Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Review: The Mended Heart

Once again, I've had the opportunity to review a book that I received through Bible Gateway's Blogger Grid. This time the book is T. Suzanne Eller's most recent book, The Mended Heart. You can get it here or here.

The Mended Heart deals with the different ways that our hearts can be broken or hurt, and how to heal them. In this book, Suzanne deals with a variety of topics, most of which we don't openly discuss in the church: spiritual abuse, sexual abuse, sin, the death of a loved one, and more. Her words remind us of God's love and His grace through all the most difficult times of our lives. She doesn't pretend that it is easy for a hurt heart to be healed, but she reminds us that with Jesus, even the most crushed heart can be made whole again. 

Content

The book has three sections: What Jesus has already done for you, Hearts in the midst of mending, and Moving Forward. The first section is an introductory one, telling us of God's grace which saves us, and also of what that means. She highlights three things that we don't have to do once we have been redeemed by Jesus.

Each chapter of the second section is dedicated to a single broad topic, such that you could just skip or skim that chapters that don't apply to your life. The chapters have major themes, each one covering a way in which our hearts can be broken. For example, there are chapters titled "When you lose a piece of your heart" (grief), "When sin hurts your heart" (sin) and "When a thief steals your heart" (abuse/violence).

In the third section, Suzanne offers steps to move forward in the healing process. She doesn't trivialize it either. She speaks of moving forward with a momentum that sometimes requires a complete turnaround, the challenges of changing your mindset and thought patterns, and the consciousness and consequences of our choices.

Format

Each chapter starts with a story, an example of someone who has experienced hurt in a way that is relevant to the content of the chapter. Then Suzanne gives an example or story from her own life and experience. 

Mostly importantly, each chapter has a section called The Jesus Factor, which links the content of that chapter to the life of Jesus and/or New Testament principles. She uses the gospels and several of Paul's letters to highlight how Jesus is relevant even in the midst of our hurt. 

Having linked these two things together, she starts to ask the reader to relate them to her own life, and the steps that she might need to take towards healing. After that is a brief summary of the chapter, with steps to moving forward.

Following this, (and my favorite part) she offers a few reflection questions at the end of every chapter, complete with scripture verses to meditate on, prayer points, and ways to implement the lessons of that chapter through practical tips. Sometimes those things are as simple (or difficult) as talking to a trusted person about something that you have been struggling with.

Each chapter has at its very end a principle, a prayer and a challenge, which helps connect what you just read in the chapter to your own life.

Summary

The format and content of the book make it a good devotional book, which you could read a chapter per day, or better yet, per week, taking time to really reflect on the questions at the end of each chapter, as well as taking steps to actually doing things to help the healing process.

I think that while I could not personally relate to some of the themes and issues presented in the book, as it was intended for someone with different life experiences from mine, I was still touched by the way Suzanne addressed these issues, and it made for good ways to pray for others who are experiencing heartbreak in one way or another.


Be blessed and shine with a whole heart!

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Hymn-ful Sundays! "Now Thank We All Our God"



Originally written in German in the 17th century, this hymn was one of thanksgiving usually sung before meals. It was written as a celebration for the end of the Thirty Years' War, during which Martin Rinkart, the hymnwriter and a Lutheran minister, was the only clergyman in the besieged city of Eilenburg and bore the responsibility of thousands who died because of disease and famine. Yet he was able to write these words after the war, and it showed the depth of his faith in God. The lyrics were translated into English in the 19th century by Catherine Winkworth, who was known for her translation of many German hymns.

Now thank we all our God, with heart and hands and voices,
Who wondrous things has done, in Whom this world rejoices;
Who from our mothers’ arms has blessed us on our way
With countless gifts of love, and still is ours today.

 O may this bounteous God through all our life be near us,
With ever joyful hearts and bless├Ęd peace to cheer us;
And keep us in His grace, and guide us when perplexed;
And free us from all ills, in this world and the next!

