Faith

Book Review: Rediscovering Humility

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We often define sanctification as “becoming more like Christ.” A more apt definition might be “resting more in Christ’s love.” One of the major sins that many Christians try to sanctify themselves out of is the sin of pride.

I’ve just finished reading the book Rediscovering Humility by Christopher Hutchinson that addresses the attempt to eliminate pride by looking at it from the opposite side. What if we stopped trying to get rid of pride and instead started trying to live in humility?

Pastor Hutchinson begins the book with the admission that it is a work of which he is “exceptionally proud,” immediately setting the humble and slightly humorous tone for the rest of the study. He then goes on to describe why he wanted to write a book on humility – it’s not something the church talks about very much, but there is a need for such discussion.

Rediscovering Humility divides the subject of humility into three sections: Humility Found (Faith), Humility Embraced (Hope), and Humility Applied (Love). Before reading this, I didn’t realize there was so much to the pursuit of humility. The slightly thick and deep book looked a little daunting as I began. And it became more and more convicting as I read.

But I did not pour hours of reading and thought into this book just for the feeling of conviction or that of superiority upon finishing it (that would be ironic indeed). I continued reading because the underlying premise of each chapter was grace. If you’ve read this blog for long, you probably know that I am a perfectionist and hold myself to a high standard rather than resting in the love of God. Rediscovering Humility was the book on Christian humility that I needed.

On almost every page, Pastor Hutchinson writes about the source and example of our humility: Christ. He humbled Himself to the point of death (Philippians 2). He came to serve, not to be served (Matthew 20).

We are able to live in humility because our Savior first lived in humility. We live in humility by recognizing the grace and love that we have in Christ. It’s not a cruel game of trying harder and counting up failures. It’s a life of joy that comes only from resting in God’s grace. If we do that, we cannot help but be humble.

Rediscovering Humility is not an easy book to read. As I said, it is incredibly convicting. I’m still looking around and seeing all the ways that I am prideful that I never noticed before. As Pastor Hutchinson writes in the preface, “Pride is all-pervasive. It is capable of turning any old thing into a curse, especially those things that are otherwise praiseworthy. Pride so easily masquerades as godliness that even the attempt to quell pride may just as easily feed it.”

So, it is not a comfortable book to read. It will take hours, if done with a spirit of self-examination and a desire for understanding. But it is worth it. Because, at the end of the day (and book), it all comes down to grace.

Kira

What are you reading?

Eliminating the Pride of Worry

Before we get to the content of this post, there are a few housekeeping notes I’d like to take care of.

First, the poll that I posted last week is still active and I would love more feedback on what you want to read. This blog isn’t just something to keep me busy – I want to serve you with what I write here. So, if you haven’t given me your thoughts yet, I would love it if you would let me know what kind of thing you want to read from me on this poll.

Second, I’m going to try experimenting a little bit with the time that I publish these posts. This probably won’t affect you very much except for the time that the email comes to you if you follow the blog by email.

Third, and finally, I’m going to be putting together the beginnings of an email list in the near future. Don’t worry – I won’t be sending out any sort of weekly email at this point. It will probably just be the occasional update on writing and various other things. If you have an idea for what you might want to receive from an email list, let me know in the comments. I would love your input and support, so be looking for that email list soon!


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On Sunday, the pastor at my church preached a sermon on worry as a start to the new year. A lot of people are thinking about resolutions and where they could be a year from now, but he presented the idea that maybe a Christian’s resolution should be not to worry. He titled the sermon “Don’t Worry; Be Faithful!” and preached from Matthew 6, where Jesus tells of the Father’s providence over all of creation.

Coincidentally, he also wrote a book on humility that I am currently reading called Rediscovering Humility. Now, I promise I am not just trying to advertise for him here, but the sermon and the book got me thinking this week on why I worry.

I came up with a few different answers: I worry because I want things to go well. I worry because I don’t know the details of some event or change. I worry because I am not the one in control. And so on. All of those answers follow a similar pattern. I worry because I have some perceived need. My worry centers around me and my future, which automatically makes my worry the product of pride.

Pride is given many definitions based on who you ask, but the common thread is a focus primarily on self. And if you’ve ever spent some time honestly looking for pride in different areas of your life, you’ve likely seen just how it seems to come out in everything – even the things you don’t think are prideful, like worry.

If I were to make a list of things I’m anxious about at any given moment, it would be longer than anyone would care to read. I know that I am particularly prone to worry and anxiety over practically everything. That has frustrated me for a long time. It’s not fun to always be thinking about what could go wrong or how I could be ruining my entire future. But that frustration stemmed from the (wrong) idea that worry is something that happens to me. Not something I do to myself.

