Sunday, June 1, 2014

To Live Is Christ - Chapters 11 & 12

"Contentment in Christ" by Amy Hill

Well, ladies, here we are.  Can you believe it has been five weeks already?  If you have gotten a little behind in the reading, no worries.  Hopefully you will have some time to relax and catch up on your reading this summer.   For those of you on schedule, we just finished up the final two chapters, "Christ Is All" and "True Contentment." I am on the schedule to share my thoughts this week, so here it goes…

"To Live Is Christ, To Die Is Gain."  In other words, we can't lose.  The perishable has put on the imperishable and the mortal has put on immortality.  Death is swallowed up in victory! (1 Corinthians 15:54)  Sure, we know that intellectually. But do we believe it?  Do we live our lives like its true?  Paul did.  In our reading this week, Matt walked us through much of the apostle Paul's ministry, pointing out that Paul went though some wild swings in life - from ridiculous highs to extreme lows.  Through this, we saw that Paul wasn't just a guy who knew a lot of information about the the gospel.  Paul lived the gospel.  He experienced the gospel first-hand.  And his life bore "the fruit of having lived a life captured by the gospel." 

An example of that fruit was Paul's unchanging contentment.  Indeed, Paul writes in Philippians 4:11b-13, ESV, "I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content.  I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound.  In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need.  I can do all things through him who strengthens me."

I am to be content in whatever situation.  I am to yield (with a tender, malleable spirit) to God should He choose to bring me low or to make me abound.  I don't know about all of you, but in either one of those extremes, I struggle.   Even in the middle ground, I struggle.  But especially in extremes, it is hard to be genuinely content in Christ who strengthens me.  

Extreme highs are dangerous because they blind us of our need for God.  These highs can fool us into taking credit for who we are and what we have (Deuteronomy 8:17-18).  

Extreme lows, on the other hand, war with our pride and our human needs in ways that always seem to reveal wrong foundational security (anything other than Christ).  Extreme lows can come from real need (think job loss, car crash, loss of housing).  Lows can be physical (such as illness or weight gain).  Lows can be relational (think death, divorce, rejection, humiliation, alienation, hurt feelings).  Lows can be emotional (think stress, anxiety, fear, loneliness, defeat).  When I yield to God with a tender, malleable spirit in these low places, it hurts.  I actually feel a sad, bleeding pain in my chest.  That might sound weird, but it is the best way I can describe it.  

Lecrae (a christian hip hop artist) described it as "sanctifying surgery."  Surprisingly, however, instead of wishing these kinds of circumstances away, this is what Lecrae had to say:

          I volunteer for Your sanctifying surgery
          I know the Spirit's purging me of everything that's hurting me

He volunteers?!  Like, pick me?!  Yes, because, like Paul, Lecrae knows that God uses these circumstances to make us more like Jesus.  Like Paul, Lecrae believes suffering the loss of all things is rubbish, so long as it means he gets to gain Christ (Philippians 3:8).  So he volunteers.  He says, "Pick me!" 

And, you know, I do get that.  I mean, I pray crazy prayers.  I  pray "Pick me!" prayers.  I've told God, "whatever, wherever, however - I trust you."  But for real, when I'm in it, even knowing in the midst of it that my prayers are being ANSWERED, it still hurts.  Most times, I try to fight that pain by trying to resist.  This always leads to more difficulty and even more pain.  So, ultimately, I'm forced to yield.  I'm forced to trust, and to commit my way to the LORD (Psalm 37).  It isn't a place without pain, but it is a place of rest, and it is a place of contentment.  I just wish I would yield to begin with and avoid a lot of the excess heartbreak…

How about you?  As Matt asked, "how are you doing in the area of contentment?  How quick is your impulse to find satisfaction in Christ, to go to the joy of the gospel in times of stress, frustration, disappointment, and trouble?"  Or, let me ask it this way, as we conclude this book, are you genuinely able to say, "To live is Christ, to die is gain"?


