Tag Archive | Christianity

Book Review: Speaking Boldly

As I am not super consistent with my devotions and Bible study, it took me a lot longer to get through Speaking Boldly: Sharing God’s Word Every Day than planned. Written by Edward O. Grimenstein, Speaking Boldly is about just that, instructing and encouraging Christians to speak God’s Word in their everyday lives. And, being published through Concordia, it’s a book from a Lutheran religious perspective.

I liked this book because it can be used for devotion and Bible study and it’s also really simple, breaking everything down to show why we don’t need to be at all afraid of speaking God’s Word in this world. The biggest point Grimenstein makes is that God’s Word is God’s. It’s not ours, and if those we share it with insult or mock us, it is really God that they are insulting and mocking. What makes the Word powerful, is exactly that it is God’s Word. Salvation and forgiveness of sins were never humanity’s idea. If we conceive of salvation at all, there’s only one way: A person must work his or her way into heaven. That’s about our extent of imagination on the subject. Generally, the reality that any good works we do can never make up for the sinful marks that we bear is brushed aside. Humans often ignore the truth or do not know the truth, so that necessarily limits our imagination.

Fortunately, God isn’t limited in this way, and He had a better plan, to send His Son Jesus Christ in our place to live a holy life, a perfect God-Man being who did every right thing that we could not and even remembered to do every right thing we forgot. But even that wasn’t enough: Jesus’ righteousness had to pass on to us, in order for us to benefit from it. Jesus took on the punishment we deserved and died once for the whole world. He died in our place and suffered hell and ultimate separation from God himself. And then Jesus rose from the dead to show that He had defeated death, hell, and the devil, and that now peace reigns between God and Man. We are forgiven, truly forgiveness, for what we have done, and we are right with God. It is literally the most amazing thing this universe has or will ever have witnessed. It is the ultimate sacrifice and the ultimate love.

Anyway, all of that, all of that history, that Word, it’s God’s, not ours, and it is far older than this age, and we shouldn’t be afraid to speak it confidently and boldly to our fellow man. It is this Word of this forgiveness and salvation that everyone in the world needs to hear. Speaking Boldly begins by going through Creation and the wonderful news of salvation, and then digs into the definitions and uses of God’s Law and Gospel. Sometimes people are in a place where they need to hear the Law, as they need to come to repentance. Sometimes they need to hear the Gospel as comfort for when they are repentant or when they need comfort.

In our modern world, we often avoid talking about things like spirituality and religion, so how on earth is a Christian to even bring up Law or Gospel with anyone? Speaking Boldly goes through it step by step, but basically we must form genuine relationships for the speaking to even happen. And Grimenstein says the best way to relate to people is to listen to them, to really listen. Put down the smart devices, turn off the TV, forget about what you’re doing, and really listen to the person in front of you. If we listen well, it will become clear to us what we are to say, if we need to share Law or Gospel or both. Christians really listening will instantly distinguish us from the rest of the world. Instant light, instant salt.

Although in the past year I have become better, I am not a particularly patient person. Once upon a time, I used to be a very good listener, but lost it. Because it’s a skill that involves being around people, that’s perhaps why I lost it, becoming too involved in watching shows and reading books, plus the addition of living alone. When one is not around people, it’s easy to forget how to relate to them. This year I have been trying to do better at listening, and the results are amazing. Connections are made where there were none or fizzled ones before. Having patience is basically about time: Make it not exist when you are with other people. We can’t always do it fully, and it depends much on the situation and circumstances, but it becomes its own reward, being a great way to learn how people think and learn more about what they need and want. And most everyone wants some level of hope, love, and forgiveness, and that’s where we can step in to share God’s Word.

Grimenstein spends awhile on listening, as it’s just that important. Just like a doctor is no good if she doesn’t listen to what her patients are telling her, neither are we good if we don’t listen, either. It is vital for us to know when to share Law and when to share Gospel. Later on, he discusses other aspects to consider using the parable of the Sower and the Seed from Luke. There are a number of reasons why God’s Word is not received well or even rejected by those that hear it, and it’s more complicated than that they simply don’t believe. It’s important to understand what people are dealing with, their cares and concerns in the world, if they are believers, if they are being mocked or persecuted for their faith, or if they are simply not grasping that God’s Word and salvation is for them personally. Even Christians sometimes doubt that we’ll be in heaven. In those times, we desperately need a fellow Christian to speak the Gospel to us.

