Category Archives: Books

Worth Repeating: Living By The Rules

I just finished John Ortberg’s When the Game Is Over It All Goes Back Into the Box. John always has the most amazing illustrations in his books. Here is one I enjoyed and think is so true.

Integrity Is Not the Same as Knowing the Rules

Our problem is not that we don’t know the rules, but that we don’t live by what we already know. A man is being tailgated by a woman who is in a hurry. He comes to an intersection, and when the light turns yellow. he hits the brakes. The woman behind Him goes ballistic. She honks her horn at him ; and yells her frustration in no uncertain terms; she rants and gestures.

While she is in mid-rant, someone taps on her window. She looks to see a policeman. He invites her to step out of her car and takes her to the station where she is searched, and fingerprinted, and put in a cell. After a couple of hours, she is released, and the arresting officer gives her her personal effects, saying, “I’m sorry for the mistake, ma’am. I pulled up behind your car while you were blowing your horn, and using bad gestures, and bad language. I noticed the ‘What Would Jesus Do?’ bumper sticker, the ‘Choose Life’ license plate holder, the ‘Follow Me To Sunday School’ window sign, the Christian Fish emblem on your trunk, and I naturally assumed you had stolen the car.”

The world gets pretty tired of of people who have Christian bumper stickers on their cars, Christian fish signs on their trunks, Christian books on their shelves, Christian stations on their radios, Christian jewelry around their necks, Christian videos for their kids, and Christian magazines for their coffee tables but don’t actually have the life of Jesus in their bones or the love of Jesus in their hearts.

Ortberg, John, When the Game Is Over, It All Goes Back in the Box, (Grand Rapids, MI:Zondervan, 2007) 115

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Worth Repeating: I’ve wasted It!

An illustration I liked from John Piper’s Don’t Waste Your Life
For me as a boy, one of the most gripping illustrations my fiery father used was the story of a man converted in old age. The church had prayed for this man for decades. He was hard and resistant. But this time, for some reason, he showed up when my father was preaching. At the end of the service, during a hymn, to everyone’s amazement he came and took my father’s hand. They sat down together on the front pew of the church as the people were dismissed. God opened his heart to the Gospel of Christ, and he was saved from his sins and given eternal life. But that did not stop him from sobbing and saying, as the tears ran down his wrinkled face—and what an impact it made on me to hear my father say this through his own tears—“I’ve wasted it! I’ve wasted it!” This was the story that gripped me more than all the stories of young people who died in car wrecks before they were converted—the story of an old man weeping that he had wasted his life. In those early years God awakened in me a fear and a passion not to waste my life. The thought of coming to my old age and saying through tears, “I’ve wasted it! I’ve wasted it!” was a fearful and horrible thought to me.

John Piper, Don’t Waste your Life,(Wheaton,IL:Crossway Publishing 2007)11-12

This book is available for free download off the Desiring God website.

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Worth Repeating: Judgement

Jesus the Evangelist
Many people don’t think of themselves as sinners worthy of judgement. But if you commit just three sins per day-if you are irreverent, dishonest, malicious, lustful, or covetous just three times in a day-and the great majority of us break God’s law in thought or deed at least that many times in a hour! -you will commit more than a thousand sins per year. If you live for seventy-five years, as many of us will, when you die you will arrive in God’s court with seventy -five thousand sins to be dealt with. How would a human judge respond to a criminal with seventy-five thousand violations of the civil law? Surely he would impose the maximum penalty! God hates sin more than any human judge, and He has decreed that the “wages of sin is death” (Rom. 6:23). How important it is, then, that we find a way to deal with our sin before appearing before God’s judgement.

Richard D. Phillips, Jesus the Evangelist, (Lake Mary,Fl.:Reformation Trust, 2007) 138



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Worth Repeating: Samuel Jones on Sin

During my lesson last weekend I wound up using this illustration to describe what repentance looks like.

Samuel Jones on Sin

There is no attitude towards God that is acceptable to Him except the attitude that turns with loathing away from sin. Here is a mother sitting quietly within her room. Her only child, little”Willie, just four years old, the pride of her heart and the joy of her life, sees mamma’s little pearl handled pen knife lying on the table. That little knife is the present of a friend, and mother values it highly. Little “Willie, unknown to mother, pick sup the little knife and runs out of the room; and in an hour mother wonders where he is, and directly the nurse comes in hurriedly and says:” Little Willie is lying all bloody in the front flower-yard;” and mother rushes out, and there is little Willie just gasping, and breathing his last.