I'm looking forward to seeing many of you tomorrow night (Tuesday, June 3rd) at Kelly Mac's to kick off our next online study, "Children of the Day."  If you haven't ordered the workbook, you can order it now here: 

For those of you who aren't able to participate in Children of the Day, we would love to see you anyway.  Just come for fun and fellowship!  We're only planning to meet two more times this summer - so try your best to make it if you can :)

My child, don't reject the LORD's discipline, and don't be upset when he corrects you. For the LORD corrects those he loves, just as a father corrects a child in whom he delights. Proverbs 3:11-12, NLT

Monday, May 26, 2014

To Live Is Christ - Chapters 8, 9 & 10

"New Revelation?" by Kathy Miles

Today is Memorial Day, a day we remember the men and women who "wrote a blank check made payable 'To My Country' for an amount 'up to and including my life.'"  Similarly, we are said to have given our lives to the One who first gave His life for us.  But is our "check" really blank?  And do we really trust the One to whom we've written it?  These are questions to sit on, questions to ponder.  Our answers will determine whether we truly live a gospel-centered faith marked by rejoicing, thankfulness, prayer, and peace.  This week, Paul and Matt brought us back to the basics, the foundation of our faith, and Kathy Miles went right back there with them.  Let's join in on the discussion by considering Kathy's response to this revolutionary lesson in Gospel 101.

"…we want new revelation while at the same time we refuse to be obedient to what we already know.  We demand to be taught something new.  But it makes no sense to graduate on to an advanced class when we've never cleared the basics.  In biblical terms, what we call the basics of Christianity - the gospel of Jesus Christ - is in reality both the beginner's level and the advanced class!" ("To Live Is Christ, To Die is Gain," pg. 132)

Chapter 8

Centering on the gospel: Matt tells us of our desire for new revelation, but the gospel of Jesus Christ will continue to give us depths of wisdom and new insights every day throughout our life.  We do not need new “light” but new “ sight” - to dwell on what Christ has done for us and who we are in Him.  He gives us three practical examples to center on the gospel:  discipleship,  remembering our citizenship, and anticipating heaven.  

Our identity: how easy it is to think of my identity in the usual terms- I am a wife, mom, mom mom and nurse - to go “outside” of Him, as Matt describes to find our identity.  My identity may be determined by earthly things - “my” things - and this is not what God’s word tells me.  My identity is based on what Christ has done.  It is about what is inside of me, not the outside, and what is inside of me is Jesus.  I have found that there is a conflict within me at times.  I know that every good gift is from the Lord and is treasured by me, but that I must always remember that He is the greatest treasure. 

This leads me to Matt’s discussion on anticipating heaven.  Our citizenship is in heaven, not here on earth.  Yes, we are here for awhile, but passing through and when we think of eternity, our time here is very short.  The book we are reading really describes this, "To Live Is Christ, To Die Is Gain" (Philippians 1:21).  Do I live each day this way - trying to keep my eyes fixed on Him, being obedient to His commands, resting in His sovereign will?  Do I feel  at rest that, when I die, I will spend eternity with Christ my Savior? 

I confess that I do not  always live this way each day.  My son shared a Tim Keller quote with me, and I share it with all of you, "Everything you’ve EVER longed for will be multiplied by a trillion in your heart in that first second before God."

Chapters 9-10

"Rejoice in the Lord always, again I will say rejoice" (Philippians  4:4). Matt brings us to this command and notes that "rejoice" is said two times in the same verse.  I know this is God’s will for us to rejoice in all things.  But in everything?  Yes, of course we rejoice when the sky is blue and we are at peace with our world.   What of the days when everything goes wrong - sickness, death, tragedy, financial issues, divorces, addictions?  Yes, we are told to rejoice.  How can this be possible?  Matt points us to God’s word in  Philippians 4:5 which tells us, “let your reasonableness be known to everyone because the Lord is at hand." Then Deuteronomy 10:14 which tells us, “Behold, to the Lord your God belong heaven and the heavens of heavens, the earth with all that is in  it."  The Lord is at hand, close to us and  sovereign  over everything.  It is He who created the heavens and earth.  When life is completely out of control,  He is not.  He is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow, and we can rejoice in knowing this.  A sermon I once heard spoke of Romans 8:28, the well known verse that says, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to His purpose."   The pastor called this verse “ the pillow on which the  troubled believer may lay her head”.  

