Questions to Consider in All We Do

EdificationWill this activity produce spiritual benefit?

EnslavementWill this activity lead to spiritual bondage?

ExposureWill this activity expose my mind or body to defilement?

EsteemWill this activity benefit others, or cause them to stumble?

EvangelismWill this activity further the cause of the gospel?

EthicsWill this activity violate my conscience?

ExaltationWill this activity bring glory to God?

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Instruments in the Redeemer’s Hands

Instruments in the Redeemer's Hands: People in Need of Change Helping People in Need of ChangeInstruments in the Redeemer’s Hands: People in Need of Change Helping People in Need of Change by Paul David Tripp
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Really liked this book! Wish I owned it so that I could underline in it but would probably end up underlining half the book! The importance of the heart when it comes to changing behavior. It’s also convicting – look at my own heart to see what controls me, what am I making an idol of in my life? What prompts me to do the things I do? Challenging and helpful book.

“Our deepest problem is not experiential, biological, or relational; it is moral, and it alters everything. It distorts our identity, alters our perspective, derails our behavior, and kidnaps our hope.”
“Rebellion is the inborn tendency to give in to the lies of autonomy, self-sufficiency, and self-focus.”
“If my heart is the source of my sin problem, then lasting change must always travel through the pathway of my heart. It is not enough to alter my behavior or to change my circumstances. Christ transforms people by radically changing their hearts.”
“Whatever rules the heart will exercise inescapable influence over the person’s life and behavior.”
What or who are you worshipping?
“…God is intent on owning our hearts unchallenged.”
“We forget that God’s primary goal is not changing our situations and relationships so that we can be happy, but changing us through our situations and relationships so that we will be holy.”
“Truth that is not spoken in love ceases to be truth because it is twisted by other human agendas. Love that is not guided by truth ceases to be love because it is divorced from God’s agenda.”

Operation Deepen Faith: Bible Reading and More

Each year Becky hosts the Operation Deepen Faith challenge to read the Bible, study it, and grow in our faith. There are several options and you can participate in one or more of them, depending on what your goals are. You can see them at her post here.

I try to read the Bible each year using different reading plans. Every other year (on the “even” years), my husband and I plan to lead a group of people through reading the Bible in 90 days, from February 1 to May 1. In 2016 this will take place from February 1 to April 30 due to the leap year. I plan to use this reading plan for the 90 day reading. Once that is completed, I plan to read the Bible again along with God’s Glory in Salvation through Judgment by Jim Hamilton. There is a reading plan for reading his book along with the Bible, to better get an idea of Biblical theology.

I read a lot of Christian non-fiction (her #7 goal), so that’s pretty much a given. I’m also working on Bible memorization (her #5) so will continue with that in 2016. I’m finishing up Ephesians and hope to start on 1 Peter by February or March.

She has a couple of optional choices this year that look like fun – the Alphabet Reading plan, as well as the Bingo Challenge. I’m hoping to do both but will have a separate page for them. She also has a goal for reading some of the creeds or confessions. While not committing to that, I do desire to read some of these and have a better grasp on these statements of faith.

It’s a Crazy, Beautiful Life

This past weekend I didn’t get a lot accomplished as far as chores or reading, etc., but what an amazing time of being involved with kids! As a coach for Bible Quizzing, I enjoy watching these kids compete with questions regarding the Bible verses they have studied. This past Saturday was an all day tournament with various quiz teams from Michigan, Ohio, and Pennsylvania all competing. I helped co-coach a team, none of whom are on the regular team I coach during the regular quizzes. But I’ve gotten to know all 3 over the past year as they all have been a part of Bible quizzing. The morning quizzes went well and we went into the playoffs in second place. But then the competition really set in! During the afternoon playoffs, we were up against the best teams and the scores were very close and the quizzes rather nail-biting. We ended up doing 3 quizzes and were able to win the quiz that then put us into the finals. I wasn’t sure my heart could take much more of the suspense. We had a chance to relax while the younger quizzers had their finals quiz and then we had the final quiz. And our team was able to win the final quiz to be the champions for the day for varsity quizzing. It was not without a lot of effort! The other quiz teams were very good and it was quite the competition! But to see these kids memorizing God’s Word and quoting it, using it to answer questions, what a blessing! This is something that they will always have – a knowledge of the Bible.

On Sunday afternoon I was able to attend a play put on by the community youth theater in which one of my friend’s daughters had gotten a part. She is also one of my quizzers that I am coaching this year so I wanted to attend the play that she was in. I was impressed with how well done the production was and how well all the kids sang and performed. They did a really good job with it.

Not having kids of my own, I am really enjoying getting to know my friends’ kids and be another adult in their lives. Watching them participate in competitions, being able to encourage them and show interest in their activities, these are ways to impact and make a difference in a young person’s life. And it is fulfilling for me to be a part of their lives and to watch as they grow up and mature. God has wonderfully blessed me with these opportunities and I’m so thankful for them and for these kids. They are impacting me as well.

