Book Review: Beyond Head Knowledge: knowing Christ who satisfies our hearts

For anyone who, in their personal relationship with Christ, struggled to know how to reach beyond just the knowing of Christ and the teachings of His Word in their minds; for anyone whose spirit resonates with a longing that there is something deeper, something more complete that what have learned of Christ and His desire to give them an abundant life now; for anyone who loves Jesus but is buckling under the weight of religious oppression and desires freedom from that burden; Naomi Fata’s book, beyond Head Knowledge; knowing Christ who satisfies our hearts is for you!

From a first hand account, Naomi shares her personal struggle with going beyond head knowledge.  Not the head knowledge of a religious intellectual, but the head knowledge of a child of God.  She had a committed, personal relationship with Christ and longed to know and experience the lasting peace, the abundant life that Jesus promised to his people, yet she seemed to fall short of that.  How many of us have been there?  How many of us have dug into our Bibles, memorized the Word, loved the Word, loved our Savior yet somehow still felt shackled in the bonds of a religious relationship with Christ instead of an intimate heart changing relationship where we become one with Him in spirit?  I can raise my hand, and say, “That’s me!”, to every one of those questions!

With a tenderness that only comes from first hand struggle, and a boldness of one who desires to see those in the same captivity from which she has found freedom, Naomi offers, not just inspiration but real, working principles that make knowing Christ in one’ s heart a deep reality!  She understands that many of us who know Him as Savior and strive to follow Him as Lord, struggle with the truth of who He really is for us and who we truly are in Him because she has walked that very road.

With chapters that tenderly, but progressively challenge the thought processes of the reader and simplistic but deep Life Application Questions at the end of each chapter, Naomi assists us in walking the road she paved with her own struggle to greater freedom in truly knowing the Christ of our hearts!  I saw so much of my own struggles on these pages!  The Life Application Questions challenged me to change my perspective and the author offers practical help to assist in making sure the changes last!

I encourage anyone who has struggled with religious teachings, a mindset that is more in bondage than free in Christ, to take a chance on this book!  I think you will find tender truths tucked in these pages that will help you to move beyond just head knowledge!

I received this book free from the publisher, Ambassador International, for review.  Below is a link you  may click on to take you to the book’s page on their website.  Other than the free book, I do not receive any type of compensation for my reviews or for any links that you may click on here.  Thanks for taking the time to read my review!  

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http://ambassador-international.com/books/beyond-head-knowledge-knowing-christ-satisfies-hearts.

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Book Review: Declutter Now! Study Guide

I recently finished reading through Declutter Now! Study Guide 8 weeks to Uncovering the Hidden Joy and Freedom in Your Life by Lindon and Sherry Gareis. Published by Ambassador International. I received this book free from the publisher for review.

The title quickly grabbed my attention because I am not a very organized person! I like to refer to myself as “organizationally challenged” but that’s just a euphemism for the reality that I am a not an organized or neat person! To be fair in this review I have to let you know that I have not read the companion book by the Gareis’. When I picked this title to review for Ambassador, I didn’t realize it was only a study guide. That is, however, clearly stated on the book’s cover!

After going through the study guide, my appetite was definitely whetted for the actual book. I was able to go through the study guide and understand, work through and apply certain basic principles, but without the full benefits of the encouragement and information provided in the companion book. My hope is to purchase the book and do the full study!

I love the way the authors approach “decluttering” in addressing the whole person and not just our “stuff”. They take aim at the heart of the issues which people who are in bondage to cluttered lifestyles battle and they provide strategies for breaking free. They approach the whole person, spirit, mind, body and environment. I appreciate that. They don’t belittle those of us who are “organizationally challenged”. With empathy and a desire to see people restored to the freedom that simplicity and organization brings to a person’s life, they handle topics like relationships, debt, children etc. And they have a solid biblical foundation as a springboard.

If you struggle with clutter, whether it is external clutter or internal clutter, and long to simplify your life, I would recommend purchasing the Gareis’ book and study guide to help you in your journey towards freedom and simplicity.

