Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Apologetics For a New Generation by Sean McDowell ~ FIRST WildCard

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!



You never know when I might play a wild card on you!







Today's Wild Card author is:





Sean McDowell





and the book:




Apologetics for a New Generation
Harvest House Publishers (March 1, 2009)




ABOUT THE AUTHOR:






Sean McDowellis a popular speaker at schools, churches, and conferences nationwide. He is the author of Ethix: Being Bold in a Whatever World and the co–author of Understanding Intelligent Design and Evidence for the Resurrection.



Visit the author's website.



Product Details:



List Price: $13.99

Paperback: 256 pages

Publisher: Harvest House Publishers (March 1, 2009)

Language: English

ISBN-10: 0736925201

ISBN-13: 978-0736925204



AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:






Introduction:



Apologetics for a New Generation



by Sean McDowell



The voice on the other end of the phone was familiar, but the question took me by complete surprise. “You teach your students to defend their faith, right?” asked John, a close friend of mine. “Tell me, how do you know Christianity is true?” John and I have had a special relationship for more than a decade, but this was the first time he had shown any real interest in spiritual matters. And he not only wanted to talk about God, he wanted an apologetic for the faith—he wanted proof, reason, and evidence before he would consider believing. John later told me his interest in God was piqued when his younger brother was diagnosed with a brain tumor at 16 years old. His younger brother has since had surgery and experienced complete recovery. In John’s own words, this experience “woke him up to his own mortality.”



A few weeks after our phone conversation, John was heading back to school in northern California, so we decided to meet for a chat over coffee. As we sat down at the Starbucks across from the historic San Juan Capistrano Mission, John jumped right in. “I’m scientific minded, so I need some evidence for the existence of God and the accuracy of the Bible. What can you show me?” For the next hour and a half we discussed some of the standard arguments for the existence of God, the historical evidence for the death and resurrection of Jesus, and the basis for the reliability of the Bible. I did my best to answer his questions, trying to show that Christianity is rationally compelling and provides the most satisfying solution to the deepest longings of the heart. John didn’t become a Christian at this point, but he confessed that he was very close and just needed more time to weigh the cost of his decision.



When I reflected on this discussion, comments I have heard over the past decade by young leaders came rushing to my mind:



“We live in a postmodern era, so apologetics is not important anymore.”



“Young people no longer care about reasons for the existence of the Christian God. What matters is telling your narrative and being authentic.”



“New generations today no longer need ‘evidence that demands a verdict’ or a ‘case for Christ.’”



“Conversion is about the heart, not the intellect.”



Of course, these statements are oversimplifications. Still, we must ask, is scientific proof an important part of faith? Do we live in an era in which people still have questions that demand a truth-related response? Is John the exception, the norm, or somewhere in between? If we are going to be effective in reaching a new generation of young people, few questions, it would seem, are more pressing and important than these.



Postmodernism



In the early 1990s, interest in postmodernism exploded in the church. Bestselling books and popular conferences featured seminars about doing ministry in a postmodern world. People disagreed about exactly what is meant by “postmodernism”—and they still do!—but many agreed that the world was leaving the modern era behind and wading into the unknown waters of the postmodern matrix.



According to many, postmodernism marks the most important cultural shift of the past 500 years, upending our theology, philosophy, epistemology (how we know things), and church practice. Some compare postmodernism to an earthquake that has overturned all the foundations of Western culture. Thus, to be relevant in ministry today, we must shed our modern tendencies and embrace the postmodern shift. According to many postmoderns, this shift includes replacing a propositional approach to the gospel with a primarily relational methodology.



To be honest, for the past 15 years I have wrestled profoundly with this so-called postmodern shift, reading books about postmodernism, attending conferences, and engaging in endless conversations with both Christians and non-Christians about the state of culture today. As much as the next guy, I want my life and ministry to be biblically grounded and culturally relevant. If the world is really undergoing a profound shift, I want to embrace it!



The world is certainly changing fast. Advancements in technology, transportation, and communication are taking place at an unprecedented rate. But what does this really mean for ministry today? Certainly, as postmoderns like to emphasize, story, image, and community are critical components. But does it follow that we downplay reason, evidence, and apologetics? Absolutely not! In fact, as the contributors to this book all agree, apologetics is more important than ever before.



Postmodern ideas do influence the worldview of youth today, but their thinking is most deeply influenced by our predominantly modern, secular culture. This can be seen most clearly by comparing the way they think about religion and ethics with the way they think about science. Youth are significantly relativistic when it comes to ethics, values, and religion, but they are not relativistic about science, mathematics, and technology. This is because they have grown up in a secular culture that deems science as the superior means of attaining knowledge about the world. In Kingdom Triangle, philosopher J.P. Moreland writes, “Scientific knowledge is taken to be so vastly superior that its claims always trump the claims made by other disciplines.” Religion and morals, on the other hand, are considered matters of personal preference and taste over which the individual is autonomous. This is why, if you’ve had a discussion with a younger person, you’ve probably heard her say, “That may be true for you, but it’s not true for me,” “Who are you to judge?” or “If that’s what they choose, whatever.” This is not because of their postmodern sentiments, but because their thinking has been profoundly shaped by their modernist and secular culture.



Popular writers such as Christopher Hitchens, Sam Harris, and Richard Dawkins have written bestselling books attacking the scientific, historic, and philosophical credibility of religion in general and Christianity in particular. Their writings have wreaked havoc on many unprepared Christians. This has taken place while many inside the church have neglected the need to be able to defend the faith intellectually. Christians today are regularly being challenged to set forth the reasons for their hope. And with the ubiquity of the Internet, difficult questions seem to be arising now more than ever before. As professor David Berlinski writes in The Devil’s Delusion: “The question that all religious believers now face: Show me the evidence.”



I am convinced that C.S. Lewis was right: The question is not really if we will defend the Christian faith, but if we will defend it well. Whether we like it or not, we are all apologists of a sort.



The Apologetics Renaissance



During research for The Case for Christ, Lee Strobel was told by a well-known and respected theologian that no one would read his book. Lee was informed, “People don’t care about historical evidence for Jesus anymore. They’re more persuaded by experience and community than facts and reason.” Disappointed and frustrated, Lee returned home and told his wife that his efforts were seemingly in vain. Yet according to Lee, the largest group of readers who became Christians through his book has been 16- to 24-year-olds!



Philosopher William Lane Craig’s 2008 cover story for Christianity Today, “God Is Not Dead Yet: How Current Philosophers Argue for His Existence,” is a sign of things to come. Craig ties the awakening of apologetics to the renaissance in Christian philosophy that has taken place over the past 40 years. Science is more open to the existence of a Designer than at any time in recent memory (thanks to the intelligent design movement), and biblical criticism has embarked on a renewed quest for the historical Jesus consonant with the portrait of Jesus found in the Gospels.



The apologetics awakening can also be seen in the number of apologetics conferences that have sprouted up in churches all over the country. Tens of thousands of people are trained at apologetics events through efforts of various church denominations and organizations, such as Biola University, Southern Evangelical Seminary, Focus on the Family, and more. Resources on apologetics have also exploded in the past few years. This is good news because America and the church continue to become more and more secular. Those who describe themselves as “religious nonaffiliated” have increased from 5 to 7 percent in the 1970s to 17 percent in 2006.



Why Apologetics Matters



To say that apologetics is critical for ministry today is not to say that we just continue business as usual. That would be foolish. Our world is changing, and it is changing rapidly. More change has happened since 1900 than in all prior recorded history. And more change will occur in the next 20 years than the entire last century. But God does not change (Malachi 3), and neither does human nature. We are thoughtful and rational beings who respond to evidence. People have questions, and we are responsible to provide helpful answers. Of course, we certainly don’t have all the answers, and when we do provide solid answers, many choose not to follow the evidence for personal or moral reasons. But that hardly changes the fact that we are rational, personal beings who bear the image of God.



People often confuse apologetics with apologizing for the faith, but the Greek word apologia refers to a legal defense. Thus, apologetics involves giving a defense for the Christian faith. First Peter 3:15 says, “Sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense [apologia] to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and respect.” Jude encouraged his hearers to “contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints” (Jude 3). The biblical evidence is clear: All Christians are to be trained in apologetics, which is an integral part of discipleship. This involves learning how to respond to common objections raised against the Christian faith and also how to positively commend the gospel to a particular audience.



We have certainly made mistakes in the way we have defended our beliefs in the past (as chapters in this book will illustrate), but this hardly means we should abandon apologetics altogether. Rather, we ought to learn from the past and adjust accordingly. Beyond the biblical mandate, apologetics is vitally important today for two reasons.



Strengthening Believers



Apologetics training can offer significant benefits in the personal life of Christians. For one thing, knowing why you believe what you believe and experiencing it in your life and relationships will give you renewed confidence in sharing your faith. I have the privilege of speaking to thousands of young people every year. Inevitably, whenever I speak on topics such as moral relativism, the case for intelligent design, or evidences for the resurrection, I get e-mails and comments on my Facebook page from students who were strengthened in their faith. One recently wrote, “I was at the [youth event] this past weekend and absolutely loved it! All the information was so helpful, but I connected the most with yours. All the scientific proof of Christianity and a Creator just absolutely amazes me!”



Training in apologetics also provides an anchor during trials and difficulties. Emotions only take us so far, and then we need something more solid. Presently, most teens who enter adulthood claiming to be Christians will walk away from the church and put their emotional commitment to Christ on the shelf within ten years. A young person may walk away from God for many reasons, but one significant reason is intellectual doubt. According to the National Study of Youth and Religion, the most common answer nonreligious teens offered for why they left their faith was intellectual skepticism. This is why David Kinnaman, president of the Barna Group, writes in his book unChristian, “We are learning that one of the primary reasons that ministry to teenagers fails to produce a lasting faith is because they are not being taught to think.”



