Book Review: From Heaven

from-heavenI like to read a Christmas devotional during December, so I got From Heaven: A 28-Day Advent Devotional by A. W. Tozer when I saw it on a recent Kindle sale for 99 cents since I have enjoyed what I have read of Tozer in the past.

Compiled by unnamed editors at Moody Publishing from Tozer’s various writings and sermons, it is probably different than a book like this that Tozer would have written himself. There is not really a logical progression from point A to point B or developing and building on truths throughout the book. It’s just a series of isolated bits somewhat on the theme of Christ’s coming to Earth in both His first advent, which we celebrate at Christmas, and His second advent, when He returns. That lack of progression or development plus the entries’ being taken out of context from their original sources are the book’s greatest weaknesses. Introductory remarks convey that profits from the book sales will go to help Moody students, so this may have even been assembled as something of a fund raiser.

But it is Tozer, after all, who is a deep thinker and often has something noteworthy to say, which is the book’s greatest strength.

Some of the chapter titles are What the Advent Established, The Meaning of Christmas, The Logic of the Incarnation, Three Truths Behind Christmas, Light and Life to All He Brings.

Some of the quotes that stood out to me:

Even though you may still be unconverted and going your own way, you have received much out of the ocean of His fullness. You have received the pulsing life that beats in your bosom. You have received the brilliant mind and brain within the protective covering of your skull. You have received a memory that strings the events you cherish and love as a jeweler strings pearls into a necklace and keeps them for you as long as you live and beyond. All that you have is out of His grace. Jesus Christ, the eternal Word, who became flesh and dwelt among us, is the open channel through which God moves to provide.

We must love someone very much to stay awake and long for his coming.

Another reason for the absence of real yearning for Christ’s return is that Christians are so comfortable in this world that they have little desire to leave it.

All of the mercy God is capable of showing, all of the redeeming grace that He could pour from His heart, all of the love and pity that God is capable of feeling–all of these are at least suggested in the message that He came!

All of our hopes and dreams of immortality, our fond visions of a life to come, are summed up in these simple words in the Bible record: He came!

The idea that the Old Testament is a book of law and the New Testament a book of grace is based on a completely false theory. There is certainly as much about grace and mercy and love in the Old Testament as there is in the New. There is more about hell, more about judgment and the fury of God burning with fire upon sinful men in the New Testament than in the Old

The only contrast here is between all that Moses could do and all that Jesus Christ can do. The Law was given by Moses—that was all that Moses could do. Moses was not the channel through which God dispensed His grace. God chose His only begotten Son as the channel for His grace and truth, for John witnesses that grace and truth came by Jesus Christ. All that Moses could do was to command righteousness. In contrast, only Jesus Christ produces righteousness. All that Moses could do was to forbid us to sin. In contrast, Jesus Christ came to save us from sin. Moses could not save, but Jesus Christ is both Lord and Savior.

The big thing is to be sure we are not lulled to sleep by a false hope, that we do not waste our time dreaming about days that are not to be ours. The main thing is to make today serve us by getting ready for any possible tomorrow. Then whether we live or die, whether we toil on in the shadow or rise to meet the returning Christ, all will be well.

[This one really helped me with the concept of “of His fullness have we all received” in John 1:16]: If you could ask the deer that goes quietly down to the edge of the lake for a refreshing drink, “Have you received of the fullness of the lake?” the answer would be: “Yes and no. I am full from the lake but I have not received from the fullness of the lake. I did not drink the lake. I only drank what I could hold of the lake.”

Christmas as it is celebrated today is badly in need of a radical reformation. What was at first a spontaneous expression of an innocent pleasure has been carried to inordinate excess.