If you would like more information about this book, I encourage you to click on the link below. It will take you to the book’s page on Ambassador International’s website. http://ambassador-international.com/books/declutter-now-study-guide-8-weeks-uncovering-hidden-joy-freedom-life/

Coming Soon

No this isn’t a rapture post…………I just wanted to let you know that “coming soon” will be posts on my blog titled Book Reviews.  I am in the process of setting it up now.  I review adult non-fiction books for Ambassador International and will write my reviews on this blog to share with my readers.  I will also include reviews of books written by fellow author friends of mine, and various other books that I am reading. The books that I review for Ambassador International are provided to me for free by the publisher. I will include links to the book’s page on the publisher’s website. I don’t receive any financial compensation for the book reviews or the clicks on the various links provided.  Thanks for following my blog, for giving ear to my musings about faith, life and God’s grace.  

“Don’t make me come down there” God —–Seriously?

My husband and I were driving the other day and we passed a local church’s sign.  I’m a quote junkie so I always read the quotes that churches or business post on their marquees.  This particular day the quote I saw caused me to do a triple take before we passed it, my jaw agape at what I just read. I looked at my husband, who by the look on my face could tell another car ride, soapbox sermon was on the way.  Pray for this man!

It took me a moment to actually speak as I mulled the words over in my head trying to make some sense of them from a theological standpoint or from a general standpoint before I spoke.  Alas, I could not!  So, I finally said, “Did you read that?, Seriously, did you just read that!?”  I try being careful before I comment on such things making sure it isn’t a reflex keenly developed from years of legalistic abuses under the guise of Christianity.  I am very sensitive in that area, but then again I guess Jesus was as well.

So, this is what the sign said, “Don’t make me come down there.  God”  SERIOUSLY?  Before you say that I am overreacting let me mention that I “get” the possible reasons people say or post statements like that.  I don’t think these people meant any harm by it, but I also don’t think that a lot of critical thought went into it.  It seemed like a really catchy thing to put out there on the highway to make people think.  My question was, “Exactly what are you trying to make people think?”  Words were put into the mouth of God, words I am not certain, no, I am certain that have no accurate representation of God.  We as His people must be so careful with the words and attitudes that we attribute to Him.

So, rather than get on that soapbox and speak out of emotionalism, let me just share with you some basic thoughts from a theological standpoint about the “Don’t make me come down there,  God.” quote.  First, we can’t make God do anything.  This is a type of what Dave Orrison, on his blog: graceformyheart.wordpress.com, calls “Formula Theology”.  I recommend taking some time to read his post and follow his blog!  It’s as if we have some power in our sinfulness, or in our holiness to make God do something horrific or wonderful.  God chose to provide a way for mankind to get out of the captivity of sin, not because man is so darn sinful, but because God is so incredibly grace-full!  Our sinfulness has no power over God’s sovereignty and cannot make Him choose to do anything.

Next, if we just think this through simply.  God has already come down here, not because of our badness, but because of His goodness.  He came down here in the person of Jesus Christ!  And with his human mouth, he said that he didn’t come for the healthy but for the sick, not to condemn them but that THE WORLD THROUGH HIM MIGHT BE SAVED!  He walked this earth bringing a form of relationship to God with Him that man didn’t know was possible to have with the God of the universe.  In the religious mindset of that day, and sadly of our day as well, the people of God were taught that one couldn’t hope for a real and personal relationship with God as a Father.  Jesus said, “I and the Father are one.”  and for that, the religious leaders of the day labeled him a blasphemer and heretic.  He told his disciples that because they had seen Him, they had seen the Father.  Pretty amazing!  God right there walking among them, not condemning the sinful masses, but healing them, playing with their children, eating with them, crying with them and for them, and somehow those closest to him totally missed seeing and knowing God.

Why?  Why did they miss God among them?  How could they miss this God that they had spent their religious lives worshiping at the synagogue? How could they miss the Messiah they spent their lives learning of through the hundreds of prophecies written in their Torah?  They missed Him because the religious legalists of the day (the Bible calls them Pharisees and Sadducees, Jesus called them a brood of vipers………) propagated their interpretation of God’s character. They missed the real Messiah because of the words these religious leaders put into God’s mouth.  “Don’t make him come down here, sinful people!”    They were so scared into religion that they somehow missed the point of why God created man: RELATIONSHIP!!  God didn’t create man because of some need that He had for man to worship Him. He is God, He doesn’t lack for anything!  Remember, the Bible clearly states that even the rocks will cry out and praise Him.  We’re also told, in the Psalms, that all of creation sings His praises.  He didn’t need another created being to do that.  What He desired was a relationship with a being that had exercised his free will to love and worship his Creator. How awesome is that?!

