M. Ashley Evans

About M. Ashley Evans

Ashley's Blog
She is from a beautiful, small, rural town in northeast Alabama and now resides in northwest Georgia. Ashley married her best friend, John, and they have two lovely girls: Emma, and Faith. They are active members in their Southern Baptist church. She is enthusiastically pursuing sanctification in roles as a wife, mother, and homemaker. Her interests include writing, art, engraving, and shooting sports. Further interests include reformed theology, complementarian marriage, home-schooling, music, homesteading, studying Asperger's, and natural health. Ashley graduated from Trinity College of Natural Health with a Master Herbalist degree. Blog



To The Golden Shore Book Review

To The Golden Shore Book Review

To The Golden Shore

by Courtney Anderson
Length: Approximately 17 hours. To read (506 pages).
TCB Rating:
five-stars
Buy on Amazon

Book Overview

The life and ministry of Adoniram Judson, the first foreign missionary from N. America to Burma.

Who should read this?

This is a must read by every believer.

To The Golden Shore Book Review 1SUMMARY

The book is written in a wonderful story format. The narrator takes you into the lives of Adoniram’s parents first so you can get a feel for the sort of home life he had. His parents were humble, of upright character, and above all, faithful servants to Christ.  Then, enters Adoniram.

The author weaves in an interesting note about his baby blanket being still in a museum somewhere – which is really neat to know. The author has done a massive amount of research, and it shows in how well you get to know the personality of Adoniram.  Her research has been pulled from diary entries, personal letters as well as church records.

The unwavering faith and devotion of Adoniram should be told about to every believer. Here is a man, faced with impossible hardship, who through it all was completely and totally in submission and adoration of Jesus.

He and his wife traveled to India and from there to Burma. It was an entirely new world for them – a completely different climate, culture, food, language. And for early 1800’s polite society members, the way the people of Burma lived would have been completely shocking. The author did a great job at conveying the sense of confusion, shock, and isolation. Not only was the travel arduous – the couple braved the dangerous waters of the Indian Ocean in a boat and survived terrible storms at sea, but they also faced devastating loss after loss.

It seemed like just about everyone around them was dying. Then, everything went from bad to worse with the political tensions rising. Through it all, even amidst the vile prison camp, Adoniram praised God. What was also beautiful to read was his adoration and devotion to his wife, Nancy.

Adoniram succeeded in translating the Old and New Testaments into Burmese. He also created numerous Gospel tracks and got them in circulation despite the threat to his life by government officials. Towards the end of his life, Adoniram also created a Burmese-English Dictionary in effort to help other missionaries. Adoniram and Nancy truly loved their new country and people. Though it took six years for the first convert, they remained passionate and devoted to their calling without wavering.

 

To the Golden Shore: The Life of Adoniram Judson
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ANALYSIS

One part of his story that sticks out the most to me is his conversion. Adoniram has just graduated Valedictorian of Brown University, and has confessed to his parents that he did not believe in God. It broke his parent’s hearts. And he left home to pursue his dream of being a playwright in New York City (considered the most sinful city in the country at the time.)

While traveling, he has to stay the night at a local inn. There was only one room available, but the inn-keeper was hesitant to let him have it, because the man in the adjacent room was dying and his wails were quite loud and distressing. But Adoniram, being used to death from living in the country, and from sheer physical exhaustion did not expect to be phased by his neighbors cries.

Yet he found himself wondering “Is this man prepared for death? That’s really all that matters now. Am I?” He knew his best friend, Jacob Eames, who convinced him into becoming a diest would have thought his midnight worries were ridiculous. During the night, the dying man became quiet. Adoniram knew that he had died. The whole inn was hushed the next morning. The inn-keeper said, “He’s dead” before Adoniram could even voice the question. Adoniram felt pity for the man, and asked, “Do you know who he was?”

“Oh yes. Young man from the college in Providence. Name was Eames, Jacob Eames.”  

James was more than distraught. His entire world was shaken to the core. “Lost. In death, James Eames was lost – utterly, irrevocably lost. Lost to his friends, to the world, to the future. Lost as a puff of smoke is lost in the infinity of air. If Eame’s own views were true, neither his life nor his death had any meaning… But suppose Eames had been mistaken? Suppose the Scriptures were literally true and a personal God real?

… For that hell should open in that country inn and snatch Jacob Eames, [my] dearest friend and guide, from the next bed – this could not, simply could not be coincidence.” Shortly thereafter Adoniram is converted. And he becomes the first foreign missionary from America.

His story of trying to travel to England to find financial support for missions was fascinating. His ship was taken over by pirates! It was fascinating reading about how he got out of the ships prison and escaped the prison in France. Then, Adoniram had to hide with an American woman who lived there. Her and her household attended boisterous and crude social events.

Adoniram had to go along, while he was in hiding waiting on a ship. “Finally, however, revulsion overcame his curiosity. ‘the last place of amusement he visited was a masked ball; and here his strong feelings quite overcame his caution, and he burst forth in his real character. He declared to his somewhat startled companions that he did not believe the infernal regions could furnish more complete specimens of depravity than there beheld.’

He did not stop there, but went on – in English – to enumerate ‘many of the evils which showed the only way of escape from these evils – the despised, but truly ennobling religion of Jesus Christ.’ Carried away, he spoke louder and louder until he attracted a good-sized audience. Most of the guests, not understanding his language, thought his performance was part of the show.

