Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Christ's Final Hours. The Passion.


     Passion is the book to read when you need to be brought to tears again by the hours of Christ's Passion.
My spirit so often dries out, and God's word seems to bounce off of me, and it takes a good hard rain of Scripture to soften it again. The story of the passion is a hard rain.
 
     And He walked away from them and fell to His knees and prayed, and his sweat was bloody on his face as he wrestled in prayer...
"Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me!" 
  "Yet not my will, but Thine be done."
    "Are you betraying the Son of Man with a kiss?"
     "Am I leading a rebellion, that you come after me with swords and clubs?"
        And seizing Him, they led Him away...
         "Woman, I don't know Him!" said Peter.
           They began mocking and beating Him. "Prophecy, who hit You?"
            "If you are the Christ, tell us!" 
              "We have found this Man subverting our nation." 
                "He claims to be King."
                  "I find no basis for a charge against this Man!" 
                    "Crucify Him! Crucify Him! Crucify Him! Give us Barabbas!" 
                      "Father, Forgive them! They know not what they do!"
                        "THIS IS THE KING OF THE JEWS"
                          "Jesus, remember me in your kingdom." "Today, you will be with me in   
                             Paradise."
                              "Father, into your Hands I commit My Spirit."
                                And they took down the Body, and wrapped it in linen and laid Him in
                                 The Tomb." 
                                  "Touch Me and see. For a Spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see 
                                     that I have." And when He said said this, he showed them His hands and 
                                      His feet.
   
We see Jesus in Passion, God and Man, torn, beaten, bloodied, mocked, pushed beyond the limits of all suffering, and then going further. To the Cross.Taking the wrath of our Just God upon Himself. Dying so we could share His life. We see our desperate need for our LORD and Savior.

    Passion is nourishing book, that feeds our hearts as we meditate upon the final hours of Jesus life. It is a sweet reminder of Jesus' great love for us. It is sweet because He drank the bitter cup of wrath and death, and gave us forgiveness and resurrection joy.

    Passion looks at the character of Pilate, The Crowd shouting Crucify Him, Barabbas and the Thief on the Cross who mocked Him, and I realize- that is me. In my natural state I would have been in that crowd shouting the same thing. I would have been the thief demanding to know why Jesus doesn't save me from death instead of the thief saying After death, I want to be with You, Jesus.

    Passion follows the account of Luke's Gospel, and Old and New Testament passages are quoted to show how the pieces of time and history came together. Christ on the Cross was the event the Prophets proclaimed would save us, and Christ's work on the Cross is illuminated as the way of salvation in the New Testament.

     The hymns at the end of the chapters say what I am feeling as I read, but don't have words to express. Which is why the hymns on the Cross were written, Mike McKinley explains, because we can't put the glory of Jesus in ordinary words.

Crown Him the LORD of years, the potentate of Time, 
Creator of the rolling spheres, ineffably sublime. 
All hail, Redeemer, Hail! For Thou hast died for me! 
Thy praise and Glory shall not fail, throughout eternity!* 
*"Crown Him with many Crowns" by Matthew Bridges and Godfrey Thring

 This is a thoughtful book. Passion would be a wonderful choice for devotional reading. It is written so that you think about what you are reading, and meditate on the Scripture that begins each chapter. By page 20, I was whispering Thank you God, Thank you God, Thank you God for going through this for me.
    I am blessed to have received Passion from Cross Focused Reviews.

Deadline, Dominion, Deception.

Ollie Chandler Collection - Randy Alcorn The Ollie Chandler Collection.

This series has everything I enjoy in a book~

Length: These books are 400 to 600 pages apiece, making this one ebook a wonderful 1,817 pages long! I love a long book. Long books are rare these days, in an era of limited attention spans. These books have length and breadth that reminds me of Tolkien's books. You feel like you have driven 600 miles after you finish one of these books.

Complexity: I love a book where the writing is worth savoring, and each scene means something later on.





Characters who form slowly, and whom you become attached to: I grew very attached to Jake Woods in Deadline, and Clarence and Obadiah in Dominion. And how can you not love Ollie Chandler? A detective who will stop at no length to solve a crime, and has a soft heart in him. And Ollie's partner, Manny, a fatherless young man and former gang member.
When they nearly die, you worry about them. When they live, you feel a rush of gladness. They are people who will live in your head long after the reading is done. Re-reading will only strengthen the bond of friendship.

Big Themes, tackled in a way that is Biblically grounded and flows from the story: Pro-life work, Apologetics, Justice, Good and evil, Where is God in suffering, discrimination, politicians, Islam, America, Heaven and hell, and the most important question of all Who is this Jesus?



A mystery with enough hints that I feel like I solved the crime, but a plot that keeps me guessing until the very end: Enough Said. Dominion, Deception, and Deadline kept me guessing until the last chapter. I would never have imagined these plots. The twists and turns were amazing.

The Ollie Chandler collection delivers all of these.
 The author uses his skill to disappear into the story, so that you see it lived out by the characters. Randy Alcorn's scenes are worth reading carefully, and his attention to detail is what makes these books so good and so long. Each character has personality and life in them. You come to know them as you read. Characters I came to know in book one are included in book two and three, something my family of readers has always loved.

I can recommend these books heartily.
I would suggest that you buy the three volumes in print... so you can reread them, and share them. I am very blessed by Waterbrook's book blogging program that sent me these three in ebook to read.








Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Building up the Church: Loving Well.

Loving Well: Even If You Haven't Been    When you read the Bible and look at the world God made, you notice that He designed Life itself to require loving  relationships. Baby animals need Mama to feed them and nurture them. Plants need wise gardeners to tend and cultivate them. People need family and friends whose care reflects the ultimate Life-Sustaining Love of God.
    The metaphors God chose to describe our Christian life show us this in bold colors. Every metaphor is about a loving relationship. Jesus is the Vine, we are the branches and God is the husbandman who lovingly tends us.
We are the straying sheep, Jesus is our leading, protecting Shepherd.
We are the children adopted into our Great and Glorious Father's Heart!

     Jesus tells us that following Him is about Loving Well. First, loving God with all our hearts, souls, strength, and mind and then loving our neighbor as ourselves. We are now redeemed by God who is Love, we are commanded to Love, and we are told that we as God's Family are to be rooted and established in Love.

     Now, most of us will ask "How?" How do we love others well, to build up the body of Christ? How to we fallen, redeemed people welcome and nurture and tend and strengthen and help the other fallen, redeemed people around us? What can we do *Now* to love them? And how do we work towards loving people well?

William Smith's book LOVING WELL needs to be on the Required Reading List for Christians. Loving people well is a possibility for every redeemed person, but it is by no means common. Things we can do to let people know they are loved are often simple, but rarely easy. Love is sacrifice, at its heart.

     "I find it helpful to think of Love as a large jewel with many facets," William Smith begins, "Each facet gives you a glimpse into the jewels essence because each facet is part of the same jewel. But every viewpoint has a sparkle all its own." This book has fifteen chapters, one for each facet of the jewel of Love. Some of these facets seem surprising, and I thought "I knew that!" Then I remembered..."Yes, I know this, but I don't put it into practice." As one wise person said, reminder is needed more often than revelation.

