Friday, December 31, 2010

Book Review: On This Day in Christian History by Robert J. Morgan



On This Day in Christian History is a collection of stories about various "saints, martyrs, and heroes" throughout church history. As its title suggests, each story is told on a date relevant to the event and/or character (i.e. birth, death, sermon preached, imprisonment, etc.). Robert Morgan also selects a relevant verse or two from Scripture to be read following each day's story, one for each day of the year. Additionally, there is an index of selected topics at the conclusion of the book which some readers may find beneficial.

In reading On This Day in Christian History, I learned something about myself: I do not do well with snippets. What I mean is, I, personally, do not enjoy reading a short, isolated devotion on some aspect of history. This book seemed a bit disjointed (and at times, redundant) to me. Perhaps it is because I have a limited understanding of Christian history and so, have difficulty placing individual devotions into the "bigger picture."

That being said, there is nothing expressly wrong with this book. Robert Morgan freely quotes the individuals of whom he writes and frequently makes use of primary sources (though lacking documentation). It reminds me of a textbook approach to history. I did not find the writing style “inspiring” as the subtitle suggested one would. However, my family visited for the holiday season, and my dad enjoyed reading the book each morning while he was here.

In sum, if you like a condensed, matter-of-fact telling, you will probably like On This Day in Christian History. It is clear, concise, and somewhat informative. As for me, I think I'll stick with a chronological approach in the future.

*Many thanks to Thomas Nelson for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinion!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Large Family Logistics Sale

If you've been looking to get a copy of Kim Brenneman's new book Large Family Logistics, now may be a great time to pick one up as Vision Forum has them on sale for $10.80 until December 31, 2010. This is a great price as the book is typically $19-$24, depending on where you seek to purchase it. I got my copy just before Christmas (it was on sale for $12 and I had a $10 off coupon!). I've read over half of it and skimmed the rest. It is an excellent resource! I think it would be valuable for any Mom seeking to better organize her household management to the glory of God. I plan to do a comparison of this and Managers of Their Homes in the future (once I complete reading this volume and refresh on the other), but if you are looking for that information now, please feel free to email me, and I'll share my preliminary thoughts. ;)

Happy Reading, Friends!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Book Review: Exegetical Commentary



I recently had the privilege of reading a good portion of Zondervan's Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament: Galatians. Several unique features of this commentary (compared to others that I have seen) are its interaction with the original language of the New Testament, its concise main idea sentences, its emphasis on the theology presented within each passage, and the application of said theology.

I found this volume to be Christ-centered and focused on the truth of the Gospel and the cross of Christ. For example, Thomas Schreiner expounds upon Galatians 1:4, stating:

"The Galatians are only entranced by circumcision because they have forgotten the significance of the cross...A right relationship with God is not obtained by circumcision but only through trusting in the cross of Jesus Christ" (pg. 76).

This message, echoing a major theme in Galatians, is found repeatedly throughout the volume. It is a good reminder for all of us who are tempted, at times, to trust in our works to make us acceptable in God's sight.

Another thing that I found particularly helpful, is that Mr. Schreiner doesn't merely inform his reader(s) on matters such as the situation to which the epistle is written, but rather, clearly suggests principles which could be applied when reading other epistles. In this way, Mr. Schreiner not only teaches his reader about the particular situation of which Paul is addressing in his epistle to the Galatians but also equips the reader to discern these matters when reading other Biblical texts in the future.

All in all, I would say that this is a helpful commentary volume (albeit lengthy), especially for those who enjoy examining the original languages but also for those who wish to gain a deeper understanding of the theology of the text and its application for the church today.

*Many thanks to Zondervan for providing a copy of this text in exchange for my honest opinion!

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Book Review: God's Mighty Acts in Creation

God's Mighty Acts in Creation


Idolatry.  Few books written for adults go beyond the concept of worshipping images of false gods (i.e. the golden calf, Exodus; Baal, Artemis, etc.). Even fewer children's resources tackle the subject. While it isn't the primary purpose of Starr Meade's new book, God's Mighty Acts in Creation, idolatry is one of the many subjects that she explains in a way that young children can easily grasp without watering down the truth.

God's Mighty Acts in Creation goes through each of the days of creation showing how God created everything in nature to tell us something about Himself. What does light tell us about God? What does the grass tell us about God? God, in His infinite wisdom, created everything to declare His glory. Starr Meade effectively connects God's Word and the Gospel to many aspects of creation helping her reader understand many difficult Biblical concepts including idolatry; general and special revelation; God's holiness, wisdom, omniscience, omnipresence; our sinfulness and depravity, our need for a mediator, atonement, and many other things-especially God's character and attributes. While the publisher recommends this book for children ages 8-12, I found that my seven-year-old daughter thoroughly enjoyed and benefited from Starr Meade's writing. Each of the forty-five devotions within this book: begin with a Scripture, contain a two-page commentary, and close with a simple question and/or activity. The questions/activities at the end of each reading are easy but effective at  "driving home" the concepts about which Ms. Meade has written. God's Mighty Acts in Creation is a spectacular resource for parents wishing to help their children better understand how "The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork" (Psalm 19:1, ESV). I look forward to reading the volume to which this is a companion, God's Mighty Acts in Salvation.

