Grace Transforming – Phil Ryken (Crossway)

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One of my favorite types of books is sermons-made-into-books.  I can’t be in every church on Sundays or every chapel service (in this case) in every good education location in the country.  I don’t have to take notes to hectically when they make the sermons into books – just take a pen and do some underlining.

Phil Ryken is one of my favorite thinkers and writers right now – gospel-based writing and life-application that can be put to use by almost anyone.

He charged these sermons to his students at Wheaton College where he serves as President.  What better place to pray a series of sermons on grace than a college, right?  Well, I found a new place: mommy-hood!

I never knew the demands of being a wife and mom could make you crave grace as much as it does.  And in this world of social media – we live under scrutiny of so many others, if we allow ourselves.  Do you eat organic?  Do you have a weekly date night?  Do your kids sleep through the night at 2 weeks old?  Have you gotten back in your skinny jeans yet?  Is your house like the latest style blog or lifestyle blog out there?  The list continues into every realm of life.

I need grace.  I loved these sermons by Ryken to remind me of the fact that I can do nothing without the grace of Christ!  In his first chapter, he says that we must come to a humble conclusion that we absolutely NEED grace.  We can’t do it all.  Grace is all-sufficient though.

Grace is also sanctifying – but we will never be perfect in this life.  We daily are being sanctified (Romans 8) but are daily in need of more sanctification.  Grace does that.

Where do you need grace?  This book might apply to whatever need you have – and supply it with the Truth that God offers you grace!  And it far exceeds our performance!

Book Review: The Shepherd Leader at Home (Witmer/Crossway)

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I love having the privilege to pray for my husband.  It is something we as wives must do EVERY DAY .  I need help in having that faithfulness, especially now since having a baby.

I like to read books along with the Bible that teach about his role as a husband or elder.  This book, The Shepherd Leader at Home has been wonderful.  Witmer has been forthright and winsome in giving husbands their job description in leading their wives and children.  What an important and large task at hand!

What’ve I’ve learned most from this book is how I can be a helpmeet to him.  That is why I read these books.  I want to know what they are commanded to do from God, then how I can help them be a better husband. One way is not sulking when I don’t get my way, but joyfully following his leadership.

This book is conversational and easy to read, has study questions that would be great for a group discussion, and is centered on Scripture and not just man’s opinion.

31Days: New Book (day 18)

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I haven’t had a lot of time to read since having Elijah, but definitely wanted to read this one.  I love everything Kevin DeYoung.  I know, call me a groupy or what have you.  But, I forward many of his blogs to my husband who is a worship pastor.  One of our goal trips is to go to his church for a Sunday to see how they do reformed worship.  Just not in the winter, because its cold in Michigan.  But, maybe when I go there I can hook up with Pretties By Meg who is a great blogger/jewelry designer!

Anyway…this book called The Hole in our Holiness  is much along the lines of Pursuing Godliness or Respectable Sins or Holiness.  All good books and all hard books to read because reading it makes you examine your life and how you live.

I remember reading Mortification of Sin by Owen back in 2007 and a pastor friend of mine said I wasn’t allowed to read any more puritans till I read a book on grace and the cross.

I think Kevin DeYoung does a good job here of combining the two.  Not wanting us to rely on works for our salvation – he reassures us of our place in Christ.  But, also not wanting us to err on the side of lawlessness, he reminds us that the Bible says to be like God for He is holy.

One sentence toward the beginning of the book sets the tone of the work required for the rest of the book: “holiness is plain hard work and we are often lazy.” (pg 19)

Throughout the book he reminds us of grace but also that we have imperatives that we will obey if we abide in Christ.  Powerful reading if you want to examine your life.

Book Review: A Woman’s Wisdom (Brownback)

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Are you ever at a point in your life where you don’t need any wisdom?  I would venture to say the answer is probably “Kim, you are so funny, I always need more wisdom!”  Whether it is in how to live in your relationships, serve in your home or ministry positions, how to get along with your boss, how to parent your children, how to manage conflict which seems to creep up, etc.  There is always room for more wisdom in your life.

