Sweet Tea and a Distasteful Flavor

“There’s a Fly in my Tea! The Importance of Maintaining a Christian Testimony;                By Crystal L. Ratcliff;  CrossLink Publishing 2016

A Book Review

Crystal Ratcliff, has presented a metaphor we can probably all relate to whether we drink our tea sweet or otherwise. Flies are pesky and dirty. We don’t want them crawling on the rim of our glass. The metaphor fits perfectly for the subject of this 11-session Bible study about our witness for Jesus. The cover design adds beautifully to the “ewwww” factor.

Maintaining a sweet, pure Christian testimony, says Ratcliff, means doing many things she believes we can learn from the life of the Apostle Peter. Her first lesson, however, gets someone off on the right foot before the study begins. She challenges her readers to examine their lives in light of their personal salvation and person relationship with the Lord. Since the book is meant to be studied with others, discussing these answers honestly can only be of benefit to each member and to the group itself.

Ratcliff’s style is relaxed and her tone is friendly. She expects the audience is women and that they share their stories within a group. However, the study could be done independently, if necessary.

The fact that Crystal takes the student right into scripture helps them to see how it relates to other scriptures. The lessons include just enough related verses to help the reader understand the lesson and how the lesson should be applied. An aspect of the study I appreciated was her openness regarding her own failings. Done in a safe environment, sharing what keeps us coming back to Jesus for help aids in discussion.

Subjects covered over the eleven-session study are trusting God totally; keeping my focus on God; walking in the Spirit in relation to how we spend our time; and believing who Jesus says he is versus the world’s view of him.

Ratcliff also mentions the tendency Christians have to witness about their church rather than being a sweet and pure witness for Christ alone. In her own way she says we would do better to point people to Jesus rather than a specific church body or denomination.

No church is perfect, she says, because no people are perfect. We all need to learn to pray more faithfully, forgive more quickly, and serve in love. But “our goal in studying this,” she says, “should be to protect ourselves from being an ‘offender.’”

To some readers, “There’s a Fly in my Tea” will seem like a course in Bible 101. If that’s the case, let me suggest you become the person Jesus commanded you to be and disciple others by leading them through this short study. Those new to the Christian faith will certainly get some of their questions answered. Recruit a couple of your more mature Christian friends to join in and they will help teach the younger women, which is a biblical principle taught by Paul.

The narrative sections are refreshing to anyone who even remotely understands the importance of a relationship with Jesus. The lists of questions at the end of each chapter (never more than 6-8) are just challenging enough to keep us teachable.

 

The reviewer received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher through the BookCrash.com book review program. The opinions expressed are those of the reviewer.

 

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You Walk With Jesus

Once upon a time, there was a pastor who influenced me in ways I don’t think he was aware of. I considered him a model of one who walked with God as Enoch did. Naturally, this fellow was humble as well, and if he knew I was saying that about him, he’d sternly correct me.

Nevertheless, I saw him as an unofficial mentor.

Is there someone in your life who models a walk with Jesus? If so, what does that look like? Poetry isn’t my strong suit. Nevertheless, this is a small tribute to my friend and pastor.

You Walk With Jesus

I have watched you
walk with the winsomeness
possessed in you that
unknowingly also owns power.

There’s a place deep inside
where you don’t look–
having no need to–
that teaches your body
to follow the Spirit.

God’s Spirit guides your spirit
with a quiet, cherished purpose.
It seems that in each stride
you claim a mile.

 

copyright 2017 Paula Geister

A Dangerous Place to Be

A friend of mine shared in a small group that she thought she probably would be safe from idols in an atmosphere alone with no distractions: no TV, no radio, all alone. She said people wouldn’t distract her from her spiritual life and worldly music or television programs wouldn’t do it either.

Listening to her, the concept sounded good. But at that time, my situation was pretty much what she described and I was still in danger of idolatry on a regular basis.

I have an active imagination. I have a good mind. And sometimes I believe they are sincerely out to get me.

Other people I know who are seriously trying to change from lifestyles of addiction to being “clean,” tell me it’s important to change playmates, playthings and playgrounds. To live the life of obedience to Christ, I pretty much need to do the same thing. That doesn’t mean I sequester myself away from the world. It doesn’t mean I don’t engage with people who don’t believe what I believe about God and Jesus. Doing that is hiding my lamp under a bowl. And Jesus says I’m to let my light shine before men.