See what others are saying about this book @ the Crossway Blog.

*Many thanks to Crossway for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinion!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Book Review: "Think"




God uses Piper to stir my affections afresh. Through Piper's writing, I am encouraged to study harder, think deeper, and to pursue God with greater intensity. Piper's latest book Think is no exception. It is written for those who thrive on thinking and for those who would rather not think much at all.

As usual, Piper has written a deep, thought-provoking, immensely helpful book. He discusses the importance of reading and of taking time in reading to ask questions and of working hard to understand. 

"If you cannot embrace the pain of learning but must have instant gratification, you forfeit the greatest rewards of life. So it is with reading the Bible. The greater riches are for those who will work hard to understand all that is really there" (pg. 47).

Furthermore, Piper expounds upon the role of thinking in coming to faith and in loving God.

"…we cannot love God without knowing God…If we do not know anything about God, there is nothing in our mind to awaken love" (pg. 90).

This book is filled with Gospel-truth. In it, Piper talks about saving faith at length because "you can have a zeal for God and not be saved" (pg. 162).

In Think, you will also find tools to counter the "true for you, but not true for me" relativist sentiment that is so prevalent in society today as well as other challenges (i.e. anti-intellectualism and avoiding knowledge that puffs up) . I wish I had had this book before I headed off to college!

"The aim of this book..." Piper says, "...is to encourage serious, faithful, humble thinking that leads to the true knowledge of God, which leads to loving him, which overflows in loving others" (pg. 20).

Do you find that Christ is supremely valuable in your life, more to be treasured than everything that the world offers? Would you give up everything just to be with Him? Can you say with Paul, "I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ" (Phil. 3:8 as quoted by Piper, pg. 71)? If not, grab this book. Meditate on the Scripture and the Biblical truth found therein. Let it stir you afresh.  It is an awesome read!

*Many thanks to Crossway for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinion!

Monday, November 29, 2010

Book Review: Discovering Jesus in the Old Testament

Cover: The One Year Book of Discovering Jesus in the Old Testament 

I have long been fascinated by the cross-references between Old Testament prophecy and the Gospels, as well as, other connections between the Old and New Testaments. Yet, I have hesitated to purchase books on this subject for fear that they might merely collect dust on my shelf. I was pleasantly surprised to learn that Tyndale had published The One Year Book of Discovering Jesus in the Old Testament.  Unlike many of the more scholarly titles, this one is designed for lay persons and is divided into bite size portions which can be read in five to ten minutes.

I found this book Gospel-centered and encouraging. It would be an asset to those who are looking for ways to "preach the Gospel to themselves" daily. The devotions stand alone allowing the reader to begin in any location. Furthermore, there is a helpful index which would allow one to find devotions relevant to a passage he/she is already reading.

However, while there is much in this book to commend, there are a number of occasions in which Ms. Guthrie moves into spiritual interpretations not intended by the original authors of Scripture. These interpretations are mere speculation and have no Biblical support. For example, the people in Luke 7:13-16 "remembered what Elisha had done for the Shunemite" (July 14) and the stew pot in 2 Kings 4:38 "became an illustration of the world, a 'stew' of humankind's ideas, religions, and attempts to satisfy their spiritual appetites (July 15). In the reading for February 26, Ms. Guthrie says:

"In her beauty, her purity, and her chosenness, Rebekah was a picture of the bride of Christ."

Furthermore, on October 15, Ms. Guthrie writes about the Ethiopian eunuch (of Acts 8) saying: "In a culture in which many descendants meant everything, this eunuch, who had no hope of a son who would carry on his name, understood that Jesus died without descendants so that he might give those who come to him by faith an everlasting heritage."

The problem is that none of these things are expressly stated or implied by other verses in Scripture. We simply have no way of confirming that any of these things are true. These are just a few examples of speculation in this book. I'm not sure if Ms. Guthrie gleaned these ideas from her sources or if she developed them independently as there are no footnotes or endnotes in the text. I truly wish I could recommend this resource as there are many good, Gospel-centered entries, however, it does not seem wise.

"Words in the Bible have a meaning fixed by the intention of God, expressed through the mind of the human authors. It cannot be made to mean what we choose without tampering with God's Word. But the atmosphere of our time puts so little premium on truth that the language of the Bible and of historical Christian documents has become a wax nose to shape according to the desires of the speaker" (pg 196, Think by John Piper).

