Saturday, December 28, 2013

Choosing Forgiveness (Book Review)

The reality is, in this sinful world we will be hurt. We will be sinned against. We will be disappointed. When painful circumstances come, how do we handle our hurt? Some, like myself, have an easier time letting go of things, but even then, deep down, there are still traces of bitterness that linger and build up over time. It has been said that our emotions affect our physical health and well-being. An emotionally healthy person is a whole person. Feelings of anger and bitterness will eventually wear down the body mentally and physically. How do we deal with these feelings? We go to the root. Where there are feelings of anger and bitterness, there’s usually a heart of unforgiveness that needs to be dealt with. Nancy Leigh DeMoss does a wonderful job in this book discussing these, acknowledging that pain is real, but yet not excusing our responsibility in how we respond to circumstances in our lives. She shares several stories with varied circumstances where individuals had to choose to forgive despite their pain and loss and at the end of each chapter are follow-up questions to apply what you’ve read.

She discusses bitterness and how to recognize when it has crept into your heart. In connection with this, a question that lingers throughout the book is, who is really being hurt by the bitterness, anger and unforgiveness in your heart? By holding another person hostage by our unforgiveness, we are holding ourselves captive as well. She compares it to “drinking poison and hoping someone else would die” (p. 50). Bitterness often feels good, it’s like a safety-zone. But “it’s a fall-back position doomed to failure… the cure for bitterness is to trust both His hand and His heart and to ‘draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that [you] may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need’ (Heb 4:16, NASB).” (p. 79)

She also reminds us that “forgiven people forgive others” but that “even forgiven people can struggle to forgive”. (p. 69) Ultimately though, our unforgiveness comes back to our relationship with God and our understanding of His forgiveness. She also reminds us that it is only God’s grace that we are enabled with the strength to forgive, even when we don’t feel like it. It’s a choice, not a feeling. But not usually just a one-time choice; we have to choose over and over again to let it go. It does not have to be a process, it’s something you practice. She writes, “I believe that, as a rule, the point of forgiveness is followed by a process of healing and restoration – not the other way around.” (p. 176)

Do we need to “forgive ourselves”? What about “forgiving God”? These are things she discusses as well. In chapter 6 she discusses anger towards God which is often the heart of anger towards others. She answers questions about how we deal with those feelings and what our attitude should be towards God in spite of our trials. Knowing that God is sovereign in our trials gives us hope – there is a goal and an end in sight! We can trust Him and we must trust that He has a purpose in our trial, yes, even this. Even Jesus was “perfected through suffering,” (see Hebrews 2:10) and so are we.

I found this book immensely helpful. It was convicting but so encouraging! A must-read for all Christians, no matter where you are in life – if it doesn’t help you now, it will at some point and also equip you to help others.

"But I say to you who hear: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, and pray for those who spitefully use you.” (Luke 6:27-28, NKJV)

Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord: looking carefully lest anyone fall short of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up cause trouble, and by this many become defiled…  (Heb 12:14-15, NKJV)

Monday, December 23, 2013

The Jefferson Lies (Book Summary)

 “My views… [are] very different from the anti-Christian system imputed to me by those who 
know nothing of my opinions.” – Thomas Jefferson, The Jefferson Lies p. 83

We should be interested in truth. Unfortunately, the world is interested in promoting and advancing its own worldview and to accomplish that it is willing to twist the facts and even re-write history. It is important that we examine the facts and know the truth about the history of the United States, and about our founding fathers. It tell us what this country was founded upon and what its values were. Thomas Jefferson is one that is most often dismissed today as racist, secular, anti-Christian and worse. David Barton wrote a book called, The Jefferson Lies – exposing the myths you’ve always believed about Thomas Jefferson. In it he specifically examines 7 things about Jefferson that are told as factual by most universities and scholars in America today. If they are true, it raises some serious questions about the man who had a key role in the founding of our country, and if false, than we have a real hero in Thomas Jefferson that we should greatly admire and honor.

I will give the “7 Lies” here and briefly describe the facts surrounding them. I would highly recommend you get and read the book for yourself though – don’t just take my word for it.  ( ) You should note that the book was originally published by Thomas Nelson, but they pulled it because of "historical errors". It is my opinion that while Barton probably tried a little too hard to make Jefferson more orthodox (this really only comes out in chapter 7), the bulk of the book is addressing the lies that he had no real Christian or Biblical values or character. Thus, I still found it very interesting and helpful.

Lie #1: Thomas Jefferson Fathered Sally Hemings’ children. There is no evidence to prove this, and actually all DNA testing has shown that Thomas Jefferson was absolutely not the father of two of her children (which are the two that have most often been claimed are). This chapter explains where this lie first came from and the research and testing done to examine it.

Lie #2: Thomas Jefferson founded a secular university. Not true. The university he helped to start (the University of Virginia) was merely the first university that was not associated with a particular denomination. It was in fact America’s first trans-denominational school but was not secular by any means, in fact, it was quite the opposite. He designated a building in the center of the campus to be used for religious worship and he actually invited seminaries of various denominations to establish groups on the campus. He explained,

“We suggest the expediency of encouraging the different religious sects [denominations] to establish, each for itself, a professor ship of their own tenets on the confines of the university so near as that the students may attend lectures there and have the free use of our library and every other accommodation we can give them… [B]y bringing the sects [denominations] together and mixing them with the mass of other students, we shall soften their asperities [harshness], liberalize and neutralize their prejudices [prejudgment without an examination of the facts], and make the general religion a religion of peace, reason and morality.” (see p. 48)

He also wrote that “the students of the university will be free and expected to attend religious worship at the establishment of their respective sects.” (see p. 54) That is hardly secular!

