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Archive for July, 2007

This coming weekend I’ll be holding a book signing at Majesty Christian Store in Westmoreland Mall, Greensburg, PA. The dates are August 4 and 5, 10 a.m. – 3 p.m. and 11 a.m. – 3 p.m.

The same weekend, I’ll also be hosting a “virtual” book signing right here on my blog!

What is a “virtual” book signing? It’s simply a book signing done online. Through my blog, you can talk to me and learn more about me, just like you will at the physical book signing. You will receive a free tips sheet, just like at the physical book signing. You can sign up for a door prize, just like at the physical book signing. And you can order books online and receive a signed copy for the same low below-retail price of $10.

At the physical signing, I’ll be giving away prayer bead bracelets (to the first 25 people to stop each day, whether you buy a book or not), free tips sheets, and a sample printout of the Cross Your Heart Publications “Balancing Tips” e-newsletter. There will also be a gift basket door prize courtesy of Angel Bunny Baskets (which my aunt and I have partnered on), and look for some sort of candy or other goodies for any children—or merely the young at heart—who decide to stop and say hello.

For the virtual signing, “stop by” (i.e., post), and you’ll also get the free tips sheet, sample newsletter, and an entry into the door prize drawing. Due to shipping costs and bracelet supplies, I’m only including the free prayer beads to anyone online who orders a book (or to the winner of the gift basket).

Books will be available from both locations (Majesty Christian Store or my blog) for the below-retail price of $10!

Please, join me, and make this a fun time of fellowship where we all come away learning a little something about how to balance our lives…

I’ll start the book signing off with a post early Friday morning (or late Thursday) and will visit periodically to respond to any replies. I look forward to meeting many of you!

God bless you!

– Chris Downs, Author of Simply Balanced: Bible “Contradictions” Teach Balanced Living, ISBN: 978-0-9794248-1-6

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Recently the Vatican released a document defining the identity of the church (http://www.catholicnews.com/data/stories/cns/0703953.htm), a statement that created some confusion (to put it mildly) for non-Catholic Christian denominations.

This document “reaffirmed Catholic teaching that the Catholic Church is the one, true church of Christ, even if elements of truth and Christ’s saving grace can be found in separated churches and communities.” While such a statement, on the surface, may sound as though it excludes Protestant religions, the Vatican is quick to point out that the Roman Catholic theology defines “church” differently than the way it is understood by other groups—and that the document refers to apostolic succession as a way to determine whether a church is, well, a “church.”

This has been an interesting topic for me to follow because, in my life, I have gone through some soul-searching regarding denomination. I was raised Catholic; I turned away from the church altogether for a few years (although never fully from God, even if I didn’t realize it at the time); and then I became born again. Now I know I am Christian, and that Jesus Christ is my Lord and Savior. However, I have more trouble defining if I am a particular denomination, and I don’t believe the Bible says you HAVE to be. That is religion, and your relationship with God is more important than “religion” or “denomination.”

Some of the Vatican’s assertions do sound a little confusing (especially the part about different theology because I thought all Christian theology came from the Bible, the one true Word of God), but it becomes simpler if we just focus on the love of Christ—which the Vatican does stress. I still don’t fully understand why such a document was necessary to release, when everyone has been working together so well to bring people to Christ. But I don’t see it as anything earth-shattering that will shake anyone’s faith.

Most Christians I know who are Catholic (many of whom I am related to, such as my parents) tend to believe relationship with God is the primary factor, and they consider us all children of God—one Body of Christ. That is a wonderful attitude, and I am blessed to have brothers and sisters in Christ from multiple denominations.

In fact, I am a member of a fellowship group (http://www.legacyinspirations.com/) that consists of one Catholic, five Lutherans, one Mennonite, one non-denominational Christian, and anyone else who happens to join us each meeting (I think I got the various denominations correct, but specific denomination isn’t the critical factor to me). All I know is that we have come together in the name of Christ, and that’s good enough for me! We are committed to God, and we love and respect each other. We are working together to reach others with the Good News of Jesus Christ.

Through our unity and love, the members of Legacy Inspirations—and other “families” like it—demonstrate the true identity of the church.

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An article about my book (Simply Balanced: Bible “Contradictions” Teach Balanced Living) was featured on the front page of my local paper this past week! It was so exciting to see it there.

http://www.crossyourheartpub.com/Press.html

Seeing it, I realized, yes, I am really doing this! I’m a published author now, and I need to tell people about my book.

