Books you need to read in 2020

The year isn’t done yet, but as the Christmas season rolls around the corner there might be some books that you would like to get for that special someone… or, let’s be honest, yourself. These are books I’ve read. Most of which are in the last years and a half. At the end I tag a couple on that I’m looking to read in 2020

Here’s a list, links, and a short reason why.

Dave Ramsey’s Complete Guide To Money by Dave Ramsey

I read this book early on in 2019 in preparation for a series I was doing. I cannot say how much it changed my families approach to money. It helped us to be intentional and smart with our cash. I cannot recommend it enough. Grab your copy here: https://amzn.to/2Rz4vE9

The Magic Strings of Frankie Presto by Mitch Albom

At first, I must be honest, I thought “what have I got myself into?!” But just like most reviews of the book I read, I must echo that if you stick with it through the disjointed parts you will be rewarded. I find my emotions swirling constantly as Albom slowly unfolds the story of a boy and his guitar. You can grab your copy here: https://amzn.to/345sbmd

The Day The Revolution Began by N.T. Wright

The Day The Revolution Began is not for the faint of heart. It is heavy! Literally and figuratively. Wright begins be spelling out the history around the cross and the Jewish belief/practice of laying down one’s life for another. Wright then methodically unravels various Scriptures (mostly Paul’s letters) as he points us toward the true nature of the cross, thus revealing the character of God. If you have question on how a good God could kill His son (what we call cosmic child abuse) then this is a book for you. If you want to go deeper into understanding both the cross and Scripture in richer ways, I cannot recommend this book enough. Pick up your copy here: https://amzn.to/36hvg43

Purple Cow by Seth Godin

This book has been sitting on my shelf for a while and it was also published many years ago. Saying this Godin spells out some important principles are pretty universal when it comes to marketing. Be a Purple Cow… how? well, you’ll have to read the book for that. grab your copy here:https://amzn.to/2s8trYA

The Politics of Jesus by John Howard Yoder

My country, Canada, just went through an election. this book help me immensely while thinking through, what would Jesus do? As my neighbours to the south begin to embark of an election also, I cannot recommend this book enough. Yoder looks at some very important principles in Jesus’ life and teachings and how they affect us here today. While things are the same, there are some general principles that are. Get your copy here: https://amzn.to/36kBhNg

Simply Jesus by N.T. Wright

Wright show up again, and in the same vein as Yoder, this book helped me navigate the complicated waters of Jesus and politics. Now, that is only one aspect of this book. Wright does an exemplary job of putting Jesus in His historical period and point us toward a kingdom life. Grab your copy here: https://amzn.to/2RxIh5u

Short Stories by Jesus by Amy-Jill Levine

Levin takes a fresh look at the parables of Jesus and pulls us into the mind of a Jewish person of that time. I’m not all the way through this book (I’m about half which you can track by connecting with me on Goodreads.) and have been reading as part of my devotions each morning. Levin as a way of poignantly, but humorously, pulling out insights that never crossed my white, male, western mind. We are captive to our experiences, Levin helps us expand those. Grab you copy here: https://amzn.to/2DWR1Kv

Hidden Faces by Josh Trombley

I am biased. However I really believe my book will enrich your life for the positive. I explore Biblical narratives in ways that will affect your life. Personal stories, humour, and yes, pictures, help convey the truth that God loves you with a deep passion, you are His child, and He is the one you defines your value. There is no need to put on masks (or faces) but we must strive to be who Christ has declares us to be. Grab your copy: https://amzn.to/38vo32q

Einstein by Walter Isaacson

A fascinating look at a fascinating man. Einstein overcame great trials, prejudice, and his own prideful self limitations to become the premier scientific mind of the 20th century. His story is encouraging, inspiring, and challenging. A fantastic read. Grab you copy: https://amzn.to/2Yuz4MA

On My Reading List For 2020

Inspired Imperfection by Greg Boyd

The Imitation of Christ by Thomas A Kempis

Leonardo Da Vinci by Walter Isaacson

Eternity Is Now In Session by John Ortberg

History and Eschatology by N.T. Wright

What are some of your “must reads” of 2020? What books are on your “to-reads” for 2020?

