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Interview with Mark Gilbert...

Stepping Out in Faith

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  1. Great stories, greatly encouraging. Review / Tip by Tony Wright

    STEPPING OUT IN FAITH
    Edited by: Mark Gilbert
    Book Review

    Tony Wright (PSFC Campus Staff Worker)

    Everyone loves a good story. From Hollywood to the Globe Theatre, from a Batman comic-book to Shakespeare, from Bollywood to a scary story told around the camp-fire – stories captivate, challenge, move and motivate us. This is especially true of true stories – the stories of people's lives. Nowhere is this seen more clearly in the many testimonies that a given during our Christian Fellowships – as Christians step up and speak about what God has been doing in their lives.

    Cover-to-cover this book is jam-packed with stories of this nature. It is nothing but testimonies – as Christian after Christian tells of their life before they really knew God, the difference understanding the person and work of Jesus made to them – to meeting Jesus for themselves, and the difference to their life this lasting encounter with Jesus has made. The uniting feature of these testimonies is that each of the eleven story-tellers had a past steeped in religion. If there is a uniting theme to these stories – it is that it is not until they understood grace did they understand who Jesus really and truly was and what he really and truly had done for them. Having spoken to a number of people after the PSFC Conference where we examined the theme by grace alone from the book of Galatians – it is clear to me that there are many in Fiji, in the churches of Fiji, who are just like those whose stories are written in this book.

    This book would be a great read for someone who has grown-up going to church, is in many ways a religious person, knows something of God and yet is (like the people in this book) beset by fear and guilt – knowing they need forgiveness and yet unsure of how to get that forgiveness from God. To hear the tale of those who have walked the road before us – is wonderfully helpful and a source of great encouragement.
    But really, this book for anyone who likes to hear the testimony of a fellow Christian – and isn't that all of us? (Posted on 31/10/2013)

  2. Great book for Roman Catholics and others alike Review / Tip by Ben Smart

    'Stepping Out in Faith' is a collection of 11 testimonies from born-and-raised Catholics. They are all from very different backgrounds and have some pretty crazy stories, but they all have two things in common: they have peace with God through the gospel, and they are no longer a part of the Roman Catholic church.

    This book was written by former-Catholics primarily for Catholics, especially those who might be questioning their faith. I don’t know if any Catholics read this blog, but even if you’re not Catholic, this is an important read.

    If you’re not Catholic, this book will give you a window into Catholicism. By reading these short testimonies we get to see some of the major similarities and differences between the Catholic and Protestant church from a very human perspective. It will also give you fresh eyes to see the gospel in a new way, as each of these 11 people recount their discovery of it for the first time through varying means.

    Among the many ways that people came from Catholicism into a Protestant faith, there was one major commonality: the hearing, reading, and teaching of the Bible. Whether it was through being invited to a small group, an Alpha course, a church service, or even in one case hearing a street preacher, the thing that made the difference for these people was hearing the Bible taught and applied to their own lives.

    So if you’re not Catholic, don’t pass over this little book, especially if you do have some Catholic friends. Not only will it give you a fresh perspective, it will help you have some good conversations with them in a loving way.

    If you are a Catholic, I don’t know what level of exposure you’ve had to other Christians, but I know that dialogue isn’t always smooth and easy. Often Protestants and Catholics have a difficult time fully understanding each other, which is why this book is so beautiful.

    Each of the 11 people in this book understand deeply what it is to grow up in the Catholic church. Many of them had great experiences in it, too. And many still have dearly loved family who are Catholic. So there is no bashing of the Catholic church going on in this book – couldn’t be further from it.

    Each testimony in this book is a compassionate, honest, and eye-opening account of a person’s discovery of the gospel of Jesus and the way it changed the life.

    A recurring phenomenon is that people hadn’t read Bibles for themselves throughout their Catholic upbringing – one man in particular grew up “under the impression that it was a sin to read the Bible” because only the priest had the proper understanding to interpret it, and others were discouraged from reading the Bible for similar reasons.