Lie #3: Thomas Jefferson wrote his own Bible and edited out things he didn’t agree with.
Thomas Jefferson did not write his own “Bible”. He did however, write an abridgement of the New Testament as a translation for the Indians (made it simple for them to be able to read it), and he also had a book he wrote (for his personal use only) that was basically just all the “red letters” of Jesus speaking from the Gospels so that he could focus just on the words of Jesus. However, in neither of these writings did Jefferson omit facts, miraculous events, etc. (see p. 67&ff) To say he wrote his own Bible is simply a very large exaggeration.

Lie #4: Thomas Jefferson was a racist who opposed equality for black Americans. He was not racist in the least! One argument that people will use is that Jefferson didn’t even free his slaves upon his death (unlike George Washington, although I’ve heard him condemned nonetheless). The short answer for this is that he couldn’t because of Virginia state law at the time, but he wrote to a friend that he wished he could. There’s context of history and the culture of the times to understand in all of this as well and we shouldn’t rush to conclusions. (More on this on pages 91-93.) From Jefferson’s own pen:

“The whole commerce between master and slave is… the most unremitting despotism on the one part, and the degrading submissions on the other… And with what execrations [denunciations] should the statesman be loaded who permit[s] one half the citizens thus to trample on the rights of the other… And can the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed their only firm basis – a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are of the gift of God? … Indeed I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just, that His justice cannot sleep forever… [T]he way, I hope, [is] preparing under the auspices of Heaven for a total emancipation.” (see p. 102)

You can also read of Jefferson’s advocacy for escaped slaves, his petitions for anti-slavery laws and his reaction to the Missouri compromise in this chapter. Quite enlightening.

Lie #5: Thomas Jefferson advocated a secular public square through the separation of church and state. I was already aware that in our modern society Jefferson’s “separation of church and state” clause that he wrote in a letter in 1802 (to the Danbury Baptists in Connecticut) has often been taken out of context and used so as to keep religion out of the public square.  What Jefferson intended by that phrase was that the government had no right to put limitations on the free exercise of religion. In fact, he himself advocated Christian morality and principles to be laws. This can be proved by his actions as a statesman, Governor and President. Thomas Jefferson introduced several bills in the Virginia legislature including (see p. 131):
-A bill for punishing disturbers of religious worship and Sabbath breakers.
-A bill for appointing days of fasting and prayer.
-A bill annulling marriages prohibited by Levitical law and appointing the mode of solemnizing lawful marriage.
-A bill for saving the property of the church heretofore by law established.

Also, as Governor of Virginia, he signed several bills into law that reflected Biblical morality and instituted that everyone taking an oath of office should say “So help me God.” (see p. 132)

Another interesting fact is that two days after Jefferson wrote the famous letter to the Danbury Baptists, he arranged for a Baptist ministry named John Leland to preach at the church at the Capitol (and that’s another thing - yes, Jefferson was the one who helped to form that church that met in the federal capitol building!). David Barton writes this about this event: “Didn’t Jefferson understand the ‘separation’ doctrine that he had just penned? Of course he did, and he understood that the separation prohibited the government from preventing a religious expression, which is why having church in the Capitol was completely acceptable.” (see p. 151, emphasis his)

Lie #6: Thomas Jefferson detested the clergy. That doesn’t make a lick of sense based on the paragraph above. Jefferson regularly invited clergy to speak at the church in the Capitol. The clergy he “detested” were a few in the northern states who wrote and spoke blatant lies about him! Context again… (see p. 141&ff)

Lie #7: Thomas Jefferson was an atheist and not a Christian. He most certainly was NOT an atheist… this is one of the most ridiculous lies out there as it can very easily be proven otherwise. Jefferson also was NOT a deist – he believed in a very personal God. While at the end of the life he was following some “Progressive” (Unitarian-type) beliefs, he always maintained and held fast to his belief in God. (see p. 165&ff)  While his orthodoxy may be somewhat questionable, Jefferson did have a profoundly Christian worldview. And if you want to know who were most fundamental in shaping Jefferson’s thinking you can find out in his own words: “Bacon, Newton and Locke… [are] my trinity of the three greatest men the world had ever produced.” (see p. 38) All three of these men were solid, Biblical Christians.  

Truth needs to be sought out. Let us seek to find it out. For further study you can read Jefferson's works at this website:

Additional Note: For a great book on George Washington read George Washington’s Sacred Fire by Peter Lillback. It is a whopping 725 pages (not including the additional 10 Appendix’s and then over two hundred pages of footnotes, in small font!), but gives you tons of information and writing by Washington himself to argue that he was indeed a Christian and not a deist like many claim. I have read it, and it's very good!

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Reading List! (December 1, 2013)

It is not the number of books you read, nor the variety of sermons you hear, nor the amount of religious conversation in which you mix, but it is the frequency and earnestness with which you meditate on these things till the truth in them becomes your own and part of your being, that ensures your growth.   – Frederick W. Robertson

Finished this month:

The Hobbit by J.R. Tolkien
This made me anticipate the 2nd movie of the Trilogy coming out this month! But, I must say, I still like The Lord of the Rings a lot better.

