To Lent or Not to Lent

pexels-photo-792953.jpegIn our family we don’t observe Lent for the same reasons our Pastor explains in this interview. However, because we still want to keep the Christian calendar, what we have done for years is that after dinner we stop reading the book or devotional we have chosen for  the year and start reading about the Cross and the Resurrection of Christ. Just like in Christmas we gather all the books that tell of the Incarnation of our Lord, in this season we too look for good the books that talk about the Cross and the Resurrection of our Lord and mediate on their significance in our lives.

Super simple and yet it has proven a great blessing to us.

A few books I would like to  suggest you are these:

Jesus, Keep Me Near the Cross editor Nancy Guthrie

“This collection of readings, drawn from the writings and sermons of 25 classic and contemporary theologians and Bible teachers, focuses on the wonder of Christ’s sacrifice.”

Love to the Uttermost, by John Piper

Love to the Uttermost: Devotional Readings for Holy Week begins on Palm Sunday, ends on Easter Sunday, and aims to focus our attention on Jesus as he displays his love to the uttermost (John 13:1). These meditations on the self-giving love of Christ are all excerpted from the preaching and writing ministry of John Piper.”

Fifty Reasons Why Jesus Came to Die by John Piper.

“The most important questions anyone can ask are: Why was Jesus Christ crucified? Why did he suffer so much? What has this to do with me? Finally, who sent him to his death? The answer to the last question is that God did. Jesus was God’s Son. The suffering was unsurpassed, but the whole message of the Bible leads to this answer.”

Spurgeon’s Sermons on the Cross of Christ

You can also read books about the work of Christ, about how Sanctification works, about the mortification of sin, etc.

May the Lord open our eyes to see what a great Salvation we have in Christ!

Under His sun and by His grace,

Becky

An Interview with Author Diana Lovegrove -and a Giveaway-

Buy here.

I am so very happy to introduce you to a wonderful devotional book that is clearly steeped in the Scriptures: Dear Pilgrim by my dear friend Diana Lovegrove.

So, dear friends, grab a cup of tea and enjoy this interview with my Diana Lovegrove.

B-Why this devotional: Dear Pligrim: A Series of Exhortations and Encouragements

Diana -First of all, I want to thank you, Becky, for inviting me to this interview and allowing me to visit your beautiful blog. May the Lord richly bless you!

Pilgrim began with a visit to the mountains. We so easily focus downwards, on what is around us, our circumstances, and our eyes get drawn down. But the Lord showed me the importance of us having a heavenly perspective, of making an ascent or Aliyah – going up! As I started reading in the Word of those occasions when our eyes are lifted up, it became clear that the Lord brings revelation at those times. And it is through revelation that our God transforms our lives.

As I continued writing and following themes throughout the Scriptures, I discovered that no matter where I began, or what topic I was looking at, I was always led to Christ, to look up to Him, to feed from Him. So every chapter is, in essence, an ascent. And from there, from that place on the mountain peaks, we gain the strength and perspective to continue our journey in grace and righteousness, even if that journey takes us to the lowest valleys. For He tells us that “the land you are crossing the Jordan to take possession of is a land of mountains and valleys that drinks rain from heaven” (Deuteronomy 11:11). If we’ve been on the mountain top with Him, we can go with strength into the valley below, knowing that the valley also drinks in the rain from heaven. As we grow in our understanding of the depths of the riches of our inheritance in Him, the light on our path becomes brighter and the honey in His Word becomes sweeter. Through Pilgrim I wanted to encourage others to see the riches that are ours in Christ, riches that we can enjoy today in our walk with Him, being made whole in Him, and to exclaim and delight in those truths together!

B- When and how did your pilgrimage begin? 

Diana  -I was brought up in a church-going family and regularly attended an Anglican church. Lots of ritual, and lots of good behavior. But I never understood that Jesus had died on the cross for my sins. My dad was killed in a car crash when I was 13 years old, and we drifted away from church after that. I never stopped believing in God, but I lost my way in finding Him. I became interested in New Age thinking, and even encouraged my mum to take up Transcendental Meditation. I was 20 when the Lord finally opened my eyes to the beauty of the gospel message. I’d been away at university for a term, and when I returned home for Christmas, I was struck by the difference I saw in my mum’s behavior. Whilst I’d been away, she had become a Christian. The change I saw in her life drew me to find out more about Jesus, and when a friend of hers explained the gospel to me, I repented of my sins and believed in Him.

