April 11, 2015

Review: Honest Evangelism

Image source: Bossfight.co (text graphics mine)

It happened twenty years ago, but I remember it like it was yesterday. Away on a business trip, I went out to dinner with a few coworkers. Table talk mostly revolved around company business, especially the convention we were working, until Melissa* suddenly dropped the question, "Do you guys ever just feel empty inside?" Awkward silence.

Honestly, I don't remember how the conversation went after that, probably because I was sitting there thinking, "I should say something. I don't know what to say. I have answers, but I don't know how to do this in this context."

I'd completed evangelism classes (LES, CWT), learned the Roman Road, and grew up on The Four Spiritual Laws and Chick Tracts. So why did I feel so inadequate, maybe even unwilling, to walk through this wide-open door?

Rico Tice answered that for me in  Honest Evangelism: How to talk about Jesus even when it's tough:
 I know there's a painline that needs to be crossed if I tell someone the gospel; but I want to stay the comfortable side of the painline. Of course I do! I think that's the main reason we don't do evangelism.
That's it: I wasn't willing to cross that painline. I've since repented of my selfishness and have prayed that the Lord would help Melissa see not only the reason for her emptiness but His amazingly merciful remedy. But I still have a painline. I appreciate this book's help in not only identifying that for me, but also in motivating me to risk the pain.

Tice packs good content into this short, reader-friendly book. The first half (chapters 1-4) tells us why we don't evangelize... and why we should. Reassuringly, Tice clarifies responsibilities, reminding of a truth I know but sometimes live like I've forgotten:
We talk about Christ. God opens blind eyes... You communicate the message--and then you pray that he would do the miracle.
What a comfort it is to know God is sovereign in all.

The second half of the book tells us how we can evangelize... but without giving a script. In Chapter 4, Tice empathizes with my feeling that some people seem to have more of a bent toward upfront, straightforward evangelism toward everyone they meet. And then there's me. But he also reminds me that God put people in my path, my life, my circles and family, people who need the gospel:
It's no accident that you know the people you do. It's no accident that they're in your path. They need the gospel. You know the gospel. God wants them to hear the gospel. And that transforms how I look at my life. It makes it really exciting. If I'm sitting on a train and there's someone opposite me, God has put them there. He's not far from them, because I know him and I'm sitting opposite them. Now that transforms whether I'll bother to try to start a conversation with them. It'll transform what I am to talk about with them. And it'll transform how I pray for my day ahead; I'll be praying for energy and love to make the most of every divine appointment that god has already written into my schedule.
Chapter 5 provides some practical discussion about what to say in a gospel conversation, any gospel conversation. No script, just some practical and simple markers to help you point the discussion down the right road. Chapter 6 gives us permission to be ourselves as we pursue these gospel opportunities. Tice gives examples of gospel-sharers from Scripture, all very different in personality and approach, but all eager participants in God's work of evangelism.

Chapters 7 and 8 discuss the recent changes in spiritual climate and encourage us toward two responses, both key to any believer who has been moved to cross the painline. And I found two quotes included in the closing chapter to be especially poignant and pointed:
The whole life of man until he is converted to Christ is a ruinous labyrinth of wanderings, harassed and helpless. (John Calvin)
Let me never fancy that I have zeal until my heart overflows with love to every human being. (Henry Martin)
What a great summation of our call to evangelize. Honest Evangelism can help you identify what's behind your painline, as well as how to cross it... and why you should.

Lord, help me clearly see the plight of those lost ones you've brought near me, and help me love them enough to share your good news. 

*not her real name

Cross Focused Reviews provided me with a copy of this book in exchange for a review; however, the views stated here are my own. This review has also been posted on Amazon.com and Goodreads. This post contains affiliate links. 

April 8, 2015

This and that

Perspective is a funny thing. I took this photo because I was drawn to the colors and textures. But that wavy tan texture? It's pollen in rainwater on the driveway, because this is Georgia and it's spring.

My friend, Lori, has a house full of sweet, beautiful girls. Her recent post is a great challenge and encouragement for mothers of daughters... and sons.

Moving and downsizing have forced me to simplify and streamline, and that's good, but Megan's post reminded me that one woman's (seeming) clutter is another woman's evidence of a joyful life.

This post was very timely for me, as I've just finished this book (and should post a review later this week).

I've been making this banana bread recipe for a few years now, and it's always a hit. I've added blueberries at times, too, which Jeff liked. (I just got this as a sort of gift, and it makes mixing a dream!)

