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Book Review: Gospel Transformation (Second Edition), by World Harvest Mission

Recommended. The best study on how the gospel changes all of life that I’ve come across to date.

If you’re like me, you believe that, somehow, the good news of God’s love for us in the life, death, and resurrection of Christ–that is, the gospel–changes absolutely everything about our lives on this planet. From the way we approach our work to the way we love our families to the inner workings of our hearts and minds: the gospel changes it all.

But then, if you’re really like me, what that practically looks like each day can be a bit challenging to figure out. If only there was a rich resource that we could work through each day to prompt our hearts and minds to slowly chew and digest the nourishing facets of God’s good news.

That’s why Gospel Transformation has been rocking my world since I received it from New Growth Press. Each of the thirty-six lessons in the course is rich with the practical implications of the gospel. As I’ve worked through the lessons, I’ve been amazed how, day after day, I’m given so much material for contemplation and application that I need to allot a week or more to each lesson.

In GT, I daily find new ways of thinking about the age-old things most precious to the Christian–the good news of Christ’s life, death, and resurrection, and this news’ implications for all of life.

The 36 lessons of GT are divided into six units, and, to give you an idea of the topics covered, I’ll include the lesson titles as well (I’m having trouble getting the formatting to work correctly, so bear with me):

  • Unit 1: Introducing the gospel
    • God’s story–your story
    • Broken world, broken lives
    • Our need for the gospel
    • A new reputation
    • A new family
    • Sinners in the hands of a loving God
  • Unit 2: Enemies of the gospel
    • Idolatry
    • Self-centeredness
    • The flesh: lust
    • The flesh: anger
    • Satan and the World
    • False repentance
  • Unit 3: Believing the gospel
    • Living by faith
    • United with Christ
    • Believing God and his promises
    • Living in light of the cross
    • Who am I: “saint” or “sinner”?
    • Barriers to believing
  • Unit 4: The power of the gospel
    • Genuine repentance
    • Repentance and transformation
    • The power of the Spirit
    • The desires of the Spirit
    • Life in the Spirit
    • Grieving the Spirit
  • Unit 5: The fruit of the gospel
    • Love: the expression of faith
    • Fruit of the Spirit
    • Imitating Christ
    • Prayer of the heart
    • The goal of sanctification
    • A new community is born
  • Unit 6: The gospel in relationships
    • The wrong use of laws
    • The gospel is for others
    • Incarnation
    • Forgiveness and compassion
    • Honesty versus judging
    • Barriers to love

Another positive aspect of GT is that it is a flexible resource. It’s ideal for group study but can also fruitfully serve as a personal devotional guide. I used it in the latter capacity while preparing for this review, and I feel like my daily times with God are richer than they have been in a long while.

Two recommendations that I would make in using GT are, first, to use the comprehensive leader’s notes in the back to enrich your understanding of some of the tough questions asked in the lessons, and, second, to take the time to actually look up and read the Scripture references used throughout both the lessons and the leaders notes.

Special thanks to Suzy Knapp for pointing me towards this incredible resource — I pray many will hear about it through this review and be changed by it!

Buy it at New Growth Press.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commision’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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Article Notes: “Young Women, Idolatry, and the Powerful Gospel,” by Elyse Fitzpatrick

This article hit home for me. As the dad of a 7-month old little girl, I’ve already spent plenty of time thinking (and, I confess, probably worrying) about how to help Hadassah see through fleeting things that our culture tells girls to give their lives for: a certain ideal of beauty, a relationship with Mr. Right, projecting just the right image to others.

Fitzpatrick offers some great thoughts that are worth reminding ourselves of:

1. We all worship something. It’s easy to see the things other people worship–an iPhone, a nice house–but it’s harder to see what idols our hearts tend to bow to.

