2018 BOOKS


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To Be A Christian, What Does This Really Mean?

By Nocita Carter 

These days, it seems that there are so many different "versions" of Christianity. There is always someone with a new interpretation, a denomination, or a new definition of what it means to believe in Christ. In the midst of all the confusion, it can be far too easy to lose sight of the truth. Believers and non believers alike are left wondering which version is the right one. So what does it truly mean to be a Christian, according to scripture?

First and most importantly, to be a Christian means to believe in the message of the Gospel, and the Gospel boils down to one problem and one solution. Romans 3:23 NIV says, "For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." The problem is that all of us, by nature, have a rebellious heart toward God. We are born sinners, and nothing we could do could ever atone for it. The solution? Consider the triumphant words of John 3:16 NIV, one of the most famous verses in the Bible: "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life." The Good News says that we no longer have to work for our salvation; the death and resurrection of Jesus has purchased it for us. All we have to do is repent and commit our lives to Him.

But this is not the end of Christianity; in fact, it is just the beginning. Because true belief ultimately requires action. Once we have been saved, we cannot go back to the way we used to be. We can be transformed each and every day, growing in our faith, and becoming more like Jesus. 2 Corinthians 5:17 NIV says, "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!." When we come to Christ, we surrender our old selves unto Him. We receive the Holy Spirit, which moves us to act on our faith. As a result, we find joy in serving others, in preaching the Gospel, and in exercising love instead of hate on a daily basis.

Galatians 5:22-23 NIV says, "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law." These things show what it means to be a Christian. Your faith is merely not defined by going to church every Sunday or by tossing money in the offering plate - although these are things that we should do in our worship toward God. Being a Christian is not about judging or condemning those who have different views. It is not about your political views or even being a good citizen. It is about trusting in the fact that Jesus Christ died for sinners, and knowing that the love He gave to us is the love we, in turn, should give to all.

Author Nocita Carter is dedicated to assisting with spreading the Gospel and Good News of Jesus Christ. Her greatest passion is encouraging others to learn more and grow more in their Christian faith. Check out our Blog at


Religion - Does It Have Anything to Offer?

By Stephen Russell-Lacy 

I am a deeply religious nonbeliever - this is a somewhat new kind of religion. (Albert Einstein)

If you are spiritually orientated, you may welcome the notion of a deeper universal truth that applies to all people in all circumstances. However these days there is often an uncertainty about religion.

North-western Europe is no longer mainly a Christian culture. It is a secular society. Transcendent reality tends no longer to be seen in terms of the traditional God of religion. Instead it is seen as one's spiritual Source or a higher Power or a Being of love.

Some are uncomfortable with the idea of the Lord Jesus held by the Christian religion. Instead, one might be more attracted to the concept of 'Christ consciousness' or 'the Christ within'.

A question therefore arises. Has religious conviction any place for those engaged in authentic spiritual search? Religion - does it have anything to offer?

Mistaken theology

There is now a widespread rejection of old-style western religion with its judgmental image of God, blood atonement, God interceding in the world as a result of placatory prayer, and salvation only for believers. Despite possessing such mistaken teachings as still part of their tradition, many Christian communities are beginning to put far less emphasis on such points of doctrine. Instead they are giving prominence to getting ever closer to loving their Lord and keeping His commandments.

According to lecturer David Tacey, the God of tradition is remote, detached, interventionist and supernatural. However, the divine Being of a new spirituality is said to be intimate, intense and immanent. This is not to say this idea of our spiritual Source is not transcendent and sublime. But this transcendence is imagined differently, not through miracles and magic, but through the radical presence of divine Being. The new conception is a mystery at the core of ordinary reality. A deeper dimension of the real that transcends our normal perception.

Dogmatic theology

Some people want to be told what to think. I would suggest that such an individual tends to embrace the creeds and dogma of religion as a way of reducing the anxiety associated with uncertainty. Being religious believers they feel they are no longer obliged to deeply consider life but can take on board available off the shelf religious doctrines.

Most of us however, want to remain open to various considerations before others can convince us about what any one religion or spiritual movement teaches. Unfortunately a huge variability in the contemporary scene of spirituality confuses most people. Nevertheless we do assume conclusive answers may not be easily found. And so we dislike it when religious people communicate in a dogmatic way.

Basic concepts of religion

The adult looking for where their spiritual impulse lives and grows will appreciate the complexity of life and the need for self-criticism. There is an understandable unwillingness to accept 'God in a box' and 'pat answers' of traditional faith. He or she sees these as too simplistic.

Yet, as children we had to start our learning somewhere. So our parents gave us basic ideas and boundaries about right and wrong. This was done in a way that suited our simple ways of thinking.

