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.


 

January 21, 2015

Creative Infusion: The Ultimate DIY Bundle {limited time!}



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.

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.


November 28, 2014

Review: Samuel Rutherford (Bitesize Biographies)


I first became interested in the Bitesize Biographies series when a friend, John Crotts, released his book on John Newton. When I was offered a copy of Richard M. Hannula's Samuel Rutherford: Bitesize Biography, I felt it would fill in some gaps of my knowledge of the Scottish Reformation.

This book did inform me, but it also inspired me.



As a young man, Rutherford's intelligence and studiousness set him apart. He was also a man of passion and energy. He first invested these qualities in others by teaching at the University of Edinburgh, but it wasn't long before he accepted a pastorate, tackling these duties with his usual vigor. I loved reading of Rutherford's tireless immersion into the lives of his people, learning how best to preach to them, talk with them, walk with them. This sincere affection was returned by his congregants. The mutual bond was so great that when Rutherford's growing reputation brought invitations to preach all over Scotland, he chose to stay home and shepherd his flock.

His passion overflowed in his preaching; it was evident that he wanted his listeners to know Christ as he knew him. "Every day, we may see some new thing in Christ; His love has neither brim nor bottom."

At one point in the book, Hannula tells us that, "Rutherford used extravagant language and large numbers to try to convey the magnitude of Christ and the glories of heaven: 'Therefore come near and take a view of that transparent beauty that is in Christ which would busy the love of 10,000 millions of worlds.'"

"You shall see that one look of Christ's sweet and lovely eye, one kiss of His fairest face is worth 10,000 worlds of such rotten stuff as the foolish sons of men set their hearts upon."

(I must confess, somehow these quotes led me to singing this song throughout the day.)

This passion and energy later pulled Rutherford into controversy, as he stood on principle against monarchs and archbishops to maintain the purity of the church. At one point, realizing he would soon be tried for non-conformity, he wrote a friend, "I hang by a thread, but it is of Christ's spinning."

He faced many years of suffering and persecution, yet sought to serve as he could. And even with all of his passion, he knew the pitfalls of relying on feelings: "Believe Christ's love more than your own feelings. Your Rock does not ebb and flow, though your sea does." He further said, "Your heart is not the compass that Christ sails by."

As others lauded him, he refused to bask in their admiration. His focus was the reputation of Christ and His church, not of Samuel Rutherford. I believe this humility tempered his passion so that he was able to stand firm during trials and persecution.

The counsel he gave others was surely counsel he took for himself: "Grace tried is better than grace, and it is more than grace. It is glory in its infancy. Who knows the truth of grace without a trial? And how soon would faith freeze without a cross?" Even as he faced the loss of those he loved (whether by their deaths or his own exile), he was able to console others in their own suffering.

And as he lived, he died. As he once encouraged a friend -- "Die with all thoughts of Christ" -- so he himself passed from this world. Not a perfect man, but a man aimed at the glory of Christ.

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. 

October 19, 2014

Review: Good News for Weary Women




When the opportunity arose to receive a review copy of Elyse Fitzpatrick's latest book, Good News for Weary Women: Escaping the Bondage of To-Do Lists, Steps, and Bad Advice , I jumped on it. Years ago, I had the privilege of hearing Elyse teach on contentment at a women's conference, teaching which is summed up in her excellent book, Idols of the Heart: Learning to Long for God Alone . The teaching was both eye-opening and heart-changing, and more of my weakness is revealed each time I go through the book. I've since enjoyed several other encouraging books by Fitzpatrick, finding her writing to be transparent and encouraging as it points me toward truth.

Fitzpatrick defines the purpose of Good News for Weary Women this way:
In all of this, I pray most sincerely that women will rediscover the profound grace that is ours through the good news; that we are forgiven, loved, and already counted perfect.
As Christian women, this is grace that we all need to be reminded of, often on an everyday basis.