Baseball season starts up in just two days. It'll be strange watching the Braves this year; so many new players to get to know, and it's always weird to see "our guys" playing against us.

(This post includes affiliate links)

March 30, 2015

FLASH SALE: The Ultimate DIY Bundle {March 30-April 1 only}

Just in case you missed it the first time, it's back through April 1 (no foolin')! 

Seventeen years ago, our family moved across the country, leaving behind a home we'd built--a home into which we'd brought a new baby girl, a home where I'd done some serious nesting--and moved into an old, drab, nondescript apartment. My husband returned to school (while working three jobs), I began homeschooling our 5th grade son (a new experience), and tried to keep up with that baby girl (who was now a quite independent 18-month-old). It was a tough time in many ways, but also a beautiful time, as the Lord had placed us right where we could flourish and grow the best.

Some of my favorite memories of that time involve creativity. My husband bartered services so my son could take art classes, and I think that may have nudged me to explore my own creative side that had been set aside for a season. Inspired by friends, art, and nature, I began to create things for our home on a very tight budget--sometimes on my own, often with the kids; sometimes more successfully than others, but always having fun.

I'm at the place again of wanting to get in touch with my creative/artistic side, but I'm not sure where to start. What I need--and maybe what you need--is for someone to pull together everything that I need to get started, to make it as easy and painless as possible.

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Disclosure: I have included affiliate links in this post. Read the fine print about this bundle and read the answers to frequently asked questions about the bundle.

March 28, 2015

He will hold me fast

Photo source: bossfight.co (graphics mine)

After a bit of a hiatus due to life events, I'm back into this book. I'm not really one for devotionals (that said, I really liked this one), but Alcorn does such a good job of bringing deep, penetrating truths in small portions, just right for marinating in during the day.

Today, I was struck by this:
We are not the cosmic center -- God is. He holds the universe, each of us, in His gravity. When we make ourselves the center of gravity, we attempt to hold God in orbit around us. Then we draw false conclusions, including, whenever we don't get our way, it must mean God isn't really there. (Randy Alcorn)
Ouch. I do that. I make myself -- my pain, my desires, my happiness -- the center of gravity. Or rather, I create for myself the illusion that I'm the center, demanding that God orbit Himself and everything else around me and my needs. And the inevitable fall which occurs when His gravity does its job rocks my little world. Yet, even in my falling, He holds me fast. I needed that reminder today.
When I fear my faith will fail,
Christ will hold me fast;
When the tempter would prevail,
He will hold me fast.
I could never keep my hold
Through life's fearful path;
For my love is often cold;
He must hold me fast.

Those He saves are His delight,
Christ will hold me fast;
Precious in his holy sight,
He will hold me fast.
He'll not let my soul be lost;
His promises shall last;
Bought by Him at such a cost,
He will hold me fast.

For my life He bled and died,
Christ will hold me fast;
Justice has been satisfied;
He will hold me fast.
Raised with Him to endless life,
He will hold me fast.
'Till our faith is turned to sight,
When He comes at last!

He will hold me fast,
He will hold me fast;
For my Savior loves me so,
He will hold me fast.

(Words for verses 1, 2, and 4 by Ada Habershon. You should listen to this lovely arrangement [#18] by Matt Merker, who also wrote verse 3.)

February 25, 2015

The Word vs Sin

Today's reading in this book led me to yet another great quote... and this graphic. Enjoy! 

(Photo Credit: The Jungle Photo; text added by princapecos)

February 24, 2015

For God's Glory and Everyone's Good

(Note: This post includes affiliate links. Should you choose to click through to Amazon and make a purchase -- even something other than this book -- you won't be charged a penny extra, but I receive a small commission to put toward feeding my book addiction. So click away, with my thanks!)

I've been enjoying a meandering journey through Randy Alcorn's little devotional, Seeing the Unseen: A Daily Dose of Eternal Perspective. For each day's reading, Alcorn chooses a topic to write on, but also includes related Scripture and excellent quotes from others. And for those who'd like to dig a bit deeper, he also provides a link to a related article on his own website.