Even though I believe in the message God has given me, and I want to help people, actually TELLING people has been one of the hardest parts for me (now that it’s time to actually do so). Something about telling people I wrote a book sounds too prideful, and I want to be more humble. Yet, if no one ever hears about my book, doesn’t that defeat the purpose of reaching people? I need to be less modest and just tell people, “this book will help you”! “It will help you grow closer to God and balance your hectic life.” Still, it’s difficult.

One thing that helps me feel more comfortable “talking up” the book is my recognition that it’s not ABOUT me — it’s about GOD! If I focus on this being God’s message (rather than “my” book), that makes it a little easier to tell people about it. God is the one who deserves all the glory anyway; I’m just His instrument — He made me enjoy writing and gave me the ability to organize thoughts coherently on paper (I’m not the only one, and I certainly won’t be the last).

But He is the only God! The Alpha and the Omega. The Living Word. The great I AM. Our never-changing God. He deserves all glory for EVERYTHING!

My dilemma actually fits right in with chapter 3 of my Simply Balanced book — the lesson about being humble in your own abilities, yet speaking boldly for God — so I need to take the advice God taught me and apply it to promoting “my” book.

From that chapter, Jesus tells us that “whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 18:4) Yet, Paul boasted of how they had conducted themselves “in the holiness and sincerity that are from God” and goes on to tell the people of Corinth that “you can boast of us just as we will boast of you in the day of the Lord Jesus.” (2 Corinthians 1:12-14)

Why did Paul boast when Jesus preached humility? The answer lies in what we boast about. We need to be humble in our own abilities yet confident and boastful in what the Lord does for us.

Humility saves us from making a fool out of ourselves and teaches us to live like Jesus. Pride, on the other hand, leads us to compete with others, rather than putting their needs first (as we should do in every thought and action). Humility gives all the glory to God. When I humble myself before Him, I am giving no glory to me and all glory to God.

Jesus may call us to be humble, but He also wants us to boast in Him. Being humble does not mean being meek like a mouse without ever defending your faith. On the contrary, the confidence we boast in through Jesus Christ should have us shouting from the rooftops: The Lord my God does great works through me! (Or, rather, my God does great works in spite of me since we are all imperfect sinners, every one of us…)

God gives us blessings and abilities so that we can do His work. Part of that work is giving Him the credit. All beauty and strength comes from God, even when an artist does not realize it. An artist, writer, or singer may not even be a believer, yet the angelic music or extraordinary art he creates is still from the God he fails to recognize. Just because a human being doesn’t believe in God doesn’t mean God doesn’t exist. God is still there, providing all ability and blessing. How much more majestic when we give credit where it is due—to God!

Being humble personally brings you closer to God. Boasting in God’s actions praises God and shows others who your King is and how Christ Jesus has changed your life. Demonstrating, recognizing, and calling attention to Christ’s work in your life can help bring others to Him, which is the main point. Like two sides of the same coin, humility and boldness work together to accomplish this.

“Let him who boasts boast in the Lord.” (1 Corinthians 1:31) No contradiction whatsoever, only the perfect balance of God’s Holy Word.

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In 1 Thessalonians, Paul advises us to “pray without ceasing” (or to “pray continually” in the NIV translation of the Bible).

Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. – 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

I recently started reading a book we are discussing in a fellowship group (http://www.legacyinspirations.com). The book is titled “The Way of a Pilgrim” (ISBN: 0-932727-26-3 for hardback). I’m only into chapter 2, but the book is about a Russian pilgrim from the mid-1800s who embarked on a mission to learn how to pray without ceasing. After hearing mention of the 1 Thessalonians passage in a sermon, he hungered to learn what unceasing prayer was and how to accomplish it, which led him to The Jesus Prayer (“Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me,” which he was told is a simple summary of the Gospel) and to a life of prayer and pilgrimage.

In my book “Simply Balanced” (ISBN: 978-0-9794248-1-6), I discuss preparing for Jesus’ return, highlighting the 1 Thessalonians 5 section that mentions continuous prayer (verses 12-18 are titled “Final Instructions” in the NIV) (I will be expanding on this section in the accompanying workbook, which is in development). Continuous prayer is one of the ways to prepare for our Lord’s return (among many other things we should be doing — for example, be patient, be joyful, test everything, respect others, and give thanks, to name a few). “Pray continually” appears in verse 17, appropriately, I believe, sandwiched between “be joyful always” and “give thanks in all circumstances.” Prayer leads to joy, and we give thanks through prayer. How does the song go? “Give thanks with a joyful heart…”

