Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Book Review: Ware's Big Truths for Young Hearts

Most people would not pick up this book and think of a seminary text book on theology (for example: Grudem, Erickson) - but this book is just as potent - just in paperback form!

Having the opportunity to work with Dr. Ware at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary was definitely a highlight for me during my time there. Seeing the humility and focus on the gospel in which he and his wife lived their lives was a light. The best part of the book, in a way, was the forward which was written by Ware's daughters. They provided insight into long road trips and family dinners they had with their Dad. Dr. Ware lives this theology book. He just doesn't teach it in the classroom or preach it from the pulpit; he and his wife model it for their children, even now as they are grown women. They have had a godly example from which to pattern their lives after and as they raise their children by teaching them Big Truths for Young Hearts.

There are multiple uses for this book (and no, one of them is not hand it to a 10 year old and have them give you a book report on it in a month):
1. Read it. Especially if you are a new believer, or know new believers, Dr. Ware puts many difficult theological concepts in terms and with illustrations to make them easier to comprehend.
2. If you are a Dad: read it, share it with your family - even a chapter a week - at family devotion time. It would be a source of encouragement and edification for you. Read the chapter (short 2-4 pages mostly), then have discussion. Makes family worship easier. The end of each chapter even has questions for discussion (so you don't have to come up with those on your own either). This would be a great tool for Family Worship.
3. Praise. Many times at the end of each chapter, Dr. Ware breaks into a doxology of sorts. The idea that he models here for his readers is that knowing who God is (and Christ, the Spirit, the Church, Man, Salvation, End Times) should warrant our utmost praise! Maybe even break into song!

What I loved about this book is that it gave me broad segments of theology, didn't try to cover everything, was readable, had Scripture within the text, and gave me many "pierce the heart" moments of conviction. Here are some:
"How foolish we are when we forget to read and study this book. But how wise and blessed we are when we go to this book constantly for instruction, guidance, correction, and help with living life as God wants." (p 23 - The Bible)
"A grumbling spirit is sinful, because it fails to recognize God's goodness and kindness in providing for us every good thing in life that we enjoy." (p 69 - God Provides)
"If our punishment is a small thing, then when we learn that Jesus took our punishment upon himself, we think little of this. But, when we see our punishment as the great and weighty and horrible thing that it is, then it becomes a wonder and a marvel to us that Jesus took that punishment upon himself for us." (p 99 - Punishment for Sin)
"The Spirit will have a great influence and will provide more direction in our lives as God's Word "dwells" more and more within us. Our reading of his Word, our time spend memorizing and meditating on Scripture, is one of the main tools that the Spirit uses to help us think, feel, speak, and act in ways that are more and more pleasing to Christ." (p 167 - Spirit)
"We love many things in this world that we shouldn't love, yet we don't love God as we should." (p 171 - God's Kindness and Wisdom)
Believe me, there are many other sentences and paragraphs underlined in my copy. Read it. May it be an encouragement to you and may it be a tool you can use to help lead your family in knowing God deeper.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Redeeming the Time (Guest Post)

I don't know of any woman (single, married, young, not as young, with kids, no kids) who will tell me that she is not busy. We have iPhones, calendars, outlook, post-it notes, etc to help keep us organized! Unfortunately, every day we live, most of us are just getting busier.

There are many Scriptures that tell us how to redeem our time - in every area of life. But, I want to concentrate on your time at home today.

There are a few books that have helped me see this reality a bit clearer: Girls Gone Wise, Shopping for Time, and The Gentle Ways of a Beautiful Woman. Of course there are more, but these three come to mind.

I want to live most of my life at home. Ok, yes, I work a full time job, in ministry, so that often means that it is well over 40 hours and even when at home I'm doing work for work. However, since i've been here, that has not been a reality for me. Some of the personal disciplines that I had in Louisville have not translated well to Raleigh living. Why - busy-ness and lack of strategical planning my day.

My friend Courtney wrote a fantastic blog post on her site about how the Spirit is sanctifying her in this area right now:

"Today has been a lazy day. And boy, do I like it! About a month or two ago a dear friend encouraged me to examine my schedule and cut things out that took me away from my husband and my home. As she wisely observed, I had begun to fill my evenings, and even my Saturdays, with a lot of other things that had very little to do with my husband. I had assumed that since he was studying I could just do whatever I wanted. He didn't need me around, right? Well, what happened was these other things became overwhelming. Suddenly, I was just away from home too much, but I was exhausted and moody when I was home. Not good."

