Thinking Out Loud

October 1, 2017

Apparently, I Wrote an Endorsement for This Book

Author Samuel C. WIlliamson

I own a copy of Hearing God in Conversation by Sam Williamson (Kregel) which I thoroughly enjoyed reading. But it’s a manuscript copy, from which I was asked to write an endorsement. And although I’ve held finished copies of the book in my hand in the past year, I never bothered to open the front pages until yesterday. I’m on the same page as George Verwer, founder of Operation Mobilization and Eugene Peterson, author of The Message Bible! I should really pay more attention to these things:

So in honor of that discovery, here’s a repeat of my original review at Thinking Out Loud, which, as it turns out, reiterates the above because there was such a time lag to reviewing the manuscript to the time printed copies were available.

Review: Hearing God in Conversation

God has many means at his disposal to get our attention

Hearing God in ConversationOver a year ago I was privileged to read a manuscript edition and asked to do an endorsement for a book which is now releasing from Kregel Publishing. Hearing God in Conversation: How to Recognize His Voice Everywhere is the second book by Sam Williamson, following Is Sunday School Destroying Our Kids which we reviewed here.

I would expect that a year is forever when you’re an author awaiting national release, so I was surprised this week with the good news that the book is now ready. Here’s the summary I wrote:

In Hearing God In Conversation: How to Walk with God, Samuel Williamson affirms the church’s long-held position that God’s primary means of speaking to us is through scripture; while at the same time, through a blend of Bible teaching, contemporary and classic Christian authors, and personal experience, shows us that God is in no way limited in terms of what he can use to prompt us, nudge us and lead us. Written in a casual, sometimes lighthearted style, Hearing God in Conversation propels us to a place of expectancy with respect to God’s voice; to look for God’s personal message to us in a variety of circumstances; and to be aware that God has a vast catalog of means he uses to guide his children.

Sometimes you forget about books you reviewed, but just seeing my own abstract of it, so much came flooding back. I really enjoyed it and benefited personally from reading it at the time.

Here’s the official publisher marketing for the book:

Christians are comfortable saying that Christianity is about a relationship with God. Yet many might also say that they sense little meaningful relationship with God in their own lives. After all, the foundation of good relationship is communication–but conversation with God often seems to go only one way. We may sing of walking and talking with God in the garden, His voice falling on our ears, but few have heard that beloved voice themselves.

Sam Williamson acknowledges the fundamental human longing to hear God’s voice and offers a hopeful supposition: God is always speaking–we’ve just never been taught how to recognize His voice. Williamson handles this potentially heady topic with his characteristic straightforwardness and leavening humor. This book deftly bridges the gap between solid biblical theology and practical application, addressing topics such as how to truly pray without ceasing, how to brainstorm with God, how to navigate our emotions, how to answer God’s questions, and how to hear God’s voice for others.

Hearing God in Conversation offers simple, step-by-step lessons on how to hear God. Williamson begins with Scripture meditation. He then expands the practice of listening for that voice everywhere–in the checkout line, on the job, in a movie theater, and even in silence. From there, he demonstrates how to hear God’s guidance when making any decision. By the end, readers’ eyes and ears will be opened to the limitless methods through which God speaks.

The 224-page resource is distributed in the U.S. by Kregel and independent distributors such as Anchor, and in Canada by David C. Cook; and is available to purchase wherever you buy quality Christian products. In the spirit of the book, maybe God’s using this blog post to suggest you get a copy!!


I also encourage you to check out the author’s website BeliefsOfTheHeart.com


Related:

My review of the author’s Is Sunday School Destroying Our Kids?

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June 28, 2016

Review: Hearing God in Conversation

God has many means at his disposal to get our attention

Hearing God in ConversationOver a year ago I was privileged to read a manuscript edition and asked to do an endorsement for a book which is now releasing from Kregel Publishing. Hearing God in Conversation: How to Recognize His Voice Everywhere is the second book by Sam Williamson, following Is Sunday School Destroying Our Kids which we reviewed here.

