I thoroughly enjoyed reading Stephen Witmer‘s book Eternity Changes Everything. He has a pleasant, chatty, easy-to-read writing style and his passion for his subject shines through on every page. For me, it ranks right up there as one of the best Christian books I have read on eternity in terms of getting me excited about where I am headed and how that changes life now.
A theme that links together the later chapters is that of a tightrope walker: ‘The central point of this book is that Christians are meant to live, and can live, in a healthy, exhilarating, joyful, productive, frustrating, painful, challenging tension between restlessness and patience.’ The author uses a graphic of a tightrope walker balancing between ‘contentment’ (because of where we are headed) and ‘dissatisfaction’ (because we’re not there yet) and in each future chapter, he adds to this picture. I was impressed that the graphic worked perfectly on my Kindle and was well-aligned with the text.
Pastor Stephen draws out wonderful insights from the Scriptures in this book, and links Old Testament types with New Testament truths beautifully. He is clearly a gifted teacher with a deep love and respect for the Scriptures and for the Lord.
This book doesn’t just raise our expectations in seeing the new heaven and earth as a certain reality to look forward to, it also challenges as to how that truth impacts our lives in the here and now. This is not a book full of theory, but one of practicality – our lives are meant to be impacted. Pastor Stephen does not take for granted that all of his readers will be believers, and he creates opportunity for his readers who don’t know Jesus to put their faith in Him. For believers, he encourages us that because we are citizens of heaven and our identity is in Christ, our lives are changed and we experience ‘restlessness with patience’ as we anticipate our future. The result of this is that as we learn to need the world less, we end up loving the world more.
It’s a miracle whenever unlovely things and unlovely people are loved with heavenly love. As citizens of heaven extend the love of the new creation into the here and now, this world sees a better world to come.
Eternity changes everything is a book I am already recommending to my friends as a resource that will encourage, inspire and teach. I loved its contemporary style and that it is jam-packed full of biblical truth. I’m very grateful to Cross Focused Reviews and The Good Book Company for supplying me with a free e-copy of this book for the purpose of writing a review.
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I’ll just check one more time. Maybe there’s something I missed the first time around….
No, the cupboard’s empty. What am I going to do? There was nothing yesterday either. Or the day before that.
I can’t stand this pain inside any longer. Drinking lots of water isn’t helping. I need help. What if they say I don’t deserve help? Must try. Surely someone cares?
Wrap up warm, it’s cold out there. At least it’s not raining today.
Feel so lightheaded walking, but got no money for bus fare. Look at all the lucky so-and-so’s on the bus. They don’t know what it’s like to be me.
Here’s the office. Deep breath. Stand in line. Endless waiting. Legs are trembling. That kiddy’s got a bag of sweets. My mouth’s watering. Look away. Can’t snatch from a child. My eyes are burning. I can’t stand this. I’m nothing…
Number 374. That’s me.
‘I’ve got no money.’
‘It’s not my fault I got sanctioned. I was late for my appointment because the bus didn’t turn up. Now my money’s stopped because I’ve been sanctioned. There’s no food in the house. I haven’t eaten in three days.’
‘A referral form? Thank you so much.’
I walk across the city centre, clutching a referral form. Will this church really help?
Oh, here it is.
Deep breath, here goes.
I walk in, head down, and hold out my form to the smiling person on the desk.
‘Hello! And your name is… Angela. Hi Angela, this is Christine. If you’d like to follow her inside, she’ll give you a cup of tea while we make up your food parcel.’
I risk a glance at Christine. She has a friendly smile on her face and she’s looking right at me.
‘Hi Angela. Welcome! Come and have a seat. Would you like tea or coffee? And we have toast if you’d like it.’
I can see other people sitting at small white tables eating toast and drinking from mugs, chatting with helpers wearing name badges. It’s warm in here and the smell of toast is making my mouth fill with water. I swallow hard.
‘Tea please.’ I whisper.
‘And how many slices of toast? We’ve got strawberry jam.’
Christine is smiling at me.
Before I know it, I’m sat at a table eating and drinking. I’m warm. Christine is so nice and friendly that I find myself pouring out everything that’s been crowding in on me for weeks: losing my job because of cancer, having my gas cut off, not being able to afford having the electric heater on, getting sanctioned, having no food in the cupboards. I cry, but that’s okay. Christine is ready with some tissues.
Before I go, she offers to pray with me. I nod. I need all the help I can get. She lays a hand on my arm and tells God about me, asking Him to help me. She talks to Him like He’s her Dad. It’s nice.