To read the rest...go visit Courtney:

Here are a few exhortations from Scripture:

Prov 31.10, 15, 27: "An excellent wife, who can find? She is far more precious than jewels. She rises while it is yet night, and provides food for her household and portions for her maiden. She looks well to the ways of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness."

These commands and characteristics of the excellent wife (or excellent woman as Carolyn McCulley points out and illustrates in her book Did I Kiss Marriage Goodbye) will look different depending on what life stage you are currently in. But, each of us must strive, in and through grace, to live these out. God has given us His Word to live out by the strength of His grace for his fame and glory in the world (or in our home, or to our friends, or our husbands).

May you be strengthened in His grace today!

Friday, April 23, 2010

Book Review: Our Home is Like a Little Church

Sojourn Community Church in Louisville, KY is graced to have many talented people in her body. There are artists, writers, singers, players, cookers, - so many.
What I really like about this one is it a simple reminder (complete with rhyming syntax, fun type, and creative characters) of what "worship-at-home" could look like.
Often, in this discussion of family worship, people ask "How do I do that?' There isn't anything you MUST do to have family worship or have to incorporate for it to be right. If you aren't singers, you don't have to sing. If you aren't into poetry, you don't have to have a reading time. Family Worship can start simply by just reading 10 verses, talking about it, and praying together as a family. Maybe that will take 10 minutes. Maybe you will do that once a month. Maybe you'll do it once a week. The simple equation: just do something. Maybe you are gifted at the guitar or piano or writing songs or creative motions - incorporate those. There is so much freedom in this concept of family worship. Maybe your children love to draw - show them how their drawings can be an act of worship - as they share with the family what God taught them through that practice.
Sojourn tries to remind parents that they should be taking the lead in family worship, that the Dad should be shepherding his family in this way (just as the Pastor would do at the church). An underlying theological truth that is hinted at is that male leadership is a right Biblical concept. This is stated in their goal of this book: "was written to teach preschool children the Christian truth evident...that the home is a little church where the father teaches his family God's commands and leads them to worship the one true God."
And in accomplishing this goal very well, Sojourn also puts forth the co-championing model of Family Worship: "God intended the home to be the front line of ministry to children - not the Sunday School or public church gathering ALONE." This is even intentional throughout the book as on one side of the page there is what we do in church and on the adjacent side if what we do at home.
One critique: this is more of a cultural one. Unfortunately, many marriages/families even within evangelical churches are lead by a single mother. Whether that is by divorce/separation/never present father/unwed teen moms/death - the reality is clear and present. The book is designed to appeal to "cookie cutter" Christian families. How does this work when given to a single Mom who is at her rope's end because her kids are driving her crazy with all the other demands of being a single parent? One way to use this would be to give it to her, but then do a couple things:
1. Pray (with her) that God would give her strength and grace to accomplish this task of raising her children and discipling them in the fear and admonition of the Lord.
2. Pair her up with another Mom (single or married) who is leading well in this area.
3. Don't just send her on her way - make sure she is being cared for, loved on, and nurtured.

This book would be an excellent, inexpensive tool to share with new parents, or new parents in your preschool ministry at your church - about what you expect of them as parents and leading the way in Family Worship.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Winner's Mudhouse Sabbath

