

How does this minister to people?  It shows that we are different.  It shows that instead of having an agenda to save, we have an agenda to genuinely Love, and through that we may be able to talk about Jesus when they actually want to listen.

I love Jesus with all of my being.  I have a desire to let others know.  All I am saying in this post is that maybe we are doing some things wrong…maybe we are turning more people away than welcoming them. NEVER water down THE Message, but you may have to adjust your message because just as Paul says, some need milk, others need meat. And just like what Paul did at Mars Hill, we should try to convey the message in real and relevant ways to our intended audience.

Let Love Live.

-Jon