When I leave, I have a big bag full of food in my hand and a comfortable, solid sort of feeling in my stomach. The pain has gone. I feel like I’ve made a friend. I’m not hungry any more.
Posted in: Letters To... | 5 Comments »
Five Minute Friday is where bloggers from around the world write for five minutes flat on a topic chosen by Lisa-Jo Baker without stopping to edit or self-critique our work. The topic for this week is: Garden.
My Grandma had a small but lovely garden. Even though I didn’t catch the green fingers of the Gascoine side of my family, I appreciated seeing all the blues and whites and pinks when I opened the front gate and walked up her garden path. Remembering those beautifully set out flower beds, names like lobelia and alyssum and nasturtiums come to mind. Each plant responded to water and sunshine, opening their leaves and petals so that everyone could enjoy them.
Thinking about my Grandma’s garden has reminded me that my life changed a few months ago when I understood that I don’t have to strive to please God and bear spiritual fruit of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, etc. By loving and enjoying Him – responding to the watering of reading the Bible and the sunshine of His Holy Spirit working in me – spiritual fruit will happen. Jesus said that if I abide in Him (stick to Him like glue) and let His Word abide in me, I will bear spiritual fruit. It’s a promise. And Jesus never breaks His promises.
Posted in: Five Minute Friday | 3 Comments »
Five Minute Friday is where bloggers from around the world write for five minutes flat on a topic chosen by Lisa-Jo Baker without stopping to edit or self-critique our work. The topic for this week is: Write.
Ever since reading Enid Blyton’s Enchanted Wood series to my teddies, I dreamed of being a writer.
When God opened the door for me to work part-time from home as a private medical secretary, I rejoiced because this would give me the time and opportunity to write. The plan was for me to write and/or research every day.
The reality looks like this:
I wake up and consider my day ahead. I decide I will write my book as soon as sit at my desk, not stopping before I’ve written 2,000 words. Then – and only then – will I do my secretarial work.
I eat breakfast and take my second cup of coffee to my desk. I turn on my laptop. I glance at the folder containing the first draft of my book…. I decide to quickly check Facebook. I wouldn’t want to miss anyone’s birthday or important announcements.
Facebook checked, I log in to Twitter. After all, I need to keep up with my fellow Tweeters or how else will I build a platform for marketing my book?
Better take a quick look at email. There might be something urgent.
Several emails later, I head for the kettle and make a cup of tea.
Back at my desk, I stare uninspired at the screen for a few minutes before remembering I really need to put some washing in. Downstairs I go with the wash basket.
The work mobile rings. It’s a patient making enquiries about something or other. After the call ends, I decide I may as well do my medical work now and do some writing later.
All the time I’m working, there’s a niggle at the back of my mind that says: WRITE!
At 5 pm, there’s only an hour left of the work day. I make a huge effort to put my work away and pull out my first draft. I open the document on my laptop…. and write. (Sometimes, anyway.)
Posted in: Five Minute Friday | 2 Comments »
The ACW committee had our annual retreat at the weekend. We converged on a Christian conference centre in Northampton for a full weekend of meetings, discussions, and fun. On Friday evening we relaxed with a light-hearted question and answer game. One of the questions was about a piece of memorabilia from our childhood. I immediately thought of Fred.
Fred was my best friend. He went everywhere with me, even sharing my bed at night. His tummy and paws split open in several places but my mum always managed to carefully sew him back together. Later, I practiced my own sewing skills on my little furry pal. I rushed home from school at lunchtime and at the end of the day to cuddle and play with Fred.
One day, he went missing and I had to go to school without saying goodbye. Brought up to know Jesus as a friend and as someone I could talk to in my heart, I asked Him desperately that morning to keep Fred safe and bring him back to me. I expected to see Fred when I got home, but no, mum shook her head when I burst through the kitchen door to ask if she’d found him. I sat down in the big armchair to watch Rainbow with a heavy weight in my tummy and a lump in my throat. Tears rolled silently down my cheeks as I gazed at Geoffrey, Bungle, Zippy and George larking about on the television screen. Mum renewed her search. A few minutes later a small, threadbare mouse with no tail and a tattered, chewed up nose dropped into my lap. Fred and I danced and jumped around the lounge. I couldn’t bear to part with him even to eat my lunch, so he sat proudly on the table next to my plate where I could keep my eye on him.