 All praise and thanks to God the Father now be given;
The Son and Him Who reigns with Them in highest Heaven;
The one eternal God, whom earth and Heaven adore;
For thus it was, is now, and shall be evermore.

Martin Rinkart
tr Catherine Winkworth

Continuing on with the thankfulness theme from last week's Biweekly Bit, this hymn calls on us to give thanks to God with all that we have and all that we are. And it tells us why we should give thanks too: because of the wondrous things He has done, because the entire world rejoices in Him. We are thankful because God is both sovereign and good, and always will be.

Be blessed and shine with thankfulness!

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Thursday, July 24, 2014

Biweekly Bits #13: Be Thankful

After writing 26 bits, I realized that there is so much I could elaborate on with each of my bits. So I decided to turn them into a biweekly (i.e. fortnightly) series, for the next year.


Be thankful. Even when life does its absolute worst, be thankful that you are alive. Be thankful that the sun rises in the east and sets in the west. Be thankful when you have a cold, because it means that your immune system is functional. Just be thankful. (See also #1)

In several of his letters to the various churches, Paul calls on us to be thankful. It may seem like an obvious response, but the truth is we often forget that every good thing is a gift from God (James 1:17). God constantly and consistently provides for us, and God is good even when we are not.

Sometimes, we take for granted that the sunset, the air we breathe, the stunning flower, the majestic tree, the beautiful smile, and anything and everything that we appreciate in life come from God, the maker of all things. That alone should have us singing praises and thanks to God all day, every day. God, our Creator, is worthy of our gratitude.

In addition to this, anyone who has walked with God for even a moment has seen the ways that God provides for us. Sometimes it is through meeting our material needs, or our emotional yearnings, or our spiritual shortfalls, but every day and in every way, God's providence blesses us. We may not even realise how God has moved in our lives, but we know that the Giver of all things is constantly doing things for our good. This is a reason to give thanks! God, our Provider, is worthy of our gratitude.



But there is more! Greater than the gift of each new day, is the Gift that makes the newness of each day significant. That gift is of God's Son, Jesus, who died for our sin, and rose for our justification. Jesus' death and resurrection enable us to draw near to God, cleanse us of our unrighteousness, and give us the promise of being united with God when our lives on earth are done. And best of all, this gift was free, through the grace of God (Romans 6:23). We don't do anything to earn it, and it has no limits. We should be constantly rejoicing, giving God thanks for sending His Son to atone for our depravity. God, our Redeemer, is worthy of our gratitude.

So today, whenever you think of it, give God thanks. Sing songs of thanksgiving to God. Even when you're having the most terrible day, give God thanks that you are alive to see it, and that his mercies are new each day. Constantly and consistently remind yourself to be thankful. God has given you much.

Be blessed and shine thankfully!

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Hymn-ful Sundays! "Trust and Obey"



John Sammis was a minister and hymnwriter at the turn of the 20th century. The term "trust and obey" was used in the testimony of a young man at an evangelistic meeting hosted by Dwight L Moody. Daniel Towner, inspired by those words, gave them to John Sammis, who developed the lyrics for this hymn. Towner then composed the music.


When we walk with the Lord in the light of His Word,
What a glory He sheds on our way!
While we do His good will, He abides with us still,
And with all who will trust and obey.

Trust and obey, for there’s no other way
To be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obe
y.

Not a shadow can rise, not a cloud in the skies,
But His smile quickly drives it away;
Not a doubt or a fear, not a sigh or a tear,
Can abide while we trust and obey.

Not a burden we bear, not a sorrow we share,
But our toil He doth richly repay;
Not a grief or a loss, not a frown or a cross,
But is blessed if we trust and obey.

But we never can prove the delights of His love
Until all on the altar we lay;
For the favor He shows, for the joy He bestows,
Are for them who will trust and obey.