If I recognize worry as pride and self-reliance, suddenly it looks different. I told my dad the other day that the anxiousness isn’t something I can just turn on and off like a switch. And I still think that’s true. It won’t go away so easily. But I’m beginning to think that there are things I can do about it.

So the next question is, how do I get rid of the pride behind the worry? If worry is the symptom, pride is the disease, and it is one that runs deep. I don’t believe there is a step-by-step plan to get rid of pride and live a wonderful life, but there are ways to overcome it biblically. And, wonder of wonders, it is often addressed by the name of “worry” or “anxiety.”

“The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:5b-7)

This was my favorite verse for a long time and I still often quote it to myself. And with good reason: it says that I do not need to be anxious or worry because God can take care of my concerns and give me His peace in place of my anxiety. All I need to do is release control and surrender it to Him. He will do the rest.

“Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” (Matthew 6:31-33)

This passage in Matthew takes the answer to getting rid of the pride of worry a step further. Once I cast my cares on God, I will need a new focus. If I’m not wringing my hands over the new year or an impending project (I just remembered one that I had completely forgotten as I write…), then I need something else to fill my mind. Matthew 6:33 provides that focus: the kingdom of God and His righteousness.

As Rick Warren (not C.S. Lewis) wrote, “Humility is not thinking less of yourself, it’s thinking of yourself less.” If my mind is full of the things of God, I don’t have space or time to worry. If I am meditating on Scripture and looking for ways to serve my coworkers, I don’t have time to think about all the things that could go wrong this semester.

I know that we can’t snap our fingers or flip a switch to rid ourselves of our anxieties. But we can turn to God more. We can fill our minds with His Word and with prayers. It won’t make the worry instantly vanish, but it will be a much more peaceful way to live this year.

Kira

Do you have any New Year’s resolutions?
What is something you’re worried about (and can surrender to God)?

It is Good to be Near God

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For me it is good to be near God. (Psalm 73:28a)

I’ve been caught up in a lot of stuff lately. I just turned in my first two college applications, my car keeps breaking in expensive and obnoxious ways, I’ve just had to leave a steady nanny job to look for different work, and so on. My mind is always consumed with something. Will my chemistry homework get finished? When’s the last time I worked out?

I’ve always thought myself a busy person, but it’s amazing how you can handle more stuff in life than you think. Just when you think you’re at capacity, one more things is added to your schedule and you still somehow survive.

One of the things added to my schedule a few weeks ago was preparing a Bible study for a discipleship ministry that I’ve been a part of for about eight years now. I’ve done a few Bible studies for the group before and preparation often involves listening to sermons and reading commentaries on the passage (Romans 6:1-14 in this case) in order to learn as much as you can before leading the team in the study.

While listening to a sermon by Sandy Willson called “Lord, Change Me“, I began to realize how I have been drifting into trying to run my own life. One of his three lessons at the end of the sermon was to invest real time to cultivate the relationship you have with God. He said, and I quote, “You can’t microwave this, America!” (By the way, you should all go listen to Sandy Willson – he’s awesome)

A relationship with God never reaches its full potential, at least in this life. There is always more room to grow and the amount of time I have been devoting to my relationship with God is not enough. That’s why I’ve been so wrapped up in the world. That’s why my car, college, and career are such a big deal.

When we don’t pour ourselves into our relationship with God, we become envious of the wicked in Psalm 73: they seem to suffer no consequences for their sin and even seem to prosper. But when we go “into the santuary of God”, then we can discern their end (Psalm 73:17).

When we go into the sanctuary with God and spend time with Him – in His Word, in prayer, in coming to know Who He is – we realize that we do not need the things that we so greatly desire. We realize that “for me it is good to be near God.”

I’ve been learning that through drifting my own way and then coming back. For me, Kira, it is so good to be near God. And the same is true for you.

Kira

Book Review: Robinson Crusoe

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I never thought I would enjoy Robinson Crusoe.

Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe was assigned in a literature class I am taking this year as the second book of the semester. I entered into it with a slight sense of dread, trying to temper that with the hope that it wouldn’t be as bad as I thought it might. After all, how could a book with a single character for the majority of the story be interesting?

Much to my pleasure, Robinson Crusoe showed me.

Rather than purely an adventure story (though there is plenty of adventure both before and during Crusoe’s island stay), Robinson Crusoe is the exploration of a man’s heart.