I would expect that a year is forever when you’re an author awaiting national release, so I was surprised this week with the good news that the book is now ready. Here’s the summary I wrote:

In Hearing God In Conversation: How to Walk with God, Samuel Williamson affirms the church’s long-held position that God’s primary means of speaking to us is through scripture; while at the same time, through a blend of Bible teaching, contemporary and classic Christian authors, and personal experience, shows us that God is in no way limited in terms of what he can use to prompt us, nudge us and lead us. Written in a casual, sometimes lighthearted style, Hearing God in Conversation propels us to a place of expectancy with respect to God’s voice; to look for God’s personal message to us in a variety of circumstances; and to be aware that God has a vast catalog of means he uses to guide his children.

Sometimes you forget about books you reviewed, but just seeing my own abstract of it, so much came flooding back. I really enjoyed it and benefited personally from reading it at the time.

Here’s the official publisher marketing for the book:

Christians are comfortable saying that Christianity is about a relationship with God. Yet many might also say that they sense little meaningful relationship with God in their own lives. After all, the foundation of good relationship is communication–but conversation with God often seems to go only one way. We may sing of walking and talking with God in the garden, His voice falling on our ears, but few have heard that beloved voice themselves.

Sam Williamson acknowledges the fundamental human longing to hear God’s voice and offers a hopeful supposition: God is always speaking–we’ve just never been taught how to recognize His voice. Williamson handles this potentially heady topic with his characteristic straightforwardness and leavening humor. This book deftly bridges the gap between solid biblical theology and practical application, addressing topics such as how to truly pray without ceasing, how to brainstorm with God, how to navigate our emotions, how to answer God’s questions, and how to hear God’s voice for others.

Hearing God in Conversation offers simple, step-by-step lessons on how to hear God. Williamson begins with Scripture meditation. He then expands the practice of listening for that voice everywhere–in the checkout line, on the job, in a movie theater, and even in silence. From there, he demonstrates how to hear God’s guidance when making any decision. By the end, readers’ eyes and ears will be opened to the limitless methods through which God speaks.

The 224-page resource is distributed in the U.S. by Kregel and independent distributors such as Anchor, and in Canada by David C. Cook; and is available to wherever you buy quality Christian products. In the spirit of the book, maybe God’s using this blog post to suggest you get a copy!!


I also encourage you to check out the author’s website BeliefsOfTheHeart.com

February 27, 2016

The Chair Time Concept

Bill Hybels - Chair TimeSometimes when you visit another church — either in person or online — you become of aware of certain terms or phrases that are unique to their congregation. After a few years of being away, I’ve returned to making Willow Creek in Chicago part of my weekly online travels, and I’ve been introduced to “Chair time,” which is what other Evangelicals might call “devotions.”

I decided to go to Google to see what people are saying about it.

First, Bill Hybels himself, speaking at a 2014 Hillsong conference:

…No doubt you’ve seen a picture of Michelangelo’s most famous painting on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, “The Creation of Adam,” in which he portrays God and Adam with their hands outstretched toward one another. God is leaning and straining toward Adam, and his fingertip almost touches Adam’s hand, which is more relaxed, not nearly as intent on its mission.

The very hand of heaven reaching for the hand of man.

Now, imagine Adam’s hand reaching out another six inches, grabbing firmly ahold of God’s hand, and hanging on to it tightly. That image captures the single biggest bucket-filler in my life: being firmly hand-in-hand with God…

…If you’re not in the daily habit of reaching for God’s hand and listening for his agenda, let me offer you a challenge: Find a spot in your home—for me, it’s a wooden rocking chair by the fireplace—and sit there for fifteen minutes a day, connecting with God. Read his Word, open up your life to him, and listen for his whispers. When you’re in that chair and you’re in a right relationship with God, it secures your identity. It simplifies your agenda. You won’t be so tempted to run out and do all the other stuff that doesn’t matter a hill of beans to God.

So, chair time. Start there.

At the blog Crown of Compassion, Dave Henning summarizes Hybels’ definition in the book Simplify:

To feel closer to God or hear from Him through His Word, Pastor Hybels notes, we need to allocate purposeful time with God every day.  A chair is any place where we can sit uninterrupted and meet God.  Bill explains:

“Your chair time . . . should be purposeful and slow and protected from distraction, at a time of day that works best for you.”

