Peeps!

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Hear my cry, O God, listen to my prayer; from the end of the earth I call to you when my heart is faint. Lead me to the rock that is higher than I, for you have been my refuge, a strong tower against the enemy. Let me dwell in your tent forever! Let me take refuge under the shelter of your wings! Psalm 61:1–4

Most people that I know either love or hate Peeps, those brightly colored marshmallow birds that are popular (and everywhere!) around Easter. Maybe you’ve seen them in the grocery store (and maybe you’ve noticed that they keep coming up with new flavors of Peeps). Well, the next time you despise or enjoy those marshmallow birdies, let them remind you about how good and great Jesus is. That’s what David is doing in Psalm 61.

Did you notice the progression that David records in this psalm. He starts by asking the Lord to lead him to a high rock where he can be safe from his enemies. I like the way the NET Bible translates verse 2: “Lead me up to an inaccessible rocky summit!” So David makes his way in this psalm from the inaccessible rocky summit to a tower to a tent and finally under the shelter of God’s wings.

David, it seems, is moving from the safest place to a very fragile place; from the high inaccessible rocky summit to the “safety” under a pair of wings. The world, of course, would laugh at finding safety under a pair of “wings.” But the safest place is not a high rocky peak that your enemies cannot get to. The safest place is under God’s sheltering, protective wings.

Because of Jesus, God welcomes us into His personal care, like chicks under the wings of a mother bird. Now, notice the contrast: in God’s presence we have no right to come on our own merit into His tent, into His presence, but as “chicks” we have a “birth-right” to be under our mother’s wings. We have no right and no righteousness of our own to gain access into God’s presence. But when we trust in Jesus, when we are adopted into God’s family, we have every right to be there. We now have a “birth-right” to be under God’s wings. It’s where we belong and where we are most safe.

Alec Motyer is very helpful here. He says, “Loveliest of all, in our tinyness and insignificance, try being a day old chick and run to the sheltering wings.” We are tiny. We are weak. We are like day-old chicks. We’re Peeps.

That bothers us because, if we’re honest, we are allergic to weakness. But weakness is the channel that allows you and I access to God’s grace and peace. The Gospel uses your weakness as the door to God’s grace. Being helpless is what connects you to Jesus. Weakness opens the door to see Jesus. Weakness is what connects you to Jesus. Neediness is what qualifies us. The thing that we hate- weakness, helplessness- is what gets us in to Jesus!

That’s the sweet spot in life and ministry (2 Corinthians 12:9-10). Realizing just how weak, needy, and dependent you are. It seems like a scary place to be, but it is reality. It’s where we are, whether we admit it or not. That’s who we are: day old chicks scampering about and running to the wings that provide us shelter. We’re just little chicks, little Peeps.

So when you see those brightly colored marshmallow Peeps this year, be reminded that they are a picture of you! Weak, but safe.

– Benji

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The Angel of the Lord in a Mobile Home

The angel of the LORD encamps around those who fear him, and delivers them. Psalm 34:7

 

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The context of Psalm 34, according to the prescript, is this: Of David, when he changed his behavior before Abimelech, so that he drove him out, and he went away. But David never directly mentions this event in Psalm 34!

 

So David apparently wrote this psalm sometime after the events that occurred in 1 Samuel 21. Do you remember the story? David had no weapons and was given Goliath’s sword (which was apparently in storage). And David shows up at Gath, home of King Achish, with a skeleton crew of men and with Goliath’s sword in hand, but the people there mock him. This of course throws David into a panic and he’s now scared. So what does he do? He acts like he’s crazy! David begins to act like he’s lost his marbles and he begins drooling all over his beard and he starts to spray paint graffiti all over the doors of Achish’s home. Because of this, his life is spared and he flees to a cave. When others hear that David is camping at the cave of Adullam, 400 men show up! So he goes from a rag-tag group of misfits to 400+ men.

 

Alec Motyer suggests that as David recounts this “crazy man” story to these 400 men, it suddenly dawns on him that there is more to the story. David may have acted crazy and survived, but underneath it all, it was Yahweh who was with David and who delivered him. So Psalm 34 is the song that David probably slipped away and wrote after telling his “crazy man” story to his friends in the cave. And it’s in Psalm 34 that David highlights how Yahweh delivers His people. It’s Yahweh who lives, or encamps, among His people (“encamps” is emphatic in the Hebrew).