But a fair number, though their faces were concealed by masks, showed by their behavior that they understood, and were sung as he voiced his disgust at the behavior of men who were undoubtedly American men in disguise.”

Another fun moment was when Adoniram was studying baptism. On his journey to India, he told Nancy, “I fear the Baptists are right.” At first, Nancy was quite upset about this. She was bound and determined to not become a Baptist.  They were sent out as Congregationalists, supported by the Congregationalist churches.

She felt it would be a betrayal. Adoniram was patient and let her study the scriptures on her own – and she too could not find scriptural support for paedobaptism and became convinced of the necessity of credobaptism.

The author did a phenomenal job at describing Burma. The lush landscape and the beautiful people with their colorful culture comes alive in these pages. You can almost feel the mud between your toes.

The only weaknesses were in the timing of the book. It felt like after Nancy’s death, the book sped up much more rapidly. But, also it felt like Adoniram buried a part of himself and never quite recovered.

While he does find a love for his next two wives, there does not seem to be the same type of devotion or adoration as with Nancy. Adoniram seems to go a little mad after her death. His personality completely changes. It was difficult to continue reading after that part, because he was so changed. This isn’t the fault of the author – it is just a sad thing to experience even in reading.

 

CONCLUSION

I cannot recommend this book enough. Not only is it beautifully written – but it encourages the reader to continue with the task that God has written for him. It also creates such a sense of gratefulness for what the great men and women of faith before us have done.

 

FAVORITE QUOTES:

“I wish you believe, not for my profit, but for yours. I daily pray the true God give you light, that you may believe. Whether you will ever believe in this world I do not know, but when you die I know you will believe what I now say. You will then appear before God you now deny.” 

“I felt resolved to give up every thing, and seek to be reconciled to God. That fear, which I had ever felt, that others would know I was serious, now vanished away, and I was willing that the whole universe should know that I felt myself lost and perishing sinner.”

five-stars
By | 2018-06-24T00:52:33+00:00 June 24th, 2018|

Reset for Parents Book Review

Reset for Parents Book Review

Reset for Parents

by Todd Friel
Length: Approximately 2 hours. To read (190 pages)
TCB Rating:
five-stars
Buy on Amazon

Book Overview

“The statistic that 60-80% of our kids “lose the faith” reveals that Christian parents are producing more false converts than true. Clearly we are doing something wrong. It is time for an examination of our Christian parenting methods and ask, ‘Do I need a parenting reset?’”

Who should read this?

This book is written primarily for parents, but it would be a wise investment for anyone ministering to children. This book explains applicably how to disciple our children and how to discipline them with a focus on the gospel. Page 16 “If we do not play our role as God’s representative faithfully we should not be shocked when our children become untethered.”

Reset for Parents Book Review 1

SUMMARY

Todd Friel writes with a kind and encouraging tone and like his other works; he doesn’t shy away from boldly sharing truths – even painful ones. The book was full of straight forward truths shared with a healthy dose of humor, like on page 92 “When our children only hear about grace, but never hear about the Christian’s responsibility to ‘work out [his] salvation with fear and trembling’ (Philippians 2:12) they quickly become anti-nomian (against the law). They are quick to snap, “Don’t be a Pharisee. It’s all about that grace, ‘bout that grace, no trying’.”

The book beautifully – and convictingly – sums up the goal of parenting: “Every interaction with your child should have one overarching goal: that your words and actions would lead them to love and fear the Lord more than they currently do… If your interaction with your child doesn’t end with more love, joy, and peace than when you began, then you have failed in your one and only assignment with your child.” (pg 13)  

Christians commit sins – thus, Christian children are not “naughty” they are sinners too. So we as parents need to disciple our children by teaching them to love Christ and to love His commands. Discipline is thoroughly discussed as well as the vast difference between discipling and disciplining.

Page 15“Christian parents should NEVER punish their children. Ever. Yes, you may administer the wooden spoon in the discipleship of your child, but spanking should never be administered to punish the child. Jesus already bore the punishment for your child’s sins…Christian parents who punish their children confuse the gospel. If our children think they are being punished for their naughtiness, a.k.a. sins, then they are left to wonder why Jesus died on a Cross. Punishing our children tells them they can atone for their own sins. Oops. Punishment took place at the Cross, and it has been dealt with completely. Our role as Christian parents is not to whack our kids for crimes committed against us, but to disciple them to love Jesus more… (pg 19) If you yell at your child, you are not parenting; you are sinning. If you only issue orders to your child, you are not acting like Christ; you are acting like a nag or a jerk. Sorry. If you spank your child in anger, you are not being biblical, you are being abusive.”

Page 27 “When you and I punish our spouses (or children) for their sins, we are basically shaking a fist towards the heavens and shouting, “I know you bruised your beloved Son for my family, but that isn’t enough for me. I need my pound of flesh too.” We make a complete mockery of the gospel when we sin in response to the sin of others. Yes this adventure in parenting is just as much about OUR sanctification as it is theirs! Our sinning in response to their sin is not teaching our children about Grace, but it is a recipe for spiritual heartache and potentially creating a false convert.