Do We Deserve God’s Love?

I want to pose a question, do we deserve God’s love? Depending on my mood that day, the answer may be different. There are days when I feel the hope of the hope around me, in me, and in the lives of others—I see the promise of humanity—and I say yes, we deserve God’s love. After all, we are His children.

There are other days when the darkness abounds. Hope seems but a paradise lost, and I can’t help but think or our unworthiness. After all, doesn’t the immense holiness of God cause him to be repelled by our misdeeds?

So what is it? Do I need to taper the hope with a reminder of my misdeeds? Or do I need to see my self as more than just actions but as an image-bearer of God?

Yes.

To what? Both.

Yes.

This question was posed to me, and others in a group that I am a part of that explores and asks some hard questions about our faith. As we gathered that Sunday night a few weeks ago, reflecting on that week’s chapter from Brian Zahnd’s book, Sinners in the Hands of a loving God. The room gathered different sexes, races, denominations, and upbringings. The room was divided but strangely united. Yes, people fell on either on one side or the other, but no one felt they could blatantly reject the other side.

To find the answer, we need to start at the beginning. Genesis 1:27 has become one of my most favourite verses.

So God created mankind in his own image, 
in the image of God he created them; 
male and female he created them.

Three times, in a row I might add, God declares that he created us. Not only that, but God created us in his image. We are God’s children. After Genesis 3, however, the relationship changes. Suddenly, through the belief in a lie from the tempter, man and woman no longer believe that they were made in the image of God, but instead, think that they need something more—something other than God—to complete them. Thus they are marred with their misdeeds.

While one camp believes that this angered God so much that he wanted to destroy us (not sure what has taken him so long), the other, which I tend to find myself in, would say that God loves us despite our mistakes and longs for us to see who we truly are as His children. I believe the former idea has become so dominant in recent thought that it has marred the truth of the second claim.

So I believe we can move the question to, do children deserve their parent’s love? I think most people would say yes. Have they done anything to deserve it? No. Their existence qualifies them to be loved, not for what they have or have not done, but because of whose they are. Children are created in the image of their parents. 

But what if that child steps outside the purpose their parents willed for them? Is Mussolini less deserving of his mother’s love because he was a fascist dictator? Is Stalin disqualified from his Father’s love because of his cruel dictatorship? I might argue it is the lack of love that drives many children to hate, not unconditional love.

When describing how sin affects our made-in-Gods-image, one member of the group mentioned above stated, “It is like this indoor table I have on my back deck. It’s not meant to be outside, but it has been through all the elements. It wasn’t meant to be outside in the rain. It deserves to be inside.”

After all, it was made for the inside. The person who made the table made it for the inside. It deserves to be treated the way the initial builder intended. Did the table do anything to deserve to be inside? Of course not. It was meant to be.

So it is with us. We were meant to live and be in the love of God. We deserve God’s love because we were made in His image. We are his children. Though we find ourselves places we should not be, out in the rains of life—maybe rains of our own doing—we deserve more and better. It’s what we were created for. Instead, we accept a lesser fate believe what was meant to be inside should be outside. We think we can compensate for it. We reject the love of God, filling our lives with everything but what we deserve.

I write in my book Hidden Faces,

Just as God deals with Adam and Eve’s shame, so Jesus comes to deal with ours. Adam and Eve’s shame is represented in their nakedness, but with the skin of an animal (Gen 3:21), representing the replacement of the perishable (fig leaves) with the imperishable (animal hide), it thus shows us that it’s only God who can deal with our shame. 

Only God can deal with our hearts, bring the table in from the rain, and restore it to how it is supposed to be.

But table, don’t be fooled. You have done nothing to be brought in, just as my kids have done nothing to earn my love. We don’t earn God’s love. We receive love because we are the King’s kids. 

So, do you deserve God’s love? Of course, you do, for you are a child of God.