    For almost every person in this book, their conversion coincided with them really starting to read and study the Bible for themselves. For this reason, quite a few of the testimonies include a heartfelt plea to anyone reading to take the Bible seriously and open it for themselves.

    It is striking to see what a difference it made for these people’s lives when they had their eyes opened to what the Bible really taught. That in itself was a powerful reminder to me of the importance of teaching and studying the Bible, and not to take it for granted.

    But even more than that, it was the content of what was taught that was life-changing for these people. It was the message of grace – the gospel – that freed them from the sense of guilt that had followed them for their whole lives. Overwhelmingly, the one thing that seemed to be missing in the Catholic upbringings of all of these people was the gospel.

    The good news that Jesus died on the cross to bear the punishment of us guilty sinners so that we could be given peace with God apart from our own good works – this takes centre stage in the lives of these 11 people. Many had lived a life riddled with guilt, but were set free by the news that they could never earn their own salvation, but instead simply had to trust in Jesus and his once-for-all sacrifice.

    Stepping Out in Faith does a great job presenting the gospel in a way that is crystal clear. It’s a real easy read, too – barely over a hundred pages, and since it’s all real human testimony, it’s gripping all the way through. Mark Gilbert, one of the contributors, does a great job as editor, and the whole books hangs together beautifully and clearly.

    Whether you’re a Catholic or not, I highly recommend this book. I know it’s one that I’ll be sharing with Roman Catholic friends in future. (Posted on 25/10/2013)

  3. Excellent Book Review / Tip by Joey Parker

      Stepping Out in Faith is a book that brings together the stories of 11 former Catholics who came to faith in Christ.  Each of these stories is unique and all are well written and draw the reader in.  I wanted to read this book because I have some close friends who have Catholic fathers, and I was intrigued about a possible new way to outreach to them.  This should be an area of burden for Christians who have come to know Christ by grace alone through faith alone.

          Each story come with its own unique background and circumstances, but there are common themes.  Each writer expresses thankfulness that their Catholic background taught them some fundamental truths about God. Each writer made some form of comment about how in Roman Catholicism they were never encouraged to read and study their Bible. Many of the stories follow the writer to a bible study where for the first time the Bible was opened up in everyone’s hands and then discussed. Something that sounds very natural and normal for a Christian was bizarre and unheard of for them. Reading this over and over again made me so thankful that God chose to bring me out of darkness into His marvelous light. Even though I was not Roman Catholic, I too was blind until God brought light to me. We should truly be thankful for God’s Word and cherish the opportunities we have to read and study it. Most of the writers were shocked at the differences between the Protestant church that they began to visit and what they were familiar with in the Roman Catholic church. They went in expecting to see pomp and ceremony and traditions, but instead found believers worshiping together and being fed with God’s Word. A few of them even noted how they were amazed at how long the sermon was. This again should rebuke us if we ever complain about the length of our Pastor’s sermon. These former Catholics were used to a short homily that was moralistic in nature and when they heard a real sermon they were captivated by the teaching.

    All of the stories were filled with compassion and concern for friends and family members who were still Roman Catholic. Because of this there is a good mix of truth and love. The truth, however, is not compromised. When retelling their conversion stories all of the authors refer to their coming to Christ as “when I became a Christian.” This surely would rub a Roman Catholic the wrong way, since they believe they are Christian. There are very few harsh words in the book though. The authors are faithful in telling how they were blinded by the Catholic Church into relying on extra-biblical ceremony and tradition that steals glory from God and takes away from Christ’s work on the cross. They do this, though, without a smug attitude. For this I am very thankful.

    Overall I was tremendously blessed by this book. I look forward to recommending it to Roman Catholics in the future and hopefully to see God use it. I received a free copy of this book from Matthias Media in exchange for an honest review.
    (Posted on 20/08/2013)

  4. What is Your Confidence? Review / Tip by Nada Appleby, Contributor for www.thesoulofmyfeet.com

    It has been close to 20 years since I left my Catholic high school but reading Mark Gilbert's 'Stepping Out In Faith' brought back a flood of memories that I thought I had left behind.