Unfortunately, this is exactly what Ms. Guthrie does in many portions of this book. Therefore, I would not recommend this book.

* Many thanks to Tyndale House Publishers for providing a copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinion!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Large Family Logistics Giveaway



Large Family Logistics: The Art and Science of Managing the Large Family

I have not yet seen this book, however, I have been greatly blessed by the material on Ms. Benneman's former website and look forward to looking over this book, at some point. You can check out the giveaway (until Sunday, November 28th @ midnight) or purchase a copy through Grace and Truth, if interested.

Have you already seen this book? If so, what did you think of it? If not, what resource has most blessed you as you seek to manage your home for the glory of God?

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Scripture Memory Music

Great for Kids and "Grown-ups"
 
  


Another awesome tidbit: 
"Each package contains two identical CDs - one to keep and one to give to a friend."

Christmas is coming...I humbly submit these for your consideration...a great gift to give the little ones in your life!

"For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart" (Hebrews 4:12 ESV).

Monday, November 8, 2010

Book Review: A Way With Words


I recently read the book, A Way With Words by Christin Ditchfield. I think the greatest asset of this book is the Bible Studies that were included at the end of each chapter. The reflection questions were thought provoking and the suggestions for Scripture memory/meditation helpful. I like how this book lends itself well to group and/or personal study and how the reader is encouraged to keep a journal. Furthermore, I think it is great that Ms. Ditchfield encourages the reader to slow down her reading and take time to apply what she's learning by spending a week with the Bible Study questions and Scriptures. I also enjoyed the way that she opened each chapter with an engaging story from her life or from Scripture. These made the book a pleasant read and helped illustrate the points well. I really appreciate Ms. Ditchfield’s honesty, transparency, and humility.

In spite of all of these good things, I think that the book could be improved. I liked the chapter on how words reveal what is in our hearts and would have liked to see that incorporated more throughout the book. I also thought that the Gospel message could have been more clear and that the book would have benefited from the use of more Biblical language (rather than talking about how my speech is going to shatter hopes, dash dreams or damage self-image--pg. 21). As Christians, we speak differently as a result of who we are in Christ. We are ambassadors and agents of reconciliation for God and His Kingdom. At times, our mission will require us to use Biblical words to "damage self-image". Take for example , "All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23, ESV) or the fact that our "best deeds" are like a polluted garment or filthy rags (Isaiah 64:4-9). These things aren't said to protect our "self-image"; they're said so that we might know our deep need for a new identity in Christ.

Additionally, there were a number of quotes scattered throughout the text. I found these more of a distraction than an asset. Furthermore, there were times when they seemed to be at odds with Biblical truth like this one from Sojourner Truth: "If the first woman God ever made was strong enough to turn the world upside down all alone, these women together ought to be able to turn it back, and get it right side up again!" (pg. 10) Only Christ can restore this broken world.

Again, I think the most helpful portion of this book was the way Christin Ditchfield helps her readers think through the Scriptures pertaining to speech and asks relevant application questions. However, I have been more challenged by other books which were more Gospel-centered and focused more clearly on heart change.

Many thanks to Crossway for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinion!

Friday, November 5, 2010

Congratulations!

Cover: Battle for the Promised Land!


Congratulations, Cheryl!
You won the certificate for this DVD.
Thanks to everyone who stopped by and commented.
I enjoyed reading about how God has been speaking to you all! 

Thursday, November 4, 2010

DVD Review and Our First Giveaway

First a little background, then the giveaway...

http://www.tyndale.com/authorphotos/amazon/1290/pic_full_vischer_phil.jpgMeet (or remember) Phil Vischer, a talented fellow who is best known for creating productions for children. His first project was the Veggie Tales series characterized by the motto: "Sunday Morning Values, Saturday Morning Fun." Whatever your opinion of the original Veggie Tales, Mr. Vischer has begun a new series. While the former focused on values, the latter purports to be centered on the Gospel.



I must confess, I wasn't sure what to expect. However, Tyndale kindly sent me a copy of the fourth DVD in the What's In the Bible series: Battle for the Promised Land in exchange for my honest opinion. I was pleasantly surprised by the clear communication of the Gospel and the detailed information that was shared in a visual way. While I didn't find this DVD as entertaining or captivating as Veggie Tales, it compensated for it with its improved emphasis on the Gospel. However, what good is the DVD if it has good content with a boring presentation? On the contrary, although I (being an adult) was a little bored with the presentation, by the end of the DVD, my daughter was already asking, "Are there more in this series? Can we get them? Are there any books?"

Following the DVD, I asked my daughter some questions for Tyndale:

  • Did she learn from it?
    • "Yes, I learned about the Historical Books of the Bible." (Joshua-Esther)
  • Did you find it entertaining?
    • "Yes."
  • Would you like to watch the rest of the series?
    • "Yes!"
  • Who is your favorite character?
    • "I like them all the same."