The church is failing young people today. From the moment Christian students first arrive on campus, their faith is assaulted on all sides by fellow students and teachers alike. According to a ground-breaking 2006 study by professors from Harvard and George Mason universities, the percentage of agnostics and atheists teaching at American colleges is three times greater than in the general population. More than 50 percent of college professors believe the Bible is “an ancient book of fables, legends, history, and moral precepts.” Students are routinely taught that Darwinian evolution is the substitute creator, that the Bible is unreliable, that Jesus was like any other religious figure, and that any Christian who thinks differently is at best old-fashioned and at worst intolerant, bigoted, and hateful. These ideas are perpetrated in the classroom through reason, logic, and evidence. The church must teach students to counter these trends.



This was exactly the experience of Alison Thomas, a recent seminary grad who is now a speaker for Ravi Zacharias Ministries (and the author of the chapter “Apologetics and Race”). As a college freshman, her faith was immediately attacked from every direction. Combine the intellectual challenges with the lack of nutrition, sleep, and Christian mentors, and according to Alison, it was a recipe for disaster: “I almost abandoned my faith in college because I was not sure if the difficult questions people asked me about Christianity had satisfying answers.” Alison is absolutely convinced that had she been prepared for the attack on her faith, she could have been spared much doubt, sin, and heartache. Her story could be multiplied thousands of times, but unfortunately, too often with different results.



Reaching the Lost



The apostles of Christ ministered in a pluralistic culture. They regularly reasoned with both Jews and pagans, trying to persuade them of the truth of Christianity. They appealed to fulfilled prophecy, Jesus’ miracles, evidence for creation, and proofs for the resurrection. Acts 17:2-3 says, “And according to Paul’s custom, he went to them, and for three Sabbaths reasoned with them from the Scriptures, explaining and giving evidence that the Christ had to suffer and rise again from the dead, and saying, ‘This Jesus whom I am proclaiming to you is the Christ.’ ” Some were persuaded as a result of Paul’s efforts.



According to pastor Tim Keller, this is similar to the method we should adopt today. Keller is the avant-garde pastor of Redeemed Presbyterian Church in Manhattan and the author of The Reason for God, an apologetics book which has soared atop the New York Times bestselling nonfiction list. In an interview for Christianity Today, Keller responded to the claim that rationality is unimportant for evangelism: “Christians are saying that the rational isn’t part of evangelism. The fact is, people are rational. They do have questions. You have to answer those questions. Don’t get the impression that I think that the rational aspect takes you all the way there. But there’s too much emphasis on just the personal now.” Tim is right: Evangelism today must be both relational and rational.



Greg Stier agrees: “Any claims concerning the death of apologetics have been greatly exaggerated…Those who believe apologetics aren’t important for evangelizing postmoderns have misdiagnosed this generation as purely relational; these young people are rational, too.” According to Greg, this generation of young people is more open to spiritual truth than any generation in recent history. (See my brief interview with him on page 124.)



Does this mean young people are walking around with deep spiritual questions at the forefront of their minds? Not necessarily. But it does mean that many young people are open to spiritual truth when motivated in the right way. The problem is not with apologetics but with our failure to motivate people. Much ministry today is focused on meeting a felt need, but the real difficulty is to take a genuine need and make it felt. If done in the context of a relationship, apologetics can be one effective means of accomplishing this. For thoughts on how to motivate young people in this regard see the chapter “Making Apologetics Come Alive in Youth Ministry” by Alex McFarland.



In my experience, people who criticize apologetics have often had one or two unsuccessful attempts and written off the entire enterprise. Rather, we need to put apologetics into perspective. Considering that a minority of people who hear the gospel choose to become followers of Christ in the first place, we shouldn’t be surprised that many people are unmoved by reason and evidence. It’s unrealistic to expect most people to respond positively to apologetics, just as it is unrealistic to expect most people to respond to a presentation of the gospel. The road is narrow in both cases (Matthew 7:14).



If only a few people will respond, why bother? For one thing, those who respond to apologetics often become people of significant influence who are deeply committed to the faith. This has certainly been the case in the life of my father, Josh McDowell. He became a believer as a pre-law student while trying to refute the evidence for Christ. I’m deeply humbled by the number of doctors, professors, politicians, lawyers, and other influential professionals who have come to Christ through his speaking and writing. He has spoken to more young people than anyone in history, and his books have been printed in millions of copies and translated all over the world. Honestly, I can hardly speak anywhere without someone from the audience sharing how instrumental he was in his or her coming to Christ. I’m proud to be his son.





Apologetics for a New Generation



Apologetics is advancing like never before, and a few characteristics mark effective apologetics for a new generation.



The New Apologetics Is Missional



There is a lot of talk right now about being missional, that is, getting out of our safe Christian enclaves and reaching people on their turf. This mind-set must characterize apologetics for a new generation. Each spring Brett Kunkle and I take a group of high school students to the University of California at Berkeley to interact with leading atheists from northern California. We invite various speakers to challenge our students and then to participate in a lively period of questions and answers. The guests always comment that our students treat them kindly, ask good questions, and are different from stereotypical Christians. This is because, in our preparatory training, we emphasize the importance of defending our beliefs with gentleness and respect, as Peter admonishes (1 Peter 3:15).



In Western culture today, Christians are often criticized for being exclusive, closed-minded, and intolerant. Missional apologetics is one way to help shatter this myth firsthand. Interestingly, one of the atheistic presenters from Berkeley spent 45 minutes arguing that the skeptical way of life is the most open-minded and the least dogmatic. I kindly pointed out that it was us—Christians!—who were willing to come up to their turf and give them a platform to present their ideas.



This is not the only perception of Christians that can be softened by missional apologetics. In his book unChristian, David Kinnaman paints a sobering view of how Christians are viewed by those outside the faith. For example, nearly half of young non-Christians have a negative view of evangelicals. Six common perceptions characterize how young outsiders view Christians: hypocritical, too focused on getting converts, anti-homosexual, sheltered, too political, and judgmental. To help overcome these perceptions, says Kinnaman, Christians must build meaningful, genuine relationships with non-Christians and live out their faith consistently. It is in the context of a loving relationship, says Dan Kimball in his chapter, “A New Kind of Apologist,” that we most effectively reach the lost today.



The New Apologetics Influences How We Live



Though I do not agree with his philosophy of pragmatism, one insight of William James has practical importance for apologetics training today. James said that when considering any idea, we should always ask, what difference does it make? If it makes no existential difference to the way we live whether it is true or false, then according to James, we should not bother with it. When training in apologetics, we must regularly ask, so what? How does belief in the historical resurrection of Jesus affect my relationship to myself, to others, and to God? How does belief in creation influence my view of the environment? How does the Incarnation affect my self-image?



Much of the criticism today is not with apologetics per se but with our failure to connect apologetics to the way we live. Some of this criticism is deserved. If we don’t apply the truth to our relationship with God and others, what’s the point? Brian McLaren, a leading voice in the Emergent church, is right: Having right answers that don’t lead us to better love God and our neighbors are more or less worthless.



A remarkable number of outspoken critics of Christianity have backgrounds of personal disappointment with Christians and the church. Pastor Tim Keller explains how our personal experience influences our evaluation of the evidence for Christianity:



We all bring to issues intellectual predispositions based on our experiences. If you have known many wise, loving, kind, and insightful Christians over the years, and if you have seen churches that are devout in belief yet civic-minded and generous, you will find the intellectual case for Christianity more plausible. If, on the other hand, the preponderance of your experience is with nominal Christians (who bear the name but don’t practice) or with self-righteous fanatics, then the arguments for Christianity will have to be extremely strong for you to concede that they have any cogency at all.



The great philosopher Frederick Nietzsche once commented that Christians have no joy. No wonder he found the evidence for God unconvincing. The sad part about his observation is that Christians, of all people, have the best reason to be joyful. If Christ has not risen, says Paul, “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die” (1 Corinthians 15:32). But if Christ has risen—and the evidence for this is compelling—then even though we go through pain and difficulty in this life, we will share eternity with Him. Christians joyfully living out their faith in the power of the Holy Spirit provide one of the most powerful apologetics at our disposal.



The New Apologetics Is Humble



I failed miserably to act humbly a few years ago when getting my hair cut in Breckenridge, Colorado. The hairdresser noticed I was carrying a copy of The Gospel in a Pluralist Society by Leslie Newbigin. So she asked, “Are you a Christian? If so, how can you explain all the evil in the world?” I proceeded to give her a ten-minute lecture about the origin of evil, the nature of free will, and the Christian solution. My reasons were solid, but I lacked humility and sensitivity in my demeanor. I had a slick answer to her every question, but I missed the fact that her needs went beyond the intellect to her heart. Eventually she started crying—not because she became a Christian but because she was so offended by my callousness. To be honest, it was a bit unsettling having a hairdresser, who held sharp scissors in her hand, crying and lecturing me while cutting my hair. But the point was well taken.



In retrospect, I should have first asked her some questions to try and understand why evil was such a pressing issue in her life. What pain had she experienced that caused her to question the goodness of God? Sometimes questions are primarily intellectual, but more often than not they stem from a deeper longing of the heart.



