May 26, 2015

The Case for Grace

"When all seems lost, God's grace is enough. God does not give a Gift inferior to Himself." Augustine

This book was so good. SO GOOD.

I was happy to find such a balanced look at grace within its pages.

Lee Strobel not only shares eight powerful stories of grace, but also intertwines his own story of grace throughout.

Each chapter is devoted to one story of grace.

Chapter 1: The Mistake -Tells us the beginnings of Lee's story

This was the beginning of Lee's story. His feelings of being unloved and rejected by his earthly father. His feelings of being a mistake and being unwanted as a unexpected baby.

Chapter 2: The Orphan - Tells us about God's grace in adopting us as His child. 

This was the story of Stephanie Fast. A woman abandoned as a small bi-racial child at a railroad station in Korea. Abused and taunted for being bi-racial, it wasn't until a few years passed that she was adopted into a Christian home. And even many more years passed until she prayed one night, she says...

"Suddenly, it came to me: Jesus knows me - and he still loves me! He knows all my shame, he knows all my guilt, he knows all my fears, he knows all my loneliness - yet He still loves me. And I've never been the same since."

The grace of her adopted parents was wonderful, but it could not restore her fully, only the love and grace of God could do that.

"For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, “Abba, Father.”  Romans 8:15

Chapter 3: The Addict - Tells us we don't have to perform for God to be loved. We are called to just love as He does.

This was the story of a drug addict named Jud Wilhite, who came to Christ, got clean, but then began to perform for God, which led him to burn out, until he realized... 

"I came to realize that God didn't love me because I made myself valuable through service; on the contrary, I was valuable because I was loved by God."

 “This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends."  John 15:12-13

Chapter 4: The Professor - Tells us that no religion compares to Christ and the grace of God. It also tells us we need to know the depth of our sinfulness before we can experience and understand true grace.

This was the story of Craig Hazen, a professor who teaches us that 'being good' will never be good enough. Whether it's thorough religious practices or doing good deeds, it will never be enough, but that God's grace is enough.

As a 'good guy' he finally came to understand...

"Here's what I came to understand: having good table manners, getting A's in school, saying 'please' and 'thank-you' and being nice to people - that's all pretty trivial stuff. Actually, I was in rebellion against a Holy God so powerful that he could speak billions of galaxies into existence. Now, that's huge! I was ignoring Him, I was turning my back on Him, and my sins - my pride, my smugness, my selfishness, and all of my secret deceit and illicit desires - had created an enormous gap between us, and it was fostering that sense of alienation and anxiety in me.

That is what sin does. God is perfect, He is holy, He is pure - and I certainly wasn't, neither in thought nor deed. The Bible stresses that nobody is truly good - Romans 3:23 says that 'all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.' Over time, I came to realize that the plain language of that verse means what it explicitly says - 'all have sinned,' and that included me.

I needed forgiveness and I found grace through Jesus."

"...for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus"  Romans 3:23-24

Chapter 5: The Executioner - Tells us that grace covers the most horrendous of crimes. All sin is forgiven through Christ Jesus.

This is the story of Christopher Lafel who lived through the killing fields of Cambodia.. It's an extraordinary story that really captured my heart and will make you think deeply about the grace of God. Can God forgive and share His grace with those who commit the most horrendous of crimes? The answer is YES.

Christopher says here...  

"Jesus's death had infinite value because he's an infinite God; it was enough to cover all the sins of the world. If we say some sin is too terrible, then we're saying Jesus fell short in his mission. Grace is only grace if it's available even to the Duchs of the world." (Duch being a man who did atrocities during the killing fields against some of Christopher's family members)

"In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace which He made to abound toward us in all wisdom and prudence"   Ephesians 1:7-8

Chapter 6: The Homeless - Tells us about the power of God's grace extended to another.

This is the story of Cody Huff who found himself homeless after living a reckless life. This is another amazing story. How God worked is mind-boggling.

It reminded me this life is really about God's story, and how He includes us in it.

His love and compassion is evident in this chapter. What was the starting point of Cody's life changing?... a hug, a simple hug from a woman who didn't see a filthy dirty homeless man, but a man whom God loved.

"Blessed is he who considers the poor;
The LORD will deliver him in time of trouble."  Psalm 41:1

Chapter 7: The Pastor - Tells us how grace covers our shame and brings healing.

This story is of a pastor named Brad Mitchell, who fell into sin and committed adultery. Because of this one decision he lost everything. His job, his home, his reputation. He lived in shame. He says here...

"You can experience God's grace to the degree that you're willing to accept full responsibility for what you've done. Could I try to find excuses? Sure. I could look back at how depleted I was, at how others weren't appreciating me, at the stress of the church, at the fact that our marriage wasn't doing well - but there have been people in far worse situations who have stayed faithful to Jesus. I didn't. I failed. I made the choices that I made. I can't point the finger at anyone else."

