October 31, 2016

Classic Novels - Part Two

About 5 years ago I did a post on classic novels I'd read and would like to read, so I thought I was overdue for another post on classics!

I kind of go in and out of reading classics because they can be quite heavy and a bit of work to get through, but they are usually worth the time.

What I'm reading now:

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott - I'm absolutely loving this so far! I can't believe I've never gotten around to reading it before. The 1949 movie has always been one of my all time favorites.

I'm also re-reading Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen with this beautifully illustrated edition my children gave me for my birthday last March.

Classic novels I have read since my last post:

Far from the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy - This one I only got half way through, then cheated and watched the movie, which I didn't particularly like so I never went back to the book.

(I may go back to this book after talking to my daughter, who had a different perspective on the story then I did.)

Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen - This next one I really enjoyed. Of course it's Jane Austen. : )

Great Expectations by Charles Dickens - And this one I absolutely loved! I'd seen the movie beforehand, but the book was even better.

I've also read these classic novels that weren't on my list:

In His Steps by Charles M. Shelton - Really enjoyed this one. You can read my thoughts here... In His Steps

Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm by Kate Douglas Wiggin - This one was really cute.

Daddy-long Legs by Jean Webster - This was enjoyable, but the liberal theology shared in it was a bit disconcerting.

Lady Susan by Jane Austen - This is probably my least favorite of hers, but still witty.

Frankenstein by Mary Shelly - I didn't particularly like this one, as it was dark and depressing. Mary Shelly had a way with words that brought you into the darkness Victor Frankenstein choose for himself in creating an unethical monster. Though there are lessons to learn throughout this book.

Ruth by Elizabeth Gaskell - Loved this one, though it was a bit of struggle to get through. You can read my thoughts here... Ruth by Elizabeth Gaskell

O Pioneers! by Willa Cather  - The writing was beautiful, and the story, in the lives of her characters living on the prairie, was real and raw.

Classic Novels added to my TBR shelf:

The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett (1911)
Stepping Heavenward by Elizabeth Payson Prentiss (1880)
Wives and Daughters by Elizabeth Gaskell (1864)
Cranford by Elizabeth Gaskell (1851)
Mary Barton by Elizabeth Gaskell (1848)
North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell (1854)
Evelina by Frances Burney (1778)
Anne of Green Gables Series by Lucy Maud Montgomery (1908)
Little Dorrit by Charles Dickens (1857)
Les Miserables by Victor Hugo (1862)
Middlemarch by George Eliot (1871)
The Vicar of Wakefield by Oliver Goldsmith (1766)

*You can check out Part One here... Classic Novels

October 22, 2016

The Psalms

I've been slowly reading through the book of Psalms again and thought I'd share a few here. I love that every time I read them I'm reminded of who God is. It also reminds me that my view of God is so important in knowing Him and growing in my faith.
I'm reminded that my goodness is nothing apart for the Lord and that He alone can sustain me:

"Cast your burden on the LORD,
And He shall sustain you;
He shall never permit the righteous to be moved." Psalm 55:22

"O my soul, you have said to the LORD,
“You are my Lord,
My goodness is nothing apart from You.” Psalm 16:2

I'm reminded that my thoughts are futile and that He alone is trustworthy and faithful:

"Understand, you senseless among the people;
And you fools, when will you be wise?

He who planted the ear, shall He not hear?
He who formed the eye, shall He not see?

He who instructs the nations, shall He not correct,
He who teaches man knowledge?

The LORD knows the thoughts of man,
That they are futile." Psalm 94:8-11

"My soul, wait silently for God alone,
For my expectation is from Him.

He only is my rock and my salvation; He is my defense;
I shall not be moved.

In God is my salvation and my glory;
The rock of my strength,
And my refuge, is in God.

Trust in Him at all times, you people;
Pour out your heart before Him;
God is a refuge for us. Selah" Psalm 62:5-8

I'm reminded that everything is His and that He shares it with me:

"The heavens are Yours, the earth also is Yours;
The world and all its fullness, You have founded them." Psalm 89:11

"For a day in Your courts is better than a thousand.
I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God
Than dwell in the tents of wickedness.

 For the LORD God is a sun and shield;
The LORD will give grace and glory;
No good thing will He withhold
From those who walk uprightly.

