Thursday, 28 September 2017

Hope for the Prodigal ... A Partial Review

*Disclosure: I received this book free from Baker Books through the Baker Books Bloggers program. The opinions I have expressed are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255*

Hope for the Prodigal: Bringing the Lost, Wandering, and Rebellious Home by Jim Putman with Bill Putman... Sounds like a promising title right? (In addition, as an aside, the wonderful use of the Oxford comma pleases the grammar geek in me.) I wanted to like this book. I really did! I wanted to enjoy it, learn from it, and grow from it. I had high hopes for this book! But I just. could. not. get. into. it!! I think the biggest reason for my struggle with this book was the author's flawed presupposition - believing that a person can lose his/her salvation and then has the opportunity to become resaved. This he speaks of already in the introduction and throughout chapter 1 (at least as far in the chapter as I could get), this theme is the foundation for all his arguments. I was just not able to get past this and see the good that may be apparent in his writing.

There was the odd point that I greatly appreciated. He speaks of how essential it is for parents to model their faith to their children. That, if parents truly believe their faith is important to them, they need to show this importance in their own lives and how they address issues in their children's' lives. Do you skip church to attend that sporting event? Or is church important enough that you are willing to miss the sport and perhaps forego advancement in that sport for the sake of Christ? Do we place the church, our faith, our time with God as the most important in our day to day lives?

So, I suppose this book has the potential to be a good book. I suppose someone might enjoy it very much. However, I, personally, could not enjoy it.

Friday, 8 September 2017

Work ... as those who love him (Five Minute Friday)

These were my thoughts this morning. I thought they fit alright with the Five Minute Friday word for this week: work.

Work ... as "those who love him"

So, this school year, while I homeschool my girls, I’ve decided to work on memorizing the Fighter Verses (collection of verses put together by Desiring God). The very first verse is Deuteronomy 7:9.

“Know therefore that the Lord your God is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, to a thousand generations.”

Last night, as I was lying in bed, I was reciting it to myself and feeling rather proud of how well I had already learned it. I was convinced I had the whole verse memorized! This morning, I opened my Fighter Verse binder and looked at it and realized I forgot one key part of the verse. See, I think we, as humans, err on the legalist side of things. “If we just work harder, if we just obey, if we just follow the rules, then God will love us.” Can you guess which part I had forgotten?? Yup: “those who love him”!!

What is obedience without love? It is nothing! It is what the older brother did (in the parable of the Prodigal Son), proving that he was, in fact, the one that was truly lost! But isn’t that our tendency? In our minds, it is easier, probably because it’s more tangible, to measure God’s love for us by how well we work for him, how well we obey him. And yet we deceive ourselves because we cannot even come close to perfect obedience and, without love, all our work is defiled and imperfect and doesn’t meet His standards! “Be holy, as I am holy!” is, in some translations “Be perfect, as I am perfect!” (Leviticus 20:26/1 Peter 1:16) But we can’t attain this level of holiness or perfection. Only Christ can! And, thank God, He did this for us! But then there’s love. No, we can’t love perfectly either (though we think that if we do lots of loving things it means we love a lot … another deception we tell ourselves.) But if we love God, truly love Him, then obedience flows out of that – not out of duty (because we have to) but out of love (because we want to). Then obedience is no longer really work but it is a pleasure! Yes, there are verses in Scripture about work “work out your salvation…”, “work heartily, as for the Lord…” but I believe that this idea of work is really about delight and the outflowing of love for our Lord, not about duty, which is our tendency.

Work, yes, but don’t forget to first love! You can work & obey, without love (but it is empty work, empty, meaningless obedience) but you cannot truly love without obedience. Otherwise it is empty, meaningless love – simply words to look good but not how you truly feel.