When Convenience & Comfort Are an Idol

We too easily take things for granted in this modern world that we live in, with all its technological advances and time-saving machines and gadgets. Electricity, running water, hot water: all things that are a normal part of our lives these days, yet not everyone in the world has access to these conveniences. When we lose this convenience, our reaction can show how it has become an idol.

Our hot water heater went out last Saturday. Because we have a home warranty from purchasing this home in February, we have to go through the home warranty company to get it fixed. The technician came out Monday and recommended we get a new hot water heater. This is not the first time we’ve had trouble with the heater since we moved in earlier this year. However, in spite of the technician’s recommendation to the warranty company, they are having parts ordered instead of replacing the heater. As a result, we still have no hot water while we wait for the parts to come in and be installed.

On the positive side, living just up the hill from my family, allows the advantage of running over to their place to get a hot shower. We still have running water which allows us to still wash clothes and use the bathroom. While our dishwasher remains unusable until we have hot water, I have heated up water in our tea kettle to wash some dishes by hand to get us by. These things, while they help to deal with the situation, are not convenient. It’s a hassle to have to run down the road when I want to take a shower. It’s a pain to heat up water to have to hand wash a few dishes. Yet how many people live their lives without access to hot water or even running water? I am incredibly spoiled. And while convenience is nice, it is not a given or a right in this life. Was it convenient for Jesus to give up the riches of heaven and live in this sin-cursed world for over 30 years? Was it comfortable for Him to bear the cross and the shame, enduring the wrath of God for my sins, including my idol of wanting things to be convenient and comfortable? Ouch!

May we learn to be thankful and grateful for the conveniences and comforts of life, rather than taking them for granted. The blessing of eternal life that God has granted me through Jesus Christ far outweighs any comfort or convenience that I may have in this life.

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Competing Spectacles by Tony Reinke

Competing Spectacles: Treasuring Christ in the Media AgeCompeting Spectacles: Treasuring Christ in the Media Age by Tony Reinke

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Convicting book of how our image-saturated society continually grabs our attention, often dragging it away from Christ and onto its own delights and pleasures. While not calling Christians to leave the world (Scripture doesn’t tell us to do this), it does caution us for what we allow to grab our attention. The grandest spectacle in all history was the cross and Christ’s death on our behalf. Yet too often we are mesmerized by what the world produces as spectacles – movies, video games, social media. If these are taking our attention away from the spectacle of Christ and His glory, then we need to re-evaluate our use of them.
At the end of the book, he gives some guidelines to helps us. Be aware of what we may be watching and participating in that is actually worthless. What things are we consuming that may actually be sin? Don’t be manipulated by that which is worthless. Other applications are given for dealing with the temptations that we all must face in our current technological society. Not everyone will come away with the same conclusions – there is liberty and Christian freedom in this area.

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

The Importance of Being in God’s Word

Like most people, I have struggled in the past with being consistent in being in God’s Word. What helped me to finally develop a daily habit of reading the Bible was doing the Bible in 90 Days back in 2012. Because I needed to be reading it every day to keep pace with the large chunks of reading, it developed the habit of reading every day. Now it has become a normal part of my routine.

As I currently am going through a transition time of moving from Michigan to Pennsylvania, my life has drastically changed. While in the process of joining a new church and new ministries, I’m not currently involved in any local ministries. I miss my church and friends in Michigan, as well as the ministries that I was involved with there. I struggle with loneliness as I begin making new friends here. Depression will set in as I struggle with my life not being what I want it to be right now. I am learning again the importance of trusting God, for His way is best, even when I don’t see it and can’t understand. I must also develop patience, waiting on God’s timing and the right ministries that He has for me.

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One of the current Bible studies I am doing is a study for those struggling with depression. It has been a huge encouragement and help to me as I struggle through this transition. This has been a reminder to me that it is important to continue being in God’s Word, even when our feelings and emotions aren’t wanting to. Many have said when they aren’t in the Word because they are struggling emotionally that they don’t want to “just go through the motions” or feel like they are just checking off a to-do item. However, if we don’t read the Bible because the feelings aren’t there, we will continue to struggle with the feelings and we rob ourselves of a source of strength in changing those feelings. God uses His Word to encourage us, to draw us back to Him, to put truth into our minds and hearts, and to change our feelings. Reading the Bible even when we don’t feel like it helps us to bombard our hearts and minds with truth. As we think on these truths, our thoughts help to change our emotions.

So if you are struggling emotionally and don’t feel like reading your Bible, do it anyway! God’s Word does not return void. He will change your heart. Keep pressing on in spite of how you feel.

Psalm 102

A Prayer of one afflicted, when he is faint and pours out his complaint before the Lord.

 Hear my prayer, O Lord;
let my cry come to you!
Do not hide your face from me
    in the day of my distress!
Incline your ear to me;
    answer me speedily in the day when I call!

For my days pass away like smoke,
    and my bones burn like a furnace.
My heart is struck down like grass and has withered;
    I forget to eat my bread.
Because of my loud groaning
    my bones cling to my flesh.
I am like a desert owl of the wilderness,
    like an owl of the waste places;
I lie awake;
    I am like a lonely sparrow on the housetop.
All the day my enemies taunt me;
    those who deride me use my name for a curse.
For I eat ashes like bread
    and mingle tears with my drink,
10 because of your indignation and anger;
    for you have taken me up and thrown me down.
11 My days are like an evening shadow;
    I wither away like grass.