It seems to come down to trust.  Are we able to rejoice in the Lord during our easy and hard days having this knowledge within us?  I know that I do not always  feel completely at peace when very upsetting events occur and that brings me to chapter 9 which Matt titles: No worries.  Oh boy, I come from a long line of worriers and I know this is a recurring issue for me.  I love the verse in Philippians 4:6 that speaks to us, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your request be made known to God."  I love how the Lord tells us to not be anxious, but that is not the end of our instruction.  He tells us how we can stop our anxiety - to cast our cares on him - prayer.  We can pour out our love, confession, concerns and needs to Him.  Hebrew 4:16 tells us, “Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need."  We give Him our anxious thoughts.   We are also told  to pray with thanksgiving.  Matt tells us this should be a humble type of thanksgiving - knowing Jesus hears our prayers when we cry out to Him.  Again, I believe trust is at the essence of this because every spoken prayer is not always answered in the manner that we may hope.  His will, not my will.  Back again to remind myself that every breath I take is under His sovereign control, and that Jesus is always good, merciful and just. 

This blog post could go on for awhile, but I will end with verses from a well known Gaither song:

Because He lives, I can face tomorrow.  
Because He lives, all fear is gone.  
Because I know He holds the future 
and life is worth the living just because He lives…

Hmmmm… somehow the basics, the beginner's level of the gospel seems revolutionary when taken out of fantasy land and applied to the real stuff of everyday life.  Really trusting God means giving God our lives, our children's lives, surrendering our will, and centering all of our hope on God and the promise of salvation through His Son, Jesus Christ.  It may be Gospel 101, but it isn't easy.  In fact, its impossible to do apart from a miraculous work of the Holy Spirit in our lives.  

Kathy raised so many thought-provoking questions in her discussion of our reading this week.  What about you?  How did you respond to the challenge of a truly gospel-centered faith that is marked by rejoicing, thankfulness, prayer, and peace?  Please take time to share your comments or questions with the group.  It is so encouraging to read what God is stirring in each of our hearts.  

This week, we are finishing up the book with Chapters 11 & 12!  Can you believe it?!  

For those of you planning to join us for our upcoming study, time is running out!  Please order your workbook and mark your calendars!  "Children of the Day" is starting, Tuesday (not Monday!), June 3rd.  Here again is the link to order the workbook for our next online study, "Children of the Day" by Beth Moore:
Be sure to keep each other in prayer throughout the week, and then check back next Monday to discuss our final two chapters!  

But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ… Philippians 3:20, ESV

Monday, May 19, 2014

To Live Is Christ - Chapters 5, 6 & 7

"Knowing Jesus Christ My Lord" by Becky Hendricks
Wow - can you believe we are halfway through this book already?!  I know a lot of you are reading along (and even checking in on the blog) but haven't been posting your comments.  That's okay.  Don't get me wrong, I'm sure we'd all love to read your insights, but I am glad to hear reports that you are enjoying the book, and God is using it to work in your lives.  For those of you who have been posting, kudos.  Keep it up!  I know it isn't nearly as intimate as getting together face to face, but its a nice reminder to know we're reading this together, and we all love hearing from each other.
This week, our contributor is one of my oldest and dearest friends, Becky Hendricks.  As a mother to three small children, Becky has no shortage of things to do.  Like most of us, she's on the run A LOT.  But through the years, God has shown her the importance of seeking Him in the midst of ordinary chaos.  He has used her wisdom and discretion as a friend to love and direct me more times than I could count.  Becky is a gift to me, and I'm happy to share her with all of you today. Here's Becky…