Todd gives great examples on how to use our child’s sin as a teaching tool. It requires transparency – because we WILL mess up. But praise the Lord that we can use our sinful mistakes as practical examples in what it means to apologize and to forgive. We can show our children the Gospel. Page 59 “In a nutshell, the gospel consists of two very basic messages: 1) we are really bad sinners. All humans are treasonous rebels who hate their sovereign and will do virtually anything to dethrone Him and usurp His Kingdom (Romans 8:7-12) Jesus is an amazing Savior. He is a kind, gentle, loving, sacrificial servant who lays down His life for those who hate Him (John3:16; 1 John 4:10). Jesus doesn’t sort of save sinners, He saves them to the uttermost (Hebrews 7:25).”  

Page 42 “You can actually use your children’s bad behavior to preach the gospel to them. In a private setting, you can tell your child, ‘Your behavior was a sin. Holy God is displeased with sin and He has promised to punish all sin. I am about to give you a small taste of that pain. I am going to spank you, then we are going to thank God for sending a Savior who took the pain that should be inflicted on us for eternity.’… Page 44, “It is not mean to let your child tremble before the throne of God’s justice; but whatever you do, don’t leave them there.  Tell them joyfully of the One who took their place and received the wrath they deserve. Let them know there is an ark of salvation they must run into. Plead with them to fly to Jesus, the only One who can appease the wrath of God for them… Page 61 “God can forgive sinners because Jesus paid our fine for us. God’s wrath has been satisfied because of the work of His Son. We have a human representative who can satisfy the debt that is owed to a holy God. This is how God resolves the tension between love and justice. Because of Jesus, God can be just and the justifier of those who have faith in Him (Romans 3:26)”

This book explains that the “gospel will forever be a hash to our children” if certain points are not thoroughly taught to our children. They have to know 1) the character and nature of God 2) the character and nature of man 3) why God is angry with sinners every day 4) why Hell is reasonable 5) who Jesus Christ is and what He accomplished on earth. So many children are growing up without a proper understanding of the gospel.

Be it from parents who don’t know how to teach it, from youth groups who do not portray it accurately, or from the hoards of false teachers creeping into the church. Many children only have a pseudo-gospel. They are not abandoning the true gospel. Just the one “that has left them bitter, tired, betrayed, disappointed or angry. Their latter end is worse than the first (2 Peter 2:20) Page 62. Todd gives examples of what the Gospel is not, and how these pseudo-gospels have infiltrated our churches. The “life-enhancement gospel”, the “example for us to follow gospel”, “anonymous Christian view gospel”, “self esteem gospel”, “love love love gospel”, “the gospel of fruits to exhibit” as well as “easy believism.

The gospel must be taught in proper context. Without understanding that you are a sinner in need of a savior – you don’t understand WHY you need a savior. We have to teach our children about the law. Page 64 “The law silences the mouth of the sinner  and makes him/her accountable to God (Romans 3:19-20.)  The law is actually embedded in every human consciousness (Romans 2:15.) God actually made the law so sinners could understand their sin (1Timothy 1:8.) If you read the first 8 chapters of Romans, you will see that the gospel is very judicial, and we need to user guilty criminals into God’s courtroom…”

Todd warns that this too has dangerous extremes. If we teach our children based on “Law Only Parenting”, it cultivates anger within them. It causes them to want to obey their parents outwardly, but inwardly desiring sin, with temptation to become deceitful and manipulative. It can heap unbiblical rules on performance driven people. Others, who are born extremely sensitive, can struggle with feeling like they are never good enough or that God couldn’t possibly love them. There has to be a balance between Law and Grace – just like the gospel is presented to us in Scripture.

Page 98 “A child who grows up in a home where Jesus is not made much of, is poised to seek fleshly things that can provide more perceived pleasure. There are two things we should focus on to help our children treasure Jesus. 1) Show your children that Jesus is the best thing they can set their affections on. 2) Show them that seeking sin is like desiring dung (Philippians 3:8), or dog vomit (2 Peter 2:22), or poison (James 3:8; Psalm 140:3), or the stench from an open grave (Romans 3:13; Psalm 5:9). To give our affections to anything but Jesus is to play the whore (Hosea 1:2)… If we want our children to delight in God, we need to take them to His Word and show His attributes at work. This will elevate facts into the realm of reality, which will translate into stirred affections and greater devotion to God.”

Todd speaks of the importance of reading all of scripture to our children, not solely teaching theology. Gods attributes and character is on beautiful display through every historical narrative as God “relentlessly orchestrates reconciliation for His people.”

Teach your children that YES the Bible is history – and it is also there to show us Jesus, our Redeemer, even all the way back in Genesis. They need to understand that the order of the bible has great purpose in revealing Christ. This helps us to explain to our children that God has a beautiful plan for our lives – that even when tragedy hits, we can rest in Him, knowing that He is sovereign. Page 143-144 “If you can biblically instruct your children to understand the big questions of life, you will be preparing them to live a life of contentment and hope. If you do not, a child will live his life like a pagan; pointless and despairing…. Knowing that we are each intricately designed by God Himself (Psalm 139:13-16) gives us dignity, humility, purpose, and hope. It also increases our love for God when we consider that He thought of us before the foundation of the world, and He actually carried out His plans and made us.”

