All posts by: Anthony Stephens

I enjoy reading books. This has not always been the case. In middle and high school, you would hardly ever see me reading anything. In college, something began to change. Maybe it was one of my professors that I admired sharing one of his little rhymes – “you must read to succeed!”

I have found myself devouring books both physical and electronic since I got out of school. You will see authors of various kinds on the bookshelves in my home and office at the church. You will see men who see things very similar to what I do. You will also see men that I differ in viewpoints on. I believe it was Rick Warren who said something along the lines of “if you cannot learn from those you disagree with, then you are in trouble.”

I have enjoyed being a blogger reviewer for HarperCollins Christian Publishing. I have read some really great books through their program. I began to notice one troubling pattern developing: the authors I was reading were all men. As a man, I appreciate having other men speak into my life. I need that. But I also believe that God is using some women to speak into the life of the Church, and they deserve an audience. This is one reason that I signed up to review Rebekah Lyons‘ book, You Are Free and give my honest opinion. 

The Book Itself

You Are Free is a book about experiencing the freedom that Christ died to provide each and every person that puts their trust in Him. Lyons shares a story of how she came to experience freedom in various areas of her life. She reminds readers often throughout the book, “Christ doesn’t say you can be or may be or will be free. He says you are free.” You Are Free contains fifteen chapters, each devoted to a specific area of freedom to experience. 

My Personal Thoughts

I did not know much about Rebekah Lyons other than what my wife had talked to me about. I had read some of her husband’s work (Gabe Lyons), and was a big fan. With Ann Voskamp writing the forward, I thought that this would be worth the read. I was not wrong. 

You Are Free is a great little read for those who are looking for a personal story of what freedom looks like in a person’s life. Lyons uses this entire book to walk the reader down the path of her life with each chapter setting up the next well. I really liked the personalness of this book.  It was much more than just a “how to” book or an information dump… this was a woman sharing her story of what God had done in her life. The vulnerability that Lyons shows is refreshing to see/read. 

Lyons makes sure to use Scripture well throughout this book. Most of the references are footnoted and gives the reader the opportunity to check what God’s word has to say on the various subjects discussed. 

My Recommendation 

I would say that if you are looking for a “how to” book, then you will probably be frustrated with You Are Free. It is just not that (and I’m so thankful that it is not). If you are more interested in hearing/reading the story of a woman’s journey to finding freedom in various areas of her life with some helpful tips along the way, then this book is for you. 

I thought that You Are Free was a refreshing break from my normal reading. It was good to get the perspective from a God-loving female author. It is encouraging to know that God is still gifting and using ladies for His work to speak to and edify the Church. I look forward to many more in the near future.

I cannot think of a better song for today. 

Saturdays are days that I have looked forward to for most of my life. Getting to sleep in late… no school… laid back schedule… Looney Tunes in the morning (where did they go?)… ball games … on and on…

I still love Saturdays to this day. I may not sleep in like I once did, but Saturdays are days where you can do what you want to done easier. I especially like Saturdays from September to January with all the football going on.

This week, I have been reflecting on events that took place during the first Passion or Holy Week leading up to the resurrection of Jesus Christ. We come to one of the hardest, if not the hardest day of the week. I call it “Silent Saturday.”  This includes much of the time between the cross and the empty tomb. 

The only thing really mentioned about this time period in the Bible is found in Matthew’s gospel. 

“The next day, which followed the preparation day, the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered before Pilate and said, “Sir, we remember that while this deceiver was still alive he said, ‘After three days I will rise again.’ So give orders that the tomb be made secure until the third day. Otherwise, his disciples may come, steal him, and tell the people, ‘He has been raised from the dead,’ and the last deception will be worse than the first.” “You have a guard of soldiers,” Pilate told them. “Go and make it as secure as you know how.” They went and secured the tomb by setting a seal on the stone and placing the guard.”  (Matthew 27:62-66 CSB)

Those who had pleaded for Jesus’ death wanted to make sure that He stayed there. They had shut this rogue Rabbi up, and they wanted to make sure things went back to the way they were when they were calling the shots. 

What strikes me more than the paranoid (yet rightful) worry of the religious leaders of that day was the silence that is found in the Bible. The is not much at all mentioned about that day. 

I can understand that though, too. If the One that you had put all your hope and dreams in was suddenly gone, would you really feel like doing much? I can imagine the remain disciples hiding out wondering if there would be a knock at their door from those who had Jesus killed wanting to do the same to them. 

Some of the most difficult times in our journey of faith with God are those of silence.  It seems that God doesn’t say or do anything. One can easily think that God has either been bested/stumped, doesn’t care, or left the scene and we are all alone in the situation. 