 

Alec Motyer says, “…and the LORD in effect said: If you are camping, I want to camp too!.. Look at Psalm 34:7, the Angel of the LORD in a mobile home so that he is always free to move with his people. The homeliness of Yahweh taking an earthly address, and the intimacy of His actually coming to live among His people, must never degenerate into casualness… The LORD automatically identifies with those overwhelmed by life’s sorrows. He’s close… a ‘next-of-kin’ relationship, not just being near at hand but actively making our woes His own.”

 

Psalm 34 is all about how God can’t get close enough to His people! He is near: The LORD is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit. Psalm 34:18

 

The Hebrew word for near is used in the book of Ruth to describe Boaz (Ruth 2:20; 3:12) who is the “next-of-kin,” the one whose right it is to take on himself all the needs of his troubled relative. That means that Jesus is our “next-of-kin” who takes all of our troubles as His own. Think about that! Whatever is troubling you today, Jesus is “near” and He takes that on Himself. Your need becomes His need. He is actively making your woes His woes. His mobile home is parked in your driveway.

 

That ought to be enough truth to get you through what you’re going through today.

 

– Benji

I Love You, Billy

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So receive him in the Lord with all joy, and honor such men… Philippians 2:29

 

I love Billy Graham. He is one reason why I am a pastor. He’s been a part of my upbringing since I was a young boy. My dad became a Christian after watching a Billy Graham Crusade and our home changed after that. I remember the following Sunday very well because my dad barged into our room and said, “Get up, boys. We’re going to church!” And we did. From that day on.

 

My dad began buying Billy’s books and we were always receiving mail from his ministry. We had hundreds of these pamphlets that I would read and re-read. And, of course, we received our Decision magazine every month and they began piling up on the side of our couch. I think I read every edition of Decision in the 80’s.

 

I can still hear Billy’s North Carolina accent saying, “The Bible says…” He said that all the time! “The Bible says…” “The Bible says…” As I watched numerous crusades growing up, I was learning the importance of God’s word. It has authority. The man with the Southern accent drilled that into me. Here’s what Billy said about God’s word-

 

“The Bible was written by 40 writers, over a period of 1,600 years, in 66 books. And the great theme from one end of the Bible to the other is redemption—God’s love for the human race and God redeeming man and bringing man back to Himself after man had rebelled against God. That’s what the Bible is all about.”

 

He’s right. The Bible’s great theme from one end to another is God’s overwhelming love for sinners. Redemption. That is what the Bible is all about. And Billy preached the same thing over and over and over again. He said-

 

“I’m not a great preacher, and I don’t claim to be a great preacher . . . I’m an ordinary preacher, just communicating the Gospel in the best way I know how… During all my years as an evangelist, my message has always been the Gospel of Christ.”

 

Terry Taylor of the 80’s Christian band The Swirling Eddies wrote a song about him, simply titled “Billy Graham.” Taylor wrote the song to honor Billy, who stood in stark contrast to the televangelist scandals that rocked the church in the 1980’s. Taylor and Gene Eugene sing-

 

I don’t know about those other guys


There’s something in the back of their eyes


But Billy, you’re the man who don’t use slight of hand


Ain’t wearing no disguise


I love you, Billy

I love the simple things you say


And you never seem to get in the way


No one is quite like you


Compassionate and true


“Just as I am,” I say 
I love you, Billy

 

Terry Taylor said this about him-

 

 “I always felt that Billy was the real deal. At heart he’s a simple country preacher who has always been willing to admit he’s made some mistakes and doesn’t have all the theological answers. I have to go elsewhere for more weighty stuff, but Graham is The Man when it comes to a powerful, no-frills presentation of the simple gospel message.”

 

You don’t have to have all the theological answers. Just get out of the way and present a no-frills simple Gospel message and Jesus will draw sinners to Himself. I learned that from a country preacher with a Southern accent.

 

I love you, Billy.

