The first book that I would like to meet with you about is entitled "Not Yet Married" by Marshall Segal (MDiv, Bethlehem College & Seminary), who serves as staff writer and managing editor at Desiring God.
"Life is never mainly about love and marriage. So learn to live and date for more. Many of you grew up assuming that marriage would meet all of your needs and unlock God's purposes for you. But God has far more planned for you than your future marriage. Not Yet Married is not about waiting quietly in the corner of the world for God to bring you "the one", but about inspiring you to live and date for more now. If you follow Jesus, the search for a spouse is no longer a pursuit of the perfect person, but a pursuit of more of God. He will likely write a love story for you different that the one you would write for yourself, but that's because he loves you and knows how to write a better story. This book was written to help you find real hope, happiness, and purpose in your not-yet-married life." -author's note, back cover
To begin with, I was drawn to this book primarily because I have recognized that I have a desire to be married one day. I desire to be a husband, to be on mission in the world as a married couple, to experience the particular aid a wife can bring in my sanctification, have someone to chase Christ-likeness with, and to encounter the joy and challenges that come with displaying a picture of Christ's love for His bride. These things being said, marriage has been a severe idol in my heart. For a significant portion of time, I had difficulty imagining life without it. I had made the rest of my adult life about securing this idol called marriage and centering everything else in life around it. I had made life about the prospect and gift of marriage. I had believed (and am recovering from believing!) that marriage would meet all of my needs, instead of believing that God would do this and already does this. "Not Yet Married" was very helpful to me personally because it exposed the "idol factory" that is my heart and peeled back the layers on something good that I unhealthily wanted. Over the past several months, it became clear that I was in danger of pining my singleness away, missing the gift of this season, and many of the great opportunities that can come from the time when you are not yet married.
It was also helpful to read this book in light of Mr. Segal's heart for marriage. Though married now, he mentions how he "wanted to be married long before I could even drive." (Segal 15) and "From far too young, I longed for the affection, safety, and intimacy I anticipated with a wife", which led Him to dating too early, staying in relationships too long, experimenting too much with other's hearts, and hurting those whom he tried to date along the way.
His description of the book was exactly what I was looking for: "This is a book for not-yet-married people that's not mainly about marriage, or even dating. I set out to write a book for not-yet-married men and women about God and about our role in his world. Instead of being mainly about do's and don'ts and not yets, this book is meant to inspire and deploy single you with what God has for you now" (Segal, 17).
This was when things began to click in my mind regarding my singleness. I read familiar verses in God's Word differently, such as "So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God" (1 Corinthians 10:31) which I could now affirm and say that whether I am single or married, I can do all to the glory of God. My calling to "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you" (Matthew 28:18-20) still gloriously and happily applies! I was able to step back and say that instead of spending my singleness wanting it to be over and impatiently anticipating marriage, I was free to spend it serving Jesus! I can spend it discipling and pouring into younger men. I can spend it meeting with older men and gaining wisdom and counsel from them. I can grow in learning how to glorify God in my job and vocation. I can go on this mission trip. I can spend this night studying Habakkuk or Micah. I can volunteer my time and money differently. I can grow in my love for Jesus, for His Word, and in my love for and service to His Bride, the church!
As I read further, it became clear that "Not Yet Married" was about what all of life should be about - glorifying and loving God in all things and enjoying Him forever. I can joyfully say that I love this book for how it has declared this. "Not-Yet-Married" is about Jesus. Being married is about Jesus. Being single is about Jesus. And this is very good news! "Knowing Jesus outweighs everything you could have or lose in this life" (Segal 59).
I still very much desire to be married. I desire to have a wife and to experience the call to love her "as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word" (Ephesians 5:25-26), but my joy and ultimate satisfaction will be found in Jesus Christ alone, not in marriage. After having an accurate look at marriage and what God designed it to be and after gazing at Jesus, I know that I must know Him more, love Him more than anything else, and enjoy and treasure Him above all things. This is what I want most! The author and my mutual desire is summed up this way: "The surest love, the fullest happiness, and the highest purpose are all available to you in Jesus, just as you are. Find them first in him, and you will have a far happier and more meaningful marriage, if God brings you a husband or wife one day. And if, in his wisdom and his unfailing love for you, he chooses not to, not-yet-married you will enjoy more than you ever could have dreamed or found for yourself apart from him" (Segal 19).
If you are single and desire marriage one day, please read this book! It will show you Christ, who alone will provide you with true life, joy, and hope. Rest yourself on Him and look at Him, who bled and died for you and who loves you beyond your comprehension!
"Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him..." (Philippians 3:8-9a)
Hello Summitview! My name is Lukas and I would like to introduce a small project to you that has long been on my mind. To start this adventure, I would like to mention how much I desire to grow in my love for God and to learn more about Him, not simply for more head knowledge, but so that I would truly know Him deeper and better than I ever have. I also desire to grow in what it means to be His disciple, to follow Him, and to treasure Christ above all things. In an effort to share my love for reading solid Christian books that point the reader to the supremacy of Jesus in all things and to grow in our love for Him, I will be sharing my thoughts and recommendations on books that I am reading in my personal time with you!
Please know that these books are in no way a substitute for God's Word. As the church, our time in the Bible must always take joyful priority, wherein we feel happy to swim in His Word to us and drink deeply of the truth found there alone. However, I believe that God has given His church the blessing of many gifted authors, writers, and teachers whose useful efforts can provide instruction, clarification, further study and encouragement to us. It is important to be discerning about whose words we choose to read and to take the time to seek out those authors, writers and teachers who esteem God's Word to the uttermost, who proclaim it faithfully, and who hold fast to it's message, truths and doctrines. I will consider the books that I discuss on this blog to be useful and important and solid, but each selection must be read and examined ultimately through the lens of Scripture.
Finally, I would like to explain the title of this little project. "Visiting While Abiding" is a title that combines the truth found in verse 31 in chapter 8 of John's Gospel, where Jesus says "to the Jews who had believed him, "If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples..." and one of my favorite quotes from Charles Spurgeon, who once said "Visit many good books, but live in the Bible". We have our hearts captured by the Bible that we "live" there ultimately, but we visit many good books often. This is an effort to propel and compel us to delight in abiding in Christ ultimately and His Word most so that we "live" there, but while we do this, we visit many good books often, never leaving where we "live".
My prayer and hope for this is that we would grow together in our love for God and in our love for what He has spoken to us in the Bible and that this would result in lives that are poured out more and more for Christ in this world. Enjoy the ride and enjoy your visits while abiding!
Grace and peace to you,
We have finished two books so far as we read together each month as a church. A few of you had mentioned that you were still catching up on your reading, so that is why we did not introduce a new book for the month of August. We will be reading a new book in September though, so watch out for that. Given that The Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness is so short, we will be doing only one blog post on it. Here is that post, written by James Everett:
The thing about pride, is that it is incredibly simple, while at the same time being incredibly complex and pervasive. We in the church have heard time and time again to flee from pride, after all, “God resists the proud but give grace to the humble.” This brings up a troubling inner conflict. How does our fight against pride lead us in our quest to achieve healthy self-esteem?
Should we reject the idea of high-self esteem and thrust ourselves into a pit of monastic self-denial, rebelling against every attempt of the flesh in it’s pursuit of self-glorification?
Or perhaps, we should find ourselves on the other end of the spectrum. We should wonder, “if Christ has loved me so much that he should die for me, if he, being God, should die for me, then I must be worth loving! I must view myself as important and as indispensable to God’s kingdom as He did!”
Maybe we would be better off just remaining in the middle of it all. Riding on a wave of self-worth blown about by our victories and subsequent failures, up and down, up and down, hoping to someday land on any semblance of solid ground.
It becomes clear after reading these possible courses of thoughts on self-esteem that the options presented will leave us empty, and confused. The truth of the matter is, if we are left to figure out how to view ourselves, we do a poor job. All of these points of view fail us because they are, at their core, symptomatic. They reveal to us that our attention is centered directly on us. Whether we believe we need to have high-self esteem, low-self esteem, or middling self-esteem, a common thread sits and screams out from each perspective: SELF.
Here’s a fact. If we’re worrying about what our self-esteem or pride should look like, we’re operating from a sinful mindset. Our minds are not focused first and foremost on God, then on our neighbor, but on ourselves.
Timothy Keller’s biggest exhortation for the Christian is that we open up our eyes to the reality that God has taken us out of the “Courtroom”. The courtroom is the place we transport ourselves to when we feel we are judged by someone else, or when we are trying to judge ourselves. It’s where we present our “exhibit A’s” and our evidences as to why others should think we’re “worth it”. Many times we place ourselves in the position of the defense and of judge. Heavens, throw jury in there too! The problem is, we don’t belong in the courtroom.
READ: WE DON’T BELONG IN THE COURTROOM.
Christ has gone into the courtroom on our behalf. Once and for all. When we were unworthy (and held against God’s standard we are all unworthy), he changed the verdict from “worthless”, to “WORTH IT”. Because of Christ’s atonement, redemption, and empowerment offered to us, we are free to walk out of that courtroom, with our heads held high, with shouts of wonder and amazement, “GOD HAS COUNTED ME WORTH IT!”