The reason I chose Lydia Brownback’s book A Woman’s Wisdom for my Crossway book to review was because my hubs and I are going through James – which some people say is the NT book of Wisdom (matching Proverbs).  This book is definitely that, as her subtitle says “how the book of Proverbs speaks to everything.”

This handy guide to everything in life is chocked full of Scripture that has the power to change and mold your life to what Christ would want it to be – more like Him.  Chapters include such topics as words, financaes, sexuality, friendships and more.  The book of Proverbs (as well as the rest of the Bible) speaks to EVERY area of our life.  I love how Lydia writes directly to women and doesn’t just spout off her own life advice (like so many secular authors do), but points her readers back to the TRUTH of God’s Word.

Here are some fave quotes from it:

“Wisdom is the realization that He is everything.” (pg 23)

“Wise women are governed by the principles of God’s Word, not by their feelings, hormones, or enjoyments.” (pg 28) – I loved this one because it is SO pivotal in my life right now, being in my third trimester and its the middle of the summer!

She helps us guard against pride by saying this: “Each one of us is, in some way, a foolish woman.” (pg 51)

As I had the chance the meet Lydia at the TGCW Conference in June, I found her to be delightful and personable, welcoming conversation by us “normal folk”.  And she has to be into health because she was eating a granola bar! 🙂

Book Review: Scandalous by D. A. Carson

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This weekend I had my second opportunity to hear Dr. Carson preach in person.  What a privilege.  Especially after coming off of finishing this book on the Cross and Resurrection of Jesus.

Ok, now granted it was my Easter reading and I am just now finishing it, but I finished it nonetheless.  And it was good – just longer chapters (so I can’t just breeze through one) and theological material (so I don’t breeze through that either.  But rich.

This book it pretty much sermons that Carson has preached on the cross – it will bring new insights to the power of the cross for you with which you can use to live the empowered Christian life.  Enjoy it.  Don’t fly through it – savor it.

“It is in Jesus’ death, in His destruction, and in His resurrection three days later , that Jesus meets our needs and reconciles us to God, becoming the temple, the supreme meeting place between God and sinners.  To use Paul’s language, we do not simply preach Christ; rather we preach Christ crucified.” pg 23

“…Paul is convinced that the root problem is our rebellion against God, our fascination with idolatry, our grotesque de-godding of God.” pg 43-44

“Paul insists that if you rightly read the OT, you will discover that these very writings, rightly understood, point forward to , testify to, anticipate, and prophesy what has culminated in Christ.” pg 52

“The rapid pace of life often squeezes what is important out to the periphery: the urgent displaces the important, the digital replaces the personal.” pg 77


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

Book Review: Give Them Grace: Elyse Fitzpatrick

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Top 3 parenting books: EVER.  Give Them Grace.

You don’t even need to be a parent to sit and just drink in the focus on grace in this book by Elyse and her daughter.  I finished it being encouraged in my personal life and also more to want to be a parent one day and how hard that task is going to be!

Elyse focuses on grace: that undeserved richness that God has given to us through Christ by His life, death, resurrection, and glorification.  All He has we have: His righteousness and holiness.  How important it is that we live in this reality – in our daily lives and men and women, and also in how we parent. 

Elyse is doctrinal and theological in this book: but she also gives you very practical conversations, prayers you can pray for your children.  One of the conversations I heard recently while attending a parenting seminar was “who really thinks of these things in the heat of disciplining your child – when they are throwing a temper tantrum?”  That is true – but that is where grace first needs to be applied to your life as a parent – to my life.  Then to our kids’ lives!  Even in the heat of the moment when they are screaming because they didn’t get to play the last game on the Wii.

I underlined so much in this book: but I’ll just pick out the good ones.