 

– Pastor Benji

Gospel Fluency Handbook

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I’ve been to Ghana, West Africa four times on mission trips and I still don’t know any of the languages. I remember a few phrases like “How are you?” and I know how to answer that question in the Twi language with, “By God’s grace, I am well.” But that’s about it. I am nowhere near being fluent in the Twi language after 4 trips. Can you believe that? What a loser! It’s silly to think that I could become fluent in any language after 4 trips.

I like to think that I’m fluent in the English language, but having teenagers in my house proves that I’m not. The English language is always changing and adding new phrases that it’s hard to keep up. And the teens in my house like to remind me that I’m out of touch with what’s happening in the world.

Being fluent in the Twi language would go a long way in helping me if I was in Ghana. And being fluent with current slang words might help me better communicate with my kids, like if we’re listening to a Lecrae song and I reply with, “That beat tho!”

But before I better my understanding of West African languages or master every word on Urban Dictionary, I need to be more fluent in the Gospel. And Jeff Vanderstelt and Ben Connelly have written a few resources that have helped me and I believe will help all Christians become more fluent in the Gospel.

Gospel Fluency: Speaking the Truths of Jesus into the Everyday Stuff of Life

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Gospel Fluency Handbook: A Practical Guide to Speaking the Truths of Jesus into the Everyday Stuff of Life

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While the Gospel Fluency Handbook was written to accompany the Gospel Fluency book, it can be used without the book as content from the book is summarized in the handbook. Here are a few quotes from Gospel Fluency to whet your appetite:

We need the gospel and we need to become gospel-fluent people. We need to know how to believe and speak the truths of the gospel— the good news of God— in and into the everyday stuff of life. In other words, we need to know how to address the struggles of life and the everyday activities we engage in with what is true of Jesus: the truths of what he accomplished through his life, death, and resurrection, and, as a result, what is true of us as we put our faith in him. The gospel has the power to affect everything in our lives. (p. 23)

Most believers have become gospel-snippet people, who speak gospel catchphrases. They’re speaking gospelish, but not the actual gospel in a way people can hear and believe. (p. 39)

People need heart change— not just once, but over and over again, because their love grows cold. People need to be deeply affected by the incredible news of Jesus on a daily basis. What affects you greatly creates in you great affections. And those affections lead you to express verbally and physically what you love most, because you talk about what you love. Furthermore, you love what you talk about. And we all talk about what most affects us— what most powerfully works to create change in our lives. (p. 94)

We can all slip in and out of believing the good news of the Gospel. And we all have areas in our lives where we need the Gospel. On one of his podcasts, Paul Zahl said this about the late pastor and theologian J.C. Ryle.-

“Yet like many spiritual people, there were still ‘unevangelized dark continents’ inside him.” (PZ Podcast, Episode 108: J.C. Ryle Considered)

You see, no matter how much you have grown as a Christian, no matter how long you have been a Christian, there are still “unevangelized dark continents” inside every one of us. There are places in our hearts where the light of the Gospel is still needed. There are places in our hearts and minds where the radiance of the glory of God has not penetrated. There are places in our hearts and minds where the love of God has not penetrated. There are places, territories, dark continents that need to be blasted with the Gospel.

That’s where the Gospel Fluency book and handbook are helpful. The Gospel Fluency Handbook is an 8 week study designed for small groups, classes, etc that help identify those “unevangelized dark continents” in all of us. Each week’s chapter includes 3 weekly readings followed by reflection questions to be read between meetings. Then, when your group meets, there are group discussion questions and a group exercise.

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Jeff Vanderstelt said-

“I struggle with unbelief on a daily basis. I slip in and out of believing God’s word about me and trusting in his work for me. Jesus gave his life to make me a new creation. He died to forgive me of my sins and change my identity from sinner to saint, from failure to faithful, and from bad to good and even righteous and holy. However, I forget what He has said about me. I forget what He has done for me. Sometimes it isn’t forgetfulness. Sometimes it’s just plain unbelief. I know these things. I just don’t believe them. I am an unbeliever. Not every moment, of course, but I have those moments. So does everyone. I’m certain of it.”

