Let the Nations Be Glad by John Piper–Book Review

This book review was written by Barbara M., one of our Fanning the Flame team members and presented at our last meeting.

Part 1 discusses making God supreme in missions through worship, prayer and suffering.  He discusses missions not being the ultimate goal of the church — worship is because God is ultimate, not man. When the redeemed fall on their faces before the throne of God, missions will be no more. It is a temporary necessity, but worship abides forever. He uses a lot of Biblical texts to “back up” his statements and he uses many statements to make his point.

Part 2 discusses making God supreme in missions — the necessity and nature of the task.  The supremacy of Christ as the conscious focus of all saving faith and the supremacy of God among all the nations is the focus of this section, which also has many Biblical texts to back up his statements.  Emphasis is made regarding reaching all the nations.

Part 3 discusses making God supreme in missions –the practical outworking of compassion and worship.  Piper says that Jonathan Edwards (18th century pastor and theologian) impacted his thinking regarding worship and missions “so much it is incalculable.”  He says if by the mercy of God, Christ becomes the treasure of the nations and God becomes their delight, then He is honored and we are saved — the goal of missions.  Therefore the twofold motive of missions, mercy for man and glory for God, is one coherent goal.  Also discussed was the inner simplicity and outer freedom of world wide worship.

There is a four page conclusion and then an “afterword” by Tom Sellar, Pastor for Leadership Development, Bethlehem Baptist and Dean of Bethlehem College and Seminary.  Some of the above descriptions of the book are taken in part of whole from the book itself.


Extravagant Love

“When one of the Pharisees invited Jesus to have dinner with him, he went to the Pharisee’s house and reclined at the table.  A woman in that town who lived a sinful life learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee’s house, so she came there with an alabaster jar of perfume.  As she stood behind him at this feet weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears.  Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them.”  Luke 7:36-38

These verses were part of our Sunday School lesson last week.  The point of the study was that we are not only to love Jesus, but to love him extravagantly, like the sinful woman in the story.  The Pharisee was offended by the woman’s actions.  He thought to himself,

“If this man were a prophet, he would know who was touching him and what kind of woman she is –that she is a sinner.”  Luke 39

He didn’t realize that he also was a sinner, and in need of God’s mercy and forgiveness.  No matter how “good” we are, we fall far short of God’s standards.

Some of the questions from the study were very challenging to me, so I thought I would share them here.

  • In what ways could we express extravagant devotion to Jesus today?

Those in class listed things like prayer and helping others.  However, if the key word is extravagant, then shouldn’t we not only pray, but pray constantly and fervently?  Shouldn’t we not just give to the church and to the needy, but give sacrificially?

  • With whom do you relate more: Simon the Pharisee, who knows the Bible and is very active for God, or this woman, who is recklessly abandoned to love Him?  Explain.

Most of us wanted to say we fell somewhere in between.  This is a hedging way of saying, we’re not really there yet.  In honesty, we probably fall closer to the Pharisee on the spectrum of devotion to Jesus.  This is something we need to admit and work on.

What about you, dear reader?  Is your love for your Lord and Savior extravagant?

Letters to an American Christian – Book Review

If you’ve ever wondered how Christians should navigate and react to political situations this is the book for you.  Bruce Riley Ashford, who is a Dean of Faculty at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, will help you through all the confusing rhetoric that is being spewed by politicians in Washington D.C.

The book is separated into three parts: A Christian View of Politics and Public Life, A Christian View on Hot-Button Issues and A Christian Hope for American Politics.  Each section has many chapters that are actually written like a letter to a political science undergraduate named Christian.  By writing in this format, Bruce Riley Ashford has kept the tone of the subject matter light and easy to read.   He covers many topics that are in the news today like abortion, gay rights and same sex marriage, free speech, religious liberty and Second Amendment rights, only to mention a few.

The first section, A Christian View of Politics and Public Life, explores the relationship between Christians and government and he also explains the separation of Church and State.  The second section goes over the top hot-button topics of the day that I listed above.  This section really helped me form and solidify my opinions on these topics.  Section three is about being a Christian Witness in the world and how to effect the culture around us.

