Monday, June 27, 2011

Book Review: Think: The Life of the Mind and the Love of God by John Piper

I wasn't really looking for this book.  It found me.  I had another title by Piper in mind when I casually strolled into the garage sale that day.  Two dollars?  Really?  At a garage sale?  Oh well, if I were to buy it on Ebay for a quarter, I would at least pay that in shipping.  Why not?

Turns out, it was what I needed. 

I love to think.  That doesn't make me smart.  It is just a natural part of me.  Sometimes I think that I think too much.  I have even had people tell me that I think too much!!  Sometimes it is frustrating because I don't have all of the answers that I THINK I need NOW! 

In the times in which we live, there is often discouragement for the thinking Christian.  I have asked questions to my elders and spiritual superiors only to get a:  you don't need to worry about that-it doesn't matter. That answer is like sandpaper to the thinking soul.  If it doesn't matter, then why doesn't it matter? 

In addition, there can often be resistance to the teaching of doctrine.  Doctrine is said to divide and not really matter.  I appreciate Piper's response to this issue.  He relates that what he has learned by thinking tough issues through is a deeper understanding of who God is, thus cultivating a deeper love for Him.  Just because something doesn't make sense to our human thinking doesn't mean that we should attempt to discard or discredit it. That's what this whole book is about.  Thinking about the wisdom of God, not the wisdom of man.  Discarding the man-made ideas that we have about God and simply believing what He says.

The other important topic that Piper touches on is what it means to "receive Christ."  He insists that we must make clear what that actually means:

There are so many people who say they have received Christ and believed on Christ but give little or no evidence that they are spiritually alive.  They are unresponsive to the spiritual beauty of Jesus.  They are unmoved by the glories of Christ.  They don't have the spirit of the Apostle Paul when he said, "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 thinks and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ." (Phil 3:8)  This is not their spirit, yet they say they have received Christ.  It looks as though it is possible to "receive Christ" and not have Him for what He is.  

I have the personal opinion that this is a BIG problem in our world today.  We were raised in the church, but have no idea what saving faith really means.  We can go door to door and present facts to people and pray with people, but that doesn't guarantee that that they really get it.  Piper talks about the nature of saving faith as one that demands more than facts as a ground.  He explains it as not merely receiving the facts of the old, old story, but also receiving Christ Himself: the one who died for us and rose again, and is infinitely glorious, wondrously beautiful, and supremely valuable.  Therefore the grounds of such faith must be the spiritual sight of such glory and beauty and value.


Because our hearts now see Christ as infinitely valuable, our resistance to truth is overcome.  Our thinking is no longer the slave of deceitful desires, because our desires are changed.  Christ is now the supreme treasure.

Piper goes on to establish why the relativism of today's religion is absurd.  This is where the ability to think logically becomes of the utmost importance.  It also seems to be the crux of the matter in the book: who are we going to trust in, ourselves or God?  And in the matter of thinking, who does our thinking serve and glorify?  Ourselves or god?  And how did Jesus respond to the relativists of His day?  (Matthew 21:23-27)  In order to not only refute relativism, but also to detect it in our own ideas, thinking deeply about God is imperative.  I loved the visual picture that Piper gave to bring thinking and logic into the process of salvation:

A logical presentation of the gospel of Christ is like wire along which the electricity of spiritual power runs.  Wires do not make the lights go on; electricity does.  But in the providence of God, electricity runs through wires.  And in the design of God, the use of our minds in knowing, ordering, and presenting the truth of Christ is the normal way that the eyes of the blind are opened and belief in Jesus in awakened.  

I can testify in my own life that thinking through hard doctrines and Biblical truths has drawn me closer to Christ.  I can't explain it, especially because I don't understand all of it.  But I know that God's word is so very alive.  And beautiful. Maybe in a way, it has given me the wisdom to simply let go and let God be who He is rather than who I want Him to be, or what seems fair or right to me.  I believe that is what careful study of the word can do for us.  And in the process, it makes us more dependent on Him.  It opens our eyes to the richness, beauty, and worth of Jesus.  I recommend this book for all of you thinkers out there.  It will encourage you to continue to think, but about the wisdom of God, not ourselves.  I recommend it for those who don't like to think deeply.  It can simply give insight and maybe an appreciation for those who do.  

