January 29, 2018

Earth Psalms: Reflections on How God Speaks Through Nature

"For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse." 
                                                                                                                                      Romans 1:20

This was such a beautifully written book. It consists of 52 devotionals to reflect on each week of the year. I got my copy from the library and so, I read them all within a few weeks. To be honest I couldn't stop myself from going onto the next devotional, they were so inspiring and encouraging.

This book shares the greatness of God and how He speaks through His creation.

Each devotional contains photos of creation such as, lilacs, deserts, walking paths, forests, squirrels, apple trees, glaciers, horses, sunsets and so on. They also include Scripture, which is the focus, as well as inspirational quotes and song lyrics. At the end of each devotional is a reflection, an application and a prayer. She even has a few facts about the natural element of the devotional added throughout!

I thought I'd share one of the many devotionals that I loved and found encouraging...


Jesus said:  

“I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid." John 14:27

"Mourning doves come to our bird feeder. They sit together in the branches of our oak, watchful of the hawk that once snatched a quail at the feeder. All we saw was a streak and then a pouf of feathers floating down. It is a bird feeder, after all. We don't discriminate. The doves aren't picky about the feed, but they're careful for their own safety. They're looking for food, not for a fight.

The first time the Bible mentions a dove is after the flood. Noah and his family were safe on the ark, watching as the rain stopped and the earth began to dry out. When Noah thought it might be safe to leave the boat, he sent out a raven, and it just kept flying. If it found a place to land, it didn't return to let Noah know where it was. Next, Noah sent out a dove. At first it was unable to find a place to land, but then it returned holding a sprig from an olive tree - an image that later became a widespread symbol for peace. After a time of judgment and destruction, now God was promising a time of peace and redemption. 

Jesus told His disciples not to be afraid, because He was leaving them with 'peace of mind and heart' (John 14:27). Anyone who has read the book of Acts knows that even after they received this gift, the disciples' lives did not go smoothly or end well, at least from a human perspective. All of them suffered for sharing the gospel, and many were even martyred. Jesus clearly didn't promise them peaceful circumstances. But He did promise them - and us - peace of mind and heart. We don't have to be troubled or afraid because of the simple fact that God is with us, and He is in control. In John 16:33 Jesus told His disciples why they could have peace. 'Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.'

Tides of trouble may come and go, floodwaters may rise, but no matter what the circumstances, the peace of God is always available. He has overcome!"

PAGE 195

"If God be our God...He will give us peace in trouble: when a storm without, he will make music within. The world can create trouble in peace, but God can create peace in trouble." Thomas Watson

'Like a River Glorious'

♪ Like a river glorious
   Is God's perfect peace,
   Over all victorious
   In its bright increase;
   Perfect, yet it floweth
   Fuller ev'ry day,
   Perfect, yet it groweth
   Deeper all the way.

♪ Stayed upon Jehovah,
   Hearts are fully blest -
   Finding as He promised
   Perfect peace and rest.

REFLECT: What comes to mind when you think of peace? How might our culture's definition be different from the biblical definition?

APPLY: When do you most struggle to rest in God's peace? This week, if you're anxious about your circumstances, take a minute to read Jesus' words in John 14:27 and 16:33 and remember the true source of peace.

CONNECT WITH GOD: Dear Lord, when I seek peace through things or circumstances, help me to remember that You are the true source. You can give peace because You have overcome all the troubles I will face in this world. Help me to trust in You and find that genuine peace of mind and heart.

"In peace I will lie down and sleep, for you alone, O LORD, will keep me safe." Psalm 4:8

I really loved this book and highly recommend it! It immersed me into the Scriptures, with its Biblically sound devotionals, as well as turned my focus onto the Lord.

God's Word will always bring peace and joy to those who love Him. And I found this book encouraged this.

Buy it HERE on Amazon

January 19, 2018

Long Before Luther

I really enjoyed this interesting and informative book. The best way to describe it would be: a reformed thinker (the author), defending and sharing the doctrine, that we are saved by grace through faith in Christ alone. And that this doctrine has been taught throughout the generations. Also that this teaching is biblical and found throughout the entire bible.

