Saturday, May 14, 2016

Tune my heart to sing Thy grace

I have been meditating on this line in the song Come Thou Fount...(which I LOVE).
Usually I am drawn to the phrase "prone to wander, Lord I feel it". You too?

But this week, after sitting with a friend, rejoicing over the trials He has been bringing her through, this line has caught my attention.

I remember years ago when we had someone come and tune our piano.  He was a wonderful older gentleman who immediately saw the opportunity to engage my sweet homeschooling kids.   He asked me if I would like him to give the kids a lesson and count it as a homeschool "field trip" while he showed them the ins and outs of the piano and the method of tuning.  It was so interesting and the kids were immediately intrigued.  He spent time explaining how the piano works, some history about the instrument, and the specific method of large tuning and fine tuning.  He was obviously very skilled and uniquely qualified as a master of the workings of a piano.  That method of tuning really stood out to me as God began showing me the relation between the time and commitment it takes to tune a piano just right to get the most beautiful sound, and how He works in our lives to mold and make us into the image of Christ.  Sometimes large tuning...and a lot of fine tuning!

He is always tuning us.  I know how easily it is for me to get out of tune.  The author of the hymn Come Thou Fount evidently had the same sentiment.  He knew He needed the Master, the One who made these instruments for His glory, to constantly tune his heart so the melodies of God's grace would come forth in praise.  Rightly.  In tune.

So I started asking myself a few things:

How do we get out of tune?
How did we become an instrument in the first place?
Why do we need to be constantly tuned?
What does it take to tune us?
How does it benefit us?

Do you ever feel out of tune?  Does your praise seem dry and off key?  Are you praising at all?  Oh don't you want to be tuned by the Master?  Don't you want to be used for His glory?

I'm going to be doing a summer series on this topic regarding being tuned by the Master.  Won't you join me?  We will be looking at 1 Peter, Psalm 51, Psalm 84 and many other scriptures in the journey of being instruments of His grace!  I hope you will join me!

"Streams of mercy, never ceasing, call for songs of loudest praise!"

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Book Review: The Gentle Art of Discipling Women

From the back cover:

"Does Jesus' call to 'Go and make disciples' seem a little intimidating?  You're not alone!  Let seasoned discipler Dana Yeakley mentor you on this incredible journey of discipleship.  Dana knows that discipling women can be overwhelming- but she's seen how our amazing God works and knows the He has uniquely designed you to disciple other women."
I was excited to review this book on the topic of discipleship as it is something very close to my heart...not only as a pastor's wife, but as a woman of God desiring to obey what God has commanded me to do.

Most Christians have a tender heart toward missions and the gospel, but often we forget the foundational call in both of those areas: discipleship!  In Matthew 28, where Jesus gave the disciples (and us) the great commission, it was to go and make disciples!

19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.

When God does that miraculous work of drawing us to Himself through the Holy Spirit by the redemptive work of Jesus Christ, we become His disciples...His followers.  We dig into the Word, we learn all we can about God and His character, we are sanctified by the Holy Spirit, and He shows us how to become conformed to the image of Christ!  And as we grow in the Word, prayerfully, there will be those more mature in the faith, to lead us by example of how to walk as exiles upon this earth. How to be in the world and not of the world.  Those who will say, with Paul, "Imitate me as I imitate Christ." (1 Cor. 11:1)

Sadly, there is a lack of discipleship in many of our churches.  Discipleship, meaning, being one who authentically follows Christ and is building, investing into someone else's life.

There are various ways for discipleship, but all should center around the Word of God. And it should be more than just a bible study, but an apprenticeship or teacher/student relationship.  A one on one intimate relationship formed around the Word. We have a beautiful model of this as we see that Jesus taught many, had 12 disciples, and was very close to three.  Who better to learn this from than from Christ Himself! It was a model of multiplication and reproduction...and one we see carried out in the early church.

In this book, Dana Yeakley, lays out as a guide, how to begin discipling for those who are unsure where to start.  But, she also explains the why's and the how's.  The first half of the book is about being His disciple important step in determining if it is your season to disciple or be discipled.  The second half is how to make disciples.  Each chapter allows you to go deeper with study questions and though-provoking questions.  The book is flexible for those who really want to dig in and study the topic and also for those who need a quick refresher and reminder of the call.

I appreciate the author's emphasis on the importance of the Word, prayer, while also reminding us that discipleship is also an act of walking alongside each other for real life application.

I would recommend this book to anyone who is looking to be a disciple, or one who is looking to obey the call to disciple other women.  My recommendation, though, would come with the advice to study the Word and be in prayer primarily, and use this book as only an addition to that.  God's Word to us is the greatest manual for learning how to "go and make disciples."