ANALYSIS

This book is convicting and so encouraging. It clearly shows me the areas that I have failed and desperately need to work on. And it has helped me formulate a plan on how to improve and how to work with my children now as they are quite young, as well as on into young adulthood. This book is one that I will give out to new parents and to friends – I earnestly want to share this with others. It CLEARLY teaches on how to focus on heart issues in children.

Reset for Parents is full of scripture – it is calming knowing that the Bible is very clear on how to raise children. So much of becoming a parent is overwhelming since babies are not born with a How To Manual. But not all of it has to be – we do have a wonderful manual (the very Word of God!) from our Creator and we can rely on it.

My children are toddlers. So I felt that the book didn’t elaborate a lot on how to verbally explain in short enough sentences for toddlers to follow. So I emailed Todd, and he graciously responded explaining that tone is everything. Toddlers’ minds are like little sponges and they are soaking up a lot more than we realize – so do explain to them. Even if they are not getting it all right now, they are getting parts of it. But more than anything our tone should reflect love and concern. How easy it is for our tone to reflect anger or irritation – and how clearly that shows us our need for sanctification.

CONCLUSION

If we see our children as little image bearers lost in their sin who need the Gospel to change their hearts, then you will respond differently towards their behavior. Page 20-21 “Instead of getting angry, you will be concerned for their spiritual well-being.

Your desire for peace and quiet will be overwhelmed by the desire to help your child understand Gods grace better. You will put your earthly desire behind your heavenly desire to see your child spend eternity with Jesus. Your embarrassment will diminish because you are on a rescue mission for your child’s very soul. Who care what the servants think when you are on a mission from the King? …God will sanctify you as you focus on your child’s justification. You will stop being angry, disgusted, frustrated, annoyed, snarly, and mean.”

Page 176 “You are not responsible for your child’s soul; but you are responsible to love, model, nurture, instruct, and disciple our child. You can ether work with or against God in accomplishing that task.  There is nothing you can do to save your child, but there is everything you can do to make sure that you faithfully lead your child to the Lord… Your job is to live, teach, and model the Gospel of Jesus Christ to your children, not to make them have faith in Jesus Christ. Your parental job description is that simple and yet that complex…”

Page 178 “What should you do to remind yourself to be a parent who is influenced and affected by the gospel? Remember that you are the chief sinner in your house who has been completely and totally forgiven. Continue in His Word never stop reading your Bible. Utilize the means of grace as if your life and the life of your family depend on it. Because it does. When you forget and sin, repent and get back in the saddle and keep moving forward. Strive to be a faithful parent and leave the results to the God who loves your child more than you do.”

FAVORITE QUOTES

  • Your child can become an adult who loves the Lord the same way you do – but this will likely require a radical parenting reset on your part. 
  • Page 54 “Easy-believism promises all that you have to do is believe in Jesus and you are good to go…. Not only is it not easy to believe, it is downright impossible unless God grants repentance and faith (2 Timothy 2:25; Ephesians 2:8-9). [It] ignores 30 verses in the New Testament that teach the necessity of repentance (Mark 1:15 etc). [It] contradicts Jesus’ radical demand to deny ourselves, take up the cross, and follow Jesus (Matthew 16:24). Easy-believism disregards Jesus’ demand to practice church discipline on those who continue in a lifestyle of sin (Matthew 18:15-20) [It] forgets that a Christian produces good fruit of the Spirit and not deeds of the flesh (Galatians 5:16-24). The bible teaches a man is either carnal or Christian; there is no such thing as a carnal Christian (2 Corinthians 5:17). 
  • Page 56 “[A Blaise Pascal quote] has morphed into the widely echoed, “You have a god-shaped hole in your heart that only Jesus can fill” While there is defiantly a grain of truth in Pascal’s statement, there is a silo full of problems when we present that truth as the gospel. It is true that our lives will forever be out of sync when we are not in alignment with God’s will, but that is not our primary problem. Our primary problem is not contentment; it is our condemnation. We don’t’ simply have a hole in our hearts; we have a blackened, sin-stained heart in desperate need of cleansing (Jeremiah 17:9)….There is also a practical problem with claiming we have God-shaped holes in our hearts – many people are able to suppress that feeling (Romans 1:18). Some people seem to live their entire lives in full rebellion against God and they just don’t recognize a God-shaped hole in their hearts, or in any other organ. They are content and have no need for a heart filling.” 
  • Page 64 “If someone doesn’t understand that they are under the wrath of God for violating his commandments, then the Cross is robbed of its meaning.  If someone doesn’t comprehend hell, they will never desire heaven. If we do not “commend ourselves to their consciences (2 Corinthians 4:1-5), then the gospel remains foolishness to them. The mirror of the law is veiled; the sinner will never see himself in truth. He will continue to think like the self-righteous young ruler in mark 10 who thought he had obeyed all of god’s law. 
  • Page 83 “You are standing at the altar when the officiator asks your future spouse, “Do you believe that this person is trustworthy and reliable? Do you believe that this person loves you? Do you believe this is the best person in the world for you?” Your soon to be bride/groom responds with three yes’s. Then he/she walks off the altar without committing to you. Are you happy? No. Neither is God. If your spouse only affirms good things about you, but refuses to join you in matrimony, you are not married. The same is true for the person who may mentally ascents to truths about God, but never fully trusts Him. They may believe in God, but they have not place their faith in Him. Biblical faith is total and complete reliance on God…. Biblical faith says “You are my God, and I am your servant. I am placing my eternal trust in you alone. I will rely on you for everything, and faithfully serve you all the days of my life. I am done with me; I now live only for you.” 
  • Page 97 “A generous person does not give a loved one scraps. If we have a genuine love for someone, we give them the very best. What is the best that God can give us? Himself. That makes the first two commandments very, very kind. (Exodus 20:3-4)” 
  • “Arrange your days so that you experience total contentment, joy, and confidence in your everyday life with God” (97).
five-stars
By | 2018-04-08T15:33:16+00:00 April 6th, 2018|

