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The Books That Have Shaped Me

IMG_6201By Jesse Jost

Its been said that the person we are becoming is shaped by the people we hang out with and the books we read. These are some of the best books that I have ever read; they have stirred me, convicted me, and also brought great pleasure. They are listed below in no particular order, but organized by category. I highly recommend any book on this list! Comment below on the books that have had the biggest impact on you or brought you the most joy. Happy reading!

ChristianLiving/Theology

Unoffendable by Brant Hansen

Very impacting book that set me free from a lot of self righteous anger and my critical spirit that so often “wounds me.” So good!

Look and Live: Behold the Soul-Thrilling, Sin-Destroying Glory of Christ by Matt Papa

One of several books I’ve read lately that keep me focused on Jesus and the power of the Gospel. Jesus truly becomes more desirable and awesome to me with each passing year.

Eyes Wide Open by Steve DeWitt

Really opened my eyes to the beauty of God and how much we miss.

Delighting in the Trinity by Michael Reeves

Showed how the love exemplified in the trinity is the foundation for a correct understanding of all theology. Amazing book.

The Insanity of God by Nik Ripken

A man discouraged and feeling abandoned finds the power of God among the most persecuted Christians around the world. Makes you squirm, but is so faith affirming.

The Skeletons in God’s Closet: The Mercy of Hell, the Surprise of Judgment, the Hope of Holy War by Joshua Ryan Butler

As someone who has struggled with doubts about God’s goodness because of the doctrine of hell and the God-sanctioned brutality in the Old Testament, this book was so refreshing and convicting. Hell and Judgement day are not truths that call God’s goodness into question, they are great proofs of His passionate love for His creation. God has a love with teeth that will not stop until He has removed the hell from our hearts, and hell from from His glorious creation. Judgement day is good news for the down-trodden and oppressed and all who are in Christ Jesus.

Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis Continue reading…

  • Rebecca

    Makes me want to order a stack of books for my nightstand!! Your recommendations hold more clout than you may realize. = ) Grateful for how you use your reading to gain and give a more detailed picture of the Father.

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How to Sabotage Conversation

dreamstime_xs_42591164By Wormwood, Ph. D.

(Intercepted by Jesse Jost)

It is well known in the underworld that when two or more humans begin conversation, there is explosive potential power at play. Conversation can tear relationships limb from limb, and plant delicious seeds of suspicion and bitterness.

But there is also real danger here. The Enemy, the horrid Creator of the vermin, invented words to communicate love and help form emotional ties between humans as they explore their thoughts, feelings, and dreams. Conversations that have got away from us have stirred longings and ambitions and hatched schemes that have done untold damage to our cause.

Conversation done as the Enemy intended leads to the building of relationships, both with Himself and human to human. He wants conversation to be a place where people are comforted, encouraged, and inspired. The whole thing can be disgusting.

Thankfully, we have had some of the best demonic minds on this issue since the beginning, and over the millennia we have come up with such devious strategies to sabotage conversation, that today I am happy to report that, more often than not, conversation goes our way. It is truly beautiful to watch a talk between people demoralize and destroy them (and, if we’re lucky, many others, too).

Even though the state of conversations these days is very encouraging, I strongly warn you stay vigilant and active in each exchange. I would like to give you a refresher course on how to make the most of every human conversation.

First, truth is our adversary; our goal is distortion and misunderstanding. Strong relationships are built on accurate understanding of the other. When true knowledge of each other is acquired, even if the information is unpleasant, humans can use it to grow closer together. Our desire is to feed them wrong perceptions and believable misrepresentations.

There are two catastrophic things we must desperately try to avoid: careful listening, as well as situations where people feel safe enough to honestly speak their mind.

The conversations I fear most are ones in which the creatures feel perfectly safe with each other, free to be honest and vulnerable. This makes me queasy and sends a chill. It is terrifying how much of our best work can be undone in just one such talk. This toxic environment is fostered by humility, compassion, and that despicable gas they call grace. If you see a conversation where these elements are present, derail it! Continue reading…

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New Podcast!

12370863_1120135844672293_7840213459121591541_oWe are pleased to announce the creation of our own podcast channel. You can find our channel here: http://purityandtruth.podbean.com/

Or find our podcast on itunes by searching for “purity and truth” or “Jesse Jost”.

I am currently uploading all 20 sessions of my three part church history series, after that I plan on continuing to upload the audio from many of my past speaking engagements on topics such as apologetics, evangelism, and romantic relationships. Check it out and book mark the page to check back in the future.

I hope my words are an encouragement to you. God bless!