    One of the most surprising chapters for me might have been the one on Greeting Love. Yes, Greeting. God is the God who ran down the road to *greet* his returning Prodigal.  He hugged him and wept over him and restored him as a cherished son. If the greeting had been any other way, the returning son would not have known he was forgiven and accepted home. God is a God of Loving Greetings- as His people, we must be too. Yet how many times has someone come home and found me in the middle of something (something that was not very important) and I have not given them more than acknowledgement "Another person had entered the room."
 I am called to begin loving people the moment they walk in! Greet them as a person, a special person whom you are glad to have home!

   Two of the most powerful portions of this book might have been "Comforting Love: Running to those who are Suffering" and "Sympathetic Love: Taking on Each other's Sorrows." These chapters answer the question: When we are trying to love someone who is sorrowing, what do we say that won't be wrong? Do we have to speak? Do we have to give wise, profound advice?
Answer: We just need to be there with them. Perhaps quietly. An arm around their shoulder. A listening ear. Love them. Love them well. And read this book to remind you how.

There is much conviction, reminder, and practical application in this book.
I am blessed by this book. I received it from New Growth Publishing to review.

You may buy a copy of this book here. 



Sunday, February 24, 2013

Your Beautiful Purpose. Review.

Cover Art
     Your Beautiful Purpose is a book both tender and touching. 
Ephesians Two teaches us that we are God's workmanship, created in Christ for good works, and He has prepared these works in advance for us to walk in them. This is our beautiful purpose: To Glorify God and Enjoy Him forever. This is a purpose beyond our wildest dreams and greatest desires. The outworking of this purpose comes when we find where God would have us go and what He would have us do. For many of us those good works may be right here where we are at the moment... for some these may be on the other side of the world where we never imagined we would be called to go. It may be what we always thought we were made for. It may steal upon us like a slow spring twilight and we realize "God is in this. This is where He wants me." 

So often we women have a hard time believing that we are God's own artwork and that we have God's work to do and His blessing upon that work. We have a hard time believing that God will or can use in a way that Glorifies Him magnificently. We will have a hard time until we see that He delights in making beauty out of brokenness. No Saint has lived a life of beauty because of their own inner goodness and usefulness. No. They have been beautiful because God is God of creating beauty from brokenness, beauty that he defines and designs, beauty that comes from living out his purposes. 

The most touching parts of this book were Susie Larson's own story, revealed in a way that lets us see into her spirit. She has walked through the seasons in this book...seasons of seeing the top of the tapestry God is weaving when all the threads make lovely sense, and seasons of not seeing much of the design at all. Seasons of wondering how being "Here" is serving God, and seasons of knowing in her soul that her gifts are glorifying Him. Thank you Mrs. Larson for sharing your story.

God is calling us, let us answer Him. Let us whisper the prayer "O God, call us even more insistently, knocking at the door of our hearts and bidding us follow Christ as humbly dependent, boldly confident women." This can be our prayer. 

God has a purpose for every saved soul- if you are His and have breath in your lungs you have a beautiful purpose.

I received this book from Bethany House. 



Friday, February 22, 2013

The Cross and the Shadow of the Crescent

The Cross in the Shadow of the Crescent: An Informed Response to Islam's War with Christianity  -     
        By: Erwin W. Lutzer
    
    The Cross in the Shadow of the Crescent is Dr. Erwin Lutzer's newest book, and perhaps one of his most important. Dr. Lutzer has searched Scripture, mined history, and watched current events unfold for the last decades. He combined these areas of expertise to write this book. This book is a panoramic view of politics, world history, Church history, and missionary work as they relate to the Islamic agenda.

    We need this book in our time. As Americans we need this book. America is the focus of much attention by the part of Islam that desires to dominate. And America has been sleeping, drifting off to the lullaby of Political Correctness and Tolerance.
    When the terrorist attacks of 9/11 occurred, few of us knew what "Jihad" was, or why they were attacking.  Now, most Americans know a little about terrorism. And that is good, but not enough. Islam's agenda includes terrorism, but only as one of twelve major steps to world domination.

The leader of the Muslim Brotherhood has proclaimed blatantly that Muslims "must understand that their work in America is a kind of grand jihad in eliminating and destroying the Western civilization from within and sabotaging its miserable house by their hands.."

    Muslim protestors have said "We will use the Freedoms of the Constitution to destroy the Constitution." 

    One Muslim leader said "I have no doubt in my mind, Muslims sooner or later will be the moral leadership of America..either we do it now or we do it after a hundred years, but this country will become a Muslim country."
We need this book both as members of a nation where freedom was hard won and valued and as a Church where freedom in Christ is proclaimed, because this is even more important to us as Christians. We are called to reach out to all people in false religions with the saving Gospel of Christ. How do we reach Muslims with the Gospel? How do we speak truth to Muslims in kindness and still oppose Islam's agenda?
The Muslims in this religion are people like us. How do we reach them *as* people?
Dr. Lutzer's pastoral heart shines in this book as he answers this question. "Only love can overcome suspicion and hatred. If you ask former Muslims who converted to Christianity what won their hearts, they often repeat the words of Jesus: 'Love your enemies.' This is so antithetical to Islam that when Muslims encounter Christians who love them, they have no defense." 
The eternal question that we ask when addressing Mormons and Jewish people and everyone else must be asked here... How do we speak the Truth in Love?
We must not change the Gospel to avoid offense, but we must not speak harshly and give offense either. And if we leave either Love or Truth behind, we sin. We also fall into one of two errors.
Dr. Lutzer calls these errors the "EXPOSE THE WORST (AND PREACH NO GOSPEL)" error and the "THOU SHALT NOT OFFEND" error. Due to pro-Islamic bias in our government education system and media, very few people take the "EXPOSE" error. The "NO OFFENSE" error is far more popular.
     The false doctrine of "Chris-lam" is one of the fruits of this error.
     A very important portion of this book is dedicated to addressing "Chris-lam," a merger of Islam and Christianity. (To readers of Narnia, this reminds us of the false religion created to control the people by merging the false "Tash" and the true Aslan, creating "Tashlan.") The idea is deadly. Churches within the US have fallen into it however, with Qurans in the pews and guest Imams speaking to a Biblically illiterate membership. It has been predicted that very Liberal Protestants and Muslims will coalesce as they promote Chris-lam.

One of the pivotal passages in this book is found here "We should not see a dichotomy between a realistic view of our challenges and continuing to be a loving witness to those around us. We must learn from our Christian brothers and sisters in Muslim-dominated countries, who have learned to do both." 
As Christians and as Americans we need to understand Islam's theology. What drives Islamists to do what they do, what consumes them?
We need to understand what Islamic words mean- and what the words mean when Islamists are using them. ("Jihad" is now defined as a struggle against personal sin, according to some modern Muslims. According to many Imams however, Jihad is a Holy War for Allah.)

We need to understand what the Quran teaches about Christians and Jews, about Jesus, about the Cross. Why do Muslims destroy the symbol of the Cross and build a mosque when they conquer?
Does the Quran teach War against the Infidel? Is it a book of violence that fuels hatred, or a book of peace and love? How can loving and raging verses be quoted from the same book?
We need to understand why Islamists attack Christians the way they do and how we as a Church respond. We need to be moved in prayer and action for our Christian brethren in Muslim nations. And we need to stop fearing and or hating the Muslims around us and begin ministering to them in practical, Gospel focused ways. That is what Jesus commended us to do. Let us do it, for His Glory. Muslims are no further from the Cross than we were.





















Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Cold Case Christianity.

