Book Review, 50 Shades of Grace

Fifty Shades of Grace. Who knew there were so many?

Weren’t you taught, as I was, that grace had a rather simple definition? Grace is, “God’s riches at Christ’s expense.” It has a nice Sunday school rhythm, but honestly, it doesn’t mean very much. It prompts all sorts of questions:

How many or much of God’s riches?
Did Christ pay for all of it, or was it simply a down payment?
What are God’s riches?

These are questions I believe everyone entertains, whether consciously or not. I was twenty-five years into my own walk with Jesus before I admitted my struggles with the concept of grace. One question in particular plagued me: “If grace saved me, what keeps me saved?”

“By grace you are saved through faith!” I knew that by heart, but the trouble is, that’s where it stopped. I was saved—now what? Does grace still apply to me or do I now have to earn my keep?

As I listened to countless pastors and teachers, attended to dozens of pulpits and persuasions, only rarely did the fog, the confusion over the concept, lift a bit. Instead of feeling adopted into God’s family, I felt a little like a foster child, hoping to please my temporary parent so much that He wanted to keep me forever.

Don’t get me wrong, for a couple decades I denied I felt this way. But my actions shouted over my voice. The anthem of my heart was, “God, what do you want me to do?”

Slowly, God has been removing the veil—the same veil that hung over the eyes of the Hebrews in 2 Corinthians 2:14,

“But the people’s minds were hardened, and to this day whenever the old covenant is being read, the same veil covers their minds so they cannot understand the truth. And this veil can be removed only by believing in Christ.”

I felt worse in church or Bible studies; a cross between motivated to, “go out there and serve God more”, and a fear that I wasn’t doing enough. The old covenant of law-keeping still hung partially across my vision. Saved by grace … saved to serve … and what if I’m not serving God well enough?

If you identify with anything I’ve said so far, you must read, 50 Shades of Grace.

Who knew there were so many shades of it? Who knew the grace that saved you through the red-hot blood of Christ, is the same grace that beckons the golden sun every morning, the same grace that shelters you in the blue-black storms of life, the same grace that tastes like green grass and looks like being led by streams of living, blue water. It’s the same grace that transfigured Jesus and allowed the disciples to see Him in all of his brilliant white splendor; the same grace continually transforms you from golden glory to golden glory.

This book is meant to be read steadily and digested like a scrumptious meal. From the very beginning, author, Dr. Eddie Summers, instructs his readers not to rush through the book. We’re shifting whole paradigms here; this is going to take some time!

Fifty Shades of Grace, is effectively broken into 10 chapters, which contain five sub-chapters or “shades” of grace. Beginning with “Grace Every Day”, Dr. Summers walks with his readers through the application of grace in health, troubles, spiritual growth and extending this grace to others.

It’s tempting, as a life-long Christian, to throw up our hands indignantly, insert a snippet of Scripture and move on to “deeper” books, believing we’ve mastered this grace thing. Believe me, you haven’t. You never will.

Don’t miss this book; or you’ll never know the glorious, full spectrum of grace you’ve been missing all along.

If you’re interested in a Bible study on this topic, you can find my book Beyond Belief: Jesus Saved You, Now What? here. 

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How God Gets In You

Jesus answered them, ‘Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.’ But he was speaking about the temple of his body. When therefore he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this, and they believed the Scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken.
John 2:19,21-22

When I was growing up, summer meant neighborhood barbecues and spontaneous games of softball. My sisters and I spent a lot of time with our best friends from across the street. We shared secrets, sleepovers and homemade ice cream. Our friendships always deepened in the summer because we spent so much time together.

Did you know that God wants to live close to you and spend time with you so that, just like a good neighbor, you get to know Him really well?

Mishkan, is the Hebrew word for tabernacle, the tent-like structure God told them to make for Him to dwell in before they built the temple. About the tabernacle, God said, “And I will dwell among the children of Israel, and will be their God.” (Exodus 29:45)

Shakhen, the Hebrew word for neighbor is from the same root as mishkan. When God told the Israelites to make the tabernacle, He meant it to be the place that He would live among them; in a way, be their neighbor.

Even better? Because Jesus saved us from our sins through his death and resurrection, we don’t need a tabernacle to live close to God. John 14:23 says, “All who love me will do what I say. My Father will love them, and we will come and make our home with each of them.”

If you believe in Jesus, God lives inside of you. He wants to spend time with you. He wants you to know Him.