For the last chapter, Grimenstein discusses when the world “talks back.” He goes through many of the ways that right from the get-go, the world prevents us from speaking God’s Word and how to address that. The first thing, again, is that it’s not our word, but God’s. Salvation is real and should give us the ultimate confidence and boldness, for we are not speaking for ourselves, but for God who loves us far better than any human can comprehend. It’s more than okay if we lose our own lives in the speaking of God’s Word. We are but a mist on this earth, and then we are gone. Heaven is eternal, and that is where our true, eternal lives will be led someday, though I can scarcely comprehend what that will be like.

I realized reading this book that I need to improve on listening to people, but it also hit home that my everyday speaking needs to improve also. A great majority of the time I am among Christians, fellow Lutherans, and the Law and Gospel aren’t as much of our speaking as they could be. What Grimenstein is talking about is not just talking to people, but having heart to hearts with people, making things matter in the ways that they should. The examples he uses are fitting, and a couple of them surprised me–the possible depth of the conversations surprised me. I live in Minnesota. We’re “nice” and often don’t talk about things when we should talk about them. Worse, sometimes that evolves into being passive-aggressive, an underlying malice underneath that nice veneer. Shudder. It can be a difficult wall to break down, but, boy, is it worth it when it is broken down. Even so, it’s not talking about “things” that’s so important, but talking about our Salvation and Justification, our forgiveness of sins and why Heaven is obtainable for everyone. It’s not about us, it’s about God and what He has done for us in saving us.

This is a great book for either group or personal study. It’s not glamorous, but simple, in a good way. And it showcases how God so often uses imperfect people to get his message across. So many of those stories are in the Bible for us to consider. Humanity’s history is intricately tied up with God. That history is written down for us so that we can emblazon it on our hearts and speak boldly the truth of God’s Word.

Good Times, Evil Times

We are living in evil times these days, times when lies are everywhere and from almost every so-called source of human authority. Our fellow man is being cajoled and coerced into harming their bodies by participating in a medical experiment about which there are many, many unknowns. The real goal is power, power at any cost. Informed consent is so far gone, we might as well be living in the Third Reich. Fear is the main instigator that evil is using, fear of being sick, of getting even a cold, fear of being ostracized, of losing one’s job, friends, family, etc.

But the evil times are also good times, for God’s hand is in all of this. He is allowing evil to show its hand, to force its agenda, so that more and more people will wake up to the truth and turn to Him: God is the only being and authority we can trust for our future security. The only one. Few, if any churches, have even stood against this on behalf of the people. This is such a good time for believers in Christ to shake off the trappings of the world. All those other stories we deem so important–they don’t matter, not really. God’s story, Christ’s story, is the one that matters. The forgiveness of sin, the salvation of the world. The call to repentance and a new life. We are in His hands, and he uses all times, but especially bad or evil times, to remind us of that.

I have seen all the things that are done under the sun; all of them are meaningless, a chasing after the wind. –Ecclesiastes 1:14

Consider how the wild flowers grow. They do not labor or spin. But I tell you, not even Solomon in all his glory was dressed like one of these. If this is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow throw into the fire, how much more will he clothe you, you of little faith? Do not constantly chase after what you will eat or what you will drink. Do not be worried about it. To be sure, the nations of the world chase after all these things, but your Father knows that you need them. Instead, continue to seek the kingdom of God and all these things will be added to you. –Luke 12:27-31

How Much Is Freedom Worth?

How much is freedom worth to you personally? That’s the question we have to start asking ourselves as locations across the country starting putting even more draconian laws in place for a virus not much worse than the average flu. This week, my city council voted on an ordinance requiring everyone to wear masks whenever they are indoors in a public place. This in a month when tons and tons of people have been exposed to COVID and are getting tested. If anyone still thinks this is about health, your health, or your neighbors health, I have a bridge to sell you. This is purely about power and money, and by and large the supposedly freedom loving Americans are letting their freedom of expression and even breathing freely to be taken away without even a single shot being fired.

How did we get here? Complacency and also fear, not fear of the virus, no, no. I know any number of people including myself who vehemently disagree with what’s been happening regarding the response to this virus. Why don’t we take a stand and stage our own protests? Freedom doesn’t come cheap, and winning it for oneself and others costs even more. We could lose our jobs, our incomes, and thus our places of living, our cars, and the list goes on and on. What is happening in our country and the world is truly frightening. And we wonder about those people in the past who were “just following orders.” We’re finding out we’re really not much different than them when it comes down to it. Not even my church dares stand up against this, though I guess when it comes down to it they won’t deny Jesus…right?