From a busy mom who is a member of Willow Creek:

…The first thing I thought of was I need a vacation!!!! Why don’t stay-at-home moms have built in vacation days?!   We don’t and that’s okay, but I have a choice to make the most of the game of life and that may mean taking a timeout. It makes sense why our lead pastor at Willow Creek, Bill Hybels, often rehashes the importance of “chair time”, spending 15 minutes a day with your Bible. It’s like a timeout from this crazy life to be with God … just you and Him.  Or why in sports, timeouts are so important to teams.  It gives the team the ability to rest, readjust, and prepare for the remainder of the competition…

A book excerpt from Simplify reads:

..Because you are reading a book about simplifying your life, I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that you are in a season of throwing away clutter. You are throwing away commitments on your calendar that don’t fit your values. You’re throwing away the financial habit of living beyond your means. You’re tossing some shallow or harmful relationships in favor of deeper, more life-giving relationships in Christian community. Through the hard work of self-evaluation, you are in a season of clearing out and clarifying.

Or perhaps you’re in a season of keeping — keeping new commitments to make time for your family; keeping your daily chair time and prayer time with God holy and set apart; keeping your alignments at work — passion, culture, challenge and compensation. There’s a time for one and a time for the other…  (p. 19)

…Your chair time doesn’t have to be an in-depth Bible study or an hour-long meditation exercise. But it should be purposeful and slow, and protected from distraction, at a time of day that works best for you. More important, it should be daily… (p. 44)

Phil Owen on the difference between devotions and chair time:

…As someone who faith has been a part of my story in one form another for a long time, I’ve known the value of what we call ‘devotions’ or ‘quiet time’ or any other verbiage we’ve given to it over the years.  It’s huge.  It’s great.  But the truth is, I’ve struggled with consistency time and time again.  I have gone through seasons where I’m strong, and seasons where I’m spotty. At best.

Since looking at it SLIGHTLY differently through the lens of ‘chair time’- that’s seemed to be helpful for me.  For whatever reason.

I think that reason has more to do with location than anything else.  ‘I have to’s’ are never any good for any of us.  I fail at ‘I have to’s’.  That’s not entirely true- but an ‘I have to’ in my time of solitude seems obligatory, and is not driven by desire.  This should be a time driven by desire.  And usually it is (though I wouldn’t be truthful if I said there’s never a time where I do it simply because I know I need to…and that’s not all bad either…though that’s another blog for another day).  So for some reason- focusing on location seems like more pressure and seems more familial…

Finally, at the blog, Church of the Servant:

Maybe your chair time is at a coffee shop, your breakfast table, living room coach, your office, or during your commute. It could be morning, afternoon or evening. Your chair time will change your life and help you gain perspective. What do you say…will you find a chair?

Want to learn more? Watch the video below, but be ready to be affected by what you hear:

September 5, 2011

A Lesson in Humility

There are times we can be so convinced that God is leading us to do something, that even afterward, when the particular vision or project doesn’t meet expectations, it’s hard to believe that, in terms of its original goals, the project was a bit of a failure.

Many years back, I would wake up in the morning, have breakfast and brush my teeth, and somewhere between the cereal bowl and the restroom sink my brain would flash this:  “$100,000.”  I tried to interpret this in different ways.  Was it a reference to Canada’s daily Christian television show, 100 Huntley Street? No, I decided that what it meant was that I was to raise $100K for Camp Iawah.

Iawah — pronounced the same as Iowa — is an acronym for In All Ways Acknowledge Him. It’s the camp my wife and I met at, and the camp where our two boys served on staff this summer. I guess I was hoping that in the process of raising some money for them, I would be welcomed more warmly when I arrived on the property. The camp — though already a second home — would become my “Cheers” bar, where everybody knows my name and they’re always glad I came. Plus, like most parachurch ministries, they could really use the money for capital projects. Secretly, I hoped my efforts would raise $200K.

