This blog focuses on the quest to know and please God in a constantly increasing way. The upward journey never ends. My prayer is that this blog will reflect a heart that seeks God and that it will encourage others who share the same heart desire.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

The Forest and the Trees - Part 2

The focus of last week’s post was that the Bible is a unified book; we understand each part better by considering its role within the big picture. This week I would like to take a look at the other side of the coin. While our understanding of each part is enhanced as we see the big picture, it is also true that our fullest understanding of the big picture requires us to understand each part. Every section of the Bible is important, and we must pursue a broad-based, comprehensive study of the Bible. Some sections are more difficult, but they teach important truth to aid our understanding of the Bible as a whole.

We need a balanced study of Scripture. There are Christians and churches that concentrate their attention on a limited section of the Bible. For example, some churches may seldom preach from anywhere except the Epistles. Individuals may spend all of their time in the Gospels or perhaps the Psalms. These churches or individuals might rarely, if ever, look at the books of the Law or the Prophets; in fact, their visits to the Old Testament may be limited and brief. These selective examinations of Scripture result in an unbalanced diet; while such study does provide many good things, it leaves out other essential nutrients.

How can we fully appreciate who God is if we do not see the Creator revealed in Genesis or if we do not learn the many amazing facets of His character revealed in the Psalms? How can we understand why salvation is needed without reading about the fall? How can we understand God’s hatred of sin without reading the books of the Law and the Prophets? Can we grasp His power to work out His plan in history or in individual lives without reading the books of History?

The Old Testament gives important background and foundation for understanding salvation. It reveals God’s working through millennia to design a plan, protect that plan, and perform that plan in spite of obstacles and obstinacy. We see a God who makes multiplied promises and then faithfully works them out in every detail. We see a God who faithfully loves His people and who very patiently does what is necessary to give them every opportunity to receive His salvation. We need that background in order to have full understanding of the message of the Bible.

New Tribes Mission recognizes this dilemma. As their missionaries present the Bible to new people groups, they use a chronological approach that starts at Creation. By including critical stories from the Old Testament, the listeners come to understand sin, sacrifice, forgiveness, and other concepts key to salvation. When they get to the account of Christ, they have a firm background that helps them be ready to believe and move forward. For these believers salvation is not simply a prayer to be prayed, but rather a life-changing decision rooted in true understanding. Sadly, our culture in America is progressively approaching the position of Biblical illiteracy; without an effort to study the whole Bible, many new Christians are lacking some of what they need for proper understanding of salvation and Christian living. (New Tribes offers a Sunday school curriculum designed to develop a base for understanding key concepts.)

Consider this sampling of passages that highlight the importance of a broad study of Scripture and its various parts.
“Now He said to them, ‘These are My words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things which are written about Me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” (Luke 24:44 NASB)

“Then beginning with Moses and with all the prophets, He explained to them the things concerning Himself in all the Scriptures.” (Luke 24:27)

“’You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; it is these that testify about Me.’” (John 5:39)

“[Paul] was explaining to them by solemnly testifying about the kingdom of God and trying to persuade them concerning Jesus, from both the Law of Moses and from the Prophets, from morning until evening.” (Acts 28:23)

“For whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, so that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.” (Romans 15:4)

“Now these things happened to them [Israel] as an example, and they were written for our instruction.” (I Corinthians 10:11)

 “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable.” (II Timothy 3:16)

The psalmist in Psalm 77 was discouraged and fainting. He thought that God had forgotten him or was no longer the same. To combat his despair, he said, “I shall remember the deeds of the LORD; surely I will remember Your wonders of old. I will meditate on all Your work and muse on Your deeds.” (Psalm 77:11-12) Then he pondered the works of God, not in his personal past, but in history – the Flood and the exodus.

The psalmist of Psalm 119 had only the books of the Law and perhaps some of the history books, but he repeatedly spoke of their value to him. “The unfolding of Your words gives light; it gives understanding to the simple.” (Psalm 119:130)

Jesus repeatedly referred back to the Old Testament, including in Matthew 5, where He used what the people already knew (“You have heard that it was said”) as the foundation to teach them new truth.