We need not question how the world views us or even how we view ourselves. We need not rush to our defense. The verdict is stated. The courtroom is cleared. Let’s not call it back into session. Instead, let us walk and meditate on our identity that is found in Christ. Not self-esteem or self-identity, but God’s esteem and God’s identity for us. When we live out this reality, daily reminding ourselves of our identity in Christ (worth it), it’s then, that we find ourselves with the freedom of self-forgetfulness.
After two whole months we have finally finished reading our first book of the month. Some of you may still be catching up if you haven't finished already, and I hope that as you finish you begin to have a better idea of what you want you life to look like as a disciple of Jesus. I had watched a video series that Jeff Vanderstelt had done on everything covered in this book, so in some ways I felt as if none of the information was new. And yet, being familiar with the material didn't lessen the impact it had on me while reading these thoughts for the second or third time. After I watched the videos (about twenty-five in all) I remember thinking, "How can I get every person in our church to watch these videos?" It is such good stuff, but with each video being twenty minutes long it would take quite a while for an individual or a group to get through it all. This book helped answer my question.
After reading the entire book I can wholeheartedly say that this is a wonderful and helpful book. It is a somewhat condensed summary of the best parts of that video series and so I am very happy to be able to recommend the book for those who don't have enough time to watch the videos. I hope that many of you read, but if not, please pick it up and take some time to take in the content of this book.
The final part of the book, The Everyday Stuff, was by far the most challenging for me personally. So many stories were shared that were both moving and unsettling. The commitment that the people in Jeff's missional community (ie. small group) had was really something that at times made me feel uncomfortable. I had to ask myself a number of times why I was feeling that way, and it may come down to the fact that we just don't see people living that sacrificially and that on mission very often. When we do, they almost seem like they are in a cult or something. When I read about what Jesus had done through ordinary, everyday circumstances I was definitely affected. I hope that you all were too.
When we follow Jesus, everything matters and everything counts. The small parts of how you live and the large parts of how you live. It can all be a tool for taking the good news of Jesus to others. It doesn't need to be a spectacle. You don't need to be amazing. You just need to be willing to do to others as God has done to you, loving them with the truth of Christ. What I appreciate is that Jeff tells us what we all know, and that is that this will not be easy. He writes:
By the way, this “everyday life on mission” stuff can be unpredictable or messy. I often share that if it isn’t messy here and there, you are likely not yet on mission. If you are becoming friends with people who don’t yet know and love Jesus, you are going to be invited into experiences that may be very different from what you’re used to.
Is it worth it though? Is it worth it to be so intentional about your schedule, money, time, etc? Is there something bigger than just our own day-by-day life maintenance that we do, trying to hold on to what we have? The answer to these questions is yes, but it is hard to move forward. Do we live in a way that demands a "Jesus explanation" as Jeff writes? Are we being lights in a dark place, not just because of what we say, but because of what we do? These are all questions that these last chapters have brought up in my mind.
We need others around us to help us to live this way in the world. I don't think it would hurt if our small groups had covenants that they made together regarding how they want to live, who they want to serve, and who they want to reach. I don't think it would be a poor use of time to spend more time together eating, celebrating, praying, and serving. Even the idea that these communities (small groups) have a laid out mission plan for a specific people is a great idea. It is far too easy to just become internally focused and saturated by each other rather than do both that and saturate the lost with the message of Jesus.
There are a lot of obstacles that we face that would keep us from really living lives for the glory of God and the advancement of the gospel. How do we do this with young kids? How do we do this when all we do is work, work, work? What about "me time"? What if I'm an introvert and seeing people all the time would wear me out? These are all valid questions, and yet I hope that we can apply to faith to all of these obstacles and believe God for the things he wants to do through normal people like ourselves. There may be things we have to say no to in this world in order to say yes to God, but much of our lives can probably still exist.
Even the idea of living the normal Christian life with other believers and bringing unbelievers into your world has ramifications. It will create awkwardness, and it may even make some of you feel like you can't be yourselves. Remember, we want people to see and experience Christ through us, and we can do that through typical things. We don't need to do extravagant things together. We need to learn to follow Jesus and help one another to do that. If an unbeliever is a part of that, who knows what God could reveal to them through your little group?
As we wrap up here, I want to quote Jeff a few more times and end with his words:
...now is the time for us to get serious about Jesus’s mission together, and we need all ages in this game. Church has to stop being about us. It’s time for us to get back to what Jesus lived and died for. We need everyone in the game! If not, Jesus saturation will not happen. Can you imagine what would happen if all those in retirement who know and love Jesus were to partner with the younger generation in this? Think about the thousands of missional communities that could be started all over the United States and around the world—and the thousands of people who would come to know and love Jesus as a result! Stop and consider your life. How will you spend it, and for whom? Please take Jesus’s call to make disciples seriously. What are you going to do with your life? It’s never too late. Don’t waste it. I hope you’re open to stepping out into what I believe Jesus is calling his church back to—Jesus communities on Jesus’s mission, disciples who make disciples, together, not alone, in every place and in all of life...