The Piper quote above was both poignant and significant -- as Piper quotes tend to be. Other quotes I've enjoyed lately include:
The Christian is a person who makes it easy for others to believe in God. (Robert Murray M'Cheyne)
Whenever anything disagreeable or displeasing happens to you, remember Christ crucified and be silent. (John of the Cross)
Imagination is a God-given gift, but if it is fed dirt by the eye, it will be dirty. All sin, not least sexual sin, begins with the imagination. Therefore, what fees the imagination is of maximum importance in the pursuit of Kingdom righteousness. (D.A. Carson)
Lord, make me as holy as it is possible for a saved sinner to be. (Robert Murray M'Cheyne)
I'm trying to read in this several times a week, then I like to journal something from Alcorn's writing that was meaningful to me, as well as one of the quotes that I found helpful (you may occasionally see these journal pages if you follow me on Instagram). My hope is that my journal will provide a helpful resource for later, especially as I'm reading the Kindle version of Seeing the Unseen.

If you're looking for a good devotional, you might give this one a whirl. Amazon currently offers it free for Kindle, but it's available in hardcover, as well -- perfect for gift-giving.


December 2, 2014

A Chain of Hope

This is a difficult season for our family -- not the holidays, just this particular time in our lives. While I won't go into details in this post, I'll simply share that the last month has been a time of unexpected upheaval and uncertainty.

As a wife, it's been difficult for me to watch my husband go through a very trying time. And as a mom, I've been concerned about the effect all of this might have on our one child still at home. The mama bear in me sometimes wants to rise and roar, you know?

In the midst of it all, I'm reminded of Romans 5.
Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.
That's really an astounding passage, when you think about it.

First, our justification has resulted in peace with God through Christ. We who were enemies of God are not at peace with Him, not through anything we have done but through the faith He gave us and through the work of His Son.

As if this wasn't astonishing enough, we now stand in grace. STAND in GRACE. Again, this new standing is not of ourselves, but was obtained through the work of Christ.

And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. I get that. This is hoping in something far beyond me, yet something that has been promised to me: an inheritance based on this new standing. To be honest with you, I don't fully comprehend this, yet I long for it. Rejoicing in hope makes sense to me.

But now it gets a little tougher: rejoice in my sufferings. This seems completely separate from the earlier part of the passage, and it seems like an impossible way to live... unless we understand what that leads to.

Let's look at verses 3-4 again:
Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope
Can you see the chain of hope there?
  • Suffering produces endurance
  • Endurance produces character
  • Character produces hope
I'm reminded of a recurring theme in Calvin and Hobbes:

source: http://www.gocomics.com/calvinandhobbes/1988/06/15 
Yeah, that's so me.

Do you remember the great hope you felt when Jesus saved you, when you realized that He had delivered you from a life of hopelessness bound for hell? Do you still feel the strength of that hope today as you walk through the everydayness of life? I know I don't. I get comfortable, complacent, thoughtless even. Like the Israelites, I forget what I've been delivered from and what I've been promised.

But here's what I'm finding. A little wandering in the desert can do one of two things: either lead to grumbling and discontent, or provide some strength training and a longing for the glory of God. My daily prayer and pursuit should be, must be, for the latter. And even as I struggle to maintain this perspective, I'm reminded of Paul's confession in Philippians 3:
Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you. Only let us hold true to what we have attained.
"Only let us hold true to what we have attained." I love the way John MacArthur unpacks this verse:
Look at verse 16, "However," that really means nevertheless, or better, one more thing. It's often used at the end of a paragraph to express a final thought. "One more thing, by the way, let us keep living by that same to which we have attained."

In other words, look, keep moving along the path that has brought you to where you are in your spiritual progress. That's the idea. You'll be interested to know that the verb here is translated "keep living." It actually means to follow in line, to line up. It's what it means. So what he is saying is, spiritually stay in line and keep moving from where you have arrived by the same standard or principle that got you were you are. Fall in step. It's used of armies marching in battle order, stay in line, stay in step, be consistent, keep moving. Wherever you are spiritually by the same principles that got you there, keep moving ahead. Consistency, conformity, live up to the level of your present understanding and by the principles that brought you there, keep moving ahead, stay in line, hold the principle tightly and move down the track. Stay in your lane, if you will, and move as fast as you can from where you are. Whatever strength and energy got you where you are, use it to move ahead. If we were talking about the runner metaphor, we would say you've run this far in your lane with great effort, it's gotten you so far, keep that same effort up in that same lane until you hit the finish. Pursuing the prize.
Studied together, these two passages are a beautiful picture of the perpetual motion that is the Christian life. That's what I want my life to be, even during this difficult season. Because really, as believers, our lives will be a cycle of suffering to hope, sometimes in overlapping circles.

Lord, keep me ever moving forward, ever remembering Your work and Your Word.

Help me continually climb this chain of hope.