You Keep Using That Word, Part 2: Progressive

I need to preface this with a shoutout to the author whose podcast and book put a name to a dark and nameless dissonance I’d been often frustrated by in my walk with the Lord.

As an atheist who came to know God through the Bible long before stepping into a church congregation, I’d puzzled for years over a disconnect I found between me and some who call themselves Christian. We used the same terms, claimed the same Lord, even referenced a few of the same Scriptures, but what we meant by these things didn’t seem to mesh.

Then I heard Alisa Childers reference Progressive Christianity. Whether by the guidance of the Holy Spirit, instinct, or both, I knew this was the name of the lurking menace I’d encountered.

If you’re looking for an excellent Christmas present or a great Christmastime read for yourself, I HIGHLY recommend Another Gospel? by Alisa Childers. She writes with grace, tact, and candor of how a self-proclaimed “flaky artist type” took a plunge into the deep waters of apologetics and learned that her faith is built on Rock-solid ground.

Buy it. Read it. You won’t be sorry. Now on to today’s program:

I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed.

Galatians 1:6-8

Progressive. The word just sounds so… dynamic, doesn’t it?

It hints at sophistication; of gaining ground. When attached to a noun, this adjective lends a sense of importance, of forward motion, and of… well, of progress.

You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.

– Inigo Montoya

But in truth, progress isn’t the significant thing. Making progress in the right direction is of far greater importance.

Four times now, I’ve made excellent progress on a hike – along a route that diverged moderately from the planned path. Once my companion and I forsook the path entirely and struck out on our own.

Such enthusiastic and progressive hiking experiences culminated in a variety of results. One particularly memorable result involved an unintended tour of adjacent mountaintops while keeping one eye on the sun’s position in the sky and the other on our (fortunately) distinctive goal.

We did make it to the goal before sunset, though our appearance must have been alarming. We were immediately offered food and water.

I suppose experiences like these have taught me to be cautious of vague descriptors such as progressive.

So when I first heard of “progressive Christianity,” I initially responded with a mixture of puzzled disbelief and a primal shock of icy horror.

If progressing up the wrong mountainside prompted wide-eyed day hikers to thrust their half-empty water bottles towards me, what is the appropriate response for people progressing towards the wrong eternity?

Though we’re easily lulled into believing our physical, mental, and emotional needs are the most important thing in life, the plight of those meandering comfortably and happily down the broad path to destruction is far more desperate than, say, a starving hiker lost in the backcountry with nothing but the clothes on his body and the seal of the Holy Spirit on his heart.

Progressive Christianity shares very little with actual followers of Jesus the Christ. It is progressively moving towards quite a different goal. A more honest devotee would call it progressive churchianity – or even what it is – secular humanism dressed in a dollar-store Jesus costume complete with Anglo-Saxon features.

Ironically, Christianity as it is understood through the Word of God, the teachings of the Christ, and the early Church is progressive.

It speaks of progressively becoming more like Jesus of Nazareth; of progressively dying to oneself and one’s sin; of daily progress towards the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Of progressive expectations of persecution and suffering laced with the joy of knowing it all has a purpose and an eternal hope.

However, the other thing wears the name of Christianity much like decaf wears the name of coffee. It has little of the flavor and none of the power.

What passes under the title of progressive Christianity has a form of godliness but denies its power. It promises something which resembles peace on earth and good will towards men while assuming a lack of peace and good will among men is the worst part.

Progressive Christianity treats the spiritual equivalent of ebola with a splash of lavender essential oil and a sweet little smile.

And it is making progress in our churches. Just not in the right direction.

Book Review: The End of the Magi

After Yeshua was born in Beit-Lechem in the land of Y’hudah during the time when Herod was king, Magi from the east came to Yerushalayim and asked, “Where is the newborn King of the Jews? For we saw his star in the east and have come to worship him.”

Matthew 2:1-2, CJB

I discovered Patrick W. Carr quite by accident while browsing through my library’s catalog. The Shock of Night‘s back cover description promised to fulfill the vague “something different” I’d been looking for, and the story well-satisfied it’s promise.

I devoured the entire Darkwater Saga and followed it up with the Staff and the Sword series before I decided to research the author. To my delight, his website offered the opportunity to help promote his newest book, The End of the Magi. I jumped at the chance.

