Halfway Done

Every year I choose to do the Tim Challies book challenge and if you want to know what I have been reading here is the list so far. I will put the challenge, the title and a quick note of what I thought about it.

A book published in 2020 or 2021 – Piranesi by Susanna Clarke
This book was weird. I somewhat enjoyed it, but probably will not read another book by this author. If you like fantasy with minimal characters and slow builders, then you may like this book.

A memoir or autobiography – Tuesdays With Morrie by Mitch Albom
This book was full of quips and ways to live. It has a lot of wisdom in it, but it is worldly wisdom. There was some religious aspects to it, but like all self-help books, they fall short to the wisdom given in the Bible. It’s a good book for older teens.

A classic novel – The Curious Life of Benjamin Button by F. Scott FItzgerald
This was another weird novel. It was somewhat Kafkaish and I didn’t really like it. I liked the Great Gatsby, so I thought this would be a good novel, but I was left feeling confused and wondering why I even started it.

A book by a pastor – Something Needs to Change by David Platt
I recommend this book to all Christians! Phenomenal book about taking our faith seriously and shaking off the clutches of complacent Christianity.

A book about a book of the Bible – Colossians He is Enough by Asheritah Ciuciu
Great devotional book! I recommend reading her!

A book published by Zondervan – Case for Faith by Lee Strobel
The book was informative but I had forgotten that Ravi Zacharias was one of the men Lee interviewed, so the book didn’t sit well with. It also seemed a bit too permissive when it came to sin and grace. Case for Christ was better.

A book the word “gospel” in the title – Another Gospel by Alisa Childers
What a great book on the dangers of what is now called deconstruction. Every Christian needs to read this book. Alisa, also has a youTube channel that I enjoy watching. She is a great theologian.

A book with an image of a person on the cover – Bring Up The Bodies by Hilary Mantel
This is the second book to the Wolf Hall series. I love the way this woman writes and I love Tudor historical fiction! If you love this era and historical fiction, you will love this book, bur read Wolf Hall first.

A book about a current social issue – (A)typcial Woman by Abigail Dodds
This was a good book, the author did a good job in describing Biblical womanhood. She used Scripture well and I encourage you to read it if you are a Christian woman.

A book for children or teens – Wingfeather by Andrew Peterson
Loved this book. Adventrure, Pirates. Villans. My kids really enjoyed this book It is a series that we may continue. I read this book aloud to my kids.

A book about theology – Royal Deception: Exposing the KJV Only Conspiracies by Fred Butler
This book was lacking in what I really wanted to know. There is so much about KJV onlyist that I wanted to know about and this book did not provide it. I think James White does a better job.

A book about Christian living – Full by Asheritah Ciuciu
I loved this book! I got in on audio, but bought the actual book after I listened to the audio. I plan on re-reading it this year! If you struggle with food addiction, this is a wonderful book full of the Gospel and freedom!

A book of your choice – The Death of Mrs. Westaway by Ruth Ware
I love the way this woman writes. This was a good thriller, mystery book.

A book written by a puritan – Sinners in the Hand of an Angry God by Jonathan Edwards
Puritans love their descriptions of hell. I am so glad I am saved and this motivates me to keep giving the Gospel to my loved ones.

A book recommended by a friend – Nightingale by Kristin Hannah
This book is set in occupied France. Great book about the love between sisters and the courage of the people who suffered under the Nazis. This book is long, but it does submerge you into this time.

A book about social justice – Why Social Justice is Not Biblical Justice by Scott David Allen
Totally recommend if you are Christian wondering what to think about the culture in the US right now.

A novel that won a Pulitzer prize – The Moor’s Account by Laila Lalami
This book was actually a runner up to the Pulitzer, but still it was beautifully written. It is about the Spanish conquest of the Americas and their exploits. It is harsh and sad. This book was about a slave of one of the Spaniards, one of only 4 survivors.

A book with 2 or more authors – Gay Girl, Good God by Jackie H. Perry and Nancy DeMoss
The book was good, but not my kind of taste. JHP is very artistic and was a bit too long winded about colors, fashion partying and her relationships. It just wasn’t my cup of tea. When it comes to this particular genre, I prefer Rosaria Butterfield.

A book with at least 400 pages – Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel
Tudor Historical Fiction again. This book was harder to read than Bring up the Bodies because HM uses the pronoun “he” quiet a bit and sometimes I forget what “he” she is talking about. She does better in her second book. I can’t wait to read the third and final book about Mr. Thomas Cromwell.

A book cy CS Lewis or JRR Tolkien – The Screwtape Letters by CS Lewis
Must read for all Christians. What a wonderful and smart man is Mr. Lewis. This book is about a “younger” demon learning the ropes from his uncle Screwtape on how to ruin the lives of Christians and people.

A book that has a fruit of the Spirit in the title – Sovereign Joy by John Piper
This book was about the lives of Augustine, Luther and Calvin. I loved reading about them and because of this book I have added Augustine’s “Confessions” to my reading list.

A book on the New York Times Bestseller list – Dream Big by Bob Goff
Like always, this man inspires. This is a good book to get you motivated to dream big and pursue your dreams.

A book about prayer – Dangerous Prayers by Craig Groeschel
This was a good book. I was pleasantly surprised though that I already pray dangerous prayers. If you want to grow in how you pray, this is a good book. I just need to pray more often!

A book about theology – Gentle and Lowly: The Heart of Christ for Sinners and Suffers by Dane C. Ortlund
This is by far the best book I have read so far this year. What a breath of restful air this was. This book made me cry and reminded me of what a gentle and loving Father I have in God. I HIGHLY RECOMMEND!