“Every way we try to make our kids good that isn’t rooted in the good news of the life, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus Christ is damnable, crushing, despair-breeding, Pharisee-producing law.” – pg 36

“Every responsible parent wants obedient children.  But if we’re confused about their ability to be good, we’ll end up lying to them about their desperate lostness outside of Christ.  We’ll tell tehm they are good and that they can obey God’s law.” – pg 47

“Yes, God commands us to train our children, but care needs to be taken that this training doesn’t morph into something more important to us than God Himself.” – pg 56

“The humility that acquiesces to being led, managed, and trained flows out of an understanding of one’s own lostness and a growing understanding of and trust in God’s great offer of life.  Only the good news of the gospel produces a truly submissive humility of heart.” – pg 86 – I thought this also applied to work relationships and marriage relationships.  Really any relationship: if we choose to live our Philippians 2.

“Management charts may help you run the home more smoothly.  They may also become your god.  Management is simply your effort to control outward behavior.  It is not meant to get to the heart, although a child’s obedience to the outward rules may be evidences of faith.  Every parent has to manage her child’s behavior.” – pg 89 – What is your end goal in your home management?

Anyway…you get the drift.  Elyse does a great job at engaging her readers and pointing them to the Son. 

So, for every parent, person in ministry who works with parents, people who might be parents one day, people who just like kids – or anyone who knows parents or kids.  I think that is everyone! 🙂  Go buy this book when it comes out! 

Thanks Elyse and Crossway!

Art, Culture, & Jesus

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This past Friday night I had the opportunity to attend two lectures centered on Christ and the arts.  It was really neat to see how the two went back to back, different venues, and were so perfectly tied together.

Makoto Fujimura spoke at Duke Divinity School on his work of The Four Gospels for Crossway.  Bruce Ashford, from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, spoke at First Baptist Church of Durham’s Disciple Now Weekend.

Mako’s work on The Four Holy Gospels is astounding.  If you haven’t seen this short video of his work on this project, watch it.  His understanding of theology is much deeper than I would have ever given him credit.  Here are some takeaways from the 90 minute lecture and Q/A:

“Why don’t we stop trying to find everything wrong with contemporary art or culture and highlight what is right?”  I think Christians have a tendency to knock anything that is possibly different.  Fujimura’s art isn’t my primary style, but it is still beautiful and exquisite.  It is still done for the glory of God.  We as a Christian, conservative subculture (if you will) definitely have our opinions and would almost rather tear down culture and art rather than see the beauty in it – knowing that all beauty originates from the Beautiful One.

“The antidote for anxiousness in Matthew’s gospel: use your senses.  Glimpse the eternal purposes of God.”  He was referring to the passage that says do not worry, look at the lilies, look at the birds.  On a conversation on the way to FBCD, I was talking about this comment.  How the lilies don’t even have a brain to be able to worry if they are going to grow or not, the birds just fly and nest and eat, etc.  Can we live in that much dependency upon our great God or do we have a natural way of leaning on ourselves and fretting.

The speaker settled on John 11.  I took much away, but one thing I wanted to share here is about compassion.  Jesus’ compassion: he meets us where we are, takes us where He wants us to be.  My prayer: Teach me Lord to be more compassionate, to know people, to be a studier of people’s hearts, not just what I want them to be.   This takes listening more than speaking, gazing instead of passing quickly, hearing instead of running thoughts through my head.

Best takeaway of the night, and still need to ponder this thought and revel in its beauty: “Restrictions and limitations actually give you more freedom.”  I am thoroughly enjoying this right now.  Anxiety doesn’t creep in as much.  But, such mornings as this, I need to be reminded of who God made me and what His Son did for me on the cross.  I’ll be writing more about this in the coming weeks.

On to Bruce Ashford…few miles away from Duke Divinity, lecture 2.  Dr. Ashford is a friend, husband to Lauren, dad to two little (cute, adorable) girls.  He loves to speak on this topic of engaging the culture with the truth of Christ.

He spent about 25 minutes going through the metanarrative of the work of God in the world (creation, fall, redemption, new creation).  This set his stage for everything else he was going to talk about as the evening progressed.

How is fashion, food, photography, writing, and music all grounded in the meta narrative of the Bible?  He said all art finds its answer in the meta.  The meta shows a strikingly beautiful truth on every part of life.

How did sin corrupt: “spirituality, morality, rationality, creativity, relationality.”  Every one of these relationships are marred and scarred by sin.