The New Calvinism Book Review

The New Calvinism Book Review

The New Calvinism

by Conrad Mbewe, John Buice, Paul Washer, Steven J. Lawson, Tim Challies
Length: Approximately 4 hours. To read (127 pages)
TCB Rating:
five-stars
Buy on Amazon

Book Overview

“Will the New Calvinism last?” A focus on sola Scriptura, ecclesiology and commitment to the local church, pursuit of holiness, the work of the Holy Spirit in ministry and living, and a call to biblical discernment: without these things New Calvinism is just a fad.

Who should read this?

This book is written not only for the members of the Reformed/New Calvinism movement but for anyone who is wondering what this movement is about. How is the caricature of the bearded pastor with a cigar and tattoos not just some fleeting church fad? Is there any depth and truth to the movement? What are the goals and standards in New Calvinism? What are the dangers this movement faces?

Will the New Calvinism last? ...sola Scriptura, ecclesiology & the local church, pursuit of holiness, the Holy Spirit in ministry & living, & biblical discernment: without these things New Calvinism is just a fad. Click To Tweet

SUMMARY

The book opens with a clear cut introduction chapter that shouldn’t be missed.  It frames the setup for the book, noting that this resurgence of Calvinism includes the following: 1) inerrancy of Scripture, 2) authority of Scripture, 3) high view of God, and 4) global missions.  This modern resurgence mirrors so much of the Reformation – people are being driven to a pursuit of holiness with a bold and unwavering resolve to support the sole authority and inerrancy of the Scriptures.

“When Christ rules a person’s heart, holiness is a byproduct. The public behavior that demonstrates a loose tongue along with other immature behavioral characteristics does not display a heart that is under submission.”

The echoing question amongst the New Calvinists is – will this movement last?  This book discusses the problems facing New Calvinism and what the movements focus should stay at, if it is to last.  Dr. Josh Buice does an excellent job at editing the material. He wrote the introduction and the first chapter. Other authors each contributed a chapter.  The authors include Paul Washer, Dr. Steven J. Lawson, Dr. Conrad Mbewe, and Tim Challies.

Sola Scriptura is the heart and soul of the Reformation. “If the scriptures are not trustworthy, how can we know the truth of our human depravity, the glory of Jesus’ substitutionary death, and the amazing grace of God granted to depraved sinners?”  Today, you can witness hundreds of enthusiastic believers attending conferences all over the US – hungry for Scripture and for sound doctrine.  And praise the Lord for it! But even amidst this, lurk pastors who have fallen prey to the slippery slope of pragmatism, the charming allure of mysticism, cultural trendiness as a means of evangelism, and other fallacies.  

“The world will never think the gospel is cool. If the New Calvinism movement is indeed a new reformation, the people who make up this movement must stop accommodating their culture and boldly preach the Scriptures.  The Gospel will never be palatable to depraved sinners apart from a spiritual resurrection performed by God. As we study the world of God in conversion, we must admit that the church’s cultural trends are not what brought a person to a saving knowledge of the gospel.”  If our battle cry of Sola Scriptura is indeed the heart and soul of New Calvinism – then we must remember that doctrine matters!! – if we let this slip, the church suffers greatly.  

The health of the church is always connected to the health of the pulpit.  If men who stand in the pulpit are ashamed to preach the Word, their disciples will likewise learn to be ashamed of the gospel of Jesus Christ.”  Being Reformed is not simply being a Calvinist – its embracing Sola Scriptura and applying it to every aspect of one’s life and faith.

The danger in conferences is that many of the immature believers will have more preference for them over their local church. Conferences are amazing – it’s such a blessing to get to attend, to fellowship with so many likeminded brothers and sisters.  It’s encouraging to get to see our heroes in the faith – and maybe even snap a selfie with them. It’s spiritually refreshing; a spa day for your soul. But it cannot be held in higher esteem than your own church. Serving enthusiastically in your local church is paramount.   “If we are not committed to a local congregation of believers we are not walking in the center of God’s will.”  

This concept is seen in Hebrews 10:24-25 ‘and let us consider how to stimulate one another in love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near.’  

“The key word here is ‘committed’.  The command is not fulfilled by mere attendance but by our active participation in the growth and sanctification of the body.  We should never think that we are doing God’s will simply because we attend a church with sound theology and expository preaching and are frequently involved in theological conversations with our peers.  We are committed when we are actually ministering in the church under the direction of the elders who for the sake of the least of Christ’s brethren, even those who do not share our interests in high theological dialog, but are simply struggling to make it down the road to Zion.  If we do not love the most broken, needy, and theologically inept brethren in the local church, then our love for the church and for Christ Himself is in question.”

