Contentment in the Midst of Chaos

This is my life right now.

Boxes, boxes, everywhere! Due to some family needs, we are moving from our home in Michigan to live near family in Pennsylvania. We are in the process of selling our condo, which is stressful, as anyone who has ever bought or sold a home can attest to. At the same time we are also packing up in preparation for movers to come at the end of December and put most of our stuff in storage. We will live with family temporarily while looking for a new place in Pennsylvania. So there are decisions as to what to put in storage, what do we think we’ll need in the meantime, not knowing how long it will take to find and buy a new home.

It’s easy (and probably natural) at times like these to look ahead and think, “Oh, I can’t wait until we have our new place and can be moved in and settled again, with life back to somewhat normal.” Until then life is chaotic and uncertain, living half out of boxes and suitcases. It’s hard to feel relaxed and content in the midst of all that is going on. But we are not meant to live our lives in the “Oh, when such and such happens, then I can relax and all will be well.” We aren’t meant to live in the future “someday”. We are called to live in the here and now, the everyday chaos, the half packed boxes around us. What better picture of this life being temporary? This is not our final destination. A new heaven and earth await us, where there will be no more chaos, no more stress, no more sin. Even when things settle down and there is a new normal, this is still not our final home. We are to hold this life loosely, ever realizing that this is temporary. We are sojourning between worlds, as this blog is called. So as I live in the midst of chaos, God can use this to remind me not to be looking for a future settled home here on this earth, but a future home in the new heaven and earth that awaits me when Christ returns. Until then I must live each day to glorify God and proclaim Jesus Christ.

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Suffering by Paul Tripp

Suffering: Gospel Hope When Life Doesn't Make SenseSuffering: Gospel Hope When Life Doesn’t Make Sense by Paul David Tripp

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Raw and real, with hope. The author takes us through his own personal journey of suffering to show how God uses this in our lives. Suffering has a purpose. He also shows us Who God is and how the different attributes of God can comfort us during our journey of suffering. Suffering often exposes our hearts and God uses this to grow us in Christ-likeness.
As usual, Paul Tripp knocks this out of the park. His writing cuts to the heart of the matter. Convicting book yet also comforting in providing hope for those who are enduring suffering.
“…you can be stripped of everything in life on which you’ve depended and not have lost everything, because it is impossible for any of God’s children, no matter what is going on, to lose him.”
“God is never caught up short. He never has a second of confusion… He is never confused as to what to do. He has no quandaries, and he never lives with unsolved mysteries. He rules all things, he knows all things, and there is nothing that he doesn’t understand.”
Suffering has the power to lay waste to our idols. Suffering has a way of exposing what’s really dear to us, what we feel we can’t live without, and what truly rules our hearts. It’s not just that what we’re going through is painful, but also that we’ve lost what was giving us value and worth. Suffering exposes the inadequacy of hooking our hope to the temporary treasures of the created world and positions our heart to hook our hope to the Creator in ways we’ve never done before.”

*I received a copy of this e-book free from the publisher Crossway in exchange for my review.

All That’s Good by Hannah Anderson

All That's Good: Recovering the Lost Art of DiscernmentAll That’s Good: Recovering the Lost Art of Discernment by Hannah Anderson

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is the 3rd book that I’ve read by Hannah Anderson and it is the best by far! You know it’s a good book when you keep underlining! The subtitle is “Recovering the Lost Art of Discernment”. The structure of the book uses Philippians 4:8 to go through the various traits of how we determine what is good. Looking at what is true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, and commendable, the author guides us through each of these characteristics in learning how to determine what is good. The final chapter deals with the importance of using discernment in community. We alone don’t have all the answers or the ability to determine what is good on our own. That is why God designed us to be in community, where we can work together in discerning what is good and better.
In the introduction, she highlights the central question of the book: “How can we, imperfect as we are, develop an instinct for recognizing and embracing the good?” She then unpacks this by using the characteristics from Philippians 4:8 to help us in determining the good.
I underlined a lot! There is a lot to digest from this book and it will be going on my re-read pile. The back of the book also has questions to review and discuss the book, preferably with a group. It is ideal for using in a book club/group setting. I highly recommend grabbing a copy of this book and finding some friends to go through it together.

*I received a copy of this book free from Moody Publishers in exchange for my review.

Lloyd-Jones on the Christian Life

Lloyd-Jones on the Christian Life: Doctrine and Life as Fuel and FireLloyd-Jones on the Christian Life: Doctrine and Life as Fuel and Fire by Jason C. Meyer

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Fantastic book on the life and teachings of Martyn Lloyd-Jones. I’m now looking forward to reading some of his books, which are actually originally from his sermons. This book is set up in a very straight-forward manner with a logical flow. Lloyd-Jones is known for the phrase “logic on fire” and this book does an excellent job of flowing logically. Doctrine was crucial for Lloyd-Jones and the book gives us an overview of his various doctrinal teachings, including God the Father, Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit, faith and love (living out the Christian life), and church. From this book I got the impression that Lloyd-Jones was methodical and precise. He put forth the problem and the prescription for that problem. One of the chapters goes through to summarize his book on spiritual depression.
I would highly recommend this book, not just to better understand “the Doctor”, but as encouragement in spiritual growth. Very practical teachings are woven through the book.

