5 Questions With Greg Sidders

Welcome to 5 Questions With.....

Today's guest is Greg Sidders.

Greg is the author of the book, The Invitation. He is a former journalist and is the pastor of White Pine Community Church in Cumberland, Maine. He and his wife, Robin, have three sons. He blogs at www.gregsidders.com . Greg describes himself as a latte-drinking, iPod-listening, Macbook-toting, bookstore-perusing, picture-taking husband and father who teaches and writes to help people find and follow Jesus.

Now, without further delay, my interview with Greg Sidders:

Hello Greg,

1. What was the catalyst for you writing this book?

It's a desire that has been growing in me ever since Jesus interrupted my journalism career with an invitation to follow Him. I loved Him deeply for giving me eternal life, but I was not prepared for what I read when I opened the gospels. His teaching was so disturbing that I thought I had purchased a defective Bible. I borrowed my friends' Bibles, and, sure enough, theirs said the same thing as mine. I couldn't understand why they weren't as appalled as I was.

To actually do what Jesus said was unthinkable to me, so I did the only sensible thing: I stopped reading the gospels. It was while I was having wonderful devotions in the epistles that a question popped into my mind:
How can I call myself a Christian if I don't follow Christ?

That question thrust me back into the gospels, and it was when I re-engaged with the hard and heavy teachings of Jesus that I found the easy yoke and light burden my soul was longing for. I wrote The Invitation to encourage others to take the unimaginably rewarding risk of courageous obedience to seven of the most radical teachings of Jesus.

2. In your book, you examine 7 passages of Scripture in calling people to follow Jesus. Which passage did you personally find the hardest to chew on?

Each of the seven discipleship sayings of Jesus has challenged me at different times, and even though I have been chewing on them for 30 years, I still feel like I am only beginning to obey them. There are three in particular, all in Luke 14, that are especially rigorous: Hate those you love, take up your cross, and give up all your possessions. I think I am a typical American Christian in that I am tempted to tone down Luke 14:33, which says that I cannot be a disciple of Jesus unless I give up all my possessions. But there's no escaping the fact that He expects me to do exactly that. Now, I don't believe that "giving up" always means "giving away"—and in the book I explain why, hopefully with biblical support—but being a disciple of Jesus does require a radical reorientation of perspective about money and possessions.

3. In chapter 9 of your book you mention Christian love being displayed through "Humble love, gracious love and Hands-on love." Is there a particular example of any of these that stands out to you?

In the book I give real-life, down-to-earth examples of how I and others have tried to put all seven discipleship sayings into practice, but after I had submitted the first draft, I heard a story about an act of gracious love that was so powerful, I had to find a way to get it into the book. I won't spoil the surprise by re-telling it, but it's in chapter 9. By the way, that's the same chapter in which I tell the very personal story of how other Christians showed love to my family when my wife was diagnosed with cancer. Just thinking about it makes me fall in love with the body of Christ all over again.

Why do you think that believers hesitate in following Jesus?

Well, I don't see how anyone who takes Jesus seriously can help but hesitate. His teaching is truly daunting—and we have all kinds of ways of avoiding it. But there's nothing like breaking through that ominous mirage to the indescribable joy on the other side of risky obedience.

What do you hope readers will take away from your book?

A commitment to run to Jesus, not from Him, even after they discover that He is more than they bargained for.

Thank You Greg!

Thanks so much for these great questions. There is a book trailer and a free excerpt from the book at my website, gregsidders.com, as well as a link to free pastors' resources for a seven-part sermon series.

Well there you go. Make sure you check out Greg's book and his website. You won't be disappointed.

To see past 5 Questions guests see 5 questions page under the tab above.


The Invitation

Greg Sidders book, The Invitation: The Not-So-Simple Truth About Following Jesus, hooks you from the first chapter.

"Follow Me." With those two words, spoken by Jesus Christ, Greg Sidders shows you how we are all called to follow Jesus. Greg is very open about the fact that this is not an easy invitation. In fact, following Jesus isn't easy and it's not simple. It requires us to give up everything!

I remember my own struggles with the sayings of Jesus. When I came across the Sermon on the Mount I was so challenged by the implications that I had to reconsider what I was getting into!

In this book, Greg explores the true meaning of hating your family (Luke 14:26) to an examination of the Great Commission and walks you through what it means to follow Jesus. I personally found the chapter on how Jesus served the apostles by washing their feet to be the most powerful chapter in the whole book.