And finally, although Jesus has ascended into heaven, God sent His Spirit, the Holy Spirit to indwell His people.  We are His temple, we are a royal priesthood, a holy nation, joint heirs with Christ.  We are to manifest the nature of God on earth as a people so closely resembling our brother, Jesus Christ (again that is what Jesus calls us), that those who aren’t part of our family desire to come to relationship with God through the saving work of Christ and become His brothers as well as ours!   God did come down here! In the person of Jesus, He pitched His tent and walked among us 2000 years ago. I thank God that He still walks among us today in a people who desire to love like He did, to minister hope and healing as He did; to bear an uncanny likeness to our Father, just like He did!  I have seen God down here!  I have seen Him in the faithful and tenacious love of my husband; the comforting embrace of a friend; the words of my pastor; the goodness of His people when I have been in need, in the laughter of one of my boys.  I have seen Him down here binding up the brokenhearted, clothing the naked, feeding the hungry and freeing the captives!  God is love and when we love like He commanded us to love, the very manifestation of Who He is comes to life!

So, as for me I must say, “Thank you, Father in heaven, that you did decide to come down here for sinful man!  Thank you for leading by example through the life of my Savior, Jesus Christ!  Thank you for empowering your church to make sure that you stay down here ministering Your love through us so that all will see and believe!  I am so glad you came!”

The Question

Today is the day that Christians around the world will celebrate the Resurrection of our Savior, Jesus Christ!  This is a day of celebration, a day of triumph!  Hallelujah, Christ has risen!  We may dye eggs, give our children chocolate bunnies and other treats, share a family meal and  go to church, even if we don’t attend any other time of year. There is no question that Easter is sacred to believers in Christ.  There is no question that the Easter message that will be preached today will speak of His power and His love for each of us.  And though the traditions and aspects of our services may differ, one thing that will cut across denominational lines is the message of Christ the Lord has risen today!

In many services, the pastor will ask a whether anyone wants to accept and receive Christ as their personal Lord and Savior.  That question will be posed in different ways, accompanied by different traditions, but that question will resound off the walls of  churches worldwide this Easter morn. It is an important question, it is a necessary question and one we were commanded to ask when we were told to go into the world and preach the good news of Christ.

But, there is a question that supersedes the one mentioned above.  It is a question that God began asking the moment He breathed life into lifeless Adam.  It is a question He has been asking since He told Noah to build an ark in the middle of the desert; since He called a stuttering, ex-prince, murderer-on-the-run, goat farmer named Moses to lead his people out of slavery; a question He asked as those same people stood staring down an impossible dilemma: the Red Sea in their faces, Pharaoh’s army breathing down their necks.  In every story, in every page of His Word penned for His children, there is one question quietly rustling under the surface:

“Do you TRUST my love?”

It is asked to every life given breath by Him; to every person faced with decisions, dilemmas, and impossible situations; to each of His children who have been served the injustices of this world, whose lives have been scarred by evil, who pray and cry out and feel alone, afraid, confused; to everyone who is praying and waiting for an answer, a breakthrough, or has received His “No” or His “go’ or His “stay” and that wasn’t the answer they  wanted to hear; to every lost sinner looking for a savior and trying to find it in themselves, their drink, their drug, their newest lover, the same question is posed. To every one of God’s children: the faithful, the wanderers, the rebels, the ones who have yet to come to the Father.

This question resounds and echoes off the walls of each human heart:
“Do you trust My love?”  “Child, do you TRUST my love?”

There are only two answers, check “yes” or “no”. Either we do, or we don’t. There is no maybe. There isn’t a third box to check, because “maybe” is just “no” cloaked in the garb of euphemism. Do you trust His love? Check “yes” or “no”.

When faced with something that just hurts, that just doesn’t make sense, how often do we rail at God and shake our fist toward Him in heaven?  I’ve been there, done that, although it pains me to admit it.  Yet, He gently whispers the same question, “Child, do you trust MY LOVE?”  Then He points me to a rugged, bloodstained cross that reminds me He gave everything and became every evil, experienced all hopelessness and the wrath of God so that I wouldn’t have to.  “Do you trust My love?”, He asks again.