A book of your choice – Outsider by Stephen King
The book started off really good, but what a cop-out for an ending. I wasn’t too happy with the sci-fi cop out. SK does write well though, but the ending was so disappointing.

A book from a theological viewpoint you disagree with – Recovering from Biblical Womanhood by Aimee Byrd
She has a chip on her shoulder and her illustrations and allegories were awful. I also listened to this book on audio and the author reads it and she sounded a bit to “karen” for my taste. Maybe if I read it instead of listening to it, it may be better.

A book by someone whose ethnicity is different than yours – Fault Lines by Voddie Baucham Jr.
Great book. So needed for our times right now. It is a book about the dangers of critical race theory and social justice.

A book that won an award – Deep, Deep Snow by Brian Freeman
This book won the Edgar Award. It is about a young detective solving a case in a small town. It was a great crime/suspense novel.

A book by Charles Dickens or one of his contemporaries – The Woman in the Black Veil by Charles Dickens
This is one of his first books ever written and what a plot twist. Good short book. It was only like 35 pages long.

A book about leadership – 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey
There was a lot of insight and great advice in this book. Highly recommend for all people who want to get their life together and do more.

A book based on a true story – Beneath Devil’s Bridge by Loreth Anne White
Good mystery book and great twist at the end.

A book with an illustration on the cover – A Court of Thorns by Sarah J. Maas
This book was a bit too romantic for me. So not my genre at all. If you the Twilight series you will like this. SJM writes extremely well and there were some scenes in the book that were outright scary and frightening, but just not into the romancy parts.

A book with one word in the title – Heaven by Randy Alcorn
Great book about the subject of Heaven. It makes me want to go there already. Death is hard for us to understand, but in the light of the Bible, physical death is what God uses to bring us to Him. Long book, but I definitely recommend.

A book whose title comes from a Bible verse – Filling up the afflictions of Christ by John Piper
Great book on suffering and why we suffer and how God uses our afflictions to make us more like Him. This book is short but very impactful. If you are struggling through a painful time in your life right now, this is a good read. Full of Scripture and grace.

A book by an author 30 years or younger – Angel Killer by Andrew Mayne
This book was great! Its about an FBI agent who happens to also be an ex-magician. The book was fun to read, but also mysterious. Great book for a summer read. Andrew Mayne is also a professional magician.

A book about theology – Knowledge of the Holy by AW Tozer
A good book about why we should not just feel our faith, but know why we believe. It also has a lot to say about the character of God and who He is. Why we should know about the God we worship.

A novel set in a country that is not your own – The Hypnotist by Lars Kepler and Ann Long
This book is set in Sweden and was annoying. The main characters were not very deep and the way they behaved was erratic and odd. I don’t recommend this book, and will not read any more of their novels.

37 books so far!! It is my hope to read 54 books this year and I think I will be able to make it. From now on, I hope to do book reviews on each of the books I read. Let me know what you think and tell me about some of the books you enjoy reading.

Blessings


Reproved!

When was the last time someone reproved you_

The definition of reprove is: to scold or correct usually gently or with kindly intent.

When was the last time a brother or sister in Christ reproved you? In a world where everyone’s statements matter. Where any experience makes that person an automatic authority of that subject. Where everyone has their own truth and is allowed to tout it to whomever will listen. I think it is a good question to ask oneself.

And if it has been a long time since someone has corrected the dastardly ways you behave, can I kindly suggest it isn’t because you really are that great of a human being.  Let me quote Romans 3:10-12 –

None is righteous, not one; no one understands; no
one seeks for God. All have turned aside;
together they have become worthless; no one does good,
not even one. 

Jesus gave us instruction on how to reprove our fellow brother. In Matthew 7 he says WHEN we reprove/judge we must take out the log in our own eye so we may see better, but a lot of us stop there and hesitate to assist in taking the speck out of our brother’s eye.