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Life Transforming Grace-Why I Blog

One of the great misconceptions about Christianity is that it is a list of "do's" and "don't's."   Maybe that is because we have a tendency to minister more to the do's and dont's than focus on the miracle of grace.  Don't get me wrong-holiness not only has it's place, but the pursuit of it is the hallmark of the believer's life.  But without the grace, it is really nothing.  There are many writings that teach believers how to live a holy life.  There is certainly a need for that.

But, for those out there wrestling to understand what it all means, there is only one place to begin:  the grace of God.  Understanding that we are all broken, we all need a Savior.  It's important to realize that none of the things on the do list is what secures us in the hand of God.  That is why Jesus is such a radical thought.  That is why grace is so amazing.  Because He wants you to know:  He did it all for you!  We need to embrace our brokenness and realize that we can't fix ourselves.  Oh, the sweet release when we let go! 

Ephesians 2:8-9 "For it is by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is a gift of God, and not of works, lest any man should boast."

My favorite Bible verse!  It is the one that God used to open my eyes to the real Gospel.  To who He really is. It's not about what I have done, or who I am--it is simply about faith in who He is and what He has done for you!  None of us can boast about how good we are, because it is only God who makes us good.  

There are many voices out there and it is important to realize that not all voices are geared to the same audience.  There are wonderful ladies who's ministry is to call other women who are believers to a Biblical role of motherhood and marriage.  There are some out there who's ministry is to bless those who are wounded with healing words of grace.  There are some voices who's ministry is to clarify doctrinal teachings to us and expose false teachings.  We cannot discredit any of them-they all have their place. 

For those of us who have experienced the transforming grace of God, we need to understand that God uses His children to speak truth to our hearts and lives.  We should not see it as a haughty thing, but rather, if we hear something that bothers us in our Spirit we need to evaluate whether or not it is true and then pray about whether or not it is the Spirit speaking into our lives.  Chances are, you will never hear God speak audibly to you!  And while we cannot "change" people, we can speak the truth that God has given us and let Him use it to penetrate and transform.  Chances are, if there is something bothering us about what someone has said, it is because there is a kernel of truth to it.  My friend Tina put it so well on Facebook when she said:

"When the righteousness of others convicts us, we need not allow it to become bitterness in our hearts turning us against the righteous.  Instead, we ought to allow it to push us closer to Jesus, resulting in righteousness in our hearts, turning us toward righteousness and thereby we gain/keep a friend. "

Ugh.  She was so right.  And many times I have let the words of others become bitterness in my heart.  My own pride and sinfulness tries to stand squarely in the way of my growth and a closer walk with Jesus.

If God is drawing you to Him and you have never made a commitment to Him, know that He is not concerned with what you have done.  He simply loves you and wants your heart.  Don't be concerned with "What I have to change to be a Christian"--it is only about faith.  But be prepared for a wild ride.  You can't change yourself, but God will transform you if you let Him! 

The purpose of this blog is to speak to both.  Both those who have a relationship with Jesus, and those who do not.  The reasons I write and share what God has done in my life is because God has used the words of others to penetrate my heart and push me on to righteousness.  It's not because I think I am more mature than others or have a better walk.  It is simply because there are those out there who were brave enough to risk my bitterness to tell me the truth.  I am eternally thankful for that. 

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

For When we Forget......

Do you ever have a have days when you forget whose you are?  I do.  Days when I think others don't understand me or really even know me.  It seems that God never fails to send me gentle reminders:

You are Mine!  My princess.  Don't spend your days fretting about what your life or what people think of you!  Your significance lies in Me, not in what you have accomplished or not accomplished.  Keep your eyes on Me love....

I wish I could say that I never feel hurt or frustration simply because I know whose I am.   I wish I could say that I never feel loneliness because God is my Father.  I wish I could say I never fear because my Father is sovereign.  But I do, because I am not home yet. 