Cover: Battle for the Promised Land!Like most products, this one could be improved. For example, I didn't appreciate a couple of jokes referencing underpants in the beginning of the DVD. However, all in all, I think the whole family can benefit from this DVD as the Gospel is clearly presented and the information has more depth than other materials that I have seen for this age. Younger children will probably benefit from watching the DVD in parts since it is 60-minutes in its entirety, but Tyndale conveniently thought of this and split the presentation into two parts. For more information, visit www.whatsinthebible.com or www.tyndale.com.


Now for the exciting news: I get to do our very first blog giveaway, compliments of Tyndale House Publishers! I have an award certificate for the above-titled DVD so you can form your own opinion. ;) You have several chances to win:

  1. Post a comment or email me stating one thing that God is teaching you recently about/from the Bible.
  2. Subscribe to my blog and/or let me know that you're a subscriber via a comment.
  3. Share about this giveaway on your blog and/or Facebook and post the link in the comments section.
Comments will be accepted until 9:00PM, EST, Thursday, November 4, 2010, and the winner will be announced on Friday, November 5, 2010. Make sure I have a way to contact you so that I can let you know if you're the winner as I'll need to secure a mailing address to mail you the certificate for your free DVD. ;)

This giveaway is now closed. Thanks to all who participated!

* Thank you to Tyndale House Publishers for sending me this DVD in exchange for my honest opinion!

Friday, October 29, 2010

Pt. 3

It's a first for us...

The first Giveaway on our blog...tomorrow!

Be sure to stop by and check it out. :) 

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Reading Classics Together: The Holiness of God - Chapter 3


In Chapter 3 of The Holiness of God, Dr. Sproul begins to define holy and discusses the human experience of holy. In sum, God is set apart, above and beyond us (transcendentally separate as Sproul says on Page 55).

It wasn't until I began to reflect on the overall flow of the book that I found reason to dig deeper into the Scriptures. You see, in Chapter One, Dr. Sproul's main point was that we must grow in our understanding of what it means to be holy because God has commanded us to be holy as He is holy (Leviticus 20:7). However, in this Chapter, Dr. Sproul says:

"God alone is holy in Himself. Only God can sanctify something else" (pg 56, emphasis added).

Furthermore, Sproul says that it is idolatry to call created things holy:

"When we call things holy that are not holy we commit the sin of idolatry. This is the grievous error of idolatry, giving to common things the respect, awe, worship, and adoration that belong only to God. To worship the creature instead of the Creator is the essence of idolatry" (pg. 58).
"When a human being tries to consecrate what God has never consecrated, it is not a genuine act of consecration. It is an act of desecration. It is an act of idolatry" (pg. 59).

The antinomy (apparent but not actual contradiction, a term acquired and borrowed from J.I. Packer's book Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God, pg. 18) is that God commands us to be holy and yet, only He can make us holy. Now Scripture doesn't specifically state that we can't make something holy, however, every Biblical reference to the word "sanctify" (that I encountered) referred to God sanctifying something.

In my effort to resolve this tension, I looked up Leviticus 20:7 in my ESV Study Bible which led me to Leviticus 11:44-45. The notes for the latter say:

"Personal consecration is a response to God's gracious initiative."

In the case of these Israelites, God's gracious initiative was His having delivered them from slavery in Egypt. In our case, God has delivered those who believe from sin and death through the blood of Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 1:2, 6:11; 1 Thessalonians 5:23; Hebrews 10:10, 13:12).

As I considered this further, I was reminded of two verses:

"It is God who works in you to will and to act according to His good pleasure" and "Work out your salvation with fear and trembling."

So it isn't either/or but both/and. As I began to seek out the location of the above verses in Scripture, I had to laugh and shed tears of joy as I realized that the verses are right next to each other. In Philippians 2:12-13, it reads:

"…work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure" (emphasis added). 

Notice that beautiful conjunction which I have taken the liberty of emphasizing; because God works in us, we can work. It is the same with our pursuit of holiness. Which reminds me, this has already been covered much more thoroughly in Jerry Bridges' book The Discipline of Grace: God's Role and Our Role in the Pursuit of Holiness. How could I forget?

Isn't it neat how God uses two sentences in separate portions of one book to bring to mind several other sentences for a helpful time of review and reflection? To think, that is only the first half of the Chapter. Is anybody else's head spinning in trying to keep up with my thoughts?

We'll be discussing Chapter 4 - "The Trauma of Holiness" next week. May your reading be blessed as you seek to grow in your knowledge of holy and be transformed by this renewal of your mind!

Friday, October 22, 2010

Pt. 2

Something new is coming...

What could it be???

