Friday, August 1, 2008

New Book Club-- Simple Faith Chp 1 & Chp 2

I'm so excited that I finally got a chance to sit down and read some of this book this week.  It seems like no matter how you try to plan, life just gets in the way.  I've been trying to get to it for a couple of weeks and have been getting frustrated that it wasn't happening.  But finally... So without further ado,...

Every Friday, join us in reading two chapters of "Simple Faith" by Charles Swindoll.  I'll post a brief overview of the chapter with a few highlights, as well as a couple of personal thoughts.  At the end, I will also include 2-3 questions for discussion.  So join us in our journey toward becoming the mommies that God has called us to be.

Chapter 1--Let's Keep It Simple

In chapter one, Swindoll sets up his premise for the book, that Christ has called us to live an uncluttered life of faith in Him.  He finds in studying Matthew chps 5-7 that Christ's message to the masses where to move beyond the legalism of the Pharisees and focus on Him.  Swindoll believes that faith is much simple that we humans choose to make it.  He centers much of his chapter around the idea that Christ was focusing on four basic teachings in this passage:
  1. Out with Hypocrisy-- Looking busy is not the same as working for God.  Appearing pious in our activity is not the same as authentic Christianity.
  2. Down with Performance-- Stop trying to "look" the part.  This includes three parts:
  • Giving
  • Praying
  • Fasting-- "But if we fast or counsel or study or pray) to be seen, forget it!  These disciplies were never meant to be displays of the the flesh.  We are not in them for the grade others give us or the superficial impression we can make." pg 11
3. Up with Tolerance
4. On with Commitment

These were a few interesting quotes that I noted from the chapter:
  • "Hypocrisy despises authenticity." pg 4
  • "Of special concern to (Christ) was the possibility that some had gotten sucked into the pharisaic model of substituting the artificial for the authentic, a danger that always lurks in the shadows of legalism." pg 6
  • "Hypocrisy permits us to travel both sides of the path- to look righteous but be unholy, to sound pious but be secretly profane.  Invariably, those who get trapped in the hypocrisy syndrom find ways to mask their hollow core." pg 6
  • "People of simple faith mean what they say and do what they hear... Unfortunately we neither mean what we say nor do what we hear.  We substitute words for action and pious discussion for personal involvement." pg 14
Wow!  That last quote ought to kill any idea that we have that are following God with everything in us.  Any time I think I'm doing great, I simply need to refer to that quote and remember that not matter what's going on, I'm still probably doing more talking than being personally involved.

Questions for Discussion:
1. Define "Simple Faith."
2. Of the four basic teachings, where do you most struggle?
3. What are of your life lacks authenticity?

Chapter Two-- The Qualities of Simple Faith

In chapter two, Swindoll opens with explaining how Jesus delivered his message to the masses in Matthew chapters 5-7.  These are the four observations that he makes:
  1. Jesus spoke outside, not inside
  2. He sat among them
  3. He taught, not preached
  4. "He blessed and encouraged rather than rebuked" pg 23
Let's take a moment to look at point #4.  How often does our attitude rebuke rather than encourage?  Do we focus too often on what people are doing wrong rather than encouraging them to live like Christ?  What is our attitude?

Swindoll then spends much of his time disceting the "Qualities of a Blessed Life:"
  1. Poor in spirit- Being "Poor in Spirit" is having an attitude of total dependence on Christ.  It is a deep personal humility and knowing one's inability to live up to God's standard simply by human will.  "Where there is an absence of well-polished pride and personal conceit, there is a wholesome dependence on the living God" pg 25
  2. Those who mourn--Swindoll defines "mourn" as "a passionate lament" pg 26.  It is a mourning over one's own wretchness.  "God does not expect  or require months of misery-evoking penance or daily sacrifices to appease His anger... Nevertheless, a contrite heart that expresses itself in mourning over wrongdoing results in divine comfort "pg 28
  3. The Gentle-The Gentle are those who posess a "true inner strength under control" pg 29.  Can you imagine what that looks like?  Having the strength, but controlling it?  Their spiritual needs will be met if they allow God to do the conquering (pg 30).
  4. Those who hunger and thirst for righteousness-- How much do you "hunger and thirst after righteousness?"  This is a daily feeding of the soul, just as we daily feed our bodies.  This is a daily aligning of oneself with God's character (pg 30).
  5. The Merciful--Mercy is a deep empathy that requires action on our part.  It is more than sympathy as it drives us to "action."
  6. Pure in heart--"Pure in Heart" denotes a deep sincerity.  Those who are "pure in heart" have true motives and live a life of transparency.  They will deeply see the hand of God moving in their lives.
  7. Peacemakers--Swindoll finds that peacemakers are not appeasers (pg 34).  They still stand up for the integrity of the gospel, but strive to live at peace with those around them to the best of their ability.
  8. Those who are persecuted for righteouness' sake-- These are those who are persecuted not because of their own offensive behavior, but persecuted for the gospel.  Truth will also offend sin.

These were a few interesting quotes that I pulled from the chapter:
  • "Great sermons and godly servants usually go together." pg 21
  • (speaking of peacemakers) "It cheapens peace to ignore the gross offense, treat it lightly, and release him from accountability and responsibility if he doesn't have a contrite heart of repentance." pg 35
  • "True persecution occurs when two irreconcilable value systems collide.  When taht occurs and you choose to stand on principles of truth you can count on it, you will be persecuted." pg 35-36
The first quote can be true for not only great sermons, but great counsel in our Christian walk.  When offering counsel to other, or receiving counsel ourselves, we should look to our motives and the character of others.  Is this person a godly servant.

Questions for Discussion:
  1. Contrast these qualities with the world's standards.
  2. How can you begin to cultivate these qualities in your own life?
  3. Explain why the quote from pg 21 is true.
  4. Will you take the challenge to try applying one beatitude a day?  Dependence, repentance, gentleness, righteousness, mercy, integrity, peacemaking, and cultivating joy?

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Akshay said...
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