From the beginning, Christian apologists have exemplified the importance of humility in presenting our defense of the faith. There is a reason why 1 Peter 3:15 begins with “Sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts” and ends with “gentleness and respect.” Before presenting a case for the Christian faith, one must first submit to the lordship of Christ. The heart of the apologist is the basis of all apologetic training. People still don’t care how much you know if they don’t know you care. The only way we can truly demonstrate the love of Christ to people is by first having our hearts humbled by God. When our hearts are not right, we can do more harm than good.



As you will see throughout this book, these are not the only factors characterizing the emerging apologetics awakening. The rest of the chapters in this book will spur you to think creatively about how apologetics fits into the many critical components of effective ministry today. Authors will tackle issues such as race, gender, media, homosexuality, Jesus, brain research, culture, youth, spiritual formation, and more—all with an eye on how we can effectively minister to new generations today.



Conclusion



In the fall of 2007, Christianity Today International and Zondervan partnered to conduct attitudinal and behavioral research of American Christians. Leadership Journal discussed the findings with leading pastors and religious experts to ascertain implications for ministry today. Three critical issues emerged:



The local church is no longer considered the only outlet for spiritual growth.

Churches must develop relational and community-oriented outreach.

Lay people have to be better equipped to be God’s ambassadors [apologists].

The third point on this list took me by surprise, not because I disagree with it, but because it’s refreshing to hear leaders emphasize the renewed need for apologetics. In the article, Joel Hunter, senior pastor of Northland church in Longwood, Florida, said, “We need to preach with apologetics in mind, with a rational explanation and defense of the Christian faith in mind.” One of the best ways to counter biblical illiteracy, claims Hunter, is to equip active Christians as teachers, ambassadors, and apologists. Yes! Ministry today certainly includes much more than presenting a case for our hope, but this is one critical piece we must not neglect. The time has never been greater for a renewed focus on apologetics.



You may be wondering what happened to John, my friend I mentioned at the beginning of the chapter. He has not become a Christian yet, but he is still inching along. We continue to have good discussions about God and the meaning of life. I trust and pray that someday he will choose to follow Jesus. Had my youth pastor, parents, and teachers not trained me in apologetics, I couldn’t have helped him at all. You and I can’t be ambassadors without having answers to tough questions. So I’ve assembled this team of (mostly) young apologists to help you develop a biblical and culturally relevant approach for reaching this new generation. Let’s go!





Chapter One:



A Different Kind of Apologist



by Dan Kimball



Apologetics is desperately needed more than ever in our emerging culture. But I believe that a different kind of apologist may be needed.



I realize that some may disagree with me. I hear fairly often from some church leaders that emerging generations are not interested in apologetics: “In our postmodern world there isn’t interest in rational explanations regarding spiritual issues.” “We don’t need logically presented defenses or offenses of the faith.” These kinds of statements always confuse me. The reason is simple: In my dialogue and relationships with non-Christian and Christian young people for more than 18 years, I am not finding less interest in apologetics, but actually more interest. The more we are living in an increasingly post-Christian and pluralistic culture, the more we need apologetics because people are asking more and more questions. We desperately need to be ready to answer the tough questions of today’s emerging generations.



This increased interest and need for apologetics in our emerging culture fits very nicely with one of the classical and well-known Bible passages on apologetics:



But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander (1 Peter 3:15-16 niv).



Over the past couple of years I have heard apologists emphasize “gentleness and respect,” which is an absolutely wonderful shift. Some Christians who are drawn to apologetics can have temperaments which may not always come out with gentleness and respect as they engage non-Christians. But this passage includes something else that, oddly, we don’t hear much about. Yet it is critical for our discussion of apologetics for new generations.



People Can’t Ask If They Don’t Know Us



The passage in 1 Peter 3 says “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.” Let me ask you, have you ever been standing on the street or in line at the supermarket and had a stranger walk up to you and say, “Excuse me. Can you tell me the reason for the hope that you have?”



That doesn’t happen, because strangers do not generally walk up to people they don’t know and ask questions like this. Strangers also don’t know the other person, so they wouldn’t be able to know if someone has hope or not. So how does someone know and trust Christians well enough to see the hope that they have and trust and respect them enough to ask them about it?



This is the biggest missing component in many of our approaches to apologetics today. It is one of the biggest shifts we are seeing with emerging generations. Apologetics is still needed today, but the apologist isn’t necessarily trusted in our culture today. In the 1960s and 1970s, many younger people left the church because they (rightly) felt the church was often irrelevant. The critical questions that younger generations had at that time were not being answered. The music and various approaches to preaching and worship were becoming outdated and not speaking to new generations at that time. So when churches revamped their approaches to worship and preaching and developed clear answers for some of the questions people had, many people (even if they weren’t Christian) became interested.



The culture still had a general respect for Christianity. So it was easier to communicate and also have a voice that folks would listen to. For those who grew up in a church but walked away, answers to their critical questions were extremely valuable. But today, Christians and the church aren’t trusted like they were. Before, we were hoping to see people return to the church. Today, many have never been part of a church in the first place.



Times have changed. But the Spirit of God is still alive and active. People will always be created with questions about life, meaning, purpose, and God. Apologetics are still important today for new generations, but our approach must change.



Hanging Out with the Wrong People



In my early days as a Christian, I constantly read books on apologetics so I could share with my non-Christian friends about my newfound hope. My friends were concerned that I was following a religion and reading a book (the Bible) that they felt was written by primitive, ancient, and uneducated people. So this challenge kept me studying to respond to their concerns. The more I read and studied, the more my confidence in Christianity grew.



I eventually joined a large, wonderful church and made some friendships with others who also liked apologetics. We spent hours talking about theology, reasons why we could trust the Bible, and ways to respond to common objections such as the problem of evil. I bought almost every apologetics book available and attended many apologetics conferences. I loved having Christian friends whom I could talk to about apologetics, but something slowly dawned on me: I wasn’t really talking to any non-Christians anymore about apologetics. I realized that I was hanging out all the time with Christians who loved discussing apologetics and the tough questions about the faith. But I wasn’t spending time with the non-Christians who were asking these tough questions.



As I began exploring this further, I discovered that many people who like apologetics primarily socialize with other like-minded people. Certain temperaments and personalities cause some Christians to become more interested in apologetics than others, and they connect with each other. Having community with other Christians who share common interests such as apologetics is a wonderful thing. But I realized that my Christian friends and I weren’t using apologetics to engage non-Christians. We were only talking with each other.



I discuss this in They Like Jesus but Not the Church, where I included this diagram, which lays out a typical pattern: The longer we are Christians, the less we socialize with non-Christians. We may work with non-Christians or have neighbors who are non-Christians. But the types of conversations we have and the trust that we build changes dramatically when we actually befriend and socialize with those outside the faith.



The danger is that we don’t do this on purpose. It happens unintentionally. But because we have limited time and we enjoy hanging out with others who think like us, we can remove ourselves from the very ones we are sent by Jesus to be salt and light to (Matthew 5). As the Spirit molds us to be more like Jesus, the majority of people who benefit from our growth are already Christians. We are salt and light to each other, not to the world. The more skilled in apologetics we get, the fewer people we know who actually need it.



You may resist hearing this, and I hope I am wrong about you. But let me ask you a question or three:



Think about discussions you have had about apologetics with people in the past six months. How many have been with Christians, and how many have been with those who aren’t Christians yet?

Let me make this more direct and personal:



Who are your non-Christian friends?

When was the last time you went out to a movie or dinner or simply hung out with a non-Christian? If people are to trust us in order to ask us for the hope we have, we must spend time with them and build relationships. The typical answers I get from Christians quite honestly scare me. Again, I hope I am wrong about you. Do you intentionally place yourself in situations or groups where you will be likely to meet new people? For me, music often provides an open door. So whether I’m with the manager of a coffee house I frequent or the members of local bands, I try to have the mind-set of a missionary and meet new people. This sounds so elementary and I almost feel silly having to type this out. But this leads to a deeper question:



Who are you praying for regularly that is not a Christian?

Our prayers represent our hearts. What we pray for shows us what we are thinking about and valuing. When the unsaved become more than faces in the crowd, when they include people we know and care for, we can’t help but pray for them. And we must remember: We can be prepared with apologetic arguments, but the Spirit does the persuading. Are you regularly praying for some non-Christian friends?



Again, I feel almost embarrassed asking this. But when I started realizing that I had fallen into this trap, I wondered if I was alone. As I began asking other Christians about this, many seemed to be like me. I even asked an author of apologetics books to tell me about his recent conversations with non-Christians that included apologetics. But he couldn’t remember any recent examples. He was talking only to Christians! This isn’t bad, but it raises an important question: How do we know the questions emerging generations outside the church are asking if we are only talking with Christians?



I recently talked with a person who teaches apologetics to young people. As we talked, he shared how interested youth are in apologetics (and I fully agree). I asked about the types of questions he is hearing, and I was surprised that his experience seemed quite different from mine. I was working with non-Christian youth at that time, but he was speaking primarily with Christian youth at Christian schools and youth groups. Nothing is wrong with teaching Christian youth how to have confidence in their faith through apologetics. This is an important task we need to be doing today in our churches. But if we are focusing our energy and time listening mainly to Christians, how do we know what the questions non-Christian youth or young adults have? This brings me to my next point.



Providing Answers Before Listening to Questions



The effective apologist to emerging generations will be a good listener. Most of us have been good talkers. We Christians often do the talking and expect others to listen. But in our emerging culture, effective communication involves dialogue. Being quiet and asking questions may not be easy for some folks, but those are critical skills we need to develop in order to reach new generations.



