Book Review: Bold as Love

bold as love book“Bold as Love” is a refreshing antidote to our society’s “political correctness” and the constant worrying about offending people–which causes us to never talk to people who are “different” from us in any way lest we say the wrong thing. It is also right in line with missional living and with the example Jesus gave us for how to do missions. Pastor Bob Roberts teaches his readers how to reach out and form genuine friendships with Jews, Muslims, or any other people group, and gives encouraging stories about how his own church started doing this. 

Living in the United States we truly have the world at our fingertips. Migration has brought people from nearly every country on earth to the U.S. and they are our neighbors, co-workers, friends. But, this migration often creates fear because of misconceptions of those who are different from us. We are taken out of our comfort zone and we all too often opt to return to “safety” rather than engage someone from another culture.  

While there are so many quotes that I want to share, I will use just one:

We want security; God wants exposure so that he’s glorified. We want ready-made plans for every challenge; God requires faith and trust to follow him. We want faith without risk and ministry without pain. But what we’ll find is that the most difficult times of life are often the most fruitful times (page 52).

We are here to glorify God and to make Him known…so what are we afraid of?

I have had the privilege of being on the “launch team” for this book, which enabled me to participate in a live chat with the author and the other team members…and I am so thankful for this opportunity! It was so amazing to see that there are so many like-minded Christians out there who are ready to change the status quo. This book is one that I am SO excited about because it falls in line with the passions God has given me and with the Great Commission that He has given to each of us as believers!

Truly, this is a MUST-READ especially for pastors, missionaries, church planters…but this book truly can benefit anyone of any culture/religion as the principles apply cross-culturally. If you are ready to be used by God in a new, fresh, and exciting way, then pick up this book. Being uncomfortable is an exciting way to live 🙂

This book is available starting 12.04.2012 but you can pre-order it on Amazon.

(You can read more from Pastor Roberts on his blog)

I received a free copy of this book from Thomas Nelson/Handlebar Marketing in exchange for my honest review.

Day Five: I’m Thankful For…Church Family.

Preface: I thought it was fitting to express my thanks during the month of November for something new each day, as so many others have done before me. I’ve never taken the time to do this, and it will be a challenge to blog each day, but it’s so important to recognize the blessings God has given us! 🙂 These are in NO particular order…

I have made two major moves in my life: the first was from Northern to Southern California (523 miles) for college in 2001; the second was from Southern California to Pennsylvania (3,000 miles) in 2008. Both moves were significant landmarks in my life, and both placed me far from my family, friends and comfort zone.

However, God is eternally faithful and He has continually brought me “church family” to take care of me, befriend me, and love me.

Within my first month of college, I found the First Baptist Church of Glendora and the friendships made there still stand strong today. The bond that I have with so many people there will last forever and I am so thankful for God’s leading! I know that I still have “family” in Glendora. I was so blessed to be surrounded by like-minded musicians and we made some incredible music together. I was surrounded by friends my age who were seeking to know Jesus more and more and they sharpened me. They encouraged me. They were sad to see me move in 2008 but recognized God’s hand in the journey and supported me all the way. I love them dearly.

Within my first month of moving to Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, I found East Shore Baptist Church. From the first time I walked through those doors until now, I felt welcomed and loved. As soon as people discovered how far I had come and how far my family was from me, they stepped in and took care of me. They supported and encouraged me. They helped me find a husband 😉 (haha). When I lost my job, they ensured that I was fed and taken care of. One Sunday I found $200 in my Bible–which was exactly what I needed to finish paying my rent for the month. I have no idea who blessed me that day, but I am SO thankful.

The pastors allowed me to begin a ministry to the singles in the church (which is, ironically, where I became acquainted with Brennan) as this was a large people group within the church that was not being served. They encouraged me to use my gifts for the good of the body (even when it was uncomfortable–like playing guitar for worship…which I did every Sunday, two services, for two years and do all the time now) and never discouraged me from following God’s leading.