He later says of accepting the grace of God and living in freedom from sin...

"Christ paid for my sins on the cross. When I'm stuck in shame, that's me taking back on myself what Jesus took on Himself. I'm diminishing what Christ accomplished. Jesus doesn't want me to stay punished, because he took the punishment for what I did, and that gives me the freedom to move ahead with confidence and in grace."

"Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession.

For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin.
Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need."  Hebrews 4:14-16

Chapter 8: The Prodigal - Tells us about the cost of grace and how amazing it really is.

This is the story of Luis Palau son, Andrew. I've heard Luis on the radio for years and never knew the pain he was going through as he son rebelled. This story reminds us that just because we raise our kids in a christian home this does not guarantee their personal relationship with the Lord.

This story hit home because it tells the same story I've heard and seen so many times before. A rebellious son of daughter comes to a christian meeting and comes to the front and says a simple prayer to be saved. But within a few weeks they are right back in the life they were living. Andrew refers to this as 'cheap grace' something he read by Dietrich Bonhoeffer.

Bonhoeffer says...

"Cheap grace is the grace we bestow on ourselves. Cheap grace is...forgiveness without requiring repentance... and absolution without personal confession. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ living and incarnate."

We must seek costly grace, because what has cost God much cannot be cheap to us. It is costly because it condemns sin, but it is grace because it saves the sinner."

True grace cost Jesus much, yet He gives it to us freely and without cost to us. Isn't that amazing?

"He said to me: 'It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To the thirsty I will give water without cost from the spring of the water of life."  Revelations 21:6

Chapter 9: Empty Hands - Tells us we can do nothing without Christ and His grace.    

This last chapter was Lee's continued story. He shares an incredible experience he had when he got very sick and was taken to the hospital. It will make you think of who you are, who God is and what really matters in this life.

I recommend a lot of great books, but I think this is one Christians really need to read. So many of us just don't understand what grace is. The power of God's grace is hard to grasp for so many.

I recently read a book by a kind and generous young man promoting positive thinking and new age advice, all with good intentions. After reading this book (The Case for Grace), I see now that young man, without realizing it, was only offering cheap grace. I don't want cheap grace, I want the freedom of the grace that cost my Savior. This is the only grace that counts.

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

Buy it HERE on Amazon

May 11, 2015

Growing Up Social

This cover stirs up mixed emotions. Firstly it seems so cute, but it also makes me a little sad.

My children are all adults now 19, 23, and almost 25, and so we didn't have to deal with most of the handheld devices parents have to today.

The cell phone was the only thing we struggled with and we kept our ground and made them wait till they were in the 12th grade before they got their own. I can't imagine how distracting it would have been to have all these devices when they were young children. We fought enough about how much texting was going on when they were 17! : )

This book will be a great help to many parents on how to navigate the use of electronic devices in the home, but more importantly it gives great advice on the family.

Here is the table of contents:
Introduction: Taking Back Your Home

1. Screen Time: Too Much, Too Soon?

2. The A+ Method for Relational Kids 

3. The A+ Skill of Affection 

4. The A+ Skill of Appreciation,  

5. The A+ Skill of Anger Management 

6. The A+ Skill of Apology 

7. The A+ Skill of Attention 

8. Screen Time and Shyness 

9. Screen Time and the Brain 

10. Screen Time and the Love Languages 

11. Screen Time and Security 

12. Screen Time and Parental Authority 

13. Screen Time and the Single Parent

14. Screen Time and You 

Conclusion: A Tale of Two Homes

I loved how the authors connected everyday things we want for our children, such as teaching them to apologize, showing affection and controlling their anger, with the use of social media and electronic devices.

Several things stood out to me in this book.

Firstly that we as parents only owe our children one thing and that is our unconditional love. In the chapter on appreciation its says here:

"Children who make their parents feel guilty or like they are bad parents because they don't give them certain things must be challenged early on. Most of us recognize that the younger generation has a strong entitlement mentality. 'I deserve that' and 'You owe that to me' are attitudes kids can easily pick up. But the only thing a child is really entitled to is his parent's love."

I can't tell you how many times I heard my kids through the years say, 'so and so gets this or so and so's parents pays for that!' We weren't perfect parents, but we rarely gave into this. And I think it payed off. They are generous and loving adults today.

Secondly, I loved what they had to say about reading. : )

"Reading is a foundational and multisensory experience for every child. He touches the page while his mind processes what he is reading. At times he must force himself to stay focused on the written words. During reading time, things aren't changing every five seconds. He's following a story line and engaging in a thought process. While reading, children are learning to stay with one topic and absorb something deeply. Print reading especially strengthens attention-span muscles."

How much do I love this! I struggled with reading and comprehension as a child. I don't think I could actually read until the 4th grade! I can't imagine if I had had so many distractions with electronic devices, I may never have grown to love the written word.