And because we all slip in and out of believing God’s promises, then it would behoove us to read Gospel Fluency and go through the Gospel Fluency Handbook with some friends. Who doesn’t want to be more fluent in the Gospel? Who doesn’t want more peace? Who doesn’t want all that God has for us in His Son Jesus? It would be foolish for any Christian to spend their days and not be fluent in the good news that has saved them.

But what does it mean to “be fluent” in the Gospel? Here’s how the authors Jeff and Ben answer that question:

Jeff: When I think about fluency I think about unconscious competence. I am answering this question in English not consciously trying to think through a vocabulary list or stumbling over how to put together thoughts. I am fluent in English. To be fluent in the gospel is to know it so well it becomes like a mother tongue. I am able to filter all of life through the truths of the gospel and am readily able to speak those truths into any situation or struggle we are facing at any time.

Ben: As with any other use of the term “fluency,” gospel fluency is a growing ability to see all of life and consider the many situations in our day-to-day through the lens of the promises of God and the good news of Jesus. Just like learning a new language, most of us start with an unawareness of how the gospel can apply to the hard and mundane aspects of daily life and conversation; in this way, the gospel is “unnatural” to us. As we rehearse basic truths of the gospel, as we practice different disciplines and as we ask God to give us more and more knowledge of Himself, His promises and His truth, the hope is the gospel becomes more and more “natural” and automatic.

Are you wanting to become more fluent in the Gospel? Then I cannot recommend these resources enough. Heck, after going through the Gospel Fluency Handbook, you might look at your small group or Bible study class and say, “That book tho!”

Why? Because these resources will remind you of Jesus. And isn’t that what you’re looking for in a good book? When you finish the last chapter of a book, don’t you want to walk away believing what Jesus said, “It is finished”? You might even respond like the apostle Paul and say,

To the King of the ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen. 1 Timothy 1:17

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To learn more about these resources, please visit:

https://saturatetheworld.com/resource/gospel-fluency-handbook/

http://litfusegroup.com/books/gospel-fluency-handbook

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Follow the conversation on Twitter:

@litfuse

@saturateworld

@JeffVanderstelt

@connellyben

* I was given a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for writing this review.

 

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A Small Book About A Big Problem: Meditations On Anger, Patience, and Peace

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There’s a line in one of my favorite songs (“Pitseleh”) by the late Elliott Smith that goes like this:

 

I’m not half what I wish I was

I’m so angry

I don’t think it’ll ever pass

And I was bad news for you just because


I never meant to hurt you

 

As I read Ed Welch’s new book A Small Book about a Big Problem: Meditations on Anger, Patience, and Peace, I thought a lot about these lyrics. They are true of me. I’m not half the man that I wish I was because I still struggle with anger. I wish that I didn’t, but I do. And there are days when I get so angry that I don’t think it will ever pass (I have 6 kids, does that get me off the hook?). And because I still struggle with anger, I can be “bad news” for those closest to me, even though I never mean to hurt anyone with my words.

 

So I am going to assume that you struggle with anger too. Every human being does. As Ed says on page 1, “To be human is to get angry.” Some of us explode and the whole world sees it when we get angry. Just as Elliott Smith sings in another song (“Bottle Up and Explode!)-

 

Bottle up and explode over and over

Keep the troublemaker below

Put it away and check out for the day

In for a round of overexposure

 

Some of us try to bury our anger deep inside but we soon realize that anger is pretty good at resurrection. And when it finally gets released, we’re in for a round of overexposure as our hearts are revealed to all the people in our warpath.

 

And then some of us bury our anger so deep that we think it will never get out. But it does. Not with explosions. It seeps out in subtle ways, subtle comments. So the bottom line is that every human being struggles with anger, whether you’re good with a shovel or lighting fireworks. And as this little book points out, anger destroys. That alone should be reason for you to pick this book up. We may not mean to hurt others, but our anger does.

 

If anger has its way, it will lead to murder. Puritan pastor and theologian John Owen said something like this over 300 years ago:

 

Sin aims always at the utmost; every time it rises up to tempt or entice, if it has its own way it will go out to the utmost sin in that kind. Every unclean thought or glance would be adultery if it could, every thought of unbelief would be atheism if allowed to develop. Every rise of lust, if it has its way reaches the height of villainy; it is like the grave that is never satisfied. The deceitfulness of sin is seen in that it is modest in its first proposals but when it prevails it hardens mens’ hearts, and brings them to ruin.

