All posts by: Anthony Stephens

Last night, my oldest son got his first real taste of “homer umpires” in his baseball game in a nearby town.  I’m sure that if you have been in the baseball scene for a fair amount of time, you have gotten a taste as well.  It is never a good thing when you see the umpires favoring one side over the other.  The children that are learning and enjoying the game are the main ones who get hurt.

As I was thinking this over and it took me down another rail of the thought train.  It is one thing to experience dishonest scales on the ballfields, but it is a whole other thing to experience it in other parts of life.  One area that should never have dishonest scales is the church.

The church is to be a place where honesty and truth are at the forefront.  Proverbs 11:1 tells us that “dishonest scales are detestable to the LORD, but an accurate weight is his delight” (CSB).

In the church, there are many different things that are dealt with.  One of the greatest ministries of the church is dealing with people and their issues.  Because of this, it is important that the church have honest scales when dealing with issues of people of all kinds.  It is easy and tempting to use one set of scales for those who are “outside” the walls and another set for those that are “inside.”  Sometimes there are different scales that are used even between different groups inside the church.  This should not be.

The church of Jesus Christ has been a champion of absolute truth.  There is a truth that is relevant and applicable to all people in all places at all times.  This truth is what is given to us in the Bible.  While one cannot expect unbelievers to act like believers in this life, yet there are still some truths that apply to each across the board.

It may be easier to just let certain things go with some people because “that’s just the way they are” or because “they have been a part of this for so long” or “they hold this position/weight in the church/community.”  This is no reason to use dishonest scales.  When we do give in to that temptation, the cause of Christ is harmed, and the people suffer greatly.

May we be careful to have honest scales in our dealings.  If Christ uses honest scales with each of us no matter what we come to Him with, then we – as followers of Christ – should also use honest scales.  It may not be easier… it may not be what people necessarily want, but it is most definitely what we need.

 

Faithful is a word that seems to be a buzz word today.  It seems so hard to find a true manifestation of this word in our world today.  When you do come across something that meets the criteria to be called faithful, then you need to make note of it.

I was reading in the Bible recently about how God had used a man named Joshua to lead the Israelites into the Promised Land.  Joshua took over for “the man,” Moses.  These people had been delivered from a life of slavery and mistreatment that lasted for generations.  The journey from slavery to the Promised Land was not an easy one.  It lasted for an entire generation because of unfaithfulness and distrust of the people in God’s word.

In Joshua 21, we see that the Israelites did not wander forever.  God brought them into the Promised Land as He said that He would.

So the Lord gave Israel all the land he had sworn to give their fathers, and they took possession of it and settled there. The Lord gave them rest on every side according to all he had sworn to their fathers. None of their enemies were able to stand against them, for the Lord handed over all their enemies to them. None of the good promises the Lord had made to the house of Israel failed. Everything was fulfilled.

Joshua 21:43-45  CSB

For the casual reader, this may seem to be just a neat way of ending up that section of the Israelites moving in to the Promised Land.  If you look closely though, you will see that there is much more in those verses than just a summation of what happened.

The LORD gave Israel all the land he had sworn to give their fathers…  The LORD did not generalize on the promises that He gave his people.  The Bible tells us here that the LORD gave all the land He had sworn.  He didn’t give part… He didn’t give most… He gave all.  This seems to be a pattern with God.

The LORD gave them rest on every side according to all he had sworn to their fathers.  The LORD once again kept His word by giving them peace on every side.  This was a peace that covered all borders.  This was a peace that was promised to a people that had not known peace in centuries.

None of the good promises the Lord had made to the house of Israel failed.  Everything was fulfilled.  Read that last line again… everything was fulfilled.  That means that nothing was left undone.  There were no loose ends.  There was no halftime here.  God kept His word fully and proved Himself faithful.

Now I imagine – and it doesn’t take much imagination when you read the accounts – that the people wanted to see God’s “faithfulness” a little sooner than it came about.  The truth is that God’s timing – especially in context of His faithfulness – is perfect. God is never late, but He is never early either.  God always comes through and proves Himself faithful.

What is it in your life that you are looking for God’s faithfulness about?  

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.