Not only is prayer important, prayer is ESSENTIAL. I honestly do not believe we can find any kind of balance whatsoever in life without putting prayer first. It sounds so counterintuitive to “the world,” which places so much value on getting tasks accomplished. Taking action IS important – if God calls you to complete a task, you need to DO it. However, you still need to put prayer and a relationship with Jesus FIRST. Sacrificing your relationship with God to fulfill a task He calls you to is not the way to accomplish anything (and God will teach you that, possibly in painful and frustrating ways, by making the task difficult, possibly even causing you to wonder why He called you to it in the first place). That’s because He wants you to learn to pray first, THEN fulfill the task(s) to which He has called you. He wants you to love Him and have a relationship with Him first and foremost. Then, out of obedience, you follow His will, performing the tasks to which He calls you.

Too many of us get caught up in the acts themselves. The danger with this lies in the risk of forgetting who has called us to the deeds in the first place, losing our relationship with and trust in God, and placing trust in ourselves instead. Big mistake!

Sometimes I find myself falling into this worldly trap – working so hard at GOD’S tasks. But then I start praying less (I just have SO much God has called me to do!)… like I’m the only person in this world who’s ever been busy (yeah, right!). Little wonder, then, that I get exhausted and overwhelmed trying to do so much. I need to MAKE TIME FOR PRAYER first! Even further still, I need to PRAY CONTINUALLY (without ceasing, as the Pilgrim learned). I need to always reach out to God with my heart, in everything I do, say, think, feel, with my entire being — even while I sleep.

We are not all led to be pilgrims or hermits, living alone praying. But we are all led to pray continually, no matter what else we do (no matter what our calling). God has led me to these 1 Thessalonians 5 passages multiple times (first in Bible study, which led me to include the steps of preparation in my book, and second in hearing of a Pilgrim’s journey so long ago). God obviously has a lesson for me in these verses (multiple lessons, I’m quite sure!), and one lesson is to first recognize that I need to pray continually, and then to practice such prayer, growing deeper in communion with God the more natural it becomes.

In the book “The Way of a Pilgrim,” the Pilgrim learned the value and necessity of praying ceaselessly, and we need to learn it today, too. Ceaseless prayer is not a practice only for 19th century monks or pilgrims, and you don’t have to be a pilgrim today to practice it. All you have to be is a sinner who needs Jesus, and that includes all of us!

(By the way, the Legacy Inspirations group knows a modern-day pilgrim! Our friend Pilgrim George is currently walking through NY, somewhere between Livingston Manor and Windsor. Check out http://raeshomepage.bravehost.com/pilgrim.html, http://blog.syracuse.com/news/2007/06/he_walks_miles_for_god.html, and http://legacyinspirations.com/pics/index.html. Meeting him, I know what is meant in the book about such a life leading you to be quiet and calm. He is the kindest, calmest man I have ever met, and it is obvious he is in deep communion with the Lord. Some of us may never display that kind of tranquility, as some of us are just naturally more hyper people, but ceaseless prayer can help us all accept life without complaint, be more joyful, and grow calmer and more trusting in God. And God’s light and love will shine from within us! How glorious to behold!)

1 Thessalonians 5:1-28

1 Now, brothers, about times and dates we do not need to write to you, 2 for you know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. 3 While people are saying, “Peace and safety,” destruction will come on them suddenly, as labor pains on a pregnant woman, and they will not escape.

4 But you, brothers, are not in darkness so that this day should surprise you like a thief. 5 You are all sons of the light and sons of the day. We do not belong to the night or to the darkness. 6 So then, let us not be like others, who are asleep, but let us be alert and self-controlled. 7 For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, get drunk at night. 8 But since we belong to the day, let us be self-controlled, putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet. 9 For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. 10 He died for us so that, whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with him. 11 Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.

Final Instructions
12 Now we ask you, brothers, to respect those who work hard among you, who are over you in the Lord and who admonish you. 13 Hold them in the highest regard in love because of their work. Live in peace with each other. 14 And we urge you, brothers, warn those who are idle, encourage the timid, help the weak, be patient with everyone. 15 Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always try to be kind to each other and to everyone else.

16 Be joyful always; 17 pray continually; 18 give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

19 Do not put out the Spirit’s fire; 20 do not treat prophecies with contempt. 21 Test everything. Hold on to the good. 22 Avoid every kind of evil.

23 May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. 24 The one who calls you is faithful and he will do it.

25 Brothers, pray for us. 26 Greet all the brothers with a holy kiss. 27 I charge you before the Lord to have this letter read to all the brothers.

28 The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.

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