Theology books? Who’s got the money?

So the other week I wrote about theology books and my goal of reading 15 within the next year. In preparation for starting the list I checked out how much this would cost me. I have a kindle so I am looking to get as many in ebook format as possible.

I totaled up all of the costs and it came out to $139.42. It’s honestly less than I thought it was going to be, but nonetheless it is still a decent amount of money to spend on books. It’s even more than that if you buy them as paperbacks (which is not necessary since Amazon has a free software program to read ebooks on your ipod, ipad, smartphone or computer if you don’t mind reading them electronically). I wanted to find a way to reduce the cost for me and for anyone looking to dig deeper into theology. I found a website that allows users to lend and borrow ebooks to/from other users. You can borrow any book that another user has made available for 14 days and if you need longer than that you can borrow it an unlimited number of times. Think about it like a virtual library. You borrow an available book until the due date. If you didn’t finish you check it out again until you are finished.

I immediately check out the books I plan on reading and I was severely disappointed. There were only two of the books that I wanted to read that I didn’t already own and only two of them are allowed to be lent. Some publishers or authors do not allow their book to be lent for obvious reasons, but there were two books that I can borrow. The problem is, only one of them has been available for me right now because no one has said they have the other book.

Here is what I am thinking. Don’t we want to have as many people reading theological books as possible? What if we all went on this site and made every book we weren’t currently reading available for lending? What if every author and publisher would allow the lending of their books? It wouldn’t kill the profit margin because libraries have been doing this for a long time, so don’t worry about that. What it just might do is encourage more people to dig deeper into the Bible.

My plan is as soon as I am done reading a theology ebook I will make it available on ebookfling that way anyone who wants to read it can borrow it for free. Maybe there is another way to help get theology books to the masses, I just don’t know it. If you do, please feel free to share as I would love to be able to save money and still read these books.

Galatians 6 Restoring Gently

Dear brothers and sisters, if another believer is overcome by some sin, you who are godly should gently and humbly help that person back onto the right path. And be careful not to fall into the same temptation yourself. Galatians 6:1

I seem to have a horrible sense of balance. Part of it was just natural skill at being unbalanced and part of it, I’m sure, comes from the fact that my stomach muscles have been cut into during two different surgeries thereby making them weaker to support me. Regardless of why I have difficulty balancing my self, I struggle especially in the winter-time when it is icy out. I can’t tell you how many times I have fallen on my butt only to have to struggle to gain enough balance to stand up while still on the ice. It’s not easy.

Most of the time when I fall I am all alone (thank goodness!), but I sometimes imagine what my friends would do if they were there. What technique would they use to help me up, that is if they weren’t too busy doubled over in laughter. Would they grab my hand and yank with all their might? Would they barely lift at all, making me still do all the work? Would they grab with both hands and gently lift taking care to apply force when I need it? Would they stand on the ice with me or just off of it if possible?

How do you help a fellow Christian when they stumble? Do you just laugh when they fall? Do you try to pull them from the depths of despair with all of your might? Do you just put out a hand and barely do anything to help? Or do you grab with both hands, support them and apply force when and where needed while making sure not to step into what caused their stumble? Paul says that we should help them gently and humbly, making sure they get back on the right path without falling into temptation ourselves.

This isn’t an option, we need to help those who have stumbled, period!

This ends my study of Galatians, I am going to do some personal studies for a little while and then maybe I’ll post another study after the New Year. Thank you for joining me.

Galatians 5:13-26 Acts of the Flesh and Fruits of the Spirit

The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other. Galatians 5:19-26

There is no story today, no modern day example for today’s reading, only the stark realization of how many of the acts of the flesh we commit on a regular basis. I don’t want to concentrate on the negative so I will leave it at this. We are are saved through the grace of Christ are not subject to these anymore. Through the Holy Spirit we can truly experience the fruits of the Spirit.

I want to quote from a Bible study series that I have been consulting during my study of Galatians because what they say about the fruits of the Spirit does a great job explaining each and showing how to apply them. The book is Galatians: Walking in God’s Grace by Bruce Bickel and Stan Jantz. They say:

Love, joy, peace. These virtues point to our relationship with God. Our first love should be for God, our joy should be in God, and our peace should be first and foremost with God.

Patience, kindness, goodness. These three virtues refer to our relationship with others. Patience is the quality of hanging in there with people, even when they irritate or offend us. Kindness reflects a pleasant disposition, and goodness stems from our words and deeds towards others.

Faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. These three virtues focus on our inner selves. When we keep our commitments, we are faithful. When we act with humility and an attitude of service, we are gentle. And when we exercise self-control, we are doing the opposite of indulging our flesh.

Galatians 5:1-12 Freedom is a gift, say thank you today!

Listen! I, Paul, tell you this: If you are counting on circumcision to make you right with God, then Christ will be of no benefit to you. I’ll say it again. If you are trying to find favor with God by being circumcised, you must obey every regulation in the whole law of Moses. For if you are trying to make yourselves right with God by keeping the law, you have been cut off from Christ! You have fallen away from God’s grace. Galatians 5:2-4

If you read my post a few days ago on Galatians 4:1-20 you will see an analogy between slavery in the US and being slaves to sin. In the analogy I compared someone going into a slave market and buying all of the slaves, setting them free and adopting them into their family to what God had done for each and every one of us. We were all slaves, God sent his representative down to Earth to purchase us and we are now God’s children. I am going to extend that analogy and look at the slaves response to that choice. Lets say that the owner tells each of his new adopted children that they can stay or go, the choice is theirs and their freedom is not affected either way. It is theirs to keep.

I can only imagine what an actual slave would do if their freedom was bought and they were given an option to join the family of the person who paid for their freedom, but for the sake of this analogy I can see three possible reactions from the slaves:

1. The former slaves embrace their new family and out of their gratefulness and respect for their adoptive parent they do work for them to show their appreciation.

2. The former slaves go to live with the adoptive parent, but only take from them, giving nothing in return.

3. The former slaves say thanks, but no thanks and strike off on their own attempting to do the best they can without any help from their adoptive parent.

Do you see your reaction in those three examples? Maybe you are a mix of two of them, sometimes showing your love through works and sometimes trying to strike out on your own. I know I struggle to be living like the first response. I want to live every day showing God my love and appreciation for Him by doing good works, not because I have to because my salvation is secure, but because I want to. I want to show others a tiny example of what God has done for them and me.

How will you show your appreciation for God’s gift today? Will you help someone on the side of the road? Give a few dollars to someone in need? Pay for a random person’s coffee? Listen to a friend or stranger in need? Write an e-mail of thanks to someone who means something to you? How can you help others see Christ in you right now, in the next hour or sometime today?

“Freedom in Christ does not give us the right to do as we please, but the power and ability to do as we ought.” Max Anders

Theology books? Who’s got the time?

Last November I was in Colorado at my orientation for Greater Europe Mission. There were 12 of us total, 5 couples and two single guys. I quickly realized that I was on a whole different level than these guys. I don’t mean that to sound like they were better than me or I was better than them, but it was obvious that our training levels were vastly different. I had a Bachelor’s degree in Middle Childhood Education from Bowling Green State University and a Master’s in Educational Technology from the University of Florida. Every other guy in our group had at minimum been to a Bible college and some of them had been to seminary as well.

For the most part this wasn’t too obvious, well that is until we had conversations and oh yeah when someone busted out a Calvinism joke. I still have no idea what was so funny. Throughout the week I realized that I didn’t know much about church history and that I have never really gotten to in depth in the Bible either. So i asked two of the guys for a list of “must-read” books on church history and theologians. They gave me a list of several books that I should check out and I immediately put it in my iPod for reference later. That note is still stored in my iPod and I have done exactly nothing with it.

Earlier this week I came across a blog about reading theology books and why no time is no excuse. I definitely recommend you checking it out, but here is a short summary of what the blogger quotes from a John Piper sermon called “Get Wisdom.” He says if you read 250 words in a minute for 15 minutes a day you will read 5475 minutes in a year and 1,368,750 words. He then says that the average page in a book has between 300 and 400 words so you would end up reading 3,910 pages in that year. Depending on how big the books are you are looking at reading between 13 and 20 in a year.

15 minutes a day is totally manageable so I decided to start doing that, as soon as I am done with my current book, and see how well that goes. I am aiming for 15 books within the next year so I decided to make a list of 15 books that I could read. Some are theology, some are church history and some are biographies just so I could add some variety. Here they are in no particular order in case you are curious or want to comment on them:

1. Church History in Plain Language – Bruce Shelley
2. Questioning Evangelism – Randy Newman
3. Speaking of Jesus – Max Stiles
4. Amazing Grace – Eric Metaxas
5. Introducing the Missional Church: What it is, Why it Matters, How to Become One – Alan J. Roxburgh
6. Life with God: Reading the Bible for Spiritual Transformation – Richard J. Foster
7. Exiles: Living Missionally in a Post-Christian Culture – Michael Frost
8. God’s Chosen Fast: A Spiritual and Practical Guide to Fasting – Arthur Wallis
9. Rescuing Ambition – Dave Harvey
10. Branded – Tim Sinclair
11. From the Garden to the City – John Dyer
12. Buck-Naked Faith: A Brutally Honest Look at Stunted Christianity – Eric Sandras
13. Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy – Eric Metaxas
14. Commentary on Romans – Martin Luther
15. Institutes of the Christian Religion – John Calvin

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Galatians 4:21-31 Yikes!