Tenderly He draws my mind to the scripture that says, “And while we were yet sinners Christ died for the ungodly.” My heart thrums loudly in my chest as this truth takes hold of my heart, I am take aback at how much He trusted His love for me. At how much He trusted His love for all of rebellious and helpless humanity long before we had anything to offer Him.

Then, He turns my gaze to a rocky tomb.  I peer inside and find it EMPTY!  There was no power in Hell, no gravitational force in all the universe that could hold my Savior in the ground.  He came back for ME!  His love couldn’t be killed on a cross, buried in a tomb or trapped in Hell.  His love broke every chain for me.  He trusted His love for me, for each one of us enough to bleed, die, endure separation from His Father in Heaven, and spend three days in Hell!

So, as I face the dilemmas and heartaches and injustices of this life I have a choice.  I can face them with strength knowing that my God is a good God and that He has proven, without a doubt, that His love is trustworthy.  Or, I can get angry, depressed and choose to doubt a love that has already proven itself to me over and over again.

This Easter, I pray that you will find a quiet moment to spend with your Savior, the Lover of your soul, and listen when He asks, “Child, do you trust MY LOVE”  My hope, and my prayer is that as He adjusts your gaze to the cross, the grave, and the empty tomb your only response will be, “Yes, Jesus!  I trust Your LOVE!

Happy Easter!

Answer Back

A lot of crazy things are going on in this world!  Crazier than usual, is what most of us think.  It seems that everywhere I go people are discussing the latest antics of Mother Nature, especially here in the deep South!  In the same week that we had the freakish deep freeze of February, we had an earthquake!  Seriously!  And, the epicenter of that earthquake was almost directly under our house. Seriously!

What was interesting is that everywhere I went in the days that followed people were saying things like: “Guess God’s trying to tell us something!’,  “God must be trying to get our attention” or “This is God’s way of telling us He is sick and tired of the way we’ve rebelled against Him” or, “Yep, I knew we were on this road when they took prayer out of public school.  Guess God is letting us know what He has in store for this wicked nation.”  I listened and wished I had some clever answer-back, but I never said a word.  However, a thought kept running through my mind, “Is this how people see You, Father?  As an angry, fed-up, I’m- going- to -squish- you -evil- people-now kind of God?”  It made me think of the famous sermon of Jonathan Edwards back in the eighteen century, “Sinners in the Hand of an Angry God”  I’ve never read his sermon, but that phrase seemed to fit what most “good church folk” and non-church folk seemed to feel was the response of God to the wayward designs of an evil world.  But I couldn’t help asking Him, “Is this really your answer back, Father?”

Then, I thought of that phrase, “answer back”.  It’s a term that many athletes and coaches use to encourage their players after the opposing team scores.  I used it with my J.V. softball girls when it was our turn at bat and we were down by several runs.  As one of my girls would tentatively approach the plate, bat in hand, I would yell, “Remember, you are in control up there.  This is your time to answer back!  Tell them you’re a hitter!”  So, I truly wondered if all of these natural disasters, freaky weather anomalies, and horrific wars were God’s answer back to tell us Who was really in control, to tell us Who He really is?

And as I mused over this question with my Heavenly Father, one word was softly whispered into my heart, “Jesus”.  Wow! One simple word after my seriously large questions about the character and intent of my God.  And not just my questions, but all of the statements being made all over the world that say something about the very nature and character of the God that I love, and all He replied in His answer back was one, little word: “Jesus”.

I wanted some deep, godly theological answer that connected a bunch of scriptures together so I could feel smart and ready the next time somebody made an unqualified statement about my Father. “Jesus, really?” I asked.  “Yes, REALLY” came His no-nonsense reply.  Then I smiled.  It made perfect sense!

God’s answer back to humanity’s evil and depravity came in the form of a tiny, helpless babe born to a willing, young couple 2000 years ago.  His answer back to, “are you mad at us, God?”  His answer back to, “Are we sinners in the hands of an angry God?” came in the softest cries of a tiny babe in a manger in Bethlehem.  And His answer back to man’s sinful ways continued to echo through the hands of that baby as he grew into manhood and walked this earth speaking forgiveness and peace; touching blind eyes and leper’s skin; holding children; eating with tax collectors and sinners; granting pardon to a prostitute; loving with the heart of His Father and living out that love in every word, in every deed, everywhere He went!