If it has been a long time since you have been reproved by a fellow saint, here are some reasons maybe why:
 1. You are easily offended. 
This is probably the main reason you haven’t been reproved. Most Christians are very aware of the feelings of others and it could be that your Christian friends and family are afraid of hurting your feelings by telling you some truths that could be damaging your testimony, sanctification or soul. Remember, we are to help and build one another up (I Thess. 5:11) and part of that process can be a bit painful. And even if the truths are not told in love, but out of spite, remind yourself that this sin in your life doesn’t change your status with God positionally. You are still His and nothing will ever change that. (Romans 8:38-39). So get over your offense, quit your sin if there is a sin to quit and God still loves you and the other Christian.
2. You are hiding.
Could the reason no one reproves you be because no one hasn’t really gotten to know you? As Christians we are meant to do life together. When Jesus prayed specifically for future Christians, he prayed this: “I do not ask on behalf of these (the 12), but for those also who believe in Me through their (the 12) word (YES THAT’S YOU); that they may all be one; even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that You sent me.” I love this whole chapter because it lets us into Jesus’ prayer life! But do you see what He just prayed? You cannot be united with anyone all by yourself. This whole prayer presupposes your life being involved in the life of other Believers. And your life includes your mess,  your sins, your nasty, you. And if you only give  your “good” side for other Believers to see, you forfeit the opportunity to potentially help a fellow saint who may be struggling with the same sin pattern as  you. (James 5:16). You throw away an opportunity to give the Gospel, and frankly you are being fake. Spend time with other Christian, so much time that they can call you out when you are not being real with them.
 3. You are proud.
Pride is such a hard sin to see in oneself because you think you are right. It blinds us to the reality that we are actually awful sinners. It justifies our shortcomings, and our outbursts. It coddles our little sins and tells us it really isn’t that bad. It places us on a pedestal and gives us the right to look down on others. I struggle with pride daily. It is a lack of humility. Pride is the root of all sin because it tells us what we are doing is right and what God says is wrong or untrue. Could it be that no one reproves you because you are too proud to be told anything? That you give off a vibe that you are so righteous that any rebuke is met with a harsh reminder of the other Believer’s sin? Who are they to tell me I am sinning when they themselves are a Jezebel or an Ahab? Ask yourself “Who is the chief of all sinners?” and if you can’t say “I am”, then can I lovingly reprove you that you too nailed Jesus to that cross and he bore every single one of your pitiful sins too? The proud Christian is the hardest kind of Christian to reprove.
4. People are clueless.
There could be a very legitimate reason you haven’t been reproved just simply because American Christians don’t know that this is what they are supposed to do with each other. In other countries I have visited, Christians are constantly telling each other the wrong things they are doing. In one church, I knew the sin issues of all that were at the church that day, and it wasn’t gossip because the people they were talking about were all  just nodding in agreement saying “yeah, we need to get right with the Lord”. And the preacher’s wife who was telling me all this was like “yeah, they keep telling me that!” And by contrast, here in the US, we have idolized privacy. And it is sinful. This has allowed certain sins to grab a hold of us so tightly that we are callous to its blows.  We excuse so many secular behaviors that other Christians in other countries are shocked at our worldlinesss. All in the name of grace (trying not to be a legalist) and respecting each other’s lives, we watch as our Christian culture deteriorates right before our eyes. And we are all part of it. How many times have we seen pictures on social media where a sister or brother in Christ is wearing something inappropriate, but we say nothing. When a Believer uses awful language, but we let it slide. We prefer to gossip behind their backs instead of lovingly pointing out our concern, based on God’s Word, after we have removed our log. We fear we may be seen as self-righteous. As hypocrites. As busy-bodies. May it not be! Read Matthew 7, all of it, not just the first verse. And then remove the speck of your brother’s eye. It is not just okay to do so, it is Biblical
5. They don’t want to be reproved
The last reason I will mention is very simple. It could be you have not been reproved because the ones who should be reproving you don’t want to be reproved back! This could be  you. Do not fear my fellow brethren, although being reproved stinks, when you take what is said in humility – regardless on how it was given – I promise it will sanctify you. Learn from it, pray about it with the person who is reproving you. And move on in the joy of your salvation. Isn’t it good to know that the person reproving you doesn’t really know how truly bad you are. They just know about that one thing, not the 50 other dastardly things you have done when no one was watching you!

I write this blog because I was recently reproved and it sucked! Reproof is not meant to be fun, but meant to grow us. Paul said:
For though I caused you sorrow by my letter, I do not regret it; . . .- 
for I see that  that letter caused you sorrow, though only for a while  – I
now rejoice, not that you were made sorrowful, but that you were made sorrowful
to the point of repentance; for you were made sorrowful according to the will of God,
so that you might not suffer loss in anything through us. For sorrow that is according to the will of God produces a repentance without regret, leading to salvation, but the sorrow of the world produces death.  2 Corinthians 7:8-10

Yes, I licked my wounds. I pouted, I justified my motives, but at the end of the day I did lack humility. My brother in Christ was right. He saw a sin in my life, I didn’t see. I couldn’t see. I wanted to lash out at his imperfection. At his audacity. And even though I thought I was right, being right at the wrong time, is still wrong. I may tell you about this exchange later, but not right now. So please respect my privacy 😛

My dear, dear Christian friend, could I challenge you to place trust in another brother or sister in Christ and give them permission to reprove you? And in turn ask them if you could speak truth into their life if it is necessary? His Word says:
Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much. . . . My brethren, if any among you strays from the truth and one turns him back, let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.  – James 5:16, 19-20

Blessings!

#Christian #christianliving #reproved

 

 

 

 

 

 

Seek The Things That Are Above – Sermon Notes

 

One of my goals or resolutions for this year is to learn about God and His Word daily. My thought process is if I can spend a daily average of 4 hours on social media, collectively then I have no excuse to not spend time in things that matter – like studying His Word or furthering His Kingdom.

Here are my notes on a powerful sermon given by John Piper on December 29, 2019. This is an excellent sermon to start the New Year.  It is about 45 minutes long.

Colossians 3: 1-4 This verse reveals an unbelievable reality. We will not believe what is here in this verse without the Holy Spirit in your mind.
There are 5 realities in this passage:
1. Reality of God – This is the most foundational. We see this also in Col. 1:14, 2:14
2. Christ is seated at the right hand of God
– Christ is seated
– He was once dead and is now alive. Col. 2:12
– There are 3 positional things told about Christ:
1. He is above – meaning He is above all and all things are under Him
2. He is at the right hand of God – This is a place of honor and authority. He is not below or above God. He is acting as God. Col. 1:15-19; Rom. 8:34
3. He is seated – Finished Heb. 1:23
3. As a Believer in Christ my death is behind me
– 
My life is hidden from the world. Even from me. What I see in the mirror is not my life. Verse 3 – I have died, so the worst is behind me. verse 4 – I have been raised                     – Quote – “The resurrection that awaits is as sure as the one you have already experienced”
          – Col.2:12 – We have passed from death unto life. I John 3:4
– Quote – “The most horrible experience is behind you. Your most glorious one awaits you. “
          – My death is over. The worst is behind me. My life is hidden. My glory is hidden. The true me is hidden.
– Quote “May God grant you to see that what you can’t see is more real and precious than all that you can.”
 4. Christ is going to appear. Verse 4
– Christ is here now in this world. Totally in charge. He’s reigning over the world now. He is also hiddena nd it will not always be so. Titus 2:13 – He is coming
5. My hiddenness will also be over as well. Verse 4
– We will appear with Him in glory. We are invisible right now. The true me is invisible, but will be manifested.