B -What has been the hardest thing to learn in your pilgrimage?

Diana  -To die. I spent the first 18 years of my Christian walk going round and round in a circle of despair. It was the most frustrating experience, and I had severe bouts of depression. I was filled with guilt and condemnation. I knew that God loved me, and had forgiven me, yet I couldn’t seem to walk in that truth, and I kept trying to earn His love for me and failing miserably. Looking back, I can see I hadn’t died. The cross had not slain me. I had crossed the Red Sea and had escaped from Egypt, but I hadn’t yet crossed the Jordan to enter into a land flowing with milk and honey, the place of inheritance. I was going round and round in circles in the wilderness. Praise God, He used our time of malnourishment in a seeker-sensitive church to draw me to search for the gospel message in all its fullness, and when my eyes were finally lifted up to behold the Lord in all of His glory, I died – and I have to continue to die every day. There is a passage in Luke 13:10-13 which tells of a woman crippled by a spirit and bent over for 18 years. Jesus came and touched her, and immediately she straightened up and praised God. This could be my own testimony, including the length of time she was crippled and bent over! I can’t wait to meet this woman in glory one day!

B -What has been the most joyful?

Diana -To walk in assurance of His love and forgiveness, whatever the circumstances, whatever the difficulties, that is a place of deep joy, blessing and of peace. To be at peace with God, the Creator of the Universe, the Holy, Holy, Holy God….to be reconciled to Him, all because of what His Son accomplished for us, to be free of condemnation – there is no better state. The devil will seek to kill, to destroy, to rob us of that joy – and admittedly there are times when I am shaken, and despair threatens to creep back in. But the moment I lift my eyes, the very moment – nothing can take away the assurance He brings through His Spirit. And then to discover that the inheritance He has for us is a land flowing with milk and honey….what provision He has made for us…I have tried to capture that joy in Pilgrim as He has revealed some of that abundance to me.

B -What has sustained you through it?

Diana  -He has! In my darkest moments, I was intent on self-destructing. I had pushed God away, and I had completely isolated myself from those around me. It makes me tremble now to recall how cold I was towards those who loved me. Yet He never let go of me. More than that, He pursued me. He sought me out and He rescued me from the prison of my despair. And He continues to sustain me. Time and again, He reveals to me the weakness of my flesh – which makes me more desperate to cling to Him. He provides everything I need to keep on keeping on.

B  -How is it important to have faithful companions in our pilgrimage?

Diana  -I don’t believe God ever intended for us to pilgrimage alone, and yet so many of us have this mistaken view that all that matters is our own individual walk with the Lord. That was my own mindset. But it is not true – God’s purposes are much greater than that! I have been so blessed by my husband, Peter. His love of the Lord, and his faithful love to me over the years has never wavered. He has been such a firm rock and support to me. And then the Lord has brought along friends in the Lord to encourage. I must make mention of Liz, who wrote one of the chapters in Pilgrim. The Lord brought her into my life when I was still trying to find my way out of despair, and He used her faith-filled words of counsel to encourage me to look up, to reach out for a touch from Him. When someone knows their God, has spent time in His presence because of the revelation He has given them of Himself, it affects the way they see things, their language, everything. There is an aroma of Christ about them. People have testified as to how they have found Dear Pilgrim to be warm and encouraging – this is because it reflects the warmth and encouragement that my own ears have heard from those around me who have exhorted and encouraged and comforted me in the Lord.

And then the local church – truly, we have been so blessed as a family through our church, Gateway Christian Fellowship, in Yateley. This small fellowship came together almost 4 years ago, and we have grown so much in our walk and understanding of the Lord since then. Our dear pastor, Tom Chacko, and his wife, Dorothy, pour themselves out for us as a fellowship. Tom’s heart, reflecting the heart of the Lord, is that we will learn to walk together as a community of believers, being involved in one another’s lives during the week and not just on Sunday. We are gradually learning this, and we are beginning to taste the firstfruits of the richness this brings to us as a fellowship.

B -I know you love to sing, to play the guitar, and to compose music (and poetry!) for our God. What role has music had in your pilgrimage?

Diana  -I began writing songs when I was in despair, and whenever I sang those angst-filled songs, I would remind myself of my misery. It is such a blessing instead to be able to write songs of praise to the Lord that we sing in our fellowship! Songs that take our focus away from ourselves and onto Him! As a fellowship we were recently blessed when one lady wrote a beautiful poem called “All to His glory” that I was able to set to music – and this is inspiring others in our fellowship to write – the children are now writing their own songs too!

