Friday, May 20, 2016

Reading Hosea

Hosea 1-4

I am in Hosea now and I waited a couple of days before I delved into it because the story of Hosea and God telling him to take up a whore for his bride really just weighs me. Needless to say, I really didn't want to read this book again.

And honestly, the relationship of Hosea and Gomer really is the relationship I know I have had with God. I know I have been unfaithful, when He has been faithful. I know that I have found comfort in other things, when I should have found comfort in Him. I know I have found pleasure in sin, and have looked at His Word with disdain in my haughtiness. And what makes it so much more horrible is that it wasn't that long ago that I felt this way. Maybe this is why I don't want to read Hosea, because it is the story of me. And while I want to look down on Gomer and self-righteously scold her for her wantonness, I can't because I still haven't removed the log in my eye. And when I do remove my log, I don't even have the strength to look down on her, because it's like looking in a mirror.

I am so prone to wander. I am so prone to being entertained. When my mind is free to think, usually it is never of the things of God that it goes to. I can't pray more that 5 minutes without thinking about what else I have to do. I can't read Scripture for long periods of time because I think I am wasting time. BUT!!! I can binge on Netflix for 6 hours (sadly, I am not exaggerating!!) and the thought of wasting time never crosses my mind. Well it may, usually afterwards, but not enough to get me off the couch!

And I know the truth! And I know that I have been rescued from the fires of Hell! And I know that Jesus sought me and bought me! And I know that His law is precious! And I know that His Word is refreshing! And I know that the most joyous of times I have experienced in my whole life have been when I am worshiping Him in prayer, song or in His Word! And I know the changes He has made in me for the better! And I know the power in His Name! And so much more! 

So call me Gomer, for I am so much like her! And it drives me insane to think that I seek others instead of my God! But I do! Wretched woman that I am! So, I can't and I hope I never get over the love God has for me! How? Lord, how can you be so compassionate!? Hypocritically, I would have left Gomer! And frankly chapter 3 of Hosea implies that she really didn't even want to be with Hosea. After he had just bought her FROM THE MARKET because no one else would have her! The nerve! But that's me!

I am grateful for His mercy and His compassion towards me. And I am grateful that He is eternally forgiving, and that He teaches me so much by revealing His character in how He deals with this little monster that I am. To Him be all the glory. 

Monday, May 16, 2016

The Discipline of Grace by Jerry Bridges - Book Review

It took me a while to finish this book simply because of the richness of the content. This is the second book by Jerry Bridges that I have read and I have loved every single one of them. Both of his books are full of passages I have underlined, margins I have written in and beautiful quotes I have highlighted. He is truly a gifted writer and I am glad that a pastor I was listening to mentioned him in a sermon.

While reading this book, Mr. Bridges passed away to be with our Lord and it gave me a sense of pleasure reading about his hope of Heaven knowing that he is presently with God. What a beautiful thought!

The book is not hard to read, but there is just so much good stuff in it that I couldn't help but pause and think about what I had just read. I didn't want to just skim through it. This book is a rich dessert or a full bodied aged wine that is meant to be enjoyed slowly. So if you want a fast read, don't read this book. But if you want a slow dance with words that help you understand the beauty of Grace and what this MOST HOLY GOD has done for His children and how we can live a more holy life, then by all means pick up this book.

The book emphasizes that we should preach the Gospel to ourselves on a daily basis. It also does prick the heart of those who have been stagnant in working on their sanctification (haven't we all?).  The last 5 chapters were very helpful, my favorite chapter being on conviction. Not the kind where I feel bad about something, but the kind that I have a strong belief. Here is an excerpt I underlined and "starred":

A conviction is a determinative belief: something you believe so strongly that it 
affects the way you live. Someone has observed that a belief is what you hold,
but a conviction is what holds you. You may live contrary to what you believe, but you 
cannot live contrary to your convictions. (This doesn't mean you never act contrary
to your convictions, but that you do not consistently violate them).

Isn't that just beautiful!! At moments while reading, I caught myself just exclaiming, "Yes! Amen! Preach it!" And at other moments, words like "I'm a wretch, I'm a sinner, Thank you for the cross!" came out! 
Mr. Bridges also asks a lot of questions through out the book which is why there were times when I just paused and stopped reading. Here are some questions:

What does your mind turn to when it is free to turn to anything?

