Listening For Footsteps

Ever feel like a spiritual ant?

I’ve been swimming in theology lately, neck-deep in books by historical and modern spiritual greats: A.W. Tozer, Dallas Willard and Brother Lawrence. And I’m learning, I’m learning just how far I’ve yet to go, or better said, how deep I’ve yet to fall into Jesus.

Though I’ve called Jesus “Savior” for 28 years and spent time in His Word, attended church, even taught and written Bible studies, apparently, there are infinitely more levels of relationship with this, our Awesome, Amazing, Unparalleled, Personal God. “Who on earth is a god like you?” (Exodus 15:11)

Brother Lawrence’s book, Practicing His Presence, is the most revealing title of the books I’m reading. It sums up the monstrous concept I’m trying to grasp, the overwhelming experience I’m desperate to have.

We’ve had an unusually white winter here in Tennessee and just in the last 48 hours has the sun decided not only to grace us with her light and warmth, but to evoke gratitude in the hearts of us People of the Cross.

“He gives snow like wool; he scatters frost like ashes. He hurls down his crystals of ice like crumbs; who can stand before his cold? He sends out his word, and melts them; he makes his wind blow and the waters flow.” Psalm 147:16-18

As I tip-toed over the rivers of melting snow in the church parking lot, I suddenly caught a momentary glimpse of His presence. It was in the world around me, in the collision of His Word in my heart during morning devotions and His beauty in the world around me—His own Word melting the snow, creating the wind, sweeping away the puddles.

It was glorious! In a split second, I knew that I wanted to dwell in this presence constantly. I wondered, “What must I do to feel this all the time?”

I would say this presence lingered, but more accurately, I was rapt. I could not, or would not, walk away. In meditation, and digesting the wisdom of the aforementioned authors, I’m coming to understand how my prayers must change, my reading of God’s Word must change. If I want this new and deeper relationship with my Father, I must approach Him differently, meet Him in a different way and be prepared to walk with Him farther—out of my comfort zone and familiar disciplines.

I want to feel Jesus. I am tired of mere intellectual study and measured application of His Word. I am tired of praying: “Show me what you want me to do! Let me see what you have to say to me in your Word! How does this apply to me? Help me to see myself as you see me!”

I want to ask different questions. I want hear more than an answer, and enough about me already! I need this relationship to go beyond long-distance communication. I want to go beyond words, beyond hearing, to engaging God with all my senses—experiencing, practicing His presence.

I hear Jesus asking me: “What if you look into my eyes and not simply out from them? What if you pray and read the Bible not only for instruction on life and solution to problems, but instead you look into it to see me—stop looking for what I have to say to you and start looking at me personally?

If you listen for me and not only to me, perhaps you will hear me walking right beside you. Instead of only hearing my voice, you will hear my footsteps. “

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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. 

LASTing Peace, Beyond Belief, Week 3c

Guess what? After this week, we’re halfway through our six-week study together. If you haven’t picked up your copy of the book, [http://www.amazon.com/Beyond-Belief-Jesus-Saved-What/dp/1632131145/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1436633987&sr=8-1&keywords=beyond+belief+abby+kelly] it’s not too late. You can watch these videos at your leisure and do the study at your own pace. And of course, I’d love to dialogue with you about it here, on Facebook [https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=506106005] or on my blog: http://www.predatory-lies.com.

Book Review: Redeemed, Embracing a Transformed Life

The word, “transformation” might conjure up radio jingles for child behavioral programs, total body makeovers, weight loss goals and biological processes like metamorphosis. Many of us who grew up in comfortable, Christian homes don’t often think about the transformation that begins within us the moment we accept Christ as our Savior. We are in danger of being inattentive to the ongoing change, the ever increasing glory that God wants us to enjoy and our lives to display.

“But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit.”
1 Corinthians 3:18

Redeemed! Embracing a Transformed Life, by Kerry Clarensau, takes readers past the surface expectations of a cultural Christian, and invites them to discover, accept, experience and rejoice in the newness of life God designed for them. Through memorable anecdotes, probing questions and a structure that encourages group participation, Clarensau leads her readers to see their past and present as God’s way of lovingly transforming them into the image of His Son. She frames even painful situations in such a way as to highlight God’s promises of good to those who love Him, and that He has a future and a hope for each one. (Romans 8:28, Jeremiah 29:11)

At first glance, the book looks formidable. Hardcover with a thick spine and attached ribbon bookmark, I didn’t expect it to be a light read or an in depth Bible study with application questions and space to journal about my transformation. I got both!

The book is designed as a six week study. Each of the six chapters addresses a specific area of life that God is in the process of renewing in every believer. Clarensau begins by explaining the need for transformation, God’s means of effecting it, and then offers specific strategies to cooperate with God’s work in us. A set of group discussion questions is next, followed by five days of personal study using Scripture references and prompts for journaling. The book includes two appendices with dozens of carefully selected Scriptures on the sufficiency of Christ and developing healthy relationships.

I did not use this book in a group setting but it spoke to me very personally, specifically the chapter on transforming our perspective. Clarensau’s listed strategies, while not wholly new to me, were a timely encouragement to see my present circumstances from God’s perspective.

No one who reads this book will escape without having their faith strengthened, their hearts challenged to stretch and grow, and their spirits quickened to pursue Christ-likeness. Clarensau’s humility combined with bold instruction make this book a valuable tool for every Christian who desires to run with endurance the race set before [them] fixing [their] eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of [their] faith.
(Hebrews 12:2)