Yet He leaves me gentle reminders.  In His Word.  Through His children who have opened up their lives to share their journey with me.  He draws me close and whispers remember, you are My child.  I will never leave you nor forsake you.  I have lifted up My Son for you--because I love you.  Stop trying to live in your own strength and simply find yourself in Me!  

"Come unto Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you REST!"

Sweet rest.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Words of Love

If you don't have anything nice to say-don't say anything at all.

How many times has your mother said that to you?  Just the other night I was having a discussion with my girls about etiquette.  I told them that a general rule of thumb (for which they giggled and giggled at the idea of a thumb ruling)  was that if a comment about someones appearance was edging it's way out, evaluate it to see if it is something positive or negative.  If it's negative, smash it down and smile and say something positive.

These days, with Facebook and other social media, our thoughts can be broadcast within seconds to over 300 people.  What one or two people might have normally heard becomes an announcement for the masses.    What we say, and how we say it are locked into cyberspace forever.  Over the last few years, I have learned much about what to say and what not to say.  Oh, I am not perfect (anyone that knows me knows that) but I have learned some important lessons. 

I want to share this with you all, and I want you to know that I am not condemning anyone, I am simply sharing what God has taught me.  (I dream of a world where we can do that and no one gets offended--maybe in the millennium...)

I believe that for Christians, our words should be dripping with love.  Why?  Because God has poured out His love on us.  We are really no more deserving than anyone else to receive His favor.  I remember telling my daughter that God loves Osama Bin Laden-even if Osama never returned His love.  God loved Jeffery Daumer (I didn't tell them about him!!) Even if Jeffery Daumer never returned that love.  The truth is, in order to love one another, we need to get over the idea that these people were or any worse than us in the eyes of God.  When we realize the depths of our own sin, and what Jesus did to redeem us from that~THAT is when we can begin loving others.  We don't deserve to be loved.  Period.  But we are.  Praise God!

This is not a dissertation on whether or not one sin is greater than another.  That's a deep subject and I am not going there.  The point is simply this:  before we trust Christ, we simply cannot please God (Hebrews 11:6)~every bit of righteousness is compared to a pile of filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6).  Then along comes this beautiful Savior and we learn, much to our relief,  that our pile of filthy rags don't matter because it's not about that.  It is about His sparkling white robe that He graciously clothes us with.  It's about grace.  It's about being loved when we are unlovable.  It, in return makes us want to love the unlovable~simply so that they can see the grace that Christ extends to us.

There are ideologies that are bad.  I believe that Osama had bad ideologies.  If fact, I believe that our own president has some bad ideologies.  Is it okay to discuss the difference in ideologies?  Okay~and essential for preserving what we have fought for in America.  But underneath those ideologies lie souls.  Eternal souls that have been wounded by sin.  Just like me.  And you. 

We are adept at using the grace card when we want to do something that we think God might not approve of.  "It's not about what I do!" we exclaim.  "It's all about grace-so don't judge me!"  But when we are quick to exclaim what others deserve we unwittingly make it about works instead of grace.  Bin Laden deserves to rot in hell.....hmmmm.. do I.....

But I won't.  How amazing.  How utterly amazing.

So, for what it might be worth to you, if I have ever been unloving to you I humbly seek your forgiveness.  And if you ever see me forget and start ranting about a person (not an ideology) then I expect you to let me know.  Remind me.  It's okay.  I am human and I forget.  But we are here to hold each other up.  To exhort one another to righteousness.  

I love you!

Monday, June 20, 2011

A God Who Loves You

Music is such a gift from God.  It penetrates us in ways that sometimes reading words on a page cannot.  This song is simply incredible to me.  I cry every time I hear it.  It expresses my heart, yet I cannot begin to express the gratefulness that I feel in return.

Oh, yes.  This is it.  This is why it's so real.

Here is a Chance to Help a Family Adopt a Little One!

I have so many friends who have talked at one time or another about adopting a child.  It seems that the thing that stands in the way is always money.  It's sad because there are so many kids out there who need loving families.  A friend sent me a link to this blog this morning.  Please look it over and consider purchasing or donating to help them out on their journey.

