A Book Review: Born After Midnight

John Piper has written an entire article declaring the value of “Read[ing] Old, Dead Theologians 15 Minutes a Day.”

Having passed in 1963, A.W. Tozer hasn’t been gone long, but he certainly fits the criteria.

I love reading Tozer for what I describe as the “pearlistic” quality of his work. He is often defined as a mystic and due to that trait, some of his prose require a few passes to fully understand. But, much like C.S. Lewis, once you’ve mined Tozer’s original intent, you find yourself marveling at the unusual beauty and clarity that he brings to any given concept.

Tozer’s book, Born After Midnight, is a collection of fairly unrelated devotionals. But his overall purpose is captured in the title and in this delectable quote from the first chapter:

“It has been the experience of countless seekers after God that, when their desires became a pain, they were suddenly and wonderfully filled. The problem is not to persuade God to fill us, but to want God sufficiently to permit Him to do so.”

The depth of relationship with God that we long for and admire in New Testament apostles like Paul and John, cannot be acquired in the clear, easily navigated, comfortable “daylight” hours. Rather, it is often in the dark, in the wilderness, in the lonely spaces that we are suddenly filled by God.

Tozer’s book walks the reader into the painful corners of life, and without minimizing them at all, refines them in order to reveal their necessity. While pain never seems appealing, Tozer paints it in such a light as to reveal its value and the ultimate revival that can come from patient endurance and prayer.

Anyone who has ever felt the press of suffering, or the cried out that life seems unjust, or queried how God could possibly work their circumstances for good, must read this book.

 

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SPIN – it’s more than a workout

I recently wrote this for another blog, Moms Who TRI. However, it’s a theme God has been repeating in my life so often lately, it bears repeating here. Enjoy!

If I say SPIN, what do you think of?

If you’re reading this in the framework of fitness, you probably just imagined a room full of low-profile bikes. Dozens of sweaty people are pedaling as fast as they can and getting absolutely nowhere! But they’re loving it. Someone is at the front of the pack screaming directions over the crush of loud, motivating music.

And you’d be right, that’s definitely SPIN.

Or you might think of the bajillion proverbial plates you have in the air. Somehow, in a superhuman feat you manage to keep your life precariously balanced and a serving of every friend and family member’s happiness whirling at all times. Good for you! Right? Is that good?

In light of a greater fitness – your soul’s fitness and your mental health, I want to propose another definition of SPIN. I recently heard an interview with a couple, the authors of a new book, From Hectic to Healthy. As time marches on and we are entering into the unrelenting demands of a new school year, I think this is appropriate.

Seasons: We often refer to our lives in seasons. There’s the season of singleness, newly wed, parent, mid-life (crisis), retirement, elderly, etc. Cognitively, we’re OK with that, except for always wishing we were younger. But do we live happily in the season God has given us? The authors of this book suggest that we begin to feel overwhelmed when we try to live outside our season.

If you’re struggling to find time to fit in your workouts, or any other important aspect of your life, ask yourself if you are trying to
do this thing in light of your current season. Be reasonable, give yourself some grace. Challenge yourself, yes, but remember
there is season for everything and the time for all your dreams and goals will arrive in God’s timing.

“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven,” Ecc. 3:1.

Priorities: set your priorities according to your season. By the way, your health is YOUR responsibility and it’s important to your family too! So don’t put that at the bottom of the list. God has been persistently reminding me lately that REST is a key component of health!

Isolation: You probably feel like isolation is something you would pay to have! Many women are in the season of kiddos and chaos; happy family times, but tiring nonetheless. Or you may be feeling isolated from adult companions. Spinning your life faster to include more things isn’t the answer! Find one thing, start with just one, from the bottom of your priority list and draw a big black line through it! Now, go join a Moms Who TRI bootcamp – get your friendship and fitness in one, enjoyable hour!

Neglect: This is MOMS Who TRI, and the only things moms frequently neglect is themselves. That’s what Moms Who TRI is all about. It is an environment for busy moms to prioritize their health, spend time with their children and enjoy fellowship with other women.

SPIN – This fall, ditch that feeling of spinning your wheels and getting nowhere. Discover and fully live in your SEASON. PRIORITIZE and let something go! Don’t ISOLATE yourself, or maybe you need to eliminate something so that you can hide away by yourself and refresh for just a moment. Don’t NEGLECT your health behind the guise of being too busy to workout. You are important, too!

“Assent From Darkness” Review, Day 3

Satanism is essentially all about self; it literally forces you to turn inward in such a way that all of your thoughts are dominated by the desire to please the self.

