Book Plunge: Stop Calling Me Beautiful

What do I think of Phylicia Masonheimer’s book published by Harvest House? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

This book was not what I expected. I honestly thought with the title it would be more about helping women to realize they’re beautiful. It’s really the opposite, and that’s a good thing. Masonheimer wrote this book about being tired of women’s conferences that seem to be entirely all about self-help.

She argues that women need something deeper than being told they’re beautiful. Ultimately, they need Jesus Himself. They need to find their comfort in God. Women bounce around from thing to thing, or in a sadder case from man to man, hoping to find something that will fulfill them when Christ is waiting there for them the whole time.

Masonheimer goes after this whole fake culture. One chapter is even about the Instagram Bible. How many women (And men) try to make their Bible study times look really good on Instagram or Facebook (The cup of coffee supposedly making it extra holy), but then they really neglect Bible study? When they do Bible study, they do it for the hopes that they will learn something about themselves and not really to learn about God.

The next part of the book is about different false beliefs for women in the church. Legalism is the first one where much is made for women about things like skirt length. Even if the rules are good, the rules can often seem to be equated with Christianity.

Next come chapters on grief and anxiety and how to handle them. This can be a challenging one for women who are usually emotional creatures, more so than men, and yet are told to not be emotional. Women need to know how to handle serious loss and how to handle anxiety.

Thankfully, there’s a chapter on sexual stigma which is needed. Pornography is no longer just a man’s problem. Many women are watching porn as well. Many women are also told if they have sex before marriage that at that point they are damaged goods since most guys want a virgin. Masonheimer deals with all of these.

She then goes on to talk about community. Women need a place where they can be women. They need a place where they can be accepted and be safe. I also want to stress in my opinion that online friendships are great, but women and men both need face to face relationships where they can get comfort as well.

After that, she talks about the fear of man. This isn’t man in the sense of the male of the species, but in the sense of worrying about what everyone thinks about us. We do that so much, that we don’t focus on what God thinks and getting to live a life that He approves of.

There are other chapters on shame and how to live now, but I think I’ve said enough to let people know this is important. Women don’t just need pablum. They don’t just need self-help. They actually need something deeper.

So if I would actually change anything in this book, I would say go deeper still. I would like to see some information on the doctrine of God, Christ, how to do Bible study, and other such things. That could be for another book. In essence, a sort of apologetics for women would be good.

Still, I agree. Women, and men as well, don’t need pablum. We need something real. We need Jesus.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

The Importance of Thanks

Does it matter if we’re thankful or not? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Yesterday, my wife had a sleep test done. It was to take place in the middle of the day with periodic naps. We had to be there at 6:30 in the morning. That meant that for all the time to get ready, we got up at 5 in the morning. I don’t like that. You see, if I know I have to get up early, it can make it harder to go to sleep because I start thinking “What if I don’t get enough sleep?” Then all these disaster situations play, especially since Allie can’t drive and if she can’t drive she can’t get there, etc. etc. etc.

So I went to bed that night trying to think about what to do about it and remembered what Paul said. “Be anxious about nothing.” Yeah. Good idea Paul. Too bad you didn’t tell us how to do that exactly.

Or did he…..

In fact, I think he did. I remembered immediately it was said afterward, but in everything give thanks. So what did I do? I just started thinking about all the things I was thankful for. My mood began to change as I started to ponder on all the good things I have in my life.

I woke up a few times during the night, but I always got back to sleep. I slept enough to get Allie to her appointment in time, and there was a lesson learned. Give thanks. It sounds simple, but it’s something that needs to be done.

How serious a matter is this? It’s serious enough to earn the wrath of God. Think I’m making it up? Look at Romans 1.

The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.

For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like a mortal human being and birds and animals and reptiles.

Because people did not give thanks to God for what He had done, the wrath of God was coming on them. A lack of thankfulness is something that leads us to think that we owe nothing to God. We owe no honor to Him whatsoever. We can do everything on our own. We can’t.

Not only do we need to thank God, we need to thank one another. We need to thank those that are closest to us. Today, I was shown that one of my Facebook friends who has greatly helped Allie is depressed about how people don’t seem to interact with her. It happens. I know from my perspective that people often come for questions, but they don’t come for much else.

This can also happen between husbands and wives and ironically, it works in opposite ways. Many a wife wants to be appreciated for the things she does around the house and taking care of the kids and usually thinks she just gets appreciated for sex. The man meanwhile wants to be appreciated for being the breadwinner often, but he would love to be appreciated for sex.

Go out in public and when someone does something good for you even if it’s just their job. Many people throughout the day could have their whole attitude changed if someone just thanked them for what they do instead of having it be a thankless job. As one who worked in retail for several years, I know I was used to it.