O LORD of hosts,
Blessed is the man who trusts in You!" Psalm 84:10-12

I'm reminded that putting my trust in Him is better than anything else:

"But let all those rejoice who put their trust in You;
Let them ever shout for joy, because You defend them;
Let those also who love Your name
Be joyful in You.

For You, O LORD, will bless the righteous;
With favor You will surround him as with a shield." Psalm 5:11-12

October 17, 2016

For the Right Reasons

I never thought I'd write about a book that was written by a reality TV star! But I was curious to what he would say about faith, love and marriage, and I have to say I was impressed.

Also the blurb on the back of the book, by Jefferson Bethke (author of 'Jesus > Religion'), caught my eye. : )

I've always been fascinated by reality TV. My favorites are reality home improvement shows. I love, love, love Chip and Joanna Gaines on 'Fixer Upper.' They are a beautiful example of love and commitment between a husband and wife working together.

Sean Lowe didn't watch the Bachelor, but his sister did, and she signed him up without his knowledge. When he got the call, he had no intention of going, but later changed his mind. Now I'm not endorsing meeting your husband or wife on reality TV but after reading this book I can't deny God's hand brought Sean and Catherine together.

My favorite parts of this book were Sean's dad and grandfather's wise input. Sean first went on the Bachelorette with a woman named Emily Maynard. His dad shared this story with Emily while filming...

Emily says: 'Sean's so much different than the rest of the guys'

'How so?' replied Sean's dad

'His faith is so evident in the way he acts around me.'

Sean's dad: 'Well can I tell you a little story?' he asked. 'The day Sean was on his way out to the airport to fly to Charlotte to start filming the show, he called me. I was in the locker room at my gym, but I made sure to pick up..."

"...I told him Sherry (Sean's mom) and I would pray for him, that I loved him, and that I knew God would use him somehow in all this.

Fifteen minutes later, I was out in the gym exercising when a guy tapped me on the shoulder. He said, 'You don't know it, but I was standing behind you when you were on the phone..."

"...He said, 'I heard what you said to your son, and it made me think that I need to get my life right with God. Just hearing you say you loved your son and that you would be praying for him made me realize how far away I have gotten from God. Anyway, I wanted you to know that God is already using your son because your conversation got my attention."

And Sean's grandfather shared this bit of advice with Sean as a teen.

Sean once asked him:

"Do you believe Mimi (his grandmother) is your soul mate? 

He looked at me a little funny. To him, the phrase soul mate was hippie language. 'Well, I'll tell you this. I think men have the ability to be good husbands or not. I don't think there's just one magical person out there for you. Proverbs 18:22 tells us, 'The man who finds a wife finds a treasure, and he receives favor from the Lord.' Note that the Word doesn't say, 'the man who finds that certain someone.' It's less specific than that. You find a wife, you get favor from God. It's not all that complicated."

This is wise counsel to ponder. Marriage isn't about finding your 'soulmate', but rather it's work and dedication and commitment on both sides. No matter who you marry.

I really enjoyed reading about Sean's spiritual growth and also Catherine's. It is always nice to hear of Christians who are moving forward in their faith.

Sean says here of recommitting himself to the Lord and reading His Word:

...my Bible knowledge had never gotten deeper than those Sunday school stories. When I recommitted myself to Christ after college, I recommitted myself to reading the Bible. I would read a few chapters in the Old Testament, then a few in the New Testament. The more I read, the more my faith grew - by leaps and bounds. The Bible was surprising. Unexpected. Frequently, I'd read a chapter and think, I didn't know that was in there!"

I loved that Sean and Catherine's relationship wasn't all peaches and cream. That they fought to stay together and are committed to one another.

They say God work's in mysterious ways and this is no exception! These two were brought together in the weirdest way possible, reality TV! Just goes to show God can work through anyone and any situation. He is good. : )

But it HERE on Amazon

October 9, 2016

Visual Theology

I was really excited about reading this book, and it didn't disappoint. It's so important for Christians to remind themselves of the simple truths of the Gospel, and I found this book helps do just that.

I love all the reminders of the gifts of salvation, grace and relationship with the God who created all.

Here are the chapter headings:

Section One: Grow Close to Christ
Chapter One: Gospel
Chapter Two: Identity
Chapter Three: Relationship

Section Two: Understanding the Word of Christ
Chapter Four: Drama
Chapter Five: Doctrine

Section Three: Become Like Christ
Chapter Six: Putting Off
Chapter Seven: Putting On

Section Four: Live for Christ
Chapter Eight: Vocation
Chapter Nine: Relationships
Chapter Ten: Stewardship
The chapter on identity, was really moving for me. I've struggled with who I am in Christ and I've often focused on myself and the good and bad I've done. This chapter reminded me, it's who Christ is and what He has done, that gives me my identity in Him.