However, scripture does tell me it’s dangerous for me to wander the playground of my mind without Jesus. I must “take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ.”

Not every thought I have is sinful, but some of them can lead to sin. My addictions are waiting in the sidelines if I fall prey to just one ugly thought. Or a twisted, selfish emotion. As a matter of fact, being alone can be a hindrance in my relationship with God if I let myself get lonely. I need my friends to help me, so I reach out.

A mind, they say, is a terrible thing to waste. Sometimes, it can be a dangerous place to be.

“Each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed. Then after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin” (James 1:14,15).

Touching God Through His Bestselling Book

A Book Review

“The TouchPoint: Connecting With God Through the Bible” By Bob Santos; 2016 by Search for Me Ministries, Inc.

However you see the Bible right now–a book of instructions, a book about history, or a book of stories–author Bob Santos wants you to see the bestselling book of all time as a way to create a relationship with God or continue to improve the relationship you now have.

The TouchPoint is meant to answer questions the average person might have about Bible reading and Bible study. Questions like “Why should I read it?” “What will I find?” “What’s the point?”touchpoint

Topics covered in the book include the authority of scripture, an overview of the Bible, the relationship between science and faith, preparing one’s heart for study, and the Bible’s credibility, among others. Throughout, Santos writes clearly and simply, which makes for relatable content. Readers won’t likely feel they’re being talked down to. Perhaps this is because Santos, founder and president of Search for Me Ministries, describes himself as “an average guy” relying on the anything-but-average grace of God. He’s found ways to ‘touch’ God and one way is through scripture.

Even though the book is written in simple language, The TouchPoint offers food for thought you can chew on even after moving to the next chapter. There’s meat in what Santos has to say. Just as Christians are encouraged to graduate from milk to meat, Bible reading and study should create, not only changed behavior but an increased intimacy with God.

According to the author, the Bible is where we learn who God is. That partially answers the “Why should I read it?” question. When we understand who God says He is, we’re better able to develop intimacy, which is Santos’ purpose for writing: to help us discover connections with the Almighty.

In every chapter, Santos reveals more and more of “What will I find?” within the Bible’s pages. He includes scripture to support the explanations he gives. What may be just as important to many readers is his inclusion of personal experience. Since God showed the author how to know Him and create a closer relationship, Santos can pass that information on, knowing God will keep the promise of meeting you right where you are.

In addition to being extremely readable, The TouchPoint exhibits humor. Santos is obviously able to laugh at himself, using phrases like “cranial ability” and “frustrated and disgruntled bandits.” Using such language, he holds the reader in with, again, relatability.

Each chapter held my attention because I’m already convinced that reading and studying the Bible is a good idea. My highlighter hit the page more often than in other chapters when I got to “What About Science?” Here, Santos includes some hefty comparisons. He argues as well as any apologist for how God’s word is believable. This idea is crucial. If the Bible isn’t believable, where can we find hope?

“As the grim reality of scientific naturalism becomes clear, a sense of futility overtakes the human heart. But when people begin to lose hope, their behavior becomes destructive” (page 132)

Bingo. Santos had me at “grim reality.” We all need hope.

Hope, found in a relationship with Jesus Christ, answers the question, “What’s the point?” Read between the lines and you’ll see that Santos is trying to tell us Jesus is always the point.

While Santos may disgruntle a few readers with his views or his seeming lack of formal training in the Bible, it’s good to remember that apostles Peter and John were “unschooled, ordinary men.” The Spirit of God works through whomever He wills. Give yourself permission to be a little disgruntled if you must.

Anyone, Christian or not, will find answers in The TouchPoint to questions about how reading the Bible can change a life. Combining thoughtful content with grace-filled delivery in a highly readable format, The TouchPoint is a book for people hoping to connect with God for the first time or for those looking for reasons to enjoy a deeper relationship with Him than they already have.

The reviewer received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher through the BookCrash.com book review program. The opinions expressed are those of the reviewer.