She makes adorable little onsies for babies, plus there is a store where you can shop and 40% of the proceeds goes to their adoption costs.  Please consider sharing this link on Facebook, or whatever social platform you use!

God Bless~

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

The Scarlet "A"

It's a nasty word.  We run from it.  We shun it.  We call it "judgmental."  We avoid it like the plague.


Non-believers hate it because it is scary to think that there is something or someone that we might be accountable to. 

Believers hate it because it is painful.

Yet it is a glorious tool that the Holy Spirit uses to shape and mold us into the image of the one who saved us. 

2 Timothy 3:16-17  "All Scripture is given by the inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work."  

I read an article on a blog a few weeks back.  I can't remember now which blog it was, probably The Gospel Coalition or The Resurgence.  I am sorry that I cannot give kudos to who it is due, but it was a point too great not to share.  The author was addressing those who were seeking positions in church leadership.  The very first piece of advice he gave to prospective leaders was to find a group of men/women to whom you can be accountable.  Find a group that will not be afraid to correct, rebuke, or instruct you.  Spend your first year of training with these people and be humble.  Then, and only then, will you be ready for leadership.


I thought that was incredible advice.  And I began to think: what if we are not in a leadership position?  Shouldn't we be doing the same?

I know from experience that the people who are the best equipped to correct, rebuke, and instruct are the hardest people to be around.  For a time, that is.  I *think* it gets easier as time goes on.  But I am not really sure.  I am still at the point in my life where I am acutely aware that I need that direction. 

But sometimes I think we get mixed up in the grace-accountability web.  We think that because it is not our works that save us, that the rest is unimportant.  I personally think that the rest is unimportant before we come to Christ, but after it is of the utmost importance for our spiritual growth and well-being.  Yet we (I) fight it with all the strength of a heavy-weight champion. 

I believe that it is all part of the war..  It makes us ineffective for the kingdom of Christ.  It blends us in with the world.

2 Timothy 4:2-4  "Preach the Word!  Be ready in season and out of season.  Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all long-suffering and teaching.  For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, (because) they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables."

I always appreciate the wisdom of others, and I would love to hear from you.  If you are a follower of Christ, what do you think about this matter?

Monday, June 6, 2011

The War

There is a war going on.  One that most are not aware of.  It is a war for the hearts and minds of God's people.  It is an all-time war--waged since the beginning of time.  It's blows render us ineffective for a time.  They are subtle, we really don't even notice most days.  True, we cannot see the warfare around us, but we feel the effects, and usually when it is too late.

In England, that war escalated recently.  What was once a "civil rights" struggle for one group has now become a freedom of speech-religion issue for another.  The problem is~  where do we draw the lines?  How do we speak up for what we believe in, and when do we stop speaking?  If you have not read the article, it talks about a street preacher being arrested for calling homosexuality a sin.  He was not violent.  He was not shouting hate speech.  He was simply sharing his beliefs, which is something that Christians do out of love and commandment. 

The war is going on behind the scenes in America.  Liberal law professors are working hard to outlaw the exclusive teaching of Christianity in our country.  After listening to Michael Farris speak at the Indiana Convention of Home Educators, I am more and more convinced that America's rights to freedom of religion are dwindling every year.  Farris read from papers published by these law "experts" that attempted to convey the threat of  the home school community on the future of America.  We are dangerous to them because we refuse to let them have our kids.  We indoctrinate them into Biblical theology, and teach them that Jesus is the only way to God.  (YES!!)  They can't have our kids for 40 hours a week to tell them any different.   We are raising a generation of dissenters.  Whether you believe it or not, there are many working hard behind the scenes to turn America into a Orwellian utopia.

So what can we do about it?  

Obviously, I am not an expert on anything.  But I do have an opinion.  And a blog.  And freedom of press--for now.

This is a tough war because the enemy is tricky.  He has successfully divided God's people.  We turn on each other.  As another blogger put it:  we shoot our own..  And the truth is, if we cannot stand unified as a body of believers, we will lose the civil right to spread the truth of Jesus in this country.  It might not be in my lifetime, but my children and grandchildren will suffer the effects.