A Gospel Primer by Milton Vincent
This was such a great book – one I think every Christian MUST read! It’s the Gospel – very simply explained and laid out! It’s great resource to keep nearby and review often!
“The more I absorbed I am in the Gospel, the more grateful I become in the midst of my circumstances, whatever they may be.” (p. 47)

That Jesus was willing His life to lay down,
Be scourged and insulted and wear thorny crown
For one such as I who had spited God so,
Amazes and blesses and makes me to know
That greater a lover is no man than He,
Who laid down His life for a sinner like me! (p. 78)

Are Miraculous Gifts For Today? – Four Views by Wayne Grudem
This was a really interesting and enlightening book. I’ll omit my personal convictions, and quote Grudem, “…the question as to which view is most faithful to Scripture, I now leave to the reader to decide.” (p. 15) I will say though, that my favorite part of the book was Wayne Grudem’s conclusion at the very end.

The Bookends of the Christian Life by Jerry Bridges & Bob Bevington
This was a really excellent book – I highly recommend it! It’s about how we must base all of live on two crucial “bookends”: The righteousness of Christ & the power of the Holy Spirit. Jerry Bridges is one of my top favorite authors and I got the privilege of meeting and hearing him speak this past month…. That was pretty great!
“Because we have a natural tendency to look within ourselves for the basis of God’s approval or disapproval, we must make a conscious daily effort to look outside of ourselves to the righteousness of Christ, then to stand in the present reality of our justification.” (p. 30)
“Just as (we) must look outside of (ourselves) to Christ’s righteousness for (our) standing before God, (we) must also look outside of (ourselves) to the power of the Holy Spirit for (our) strength to live the Christian life.” (p. 83)

Currently Reading:
When I Don’t Desire God – How to Fight for Joy by John Piper* (I read this one a few years ago, and have picked it up again!)
Jefferson Lies – exposing the myths you’ve always believed about Thomas Jefferson by David Barton
Addictions – A Banquet in the Grave by Edward T. Welch (I’m reading this as a study with a friend, so it may take longer to get through.)

Additional books I want to finish this month:
Temptation by John Owen*
Choosing Forgiveness by Nancy Leigh DeMoss*
Does God Desire All to Be Saved? by John Piper
Hole in Our Holiness by Kevin DeYoung

*an addition from last month’s log.

Monday, November 25, 2013

One Thing

Psalm 27:4 - One thing I have desired of the Lord, that will I seek: That I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to inquire in His temple. (NKJV)

 I was working on memorizing Psalm 27 recently and one night while reciting and meditating on it, the Lord stopped me in my tracks with one phrase from verse 4: “One thing I have desired of the Lord, that will I seek…”

“One thing I have desired…” Just one. Not two, not many things, one thing. Then the question came, “Daughter, what one thing do you desire of Me?”

I have had experience many times of my heart being “smote” and it happened again in this moment. I knew in an instant that my “one thing” was not purely what David’s was, that is, “…that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to inquire in His temple.” In other words, David’s “one thing” was simply to walk in deep fellowship with God. That was all he wanted, and nothing else mattered. Of course, it’s not like I didn’t want that, but I realized that yet again, I desired something else a little more than God Himself.

Idolatry is incredibly subtle. It sneaks its way into our hearts, often simply taking a good thing and loving it just a little too much. It takes over our attention and thoughts, it makes us excited and passionate… but it’s not HIM. And anything that comes between us and God is sinful.

In the Old Testament, God did not dwell with His people as He does now. In order to be in God’s presence you had to go to the Temple. But now, we have the Spirit of God living in us. But just because we have the amazing blessing of God living in us does not mean we have practical fellowship with Him. To have fellowship is to have a close relationship. With God it involves a renouncing of other “lovers” and a dependence solely on Him. Just like any other relationship it takes effort and time, but we easily get distracted by other things. To walk in fellowship with God means a daily (more like hourly) commitment to pursuing that relationship first and foremost. But it's worth it, for He is infinitely better than anything else we could desire.

May this be our daily prayer...

One thing I have earnestly desired of You, Lord, and that I will seek and pursue: That I may truly live and walk in Your presence all the days of my life, to behold more and more of Your beauty and great worth and to walk in close fellowship with You.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Others May, You Cannot

Others May, You Cannot
By G.D. Watson

If God has called you to be really like Jesus He will draw you into a life of crucifixion and humility. God’s call will put such demands of obedience on you that you will not be able to follow other people, or measure yourself by other Christians. At times, He will let other people do things which He will not let you do.

Other Christians who seem very religious will push themselves, pull wires, and work schemes to carry out their plans. You cannot, and if you attempt it, you will meet with failure and rebuke from the Lord.

Others may boast of themselves, of their work, of their successes, but the Holy Spirit will not allow you to do any such thing, and if you begin it, He will lead you to despise yourself and all your good works.

Others may be allowed to succeed in making money, or may have a legacy left to them, but it is likely God will keep you poor. God wants you to have something far better than gold, namely, a helpless dependence upon Him, that He may demonstrate His faithful love for you in supplying your needs day by day.

God may let others be honored and put forward, and keep you hidden in obscurity in order to produce some fragrant fruit for His coming glory which can only be produced in the shade. He may let others be great, but keep you small. He may let others do a work for Him and get the credit for it now. The reward for your work is held in the hands of Jesus and you will not see it until He comes.

The Holy Spirit will put a strict watch over you with a jealous love. He will rebuke you for the little words and feelings or for wasting your time. So make up your mind that God is an infinite Sovereign, and has a right to do as He pleases with His own. He does not owe you an explanation of these mysteries. But if you give yourself to be His child, He will wrap you up in a jealous love, and give you the precious blessings for those who belong, heart and soul, to Him.

Settle it forever, then, that you are to deal directly with the Holy Spirit. It is His option to tie your tongue, or chain your hand, or close your eyes in ways that He does not seem to use with others. And when you are so possessed by the living God that your heart delights over this peculiar, personal, private, jealous guardianship and management of the Holy Spirit over your life, you will have found the vestibule of Heaven.