B. Where are you heading now in your pilgrimage?



Diana  -We are currently in a season as a family where I am working part time as an accountant to enable my husband to retrain from teaching into accountancy, and also devote time to serving the local fellowship through teaching the Word and the other duties he has as a deacon. We also have some important decisions to make regarding the schooling of our son, Harry, as it is our hope that Peter will begin homeschooling Harry next year. We are also excited to see where the Lord takes us as a church fellowship. Whatever we do, wherever the Lord leads us, we need to spend time with Him on the mountains so that He can supply us with all we need to walk in the good works He has prepared in advance for us.

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Thank you, dear Diana, for taking the time to share with us more about you, your pilgrimage, and your book.

Now let me share with you about the giveaway of this beautiful devotional book! To enter, please leave a comment here, and if you feel inclined to do so, share this interview on social media for extra chances to win.

I will announce a winner next Saturday, December 19 (the draw will happen Friday, December 18 at 7:00 PM CT).

Grace and Peace,

Becky

Because We Never Stop Being Moms -Book Club- Chapter Ten and Conclusion-

It has been a good thing to read this book with you all; thanks for reading along, for your emails, your messages on Facebook, and your comments here.

The last chapter in our book is about the time in which our children get married and we start increasing the members of our family. A chapter in life that my husband and I will start living -not only reading about!- soon. As I read this chapter and the conclusion, five principles stood apart which I want to remember in the years ahead:

1. Your children’s marriage is sacred.  As our children get married, they will start their very own family, in which their primarily concern will be to please their spouses, not me or my husband.

2. Respect should always be present. In my relationship with each one of my children and their spouses respect should never lack. By respecting their decisions, their dreams and desires, “their obligation to raise their children according to their own conscience and convictions, remembering that the Lord has put them in charge of our grandkids,” we will be strengthening our relationship with them.

3. Become a source of blessing to your children and grandchildren. Through respect, wise conversations (in which listening plays a major role), laughs, prayer, willingness to help, and generosity, we can bless our children, their spouses, and our grandkids.

4. Trust God for your children and grandchildren. My God is a faithful and sovereign God who loves to save families. Who has promised to be faithful to a thousand generations. I believe in Him and in such Rock I stand. As one mom who from fear moved to trust in this stage, beautifully said,

“The outcome belongs to the Lord. I really have a sense of freedom having this attitude. The other idea is that I don’t have to know everything that they are into, who they are with, or where they are going, because the omniscient, omnipresent Lord knows. I don’t have to take up that “burden” (so to speak) which belongs to Him. Therefore I am really free to focus on building the relationship and at peace to trust God to work his perfect will.” (emphasis mine)

When we parent in fear or through worry we are in fact not parenting in love. We are not building a relationship, instead we are pulling it apart.

5. Pray and ask for help. Always prayer before action, is what my wise friend told me once. And the action to take at times is to ask for godly advise.

Sisters, we have a great challenge before us every day. No matter in which parenting stage we are now, we need God’s grace, God’s wisdom, and God’s Word. But all those are not hidden from us. God has given us, his children, grace to endure every season in our life. He has promised to give us wisdom (and wisdom in abundance!) when we ask for it. And we have His living Word, our sure anchor, a light to our feet! We have all that we need to do this. God is faithful and we can rest assured that His plans for us and our children are perfect.

 Under His sun and by His grace, 

Becky

Because We Never Stop Being Moms -Book Club- Chapter Nine

Thank you, Friends, for coming again to our weekly meeting to discuss the book, We Never Stop Being Parents.

This week it is an honor and a great joy to introduce you to my friend Angel Warner. We met a few years ago when we left our sons in College, and we can honestly say that our sons have been blessed by this family. The Lord has given them grace to raise godly children and many of us are now enjoying the blessings of their hard labor. God is good!

Thank you, Angel.

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Chapter Nine.

Our Dreams, Their Dreams, though unsure of the source, I have often heard it said that the most important decision after choosing to serve God with one’s life is the answer to the question: Alongside whom shall I serve Him? 