I am no longer depending on myself... I am in Christ. 

I am no longer guilty... I am justified.

I am no longer alone... I am adopted. 

I am no longer lost... I am secure. 

I am no longer in bondage... I am free. 

I am unfinished... He will finish me to perfection.

These beautiful truths are always refreshing to read again and again.They strengthen our faith and bring us closer to the Lord and knowing who He is.

I also love that they remind me that this life isn't about self-confidence, self-worth or self-esteem, but rather about having confidence in Christ, knowing my worth is in Him and that He is to be esteemed.

Praise Him!

The chapter on relationship was also great. It speaks about our relationship with God and how the Bible is essential for our relationship to grow.

Tim says here:  

"For a relationship to be genuine, it must be personal. It must involve interaction between two people. This is true of our peer relationships, and it is true of our relationship with God. As Christians, we have the privilege of having a genuine relationship with God in which He speaks to us so we can hear and understand Him, and in which we speak to Him in turn, trusting that He hears, that He understands, and that He responds. 

In general, we can say that we hear from God through the Bible, and we speak to God through prayer, but the two are more closely connected than that. As we read, we naturally pray, and as we pray, our minds focus on the truths revealed in Scripture. The more we commit to Bible reading and to prayer, the more of our lives we spend communing with God."

He also talks about prayer in this chapter. I loved this:

"Prayer is not our initiation on a relationship, but a response." 

He goes over these things about prayer:

Prayer is...

Prayer is response
Prayer is duty
Prayer is delight
Prayer is a assertive supplication

Prayer Does...

Prayer builds relationships
Prayer changes you
Prayer prepares you
Prayer brings results

I love that he quotes Tim Keller in this book. Tim Keller's book on prayer called 'Prayer' is wonderful and highly recommended.

He quotes Tim Keller:

"Prayer can lead regularly to personal encounter with God, which can be indeed a wondrous, mysterious, awe-filled experience."

Tim Challies adds this:

"Prayer is not an emptying of the mind and a resting in thoughtless silence, but a filling of the mind with the truth of God and a joyful communion with God who is."

Having read Tim Keller's book I know he teaches and believes this also. Biblical prayer is filling the mind, not emptying it.

Tim Keller says in his book:

"Biblical meditation does not empty the mind of rational thought."

 And here:

"In every case meditation means to use the mind intensely."

And here:

"Meditate in the Psalms mean to ponder and question thoroughly."

Psalm 77:6 says:

"I call to remembrance my song in the night;
 I meditate within my heart,
 And my spirit makes diligent search."

God calls us to fill our minds and hearts with His Word, never to empty them in some anticipation of a spiritual experience. We will only experience and grow in Christ, when we mediate (use the mind intensely) on Scripture. We must open our hearts and minds to what God is saying to us through his Word. This is key in growing closer to the Lord.

Do we realize how blessed we are to have the full Scriptures at our finger tips everyday?

Are we meditating on it day and night?

"Blessed is the man
Who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly,
Nor stands in the path of sinners,
Nor sits in the seat of the scornful;

But his delight is in the law of the LORD,
And in His law he meditates day and night.

He shall be like a tree
Planted by the rivers of water,
That brings forth its fruit in its season,
Whose leaf also shall not wither;
And whatever he does shall prosper." Psalm 1:1-3

I could share so much more, but this post is getting a bit long. : )

I highly recommend the book!

Buy it HERE on Amazon

October 2, 2016

Thoughts on Tithing from a Book called 'Thinking?'

This was such a great read. It deals with 5 big questions we've all wondered about...

What is the Meaning of Life?
Does God Exist?
Do All Religions Lead to God?
Why is There Evil?
Is there Life After Death? 

There were things in this book, I'd never thought of in the way it was presented and some truths that were explained that I had never understood before.

This isn't a light read. It will make you think. But it's also not a hard read. I didn't have any trouble understanding his points and really felt I learnt so much from reading this book.

I thought I'd share something from the book that I found profound for me. It's just a little snip-it of the book but it's one thing that stood out.