Cold-Case Christianity: A Homicide Detective Investigates the Claims of the Gospels

   Have you ever served on a Jury? This book puts you on one. Cold Case Christianity is written by a Los Angeles homicide detective. His book examines the Case for the Authenticity of the Gospels and the Bible. He lays out the evidence, and teaches you how to evaluate it. Will You Convict or Acquit? 

   For the non believer there may never be "enough evidence", but that claim aside, can we verify the Historical Eyewitness Accounts that are the premise of our Christian Faith? Can we prove these things beyond a Reasonable doubt? Can we show the non believer that the evidence we have is sufficient? 

   Cold Case Christianity examines whether the evidence was handled with care. What was the "chain of custody?" Were the Gospels a fabrication? A conspiracy based on power, money or prestige? 
Did all the Disciples corroborate the story? 
J. Warner Wallace says No. So many people will not stick to a lie. All the Disciples, other than John, died a martyr's death but none of them recanted their story to save their lives. 

Examine the dates, times, and people and what do you say? Men and Women of the Jury, Has J. Warner Wallace convinced you? 
                                     ~ review by Kirk

I received this book from David Cook Publishing to review. I spent ten days reading this book, highlighting and underlining. 
The author's website is full of videos and articles that also teach us apologetics. Check it out!  PleaseConvinceMe.com   You can also visit Cold Case Christianity.com 

    This Bio comes from Please Convince Me.
 Jim is both a detective (currently working cold case homicides), a missions leader and a church planter. His background was originally in design (earning a BFA from California State University at Long Beach and a Master's in Architecture from UCLA), but he has been a police officer and detective for the past 23 years. Jim wasn't raised as a Christian. In fact, he was a conscientious and vocal atheist until he was 35 or 36, and always considered himself to be an “evidentialist”. His experience in law enforcement only served to strengthen his conviction that truth is tied directly to evidence. But Jim took his first serious and expansive look at the evidence for the Christian Worldview and realized that Christianity was demonstrably true. After becoming a Christ follower in 1996, Jim took an evidential approach to truth and applied it to the Christian worldview. He eventually earned a Master's Degree in Theology from Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary and built the PleaseConvinceMe.com website, blog and podcast. Jim’s diverse experiences have provided him with some unique opportunities to examine the logical conclusions and practical realities of the “secular world view” and compare these to the blessings of Biblical Christianity. These comparisons often take the form of observations and evidences that are similar to the evidences one might offer in front of a jury. Jim is married (to the love of his life since 1979) and has four children. He is the primary author of the PleaseConvinceMe Article Archive and the host of the PleaseConvinceMe Podcast.

A Home For Lydia. One Star.

     Today I found this book in my mailbox, sent as a surprise from the publisher whom I review for. I am half-way though "The Cross in the Shadow of the Crescent" (excellent book on Islam) from them, and never expected this surprise book. A Home for Lydia.


     I have always been interested in the true stories of Amish people, and their simple lives, ever since I read "The Simple People," a large, hard bound book from my Great Grandmother full of pictures of Amish homes and people at work in fields and in the kitchen. 

     I have long wondered and received no solid answer yet as to whether the Amish are a cult or not. I believe from what I have read that the Amish are a cult, follow a false religion. 
The Amish speak of God, about trusting him and accepting his will. They read Scripture and study it, but Mormons also speak of God and Scripture, as do Witnesses, and they are cults.  
   More study on this will be necessary for me. 

    Some of the descriptions of places in this book were lovely... Pebble Creek with the white herons who stalk its banks and the starry skies over Wisconsin. 

     Lydia longs to be married and have a home and babies of her own. 

     As one of my unmarried friends reminded me yesterday, this is a good desire *when understood rightly*.  When we understand it wrongly is when we begin to think a man is the fulfillment of Our Dreams, and exists to be that. Talk about being hit over the head when I found out that a man is created to do God's Work and a wife to help him fulfill God's Dominion Mandate and Great Commission! And yes, this is romantic. As R. C. Sproul Jr says, nothing is more romantic than a man sharing his vision with his wife. Now, back to the review. 
     Lydia is beginning to wonder if this dream will ever come true, and she spends her days as care taker of tourist cabins by Pebble Creek. Her kind elderly boss dies and Lydia is left without an employer, continuing to care for the cabins that tourists never fill.

     Along comes young Amish man, Aaron Troyer, who is here to find out what these cabins his uncle owned looked like. 

     The problem with this book was romance. 

     When Lydia first sees him he is angry, the night he arrives, angry at the state of the falling down cabins. The next morning Lydia arrives for work and sees him leaving the cabin he slept in, and her heart gives a tripping beat. 
He meanwhile is thinking that she is a woman, not a girl, because she has "a woman's body." 

    This attraction grows, and is very troubling to me.  Love Biblically is not pounding hearts and faint blushes creeping up your neck as you see the other's gaze upon you. 

    They argue about the state of the bushes around the cabins, Lydia wants them to stay because birds nest in them, Aaron wants them trimmed. These arguments might be considered a sign of "spunky" people, but in marriage being combative will cause heartache. 

    They grow increasing conscious of each other's every physical movement throughout the book, making me very uncomfortable,  and I was saddened by this. I wish Lydia and Aaron had treated one another as Brother and Sister in all Purity, working and waiting and *possibly*  keeping an eye on the other with thoughts of marriage. 

    That would have made this story so much more glorious, to read of a courting couple with no "tension" between them, no kisses, no hearts pumping beyond their normal rate. 

    {The scene between the married couple, when he promises to drink extra coffee that night was extremely out of place. I could not even read some of this book aloud to my blushing family.} 

    I wish this book had none of the romance in it! Novels with romance rarely help foster thoughts 
of purity. Different things bother different people, and I stay away from what I know will bother me. All things are permissible, but not all things are beneficial.  

I would LOVE to read a book about an Amish maid with all the homey details of her country life and a story of her conversion to Christ, possibly amidst persecution from her family.  

I received this book as a surprise from Harvest House Publishing. Stay Tuned, readers. I hope to review their books "Men Counseling Men" "Mom's Raising Sons to be Men" and "A Look at Life From a Deer-Stand" soon. 


The Ecology Book.


The Ecology Book  -     
        By: Tom Hennigan
The Ecology Book.
 This book was excellent.

 Not only was it informative but surprising easy for me to understand and grasp what was being said.
   It kept my attention like no other science book ever has, because while it was very informative it was concise,  And it was fascinating as well.
    This book talks about things I would never even have known about (fungus in root cells, how plants "talk") and things I do see often but may not understand like Indian Pipe plants and yogurt. I never knew why plain yogurt was sour but I found out. 
   There are logical answers to many difficult questions, including one that I had heard before, "Why did God create the sun after the earth and plants? And doesn't that disprove creation and the Bible's account of it?" 
 The Ecology book answers the question. "Many people question the book of Genesis because if the sun drives ecosystems and the plants were created before the sun, that does not match with what we observe, so they assume the Bible is wrong..... remember that the Creator was an eyewitness to His  creation and has briefly reported what took place. Light was the first thing that was created, and that is all plants need to carry on photosynthesis. On Day 4, He simply created a physical body from which light came."
   A grand answer to a difficult question.
   The pictures it it were beautiful and really helped to illustrate the concepts. 
   It is a great book and a logical and Biblical defense of creation and the authority of the Bible, in short you must get this book.
   It is designed for family study and I believe it would be a wonderful read aloud.

                                                  ~ Review by Angela

Red Ink.