Chapter 5, The Passionate Pursuit begins with Matt posing the question, 'If there really is a creator God who all of us have offended, but who despite that offense, covered that offense, removing it for us so that we would have right standing before Him,  wouldn't that be the greatest news in the history of the universe?'    
This chapter and question really hit home for me.  While at times I feel so connected and close to the Lord, there are other periods in my life where I 'go through the motions' in my spiritual walk and tend to treat it as a checklist.  Did I attend church? Read my bible?  Make that meal for someone in need?  Check.  
Matt talks about these things as not being bad, but that real good can come from those.  However, these things will always fall short as a measure of our righteousness.  Are we passionately pursuing Christ?  I can relate to the idea he poses when he says 'I see myself far too easily satisfied with my relationship to the Lord.  Far too easily satisfied with where I am spiritually.'   
Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ 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, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes from faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith-that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.  (Phil. 3:8-11)  
Matt dissects Paul's words from the passage above so simply.  'If you are going to pursue righteousness, pursue Jesus.  Don't let looking good or being better be your goal.  Let the goal be Him.' I literally said 'yes!'  out loud when reading this.   I have known this, believed it and have heard sermons about it, but its funny how just reading the scripture again gave me different eyes to see it clearly.  I am thankful for that. 
What I liked most about Chapter 6 was considering what Paul says in Phil 3:12: "Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own."   Matt basically asks why Paul is so passionately pursuing Christ and why should we even after our conversion?  The answer is because we are really broken.    We will all continue to struggle with sin even after we have accepted Christ.  Matt describes that there is a right way to struggle and a wrong way to struggle.    He explains that the wrong way may look like this, "Let me control this.  Let me manage this."   He then explains that the right way may be described like this, 'push headlong into Jesus, and then keep pushing. '    So again, the answer is Jesus and the work that has already been done for us.  Nothing of our own doing.  Thank the Lord.

I liked how practical Matt was in Chapter seven about never being satisfied in our relationship with Christ.  He encourages us to know our God given strengths but almost more importantly, know your weaknesses and make sure you 'press on' , in the exercise of introspection.  He says that 'a holy discontentment is good because it keeps driving us into Christ for rest in Him and the blessing of Him.'
All three chapters of this week's reading pointed straight and directly to Jesus, and the "dynamic tension between grace and effort."  Matt said, "If you are to pursue righteousness, pursue Jesus. Don't let looking good or being better be your goal.  Let the goal be Him."  Becky said "Yes!"  And I'm right there with her. "Yes!"  
What about you?  What struck you most from the reading this week?  What questions did you ask?  How did what you learn change your approach to works?  To grace?  To pursuing Christ?  Please share your thoughts with the group.  Even if you've never posted before, we'd love to hear from you.  
This week, we are reading Chapters 8, 9 & 10 from the book.  And from the Bible, we are reading Philippians Chapter 4.

I am also providing a link to order the workbook for our next online study, "Children of the Day" by Beth Moore:

Please order your workbook and mark your calendars!  "Children of the Day" is starting, Tuesday, June 3rd.  Although we will be kicking off this study with an introduction meeting at Kelly Mac's house, the majority of the study will be done independently (online).   If you have a crazy-busy summer packed with family and fun, this may be the perfect solution to your summer Bible study needs.  We are planning to meet only 3 (non-mandatory) times over the summer.  

Okay, so that's it for now.  Be sure to keep each other in prayer throughout the week, and then check back next Monday to hear from our beloved Kathy Miles.

I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Philippians 3:14, ESV

Monday, May 12, 2014

To Live Is Christ - Chapters 3 & 4

"Exchanging Natural Pride For Supernatural Humility" by Cathy Kunkle

Welcome back ladies!  This week's contributor is my sweet mom Cathy Kunkle.  It is evident that she prayerfully considered what to write about Chapters 3 & 4.  Likewise, it is evident that she took to heart how God wants her to practically apply what she's learned.  So, enough chatting from me.  Let's hear what she has to say and join in on the discussion!   I lovingly give you, my mom:

Chapter 3

God is so concerned about what is taking place in our minds and hearts.  I love when God's Word spells out things in black and white.  There is no question about what He wants us to do and what He wants us to stay away from.  He says in Phil.2:3 Do NOTHING from selfish ambition or conceit.

We ought to have such a awe/fear of God that it manifest itself in our actions, how we live out our life.  When we are mindful that we represent Christ to all we encounter each day, it can change what our natural response might have been. Phil 2:3 says in humility count others more significant than yourselves. That's not easy to do. It's not my natural inclination to look at the interest of others first before my own.  Matt Chandler puts it this way... Every moment we operate out of selfish ambition and conceit, every time we think of ourselves better than others or look only to our own interests, we are essentially saying "I am God". Ouch!