12 But you, O Lord, are enthroned forever;
    you are remembered throughout all generations.
13 You will arise and have pity on Zion;
    it is the time to favor her;
    the appointed time has come.
14 For your servants hold her stones dear
    and have pity on her dust.
15 Nations will fear the name of the Lord,
    and all the kings of the earth will fear your glory.
16 For the Lord builds up Zion;
    he appears in his glory;
17 he regards the prayer of the destitute
    and does not despise their prayer.

18 Let this be recorded for a generation to come,
    so that a people yet to be created may praise the Lord:
19 that he looked down from his holy height;
    from heaven the Lord looked at the earth,
20 to hear the groans of the prisoners,
    to set free those who were doomed to die,
21 that they may declare in Zion the name of the Lord,
    and in Jerusalem his praise,
22 when peoples gather together,
    and kingdoms, to worship the Lord.

23 He has broken my strength in midcourse;
    he has shortened my days.
24 “O my God,” I say, “take me not away
    in the midst of my days—
you whose years endure
    throughout all generations!”

25 Of old you laid the foundation of the earth,
    and the heavens are the work of your hands.
26 They will perish, but you will remain;
    they will all wear out like a garment.
You will change them like a robe, and they will pass away,
27     but you are the same, and your years have no end.
28 The children of your servants shall dwell secure;
    their offspring shall be established before you.

Flourish by Lydia Brownback

Flourish: How the Love of Christ Frees Us from Self-FocusFlourish: How the Love of Christ Frees Us from Self-Focus by Lydia Brownback

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book is excellent! Sound biblical advice for dealing with too much self-focus. Rather than looking inward, we are to look toward Jesus to determine who we are and how we should live. Some of the topics dealt with in this book are self-indulgence, self-condemnation, and self-improvement. At the end of the book (which is quite short and easily readable) are study guide/discussion questions to dig further into Scripture on these particular issues.
The world too easily gets our focus on meeting our own needs and making our own lives better and more comfortable. Rather the Scripture calls us to deny ourselves and to follow Christ, making life about God rather than ourselves. This book points us back to a Biblical focus on God rather than self. Highly recommended!

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

When God Moves

The last few months have been an amazing journey of watching God work and move in my husband and my lives. At the end of September 2018, we had no idea that our entire lives were about to be changed and turned upside down. In early October, my parents and sister, who live in Pennsylvania, had an urgent need that led to my coming to help them for a week. While with them and dealing with that particular crisis, both my parents and my sister asked us to consider moving near them to continue to help as other needs arose. At first thought, my husband and I were a bit taken aback as we were heavily involved in ministries at our church and in our jobs in Michigan. But as we prayed about it and looked at Scripture, we came to 1 Timothy 5:8 “But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.” This seemed pretty clear that we are to help our family when they are in need.

So we put our condo in Michigan up for sale and began packing up to move. This was the beginning of November. The first person who looked at our condo put an offer on it, and ended up purchasing it. We like to say that God sold our condo in 1 day! We were astounded and amazed at how it all came together, including being able to stay in the condo for free after closing until our move date. Because our family had already planned a family reunion for the end of December and we were going to be driving out to Pennsylvania for the reunion, we decided to go ahead and move at that time. My husband Jono was able to work out with his job to continue working for them remotely even after our move to Pennsylvania. This took a lot of pressure off for him. He was also able to finish up his ministry commitments for December.

God continued to work, even in the smaller details. Moving at the end of December is not ideal, particularly when you live in a cold climate where there is huge potential for snowstorms. The day the movers came was 50 degrees! We couldn’t have asked for a better weather day at the end of December in Michigan! Then there was concern about fitting what we were taking with us into our 2 cars. Before the movers came I went back through some of the boxes I had planned to take with us and determined that they could go in storage. So 3 boxes that were going to be in our cars ended up going with the movers instead. We were able to get everything else into our cars but would not have been able to fit those 3 boxes. God graciously worked even that detail out for us!

My brother and his family were coming from Wisconsin to also drive to Pennsylvania for the family reunion. They met up with us in Michigan and we had 3 cars to caravan together on the 8-9 hour drive. Due to sleep deprivation there was some concern about driving the whole way, but because we had 4 adults that could drive we were able to switch as needed and made it safely to PA.

While we were still in Michigan, I had been looking at potential homes in PA. There was one in particular that I liked that was very close to where my family lives. We were sure that it would no longer be on the market by the time we got to PA. But in God’s gracious provision once again, it was still available and we were able to look at it in early January. After putting in an offer, it was accepted and we began the process of buying it. The original close date was scheduled for February 8, but I would be leaving the very next day to go to Indiana for counseling training and so we asked if the closing could be February 1. The lender didn’t think we could do it that quickly, so the closing was scheduled for after I got back, on February 19. Well once again, God worked and things progressed quickly with the inspection and appraisal, and we were notified that the closing was able to take place on Wednesday, January 30! This allows us to have the movers come the first week of February so that we can be in our new home before I leave for my week of training.

So many ways that God has worked through many details for us in these past few months! All praise goes to Him for how He has provided and guided. We have found a great church and are making new friends. Time will tell what ministries God provides for us to get involved in here. While this wasn’t part of the plan we had for our lives, we know that God’s plan is always better than anything that we could put together in our own human strength. He is worthy to be served, wherever that may lead us. To Him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.

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.

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.