Since the Tower of Babel, actually since Eve ate the fruit in her desire to, “be like God knowing good and evil,” mankind has been tirelessly driven to gain power, to conquer, rule and master his environment. Oh that he would spend as much time working to master and gain control over his own passions.

In his book, Accent From Darkness, Leehan admits that one of the complications that made it so difficult for him to walk away from Satanism is loss of personal power.

I held on to my depression, hate, and anger with a vise-like ferocity. This was the fruit of my satanic harvest, and I refused to surrender it. I was intent on holding onto the dark power I’d gained.

It’s amazing that this Satanist felt more power in his daily life than most Christians feel in a lifetime. How is that possible?

I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is like the working of his mighty strength, which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way. Eph. 1:18-23

Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world. You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world. 1 John 4:1-4

The Bible makes it abundantly clear that we are not without power and that the power available to us is infinitely greater than any power leveled against us. So why so weak? (Believe me, I’m preaching to myself here.)

A key difference in the tiny, self-serving power offered by Satan and the limitless power offered by our Father, is that God does not give us power. God remains the sole possessor of His great power.

For God knew his people in advance, and he chose them to become like his Son, so that his Son would be the firstbornn among many brothers and sisters. And having chosen them, he called them to come to him. And having called them, he gave them right standing with himself. And having given them right standing, he gave them his glory.

What shall we say about such wonderful things as these? If God is for us, who can ever be against us? Since he did not spare even his own Son but gave him up for us all, won’t he also give us everything else? Who dares accuse us whom God has chosen for his own? No one—for God himself has given us right standing with himself. Who then will condemn us? No one—for Christ Jesus died for us and was raised to life for us, and he is sitting in the place of honor at God’s right hand, pleading for us.

Romans 8:29-34

It remains that God is the one who chooses. He is for us, He sacrificed for us, He rescued us, He defends us, He pleads for us, He glorifies us. To know and experience God’s power for and through us we must learn humility, submission, gratitude. But isn’t that more wonderful? In Christ we can rest like a child, fight with courage and win like a warrior – for eternity. 

Book Review, Day 2

We are continuing to review Michael Leehan’s book, How Satan’s Solider Became God’s Warrior.  If you missed it, go back and read Monday’s post for an introduction. 

I found it startling that on a daily basis, Leehan wasn’t so different from you and me. He studied and went to college. He dated and married, had kids and divorced. He started his own successful business and was socially accepted by his neighbors and friends. Leehan even went to church with his girlfriend. The Bible tells us that Satan is the master of deception.

I began to wonder how deceived I might be – in a very different way, but perhaps just as deceived as Leehan was. In Ephesians 6, God tells us that we do not war against flesh and blood but against the rulers and authorities of darkness. But do I live like that?

Daily, I confess, I live a myopic life. I tend to believe that from the moment I wake, all my choices are my own and I make them dependent upon what will best serve my purposes. If I’m feeling especially altruistic, I will think about what will make my husband happy or how to meet my friend’s need. But I regularly fail to see myself as an eternal being whose actions today have eternal consequences now and forever.

 A couple things I did realize: we are not alone in our little biospheres – and we really never have complete privacy. Someone or something is always peering into the minute world of our experience.

After years of seeking and experiencing spiritual prowess and knowledge, it became apparent to me that we are truly spirit beings just on this earth for a short season…I knew with certainty the spiritual realm was more alive and active that the world I was born into.

That quote puts a lot of things in perspective. Here at Predatory Lies, I confess on a regular basis the shallowness of my daily concerns. I spent (and continue to struggle to refocus) 15 years trying to create and maintain my perfect earthly body. You can relate your own terrestrial worries to this truth; but I assume with few exceptions that most people muddle along with their minds buried deep in issues that have nothing to do with their souls.

How Satan’s Soldier Became God’s Warrior demolishes this misconception. It is a  book-length anecdote that will startle you awake to the certainty of eternal life. Where will you spend it?

Day One Review of “How Satan’s Soldier Became God’s Warrior”

If God created everything, then He created evil. So, by that line of reasoning, I decided that God was responsible for evil, controlled it, and was in fact, both good and evil. He had to be responsible for the tragedy that was my life. And if He was responsible for all the suffering in my life, how could He possibly care about me? Since God didn’t care for me, I might as well serve His enemy. If God didn’t think I was good enough to save, why shouldn’t I serve His evil counter part? This evil counterpart is Satan, the god of this world. In my crippled thinking, I viewed Satan as God’s alter ego.

By the time you read that paragraph you’ve started Chapter 2 in Michael Leehan’s book How Satan’s Soldier Became God’s Warrior.  Pretty intense. I picked up this book after hearing Leehan interviewed by Janet Parshall. I confess, the sensationalism of Satanism was the driving force behind my interest in the book. That and the fact that what is a more appropriate topic for a blog about Predatory Lies, than a book that shows God’s defeat of the Father of Lies?