This was first published in the digital magazine: Tween Girls and God.

Just the Appetizer…

business-graphics-1428656-mFriends, bear with me–allow me to share a bit more borrowed wisdom. This piece by Desiring God ministries speaks precisely to some of our current conversation about dealing with unknowns, finances and even idolatry. I would love to hear your thoughts!

“Because of what the Bible warns about wealth, Christians quickly become some of the most vigilant about their incomes, investments, and donations — and that is a good and right trend as a whole.

 

Perhaps a love of money has less to do with its presence or absence, and more to do with its hold in our hearts. Maybe it has less to do with whether we have more or less money, and more to do with whether our thoughts, conversations, and budgets are excessively focused on it.

 

As an illustration, the same warning can be applied to people “stewarding their bodies” by being obsessive about counting calories and running miles. How easy it is to take “Your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit” (1 Corinthians 6:19), and make the place for worship (your body) the prize of worship (your god). The body becomes god and God is forgotten.”

These are only delicious morsels of the full article my Marshall Segal. Please, go devour the whole thing!

 

Synchroblog for International Women’s Day

I (and you) have been invited to participate in a synchroblog to honor the Midwives and Patron Saints of our lives. Today, March 8, is International Women’s Day. Let’s recognize it from the perspective of those women who have nurtured our relationship with Jesus.

You can read more about Sarah’s invitation to this synchroblog here. Join us!

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Galatians 5:22-23

It is impossible to contain the list of women-blessings God has placed in my life. Each of them has taught me, by example, how to lean into and walk by the Holy Spirit. In His presence we have become inseparable companions. I first tasted the delicious, life sustaining Fruit of the Spirit in my mom.

Mom embodies love. Hers is the love that most looks like Jesus to me. Through my ages, I leveled offensives at her, wrestled against all her wise restraints and even denied her love. And yet, in the darkest moments, her voice was calm and clear. Her voice ensured a future, a future encased in ceaseless prayers. When the light returned, from sliver to full day, she is still here, a confidant, a cheerleader, a voice of wisdom, undeterred love.

Joy! That would be my sister Rachelle. From her birth, I christened her, “Sunshine.” Nothing dims the radiance of Christ-life in her. She is infectious and real. Even her tears illicit a smile and resurrect courage.

My sweet sister Jennifer. Though it isn’t specifically a Fruit of the Spirit, it is Joy’s identical twin. Her passion for life, mesmerizes me and energizes me. In her I learn to press on, to finish the race, to strive.

Peace is my Grandmother. In 33 years, I have never heard her raise her voice. Her entrance settles the atmosphere of room to, “as it should be.” When Granddad passed away a couple years ago, her hurt must have gone deeper than anyone else’s. Yet, even then, she portrayed a calm, assertive, hope-filled peace.

Patience, that is Nanny, my adopted over-90-year-old grandmother. When I met her she warned me not to expect her to hang around too long. She was on her way to meet Jesus. But Jesus has seen fit to let her linger on earth, birthing and feeding the generation behind her.

Kindness. When my sister, Kelsey was little, she could throw tantrums five times her berth. I wondered if my parents had named her wrong. Kelsey means, “refuge, like a harbor, quiet waters.” She filled out her name. Mercy oozes from Kelsey’s pores. Tenderness, kindness and compassion are her signatures.

Goodness, is Tina. The face-to-face aspect of our friendship will be fleeting. Soon, my husband and I will move on to a new duty station, and her life will remain here with her family. But in the gifted days I’ve had with her, I have relished her goodness.

Faithfulness is, Dana S. When hell clutched at the heart of her marriage, God gave her a double portion of faithfulness. In her I have learned the humility and strength, twin foundations of faithfulness.

Gentleness. She might not even remember my name, but when I was little, my friend Grace’s mother let us loose in her home many afternoons. Even then, I marveled at her soft-spoken gentleness and its quiet power.

Self-Control. She wouldn’t believe me to hear me say it, she is far to humble and blind to her own graces. Beth has so many dreams, so many plans, so many places she wants to be and ministries she longs to start. At the moment, God has placed a loving hand on her shoulder and said, “Wait.” And now waiting seems like it’s been forever. But she is growing in self-control and her meekness to learn at the feet of Jesus is precious to me.

Time and space fail me to name all those women I consider to be my Spiritual Midwives and Patron Saints, but this is a start.

I thank my God every time I remember you.