Then in fellowship sweet we will sit at His feet.
Or we’ll walk by His side in the way.
What He says we will do, where He sends we will go;
Never fear, only trust and obey.

John Sammis


This song is a simple reminder of what we are called to do as followers of Christ: to trust, and to obey. And as Sammis writes, there's no other way that we will be happy in Jesus. No matter what life throws at us, we are confident in this, that God can be trusted, and that our obedience to Him does not go unnoticed or unrewarded.

Be blessed and shine, trusting and obeying!

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Thursday, July 10, 2014

Biweekly Bits #12: Things Taken Away

After writing 26 bits, I realized that there is so much I could elaborate on with each of my bits. So I decided to turn them into a biweekly (i.e. fortnightly) series, for the next year.

There's a blessing in things taken away too. Most of the time, when we think of God's blessings, we think of things given to us. Blessings are indeed gifts from God, but there are times when the "gift" is something being taken away, instead of being given.

I think very often, particularly in western Christian culture, we are taught to believe that God blesses us by giving us things, whether it is by providing material things or giving us less tangible spiritual blessings. And it's true, God gives us many things which add to our lives. But when God takes something away from us, we almost without exception see it as a negative thing, a burden of the human condition to be borne. Yet we forget to consider, to remember, that sometimes the blessing is in the things that God takes away from us.

Here are four points to meditate on when it comes to the things that God may take away:



Sometimes God takes something away to give us something greater.

Sometimes God takes something away to change our perspective.

Sometimes God takes something away to change our focus.

Sometimes God takes something away because its season is over.



I remember a few years ago a friend of mine lost his job, rather unexpectedly. He was pretty upset about it, and very disappointed, but I remember saying to him that losing that particular job was a good thing, because God was taking him to new places in his ministry, and the job would have been a burden. And sure enough, my friend has been richly blessed in the years that have passed since losing that job. Every step of the way God has provided.

We always think of loss as something to be sad about, and many times it is. It's a scary thing to lose a job, or for a relationship to end, or even to lose a favourite item that you own. But sometimes, even in the midst of losing a job or an opportunity, or having a friendship or relationship end, there is joy, because the Lord has still blessed us.

Be blessed and shine with joy!

Sunday, July 06, 2014

Hymn-ful Sundays! "My Faith Looks up to Thee"



Ray Palmer, a nineteenth century teacher, pastor and writer, wrote this week's hymn, shortly after graduating from Yale University, after receiving a vision of Christ. He carried the words that he'd penned around with him for two years, before meeting Lowell Mason, who asked him if he had any hymns to include in a compilation that he was creating. Palmer gave Mason the words that he'd written, and he set them to music. Mason told Palmer that he'd do many good things in his life, but he'd be remembered best for writing this hymn.


My faith looks up to Thee,
Thou Lamb of Calvary, Savior divine!
Now hear me while I pray, take all my guilt away,
O let me from this day be wholly Thine!

 May Thy rich grace impart
Strength to my fainting heart, my zeal inspire!
As Thou hast died for me, O may my love to Thee,
Pure warm, and changeless be, a living fire!

 While life’s dark maze I tread,
And griefs around me spread, be Thou my Guide;
Bid darkness turn to day, wipe sorrow’s tears away,
Nor let me ever stray from Thee aside.

 When ends life’s transient dream,
When death’s cold sullen stream over me roll;
Blest Savior, then in love, fear and distrust remove;
O bear me safe above, a ransomed soul!

Ray Palmer


The words of this hymn just resonate with me. There's so much of the Christian experience here: looking to the cross where Jesus died to remind us of our salvation, totally surrendering ourselves to Him, looking to God as our strength and inspiration. Here, our hymnwriter uses four short verses to articulate the depth of life in Christ: that our God is a pure, changeless, living fire; that He is with us even in our darkest days, and that when this life is over, He carries us on to glory.

Be blessed and shine looking to Jesus!

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