Favorites Friday

The Doctrine of Sin: Handle with Care @ C.J.'s View from the Cheap Seats - "So which are you more aware of: the pervasiveness of sin, or the power of grace?...It requires little skill merely to expose sin. But it takes great skill to unveil grace and apply it to the wide variety of spiritual conditions represented in our churches."

Al Mohler on Reading: "We can make a virtue out of reading that can be an end in itself. Reading is not an end in itself; growth in godliness is the end and being conformed to the image of Christ. That's going to happen by Scriptures, and that's going to happen by the teaching and preaching of the Word of God, and it's going to happen by reading. And so reading is not "the thing." It's not the end in itself. It is the way God has chosen to help His people grow, and it has been that way from the beginning...We realize we're not going to grow if we're not reading and studying and that means sitting in the chair and getting it done. But quite honestly, it's appetitive; the more you do it, the more you love it."




The ART of Homeschooling @ Home Educating Family - Looks like a promising series of posts. Attitude, Relationships, and Training. Get them in the right order or you'll end up with TAR or RATS. ;)


Christian Literature for Kids 0-8 @ Passionate Homemaking - Lindsay is highlighting some great books worth reading your children. My favorite on the list is probably Big Truths for Little Kids by Susan Hunt.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Reading Classics Together: The Holiness of God - Chapter 2

I would summarize Chapter Two by saying, if you get a glimpse of God's holiness: 

  • you will see that sin is pervasive in yourself (pg. 44-45), 
  • you will quake in terror and mourn because of your sin, and
  • the God of grace will meet you, cleanse you, forgive you, and send you to do His work.
Although you will not yet be holy, like Moses, when you spend time looking at God's holiness, you will begin to reflect God's glory (pg. 35).

As Sproul says: 
"There is a pattern here, a pattern repeated over and over again in history. God appears, man quakes in terror, God forgives and heals, God sends. From brokenness to mission is the pattern for man" (pg. 48).

One thing that challenges me is the truth that before we can effectively minister to others, we must be putting to death pride in our lives. The only way to do this is to measure ourselves by the ultimate standard, the perfect, holy God.
"As long as Isaiah could compare himself to other mortals, he was able to sustain a lofty opinion of his own character. The instant he measured himself by the ultimate standard, he was destroyed--morally and spiritually annihilated" (pg. 44).
 When I focus on God's holiness, I, like Isaiah, am undone. However, I, too, am not without hope. Christ died to pay the penalty for my pervasive sin that I might be cleansed from all of my unrighteousness. This truth should change how I relate to every person and situation that I encounter.

Don't forget...Next week: Chapter 3

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Church History ABCs Giveaway!

The Church History ABCs cover

Visit Home With Purpose if you'd like more information about how to win a copy of this helpful resource! You may also download some free activity pages from The Church History ABCs Website. This book is a great introduction to important folks in church history for young children.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Favorites Friday

A few of the posts that have ministered to me lately. Do you see a trend?

You Might Have Kids If... @ The Blazing Center - Another funny and encouraging post from the Altrogee blog. What would you add to the list?

Let Your Work Be Worship @ Passionate Homemaking - "To be a godly woman means we worship the Creator in all the duties of life – everything from diapers, to dishes, to scrubbing toilets, to preparing meals, to decorating our homes. Each task is an act of worship to our Creator, because we are faithfully walking in His beautiful design. Worship is not limited to Sundays, or to actual singing, but it is doing all that we do for the glory of God, with a heart that desires to please Him."

5 Ways to Increase Your Effectiveness in the Office Pt 1 @ Church Planting for the Rest of Us - Investigate, Evaluate, Delegate, Automate, & Assassinate "Time Thieves" - Helpful advice for us all.

Avoiding the Enemies of Compassion @ Crossway.blog - Some of the enemies of a compassion-filled ministry...because all of us Christians are to be about ministering to fellow believers...

Pt. 1

We have an announcement to make this month...

Any guesses???

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Reading Classics Together: The Holiness of God



As I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, I'm participating in Reading the Classics Together with Tim Challies, Leslie Wiggins, and others. Although Challies has hosted a number of these community reading/discussion groups, this is the first in which I am participating.

The first thing that struck me while reading The Holiness of God is Sproul's rich, descriptive language. It is not hard to find yourself in his shoes: feeling what he feels, hearing what he hears, seeing what he sees. I found it easy to experience what Sproul had experienced and to resonate with his thirst, zeal, and passion for the things of God. In this opening chapter, Sproul writes about how he came to desire to know God more fully, and how he came to realize that the holiness of God "is basic to our whole understanding of God and of Christianity" (pg. 24).