My strategy was to advertise in Canada’s national Christian magazine, Faith Today, a publication of the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada. To draw in interest on a national scale, I would focus on the ‘mission field’ aspect of eastern Ontario, the part of the province designated by the “K” postal code.

It’s important to note that this area stands in contrast to the relative ‘Bible belt’ of western Ontario. “K” at the time didn’t have more than 100 churches where there would be more than 100 adults present on a Sunday morning. Most of these were in major cities like Ottawa, Kingston, Peterborough, Belleville, etc. and “K” wasn’t the home of any major Christian organizations or Bible colleges.

“Name a mission field that starts with the letter ‘K'” was the tagline for the advertisements.

Yes, several ads. One for Camp Iawah. One for Northumberland Christian School, a ‘diamond in the rough’ where I had taught part-time for a year, which really needed a financial kick-start; and one for CHRI radio in Ottawa, Canada’s first-licensed commercial Christian radio station. The series of three advertisements would be a win-win-win. The magazine would be an immediate winner with some advertising revenue. My three (at the time) bookstores, also all located within the “K” code, would get fine-print mention at the bottom of the page, also ensuring a business write-off. And of course the organizations in question would be placed on the hearts of readers across the country who would respond with donations.

The first advertisement hit a bulls eye of sorts. The magazine was already running a cover story on Christian camping, and within a week, I was emailed that a family had signed up their kids for that summer. But after a couple of months, I was told, “If any donations we’ve received are a direct result of the advertisement, we aren’t aware of it.”

That was disappointing, but by then the next advertisement was already running. These were 1/3rd page display ads, and I was reminded that, “The effectiveness of any advertising campaign increases after several repetitions.” And due to a technical error, that second one got run twice. But six months in, money was neither pouring into the camp nor the school, and my attempt at raising awareness of ministry need in “K”-land was clearly flawed. I ran the third one anyway for CHRI Radio in Ottawa. After the eight month campaign, I wondered if just giving the money directly to the organizations in questions might not have been a better use of funds.

These were good advertisements, persuasive, informative and well written. So what went wrong? Here are some thoughts, you might have more to add:

  1. The first one, for the camp, was done with mixed motivation. I wanted greater acceptance there, so I sought to earn it somehow.
  2. I acted as a lone ranger, “gifting” my promotional and writing abilities to the organizations, but not working with those people to optimize the opportunity.
  3. I overestimated those same abilities, forgetting that I was, after all, a person who once held a yard sale to which absolutely no one came. A bit of a record, wouldn’t you say?
  4. I possibly needed a lesson in humility.
  5. I got confused by thought patterns like the “$100,000” thing that got stuck in my head, forgetting there are people who, every time they drive by a certain tree or stop sign on the way to work have a song that triggers in their brain for no apparently connected reason.

Since then, I’ve also learned the line, “The voices in your head may be due to the pizza you ate last night.”  But there are also some things that came out of this I need to remind myself:

  1. I did provide some needed revenue to the magazine.
  2. There was the family that signed up for camp, and apparently one that learned of the school.
  3. I will never know if some donations were sent as a direct result of the campaign but just not connected by the donors or the recipients. Or perhaps the ads served as a reminder to people who were already on the mailing list of those organizations.
  4. Despite a lack of tangible results, I did raise awareness of the needs in the “K” postal code, an area that continues to struggle.
  5. I was obedient to the vision I thought I had received with no negative complications or side-effects for pursuing that vision.

Fall is a time in ministry to dream dreams. You need to know with clarity that those dreams are God-sent, but that won’t always present itself with 100% assurance; some of it has to be a step of faith. You need to be willing to risk failure. You need to be willing to do the necessary analysis afterward to see if there’s anything you can learn. I believe that doing something is better than doing nothing.

[] [] []

Camp Iawah is growing and meeting spiritual needs in the lives of hundreds each year. If someone were wanting to invest in the lives of the next generation, this ministry organization would be at the top of my recommended list.  CHRI Radio has moved from being a commercial music station to the financially-safer format of selling blocks of air-time to radio ministries, but still requires donations to meet its budget. I believe that the Christian school still faces some long-term challenges, though its larger family of schools is worthy of support. 