...Too often, we focus on the spectacular activities of a few prominent Christians, leaving many people feeling as if what they do in everyday life doesn’t really matter. But the everyday stuff, done with gospel intentionality in the name of Jesus, changes lives as well. I have found that when we love and serve people like Jesus loved and served us, it gives great evidence to how powerful the gospel is to change lives. Then, when we proclaim what Jesus did in serving us, people who hear also see Jesus serving them through his body—through us, his church. They see normal people on Jesus’s mission getting to experience extraordinary life together!...
...Surrender to Jesus. Devote yourself to his mission. Remember and live in light of your new identity. Get on mission with a small group of people. Covenant together to sow seeds to others in the everyday rhythms of life, and watch the movement ripple out of your life until the whole earth is saturated with the good news of Jesus.
I look forward to what the Lord wants to do with this book for those of us that read it, and I hope that the heart of it spreads through our church. We may not do missional communities in the exact way presented in the book, but it's important to look at the principles behind it all and say together "this is what we want."
If you are interested in using the Story of God that Jeff mentioned in this final section you can find that here.
We will begin the next book in July, and I think it's going to be a helpful one. More information to follow.
I don't know about you, but there was quite a bit written in these chapters that challenged me. To be honest, I'm not sure any summary that I could write would do these chapters justice. Part 4 is about our New Identity in Christ and what that means for us. The core message of this part of the book is that whatever God has done to us, he intends to also do through us. In other words, we are able to be a part of the amazing work of God in the salvation of the lost, the care of the weak, the mending of the broken, and much, much more.
The stories throughout these four chapters speak to that over and over again, and I found myself wanting to see God work in the ways Jeff was talking about. I want to believe in the power of God's Spirit to bring people who seem beyond hope to repentance. And it seemed to me that one of the common threads throughout this section was that we as God's people can believe by faith that God will do things beyond our wildest imaginations.
What would it be like if we a God's people were to love our neighbors as Jesus has loved us? What if we were to care for them as we would our own family? Not only would we be changed through doing that, but I have to believe that we would also see God saving and sanctifying these same people in time. I think that it would best serve you to watch these two short videos taken from the book that help to understand what our lives can really be now that we have a new identity in Christ.
At the end of part 4 Jeff summarizes everything well:
We have the Spirit of God in us so that we might be empowered, just as Jesus was. We are his missionaries, filled and anointed by his Spirit. If you have the Spirit of God, you are a missionary sent by Jesus to tell the world who he is and what he has done. Charles Spurgeon said, “Every Christian is either a missionary or an imposter.”1 Everywhere you go, whatever you do, you are a missionary sent by Jesus to love like Jesus, overcome sin like Jesus, proclaim the gospel like Jesus, and see people’s lives changed by the power of the Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead. You are always on mission. Every part of your life, every activity and event, is part of Jesus’s mission to make disciples. Remember, you are not alone on this mission. Jesus goes with you everywhere because his Spirit is in you to empower you to be his representative in the world. He wants to saturate your world in Word and deed by his presence at work in and through you by his Spirit. Our baptism is a reminder of our new identity in Christ. We have been saturated with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. We have a new name because we are new creations that can do new works by the power of the Holy Spirit living in us. This is why Jesus places baptism first in the sequence of events of making disciples. He wants us to know who we are and what power we now have to do what he wants. His command for us to “[teach] them to observe all that I have commanded you” comes after we establish people in their new identity (Matt. 28:19–20). Since you do who you are, you need to know who you are in Christ. Knowing and believing who you are in Christ leads you to obey Jesus’s commands. The people in our young, growing church didn’t need a new to-do list. They needed to be reminded of their new identity in Christ. The same is true for you. We are the Father’s family; therefore, we love others like he loved us. We are servants of Christ; therefore, we serve the least of these as he served us. We are missionaries filled and empowered by the same Spirit that was in Jesus; therefore, we are always on mission to proclaim the good news of Jesus. Whatever he has done to us, he now wants to do through us to others.
I know I didn't write much today about this part, but I am still processing it and thinking about what it means for me personally. I would really encourage you to read these chapters if you haven't yet and be amazed at what God can do. I would love to be a part of the glorious and unbelievable works of God in this world.
For next week we will actually finish the book! I've had a few conversations with others who are reading this and they have been very challenged and in some ways changed by it. No book is perfect, but I think that the vision for discipleship and community laid out in this book is worth your time to think about.
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