At the beginning of the book, Crusoe is a headstrong young man. He would rather have his way than listen to the pleading and reasoning of his parents. So he goes to sea. After a few mishaps (and some good fortune), Crusoe is the only man to survive a storm at sea and is deposited on his island for most of the remainder of the book.

And this is the point where I believed I would lose interest and have to start forcing myself to read. But once the physical journey of Crusoe’s life slows, Defoe begins to emphasize the spiritual journey.

Being left alone on an island leads to plenty of hours for introspection. Fortunately for Crusoe, a few Bibles were preserved from the storm and he begins to read them, having never done so seriously before. From there, Crusoe surrenders his life to Christ. He is made into a new man and now sees his island as God’s providence rather than his own ill fortune.

Robinson Crusoe had its dull moments, of course. But overall, Defoe wrote a satisfying and convicting spiritual story. Often, when Crusoe recognized sin in himself, I came to see the same within my life. Unlike in many other stories however, Crusoe turned to repentance and Scripture at such turning points rather than his own intelligence or even depression.

Daniel Defoe’s classic adventure novel holds the treasure of biblical truth which the majority of books today fail to follow. Without waxing on about the depravity and darkness of most of today’s literature (if it can be so called), I will only say that the clear acknowledgement of God in Robinson Crusoe gave me great pleasure to read.

As to whether I would recommend this book, I would say yes. Read it. Push through the boring parts because there is truth and excitement just around the corner. Besides, it does us modern readers good to stretch our attention spans every once in a while. Especially for such a worthy book.

Kira

Grace Draws Us Back

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The grace of God has reached for me
And pulled me from the raging sea
And I am safe on this solid ground
The Lord is my salvation
“The Lord is My Salvation” by Keith and Kristyn Getty

I have fallen this week, this month. I have sinned repeatedly, even when I knew it was wrong. I have prized the things of this world above the things of Heaven. I have allowed myself to be swallowed up by worries and fear. And still the grace of God has reached for me.

The prophet Hosea obeyed God’s call to give Israel a picture of the Lord’s redemption through the formation of his family. He married a prostitute, Gomer, who represented Israel in all her spiritual adultery and wandering from God. They had children together who were given symbolic names to show Israel what state she was in as a result of her sin. When Gomer left Hosea to return to her life of prostitution, he redeemed her and brought her home. God did the same for Israel and He will do the same for us.

Grace is the most beautiful part of the gospel. It is what draws us to Heaven. It continues through our lives, drawing us back to Christ day after day. He pulls us from the raging sea of our sin and our obsession with this world and what it can do for us. And He brings us to Himself to be loved and forgiven every time.

Thank the Lord for His steadfast love and salvation which He offers continually and without condition. His is the perfect love we can return to and His are the open arms that will receive us. Don’t hesitate to come to God in your need and ask Him for forgiveness. He will give it.

Kira

How has the Lord shown Himself good to you?

Why I Write

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Writing is my passion. That’s easy enough to see (and if you can’t see it, I will gladly tell you about it for a full three hours). I’ve loved to write for longer than I can remember, though some of my earlier ventures barely qualify as actual “writing.” I’ve poured a lot of hours into studying and practicing my craft, striving to become better and better. And there’s a reason for that. I want to share with you why I write and why I feel that it is such an important thing.

I’m sure that everyone has been to a library or bookstore at least once. Did you visit the teen section while you were there? Let me describe it for you.

Most every teen section in every library and bookstore is the same. As soon as you enter it, the books become darker – the covers are black, often with spidery silver lettering across them. There are lots of depictions of aliens, vampires, and “hot” teenagers locked in each other’s arms. If you open the books, you will get exactly what you bargained for. Dramatic betrayals, hopeless depression, and endless love triangles (or squares) fill hundreds of pages. All of them are gripping and keep readers turning page after page. But none of them are redeeming.

The Bible teaches that the things we think about are what will shape our hearts and, thus, our lives. Millions (if not billions) of people are consuming these sad excuses for books every day and having their minds conformed to the ideas and beliefs threaded through them. And every day more and more are being written, printed, and released to the population.

I write to fight against that.

It is my goal to create masterpieces that glorify God and present good stories. Stories that don’t end in tragedy and promote sin. I want my books to be of high quality and of high moral value. In a world that is so depraved and lost, I write to offer light and hope because I know the only true Source of that hope.

My explanation for why I write is not a long or fancy one. It is simply a desire to bring light to the shelves of libraries and bookstores so that teenagers are reading better literature than Twilight and thinking about things more redeeming than The Fault in Our Stars.