My small bit of advice to parents is to read to your children. Let them touch the pages, study the pictures, learn the words and comprehend the story. Talk to them in between pages and discuss what you are reading. They will love and benefit from the time you put in.

Here are 5 ways from the book, to foster a love of reading in your child:

1. Read aloud to your child
2. Visit the library regularly
3. Reading time for screen time
4. Find books that interest your child
5. Let then catch you reading

Thirdly, was what they had to say about multitasking. I loved this because I can not multitask for the life of me. If you try to have a conversation with me while I'm cooking I will probably burn dinner!

They say here:

"Multitasking used to be a badge of success, a shiny word to put on your resume to show your ability to manage many tasks at once. But recently, many warnings about the pitfalls of a multitasking culture are on the rise."

They then give 4 ways multitasking can be harmful:

1. Multitasking reduces the quality of your work
2. Multitasking changes the way you learn
3. Multitasking creates skimmers
4. Multitasking wastes time

They elaborate on these points and I found them very informative.

Fourthly, is the benefits of the outdoors.

They say here:

"Being outdoors is especially rejuvenating for the minds of children and adults. A series of psychological studies revealed that after spending time close to nature in a rural setting, people exhibited greater attentiveness, stronger memory, and generally improved cognition. Their brains were calmer and sharper."

Fifthly, on a more serious note are the affects of video game play.

This is one of my greatest regrets as a mom. To allow video games in our home. They only produced wasted time and energy.

In the chapter 'screen time and the brain' it says:

"It's estimated that 95 to 97 percent of American youth are playing video games of one type of another. The important questions to ask are 'how long does your child play?' and 'what type of games is he playing?' Many psychologists are concerned that extensive computer game playing in children may lead to long-term changes in the brain's circuitry that resemble the effects of substance-dependence. Kids addicted to gaming can't resist the urge to play, even if it interrupts basic hygiene, eating, sleeping, homework, and relating to family or friends."

I would even go further and not even ask those questions of how long and what type, but just advise to keep video games away from your children all together. An innocent video game of hockey or basketball will eventually bore them and they will move on to more inappropriate games online. You just don't know what child will become addicted.

Lastly, was the most moving for me. It was the love languages of children.

It says here:

"Your child's need for love is the foundation of meaningful conversation. If your child does not feel loved by you, not only will your child experience greater anger but all your efforts to teach your child are likely to be rejected...

...Children who feel the security of parental love are much more likely to make wise choices; and when they do make poor choices, they are far more likely to learn form their mistakes and correct future behavior. Nothing is more fundamental in teaching a child to handle anger than giving the child unconditional love."

There are 5 love languages:

1. Physical Touch
2. Word of Affirmation
3. Quality Time
4. Gifts
5. Acts of Service

Chapter 10 discusses these 5 love languages and explains each one. It was an eye opener for me. I talked to my older daughter about it and she told me about an online test she took at university where you can determine your or your child's love language.

Here is the link to that test: Love Language Test

When you have the tools of what makes your child feel loved, I think it will make a huge difference in your life and the life of your child.

I'll leave you with this encouraging quote:

"Your goal as a parent isn't to make your child feel good; your goal is to make him be a good person."

"Train up a child in the way he should go,
And when he is old he will not depart from it."
                                     Proverbs 22:6

Buy it HERE on Amazon

May 5, 2015


Do you cringe when you here the word submit?

I recently read Darlene Schacht's book 'The Virtuous Life' and found one chapter in particular very fascinating and eye-opening.

It was the chapter on humility and submission.

She says here:

"...Submission is a willful and deliberate act of service that we bring to the Lord. 

Our flesh wants nothing more than to be in control, to win every argument, and to put ourselves first. Those who exercise humility take up their cross daily by laying down the desire of the flesh for the good of another."

Have you ever thought of submission as a willful act?

To truly submit it must be our willful choice.

Darlene then shares this verse.

Jesus said:

“Therefore My Father loves Me, because I lay down My life that I may take it again.

No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This command I have received from My Father.” John 10:17-18

This is one of my favorite Scriptures. Here Jesus is letting us know his life was not taken from Him, but rather that He gave it up willingly in submission.

He completely submitted to His Father in heaven. It was a willful act.

Darlene continues with this:

"Do you see the power in those two verses? It's incredible! There wasn't a single moment during His life when Jesus was under the thumb of mankind. Every step that He took to the cross was a willful and deliberate act of service to His Father."

When we walk with Christ, He asks nothing less of us. He wants us to willfully and wholly submit to Him.

She then quotes Mathew 16:24

"Then Jesus said to His disciples, 'If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me."

Darlene ends this chapter with these encouraging words:

"The next time you're told submission is a step back for women, remember that every step that you take to the cross is a willful and deliberate act of service to God."

Buy it HERE on Amazon