 

Every sin wants to go to its utmost, so if anger could have its way, it would grow up and become murder. What does anger want to be when it grows up? MURDER. And that means that there’s a murderer inside everyone one of us. This is exactly what Billy Corgan of the Smashing Pumpkins sings about in their song “Disarm”-

 

The killer in me is the killer in you

 

And that’s exactly what Jesus said about all of us in Matthew 5:21-22. Listen to how Ed describes it:

 

You see where Jesus is going. Jesus has just enlarged the boundary of murder so that it includes all kinds of anger… Jesus is putting casual name-calling within those same murderous boundaries… Welcome to the band of murderers. Why is Jesus so hard-hitting on this? Anger destroys. Jesus wants life for us all. And we can’t turn toward life until we see the murderer who lurks within. Try this identity: murderer. p.18-19

 

Ouch.

 

I’ll be honest with you. This book comes out swinging. Ed pulls no punches, in fact many times the words would leap off the page and punch me in the gut. The Biblical word for this is conviction. It’s the loving ministry of the Holy Spirit. But I trust Ed, as I’ve benefited from his books and articles through the years, so I let him get in a few shots knowing that he did not desire to hurt me with what he was saying. His goal is healing. And I need that.

 

In a way, this book does what it is supposed to do. It follows that wonderful pattern of law and then Gospel. Ed shows us our sinfulness and then he points us to our Savior. So if you struggle swallowing the bad news, hang in there ‘cause the good news is on its way and it goes down easy.

 

Here are a few quotes that really stuck with me:

 

A definition of anger includes this: anger specializes in indicting others but is unskilled at both self-indictment and love. p.11

 

Wisdom is anger’s opposite. p. 26

 

Anger is not something that comes upon us when an offence is committed. Anger is already in us. In its embryonic from we call it desire… anger is in us. It just takes the right occasion to bring it out… Anger comes from within, and the stuff is rancid. p.29

 

Anger lodges in us. It comes home, kicks off its shoes, plants itself in front of the TV, and expects to stay. It doesn’t even look at you when you tell it to leave. p. 35

 

…humility is not owed anything. p. 61

 

God’s kingdom is the world’s opposite. It runs on humility. p. 66

 

Asking forgiveness is anger’s opposite. p. 75

 

Psalms is the longest book in Scripture. Its basic message is: talk to the Lord. p. 84

 

Anger looks like Satan… and it summons him. p.87

 

Wow! Isn’t that last one good? I could add plenty more but I want to whet your appetite so you’ll go and pick this book up.

 

I highly recommend this book. These 50 short, daily devotions are as short as your fuse and they will help turn your eyes away from you and your little kingdom. And by the time you get to the end of the book, you’ll love Jesus more and hate sin more. Who doesn’t want that?

 

One thing that I truly love about this book is the way that Ed Welch writes. He uses clever turns of phrases that catch your attention and make you look at truth from a different angle. His own words are like “mini-Proverbs” and would easily fit into your status updates, tweets, etc. I love that about this book. Certain phrases and sentences made me put the book down and think about a concept for an extended period of time. To me, that makes for a great book. Good books make you stop and reflect. And Ed does not disappoint with A Small Book About A Big Problem.

 

But what I want more than anything in a good theological book is to see Jesus again and to love Him more. I want to put the book down knowing that He will never leave me nor forsake me, even though I still struggle with sin. This small book about a big problem does just that. It diagnoses the problem of anger but then points you to your Redeemer so you can have hope. Ed reminds us that anger does not have the last word over our lives. Jesus does. Mercy does.

 

Sometimes I don’t believe that mercy has the last word over my life. I’m a pastor and I still get angry and I think that my identity is wrapped up in my sin and failures. Some days I think the thesaurus should include my picture alongside these words:

 

lose one’s temper, become enraged, go into a rage, go berserk, flare up; INFORMAL go crazy, go bananas, hit the roof, go through the roof, go up the wall, see red, go off the deep end, fly off the handle, blow one’s top, blow a fuse/gasket, flip out, have a fit, foam at the mouth, explode, go ballistic, go postal, flip one’s wig, blow one’s stack, have a conniption.