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Beggared: Part 2

by Heidi Jost

In Part 1, (which you can read here) I left us stuck in a black gloopy rut of failure, wailing “what a mess!” And you raising both eyebrows, ready to commit me to a ward of some kind.

dreamstime_xs_64789976I confessed earlier that I say “Jesus” a lot more now, because it really is all about Him. I am in the rut because, since birth, I have made life all about me. Looking around for some superior ground to stand on and see out, I compare myself with others or with myself-in-my-more-shining-moments. But therein lies the quicksand: This ground is always unstable, a giant maw about to swallow.

Now, we can both keep trying and slipping and sinking using these old habits of making ourselves feel better. “Our plight,” says Michael Reeves in one of the best books ever, “is not merely that we each fail to be good enough and need a little forgiveness… Instead, our very identity is a problem.” (Rejoicing in Christ)

I can think of two unchanging aspects of our identity: we never stop loving ourselves, and we never stop sinning.

But Jesus. His love is always outward and giving, and He has never sinned. He points out, “When you were powerless to save yourself, I did it.” (Rom. 5:6, my paraphrase) He beckons, “If My power could drag your sin down and bury it, how much more can that power raise you up into a new life of freedom!” (Rom. 5:10, my paraphrase)

Okay, so back to those days I failed, snapped at the kids, and left work undone. How does Jesus fit there? How do I get to the point of stopping my wail of failure and instead saying, “So what?” Rather than first trying harder in the next breath to be nicer to the kids, or scrambling to think of some other mom who screwed up worse than I did (a sin in itself), I can face my wrongs. They are bad. I hurt the people I loved most because they didn’t meet my expectations. I idolized the goal of a clean house, and then I got mad because it was still dirty. Double whammy.

Then I can look at Jesus. How does He see my sin? As sin. How does He see me? As a woman He wants to forgive and restore. To whoever is willing, He will give “a spirit of adoption by which we cry out, ‘Abba! Father!’” (Gal. 4:6, Rom. 8:15) Daddy, Daddy! John Piper says, “This is the testimony of the Spirit that we are the children of God.”

We can inherit God. He can, and wants to live within us. His spirit of adoption, the Holy Spirit, yearns to guide us into truth when we are slopping about in the rut of failure. And the truth is: Jesus, who has power over everything, offers us freedom. What we could not do, He did, and then some. He broke chains and shed light into darkness. At every point where we have failed, He has not.

Continue reading…

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Food Police: Punching Our Ticket to Heaven?

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By Jesse Jost

” I am the LORD your God, who brought you up out of Egypt. Open wide your mouth and I will fill it.” Ps 81:10

I love food. I dream about it. Some of my greatest memories centre around it. But I’m also leery of it. I partly blame food for my being overweight. Evenings are ruined with a stuffed after-dinner belly, and some foods keep me up nights when I suffer heart burn and acid reflux. I wonder which foods might give me cancer or lead to a heart attack. Believe me, I want to be healthy, especially now that I’m in my early thirties. I want to have energy to play with my kids and be as free from disease as possible.

I want to know how big a role diet plays in our health, so I’ve been reading and studying this topic a lot. Our culture has the idea that the key to health, youth, and beauty is to find the perfect diet formula: which foods to eat and which foods to avoid.

This idea is mercilessly exploited to sell food and supplements. When food is in such abundance that we not only have access to every food group year round but also multiple options in each category, what will make a product stand out? Sellers need to make their product dirt-cheap or convince the buyer that their food fits in the magic food formula and the competitors’ doesn’t.

This good-food-equals-health idea is a source of much guilt and anxiety, especially for a mother who longs for a healthy family. If her family has any health issues, she thinks that because she failed to feed her family the correct diet, the health issues are her punishment for those desperate trips to McDonalds and the last minute instant noodles.

If this idea is a source of anxiety for moms, it is even more a source of self-righteous pride for others. It is so easy to judge the food choices of others, and blame their health struggles on their “un-healthy” diet.

But what is a healthy diet? The more you research nutrition, the more confusing it gets. Each new health finding seems to directly contradict another study. One study shows a food to be a super food, while another will link that same food with cancer.

Continue reading…

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Beggared, Part 1

dreamstime_xs_64789976by Heidi Jost

Yes, read it again. I picked the second definition:

beggared: to exceed the limits, resources, or capabilities of.

Now do you want to hear how good being beggared is?

Climbing out of ruts is painful. Those neglected mental muscles are taxed. But the climb yields delight, because above the mud of the rut is a beautiful view.

And I’m seeing another piece of it. Slowly, slowly.

I’m seeing that comparing really is stupid. (Can somebody get this genius girl a gold medal?) Horizontal gazing only brings deeper ruts, deeper dissatisfaction. Yuck. More mud.

Vertical gazing is really amazing. No eyes on the Joneses anymore, just on Jesus. (Yes, I will stop being so tacky with my wit now. I don’t want you to drop reading this in disgust, because maybe some of my journey will overlap yours and help you a bit, like mine has been helped by so many others.)