*I was give a free copy of this book by Tyndale for an honest review


Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Who, what, when, where, why and how!

30-Day Revive our Hearts Reading Challenge
Day 2: Hey, That’s Mine! 

“For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” —Hebrews 4:12 ESV

It’s fun to check emails—to see if friends have written us or if a special message has arrived— but imagine if someone else read your messages all the time and then just passed along parts of them to you. After a while, you’d likely say, “Hey! I want to read those messages myself, thank you!”

 It’s the same with Scripture reading. Perhaps you’ve heard lots of sermons or read books about the Bible. That’s great, but it’s not the same as reading the Bible yourself. It is God’s love letter to you; it’s meant to be personal.

When you read a letter, you notice who wrote it, but also what they said, when they wrote it, perhaps where they were when they wrote, and even why they wrote. Follow that same observation technique as you read the Bible. Ask the questions, “Who, what, when, where, why, and how?” Look for the people involved. Look for the subject, event, or action. Try to determine when and where the verses were written. Determine why God wanted you to hear this message.

 Finally, ask questions for application, like: “How does this apply to my life?” “How can I change my thinking or behavior so it lines up with biblical truth?” “How does God want me to respond?” Ask the Holy Spirit to be your teacher and give you insight and wisdom. In this way, you’re not just getting into the Word; the Word is getting into you! The Word of God is alive and powerful (Heb. 4:12), and God will use it to transform your life.

Keep on reading; keep on listening; keep on growing!

Action Step: As you read the Bible today, ask yourself application questions like the ones above.

© Used with permission.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Resolved 2016

I'm a little late on the New Year Resolutions thing...and this isn't a blog about keeping or not keeping them!
But the number one question I get from ladies of all ages has something to do with what bible study plan I use or if I can recommend a good plan for reading through the Bible.

I'm not big on New Year's Resolutions either, but the beginning of a new year does seem a good time to a spiritual check-up.  Here is a great start for that:

Usually, during those times of seeking God to show us areas we have slacked on, a big one is our time in the Word.  As His children, we know the importance of spending time with Him.  And He is faithful to lovingly draw us back through the conviction of the Holy Spirit when our world has gotten caught up in misplaced priorities.

I wanted to provide you all with a list of great resources for Bible reading this year.  This list has something for everyone.  And even if you are already a seasoned woman of the Word, we all need encouragement to dig in and grow and not to get complacent.

I also will be following Revive Our Hearts 30- Day Bible Reading Challenge.  You can join me here on the blog or on my Facebook page Living Out God's Design.
With this challenge, you will use whatever Bible Reading system you have in place or are looking to implement.  The challenge will encourage you each day to dig deeper in the Word with some practical applications regarding your reading for the day.

I pray this is the year we all grow more and more in love with God and His letter to us.  That we will know and understand better who He is and consequently, then, grow "in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen." 2 Peter 3:18

You can go here for the best resource of bible reading plans I have found: Bible Reading Plans

And here is Day 1 of the Revive Our Hearts Bible Reading Challenge:

Day 1: What You’ll Find Between the Covers

We’re so glad you have taken the challenge to read the Bible daily for the next thirty days. It’s going to be a true challenge, because it won’t always be easy. But as with most worthwhile choices in life, you won’t regret it. God will use Scripture to help you know Him better and to discover His wonderful plan for all mankind—His plan for YOU! As you get into His Word, you’ll begin to see how all of it fits together, with the wonderful story of God’s redemption woven through each and every book.

As you read, verse by verse and chapter by chapter, you’ll begin to sense God speaking to your heart. He may give you some marching instructions for your day or awaken you to a truth you’ve never seen before or show you an area of your heart or mind that He wants to transform so He can make you more like Jesus.

So let’s get started.

“Every word of God proves true; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him.” —Proverbs 30:5 ESV

We hope you’re enjoying your time reading the Scriptures. No matter where you read, you’ll find that God’s Word is an extremely practical, relevant, and timeless book.

Use what you learn from Bible characters’ examples—good and bad—to challenge your own walk with God. Life’s struggles aren’t meant to discourage us, but to help us grow as we apply the truth of His Word. Some of the stories in the Bible will be familiar to you, but ask God to help you read with fresh eyes. You may see something you’ve never considered before! Let Scripture reading become your daily delight . . . the joy and song of your heart.

If you’ve chosen to read through the Bible from beginning to end, you’ll discover that the first books are foundational. Genesis is the book of first things. It teaches us about the origin of our world as well as the early history of God’s people. Many of the things you see in our world today—especially the ugly consequences of sin and the struggles between nations of people— are a result of what happened in that early history.