And why would this help with anxiety? Because it’s hard to be anxious when your mind is focused on all the good things, which is also what Paul tells us to do in Philippians 4:8. Those are the things to think about. Giving thanks gives honor to God, builds up those who we are close to, helps our fellow man, and relieves us of our anxiety.

Give thanks.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: The Radical Pursuit of Rest

What do I think of John Koessler’s book published by IVP? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

We live in a day and age where technology should have made it easier for us to do anything. We were expecting a Jetsons world where we just go and push a button and everything gets done for us. The irony is that with most every invention of technology meant to save time for us, we in fact often have less time left.  We want to produce constantly. Do we ever take the time to just rest?

Koessler argues that rest is essential and we get caught in a trap of productivity. Of course we should produce, but we are not machines. We cannot work 24/7. We in fact often live to work instead of realizing the purpose of work is often so that we won’t have to work. It is to free us for leisure and rest.

How many people go on vacation and still do work? Thus far, I have avoided this. The last vacation I managed to get to go on was my honeymoon with my wife a little over six years ago at Ocean Isle Beach. I made a commitment before I left and spoke about it with my parents and in-laws. No contact for us. Don’t call us. Just let us be. The only book I brought with me was my Bible. I had my IPhone with me, but I used it for GPS mainly. I did not check email. I did not check Facebook. There would be plenty of times later to put up pictures of the wedding and such. There were plenty of other people who could do ministry while I was gone. This week was to focus on me and my new bride.

I have no regrets from that decision.

Unfortunately, many do not make such a decision ever. They come home from the office and bring the office with them. This is even what happens in the case of ministry. A man can neglect his family because this is the work of God. He forgets his first work of God is to love his wife as Christ loved the church and to teach his children the fear of God.

Koessler’s book is a reminder for us to take a break. The anxiety we feel about the future is in fact a failure to trust in God. We don’t rest because we think we have to keep producing. We have to in order for God to also care for us. There is no rest and if we do stop and rest, we beat ourselves up with guilt.

In fact, Koessler tells us that sloth can be related to noonday madness. It can be seen as constant busyness. We keep busy for the sake of keeping busy. It’s like the employees in the office who hear the boss is coming and all of a sudden solitaire and emails go down, Pokemon Go gets turned off, and everyone starts acting like they’ve been working hard.

Koessler also writes about ambition. Now ambition I think is fine if you want to be excellent at what you do. We should all want that. The problem can often be when you don’t delight in others and their successes and only keep thinking about yourself. That ambition is often connected with our pride.

Koessler talks about worship as rest as well. Worship at churches often turns into a performance where we have to work the audience up and by the way, that isn’t enough because if you’re truly devoted to the church you’ll sign up for all these programs. Helping out the church with other programs is fine, but let’s remember that worship is a fine goal in itself.

Of course, something has to be said about the digital age. I know of the trap for as I sit here writing, I have my email and Facebook opened and I hear the news program my wife is watching. Multi-tasking is a way of life for me. There are times you just want to see what happened on Facebook and realize you’ve spent about an hour or so browsing on it and to what end?

For my final positive, I appreciate Koessler’s honesty. He does write about having a hard time sleeping at night. He does write about struggles with ambition. He does write about worship services and sermons that he frankly finds boring at times. These show me that Koessler is with me on the journey.

Despite that there are many positives to this book and it’s a good wake-up call, I do have some recommendations for change. For instance, what exactly is rest? Koessler differentiates it from sleep, but it’s still not clear what it really is. What also would be its relation to play? If I take a break from reading and studying and go play a game, am I resting? If I go out on a date with the wife, is that rest? Would snuggling together on the couch to watch a movie be considered rest? I don’t remember any real clarification on what rest is and I definitely would like to see how play fits into this.

Still, Koessler’s book leaves you with plenty of food for thought. I have been thinking quite often about his concept of worship. I’m pleased to know Koessler is on the same journey as well.

Book Plunge: The Mind of the Spirit

What do I think of Craig Keener’s book published by Baker Academic? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

You can find many books on the thought of Paul, but how many books can you find on the thinking of Paul? We can say that we know what it is that he thought, but what about what he said about how to think? That is a topic that has been neglected largely, but thanks to the work of Craig Keener, we now have a dense scholarly work on the subject.

Keener looks at passages mainly in the undisputed Pauline epistles, though there is a brief look at Colossians 3:1-2. In these passages, Keener examines the way the ancients saw thinking and how Paul would fit in with them. The goal is to walk away with a renewed interest in proper thinking and especially in this case, proper Christian thinking.