A 20-year-old Hindu became friends with someone in our church. Eventually she began coming to our worship gatherings. I got to meet with her at a coffee house, and because I was sincerely curious, I politely asked her some questions. How did she become a Hindu? What is Hinduism to her? What does she find most beneficial in her life about it? She eagerly told me stories that helped me understand her journey and her specific beliefs. As much as I wanted to, I didn’t interrupt her or jump in to correct her when I felt she was saying things that may have been inconsistent. I didn’t interrupt and tell her that there cannot be hundreds of gods, that there is only one true God. I simply asked questions and listened carefully.



Eventually, she asked me about the differences between Christianity and Hinduism. I gently and respectfully tried to compare her story and what she said with the story of Jesus and the narrative of the Bible. But I didn’t try to discredit her beliefs or show why what I believed was true. She asked me about the origins of Christianity, and I was able to draw a timeline on a napkin that included creation, the Garden of Eden, and the fall. I explained that people eventually began worshipping other gods or goddesses, not the original one God. I then walked her through a basic world religions timeline I had memorized and explained where Hinduism fit in that timeline. It truly was a dialogue, as I would stop and see if she had any input or comments.



I didn’t show her why I felt Hinduism was wrong; rather, I let our discussion speak for itself. The differences between Christianity and Hinduism became obvious. A few weeks later, she told me in a worship gathering that she had left Hinduism and chosen to follow Jesus. My talk with her was not the turning point. She had many conversations with other Christian friends in our church. They knew her beliefs, loved her, invited her into community, and lived out the hope they have. She could see it and experience it, and eventually she wanted to know the reason for the hope in her friends. I definitely needed to be ready with apologetics when I met with her. But the reason she even met with me was that we built trust first. Trust was built with some of her Christian friends. Trust was built during conversations I had with her when she came to our worship gatherings. Eventually, this trust led to her being open to dialogue specifically about her Hindu faith and to ask questions. First she was valued as a person and listened to, and then came the questions about the hope we have. Let me ask you a few questions about this:



On a scale of 1 to 10, how would you rate yourself as a listener in conversations about faith?

What are some of the questions you have been asked as a result of building trust and listening? Would anyone have asked those questions if you didn’t build trust and listen first?

Stockpiling Ammunition or Building Trust



I recently heard of someone who was taking church groups on the street to walk up to total strangers and strike up conversations and then use apologetics with them. I respect the passion to reach lost people, but I was saddened by the methodology. The leader chose this area because it was highly populated with homosexuals. From my perspective, this is almost the opposite of the methodology that is effective with new generations. We may have our apologetics gun loaded, but we haven’t built trust. We haven’t gained a voice in their lives, so they don’t trust us enough to listen to us. Walking up to total strangers and asking them questions about very personal things immediately puts them on the defense. The discussion begins in a semi-confrontational way. This reinforces some of the stereotypes of Christians we need to break. Non-Christians are often open to discussing personal beliefs about religion and worldviews, but this normally occurs in the context of trust and friendship.



I recently met a guy in his twenties who was working at a coffee house. I did my usual thing: I selected one place to frequent and eventually got to know those who work there. We eventually started talking about all kinds of things, mainly music at first. Eventually I told him I was a pastor at a church and began asking his opinion on things. I asked about his impressions of church and Christianity. I shared that I knew about Christians’ bad reputation and that I wanted to know how he felt about that. This wasn’t the first thing we talked about, and we had begun to build a friendship, so he was happy to talk to me about this. One of his main issues was that the Christians he met knew nothing about other religions, but they would tell him he should be a Christian. His concern was that Christians were naive about anything but what they believed, and he didn’t respect that.



As I listened, I didn’t try to butt in and comment when he would say something I disagreed with. Instead, I listened, asked clarifying questions, took notes, and thanked him for each opinion. I asked him what he believed and why he believed what he did. And then the inevitable happened—he asked me what I believed.



Knowing his beliefs, I was able to construct an apologetic that catered to his story and specific points of connection. As with so many people, the issue of pluralism and world religions was a major point of tension that he felt Christians are blind about. Eventually our conversation moved to the resurrection of Jesus, which he saw as a myth. I used the classical Josh McDowell resurrection apologetics, explaining various theories of the stolen body and why they fell apart upon scrutiny. I shared about the guards at the tomb and how they would defend the sealed tomb. I was ready (thanks to Josh McDowell), and my friend was absolutely fascinated by that. I could tell he had never heard this before, and as we ended our time together, he thanked me. I didn’t press him for a response.



The following week I went back to the coffee house, and he told me that he now believed in the resurrection. He had been totally unaware that there are actually good reasons to believe it is true. Over the weekend he got a copy of the Bible to read the resurrection story and had no idea it was repeated in each of the Gospels. This is why I am convinced that regardless of how postmodern emerging generations may be, they receive apologetic arguments when trust is built. Of course, it is the Holy Spirit who does the work in someone’s heart—not clever arguments. But God still uses apologetics in our emerging culture.



Consider these questions:



When you are studying apologetics, does your heart break in compassion for the people you are preparing to talk to? Or are you stockpiling ammunition to show people they are wrong?

When you have used apologetics with those who aren’t Christians yet, do you find your tone being humble, broken, and compassionate, or is your tone argumentative and perhaps even arrogant (although you would not like to admit that)?

Critical Apologetics Issues



I know that most apologists are not arrogant, ammunition firing, non-listening people who don’t have any non-Christian friends and only talk to other Christians. But at the same time, a little hyperbole may raise up some ugly truth we perhaps need to admit. As I shared, I know I have been guilty of these very things. We must all examine ourselves and be brutally honest about it. Too much is at stake not to.



As statistics are showing, we are not doing a very good job of reaching new generations. Our reputation is suffering. But at the same time, I have so much optimism and hope. Apologetics is a critical factor in the evangelism of new generations. That is why I was thrilled to be part of this book.



If you are a leader in a church, I hope you are creating a natural culture in your church of teaching apologetics and training people how to respond to others when asked for the hope that they have. But again, how we train them to respond is just as important as the answers themselves. The attitudes and tone of voice we use as we teach reveal what we truly feel about those who aren’t Christians and their beliefs. Our hearts should be broken thinking of people who have developed false worldviews or religious beliefs and don’t know Jesus yet. How we teach people in our church to be “listeners” and build friendships is critical. Here are some of the key things we must be ready to answer today:



The inspiration and trustworthiness of the Bible. Everything comes back to why we trust the Bible and what it says about human sexuality, world religions…everything. Why the Bible is more credible than other world religious writings is critical.

Who is Jesus? Emerging generations are open to talking about Jesus but for the most part, they have an impression that He is more like Gandhi than a divine Savior. This gives us a wonderful opportunity to share why Jesus is unique and to provide an apologetic for His resurrection.

Human sexuality. We need to be well-versed in why we believe what we do about the covenant of marriage between a man and woman, about human sexuality, and about sexual ethics in general.

World religions. We must have an adequate understanding of the development and teachings of world religions. I don’t meet many younger people who are hard-core Buddhists, but many are empathetic to Buddhist teachings. Many pick and choose from different faiths. They are often surprised to see that many religions are mutually exclusive.

The Most Important Apologetic



As I close this chapter, I want to remind us that the ultimate apologetic is really Jesus in us. Are our lives demonstrating the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5), such as gentleness, kindness, patience, and love? Are we being salt and light with our attitudes and actions toward people? Are our conversations filled with grace and seasoned with salt (Colossians 4:6)? Do our lives show that we are paying attention to the things Jesus would, including the marginalized, the oppressed, and the poor? People watch and listen. If they trust the messenger, perhaps they will be more open to listen.



We can have all the answers ready to give people who ask, but are they asking us? If not, perhaps we have not yet built the trust and relationship and respect that lead them to ask us for the hope we have. Maybe that’s where we need to start—with our hearts and lives. If we will, I can almost guarantee that others will ask us for the hope we have.



May God use us together on the mission of Jesus as we are wise as serpents but as innocent as doves. May God use our minds and hearts to bring the reason for the hope we have to others. And may God put others in our lives who will ask for the hope as they watch us live it out.





Dan Kimball is the author of several books, including They Like Jesus but Not the Church, and a member of the staff of Vintage Faith Church in Santa Cruz, California.




This has been such a fantastic book! I love books that bring us back to the truth. I agree with what is taught in these chapters. One important aspect shared in Apologetics for a New Generation is that our younger generation has bought into the truth that relativism can co-exist with God's Word. Our society has emphasized not everything is absolute, it's okay to live in the gray. God's Word is black and white!

Apologetics gives different authors the opportunity to share a different perspective on reaching the heart of this new generation. I appreciate the authors for directing their ideas to everyone who comes into contact with young people. The thought of Youth Pastors teaching kids that it's possible to go against God's Word and not teaching Truth is a scary thought.

Chapter 7 was probably one of my favorites in this book. It's entitled "Conversational Apologetics: Evangelism For the New Millennium" by David Geisler. I have typed one of his quotes at the top of my Blog. On page 111 Mr. Geisler states, "Christianity really is one beggar telling another beggar where he found bread. If we are going to be heard, we must learn to present the truth of Christ in a meek and gentle way."

Chapter 8 was written for the analytical, large word mindset reading this book. I seriously had to blink my eyes rapidly several times because what he was sharing was so beyond my understanding. I enjoy using big words, but this was a very hard chapter to get through. In his first paragraph he states, "I've defined my doctrinal beliefs through systematic theological objections to false doctrines." Um, ok. He actually realizes this as he goes further in his relationship with Christ. Reading this chapter, I felt like I was in a University where I should be taking notes. :)

An important fact that is unfortunately true in our home stood out to me in Chapter 11 regarding churched youth: "...62% spend an average of a little more than 8.5 minutes per day with their mothers." Neither of my teens eats at home anymore. They are typically gone with work or youth group stuff. Right after that Chris Sherrod says, "It is simply impossible for parents to impart God's truth with such paltry time, expecially if their kids are bombarded daily with hours of the world's philosophy through mass media."