In our mad materialism we have turned beauty into ashes, prostituted every normal emotion, and made merchandise of the holiest gift the world ever knew. Christ came to bring peace and we celebrate His coming by making peace impossible for six weeks of each year. Not peace but tension, fatigue, and irritation rule the Christmas season. He came to free us of debt and many respond by going deep into debt each year to buy enervating luxuries for people who do not appreciate them. He came to help the poor and we heap gifts upon those who do not need them. The simple token given out of love has been displaced by expensive presents given because we have been caught in a squeeze and don’t know how to back out of it.

So, we live between two mighty events—that of His incarnation, death, and resurrection, and that of His ultimate appearing and the glorification of those He died to save. This is the interim time for the saints—but it is not a vacuum. He has given us much to do and He asks for our faithfulness. In the meantime, we are zealous of good works, living soberly, righteously, godly in this present world, looking unto Him and His promise. In the midst of our lives, and between the two great mountain peaks of God’s acts in the world, we look back and remember, and we look forward and hope! As members of His own loving fellowship, we break the bread and drink the wine. We sing His praise and we pray in His Name, remembering and expecting!

Tozer is not one to leave you with warm fuzzy feelings, but he does make you think. And though the chapters seem a little disjointed, there is much good food for thought and conviction here.

Genre: Christian non-fiction
Objectionable elements: None.
My rating: 8 out of 10

(Sharing with Semicolon‘s Saturday Review of Books)

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Laudable Linkage

It’s a busy time of year, but I’ve discovered several thought-provoking reads online the last couple of weeks. Perhaps some of them will pique your interest as well.

Weep, Groan, Wail: The Need to Lament. “How is it possible to grieve, mourn, and wail but still know God is good?”

Even If He Doesn’t. “When the bad things come, when the kind of rescue we think we need just isn’t part of our story, will we be able to testify before a watching world that God can do it, that He will do it, but even if He doesn’t, we won’t turn away.”

Immanuel. From a friend’s whose 25 year old daughter is fighting yet another setback in her cancer battle. God is with us, even in the hard places, even in bad news.

5 Reasons to Read the Bible When You Feel Absolutely Nothing. I kept thinking Yes! all throughout reading this.

Jesus Isn’t Threatened by Your Christmas Gifts. Loved the practicality and balance in this. “The implicit messaging is that Christmas is a kind of either/or proposition in which we can either emphasize Jesus or emphasize gifts. But one always threatens to displace the other. I disagree with this.”

Miracles at Midnight.

5 Ways We Stunt Our Spiritual Growth.

Seekest Thou Great Things For Thyself? HT to Challies.

It’s Time to Take Your Medicine. “As we read the letters of Paul we find he always frames things this way: ‘God has done this for you in Christ, therefore you should respond in the following ways.’ ‘Thus the motivation, energy, and drive for holiness are all found in the reality and power of God’s grace in Christ.'”

Words That Shimmer. “For Christians, isn’t it amazing that our gracious God chose something as powerful as words to communicate to us His glorious truth? Everything pertaining to life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3). What a gift! What a treasure! Collectors of words take heart:”

Praying Biblical Prayers.

(Re)Remembering What We Mean. “Fairy tales employ the tool of the fantastic to jar us back to a truer vision that sees that all things are fantastic. Wonder is an appropriate response to all things because all things are wonderfully made.”

On parenting:

Should Parents Lay Down The Law Or Give Grace? “Grace is not rejecting authority. Grace is not walking away from the need of my children to have boundaries in their life—grace is about the way that I do that.”

My Changing Thoughts On Being a Mother. I wrestled with many of the same things mentioned here.

On writing:

Why Backstory Is Better Than Flashbacks.

And finally, I loved this video of a deer and rabbit playing. At least the deer is playing – it takes a while for the rabbit. Someone posted this on Facebook with the caption “Bambi and Thumper are real!”

Happy Saturday!

Laudable Linkage

This is my first chance in a couple of weeks to share noteworthy reads discovered around the web in that time. Enjoy!

A Case For Christian Magnanimity.

The Hero of the Story Is Always God.

Why Doesn’t Our Faith Move Mountains?