I found Sproul's thoughts regarding the Lord's Prayer intriguing. He noted that "The first line of the prayer is not a petition. It is a form of personal address" (pg. 24). He then goes on to remark that the first petition in the prayer is "…hallowed be thy name. They kingdom come…" Here's what I found thought-provoking:

"There is a kind of sequence within the prayer. God's kingdom will never come where His name is not hallowed. His will is not done on earth as it is in heaven if His name is desecrated here…It is foolish to look for the kingdom anywhere God is not revered" (pg. 25).

However, I wonder if this is fully accurate. Can God's kingdom not come or will it not come if none of us were to regard Him as holy? Indeed, it already has come and is coming through and because of Christ in spite of the fact that God's name is not regarded as holy among the masses. (Matthew 12:28, Luke 10:9-11) Nothing can stop His plan. Though, 'tis true that one day, every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord (Isaiah 45:23, Romans 14:10-11, Philippians 2:9-11), this is not presently the case.

One thing is true:

"How we understand the person and character of God the Father affects every aspect of our lives…we must seek to understand what the holy is...There can be no worship, no spiritual growth, no true obedience without it. It defines our goal as Christians. God has declared, 'Be ye holy, for I am holy.' [Leviticus 11:44, 1 Peter 1:15-16] To reach that goal we must understand what holiness is" (pg. 25-26).

Will you join me in seeking to grow in your understanding of the holiness of God? If so, read Chapter 2 in The Holiness of God by R. C. Sproul, and prepare to share your thoughts in the comments section.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Lessons from Motherhood


I am regularly amused at how God uses my little blessings to reveal truth and evoke worship in my life. Such was the case as I weaned my fourth child. During the day, she rarely thought of nursing and easily settled for a cup when offered. However, the wee morning hours presented a much greater challenge. One night, I let her cry. Upon realizing that she was not merely going to cry herself back to sleep, I went to her room to console her, offer her a cup of water, sing her a song, and tuck her back into her bed. She was inconsolable. I sat on the stairs and listened to her cry, wondering how long it would last and crying along with her. I knew that weaning her was what was best for her, but I grieved with her for the loss of that special time that we shared. God in His kindness opened my eyes to see that I, too, often hold on to things or "cry" when I don't get my way. Yet He is in each of those moments working all things together for good because I am called according to His purpose and love Him. He is wise and knows better than I; I can trust Him to do and allow what is best. What an awesome God we serve!

Trust in the LORD with all your heart,
        and do not lean on your own understanding.
     In all your ways acknowledge him,
        and he will make straight your paths.
     Be not wise in your own eyes;
        fear the LORD, and turn away from evil.
     It will be healing to your flesh
        and refreshment to your bones.
 (Proverbs 3:5-8 ESV)

Friday, October 8, 2010

Favorites Friday

Here are some posts that have blessed me recently. May they bless you as well!

The Power of the Gospel – Listening Well @ Shepherd Press Blog - "Providing an environment where questions are easily asked and carefully considered is crucial.  Too often information is force-fed to children in general and to teenagers in particular. Life-changing information is better received when it is eagerly desired and asked for.  That is why the gospel is needed;  a parent cannot be truly other-centered unless he is first Christ-centered."

The Home Repair Skills of a Monkey @ The Blazing Center -  This is merely humorous, but we all need a good laugh once in a while.

The Heart of Frugality @ Challies - Why live simply? As some have noted, being frugal can be an evidence of greed or of wise stewardship. There are many in the former camp, but also many in the latter who live simply in order to give generously for the glory of God. Here are some great (albeit lengthy) thoughts from Challies. Where do you find your heart in the matter?

How to Provoke Your Children @ Grace to You - "Parents provoke their children to wrath by various means too. Over my years as a pastor, I have observed many different ways parents have done this. Avoid all of them. Here are just a few examples:"

Monday, October 4, 2010

Book Review: Gospel-Centred Family

Gospel-Centered Family
Image taken from thegoodbook.com

This is an AWESOME book!!! However, there are several really awesome parenting books on the market. So, what sets this one apart? Should you really add another book to your shelf?

  • Concise. - Just five pages per chapter! Twelve chapters. Which brings this book to a little under one hundred pages that pack a punch. Don't believe me? Read on.

  • Gospel-centered. - Yes, that's included in the title, but it really does live up to its name. Check out these quotes:
"Learning to enjoy your parents' authority is the first step towards welcoming God's authority" (pg. 13).

"Your number one aim as a parent is to show how great it is to live under God's reign of love" (pg. 14).

"We're not calling our children to a life of obligation and hardship that they must tough out. We're calling them to treasure! We're calling them to treasure Christ. Sacrifice there may be, but we count it joy because of the treasure that is ours in Christ…(Philippians 3:8). Our job is not to pressure our children into a life of begrudged duty. Our role is to extol the surpassing greatness of Christ. We're to extol Christ so much that everything else feels like rubbish in comparison" (pg. 19-20).
  • Heart-focused.
"…when my heart is undivided in its allegiance to God, I respond with calm and loving discipline. But if my selfish desires are ruling my heart, then I'll respond wrongly. My discipline gets distorted by my selfishness" (pg. 27).