How a Book Can Change Your Life

Bible Study: Following the Ways of the Word
So in the early summer of 2014, I read a book by Kathleen Nielson called Bible Study. This book, unbeknownst to me, God would use to set me on a trajectory that I could never have imagined. In the book, Kathleen quotes various women, one of whom was listed as being involved with women’s ministry and Bible study at a local church in my area. I recognized the name of the church and had several friends I knew from there through scrapbooking. So I was able to contact this woman on Facebook to let her know of my interest in Bible study and that I was wanting to learn how to teach the Bible to women. She let me know of a women’s training program that her church was doing during the school year and I was invited to participate even though I wasn’t a part of that church. I then also found out through her about the Simeon Trust workshops that are held which train women in how to study and teach the Bible. With help from my church, I was able to attend this workshop and get the excellent training that it provides. I was also able to meet Kathleen Nielson, whose book was what had started the whole journey that brought me there. Simeon Trust also offers online courses in training how to study and teach the Bible and I am currently taking one of those courses and learning how to teach the different genres of the Bible. All of this transpired as a result of reading this book and being able to connect with a woman in my local area who knew about these resources. You never know what or whom God will use in your life to direct and shape you.

My review of Bible Study

Women, Theology, and Going Deeper

One of my passions and desires is to study the Bible and to teach other women how to study the Bible for themselves and to learn the Bible together in community. My interest in Bible study and theology has grown over the years as I have read and learned. Now my hope is to encourage other women to develop this interest and passion in their own life, to the end that we grow in our Christian walk to become more like Christ. I have to guard myself against the tendency of having it all be head knowledge and not living out what I am learning. Knowing theology and doctrine is important, but only insofar as it causes us to change and grow, being transformed in our lives.

The Internet and social media has made it possible to connect with other like-minded women, those who also have a passion and desire to learn the Bible and theology and to grow in holiness. Sometimes it can be hard to find these relationships in our local community, depending on where we live. While online relationships can’t make up for the physical, face-to-face ones, they can help challenge and equip us in our daily growth. Sometimes it can be as simple as seeing someone else with similar interests as you.

I enjoy reading theology books and am hoping to even delve into some of the more “classic” works such as Millard Erickson, Charles Hodge and perhaps even Louis Berkhof. But there doesn’t seem to be any systematic theology books out there written by a woman or women. Though sometimes hard to find, I know there are plenty of women out there who like theology and study it. Perhaps some of us should join together and write a systematic theology from a woman’s perspective. Not that theology changes whether it’s done by a man or woman, but sometimes there are nuances that are different between a male or female author. Perhaps having a woman/women write a systematic theology would offer some interesting nuance in the whole field of theological study. Who’s with me? Let’s do this!

When It Comes to Book Reviews

Earlier today I posted a book review for Rediscovering Discipleship over at my Sojourner blog as part of a book review blog tour. I’ve been doing “formal” book reviews for quite a few years now where the publisher sends me a copy of the book (whether the physical book in the mail or the ebook via Kindle) for me to read and review on my blog and Amazon. This has been a great way to discover new authors as well as get free books. But sometimes I end up requesting too many at once and feel a little panicky on getting them all read in time. Or I feel pressured to continue reading even if I don’t like the book. I keep telling myself that I need to stop requesting review books, especially since I have so many of my own books that I need to read. But publishers keep coming out with new and interesting-looking books! How am I supposed to resist this? 🙂

I am hoping with this latest review post to take a break from formal reviews in order to spend more time on my own reading. Another book was posted for a blog tour but I am not allowing myself to sign up for this one. I need to get some of my own books read. Also by reading my own (or library) books I won’t feel pressured to necessarily review a book if I don’t want to or have a hard time expressing what I thought of it. It does mean not getting free books, but really, do I need any more at this point?

Blog Tour: Rediscovering Discipleship by Robby Gallaty

Rediscovering Discipleship: Making Jesus' Final Words Our First WorkRediscovering Discipleship: Making Jesus’ Final Words Our First Work by Robby F. Gallaty
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I have mixed feelings about this book. On the one hand, it lays out the importance of discipleship in the Christian life and provides some Jewish background on what it meant to be a disciple in the days of Jesus. However, at one point it dove into the method of discipleship that John Wesley developed and it seemed a bit too legalistic and rigorous. I also wasn’t thrilled with some of the people he quoted in the book. But overall, this was a great read on the importance of discipleship, and also the command of discipleship.

Later in the book the author defines discipleship this way: “intentionally equipping believers with the Word of God through accountable relationships empowered by the Holy Spirit in order to replicate faithful followers of Christ.” What it is not is the following: “a Class”, “a Seminar”, “a Degree you earn”, “a Program”, “a 12-Week Bible Study”, “a 40-Day Home Group”, “a Quick Process”, “a Quick Fix”, “Reserved for Super Christians”, “Hard”, “an Option”. “The goal of all discipleship is conformity to the image of Christ.”

Book reviews are subjective and different things can influence different readers. I found this book easy to read and understand, but was also distracted by people quoted that I disagree with. We all come to books with our preconceptions and worldview and it is difficult to lay that aside when reading a particular book. That being said, overall this was a practical book on discipleship, with good reminders that discipleship is a process and there is no “instant gratification”. It also emphasizes the importance of Scripture in the process of discipleship and the need for accountability and community. We are not in this journey alone but are meant to walk it with others. I also appreciated the emphasis on discipling others that they would then go and disciple others – a reproducible model. So I would cautiously recommend this book with discernment needed.

*I received a copy of this book free from the publisher through Cross Focused Reviews in exchange for my review.