I was shocked by this book.
Red Ink, Extreme Devotions Series #3   -     
        By: Kathi Macias
    
Not by the true horrors of the Chinese prisons and human rights violation's therein, which should shock and outrage us but by the presentation.I understood that this book would be harsh when I received it but I have read and heard about these harsh subjects before and read other books by the author, but I found this book shocking.The was too much information about teenage Maggie's immoral and promiscuous life and her immoral boy friend.Also there was entirely too much information about perverse sexuality in both the prison and Maggie's life I believe that because these was part of both these characters lives it deserved to be told however it could have been told instead of described.I was unable to finish this novel, and honestly wanted to steam clean my brain when I put it down.I fear that this novel will be a stumbling block to unsuspecting readers who wish to read about Christian persecution and instead will find unnecessary content that could have been left out.I pray my review will not offend anyone, I don't want to offend anyone, but I do want to not put any stumbling block in front of myself or anyone else, please understand that I love the author, she is a sister in Christ! I truly wish no other people will read this while looking for a book about a much needed subject.

                                                                      

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Freeing tangled Hearts.

Freeing Tangled Hearts by Dolores Kimball     When a wound needs to be treated, we use both the stinging antiseptic and the soothing balm. The antiseptic cleanses it, a vital first step. The pain of the cleansing reminds us we are wounded. The balm smoothed over the wound protects it and eases the pain and the comfort of the balm reminds us we are healing.  As Christians we know Scripture is both the antiseptic and the balm. Free Tangled Hearts applies both in the best way.

 I read this 159 page book in one day. "Finished already?" A friend asked. "No, not really. This is the sort of book one never finishes." And this is true. I think I need this book close by, to keep re-reading.

A true friend would comfort you in your uncertainty and doubts with the certainty of Christ and His promises. This book does that.

A true friend will tell you about sin they see in you, and then help you to seek Forgiveness and healing. This book does that.
I can see this book having a place on my shelf of essential books on Biblical Womanhood.

This book reminds me of Spurgeon. He told us that our sins must die, every one, and confronted our hypocrisy in believing our pet sin could live while others crucified theirs. "Shall sin be fondled and yet pardoned?" No. Sin forsaken is proof of sin forgiven. How though can we tear the sins away? Then Spurgeon points us to the Cross, which makes this deed possible, and gives us hope to continue our pilgrimage.
This book is the same sort of book.

I am blessed to have received this book from Cross Focused Reviews. 

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Micah's Story.

     I am so blessed to have read this book. Thank you to the Ramsey family for sharing Micah's story.

Micah Ramsey was a loving son and brother in his family on earth and is a passionate son of His Father in Heaven.
Living for God, his Family and his Friends was his life.

At the age of five this is what his wrote about his littlest sister. "JOYBIRD. I Love her, and kiss her. I tied her shoe yesterday. I like her little smiles and I give her lots of hugs. She goes to sleep on my lap, and I like that." He truly did love Joy- in fact his mother worried that little Micah was going to rub the skin off his sister from too much hugging! 

His love for his mother was shown visibly and verbally.

When Micah was a small boy he wrote his mom a note telling her that without her, his family would be the tower of Babel.
One day while Micah was practicing algebra he wrote his mother a note in big letters inside a heart is "I Love Mommy~ Micah" His mother tells us "He was fifteen years old, and I am blessed." And we are blessed too, because she shared this with us. So sweet, so loving, so Micah.

About his Dad he wrote "My dad is a Christian. he is grounded in the word. If you get up in the morning about seven o' clock you will see him reading his Bible and praying to God. I am very thankful for having a Christian dad that can teach me how to understand the Bible and comprehend what God is trying to tell me. I just hope I can be as grounded in the word and have such a deep relationship with God as he does. To put it in a nutshell, he's the best dad in the world and I am proud to be called his son."

Photos testify more to what Micah loved: his Family.
One of the happiest photos in the book is Micah with his sister Charity, being goofy together. Micah shared a deep bond with Charity. Lots of teasing and lots of Love. He shared a deep bond with all of his family- Joy, Charity and Jeremiah his older brother.
Micah loved his family. When they were young they were home schooled, they did all of life together. They worshipped God together and ministered together. They went hunting and on mission trips. When Micah went to Braxton County High School, he was delighted to play football with Jeremiah.

Micah loved to study Scripture and read his Bible. Prayer for him was talking to a friend. A Friend who would help him when he failed. A Friend who could forgive him when he sinned. A Friend who gave him love to give to others. Micah loved to teach his friends and family from God's Word. Once when he taught he wrote "Does getting up twenty minutes early hurt? There are people who would be willing to die to get a Bible, and we have them everywhere. In some places people die for reading a Bible and we won't pick one up for ten minutes. Are we giving God our personal best?"

Those closet to Micah knew from when he was a baby that God had a plan for this young man. God's presence in his life was evident to everyone, from his teammates on the football field to the elderly lady whose hill he moved. He never wanted to miss a chance to lead someone to Christ, and his notes were filled with names of people he prayed for.

Micah had a heart so full of worship that he sang out loud. While he mowed Mrs. Hacker's hill, he sang worship music that he listened to on his ipod. Her neighbors could hear him singing with his heart full of praise. He would mow for ten hours, and when he needed a break he would walk down to Mrs. Hacker's porch talk to her while he cooled off. That is one of my favorite stories in this book.

His siblings in Christ who never met him in person are given a look into his heart in this book his mother wrote. This book is full of Faith, trusting Faith. The tests he endured cause grown people to tremble, yet he held God's hand and followed Jesus through his battle into God's arms. He was a source of strength to those who watched him, because God was His Strength.
   Micah brought God glory as he fought Ewing's sarcoma, a rare and aggressive cancer.

   Micah lived 20 weeks battling this cancer, and died at home beside his father on December 12 2009.

This is how he lived: "he lived for Christ with incredible joy, peace, and hope."

Mrs. Ramsey's words were so beautiful when she wrote about Micah's death. These words show us her heart for God and her love for her son.  'While the Lord allowed me to weep and mourn my loss, He encouraged me with the reality of  Micah's gain. I poured over verses explaining that our brief stay on earth is full of difficulties and sorrow; however, because of Jesus, eternal Life is the hope we have to spend life in Heaven with our LORD. The realization that Micah had arrived was a liberating thought. He had not lost his fight against cancer, but rather he had won the final victory. Death did not stop his life, but now he was living without sin in the presence of our Holy God who prepared his soul for eternity. God had not taken anything away from Micah, but He had given Micah eternal life through the death of His own Precious Son."
So True.

We are blessed because we have seen Micah's and his family's faith lived out in this story. As Micah would say, "Not because I am some great person, but because God is a Great, Mighty and a totally awesome God." Blessings to the Ramseys for telling Micah's story and thank you to Bookcrash for sending me this book.








Saturday, February 16, 2013

Deadline.

Deadline - Randy Alcorn Deadline is a gripping page turner.
    Three best friends from boyhood through their days in the war are caught in a car accident on a rainy day in Oregon as they drive home from a pizza shop: a Christian businessman, Finn, an adulterous relativist, Doc, who is head of surgery at the local clinic, and a secular liberal journalist, Jake.
    The only one who survives is Jake, the journalist.
    The accident was murder, however. The tie rods in the car were cut. Someone was being targeted.
 