 

Some days I feel like my picture belongs with those words. Maybe you do too? If you’re a disciple of Jesus and you feel like the previous words are your identity, let me comfort you now and let you know that this is the banner that hangs over your life:

 

Jesus can’t remember your sins.

 

Jesus can’t remember your sins (Hebrews 8:12). He can’t remember your anger. Because you are in union with Him, He can’t remember all those times when you blew your stack and flew off the handle and went bananas. That’s good news. So walk in that freedom today. And then walk or drive or fly to the nearest store and pick this book up. Or, you can order below.

 

To learn more about Ed or to purchase his book:

 

http://stores.newgrowthpress.com/a-small-book-about-a-big-problem/

 

http://litfusegroup.com/author/ewelch

 

Follow the conversation on Twitter:

 

@litfuse

 

@NewGrowthPress

 

@ccef

 

* I was given a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for writing this review.

Think Again: Relief From The Burden of Introspection

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Honest confession: I can be morbidly introspective. My devotional times, my prayer times- pretty much any time, you will find me being morbidly introspective. I often rehearse the day and all of my shortcomings and how I failed. I obsess over words that I said or didn’t say, I obsess over what others think of me, I obsess over how things might have been different had I acted different. It’s really sad, actually. And I’m a pastor! But I’m sure none of you struggle with this, right?

 

Well, I have good news for you if you do. If your self-examination turns into a cross-examination and you always end up hearing a guilty verdict, then I’ve got some good news for you. Actually, Jared Mellinger does in his new book, Think Again: Relief From The Burden Of Introspection.

 

I was thrilled to see that this book was coming out and very happy to review it here on my blog because this is a real struggle of mine. And Jared does not disappoint. He helps people see how paralyzing it is to live a life focused on self. He paints a wonderful picture of what true Gospel-centered freedom looks like when we focus on Jesus.

 

So if you’re a person who overdoses on introspection, then this is the rehab you’ve been looking for. If you find yourself obsessing over your looks, how people perceive you, second-guessing yourself, and replaying conversations in your head (who doesn’t do this?), then this book is for you. And in the end, Jared simply reminds you of what you already know: you need to keep your eyes on Jesus. You know that, right? Of course you do. You’ve heard the oft-cited Robert Murray McCheyne wisdom: “For every look at self, take ten looks at Christ!” We’ve all heard that quote in sermons (heck, I’ve used it in my sermons!), we’ve re-tweeted it, we’ve liked it and hearted it and all that other social media stuff. But it’s a lot harder than it looks (pun intended). It’s a lot harder to “look at Jesus 10x for every gaze at your navel” than the preachers make it out to be- take it from this preacher.

 

So why get this book? Here’s why: Think Again tells you how to do it. It tells you how to keep your eyes on Jesus. It’s full of practical, Gospel-centered reminders that will help you quit obsessing over you. For instance, chapter 10 (“Self-forgetfulness”) alone is worth the price of the book. Jared gives hands-on experience in the art of losing yourself in many areas of life like worship, love, art, sports, preaching, and work.

 

But more than a book full of “how to’s” and practical tips, Think Again keeps reminding you about Jesus. And isn’t that what you’re looking for in a good book? Don’t you want to love Jesus more as you read the very last paragraph and close the book? Don’t you want to walk away from a book and think, “I just spent time with Jesus. And I love Him more now that I’m at the end notes than I did when I read the introduction”?