I'd love to give this book away, but alas I'll be giving it to my Youth Pastor. He'll be taking 30 kids to Districts here in MN at the end of April and Sean McDowell will be speaking there! Great timing, eh? If he reads it and gives it back to me, I'll be happy to give the book away. I'll keep you up-to-date. Blessings...

Sunday, March 29, 2009

The Christy Award Nominees/Faith 'n Fiction Saturdays



Did you know that Christian fiction has their own award? It's called the Christy Award. Here's some information about The Christy Award from the website:

The Christy Award is designed to:


*Nurture and encourage creativity and quality in the writing and publishing of fiction written from a Christian worldview.


* Bring a new awareness of the breadth and depth of fiction choices available, helping to broaden the readership.


* Provide opportunity to recognize novelists whose work may not have reached bestseller status


The 2009 Christy Award Nominees were recently announced. Today's assignment is to look at the list of nominees and share with us whether or not you have read any of them. If you haven't read that particular novel, have you read anything by that author? Have you read all of the books in any category? What are your favorite books on the list? Are there any books you haven't heard of?

And, I'm just throwing this out there, but I think one year there was a Christy challenge. A reading challenge is basically when you choose books off a pre-set list or around a theme to read within a certain time frame. Does anyone know if this is still going on? If it's not, would anyone be interested in joining in on one? I'd be willing to host it. And lastly, I'm working on Faith 'n Fiction Saturday having our own awards for books!

I've read:

Beyond the Night by Marlo Schalesky

Dogwood by Chris Fabry

Shadow of Colossus by T.L. Higley

The Rook by Stephen James

The Fruit of My Lipstick by Shelley Adina


I've read Susan May Warren's first two books in her Noble Legacy series. Finding Stephanie is the only one not on my bookshelf at this point. My daughters read it an enjoyed it though. I emailed Susan the first day I saw the list from Title Trakk. I was so excited to see her name on the list.

I have yet to read a Tracey Bateman book and really would like to. Other books I'd like to read that are on the Christy list are:
  • Nancy Moser's Washington's Lady

  • Tamera Alexander's From a Distance
I have Tuesday Night at the Blue Moon but have yet to read it.
I'm surprised Sharon Hinck isn't on this list. Some others I'm surprised at not being on the list are; Robert Liparulo for his Dreamhouse Kings series and Bryan Davis for his Echoes from the Edge series. I'm also bummed taht Debbie Viguie isn't in the Youth category for her Seasons series. The last 2 authors who I believe should be on here somewhere: Julie Klassen and Cathy Marie Hake.

I agree with Amy that there should be a "Fan" category where we can nominate books that we liked. After looking at the Nominees (top right of my blog), let me know if you've read any of the books, any you'd like to read, and any that you think should've been on the list.

Checking out some of the "Visionary" books on Amazon.com I found The Battle for Vast Dominion is part of a really great series. I read the first book in the series Legend of the Firefish, parially. It was a historical/pirates type of book. It was a library book and I haven't had a chance to go back to it, but I thoroughly enjoyed it!

Monday, March 23, 2009

Spring Reading Thing 2009

Well, I've decided to challenge myself again this Spring. I tried it in the Fall and didn't get anywhere near the reading done I thought I would. So, I'm going to try and be as light on myself as possible. I'd like to thank Callapidder Days for hosting this Reading Challenge! If you'd like to learn more about the challenge or to join, head over to Callapider Days.

Fiction
The Apothecary's Daughter ~ Julie Klassen
If Tomorrow Never Comes ~ Marlo Schalesky
The House in Grosvenor Square ~ Linore Rose Burkard
Gold of Kings ~ Davis Bunn
Nothing But Trouble ~ Susan May Warren
A Passion Denied ~ Julie Lessman
The Note 2 ~ Angela Hunt
Talking to the Dead ~ Bonnie Grove
Whirlwind ~ Cathy Marie Hake
Home Another Way ~ Christa Parrish
The Falcon and the Sparrow ~ M.L. Tyndall

Young Adult
So Not Happening ~ Jenny B Jones
New York Debut ~ Melody Carlson
Nightmare's Edge ~ Bryan Davis
Memory's Gate ~ Paul McCusker
On the Run ~ Bill Myers

Non-Fiction
Apologetics for a New Generation ~ Sean McDowell

The Feminist Mistake ~ Mary Kassian
Your Boy: Raising a Godly Son in an Ungodly World ~ Vicki Courtney
The Grand Weaver ~ Ravi Zacharias
Living Water ~ Brother Yun


Just added: 2 books I received on CD from the library, one I've been trying to listen to for 4 weeks but have been switching between vehicles with and without CD players. :)
Scarlet ~ Stephen Lawhead
Get Out of That Pit ~ Beth Moore

Faith 'n Fiction Saturday (Monday)


Today's Question
While books and bookstores in general are suffering, Christian bookstores are suffering even more in this economy. Do you have a Christian bookstore that you shop at? Why don't you tell us about your local Christian bookstore and the benefits that if offers. If you don't shop at a Christian bookstore, then please tell us where you get your books, music, and other Christian gift items.
My response is coming late because my computer froze up on Saturday morning. Fun... So, even tho it's Monday, I'm going to put my answer up anyhow.
We have a fantastic Christian bookstore called Northwestern Bookstore in Maple Grove. It's about a 45 minute drive. So, these days I hardly ever make it down there. Probably a good thing since I can't afford much when I'm there. It's a very cozy place even tho it's large. There are several of these stores in MN and because of that we're able to meet lots of Christian authors. Because I'm not near them though, I don't get the chance to head down there as often as I like.
Otherwise, I typically get my stuff at Wal Mart if it's a CD or a book. Not really any places around that have Christian gift items, unfortunately.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Choosing Songs for Daughter's Graduation

Wow, the number of decisions for my first child graduating is getting ever larger!!! Right now I'm trying to figure out which song(s) to use for her grad party. I've been creating a list on my cell phone when listening to the radio in my van. So far these are the songs:

My Wish by Rascal Flatts
It Won't be Like This for Long by Darius Rucker



Any of you who have had a child graduate or if you're getting close to your child graduating, I know you'll have an appreciation for this song. Thinking about my baby graduating has been super hard.

I just sent her a txt the other day while she was at her BPA competition (which she made it to Nationals) telling her that I'd be ok if she went to Abilene Christian College in TX. I could've died sending that message to her, but I had peace doing it.

Anyone with younger kids, I know the days when it's really hard, it's hard to find positive things in your life. Remember, those moments don't last long. Not only that, your children being little won't last long either. That's the catch of it all!!

I think maybe I'll use Darius Rucker's (Hootie and the Blowfish) song for a recap of Brie's life and see if our Worship Leader will sing Rascall Flat's song at her grad party.

Anyone have any opinions or know of any songs? I know there's a country song that has the words, "Give me wings" but I can't find it anywhere. Anybody know that song? ~Blessings

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Faith 'n Fiction Saturday: Surprised



Today's Question:Have you ever read a book and been completely surprised by it? Was it either better than you were expecting, moving in ways you didn't expect, more captivating than you thought, or totally different from what you thought it would be about?

For me, the Sword of Lyric series (The Restorer) by Sharon Hinck was a surprise for me. I knew this book was going to be a sci-fi adventure, but didn't know how real Sharon would make the scriptures throughout the story. Sharon really brought home to me throughout the series the power of the spoken Word, that being the Word of the Bible. Combatting evil by speaking the words of the One can break the strongholds in a person's life. Sharon made it a stark reality in the character's of the book. It helped me to understand that I can use that as well against Satan.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

It's a Green Thing: Diary of a Teenage Girl by Melody Carlson ~ FIRST WildCard

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!



You never know when I might play a wild card on you!





Today's Wild Card author is:





and the book:



It’s a Green Thing: Diary of a Teenage Girl

Multnomah Books (February 17, 2009)



ABOUT THE AUTHOR:




Melody Carlson is an award-winning, best-selling author of nearly 200 books for teens, women, and children. Before publishing, Melody traveled around the world, volunteered in teen ministry, taught preschool, raised two sons, and worked briefly in interior design and later in international adoption. "I think real-life experiences inspire the best friction," she says. Her wide variety of books seems to prove this theory. She and her husband enjoy an active lifestyle of hiking, camping, and biking in the beautiful Pacific Northwest, where she says, "A new story seems to spring from around every corner."



Visit the author's website.



Product Details:



List Price: $12.99

Reading level: Young Adult

Paperback: 256 pages

Publisher: Multnomah Books (February 17, 2009)

Language: English

ISBN-10: 1601421184

ISBN-13: 978-1601421180



AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:





June 9



My cousin Kim gave me a new diary yesterday. She received it for graduation, but she prefers to journal on her computer. “With a security lock, of course,” she confessed. Anyway, this nicely bound book (a green product made of recycled materials) seems to be enticing me to write. Especially since I already filled up my old diary, which is safely hidden away in one of my suitcases tucked into the back of the guest room closet. Okay, as both Kim and my uncle keep telling me, “It’s not the guest room, Maya. It’s your room.” I’m trying to see it that way. But it’s not easy. So much about my life is not easy…but I must admit that it’s getting better. And I do have hope.