     Was it Finn, who was a passionate Christian and who fought in the battle for pro-life, so committed that he opened his home to unwed girls so they could have a safe pregnancy? Many people hated Finn for these activities, and Jake's own home newspaper had often misrepresented him. Jake didn't often agree with this kind and gentle man, but Jake admired his loving family and solid character: Finn left behind his beloved wife, a little son who had down syndrome and a much worn Bible.

    Was it Doc? Doc lived more like Jake did, except that Jake's adultery had ended his marriage and left him estranged from his seventeen year old daughter Carly. Doc's life looked both good and terrible from the outside. He was always the head of everything, respected, and popular, yet his wife and daughter lived with broken hearts from his adultery, and Jake could see the wounds it left. Who would kill Doc? Jake knew Doc as well as he knew himself, and Doc was a "good" man... but did Jake really know him, and was he a good man?

    Jake and Detective Ollie Chandler begin to investigate, and Jake's convictions about almost everything are shaken to the bone.
    Jake's life is at risk as he continues the investigation, now aided by two men who profess to be FBI agents and swear him to secrecy.

Who will he believe? Who can he trust? Who is the killer?
The biggest question Jake must answer is Is there Truth?

    Watching the life leave his friend Finn in the ICU reminds this journalist that his final Deadline is coming. Jake has always been able to meet his 11:30, 800 word deadline (sometimes at 11:50), but the deadline of his life will leave the article written with no edits left to make.
God himself is getting a hold of Jake.


     Meanwhile, from Heaven, Finn watches Jake below in the dark world, praying fervently that his Jake will come to know the LORD whom Finn now worships face to face.

    Finn's beautiful passage from his broken body in the ICU into the Joy of His Lord is written in Deadline. My family, listening as I read, loved this part.
    Finn's conversations with his guardian angel were a thrill for me to read. Scripture says that the angels earnestly desire to peek into God's mystery of redemption, they are servants of God and exist to do His bidding amongst men on earth and in Heaven.
When the angel told Finn that he wished he were a human, for humans are made in the LORD's very, this truth washed over me. The knowledge that these powerful beings, angels, wish to be human as I am, because God made us in His Image is amazing to me.
    When Finn was allowed to witness the formation of his first grandbaby's DNA, tears came to my eyes. This is what a pre born baby is, a miraculous, wondrous, creation of God.
These scenes from Heavens view were good to read, they help us imagine our Real Home.


     My favorite part of this gripping page turner were the themes explored as Jake searches for the Truth. This book was loaded with these themes. As a liberal columnist, Jake supported euthanasia, abortion, divorce, sex education, diversity, multiculturalism and self determined morality. He attended sensitivity training, and yet his opinion column attacked right wing fundamentalists each week.
"Tolerance for everyone else, intolerance for pro-life Christians" was the unspoken pledge for this writer at The Tribune, and with journalism gagged by tolerance the paper was becoming a special interest newsletter- and Jake knew it.
So many of his cherished beliefs had started to producing their fruit in the life of his child...his ex-wife and daughter need him like never before.

As Jake and Ollie investigate the crime, Jake is shown things he never expected.
Bonds he thought were bonds of honest friendship were lies, and things were not what they seemed. People whom he thought he knew were putting up a false front, and living a deadly other life.

   As he comes face to face with questions he had dodged all of his life Jake is forced to change his mind about most things. Discussions in the newsroom and with his daughter give us a look at the world through the eyes of a journalist used to getting his story and backing up his own opinion. He is the perfect character to explore these themes through.

For a mystery and a look at life through Jake's eyes and his changing perspective, Deadline is a book I recommend.
I was glad this book was 400 pages long. Long books are good. I am glad I received Deadline from Waterbrook Blogging for Books to write this review.

As a final note, this review was written in Blogger's Normal Times font. You will understand why I mentioned this when you read Deadline.







Friday, February 15, 2013

Marriage Matters

Marriage Matters: Extraordinary Change Through Ordinary Moments

Marriage Matters: Extraordinary Change through Ordinary Moments.   
It is not good grammar to begin a book review with Wow.  I need to say it anyway. 
Marriage Matters really made sense to me. Written by a Christian Counselor, this book deals with our emotions and behavior in light of Scripture. 

Marriage Matters begins with three points for how marriages change to Glorify God.

1. Marriages Change when we recognize God's agenda for so called ordinary moments.

2. Marriages change when we are willing to love in practical, Christ-like ways even in difficult moments. 


3. Marriages change when we're willing to love consistently, over time, not because our spouses change, but because we're in a growing relationship with God.


Winston Smith builds a sturdy book (almost 300 pages) upon these ideas.  

Our foundation is point 1: understanding God's agenda for our marriage. We find His plan in Scripture's definition of marriage. Winston Smith points out that when Paul and Peter write about marriage in the letters, they always focus on Jesus Christ. Seeing the eternal purpose for our marriage girds us with strength to press on in the valley, and heartens us with the vision of what will be in our Marriage to Christ. Our Marriage drives us very close to Christ, making us more like Him, because we can't live in intimate union with a sinful person until we live in union with our Savior. We cannot love until we know our Lover. The hard times sculpt us into His image. 
Our marriage is also evangelism. We show a love starved world the love that God puts in us for our spouse, a love we only have because of God in us. 

2. Part two gives us a glimpse of Extraordinary Love in Marriage. This book asks us to search our heart, not just our spouse's. I need this. I are commanded in Scripture to repent of my own sins and love my neighbor purely. With God I can do this, even when it is very hard.  
I can't create change in my spouse's heart. I can only live Biblically towards them.
My favorite portion of Marriage Matters is part two, chapters six through fifteen. These chapters dealt with me and the way I treat the other person. This was my favorite part right now, so I will quote from these chapters. 

Person or Object? Honor or Manipulation? is the title of chapter six. I never realized just what manipulation is, and how deep it is in my fallen heart, and how quick it crushes a marriage until I read this. 
Manipulation is defined as 'Giving to get.'  Our modern concept of marriage helps us enter marriage ready to manipulate: We call Marriage a Contract. A Contract is an agreement saying "If you do your part I will do mine. I will give if and only if I get. If you don't perform then no deal, I'm breaking the contract." 

Marriage, Biblically, is a Covenant, not a Contract. Love, Biblically, does not think about how it can Get more before it Gives. 
When we look at our spouse through the "Giving to Get" lens, we have conditions in our love. We view them as an object, an obstacle in our way to getting what we want. 
We manipulate them instead of honoring them, because honor comes when we know they are God's, and manipulation comes when we think they are our's to use. 
"Rather than acting out of genuine concern for your spouse, you treat him or her as a means to an end, as a way to get what you want. Instead of serving your spouse, you're using him or her to serve yourself. You're treating a person like an object."

This is convicting. Winston Smith gives us a chart of Attitudes of Honor or Manipulation. 

 Honor: "God is using you to make me like Him." 
 Manipulation: "You are the problem."
 How often are my thoughts about others are manipulating, not honoring! 



Chapter seven is Honesty is Important.
We are commanded in Scripture to speak the truth in love. This needs a lot of grace to get right. We have two temptations, to twist truth to appease others, and to be cruelly honest and get stuff off our chest that hurts the hearer. 
I love this definition of loving Honesty. "The kind of honesty that reflects God's Love requires sharing the right information in the right way, a way that leads to oneness and growth."

Chapter  eight takes us into the scary place of Being Honest about Yourself. 
 It is awful to see a glimpse of our real motives and heart, but essential if we are going to have a Christian Marriage. 