Psalm 8:3-4 says "When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that You are mindful of him?  That puts it in perspective. I am God's creation. He is my master and Lord.  Sometimes it's hard for me to take in how much God loves me and you.  God never intended for us to be separated from Him, but our sin did that.  He is a holy God and cannot look upon sin, but loved us so much He made a way for us to be reconciled to Himself through the death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ.  Jesus willingly died on the cross, paying my penalty for sin, to redeem me to Himself.  Therefore we can join Mary in singing "My soul magnifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior.

There is mercy for those who fear Him! When we are saved, we receive the greatest treasure that exists - Christ Himself - which is worth losing all things for. John 1:16 says we get grace upon grace.  God helps us in giving us His Spirit, our comforter and counselor, who works through us and leads us into the truth.  We can come to God with reverence and confidence in prayer, knowing He hears us, that we may receive mercy and find grace in time of need. 

God exalts those who fear His name.

Chapter 4

Again in Chapter 4 God addresses heart and mind issues.  Phil 2:21 states... "For they all seek their own interests not those of Jesus Christ".  It is important that our thoughts line up with the Word of God.  Let us not become as the people Paul addresses in Romans 1 - who knew God but became futile in their own thinking and  their foolish hearts were darkened. 

If we have been wounded in our hearts by people, we need to do business with that wound or we will continue to wound ourselves and others. Let the truth God reveals to us through His Word and His Spirit within us, penetrate in our souls so we can bind up and heal that wound.  God wants us to be mature Christians who grasp on to His love so therefore we can love others.  I have a wound that peeks it's head even though I felt I have already dealt with it.  When it surfaces again I need to go back and align it with the truth I know is true. The things God has taught me concerning that issue.  

It's so important to look deep into ourselves for the true issue and strive to be at peace with all people as much as possible.  Keep a close watch on your heart and not get lost in the imagination of your heart.

Paul talks about the death of self.  God gives us the mind of Christ.  He doesn't say "try hard to think like Jesus", He tells us that we have this mind. So use it. The sin I do is natural. The good I do for others is supernatural.  God will empower me and you to obey when we submit to His authority.

Matt says, Always, Always, Always seek the cross. It is there that we see our example for service and sacrifice for others.  It is good for us to remember the prayer of John the Baptist: He must increase but I must decrease. 

There are 2 examples of men who sacrificed their own needs for the genuine concern for the church in Philippi , Timothy and Epaphroditus. They both placed their 1st priority for the work of Christ. They knew that ultimately they were totally secure in Jesus. So are we!  Our security lies in Jesus, not in anything this world offers.

We must recognize that each person we meet is a spiritual being.  How can I serve? How can I sacrifice to bring glory to God. 

As I read these chapters I knew that I have "developmental delays" in my growth as a follower of Christ. I have attitudes that needed to be repented of and hopefully become a more mature Christian woman.  We live in a crooked and twisted generation.  God says as believers we are to shine as lights in the world, holding fast to His Word.

Boom.  Okay mom- way to get real.  These were no light chapters to snack on.  This was meat, and we got a serving - first from God's Word, then from Matt, and here from my mom.  As my mom shared, I also am becoming more aware of some "developmental delays" in my prideful heart.  How about you?  Do you have a comment or question to make in response to the reading and/or discussion this week?  If so, please share it!  

This week, we are reading Chapters 5, 6 & 7 from the book.  And from the Bible, we are reading Philippians Chapter 3.

Be sure to keep each other in prayer throughout the week, and then check back next Monday to hear from one of my very favorite humans, Ms. Becky Hendricks :)

Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Philippians 2:3-4, ESV

Monday, May 5, 2014

To Live Is Christ - Chapters 1 & 2

"Living a Worthy Life" by Christian Trautner

Congratulations!  We survived the first week of blog confusion!  I apologize again to anyone who experienced technical difficulties when attempting to post a comment.  I'm still not sure why that is happening so (as I indicated in my last e-mail) unless you feel exceedingly confident that you can successfully post a comment, PLEASE EMAIL ALL FUTURE COMMENTS TO ME (Amy).  I DO NOT MIND posting them.  I would rather post them than see anyone else waste their time typing a response only to have it deleted.  