"…more often than not, our anger is a sign that one of these desires (1) matters more to us than God's glory; and (2) is now being thwarted or threatened. If this selfish anger drives our discipline, the fruit will be bad" (pg. 27).

"This is the most important thing I've learnt in my years as a parent. The biggest obstacle to good discipline is my own selfish heart" (pg. 28).
  • Grace-filled.
"Let's face it, you and I are pretty lousy parents. Welcome to guilt! What we do with that guilt tells us what we really believe about the gospel" (pg. 32).

"If we feel condemned, we won't communicate grace, making us fell still more condemned. If we want our families to be gospel-centred, then we must ring the gospel to bear on our own failures. If we can't bring our parenting sins to the cross, then we don't have any good news to celebrate. We can't communicate grace to our children if we're not communicating it to our own hearts" (pg. 33).

"Our children are greatly helped by good parenting. But they're saved by divine grace…But what if you've been a bad witness? God's grace doesn't let us off the hook as parents. Our sin is still sin. It still affect our children and spoils our testimony to the reality and beauty of God's work in us…But it's not unforgiveable. Our parenting sins are addressed by God in the same way as all our sin - by grace" (pg. 34).
Wait! There's more. While this book is a good condensation of books that have gone before (like Shepherding A Child's Heart by Tedd Tripp and Everyday Talk by Jay Younts), it also brings at least three  unique and important points to the parenting book table.

  • Encouragement to view children as a gift. The reality is that children "...can sometimes feel more like work than pleasure!" (pg. 55) This book contains many suggestions for creating memories and enjoying your children.

  • Encouragement (and helpful suggestions) to live and pray God's Word with your children.

  • Encouragement (and ideas) to be a mission-centred and serving family.
"…God is to be the cetre of your family's world. And closely linked to that is a commitment to serving others. A gospel-centred family is a family that serves others to the glory of God" (pg. 88).

"…those who have received divine mercy show that same love to others. Those who once served only themselves are freed to serve others in love" (pg. 89).

"A family that's turned inwards is not a gospel-centred family" (pg. 89).
  • Interactive. - Most of the other parenting books that I own have application questions at the end of each chapter, but this book goes even further.  It has more of a workbook flavor. The beginning of each chapter has a Bible background box with a passage to read and questions to answer. The end of each chapter has a "Questions for reflection" box and a paragraph of "Ideas for action".

One thing that I did disagree with was the ideas suggested for disciplining a child. Chapter 7 in Shepherding A Child's Heart by Tedd Tripp and/or Chapter 9 in "Don't Make Me Count to Three!" by Ginger Plowman are a great introduction to why methods like the ones in Gospel-Centred Family aren't Biblical and are detrimental to  your child's heart.

Overall, an exceptional parenting resource!! Easy to read, harder to apply. Although the book is short, I'd read it through slowly, savor each chapter, and really take the time to apply the material here.

Visit thegoodbook.com for more information or to read the first chapter of the book.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Dr. Sproul's Books for Children

 

R. C. Sproul has written some helpful books for children. These books are "designed to present deep biblical truths to children on their own level." Each book presents a different aspect of God's character and serves as a wonderful conversation starter. The latter two even include discussion questions and Scripture references at the end of the story.  However, if you could only purchase one of these books, I think that The Prince's Poison Cup best communicates the Gospel of Jesus Christ and is therefore, the most beneficial. You can see a brief synopsis as well as the artistic talent in the video below.




 There are two things in particular that gave me pause in The Prince's Poison Cup that warrant further discussion. The first is the depiction of the deceiver in that he looks evil. This is a very common portrayal among children's books, however, I think it deserves special acknowledgment because often, sin and temptation do not look evil to us.

The second point worth discussing is on Page 20 in a section that parallels Christ's time of prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane. In Dr. Sproul's story, his Prince trembles with fear as he considers whether there might be another way of rescuing His people. I would want to clarify that, although Scripture does say that Christ trembled, it never attributes fear to Christ. In Matthew 26: 37 & 38, Christ is described as sorrowful and troubled. Mark 14:33-34 describes Jesus as greatly distressed, troubled, and sorrowful. Luke 22:44 describes Jesus as being in agony. Furthermore, 1 John 4:18 states: "There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love" (1 John 4:18 ESV). Christ was perfected in love and perfectly trusted His Father in spite of the coming punishment He was to bear for the sins of His people and so, I do not think he could have been fearful. I could be wrong, but just to be cautious, I would try to use more Biblical language to describe Christ's trembling and sweat in the Garden as we are representing His character. (Please note: Dr. Sproul is not necessarily attributing fear to Christ in this book but rather to his fictional Prince character who parallels Christ.)