This essay was originally written as a tract by G.D. Watson (lived 1845-1924). 

Friday, November 1, 2013

Reading List (November 2013)

I finished all 3 books I was reading/started last month, and I read 2 more short ones and have started on the next ones! :-D  My goal now is about one book a week, although I tend to read multiple books at once! However, I am reminding myself not to neglect my Bible reading (or do a little less because I’m reading other things). Bible first!!! Also, this month I am doing a 30-day devotional from the back of Nancy Leigh DeMoss’ book Choosing Gratitude. Very appropriate for November! 

Recently Finished:
The Power of Prayer in a Believer’s Life by C.H. Spurgeon.
Excellent! Very convicting. J I love reading Spurgeon, I am so inspired by his passion! Favorite quote:  “If you would reach to something higher than ordinary experience, look to the Rock that is higher than you, and look with the eye of faith through the windows of importunate prayer. To grow in experience, there must be much prayer.”

The Gospel Call & True Conversion by Paul Washer.
A very solid Biblical exploration of conversion and what the life of a true believer should look like. Really thorough explanations on what it means to believe, receive Christ, and receiving Him as Savior AND Lord, what regeneration is (chapter 9), and the whole book is packed with God’s promises to complete His work that He began in us.
Favorite quote: “The goal of the Christian life is the pursuit of an intimate knowledge of God that leads to a greater estimation of His worth, a greater satisfaction and joy in His person, and a greater giving of oneself for His glory. As the old catechism states, ‘Man’s chief end is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever’.” p. 16-17

When People Are Big and God is Small by Edward T. Welch.
This is a really helpful, practical book! This was my 2nd time reading this one! It’s a great resource for helping you see God as greater than yourself and your feelings, as well as other people, trials and circumstances. I highly recommend it!
Favorite quote: “To look to Christ to meet our perceived psychological needs is to Christianize our lusts. We are asking God to give us what we want so we can feel better about ourselves, or so we can have more happiness, not holiness, in our lives.”

The Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness by Tim Keller.*
Short little book, but excellent! I SO need to think about myself less!
Favorite quote:  “The essence of Gospel-humility is not thinking more of myself or thinking less of myself, it is thinking of myself less.”

Trusting the Shepherd – Insights from Psalm 23 by Haddon Robinson*
Another short book – a really insightful exploration of the 23rd Psalm.
Favorite quote: “We don’t need courage to fight our own spiritual battles. We have an enemy not made of blood and flesh, an enemy we cannot see or touch. He is an enemy who would destroy us if he could. What kind of courage does a Christian need? We need courage to trust the Shepherd. If we know that He is nearby, we simply trust ourselves to Him and go back to grazing again. And that takes courage!” (p. 70)

Currently Reading:
The Hobbit by J.R. Tolkien*
A Gospel Primer by Milton Vincent*
Are Miraculous Gifts For Today? – Four Views by Wayne Grudem
Addictions – A Banquet in the Grave by Edward T. Welch* (I’m reading this as a study with a friend, so it may take longer to get through.)

Next books I want to read:
Jefferson Lies – exposing the myths you’ve always believed about Thomas Jefferson by David Barton
Hole in Our Holiness by Kevin DeYoung
The Bookends of the Christian Life by Jerry Bridges
Accidental Pharisees – Avoiding Pride, Exclusivity, and Other Dangers of Overzealous Faith by Larry Osborne

*an addition from last month’s log.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

What I’ve Learned or Observed From Strange Fire

Regarding John MacArthur’s Strange Fire conference, there have been some things I’ve learned and observed over the last few weeks. I’m going to do my best to write this without entirely “hanging out the flag” of my particular theological beliefs… so here it goes:

  1. John MacArthur has a very loyal following. Now, I really like John MacArthur. I have been very blessed through many of his books and he’s a great expositor. I’m just saying it was amazing to me how many people were defensive of John MacArthur simply because he is John MacArthur. God forbid he could be wrong! There’s a joke that he’s the “evangelical pope” but unfortunately that is actually true among some people.
  2. He’s not the only one… there are some pretty loyal Mark Driscoll fans too that stood by him even though he exaggerated the truth (i.e. “lied”). I’ll go out on a limb here and admit that I actually like Driscoll too (to an extent), but he’s still got some growing-up to do. And those who applauded him for making a scene have some maturing to do too.
  3. I was reminded that no one is right. That is, no one person or group is completely accurate in their theology or actions. Mark Driscoll shouldn’t have “crashed the party”, Grace-To-You could have done the conference a whole lot better (narrower focus? more unifying? more grace?), many those reacting to the conference could have been more gracious (although there’s a number who have done a good job at this), and many those on both sides should have done more homework/stayed more within Scripture context and not been so led by their presuppositions, etc.
  4. Fire causes sparks… and they can potentially start more fires. Grace-to-You was attempting contain the true fire into one and smother the false ones, but in the process I think they actually sparked more fires. If their goal was to bring more people into believing cessationism (which it appears it was) I think they failed. If someone has really studied what they believe this conference will be very unlikely to convince them to change their position. The only people who are going to become cessationist through this are those who, 1) were already riding the middle line, 2) were in a really bad/false church.
  5. Fire also causes a lot of smoke…. This one sure did! But if truth is supposed to bring unity and love among believers, why didn’t this conference do that?
  6. Who has responded the best to this whole escapade? My vote is John Piper. I think it’s really interesting that he has not responded AT ALL to the Strange Fire conference (at least not publicly as of yet... although I would imagine he will at some point). Perhaps he realizes MacArthur respects him and is being careful not to cause more division? I think many people could learn from this lesson though… sometimes it’s better to just keep your mouth shut (although there are times to speak, hence this blog post).
  7. The Church as a whole is still lacking in unity. Apparently we still can’t figure out or agree on what are essentials and what are non-essentials. At the very least if they have or do many seem to still be focusing too much on the non-essentials. We need to pray for more unity in the Church today!