If you like what you read remember to follow and share this blog.

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Is it O.K. to struggle with your faith?

There has been a lot of doubt and skepticism from “high profile” Christians. Many have felt that there hasn’t been a place for this line of thinking in the Christian movement. While there are circles where this is not encouraged, there are also a ton of circles that are exploring.

I have seen a few rebuttals by bloggers and musicians that have some excellent points. Some have pointed out the holes in the arguments; others are urging us to follow God and not celebrity.

As much as these points are valid what needs not to get lost in the conversation and what I want to say to those who identify with the struggle of faith that has invaded so many Christian leaders is,

It is ok to struggle with God and your faith.

I believe it is un-Christian to not.

To not struggle in some capacity or another is to say that you have a full understanding of not just what the Scriptures say, but of God. If you believe in the God of the Scriptures, then both of those premises are absurd! Us understanding God is like a chair trying to understand it’s maker. The maker of the chair is so far beyond what the chair could ever comprehend.

Luckily we have Scripture and can experience God in beautiful and rich ways. To say that Scripture should be the thing that pulls us through and anchors us into the world of certainty is to claim that we have a perfect understanding of what the Scriptures say, which we don’t. Not even close. We rely on wisdom, experience, and tradition, and we do the best we can.

Often not recognizing this, we fix our faith to unhealthy paradigms.

When doubts and questions appear to unfurl our sails of faith, we become crippled. Instead of pushing forward to discovering brave oceans of new realities in God, we can either give up and lose hope or bunker down in safe coves.

I see neither of the later as viable options.

I believe it is good to doubt and question. When I look at the Scriptures, I can’t help but see a God who wants us to wrestle with the big issues, always realizing that there is more to learn.

There is a story at the beginning of Scripture that articulates this. There is a story about a man named Jacob. Jacob, like us all, has some serious baggage, much of which is self-inflicted.

As Jacob begins to travel to create a new life for himself and his family, he begins to wrestle with his ideas of what his life is and who God is. The book of Genesis records the Jacob has an encounter with an angel where they wrestled, and Jacob left with a limp and a new name. In the words of Switchfoot, however, “[he] wrestled an angel for more than a name.”

The Scriptures record,

“Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with humans and have overcome.”

Genesis 32:28

While the name change is important, we must not lose sight of how the ancient rabbis interpreted this verse. They believed that this set the premise for our approach to the Scriptures and a relationship with God. (more in this in Chapter 2 of my book Hidden faces).

There should never be a point when we stop wrestling with God, Scripture, or hard questions. It doesn’t mean a patchwork of ideas that we throw together as though we’re filling a pothole, but there are times when we need a fresh coat of pavement.

It is not that Scripture, tradition and experience don’t matter. That somehow our wrestling with the big and small questions undermine everything. It just means that sometimes we need a tweak and other times we need a new street.

For me, because I have experienced God, it demands me to push to understand this life deeper. There have been times when my tradition has let me down, majorly. There have been times when no matter how much I trusted and looked at Scripture, it left me frustrated, confused, disillusioned. I had an experience that I could not deny. I knew and still know that there has to be something beyond myself and that faith isn’t built upon the straw of others nor upon the weak foundation of my limited understanding of an ancient text.

My faith is built upon the fact that I have had experiences with something beyond myself. It now demands of me to wrestle.

Saying this, if my faith stopped at the experience and didn’t have the structure of tradition (tried and true practices, rituals, and paradigms) and the Scriptures (God’s word that tells of the Word, Jesus) then my faith becomes a kite flying in the wind with no string.

We must wrestle with all of these aspects of faith.

As a teenager, I had a lot of struggles with the church. Its brokenness has a continual effect on me. One of the many things that helped save my faith was a little book called Joshua by Joseph Girzone. It’s a story of Jesus showing up in the church today. It was then in my first year of college that Len Sweet’s book Postmodern Pilgrims opened my eyes to new ways of expressing our faith. Sweet helped me find the traditions that could keep me tethered.