When Stephen preached his sermon in Acts 7, he extensively reviewed content from the Old Testament (vs. 2-47) as important background for his challenge.

An understanding of the Old Testament, especially the Law, was important to the Hebrew believers. The author of Hebrews depends on their knowledge, as in chapters 5-10 he works to assure them that the new system is better and the new High Priest is worthy of trust.

The topics of salvation and Christian living are extremely important. As wonderful as the teachings of Jesus are, and as instructive as the epistle of James may be, however, a diet restricted to these sections of Scripture will produce spiritual malnutrition which leads to shallow Christianity. For a healthy, robust relationship with God, a Christian must have a well-balanced, complete diet.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Book Review: Not By Chance

Not by Chance
by Layton Talbert

One thing I appreciate about this book about God’s providence is that it is not filled with man’s opinions, nor does it manipulate the Bible to fit a preconceived position. Instead, it is an honest examination of the Scriptures in an effort to find God’s truth. The author clearly wanted to know what the Bible says about providence, and he became sensitive to see truths about providence revealed through the pages of Scripture. The content is heavily supported with Bible quotations and passages.

The author illuminates what the Bible teaches about providence, while being honest enough to admit the aspects that are beyond human comprehension. He is not afraid to examine troublesome aspects of providence, such as the balance between God’s sovereignty and man’s free will, how sin fits it, and why bad things happen. This earnest evaluation provides illuminating understanding and reassuring confidence. The chapters are filled with wonderful truths; some of the statements beckon the reader to sink into them, to soak them in, and to gratefully meditate on their significance. The tone of the book overall is positive and comforting, as it reassures the Christian of the trustworthiness of God. Through the truths of this book, the reader should learn to more frequently recognize the hand of God at work.

The author defines providence and presents its two aspects: preservation (keeping the earth and its creatures functioning) and guidance (directing and overseeing the events of life). He utilizes examples of providence from the Bible itself (both Old and New Testaments), as well as incidents from church history and events in world history, even into modern times. Extended examples are given through in-depth studies of Christ, Joseph, Pharoah, and Esther. The book is both readable enough for the lay person and technical enough for the scholar. In the book, Mr. Talbert incorporates his personality and subtle humor, touches that some readers will especially enjoy.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

The Forest and the Trees

Part of understanding the Bible is the realization that it is a single, unified book. When Christians approach Bible study, many of them view the Bible as an anthology containing sixty-six books from which to choose. Still others rarely if ever take a view as broad as an entire book; instead they focus their study on a particular passage or Bible story, perhaps even on verses in isolation.

Romans 8:28, for example, is a precious verse and could be the topic of Bible study for a particular day. A spiritually-sensitive reader will certainly profit from studying the verse. There is greater profit, however, when studying that verse in its surrounding context. Rather than an isolated nugget, Romans 8:28 is part of a larger passage. That passage, in turn, is part of the book of Romans. Capturing the essence of the book will enhance the appreciation for and understanding of both the verse itself and its surrounding passage. The benefit does not end there. The book of Romans will be best appreciated when one sees it in relation to the message of entire Bible.

I am by nature a “big picture” kind of person. I remember being trained at one of my jobs. My trainer immediately started on the nuts and bolts – the technicalities of my particular position. I was taught how to fill out the forms, the sequence of questions to ask, and the practical skills needed to work within the computer programs. I learned the distinctions between different abbreviations, how to move between fields on the computer screen, and where to save documents. What I didn’t learn was the overall structure of the business, its different divisions, a summary of the services provided, or how my particular division fit into the picture. Even for my particular position, I wasn’t given an overview; instead of having an outline into which to organize my various responsibilities, I was given a jumble of random tasks. I eventually learned some of those things and put the pieces together, but for a while I struggled to understand my job and to answer the questions of the customers. It felt like working a temp job in which I was guessing at answers rather than answering with confidence or understanding. I couldn’t effectively do my part because I did not understand the big picture.