Right? I ask this as a Christian for myself, especially. Is that the only line drawn that matters? That everything that comes before them asking us to deny Christ are not lines that we should hold, lines also of truth and freedom? Jesus didn’t come to overthrow society in a political revolution, that’s true, but I wonder if he’s really happy with us allowing the crazy people and also simply the afraid people to rule us. If all we value is absolute safety, we’ll never have any freedom ever again. C.S. Lewis showed it best when he portrayed Aslan (representing Jesus) as a Lion, a loving yet dangerous Lion. God is ok with danger, he experienced the worst danger one possibly can to save the world by sacrificing himself on the cross. Really hard to see Jesus hiding behind a mask, and he told the leaders of his day to stop hanging more and more laws around people’s necks so they could barely stand up under the weight of them.

It’s just sad that no one seems to understand that this forced mask wearing is directly against our God-given right to express ourselves freely. It’s also against the First Amendment of our Constitution. COVID is not nearly bad enough to warrant such drastic measures, but even if it was, say, Ebola, this would still be against our right to freedom of speech. And they’ve notably left out a date as to which this will all end.

We have a God-given right to live with danger. In fact, God asks us to live dangerously, to befriend those we normally wouldn’t, to go to places we normally wouldn’t, all for the sake of sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I am disappointed in myself because all I can do is write. There’s no other job I can go now where they won’t require a mask that restricts breathing and will likely give a large number of people lung issues for the rest of their lives. It’s no choice. C.S. Lewis was right, the moral busybodies are the worst, they give you no choice, when even God gives us choices!

But I am more disappointed in my church. I always thought, even if I was scared or weak, that my church would stand strong. Not so, and it disappoints me greatly to see it. But the leaders of our churches are only human, and sadly, many, many of our men today are weak and just want to go along to get along. As far as Gospel sharing, I can see why this is a good approach, but I don’t think it’s a good way to live, not standing up for anything else. How can we stress to people we care about their eternal well being if we don’t care about them being able to live well in this life? And wearing a mask, staying 6 feet apart from everyone, and living in constant fear of sickness is not living well.

I am being dramatic, but doesn’t drama and emotion fit somewhere? Is there no time that we’re allowed to get upset about having to go along with a lie? Multiple lies? Lies about COVID, lies about masks, lies about social distancing, and on and on? We are being asked to live a lie and even our fellow Christians are sadly asking us to do so, making it even harder to take a stand against it. I mean, who wants to be all alone standing for freedom? Is God really asking us to go along with this lie? At some point, shouldn’t we stand against these busybody bullies who think wearing a mask bestows virtue, and in some cases, power on themselves? Sure, we don’t want granny to die of COV, but if her life up until her death is worse than prison, that’s ok, is it?

This is all a power play and getting us ready to be forced to take the vaccine, whenever it’s ready, and no matter how unsafe it may be to take. So I have to decide: How much is my freedom worth to me? Is it worth losing my job? Is it worth not be able to find a job or likely even work, as every single company will likely require a vaccine? Is it worth losing friends and family? Is it worth even, possibly, not being welcome at my church or any church? Is it worth losing everything in this life? Live free or die?

I can tell you I don’t want to take a vaccine. I no longer think they’re safe and I no longer trust anyone in science or healthcare–neither science or caring for health is what’s going on with those industries today. I don’t want to take it, but I am weak, and although I’m excited to go to heaven someday, I’ve no desire to artificially hasten that time along by stepping into homelessness and starvation. If all this isn’t a mass psychological torture, I don’t know what is. As long as I don’t deny Christ, nothing else matters, right? Is that true? Doesn’t ring true in my heart, not today. How I wish this post could be more hopeful. Can’t the good guys in power who are able to do something see that they are giving the average person no way out? If this isn’t evil, I don’t know what is. Not sure anyone’s coming to save us from this, not even our great president, so, again, ask yourself: How much is freedom worth to you? You may have to seriously decide in the very near future.

This month I’m trying to sit down and reassess a story I wrote about vaccines. A story set in the future. It’s a satire and harsh look on our blind devotion to what we call science. But what we are living through right now is crazier than this story!