Speaking Truth to your Spouse is chapter nine. There is power in words, to hurt and to help. "Even a few well chosen words can provide a compass heading and reorient a couple in danger of losing her way." 
I found myself writing "I want to talk like this." in the margin of this chapter. The sections on Wholesome Words and Unwholesome Words were excellent.

Chapters Eight and Nine look at Conflict. When I hear conflict I always think of brawling, malice and slander, things Ephesians tells us to put away. When you tell me conflict is about fighting sin, then it makes sense. Sin fighting is near the core of Christianity.
We want to battle our sin and help our spouse battle theirs. Our fight is never with the person of our spouse, but with sin. 
From these chapters I learned that there are three sinful ways to respond to conflict. Appease, Ignore, and Fight. These are the cheap counterfeits of three Scriptural precepts for conflict: Yeilding, Waiting, and Confronting with Love and Truth. 

Chapters Twelve  and Thirteen are  Foundations of Forgiveness and Forgiveness in Marriage. 
Life as a sinner with a sinner requires forgiveness. 
I love this definition of forgiveness: "Your decision to forgive is a decision to do everything you can to keep this incident from coming between you and your spouse."  
O how we need this information when it comes to marital forgiveness!
 "The intimacy of marriage makes us more vulnerable to the sins and weaknesses of the other. There are common obstacles to forgiveness in marriage: using forgiveness to take the issue off the table (i.e., rushing the process); fearing that it will just happen again; and failing to recognize the differences between forgiving and enabling, consequences and payback." Forgiveness is not accepting abuse. It is not allowing the sinner back into their sins. New Growth Press publishes books that examine this aspect of healing very compassionately. 

Chapter fourteen is Understanding your Role, a look at why God made them Male and Female, and what being a woman or man says about marriage. 
    This quote is a lovely depiction of gender roles in marriage: "In the marital dance, the husband leads as he listens to the music of Christ. Because the wife hears the same music, they're able to keep time in their own minds and move as one. In a clumsy moment toes may be stepped on; on occasion, dance moves may have to be reviewed and maybe an instructor consulted."

Part Three is Staying the Path. Christianity is a long Obedience in the same direction, Marriage is a long faithfulness to your spouse.





Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Masculine Mandate.


 


I am always amazed by the way God works. In the past month I have received two books on one theme. The theme is Biblical Manhood. The books are Real Valor by Steve Farrar and The Masculine Mandate by Richard Phillips.

  "It is remarkable to me how easily precious things can be lost." Rick Phillips writes in the first chapter of the Masculine Mandate. "An individual can quickly lose precious possessions such as innocence, integrity, or a good reputation. The church can lose precious things, too, and this seems to be happening today. One ideal we may be losing is that of strong, biblical, and confident Christian manhood...This book is written for Christian men who not only don’t want to lose that precious biblical understanding, but who want to live out the calling to true manliness God has given us. We need to be godly men, and the Bible presents a Masculine Mandate for us to follow and fulfill. But do we know what it is? My aim in writing this book is to help men to know and fulfill the Lord’s calling as it is presented so clearly to us in God’s Word."

    Adam was given two charges in Eden. To Work the Garden and to Keep it. These same charges that governed the man's work in Eden govern his work today, and govern his love for his wife, his care for his children, and his friendships. To Work and to Keep are the charges in every portion of a man's life. Working and Keeping are the Masculine Mandate.
This is not secret knowledge, nor a magical, mystical thing, or a spiritual revelation gleaned from studying the original language. It is Scriptural, practical truth.

"Work. To work is to labor to make things grow. In subsequent chapters I will discuss work in terms of nurturing, cultivating, tending, building up, guiding, and ruling.
Keep. To keep is to protect and to sustain progress already achieved. Later I will speak of it as guarding, keeping safe, watching over, caring for, and maintaining.
 The term work signifies God’s broad mandate for a nurturing and cultivating masculinity, which causes people and things to grow and become strong. The second term, keep, refers to man as a watchman and defender, keeping safe those under our care. By diligently observing the work-and-keep mandate, men fulfill their calling by building up and keeping safe."

    When all of life is lived out in terms of this mandate, men can be confident and bold as an Ambassadors of Christ. Men can be tender and gentle as Shepherds.
     Working and Keeping will be a man's charge at home, in his field of work, and in his Church.  And this will be the result: "In our families, our presence is to make our wives and children feel secure and at ease. At church, we are to stand for truth and godliness against the encroachment of worldliness and error. In society, we are to take our places as men who stand up against evil and who defend the nation from threat of danger." 

    In Masculine Mandate we read that man was created to work; to marry and to multiply and fill the earth.
I enjoyed his chapters on Work. Men are made to work, and anyone who wants to know what makes a man tick must understand: Man will find his identity in his work to a great extent.
A healthy nation will be full of men at work. Digging ditches, building houses, writing music, butchering cows, putting out fires, planting fields, wiring and plumbing houses. And their work will have value, not just because it accomplishes a good purpose, but because God gave work value.
 "Why does labor have this inherent value? Because we were made for it. God placed Adam in the garden and put him to work. Therefore, because God is good and has chosen to be glorified through our labor, we are able to enjoy work and find a significant part of our identity in it."



      I loved his chapter on singleness and marriage. Going straight for the heart of the issue, Rev. Phillips calls on single Christians who don't intend to stay single all of their life (the gift of singleness) to step up and marry. Our culture glorifies singleness that is selfish and has nothing to do with Kingdom building. We must return to a full picture of God honoring marriage.
 Listen to him describe why God called Eve a helper, not just a mate or a companion.
 "God said Adam needed a “helper” because it places the primary emphasis on the shared mandate to work and keep God’s creation under the man’s leadership." 

     My favorite chapters of all were the ones on the way a man Works and Keeps his wife's heart. The command to Nourish and Cherish our wives is part of the masculine mandate of Working and Keeping. Isn't Scripture full of beautiful parallels? Nourish-Cherish, Work-Keep.
 A great deal of a man's duty to his wife is his ministry of God's Word to her heart. Texting her with Scripture. Speaking Scripture's blessings over her. Defining all of Life's experiences in Scripture's Words. Giving her God's Word from her husband's lips. "So when a husband knows his wife is weighed down under the burdens of child-raising, he might say to her, “[cast] all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7). A husband who knows his wife feels unlovely or depressed can minister the balm of God’s Word to the bruised spot in her heart: “The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing” (Zeph. 3:17). A husband who knows his wife is grieving a loss might encourage her to take her heart to the Lord: “The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit” (Ps. 34:18)."

I also loved the chapters on Working and Keeping our children's souls. This means giving them our hearts, our love, our mercy, our pity, our time, our gentleness, our firmness, our discipling, our discipline; dispensing God's Grace and Truth.
     "If I had to pick just one verse on parenting from the book of Proverbs—the main source of our biblical wisdom on this subject—it would be Proverbs 23:26. Here we have the very pulse of the Bible’s teaching on a father’s relationship with his children, including God the Father’s relationship with us, His sons in Christ. This verse provides the perspective behind all the wisdom passed from father to son in the Proverbs. In it, the father simply pleads, 'My son, give me your heart.' This is the prime aspiration of a true father toward his children. All the advice and commands found in Proverbs flow from this great passion: the desire of a loving father for the heart of his child, and for that child’s heart to be given to the Lord."  