There is more to this book than just a cool title.
My friend Janel had this book at her apt when I went to visit in January. I had just started reading through the Bible doing B90x (which I'm still doing by the way) and this aided in my understanding of some of the Jewish laws. With all the fun that we had that wknd, I only got about halfway through it before I left (I'm not a fast reader). But, I was so intrigued by it that I had to pick it up later and finish it. I just did.
This book was helpful in learning more about the laws and customs of Judaism, modern and ancient. This was helpful in seeing a Christian Jew live out her faith but not be under the obligations of the law. Helped to see how community and the law are so important to folks who are devout Jews.
Winner covers many different aspects: food, the sabbath, hospitality, death, doorposts, weddings, candles, etc. All offered insight into what was practiced, what is still being practiced, and how a Christian can incorporate these practices into her life.
On Fasting: "People who have fasted for years tell me there will come a time when I look forward to fasting." (88). Man - this is hard. I remember in recent churches I have been in when the pastors would call the church to a corporate fast. I would try to do it. Most of the tie, I did it out of trying to please certain pastors. Not in an effort to pray and seek the face of God as part of the beautiful Bride of Christ. So, I did it more out of pride, man-pleasing, and legalism and I always failed at it.
On Fasting: "When I am sated, it is easy to feel independent. When I am hungry, it is possible to remember where my dependence lies." (91) This applies to more than just food. Yes, food is the way Lauren talks about it here - but more recently I come to recognize this in finances and material goods. God has been more than gracious to me in so many ways and there is nothing for which I want. But, even toward the end of the month where I have to be more careful and rely on him for guidance on spending and scheduling - I realize that I need to do that all through the month and not just the last week. God is good.
On Aging: "Christianity and Judaism both offer narratives that make sense of death." (101). A few months ago I thought about this paragraph (yes, before I read it). There were a coupld of deaths in my life that occurred all in a short span of time. And I was also helping others through greiving, etc. I started to think that we would never understand death. I came to the conclusion that we were never meant to understand death because we weren't created with death in mind. Adam and Eve were created to live with God in the garden in perfect harmony forever. Then...SIN. Sin is what brought death. God made a way to conquer death - but He never said he would explain it to us.
On Candles: "Even when I am lighiting two thin tapers over dinner, I like to think about the light of Christ rectifying the sin by which came death to the world. The Light of Christ, I sometimes say to myself, Thanks be to God." (119) Most of the time when we have lit candles in our homes they are to create ambience or help eliminate odor. I wonder what would happen if Glade or Yankee Candle Co started marketing to Christians as way a remember this Light of the World. Probably what would be the result is some cheezy fish candle or cross candle just like Testamints or other silly things like that. But, what would happen if we lit candles in our home and made it an intential part of that lighting to thank God for sending the Light of the World to use so that we could behold his glory and truth?

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Greg Gilbert's What is the Gospel?

This book has received so much coverage in the blogosphere - probably since Crazy Love. I picked up this book as soon as it came out - and just finished it. I got to be friends with Greg and his wife, Moriah, while attending the same church in Louisville, KY a few years ago. They both lived out much of this book in their friendship with me: whether it was attending their son's soccer game, eating at the Homemade Pie and Ice Cream Kitchen, or just chilling in their home, or serving hot dogs to the 3rd avenue neighbors.
Greg, at the very beginning, explains his goals for writing this book (I like that, I don't need to wonder what they are). Here is my paraphrase of them:
1. Bring more joy to Christians. "An emaciated gospel leads to emaciated worship." (20) As one of the guys I serve with said this morning, us knowing our sin more (being made more aware of how sinful we are), we will indeed know the gospel - how good and amazing God is - more.
2. Evangelistic. Greg does not suppose that everyone reading this book is a believer. This would be a great book to read in a new believers/interested in Christianity class at a church. 8 chapters - that 2 months, or over the summer, its not overwhelming!
3. Community. "Also, Christian, the gospel should drive you to a deeper and livelier love for God's people, the church." (117) Very clearly we see the need for this in our local body. There are many factions within most local churches. So many do not know those they serve with - or sit next to Sunday after Sunday. This means more than just shaking their hand during the very awkward "greet" time. This means pouring into the lives of those you "do church" with. Get to know them - hear their heartbeat, know what drives them.
4. Clarity. A few months ago there was this "competition" on Twitter to post the gospel in less than 140 characters. how difficult is that? That even paved the way for this goal of Greg's - we need to KNOW what the gospel is and be able to articulate it to a lost and dying world - or confused church attenders.
5. Apologetics. Wow, what a great tool this would be on a college campus - for use in a small group, dorm Bible study. Just having it out on your nightstand or coffee table, or in your car (to read at traffic lights or coffee shops) would definitely open up the door wide for conversations.
These 5 goals of Greg's are clearly met in every chapter of this book. I highly recommend it. Below are some more personal thoughts I have had while reading it:
There is a post-it note on my vanity mirror right now at home - its been up there 10 days, and as I was reminded of it by someone this morning - I think it will stay up there: Jonah 2:8-9: paraphrased: if I cling to worthless idols, I forfeit my hope of steadfast love - by the Savior of the world. Greg puts it like this: "For human beings to consider their Creator and then decide that a wood or metal image of a frog or a bird or even themselves is more valuable is that height of insult and rebellion against God." (29)
Almost immediately after starting my new ministry here in Raleigh, I heard this verse from one of the pastors - Greg writes it here - from 1 Corinthians 15: paraphrased: Christ died for our sins is of UTMOST importance - but He is not still dead - He lives - so we can live too!
As we think about goals and life dreams (not just at New Years or Birthdays): "They had goals and desires that were categorically opposed to what God desired for them, and so they sinned." (50). Do you ever stop to wonder and pray and seek God's face to ask him if the goals you have and the goals He has for you are the same? One of those things that would be good to know!