I expected a gripping story; and I wasn’t disappointed. However, I didn’t really expect to address the problem of pain and God’s role in human suffering. I didn’t think about how many decisions Leehan made prior to his final decision to serve Satan. There were tiny steps along the way that seemed harmless enough and unrelated. Things that culturally we might recognize as poor choices, but hardly map them into a progression toward the ultimate rebellion against God.

In truth, is there an “ultimate” rebellion, or is sin simply sin and separation from God simply separation from God? How different are you and I from Leehan in his darkest moments?

Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.          Eph. 5:15-16

Another thing that piqued my interest in Leehan’s book is that he is “close to home” for me. Leehan’s story takes place mostly in Oklahoma. The church body that reached out to Leehan even as he plotted to murder their pator – is in my home town! So, let me also take this moment to put in a plug for Lifechurch.tv.  There’s a reason that the pastor, Craig Groschel, was on Satan’s hit list. Lifechurch.tv as well as the mobile phone app, YouVersion and their many other FREE resources are unparalleled.

 

 

March’s Schedule

Welcome to March, well almost. Here, February will slide right into the year’s third month with a poem. We’ll recognize March beginning in its first full week.

Sadly, today I have been inundated with cultural lies that I’d rather not address. The first one slammed me brutal and early from the morning news on the radio. But its aftershock was even worse. I looked up the headline on the internet which led me to a related lie that took my breath away. I wish I felt there was more of a benefit to making you aware of these lies too. Perhaps there is, if only to help you recognize and avoid them; to help you protect your children and fly to the truth that is Jesus Christ. So, I’ll take the first week of March to mention these:

1. An old, pervasive lie that reinvents itself with every generation: young girls convinced that they are ugly and fat. In their minds, this equates to being worthless, rejected, doomed for the rest of their earthly days.

2. Related to the above, Thinspiration. Heard of it? If not, consider yourself lucky. As I share the crux of this lie, I speak from personal experience. I won’t share links. This is the one that sank like a sharp stone in my gut. Oh how it hurts to know and remember.

3. This last one is a world-wide lie. Lost jobs, failed crops. Rising prices, lost homes. Unforeseen bills, surprise broken plumbing, stalled cars and illness. It’s tempting to wallow in hopelessness. It’s tempting to fudge on taxes or look for loopholes in financial obligations. It’s tempting to keep our tithe in bottom drawer.

The second week in March, I am excited to share a dawning truth in my own life. I am in the process of renewing my certification as personal trainer. I let my certification through IFPA lapse nearly 5 years ago. Though I have entertained the idea of doing it again several times, I always shied away, fearful that anorexia and exercise addiction would rear their ugly heads again. I didn’t believe that God could use my weakness in this area, that He could apply His strength in me and glorify Himself as He conquered the sin where I have fallen so many times before. So, as I’m studying, God has been showing me parallels between our physical bodies, training and our spiritual growth and discipline.

During the third week of March, I want to do a character study on Moses. My sisters and I have been studying holiness in a Precept study called, “Living Like You Belong to God.” The study focuses on the unholy behavior of the Israelites as God drew them away from their bondage in Egypt. God drew defining lines around His people. He called them out to be like Himself – set apart and utterly different from the nations around them. The Israelites faltered over and over, despite their very godly leader Moses. God insisted on using Moses, a stuttering, shy man to lead His people. Moses came to be defined as the most humble man that ever lived, a friend of God, and one with whom God spoke face-to-face.

The truth is that God makes us holy. Regardless of where we come from and how long it takes us to get our feet under us as we follow Him – Jesus is the cause, the means and the effect of our holiness.

Finally, week four. I might be saving the best for last. A continual student of Moody Ministries, I will again be reviewing a book that they published, Counterfeit Gospels. That’s pretty obvious, of course we’ll be discussing lies about the gospel that have invaded the pulpit. We will study to be wary, diligent and effective in our own churches.

Join me!

P. S. This picture was too cute NOT to republish! Click on it to visit a beautiful blog.

Day 1 Book Review: The Good News We Almost Forgot

Catechism. It’s an old, dusty word that rolls boringly off the tongue. It sounds like library books and creaky chairs laden with inches of dust, unmoved by studious backsides.  I remember my mother once determining that my sisters and I would study and memorize the catechisms as part of our homeschooling Bible class. As tedious as it seemed and though I never made it through the 129 questions and answers, sometimes phrases of the old document leap to my mind in response to a probing question.