2. As humans made to worship God, worship isn’t an option–everyone does it.

3. At the heart of all sin is worshipping something besides God — this is why the first commandment is first.

4. As parents, we can help our kids see their idols by being humble and confessing ours.

Howard Stern Sheds Light on a Common Idol (Plus a Tim Keller Quote)

In a recent newsletter, Jim Daly from Focus on the Family is very respectful of Howard Stern’s recent admission to Rolling Stone. While speaking about his need for approval, Stern told RS:

“The curse is I take it so seriously. I gotta know, do you think I did a good show and are you satisfied? That’s the neurosis and that’s the source of all problems for me.”

How wise it is of Stern to realize this, and what a note of caution to my generation, which longs for fame and recognition! Stone has received more fame and recognition than probably any single radio personality of his time, his face is on the cover of Rolling Stone, and he is neurotically concerned with how people perceive his daily performance. This is not fault of Stern’s; it is simply the fault of the human heart. Celebrity itself cannot satisfy the desire for affirmation that the human heart holds.

Daly goes on to quote from Tim Keller’s Counterfeit Gods:

The human heart’s desire for a particular valuable object (human affirmation) may be conquered, but its need to have some such object is unconquerable. How can we break our heart’s fixation on doing “some great thing” in order to heal ourselves of our sense of inadequacy, in order to give our lives meaning? Only when we see what Jesus, our great Suffering Servant, has done for us will we finally understand why God’s salvation does not require us to do “some great thing.” We don’t have to do it, because Jesus has.

Only when we see what Jesus has done for us will this common slave-driver–the need for affirmation–be put to rest. Praise God for the good news of what Christ has done.

Recommended Article: “Why Ask Why?”, by Dave Sanders

I was recently reading an issue of Youthworker Journal, and one article in particular caught my attention. This is a Saturday post, so I won’t go super in-depth, but the article is called “Why Ask Why.”

In the article, Sanders brings up a few topics that have been on my mind lately:

  1. The commercialization of ministry materials.
  2. The way that most of these materials answer “How” questions, giving us techniques, but only superficially answer “Why” questions.
  3. The importance for us all to carve out “think time” for us to prayerfully examine what we do and why we do it.

If you’ve ever worked at a place for long enough, you’ve probably seen one of two errors occur:

1) the place continues to run as it always has, simply because that’s how it has always run, or

2) the place continually is trying new things, simply because they are new things that have been successful for others.

Both of these approaches leaves us depending on something besides God. They leave us either dependent on old manna, or constantly craving for something besides manna. This isn’t to say that some of the things we’ve always done shouldn’t be the things we continue to do, and it’s not to say that we should never try new things. It’s just saying that both tradition and innovation can be false gods, and false gods are never worth the adoration and submission we afford them. This realization can make us refreshing voices in workplaces or churches caught up in either idolatry.

Happy reading!

Parable of the Sower

Is it enough to simply see that I am the thorn-choked soil? Jesus’ explanation of the Parable of the Sower in Mark 4:13-20 doesn’t suggest this or refut it–yet, two parables later, starting in Mark 4:26, he tells the parable of the seed growing and how, though the laborers work to scatter the seed (the Word), they know not how it grows.

Two things stand out to me from this:

  1. As a teacher, friends, etc, my responsibility is only to “scatter seed.” I don’t have to fret about whether it grows. I think of my friends Laura and Lindsay meeting with me, a non-repentant, licentious long shot. They simply scattered seed into my life and trusted that it would grow.
  2. The “cares of the world” are those driving things in our hearts, those identity seats. I am a socially just person. I am a moral husband. For me, I am a writer. When these become ultimate–when, were we to lose them, life would be intolerable, we’d melt down–they become cares not of God’s Kingdom, but of the world’s, because in God’s kingdom our identity is secure; we are rock solid.

“Suffering Doesn’t Rob You of Joy–Idolatry Does”

When I read the above post title on Tullian Tchividjian’s blog, I knew God had given him a great, succinct way of summarizing a major truth. I highly recommend reading this post if you’re interested in getting to the bottom of how the gospel redeems suffering.

Also, make sure you read the Elizabeth Elliot excerpt at the bottom of the post — it’s a good one.