I believe that Christians who write have a responsibility to do that – to bring that light to readers through their work. And I pray that I do that with every word that I put on a page.

Kira

Why do you do what you do?
What keeps you going in the face of obstacles?

My Testimony

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I was born into a Christian home. I grew up hearing all the Bible stories and, of course, believing them. My parents said they were true.

As a kid, I was selfish beyond belief. Everything had to be perfect and if something didn’t work out the way I wanted it to, I would get angry. I wasn’t very loving to my siblings because I didn’t think it was “cool” or “mature” to spend time with them. Absolutely every facet of my life had to do with making myself happy. And, believe it or not, that actually resulted in a lot of unhappiness.

I can’t point to the date on a calendar marking my salvation. It was more of a gradual thing (and I struggled with whether that meant I was saved for a long time). I had always heard the stories and I always believed them. But I didn’t own my faith until I joined a ministry that put a huge emphasis on discipleship, around the time I was ten or eleven years old.

All of a sudden, I was being encouraged to do something called “devotions” and to look at my life and try to become more Christ-like – to really commit myself to Him. I had more accountability than I wanted for a long time. It made me uncomfortable until I started purposefully investing in my relationship with God.

I thought I had pretty good faith, you know, as far as faith goes. I wasn’t an Abraham and I wasn’t Corrie ten Boom, but I was alright. The thing is, as soon as you start thinking like that, God tends to let you know exactly where you are faith-wise.

Our family does foster care and we got a tiny baby girl when I was eleven years old. We kept her for the first four months of her life and then had to give her up. She had become a sister to us and we all cried when she left.

I was also angry. I didn’t see how God could possibly think that it was okay to give her to another family. Our family was an amazing place for her to be and it would be good for her to grow up with us.

A few months later, we got a phone call from her grandparents, asking if we wanted to come see her. We went to their home and visited our sister. After a while, we got to see her again. Then we started babysitting her for a bit. Soon, she was living with us again.

It wasn’t until I looked back that I saw God’s providence in the whole situation. His plan was good, even when I was angry with Him for what He had done. I didn’t have faith in Him and His work. But He taught me that He knows what He’s doing, even when I don’t want to think so.

My faith is still growing. I catch myself doubting all the time, not wanting to step out of my comfort zone or be content that everything is worked out for good. Fortunately, God isn’t giving up on me. And I am grateful for that. I pray that He would be glorified in my life and that I would continue to become more like Him.

This isn’t my full testimony, but it’s a good part of it. One of my favorites, in fact. To get the rest of it, you need simply read past blog posts. They document what God is teaching me and how He is growing me throughout the weeks, months, and years.

Thank you, Lord, for my testimony!

Kira

All the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing,
and he does according to his will among the host of heaven
and among the inhabitants of the earth;
and none can stay his hand
or say to him, “What have you done?”
Daniel 4:35

Your Testimony Is Not Boring

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How do you start your testimony?

Most of the ones that I’ve heard begin with the same sentence: “I was born into a Christian home.” It’s usually said dramatically or with an eye roll, trying to cover the embarrassment of having the same opening line as so many other testimonies. I’ve said it that way myself, several times.

So why do we consider that line to be such a bad thing? I think it comes down to the fact that we want our testimonies to be unique – different from everyone else’s. But have you ever heard two testimonies that were exactly the same? I haven’t. No matter how many times someone opens with “I was born into a Christian home,” they never go on to give a testimony identical to another believer’s.

God is doing something different and special in each one of our lives and it’s beautiful to see. He has an individual plan for all of us and that plan is good.

Maybe the awkward laugh after opening our testimonies has to do with something else. Maybe we think it’s not that special. We can’t claim to be former drug addicts or zealous Muslims or anything like that. We’ve been hearing the gospel since before we were born and we know the Bible stories by heart. After all, we were born into a Christian home.

I’ve struggled with the idea that my testimony is boring several times. It’s something that seems to keep coming back. But then God hits me upside the head with the fact that my testimony is what it is because He wants it that way. He put me in the Christian home and He saved me at a young age. He didn’t want me to suffer all the things that I seem to be jealous of (which, when I think about it, is kind of ridiculous).

Being born into a Christian home is a blessing. We needn’t be embarrassed by it – we should rejoice in it! We have the privilege of being surrounded by Scripture and the church from our first breath. Many believers would give so much to have had that, and yet we envy their “interesting” testimony.

