Pure In Heart by J. Garrett Kell–Book Review

“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.” Matthew 5:8

Author J. Garrett Kell connects this promise from the Beatitudes to the need for sexual purity, a sin he has struggled with himself. He uses real life examples to illustrate how both men and women are tempted and need help resisting the sorts of sin that our society not only tolerates, but often condones.

Pure in Heart

The first section of the book is entitled “The Promise of Purity” and deals with the basics — who God is, what He promises us, and why maintaining sexual purity is difficult. The second section, “Pathways to Purity“, offers strategies for pursuing purity and resisting temptation. The author emphasizes that there is no quick-fix– this is a lifelong process.

There is an appendix with discussion questions, so the book could easily be used in a small group setting. There is also a section with suggestions for those who need help with this issue right now. It would be a good resource for pastors to have on hand.

This book is basic and biblical. If you are familiar with the Scriptures there are no surprises. Like other sins, sexual temptations need to be faced and confessed. We should avoid or flee from situations that are problematic and seek support and prayer from Christian friends. Ultimately, we must rely upon the strength of God.

VERDICT: 3 STARS. While there is nothing wrong with this book, the examples given were addressed in a superficial way. I also believe that being “pure in heart” encompasses so much more than sexual purity.

If you would like to purchase this book follow the link below:

https://www.crossway.org/books/pure-in-heart-tpb/

The Lutheran Ladies received a free e-copy of this book in return for a fair and honest review. Disclaimer pursuant to FTC 16 CPR 255.

For more about resisting sexual sin see these posts:

Respectable Sins by Jerry Bridges–Book Review

real sex — Book Review

Gay Girl, Good God — Book Review

the good life by Dr. Derwin L. Gray–Book Review

Everyone is looking for happiness.  Did you know that in 2008 four thousand books were written on this topic?  Yet, true happiness is elusive.  As author Derwin Gray puts it:

“Trying to find lasting happiness is like chasing your shadow;  what starts as childish fun erodes into adult frustration, failure and disappointment.”

In this book, subtitled What Jesus Teaches About Finding True Happiness, Dr. Gray takes an in depth look at the Beatitudes, which he sees as a description of how God’s people should live here on earth.  Jesus was inviting people to be happy by joining their lives to His and participating in His kingdom through the power of the Holy Spirit.

“The deeper we immerse ourselves in Jesus and his kingdom, the more we are supernaturally sculpted into his image, and the happier we will become.”

True and lasting happiness is not about satisfying our every desire, or having only good things happen to us.  It’s about being good and becoming more and more like Christ.  It’s about being grounded in the eternal instead of the temporary.  This is living the good life.

Each chapter is followed by a prayer, reflection questions and a recap of the main points covered.  It could easily be used in a small group setting.  The Beatitudes are rich fodder for comparing our individual lives to the Christian ideal.  It will encourage reflection and self-examination.  You will ask yourself many Difficult Questions.

VERDICT:  4 STARS.  A study that is both readable and challenging.

If you would like to purchase this book, follow the link below:

https://www.lifeway.com/en/product/the-good-life-P005822388

The Lutheran Ladies received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review.  Disclaimer pursuant to FTC 16 CFR part 255.

For more on the Beatitudes see:

Peacemaker or Peacekeeper?

Bonhoeffer on Peacemaking

Hungry for What?

 

Difficult Questions

I don’t know about anyone else, but it seems to me that the further I travel along the Christian path, the more difficult the questions I have to ask myself become.  In a previous blog, I wrote about the diaries of Dorothy Day–Duty of Delight (the Diaries of Dorothy Day) edited by Robert Ellsberg –Book Review.  I found myself convicted by her statement that we love God only as much as that person we like the least.  How much is that if I am truly honest?

Currently I’m reading a book by Dr. Derwin L. Gray entitled, The Good Life.  (You’ll be seeing a review of it shortly).  It focuses on the beatitudes.  Here are some questions he poses in his section on mercy:

  • Who is your greatest enemy?
  • Who has hurt you the most?
  • How do you feel about those who are on the opposite end of the political spectrum from your position?
  • What people group of a different ethnicity or socioeconomic status do you hold ill will toward?

And then of course, the big question — if God loved me and offered me forgiveness, reconciliation and mercy when I was His enemy, How can I not do likewise?  Consider these verses from the book of Romans:

“For if, while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, then how much more, having been reconciled, will we be saved by his life.”  Romans 5:10

Is this easy?  Of course not.  It’s not easy to put aside fear of those who are different, to forgive the person who hurt you, to show mercy to someone who harmed you.  But going to the cross wasn’t easy for Jesus, either.  However, that’s exactly what we’re called to do.  To love others, not just in word, but in deed.  Not necessarily the warm, fuzzy feeling of love that comes and goes, but the charitable love that is patient, compassionate and thinks the best of others. (Charity = Love)

Sounds good, but how do we do this in practical terms? The Bible tells us to pray for our enemies — so pray.  Not just for enemies in general, but that particular person you feel unable to tolerate.  Pray not that they will change, but that things will go well for them.  We’re also called to do good to those who harm us.  In other words, get to know them, and let them know you.  Their perspective may change, and so may yours.

Well, I’ve talked long enough and now I’d like to hear from some of you, readers and authors.  What are the difficult questions you’re struggling with?

 

 

 

 

Peacemaker or Peacekeeper?