The End of the Magi is a different genre for Mr. Carr – historical fiction rather than fantasy – but it did not disappoint.

The book tells the story of a young club-footed Persian man, Myrad, whose adopted Jewish father is one of the magi in Ctesiphon, the ancient capital city of the Persian empire. Myrad dreams of a strange star and wakes to find his father has had the same dream.

On the very day Myrad’s father decides to seek the youth’s promotion from apprentice to full magus, Musa, the Roman concubine of King Phraates sets a bloody trap for the magi who oppose her aspirations to become queen.

In the resulting chaos, Myrad’s life is thrust into an unexpected trajectory, though he continues his father’s work on an ancient calendar marking the days until the fulfillment of ancient prophecies of the Jewish Messiah – a day that may occur during Myrad’s lifetime!

I love this book for many reasons. I thoroughly enjoy that the main character, Myrad, is not a typical, flawless storyland hero but a man with a club foot who overcomes obstacles through tenacity and determination. Mr. Carr touches nicely on the Biblical story of Jesus from an interesting perspective – that of the magi who the Bible tells us “saw His star in the east and have come to worship Him.”

Mr. Carr does a fantastic job speculating on what little is known about the magi and combining it with some historical facts that are known about the region and time period. It’s a unique look at some of the lesser-known empires and on what life may have been like in the midst of the constant conflict between Rome and those lands she had yet to conquer.

There are some wonderful twists in the story that kept me engaged. I want you to read it for yourself, so I won’t spoil them here! However, I would like to say that I also adore that this is not just another Christmas story ending with the birth of Yeshua (Jesus). Mr. Carr looks beyond that one extraordinary event to an even more extraordinary one which stretches the understanding of Myrad and the rest of the wise men.

The End of the Magi is one man’s search for truth and purpose in a world filled with conflict and competing worldviews. In a modern setting, it could be my story. It could even be yours.

Either way, like Myrad, we are all faced with the choice of what to do with the knowledge of Yeshua. Some will choose to reject it, scoffing. Others will acknowledge it but venture no further. Still others will embrace it and structure their lives around it.

Read this book to find out Myrad’s choice. Then give some thought to your own decision. What will you do about the Jewish Messiah?

Book Review: Parenting Beyond the Rules by Connie Albers

How much better to get wisdom than gold! To get understanding is to be chosen rather than silver.

Proverbs 16:16

If I’ve learned nothing else in my 18 years of parenting, I’ve learned that I don’t have all the answers. There are tremendous benefits in staying teachable and gleaning tips from the acumen of others.

This is why I appreciate the wisdom and advice Connie Albers shares in her book, Parenting Beyond the Rules: Raising Teens with Confidence and Joy. There is great value in seeking wisdom from those who have gone before me, and Connie has not only been there, she’s gained excellent wisdom and insight straight from the Lord to share with us.

The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight.

Proverbs 9:10

Between her experiences raising her own five children to adulthood and her 20 years of experience working with teenagers, Connie certainly has the credentials. The wisdom she shares is offered with humility and boldness; both confronting and challenging as well as offering grace and hope for the weary, battle-worn parent.

Personally, I was convicted by chapters 7 and 8 which cover listening to your child and monitoring your own mouth. The chapters served as a bit of a spiritual gut check to me because the Lord had already been addressing these very topics in my walk with Him.

You see, for over a decade, my homeschool mom habit of capitalizing on teachable moments whenever they arose in conversation served me well. However in the teen years, my favorite tactic has failed painfully more than once. In fact, I’m pretty sure I have permanent gunpowder stains from the sheer number of backfires!

Rather than engaging in a lively conversation springing from such “teachable moments,” suddenly my teenagers began to shut down and make their way into another room as I spoke.

Because of this, Connie’s words in Chapter 7 rang true to me:

“But that day – and many others like it – I learned that most teens don’t need our steps; they need a good set of ears if we want them to share what’s on their heart…

…Although our words may provide valuable information, it’s not usually what’s needed at that moment.”