There is a nice study guide at the end of the book that many will find helpful. I would highly recommend this book to anyone who wants more out of life with Christ. Don't be afraid to Follow Him!

Check back in on the 28th and you can read my interview with author Greg Sidders.

"Book has been provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc.

Available at your favourite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group".


Doubting Thomas and the Resurrection

I have been chewing on the passage of Scripture dealing with how Thomas responded to the resurrection, It's found in John 20:19-29:

(19) On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being locked where the disciples were for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, "Peace be with you."
(20) When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord.
(21) Jesus said to them again, "Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you."
(22) And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, "Receive the Holy Spirit.
(23) If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld."
(24) Now Thomas, one of the Twelve, called the Twin, was not with them when Jesus came.
(25) So the other disciples told him, "We have seen the Lord." But he said to them, "Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe."
(26) Eight days later, his disciples were inside again, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, "Peace be with you."
(27) Then he said to Thomas, "Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe."
(28) Thomas answered him, "My Lord and my God!"
(29) Jesus said to him, "Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed."

Church Historians believe that Thomas spread the Gospel further than any of the apostles. He died a martyr's death.

For Thomas, the resurrection became very real.

What does the resurrection mean to you? How are you living it out?


Book Review: Pujols

Pujols, written by Scott Lamb and Tim Ellsworth, is a book about Saint Louis Cardinal player Albert Pujols. Now in Major League Baseball for over 10 years, the authors share his story of baseball and faith. The book looks briefly at his childhood while the main part of the book is a walk through his baseball career season by season. Mingled throughout is his story of faith in Jesus Christ and how that faith has shaped both his on and off field activities.

As a life long baseball fan I was really looking forwards to this book. Though I am a Yankees fan at heart, I have always like Albert Pujols as a player and a person. This book was very informative from a baseball perspective. The authors really know their stuff and their breakdowns of each season give you a very good picture of how the team and Albert Pujols in particular performed each year. Any baseball fan will love the stats, the stories and the season by season stats at the end of the book.

The book isn't just about baseball though. We find out more about Albert's walk with the Lord and how he came to faith in Christ. Not shying away from his warts, the authors take you into the mind of a Christian athlete. Many people are cynical when they see Christian and Athlete together. Albert's faith shine's forth in this book. I was encouraged to know his faith was genuine and that, beyond giving lip service, he puts action to his words.

The first two chapters and the chapter on steroids were fairly week but the rest of the book give you a good glimpse of a man of God.

I would recommend this book to any fan of baseball.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze.com book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”


I Do Not Condemn You!

Who knows what was running through the woman's mind. As she was dragged into the midst where Jesus stood, the Pharisees began eagerly sharing the woman’s sin with Jesus and the people around Him. The woman had sinned…she was caught in the act, the very act, of adultery. “Moses said, according to the LAW, that she should be stoned. What do you say Jesus?”

Stooping down, Jesus took His finger and began writing on the ground. Again He was questioned, “What do you say? Should this woman be stoned?” Jesus stood up and looking around said to the scribes and Pharisees, “He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first.” With that proclamation Jesus returned to writing on the ground.

The crowd of accusers drifted away until no one was left. Jesus stood again and asked the woman if there was anyone left to condemn her. When the woman replied, “No”, His response to her echoes as a lesson to us all. “Neither do I condemn you, go and sin no more.” (A paraphrase of Romans 8:1-11)

I love this passage of Scripture. It is one of hope and mercy, grace and truth! Note that Jesus did not condone her sin. He told her to in fact, stop sinning! However, He showed her grace and mercy while also addressing those who would condemn her.

The accusations laid against her were not wrong, but the heart motive of her accusers was. Sadly, my motivations were not always pure when I confronted someone caught in sin. how have you responded to those who sin?

Instead of heaping condemnation on this woman, Jesus demonstrated a better response, one filled with grace.

I think we struggle in the church with how to respond to those caught in sin. We seem to forget that these were the very people Jesus died for. In fact, His harshest words were for those religious people of the day.

Maybe we are afraid that by demonstrating grace and mercy, we will seem weak on sin. Need that be so? Jesus spoke to the heart, not to the behavior. As demonstrated in this story, He told her to sin no more, but by His act of mercy, he also demonstrated His love!

