Easter Basket Recommendations (2014)

It is finally beginning to feel like Spring and not a moment too soon! Easter is right around the corner and with it all of the fun festivities that go into celebrating our Savior’s victorious resurrection. Each year, I enjoy finding special items to fill my boys’ Easter baskets with that will point them to the Lord of Life! Last year, I shared a small list of items that I would recommend to other moms who may be looking to do the same, so I thought I would carry on the tradition this year by pointing you to some great new music that will go perfectly alongside some candy filled eggs!

A Lullaby Journey Through the Life of Jesus

(Hidden in My Heart, Volume 3)

Hidden In My Heart Volume 3

These lullaby albums are so well done. The music is beautiful and the quality of production is phenomenal. Each song is taken directly from scripture–this particular volume focusing on the life of Jesus. Volume 3 is also on sale on Amazon from now until Easter, so it is the perfect time to purchase one!

The Kingdom of Heaven is Like This

(Rain for Roots, Volume 2)

Rain for Roots Volume 2Rain for Roots has recently released a new volume entitled “The Kingdom of Heaven is Like This.” It is filled with beautiful songs taken from the parables of Jesus. The first volume from Rain for Roots is a family favorite, so I look forward to enjoying this one as well! The physical CD is not available on Amazon yet, but is available on their site.

Have you come across any books or CD’s recently that would be great Christ-centered Easter basket additions? Share your finds in the comments! Also, be sure to check out Melissa Deming’s recommendations over at Hive Resources as well as these great book recommendations from Emily at Redeemed Reader!

Also, be sure to check out these fun Easter egg printouts to point your kids to the sweetness of our Savior while they gobble up their yummy candy!

Do You Possess Eternal Life?

Do You Possess Eternal Life?

Eternal life. Isn’t this something that every person longs for? Perhaps one of man’s most pressing question is, “What will happen to me when this earthly body turns to dust?” Many people spend their whole lives fearfully wondering whether they will go on living forever or simply cease to exist once they shut their eyes upon this earth for the last time. If given the opportunity to ask God one question, surely every man would find himself uttering the same words the rich young ruler put before Christ, “What must I do to have eternal life?” Surely man would do anything to live forever and never face ultimate death.

One problem we face in this quest for eternal life is a proper understanding of the nature of the human soul. Most people are unaware of the Biblical truth that their souls are inherently eternal. Each of us in one sense already possesses “eternal life,” we will all go on existing for eternity. Therefore, the true dilemma we face as eternal beings is how we will spend that eternity.  Listen to the Baptist Confession of Faith speak of the resurrection:

The bodies of men after death return to dust, and undergo corruption, but their souls, which neither die nor sleep, having an immortal subsistence, immediately return to God Who gave them. The souls of the righteous are then made perfect in holiness, are received into paradise where they are with Christ, and look upon the face of God in light and glory, waiting for the full redemption of their bodies. The souls of the wicked are cast into hell, where they remain in torment and under darkness, reserved to the judgement of the great day. The Scripture acknowledges no other place than these two for souls separated from their bodies.

Jesus described these two destinations of men’s souls when he warned that the wicked, ”will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.” (Matthew 25:46 ESV) Here, “eternal life” is set at odds with “eternal punishment.” Both are eternal, but eternal punishment can’t really be described as life, can it?

John MacArthur has said, “…eternal life is not just a length of life but being alive to God.” This is why we can say that any person who places their trust in Jesus’s death on the cross for the forgiveness of their sins has gained eternal life. They have become alive to God and no longer live under the threat of God’s punishment for their sin. They are now cleansed by the blood of the Lamb and able to have full, unhindered communion with the Father–our holy and immortal God!

This is the second problem we face as humans who desperately seek eternal life: though we would do anything to gain it, there is absolutely nothing we can do to achieve it. There is only one human who has ever deserved eternal life and he was also God. It is only through a substitutionary work of God that we can gain eternal life.

Let’s take a look in the book of Romans where Paul uses the terms “death” and “life” interchangeably with the concepts of  ”trespasses” (sins) and “righteousness” respectively:

For if, because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ. Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men. For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous. (Romans 5:18-19 ESV)

What is the difference between these two groups of people? Those who are under condemnation (which is initially all of us!) and destined to eternal punishment are those who have not been made righteous by Christ’s sacrificial death. Their sins have not been payed for and his righteousness has not been imputed to them. Those who are justified and given the gift of eternal life are those who have received the grace of God. The only reason they are allowed to experience the eternal life is because of Christ’s perfect and sinless life, substitutionary death, and victorious resurrection! After all, each of us were dead in our trespasses and sins, but have now been made alive together with Christ. (Ephesians 2)

And so, while eternal life does, in a sense, refer to unending life, it also refers to much more. When we contemplate the gift of eternal life, we should not only thank God for the fact that we will never die, but for the reality of our eternal, intimate relationship with him. We who were once far off have not been brought near to the sovereign God of the Universe. We who were once his enemies are now his children. We who were under the condemnation of God are now under his banner of love. This is eternal life. This is life.