The Red Letter Life: A Book Review

Hello, Media Monday, when we talk about books, movies or music. Today’s offering: “The Red Letter Life: 17 Words From Jesus to Inspire Simple, Practical and Purposeful Living” by Bob Hostetler.

The adjectives in the subtitle of this book, The Red Letter Life give us a hint into Bob Hostetler’s message for living as a disciple of Jesus. Hostetler writes with purpose; his message is practical; and his writing is simple so anyone can understand it.the-red-letter-life-872316900

Hostetler has delivered his message in a ‘pure’ way: truth, grace, simplicity and clarity of thought are all in place. Sure, he uses his knowledge of Greek to explain things. But he only does it to enhance the message. I never got the feeling I was being talked down to because these explanations are not overdone.

The seventeen words chosen are excellent choices and indicate the author’s careful study of Jesus’ message and mission. From “Come” to “Go,” every word inspires us to deeper relationship with Christ and a call to carry out His mission as commanded. Often, we get to see Jesus, his disciples and the people He encountered with fresh eyes. Expect some “Aha” moments.

Hostetler has a way of telling stories which not only lend themselves to giving meaning to his message, they often are entertaining and sublime. That’s the way Jesus Himself told parables. Overall, his heart and personality shine through. He makes being a Christian sound challenging and enjoyable at the same time. After reading The Red Letter Life, I would enjoy sitting down with the author, simply talking about our respective spiritual journeys.

While not your typical Bible study text (with questions for participants to explore), the book could certainly be used as such because Bob offers a challenge at the end of each chapter. At any rate, the book begs to be discussed. Lately, I read less Christian non-fiction than I used to, choosing more often to study the Bible. While there is no substitute for God’s Word, there are certainly excellent supplements. This one happens to be one of them.

You can find Bob–a speaker, blogger and pastor, in addition to being an author–in “Stuff I Read.” He’s the One Prayer Daily fellow.

Digging Into The Bible

Over the years I’ve sat in many small groups of people studying the Bible in some fashion. Every group included at least one person who was unfamiliar with scripture and had no regular Bible reading plan.

I’ve always been passionate about helping people read and understand the Bible better. The reason for my passion is because I know if they keep reading, they’ll get to know God better. They’ll get to know Jesus, his Son. Over time, they’ll even begin to appreciate the Holy Spirit’s role in their lives.

We all enjoy forming relationships in a small group and that’s important. But I believe the small group experience will be enriched when people also form a growing relationship with God. To someone new to it all, even talking about a relationship with God can be confusing.

I understand that because I had questions too. I was too proud to ask them so for a long time I stayed ignorant about a lot of things God wanted me to know and do. Pretty much like I did everything, I relied on myself. I thank God for some good people who gently taught me that I didn’t know it all.  Often, I didn’t even know what I thought I knew.

If you know what I mean.

Today, I love to hear people speak up and ask questions referring to things they don’t understand about God or the Bible. It inspires me, knowing that they want the enlightenment scripture can bring. More than just trying to answer questions, however, I like to point them to Christ by encouraging them to dig into the Bible themselves.

In these cases “Where do I start?” is a common question.

Not a list of Ten Ways to Get to Know Your Bibleman-reading-bible

Rather than being clever and offering a quick fix and a list, here’s a Bible reading plan that doesn’t take much time. It’s pretty comprehensive, covering some significant stories and points in scripture. Even better, it just may give a person with lots of questions enough of a taste to want more. The result of completing the forty days might be that an individual–maybe you–begins a daily Bible reading routine.

Seasoned readers of the Bible might also give the forty-day plan a try. If how you’re doing it now has become a little stale (and it can; don’t feel guilty about that), go ahead and stop how you’re doing it. Reading passages which are seemingly unrelated might put some kick in your relationship with Christ as well. You can always return to the method you were previously engaged in.

God comes near when we draw near to him. Reading the Bible, meditating on what we read and praying for understanding open us up to hear his voice. And that’s something all of us often ask about.

“How do I hear God speak to me personally?”