They allowed me to be on the leadership team for an amazing church plant called The Well at East Shore. I was the “Community Projects Coordinator” and was able to live out two of my passions: missions and serving. I planned community service projects for our church that we did the third Thursday of every month (that’s the night we met in order to reach those who can’t or won’t go to church on Sundays)…we chose to go BE the church on those nights instead of just sitting in church every week. It was a powerful way to be the hands and feet of Jesus to our community.

We eventually felt led to discontinue The Well, but God definitely had plans for our little church plant: It was through The Well that I met the Morrisons and the Shays. They came up from North Carolina to see Harrisburg in March 2010 as they were praying about where to plant a church. I helped show them around Harrisburg and we were able to show them where we were seeing God at work–EVERYWHERE! They felt led to come join God in the great work He is doing here and moved here in 2011. Brennan and I are now part of the church that they planted, Redeeming Grace Church, and they have become such a wonderful blessing to our lives. Redeeming Grace has brought us another wonderful church family and we are so blessed to call RGC our church home.

God has proven His love to me in so many ways, but this is one of the greatest: wherever He has called me to go, He has brought people alongside me who love and encourage me, and I love and encourage them as well. He is so faithful to care for us!

Thank you, Jesus, for providing amazing Christians who become family to me wherever I go…

Book Review: “Radical Together” by David Platt

I started reading this book on a flight to California thinking that I would just read a couple of chapters and finish it later. I finished the book before we even made it to California. I couldn’t stop reading because the message resonated within my heart as being absolutely true! The message within these pages is one that I have experienced on every mission trip (both domestic and overseas)…it is a message that God has been revealing to me through various authors and books over the past couple of years, and I cannot deny the truth behind these words.

“Radical Together” is a companion book to “Radical”, and it contains a message that is so important for every Christian to read and apply to their lives. He writes from experience and uses biblical truth to prove what he suggests throughout the book, and his message is so clear: we are missing what God has called us to do.

The author describes several things that are inhibiting the Church in America from truly making a difference in their communities and in the world–including programs, buildings, and activities. This book points out that good things can get in the way of the BEST things. We become so focused on our programs, on the things that our church offers, that we lose sight of why we are really here on earth–which is to reach the lost and to teach the Gospel to all nations. David Platt writes on page 9, “We must be willing to sacrifice good things in the church in order to experience the great things of God.” He also writes: “The last thing you and I want to do is waste our lives on religious activity that is devoid of spiritual productivity–being active in the church but not advancing the Kingdom of God” (page 8).

I wrote down quote after quote in my journal so that I wouldn’t forget the wisdom contained in these pages. David Platt challenges the American Dream that has woven its way into the church and the way we do ministry here. He gives example after example of how radically life can change when we live biblically. I don’t want to give too much away–this is definitely a book for EVERY Christian to read and to apply to their lives. We are missing out on so much because we choose to live comfortably and because we choose to stay within the walls of the church.

One final quote: “If the spread of the Gospel is dependent upon [programs], we will never reach the ends of the earth. We will never have enough resources, staff, buildings, events, or activities to reach all the people in our community, much less all the peoples in the world. But we will always have enough people. Even if they seem like the wrong people.” (Page 75)

I highly recommend “Radical Together”!

I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review. I was not required to post a positive review.

Book Review: “Why Men Hate Going to Church”

I am a student of history. One of my top strengths is “context” (StrengthsFinder by Gallup–WELL WORTH your time). The most important lesson I gained in college from all of my history courses was this: Context is key–you need to know the hows/whys/whats of how we got to where we are so that you can ask “what now” and act wisely.

I am also a church leader. I have been in various leadership roles for the past ten+ years. I have seen churches grow and I’ve seen churches decline. There are many good books that I’ve read on the subject of how church should be done, but I have to say that David Murrow’s book “Why Men Hate Going to Church” has made the top ten list.

