April 25, 2015

Gazing at Christ




I mentioned on Instagram earlier this week that God seems to have me in the school of grace right now, which is a very good place to be.

In some of my recent reading (yes, I'm still savoring this book), I came across a couple of really good quotes (beyond the Piper quote above) that I wanted to share. Maybe they will challenge and encourage you as they did me.

Perspective is what makes the spirit soar like an eagle even when the body is raged by accident, disease and age. (Randy Alcorn)

I'm so aware of how quickly my perspective can become skewed. I shun suffering as much as the next person, yet it's been seemingly everpresent over the past six months. I have to remind myself to, as a young friend says, "shift my perspective -- off of myself and onto my Savior."

I want to stay in the habit of 'glancing' at my problems and 'gazing' at my Lord. (Joni Eareckson Tada)

What a clear description of a grace-filled focus. What am I glancing at, and what am I gazing at?

When my gaze is focused straight ahead at my gracious, merciful Savior, it's such much easier to limit my problems to just a glance. (Of course, the opposite is just as true.)

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 12:1-2 ESV, emphasis mine)

How do we maintain that focus, that perspective? For me, in the midst of these months of church issues, health issues, family issues, I have been so encouraged by the believers around me. This starts with my husband (my greatest encourager) and family, and extends to my heavenly family of believers. I'm thankful that Christianity is not an individual enterprise; I'd fade quickly without this band of brothers and sisters (Galatians 6:2, 9). While this is just one way I'm helped, it's truly a tangible way of feeling Christ's love and hearing His gospel when other believers pray for me, speak truth to me, and just love me. I'm very grateful for Christ's provision of His Church in difficult times.


(Some of my friends might recognize the area in the photograph above, taken a couple of years ago. I always enjoyed the view when we crossed the Ohio River from Indiana into Louisville, Kentucky, even on gloomy days.)




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)