Don’t forget the extreme grace that you have been shown through the cross of Christ. In love, God sent his Son to die for your sins, so that you could experience this life. What can we do but consecrate these blood-bought lives to our God? What can we do but draw near to the one who has made himself available to us? What can we do but love him?

When Jesus had spoken these words, he lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you, since you have given him authority over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him. And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do. And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed. (John 17:1-5 ESV)

Book Review: Treasuring Christ When Your Hands are Full

Treasuring Christ When Your Hands Are Full by Gloria FurmanA wonderful thing is happening in the Christian publishing world: books are once again being written for women and by women that don’t revolve exclusively around Proverbs 31 and Titus 2! These books are challenging women to step out of their circumstances, behold the beauty of God and his gospel, and then bring that new vision back into their everyday lives.

These gospel-filled books are desperately needed by every woman regardless of her stage of life, but perhaps those who are moms of little ones need this dose of sanity just a smidgen more feverishly than others. Books that give them a theological framework to view their chaotic, non-stop, and and often exhausting calling can feel as good as a full eight hours of sleep when your baby is still nursing through the night does.

One author who has shown herself to be both theologically astute as well as hilariously practical is my friend Gloria Furman. Her first book, Glimpses of Grace, took readers on a quest to understand how the gospel impacts and compels thoughtful homemaking. In this book, Gloria, focuses her gaze squarely on motherhood and the difficult realities mothers face. Topics like the temporal nature of motherhood, the temptation to compare your  mothering “achievements” against other moms’, and the common overall feelings of overwhelmeded-ness (It’s a mommy word, trust me) are explored from an eternal lens.

The beauty of Treasuring Christ When Your Hands are Full is that while it is written for mothers, it isn’t about mothers. It seeks to elevate a woman’s gaze from the exhausting here and now to a place of awe as she breaths in the life-giving air of the gospel and drinks the pure water of the Word. While its focus is motherhood, its message is Christ. If your looking for a book of coping techniques to get you through until bedtime, then you will be disappointed. If, however, you have come to the realization that there are not enough coping techniques in the world to make you a better mom, then you will be relieved to read this down-to-earth, but theologically robust work on motherhood and the gospel.

The book itself is made up of 11 short devotionals, reminiscent of similar works by Rachel Jankovic (another author I am very fond of), but still unique in its laser-like focus on the gospel and eternity.  Once again, Gloria proves herself to be a faithful handler of the Word of God as well as a wise counselor to mothers in similar life circumstances who are in need of a spiritual reality check.

I heartily recommend you pick up a copy of Treasuring Christ When Your Hands are Full to read when those beautiful moments of solitude arise (seriously, if you have to, keep a copy in your restroom!) or give it as a gift to a young mom you know needs help directing her gaze toward Heaven (which is all of us by the way!).

“Jesus died on the cross so that we would have the free, unmerited grace of God. And as we appropriate that grace in our lives and serve others, we are serving in the strength God supplies. This is how we can serve so that God gets the glory–through his strength because of his grace shown to us in Jesus… Even as we are trembling and trusting in the Lord, God makes us worthy of his calling and fulfills every resolve for good and every work of faith by his power…” (Treasuring Christ When Your Hands are Full)

Thanks to the generosity of Crossway, I have two copies to give away to the readers of Desiring Virtue! Enter your name into the drawing by filling out the form below. (Giveaway is limited to U.S. residents and will end April 6th at 12:00 a.m.)

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Will You Be Happy With Her?

Will You Be Happy With Her?There was a time when a positive pregnancy test meant unhindered joy and excitement and we simply couldn’t wait to tell our family and friends the wonderful news. Unfortunately, that time for us was short lived. In fact, it ended as quickly as our first pregnancy did. When we lost our first baby, pregnancy suddenly mutated from a thrilling, dreamlike experience to a battle for joy, peace, and trust in the Lord’s sovereignty.

Each time we found out we were pregnant, the joy of a new life growing within me was also mingled with the painful reality of how quickly that new life could slip away. My husband and I have had to offer up each new baby to the Lord, trusting in his good and holy will, and praying for his peace which surpasses all understanding. Three times now he has blessed us with the gift of healthy, beautiful little babies at the end of nine months, but twice now, he has lovingly chosen to walk us through the trial of miscarriage. And so, for us–as is the case for so many–pregnancy is full of mingled emotions.

The fact that pregnancy after miscarriage can be scary probably doesn’t come as a surprise to you, but what I am about to say might:

One of the hardest parts about finding out you are pregnant after a miscarriage is summoning up the courage to tell your family and friends the “good” news.

That’s right, your family and friends.