To end I’ll throw in this really interesting, thought-provoking quote by Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones: (I didn't say I AGREE with it, I just found it rather fascinating!)

“There is nothing, I am convinced, that so ‘quenches’ the Spirit as the teaching which identifies the baptism of the Holy Ghost with regeneration. But it is a very commonly held teaching today, indeed it has been the popular view for many years. It is said that the baptism of the Holy Spirit is ‘nonexperimental’, that it happens to every one at regeneration. So we say, ‘Ah well, I am already baptized with the Spirit; it happened when I was born again, at my conversion; there is nothing for me to seek, I have got it all’. Got it all? Well, if you have ‘got it all’, I simply ask in the Name of God, why are you as you are? If you have ‘got it all’, why are you so unlike the Apostles, why are you so unlike the New Testament Christians? The teaching that I have just mentioned is false. The apostles were regenerate before the day of Pentecost. The baptism of the Holy Ghost is not identical with regeneration; it is something separate. It matters not how long the interval between the two may be, there is a difference; there is an interval, they are not identical. But if you say that they are identical, you do not expect anything further. And if you do not believe that it is possible for you to experience the Spirit of God bearing direct witness with your own spirit that you are a child of God, obviously you are quenching the Spirit. That is why so many Christian people are miserable and unhappy; they do not know anything about crying out, ‘Abba, Father’; or about ‘the Spirit of adoption’. God is a Being away in the far distance; they do not know Him as a loving Father; they do not know that they are His children. They may believe it intellectually, theoretically; but Paul says, ‘You have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear’. We are not to go about groaning and wondering whether we are Christians or not. We were in that state under the law; then we were wretched and we cried out, ‘O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me?’ But no longer! ‘We have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry’—and it is an elemental cry that comes from the depth of the personality—‘Abba, Father’.”    
-Dr. David Martyn Lloyd-Jones, The Christian Warfare: An Exposition of Ephesians 6:10-13, p. 280 (Edinburgh; Carlisle, PA, Banner of Truth Trust, 1976).

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Reading List (October 2013)

So at the beginning of each month I’m going to start posting what I read, am reading and what I want to read next, because quite frankly, I have a lot of books that I want to read and I need to read them! So here’s October 2013:

Recently Finished:
A Hunger For God by John Piper - It was very good, something I really needed.

Currently Reading:
The Power of Prayer in a Believer’s Life by C.H. Spurgeon
The Gospel Call & True Conversion by Paul Washer
When People Are Big and God is Small by Edward T. Welch (this is my 2nd time reading this one)

Next books I want to read:
Jefferson Lies – exposing the myths you’ve always believed about Thomas Jefferson by David Barton
Trusting the Shepherd – Insights from Psalm 23 by Haddon Robinson
The Bookends of the Christian Life  by Jerry Bridges
Are Miraculous Gifts For Today? – Four Views by Wayne Grudem

Monday, August 19, 2013

Though You Slay Me (Shane&Shane)

What an encouragement this song has been to my heart this past week! May it be the song of your heart as well! He truly is the One who's all we need!
"Though You Slay Me..." by Shane & Shane
For video:

I come, God, I come
I return to the Lord
The one who's broken
The one who's torn me apart
You struck down to bind me up
You say You do it all in love
That I might know You in Your suffering

Though You slay me
Yet I will praise You
Though You take from me
I will bless Your name
Though You ruin me
Still I will worship
Sing a song to the one who's all I need

My heart and flesh may fail
The earth below give way
But with my eyes, with my eyes I'll see the Lord
Lifted high on that day
Behold, the Lamb that was slain
And I'll know every tear was worth it all

Though You slay me
Yet I will praise You
Though You take from me
I will bless Your name
Though You ruin me
Still I will worship
Sing a song to the one who's all I need

Though tonight I'm crying out
Let this cup pass from me now
You're still all that I need
You're enough for me
You're enough for me

Though You slay me
Yet I will praise You
Though You take from me
I will bless Your name
Though You ruin me
Still I will worship
Sing a song to the one who's all I need
Sing a song to the one who's all I need

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Confessions of a Sinner turned Saint – part 6

(For parts 1-5 see previous posts)

“The whole principle of the Christian life is that we go beyond what is “right” to do that which is well pleasing to Him.” – Watchman Nee

“Discernment is not simply a matter of telling the difference between what is right and wrong; rather it is the difference between right and almost right.” -Charles Spurgeon

When I first read the last quote above, sometime in the last 2 years, I began praying for this. The Lord is so patient, so gentle to lead us in the way we should go. It’s strange the ways the Lord leads us, the ways that He directs us or allows us to go in order to teach us what we need to learn. But He is utterly faithful to complete His work in us, to bring good out of all things… from the blessings and the trials.

The Lord gives many good gifts, but sometimes you can only keep them for a season, and then you have to give them up. There was a season of ministry I entered into 2 ½ years ago. At that time I had to make a decision whether or not to submit to the advice of a few respected leaders in my life or reject it and walk in the path that I thought God had for me. The Lord used this time to bring me to a place of full surrender, of laying down my dreams and desires and trusting that He knew what was best. This, I believe, is a crucial process. Our surrender to the Lord needs to be tested through fire. Often He will take from us, but although He may, it is for our good and His glory.