I must be shaped in my mind, attitude and in my longings. Have my mind shaped by these 5 realities. Not by TV, social media or other things. Let this shape how I see the world. How I feel about the world. Let it shape my perspective. Let it shape everything. How do I do this shaping? By seeking. Seek the things that are above. That’s the pathway to the mindset, to the shaping. No one gains the mindset of heaven passively. Seek, treasure, look, find. All these are not passive words. You seek it, or you don’t have it.

*********************************************************************

mirrorWhat an excellent sermon. I was so inspired by this reality. I just loved how my true self hasn’t been revealed yet! My true self doesn’t have the baggage of all my sins and dispositions. I am still hidden. When I look at myself in the mirror, I am really not seeing myself! I can just meditate on that for so long! What truth! What hope! The quotes included in the notes are so encouraging! Also, the part that encourages me that the worst is already behind me because the worst time in my life was when I was not saved! This is so encouraging, that no matter what pain may come, the worse is already behind. Praise the Lord. This new year, it is my hope that I seek Him with all my heart and await to meet my true myself!

 

Come, and Be Strange With Me

When Christians throw their lot in with Jesus, we lose the right to protect our reputation. When you love the strangers, you will become strange. – Rosaria Butterfield

“Gender identity”, “gay marriage”, “preferred pronouns”, “binary” these and other words flood us with different emotions and thoughts. But the connotations that are attached to them should not keep us from fulfilling Christ’s call to love and pray for all, even for those we may have trouble understanding.

I just finished watching a video of Rosaria Butterfield speaking at Harvest Church in California and that woman has a way of speaking to me that just makes me want to take her up on all the challenges she graciously gives Christians! It like all rational thinking goes out the window! She just hits me on a whole other level! She is just so genuine and I want to be her when I grow up!  After I stopped heaving and shouting “amen” at my computer screen, I called out to my introverted husband and told him,”You know how we opened our home after Sunday for lunch to our church?” He stood there immobile and silent, probably not wanting to remember. “Well, now I’m inviting the whole town!” He did what he usually does when I start going nuts, he looked deep into my eyes and then just walked away.

I have no idea how this is going to look. I don’t know how I am going to do this, but read this verse with me. It’s Mark 10:28-30:

Then Peter spoke up, “We have left everything to follow you!”. “Truly I tell you,” Jesus replied, “no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age: homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields—along with persecutions—and in the age to come eternal life.

Are you reading this?! Have the Christians in your church received mothers and  brothers and sisters a hundred times over from us?!? Has your community? Has  your neighbor? Has Kuttawa?  Jesus is not talking about how its going to be like this in Heaven, he said: THIS PRESENT AGE! That means right now! There should be no lonely Christians! Not if this verse is true. Why is inviting someone to live with us shocking? Why is having people over all the time weird? Why are our best friends the ones we least pray with and open up Scripture with? Why are we not strange in this way?

open doorI have failed in this. I have let my feelings and my respect for privacy dictate my behavior instead of God’s call for me. What if I believed the Bible was true? Help me God to believe Your Word is true! There are not many books I can think of that have impacted me more than the book: The Gospel Comes With a House Key by Rosaria. You can see my review of this book here or you can buy it here.

I leave you with the YouTube video I just watched and invite you to come and be strange with me!

 

 

Instant Family – Movie Review

I did not want to see this movie. When the link was sent to me by another foster mom, I immediately told her I was not going to go. I don’t like going into situations knowing my heart strings are going to be pulled. I don’t do lifetime or hallmark Christmas movies. It’s just not my cup of tea. I realize that this is a foster care movie, I realize it would make me laugh, but it was just too close to comfort. I didn’t want to do this! And they couldn’t make me. So a group of foster moms and I went on opening day.  I hate/love my friends for making me do things I don’t want to do!

The movie was very real. It did make me cry, but they didn’t leave you there for as long as other movies in this genre like to do sometimes. I also appreciated that they didn’t sugar coat the life of foster parents or kids. It was obvious that the writers of this movie did their homework and interviewed many social workers, foster kids and parents. So many aspects of our fears, of our secret thoughts, and of our joys were covered by this movie and I was grateful for it.

Would I take my foster kids to see this movie? I cannot paint with a broad paint brush with this question.  I would recommend it only for the older foster kids who feel safe with their foster parents and only if your kid is capable to deal with strong themes like seeing a drug addicted mother repeatedly abandon her kids. For example, I think my 13 year old foster son would be okay watching this movie.  On the other hand, my 12 year old foster daughter who struggles with missing her mom and abandonment would not be okay watching this movie until she is much older. She still has a lot of healing to do before she sees her nightmare played out on the screen. But for my older one, this movie will provide so many awesome opportunities to have deep conversations with him. We can talk about what he related to the most or what he thought wasn’t right. He could also see (hopefully) just how difficult it is to be a foster parent and some of our fears and concerns. I do recommend you watch the movie first on your own and then assess if your foster kids would be okay with it.

I do recommend this movie to all who have thought for more than half a second about fostering or adopting out of foster care. I also recommend this movie to anyone who likes family drama genres.