There are also numerous excursuses throughout the book so you can see what is thought about a certain topic in the ancient world. There’s also a look at what the ancients thought about the soul. In addition, you will find a section stating advice for counselors and others on how to use the material.

Keener doesn’t leave any stone unturned. He is incredibly thorough seeking to cover every minutiae of a subject that he writes about. You will find a long section on Romans 7 for instance and whether it describes Paul’s own thoughts about a struggle against sin or something else.

The advice given to counselors is also good. Keener wants this book to be able to help people with psychological problems. It could be used also to help all of us as we all need to have some renewed thinking. None of us thinks entirely the way we should.

Keener also points out that it’s too easy for people on one side to lower people on the other. In some circles in Christian thinking, it is thought that not having an education is in fact a virtue. That means you’re more prone to just believe what the Bible says without man’s ideas getting in the way. On the other end, it’s easy for those on the more intellectual side to look at the behavior of more emotional people and reduce it to emotionalism. The more emotional thinking can be in danger of a religion based on impulses without content. The more logical thinker can be in danger of a religion with content, but no passion.

The truth is, we need both. That’s one reason I’m happy to be married to a woman who is more emotional than I am. We can better balance each other out that way and frankly, sometimes, her way of looking at something is much simpler and can see a small detail I’ve overlooked.

In recommending changes I would have liked to have seen, Keener does end with a section on advice to counselors and pastors and such, but I think it would have been good to end each section with a little statement on application. Many times, I was getting a lot of content, but no application. Something on each section I think could have further helped the process along.

While the excursuses were also interesting, they could be seen as distracting too. Does it matter to a counselor to know about dying and rising gods? For me as an apologist, it definitely matters, but I wonder if that could have made a counselor more hesitant.

Still, I did enjoy the reading and I think Keener would definitely agree with me on one aspect of all the work he’s done. Easier said than done. We can know a lot more about how to think better, but the school of hard knocks can make it hard to pass the exam. Hopefully we’ll all learn to improve more.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Was Jesus Scared?

Did our Lord have fear? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Yesterday, my wife wrote an excellent blog about fear. In it, she raised the question about Jesus in the garden. Did Jesus have fear as he knelt and asked that the cup pass through Him? I think she handled it well from a practical perspective in that she did make sure to emphasize that Jesus was fully human. One of the great dangers of our modern age is that we have so emphasized the deity of Christ that we have often forgotten His humanity.

Still, what was going on in the Garden? Did Jesus have fear? If we look at the account in Matthew, we can see that Jesus had sorrow. Sorrow itself is not a sin to have. There are some things that should make us sad. We can know how sorrowful Jesus was since He was sorrowful to the point of death. This is the lowest despair you can be in.

And what was it that Jesus was not wanting to experience at this time? Now some might say the crucifixion, and of course we can certainly all agree that “Being crucified” is not on our bucket lists. Still, was Jesus wanting to avoid strong physical pain, even intense physical pain like a crucifixion, and that sorrow of undergoing that was what was ripping His soul apart?

I don’t think so.

I think what Jesus was not wanting to undergo at the time was in some sense a separation from the Father. Jesus did not want to have to experience bearing the sins of the world on Him. It’s a lesson to us that Jesus considered His relationship with the Father so serious that He did not want to in any way bear anything that would be contrary to that relationship. Now what exactly happened when that took place? That is for another blog and something I still think about, but today we are talking about the garden.

The difference in Jesus’s action was that He said not what He willed, but what the Father willed. Jesus wanted to avoid the cross and that was certainly not a wrong desire, but if it had to be that way, He was willing to go through with it. That is what makes the difference. It’s okay to not want to go through some things, but ultimately, what shows Jesus’s character in the face of all of this was that He chose the will of God over His own will.

Keep in mind also that Jesus is to be our example in the New Testament and we are to walk as He walked. That means that we are to choose the desires of the Father over our desires. Now that might be something we consider if we have to face something like being willing to die for Christ, but could it be the greatest challenge in the world is not dying for Christ but living for Him? If you are willing to say that you will not recant and be killed, your struggle ends pretty quickly. What about the struggle of today?

What about the struggle to be a good spouse to the person you’re married to? What about the struggle to raise your children in the fear of the Lord? What about the struggle to live within your financial means? What about the struggle to trust God in all things? What about the struggle to remove evil from your own heart?

Jesus in all of His life gave to the will of the Father every time and lived accordingly. Now to be sure, He did not face everything that we faced, but He is no stranger to temptation either and He knew what it meant. He also knew what it meant to succeed and calls us to do the same.

Jesus was willing to die for the will of God. The question for us today is if we’re willing to live for the same.

In Christ,
Nick Peters