   Masculine Mandate is a book that returns us to Scripture's truth, truth that is both delightful and everlasting.
It is so good to see men living as God made them to: Working and Keeping, under their King.
I am grateful to Reformation Trust for sending me a copy of this book to review. Another blessing to add to my family's library!





Sunday, February 10, 2013

Real Valor.

    I have always loved the book of Ruth.
When I heard Alistair Begg's sermons on Ruth I loved her story even more. Ruth is a lovely little book, only four chapters long, and God paints a grand scene on this small canvas: Fidelity, Redemption, Restoration, and Love.
    The story of Ruth exists like all of Scripture to point us to Christ, and in Ruth the illustration of Christ is found in the person of the Kinsman Redeemer, Boaz. Boaz is the man who rescued her and loved her, Like Christ does for us.
 Her story is His Story.
Within Ruth's story we see Boaz as an illustration of Christ and also upheld as one of the best examples of manhood in Scripture.

        Real Valor: A Charge to Nurture and Protect Your Family is a book I am glad to add to my library of books on Biblical Manhood and Marriage and Family.
        Real Valor looks at the heart and character of Boaz; what made him tick, and why this Boaz-Man has a lot to show us about Godly manhood.
We find that Boaz was truly a mighty man of Valor, and that he was used mightily in a way every man of God can be used. "Most men don't shepherd nations," Steve Farrar states, "God calls most men to be husbands and fathers and grandfathers. He calls them to shepherd their families."
Boaz's role in God's Plan was as a shepherd of his family.
He lived righteously, worked diligently, worshipped humbly, stepped up to his duty as a rescuer of Naomi and Ruth, and when he married in purity and honor he was blessed to become an ancestor of Christ through his son.
   Real Valor looks at many themes that we see in Boaz's life. We read about his awareness of God's Providence that guided every detail of his days.
We see his sterling character, that would refuse a blessing he dearly wanted because another man was first in line to receive it.
We watch his care and compassion for the orphan and widow; his love of mercy and his willingness to pour out grace upon this widowed Moabitess Ruth.
     Steve Farrar's book is rich with quotes from great Theologians, including Thomas Watson, Charles Spurgeon, and Jeremiah Burroughs, all Boaz Men themselves.
They show us Men the way God created them to be: Under the Kingship of Christ and working and striving for His Kingdom.
Like Boaz, these Puritan Calvinists were real men, strong and sturdy, and they are among the best Theologians our world has seen, because they are God's men.
You see this in Spurgeon's expositions. As you read you become overwhelmed by his manly, passionate love for Christ. His Godliness is expressed in a masculine way.
The Puritan men who penned the prayers in Valley of Vision set this truth firmly in our soul.
They are real men, worshipping The Living God with their minds brimming with Scripture.
I hope that every one who has not yet read their writing will venture into them now...
You will not return the same.
     Their quotes added so much to this good book about Boaz.
      I am looking forward to sharing Real Valor with my family.
      I am glad I was given this book from David C Cook Publishing free for review. Real Valor will be added to my library. 

Friday, February 8, 2013

Renee of France, a Biography.

 As a homeschooling family, we have a favorite way to learn that is a great delight. Many Homeschooling families share this same delight. It is called reading aloud. First Mom reads aloud, then Dad when he comes home. When the children grow old enough they begin reading aloud to their siblings and parents, which is wonderful because then the story can continue as Mom makes lunch and dinner. As all homeschooling read-aloud families discover, the best way to learn history is in Living Books. Simonetta Carr knows this, and that is why she writes this volume of the Bitesize Biographies series.

"Our perception of a time in history tends to be rigid and simplistic", she explains, and when it comes to a complex time like the Reformation it can be extremely hard to understand from a history text book. That text can be the spine, but meat is needed.
"Perhaps it might be easier to grasp if we try to experience it through the struggles, desires, perplexities, convictions, and quests of someone who lived though it," suggests Simonetta, "In this case, a vocal and inquisitive woman — RenĂ©e of France." Having never heard of Renee of France I was excited to receive a free copy of her biography from the author through Cross Focused Reviews.

Renee of France was an informative and fascinating book that kept my attention throughout it.
I found Renee of France to be a personal and memorable way to learn about a historical figure and history.
 The personal story of Renee provided facts and information about the Reformation era as well, definitely a good read for girls who want to read about Christian heroines.
   Renee's story was sad, she struggled with the same temptations Christians face today.  She could remain true to the Truth in the face of persecution or confirm to the demands of the Catholic Church and experience"freedom."
I could understand Renee's struggles and failures and yet each time she compromised she would return in some way to and courageously stand for the truth.
At the end of her life her uncompromising, faithful profession of faith in her written will was her strongest testimony.
The jewels of the book were in the fine writing and retelling of Renee's story, and in the last chapter: a Biblical look at the issues and questions that Renee faced. Simonetta Carr helped to answer questions such as "Does an outward profession of faith really matter if I am right with God on the inside?" the same questions that the answers given to Renee shaped her choices and changed her life.
   One thing mentioned in this book would make me wary of giving it as a read alone book to a young child, the author writes that the were rumors that Renee's husband was unfaithful to her, this would be a better subject to deal with in a family talk about Biblical morals.




Thursday, February 7, 2013

A Woman's Heart for God.

A Woman's Heart for God: Drawing Closer to the Lover of Your Soul  -     
        By: Sheila Cragg
    
 

A Woman's Heart for God: Drawing Closer to the Lover of Your Soul

      I loved every chapter of this book!
     All the topics addressed lie so close to a woman's heart.
     Don't we all feel that our relationship with Jesus is sustained by our own efforts?
     Don't we all feel that once we are saved by Grace it is up to us to strive harder to grow in Grace?
     Have we ever lost sight of this truth: "My deeper relationship with God is up to Him, not me: He will guide me and instruct me in His ways?" 
     Don't we all want to respond to God as the Lover of our Souls? Don't we all forget He is the one who initiates this Love relationship?
     Don't we all worry that our flaws are too much for God to Love?

This book begins with a foundation of rich theological truth, an overview of God's Perfect, Divine Nature.
 Our heart sings as we read about His Glory, His Love, His Holiness, His Mercy and Long-Suffering Kindness toward us; His Ever Present Care for us.
These truths cause joy to well up in the readers heart- because we don't just know about Him, we know Him!
We agree with the great preachers, whose quotes are included in this book to stir our hearts: "His love is an incomprehensibly vast, bottomless, shoreless sea before which we kneel in joyful silence,” A. W. Tozer.
     It is so good, so overwhelming to know this about God, yet As we come to know know Him, nothing we have known about Him prepares us for what we see face to face.
Our Lover is outstanding among ten thousand. 
Reading this book causes us to celebrate our Lover, and to look into His heart of Care for us, and to look into our own heart that needs His Love, and to see He is there to pour it out upon us. 

     The chapters on knowing we are God's, and that He will never turn us away work to heal our frail hearts.  Our hearts fear being unloved, or unworthy of love, and this cripples our relationship with God. We fear being rejected. Look at what Scripture tells us!
    "God’s beloved include those who feel flawed, frail, handicapped; who are hurting and wounded; who have emotional and mental illnesses; who have personality quirks and physical imperfections. But, far more importantly, these men and women have a heart for God and great worth in His eyes—and they are spiritually beautiful."
    "The truth is, you are one of God’s beloved. As you receive His love and understand the worth you have in Him, you will radiate His beauty. You will be a woman after His own heart."