The movie does contain adult themes that are not strangers to foster parents like comfort masturbating, sexting, cuss words, manipulation, drugs, sexual abuse, running away etc. There is also several times that God’s name is used in vain. There is also a gay couple who fosters a little boy. Generally the mood is light about all these things and I really enjoyed the political incorrectness. This just added more to the general authentic feel of the movie and frankly its comedic value. There was no nudity or sex scenes.

Just be aware, this is not a “Christian” movie. There is a Christian couple that is made fun of, but everyone is made fun of – even the gay couple! The movie is all around very secular. There is a scene at the very end where the main actors answer the question “why they chose to foster” to their teenage foster daughter and although their answer is very sweet, it is also very humanist and came short for me. This is why as Christians, we have such an advantage in foster care to live out the Gospel with these children. Our answer to this question runs red deep in meaning and purpose! I wrote more about this in this blog.

When we enter into the world, the world in all its non-glory exposes itself to us. We cannot shudder away from this with tight lips and eyes closed. The world was us and there are still many not yet part of our fold who are in it. Let’s go get them.

family

There is no fear in love, but perfect love drives out fear, because fear involves punishment. The one who fears has not been perfected in love. We love because He first loved us.
– I John 4:18-19

The Man Who Stole Christmas

 

christmas lights

We all know them, the ones who post “15 weeks until Christmas!!” It was 90 degrees today! Fall weather hasn’t even kicked in and I’m already being triggered by beautiful friends who just love Christmas! Don’t get me wrong, I do love Christmas, but I just don’t feel the feels yet as I figure out if dealing with dabbing rivulets of foundation make-up off my face is worth it today. Life is sweaty sometimes, especially in the South.

Christmas is exciting. The presents, the decorations, the big family dinners, the baking, the food, the traditions, did I mention the baking, and even the shopping and thinking of others brings a joy to me that seems to only happen around this time. So I see why it can bring an anxious excitement to a lot of people. So when I read “A Christmas Carol” by Charles Dickens it was full of nostalgia. Scrooge got it at the end. Here and there the Ghost of Christmas Present sprinkled people with Christmas feelings of warmth, mirth, and joy. Scrooge stepped out of his comfort zone and saw how even those with nothing, still were able to enjoy life because they had family and friends, despite their impoverished circumstances. He saw in the end that material things mean nothing because we cannot enjoy them when we are dead. Friendship, fellowship, and philanthropy that is what mattered most in life.  Oh, Mr. Dickens, you are close, but you got it so wrong.

I first noticed it when the movie “The Man Who Invented Christmas” came out last year. (I still have not seen it and I really want to.) The title shocked me. Not in a Victorian-I’m-going-to-faint-now-catch-me-please kind of way, but that it was so blatantly wrong. So adamantly misleading. Christmas has been around for over 2000 years, and man didn’t invent it. It was given. But reading “A Christmas Carol” I got what was trying to be convened by Mr. Dickens. He wanted Christmas without Christ. He wanted the sentiment without the Savior. He wanted the philanthropy without the Forgiver. And frankly, he got it. And Americans – because this is what we do – gobbled up this kind of Christmas in mouthfuls. Yes, I sprinkle Jesus and Bible reading among the towers of presents. I contemplate the birth of my Savior between Christmas parties. Yes, I give a little more around this time frankly because I feel bad because I spent so much on my kids. UGh! Christmas should not be this complicated. This stressful. This domineering. So what do I do with this?

We do not know when Jesus was born. I have heard most accounts of a time line of when He could have been born and all of them make good arguments, but simply, none of us are for sure. I think it is important to see that plainly the date wasn’t that big of a deal. If it was, with all the writings we have on everything else, we would know! I think this lack of information screams: Let’s not save our celebrating Jesus or Christianity for one day out of the year!

Be a gift-giver, host big meals, decorate your home, make traditions (especially ones revolving around Jesus), make time for family and friends, love on the needy, read the Bible aloud with your family, seek God, make amends, ask for forgiveness, easily forgive, call forgotten ones, encourage one another, do these things and more not when the “Christmas spirit” hits you, but because the Holy Spirits dwells in you.

I am still working out the thoughts and convictions I have been feeling about Christmas. Rest assured that I will be sharing my thoughts as I work them out. I will still celebrate Jesus birth and salvation. I will still decorate and make my home warm, I will still give gifts and attend and host parties, I will still bake and donate; but I just hope to continue to do these things throughout the year.

Dickens did steal Christmas. He was one of the firsts to write a Christmas story that excluded the mention of Jesus. But he, I believe inadvertently, also limited our Christianity. He captured the feelings we have during Christmas and bound it to a season. Maybe that is why we go nuts around Christmas time with all we do, because we are making up for what we have not done throughout the year? Even I become overly religious around this time, making sure we read Luke 2 before we DARE open any presents! God forgive me! It shouldn’t be a novelty to read Scripture to my gathered children. 😦 Am I making up for what I should be doing daily? I think I am.

My challenge to myself and to you my dear Christian is to not save our Christianity to a Christmas season. Even to those who haven’t fallen into the American-Christmas trap and do center their celebration to revolve around Jesus specifically, let us not just make Him center for a season. Let us not celebrate His birth and salvation for a slot of two weeks in the winter.

GOD became incarnate and died for the sins of His church! He came to earth! – a feeble little rock in the great expanse of space and taught us how to love Him and others. He has saved His people! And because He so magnificently gave and forgave, we do also. This beautiful truth should be celebrated all year long!

I will end with a passage from Luke 2! 😉

 For my eyes have seen your salvation,
    which you have prepared in the sight of all nations:
 a light for revelation to the Gentiles,
    and the glory of your people Israel.

