Thinking Out Loud

February 8, 2021

5 Questions for a Better Life

Filed under: Christianity — Tags: , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 8:08 am

Review: Better Decisions, Fewer Regrets by Andy Stanley

This was, by design, the longest it has taken me to post a book review. The reason is that when I first picked up my copy to start reading, Andy Stanley began a six week series at North Point which corresponded to the six chapters of his latest book. I decided to listen to the message and then, to reinforce its impact, read the chapter after each week in the sermon series.

In Better Decisions, Fewer Regrets: Five Questions to Help You Determine Your Next Move, Andy Stanley offers a set of five questions which, if asked at pivotal moments in life, will prevent us from ending up in situations of great regret and remorse. In this respect, it’s a self-help book that someone, if they were not a person of faith, could still read and benefit from.

With each question, Andy offers an illustration from the scriptural narratives of key people demonstrating the principle in action.

I’m not a consumer of the self-help genre — friends have recently mentioned things like Strengthsfinder 2.0, and Crucial Conversations — but I do appreciate the wisdom of Andy Stanley. This time it’s partly autobiographical as he discusses things that he felt his parents did right when he was in his formative years, and also prescriptive for parents today as he discusses how he took what he learned and applied it in the raising of his own children and the foster children he and Sandra have welcomed into their home.

Asked at the right time and place these questions can save people so much hurt. Are we being honest with ourselves? What legacy do we want to leave? What nagging issues in the background deserve our attention? What is the wise thing to do? What does love require of us?

Only in the book it’s not us or we, it’s I and me.

The book uses the examples of Jeremiah, Joseph, David, Paul, and Samuel. And the words of Jesus. If you also watched the series, I know you’re thinking, “Samuel?” Yes, there wasn’t an exact 1:1 correspondence between the video sermons and the book, which also contains a short concluding chapter. But you could read the book and imagine Andy’s voice in your head as you read. The two scripts were quite close.

While I recommend this to anyone reading this review, I especially commend it to anyone with a young adult nearby. This book could save them a life of regrets.

Zondervan | 180 pages hardcover | 9780310537083 | 19.99 US | Study Guide 9780310126560


Thanks again to Mark at HarperCollins Christian Publishing Canada for keeping us informed and providing great books like this one for review.

 

December 11, 2011

Guys Need to Guard Their Hearts, Too

Jamie Wright blogs at Jamie, The Very Worst Missionary, where this rather blunt admonition to guys appeared under the title, Guard Your Heart, Bro. Very blunt, actually. I warned you.

Once upon a time, we took a short line from the Bible and we turned it into a life song for girls. We slapped it on silver promise rings and we stamped it on rubber bracelets. We emblazoned it on fitted v-neck T’s, engraved it in hinged lockets, and chickified it in every way imaginable. Then we developed flowery, heart themed girls-retreats around it to ensure that our daughters would embrace it.

      “Above all else, guard your heart…”

                                    Proverbs 4:23


We admonish our girls to guard their hearts, and we warn them about “giving away pieces of their heart” in the form of every kind of love to the unworthy slobs they hang out with after school. Then we wind their “heart” up with their virginity so tight it becomes a two-fer-one deal – in the process of guarding their hearts, we end up guarding organs south of border. It’s a pretty brilliant plan, when you think about it.

Oh, and we train our boys, too, but not to guard their heart. To our boys we say,”For the love of God, avert your eyes and keep your johnson in your pants.”

I’m, like, kind of an authority on guys because I have a husband who is a guy, and I have lot of friends who are guys, and, also, I have a bunch of kids who are all guys. So yeah, listen to me when I say that it turns out guys really don’t talk about their hearts that much. In fact, most of the guys I know don’t talk about their heart at all. And I’m guessing 90% have never, ever been told to guard their heart. Probably because everybody knows that’s totally a chick thing to do.

As the mother of 2.8 teenage sons, I win the awkward award for trying to engage dudes in these conversations. When I start talking about heart stuff, the eye rolling gets so intense it blows my hair back. This makes me nervous, so I do that thing where you try way too hard to be hip and relatable and end up saying stupid crap, like, “The Bible says you need to guard your heart…dawg.”  And then my kids shake their heads, “No, Mom… Just, no.” So then I say something even more idiotic, like, “I’m just bein’ straight wichyou. My boy, Solomon, was, like, the wisest brother to ever walk the planet and it’s his advice, not mine, Bro.” And then, naturally, one of them will point out that they are, in fact, not my “bro”.

It’s all very embarrassing. And worthwhile.

I don’t think that our men are reminded often enough that they need to guard their hearts.

We teach them to guard their eyes, but I want my sons to know and understand that what porn does to their eyes isn’t what will break them, it’s what it does to their heart that will eventually leave them empty and hurting.

And we teach our men to guard their junk, to keep it in their pants, but I want my sons to know and understand that what promiscuity does to their loins isn’t what will break them (although herpes is no cakewalk), it’s what it does to their heart that will leave them lonely and aching for more.

I want my kids to get it when I tell them that the greatest thing they can bring into marriage will be their own well-guarded heart. A heart that, for all of its years and to the best of its ability, has borne the wisdom of Solomon“For they are life to those who find them and health to a man’s whole body.”

When I look around the church, when I talk amongst my friends, when I peek into the world – I see men who are broken and hurting, men tied to their addictions, men out of control, men drowning in lust, so many men longing for peace and grace and mercy, and in desperate need of restoration for their tattered and broken hearts. Hearts that have gone unguarded for far too long. And I want to break this verse like an alabaster jar over their brows. I want to pour out the perfume of Redemption on their lives. I want to release the words of Solomon to his sons, that they may be free to take up their spears and stand guard over their own hearts, because their hearts are worthy of the effort…. above all else….

   “Above all else, guard your heart,
for it is the wellspring of life.”

September 4, 2010

Rob Bell Affirms The Bible Promotes Renewal, Not What’s New

Not sure what your opinion is of Mars Hill (Grand Rapids, MI) pastor Rob Bell, but today we listened to a most unusual sermon from a pastor for whom “unusual” is de rigeur.

Actually, as Bell’s preaching goes, this one was somewhat conservative. The message had as its aim the affirmation of aging. He claims that the motivation for this was that it was the day before his 40th birthday; hardly senior status by any measure.

(NIV) II Cor 4:16 Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.

He began with stories of people whose major life accomplishments began at what some would call the later stages of life. The stories highlighted people who were, with each example, progressively older. (Sadly, the slides that go with this sermon weren’t posted online.)

The message functions well on a number of levels. Besides affirming respect for the wisdom and experience of age, it’s also an encouragement to those who are older to reconsider retirement. But most important, it’s a challenge to all of us to rethink the concept that “new is best.”

Bell ends the message with a question that was asked of him — Bell being a guy who knows what it’s like to be the new hot trend — as to how a person can avoid “peaking” after sudden popularity.

(NIV) Psalm 92:12 The righteous will flourish like a palm tree,
they will grow like a cedar of Lebanon;

13 planted in the house of the LORD,
they will flourish in the courts of our God.

14 They will still bear fruit in old age,
they will stay fresh and green…

You can find the 50+ minute sermon here. Click on the message for 8/22 — appropriately titled: The Village Elder.   I’m considering creating some slides myself and then touring the audio message around to some senior’s groups.   I think they’d enjoy what the young guy has to say.

Postscript: The message ends with a story about a guy who was dismissed from his church for attending a Rob Bell conference on his own time with his own money. Not sure how it directly connects, but it shows that the Michigan pastor still has detractors. Not sure what they would find wrong in this message though.

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