I took a long time reading this book because I really wanted to soak in what the author was saying.  I can get very confused with all of the political rhetoric out there.  I’m interested in what happens in the “public square”, but back away when the yelling starts.  This book really helped me sort out the issues and learn how to, perhaps, join my voice with others.

I’m giving this book five stars.  If you are interested in the public forum, but can’t make sense of it all, and not sure where a christian should stand, this is the book for you.


Letters to an American Christian

The Lutheran Ladies received a free copy of this book in return for an honest and fair review – Disclaimer pursuant to FTC 16 CFR Part 255

To God Be the Glory

“Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven. ”  Matthew 6:1

This verse was part of the sermon text last Sunday.  Is the point that we should always hide our good deeds, doing them only in secret?  Well, that can’t be the case because it contradicts another verse in Matthew 5:16:

“In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”

The point, as always goes to what is in your heart, your motivation.  When we do good deeds, if our heart is in the right place, we do not want to be recognized as a “good person,”  we want God to be recognized as our good and gracious Father.  This lively hymn by Fanny Crosby expresses it well.

Joan’s Pet Peeve

Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving.  Ephesians 5:4

Well, a while back Beth Ann wrote about one of her pet peeves, so I thought today I’d tell you about one of mine.  My husband and I went to a local dinner theater production last night.  It was a musical.  The amateur performers were quite good, and I enjoyed the singing.  Unfortunately, I can’t say the same about the dialogue.  Obscenities and coarse joking were definitely part of the fare.  In my mind, this language detracted from the entire performance.

Possibly, in the minds of many, this makes me a prude, or at best an up-tight English major, obessessed with “proper” language, but I don’t think that’s the case.   I understand that we are human and we sin.  Inappropriate words have certainly crossed my mind, and even come out of my mouth on occasion — generally when I’m particularly frustrated or in pain.  I ask for forgiveness and move on.  It happens.  What I am wondering is, when did it become normal, and even amusing to curse, swear and use bad language in front of anyone and everyone?  Why aren’t we complaining when this happens?  When did it become something we simply have to tolerate?  The Bible obviously teaches this is a wrongful use of the tongue.

Here’s another example.  I was sitting in our car, in a parking lot with my granddaughter, who was a young teenager at the time.  A young man walked by, cell phone to his ear.  It seemed as if every other word was an obscenity.  He wasn’t angry, he wasn’t agitated — this was evidently just the way he communicated with others.  I wanted to say that I didn’t appreciate hearing that language, especially in front of a young person, but I didn’t.  I suppose I was afraid of creating a “scene.”

So, I’m asking you readers, what should we do?  Should we speak up (hopefully with gentleness and respect) or should we keep silent?  Should boycott movies, shows and other performances that offend our ears?  Or should we quietly tolerate them because this is just the way things are?

Does this qualify as a rant?  Maybe so– but I’d really like to see some other opinions!


Advice From E. B. Pusey

E. B. Pusey was an Anglican churchman whom I’ve quoted before.  Today in my morning devotions, I read his advice on how to lead a contented life:

If we wished to gain contentment, we might try such rules as theses:

  1. Allow thyself to complain of nothing, not even the weather
  2. Never picture thyself under any circumstances in which thou art not
  3. Never compare thine own lot with that of another
  4. Never allow thyself to dwell on the wish that this or that had been, or were, otherwise than it was, or is.  God Almighty loves thee better and more wisely than thou dost thyself.
  5. Never dwell on the morrow.  Remember that it is God’s not thine.  The heaviest  part of sorrow is to look forward to it.  “The Lord will provide.”

“…I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.”  Philippians 4:11

Work and Contemplation by Elizabeth Barrett Browning

The woman singeth at her spinning-wheel
A pleasant chant, ballad or barcarole;
She thinketh of her song, upon the whole,
Far more than of her flax; and yet the reel
Is full, and artfully her fingers feel
With quick adjustment, provident control,
The lines–too subtly twisted to unroll–
Out to a perfect thread. I hence appeal
To the dear Christian Church–that we may do
Our Father’s business in these temples mirk,
Thus swift and steadfast, thus intent and strong;
While thus, apart from toil, our souls pursue
Some high calm spheric tune, and prove our work
The better for the sweetness of our song.