I say “Jesus” a lot more now. And I know, as I say this incredible name, I am still far from comprehending the massive awesomeness of Who my mouth refers to. But I say “Jesus” and I think “Jesus” because I see more how everything really is all about Him.

I don’t want to shock you, but I need to tell you that I failed today. Better yet, I said afterward, “So what?”

Because I am learning to see that my identity wasn’t dropped and scrambled when I failed. There are no pieces for me to pick up and reassemble in shining order. In and of myself, I am a mess. Always. Deep down, you probably know that’s true of you, too. Continue reading…

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The Half-Life of the Shackled and Blind

dreamstime_xs_54419891By Heidi Jost

“And Saul approved of their killing [Stephen.]” Acts 8:1

We’ve been talking about Joseph around here. Distilling his tale for my children has a trickle-down effect in my own heart:

Forgiveness unshackles our spirits from the past. Bitterness chains us so we are helpless to be all God wants us to be right now.

Joseph’s brothers wanted him dead, and their wish nearly came true. But Joseph lived. Can you imagine, on the desert journey to Egypt, dragged and dehydrated, how Joseph might have been tormented by the memory reel replaying his brothers’ murderous, hateful words and actions?

Yet he forgave them all. “Am I in the place of God?” he said. Of course not. How could he hold their sins against them, then?

Seeing through God’s eyes, Joseph knew that while his brothers “intended to harm me…God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.”

We had dinner recently with our friend from Afghanistan, who came of age under Taliban rule. Sitting long at table, we listened to her stories of God on the move in the Middle East.

“Muslims know evil spirits,” she said. What they need to see, and what they are seeing now, is God’s spirit of power and healing. Miracles happen there, and eyes are opened. Like hers were years ago, mostly through the relentless love of missionaries.

“It was always very scary – all the time – over there,” said our friend. Her eyes lit then, “But also, so – “ she gestured, arms out, looking for a word big enough.

“Thrilling?” I said. Continue reading…

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To Judge or not to Judge…

dreamstime_xs_36474293By Jesse Jost

Our culture’s favourite verse, which is applied very selectively, is “do not judge.” (Matt 7:1) A verse that is not so quoted is where Jesus sheds more light on the topic by warning us “not to judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgement.” (John 7:24)

In a world full of evil and danger, wisdom forces us to try to discern between the harmless and the harmful, between the hazardous and the healthy, and between the true and the false. So at one level, making judgments is unavoidable. But our need to judge others seems to go far beyond our need to survive. We love to size up other humans; we make snap-judgments and stereotype. We are quick to make assumptions that aren’t warranted, and declare a verdict based on insufficient evidence.

Judging an issue or another person is serious business. Our judgments have consequences: they dictate our attitudes and our course of actions. When we judge, we are deciding reward or punishment. We reward with trust, time spent with a person, words of affirmation or praise, money spent on a product, etc. We punish by avoidance, emotional withdrawal, silence, criticism, boycotting, slander, or worse.

Clearly, getting our judgments right has huge implications for our self and others. To punish the innocent or reward the evil is a serious offence to God and results in the decay of society.

Incorrect judgments cause much misery and relationship breakdown. I’m sure you don’t have to look too far into your own past to see hurt brought about by an unjust judgement. Our capacity to judge is a loaded weapon with explosive power. Sadly, we swagger around firing the bullets of judgment with reckless abandon, caring little about the serious damage we are inflicting on others.

Some will advocate for judgment pacifism, a mutual disarmament on all judging. I don’t believe that is the answer. Dangers need to be recognized, frauds need to be exposed, evil needs to be unmasked. These are vicious cancers that prey upon the weak. When evil lurks, the vulnerable suffer the worst. Love that stands by and does nothing to speak up or protect is not love, but sentimental cowardice.

Sin is always destructive, which why our loving God abhors it. To not judge sex slavery as evil is to contribute to the ongoing torture millions of girls are experiencing every day. The fear of the Lord is to hate evil. The more we grow in our relationship with God, the more we will passionately love the world He has made and those who bear His holy image. Greater love will result in greater passion to bring freedom and healing to those who are enslaved in sin’s corrosive clutches. This requires making a right judgment.

But while fighting for truth, goodness, and beauty requires judging, we must be ever wary of the devastation a hasty and incorrect judgment inflicts. I would like to suggest a quick safety course on the correct handling of judgment. Continue reading…

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Free Personal Evangelism Course

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by Jesse Jost
The topic of witnessing can be so guilt inducing for many Christians. We know we have an obligation to the lost, but there is so much confusion surrounding how to go about it without alienating the very people we are trying to grow closer to.