We all know that as Christians, we are to be peacemakers, don’t we?  After all, as Jesus taught in the Beatitudes:

“Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called children of God”  Matthew 5:9

However, I’ve always been a bit puzzled by this exhortation from 1 Peter:

“They must turn from evil and do good; they must seek peace and pursue it.” 1 Peter 3:11

 

How do you pursue peace?  The word “peace” makes us think “passive”  while “pursue” is active.  How do those two ideas mesh together?  Doesn’t being “peaceful” or peace-loving” simply mean abstaining from conflict?  Keeping our controversial opinions to ourselves?   Allowing others to have their way?

Well, there’s a time and place for those things.  We’re called to be forgiving, and if possible, Unoffendable.  We should look for the best in others, and let go of petty irritations.  However, a book I am currently reading (for all who wander by Robin Dance–I’ll be reviewing it later) has opened my eyes to the difference between peacemakers and peacekeepers.  We can keep the peace (often falsely) by avoiding, or we can find true peace by engaging.

Often we settle for “keeping the peace” when something upsets us by staying quiet or deciding to avoid the “offender.”  True reconciliation is found when we “pursue peace” by talking it out and trying to understand the person with whom we disagree.  In her book, Robin tells a personal story of a person who called her about a remark she had made — this person found that Robin did not mean the statement in the way she understood it.  Problem solved!  Peace was made.  If Robin’s friend had not decided to pursue peace, the situation could have festered, resulting in a broken relationship or worse.

Of course, in making peace, we should not approach one another confrontationally, or with anger.  We should keep an open mind, willing to listen and understand.  If we are in the wrong, we must do what we can to apologize and make things right.

God, through his Son, Jesus, is the ultimate peacemaker.  Instead of leaving us in our sins, He confronted the separation between us, doing all that was necessary for reconciliation.  If we are indeed His children, we must follow His example.  So, actively pursue peace — don’t just keep the peace, make peace!

 

 

 

Bonhoeffer on Peacemaking

This is one of the beatitudes we can easily understand. Peace is a blessing and something that we all long for. However, peacemaking is not easy, as we have to renounce our own will and replace it with the will of God.  We all want peace, but do we want to make peace?

Blessed to Mourn?

“Blessed are those that mourn, for they shall be comforted.”  Matthew 5:4

Blessed means exceedingly happy, and it’s hard to imagine anyone being happy during a time of mourning.  However, as I thought about this, I remembered a young man who had been my coworker.  When his father died unexpectedly, he told me, “You never realize how many friends you have until somebody dies.”  There’s some truth in that.  In the busyness of life we often forget to make time for others, but when death occurs, family and friends rally around.  We are all reminded that relationships and love are the things that really matter, It’s certainly a comfort and a blessing to know we’re not alone, that others care for us.

Mourning is a time to reflect.  I found when my mother died, as I sorted through her photos, I also remembered my childhood, the personality traits and interests we shared; the birthday parties, Christmas celebrations, family reunions and other important events in our life together. I cried some and laughed some.  I hadn’t thought about those things in a long time, but they are part of what made me who I am.  That has been a blessing to me.

Mourning is a time to turn to God.  Nothing comforts me more than the rituals and routines of my faith life.  Nothing means more than the assurance that mom is with Jesus, and one day I will be with Him as well.  Nothing eases the pain so much as knowing she is no longer stuck in a body that doesn’t work, and with a brain that can’t think.  These are the greatest blessings of all.

The Bible tells us that God works all things out for our good, and that includes mourning.

“Those who go out weeping, carrying seed to sow, will return with songs of joy, carrying sheaves with them.”  Psalm 126:6

Blessed Are the Merciful by Dietrich Bonhoeffer

“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.’ These men without possessions or power, these strangers on Earth, these sinners, these followers of Jesus, have in their life with him renounced their own dignity, for they are merciful. As if their own needs and their own distress were not enough, they take upon themselves the distress and humiliation of others. They have an irresistible love for the down-trodden, the sick, the wretched, the wronged, the outcast and all who are tortured with anxiety. They go out and seek all who are enmeshed in the toils of sin and guilt. No distress is too great, no sin too appalling for their pity. If any man falls into disgrace, the merciful will sacrifice their own honour to shield him, and take his shame upon themselves.”
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship

Hungry for What?

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied Matt. 5:6

It’s hard to ignore hunger, isn’t it?  When we’re really hungry it becomes difficult to work or concentrate or focus on anything else.  Hunger becomes insistent.  If it isn’t satisfied, it begins to consume us (literally).  In the verse above, taken from the Sermon on the Mount, and one of what we call the Beatitudes, Jesus tells us about one hunger only He can satisfy — a hunger for righteousness.

Image result for images of the beatitudes

According to my Bible dictionary, righteousness is “inherent or imputed guiltlessness before God.”  In layman’s terms you might say it is being made right with God;  or being declared “not guilty” in God’s eyes.  We all know we can’t do that on our own.  All the good deeds, all the striving to avoid sin, all the confessions and church services and Bible study in the world won’t get us there.  For that, we need a savior.  Only Christ’s sacrifice on the cross for each one of us can close the yawning gap between us and God.

So the question is, do you hunger to be saved?  Do you hunger for Christ?  I have to say, too often, I hunger for worldly things because they seem so much more immediate. After all, I need a house and a car and someone to love me right now!  I’ll attend to that spiritual hunger later, when I have more time, when my other hungers have been sated.  The problem is, later never seems to come;  and the truth of the matter is, we do find the time for things we really care about.  Don’t we care about Him?  He should be first on our hunger list.

Be right with God now.  Put the Kingdom first.  You’ll be satisfied.  The rest will follow.