Anyway, since today was rather interesting and the beginning of summer vacation, I will start here. Although to get “here,” I need to go back to before the school year ended. I’d been attending Harrison High for several weeks when Mr. Fenton challenged our art class to volunteer for a community project. We’d been invited by the park district to create a mural on a downtown youth center. A lot of kids signed up, and everyone seemed supportive and interested. But today, the first day of the project, Marissa Phillips and I were the only ones to actually show. “It figures,” she said as the two of us stood gazing up at the big, boring wall. The paint was splotchy looking, with random beige smears that resembled a bad case of psoriasis. Probably someone’s attempt to hide the graffiti and tagging, although a few offensive words still showed through.



“What do you mean?” I asked. “That no one else would come.” “Why’s that?” I adjusted the twisted strap of my Osh Kosh overalls. I’d gotten dressed pretty quickly this morning, barely managing to catch the downtown bus. “Because people are basically selfish.” I turned and looked at her. With hands planted on her hips, Marissa stared at the ugly wall and frowned. For some reason, when I first began attending Harrison High, I felt drawn to this girl. Like we shared some commonality. And I suppose we do have some physical similarities. We’re both tall and have long hair, although hers is straight and mine is curly. And because she dyes it black, her hair’s a lot darker than mine. I think that’s why her complexion looks so pale. Whereas mine (thanks to my dad) is the color of cafĂ© au lait.



But our looks aside, we are similar in other ways too. Or maybe we both just have an attitude. She’s not afraid to speak her mind and has opinions that not everyone shares. She’s two years older than I am. In fact, she just graduated with my cousin Kim. Not that she seems older exactly. Or maybe I just feel older than sixteen. Sometimes I feel like I’m in my thirties. But a hard life can do that to a person.



“So if that’s true,” I asked Marissa, “if people are basically selfish, why are you here?”



She laughed. “I thought you knew.”



“Knew?”



“I’m doing community service.”



“For what?”



“Oh…something that happened a couple of months ago. I guess you hadn’t moved here yet.”



“What did you do?”



“I got caught with alcohol in my car.”



“Driving under the influence?” I knew Marissa was kind of a wild child, but I thought she had more sense than that.



“No.” She shook her head firmly. “I wasn’t under the influence. I was underage.”



“Well, obviously.”



“It didn’t really help much that my dad’s a cop.” She made a face as she reached into her bag and retrieved a pack of cigarettes. She shook one out, quickly lit it, then blew out an exasperated



puff.



“Your dad’s a cop?” Now this caught me off guard. Of all people who might have law enforcement officials in their family, Marissa just doesn’t seem to fit the profile. I can only imagine how frustrated her father must feel.



“Oh yeah…” She peered back at the wall. “In fact it was his recommendation that I spend my summer vacation performing community service. If dear old Dad hadn’t been in court that day, I probably would’ve gotten off a lot easier.”



“You’re doing community service for the whole summer?”



“Yep.” She blew another puff of smoke over her shoulder.



“And you’re okay with that?”



“It was either that or give up my car and move out of the house. And I wasn’t financially ready for that…not just yet.” She took in a slow drag, then looked curiously at me. “So what’s your excuse?”



“Excuse?”



“For being here.”



“You mean because I must be basically selfish too?” She shrugged.



“I just wanted to do it,” I admitted. “I mean, when Mr. Fenton described the project, it sounded kind of fun to help someone else, and he made it seem like it would only take a week.” Marissa laughed sarcastically. “Yeah, right. Think again.” I frowned back up at the wall. “With just the two of us, this mural could end up being your entire summer of community service.”



“I wouldn’t mind so much, except that it’s going to be scorching out here before long, and this wall is in the sun most of the day.” She reached in her bag again, and this time pulled out her cell phone.



“Who are you calling?”



“Friends…Hey, Spencer,” she said warmly. “What’s up, dude?” Then she winked at me. “Well, Maya and I are downtown right now. We volunteered to do this mural project, and we sure could use some big, strong guys to help out.” She smiled knowingly. “Oh yeah, for sure. Maybe you could get Jake to come and help too…No, it’s no big hurry. I mean, we need to kind of figure out



where we’re going with this mural and get the paint and stuff. Maybe not today. But how about tomorrow? First thing in the morning?” She got a catty smile now. “Oh yeah, totally.” Then she hung up.



“Help on the way?”



“Sounds like it.” She slipped her phone back into her bag.



“Spencer is such a pushover when it comes to good-looking women.”



“I hope he didn’t get the wrong impression.”



“We’re talking about Spencer, right?” She laughed. “Of course he has the wrong impression. It’s just the way that boy’s brain is wired.” And I was fully aware of this. Spencer had begun hitting on me as soon as I started going to HHS a couple of months ago. I’d been flattered at first, but as I got to know him better, I realized that I needed to draw some boundaries. Even so, I wasn’t going to admit that Spencer wouldn’t have been my first choice for help. “So…do you think I should call anyone else?” I offered. “Sure. Do you know anyone else?” I kind of shrugged.



The truth is, I still don’t know that many people in this town. Kim and her best friend, Natalie, already have summer jobs. But I was thinking about the kids in Kim’s church youth group—particularly Dominic. Any excuse to spend time with Dominic seemed like a good excuse to me. But I didn’t know his number, so I called Caitlin. She and her husband, Josh, are the youth leaders, and she’s been sort of mentoring me since I committed my life to God a couple of weeks ago. She answered, and I quickly explained the mural project and our lack of volunteers. “It was supposed to take only a week,” I said finally. “But with just Marissa and me and this great big wall, well, it’s a little overwhelming. She’s already called a guy to help, but—” “What a cool project,” Caitlin said. “That building is a real eyesore. It’s great that someone wants to make it nice, and I’m sure that’ll be a blessing to the kids who use the center. Why don’t I call around and see who might be willing to help out?”



“That’d be awesome, Caitlin.”



“When do you want your helpers to show up?”



“We have to figure some things out first. We probably won’t need anyone until tomorrow morning.”



“I’ll see what I can do.”



“Thanks.” I hung up and smiled hopefully. But Marissa was frowning at me now. “Why are you calling in the church people?”



“Why not?”



“You want me to make you a list of reasons?”



“Are you willing to turn away free help?” She dropped her cigarette butt to the pavement and ground it out with her heel as she shrugged. “I guess not. So what’s the deal, Maya? Are you one of them?”



“One of what?”



“Are you a Christian too?”



I took in a deep breath, then slowly nodded. “Actually, I am.” She shook her head in a dismal way. Like this was really unfortunate.



“I’ll admit it’s still kind of new for me,” I said.



“Why?” Her dark eyes narrowed as she studied me closely. I started to feel like a bug beneath a magnifying glass.



“Why?” I repeated, confused. “You mean why is it new for me?”



“No. Why did you do it?” The way she said this made a woman walking through the parking lot glance nervously at me, like she assumed I’d committed some horrendous crime.



“Become a Christian?”



“Yeah.” Marissa made a sour face. “I mean, I can understand girls like Kim and Natalie… They’re such goody two-shoes. But you, Maya? I thought you were different.”



“I am different.”



“Then why?”



“Because I was unhappy and lonely and hopeless and depressed and just really, really lost.”



“And now you’re found?” I could hear the teasing note in her voice.



“Actually, I do feel kind of found.” She rolled her eyes.



“Look, Marissa, if anyone had told me just a few months ago that I was going to make a life-changing commitment like this…well, I would’ve reacted just like you. I would’ve said they were



crazy. Seriously, I never would’ve believed it myself.” Her countenance softened ever so slightly, and she didn’t question this statement.



“And like I said, it’s still new to me. Basically, all I can say is that I was totally mixed-up and messed up and just plain lost…and now I have this real sense of peace. Honestly, it’s something I never had before.”



“Peace?”



I nodded eagerly. “Yes. It’s hard to describe it, but it’s like my life is in good hands now, like I feel hopeful.”



“You sound like Chloe Miller now.”



I smiled. “I’ll take that as a compliment.” The fact is, of all the Christians I know, which aren’t that many, I can relate to Chloe best. I mean, Kim is cool and takes her faith seriously. And Caitlin is sweet and sincere and helpful. And Nat… Well, don’t get me going there. But right from the start, I seemed to get Chloe. And she seemed to get me. Maybe it has to do with the whole music thing—a kind of artistic, outside-the-box sort of thing.



“So what do you think we should paint on this wall?” Marissa seemed eager to change the subject, and I felt relieved.



“I’m thinking we should get some sketches going.” I unzipped my pack and retrieved a sketch pad. “We’re not supposed to do anything out here without Mrs. Albert’s approval.”



“Who’s that?”



“The superintendent. But if we can get her okay, we could probably start putting the drawing on the wall before our other volunteers show up. That way we can put them to work.”



“Yes sir.” She gave me a cheesy grin. “You the boss.” Before long we were sitting there on the curb, discussing ideas and playing with images. Unfortunately, Marissa’s ideas leaned toward the dark side, and when I challenged a particularly frightening image, she seemed slightly offended.



“So what do you want to paint?” she shot back. “Sunshine, flowers, and sweet turtledoves?”



“No, not exactly. But something more cheerful than a dragon burning a gnarled tree stump.”



“I was just trying to come up with something that graffiti artists would respect,” she said defensively. “Something they wouldn’t make fun of and want to deface.”



“That’s a good point. We don’t want it to be too childish.”



“But I suppose a dragon might be scary to some of the little kids who come here.”



“What exactly is the purpose of this building?” I ventured. She shrugged. “It’s a youth center. Duh.”



“So it’s a place for kids to come…for what purpose?”



“To hang. To play. For kids who need something like that.”