The greatest sorrow and burden you can lay on the Father, . . . is not believe that He loves you. Does that sentence surprise  you?

To what degree does a belief that the Bible sets forth absolute truth determine the way we live?

As Christians, should we view ourselves as saints or sinners? 

There are so much more sprinkled throughout the book!  Some he answers with Godly wisdom, others are left open for us to use to search our hearts and hopefully lead us to prayer. He corroborates all he says with Scripture and often times I had to stop and read the Scripture again because it was just so refreshing. I remember several times thinking: "That's in the Bible!?!" What sweet surprises!

If you are struggling with Grace, which most Christians do at some point in their lives, this is a great book to read. If you are in a time of darkness, hating your sin and/or yourself and seeming like you just can't get out of the mire; this book will help point you to the cross and also equip you in ways to combat the sin in your life. 

Mr Bridges eloquently balances the pain of sin, the joy of grace and the work of sanctification in this book. Obviously, I highly recommend it!

Although there are many quotes I underlined and wish I could share with you, I will not and allow you to dig up these treasures on your own. But here are a few I HAD to share:

Sin . . . creeps up on us little by little. What was once unthinkable become thinkable, then doable, and finally acceptable to society at large. Sin becomes respectable, and so Christians finally embrace it. It is my perception that Christians are no more than five to ten years behind the world in embracing most sinful practices.

We should not seek holiness in order to feel good about ourselves. . . Far too often our concern with sin arises from how it makes us feel. Sinful habits . .  cause us to feel defeated and we don't like to be defeated in anything.

Our greatest source of temptation dwells within us. 

The pursuit of holiness must be anchored in the grace of God; otherwise it is doomed to failure. 

We cannot serve God or pursue holiness with any vigor at all if we are dealing with a guilty conscience. 

Oh there are so many more! I know you will really grow in your faith in reading this book, but it is meaty and it does prick at our hearts and like all good things, it does take some time to finish.

You can buy this book here.

Friday, May 6, 2016

Playing with Fire - Book Review

Our family seems to always be traveling somewhere, so on a short trip to southern Illinois to spend some time with my husband, I found this audio book at our local Cracker Barrel. I have never rented from them, but in case you are wondering how it works, it is fairly easy. You pay for the actual audio book, and are charged $3.57 for a week rental. Once you are finished, you return the audio book and are reimbursed for the whole charge except the $3.57. It's not really convenient for non-A types like me, because I frankly don't like returning things to begin with. Things get really complicated for me so very quickly.

About the book: Tess Gerritsen is just a superb storyteller and you are left wondering what is going on until the very end. If you are a music lover, you will just be enraptured by this book. The book begins with a violinist who finds an old piece of gypsy music in an old book store in Rome - specifically it is a waltz. From there, the history of the waltz unfolds and the bizarre behavior of the violinist's daughter just mystifies the story even more. Like the mysterious waltz, the book is haunting with an overtone of sadness. In this book, there are two stories which Mrs. Gerritsen unravels perfectly. One story takes place in 1930's Italy and details the history of the musical piece and the other story takes place in modern times discovering the violinist and her family's past. The book ends too quickly and not how I thought it would (which makes me love it even more!). I waited an extra day to finish listening to the book because I didn't want to part with it, but alas, all things do have to come to an end.

I strongly recommend the audio book because Mrs. Gerritsen actually plays the violin in it and was the one who actually composed the somber waltz! She is just so talented! The lone violin playing in the background just adds to the depth of the book.

To the Christian: (I will leave this part vague as to not spoil the book.)The atrocities in this book remind us of the sin of man and the hope we have in the return of Christ. The physiology of the mind is just a small picture of how magnificent God is in the creation of the brain. God lavished beauty for our eyes, for our taste, for our ears and for all of our senses. In music we get a foretaste of the majesty of our Creator.

After reading this book, I did indulge in listening to some classical violin music and all I could do was just listen in awe at how fallen man can create such beautiful things - an imprint of our Creator.

There is nothing in this book that is coarse or tasteless. I would allow my tween or teen to read it.

You can buy the book or audio book here