There is a wonderful passage of Scripture found in Matthew 7:1-5 which says, “Judge not, that you be not judged. For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you. And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me remove the speck from your eye’; and look, a plank
is in your own eye? Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”

If we would remember that we ourselves have sinned and been forgiven much, we would find it easier to extend grace to others.

So the next time you want to speak to the sins of others, swallow your spiritual pride, check your heart and show the love of Christ!


Sharing a Meal

Did you ever notice how many times it is recorded in the four Gospels that Jesus ate a meal? He fed and ate with the 4,000 (Mark 8:1-9) and the 5,000. (Luke 9:10-17) He ate a meal with Matthew in his house. (Matthew 9:9-19) He called Zacchaeus down from a tree to share a meal in his place of residence. (Luke 19:1-10) He ate at Mary and Martha’s place. (Luke 10:38-42) Of course, we all know about the Last Supper. (Matthew 26:26-29)

I think Jesus was setting a good example here. Fellowship and hospitality were on continual display. Some people, the religious of the day, did not always think these meals were a good thing. However, Jesus fellow-shipped with those who would have Him and lives were changed. People were impacted through His ministry over a meal.

I think one of the most powerful meals Jesus shared, was when He cooked breakfast for the disciples, encouraged them to eat, and then later spoke to Peter. (John 21)

After Jesus was taken back up into Heaven, we see the church growing and in Acts 2:40-47 there is specific mention of how the early church broke bread from house to house. People were happy, sold items to share with those who were needy and people were getting saved!

What is it about a meal?

A meal helps people to relax. They feel comfortable and will open up more. When people open up, they will share their heart and if we are effective listeners, we can hear how God would have us respond. Maybe it’s to provide for the need. It might be just to walk with them during a time of crisis. We or they just may need some encouragement. Whatever the issue, a meal can break down walls.

I think a meal together can also draw us closer to the Father. Look how many teaching moments came when Jesus was eating with someone. The Bible says where two or more are gathered, He is in the midst. (Matthew 18:20) What better way to gather than over a meal?

When a church family eats together, God can take them deeper than they have ever been before. Lives can be touched and people can be impacted for eternity.

So fire up the BBQ, grab a few friends and LIVE!


Reality vs. Perception

Sometimes what is said and how we perceive or “hear” what is said are two different things.

I remember numerous occasions over the years where someone spoke truth and I was hurt because even though they meant it for good, my filters took it in as, "they don't like me."

I remember in Russia, maybe because I had experienced hunger as a teen when we lost everything, I would race to get in the food line first. Our leaders took me aside one day and said they noticed this and asked me to consider others and to hold back. I was "righteously indignant!". In reality, I was being rude and they called me on it. Later, many years later, the Lord broke through my hard shell and let me know how right they were!

Sometimes though people say hurtful things without realizing it.

Proverbs 18:21 says, “Death and life are in the power of the tongue, And those who love it will eat its fruit.”

We should seek to bridle our tongue just as the Bible mentions. (James 1:26) Our words can impact others for eternity!

The reality is that we are all far from perfect and none of us can cast the first stone. Instead of trying to hurl rocks, we should let people see the love of God emanating from us. If we do this, our perceptions will match our realities.


April Fools

April 1st is the day kids and some adults like to try and prank their friends. They hope, with little or no planning, that their "trick" will convince their target long enough for them to say, "April Fools".

Of course most know it's coming.

I remember when I was in the 3rd grade, every kid getting on the bus that morning seemed to have the same "bright" idea. We each, not knowing the others plans, told the bus driver our Mom was pregnant. Of course he feigned surprise at each revelation.

I decided to look up the word fools in the Bible. Fools are mentioned quite often. Mostly in Psalms, Proverbs and Ecclesiastes. The verses that speak to me he most are found in Psalms 14:1 and 53:1.

Both say that a "fool says in his heart there is no God."

By that definition, I have met a few fools over the years. They are convinced there is no God.

There is another verse that I think can be used to apply to believers:

Proverbs 12:15 says, "The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man listens to advice."

I have met a lot of believers who do what they think is right or whatever feels good. They only seek or listen to the wisdom that confirms their ideas and choices. Some feel that a true friend should support you no matter what. I don't agree. I would rather have a friend who warns me when I am in danger and will let me know if I am wrong!

Lord, spare us from wanting to have our ears tickled and help us to walk in and listen to wisdom.