Book Review: A Faith That Endures (Brian Croft)

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I really enjoy reading books by people that I know…you feel more personally connected to the writer and therefore, the book itself.  Brian Croft is a dear friend of my husband.  He is the pastor of a church in Louisville, KY.  He writes a blog for “normal” pastors called Practical Shepherding

I picked this book (actually, thank you Eric for getting it for me) due to a friend’s asking if I had read it or knew anything about it.  My pastor had just finished preaching through Hebrews 11 (the chapter of the Bible this book is based on) and life is just a BIT of a struggle right now.  This was a perfect book.

Brian’s strength, both in his books and on his blog, is that he knows his audience.  He is writing to pastors, not necessarily the mega church, celebrity pastors, but normal pastors who serve normal churches.  These are the pastors who probably don’t get book deals or radio shows and their churches don’t put our their own CDs or fill up football stadiums.  These are the pastors that shepherd anywhere from 15 – 500 people and press on, week in and week out.  They may struggle with being the only staff pastor or may struggle with leadership issues.  They may not have a huge choir and still sing from accompaniment tapes because their church hasn’t made it to the 21st Century.  Brian knows his audience.  He doesn’t use big theological terms (if he does, he defines them) and he uses stories that will resonate with the majority of his readers.  This is a great benefit to his books that all authors need to learn (including me)!

Another of Brian’s strengths is his pointing to Christ through all of his chapters.  This is what the writer of Hebrews wants to do anyway (doesn’t the whole Bible point to Christ?).  The main goal of the book of Hebrews is for the reader to see that Christ is better, He is more supreme.  Brian helps us see that AGAIN (because we often need to be reminded) by looking at the lives of the saints mentioned in the Hall of Faith (Hebrews 11).  He shows us how God compels normal every day people, great sinners in need of a HUGE Savior, to persevere and endure to the end for great would be their reward!

Maybe life for you is kinda tough.  Maybe you or your family is going through a tough time and you want to be made aware of God’s infinite faithfulness to us in giving us Christ.  Pick up this book.  Pastors, there is a specific chapter for you at the end, but the rest of the book can really be read and applied by everyone.  The chapters are short and applicable – in fact there are application questions at the end of each of the chapters.

Be encouraged.  Your God is good and faithful.  Thank you Brian.

Tyler Florence’s Real Kitchen

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I am so thankful for the public library – they have some great cookbooks. 

Tyler Florence, as I’ve said before, is one of my favorite cooks, and this is one of his first cookbooks (if not his first).  So, I can tell he’s come a long way in his writing style and use of photography, but the recipes are still stellar!  This is a great beginner cookbook but one who has knowledge of cooking and money to spend.  The recipes aren’t generally “cheap” but he does tell you why these ingredients are important.  He also tells the beginning what to stock her kitchen and pantry with to be able to cook creatively!

I want to make these:

Cherry Poppy Seed Muffins (which I made and they were delicious)

Creamed Chicken with Mushrooms

Green Curry Chicken

All the sushi (when I’m not pregnant) – I love it how he teaches one how to make sushi and dim sum!

Chicken Cacciatore (I love Sara Foster’s – so I might see if its better)

All of his side dishes (which often make a meal. 

Pick this up and cook through it. You will expand your cooking repertoire and eat good at the same time!


Book Review: Warfield on the Christian Life

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This book combines two of my loves in literature: biography and theology

Zaspel completed a short summary of Warfield’s life that didn’t drag you down into the ins and outs, but gave you a clear and concise, personal look into the professor and writer’s life.  He gave you enough to feel like you weren’t a stranger and could understand some of what shaped this thinker’s life.

The other part of the book is like a theology book that is thinner and more applicable.  He highlights some of Warfield’s main thoughts and gives you reason and application into the Christian life.  Topics range from the incarnation to the authority of the Bible. 

My favorite quote:

“Ultimately his was a first for the gospel.  Consistently at the center of Warfield’s attention was the glorious message of the divine rescue for sinners.  If the attack was on the person of Christ, his concern was not academic only but soteriological – that we would be left without a Savior and without a gospel.  If the attack was concerning the integrity of the Scriptures, his concern was not one of party spirit.  It was that in the end we would be left without witness to Christ and, indeed, with a Christ who is himself mistaken as to the nature and authority of the book that was written about Him.  If the attack was an Arminian one, his concern was that the gospel would be so watered down as to devalue Christ and render him much less than the mighty Savior He is.” – pg 31

Cherry-Poppy Seed Muffins

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This is a quick recipe that is easy, light in flavor, crisp with a bit of orange and the tang from the dried cherries.  Definitely a winner anytime of the year.