“If my life is surrendered to God, all is well. Let me not grab it back, as though it were in peril in His hand but would be safer in mine!” - Elisabeth Elliot

In this particular case though, instead of keeping my sacrifice, the Lord graciously gave it back to me and confirmed my calling to serve with this ministry through my parents and a few others. In the next few years, the Lord has tested my surrender over and over. I am still learning to discern between spiritual warfare and the Spirit’s conviction. I have had to wrestle over concern I had of man’s opinion and approval of me, feelings of uncertainty and doubt and learn to seek HIM and trust that He would be faithful to lead and direct me.

“You do not know what you are going to do; the only thing you know is that God knows what He’s doing.” – Oswald Chambers

I don’t know what the future holds, but I do know the One who does, and He is faithful, O so faithful to carry it on to completion! My life verse is John 3:30: “He must increase, I must decrease.” Let it be dear Lord, let it be!

This has been my favorite quote ever since I first found it. For years now it has been my prayer and deepest desire:

Perhaps some future day Lord,
Thy strong hand will lead me to a place where I must stand
Utterly alone.
Alone, O gracious Love
But for Thee;
I shall be satisfied if I can see – Jesus only.
I do not know Thy plans for years to come
My spirit finds its perfect home sufficiency.
Lord, all my desire is before Thee now
Lead on, no matter where, no matter what – I trust in Thee.
-Elisabeth Elliot

P.S. This is the end of this series. I hope you were blessed by hearing my spiritual journey and I pray that the Lord will in His own time and in His own way grow and sanctify you in the truth! God does His work in everyone differently and yet He has the same end in mind. Your experiences may be different than mine, but His goal is still the same. “Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely; and may your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful, who also will do it.”  - 1 Thes 5:23-24 (NKJV)

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Confessions of a Sinner turned Saint – part 5

(For parts 1-4 see previous posts)

Here is the whole final message of the New Testament: through the atonement in Jesus’ blood sinful men may now become one with God. Deity indwelling men! That is Christianity in its fullest effectuation…” - A.W. Tozer

But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus…  - Eph 2:4-6 (NKJV)

“Everything you entrust to Christ you will never regret.” – Eric Ludy

Over the next year, the Lord centered me more and more on Himself and taught me what it was to truly seek Him. In the spring of 2010 I met Eric & Leslie Ludy at our state Homeschool convention. I had read most of their books and had been very impacted by them so I volunteered (or rather demanded!) to be in charge of their book table and so also got to talk to them a bit. Little did I know what God was doing and what this first meeting would lead to! Over the next month my parents and I prayed about me attending their newly founded discipleship school in Colorado and that October I flew out for 10 weeks. I had a sense going that the Lord was going to do a work in my life through this time and prayed for His wisdom and enabling grace to be obedient to His leading. There were things I knew I needed to surrender, a depth of relationship with God that I was being called to pursue. Over the past few years I had had brief thoughts that maybe I should be baptized again, knowing that I didn’t understand the meaning of it when I was 11, but shrugged it off. Part of it was that I still a bit confused about when I had gotten saved, and the other part was that there was a depth in regard to the meaning of baptism that I still didn’t quite understand. I knew I needed to understand, believe and surrender more.

 “In walking with God, a man will go just as far as he believes, and no further. His life will always be proportional to his faith.”        -J.C. Ryle

One morning as we were in class, one of the staff members began to talk about baptism and the truth that it symbolized. Like a light bulb turning on I finally grasped the truth that I really (really!) had died with Christ to sin and been raised to new life in Him – I didn’t just belong to Christ, He wasn’t just in me, I was IN HIM! Here was a depth and a reality that I just hadn’t really grasped before. The truths in Romans 6 that I had read over and over finally were made real and practical to me…

Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin. - Romans 6:4-6, NKJV

I knew right away that I should be baptized. I knew needed to testify of what Christ had done, that I was in Him and He was in me, and I knew that I hadn’t understood that when I was baptized the first time. The first time it was something I did, and this time I was testifying of what God had done in me! It was a beautiful fall day, but quite cold and very windy out on that little lake in northern Colorado; it was a sacred time, one that I praise the Lord for!

There’s a lie going around in modern Christianity that you can have the benefits of Christianity, but without the sacrifices, without giving up the things in the world that you don’t want to be without. Then there are many it seems who are surrendered to walk in holiness – but only up to a certain point. After all, we’re free as Christians… aren’t we? We aren’t bound by the law to not do certain things.  True, but we also are not our own, we are bought with a great price! God has not called us to walk the fence between the Christ-life and the world, He has called us out to be separate from the world and set-apart to His service. The Bible warns us to “work-out” our salvation, although in the next verse we are reminded that it is God who works in us according to His will (Phil 2:12-13 – there’s that 100% sovereignty and 100% responsibility again!). The Christian life is not to be taken lightly, we are called to live for Christ and die to ourselves!

Then (Jesus) said to them all, "If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me. - Luke 9:23, NKJV

It’s those who persevere to the end that are saved. It’s those who run the race and finish! Living out the truth of the Gospel is not easy. And it doesn’t necessarily get “easier”. With the revelation of truth comes greater responsibility, greater warfare, and greater struggle against the flesh that still lingers. The world, the flesh and the Devil will not give up their fight to rule my life. Over and over I am learning that. I still struggle. I confess I sometimes still give in to my “old man” desires. There are more confessions to be made; daily repentance of sins, God is not done with me yet. I am not perfect and will not be this side of heaven, but I have Christ. In Him, before God, I am perfect, and He is faithful to keep building me more and more into the likeness of Christ. Amen, dear Lord, let it be!