A Suggested Forty-Day Bible Reading Plan

Day 1: Genesis chapters 1-2 (The Creation Account)
Day 2: Genesis chapter 3 (The Beginning of Sin)
Day 3: Genesis chapters 15, 17:15-27 (God’s covenant with Abraham)
Day 4: Genesis chapter 21:1-7; chapter 22 (God’s faithfulness and Abrahams faith)
Day 5: Exodus chapters 3-4 (God Calls Moses to deliver His people)
Day 6: Exodus 6 (The Ten Commandments)
Day 7 Joshua 1 (Conquering the Promised Land)
Day 8 1 Samuel 16-17 (David and Goliath)
Day 9: 1 Kings chapters 3; 8:1-9; 9 (King Solomon’s wisdom and the Temple)
Day 10 1 Kings 18 (The prophet Elijah and the prophets of Baal)
Day 11: 2 Kings 25 (The Siege of Jerusalem and the Exile of Judah)
Day 12: Daniel 2-3 (Daniel in Babylon: The fiery furnace)
Day 13: Ezra 3 (Rebuilding the temple)
Day 14: Isaiah chapters 9, 53, 61 (Isaiah’s prophecy of the coming Messiah)
Day 15: Luke chapters 1-2 (The birth of Jesus)
Day 16: John 1:1-18 (Who Jesus Is)
Day 17: Luke 4:14-44 (Jesus begins his ministry)
Day 18: Matthew 5-6 (The core of Jesus’ teaching)
day 19: John 3 (God’s Love for the world)
Day 20: John 5 (Jesus’ Miracles and Authority)
Day 21: John 11 (Jesus’ Power Over Death)
Day 22: John 15 (The Christian Life Defined)
Day 23: John 17 (Jesus’ High Priestly prayer)
Day 24: Matthew 26-27 (The arrest and crucifixion of Jesus)
Day 25: John 20 (The resurrection of Jesus)
Day 26: Luke 24 (The ascension of Jesus )
Day 27: Acts 2 (The coming of The Holy Spirit)
Day 28 Acts 9 (The conversion of Saul)
Day 29 Acts 16 (The Gospel spreads to Europe)
Day 30 Acts 26 (Paul’s defense of the Christian Faith)
Day 31: Romans 3 (Justification by faith alone)
Day 32: Romans 7-8 (The battle with sin; Life in the Spirit)
Day 33: 1 Corinthians 13 (The way of Love)
Day 34: 1 Corinthians 15 (The power of the resurrection)
Day 35: Galatians 5 (Freedom in Christ)
Day 36: Ephesians 6 (The whole armor of God)
Day 37: Philippians 1:18-2:18 (Christ’s example for us)
Day 38: Colossians 3:1-17 (Putting on the new self)
Day 39: James 1 (Pure religion)
Day 40: Revelation 21-22 (The New Heaven and the New Earth)

Bible reading plan copyright 2005, Crossway; Value Compact Edition, English Standard Version (ESV)

Ten Things I Believe

In 1990, just for fun, I came up with a list of “Things I Like.” Not surprisingly, ‘a nice cup of tea’ and ‘telling a joke well’ made the list.

Before the year was over, I’d considered that list and decided I needed to write another list of “Things I Need” (relationally). What I learned about writing and reviewing that list over time was that I was the one mostly responsible for making sure my relational needs were met. If I looked at it any other way, I felt like a victim.

Now, somewhat belatedly, I’m convinced another list is in order. A more important list, and probably not complete, I name “Things I Believe.” After all, I’m a Believer.

For what’s it’s worth, here it is. And the only items on the list I could say are in order of importance are perhaps #1 and #2.

1. I believe everything God said about Himself in scripture.Jesus Is ---

2. I believe everything Jesus said about Himself and that I am, because of my belief, now crucified with Him, reconciled to God, filled with the Holy Spirit, and will spend eternity with Him when He returns.

3. I believe there is a purpose in my life and that this purpose is to please God, however He defines His pleasure.

4. I believe the various experiences of my life–trials and joys, no matter when they happened–God is even now using to further His kingdom.

5. I believe in the intrinsic value of every human being.

6. I believe in the power of prayer.

7. I believe God speaks to people in a variety of ways and His purpose for speaking is for His glory to be shown in the world.

8. I believe there is an enemy in the world named Satan and that it is possible to be deceived by him as well as it is possible to stand against him with the power of God’s word and prayer.