Okay, so, with that out of the way, I'm excited to officially begin our discussion of this book!  Our blog contributor this week is none other than our beloved Christian Trautner.  Christian has written a fantastic summary of our reading this week - drawing out many of the poignant, convicting questions raised by Matt Chandler. Like me, I'm sure you will find Christian's response to Chapters 1 & 2 refreshingly honest and thoughtful.  

So, with much love, here is Christian:

Good Morning!! 
Let’s start from the beginning.
Chapter One lays the groundwork for the letter Paul is writing the Philippians. Paul is writing this letter out of love. He tells the Philippians that he holds them in his heart and that he yearns for them with all the affection of Jesus Christ (Phil 1:1-8) - The same affection that took Jesus Christ to the cross. 
Chapter One also takes us back to the beginning. Paul is in Philippi with three other missionaries (Acts) - Luke, Silas and Timothy. Here three people are converted: Lydia - the rich business woman, the slave girl and the “blue-collar joe” prison guard. All three VERY different people. All three converted out of very different circumstances which reconciles that the gospel achieves, not just of unholy individuals to a holy God, but superficially incompatible people to each other! Jesus takes strangers and makes them family (page 27). The gospel is not natural and goes against our natural tendency to surround ourselves with similar people. Paul, through the gospel, is able to unify people who wouldn’t normally be unified. The gospel, Matt tells the reader, creates a new reality that deepens our understanding of the world and our place in it. This is where Paul is headed with his letter to the Philippians. Paul wants to bring to their minds the assurance of life in Christ in their day to day, wherever they may find themselves – even in prison. The last sentence in Chapter One (page 29) informs the reader that Paul is writing this letter from prison. Do you find yourself having to be reminded of your life in Christ? 
In Chapter Two, Matt talks about the worthy life. Paul continues that it has become known that his imprisonment is for Christ (Phil 1:12-13). Paul sees his imprisonment as a necessary sacrifice to make the rest of the missionaries fearless sharers of the gospel. Paul sees this as necessary in order to win the lost to Christ (page 32). He is even willing to die. Paul finds joy in prison. He finds joy living at Lydia’s beautiful home. Paul finds joy in life wherever he finds himself because for him to live is Christ. In the logic of the gospel, Matt continues, there are no alternatives to Christ. Every other option is no option at all. When everything considered valuable in life is seen to be nothing in comparison of to the glory of Christ (ie: Lydia’s riches), you learn that Christ alone is worth living for. Christ alone is worth of an entire life’s affections and devotions. He is worth so much more that Paul completes his declaration “to live is Christ” this way “to die is gain” (page 36-37). Paul knows that there is a greater day coming, a greater life coming and the purpose of life is to walk in a manner worthy of the gospel. Do you feel this? Do you feel to die would be gain? To leave your spouse, your children, everyone you hold dear? It’s a VERY hard concept for me to wrap my mind around. Of course I believe Christ died nailed to a tree for me, I believe in heaven and that one day I will warship my King in heaven,  but it’s still extremely hard to willingly accept death (or the threat of death). 
Matt then talks about “Gospel Courage”. Paul tells the Philippians (1:27-28) to stand firm in one spirit , with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel and to not frightened in anything or by their opponents. As Christians we must be fearless, regardless of the situation. To have fearless faith, Matt explains, results from holding onto Christ as our treasure (page 45). We, as the Lydia, the slave girl and the guard all did, need to lose all confidence in the flesh and find or courage in our Redeemer. Christ is all and we must understand this in order to live a life worthy of Jesus Christ and to live and love people who are different from us. 
Are you living a life worth of the gospel of Jesus Christ? Have you found Christ worth living for, worth dying for, worth casting all away for His sake? Do you just hang out with people who are like you? Are you timid and fearful when it comes to any oppositions to your faith? In the end, are you growing in God, or are you stagnant and cold?

Answering these questions is very difficult. I know I find myself “adjusting” to the world and compromising what I know is right (even something small). Living my day to day in Christ is difficult… It takes effort and conscious decision making. Life is hard, but knowing that living in Christ means gaining in death makes it quite a bit easier. To know that by living the gospel, I am promised a great reward vastly outweighs the funny looks or snide remarks.   