Let’s give glory to God for our testimonies. He has done what is good in our lives. It’s our skewed perspective that leads us to believe otherwise. We don’t think our salvation story is all that amazing. But isn’t it amazing that we were saved at all?

On another note, your testimony doesn’t end at salvation. That’s really just the beginning. Your testimony is the story of your life as God’s child. Mine includes foster care stories, discipleship teams, and plain old emotional struggles. Some of those seem thrilling and some of them are average, day to day sanctification. But all of it is God’s work in my life. None of it is boring or accidental.

Your testimony is not dull. Your testimony is the work of our Creator and Lord in your individual life. Relish it – every detail.

Kira

What’s your testimony?

Please Read the Gospels

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Have you ever heard a story that you loved so much you could listen to it over and over again? Is there a book that you’ve worn through from so many re-readings? A movie with scratches on the disc because you have to watch it again?

Stories are incredible and many of them are so good that we could experience them again and again without growing bored. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve watched The Princess Bride or Annie. Whinnie the Pooh never gets old and Narnia will always have a special place in my heart.

But even those stories can wear down some eventually. I have to take a break between Doctor Who marathons and Lord of the Rings can only be seen so often.

But there is one story that is just as awe-inspiring and moving no matter how many times you read it. The gospel feels just as fresh the first time as the thirtieth, as we see our sin and then see what Christ went through to save us from it.

I’ve been reading through Luke for my morning devotions and I love to read all the stories of Jesus’s ministry again. The two that stand out, though, are His birth, and His crucifixion and resurrection.

My soul magnifies the Lord along with Mary and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior (Luke 1:46-47).  How could Christ have humbled Himself so much and been willing to suffer so much just so that I could be with Him? How could anyone love me that much?

And yet, God does love me that much. He loves all of His children that much. And the four Gospel accounts are refreshingly full of that love.

It seems simple to read through the Gospels over and over again. Shouldn’t more mature Christians be studying other parts of the Bible? We already understand salvation.

But the Gospel is the basis of Christianity. It is Christianity. They are encouraging and lovely and convicting and beautiful all at once.

Don’t forget to read the Gospels. Don’t forget the most important story ever told.

Kira

What’s your favorite part of the Gospels?

God’s Outrageous Generosity

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I wrote my last post in a state of dullness; life wasn’t working and nothing I did seemed to help. All I could do was to keep pushing through, keep doing the things that need to get done in a day: eat, shower, school, work, chores. Go to bed, wake up, repeat.

That feeling isn’t completely gone. It’s beginning to fade, but still here. I’m continuing in my routines, getting things done, and just trying to live through.

But God is gracious. He knows how I’ve been feeling and, while feelings aren’t everything, He did give them to us and He has felt them Himself. On Sunday, He offered some soothing of the struggle – some joy in the midst of the drudgery.

The sermon was on the Prodigal Son in Luke 15 (you can listen to it here). If you’ve grown up in the church, you’ve probably heard it a thousand times, like I have. Surely there’s nothing new.

Of course, every time we think that, God is quick to prove us wrong on an epic scale.

The whole sermon was amazing, hitting me with different points and introducing new ways of thinking about the parable that I had never considered before. But it was one verse and one point in particular that has stuck with me and won’t leave my head, through the roughness of life.

And he said to him, “Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours.” -Luke 15:31

The father in the story is talking to a disgruntled older brother about why he celebrates the return of his wayward son. The father represents our Father in Heaven and his words are those of our Lord.

One of the true-est truths (if there can be such a thing) is that of God’s generosity. It is apparent throughout Scripture from the beginning of time all the way through every moment of history up until this very one. He has given us His universe to live in, His food to eat, His Son to be saved by.

Everything God has, He has given to us.

You are always with me, and all that is mine is yours…

However, as our pastor pointed out, this is also one of the first truths that we want to deny to ourselves. “How is this generosity? It’s probably just God trying to toughen me up or ‘sanctify me’ or something. But not generosity.”

Eve believed God was keeping something from her when He said not to eat the fruit. It’s a lie that has crept from generation to generation and one that we must be aware of in order to combat.

The past couple weeks, it is the lie that I have believed. “God’s giving me a rough time right now. He’s withholding the ease and happiness that I want. Maybe I’ll get it one day, but there’s a reason it’s being kept from me for now.” No. God is overwhelmingly generous with me, always sharing all that He has with me.

And when you think about how much He has, that’s a big deal. So, don’t be discouraged. Remember that your Father loves you and has given you all that is His. Because He wants to.

Kira

What are some ways that you can see God’s generosity in your life right now? How do you remember those when you’re suffering?