The Providence of God in History.

5 Christian Cliches That Need to Die.

When Does Old Age Arrive? I’m facing a milestone birthday next year, and I found this very encouraging.

Mothers in the Church.

Learning to Let Go. “Even though a parent’s spiritual influence is so important, I was never meant to fill the place that only God can in my daughter’s life. He is a better teacher, protector, and guide than I can ever be.”

Which Expired Foods Are Okay to Eat.

And a few concerning the holiday season:

Evangelism, the Holidays, and My Atheist Grandpa.

5 Ways to Make the Holidays More Peaceful.

Navigating Family Tensions at the Holidays.

The Problem With Our Holly Jolly Christmas Songs.

No wonder our pets get confused sometimes. 🙂

dog-under-tree

And finally, this brought a smile that I am sure my fellow Southerners will understand:

honey

Happy Saturday!

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Christmas Spirit Reading Challenge

I saw this Christmas Spirit Reading Challenge over at My Reader’s Block and thought it looked like fun. I do usually like to read a couple of Christmas-themed books during the month of December.

The basic idea is just to read Christmas-related books between Nov. 21 – Jan. 6, and Michelle has listed the following levels:

Levels:
Candy Cane: read 1 book
Mistletoe: read 2-4 books
Christmas Tree: read 5 or 6 books (this is the fanatic level…LOL!)

Additional levels:
Fa La La La Films: watch a bunch or a few Christmas movies…it’s up to you!
Visions of Sugar Plums: read books with your children this season and share what you read

*the additional levels are optional, you still must complete one of the main reading levels above

I’m going to commit to the Mistletoe Level – after that we’ll see. The two books I want to read for sure are:

Finding Father Christmas/Engaging Father Christmas by Robin Jones Gunn. I got this after seeing Pam’s comparison of the book and movie. Sounds like the movie veered too far from the book, but the book sounded really good! This copy has two novellas in one (I wonder if that counts as two books? 🙂 )

From Heaven: A 28-Day Advent Devotional by A. W. Tozer. Just got that this afternoon when I saw it on a Kindle sale for 99 cents and I have enjoyed what I have read of Tozer in the past.

Other Christmas books I have on hand and may get to if I have a chance:

A Patchwork Christmas Collection by Judith Miller, Nancy Moser, and Stephanie Grace Whitson, seen at Monica‘s. I’ve read and enjoyed the first two authors before, so I expect to enjoy this collection.

The Christmas Violin by Buffy Andrews. I got this on a Kindle sale last year based on the story description without knowing anything about the author, so I hope I am not unpleasantly surprised.

A Sandy’s Seashell Shop Christmas by Lisa Wingate, related to the shop in The Prayer Box, reviewed earlier.

The Women of Christmas by Liz Curtis Higgs is one I have read before but would like to read again.

As far as Christmas movies go, I usually just watch when and if the family does. We do usually see White Christmas at some point and maybe some of the Christmas specials (my new favorite; The Toy Story That Time Forgot).

I’d love to get to all these! But December is a busy month, so we’ll see how it goes.

Are you doing any Christmas reading?

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Book Review: Why Christ Came

Why Christ CameIn the preface of Why Christ Came: 31 Meditations on the Incarnation, authors Joel R. Beeke and William Boekestein state that “Learning the reasons for Christ’s advent will help us more deeply celebrate His birth, allow us to see more clearly how it is connected with the rest of His ministry, and help us understand its importance in our lives.” They add that it also helps when people ask us why Jesus came to have a fuller knowledge of the answer to that question.

They discuss 31 reasons Jesus came but acknowledged there are multitudes more. They range from the familiar, like “To Die,” “To Seek and Save the Lost,” “To Do the Will of the Father,” to others you might not have thought of right away, like “To Bring Peace,” “To Bring a Sword,” and “To Demonstrate True Humility.”