Wow - it takes "Gospel Courage" to write a post like the one Christian has written.  She's pulled out the tough questions Matt Chandler challenged us to "fearlessly face," and she's offered a transparent personal response.  What about you?  If you have committed to following along with us, please share a comment or question in response to Christian's post (and/or anything else from this week's reading).  

This week, we are reading Chapters 3 & 4 of the book.  And from the Bible, we are reading Philippians Chapter 2.

Be sure to keep each other in prayer throughout the week.  Also, check back next Monday to hear from our next contributor, my cute mom, Cathy Kunkle!

I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now. Philippians 1:3-5, ESV

Monday, April 28, 2014

To Live Is Christ - Welcome!

"To Live Is Christ To Die Is Gain" by Matt Chandler

Welcome to Week ONE of our online book club.  Today we begin Matt Chandler’s book, “To Live Is Christ, To Die Is Gain”.  If you need to get a copy of the book, you should be able to pick one up at your local bookstore (I bought mine from Barnes & Noble), or you can order a copy on Amazon here:

This week, we are going to read the Introduction and Chapters 1 & 2 of the book (pgs 9-46).  And from the Bible, we are going to read Philippians Chapter 1.

As you read this week, I encourage you to underline and make notes in your book and your Bible (if you are so inclined) whenever you read something that resonates with you, or convicts you, or confuses you, etc.  Reference to your notes will help you remember what you have read, and will hopefully provoke you to discuss your thoughts with the other members of our book club.  

Fun, right?

Okay so here is how it is going to work:

Every Monday, a different contributor from our book club will make a post discussing our weekly reading.  Read these posts, and think about the contributor’s comments and questions.  In response, I want to encourage every participant of our club (that includes you!) to post a responsive comment.  There is no right or wrong way to make a responsive comment.  A comment can be short, or a comment can be long.  A comment can ask a question, or a comment can answer a question.  There is also no limit to the number of comments you can make during the course of a week.  Again, I hope to see every participant make at least one comment each week, but you are welcome (and encouraged!) to make multiple comments if you wish.  

In order to make a comment, you must have a Google Account.  If you do not already have a Google Account, you can obtain a free account here:

        FREE Google Account

Once you have a Google Account, you can log in and post your comment.  Got it?  Okay!  Let’s practice.  I want everyone participating in our book club to make their first comment now.  Your comment should contain three things:
    1. Your first name
    2. A few fun facts about yourself; and
    3. What brings you to this book club. 

Easy, right?  Okay, so I’ll go first:
    1. My first name is Amy.
    2. A few fun facts about myself: Although it gets a bad rap, I love living in New Jersey.  I am the oldest of three sisters, and now I have three daughters of my own.  I am celebrating 10 years of marriage with my sweet husband this year.  
    3. I am participating in this book study because it is doing things like this that keep my faith alive.  I recently read in James 2:26, “For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead.”  As I sat there and stared at that sentence, I realized that God uses the good works that He prepared beforehand for me to do (Ephesians 2:10) in order to keep my own faith alive!  So I’m stepping out in obedience because I know (in addition to hopefully helping others) God will use this book study to quicken my own personal faith.  Does that make sense?
Okay then, so now it’s your turn. Go ahead and make your comment...  Yes, now!  I’ll wait :)

Ha!  Okay, so I hope that wasn’t too painful.  If you cannot (for the life of you) figure out how to make a comment, send your comment to me in an e-mail or on Facebook, and I will post the comment for you.  

Okay, so, that’s it!  I hope you all are as excited as I am to see how God uses this book and this club to work in us as individuals and collectively as a group.  Be sure to check back next Monday, when another contributor from our book club will make a post discussing this week’s reading.

Happy reading!  I can’t wait to get the discussion going!  