For parents, even of children who have been given grace to rightly choose God as their master, the potential answer to the second question can be the source of much concern, and rightly so. As married people themselves, parents know firsthand the pitfalls of being joined into one flesh with another sinner. Moreover, married couples are joined to new families who are likewise comprised of sinners. The potential for conflict and trouble grows exponentially, but so do the opportunities for all involved to grow in wisdom, maturity, humility and grace. In chapter nine, the authors do a wonderful job of demonstrating some of the ways in which parents can fall off the rails if they are not seeking to guide their adult children by biblical principles. Deferring to preference when our children are selecting life mates has the potential of doing serious and long-lasting damage to our relationships. But, as in all stages of parenting, we have God’s Word to guide us toward prudence.

As has been pointed out in the other chapters we’ve read so far, our relationship with our adult children must shift from authority to counselor. The same holds true as our young adults select spouses. Because we want the best for our children, Christian parents begin praying early that God will be preparing godly spouses for them. As we pray, we naturally begin to envision the ideal characteristics we’d like to see in our future sons and daughters-in-law. There’s nothing wrong with that, of course. The problem comes when we create idols: phantom men and women who will be members of our particular church, children of our dearest friends, skilled and witty conversationalists, gifted musicians or artists, on it goes, even down to physical features. As the authors so wisely point out, the problem is that these are our daydreams, and our children have no biblical obligation to make our dreams come true. For parents to try to impose such an obligation where none exists is to usurp the authority that belongs to the Lord as the sovereign over our lives and those of our children. In some Christian circles, fathers have been taught that they are the supreme authority even over their children’s marital choices. It is true that, for a season and to illustrate heavenly realities, fathers act as prophets, priests, and kings in their homes. However, this temporary authority is designed to help fathers point their children to the Lord who is the true Sovereign. Fathers who can see themselves and this temporary authority rightly should delight in relinquishing their adult sons and daughters into the care of a King whose judgments, mercy, and leading are without error. Thereafter, parents must trust their children and all their decisions into His care. Our dreams are not as important as God’s will. 

We have been through this process four times now, and I can say without reservation that it can be challenging. We have one son-in-law, two daughters-in-law, and one daughter-in-law to be. We dearly love each one of them, but we have had to confront our pre-conceived notions each time. I have to admit that this was most pronounced with our daughter, not because of her choice, but simply because she was a daughter. We had taught her (and all her brothers) the principles of biblical roles in marriage and male headship. It is one emotional milestone to marry off a son; it is quite another to walk one’s baby girl down the aisle and place her into the care of another man who will become her head. My husband and I found that it required us to exercise a new level of trust in the Lord’s care for our daughter. In contrast, when sons marry, there is something very humbling about watching the father of a young woman walk down the aisle and place his baby girl into the care of your son. This has been a summons for us to pray fervently that our sons will be godly, merciful, tender, strong, and faithful servant-leaders who will love these women who have been entrusted to them. In either circumstance, trusting God to lead our adult children in our stead is both freeing and sanctifying. Our children are called to their own journeys and their own struggles. They may choose spouses who surprise us. They may handle their trials in ways that we would not. Yet, if we truly believe that God is sovereign, we can trust that God is using these things to mature them in grace. We have seen this at work in the lives of our married children and have been amazed at the refinement that is being produced through trial. Likewise, we can see how God has used our relationships with our married children and their spouses to refine our own growth in grace.

One thing I most appreciated about this chapter was the continual exhortation to exercise love, even if we are disappointed in our children’s choices. It is so easy to be critical and narrow in our definition of who warrants our love. The biblical principle, however, is that we are to exercise love toward others—no qualifiers. There are times when adult children may enter into relationships that go beyond mere preferences crossing the line into sin. In the section “We Are Free to Love and Welcome”, the author states:

“By remembering the gospel message, that we are both sinful and flawed yet loved and welcomed, we can welcome this uninvited visitor warmly. When you keep the doors open, you’re helping your own cause because the uninvited visitor will view you as a friend and perhaps even a counselor. No one wants to take counsel from someone who really doesn’t like them. If you openly welcome your child’s new friend, you will remove the pressure of disapproval, and your child may then actually invite your counsel.” (p. 144)

Of course, there is a distinction between loving a sinner and enabling sin. True love does not make provision for the practice of sin. I believe this makes the author’s point above more poignant. It’s a fine line to walk, but when we are warm and loving, our children are more likely to be understanding of our refusal to facilitate immorality. Here again, obedience to the biblical principles, in this case exercising love and upholding righteousness, may not be easy, but God plainly tells us that He will bless faithfulness to His commands. Thus we have another opportunity to take Him at His word and show our children that our faith is genuine.