When I was four, my dad took my mum and me youth hostelling in Colwyn Bay with the church youth group. Fred and I loved exploring and playing in the big hostel, and sometimes Fred stayed behind on a windowsill or on the polished wooden stairs to have a little adventure all by himself. The longsuffering warden seemed to spend the entire weekend making sure Fred got back to me safely!
Although Fred will always have a special place in my heart, my first love for him was replaced long ago with more sophisticated toys, books, and human friends. He is now enjoying a quiet retirement with a handful of other tattered, furry friends, sitting on a shelf in the study.
I’m glad God treats us better than I treated Fred. I love that the relationship God offers us will never come to an end; it’ll keep getting better and better. The Father’s plan was always to adopt us simply because that is what He wanted to do, and Jesus made certain of that plan happening by dying on the cross. Although Jesus rose again and has a glorified body, He still has the scars of His brutal death. The permanency of His scars confirm the permanency of our relationship with God – He is never going to change His mind, never going to get tired or bored of us, never going to regret saving us. When we become friends with God, our position in His family is absolutely secure. He doesn’t pencil our names into the Book of Life, they are written there for all eternity!
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Life in Christ by Jeremy Walker looks at what it means for someone to be ‘in Christ’. It is a relatively short book of 176 pages with eight chapters, each chapter considering a different aspect of being in Christ:
* Looking to Jesus
* United to Christ
* The Unsearchable Riches of Christ
* Sons of God
* The Jewel of Assurance
* The Marks of God’s Children
* A Work in Progress
* A Life in Review
Walker builds a foundation of salvation before considering the wonderfully rich benefits of being in Christ and warning of the very real danger of Christians – even people who have followed Jesus for many years – not comprehending the ‘jewel of assurance’ and their sure standing before God.
Walker quotes extensively from the writings of the Puritans throughout and, indeed, his own style of writing is remarkably similar to that of the Puritans, with what may seem unfamiliar turns of phrase and choice of words to the modern reader. The book tries very hard to be both informative and practical, with questions for discussion and reflection at the end of each chapter. While it is aimed more at the mature believer, it could be adapted for group study/discussion as well as individual study.
I enjoyed Walker’s chapter on assurance:
Assurance will take away those crippling doubts and crushing fears which hinder the saints…. The assured believer is also a convinced and courageous believer. When we do not know where we stand, we do not know how to act. To know who we are helps us to follow a right course without quibbling or cavilling.
In his final (inspiring) chapter, Walker examines the life of Paul and what being ‘in Christ’ meant to the apostle. Walker encourages Christians to be grounded in Christ, make certain of who they are in Christ, and then devote themselves fully to Him, so that at the end of their lives, like Paul, they can finish well.
Walker has given two interviews about Life in Christ on the Janet Mefford Show and the Confessing Baptist Podcast.
I am grateful to Heritage Books and Cross Focused Reviews for providing me with a free copy of this ebook for the purpose of writing a review.
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O LORD, You have searched me and known me!
You know when I sit down and when I rise up….
For You formed my inward parts; You knitted me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Wonderful are Your works; my soul knows it very well.
My frame was not hidden from You, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in Your book were written, every one of them,
the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.
How precious to me are Your thoughts, O God!
Psalm 139:1,2,13-17 (ESV)
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A few evenings ago I finally caught up with the Call the Midwife Christmas Special while simultaneously catching up with my (huge) ironing pile. It was good: plenty of drama with an interesting storyline.
But what really caught my attention was Dr Turner’s reaction on learning that his only son Timothy was dangerously ill with polio. He burst through the hospital doors and tore up the ward – I got the impression he would have moved heaven and earth to get to his son if he had to.
That led me to pondering another father and only son…. Jesus is the beloved only Son of His Father. They have always delighted in each other’s company, they’ve never had an argument or fallen out, they love each other with a perfect love.
Yet when Jesus was bullied, beaten up, mocked and – in a massive miscarriage of justice – hung on a cross to die, a father’s natural instincts did not kick in. You would have expected the Father to race to Him, scoop Him up in His arms and rescue Him before destroying the enemies who’d put Him there. But that didn’t happen. Instead, the Father turned out the lights of the universe and turned His back on His beloved Son.
The reason was so that Jesus’ Dad could adopt you and me as His children, and Jesus’ death was the only way that that could happen.
The Father chose not to run and rescue His hurting Son so that He could rush to deliver us in our need. In Psalm 18, it says (in poetic language) that God virtually tears apart the universe in His hurry to rescue and comfort His hurting children.