During my mid-twenties, I was struggling with the abuse of experience in my movement. As I reflected on those I grew up with and the teens I was now pastoring, it was plain to see that in many cases, their whole faith was built upon experience alone. There were no roots! No tradition or Scripture – no wonder they fell away. It was a dedication to Scripture in this season that helped me sift through the healthy and not so healthy experiences — something I still have to do.

More recently, I had a crisis with the Scriptures. They weren’t working for me anymore. I was preaching and leading others, but the words fell flat for me. Luckily, as I stated previously, my experiences wouldn’t allow me to let go. What I needed was a new paradigm of understanding. I am thankful for POD casts like The Bible For Normal People and Reknew With Greg Boyd. I’m eternally grateful of Boyd’s book, Crucifixion of the Warrior God (I suggest the abridged Cross Vision) that has given me a new lens (hermeneutic) to reading the Scriptures that have allowed it to come alive in my heart again.

If I never began to wrestle I would have thrown it all away, of this I’m sure. If I never struggled through the hard questions, I would never have the faith I do now that is vibrant and life-altering.

I not only see the value in doubting and questioning; I see it’s vital. Just remember, it must never end with doubt and question. That’s just lazy. The doubts and question must propel us forward to seek new lands of truth that direct us to new understandings of God that are never complete but continually drive us forward to new areas of discovery.

Check out the resources used in this post

[GUEST BLOG] Affirmation girl

Written by Sarah Trombley

Affirmation girl.

That’s me–this is my love language without a doubt.

I need … I crave kind words, and that’s great, we all need an encouraging word, but there’s an ugly side of the affirmation game, and it’s called validation.

I don’t just need affirmation, I need validation. I need to know I am liked, valued and essential. It seems to me that I’m not the only one. Our culture’s obsession with social media reveals this desire. Don’t get me wrong, I love socials, but this drive for followers, likes, and influence all stem from our need to feel validated.

The problem is unless we are being validated and affirmed by Christ, it’s a trap!

You see these days just about everyone is searching for validation. Like me, they search for it in titles, people, and likes on Instagram. We even subconsciously value people based on their followers on socials.

It’s like one giant high school popularity contest.

At times I can feel small and insignificant.

I’m the stay at home mom,

who didn’t finish college

and often gets written off as a ditz.

I want to be respected, noticed, and heard, which isn’t bad, but sometimes I also find myself wanting to be envied.

As I’ve recognized this in myself and in the culture, I’ve learned the importance of checking my motivation. I need to evaluate whether I am trying to build up myself or build a kingdom for Christ. I need to check who affirms me, who validates me.

Kind words from family, friends, and strangers aren’t the problem. In fact, we could all use a few more words of affirmation, but my worth and value are determined by Christ. He respects me, notices me, and hears me. He loves me and is proud to call me His own, and that is enough!

For more on this and other identity issues check out my husband’s book.

Hidden Faces – The Playlist

Those who know me know I love music. Those who have read my book have probably noted the same. Throughout Hidden Faces: Discovering our True Identity in Christ I reference and quote many songs to convey my point. There are also numerous others songs that speak the message of identity, as well as the other issues we tackle.

That is why I created a playlist. You can stream it on your device of choice!

To sample the songs check out the files below. https://music.apple.com/ca/playlist/hidden-faces-discovering-our-true-identity-in-christ/pl.u-XkD00ZrUaLam4 

For a list of the chapters with the songs for them check out below. I’ve also included some music videos of select songs.