Regarding the book because this was supposed to be a book review. It is a very well written book. Dickens is a master at capturing and developing deep, meaningful characters. I also love the last names he gives his characters. I recommend this book to anyone wanting a quick and motivational read. The book is about 100 pages, so it isn’t very long. It will forever be a classic.

 

 

 

 

Blank Birth Certificates

About a week ago, my 3 foster children lost their biological parents. No, they didn’t die, they just chose not to show up for most of their lives.  After years of being in the foster care system, the powers that be decided that my kids parents were unfit to be parents and their rights were rightfully terminated. Technically, on paper, my foster children are orphans. They have us, but legally their birth certificates now have blank spaces where their parents’ names should be.

Unfortunately, their case is not unique. Today, in Kentucky alone, there are over 8,000 children in the foster care system. Many of these children age out not ever “belonging” to anyone. Their birth certificate being blank for the rest of their lives. We live in a very broken world.

But I tell you all this so this little, minuscule light of mine shines even brighter.

This morning, I fed my kids chorizo con huevo (Mexican sausage with egg). They saw me take out the plump, greasy, fat links, then squeeze the red clumps out of their casing, my fingers covered in red-orange ooze. “What is that?” the smallest one asked. “It’s chorizo, and I’m going to mix it with your eggs this morning.” He being the most sensitive to my feelings just slowly said “okay” and walked away. I accompanied their eggs with some quesadillas filled with Oaxaca cheese, and grilled them in butter and needless to say, my Kentucky native foster children ate every bit of what I made and loved it. And, may I add, they pronounce “chorizo” beautifully.

chorizo

This morning’s breakfast

My foster children, who we plan to adopt, are themselves adopting me and my culture. The oldest one, whose name is John, has adamantly stated he would like to change his given name at his adoption hearing to, get this, JUAN! My littlest one is always requesting for me to make fideo, a type of Mexican spaghetti that I grew up with. My foster daughter is looking forward to her quinceanera (a huge party celebrating her 15th birthday) where we all celebrate her becoming a woman.  All of them can sing Lalo Mora’s song “Un puno de tierra”!

Yes, this is all a good thing, but there is a larger part of my culture that they are also adopting which is the most important and that is my Christian culture. I pray so they pray, I attend church and they do also, I confess my many, many, many failings and I help them confess theirs, we forgive, we worship our God, we fight being hypocrites and fail some more, we practice hospitality – something they really enjoy. My whole worldview is through the lens of my faith. My identity and the identity of my home is mostly found in Christ. My home of Mexicans, a Guatemalan, Kentuckians,Texans and a Yankee comes beautifully together seamlessly under Christ. This is why I beg Christians to consider foster care and/or adoption. What better way to further the kingdom of God than by having them in your home where habits, culture, and character – specifically Christian ones – are naturally absorbed!? Will you mess up, of course. My first summer with my very pale foster children was drenched in aloe because I didn’t know anything about sunscreen AND that you have to re-apply that stuff! AND that SPF 40 does squat! AND just get SPF 70, trust me! AND what does SPF even mean!?! – My poor white babies were burnt red all summer, sizzling as they slowly walked!  Their brown mama had no clue! You also will mess up in other ways. You may not want them anymore – it will pass, sometimes I didn’t want the kids I birthed. You will regret doing foster care, don’t worry, it will pass – sometimes. You will question yourself, you will lose your temper with them. You may even consider an exorcist for them and even yourself. BUT! This is where my faith, my Christian culture, comes to the rescue. Because it is in my faith where I remember my own adoption. My Heavenly Father adopted me. I was an abandoned baby and he raised me and clothed me (Ezekiel 16:5-6). I was his enemy (Romans 5:10) and he made me His friend (John 15:15). I was dead and he brought me to life (I John 3:14). My birth certificate had blanks (John 14:18) and he filled them and signed them with the blood of His Son (Ephesians 1:5)!

My foster children have blanks right now on their birth certificates, but soon they will have Nathan and Anna Tobey written in on these empty slots. They will be given a new last name – and some a new first name too! They will belong to someone. It is my constant prayer that they will not just be a part of our temporary family, but also our eternal one. I hope that they don’t just become my children, but also my eternal brothers and sisters – sharing with me in my inheritance who is Christ Himself!

Ephesians 1:4-5 says: For He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless in His presence. In love, He predestined us for adoption as His sons through Jesus Christ, according to the good pleasure of His will, to the praise of His glorious grace, which He has freely given us in the Beloved One.…

 

 

Bible Reading- Nehemiah 1-5

Nehemiah 5:19 – Remember for my good, O my God, all that I have done for this people.

I have never read Nehemiah non stop, but part of our Sunday School lesson was to do so. It is very difficult for me to read the Bible for long periods of time without stopping because there is just so much good in it and I am afraid I am going to forget my thoughts and questions. So when the first thing I had to do was read the whole book without stopping, I did feel a bit anxious because I can’t stand doing that! I tried, I really tried, but I only got to chapter 5 before I just HAD TO stop and write down my thoughts. Here they are:

The only things I can remember somewhere in the back of my brain about the book of Nehemiah is something about a wall that needed to be rebuilt and about the Jews working on rebuilding along with packing a sword because of all the haters. I remembered that Nehemiah was a cup bearer and he asked the king’s permission to go and rebuild Jerusalem, other than that, I don’t really remember anything else. The book, up to chapter 5, talks about that a bit. It also gives a lot of numbers of who showed up and who did what. Nehemiah, besides being a great leader, is an A-type organizer, but throughout the book there are sprinkled these short prayers, like the one I cited above. AND I LOVE THAT ABOUT HIM! It is like, “Joseph, you and your family fix this wall. James, you and your family fix this gate. Mary, you bring water to this section. OH LORD GUIDE ME WITH THESE PEOPLE! Now, Thomas quit doubting the wall wont get done. OH LORD HELP ME! Miriam, she doesn’t hate you. She is just not feeling well. Go give her a hug. We need 480 more cedar planks for this structure. OH LORD REMEMBER ALL I DO!”