But you are now being persecuted by those who want you to keep the law, just as Ishmael, the child born by human effort, persecuted Isaac, the child born by the power of the Spirit. Galatians 4:29

Persecution is a funny thing. Not funny ha ha, but more interesting funny. Persecution differs from place to place and time to time. The persecution in the US now is not what persecution was in the US in the past just as the persecution in Iran now is not what it used to be and what it will be in the future. When I read this verse I thought about whether I am being persecuted or not. My initial note said “We are free and if we are living like Jesus then we will be persecuted. It’s a guarantee. If we aren’t being persecuted then we are probably not living boldly for God.” This is where the yikes comes in. I began to think about whether in my regular life I see any persecution.

I decided to look up the definition of persecute. It says: “To pursue with harassing or oppressive treatment, especially because of religion, race, or beliefs; harass persistently.”

The first thing that popped into my head when I read this definition were my days in Junior High. I was kind of a dork and by kind of I mean, I was a dork. Add to that that I was a fat kid and you get the recipe for harassment. It got so bad that my main bully was a girl. That’s how much of a dork I was. Hardly a day would go by that I didn’t have my books knock down or words said about me or any number of things. It was persistent harassment, but it had nothing to do with my beliefs as far as I know.

That was the worst harassment I have lived through and in retrospect it wasn’t really that bad. It got me to wonder though, have I been harassed persistently for my beliefs? Have I had someone oppress me because of my beliefs? Probably not. I was hoping that the definition would say something like ignored, not invited to things withhold invitations to parties, etc.  Those things I could claim but not anything like harassed persistently.

Have you been persecuted for your faith? If so, I commend you for sticking to your faith in the hard times.

Have you never been persecuted? What does this mean? Honestly I don’t know. Christianity is tolerated in the US so it is hard to imagine any major persecution happening (I know it does happen though), but shouldn’t we all be persecuted some if we are living boldly? That’s a tough question to answer and I guess a simple answer is we could all probably live a little more like Christ and a little bolder. That is my prayer this week for sure.

Galatians 4:1-20 We were all slaves

God sent him to buy freedom for us who were slaves to the law, so that he could adopt us as his very own children. Galatians 4:5

I just got back from a trip to Charleston, SC and being a northern boy my stomach always drops when I am in the south and I see remnants of slavery. Now I am not ignorant of the fact that slaves were prevalent in just about every part of our country at one point or another, but down south you see much more remains of the horrible institution of slavery. Whether it is the plantations, slave marts, or you hear the stories of slave revolts, slavery was a major part of southern life. I took a photography tour and the tour guide showed us a slave mart that is now a museum. She told us that at one point a “seasoned” male could go for as much as $1,000 1860 dollars. After doing a little research I found that this would be about $26,000 today. I also found that some slave auctions had over 200 slaves, men, women and children, at their auction. If the number of each men, women and children were equal that would give you a total of 103,900 (1860 dollars) or $2,701,400,000 (2011 dollars) for 198 slaves.

Now imagine the Bill Gates of that time coming to one of the slave auctions and buying every single slave up for auction. That would be insane! Bill Gate’s total worth is about 59 billion, but still 2 billion is a lot of money to spend. Now lets say he goes one step further and adopts every single one of the slaves into his own family. Could you imagine that? 198 former slaves are not only free, but they will be fed, clothed, and provided for as if they were born into this family. No one could ever expect anyone to do that.

Paul says that this is exactly what God did. God sent his representative, Jesus, to the slave auction and told him that no matter what, those slaves will be in my family. Spend whatever you need to spend to free them and bring them to my table. Jesus went to that slave auction and the only way that He could fulfill His Father’s wish was to offer His life in place of theirs. He did just that and then instead of blaming the now-former slaves  He instead opens His arms and welcomes them to the family.

We were once slaves to sin and not only set free from that sin, but also welcomed into God’s family and God hopes that every single one of us can join Him at His table. What a great picture of God and what He Has planned for us.