In Christ, Amy :)

For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. Ephesians 2:10, ESV

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Not a Fan - Chapters 12, 13 & 14

Well ladies, we've done it.  We've finished reading the book.  But before we put it on a bookshelf, let's take time to consider the final three chapters.  Our contributor this week is Kandi Tucker.  And if you don't know Kandi, you're new.  I type that with a smile because Kandi is probably the most welcoming person I've met at church.  Thus, she is very well-known.  Kandi makes every possible effort to ensure that each person she meets is included and loved.  She remembers people's names, she invites them to get involved, she checks in when no else is checking, she serves when no one knows she's serving.  Kandi loves on so many of us, and she is very much loved by us in return.  So if you haven't "met" her already, you are long overdue.  I am happy to introduce Kandi:  
“What would your life look like if you followed Jesus completely?  No excuses.  Wherever. Whenever. Whatever.”This sentence pretty much summed up Not a Fan to me.  Let me begin by giving a quick definition of the wherever, whenever, and whatever:
  1. Wherever – Following Jesus out of our comfort level.  Kyle asks, “Where is the one place that you find most difficult to follow Jesus?”
  1. Whenever – Immediate obedience. Following Jesus
  2. right now!  No excuses!
  1. Whatever – Giving Jesus every part of my life.  Making Jesus the only priority of my life.
Am I the only one a bit intimidated by this list when it’s laid out in black and white?!?!  No excuses?  What about my kids waking up at all hours of the night so I’m too tired to pick up my Bible in the morning…  What about letting other people reach out to that person that I don’t seem to have much in common with…  What about those hours I spend on the computer each night…  I can’t speak for anyone else, but my life certainly needed this reminder by Kyle to follow Jesus completely.  Let me start by giving anyone reading this a little history. 
I grew up in the jungle in Asia with parents who gave up material and relational comforts to serve God.  Two of my siblings currently live in extremely uncomfortable environments touching lives for Jesus in Southeast Asia.  In my mind, following Jesus meant some type of direct ministry or a huge sacrifice of comfort and family.  Thus, for years I’ve battled guilt for my materially comfortable existence, living the “American Dream.”  Oh, I’ve been able to go on some fantastic vacations and buy some beautiful clothes for my kids, but it would all seem meaningless afterwards. It was all so superficial and empty to my heart that wanted to do bigger and better things.   At the same time, I felt so helpless since I didn’t know how to change anything.  I couldn’t exactly leave my kids to go on a missions trip for a week or open my home to foster children without my husband’s blessing.  To solve this battle in my heart, I just kept telling myself that I would do it all later when my kids were older. 
God has used the past year to show me that while I was always thinking big and looking ahead to what I could do for God in the future, I was neglecting following Jesus completely in my day-to-day existence. God cared about what I was doing with my time today and about how close of a relationship we had with each other.  He has used a variety of events and people to show me that living here in New Jersey with my little family cleaning bathrooms and teaching my children to love Jesus has value to Him.  In the process, I’ve discovered that dying to my ambitions and choosing to live a life devoted to Jesus each and every day isn’t easy. However, God has given me so much peace, joy, and contentment in my current circumstances that I know He will continue to do so in the future.  This is why I was challenged by these last three chapters.  Once again, they forced me to examine my personal relationship with Jesus and whether I could honestly say that I am following Jesus completely today.  Not tomorrow or the next year, but today! 
I think it would be encouraging for those reading this post to share our wherever, whenever, and whatever’s with each other.  How are you, right now, stepping out of your comfort zone by making Jesus the ONLY priority of your life?  Here are a few of mine: 
-Picking up my Bible to read instead of the computer.-Turning off the television to pray-Serving my family without consideration of whether I am being served in return.-Continuing to pursue relationships with women in my community without fear of rejection.-Choosing to remain content daily with the distance that we live from family.-Rather than purchasing the latest fad, use my money to bless other people. 
These are all things I’m currently working on with some days containing more victory than others.  Don’t they all sound so basic?!?!  Whew!  I’m thankful today that I can be a slave to Jesus even while living this simple life that he has put before me.  
Okay, ladies, so this is our final "Not a Fan" blog question.  How are you, right now, stepping out of your comfort zone by making Jesus the ONLY priority in your life?  Boom!  I guess Kandi didn't want to let us off easy on our final question, huh?  Ha - but no, in all seriousness, let's consider this.  How are we stepping out of our comfort zones RIGHT NOW?  Don't wimp out on us now.  Let's hear it!  

And thanks for a great book study, everyone - it's been fun :)  xo!