I love that I have a perfect Dad in heaven who loves me this much and who planned to adopt me even before I was born!
Posted in: Thoughts | No Comments »
I’ve sometimes thought it would be good to choose a meaningful word for the year. It seems better than making New Year’s resolutions because they usually get broken within days, if not hours, of making them. But a word should inspire and spur me on. Hopefully.
So, my word for 2014 is: FAITH.
All of my life, I’ve been shackled by fear – fear of what people think of me, fear of being rejected, fear of being attacked, fear of losing the people closest to me, fear of spiders…. to name but a few. I hadn’t realised until last summer how fearful I was, nor of how much I’d lied to myself in order to try and hide it. I didn’t know how to deal with fear, so I pushed it down deep inside, and put on an act. I did this so well that I even had myself fooled…. some of the time anyway.
Thank God He had no intention of leaving me that way. During prayer counselling last year, my fear came up time and again. As we began praying into it, small changes became evident.
Suddenly, I was comfortable going for walks in the woods and local park without constantly being afraid of someone attacking me. It sounds crazy to a rational mind, but fear often isn’t rational, and I hadn’t walked in the woods nearby since I was a teenager accompanied by the family dog, Ben. It was liberating. I felt like I could breathe. It was great.
Another change (small to anyone else, huge to me) was that I lost my fear of spiders. Ever since a hideous spider-infested holiday when I was thirteen, I’ve had a spider phobia. It got so bad in my early twenties that my family doctor arranged counselling after I almost crashed my car in panic because of a money spider dangling from the rear-view mirror. That improved things, but didn’t take away the fear. If Adrian wasn’t around to deal with an eight-legged monster in the house (anything bigger than a few millimetres was huge in my eyes), I’d put my faithful Henry vacuum on the highest suction setting, stand as far away as possible, stop breathing, and point the nozzle with sweating palms while gasping out a panicky prayer for help. But suddenly, they were just annoying insects with which I could deal without thinking about it – even the larger ones that appear in the autumn.
While thanking God for these small yet significant changes He has made in my life, I am aware that there’s a long way to go until I’m completely free of unhealthy fear. I’ve also realised that there are layers. When one layer is dealt with, there’s a lull and then God’s Spirit starts nudging me about facing the next, deeper layer.
Through all of this, I’ve been understanding in a more experiential and real way that God is my Father. Yes, Jesus’ Dad has adopted me. He chose me before He created the world. For no other reason than that He loved me and wanted me to be part of His family so that He could show me how generous and loving and glorious and wonderful He is. (And this can be real for you as well as for me!) Jesus the Son has made it possible for His Dad to adopt me by living a perfect life, dying and coming back to life. Through His death and resurrection, I can know peace with God and the peace of God, as well as hope, joy, love, security.
Beginning to understand how precious I am to God and having His Holy Spirit constantly reminding me and showing me that I am God’s adopted daughter, has lessened the hold that fear had on me. Why should I be afraid of anyone rejecting me when I know that God has completely accepted me and enjoys my company? Why should I be fearful of what people think of me when I know that God sees me as His treasure, His royal daughter?
Like I said, I still have a long way to go before I’m completely free. But God is committed to setting me free and I have faith in Him that He will finish what He has begun. Faith is the antidote to fear. Faith in this wonderful, loving God who is revealing more of Himself to me, giving me a security I never knew existed. It would be an insult not to have faith in Him, and my heart’s desire is for my faith in Him to grow until I overflow, not with fear but, with thankfulness.
PS I’ll let you into a secret: I was paralysed with fear at the thought of writing this post. I knew I had to write it and got as far as switching on my laptop, but then procrastinated by checking Facebook, Twitter, email, making a cup of tea…. You get the idea. But since faith is my word for 2014, I determined to face fear head-on and go for it!
Happy New Year!
Posted in: One Word 365 | 4 Comments »
It’s like the Queen leaving Parliament,
To come to tea with me.
It’s like the music of all the world
Crammed onto a single CD.
Can you imagine a mountain range
squeezed down to a grain of sand?
Or an ocean poured into a rain-drop?
Fort Knox reduced to a gold-band?
It’s like a galaxy of spinning stars
spun down to a single flame,
It’s like the greatest book in all the world
Contained in a single name.
It’s bigger than that and smaller than that,
It’s the Creator condensed to earth,
It’s the Power and Peace and Promise of God
Fulfilled in this human birth.
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