 

Well, Think Again does that. I cannot recommend it enough. Here are a few quotes to whet your appetite so you’ll go out and buy this thing and then fall more in love with Jesus:

 

The antidote to excessive introspection is not to completely forget myself, but to look more to the Lord Jesus Christ, which leads to thinking rightly- and less often- about myself. (p.12)

 

The irony of identity is that a clear view of yourself comes only as you learn to look away from yourself. (p. 18)

 

What we learn is that the gospel rescues us from self-hatred and self-esteem by destroying the idol of self and replacing it with Christ. (p.31)

 

Once self is made an idol, I will either view myself as awesome or as a failure. (p. 33)

 

Self-absorption is not always loud and self-promoting; it can also look shy and insecure. It does not always come in the form of thinking of ourselves more highly than we ought. It also comes in the form of thinking of ourselves more often than we ought. (p.48)

 

One more teaser and then you need to go get this book:

 

There is something appealing about a soul that delights in the Lord, serves others gladly, laughs at the days to come, and thinks far less often about how everything relates to self. This is who God made us to be. (p.49)

 

So what are you waiting for? Go pick up a copy or two of Think Again and help Jared by groceries for his family. Sorry, I had to write that last sentence because he has 6 kids like I do, so I feel his pain. Seriously, get this book and you’ll love Jesus more by the time you get to the endnotes. And then you can go serve others gladly, and laugh, and think far less about you. After all, this is how God made you to be. Let Think Again nudge you in that direction again.

 

To learn more about Jared or to purchase his book:

http://stores.newgrowthpress.com/think-again-by-jared-mellinger/

http://litfusegroup.com/author/JMellinger

Follow the conversation on Twitter:

@litfuse

@NewGrowthPress

@JMellinger

* I was given a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for writing this review.

God’s Heart Is Like An Oven

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How can I give you up, O Ephraim? How can I hand you over, O Israel? How can I make you like Admah? How can I treat you like Zeboiim? My heart recoils within me; my compassion grows warm and tender. Hosea 11:8

I think these are some of the most beautiful words in Scripture. God’s people have continually turned away from the Lord (Hosea 11:7), and yet His heart moves toward them in compassion. Hosea tells us that Yahweh leads His people with cords of kindness:

Yet it was I who taught Ephraim to walk; I took them up by their arms, but they did not know that I healed them. I led them with cords of kindness, with the bands of love, and I became to them as one who eases the yoke on their jaws, and I bent down to them and fed them. Hosea 11:3-4

Puritan Walter Marshall said, “God does not drive you along with whips and terrors, or by the rod of the schoolmaster, the law. Rather, he leads you and draws you to walk in his ways by pleasant attractions (Hosea 11:3-4). The love of Christ…is the greatest and most pleasant attraction to encourage you to godly living (2 Cor. 5:15; Rom. 12:1).” (The Gospel Mystery of Sanctification, p. 236)

And that is exactly what is happening here. Yahweh is revealing His heart for His rebellious children so as to allure them to love Him. His heart “recoils” within in Him when His people walk away from Him. This Hebrew word (hapak) is the same word that was used to describe Yahweh “overthrowing” Sodom and Gomorrah. Interestingly, Hosea mentions 2 suburbs of Sodom and Gomorrah here: Admah and Zeboiim. I assume he does this to startle God’s people. Perhaps they thought, “Admah and Zeboiim. Where’s that again? Oh, yeah. They were suburbs of Sodom and Gomorrah, which Yahweh overthrew.” 

When we run away from Jesus, His heart is overthrown with compassion and He moves out in tenderness toward us. Yes, He disciplines us (Hebrews 12:5-11), but His knee-jerk reaction is one of kindness. After all, what leads us to repentance? The law? The whips, terrors, and threats of the law? No! His kindness leads us to repentance (Romans 2:4).

And we see His kindness here in Hosea 11 because when we run away after other lovers, Yahweh’s compassion grows warm and tender. The Hebrew word for “warm” (kamar) is used of an oven heating up (Lamentation 5:10) and also when Joseph saw his brother Benjamin for the first time after all those years (Genesis 43:30). God’s anger does not flare up when we sin, rather His compassion does! His heart heats up like an oven, not with anger, but with compassion! This is why grace is amazing.

And that amazing grace should make you want to live for Him and His glory. That’s what His kindness is designed to do. As Charles Spurgeon said-

“While I regarded God as a tyrant I thought my sin a trifle; but when I knew Him to be my Father, then I mourned that I could ever have kicked against Him. When I thought God was hard, I found it easy to sin; but when I found God so kind, so good, so overflowing with compassion, I smote upon my breast to think that I could ever have rebelled against One who loved me so, and sought my good.”

May the warm and tender heart of Jesus warm your heart for Him today.

– Benji