History, poetry, romance, prophecy, wisdom literature . . . there’s so much to discover between the covers of God’s book, and it is all “profitable” for us (2 Tim. 3:16). It’s our prayer that your biggest discovery will be that God and His plan for the world is much bigger than you can imagine.

 30-Day Bible Reading Challenge © Used with permission. Keep up your reading, with joy! Action Step: Today as you read, look for something you never knew before or for something that speaks to a personal need.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Movie Review: War Room

"From the award-winning creators of Fireproof and Courageouscomes WAR ROOM, a compelling drama with humor and heart that explores the power that prayer can have on marriages, parenting, careers, friendships, and every other area of our lives.
Tony and Elizabeth Jordan have it all—great jobs, a beautiful daughter, and their dream house. But appearances can be deceiving. Tony and Elizabeth Jordan’s world is actually crumbling under the strain of a failing marriage. While Tony basks in his professional success and flirts with temptation, Elizabeth resigns herself to increasing bitterness. But their lives take an unexpected turn when Elizabeth meets her newest client, Miss Clara, and is challenged to establish a “war room” and a battle plan of prayer for her family. As Elizabeth tries to fight for her family, Tony’s hidden struggles come to light. Tony must decide if he will make amends to his family and prove Miss Clara’s wisdom that victories don’t come by accident.
Opening nationwide in theaters August 28 and filled with more of the authentic characters loved by millions in previous Kendrick Brothers’ films, WAR ROOM is a vivid reminder that prayer is a powerful weapon."
A refreshing and thought provoking film centered around the power of prayer. You won't be disappointed in this new film by the Kendrick brothers and you will walk away with a desire to clean out a room or closet for the specific use of prayer!  
I was thankful that the movie did not delve in to any of the new trends of mysticism in prayer, but held to the biblical truths of crying out to God in repentance and trusting Him and His sovereign rule in all things.  
I was also thankful for the mighty example of a Titus 2 woman in mentoring and seeking the Lord as to how she could invest and make a difference in the lives of other women through the power of prayer.  
I would advise parents to watch the movie alone to discern whether or not it is appropriate for children.  There are some thematic elements that may not be suitable for the younger ones in your family.
In Theaters on August 28th, 2015
*I was invited and given two tickets to a pre-screening of War Room by Affirm Films

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Book Review: Nobody's Cuter Than You

"There is nothing as precious in life as a friend who knows you and loves you in spite of yourself. Yet over the last couple of decades, we’ve substituted the joy of real friendship with cheap imitations. We settle for “community” on Facebook and Twitter and a series of text messages that allow us to communicate with someone without the commitment. We like each other’s beautifully filtered photos on Instagram and delude ourselves into believing we have a community. But real friendship requires effort. It’s showing up, laughing loud, and crying hard. It’s forgiving and loving and giving the benefit of the doubt. It’s making a casserole, doing a carpool pickup, and making sure she knows those cute shoes are 50 percent off. Written in the same comedic style as the New York Times bestsellers Sparkly Green Earrings and The Antelope in the Living RoomNobody’s Cuter than You is a laugh-out-loud look at the special bond that exists between friends and a poignant celebration of all the extraordinary people God had the good sense to bring into our lives at exactly the right moments. From the friendships we develop over a lifetime to the ones that wounded us and the ones that taught us to love better, Melanie Shankle reveals the influence our friends have on who we were, who we are, and who we will become. And on a day when our jeans feel too tight, our chins have decided to embrace hormone-related acne reminiscent of our teen years, and our kids have tested the limits of our sanity, they are the ones who will look at us and say, “Nobody’s cuter than you!”

I loved every second of reading this book!  Sometimes you just need a feel good book for the beach, car trip, or a rainy day!  This is definitely that book.  I was surprised and thrilled to find out that the author had two bestselling books prior to this one:  Sparkly Green Earrings and The Antelope in the Living Room.   I will be ordering both of these books!

To be honest, I prefer to use my precious spare time reading biographies of great Christian men and women, or books that will enhance my main reading of the Scripture.  But, for some reason, when offered the opportunity to review a book called Nobody's Cuter Than You I was powerless to refuse. I love stories of friendship and have even spoken a time or two on the subject at ladies conferences. What a wonderful surprise that, though this book is not intended to be theological in nature, it is a beautiful picture of exactly how God has ordained that we look at friendship.  Sacrifice, unconditional love, and preferring others over ourselves oozes out of the sweet and poignant stories that flow through this book.  And there is a beautiful undertone of the gospel threaded through the pages.

I was, at all times while reading this book, either smiling, laughing or pushing back the tears.  When I got to the last page, I closed the book quickly in denial knowing that as soon as I read that last paragraph it would be over.  I can't wait to read the other two titles and I look forward to passing these books on to my girls and my girlfriends.