(still to be continued)

Friday, May 24, 2013

Confessions of a Sinner turned Saint – part 4

For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.   - Eph 2:8-9 (NKJV)

So then it is not of him who wills, nor of him who runs, but of God who shows mercy. 
- Romans 9:16 (NKJV)

“…divine sovereignty is not an issue peculiar to Calvinism, or even to Christianity. Without sovereignty God cannot be God. If we reject divine sovereignty than we must embrace atheism. This is the problem we all face. We must hold tightly to God’s sovereignty. Yet we must do it in such a way so as not to violate human freedom.”  – R.C. Sproul

For parts 1-3 see previous posts! Please refer to part 1 especially for a foundation. This post will probably be the most “theological”… and the most controversial!

Through college I was really growing in my study of Scripture, learning more about the character and attributes of God and the Christian walk. From my sophomore into my junior year of college I had begun wrestling particularly with passages in the Bible that spoke clearly of God’s sovereignty… not just generally, but in regards to salvation. While I had no doubt that God was sovereign (in complete control) over nature, world events and even the details of my life, my natural reasoning was opposed to the idea that God chose to save me apart from any real choice of my own. Surely I had some role in this did I not? I had to make a decision to follow Him didn’t I? But the more I studied the more I found these verses…

“The king's heart is in the hand of the Lord, like the rivers of water; He turns it wherever He wishes.”  - Prov 21:1, NKJV

“Therefore He has mercy on whom He wills, and whom He wills He hardens.”  - Romans 9:18, NKJV

“All the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing; He does according to His will in the army of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth. No one can restrain His hand or say to Him, ‘What have You done?’” - Dan 4:35, NKJV

“I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will keep My judgments and do them”.  - Ezek 36:26-27, NKJV

“But you do not believe, because you are not of My sheep, as I said to you.” - John 10:26, NKJV

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace…”  - Eph 1:3-6, NKJV

Every time I would come across these verses and many others (and I kept coming across them!) I wrestled with the concept. How did I reconcile these with other verses that spoke firmly of my personal responsibility to choose, believe and obey? Then one night, I remember it clearly, the teacher in my Apologetics class made a passing comment: “Well, God is God and He can do whatever He wants.” God used that very simple statement to open my understanding further to 1) the great and deserved sovereignty of God, and 2) the greatness of my salvation! It really was like a light bulb went on. I realized that before I was saved I was indeed a very wretched sinner and I didn’t WANT to be saved… that I didn’t really desire God and He had to give me that desire in order for me to want to be saved. He had to open my eyes to my sinfulness and put His love in my heart. He changed me first, and then I repented!

“For we ourselves were also once foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving various lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful and hating one another. But when the kindness and the love of God our Savior toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit…” - Titus 3:3-5, NKJV

The Bible teaches that God is 100% sovereign, yet man is still 100% responsible. How those two reconcile, I do not completely understand, but I came to believe it. I consider this to be another milestone in my Christian life… an incredible realization of the amazing totally-undeserved grace of God upon my life! I had no part in my actually being saved, I was entirely passive, I was dead! He is the One who loved me, He is the One who made me alive, who opened my eyes to Himself and drew me to repentance. What a gift! While I responded in repentance and faith even that was not from within my own heart, for my sinful heart did not want to repent, but His love and grace changed me and gave me a new heart that despised sin and loved Him!

For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.  - Eph 2:8-9, NKJV

As with all other doctrine, this precious doctrine is intended to lead us to Christ, to place Him at the center and humble our hearts before Him in worship. However, while this revelation was humbling to me, I became distracted by it from my worship of Christ. The result unfortunately led to my becoming a devout disciple of John Calvin and anyone else who strongly taught what is known as “Reformed” doctrine. I was a “Calvinist”* (see * at bottom)… and rather proud of the fact although I wouldn’t have openly admitted it. Gradually, without really realizing it, I put myself in the “elite” of Christianity. I had been “enlightened”.

“For where self or the natural man is become great in religious learning, the more firmly will he be fixed in the religion of proving himself to be right, rather than in surrendering to the will of God.”  -William Law

My thirst for doctrinal knowledge began to distract me from my pursuit of Christ. Instead of allowing this grace to humble me and keep me centered on Christ, this particular doctrinal stream became the center of who I was. There were many times I sacrificed love for Christ and for the universal church for my particular viewpoint. I looked down on those who had not “attained” to the knowledge that I held. While I grew and learned a lot over the next few years I was hindered in many ways by my narrow mindedness. But the Lord slowly began working away at my heart and calling me to pursue HIM. He began showing me the pride in my thinking and that I was making doctrine an idol. I was proud that He had chosen me instead of humbling myself in worshiping Him. Also, slowly He began to widen my horizon and show me the glory of the church – that despite minor doctrinal differences, she was the body of Christ. It wasn’t about me or my particular doctrinal standpoint; it was about Christ, the Gospel and the glory of God. I had to repent of pride and a superior attitude and learn to show the same grace to others that God had bestowed upon me. Over the summer of 2010 the Lord really began doing this and that fall I was at a conference where I ended up having a long dialogue with a friend who was a brother in Christ, but not a “Calvinist”. We were able to talk about our viewpoint, ask questions, have some discussion and while at the end neither of us had changed our mind, we both walked away better understanding the other viewpoint and having respect for the heart for God behind it.

Paul Washer put it so accurately when he said, “Calvinism is not the issue, regeneration is the issue.” There are forms of “Arminian” theology that are indeed heretical because they deny the necessity of the work of the Holy Spirit in leading to and producing salvation. But I have found many who do not accept “Calvinism” but their view of regeneration is Biblical (maybe not complete, but still within Biblical teaching). I have learned from and been blessed by many of them. One preacher said about a man who was Wesleyan-holiness and Arminian: “I could have fellowship with him because he was a man of God. I didn’t always agree with him, but I could have fellowship with him because he was a man of God. I sat under him.” Of course, wisdom and caution must be used, and we must ALWAYS hold Scripture as our guide and not what others say.