1 stick unsalted butter, melted

1 cup whole wheat flour

1 cup all-purpose flour

1 cup sugar

1 T baking powder

1 tsp salt

1/2 cup milk

1/2 cup half and half

2 eggs

1 T poppy seeds

zest of an orange

1 cup dried cherries

Preheat oven to 400 and grease a 12-cup muffin pan.  ( I love my gold touch pans that I got from W-S for our wedding.  Cooks evenly and looks great and very easy to clean).

Mix the dry ingredients.  Combine the milk and egg then add the rest of the wet ingredients.  Combine the two (don’t overmix).  Fold in the cherries.  Bake for about 22-25 minutes until done. 

Let cool (or eat warm like I did).  These are great for a weekend brunch or to have one hand for a quick out-the-door-running-late breakfast during the week!

These were taken from Tyler Florence’s Real Kitchen (review coming tomorrow)

Reading Update Qtr 2012.1

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I was asked to post my reading list and then what I am currently reading (I just thought I’d throw that in as a bonus), so here goes.  This is what I’ve read so far in 2012:

Lit! by Tony Reinke – this was a Crossway book review book and I enjoyed it all.  Very strategic and is probably helping with my reading this year.  And I even was informed of a book that will be great for my husband as a gift.

Healthy Pregnancy Over 35 by Laura Goetzl- this book was helpful as a started this new journey into motherhood, especially that I’m “old” (in maternal years)

You’ll Lose the Baby Weight by Meehan – I liked this book purely for the sarcastic and humoristic nature of it.  Helped me make it through the hardest weeks of the first trimester

Walking in the Spirit by Berding – this was also a Crossway book review book and went through Romans 8.  Very helpful to the Christian life, short read, and one I need to remember more of daily as I walk through this life.

A Tailor Made Bride by Karen Witemeyer – this was a free kindle read fiction, so I didn’t lose anything.  It was ok.

A Promise to Remember by Cushman – another free kindle fiction read – better than the first.

It Happens Every Spring by Gary Chapman and Catherine Palmer – a fiction book, kindle read, good, had some good application for perseverence in marriage.

The Shunning by Beverly Lewis – the first in a series – very good, quick read.

The Confession by Beverly Lewis – I had to keep reading!

The Reckoning by Beverly Lewis – good, predictable (somewhat) end of the series

Husband-Coached Childbirth by Bradley – helped me understand what might be coming by the end of summer.

Family Meal by Tyler Florence – I borrowed this one but would love to have it if anyone just wants to buy me something.  I love reading cookbooks and I love Tyler Florence.  Can’t wait to enjoy some of the recipes!

New Mom’s Survival Guide by Wider – this was helpful to know what was coming after the birth, man and to think this process is a joy! 🙂  (hint:sarcasm)

So I guess that makes 13 so far this year and here is what I’m reading now:

Psalms 1-41 by J P Boice (as a help with my quiet time)

What Did You Expect by Tripp – still working through this as its a great marriage book

Love That Lasts by Gary and Betsy Ricucci – E and I are reading this together aloud for car rides and date nights – love it.  Very practical.  One of my fave marriage books EVER!

Meaning of Marriage by Tim Keller – we were going through this as a small group, but the group had to take a break, so we’ll resume this soon hopefully!  It is very thick, but good, Keller writing

Warfield on the Christian Life by Zaspel – this is my latest Crossway book review book and I look forward to reading something outside of the 21st Century!

Memoirs of an Ordinary Pastor by D A Carson – this is a biography on his father, Tom Carson, and I am learning much (as I usually do by Christians who have run the race well)

Loving the Way Jesus Loves by Phil Ryken – I am still working through this Crossway book review from last month.  Very hard read (because it is so convicting), but very pastoral as well.

On my kindle:

The Praying Life by Paul Miller – this was a highly recommended book that I hope to finish next week while in Louisville

The Blue Castle by LMM – I look forward to reading this next week as well while I sit in some fun places in my old stomping ground.


There you have it.  Besides the Twilight saga and the hunger Games, what else should I be reading?