*I received a copy of this book from the publisher Crossway in exchange for my review.

Spurgeon on the Christian Life

Spurgeon on the Christian Life: Alive in Christ (Theologians on the Christian Life)Spurgeon on the Christian Life: Alive in Christ by Michael Reeves

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Spurgeon is well known today as a great preacher. This book takes a closer look at his teachings and what his passion was. And his passion was for proclaiming Christ. With tidbits about his life, the main thrust of this book was showing Spurgeon’s desire to make Christ known. It also touched on Spurgeon’s struggle with depression and how this made him more compassionate to others who were suffering.
Laced throughout the book are quotes of Spurgeon to highlight what he believed and taught. He set forth the cross of Christ – “And it is especially the love of God shown in the cross that turns and transforms the hearts of sinners. In the horrifying torture and crucifixion of Jesus we see the highest proof of the highest love. His bleeding makes our hearts bleed, and his shame makes us ashamed. In the cross we see a divine disgust at sin that makes sin appalling in our eyes too. But further, through the cross we see a love so livid that it pierces our apathy and overwhelms our desire for other things.”
“At the cross our pride and sinfulness are mortified, our self-deifying efforts are damned, our wandering hearts exposed, and the beauty of Christ in his humility and holiness are held before us. There is best displayed the love of Christ, which is ‘the transfiguring power in the hand of the Holy Spirit.’ There the glory of God shines brightest in all its transforming power.”
“Sanctification is an essentially Christ-centered matter of turning away from other things to him who conforms us into his own glory.”
For those who are familiar with Spurgeon and his preaching and writings, this gem of a book provides a summary of what he taught. For those unfamiliar with Spurgeon, this book will give a glimpse into who he was, what he believed, and what his ministry focused on. I recommend it!

*I received a copy of this Kindle book free from the publisher Crossway in exchange for my review.

Lies Young Women Believe (Updated Edition)

Lies Young Women Believe: And the Truth that Sets Them FreeLies Young Women Believe: And the Truth that Sets Them Free by Nancy Leigh DeMoss

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Just as the book Lies Women Believe is being revised and updated, so also this one geared toward teen girls is being revised and updated. Overall, this was a good read and packs a good punch, not holding back on some of the ways our culture lies to us about what is true and meaningful. In this day and age it is especially hard for young people to battle against the lies of beauty, friendship, and sex. This book tells it straight – what the lies are that young women are believing, and what the Bible tells us about these lies and how we can counter them with the truth of Scripture.
A minor thing, I found that the verse Ephesians 5:21 was used to talk about submitting to God-given authority, however, that is not what the verse is talking about in context: “submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.” Though it is true that we are to submit to God-given authority, that verse is not the one that should be used to teach that truth.
I would recommend this as a good read for moms and daughters to do together, or a youth group book club read. The book emphasizes the need for young women to be in God’s Word and know His truth, so they can combat the lies they encounter every day in this world.

*I received a copy of this book on Kindle through Netgalley from the publisher Moody in exchange for my review.

Lies Women Believe (Updated Edition)

Several years ago, my mom, sister and I went through the book Lies Women Believe by Nancy Leigh DeMoss and the corresponding workbook Walking in the Truth. Later I summarized the book and my thoughts in a series of blog posts that can be seen here. I was interested in reading the updated version and was glad to obtain a copy on Kindle for review through Netgalley. The updated edition will be coming out in January 2018 and includes a new chapter on lies women believe about sexuality.

The book starts off with a reminder of how we get caught up in lies and that we must recognize these lies and replace them with the truth from God’s Word. Each chapter deals with specific lies that we often believe (even if we wouldn’t actually say it) and how God’s Word contradicts those lies. At the end of the chapter the lies are summarized along with the truth and Scripture references to combat the lies. What we believe affects how we live, and if we are believing lies about ourselves, God, marriage, etc. we will not be living in freedom.

While not every woman struggles with every lie in this book, we all struggle with some of them. This is a great resource to point us back to God’s Word to be the source of what we believe. This would be a helpful book to go through with other women, to gently correct and encourage each other to be grounded in the truth of God’s Word and not give in to the lies that subtly sneak their way into our lives in this world of sin that we live in.

*I received a copy of this book free on Kindle through Netgalley from the publisher Moody in exchange for my review.

 

Being a Disciple of Christ

One of the current trends in Christianity is this teaching of “easy-believism”, the idea that saying a prayer to ask Jesus into your heart saves you and secures a place for you in Heaven. From my blog post of June 19, 2011:

There are many people out there who think they are Christians, think they are going to heaven when they die because they said a prayer when they were a child or they responded to an altar call at church. But in reality they have really never turned their hearts to Christ. The Bible never teaches that to be saved we have to “ask Jesus into our heart”.