And that this is the heart of the Gospel.

The author says here of the sixteenth-century reformers:

"The sole authoritative basis for their teachings was the Word of God (the idea captured by the phrase 'Scripture alone')."  *(see note at end of post)

And the author quotes R.C. Sproul here:

"The sixteenth-century Reformers were not interested in creating a new religion. They were interested, not in innovation, but in renovation. They were reformers, not revolutionaries."

These are the chapter headings:

Part 1: The Reformers and Justification
 1. An Invention or a Recovery?
 2. Regaining Biblical Clarity
 3. Clothed in Christ's Righteousness

Part 2: The Church before Augustine
 4. Saved by Grace
 5. Justification: A Divine Declaration
 6. The Great Exchange

Part 3: Augustine and Justification
 7. A Forerunner to the Reformers?
 8. The Doctor of Grace

Part 4: The Church after Augustine
 9. Pardoned from Sin
10. Reckoned as Righteous
11. Coming Full Circle

Throughout the book the author states his case for this belief throughout history, from Christ to the Reformers. He quotes and shares from many Church fathers to prove this, men such as:

Irenaeus of Lyons (ca. 130-202)
Origen (ca. 182-254) 
Ambrose (337-397)
Augustine (354-430)
Fulgentius of Ruspe (462-533)
Ildefonsus of Toledo (ca. 607-657)
Julian of Toledo (642-690)
Bede (673-735)
Symeon the new theologian (949-1022)
Anselm of Canterbury (1033-1109)
Bernard of Clairvaux (1090-1153)

At the end of the book there is an appendix called ' Voices from History' which includes many quotes from Christian men during these 1500 years, between Christ and the Reformation.

The author says here of it:

"What follows are 100 selected quotes from church history highlighting salvation by grace alone and the truth that believers are justified solely through faith in Christ, apart from works."

 I thought I'd share a few quotes by a few of these Church fathers:

Polycarp (ca. 69-160):

"Though you have not seen him, you believe in him with an inexpressible and glorious joy (which many desire to experience), knowing that by grace you have been saved, not because of works, but the will of God through Jesus Christ." 

Basil of Caesarea (ca. 329-379):

"This is perfect and pure boasting in God, when one is not proud on account of his own righteousness but knows that he is indeed unworthy of the true righteousness and is justified solely by faith in Christ. And Paul boasts that he despises his own righteousness, seeking that righteousness that is on account of Christ, which is the righteousness of God by faith." 

Ildefonsus of Toledo (ca. 607-667):

"Behold, he (Paul) preached the beginning of faith which, when it is in Christ, is justification for the believer." God, who makes the unclean clean and removes sins, justifies the sinner apart from works." 

Bede (673-735):

"The apostle Paul preached that we are justified by faith without works."

Bernard of Clairvaux (1090-1153):

"Nobody will be justified in His sight by works of the law"..."Grace freely justifies me and sets me free from slavery to sin."

This is why the reformers protested. The doctrine of grace was at stack and their love for God and for others was what drove them to stand up. They saw first hand how wrong teachings can distort the Word of God, and so they risked their own lives to proclaim:

"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." Eph. 2:8-9

I've always believed we are saved by grace through faith in Christ alone, not by our works. What an amazing gift! What joy it brings! For me, this book was not only reaffirming, but encouraged me in my faith. I highly recommend it!

*Side Note: The Bible is not the only authoritative basis for the Catholic Church, traditions of the church, as well as the openness to new revelations through the Pope are authoritative to Catholics, equal to Scripture.

This is also why the reformers protested. They believed that the Bible was the only authoritative Word of God. This is what most protestants believe as well today.

Buy it HERE on Amazon

January 12, 2018

2018 Reading Challenge and Goals

Happy New Year everyone! Hope it's going well for you all so far. I've been sick with a nasty cold most of this new year, but I'm looking forward to feeling better and getting some reading done!

This year, as in past years, I'm setting my reading goal to 50 books.

