Life Lately – April 2018

Now that it’s April, I’m finally setting my New Year’s goals. But before you think I’m a horrible procrastinator, let me confess that I did set one goal back in January — to put off goal-setting until my latest grad class was complete. I knew that planning and dreaming would either distract me from my studies, or cause frustration at not being able to accomplish anything other than school.

I missed reading for fun, lettering every day, and pursuing my long-term goals. But my class finished last month, and after a few weeks of relaxing and traveling for deputation meetings, I’m back in the saddle again (metaphorically speaking, of course).

Here’s Life Lately, now that I’m temporarily free from the school-master. 😉

Life Lately

What I’ve Been Doing . . . 

Traveling. We just got back from another round of deputation meetings, this time in Alabama and South Carolina. The meetings were good, but the pollen and humidity was not! I am very happy to be back in the green desert of Wyoming, even if I’m looking out the window at snow flurries right now. [PS. If you want to follow our ministry journey in more detail — and get to know our mascot, Barnabas Bison (seen below) — visit ASteadfastFaith.org.]

Barnabas Bison, the mascot of A Steadfast Faith

Writing. Now that my class is over, I’ve finally resumed working on my next book. It considers how Proverbs directs our use of social media — a timely message for our selfie-obsessed world! It’s a devotional-style book that includes phrase-by-phrase interpretation of specifically relevant Proverbs, clear application to social media usage, and thought-provoking reflection questions. I’m finally shifting from the research stage to the drafting stage, and am hoping to make some serious progress this month!

Blogging. I’ve also had some time recently to write a few articles for the Weaving Influence site about social media tools and tips. While we primarily work with business authors and thought leaders, if you have any sort of social media platform (for a book, art products, ministry, etc), you might find these tips helpful:

Brush Lettering. As much as I love creative lettering, my brush-pen skills are embarrassing, and one of my goals for this year is to master it . . . or at least get a whole lot more competent at it! They say the key to improving is practice, practice, practice — so last month I joined a 30-day challenge for brush lettering drills. I couldn’t keep up with it while were gone, but I’m jumping back in now that we’re home and am hoping to see some progress over the next few weeks!

#ShowMeYourDrills

Reading . . .

Church History. My fascination with the history of Christianity continues to grow, and I can’t read enough about it. Last month, I went searching for some blogs on the topic and found a few interesting ones. My favorite right now is Christian History Institute: It Happened Today. Their version of “this day in history” offers bite-size introductions to notable people and events throughout church history, and is a great way to get familiar with more of the names and movements in our religious history.

Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert, by Rosaria ButterfieldThe Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert — by Rosaria Butterfield. Written by a woman who formerly held a tenured position at a very liberal university, it follows her journey from a lesbianism to Christianity. While her story was interesting for its own sake, I found it very helpful as a resource for considering how to share Christ with those who identify as homosexual, as well as how to encourage them in Christlike living after they’ve trusted Christ. She shares a strong example of the pastor who first reached out to her, simply to build a conversation around the Bible as literature; and how his loving approach of hospitality, humility, and honesty encouraged her to consider the clash of worldviews and the idea of repentance. She wasn’t changed overnight, and she still had a long journey to overcome sinful habits, but she shares how she worked through those things to become an active member of a thriving gospel-focused church. It’s a very moving account of God’s power to transform lives with the gospel! (Note: while she deals with topics of a private nature, it’s very tastefully done and nowhere does she divulge graphic details of any sort.) If you like memoirs or want to learn more about counseling those ensnared in homosexuality, I highly recommend it! Find it on Goodreads or Amazon (affiliate link).

The Christian's Work of Dying Daily, by John OwenThe Christian’s Work of Dying Daily — by John Owen. This short book was a bit different than I expected. For one thing, I’ve heard how challenging John Owen’s works can be to read, but this was very easy to read, possibly because it was transcribed from sermons rather than written as an original work. But it also developed the main theme in a different direction than I expected. With a title phrase like “Dying Daily,” I thought it would speak to the Christian’s need for denying self, dying to our own desires and will on a daily basis. Instead, he focused on the idea of daily preparing to die — being ready and willing to meet God in every way. Once I got past those misconceptions, I found it a helpful consideration of what death means for a Christian, how we should face it, and what God accomplishes through the death of His saints. It’s wise to meditate on that every so often, even just as a reminder of how fleeting this life can be. We must be at work preparing our souls for eternity! You could easily read through each of its three sermons in an hour, or break it up across several days as part of your daily devotions. Read my full review on Goodreads or buy it on Amazon (affiliate link).