So what’s the main point I’m trying to make? Simply, study Scripture and take it as it is! Don’t try to explain away parts you don’t understand or don’t like, pray and wait on the Lord for the Spirit’s help in understanding. Don’t stress over the fact that you don’t understand some things… there are many things in Scripture that are mysteries, some of which we will never completely understand till we get to Heaven. And if you don’t agree with someone on a particular doctrine (“Calvinism”/“Arminianism”, end times, spiritual gifts, view of sanctification, etc.), don’t let it get to your head. Remember they are your brother or sister and you are to love them, simply point them to worship of Christ, and encourage them in their walk. This is not to say there aren’t times to discuss these things and perhaps teach them a more Biblical view, but my prayer is that we will remember to keep the main thing, the main thing. Christ is the head, may we keep Him at the center or our focus. Don’t worship doctrine, don't get proud in your spiritual understanding, worship Christ!

“To  the church of God…  those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, with all who in every place call on the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours…”   - 1 Cor 1:2 NKJV

“There is no soul living who holds more firmly to the doctrines of grace than I do, and if any man asks me whether I am ashamed to be called a Calvinist, I answer – I wish to be called nothing but a Christian; but if you ask me, do I hold the doctrinal views which were held by John Calvin, I reply, I do in the main hold them, and rejoice to avow it.”
- C.H. Spurgeon (from A Defense of Calvinism)

*In agreement with C.H. Spurgeon above, I really don’t like the term “Calvinism”. However, it is the easiest way to sum up this particular doctrinal stance. Personally, I prefer to use the term “monergism” instead. For definition see:   

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Confessions of a Sinner turned Saint – part 3

…but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory both now and forever. Amen.  - 2 Peter 3:18 (NKJV)

See previous posts for part 1 & 2. I shall call this section: Getting Grounded & Surrender.

When I was 16 there was another milestone in my Christian walk. For the past 3 years I had tried to get into the habit of reading my Bible daily. I wanted to, but often would completely forget! That fall I attended a week-long video seminar – Bill Gothard’s Basic Life Principles seminar. There were several things that impacted me through that week at this time in my life, but the one thing that stuck the most was this: Mr. Gothard made a challenge to those listening, that if we struggled with reading our Bible daily to pray about making a vow to God that we would read it every day provided He reminded us. It was a very serious commitment to make (warning: not one everyone should make – this was just my experience and personal conviction), but I was compelled to do it and promised God that from that day on I would read at least 1 chapter in my Bible every day, as long as He would be faithful to remind me. After that, the Lord was very faithful to remind me of this commitment and I very quickly had a daily habit of spending time reading not just one chapter, but multiple chapters, books and eventually all the way through the Bible in the next year and a half.

“You all have by you a large treasure of divine knowledge, in that you have the Bible in your hands; therefore be not contented in possessing but little of this treasure.”   -  Jonathan Edwards

When was in college I began to really grow doctrinally. Attending a private Seventh-Day Adventist college as a Baptist meant I had to pay attention in chapel and really search the Scriptures for myself. I began to really study different aspects of Scripture like the person and work of Christ, salvation (how we get saved), sanctification, the Church, the end times and more. I am so grateful now that I attended that school because 1) it allowed me to live at home with my family, and 2) it really stretched me spiritually and grounded me in my faith. There were some who were genuine Christians there, but the majority of the students in my department were not, and actually many weren’t SDA either.  

 During 4 summers between and after college I worked at a Christian camp and was blessed to spend two of those weeks each summer under a great Bible teacher. This is where I really began to deeply study the Bible and all its different aspects. Through his teaching and example as well as the sharpening of brothers and sisters in the Lord I learned so much and was driven to study the Bible all the more.

"I spend half my time telling Christians to study doctrine and the other half telling them that doctrine is not enough."   –  D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones 

Also during my college years another milestone occurred. I attended a week-long revival put on by LifeAction ministries at a church in the area. The Lord really used the messages that week to convict me of some things in my life that I needed to confess to others and make right that I had been ignoring. There was a lot of soul-searching and conviction and the Lord graciously brought me through and gave me the willingness and strength to surrender my fears and walk in obedience. If I hadn’t surrendered those seemingly small things, my spiritual life would have been greatly hindered.

I acknowledged my sin to You, And my iniquity I have not hidden. I said, "I will confess my transgressions to the Lord," And You forgave the iniquity of my sin.   - Psalms 32:5 (NKJV)

The idea of being fully surrendered is throughout Scripture. We are in and of ourselves, self-dependent and proud. We want to do things our way. Sure often we want to do good things, like go to the mission field, but things that are not done in God’s way will not have God’s blessing. Somehow we think that the "little things" won't matter, "It won't really make a difference... I mean really, what's just a little compromise. And it's not really compromise... I mean...." We are SO good at rationalizing in order to do what we want! The little things DO matter. Let us learn to surrender even the small things, for if we are faithful in little we will be faithful in much and we will lack no good thing.

“Let us see that we keep God before our eyes; that we walk in His ways and seek to please and glorify Him in everything great and small. Depend upon it, God’s work, done in God’s way, will never lack God’s supply.”   -  Hudson Taylor

Delight yourself also in the Lord, and He shall give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord, trust also in Him, and He shall bring it to pass.   - Psalms 37:4-5 (NKJV)