In 2010 I was invited to Ecola Bible School (in Cannon Beach, OR) to teach a week long course on Personal evangelism. In preparing for the course, I read several powerful books by people who had so much more wisdom and life experience in evangelism than I had. I was so encouraged and inspired by the practical tips and strategies they offered. I tried to include their most helpful ideas. The class objectives were as follows:

To have a clearer understanding of what the gospel message really is and how to communicate it effectively to the world around us. To grasp the importance of clear communication and how perception and worldviews will affect how our message is interpreted. To learn how to handle the tough objections people often need to deal with before they are ready to listen. To discover a fun and valuable way to memorize Scripture. And finally to see the lost through God’s eyes, and determine what He requires of us in our interactions with unbelievers.

I am happy to offer free audio downloads of the sessions and the syllabus. I hope you are encouraged by these talks to step out of your comfort zone and share the incredible good news of Jesus Christ in a loving and winsome way!

Download the podcasts of the sessions: purityandtruth.podbean.com

Download the Syllabus: Personal evangelism syllabus

Session 1: The Atonement Topics: Why did Jesus have to die? What did his death accomplish? How could God’s justice be satisfied by the worst crime in human history? Did Jesus save us from our sins, or the penalty of our sins, or both? Will cover different views on the atonement that have been held throughout church history.

Session 2 “What is the Gospel message?” Topics include: What must I do to be saved? Can you lose your Salvation? How can I know for sure I am going to heaven? What is required on our part? Illustrations that will communicate the gospel ideas in fresh ways.

Session 3 “What do they hear?” Topics: The importance of listening in evangelism. Overcoming the language barrier. How worldviews and past experiences affect how our message is perceived. Communication skills that are critical to evangelism.

Session 4 “Worldview Awareness” Topics: What is a worldview? Objective Truth vs. Subjective Truth. Worldview and Evangelism. False Worldviews. Strategies for discerning and exposing a false worldview.

Session 5 “The Ambassadors methods.” Topics: How questions can move people farther along than answers will. Questions that can turn conversations toward spiritual ideas. Conversation starters.

Session 6 “Dealing With Doubters and How to Prevent Backsliding” Topics: My personal journey with doubt and the truths that strengthened my faith.

Session 7 “Dealing with objections” Topics: Strategies for dealing with common objections. Concise apologetics arguments that work in real life conversations. Objections covered, “There is no God.” “How can there be a God when there is so much evil in the world?” “Jesus was just a myth.” “The Bible is a man-made book full of contradictions.” “God won’t send anyone to hell.” “The church is full of hypocrites.”

Session 8 “How to memorize Scripture” Topics: New techniques that are guaranteed to make scripture memory easier, and help with longer retention.

Session 9 “The Plight of the Lost.” Topics: Why evangelize? How does the Bible tell us to witness? The emptiness of those who are outside of Christ. How does God see the non-believer?

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Why Good Sex Can Never Be Captured on Film

dreamstime_xs_25965250By Jesse Jost

Love scenes stir deep passions within us. It’s difficult to look away: Sexual attraction is inherent in us, and sex has unparalleled beauty. Hence, sex is a popular subject for photographers and filmmakers. But what messages are these public portrayals of physical affection communicating about sex?

God created sex (best idea ever), and also laid out strict instructions to keep the sex act within marriage. In His omniscience, He has reasons and purposes for these commands that we may never fully understand. However, the test tube of earthly life shows the brutal consequences of unrestricted sexual expression. What was meant to be a transcendent experience has often turned out to be a hellish nightmare for millions of exploited women.

Sex is designed to make two individuals “one flesh.” (Mark 10:8) This is fulfilled literally in reproduction, as the parents’ genes combine to form a new person. But sex is also given to unite a husband and wife spiritually and emotionally, a bond that is unmatched in any other relationship.

Clearly, good sex is so much more than the physical act. Sex the way God intended it is a physical and tangible expression of the emotional and spiritual bond that should be forming at the same time. Any sex act divorced from these relational bonds is destructive and exploitative.

Good sex is found only in an environment of trust. Intimacy requires a disclosure that makes one vulnerable. Before a woman can let go and fully express herself sexually, she needs to know that man receiving this sacred knowledge of her will not use it against her, and will be a safe place where she will be treasured for who she is, where she will not feel compared with any other woman. Good sex creates a paradise for a woman, a new Garden of Eden where she is queen alone.

This requires privacy. The very act of bringing a camera into the equation breaks the spell, stealing from the woman her sacred knowledge and making it available to any man who wants to mentally violate her by using that knowledge for his own selfish gratification. No matter how beautiful the portrayal of sex or how innocent it appears, the on-screen image is shouting a lie, and to receive lustful gratification from that image is to participate in the exploitation of that woman. Continue reading…

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