Galatians 3:15-29 Like a new pair of shoes

So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. Galatians 3:27

Typically when you buy new clothes you enjoy wearing them so that others can see you in them. Whether its a new pair of shoes, a new shirt or really any other piece of clothing. You think you look good in it so you want to let others see you look good. Then you get a new piece of clothing and you wear what you once loved a lot less. Why is this? Is it that you don’t like it as much? I doubt it.  Do you still look as good in it? Probably, but it’s not as new, people have seen you in the old clothing, but not the new clothing.

I feel weird as a man making this point,  but when I read Paul’s words about clothing yourself in Christ and I realized that people treat Christ the same way as they do a new shirt, suit, dress or shoes. At first they want to tell everyone, it doesn’t matter who, a new Christian typically wants to let everyone see them in their new outfit of Christ. Then after a while the newness of Christ wears off and we go searching for something else to in which to be clothed. Whether we clothe ourselves in good things like church activities, family, friends or not-so-good things like alcohol, gambling, etc., we clothe ourselves in things not eternal. We need to be reminded that just because it might be an older outfit, it doesn’t mean that we don’t look stinking amazing wearing Christ as our clothes.

We should be excited to be given the chance to daily clothe ourselves in Christ.

Galatians 3:1-14 Descendent of Abraham?

So also Abraham “believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.” Understand, then, that those who have faith are children of Abraham. Galatians 3:6-7

I am not Jewish. In fact, I am not sure what all I am, but my pasty complexion tells me fairly certainly that I am not Jewish. I do come from a line of pretty awesome people though. My great-grandparents were missionaries in Africa, my grandpa was a pastor, my grandma (mom’s mom) led my dad to Christ, my parents have stood up for the rights of people with developmental disabilities and I’m sure there are many other pretty amazing people that I just don’t know much about. We are from England, Germany, France, Ireland or Scotland (maybe both?), and maybe Native American. We are from a lot of places and yet I am not Jewish.

According to what most people think about the Old Testament this would mean that I have a 0% chance at getting to Heaven. No matter what I do, I could not make it to Heaven because I am not a true descendent of Abraham and Moses. Paul’s words put out something differently. He says that anyone who has faith is a descendent of Abraham. Heck yeah! I mean, I still have a 0% chance of making it to Heaven on my own, but I have a 100% chance of making it due to my faith that Jesus Christ was the end result of God’s covenant with Abraham and therefore I am able to make it to Heaven. It does not matter where my family is from, what they have done or anything like that. It only matters that I have faith. Man, that makes me excited!

Galatians 2:11-21 Friends

Then after fourteen years, I went up again to Jerusalem, this time with Barnabas. I took Titus along also…When Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. For before certain men came from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles. But when they arrived, he began to draw back and separate himself from the Gentiles because he was afraid of those who belonged to the circumcision group. The other Jews joined him in his hypocrisy, so that by their hypocrisy even Barnabas was led astray. Galatians 2:1,11-13

I was very blessed in Maryland for most of the time I was there. I may not have liked my job, but I had a good group of friends who helped me like the rest of my time there. Was there drama? For sure. Were there times when we didn’t get along? Absolutely! Would I trade that time in for anything else? No, not at all. My Bible study friends were as close to members of my family as some of my actual family. Christine slept in a chair overnight in my hospital room because I was rushed to the emergency room and my mom was on her way, Lois and Kerensa took me on “field trips” to Target and Safeway when I was regaining my strength and could barely walk, Nick and I drove to New Orleans together, Bridget and Ana went to Germany with me for the first time. I could go on for hours talking about how amazing my friends are, but that’s not the point. The point is that my friends went further with me than just on the surface. Nick and I would call each other in the morning to make sure we both were up in time to do quiet times. Kerensa encouraged me to take on a leadership position in our Bible study. Ana, Bridget and I had many talks about how our spiritual lives were going. That is why my friends are amazing.

Paul had these same friends. After 14 years of ministry Paul was going back to Jerusalem to meet with the Apostles. He took Barnabas and Titus too. He didn’t need back-up or anything, but he took his friends with him. The next part of the chapter that stood out to me, verses 11-13, showed what else friends need to do. When we are wrong, or our friends are wrong, we need to be told. We need to be confronted. Paul may not have done this the best way that he could have, but he did it this way nonetheless. He confronted Peter (Cephas) because Peter was being hypocritical and theologically wrong in his actions. Why did he need to do this? We see in verse 13 that others were joining in on the hypocrisy, that’s why. Our actions influence others, so if we are wrong, our friends need to be there to say so and we need to accept their constructive criticism.