And yes: The magazine Faith Today continues to be published by the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada, our equivalent of — but not connected with — the National Association of Evangelicals in the U.S.

August 24, 2011

Wednesday Link List

I like a church that covers all the basics for living

Years from now, when anthropologists discover this blog, they will say, “Truly, this was the Wednesday Link List for August 24th, 2011.”

  • Randy Alcorn quotes a Chuck Colson report that we shouldn’t be talked into thinking there’s been a lessening of persecution of Christians in China.
  • The author and publishers of The Shack — a bestselling Christian novel — found themselves on opposite sides of a lawsuit which was finally settled out of court.
  • Just what WOULD the Beatles have come up with, creatively speaking, had they been followers of Jesus all those years ago? A good friend of ours has finally given us the green light to release the link for a take-off to The Beatles “When I’m Sixty-Four.”  So enjoy “Matthew Six Three-Four.”  (The link will open your computer’s media player.) Stay tuned for more from Martin Barret on a soon to be released project featuring this song and others.
  • Schullergate Item of the Week:  The Crystal Cathedral succeeded in getting a dissenting website, Crystal Cathedral Music, taken down this week. The site featured commentary from former members of the CC choir and orchestra and friends of the Cathedral’s former music style.
  • Darryl Dash warns pastors and others that when it comes to email and online correspondence, nothing is confidential.
  • Christianity Today profiles Dave Ramsey, noting the new Momentum curriculum, designed to bring the same advice to cash-strapped churches as is given individuals.
  • Alex Mejias at the blog High Street Hymns gives you Five Reasons to Use Liturgical Music in Your Contemporary Worship Service.  (And no, “Liturgical songs are free of copyright worries” wasn’t in the list.)  [HT: Zac Hicks.]
  • This one’s a repeat from April, but I read it again and laughed again.  What if churches used their signs to suggest “purpose statements” that were actually achievable?
  • DotSub — the online service which adds subtitles in any language to your videos — picks up a June, 2010 TED Talk by Larry Lessig which deals with copyright and fair use, but begins with an observation about Republicans: They go to church.
  • Ronnie McBrayer adds his voice to The Underground, a Christian website like no other, and notes that a lot of people do strange things because they thought they heard God’s voice.
  • In an in-depth article, CNN ponders whether Christians can win the war against pornography. (Over 3,000 comments as of Monday.)
  • Julie Clawson considers the theological implications of the Veggie Tales song, “The Pirates Who Don’t Do Anything.”  Okay, that’s not exactly what this post is all about.
  • Just discovering the music of Phil Wickham.  Gave Mrs. W. the Cannons album last week for being good!  This older song, You’re Beautiful, is closing in on 2,000,000 YouTube views.  For the already-converted (!) here’s a clip from Phil’s October-releasing album, Response.
  • Darrell at Stuff Fundies Like delivers a fundy take on I Cor. 13; though in all honesty, I gotta say this one is high in contention for being tomorrow’s post here.
  • You’re not really going to the bathroom at Bible study group are you?  Bryan Lopez reblogged Tech-Crunch’s Technology is the New Smoking.
  • Somewhat related: Chrystal at Life After Church introduces a new blog series by describing a very non-Baptist way to engage with scripture.
  • Thomas Prosser at the UK Guardian newspaper thinks that Christian youth camps are manipulative, but before you read, you need to know that what they term as camps, we refer to as festivals.
  • If you’re a link-o-phile, you’ll also find a daily rundown at Take Your Vitamin Z (Zach Nielsen), Kingdom People (Trevin Wax) and Tim Challies.  These bloggers include things from the broader blogosphere including lots of tech news, but when it comes to theological discussion the links are all from a single doctrinal family of bloggers.  (Note the vast number of links that turn up on all three over the course of a month.)  The mix here is quite different, but feel free to check out the three mentioned above as well as the large, diverse number of other bloggers in the margin at right.  These links are constantly checked for (a) a spiritual focus, (b) frequent and recent posting, and (c) taken as a group, doctrinal mix and balance.

The Wednesday List Lynx arrives late to the party

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