Mr. Murrow begins by giving a history of church dynamics and specifically looks at the role that men have played over the past few hundred years. It’s hard to argue with his facts: the church has become highly feminized, and it’s a cycle that will keep going until we make church a more “man friendly” environment.  His fascinating historical overview truly helps us see why we have such a mess today when it comes to the decline of a male presence in the church. He doesn’t discriminate between denominations–he acknowledges that they’ve all seen a decline and discusses why. But he does far more than just offer a commentary on the problem: he offers solutions based on research.

One example: he points out several phrases and terms that are NEVER found in the Bible, but we use them all the time to describe what it means to be a Christian. We’ve made it this almost romantic-sounding relationship (i.e. using words like intimate, personal relationship, etc.), when in reality the Gospel is a mission. We are God’s ambassadors, His agents in this world, and we are called to action. We are here for a purpose. Those are the types of things that get men fired up–not mushy worship/talk. Yet, because the churches are typically filled with more women than men, the messages have conformed to the gender-gap, and this isolates men even further.

For church-planters and pastors especially, chapter 13 alone is worth buying the whole book. As I read this chapter (as with many others), I was struck by the truth of his words in terms of how our Kingdom focus has changed so much with the feminine influence in the church. We’ve become far more focused on making church a “family” than a mission-control for the Kingdom work to which we are called. As such, pastors spend so much time dealing with internal conflicts rather than reaching out to our communities who are in need of the Word.

I know that many of my friends who are feminists will likely disagree with much of what this book says…but I have to agree. Changes need to be made, and we need to follow the biblical example that Jesus gave us during His earthly ministry. He reached out to 12 MEN primarily, because He knew that those men would become leaders that both men and women would follow. We need strong male leadership once again in our churches, and this book offers many suggestions that will change the course of your church forever.

This book is worth your time–and keep an open mind…it just might surprise you. 🙂

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com <http://BookSneeze®.com> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Three Years…

Just a few thoughts on this Monday morning…

Time seems to crawl so slowly as you are living day by day, but when you look back it is amazing how fast it seems to fly. This year marks ten years since high school graduation, nine years since my first summer in Williamsport, PA as a missionary, six years since college graduation, and three years of living in Pennsylvania.

Three years.

It truly feels like yesterday that I packed everything into my car and headed across the country with my mom, taking our time to enjoy the beauty of the United States. It doesn’t seem possible that it has been three years now.

In those three years, I have changed SO much. I am still trying to figure out what “career” fits me best, but determined two years ago that politics are not for me. That’s a huge change from who I used to be.

I traveled to Haiti last May and was forever changed by the realities there…I will never look at wealth/poverty the same way again. I traveled to Brazil last May and my church planting philosophy was forever changed…I want to plant churches the way that Jesus did: by being missional, not attractional. 

I’ve had one full-time job, two part-time jobs (at the same time), have been a temp and have been unemployed.  I’ve moved three times already (not including the move to PA) and will move again in September.

I’ve grown in my photography skills and have learned what I like to photograph and what I don’t enjoy.

I’ve established incredible friendships with godly, supportive, encouraging women here, unlike any friendships I’ve ever known. They have blessed my life in countless ways and have helped me grow through challenges.

And, perhaps the most obvious change: I am married. Eight months after moving across the country, following God’s calling, I met my now husband. How amazing our God is–that when we follow His call and live according to His Will, He blesses us more richly than we could ever imagine! We have grown so much as a couple in the past nine months of marriage, and I am SO excited about the growth to come! Brennan is my greatest support, my best-friend, and I can’t wait to see what the future holds.

Pennsylvania is my mission field. This is where God has called me to serve Him and to build His Kingdom. I came here with only that purpose in mind, a purpose from which I have strayed in the past year. I’ve allowed life to become “too busy” and realized recently that I need to constantly remind myself that I am here to help plant churches, to proclaim Jesus in every aspect of my life, and to bring glory to Him and Him alone through my actions/activities. Everything else needs to take second place to my mission here, now “our” mission here.

Three years…and what a fabulous journey these years have been.