What a human. That is the best way I can describe Nehemiah. He was is so real. And in ministry I think that is so beautiful. These exclamations throughout the book just reminded me of how life is as an active Christian. There is always so much to be done within our church body. Women are hurt, children need homes, men are discouraged, finances are tough, jobs are lost. Then there are those who are sick or healing. And that’s only the spiritual. There is also the administrative and maintenance side of church life. And let us not forget those who are not yet believers. We must love on them also. Can you relate!? There is just so much to do and I empathize with Nehemiah as he exclaims a prayer and simultaneously an encouragement to himself. “Lord, FOR MY GOOD, remember all I have done for this people.” It is good for Nehemiah to let God know what he is doing for his people. It is good for us to see and admire the works we do in the church body. Never boasting, but as an encouragement. Lord, for my good, remember that children’s ministry is hard for me; but in my weakness you make me strong. Lord, for my good, remember how difficult it is for me to love my sister in Christ who hurt my feelings last week, but you loved me when I was still Your enemy. These prayers are so conversational and it is so great to have that kind of relationship with God. Can  you just see yourself throughout your day, toiling, mortifying your flesh, struggling through sanctification and then bust out, “Lord, this is hard! I didn’t think it would be this hard! Help me!” Or you are looking out your car window and your phone is dead so it is all silent and you see the most beautiful sunset and then bust out “Lord, what beautiful things you make! I will never see those exact same shades of purples, pinks and oranges ever again! What an artist You are!

Involve Him in all things! Let Him know your feelings. He knows them, but something happens when we admit them to Him. We suddenly connect to our Creator. Yes, are there moments of long prayer times. Yes! And I hope we have them every day. But there are also lots of moments and seconds where we can connect with Him in this way. When we naturally respond to our circumstances by exclaiming a short prayer that reflects our emotions and heart.

It is good to remind the Lord what we do, not because He forgets or because we want acknowledgement from Him or others, but because it reminds us what we do, always remembering that it is the Lord’s work. It is encouraging to see the fruits of our labor grow or mature. We sowed,watered or planted. God made it grow. What a great collaboration with our Father and Creator!

In the previous chapters Nehemiah constantly gives God the credit and mentions how all of this is the Lord’s fight, doing and work . But what a beautiful thing to remember that He allows us to be a part of it.

remember

Remember – Poem

worship

I wrote this poem a couple of days ago. It has been a long time since I have taken the time to express myself this way.  These are sins I struggle with it, and may it be understood that these are not the only ones, but the biggest ones at the moment. There are many of our past brothers and sisters who have insisted that the Christian ought to be preaching the Gospel to themselves. And this is what this poem is about. The salvation of a believer is a mysterious and beautiful thing that we should never tire of. It should shake our very core that God chose to save us and lead us into a gladness unheard of. I hope this poem encourages you and reminds you that when in any doubt regarding your faith, always go back to Gospel and the miracle of  our salvation. Blessings.

 

Remember

There are days when I am too busy to open up and read Your word.

When I don’t want to hear from you because it all seems absurd.

I become haughty, full of myself and full of pride;

Forgetting of my Savior of who for me He died.

When I lose my way like this, Oh Lord, let there be no hesitation;

May I remember, always remember Your meritless salvation.

 

There are moments when my familiar sin has lead me into darkness.

The temporary pleasure I seemed to have wanted keeps me in a harness.

I then hate myself for my weakness and for my lack of volition.

I want to hide and let no one see my disgraceful condition.

When I am hidden because of the shame of my instant gratification;

May I remember, always remember, the grace of Your salvation.

 

Some days I am tired and the sadness overtakes my mind.

I think of better days, of how things used to be, of what I’ve left behind.

I seem to have forgotten how to laugh and the tears never stop to flow.

I feel so all alone, and it seems that no one cares or even knows.

When everywhere is better except for where I am in my habitation;

May I remember, always remember the joy of Your salvation.

 

There are times when I feel so lost and it feels I have lost my way.

Am I even saved, how could You want me, have I been lead astray?

The desire to pray, the desire to serve, and even the desire to worship is distant.

I worry about Your anger, am full of despair and the fear of Your fury is constant.

When I am afraid of Your wrath and all I seem to see is my own contamination,

May I remember, always remember the peace of Your salvation.

 

For You ask me to remember, always remember the things that You have done;

For only those things are worthy and were fulfilled in Your Son.

May I never forget that You saved a wretch like me.

That I did nothing for my salvation and was for a long time Your enemy.

I do not know why You redeemed me, I may never comprehend

That You sought me and have promised to preserve me until the very end.

May I remember, always remember the miracle of Your salvation

Even when the enemy bombards me with his manipulation.

For he is the father of lies and You are the Truth and the Light;

Give me strength to remember those things and continue the fight.

 

I will be crushed and bruised, but I will never be broken.

This is all true, for Your word of this has spoken.

That You will sustain me and nothing can snatch me from the palm of Your hand,

And not one will You lose to hell, this I have to understand.

“I am saved, I am saved, I am saved” may this be my anthem and song!