Thanks Greg for writing this!

Sunday, April 04, 2010

Death is Dead and other Real Thoughts

This is not a blog post particularly on Easter, I am just writing it on Easter Sunday afternoon - so some of it has come from thinking on this day.
A lot has taken place in the last week.
True Woman Conference 10 in Chattanooga
Moving out of Louisville, KY and leaving a job I've loved for 2.7 years
Moving back HOME to Raleigh, NC. I love the Triangle.
Driving 9 hours with a great friend following my Dad.
Being welcomed by so many to Providence Baptist Church.
Worshipping this morning for Easter at my new church home and not feeling like a guest.
These are some of my thoughts on that:
1. The unconditional love of God the Father. I learned that this week more. I guess it was on Friday morning, I was getting ready to head to get my hair cut, fixing breakfast for Dad and I. He said "I know it may not always seem it, but I love you." I replied, "I don't know why, I don't always show it back to you." Right as soon as those words came out of my mouth, I knew that I had in a sense declared the gospel to my Dad. God the Father loves me unconditionally - all the time, even when I don't see it, don't feel it, or definitely don't deserve it. He loves me during the times I disrespect him, ignore him, don't want to spend time with Him, etc.
2. The Body of Christ. This wins out over Facebook. I had a amazing help by 6 guy friends in the ville for moving me out so quickly - 45 minutes. And Rachael pretty much hands down cleaned my whole apt as I was directing the guys and saying my goodbyes. But, earlier in the week I had no clue how I was going to get all my stuff in my apt. I had very little help. By the time I got to the apt on Tuesday, I had about 10 people helping - and we finished it in about 25 minutes. Some were friends, some only stayed 5 minutes because there wasn't anything else to be done, but the peeps who did most of the work were people I didn't even know. They just wanted to help. This, my friends, is what the Body does for other members of the Body - and to people not in the Body.
3. "Death is dead." I love this line from a Getty song. I mean think about it. If the wages of sin is dead - then it is dead. Dead. Not half alive, not in a coma. The empty tomb conquered death for us for eternity. Does that mean we still won't sin? No. But, it means that sin has no more dominion over us. When I struggle with the sin of impatience, overeating, laziness, comparison, judgmentalism, coveting, pride, putting Christ last - He has won all those and I need no longer struggle with them. My Mom was talking about this on the phone while I was traveling home. All we have is Christ - as the New Attitude band song says.
4. We have victory every day. Pastor David preached on this this morning. We have victory over sin on Easter. But, we also have victory over sin on Monday, on January 3, on Dec 25, on July 16 - 365 days a year. There is not a day where we should live in the defeated dejection of sin. Christ's love is better than that life.
5. We are all sinners. As I was loving on babies this morning at the 930 hour - I had some cute ones. It was very interesting to see them during snack time. We laid out a sheet and sat them all down, poured cheerios in front of them. They immediately looked at what the other kids received and went for their's. I guarantee their parents haven't trained them to be stealers, coveting, envious, prideful, selfish toddlers. No. But, sin is by nature. This is why we have to teach the gospel so early! We are by nature all sinners, deserving of death, being loved and shown mercy by a gracious God. PTL. And just for the record, I enjoyed holding Rachel and Judah in my lap for most of time. Judah - that kid - gotta love him. We snuggled!
6. I have loved most parts of my life the past 2.7 years. Louisville - the friends, the job, and the restaurants - will definitely be missed. I have great friends there. But, there are other parts that won't be missed so much - that were extremely hard.
7. God has graciously blessed. The last 6 months in this transition have been hard at time, but most of the time I have seen and known the peace of God and known His blessing and hand of direction on this! I will see a dream fulfilled tomorrow - a prayer request I've had for 7 years (since graduating seminary). Even as I look out my porch right now - knowing there is pollen covering my car, knowing there will be tough times, knowing that there will be many times I will feel lonely and over my head, overwhelmed by the task at hand. I do know that God's hand and glory all over this. I can't wait.
I look forward to seeing what my life looks like - as it is lived out for his glory. Thankful for the cross!