50 Core Truths of the Christian Faith, by Gregg Allison50 Core Truths of the Christian Faith — by Gregg Allison. This is a helpful guide for teaching or preaching through the core doctrines of the faith, intended for those who already have a basic grasp of systematic theology. Each major doctrine is broken up into multiple chapters, just as you’d find in any class or textbook on the topic. Each chapter includes the main themes of that topic, key Scripture passages, a multi-page textual explanation that includes both biblical affirmations and major errors to be avoided, a brief section with tips for teaching that particular doctrine, along with a suggested outline, and a few key resources for further study (mostly longer, more academic theology books). Each chapter also includs a helpful list of “perennial questions and problematic issues” — i.e., speculative questions or things that even the greatest theologians don’t have a unified answer to (such as the origin of the soul, or the problem of evil). While it’s more of a resource to consult as needed, rather than a book to sit down and read through, I did work through the first 7 chapters on the doctrine of God’s Word (i.e., bibliology) as part of my devotions, looking up the key passages and writing out how they relate to understanding the nature and purpose of Scripture. It was a fruitful study, but I was also coming at it fresh from a grad class in theology — it could be harder to grasp the intricacies of each doctrine if you’ve never done much reading on those topics. But for those who have a foundational knowledge of core doctrines of the faith, it is an invaluable at-a-glance resource for teaching or ministry — especially if you just need a quick refresher on some aspect of the doctrine, such as key passages or a basic outline overview. I’d recommend it to anyone who might have opportunity to teach or write about theology in the future! Disclaimer: I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review. Find it on Goodreads or Amazon (affiliate link).

Missions: How the Local Church Goes Global, by Andy JohnsonMissions: How the Local Church Goes Global — by Andy Johnson. This book is for those interested in supporting or serving missionaries. It’s a resource that would be especially helpful for those in church leadership positions, as they consider how to spend missions funds and how to effectively partner with missionaries for maximum helpfulness to both the individuals as well as the field itself. It covers topics like the biblical definition of “missionary,” the need to reform our perspective of short-term missions, what a healthy missions partnership looks like, and the wisdom of making long-term investments in missionaries or certain fields. As a church-planting missionary, I found myself heartily agreeing with its suggestions for improving church-missionary partnerships. Too many churches do nothing more than send a monthly check and share recent newsletters with the congregation; but both the missionary and the church would be better served by a long-term relationship based on accountability, humble service, and sacrificial support. Missionaries are often without supervision on the field, and they would be helped so much by godly pastors or church leaders who would commit to regular communication and visits, loving accountability, and helpful gifts of time or money (as determined by what the mission field needs, not by what the church wants to give). If you’re not a church leader, but are interested in learning more about how to support missionaries as a family, this book could also be helpful in forming a more biblically-informed missions mindset. And if you’re already a missionary, you might appreciate skimming through it for ideas of how to more effectively communicate with churches and pastors about your needs on the field. Disclaimer: I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review. Find it on Goodreads or Amazon (affiliate link). 

Pondering . . . 

Book anniversaries. This spring marks FIVE YEARS since my first book was published! It’s hard to believe Touching the Hem has been out in the world that long! If you haven’t gotten around to reading it yet . . . or you’ve read it, but never reviewed it . . . would you consider working through it over the next month, then sharing a brief review on Amazon? I still think it’s such an encouraging message of hope for those dealing with chronic illness or life-changing injuries, and I would love to hear how it’s helped you!

The purpose of studying theology. I’m amazed at how two semesters of systematic theology has helped increase my understanding of God’s Word, and am wondering if studying biblical and historical theology would do the same. I’m considering doing a short series here on the blog about the major types of theology and why they’re important for us to learn, along with a few key resources for each. Sound interesting?

 

Your turn! What have you been doing, reading, or pondering lately?

 

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