Let’s face it, when you miscarry, you are not the only one who goes through the trial–so do those who are closest to you. Your family and friends watch as your joy and excitement of a new life growing within you are decimated by the effects of death and they hurt right along with you. Your parents feel this pain particularly acutely. Not only have they lost a grandchild themselves, but they have had to watch their own children experience terrible loss and pain (which, I would wager to guess, closely rivals the pain of going through the loss yourself).

As the reality of a new pregnancy sinks in, the desire to tell those you love is challenged by the uncomfortable knowledge that they too, may have to experience another heartbreak. It can be very hard to summon up the courage necessary to share what should be (and is!) wonderful news. But this possibility of hurting them in the future isn’t the only thing that causes you to pause, the immediate reaction you will receive from them–either enthusiasm or fear–can stop you in your tracks.

The truth is, family and friends have the power to either encourage peaceful trust in the Lord’s sovereignty or add to your already burdensome fears.

While they are not responsible for your own battle with sinful anxiety, they can play a pivotal roll in either pointing you to the sovereign, loving Savior or to your own fearful imaginings.

But this post isn’t written for those who are struggling with the temptation to keep their new pregnancy to themselves for as long as possible. This post is written for those they summon up enough courage to tell.

I would like to plead with you, moms, grandmothers, sisters, and friends. If your loved one has experienced the pain of miscarriage, but has been blessed with another pregnancy, do all you can to encourage her to joyful acceptance of this new life. You have no idea the impact your reaction can have on her spirit as she walks the difficult road of pregnancy after miscarriage. She needs you to be happy with her; she needs you to fight for joy with her.

It’s okay for you to struggle with fear too, but know that your fear is but a shadow compared to the knowledge that the life within you may suddenly die without a moment’s notice. As she struggles for joy for herself, she is also struggling for joy for you. She battles the fear that you will view her as a ticking time bomb, just waiting for her to miscarry again.

This woman desperately needs people in her life who will celebrate the child she has been chosen to carry–no matter how long that time may be.

She needs people to remind her that the Lord is in control and will be with her no matter what happens.

She needs people who will love her child, even if his or her life is but a few weeks long.

She needs people to pray for her baby, and for her–that she would trust in the Lord’s will and be comforted by his perfect peace.

She needs people to smile and shout and congratulate and be thankful with her when she shares the GOOD news.

She needs you to love her.

Would you do that for her?

Would you be happy with her?

Don’t be the person she dreads sharing the news with, instead be the one she wants to call first–the one she knows she can count on to point her to Christ and away from fear.

To read more of my posts on miscarriage, click here.

photo credit: wjserson via photopin cc

Confessions of a Boy-Crazy Girl Book Giveaway

Confessions of a Boy-Crazy Girl“For the first time, I understood that Jesus didn’t die to forgive me of my sin but leave me in it. He died to forgive and to free me from the power of sin. Suddenly I realized I didn’t have to be jealous of that pretty girl. I didn’t have to covet every guy I saw. I didn’t have to hate that guy for for not liking me. I wasn’t powerless anymore…”  -Confessions of a Boy-Crazy Girl

“Boy-crazy” is a term I would readily apply to my high school and (ashamedly) college age self. Like many girls, my thoughts, emotions, and plans were all too often tied up in my latest crush and the dreamy, detailed future I had imaged for us. As a new believer in high school, the idols of romance and sexual attraction were constantly bidding for my worship. Without the helpful advice and guidance I received from my parents and church mentors, I would have fallen prey to their empty promises far more often than I did–and with greater consequences. It was simply by the grace of God that I didn’t fall victim to my own foolishness.

Author Paula Hendricks shares a similar history and has written a book to encourage young women who find themselves falling prey to their lust for boys. In Confessions of a Boy-Crazy GirlPaula takes her readers on a journey through her past, sharing actual journal entrees from her “crazed” days, anecdotal stories of her boy obsession, and scriptural counsel for young women struggling with the same emotions.

Paula’s writing style is straight forward, fun, and engaging. Reading her book, leaves you with the keen impression that she’d be the perfect friend to stay up late watching chick flicks and eating ice cream straight out of the bucket with. More importantly, however, reading her book will wisely encourage young women to put their hope for freedom from their “neediness” in the only One who can truly free them–Jesus Christ. This isn’t a “How to Guard Your Heart from the Opposite Sex” book. It is a book about idols, slavery to sin, and the joyous freedom found in our Savior. It’s for this reason that I’m so excited to recommend Confessions of a Boy-Crazy Girl! I know that young women will both enjoy Paula’s book as well as be encouraged to direct their gaze at our idol-smashing God.

Paula has graciously sent three signed copies of Confessions of a Boy-Crazy Girl for me to give away today! Simply fill out the form below for your chance to win one of those copies! (This giveaway is limited to U.S. residents and will end Sunday the 30th at 12.00 A.M.)

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