How many thousands of people were drawn to God, not by the Pharisee’s decrees and demands which they claimed were the voice and intent of God, but by the tender touch of a carpenter’s son from a no-account town called Nazareth? Remember that the Jews of Jesus’ day were expecting God’s answer back to be a warrior messiah who would eradicate the Roman empire and make the Jews rulers in His earthly kingdom because they made a presumption about the character of God that fit their itinerary and desires.  Are we guilty of the same thing? And how many of God’s chosen people missed His true intention, His true character because they assumed He was going to do something that He never intended on doing?

If God is a God of doom and gloom, who in the world would really want to give him their heart?  What has any ruler ever really wrought by ruling from a platform of fear?  Who would really be drawn to live a life of devotion and love to a god they were afraid of?  Who could trust the “love” of a God that was just waiting to squish them when he was tired of their evil ways?  Besides, if I read my Bible correctly, it was God’s idea to place my sentence to be squished on the shoulder’s of His one and only Son.  The beating that Jesus endured, the nails, the crown of thorns, God’s wrath against man’s sin, God’s silence those 6 hours that day 2000 years ago, that was His answer back to my sin.  That was God’s answer back to all of the world’s sin! Christ satisfied God’s wrath once and for all, we are told in the scriptures. Paid in full!  Remember Jesus’ words on the cross before he gave up his spirit,  he uttered, “It is FINISHED!”  Not, “This is step one, but there’s more of God’s wrath to come.”

And, when all of hell rejoiced at the death of the One who was to be the Savior of all mankind, God had an answer back for that too! He said, “Arise, my Son!”  Christ arose in power, glory, and victory!  And that was God’s answer back to us as well.  Telling each of us who receive His love through Christ as Savior that in Him we are imbued with power, glory, and victory!  We are heirs with Christ, not peons about to be decimated!  And this is the message He wants us to take to the world who is afraid that they are just sinners in the hands of an angry God.

And, didn’t he say that all the world would know who we, His children were, not by being extensions of doom and gloom and the wrath of God, but by LOVE!  “And all the world will know that you are my disciples if you love one another.”  His LOVE, through US is what the world should be talking about. We should be loving so deeply, so crazy that that is what grabs the attention of the media, the cashiers at Walmart or the gas station attendants.  But, instead it’s, “Can you believe this crazy weather?  Guess God’s trying to tell us to get our act together!”

If Jesus was God’s answer back to the problem of sin, and we are the image of Jesus right here in this chaotic, mixed up world, then I guess it’s up to each of us to make sure that we are a true and accurate answer back to the world’s questions about the nature of our Father.

An introduction

My hope for this blog is that it will provide encouragement and refreshment to many of my fellow travellers on life’s journey! Most of my musings are the result of first hand life experiences. I can’t remember who said it, but I am inclined to agree: “Experience is a hard teacher because the test comes first and the lesson comes later.”

Oh that we could learn the deep lessons of life; the deep truths of God’s word and His unyielding love through tender and easy times. If you are like me, although you have had tender and joyous times, most of the things you have learned that are deeply engraved in your heart come from the bitter trials or the intense periods of questioning where God seems to be silent on a certain matter.

Something that I have learned, that I have to remind myself of in those times is this: God may speak quietly but He is never silent! All creations speaks of the qualites inherent in our Sovereign God, from His love, as tender as a newborn lamb, and just as a tenacious as a mother lion protecting its’ cubs! It speaks of His wonderful sense of humor, as whimsical as the weedy Sea Dragon and as spontaneous as the puppy who chases it’s tail. And, of His faithfulness, as constant as the sunrise every morning, as relentless as the driving Springtime rain.

My friend, He may be quiet in the storms and struggles of your life right now, but He is not silent. He speaks of Himself not only in His Word, but in all of His creation, including you and me!

So, come here and sit a while. Share with me your questions, lessons and your own musings! I hope you will find a fellow journeyman who is learning to match the cadence of her steps to the rythym of His grace in the quiet times, in the joyful celebrations and in the midst of the storm! We can travel this road together.