Luke 9:23 states, Then he said to them all, “If anyone wants to become my follower he must deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow me.”
Luke 6:46 says – “Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord’, and do not do what I say?”

The famous passage in Ephesians 2:8-9 – “For by grace you have been saved, through faith and that not of yourselves it is the gift of God, not of works, lest any man should boast.” (emphasis mine) We do not save ourselves – it is God who saves us.

The fruit of the Spirit is outlined in Galatians 5. Yet I see many professing Christians that don’t display these characteristics in their lives. Their lives are no different than others around them who aren’t believers. I challenge myself with these words. Is my life any different from the world around me? Can people look at me and see Jesus in my life?

My heart is burdened by what I see around me as “easy-believism”. But what I see in the Bible is a life called to sacrifice, to die to our own desires and to live for Christ. This article sums up what I’m trying to say much better than I can explain it: http://www.gotquestions.org/easy-believism.html

To grow as a disciple of Christ, first we need to make sure that we are one.

The gospel summarized:
“First, God’s holiness and justice require that rebellion against his perfect law be dealt with retributively, namely, in the suffering of both spiritual and physical death. Second, we humans can do nothing about this. We are helpless to atone for self and are thus wholly at a loss to escape the wrath of God that our sin has incurred. Third, Jesus Christ, the incarnate God-man, has taken our place under judgment and received in himself the penalty that was our sentence, thereby laying the foundation for our pardon and immunity from divine prosecution. Fourth, each human must look in faith outside and away from self to Christ and his cross as the sole ground of forgiveness and future hope.” (Sam Storms, as written in Packer on the Christian Life)
Repent (turn away) from your sins and place your faith in Christ alone for salvation. He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.

Idols

There are so many idols to distract us from God and His truth. This world has many temptations to entice us away. Our hearts are the real culprit however. Much of what we desire and long for can be classified as good desires and longings, yet how we seek to fill those desires and longings often leads us to idolatry.

But wait a minute! Idolatry? Most of us, particularly in the Western hemisphere, would say that we don’t practice idolatry. We don’t bow down to wooden or gold statues. We don’t offer sacrifices anymore. But idols aren’t necessarily something physical. Idols are anything that we look to for satisfaction. Idolatry is worshipping something or someone other than the true God. In this way, we can see multiple ways that we turn to idols to fill our desires rather than to God Himself.

The desire for close friendship is a valid desire. The desire to grow in knowledge and understanding is a valid desire. But if I sin in order to fill those desires, they have become idolatrous. When I scroll through my Facebook feed and get jealous seeing my friends hanging out with other people rather than me, I have turned that friendship into an idol. When my longing to learn and study leads to buying books that I cannot afford, I have turned my desire for knowledge into an idol.

So how do we turn from idolatry to worshipping God? It all goes back to the heart. What am I looking to for satisfaction? Heart change takes time and involves a continual renewal of truth to remind ourselves that true satisfaction is found only in God, not in other people, knowledge, money, or power. They may temporarily satisfy, but will never really fill the longings we have within us. When I find myself longing for something, I need to examine why I am desiring that particular thing? Am I looking for it to fulfill me? Or is it something that God is using to bring Him more glory? Will this friendship help me to honor God with my actions and attitude? Or will it cause me to sin against Him? As long as we live in this sin-cursed world, we will struggle against idolatry. But that doesn’t mean we are defeated. Rather, God continues to renew His children and sanctify us with His truth. We go back to His Word to remind ourselves of His majesty and love. He is our only true Savior.

True Feelings by Carolyn Mahaney & Nicole Whitacre

True Feelings: God's Gracious and Glorious Purpose for Our EmotionsTrue Feelings: God’s Gracious and Glorious Purpose for Our Emotions by Carolyn Mahaney

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Often we look at our emotions and view them as bad. Yet emotions themselves are not bad, rather how we use them. Learning to recognize and control our emotions is a battle we all face. In this book, the authors provide some practical steps to better understand our emotions and learn to use them in a God-honoring way rather than in sinful patterns.
Emotions “tell us what we believe and value. We should listen to what they are telling us and evaluate our emotions in light of Scripture. Emotions also move. We should not try to deny their persuading power, but instead allow them to drive us to God.” When our emotions manifest themselves, we should evaluate what that particular emotion is revealing about what we believe and value. For example, anger at being cut off in traffic reveals that we value our safety. Or it may reveal that we want to be in control and have our drive go smoothly. Recognizing our underlying beliefs and values behind our emotions helps us to then respond according to what Scripture teaches rather than turning to a sinful response. If the beliefs or values that an emotion reveals is not Biblical, that emotion is an indication that we need to change our belief or value so that it lines up with Scripture.
This book provides great information for us to evaluate our emotions Biblically and some practical steps for moving forward. If you struggle with your emotions, this is a good read to provide hope and encouragement.

*I received a copy of this book free on Kindle from the publisher Crossway through Netgalley in exchange for my review.