    I distinctly remember when I was fifteen sitting in front of a priest who we made terrible fun of behind his back (we were very very sinful), and re-counting the last time I had been to church, it had been a very long time...it was then he reminded me that I would most certainly go to 'hell' if I didn't return to church.

    That some how did not motivate me to return to church because I found it boring, cold and quite meaningless at the time. Although I did feel a sense of pride when I could chant the various 'Hail Mary's', and 'Our Father's' at the right time (I remember making sure the person next to me could hear me too...)

    That moment of confession, had stuck in my mind for a long time until by His Grace in my early twenties I was brought into the light. I remember initially feeling really angry towards my school and the Catholic Church for not explaining to me that I could have a personal relationship with Jesus. I even had coffee with the Principal and vented my grievances, he didn't really understand and I didn't blame him. In time I forgave my Catholic upbringing until earlier this year when the first of our school friends passed away through mental illness.

    It was horrific sitting in a pew alongside my school friends watching her family pray for her soul, even though she had every chance to come to Him while she was alive, or did she? Perhaps if we were taught how to read the Bible at school or perhaps if we had heard the gospel in a way that related to us. Perhaps if we had spent less time memorizing chants that would some how answer our prayers. Less time confessing to a Priest and more time confessing to Christ, perhaps life may have worked out different for her? Again I'm trying not to blame our Catholic upbringing but sometimes I just wonder...

    As I read each of the stories in Mark's book I could relate personally to each of them and I felt the frustration that they did too from the lack of Biblical teaching in our personal experiences. But I think it is true to say that the Lord in His sovereignty still found each of us and used that experience for his Glory and for that I am truly thankful.


    I think this book will certainly challenge devoted Catholics but I believe the stories have been presented in a way that will not offend but instead provoke thought. And I think even us 'Anglicans' need to consider what we rest our confidence in. Are we just going along to church and filling a pew? Or have we truly met the Lord Jesus. Are we just accepting what the Minister preaches? Or are we diligently studying the Scriptures and allowing the Holy Spirit to transform us by His Word.

    A very good read and would make a lovely gift for a Catholic friend who is questioning their faith...


    (Posted on 4/08/2013)

  5. The goal of the book is to encourage you to read the Bible Review / Tip by Cliffymania

    Stepping Out In Faith

    Former Catholics Tell their Stories

    Introduction
    It's always difficult to review a book like this because no matter what someone's personal story is there is always someone who will dispute it. I've been on the other side of this situation. I was raised Lutheran (Missouri Synod), which is a conservative, Bible believing, traditional church. I've been to non-denominational churches and I've seen the baptism videos and the testimony will sometimes go like this: I was baptized as an infant in the Lutheran church, but at my new non-denominational church I met Jesus. This frustrates me because knowing the Lutheran church as I do, if you don't meet Jesus there, it's your fault.

    Of course, it goes both ways. I've heard stories similar to the ones in this book so I find myself nodding in agreement. Yet, when I mention them to others who are still in the Catholic Church the refrain is often: that's not what the Catholic Church teaches.

    So, here we are. When considering these types of stories it's important to remember truth from perception. Just because someone comes away believing something about the Catholic Church we should not say "that's what Catholics teach" because it might not be true. On the other hand, when different people from different churches from around the world tell stories that are eerily similar; its time to start asking questions.

    Why does the book exist?
    Mark Gilbert was raised Catholic and believed that the Catholic church was the only way to heaven until, as he says, "the cracks began to appear." In his quest to "follow Jesus" he ended up leaving the Catholic Church. Over time he met others with stories similar to his. His purpose in this book is not to denounce the Catholic Church, or even encourage people to leave. Rather, he wants to make sure that those in the Catholic Church are truly meeting Christ. He says, "Whether you are considering a path that may take you away from the Catholic Church or not, I hope these stories will be an encouragement for you to take the path that will lead you to peace with God."