He stubbed his little foot and fell and the blades pierced the jugular vein. The mother grasps the little almost lifeless child in her arms, and runs into the room, and just as she lays him on the little bed he breathes his last; and the mother kisses her child and says: “Sweet Willie, just speak one more time.” Next day mother carries little Willie to the grave and buries him, and comes back to her home with broken heart; and as she sits down and turns back the dark veil, the nurse comes out of the front yard and says: ” Madam, here’s the little knife. Here’s your little pearl-handled knife.” The mother looks at the knife and the blade all covered with the blood of her sweet child, and she shrinks back in horror and says: “Take that knife out of my presence. I never want to see it again. It has the blood of my precious child upon it.”

And when a Christian man or woman, under the light of God’s Holy Spirit, can see that every sin in the moral universe of God has been covered with the blood of the Son of God, then he shrinks back in horror and says: ” Oh I take it out of my presence. It is covered with the precious blood of my bleeding Saviour.” Oh, brother, you will never know what purity is until you see all impurity bathed in the blood of the Son of God. Oh, let us hate sin and abhor it, and turn away from it, and despise it utterly.

Stuart, R. George,FAMOUS STORIES OF SAM P. JONES: Reproduced in the Language in Which Sam Jones Uttered Them
(Fleming H. Revell Co.,1908) p 12-13


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The Life You’ve Always Wanted Part 6

Session 6 is called Going the Distance with Well-Ordered Heart. It comes from chapters 12 and 13 in the book. The Key points this week are:

  1. Many of us desire a perfectly balanced manageable life, but God wants us to pursue a much higher goal.
  2. A well ordered heart is a transformed heart.
  3. A well ordered heart is perfected by faithful endurance through suffering.

Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life. Proverb 4:23

John tells us that we should devote our lives to attaing a well ordered heart. He qoutes Augustine to show what a well ordered heart is: A well ordered heart is to love…

  • The right thing
  • To the right degree
  • in the right way
  • With the right kind of love

When the heart is well ordered we are not only increasingly free from sin, but also free from the deire to sin.

The game plan

First we have a list of questions we must ask ourselves.

  1. How and when will I pray?
  2. How will I handle money in a way that allows me to be closer to God?
  3. How will I approach work in a way that will help Christ be formed in me?
  4. How am I involved in Christian community?
  5. How can I fulfill my daily task with a sense of the presence of God?
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The Life You’ve Always Wanted Part 5

We are starting session 5 today. It looks at servant hood and freedom from chapters 7 and 10 in the book. John Ortberg calls the chapter on servant hood “Appropriate Smallness”. He starts off talking about the oldest sin. The pride that tempted Adam and Eve to sin. He mentions how pride causes us to judge rather than serve. Then he gives the most common types of pride.

  1. Vanity = A preoccupation with appearance or image.
  2. Stubbornness = The pride that causes us to shun correction.
  3. Exclusion = The pride that causes us to exclude both God and other people from their rightful places in our hearts.

Next he talks about how Jesus invites us to a life of humility. “All who humble themselves will be exalted.” John says that “pride is a persistent problem for people who strive for spiritual growth.” He goes on to say “When I try to do something good, I am immensely aware of it. And I tend to be aware of other people who aren’t putting forth the same effort.” Pride leads to comparison, judgementalism and a lack of love.

He uses the verses from Philippians 2:6-11 [Jesus] being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God to be grounds for grasping, but poured Himself out, taking the very nature of a servant.” John says “This could also be said, ‘Jesus became a servant in spite of the fact that He was God”

So how do we become a servant?

  1. Ministry of the mundane = Doing small things like helping your spouse around the house.
  2. Ministry of being interrupted = Being available when someone needs you.
  3. Embrace weaknesses and limitations = we feel by being busy overachievers we are important.
  4. Ministry of “holding your tongue” = Allow others to lead and make suggestions.
  5. Ministry of “bearing” = Not just bearing hardships for other people, but tolerating people who are hard to tolerate.

Then in chapter 10 we move to freedom. John starts off by saying “some people are in bondage of what other people think of them and that we must learn to live freely with our critics.” The only person we should care about approval from is God. He goes on to point out that this bondage might not even have real basis. “Often when we worry what others think of us, we are really worrying about what we think others think of us.”

Next he talks about “approval addiction” which is where we constantly seek approval of those we feel are above us. He refutes this saying “No one’s approval will affect us, unless we grant it credibility and status. The same goes for disapproval.

So how do I stop being an approval addict?