Even more so now, 20 years later, with the emergent and seeker-sensitive church movement, these timeless truths have been shelved. Shelved often behind cobwebs, the very cobwebs that shroud our clarity of thought, the simplicity of the scriptures and our commitment to absolute truth.

Kevin DeYoung does a marvelous job of presenting the old Heidelberg Catechism in an intriguing light in his book The Good News We Almost Forgot: Rediscovering the Truth in a 16th Century Catechism. As I read the book, it was a progressively dawning light. It illuminated truths that I’ve known, but never known how to express. It confirmed doctrines like the Trinity and original sin and total depravity.

As usual, I stumbled upon this new book as I listened to In The Market With Janet Parshall on Moody Radio. By the end of the interview, I could barely wait to get my hands on a copy. Now, for three days this week I want to whet your appetite, too. At the end of the week, I will be giving away a copy of the book.

Recently I have been listening to a series of sermons on reformed theology, by R.C. Sproul. True to form, God has folded truths from both of these sources into overlapping confirmations in my mind. I certainly don’t have it all wrapped up in a nice little package, but I’m getting closer to a confident understanding and an ability to express what I believe.

I confess, I haven’t finished this book yet. You may be privy to additional nuggets of treasure that I unearth even after this week. But it’s a start. Don’t forget to be lively – COMMENT HERE – follow the links. The more involved you are the higher your chances of winning a free copy of The Good News We Almost Forgot. 

“Ten Things Jesus Never Said”

A few days ago (OK, July 20) I was listening to Janet Parshal on Moody Radio. She was speaking to Will Davis, author of Ten Things Jesus Never Said, And Why You Should Stop Believing Them. 

That’s a lot of links, but I strongly, strongly encourage you to check out each one of them.  There is no way I will do any of the individuals or books or sites justice in my brief discussion of them here.

When you look at your kid and you really want to get your point across, what do you say?  When I want to make my dog pee on the floor, sit on his tail and give the “puppy-dog” eyes, I say, “I’m so disappointed in you.” I remember my dad telling me that.  I remember that knowing I let him down hurt so much more keenly than any spanking.  That was a feeling like nothing could ever be right again.

I’ve known Jesus for 24 years.  If you had asked me a month ago if I believed any lies about Him I would have staunchly said, “No.” I believe some lies about myself, yes.  And I know that there are some lies swirling around my human relationships that pack themselves like baggage and weigh down my joy.  But lies about Jesus, about my Heavenly Father?

I have not yet read Will’s book but as I listened to his interview with Janet I stopped mid-row.  (I often listen to Janet’s show while I’m working out downstairs.)

Most of us, whether we realize it or not, cast our Heavenly Father in the mental mold of our earthly fathers.  If our dads were kind and generous, then usually we see God that way.  Victims of abuse often have difficulty seeing how much God loves them and understanding that He is intrinsically good.  So, it follows that I might fear disappointing God.

Quick flashback on my behavior: I spend exorbitant amounts of prayer in groveling. What begins as confession spirals into miserable swine-like groveling in the mire of my own pity. And then, there’s the idea I fought for 15 years – that God must be so tired of me after my many failed attempts to recover from anorexia.  I actually have an image of God in my mind, throwing His hands up and rolling His eyes.  “One more time, Abby.  You know better than this.  I’m so disappointed in you.”

Instantly, I wonder, why try anymore?  Sooner or later, I will reach the end of His grace.  Right?

Mr. Davis disagrees.  He says God has never, NOT ONCE, been disappointed in me.  “You can’t disappoint God because He knows everything.  Think about it: At the very core of disappointment is a failure to meet expectations. But if someone knows everything, how can you disappoint him?”

What a thought!  God never expected me to do differently than I am doing right now.  No, He doesn’t have extremely low expectations of me, or a middle-grade opinion of my average-ness.  He has a perfect view of me.  He sees me as righteous as Jesus Christ!

Will Davis holds Peter out as an example.  If ever there was a time when Christ might have thrown His hands up in disgust, it would have been when the man He had loved and walked with for three years suddenly cowered beneath the scrutiny of a servant girl and said, “I don’t know the man.” (Luke 22:54-62)

But Jesus saw it coming and loved Peter (and all of us sinners) all the way through the cross and to the beach on the other side.  There He proved to Peter that he was indeed chosen to advance His kingdom.  He reaffirmed Peter’s love for Him and told Peter that he would have another chance to sacrifice everything for Jesus. (John 21:15-19)

Will Davis covers nine other lies about Jesus’ words that many of us have simply absorbed without knowing it.  I challenge you to read this book and revel in the joy of knowing and believing the truth that Jesus spoke.