Besides listening more and talking less, God has been showing me how frequently I misuse that most deadly of weapons: my tongue. Here again, some of Connie’s words from Chapter 8 reinforced what my Lord has been revealing:

As parents, we think we are saying one thing, but our teen hears something completely different… Communicating well and with intent begins with being slow to speak.

…When we don’t control the words that come out of our mouths, we hurt the relationships we long for and unintentionally model a pattern our kids will one day use to parent their children.

In Parenting Beyond the Rules, there are many other convicting truths, but I love that Connie also shares how she learned through her own failures – and how God changed those failures to successes as she humbly submitted to His teaching through His word.

She doesn’t flinch away from confronting sin, but neither does she shrug her shoulders at confession as if to say, “Well, we all sin. No one’s perfect.”

No, she goes a step further to show how God has made a way to walk out of the sin and into a rewarding, loving relationship with our teenagers. Easy? No. Worth it? Absolutely.

In Parenting Beyond the Rules, Connie Albers offers real-world, in-the-trenches advice for those of us willing to go to battle for the hearts of our kids. Not only that, but she offers grace and hope, recognizing that it is God who takes our imperfect efforts and through our weakness shows that His grace is sufficient – even for our teens.

You always have the opportunity to add new coats of forgiveness, wisdom, and maturity.

Connie Albers, Parenting Beyond the Rules

Review and Giveaway – Talking to Jesus: A Fresh Perspective on Prayer by Jeannie Blackmer

Today will be a little bit different from my average post. The Blythe Daniels Agency has graciously provided me with 2 copies of Jeannie Blackmer’s new book, Talking to Jesus: A Fresh Perspective on Prayer, which I have agreed to review.

In addition, you will find the link to a raffle below the review (near the bottom of this page) which you are welcome to enter. One randomly selected winner will be drawn from the entries to receive the other copy of the book!

So without further ado, I bring you:

Talking to Jesus: A Fresh Perspective on Prayer 

By Jeannie Blackmer

Jeannie says, “I’ve always looked at these dialogues with Jesus in scripture as interactions showing us the power he has and the miracles he did when he walked the earth. Suddenly, however, my perspective shifted. I began to see the conversations as prayers. After all, these people were just talking to Jesus. This realization changed my prayer life. These dialogues – authentic and desperate – became my prayers.”

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Some days, I wonder what it would be like to wake up and find that nothing hurts.

And yet, in the hands of the Almighty, no suffering is wasted.

If the struggle with chronic migraine (and other assorted aches and pains) were not a part of my life, it is doubtful I would enjoy the rare privilege which is currently mine. Because of my experience with pain, I am able to share hope in God despite it with a certain blonde young lady who is one of my part-time daughters.

You see, I can relate to her pain because I share it myself, and in the sharing, I can point her to a God who can also relate to both physical and emotional suffering. Together, we can help one another pick out His voice above the cacaphony of pain, seeking the light rather than cowering in the dark.

In her book, Talking to Jesus, Jeannie relates a similar message in the stories of two pairs of blind men. Like my young friend and I, they  work together, pushing through physical impediments to find Jesus rather than remaining lost in the dark.

As I read through Talking to Jesus, I truly did find a refreshing perspective on prayer. Although I have always thought of prayer as a conversation between myself and the Lord, I have not thought of Scripture’s recorded face-to-face encouters with Jesus as prayers.

Jeannie Blackmer does just this by artfully weaving imaginative storytelling into selected Biblical narratives without changing any of the Lord’s words. In each recorded experience with Jesus, she imagines what may have gone on in each person’s heart and mind leading up to the divine encounter.

I thoroughly enjoyed viewing these well-known tales through a new lens as well as Jeannie’s personal responses to each one. I also appreciated the honest and grace-filled approach to some of humanity’s thornier habits. For me, the additional Scriptures provided for reflection and the space for journaling my personal observations is a thought-provoking and enjoyable tool to enrich my own prayer life.

If you or someone you know could use a little inspiration in your prayer life, pick up a copy of Talking to Jesus – or enter below for the chance to win a free copy!

You can find out more about Jeannie, including where to buy her book, on her webpage, Talking to Jesus. 

Follow the link below to enter the drawing:

Talking to Jesus Rafflecopter giveaway

Note: This drawing will begin at midnight on Monday November 20, 2017 and will close at midnight on Monday November 27, 2017.