May I remember this when I have done so much wrong.

So, when I am prone to wander, or in any other ugly situation

May remember, always remember the beauty of Your salvation.

 

 

 

Written by Anna Tobey

Christian Lyrics Matter

Words are important. As Christians, the words we speak hold a lot of weight, they hold life and death (James 3). It is by way of hearing the Gospel (words) that many are saved (Romans 10:14). Even more important are words in songs, i.e. lyrics, because when words are accompanied by music they can temporarily produce emotions the musician wants his hearer to feel.  There is nothing wrong with having strong emotions, even in songs, as long as these emotions are based on truths. That goes for anything from: I am happy my team won, therefore, I will jump up from my couch with hands up in the air TO I am a wretch who was lost but now is found, therefore I will weep and raise my hands in the air. Here are some more awesome lyrics: Boldly I approach Your throne, blameless now I’m coming home. By Your blood I come, welcomed as Your own, into the arms of majesty or Jesus paid it all, all to Him I owe, sin had left a crimson stain, He washed it white as snow! WOO WEEE what words!! Add to that some music and some very powerful emotions can’t help but spring forth! That is all good because these emotions are based on beautiful and scriptural truths. When they are not and these emotions are produced by lights, by great voices or musicians, by eerie repetitions, or by words that sound nice, we are treading on dangerous ground. We can confuse God’s truth with our feelings. We can assign characteristics to God that are not really Him. We can dilute the Christian life to vague cliches like “letting go and letting God” – whatever that means. And we are the ones who end up losing the most because we lose out on the peace, the joy, the strength, the comfort that only Scripture or beautifully orchestrated words based on God’s truth can provide.

John 4:24 says: God is spirit, and His worshipers must worship Him in spirit and in truth.

THEREFORE,

I am going to be providing SONG REVIEWS now on my blog. The way I decided to do this was to type out the lyrics and then give my commentary on them ad lib. I am not researching anything, I am not working too hard to find the inner hidden meaning of the lyrics or to ponder the meaning behind obscure phrasing. It is my opinion that worship music should be clear, because God’s Word is clear. I am just going to type as I read and think. The lyrics will be in italics and my commentary in bold. It is not my intention to pass judgement on any of these artist, but just to give my humble and honest opinion. The commentary is specifically just for the song and not towards the singer.

Here is the first commentary of many. Hopefully . . . .

Gracefully Broken by Matt Redman

Take all I have in these hands. / And multiply, God, all that I am – I literally look down at my hands, and I have literally nothing in them. I guess it is figurative to mean the work of my hands or my service to further His Kingdom, but that really isn’t much. I guess God wants the little I give. The truth is that my works, the good ones, are big piles of crap and dirty rags, so I guess take those things God? I guess I just don’t get the “hands” analogy! And please Lord, do not multiply what I am! God help me! I am a sinner, my natural state is to sin! I am constantly fighting everyday, trying to kill my flesh. I am crap and anything good in me is not me, but what the Lord Almighty has done. Multiply Yourself Lord, not me. Please not me! This verse basically says: Here’s my crap Lord, and can you multiply the crap maker – me. Thanks!

And find my heart on the altar again – I have no idea what this means either. I guess it means sacrifice. I am placing my heart on the altar of sacrifice – like self sacrifice. But I thought I wanted to multiply all that I am? And I guess I have done this before, because it says “again”. Maybe I am sacrificing my desires and my wants? Again?

Set me on fire (repeated 4 times) – This makes me uncomfortable.

Here I am, God, arms wide open / Pouring out, my life, gracefully broken (repeated 6 times). – I am guessing this is a form of expression or of worship. Don’t get me wrong, I raise my hands in worship all the time, but so far, according to this song, I have my arms wide open because I have given God my crap, that crap has been multiplied, and now that crap is on fire. Also, the pouring out my life part, I am guessing this is giving myself to God’s service. That’s something nice in the song. Gracefully broken – the words sound pretty together, but again, context! I do not know what he means by this. Broken because of my sin, broken because I make pour decisions in life, or just plain broke – like I have no money.

My heart stands in  awe of your name. / Your mighty love stands strong to the end – This verse, I do understand. Some elaborating would have been good here though. Good Matt.

You will fulfill Your purpose in me. / You won’t forsake me, You will be with me – Another good verse. Just as long as the worshiper understands that God’s ways are not our ways. We are special because of who Christ is, not because of who we are. Our purpose in life will be fulfilled according to His plan, not ours. He will not forsake us and He is with us.

All to Jesus now (repeated 2 times). I have no idea what this means! Holding nothing back (repeated 2 times) Here comes more of my crap again!,  I surrender (repeated 4 times) And I guess I wanted my crap, but you can have it now. I guess this can also mean that I was doing things my way, but now I am going to do it your way. Maybe this ties in with the heart sacrificed in the altar.

Your power and work in me/ I’m broken gracefully. / I’m strong when I am weak/ I will be free (repeated 7 times) What about your power and work? There are so many incomplete sentences! There is nothing graceful about being broken. Last time I cried because of my sin I looked like this:

crying

Yes, we are strong when we are weak. Good verse.  And I am not sure if the last verse is intended to be a “I declare it to be true” type of phrase, but we are already free. The bonds of sin, the previous man, the old creature, all gone, dead. I don’t have to repeat it 7 times for the freedom to happen. God’s Word speaks of my freedom here and now, and nothing I say or feel will change my level of freedom.

I was a bit shocked to find out that Matt Redman sings this song. He has some really nice songs out there, but this one was just awful. I do not recommend you add this song to your worship playlist.