Preface

Side – Travis

Intro

Captain – Hillsong UNITED

Ch 1 – The First Step

Lord, save me from myself – Jon Foreman

come home running – Chris Tomlin

give me Jesus – Bethel Music & Matt Stitton

Ch 2 – Echoes of The Past

On the Road to beautiful – Charlie Hall

Ch 3 – Glory Days

13 – Allan Rayman

Hey There Delilah – The Plain White T’s

The Reason – Urban Rescue

Ch 4 – So Jealous 

Jealous – Nick Jonas

Ch 5 – Bitter Isn’t Better

Frail – Jars of Clay

As long as you love me – Back Street Boys

Ch 6 – No Need to Race

in the air – Phil Collins

Strength and Beauty – Citizens

Ch 7 –  The Call Becomes God

The calling – The Benjamin Gate

Ch 8 – Regret

Stand in your love – Bethel Music & Josh Baldwin

Broken – Lifehouse

Ch 9 – Anger Times

The Orphan – Newsboys

Lord, I need you – Matt Maher

Ch 10 – Spirit & Truth

look up child – Lauren Daigle

hookers & robbers – Charlie Hall

Elohim – Hillsong Worship

Conclusion

so will I – Hillsong UNITED

Have it all – Bethel Music & Brian Johnson

My life is in your hands – God’s Property

What’s Your Story

Thanks to Donald Miller’s book, A Million Miles in a Thousand Years, I’ve been thinking a lot about story. What is the story of our life?

What’s the climax?

Who’s the narrator?

Where does the arc begin?

Who’s the protagonist?

Some of these may have answers. While for others, we may never. But let us not fool ourselves, we are all in a story. The choice we have is whether we choose to enter into it and make it the best we can or sit and wonder what our story could be like.

Too often we allow comfort to set in and we never take a chance. I think, how would Jesus’ disciple Peter’s narrative be different if he never stepped out of the boat to walk upon the water (Matt 14). What would the world look like if Dr. Martin Luther King never dreamed of equality and took a step? How many generations would be stuck in hopeless abject poverty if not for an immigrant braving oceans and deserts with all but hope?

The problem being, so often we need an upsetting moment to push us out of comfort into the story we were born to live. For Peter, it was the storm. For Dr. King, it was the brutality of racism and hate. The immigrant, it is loss, governments, and desperation.

Miller writes,

“Without an inciting incident that disrupts their comfort, they won’t enter into a story.”

Comfort is just that, comfortable. While comfort is vital from time to time, it can also be like a pot of cold water with a frog upon a stove (not that I have ever eaten or cooked frogs… yet). The water is cold, and the frog is content and comfortable, but slowly the heat is turned up until it’s dead in the water. However, if you put it in hot water, it knows it needs to escape. You might say it knows that the meal it’s being prepared for isn’t the type of story it wants to live.

While comfort can be great in a moment or even a season, it can be a dangerous trap that pauses the story of our life.

As I write in Hidden Faces: Discovering our True Identity in Christ,

“It’s easy to be crippled from starting the journey God has for us. It can feel daunting. It’s hard when it can mean leaving the secure job or disappointing a friend or family member. Too often we have to lose the job or the family member or have a health scare to take the step we should take. I know that was what happened to me. It was not until I lost a job that I took steps. It’s easy, especially when you have a young family, to play it safe instead of braving the oceans of discovery that lie before us.”

What is it that your story is waiting to write?

You may not even know. The problem being is that comfort is of no help. If we always escape the uncomfortable, we will never learn what it can teach us.

What if…

we decided to try something new?

we went on that trip we always longed?

we sacrificed and took control of our finances instead of the comfort of excess?

we risked our heart and entered that relationship?

Who knows what it is? Well, maybe you do or perhaps not yet. As long as we choose the “Kingdom of comfort where [you] are king[/queen]”, to quote Delirious, you will forever live in wonder.

There will never be an arc.

You will never reach the climax.

You will never know what it’s like to be the hero/heroine.

You will be a frog slowing cooking in your comfortable pot of slowly warming water and your juices.

Now, doesn’t that sound lovely…. not so much.

Jeremiah declared the words of God Judah and Jerusalem a truth that I believe also applies to us.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future… You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you,” declares the LORD, “and I will bring you back from captivity.”

Jeremiah 29:11, 13-14

Let’s seek the discomfort of God and allow Him to release us from the captivity of comfort. Let’s step into the plan, destiny–braving the ocean and stepping out of the boat.

Where do you find comfort?

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