I would not allow these two issues to prevent me from purchasing this book. It does a great job of communicating Gospel truth in a clear, concise manner to children. Due to the longer paragraphs, I would recommend these books for children who have longer attention spans (probably starting around age four to six, depending on the child).

(Many thanks to Reformation Trust Publishing for granting me a review copy in exchange for my honest opinion!)

Pictures taken from wtsbooks.com and Ligonier Ministries

Monday, September 27, 2010

Reading Classics Together

Now that I've finished When I Don't Desire God by John Piper, I'm joining Tim Challies and Leslie Wiggins in reading The Holiness of God by R.C. Sproul. This book has been on my reading list for a little while (sadly, ever since this blog post). We're starting on October 14. Will you join us?


Friday, September 24, 2010

The Big Picture Story Bible


  The Big Picture Story Bible by David Helm (Crossway)
  • Product Dimensions: 9.4 x 9.3 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 3.6 pounds
  • Publisher's Recommended Age: 4-8 (Younger if you're willing to carry it around for them. ;)

Pros:

  • Short text and big pictures on each page hold shorter attention spans well
  • Frequent questions in the narrative engage child
  • Clearly communicates that man sins because he doubts God's goodness
  • Represents God's character well (ex. love and faithfulness)
  • More accurate pictures than most children's Bibles (i.e. the Temple w/ lampstands, tables for showbread, altar, the Heavenly City, etc.)
  • Thick, heavy-duty pages

Cons:

  • The large size of this Bible is both a pro and a con.  It's great to have the large text and pictures, however, it is very hard for a two-year-old to carry around.
  • Unnecessarily simplistic in terminology, at times (i.e. boat instead of ark)
  • Oversimplifies the Passover: "Moses told God's people to take lambs and sacrifice them. He told them to put the blood over their front doors. The blood of the lamb was God's great sign." It goes on to tell of the Lord passing over the families that had blood over their doors; however, it fails to answer the question, "Why?" This is a great opportunity to pause and explain the "why" further (there had to be a blood sacrifice for sin), correlating it to Christ. (This Bible does, however, mention the "blood sacrifices for sin" in the temple in its New Testament section.)
  • Fails to include Bible references with section titles.

Overall, this is a great resource for helping children grasp the big picture of redemption that is found throughout the Bible. The pros definitely outweigh the cons. I highly recommend it!

Book Review: "When I Don't Desire God"


Have you ever gone through a period of time in which you had little desire to read your Bible? Or maybe a time when you pondered which book to pick up next but just felt kind of "blah" about the whole thing? I went through a phase like this about six months ago. I was more aware of my failures than God's grace. I knew that I needed to focus on what God has done for me through the blood of Jesus Christ rather than reading another Christian living title that would reveal my many shortcomings in my marriage, parenting, and every other area of my life. A short time later, I began reading When I Don't Desire God by John Piper. It was hard reading for this sleep-deprived mama, and it was slow going a lot of the time. However, it was well worth the effort. God used this book to encourage me greatly. It was comforting for me to realize that "...no one ever desires God with the passion he demands" (pg. 13). Ironically, when I realize that I don't desire God enough, I'm actually in a better place spiritually than when I think I'm doing well, even if I do feel worse.

This book is classic Piper; he's singing the same tune: "...God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him" (pg. 19). The first half of the book is largely foundational and philosophical while the latter portion is immensely practical. For example, we all know that the greatest commandment is to love God with all of our heart, so why is Piper writing a whole book about fighting for joy?  I'll let him answer:

"The apostle Paul said, "If anyone has no love for the Lord, let him be accursed" (1 Cor. 16:22). Love is not a mere choice to move the body or the brain. Love is also an experience of the heart. So the stakes are very high. Christ is to be cherished, not just chosen. The alternative is to be cursed. Therefore life is serious. And so is this book" (pg. 19).

As for the practical, there's nothing essentially new here: we fight for joy mainly through God's Word and prayer.  However, Piper does have many helpful insights as to how the Word and prayer help us in our fight for joy and how to use them to this end. As usual, Piper says many thought-provoking things making this a book in which you’ll likely want to spend some time. I’ll leave you with a quote that was meaningful to me in my situation; may it whet your appetite.

“The fight for joy always involves both [prayer and meditation]. Prayer without meditation on the Word of God will disintegrate into humanistic spirituality. It will simply reflect our own fallen ideas and feelings—not God’s. And meditation, without the humility of desperate prayer, will create proud legalism or hopeless despair.

Without prayer we try to fulfill the Word in our own strength and think we are succeeding and so become proud Pharisees; or we will realize we are not succeeding and will give up in despair” (pg. 149).
 Have you read this book? If so, what most spoke to you?