1.      Resign from impression management = Do not brag or try to build yourself up for others.

2.      Secretly practice good deeds = Do a good deed anonymously.

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NKJV Chronological Study Bible

I just finished the NKJV Chronological Study Bible. I figured I would take a break today from the history of the bible and give my opinions on this bible. It does not give verse by verse explanation like some bibles instead it had several short articles throughout. These articles explained customs, social order, archaeology, beliefs including many articles on pagan beliefs, and many other topics. It was filled with timelines and short segments consisting of only a couple of sentences that explained money, weights, geography, and religious practices.

The main reason for reading this bible though was for the chronological order. Reading the bible this way was interesting and helped to see how some stuff relates as you are reading through. The prophets were broken up and placed in the historical books. Being able to read a prophecy and then immediately read of its fulfillment helped see how it tied together. When it would switch from one book to another there would be a short transition section that would explain how it tied together plus give other opinions of chronological order if there were other opinions.

The Psalms were mixed in with the stories of David. Proverbs mixed with Solomon and the epistles were intermingled with Acts. The Gospels were separated by author, so if more than one book had the same thing in it you would read all of them back to back.

The greatest benefit for this bible though is studying for sermons and devotionals. For example if you were studying the Bread of Life statement from John 6:35 and you wanted to see the background and what all was going on when the statement was made. You could turn back a couple of pages and see all the gospels in chronological order telling what had happened before Jesus made these statements. It really speeds up getting the context of a section.

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The Life You’ve Always Wanted Part 4

We will be doing session 4 this Sunday. It is about meditating on scripture and seeking God’s guidance. The Key points this week will be:

  1. God calls us to one thing in life- to pursue God’s kingdom and righteousness above all else.
  2. We need the holy spirit’s guidance in order to discover how to live as Jesus would live if He were in our place.
  3. Seeking God’s guidance is an intentional choice. It is not a passive avoidance of responsibility, a shortcut to making decisions or a way to escape risk.

John mentions some people who wrote about the prompting of the spirit. George Fox called it the Lord opening a truth to him. John Calvin referred to it as the “inner testimony” of the spirit and Saint Ignatius talked of movements of the soul. These still small voice moments can come in a sense of conviction of sin, assurance of God’s love or a call to action.

The reason we have such a hard time hearing God’s voice is that we have a “spiritual mindlessness”. We are not really listening, or are prepared to listen to God’s prompting. God may be speaking to you and guiding you without you even realizing it’s God’s guidance. God talked to Samuel and until Eli pointed it out he did not realize it was God().  Most people rarely seek God’s guidance until it’s big decision time. Then we are not really seeking God’s guidance as much as we want “insider information”. We want to know what choice will lead to our happiness.

To know if we are truly seeking God’s guidance we must ask the question, How often do I seek God’s guidance? Then start seeking guidance for the growth of our soul by asking:

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The Life You’ve Always Wanted Part 3

I’m behind on my writing about this small group session because I have had the flu and now I’m trying to avoid pneumonia as I get over bronchitis. It’s been a fun couple of weeks. I did not get to teach the last lesson as I felt my church didn’t want me to share the flu with them and this session also was taught by another deacon. Hopefully I’ll be up to full strength by the weekend though.

This third session focuses on the disciplines of prayer and confession. John starts off pointing out that most people save prayer for when they are desperate. When things get bad then we want to ask God for help.

John starts off by pointing us to Revelation 8:1-5. There is silence in heaven for half an hour as God and the angels listen to the prayers of the saints rising up in the incense. Then there is action taken based on the prayers. Our prayers are so important that they interrupt heaven.

Prayers change things and causes things to happen in Genesis 18:33 Abraham pleads with God to spare Sodom and Gomorrah. God relents and spares Lot and his daughters (Genesis 19:15) because of the prayers of Abraham. There is no way of knowing this side of heaven how many people you have helped with your prayers.

Jesus’ own life showed us a constant hunger for prayer and this led the disciples to asks him to teach them to pray(Luke 11:1). John recommends starting small with five minutes a day set aside at the same time in a quiet place of beauty. Jesus prayed early in quiet solitary places that were free of distractions. (Matthew 14:23, Matthew 26:36, Luke 5:16) Next he recommends preparing yourself with deep breathes and possibly repeating something like heavenly Father. Then we start with simple prayers. This is where you pray what is on your heart and he gives some examples of biblical people who prayed about what was on their hearts. Jesus prayed for daily bread (Matthew 6:11), Gideon prayed for proof that he could trust God (Judges 6:36-40), Moses complained about his job (Numbers 11:12), and Elisha complained about being called bald(2 Kings 2:23-24).

Next we need to be fully present to what the spirit says if your mind is wandering to wanting revenge on someone maybe God is trying to help you see something. Pray what your mind and heart wanders to. Then we move on to intercessory prayers. This is where we ask God to help someone. Just as Abraham had asked God to spare Lot. Prayer is talking with God. Just as a father loves to hear his children tell him what they are thinking God wants us to tell Him.