It deals with this passage of Scripture:

"Then they sent to Him some of the Pharisees and the Herodians, to catch Him in His words.

 When they had come, they said to Him, “Teacher, we know that You are true, and care about no one; for You do not regard the person of men, but teach the way of God in truth. Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?

“Shall we pay, or shall we not pay?” But He, knowing their hypocrisy, said to them, “Why do you test Me? Bring Me a denarius that I may see it.

So they brought it. And He said to them, “Whose image and inscription is this?” They said to Him, “Caesar’s.”

 And Jesus answered and said to them, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” And they marveled at Him."     Mark 12:13-17

I've always believed that Jesus was talking about tithing in this passage. That we should give Caesar what he asks for financially (taxes) and give God what He asks for financially (10%) of our wage.

This is what I was taught.

But recently, I have come to see that the law of 10% no longer applies to the New Testament believer, rather we are asked to give generously in the freedom of Christ. We are free to give all.

This is what Jesus was talking about. We give Caesar our taxes and give God our all.

Here is how the author, Andy Steiger, explains:

"The Bible records that those listening were amazed at His answer! What was so profound about it? It's not what Jesus said, but what He implied. The first is obvious: give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar - the coin; Jesus is telling people to pay their taxes.

The second implication is not as obvious to us in the twenty-first century, but to a first century Jew, it was powerfully clear. When Jesus said to give to God what is God's, it raised the question: 'What is God's?' 

Well, just like the coin belonged to Caesar because it bore his image, so that which bears God's image belongs to God. The Jews understood that people bear the image of God! In Genesis 1:27, it says, 'So God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him, male and female he created them.'

Jesus took their question and did more than address taxes. Instead, he challenged them to give to God what belongs to Him - their very lives - and to live for the purpose they were created for."

This was so refreshing to read. I can't tell you how the Old Testament concept of tithing 10% has keep me in bondage for so many years. It's even gotten us into debt in the past, because of the guilt I felt when we didn't tithe 10%. We tithed, even though we couldn't afford it.

But Jesus has set me free in this truth: that we are to give generously in every part of our lives because we are His image bearers. We are asked 'to give according to our ability' (2Cor. 8:3)...not a set percentage.

So thankful for this freedom in Christ.

I love how Pastor John MacArthur explains 2 Corinthians 8:3 about giving:

"Their giving was proportionate.  That is they gave according to their dunamis, or dunamin in this case, according to their power, according to their ability, according to their capability, each gave as he or she was able.  Notice down in verse 12, same chapter, “For if the readiness is present,” in other words, if there’s a readiness to give, “it is acceptable according to what a man has not according to what he doesn’t have.”  

God does not expect you to give what you don’t have.  He expects you to give what you have.  

That’s all God asks is that you give according to your ability.  Giving is to be proportionate. 

This sets no fixed amount.

It sets no fixed percentage.  It isn’t a tenth.  It isn’t 15 percent.  It isn’t 5 percent.  

It indicates no fixed figure.  It simply says they gave according to their ability.  And everybody certainly was different.  It says in 1 Corinthians 16:2 regarding the same giving for the very same purpose, the poor saints in Jerusalem which is being addressed in 2 Corinthians 8, “On the first day of the week, every week, let each one of you put aside in store as he may prosper, so that no collections be made when I come”  Paul says you have to give out of your prosperity.  In other words, according to your ability.

They gave whatever they were capable of giving.  God doesn’t expect you to charge giving on your credit card and go further into debt.  God expects you to give out of what you have.  We aren’t supposed to give a fixed amount.  That’s not what the Macedonians did.  That’s not, as we shall see in a few moments, what God asks of us, or a fixed percent.  We’re not supposed to worry on whether it’s set against the gross or the net.  Those questions are not germane (relevant) to the discussion of Christian giving.  The issue is you give as you are capable of giving.  And they did that."

NOTE: This John MacArthur quote from his sermon: A Biblical Model For Giving

NOTE: I also found this helpful in understanding Old Testament tithing from the 'Grace to You' ministry: Does God require me to give a tithe of all I earn? 

This book is not about tithing or giving. Though my post may make it seem that way! This is just one truth that stood out for me and I often find, when we see the truth of what God is teaching in his Word it makes other truths come to life.

This book shares many of God's truths, which enlightened me to understand more. This is the beauty of Godly counsel, it takes you deeper into God's truth.

I highly recommend this book!

Buy it HERE on Amazon