Finally, after reading this chapter, I found myself reflecting on two underlying theological aspects of the larger discussion. The first is indicated in the initial illustration about the father who refused to embrace his daughter’s romantic choice simply because the young man held doctrinal positions that were different than his own. While his reaction was extreme, if most of us were honest, we’d probably have to admit to this same type of bias in our own hearts. Of course, we would prefer that our children marry people who embrace our theological leanings. It certainly would make for fewer potential landmines in table conversations. Yet, to look askance at someone who does not is evidence that we are not discerning the body of Christ as we should. His church is much larger than our particular segment of the Christian faith, and we should embrace opportunities to exercise grace toward our Christian brothers and sisters. How much more so when they are part of our own families?

The other theological principle is that of generational faithfulness. If we truly believe that we and our descendants are in a covenant relationship with God, then we ought to be thinking in terms of how we are part of God’s plan to pass on the truths of the covenant to future generations. There is simply no way we can be part of this plan if we jeopardize our influence by ungracious behavior toward the parents of our grandchildren. Any hard-heartedness on our part will prohibit our witness. We must earn the right to be heard; we must demonstrate that we can be trusted; we must humble ourselves taking on the attitude of servant-hood to our adult children, loving them and showing them respect. Only then can our message convey a sincere love for our Lord and His covenant.

May our Lord help us to live with grace as we seek to be a blessing to the next generation.

Angel Warner

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Angel Warner is married to her best friend, David. They are parents of eleven (7 by birth, three by marriage, and one by engagement). Their greatest earthly delight is their family, which now also includes a grand-daughter, their first grandchild. More than anything, Angel lives in wonder and gratitude for the continual faithfulness, love, and mercy of the Father. She, her husband, and youngest daughter live in beautiful Geneva, Illinois, and are in the process of restoring a 1927 home—their third historic restoration project.

Because We Never Stop Being Moms -Book Club- Chapters Seven and Eight-

Last week I was busy enjoying my adult children and their friends in a beautiful beach in Mexico; maybe that explains why I didn’t post here.

Chapter seven has three main principles that we don’t want to overlook.

1. We are responsible for raising our children in the Lord, they are responsible for their own choices, but God alone can save our children.

Sovereign saving grace, God’s desire to save the lost, and His covenantal faithfulness should be our hope and comfort.

What a wonderful reminder to our heavy souls that God is the one who does the changing in our children’s lives. Not us. We don’t have the power to change their heart.

What a convicting exhortation to parent our sons and daughters not motivated by guilt and fear but by genuine love that has learned to rest on God alone.

“Our dollars won’t buy their love or repentance, and we can’t fund their admission into God’s Kingdom. Only the Holy Spirit can change their hearts.”

2. We need help. We need help. We need help. Yes: WE NEED HELP!

“If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given to him.” James 1:5

The author says it in such a clear way that we cannot miss the exhortation:

“[T]he Bible is the only sufficient source of wisdom for our lives. In faith we need to trust in His Word, rather than merely following our own thoughts and feelings.”

And then, an encouragement to seek the advice of godly people:

“We need objective (and sometimes tough) godly advice from friends who are not afraid of wounding us by their counsel when necessary (Prov.27:6)”

3. Saying “no” is many times the louder way to say, “I love you.”

“Only with the Lord’s help will we be able to be as strong and as patient as needed.”

I appreciated very much that under this principle, the authors advice parents to involve their pastors and elders (when the children are members of the church) in specific situations, even to the point of church discipline.

Understanding the role of the church as we raise our children is an important part of understanding the covenant bond among us.

It is important, however, to remember that saying “no,” or making drastic changes, doesn’t mean that we should totally shun them out of our lives. Maybe, you have the huge blessing of not having  wayward children, but remember that we must apply these love principles with our friends’ children to. Let us be always hospitable, waiting in hope.

 

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Chapter Eight is, in my opinion, kind of repetitive. Do you agree with me?

It is a chapter about money management and how we should not finance our children’s irresponsibility or sinful lifestyle. However, many of the important, wise, and timely advices the author mentions here, he has already pinpointed somewhere else in the book. So I want to avoid doing the same thing…

Next week we’ll be talking about chapter nine: Marriage: Our Dreams, Their Dreams. I hope you can join us.

Praying for grace as we keep pressing on, 

Becky