I kind of frowned at her. “Why?”



“You know, it’s for kids who might be kind of underprivileged, or maybe they’re unsupervised. The center has a day-care program and all kinds of classes and activities for after-school programs. Stuff like that.” Now she laughed. “Oh yeah, I guess you wouldn’t have had anything like that back in Beverly Hills, little Miss Rich Girl.”



Sometimes I wish I hadn’t told Marissa so much about myself. But at the time, when I needed a friend a couple of months ago, it seemed right. And I thought I could trust her. Not that I



can’t.



“I’m not a rich girl.”



“Says you.” I just rolled my eyes. The truth was, I would’ve appreciated a center like this when I was a kid. Not that I plan to admit that to Marissa. But despite her misconceptions, my childhood wasn’t exactly ideal or nurturing, and I certainly never felt rich. Of course, Beverly Hills isn’t the sort of town where people are terribly concerned over the welfare of the younger generation. Like Marissa, people just assume that if you live there, your parents have lots



of money, and you’ll be just fine.



“So it sounds like it’s a place that’s meant to encourage kids, to help themgrow into better people, to give them hope,” I finally said. Marissa laughed loudly. “Hey, maybe you should go into politics or public relations or advertising or something.”



“Come on. The sooner we figure this out, the sooner we can get some serious sketches going. And the sooner we can get started, the sooner we can get done, and we won’t be out here



baking in the sun all summer.”



“You seem to have it all figured out, boss. Go for it.” Marissa pulled out another cigarette. Now I was tempted to point out the risks of emphysema and lung cancer, as well as how smoke makes your hair stink and yellows your fingernails, but I figured she was probably already aware



of these facts.



“Fine. I think we should create something that feels hopeful.” I squinted up at the blotchy-looking wall again. “Something colorful and cheerful and happy.”



“Maybe we could paint a pwetty wainbow?”



Just before I made a smart retort, I stopped myself. “Hey, maybe you’re right.” I grabbed my sketch pad and began to draw.



“But we’ll design it in a more modern style. Sort of cubist.” She looked over my shoulder as I drew a series of sharply angled shapes, working them together to make an arch.



“Interesting…,” she finally admitted.



“Really?”



“Yeah. I can kind of see it. And it would actually be fairly easy to put a team to work on it since it’s mostly shapes.”



“Exactly. We’ll draw them out, and they can paint them in.”



“We’ll need a lot of different colors.”



“So you can see the rainbow?” I asked. “I mean, since there’s no color in my sketch?”



“Yeah. I get where you’re going.” She snuffed out her cigarette, then reached in her bag for a tin of colored pencils. “Here, add some color.”



By midmorning we had a final colored sketch as well as Mrs. Albert’s approval. “Very nice, girls,” she told us as we were ushered out of her office. “And anything will be an improvement over what’s out there now.”



“Well, that was flattering,” Marissa said as we headed down to the storage room to meet the janitor and check out the ladders and painting supplies. “At least her expectations aren’t too high.”



Marissa laughed. “Yeah, I’m pretty good at meeting people’s low expectations.” I wanted to ask her why that was, but we needed to get busy if we were going to put more volunteers to work tomorrow. And to my relief, Marissa actually knew how to work hard. By the end of the day, Marissa had gotten the paints, and I had managed to get a fair amount of the sketch onto the lower part of the wall.



“Nice work, boss,” Marissa said after we’d put the supplies away and stood looking at the beginning of our mural. “Same back at you.” And I have to admit that I was kind of excited to see how this whole thing would turn out. And hopefully more people will show up to help tomorrow.







Maya’s Green Tip for the Day



Don’t pour harmful wastes down public waterways.



Storm drains on public streets are for rainwater to run off



so the streets don’t flood. They’re not a convenient way



for people to get rid of chemicals or solvents or even the



bucket of soapy water after you wash your car. Unless



you use bio-friendly car-wash detergent, which I highly



recommend. You need to respect that the water that runs



off our streets eventually winds up in streams and waterways



and can harm innocent fish or other marine wildlife.



So don’t use your street drain as a dumping spot.


I just received this book a couple days ago along with Experiencing the Spirit by the Blackaby's. So as soon as I have a chance, I will read it and review it.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Experiencing the Spirit by Henry Blackaby & Melvin Blackaby ~ FIRST WildCard

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!


Today's Wild Card authors are:

Henry Blackaby
and
Melvin Blackaby

and the book:

Experiencing the Spirit
Multnomah Books (February 17, 2009)

ABOUT THE AUTHORs:


Dr. Henry Blackaby, president emeritus of Blackaby Ministries, is the author of more than a dozen books, including the bestselling classic, Experiencing God. He has spent his life in ministry, serving as a music director and as a senior pastor of churches in California and Canada. Today he provides consultative leadership on prayer for revival and spiritual awakening on a global level. He and his wife make their home in Atlanta, Georgia.

Visit the author's website.

Dr. Melvin Blackaby serves as senior pastor at First Baptist Church Jonesboro, GA. He’s the author of several books including Going the Second Mile and the Gold Medallion-winner A God Centered Church, which he coauthored with his father, Henry Blackaby. He and his wife, Gina, live in the greater Atlanta area with their three children – Christa, Stephen, and Sarah.

Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $16.99
Hardcover: 224 pages
Publisher: Multnomah Books (February 17, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1590529111
ISBN-13: 978-1590529119

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


REVEALING THE UNKNOWABLE


“Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into

the heart of man the things which God has prepared for

those who loveHim.” But God has revealed them to us

throughHis Spirit. For the Spirit searches all things,

yes, the deep things of God.

—1 CO R I N THI A N S 2:9 – 10


The person who does not know the Holy Spirit of God does not know God. It’s that simple. It’s true that God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son to provide eternal salvation and that, through His death and resurrection, we have victory over sin and new life in Christ. But apart from the Holy Spirit, God’s great salvation is of no relevance to us. Apart from the active work of the Spirit in our lives, we would neither know God nor have the ability to respond to Him. Divine truth is not something we “discover”; it is revealed by the Holy Spirit of God. As such, no other reality in the Christian life is as important as being filled with the Spirit. The doctrine of the Holy Spirit is distinctive to the Christian faith. No other religion has anything like it. What believers in Jesus Christ have come to know and experience through His gift of the Spirit brings them into a relationship with God that’s inaccessible in all other religions of the world. For just as God did not create the world and then step back and watch it spin, but chose to enter time and space and interact with His people, so also God did not just deliver a set of laws for us to follow in the hope of earning our way to heaven. Instead He chose to enter a relationship with His people on earth through His indwelling Spirit.


TRAPPED IN ATTIC DARKNESS


When I (Mel) was sixteen years old, I had a summer job as a laborer on a construction crew. My boss was a small contractor who built homes, but he also renovated older homes. One day he sent me to an old house to install pink Fiberglass insulation in the attic. The outdoor temperature that day reached 95 degrees Fahrenheit, so you can imagine how hot it was in that dusty old attic. I felt like I was working in a convection oven.

It was a nasty job. As I shone my flashlight around the attic, I saw a cloud of Fiberglass particles floating through the air. All day long I worked in that dark and dusty deathtrap. It was one of those labor jobs that encouraged me to later go back to school and get an education.

That night I was exhausted when my head hit the pillow. I guess the day’s work had had an impact on me, because I had a nightmare about being trapped in the attic. I got up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat—yet I wasn’t fully awake. I started to panic, thinking I was still in the attic and couldn’t find my way out. I scrambled frantically around the room looking for the attic’s crawl-out door and nearly destroyed my room in the process. I threw my dresser across the room and pulled down bookshelves. I was lost in the closet when suddenly a light shone through the crack under my door.

“Mel?” It was my mother’s voice. “Is everything okay?” Seeing the light, I got my bearings and knew exactly where I was and the reality of my situation. It was just a dream! My mom opened the door and saw my demolition work. “What’s

going on?” she questioned.


“Oh, it’s nothing…Just got a little disoriented.”


I’d been in a nightmare I couldn’t escape—trapped in darkness and unable to perceive reality—until the light was turned on. Only when a little light shone under the door did my situation become clear to me.

In the same way, unless the Holy Spirit turns the light on, your life will be kept in complete darkness, disoriented to the things of God. There’s absolutely nothing you can do to find the light; you’re at the complete mercy of God to reveal it. All you can perceive is what you see and experience in the physical world, but there’s a spiritual reality to which you’re blind.


SIN’S DAMAGE


Look at Paul’s description in Romans 3 of sin’s damage:


“There is none righteous, no, not one; There is none who understands; There is none who seeks after God. They have all turned aside; They have together become unprofitable;

There is none who does good, no, not one.”


“Their throat is an open tomb; With their tongues they have practiced deceit”;


“The poison of asps is under their lips”;


“Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness.”


“Their feet are swift to shed blood; Destruction and misery are in their ways; And the way of peace they have not known. There is no fear of God before their eyes.” (verses 10–18)


Paul went on to say, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (verse 23). Everyone has fallen short; everyone has sinned. And sin has fatal consequences. Not only has it separated you from God, but it also keeps you from restoring that relationship. Paul emphasized these points in Romans 3:

• Sin makes you unrighteous and separates you from God.

• Sin keeps you from understanding God.

• Sin keeps you from seeking God.

• Sin causes you to turn to other things, leaving you worthless

and setting you on the road to depravity.

• Sin ultimately causes you to lose the fear of God. And when

you lose the fear of God, there’s no deterrent to sin; you

can’t stop your downward plunge into eternal destruction.