Purity is essential.  Scriptures abound in direct commands to stay pure. While salvation is monergistic, sanctification is synergistic. We do have a responsibility. Colossians 3:2 tells us to keep our mind pure by setting them on things above.  Ephesians 6:16 says to keep our heart pure we have to resist the flaming arrow of the evil one. 1 Peter 2:11 says we strive to keep our souls pure from lusts of the flesh.

“Our innermost being must be driven by the desire to know God and follow Christ by the power of the spirit.  Every Christian must cultivate his own spiritual life before God in order to bring Him glory.” Many people reject the concept of holiness because it sounds too legalistic. But the pursuit of personal holiness is nothing like legalism – which separates the grace of God from the law of God.

When we isolate divine grace from divine law, we fail to see the infinite love of God that stands behind the commands He issues. When this unbiblical divorce takes place, we view His commands as burdensome, too heavy to bear.” Some people oppose legalism to such an extreme that they take their “Christian liberties” too far and have caused damage.

Purity starts with our minds being prepared for serving the Lord.  We must keep our minds pure from the worldly influence. “There can be no loose thinking that is disconnected from the whole truth of scripture. Neither can there be any doctrines neglected. Nor must there be any worldly beliefs allowed to infiltrate our minds. We must master the whole truth of Scripture, and its whole truth, must master us.” We have to be in total control of our minds, not inebriated or emotionally unstable.  

We must have sound judgment and a submissive, obedient heart. This growth in holiness is centrally focused on the expectant Hope in the return of Christ. One aspect of the Holy Spirit is His goal of conforming us into the image of Christ. He empowers us to serve Him with a joyful heart.  Personal holiness is an act of spiritual empowerment.

ANALYSIS

I thought the book was excellent – quite emboldening.  It’s not a light read – but one that you want to savor slowly and meditate upon.  It was encouraging in that this book provides a sense of unity to the centrality of the New Calvinism movement.  There are so many variations to the movement that it is crucial that we understand what it IS and ISN’T. This book did an excellent job in describing just that.

I would highly recommend this book to pastors who are not Calvinists – simply because there is so much misinformation out there about Calvinism and this could shed some light on the issue. The book could also encourage them, likewise, to focus on sola Scriptura, commitment to the local church, pursuit of Holiness, Holy Spirit empowerment in ministry, and biblical discernment.

The only negative thing I can say is that I had a bit of trouble following some parts of the chapter that Dr. Conrad Mbewe wrote on the Holy Spirit empowerment.  It is a subject that is crucial to study and to have a firm grasp on in this age of counterfeit prosperity gospels. And perhaps it was just his style of writing, or that there is a need for multiple book volumes to cover it as deeply as is required of the content?   I have heard him speak in person and thoroughly enjoy his material – but this chapter was a little hard to follow his train of thought.

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CONCLUSION

This book is vital for all Reformed believers to read.  We must remain focused on the centrality of Scripture – and not get lost in the charismatic mysticism, the “hip” churches that focus on emotional enticement, non-essential ministries, etc.

“When our culture laughs at our gospel, we must not apologize, dumb down, or so contextualize the gospel the offense of the cross is veiled from the eyes of sinful men.  We must do the work of discipleship, apologetics, evangelism, missions, and gospel preaching with the confidence that God’s Word is our authority and as ambassadors of the King – we will not remain silent.  The battle cry of the Reformation was sola Scriptura. May it be said of us that we are people of the Book – unflinching on the inerrancy, authority, and sufficiency of God’s Word. The battle over the Bible continues today, will you be found faithful?”