Each selection is only about three pages but is packed with references and thoughts about that day’s subject. The writing is not warm and fuzzy nor what one usually thinks of as “devotional,” but it is a rich treasury.

Here are just a few quotes:

In Christ’s first coming, He implemented a rescue plan conceived in the mind of God before the foundation of the world. He did not come to promote holiday cheer, boost end-of-year sales, or serve as the central figure in a Nativity scene. He came to save sinners. To save sinners, Christ had to put away what makes people sinners–namely, sin.

The Scottish divine Samuel Rutherford was on his deathbed when he was summoned to court for refusing to conform to the new forms of worship decreed by the king. Sensing that his death was near, Rutherford said, “I will soon stand before a greater judge, and this one is my friend!”

Paul refuses to focus on the greatness of others’ sin to minimize his own. He sees his own sins in the light of God’s holy law and perfect character.

Apart from a true incarnation, there is no true atonement.

Christ did not come to earth simply to be our moral teacher. If that were His only mission, He could have come as He did in former times, as the Angel of the Lord, without our flesh and blood to encumber Him. Instead, He had to become like us so that He could raise us up to be like Him.

Some of us have little spiritual vitality because we fail to feed on Christ day by day. Over time, we become spiritually anorexic.

Christ’s advent, in particular, teaches us the joy of anticipating Jesus. The Christian journey is riddled with trials and difficulties, but the brilliance of the One whom we seek turns our mourning into dancing (Ps. 30:11).

As we reflect on the incarnation, we too should be filled with joyous amazement and thanksgiving. Wilhelmus a Brakel explains, “The reason one does not rejoice in the incarnation is for lack of holy meditation upon the subject, its miraculous nature, the promises, the Person, the fruits and this great salvation brought about by His suffering and death. What reason for rejoicing would he who does not attentively reflect upon this have?”

Judgement means to divide truth from error as well as to uphold the good and condemn the evil.

Jesus calls all sinners to repent. True repentance is not a nebulous response of sorrow; it requires definite actions. Repentance so transforms the mind that it results in a changed life. Repentance does not merely say “I’m sorry” (similar to what we say when we accidentally step on someone’s foot). Rather, true repentance says from the heart, “I’ve been wrong and grieve over my sin, but now I see the truth, and I will change my ways accordingly.”

Christ gives us a true thirst for Him by convincing us of sin.

There were just a couple of places I disagreed with the authors. One was “The most important way to seek Christ is in the public worship of His church.” We need that, but equally important is private seeking of Him in His Word in our own homes. Another was the assertion that “Jesus gives us a precious glimpse of His humanity…He experiences the fear of death as we do.” I don’t think it was just a human fear of death that caused His anguish (they quote Calvin as calling this His “cowardice”), but the thought of all that would be involved in taking our sin and its penalty on Himself. They also write from a Reformed/Calvinistic view, and while I agree with a reformed view of faith in many particulars, I disagree on a few.

But mostly I found much food for thought here and enjoyed thinking on its truths during the Christmas season.

(Sharing at Semicolon‘s Saturday Review of Books)

Simple Joys of the Season….

680050_christmas_decorations

…Packages arriving from online purchases.

…Wrapping presents and baking with Christmas carols playing in the background.

…Checking things off to-do lists.

…Receiving Christmas cards, letters, and photos.

Harvest Loaf Cake. I waited until this week to make it so I wouldn’t be tempted by it all month. 🙂

Harvest Loaf cake

…Coming home to a peaceful house after being out in the craziness.

…Finding a just-right gift and anticipating the recipient opening it.

…Driving around looking at Christmas lights.

…Family with time off. For two of them, that won’t happen til Christmas Eve, but I’ve enjoyed having my husband and oldest son home this week and am looking forward everyone being off for a few days.

…Christmas devotionals. The “old, old story” of our Saviour’s birth never gets old.

I don’t anticipate being able to post much until next week. I hope your Christmas preparations are going well and you have a wonderful Christmas Day!