Ok, I haven’t had an English major moment for a while, but here is one.  In this poem, Elizabeth Barrett Browning is telling us that we can do our work here on this earth, while at the same time, contemplating what is to come, and what, in fact, already is in Christ Jesus.  Life becomes so much easier when we are focused on the right things.  I’m reminded of this verse from 2 Corinthians:

“So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” 2 Corinthians 4:18


A Quote from Martin Luther

” ‘REST IN THE LORD;  WAIT PATIENTLY FOR HIM.’  In Hebrew, ‘be silent to God, and let Him mould thee.’  Keep still, and He will mould thee to the right shape.”

Martin Luther

Unplanned by Abby Johnson–Book Review

If you don’t have time for any other book this year, read this one.  I seriously had trouble putting it down once I started.  Abby Johnson is completely honest and vulnerable in describing her journey from Planned Parenthood Director to leader in the pro-life movement.  I enjoy reading about the spiritual journeys of others, and this an engrossing example.  Abby writes about her professional and personal life, including her own two abortions.

Unplanned: The Dramatic True Story of a Former Planned Parenthood Leader's Eye-Opening Journey across the Life Line by [Johnson, Abby]

Some of my personal takeaways were:

  1. Semantics matter.  It is very easy to be taken in by words that sound good, but are not completely truthful.  For example, Abby was deceived by claims that the goal of Planned Parenthood was to “decrease abortions” by providing better access and education about birth control
  2. We should not treat those who disagree with us as the enemy.  Abby was won over by the genuine concern and love of pro-life workers, not by being badgered.  She also know many Planned Parenthood workers who truly cared about the health of women, and who worked to do good in their communities
  3. Prayer is meaningful and we should not give up.  People prayed for Abby for many years before her eyes were opened to the truth.  Pray not only that abortions be prevented — pray for those who have had abortions, and for those who work in the abortion industry
  4. The saddest part of this story was the reaction of different churches Abby attended.  One church told Abby and her husband they could not be members because of her work at Planned Parenthood.  A second church told her she should leave when she quit the job to become pro-life.  We have become so polarized that even fellow Christians are unwilling to dialogue with one another about sensitive issues. We’re very quick to judge and reject others.

VERDICT:  5 STARS!  Don’t miss it!

Missions at the Local Church Level–Fanning the Flame CD

This past weekend, our Fanning the Flame team listened to a talk on CD given by Tom Cheely of Briarwood Church on the topic of missions at the local church level.

In the 12th chapter of Genesis, Abraham is told,

“all the people on earth will be blessed through you.” Gen 12:3

and in Matthew 28, Jesus instructs the disciples:

“Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.”  Matthew 28:18

The key is that the Good News is for “all nations” — it is not right to eliminate anyone in our efforts to spread the Gospel.

Here are the points Mr. Cheely made in his presentation on missions.

  1. The Pastor and lay leaders must publicly and vocally support missions in the church.  They must teach and live the work of God in the community, nation and the world.
  2. Ministry needs to be done by the church members.  If it is only the job of the Pastor, when he leaves, he will take the mission ministry of the congregation with him.
  3. There should be written policies and guidelines for ministry:  i.e. what types, times and locations of ministry will the congregation be involved in?  Without proper research and prayer, ministry will fail.  This is also a teaching tool to assist lay leaders in administering the program.
  4. There should be aggressive prayer ministry for missions.  God responds to us when we pray for his guidance.
  5. Ministry has a cost.  This can be a line item in the budget, a specific percentage of collections (both of these approaches are limiting) or it can be faith promised giving, leaving the results in the hands of God.  It may mean an adjustment in lifestyle for individuals:   for example, examining whether the things we do are always essential or necessary, or it may mean taking a second job to earn more to give away.  Ministry also takes people.  We need to be willing to give up people in our congregation so that they can be bearers of the Word in other places.
  6. We must be conscious of the world around us, and reach out to those who are not like us.  This might involve short term mission work, across town or in another country.
  7. We must share what we’ve learned with others in order to help other congregations with ministry development and discipleship in ministry.

Above all, remember this:  MISSION OUTREACH IS NOT AN OPTION.  It is what we have been commanded to do as the Body of Christ.