FAVORITE QUOTES

  • Page 31 – “When pragmatism overshadows theology, the end result will be compromise.  The need of the hour is for our orthopraxy to match our orthodoxy. When pastors capitulate on sola Scriptura, the entire church suffers.  This methodological shift will affect everyone from the children to the senior adults.  We are guilty of creating functional atheism when we distance ourselves from the authority and reliability of God’s Word.  New Calvinists are not being confused with theological liberals by any stretch, but the cultural pressures to lighten up and avoid taking the Bible to seriously are perpetually present – even among the New Calvinism movement.   All true preachers of God’s Word feel a certain pressure to avoid being too preachy.  Meanwhile, liberals are awaiting children from evangelicals’ churches, and with open arms they receive a new crop of them onto the university campuses each fall.  Once these students are isolated from their homes and their local churches, professors go on immediate attack against the authority of God’s Word. Much like Satan in the Garden of Eden, they arrogantly cast doubt upon the reliability of God’s Word.”
  • Page 64 – “The local church will in some measure take upon itself the doctrine, character, and piety of its ministers – for good or evil. We should pray that our influence over the church would increase only to the degree that we increase in fear of the Lord and in submission to what is written in His Word.  Let there be no soiled rag of flesh on our bodies and nothing of our own cleverness in our mouths, for as ministers we do have influence, and as ministers we will be called to give an account before the throne of the living God with regard to how we have cared for His most precious possession! How then can we know how to conduct ourselves in our care of God’s household?  It is only through what is written in His Word. It is only under the infallible guidance of sola Scriptura. Paul wrote to Timothy ‘I write so that you will know how one ought to conduct himself in the household of God.’  Therefore, the more closely we submit ourselves to what is written, the clearer our conscience will be, and the more confidence we will possess.  Consequently, the more we stray from the direct commands of Scripture and give ourselves to our own inventions, the more we open ourselves to Christ’s reprimand.”
  • Page 66 – “… let me remind you of two unalterable truths, whose interpretation are not open to debate.  The first is that we will be judged, and for some ministers, this will result in the loss of everything except our souls.  The second is that the only infallible standard by which we are to guide our conduct in the church is the written Word of God.  The further we stray from it, and the more we take away from it or add to it, the less confidence we can have that we will pass through judgment unscathed.”
  • Page 73 – “… there is more teaching in Scripture regarding how one is to live the Christian life than how one is to become a Christian. … God is, first and foremost, more concerned with what He is doing in us than with what He is doing through us.  He is fundamentally concerned with our godliness before He is with our giftedness.  He is of first importance, more interested in our spirituality than in our productivity.  This is to say, God is principally focused upon the depth of our maturity before the breadth of our ministry.”
  • Page 80 – “Being glib in preaching is valued over having gravitas. I believe it can be shown that this casual thinking about God has led to the new casual worship of God.  Moreover, the pulpit is more a dialogue than a declaration. A heavy dose of being sober in spirit is much needed medicine today.”
  • Page 101 – “The historic reformed position took it for granted that the extraordinary gifts of the Holy Spirit – such as speaking in tongues, interpretation of tongues, miraculous healing, etc – had ceased with the passing on of the apostles in Bibles times.  Notice that this does not mean God cannot do something extraordinary or miraculous, especially in answer to the prayer of God’s people. He is God! He can do all things. Rather this refers to the cessation of the gifts being embodied in individuals so that they are empowered to do the extraordinary in an ongoing way as was the case with the apostles.  So any seeking of spiritual empowerment that suggests the restoration of such gifts must be biblically misinformed.”
  • Page 115 – “This enthusiasm for sound doctrine is a mark of Gods favor and blessing.  The inadequacy of the church growth movement is directly related to its inadequate theology and the failure of the Emerging Church was inevitable because of its failure to embrace sound doctrine. New Calvinism, though, is built upon the firm foundation of the historic doctrine of the Christian faith.  God has awakened people who for far too long have been content with poor theology and I am convinced that He will use these now awakened Christians to approach the world with missionary fervor.”
five-stars
By | 2018-03-13T14:18:27+00:00 March 13th, 2018|

Committing Our Ways Book Review

Committing Our Ways Book Review

Committing Our Ways

by Allyson Underwood, Melissa Longoria, Meredith Moore
Length: 2 hours. To read (59 pages)
TCB Rating:
five-stars
Buy on Amazon

Book Overview

This book gives a profound biblical view of seeking contentment. Even though the authors are writing from a perspective of singleness, it is a gem of a book with so much to offer women in all seasons of life: single, married, widowed etc.

Committing Our Ways Book Review 1

 

This book gives a profound biblical view of seeking contentment. Though the authors are writing from a perspective of singleness, it is a gem of a book with so much to offer women in all seasons of life: single, married, widowed… Click To Tweet

Summary

There are a great many books written for women that are, well …. fluff.  It was refreshing to read a book filled with biblical truths instead of just trying to pacify women in their current situation.  Many books on singleness or on finding contentment in a less than ideal situation are filled with scripture twisting promises, and give the reader a false hope – and worse – a false view of God and His holiness.  

Imagine, sitting on a porch swing on a cool morning, wrapped in a quilt, hot coffee in hand and having a good heart to heart with one of your best friends – that’s the way this book reads. The authors are so down to earth. Each author wrote a handful of chapters, and have personal stories intertwined, so it really reads like a conversation.

I found myself smiling at their heartfelt stories and wincing at the sometimes painful truth (though spoken in love.) Contentment is an area that everyone struggles with. How easy it is to feel disgruntled in a situation – all because God didn’t form the circumstances exactly as we think is best. Oh the audacity that we ever are discontented and assume that we know better than our Creator!

A lack of contentment breeds hopelessness and depression. There is true joy in contentment – and the joy the authors have is so inspiring. I have never read a book that made me feel as if the authors have prayed for their readers and even love them, simply because they are sisters in Christ – until now.

This book is a must-read for every Christian woman.  It can speak into the life of a single woman struggling to find her place in life; to the young mother struggling to survive the chaos of toddlerhood; and even to the woman who is struggling to find meaning in the “empty nest”, because, at its core, this book is about contentment.

“Contentment does not mean pretending to be perfectly happy with one’s circumstances.  Nor is it some sort of passive, fatalistic regard for life’s trajectory.  True contentment is much more robust and God-centered than a Pollyanna outlook.  It begins with an honest assessment of one’s true feelings, but moves swiftly to reconcile those feelings with the absolute truth of God’s character.  When life seems unfair, I must remember that the God who is in control of it cannot be anything but fair.  When life seems harsh or too much to bear, I must remember that the God who orders it cannot be unloving or unkind.  Ultimately, contentment is characterized by an attitude of submission to the One who might sovereignly orchestrate events in my life in a different way than I would choose for myself.  But you know what?  He is good, and I can trust Him with my desires, whether for marriage or anything else.” Pg 25.