    The Stories
    What about those questions about the Catholic church. They're not new. They weren't new when Martin Luther tacked his 95 Thesis on the doors of the Castle Church of Wittenberg, Germany.

    Each person struggles with the same basic question: am I good enough for to get into heaven. They answer they received from the Catholic church was: do what the Priest says, go to Mass, and go to confession.

    Each person comes to the same conclusion that Mark Gilbert sums in the very last story, his story.

    "God forgives past, present and future sins not because you are good or have earned it but because he is generous, and he sent Jesus to die to pay for your sins. I pray that you can always trust this, knowing that you will be spending eternity with him, and living the rest of your life honoring him."

    The Wrap Up
    I encourage Catholics to read this book. Just like Gilbert I don't say that with Protestant glee hoping that you'll leave the Catholic Church, but just that you will see what others are saying and consider that they might have a point. These stories are not vindicate, or condemning. There is not Catholic bashing going on here. It's just honest stories about what they went through. Clearly, no matter what you decide and no matter if you are Catholic or Protestant, reading scripture brings you closer to Christ - and that is always a good thing.

    Read more of my book reviews at http://cliffymania.com/blog/book-reviews/ (Posted on 8/07/2013)

  6. Great for Catholics Questioning their Faith Review / Tip by Scott Christensen

    This is an excellent book for Roman Catholics who are questioning their faith, perhaps disillusioned and wondering whether Protestantism represent the truth about life, God and salvation. It contains 11 testimonies of people who left their Catholic upbringing and came to understand and embrace the gospel message as revealed in the Bible.

    There are several features about these testimonies that were common refrains.
    1) Roman Catholics are not bashed as sometimes can happen among Bible believing Christians. Most of these people had strong ties to their Catholic upbringing and it was difficult for them to leave it.
    2) Most of these testimonies uniformly affirmed that their Catholic upbringing led them to believe that their salvation depended on themselves instead of the finished work of Christ on their behalf. Salvation was achieved by good deeds and adherence to religious rituals and dogmas. Many were shocked to discover that salvation is by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone.
    3) Many report that their Catholic upbringing left a strong pall of guilt over them. As Angelo Porcu noted, the Catholic Church emphasized guilt instead of forgiveness. There was an oppressive spirit about many of their experiences in the church of Rome.
    4) Many had never read or studied the Bible as Catholics. Studying the Bible for the first time was an eye opening experience for them as they learned things they were never taught in the Catholic Church. This opened them up to the truth of the gospel.
    5) Many found that Bible believing Protestant Churches were shockingly different. They were more vibrant, friendly and relevant to their lives. The preaching was especially different and seemed to connect truth to daily living.
    6) Many of the testimonies report that the priests in the Catholic Church did not seem very concerned for them individually. Sometimes the priests could not be trusted. There was an uneasiness about the idea that a priest could forgive sins. Furthermore, many lied to the priest in confession fearing to reveal the truth about the real sin in their lives.
    7) For many, it took a long time to leave the Catholic Church. Even though many of these people did not have what I would consider a strong commitment to Roman Catholicism, just mainly going through the motions, it was still extremely difficult to give up everything they had grown up with. Mark Gilbert, the editor of the book, describes himself attending mass on Sunday for 10 years while simultaneously attending a Protestant Bible study during that same time. He continued to go to mass because he felt a certain obligation, whereas he went to the Bible study because he loved it.
    8) For most of these former Catholics, their introduction to the gospel came through ordinary Bible believing Protestants who had the courage to share the truth with them. No one's conversion was instantaneous. Often they went to a Protestant Church or Bible study they were invited to by an attendee and remained for some time before becoming convinced of the truth they were hearing. It was a slow learning process often marked by key events along the way that opened their eyes a little more to the truth.

    This is a great book to give to a Catholic friend who is interested in the Bible and the gospel. It is non-offensive but very frank about the struggles many people have with their Catholic upbringing. It is a very interesting, easy and enjoyable read. I highly recommend it. (Posted on 6/06/2013)

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