The spiritual philosopher Emanuel Swedenborg's concept of 'historical faith' is relevant. He suggests that the learning of basic religious ideas, e.g. about the reality of the Divine and our survival after death, is an important stepping stone, albeit a temporary one, towards later inner enlightenment. All religion contains such basic ideas.

Rivers, ponds, lakes and streams - they all have different names, but they all contain water. Just as religions do - they all contain truths. (Muhammad Ali)

Swedenborg further argues that spiritual illumination cannot develop from natural facts and ideas. Instead it can only arise slowly from a basic awareness of ethical values and the stories in sacred writing of religion. A negative atmosphere towards religion at home or school or a denial of the idea of God or of life after death, will limit and confine deeper understanding of spiritual matters. However, he claims good elementary ideas we heard about when we were young, instead will act as receptacles for our later receiving deeper perceptions and good intentions from the spiritual world.

Extreme negativity

Life throws up all sorts of problems that upset our equilibrium - insensitive bosses, faithless lovers, ungrateful children, or bouts of chronic disease. Some of us suffer depression, disillusionment, a sense of futility or cynicism as a result of these. Despite these problems do we believe we can make ourselves a better person and a happy one? When what we feel all around us is black then we need some sort of light in which to place our hope. When we feel we just cannot deal with what life is throwing at us we need some power more reliable than ourselves in which we can place our trust.

Swedenborg's religious view is we are responsible for how we choose to live our lives.

Religion is all about how we live, and the religious way to live is to do good(Emanuel Swedenborg)

In line with this he says we need to co-operate with the higher energy of divine love and truth to transform our character. We may feel we need a higher form of help, beyond the self-help we can give ourselves, to deal with our difficulties. If so, we might pray to a personal God for guidance and encouragement.

Prayer is the key of the morning and the bolt of the evening. (Mahatma Gandhi)

The trouble is converting our thoughts to address an invisible presence is a leap of faith. And asking what God wants of us is making a huge personal commitment. We might not like his answer.

As a clinical psychologist, Stephen Russell-Lacy has specialized in cognitive-behavioral psychotherapy, working for many years with adults suffering distress and disturbance.

He edits Spiritual Questions a free eZine that explores links between spiritual philosophy and the comments and questions of spiritual seekers. You can share your views and find out more about making sense of life.

His eBook Heart, Head and Hands draws links between the psycho-spiritual teachings of the eighteenth century spiritual philosopher Emanuel Swedenborg and current ideas in therapy and psychology.


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How Can Prayer Help You?

By Nocita Carter 

One of the biggest mistakes that we can make as Christians is having an incorrect attitude toward prayer. Many believers, intentionally or not, have a skewed perception of prayer; they see it and approach it as something that it is not. For instance, prayer is not a slot machine that we can use to get whatever we want. Prayer is also not a tool to make us look holier in the eyes of our peers. Prayer is, however, essential. and it can help us in a variety of ways as we follow Christ in our everyday lives. As scripture states in Colossians 4.2 "Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful."

First, prayer keeps our hearts in line with the will of God. If we didn't follow His will, we would be chasing after every sinful desire that enters our minds. But how can we know what God wants for us if we never communicate with Him? Sometimes, the answers we seek are closer than we think. All we have to do is ask. Jeremiah 33:3 says, "Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know." We may not always get the response we want, but we will always get the truth, which is infinitely better.

Prayer also allows us to show that we are trusting completely and unconditionally in God. It is a sign of obedience and giving up control. It expresses our faith that though we are weak, God is greater than anything we face. Often, when we try to take charge of situations we may not like, we only end up hurting ourselves and others. While we should always seek wisdom in decision-making and this is another application of prayer, there comes a point where we must leave everything in God's hands. Prayer reminds us that He is sovereign, no matter what is going on in our lives. Ephesians 6.18 says "And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord's people."

Finally, prayer re-centers our focus to God. Prayer is a time of pausing in the midst of all the chaos and simply reflecting on our Creator. This is why it is important to pray not just in the most dire situations, but constantly and regularly. What we have to understand is that prayer is not how we change God. Prayer is how God changes us. He created it as a way for us to grow closer to Him and learn to rely on Him as we live out His plan. Prayer is not merely symbolic, it is effective, and God often responds in mighty ways. James 5:16 says, "Therefore, confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective." Prayer not only helps us, but also helps us to better serve God and others. Understanding this, let us never underestimate the impact that one simple prayer can have on the world around us.

Author Nocita Carter is dedicated to assisting with spreading the Gospel and Good News of Jesus Christ. Her greatest passion is encouraging others to learn more and grow more in their Christian faith. Check out our Blog at https://christianslovepeople.com/

2018 SPIRITUAL BOOKS



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