I love that you can hear their heart with each chapter, they each had goals and dreams… and life hasn’t turned out quite like they had planned.  “As 30 nears, I think I am beginning to understand.  Dreams die a slow death.  The hurts and disillusionments of other people add insult to injury.  Change itself is excruciating.  These things can turn us into someone quite hard, ugly, and unloving over time.  The anecdote to bitterness?  Getting our eyes off of others, and onto a hope for eternity that does not fade and a Christ that does not disappoint.” Pg 37

  They are taking you on a journey of what they have learned about identity, the surety of God’s Word, trusting God, how to wait well, true friendship, the importance of community, fears, and God’s promises. The boldness in this quote is so encouraging to me: “So are we still single?  God be glorified in our contentment.  We still do not have our dream job?  God be glorified in our acceptance.  Our future dreams have not come to fruition?  God be glorified in the new dreams He has given us.  Let us learn to enjoy our life.  Enjoy our season.  Be content.  Be bold.  Make a difference.  And ultimately, trust God.” Pg 54.

 

My only critique of this book is:

1) Of the use of a John Eldredge quote on pg 21.  Don’t get me wrong, it’s lovely quote – but John Eldredge teaches some heretical doctrine, such as open theism, and I wouldn’t want to steer anyone in his direction. (For more information on why his teachings are heretical go here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r3-EFXObuD0 and here: https://www.challies.com/general-news/john-eldredge/ )  

2) I wish it was longer. It is not that the book felt like there was so much left unsaid, but it left me yearning for the conversation to continue.  It was much in the way it is bittersweet when a cherished friend has to leave after a good visit. (Obviously, contentment is something I am still working on!)

 

 

Analysis

“My singleness happens to be the thing that has driven me to the Bible like nothing else, time and again, for answers to my questions about identity, purpose, and many other perplexing issues besides. God’s Word anchors my soul like nothing else can.  It is through His Word alone that God reveals who He is.  It is there that my perspective is transformed.  It is there that I learn of hope that I have in Christ and understand who I am in Him.  It is there that I can learn of God’s ways. It is there that I am reminded that ultimately; this is His story, not mine.

“Does the reading, study, and memorization of the Bible seem like a daunting task to you? Dear friend, if you glean nothing else from this little book, please heed the encouragement to pursue God through His Word.  In this ever-changing world we live in, it is ever so important to know the foundation on which you stand.  Only when your roots are planted deeply, and are growing deeper still, can you stand strong against the “dangers, toils, and snares” that you will face.  May we hunger and thirst after the life-giving Word, and may we yield ourselves to the transformation it brings.” – pg 15

Contentment is something that I have struggled with in my own life. I write out my daily ‘To Do List’ and a large portion remains undone at the end of the day, regardless of how hard I tried. I have mapped out my life goals in detail and have even drawn out the blueprint for my dream house – yet I find myself struggling to find a way to make it all happen.

Far too often I find myself in the depths of despair simply because I can’t do it all. It’s hard finding balance between being a wife, a mother, a family member, a church member, getting prepped to homeschool a pre-schooler, trying to learn a trade, finding time to finish my work, plan and cook meals, clean the house, run errands, take my daughter to multiple therapy appointments, supporting my husband as he starts his second year in seminary – there is so much to do, and precious little time. My ‘To Do List’, as helpful as it is, can easily be a gateway into depressing and anxious discontentment.

My plans are “good” but quickly become a sin issue. For example, I plan on my family sitting around the table feasting on a very healthy meal, but my oldest has Asperger’s and her food sensory issues are rather extreme. She eats precious little in way of variety and very few of her foods are reasonably healthy (unfortunately.) When my good plan, my desire for her to eat a healthy meal elevates from a desire to a need, then it becomes idolatry.  Idolatry is at the very root of discontentment.

God wants me to be obedient in how I mother my children – I need to give her healthy food, encourage her, foster an environment where she develops the security and courage to step out of her boundaries and try different things. I don’t need her to fit into my agenda. I need to be content in that God is in charge of her sensory issues – not me. She will mature and learn coping skills in His timing and to the degree that He sees best. His best brings Glory to His Name and brings us to further sanctification.  And this book has helped me to see that by remembering that God has Providentially placed me in this situation, for my good & His Glory, I will find rest, joy, and contentment.

 

Conclusion

“Friends, our prayer is that you would see blessings and marriages and dream jobs and fulfilling lives.  Indeed, we hope that for ourselves.  But if not, He is still good (Daniel 3). Because God is still in control, because Jesus’ blood still redeems sinners, because the Comforter is still with us, He is still good.  Let us exclaim with the psalmist: ‘I will bless the LORD at all times: his praise shall continually be in my mouth.’ (Psalm 34:1 KJV).” 

It doesn’t end quite there – almost – the authors have compiled a forty-something-long list of resources. These resources are books and radio programs that have been influential on their journey.  These books are theologically sound, some I have read and a great many I am familiar with and have bumped up on my wish list.  But even that is a wonderful reminder that our journey of sanctification really doesn’t have an “End Point” on this side of Glory.  And we can praise God in that – that His work of sanctifying us is progressive.  We don’t have to be perfect right now – in fact, we can’t be.  We can trust Him to gently guide us along as we seek Him.

five-stars
By | 2018-02-06T12:03:24+00:00 February 10th, 2018|

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