Irked in a bookstore

I love bookstores, I love walking among the stacks of fresh minted books, and thinking of the possibilities. I love the library too, because of the stacks of well used and loved books that have passed knowledge from one person to another. But, this weekend, the bookstore annoyed me.
I love seeking knowledge. I love seeking God focused knowledge even more, why else would I be in a Seminary? But, anyways, I digress.
I went to my local Christian Bookstore to mosey through the new books. I like spending time there because every once in awhile I find a great book, like Special Needs Special Ministry (which sadly seems to be now out of print) that really helps me either spiritually or educationally. I would have totally missed it if I hadn’t spent time there. It was the only type of book on Disability Ministry (which proves to me we need more authors out there working on this topic..hint hint 🙂 It is now a part of my class curriculum and I love it.
This weekend though, when I was walking through the books, I was confronted with all of the “self-help” literature. Odd titles that rubbed me wrong and made it seemed that we can do certain things through our own power. “How to Diet like Adam and Eve,” “Be the Perfect Godly Wife,” “Turn your loveless marriage into a Godly one,” “Change your Child’s attitude in 48 hours” (Or something like that)
We are so focused with doing things through our own power. Even when finding ways to have a better prayer life, it is about what you need to do -finding a quiet place, doing a ritualistic action- rather than asking God to teach you how to pray.
Hello!! The Bible covered this!
The disciples asked Jesus about how to pray! “Lord, teach us how to pray.” (Luke 11:1-13)
Christ answered, he gave us a format if we need it. When we are first learning to pray, or to learn how to pray deeper we follow it. “When you pray, say: “‘Father, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come. Give us each day our daily bread. Forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who sins against us. And lead us not into temptation.’”
Christ reminds us that we need to remember that
1) God has the power, not us.
2) He will give us what we need for the day.
3) He has forgiven us, and we MUST forgive others.
4) God won’t lead us to be tempted. (We can do that all on our own)
Why do we need self-help books on how to pray more, when we have the greatest teacher giving it to us…for free?
I’m sure these people who are writing these books are great, they are Christians who want to help others. In someways, they are teachers who are reaching out to numerous hurting disciples.
My complaint, hesitancy, whatever you want to term it, is that we are so busy saying that can change through my own power, that we forget that we can ask God, to change our hearts.
We can ask for more faith- Romans 12:3 “God has allotted each a measure of faith.”
We can ask that our faith will be sustained- Luke 22:31-32 “”Simon, Simon, behold, Satan has demanded to sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you, that you faith may not fail; and you, when once you have turned again, strengthen your brothers”
Why do we ask for other people to guide our faith when we can ask God to help us?
We can get disciplers who encourage us on our walk and who teach us to get deeper into our faith (I talk about the Paul, Barnabas, Timothy relationship here) and we should have them. They are helpful, and we are all called to do the same.
I am just hesitant to have someone I do not know, have no clue about their own spiritual walk telling me how to find God and be his child. I have the Bible for that.
Self help books have helped people. I know this. But, it’s not Scripture and it is not inspired by God. On the ladder of helpfulness, for me the self-help book isn’t even represented for me.
What are your thoughts on Self-Help books?
Romans 15:4 “For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope.”
2 Timothy 3:16 “All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right.”



A Well-Rounded Spiritual Life

In a class on discipleship, I learned about the idea of having a Paul, a Barnabas, and a Timothy, in your spiritual family. I’ve heard this idea in a few different classes now and it’s been on my mind to share. So I’d like to share with you this idea:

 Paul– Having this person in your life is much like having a role model or mentor; someone who speaks into your life on spiritual matters. Someone who reflects Christ’s love so much that you strive to echo their actions (with the idea that you become like Christ – not the ‘Paul’) Their actions points past themselves and only to Christ. They are a living crystal- acting as a prism reflecting and refracting the love of God to all they come in contact with. They shine because they are learning and sharing. They pull you behind them, to the next amazing step.