The reality of our spiritual state can look pretty depressing. Is

there any hope? Many would answer no. Some have committed suicide.

Many more have attempted suicide, and even more have contemplated it.


One of the most influential opponents of Christianity was Friedrich Nietzsche, who called Christianity “the one great curse” and “the one immortal blemish of mankind.” He proclaimed “the death of God” as a cultural fact and claimed atheism as the last evolutionary phase in the search for truth. Nietzsche later was debilitated by mental illness; having no hope, he’d gone mad. If not for the grace of God, we all would be in the same condition— without hope. For we have all sinned, and sin prevents a relationship with God—and life apart from God leaves no hope.


PROOF OF GOD AT WORK


But if you find yourself experiencing a desire to seek God, we have great news for you: God is already at work in you. The fact that you’re searching for Him is an indication that God is pursuing you and drawing you into a relationship with Him that’s real and personal. Apart from His active work in your life, you would never have the desire to seek Him. For as we’ve seen, because of sin, “There is none who understands; there is none who seeks after God” (Romans 3:11).

Theologians use the term prevenient grace to describe God’s work of drawing us to Himself. Before we in our fallen state can seek God, He must first create the desire within us for spiritual realities. There must be a work of enlightenment done within us before we’re aware of our need for salvation. That’s why we believe no one can go to church or open God’s Word “by accident.” God is drawing them, whether or not they realize it. If you find yourself wanting to consider spiritual truth, it’s not because of some funny feeling, but because God Himself draws you. King David showed us something about this when he cried out to God, “My soul clings to You; Your right hand upholds me” (Psalm 63:8, NASB). When we reach out to cling to Him, it’s God who is drawing us, and it’s God who holds us there. There’s no contradiction in this divine upholding and human following. For our part, there must be a response to God’s drawing power if we’re to experience a relationship with Him.

It’s like a man trying to draw a woman’s affection; the relationship will not blossom unless the woman responds. And when you do respond to God’s leading, He will give you the ability to answer the call. As James told us, “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you” (4:8).

Listen carefully: Recognizing God is not the same as coming to Him. Hearing God in your heart is not the same as answering. Working for the kingdom of God does not mean living in the kingdom of God. Christianity is not believing the truths of the Bible; it’s acting

upon them and allowing God control of your life. You must respond to God and make the choice to interact personally with Him. Have you gone beyond accepting the fact that there’s a God? Have you moved beyond accepting Christ as God’s Son and made Him Lord of your life? If you believe there’s a God, that He sent His Son to die for you, that God raised Jesus from the dead after three days, and that Christ is coming back for His disciples—that’s great. But Satan also believes all that! What makes your life any different from Satan’s? To be different, you must come to Christ, pursue Him, give your life to Him, and keep growing in your relationship with Him—for He’s a Person to be loved, not an idea to be accepted

.

NO LONGER DORMANT


All that we’ve been talking about is the active work of the Holy Spirit in your life. If God had not sent the Holy Spirit to open your eyes, you wouldn’t see Him. If the Holy Spirit hadn’t opened your ears, you wouldn’t hear Him. If the Holy Spirit hadn’t touched your heart, you wouldn’t have the slightest desire to know Him. We’ve all been taught that we have five senses—sight, smell, taste, hearing, and touch. By using them, we can apprehend most realities. But when it comes to apprehending God, we struggle. We don’t see Him, smell Him, taste Him, hear Him, or touch Him. But there is within us another sense by which we can know God as certainly as we know material things by our five familiar senses. Because we’re spiritual creatures created in the image of God (Genesis 1:26), we have spiritual faculties that allow us to truly know Him. We can apprehend Him; we can experience Him; we can love Him. In non-Christians, this faculty lies dormant. It’s asleep in their nature. For all practical purposes it is dead because of sin. But this faculty is quickened to life by the work of the Holy Spirit when we’re born again.

The sending of the Spirit was part of God’s plan from the beginning, and that plan was fulfilled on the Day of Pentecost. In fact, the sermon delivered by Peter that day was focused primarily on God the Father working in and through the life of His Son, Jesus. This brief selection from that sermon shows Peter’s emphasis: Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a Man attested by God to you by miracles, wonders, and signs which God did through Him in your midst, as you yourselves also know—Him, being delivered by the determined purpose and foreknowledge of God, you have taken by lawless hands, have crucified, and put to death; whom God raised up, having

loosed the pains of death, because it was not possible that he should be held by it. (Acts 2:22–24) Notice that God the Father was the one who orchestrated the events in the life of Jesus. In the same way, the Father brought forth the dramatic coming of the Spirit on the Day of Pentecost. It’s true that Jesus sent the Spirit, but only after He had “received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:33). So we see that the coming of the Holy Spirit was in the heart of God from the very beginning.

Furthermore, the text of Peter’s sermon that day was from the Old Testament prophet Joel. Peter said, But this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel:

“And it shall come to pass in the last days, says God, “That I will pour out of My Spirit on all

flesh; Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, Your young men shall see visions,

Your old men shall dream dreams.” (Acts 2:16–17; see Joel 2:28)

Long before Jesus arrived in the flesh, God the Father was talking about this day. It was always planned as the next significant event after Jesus died and rose again—as the necessary event to bring the work of Christ to bear upon those who would believe. Why then do many Christians fail to experience the depths of what God has purposed for their lives? The reason is their insufficient personal dealing with God. When our faith is based primarily on the wisdom of men and not on the power of God, we’ve just nullified most of what God intended for our lives. When our faith is built only on a collection of doctrines, we miss out on the Person who wants to be our life. Like all personal relationships, this spiritual relationship is activated through faith. When faith is defective, the result is numbness toward spiritual things. Some have never given their whole heart to God yet wonder why they haven’t experienced Him. To live the Christian life in its fullness, you must have faith. “The just shall live by faith” (Romans 1:17), Paul said, and in Hebrews we read, “Without faith it is impossible to please [God]” (Hebrews 11:6). You must take God at His word! Every positive response to the Lord will open up new opportunities to know Him more and more. The more you pursue Him, the more He’ll reveal Himself to you.


WIND IN THE SAILS


To get a picture of the Spirit, consider the image of a sailing ship. The sailors make sure everything’s ready to go. The decks are swabbed, the trim freshly painted, and the galley stocked with food for the voyage. The anchor’s up, the ropes are in, the sails are raised, and the captain’s at the helm. But the ship doesn’t move. Why? Because the sails need wind to propel the ship forward. You can prepare everything in your life to go forward with God, but without the wind of the Spirit, there’s no movement. On a sailing ship you’re at the mercy of nature and the necessary wind to move; in life, you’re at the mercy of God and the Spirit’s power. Without that power, we can’t follow God and experience life to its fullest. Interestingly, the Greek and Hebrew words for Spirit (pneuma and ruah) can both be translated as “wind” or “breath.” Unless the wind of the Spirit blows, you’ll drift aimlessly along on the currents of life.

Even after you’ve done everything you know to connect with God, it’s all in vain without action on His part. With this in mind, can you understand why “blasphemy against the Spirit” is so serious? Look at the amazing and even terrifying statement about this from Jesus: Therefore I say to you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven men. Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man, it will be forgiven him; but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit, it will not be forgiven him, either in this age or in the age to come. (Matthew 12:31–32) Why would Jesus make such a statement? Why is it more dangerous to speak against the Holy Spirit than to speak against the Son of Man, Jesus Himself? Simply this: the Holy Spirit is the only one who moves upon a person to bring conviction of sin and the desire to be in a right relationship with God.

Speaking of the Holy Spirit, Jesus said, “When He has come, He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment” (John 16:8). Without this work of the Spirit, you’re incapable of responding to God. So the Holy Spirit is not to be ignored or taken for granted. He’s not to be cast aside as insignificant in comparison to God the Father and God the Son. The Spirit of God is essential to your life and to your relationship with the entire Godhead. He’s the illuminator of all spiritual truth and the doorway into the divine. He takes that which is unknown to fallen humanity and makes it a clear and unmistakable reality in our lives.


THE SPIRIT IS SPEAKING…


When you consider your life, do you need somebody to turn the light on? That’s the role of the Holy Spirit. Do you need some wind in your sails? Invite the Spirit to

breathe new life into your soul. Do you want a deeper and more meaningful relationship with almighty God? Then you must understand the Holy Spirit’s role in your life. Once you come to know the Spirit in all His fullness, you’ll see heaven opened up before you. Consider what you do know about God. Oh, there’s much more to learn, but take a moment and thank God for revealing Himself to you. The fact that you’re reading this book is an indication that God wants you to experience a deeper relationship with Him. So ask the Holy Spirit to help you see God more clearly. Ask Him to communicate

the deep things of God to your spirit. Finally, commit your life to respond to everything He says. A heart of ready obedience frees the Holy Spirit to speak into your life,

because He knows you’ll respond when He speaks.

This has been an amazingly powerful book. If the Holy Spirit doesn't convict you in the Introduction, I would seriously consider what they are sharing.
I have been moved in each chapter I have read. You can hear the Spirit speaking to you as your read this book. If you aren't walking in a deep, rich relationship with Jesus, Experiencing the Spirit will move you to be in one. From there, the Spirit will be allowed to fulfill His role in your life.
There is nothing superficial or surfacey about this book. I would encourage readers to take it a chapter at a time, even less if needed. I believe there is a workbook available along with this book and I would encourage everyone to get it as well and go through both.
I plan on getting the first 2 books in this series, although Experiencing the Spirit can stand completely on it's own. To enrich your life and your walk with the Lord, I would highly suggest this book. It can prove to be life changing!

 
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Woven by Words by Mimi B is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.