The only way that revival will happen in our country is if it starts with the family.  Sure, we can go to church every Sunday.  We can even go on Wednesday nights.  We can drop our kids off at every program the church offers.  We've been doing that for years.  Statistically, 85% of our youth will leave the church at some point.  So how's that working for us?

The truth is that we have been brainwashed so much that we even question our own convictions to call sin, well sin.  We worry about hurting someone's feelings.  And in this day and is all about feelings.  We worry that we will come off as unloving, yet we fail to realize that true love always points the object of it's affection to truth.   We are afraid to share what God has done to radically transform our lives for fear of being called legalistic.  (true legalism does exist, and I realize that there are many people who have been hurt by it.--I do not endorse it.)  As a result, the church has become an institution that fails to recognize the fact that they have assimilated themselves into the "collective."  The same thing happened in Nazi Germany.  By the time people realized it, their Bibles had been replaced with Mein Kampf--and there was little they could do about it. 

At the current rate of decline in America, I believe that in my lifetime I will see many Christian things outlawed.  I have already seen hate crime legislation that sets Bible believing Christians up for persecution should they vocalize their belief about a particular sin.  I would not be surprised if my children are forbidden by law to home educate their own children, or even take them along to church if they resist. (for more insight check out my post 20 things you need to know about the CRC.)

Our first defense is always prayer.

2 Chronicles 7:14  "If my people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land."

Isn't humility what it is all about?  Can we really approach the Creator of the universe thinking that our ways are higher or better than His?

We have to ask ourselves:  How do we become a people who hunger and thirst for the righteousness of God, instead of our own man-made righteousness?  Then we need to ask:  Am I willing to stand for the truth of God no matter what persecution I might face?

If American believers cannot figure out where we are losing ground--and do it quickly--we will lose the freedoms that we enjoy and take for granted.  We need to stop what we are doing and take a look around us.  We need to know what we are fighting against and who our enemy is.  We are not battling flesh and blood here.  The only way revival will happen in our land is if it starts within the family.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

A God I Could Love.......

There are so many people around me struggling with hurts.

Some are reeling from abuse.
Some are recovering from the race of trying to just be good enough.

When our hearts have been wounded by the ones we love, we need refuge.  A safe place to hide from the condemnation. 
There is a safety in the arms of Jesus.

Jesus is not safe.

A life lived in relentless pursuit of Jesus will result in~
A relentless pursuit of our hearts and minds by the Holy Spirit.

Jesus Christ will not condemn us.  There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ.  That's God's promise to us.  

He also promises to transform us into His image.  He promises the Holy Spirit who is there to perform heart surgery on us.  

And it is painful sometimes.

But it is for His Kingdom.  His glory.
I cannot make God who I want Him to be.  I can't take the parts of Him that don't make sense to me and discard them.

God is God~and I am not.

I can only rest in the glory of His love and let Him do His work in me~knowing that He loves me, and I am His for eternity.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Beauty and Love

We all struggle with something.

For me it is insecurity and fear of rejection.
There.  I said it.

I have struggled with these things all of my life.  They have affected my relationships on almost every level.

Fear of really reaching out and connecting with someone.

What if they don't want to be my friend?
What will that say about me?

The truth is, most of us probably struggle with this on some level.  We worry about how other people perceive us.    

We worry that we will wear out our welcome. 

We worry that we are not loved the way we long to be.  
There is a love that desired and pursues us even when we are unlovely.  There is a friend who will hold on to us and see us through the insecurity.  A friend who loves loves at all times. 

A friend who helps us to love others where they are.  

And when we know that we have been loved right where we are, it is easier to give that love in return.

There is such beauty in the love of Jesus.  

We only need to open our eyes and look.

Open your eyes and look upon the handiwork of God.   Open your soul and feel the breath of glory all around~everywhere there's evidence of love... 

Death to the Old Man...I'm Coming Alive!!!

This is me favorite song.  I am new...not who I once was.  Surrendered to Christ--a work of the Holy Spirit.  I am loved--not because I am good, but because He is good!
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