Christians and Boycotting (with thoughts from D.A. Carson)

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I think the first boycott I remember is the Disney boycott years ago when I was in high school (or sometime there about).  Something about their movies…I think.  It was such a big deal back then and I know to some people it still is, but honestly don’t remember the real reason that Christian’s boycotted Disney.  The latest boycott is Starbucks (where I’m sitting right now, sipping on a Vanilla Bean Creme, just ate a blueberry scone, been borrowing their wifi all morning) because they promote gay marriage as a company.  So much time has elapsed between high school and now, but the problem still remains…

How should Christians respond to companies who don’t line up exactly with Christian beliefs or biblical practices?  Should we boycott or should we keep using their products?

I can’t say I’ve always come down with the same position, but lately I’ve been thinking more about this.  How should we voice our opinions in this world that will most decidedly be against everything that is Christian? 

As I was reading D. A. Carson’s Scandalous in light of Easter, I came to this excerpt that is mainly on the persecution of Christians and how we have triumphed because we know that Christ has triumphed.  I loved his thoughts, especially in light of Christians and our boycotts:

“Do not misunderstand me.  We live in a democracy, which is a different form of government from Paul’s, and our Christian responsibilities in this kind of context may mean that we should give a lot of thought as to how to be salt and light in a corrupt and corroding society.  We dare not withdraw into a little holy huddle.  But we must recognize with every ounce of our being that what finally transforms society is the gospel.  There are responsibilities to legislate correctly and pass good laws; God loves justice and holds every nation to account for justice.  Promose the well-being of the city.  Of course we are responsible to look after the poor.  But at the end of the day, what transforms society is still the gospel. 

How does the gospel advance?  By the word of our testimony: Rev 12:11.  This does not mean that they gave their testimonies a lot.  That may be a good thing to do, but that is not what their verse means.  It refers to Christians bearing testimony to Christ; they bear witness to Christ.  They gossip the gospel.  They evangelize.  That is the central way by which they bear witness to Christ. 

Forbid, Lord God, that we should rest so comfortably in our easy and restless society, that we forget that one of the driving dimensions of Christian experience is warfare – not against flesh and blood but against all the hosts of darkness who are filled with rage against us.  Help us, Lord God, to see the enemy and then to deploy the gospel answers, the gospel arms, the gospel solutions, which alone are sufficient in this conflict.  So return us to the cross, to faithful, glorious, grateful proclamations of the gospel, to self-death that we may follow the Lord Jesus, who died and rose on our behalf.” (Scandalous, pg 104-105, 111).

So, application:

1.  If Christians stopped going to Starbucks, what good will that do?  Even if all the Christians in the world quit going to Starbucks, would they close their doors or change their stance on gay marriage?  (Hint: NO!). 

2.  If you stopped going to Starbucks, never to walk in their door or buy their coffee again, would that local manager and the baristas know your heart for the gospel and Jesus and love for your neighbor or would they just know what you are against?

3.  If we boycott everything that is against Christian beliefs or ethics, we might as well just hide away in our little dirt hut in the middle of nowhere, with no electricity, no food except for what we grow, but where would you buy seeds and fertilizer, and what would your kids wear?

We can’t live apart from this world.  God put us here in this world to be a light to it.  If someone asks you about the stance that Starbucks has on gay marriage, you can tell them lovingly that while you disagree on the stance and believe that God designed marriage to be between one man and one woman for life in a covenantal relationship with God the Father, that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy good coffee.  Maybe even have a date night there with your husband or wife!

Loving the Way Jesus Loves: Phil Ryken

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Phil Ryken has written one of the most convicting books since Respectable Sins and Mortification of Sin.  Why?  Because I don’t love the way Jesus loves.  Nor do most of us, I would assume.  As a dear sweet man at our church says, “Every sin is a love sin.”  After reading this book, I would agree with him.

Dr. Ryken’s take on 1 Corinthians 13 (the famous marriage love verse chapter) (note: even though the above mentioned man read it in our wedding, we know that it is correctly applied to the local church and not to a husband/wife relationship.) is not a strict commentary, but an applicable look intertwining with stories from the gospels that show us how Jesus perfectly lived out what Paul wrote.  “As a reminder, we are not taking everything from the Love Chapter in order.  As we study this portrait of love, we are connecting everything to the life of Christ.” (pg 47)

One of the most convicting chapters for me personally was the ‘Love is Not Irritable’.  I would consider myself a person who generally gets along with most people.  But, recently, probably since being married, I have come to find out that I am loving toward people who love me, work according to my plan, drive according to my mapped out route, consider me a friend, aren’t overly friendly to me in the cafe early in the morning, or has to repeat my order 3 times.  Otherwise, I’m pretty irritable.  Oh, sin…that it would lose its grip on me. 