The truth is that Saturday was silent because God wanted it so. I’ve come across some material that leans on the thought that Jesus was taking a Sabbath from His work on this Saturday. I could see that in one sense. I think it is more about what was said in the prophet Isaiah: 

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, and your ways are not my ways.” This is the Lord’s declaration. “For as heaven is higher than earth, so my ways are higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts. For just as rain and snow fall from heaven and do not return there without saturating the earth and making it germinate and sprout, and providing seed to sow and food to eat, so my word that comes from my mouth will not return to me empty, but it will accomplish what I please and will prosper in what I send it to do.”  (Isaiah‬ ‭55:8-11‬ ‭CSB‬)

What looks like apathy or abandonment to us was very different to God. Jesus had already said that He would be raised on the third day (‭‭Matthew‬ ‭17:22‬). This was all part of the plan. A day of letting all of what had already taken place sink in was in play, but the silence wouldn’t last forever. 

You may be in a period of silence. I would encourage you to take this time of silence to remember what God has done for you, already taught you, already done in you. Then, lean on His understanding and trust His timing. God is always right on time… not too early, never too late. 


Welcome to Good Friday. That title has always been a little confusing to me. Growing up there was the joke that went around saying it was good because we got out of school and it was typically good weather so we could enjoy the day off.

I would find out later that it was called Good Friday because on this day around 33AD, Jesus Christ was crucified for the sins of the world (Matthew 27; Mark 15; Luke 23; John 19).

How could something that was so brutal, so shameful, so wrong be considered good in any sense? What sadistic person said, “Let’s remember this day as something good and put it on the calendar to remind us!”?

I’m not sure who that person was, but I am so grateful that they did.  It is days like this that I am reminded of just how often that God wants us to see that there is so much more than what appears on the surface.

The saddest day in history is also one of the greatest.  On this day… on that hill called Golgotha/Calvary… the Son of God took the sins of the world and dealt with them!  It turns my stomach to think about all that Jesus went through – the mockery, the shame, the beatings, the torture – it was all because of my sin.  All that junk that Jesus went through was meant for me.  But because of the love that God has for us, He took it so I didn’t have to.

May this day be so much more than another “day off” for us.  My prayer is that it would be a day of reflection… a day that we remember the high price that Jesus was willing to pay just to redeem us.  If anyone needs any proof that they are cared about, they need only to turn their eyes to that hill called Calvary and see God hanging there with arms wide open saying, “I love you this much!”

 

As we continue our journey to Resurrection Sunday, we find ourselves in the middle of “Maundy Thursday” of “Holy Week.”  It is a remembrance of when Jesus Christ shared a final meal with His disciples before His crucifixion.

The word “maundy” is derived from the Latin word for “command.”  John’s gospel gives some details that the Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark and Luke) do not have about this moment.  One was the picture of Jesus washing His disciple’s feet as a sign of what every follower of Jesus should do (serve).

I give you a new command: Love one another.  Just as I have love you, you are also to love one another.  (John 13:34  CSB)

This is the command that is referred to with the name “Maundy Thursday.”  It was thought that Jesus gave this command on the day/night before He was arrested.

The big thing that is associated with this day is the institution of the Lord’s Supper.  It was on the night before Jesus was betrayed by one of His closest followers that Jesus celebrated a final meal with His disciples.  It was at this meal that Jesus set a mark that would be carried out by the Church ever since.

It is interesting to me that for His final message before betrayal, Jesus chose to use the classroom of a table.  He didn’t go to the Temple or a synagogue.  He simply gathered those who would be responsible for carrying on His mission, and He got them around a table to share a meal.  The table is a place where your guard is down.  The table is a place where you share and talk about what’s at the depth of your heart as you fill your stomach with that which is provided by God.

On that night, Jesus used a very common scene (dinner around a table) and a common meal at that time, and He made the ordinary extraordinary.  He would take a common piece of bread and break it before His disciples to show what was about to happen to Him.  He wasn’t looking forward to it, but He didn’t want His followers to be scratching their heads when God’s plan unfolded.  He would take a cup of wine and use it an illustration for the blood that He was about to shed for the forgiveness of sins.  One of the greatest teaching moments ever was done around a dinner table with friends.

What does our dinner tables look like?  Are they just a place that we run to in order to fill our stomachs?  Do we take the opportunities that are right in front of us to gather around a table and share moments, dreams, heartaches, and more?  Jesus did, and I’ve always thought that He was a pretty good example to follow.  Remember, the command that He gave that day was to love one another as we were loved by Him (John 13:34).  Take time to make the moments around a table with family and/or friends one that will be remembered for much more than the food that goes into our bellies.