Barnabas– This person will walk beside you, they encourage you to keep reading the Scriptures, to keep praying, to keep on learning. They also are not in awe of you. They see you for who you are and they are not afraid of calling you on your actions. They are your accountability partners. They will speak the harsh truth, but with love. They want you to succeed in Christ. They walk beside you, helping you over obstacles and being a cheerleader for those tough times. They are true friends.

Timothy– This is the person you teach (but they will teach you just as much) this is the person you take under your wing, showing them the ropes. They will frustrate you and amaze you equally. This is the person who might be younger chronologically or spiritually, but they need guidance. You learn how to be a prism of crystal for them – reflecting and refracting Christ’s love for them. You are encouraging them, opening the Scriptures with them. Helping them understand what faith is and how it interacts with the rest of their lives.

You can have many different people who interact with you on these levels. A great place to find them is within your own church- be on the look out for these people:

The ‘Pauls’ of your church tend to be of the older generations. The elders of the church are fast losing their honored positions in our “Be-young-for-life generation,” but these are the people to speak to! They have lived through so many things that can teach us! Learning the ways of how faith can be tempered and made stronger through the difficult times keeps us from losing that faith when we get into those moments ourselves. These people are the ones who are creating change- either in sweeping ways like Paul did in fledgling church or in individual people like Paul did with Timothy- mentoring them, encouraging them, showing them how faith is lived out.

~1 Corinthians 4:16– Therefore I urge you to imitate me.

~Philippians 3:17–Join with others in following my example, brothers, and take note of those who live according to the pattern we gave you.

~1 Thessalonians 1:6–You became imitators  of us and of the Lord; in spite of severe suffering, you welcomed he message with the joy given by the Holy Spirit.

Our “Barnabas’s” tend to be those friends (maybe a little older) around us, who have seen what we have gone through. They know us and they are not impressed with what we THINK we are. They love us, but they want us to be better than what we are now. It’s hard to hear criticism from them, but when they speak it is when we should listen the most. They won’t point out our faults to hurt us, but to make us grow.

In Acts 9 we read that because of Barnabas, Paul was brought into the Apostle fold-because the other Apostles only saw him as Saul- the persecutor of the church. But, Barnabas “The Son of Encouragement”  saw God’s saving grace and it’s effect on Saul. And even when Barnabas and Paul later split due to a disagreement, he went on encouraging John Mark, because he saw the potential that God was growing in him. He was an encouragement to two men that became the ‘known’ names of the early Christian church.

Our “Timothys” tend to be brand new Christians, or teenagers who are walking a tight rope between being ‘good Christian kids’ or going the way of peer pressure and the world. But, ultimately, they show a passion for God, it is our duty to foster it. They are in that tender ‘age’ that if they don’t get the support and encouragement they desperately are looking for, they fall away. Timothys’ are the people who need a mentor to keep them accountable. These are our future leaders and they are learning, so it is our duty to truly empower them in Christ and the Scriptures. Be like Paul encouraging Timothy to walk in Christ.
 In 2 Timothy  1 is a wonderful chapter full of teaching and encouragement towards Timothy by Paul–

2 Timothy 1:3-7–I thank God as I always mention you in my prayers, day and night. I serve him doing what I know is right as my ancestors did. Remembering that you cried for me, I want very much to see you so I can be filled with joy. I remember your true faith. That faith first lived through in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice, and I know that you now have that same faith. This is why I remind you to keep using the gift God gave you when I laid my hands on you. Now let it grow, as a small flame grows into a fire. God did not give us a spirit that makes us afraid but a spirit of power and love and self control.

God wants us to encourage each other. He wants us to build each other up as fellow Christians within His Body. He has created these role models/mentor/discipler  (our Pauls), friends who walk through life with us and points out the pitfalls and obstacles around us (our Barnabas’), and young Christians who need guidance, where we learn deeper lessons about our own faith when we are teaching them about theirs (our Timothys).
So I urge you- have a well-rounded spiritual life by making sure you have your Paul, your Barnabas, and your Timothy. Pray that God will bring these people in your life, and pray that he will create in you the ability to be one of them to someone else.

1 Thessalonians 5:11- Therefore encourage one another and build each other up as you are already doing.