Ryken’s book on this love chapter is great for anyone: scholar, lay person, non-Christian exploring the gospels and the life of Christ, would be good for a small group of seekers or on a college campus.

The Shunning Series by Beverly Lewis

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Truth be told I’ve never been a Christian fiction fan, unlike my former roommate who is a skilled fiction writer herself, I tend toward non-fiction.  But, these days I want something easy and something that doesn’t make my brain think too much.  As the husband and I were watching Courageous, one of the trailers that were previewed was The Shunning.  I wanted to watch it, after hearing the book was good, but decided I would read it first.  Little did I know that I would finish the 3-part series in less than two weeks and love them.   Here are some thoughts

1.  Reading fiction makes me lazy.  Unfortunately, a good fiction book sucks you in to its life and you want to do little else rather than finish the book.  I’ve read nothing else, ‘cept my Bible on some days, while I read this series.  I often wish that the Bible would draw me in like fiction I’ve never read – wanting to see how the story ends up and where the characters are by the end of it.  Note: I’m supremely glad the Bible is not fiction, but all Truth!

2.  Here are some themes:

         a.  Forgivness.  Especially once you know the forgiveness of Jesus, it is easier to forgive others.  If we have been forgiven by an all loving and perfect God, who are we to not forgive others.?

         b.  Intimacy with Christ over religion.  The Amish (which these series is about the Amish) live and die by a set of writings set up by men.  They don’t want to mention much of the Bible and few have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.  Jesus, in the NT, says we will love him if we obey His commands, so I’m not saying we shouldn’t be obedient to what the Bible says.  But, our works can never save us.  We can never give enough to out give God. 

         c.  Adoption.  An Amish girl is given away at birth.  Should an adoptive child know this early, have it always be hidden from her, ever meet her birth mom or dad?  All these questions are hidden in the mystery and goodness of adoption.

So, if you need a good fiction series, Beverly Lewis’ The Heritage of Lancaster County is a good one to read.


Book Review: Broken-Down House (Paul Tripp)

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Paul Tripp is decidedly one of my favorite authors.  Tackling real-life issues and problems and matching them to the gospel – that is where he finds the rest and help that we need as sinners living in a fallen world.  His books are always “ouch” and “amen” to quote Voddie Baucham.

A friend, Bonnie, and I have been reading this book together this year.  It has been a little slower since I got married and she started dating, but now we are neighbors, so I’m hoping our book club continues.  We read a couple of chapters then come together and talk about it: how it applies to our lives, our relationships, and the ministries we are involved in.  Oh, Bonnie B, what will we read next?

PDT doesn’t mince words: he tells us we live in a fallen world full of sin.  But, even as believers, we need and have the remedy.  Jesus and the Gospel.

One of the perks to PDT books is you get just a hint of his poetry.  Such a winner. 

So, how do you live life in a fallen world?  How do you deal with issues in your life that are a result of sin (because sin damages the entire world, not just your life).  Death is in this world – that is a fact.  But, Jesus has overcome death and has brought us life.  We can live differently and with hope because we know this truth.

“At every point and every moment, your life is messier and more complicated than it really ought to be because everything is so much more difficult in such a terribly broken world.” (pg 17)

“Your Lord is the ultimate Restorer and He never rests.  He calls you and me to live in this broken-down house with hearts of patience and eyes of promise.  He calls us away from self-focused survival and to the hard work of restoration.  He calls us away from paralyzing discouragement and the nagging desire to quite.  He welcomes us to live in the patience and grace that only He can give.” (pg 21)

“There will be a war in your heart between what the Bible has to say about you and what you would like to think is true about you.” (pg 36). I often say to my husband, “my heart is ugly.”  He has asked me to quit saying that or at least finish the statement:  “but Jesus bought and paid for it anyway and is making it new.”

“Forgiveness, Christ’s gift to us, means that we can stand before God in all of our neediness, weakness, and moral failure and yet be utterly unafraid.  Sinful people can stand before a holy God because Jesus took the penalty for our sin on Himself and satisfied the Father’s anger.” (pg 45).  We talked about this at our breakfast table as we read in Is 53 part of the Advent story.  The mystery and wonder and astonishment that substitutionary atonement of Christ for us is.  Amazing.