     In the chapters on loss and affliction, being crucified with Christ, every observation she made struck a chord with me. It was so heartening to hear some of Sheila Cragg's personal story, and her reflections on life.
    "Life’s uncertainties can definitely challenge my confidence in God. I know in my mind that God is faithful and reliable, but I waver emotionally. I would rather not go through the wrenching process of my faith being tried and stretched. I’d like to be a spiritual superperson, but I’m not. And I suspect I’m not alone. Yet as I persevere by faith, my trust in the Lord grows stronger."
     Looking at our afflictions honestly and trusting God to hold us in Him when we would run away leads to hope: "Even in our brokenness, a tiny seed of confidence in God will grow deeper spiritual roots. We can cling to our Lord no matter how terrible the heartaches, despite our inability to handle the painful circumstances, and regardless of our doubts about God and our wavering faith. We can ask God to hold on to us when we can’t hold on to Him any longer, and He will."

     The chapters on the devotional life are the best I have read so far in my Christian reading life.
"God is the One who helps us embrace the beauty of a life devoted to Him. As we faithfully meet with Jesus, He enables us to face trials of all kinds, He guides our steps and strengthens our faith, and He uses us to comfort others with the comfort we have received from Him." 

"I used to think I’d failed when I came away from my quiet time still feeling spiritually empty. I now realize that my feelings have little to do with what God is doing in my life. I now want to spend time with God to build our relationship just as I want to spend time with my husband, sons, and grandchildren to build our relationship—and simply because I love them and enjoy being with them." 
    
 I think I will start keeping a spiritual journal!
"A spiritual journal helps us see the growth in our lives. When we read back over our writings, we can see when the roses blossomed, those moments when God’s grace was magnificently on display. We may also see that, during trials, our peace wilted like rose petals in the scorching heat. Maybe our faith was pruned until nothing remained but thorny sticks locked in the hardened earth.When that desolate season finally ended, however, we again saw fresh, green shoots of faith and hope springing forth. "
 
 Reading this book a woman comes to understand that an intense season of giving care to a suffering loved one or raising children does not make her a failure at prayer and the disciplines. We need to draw closer to God in an intense season, but every season of Seeking God will not look the same. At one point in a woman's life she may be able to sit in a window seat with her tea and her Bible, at another she may nourish her soul with verses taped to her kitchen wall.
  "Seeking after God in every season of life will allow Him to cultivate the soil of our hearts, prune sin, cut off dead branches, and tenderly nurture our growth. He yearns to meet with us in a simple, sacred place where we can flourish in His watchful, protecting presence.
 

This book ministers to women's hearts. I can't wait for my sister and mother to read this book. I received my review copy of A Woman's Heart for God free from the author and Worthy Publishing.  I simply reviewed this book truthfully and I loved it. This is a book I am very glad to have for my family.
   

Sheila Cragg has written Bible Studies that are still carrying four and five stars on amazon, and have ministered to the hearts of women who read them. Her latest book is A Woman's Heart For God, published by Worthy Publishing.    

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Biblical love and help for those who deal with depression.


     I found Good Mood, Bad Mood, to be a revolutionary, thought provoking and much needed book.
    When you love someone who is depressed, or are depressed yourself, your focus is on getting through grind of the day ahead of you, not healing. You settle into head above water mode, trying to keep from sinking- not moving toward shore.
One doctor says medication is your answer for every person, another says you need to "get at the root" of the problem.
One says what you feel is imaginary, another says it is your identity.
   
      I was thrilled to see Dr. Hodges' belief that hope and help could be found in the person of Jesus for those who are depressed.
      I was startled to see that many people who are grieving or mourning are diagnosed with depression, and then possibly given the wrong medication, when what they need is compassionate help with heavy sorrow.

    What is depression? 
     Is it a disease, with a cause within the body?
     Sometimes, certainly, there is a physical cause. 
     Is medication the way to treat it, or is there a deeper root that medication can't always touch? 
    Are some people being labeled "depressed" being hurt by this diagnosis, and is part of the hurt    the baggage that comes with the label? 
    Why are there so many definitions for what depressed is? 
    What about bipolar? 
     Far too many patients today feel like the woman in the Gospel of Luke, with the issue of blood that went on for twelve long years. Luke, being a doctor, was troubled that no one had been able to help her case. Medicine had no answers for her problem, though many doctors had tried, Luke tells us. 
     Mark says frankly that she had spent all she had on physicians and had been harmed rather than helped. Jesus, her Creator, was the only One who could help her, and a single touch of her hand to His robe healed her.   
    "Thankfully," writes Dr. Hodges, "Medicine has made incredible advances since that woman was healed by Jesus. But we still face the same problems that doctors did in Luke's day. We encounter diseases that we struggle to accurately diagnose and effectively treat. And patients endure much. The purpose of this book is to look at another area of medicine in which patients face the kind of problems this woman faced. The diagnosis and treatment of the disease do not result in a rapid and complete cure. The cost of treatment and the lost wages are a significant burden to those affected. Yet in a significant number of cases, the real solution may be found in a meaningful encounter with the Great Physician." 

     This book works through both science and Scripture. 
The science of how depression and bipolar have been diagnosed through the years shines light on how to help depressed people today, and Scripture is rich with the stories of sorrowed men and women. These stories of their heavy sorrow and their cries of sadness help us as well with our sadness. God tells us our sadness is not imaginary, and it is not our identity either.
And over all their stories is something that helps us even more, that never changes for them or for us- the love of the God of all Comfort who promised to carry His children.

    Scripture reminds us that since Eden, brokenness, sadness, mourning, pain disease and death have been marring our world. Depression has come upon the greatest saints in the Old Testament and the New. What is sadness for? Why does God allow us mourn when we were not created for a fallen world? 
Is sorrow ever good, Biologically or spiritually? 

    In Scripture we read the life of Hannah, who knew the loss of her dream for a long time and her painful longing for children. Hannah would not eat, would not rest, and prayed weeping before the LORD. 

    We read of Martha and Mary, who lost Lazarus to death of a sudden illness. Jesus responded to them in their sorrow by weeping with them. There is a time to mourn, and mourning is hardly ever a clean, mess-less, tidy process. How can we mourn with those who mourn and assure them that joy will come in the morning, though weeping may endure for the long night? 

    And Paul, the man who wrestled with a thorn in the flesh that tormented him, emotionally and physically. His thorn was never taken away.
 Is it possible that some people will wrestle with sadness as their thorn, and that no medicine will help them, but God's Grace will be more than sufficient? 
 How can we support and uphold them, the way we do all our brethren, without labeling them as "diseased?"

    Good Mood Bad Mood contains stories made up from Dr. Hodges' years of helping patients. As I read the chapters devoted to telling Eve's story, I praised God for raising up doctors like Dr. Hodges, who compassionately counsel their patients from the open book of Scripture and the common sense understanding of the body God made. Dr. Hodges is a doctor who is familiar with the Scriptures and his patient will be able to help them see what area they need restoration in. I was very glad to read the account of Eve and how she was guided back into Life out of the spiritual wasteland of alcohol abuse amidst deep sadness. I know so many people who need a doctor like this, who can point them to Our LORD. 
 I am so glad that healing can be part of our vocabulary when it comes to depression, not just getting through the day. 

I was blessed to receive this book from the author and Cross Focused Reviews.