I'm also looking forward to taking part in Tim Challies 2018 reading challenge. There are 4 sections to the challenge, but I am only focusing on one, and that is to read 13 books from the props he has given. I'm picking my props from throughout the whole challenge instead of just the 'light reading' section. You can check  it out... HERE

Here are my props and picks for 2018:

1. A book by a female author -  'None Like Him' by Jen Wilkin

2. A biography - 'Jane Austen: A Life' by Claire Tomalin

3. A book by your favorite author - 'Miracles' by C.S. Lewis

4. A book more than 100 years old - 'Crime and Punishment' by Fyodor Dostoyevsky

5. A classic novel - 'Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde' by Robert Louis Stevenson

6. A book about history - 'Mysteries of the Middle Ages' by Thomas Cahill 

7. A book you have read before - 'Pride and Prejudice' by Jane Austen

8. A book about Christian living - 'This is Our Time' by Trevin Wax

9. A novel longer than 300 pages - 'The Snow Child' by Eowyn Ivey

10. A memoir or autobiography - 'The Emancipation of Robert Sadler' by Marie Chapian and Robert Sadler

11. A book about theology - 'The God Who is There' by Francis A. Schaeffer

12.  A book of 100 pages or less - 'Mary' by Leonardo De Chirico

13. A book of your choice - 'Elizabeth and her German Garden' by Elizabeth von Arnim


I'd also like to get to some more classics. I really enjoyed reading the ones I got to last year.

Here is that list of classics read in 2017:

1. 'Treasure Island' by Robert Louis Stevenson - this was a little slow going and a bit boyish for my taste, but enjoyable over all.

2. 'The Vicar of Wakefield' by Oliver Goldsmith - I listened to this one while painting my daughters room and enjoyed the narrators exuberant voice.

3. 'Holiness' by J.C. Ryle - this was one of my favorites this year, you can read about it... HERE

4. 'The Secret Garden' by Frances Hodgson Burnett - this was my least favorite classic. I loved the first half of the book, but the second half had some elements that I found disturbing. ex. (children dancing around the fire in what seemed like nature worship). : (

5. 'Answers to Prayer' by George Muller - another wonderful Christian classic. Loved it.

6. 'Anne of Green Gables' by Lucy Maud Montgomery - these books are so wonderful and I can't wait to read the rest of the series this year.

7. 'Anne of Avonlea' by Lucy Maud Montgomery

8. 'Anne of the Island' by Lucy Maud Montgomery

9. 'The Great Gatsby' by F. Scott Fitzgerald - this one was so so. I did like the message that material things can't make you happy.

10. 'Villette' by Charlotte Bronte - 'Jane Eyre' by Charlotte Bronte is one of my all time favorite novels so I found this one a bit lacking in comparison, but enjoyed it non-the-less.

11. 'North and South' by Elizabeth Gaskell - this was an interesting read set in the industrial age. I liked it, but wish I hadn't watched the mini-series before-hand, which of course gave away the story!

12. 'David Copperfield' by Charles Dickens - Loved this one!

13. 'The Rector' by Margaret Oliphant - A short read, but enjoyable.

I've started Oswald Chambers 'My Utmost for His Highest' and hope to continue throughout the year. This is probably my favorite devotional, one that is thought-provoking, as well as convicting.

Here's a quote from the Jan. 1st devotional, 'Let Us Keep to the Point'...

"Shut out every other thought and keep yourself before God in this one thing only - my utmost for His highest. I am determined to be absolutely and entirely for Him and Him alone."

"Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God."  1 Cor. 10:31

That's what I desire for 2018. Doing all to the glory of God. My utmost for His highest.

I want to step up my bible reading as well, as more and more I see how privileged we are to have God's Word at hand. A privilege that could be taken away at any time. Keep it close to your heart, drink it in, as Jeremiah said...

"Your words were found, and I ate them,
And Your word was to me the joy and rejoicing of my heart;
For I am called by Your name,
O LORD God of hosts." Jer. 15:16

May His word bring you joy and His peace be with you this coming year!