“I am not to think of my life as separate from ministry, nor am I to think of ministry as separate from my life. I am to give myself to a way of living that views every dimension of human life as a forum for ministry.  I don’t live with a willingness to occasionally minister.  I am not open to ministry opportunities.  No, I commit myself to live with a ministry mentality where my actions, reactions, and responses are more shaped by a desire to be a part of what God is doing on earth than to fulfill my personal wants and needs.” (pg 94)  This should change our mindset as wives and see our home life (and taking care and loving our husbands) as ministry, and not see what we do as unimportant.  

“in calling us to wait, God is freeing us from the claustrophobic confines of our own little kingdoms of one and drawing us into a greater allegiance to His Kingdom of glory and grace.” (pg 117)

“Pursue community.  It can only happen when we are living in functional, biblical community with people who will again and again remind us of who we are.  I need people in my life who will lovingly hold the mirror of the Word of God in front of me so that I can see how deep my struggle with sin still is.  I need people who will confront my timidity and avoidance with the comforting, encouraging, embolderning realities of faith.” (pg 159).  Thankful for girl friends, pastor friends, and my husband who do this for me.



Book Review: This Momentary Marriage (John Piper)

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I own quite a few Piper books, and it is no secret that I like his writings.  However, this happens to be one of my favorites: very practical and pastoral.  I do believe it started out as a series of messages that were formed into a book – that’s why it seems very pastoral and shepherding in its style.

This Momentary Marriage stressed the theological foundations for the outworkings of the gospel in your marriage.  Although it touches on singleness and divorce and child-bearing and rearing – it sits on marriage and its base in the Word of the God for the majority of the book.

I really appreciated the chapter on singleness and wish that I had read it while I was single.  I can’t return (nor would I want to), but it is very encouraging and some words and hope I can share with other single ladies in my circle of friends and sphere of influence.

I have been struggling with some thoughts toward infertility and the universal command to procreate and fill the earth – and Pastor John’s chapter on child-bearing was quite helpful and hope-giving. 

One of the little blessings in this book: at the beginning of each chapter he posted a Dietrich Bonhoeffer quote from Letters and Papers from Prison – which were quite helpful.  I love his writings (though I am struggling through Bonhoeffer by Eric Metaxes just because it is such a weighty book and its on my Kindle).

Here are some helpful quotes and I hope they prove to be a blessing to you:

“Romance, sex, and child-bearing are temporary gifts of God.  They are not part of the next life.  And they are not guaranteed for this life.  They are one possible path along the narrow way to Paradise.  Marriage passed through breathtaking heights and through swamps with choking vapors.  It makes many things sweeter, and with it come bitter providences.” (pg 16-17)

“The ultimate thing to see in the Bible about marriage is that it exists for God’s glory.  Most foundationally, marriage is the doing of God.  Most ultimately, marriage is the display of God.  It is designed to display His glory in a way that no other event or institution does.” (pg 24).  Ask my husband, he knows this was the biggest fear of mine going into marriage: and it still is.  But, I see so much of the gospel offered to me by my husband that it is such a sweet detail and life-giving action to me. 

“Marriage was designed from the beginning to display the new covenant between Christ and the church.  The very essence of this new covenant is that Christ passes over the sins of His bride.  His bride is free from shame not because she is perfect but because she has no fear that her lover will condemn her or shame her because of her sin.” (pg 33-34) ** One of the most pivotal statements to me in this book – or any other marriage book – or book on the gospel or forgiveness.

“A Christian woman does not put her hope in her husband, or in getting a husband.  She does not put her hope in her looks or her intelligence or her creativity.  She puts her hope in the promises of God.” (pg 97)

“I am not sentimentalizing singleness to make the unmarried feel better.  I am declaring the temporary and secondary nature of marriage and family over against the eternal and primary nature of the church.  Marriage and family are temporary for this age; the church is forever.” (pg 111)

“Faith is the confidence we feel in all that God promises to be and do for us in all the tomorrows of our lives.” (pg 129).  As my pastor is preaching through Hebrews, and just got to chapter 11 – this is very helpful in my understanding. 

Picture taken by Erica Cooper during our engagement session with her.