Society is made up of families.  Genesis 1-2 says we are to build families, grow families – of worshipers.  Only problem with this is that we tend to grow families of worshipers of other things than Jesus.  What are we training our families to worship? (More on this later for my job.)

“Basis of every question in the world can be answered in the meta.”  God’s truth resounds to everything.

“All beauty should guide you back to the one who is most beautiful.”

Bruce gave 4 criteria for judging art:

1.  Technical excellence.

2.  Validity (is the artist true to himself)

3.  Content

4.  Integration of Content and Vehicle

How do you study art?  How do you anticipate and participate in art?  How are you an artist?  How do you see God in art?


Book 7 of 52: No Other Gospel (Josh Moody)

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Commentary and Gospel to preach to yourself: does it get any better?

Josh Moody, pastor of College Church in Wheaton (which I love by the way, just the city, the college, the grounds), took his sermons from Galatians and poured it into a readable, short-chaptered, book you can read in a month (as long as the month has 31 days). 

His only goal is to give a hard look at what it means to live our lives by ONE GOSPEL: The Cross, what the Bible says the Gospel is – and not let anything else interfere with that.  He succeeds.  The first couple of chapters were so highlighted I knew this would be a book I would pour into for years, and use readily as a resource when writing or studying or speaking at a conference, etc.  Such depth and insight.  Both scholarly and pastoral.

“We are practical atheists if we limit God’s usefulness of us to our personality.  God did not greatly use Paul because he thought Paul had all the right credentials.  It was not “Oh, Paul, he knows the Bible and has good connections, let’s get him.”  No, it was the religious terrorist.  How unlikely is that?  God delights to take unlikely people and user them because then the focus is on God, not on the unlikely people.” – 16

In thoughts of planning worship services: “When we plan, it is the Bible that must guide.  Our worship must be Bible-centered in order to be God-centered.” – 17

Just in case you ever wonder what you had to do with your salvation: “Our salvation does not start with us.  We do not initiate the process.  We did not come up with the plan.  We did not start it.  God did.” – 25

These are but a small taste to the rich truths that Moody brings out of Galatians into sermons and then puts them in your hands as a tool for you to know the gospel better.  Use this as a secondary source when studying/memorizing/learning Galatians.  It will be a blessing to your soul and life and ministry.

Tool Tuesdays: ESV Journaling Bible

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“Oh that my ways may be steadfast in keeping your statutes.” – Psalm 119.5

Continuing with the Tuesday is for Tools idea, I thought I would take one of my favorite Bibles and highlight it.  One of the Bibles I purchased during my time at THE Southern Baptist Theological Seminary was Crossway’s ESV Journaling Bible.  I didn’t use it that much for a while, but now it is the one I constantly have with me (though at this moment it is on my desk at the office, and I am in my bedroom, so not 24/7, but you get the picture).

The view inside the ESV Journaling Bible is a 4 column text (2 on each page) with lines on the outside of the columns to write in.  There are very few reference notes found at the bottom.  At the back there are introductions to each of the books of the Bible, though definitely not as in-depth as in the ESV Study Bible. 

How I use it: Since I write curriculum for my day job, I use it to take notes on passages that I’m writing on, so if I get to teach on those passages or don’t have the curriculum with me, I can know the exact points that I brought out in the curriculum.  Or…if someone is speaking on a given passage, I can take notes because others are more brilliant than I am and come up with more insightful thoughts into Scripture.  I love sitting, listening to someone preach, and just jot away (either with pencil or a fine-tip pen that won’t bleed through the pages). 

The only thing I don’t like about this Bible is there is not a concordance in the back.  The good thing about it is I’m learning to know where certain verses are and trying to keep their addresses tucked away in my brain.

Fun thing about it: on a random day at the offices: you can walk by both my office and my boss’ office and find the ESV Journaling Bible in black laid open in front of our monitors.  And my boss’ wife has one too – but hers is prettier. 

Do you have a favorite Bible?  Are you a person who writes in their Bibles or not?  How long have you had your Bible?  I do have one from my late elementary years, but I don’t think I have one from any earlier than that.