Need some light but deep-hearted reading for the beach this summer?  Get in line for this book! (I say that because, last time I looked, it was already out of stock!).  If you live near me I might let you borrow my copy! :)

*I was provided a free copy of this book by Tyndale Publishing in exchange for an honest review

Monday, March 16, 2015

Book Review: From Good to Grace-Letting Go of the Goodness Gospel

I was so excited to be part of the launch team for Christine Hoover's new book From Good to Grace!
At the time when I committed to be a part and all that that entailed, I had no idea all that God was doing and working in me-in His perfect sovereignty-to prepare my heart to receive the message in this book.

The launch of the book was to be on March 3, my birthday.  I had plenty of time to read the book, send out a few tweets with the launch hashtag, prepare for the guest post by Christine, and have my review of the book written and posted on my website by launch date.  According to my timeline...not His.

Without boring you on the particulars, let's just say my life got overloaded in a big way!  Activities, family matters, sickness (oh stomach bug...why?), hospitals, funerals, women's conference, fundraisers, graduation planning meetings...and that all on top of my duties at home of homeschooling, homemaking, being a help meet and my serving at our church as Pastor's wife, worship leader and teaching a women's bible study class.  Are you tired just from reading that?

This really is not my norm.  Yes, my life is filled...but in a good way with all God has intended for me.  But, providentially, all this ^ happened while I was reading from Good to Grace.

I love grace.  God's grace is a treasure, a balm, a comfort and a promise I cling to.  I know it, I embrace it, and I bask in it.  I know that salvation is all of God.  I know that I had absolutely nothing but unrighteousness to offer to God...and I know that out of His great love He sent His Son...the only One who could keep the covenant of the law and grace simultaneously when He died upon the cross for my sin and was resurrected to the praise and the glory of God!  I know salvation, justification, sanctification and glorification is all of Him!  And I am so thankful!

So, I was excited to read this new book for, what I thought, would be an aid to help me in conveying that true gospel in obedience to Matthew 28.  I know there are many inside and outside the church that are trying to get to God and secure salvation through works and by their own merit.  I know that there is sadly some false teaching in our churches today that promotes a 'to-do" list and rules that must be kept to gain heaven.  And this book is full of the truth of the real gospel.  The gospel of Truth and of grace.

What I didn't expect was to be called out early on in the first few chapters, admonished by Truth, that though I have trusted in Christ alone for my salvation, I am guilty of, at times, living out my day to day through a goodness gospel!  As if Christ was enough to save me, but now the rest is up to me?  I actually "know" that not to be the case.  I "know" that I can only do all things through Christ (Phil. 4:13) and it is by His strength and power we are able to walk in a manner worthy of our calling (Col 1:9-10).  So why do I sometimes slip back in to a works-based day to day walk?  Why do I feel guilty if I don't "do" something someone wants me to do?  Or fulfill a role that is not filled?  Or volunteer for EVERYTHING?  Because I sometimes slip back in to the goodness gospel by believing that I am my performance.

In her book, Christine Hoover reminds us that, "In Christ, I am not my performance."  She writes,

“The gospel ransoms me from my prison of performance. In Christ, I am not my performance. This is perhaps the first and most important freedom I’ve received in Christ. Grace frees me from a focus on self and all the sins and burdens that come along with it: selfishness, insecurity, pride, trying to prove myself worthy, seeking love and approval, fear of not being enough. Like a giant wave, the gospel rises above this petty focus on self, crushing every facet of our selfishness and self-centeredness. We no longer need to seek our own honor and worth because we are loved by Love himself…This is the explosive power of the gospel: it frees us from ourselves and enables us to live for God and for the sake of others.” (p. 117-118).

The whole book points constantly and consistently to the sufficiency of Christ.  I love that.  There is nothing in this book that points to Christine, and she over and over again points to Him and all that He has done in her life with a transparency and a tenderness that could only have come from Him.

I could just literally quote the whole book here as I had to put down my highlighter as I found I was highlighting entire pages! You just need to get this book and read it.  Savor it.  I thank God that He allowed me to go through a time of intense busyness where I felt completely weak and insufficient to carry out all He had for me right in the midst of reading this book.  I am thankful that He gave me eyes, ears and a heart to see, hear and feel the message He had for me in this book with my bible open alongside.  I pray you will read it that way as well and let Him wash over you anew with His grace that is intended for every part and every day of your life.  My prayer is that you, and I, and Christine will all preach the gospel of Christ to ourselves EVERY DAY in EVERY CIRCUMSTANCE in EVERY DUTY that we accomplish for Him and for His glory!

Get your copy here: From Good to Grace: Letting Go of the Goodness Gospel