The book is broken into eight chapters:
  1. How Did We End Up Here?
  2. What Ever Happened to the Good News
  3. Laws, Rules, Steps and More Bad News
  4. When Rules Define You
  5. The Delusion of Self-Perfection
  6. Who is Your God?
  7. He Said Us!
  8. What's on His List for You Today?
According to Fitzpatrick, this book was birthed out of responses to a request she posed on Facebook:
Okay, friends ... I need your help. I'd like to know the dumbest things people tell women they have to do in order to be godly. Ready . . . Go!
The response was "mind boggling -- and frankly, pretty troubling. Nearly twenty thousand women read the post,and almost five hundred responded. And that was all within twenty-four hours!"

Throughout the book, Fitzpatrick includes lists of those responses, as well as other lies women have been told about their relationship with God.

I found this book to be part biographical, part exposé of today's church, and somewhat repetitive from chapter to chapter. While the theme of each chapter varied, two things were clear and  constant: the world, the church, and our own hearts place unbiblical demands on us, and Scripture leads us to understand that, in Christ, we are fully acceptable to God.

I feel compelled, however, to point out what seemed to me as two weaknesses of this book.

First, I was concerned that the gospel was not clearly laid out from the onset. For the unbeliever, or maybe even the new believer, the content might lead them toward a sort of easy-believism or even into a let-go-and-let-God mentality. To be sure, Fitzpatrick does share the gospel through her own salvation testimony in an appendix at the back of the book.

Second, I think it would have been helpful to have included some guidance on thinking through progressive sanctification and Christian disciplines. While it's true that once we are saved we are righteous in God's eyes, we can't discard the idea of becoming more Christlike in our living. And because of our fleshly state, there is an ebb and flow to this that requires discipline -- duty, even.

Colossians 1:9-14 encourages us toward this:
And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God. May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy, giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.  (ESV)

For this reason, there are several other books I would recommend to weary women over this book. Each of these have encouraged and challenged me as I've read them:
Other books which might also be helpful include  The Gospel for Real Life, Growing Your Faith, and Transforming Grace (all by Jerry Bridges), as well as Holiness by Grace (by Bryan Chapell), and Faithfulness and Holiness (by J.I. Packer), which includes J.C. Ryle's classic, Holiness.

Let me close with some words from Ryle's book:

When I speak of "growth in grace," I do not for a moment mean that . . . (a believer) can grow

in safety, acceptance with God, or security. I do not mean that he can ever be more justified, more pardoned, more forgiven, more at peace with God, then (sic) he is the first moment he believes . . . . When I speak of "growth in grace" I only mean increase in the degree, size strength, vigour, and power of the graces which the Holy Spirt plants in a believer's heart . . . . When I speak of a man "growing in grace," I mean simply  this -- that his sense of sin is becoming deeper, his faith stronger, his hope brighter, his love more extensive, his spiritual-mindedness more marked. He feels more of it in his life. He is going on from strength to strength, from faith to faith, and from grace to grace.



Tyndale House Publishers 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.

June 7, 2014

Review: Active Spirituality



"Is the Christian life about trying or trusting? Would I describe my relationship to God as running or resting? Is my life more characterized by grace or effort?"

When I read this short summary of Active Spirituality: Grace and Effort in the Christian Life, I was hopeful that it would help me strike a balance between God's work and my work in living in living out holiness in my everyday life. I hoped it would help me think through legalism versus obedience, going through the motions versus living in a spirit-empowered way. This book did -- and will continue to do -- just that.

I tried to do a very quick read (in order to meet my review deadline) but found myself wanting to linger often. Despite the book's casual style, pastor/author Brian Hedges provides a careful handling of deep biblical truths about living a healthy Christian life.



Presented as a series of pastoral letters written "to a struggling young adult trying to find a church, live a chaste life, and walk with Christ." The tone is conversational and application-oriented. Don't be fooled by the friendly letter format; this book packs a substantial doctrinal punch.

Hedges addresses issues faced by his correspondent such as discouragement, depression, and assurance. Teaching from Scripture, Hedges also draws from the writings of authors such as John Bunyan, John Owen, C.S. Lewis, and -- for a more contemporary source -- Tom Schreiner, Michael Horton, and Timothy Keller, among others. (I always enjoy it when reading one book leads me to another book, and another...)

My somewhat quick read will be just a first read. This is a book I'll need to read again, digest more thoroughly, and apply carefully. I'll be glad to recommend this book to the thoughtful new convert and the struggling Christian alike (and don't we all fall into those categories at one time or another?).


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.