9. I believe that there is a cost in loving as God commanded, but as we risk according to God’s definition of love, our relationships with Him become deeper. We are healed and our relationships with others become healthier.

10. I believe that my beliefs can and will affect my behavior.

Bonus belief: I believe that Numbers 1 and 2 are the basic foundation for the rest of the beliefs listed.

Questions For God

When I was a teenager, I began to have some doubts about my faith. Whenever I would say something even closely resembling such a thing, my mother would say, “Don’t question God, Paula.”

Now that my doubts have been cleared up, I have great faith in God and trust him with everything. However, that journey to complete trust wasn’t down an easy road. Most of the time I discovered his faithfulness through difficult times.

Something else I discovered through becoming familiar with scripture is that there is a difference between questioning God and asking him questions. Questioning him, in my opinion, displays an attitude based on a lack of trust. Asking questions is based on an honest search for God’s heart.

I look at people in the Bible as examples. King David asked questions in many of his psalms. The story of Job, a man God described as “blameless and upright” is full of questions he would like to ask God. The prophets, especially Jeremiah, had questions for God. Jeremiah wrote a whole “letter” to God full of lamentations. Mary asked Gabriel how God would accomplish the virgin birth.

Jesus wasn’t questioning his Father when he prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane to have the cup removed. He was lamenting what he would face in the crucifixion.

Often, it’s in this state of lament that we find ourselves asking hard questions of our Maker.Q A for blog

Examining these instances of lament–whoever it is in scripture–the people involved do the same thing. They often describe the situation to God. They ask their questions. Then they turn from the questions to praising God for what he’s done in the past. They tell him how much they trust him.

Looking back, I believe my doubts were simply a case of wanting some questions answered. I was an immature Christian and needed to have those answers.

Doubt isn’t inherently a bad thing. If our doubts lead us to ask questions and those questions lead us to sound belief, they can create a closer relationship with the Lord.

Doubt accompanied by the questioning attitude, however, can lead to a hard heart. That inevitably causes distance from God.

When we come to God with questions we may not always get an answer. Or the answer we hope for. But we’ll be drawing closer to him, remembering our dependence on him and remaining teachable by his Spirit.

Dear heavenly Father, help me to remember that there are people who, whether Christians or not, have sincere questions they need answered. Remind me that I still come to you with my own. Give me the ability to extend grace and not judge someone’s lack of faith because they have questions. I pray that all who seek you with all of our hearts–even through our questions–will find you as you have promised we will.

Why I Go To Church

In a recent post, I talked about Why I Don’t Go To Church. Today is a good day to tell you Why I Do Go To Church.

To Worship God
During the week, I have my private times of meeting with the Lord. But on the day I go to church, it’s a different venue. The atmosphere creates in me a desire to worship God for who he is and to praise his works in a corporate setting.

As An Act of Obedience
Jesus showed us that he meant for us to be a body of believers when he welcomed everyone to come to him. Certainly, he had a few people who were in his inner circle, as I do, but he also ministered to and taught multitudes at one time.GodCallHisChildrenToUnity

To Fellowship With Believers
Besides being able to meet one on one with my best Christian friends, at church I’m able to greet those who don’t live close by. The ones whom I wouldn’t see unless we both made a point of going to church. I don’t know everyone who attends, but I’m meeting more of them all the time. We often discuss things we might not get a chance to talk about if we didn’t see each other weekly. They help me; I help them. I know that in the midst of this congregation, we’re loved, prayed for and supported. Many times, we know each other’s messes and successes.

To Serve
The ways in which I serve are not up-front like some. But what I do is a service to someone. I never know when what I’ve done will help plant a seed for an individual who’s looking to go deeper in his or her relationship with God.

To Hear Spirit-Filled Teaching
I need to hear the full counsel of God taught to me. Aside from my own Bible study and small group study, my pastor can open scripture to me in supernatural ways when he allows God to use him. Then, if I take that home and apply the wisdom to my life, my desire to worship, to obey, to be in community, and to serve have also served a purpose.

Most of the reasons I go to church should be, first of all, outward focused. I do get a lot from going to church. But in the body where I attend, faith, love and acceptance are flourishing. I believe it’s for the benefit of everyone who walks through the doors.

Why would I not want to go to church?