The second part of the third session is confession which should be a regular part of prayer. We have all sinned and we have to realize the stain of sin on our lives if we are to ever move past it. We must also confess to help relieve us of regret and guilt. Confession is not what God needs, it is what we need. It is a special gift where God can bestow His grace on us. Afterwards we will be liberated from guilt and less likely to sin in the same way.

We should let the spirit guide us in preparing to confess. As we think about thoughts, words and deeds we need to acknowledge our sin and take responsibility for it. That means not making excuses! Sin involves denial so we must ask the spirit for an honest perception of our sin so we can see the log that is in our eye. This involves asking two questions.  Why did I do that and what happened as a result?

Confession should look not only at naming our sin but our intentions in the future. In David’s confessions he asked for a pure heart be given him. We need to use confession to see our sin as sin and decide what we are going to do about it. The burden of guilt is a type of Grace. The release of that burden is an even grater grace and that is what confession is for.

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The Life You’ve Always Wanted: Part 2

ortberg life wantedI’ve been studying for my church’s Sunday night class on the Life You’ve Always Wanted by John Ortberg. I remind you that this book is about training yourself to think and act more like Jesus. The Disciplines for this week are slowing down and celebrating. John points out that God wants us to be filled with joy, because “Joy is at the heart of God Himself.” John uses this qoute from G.K. Chesterton to demonstrate that joy we see in the happiest child is just a fraction of the Joy in the heart of God.

“Because children have abounding vitality, because they are in spirit fierce and free, therefore they want things repeated and unchanged. They always say, “Do it again”; and the grown-up person does it again until he is nearly dead. For grown-up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony. But perhaps God is strong enough to exult in monotony. It is possible that God says every morning, “Do it again” to the sun; and every evening, “Do it again” to the moon. It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike; it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them. It may be that He has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we.”

He goes on to give a suggestion of what might have looked like if one of us wrote it.  An example being, “He considered making the stars to beautify the night, and planets to fill the skies , but thought it sounded like too much work.” We know that that is not how reads though God said and It was good.  Paul states how we should always be joyful in the Lord in . In Nehemiah chapter 8 he tells them to celebrate and in verse 10 that the joy of the Lord is their strength.

So how do we go about training ourselves to be joyful. we stay around people who make us joyful, we set aside time to do the things that make us happy and thn thank God for them.

The second discipline is slowing down. John tells of the advice given to him about how to be spiritually healthy. “You must ruthlessly eliminate hurry from you life.” He discuss how the clutter in our lives, the multitasking , and superficiality cause us to have an inability to love.

some of the ways to train for this are to stay behind the car in front of you in traffic, no matter what speed they are going, chew your food for longer, and set aside time for solitude. Being constantly busy is my biggest downfall and I never realized how much it affected who I was until I tried the exercises listed above. I would come home from work later but in a much better mood. I was less grumpy and wanted to spend more time wit my family. I believe the chapter on slowing down was the most helpful to me of any of them.

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The Life You’ve Always Wanted

0310246954In our Sunday night class we just started John Ortberg’s The Life You’ve Always Wanted small group curriculum. Since I have already read the book and will be doing most of the teaching I wanted to share it here. I admit the title scared me. I was picturing a Joel Osteen prosperity gospel, but that is not what you get in this book. John Ortberg is referring to a life where we honor Christ in everything we do. A life where we become more Christ like everyday, he puts it this way it’s “doing the right thing, at the right time, for the right reason.”

He says that there is a big difference in “trying and training” and that we should approach spiritual discipline as if we were training for a marathon. We should start with small exercises that prepare and get our spiritual muscles ready. I’ll add a summary of each lesson, each week as we go through this curriculum.

I’ll leave you with the story of Mabel from this week’s lesson. Mabel was an elderly lady John met during a nursing home visit. She had been in the home for 25 years. She was blind, almost deaf, and cancer had disfigured her face. John said he walked up and gave her a flower. She thanked him and asked if he minded if she gave it to someone else. When he rolled her will chair next to someone else she handed them the flower and said, “This is from Jesus.” As he got to know her, one day he was curious what does a person who is blind, deaf, disabled and alone think about all day, so he asked her. She told him, she thought about Jesus. So he asked her what exactly does she think about Jesus. She told him, “I think about how good he has been to me!”
When we look at our problems and compare them with Mabel’s and how her attitude is one of hope, praise and worship, we can see just how far away from the life we’ve always wanted we are.

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