There are certainly times to get a close-up view of a verse or passage. This is what gives depth to our understanding. We cannot achieve that depth, however, without an understanding of the Bible as a whole. Our understanding of the individual book or passage is enhanced when we see how it fits into the big picture. There are often revelations in the New Testament that help an Old Testament passage to make sense. From the opposite perspective, many Old Testament passages were written to lay the foundation for New Testament truth.

In essence, the message of the entire Bible is God’s redemptive plan of salvation. We best understand the parts of the Bible by seeing how they fit into that overall theme. In a nutshell, everything in the Bible works together to reveal who the God of salvation is, why man needs salvation, the process of providing salvation, and the resulting life after salvation. The limitations of this post do not make an exhaustive examination possible, but consider the following thoughts.

The Bible opens with Genesis, a book that starts out by revealing who this God is that we need to be reconciled to (the Creator) and why we need to be reconciled to Him (the fall, the flood). It reveals how God set His redemptive plan in motion (Abraham, beginning of Jewish nation).

Much of the Old Testament follows the story line of the nation of Israel. The Redeemer would come from the Jewish people. The history books show God’s dedication to His promise of redemption, His faithfulness to the people of promise, and His amazing intervention to preserve the mode of fulfilling that promise. In spite of all odds and obstacles (Kings, Chronicles, Esther), God preserved the nation of Israel, returning them as necessary to their land (Exodus, Deuteronomy, Joshua, Ezra, Nehemiah) so that His promise could be fulfilled as He had stated.

In those history books, we also see more of man’s need for redemption through his repeated failures. The books of the Law (Leviticus, Numbers) show man’s inability to be pleasing to God even when he knows exactly what God wants. Judges shows more of the same. The books of the Prophets also reveal the great sin of man that requires redemption. They show us man turning his back on the only God who can redeem him.

Certain parts of the Old Testament also reveal to us what the God who offers redemption is like. The Prophets reveal His holiness and hatred of sin. They also reveal His longsuffering and graciousness. Job and the Psalms reveal much about His character and power. These aspects reveal more of why redemption is needed and how it is possible.

When we arrive at the New Testament, the Gospels give us the critical account of the events directly leading to redemption. They tell the story of the Savior – His birth, His sinless life, and His sacrificial death. In the Gospels we find the fulfillment of many of the prophecies from the Old Testament.

In Acts, we see the redemptive plan being carried to the world, including the Gentile nations. We see the amazing change that the gospel makes in lives.

The Epistles give further explanation of various aspects of redemption. They help to explain and apply some of what was revealed in the Old Testament and through the life of Christ. They reveal what the life of a redeemed one should look like. They also give warnings and cautions about maintaining the integrity of the gospel.

The Bible closes with the book of Revelation, which reveals the culmination of the redemptive plan. God’s plan will come to pass in all of its details and exactly as He has ordained it. Evil, sin, and death will be conquered, and the righteousness, joy, and peace achieved through redemption will reign forever.

This is of necessity an abbreviated view of the Bible. It is important for us to recognize, however, that the hundreds of stories in the Bible are all part of one story. Nothing is in the Bible by accident. All of it is beneficial for our understanding of God and His redemptive plan. Like any good author, God has masterfully designed His Book so that all of its parts work together. Background from the Old Testament helps us to understand the New Testament, and insights from the New Testament help us to understand the Old Testament. There are things that we cannot fully grasp without the accumulation of all the parts. We will make errors if we aren’t careful to compare passages and learn from their combined truth. Yes, we need up-close and in-depth study of the Bible, but we can’t forget to step back and see the big picture.

“You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; it is these that testify about Me.” John 5:39 (NASB)

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Changing Wrong Thinking

So much of the battle for Christian growth takes place in the mind. The thoughts are the foundation for everything a person does and believes. Without correct thinking, a believer lives based on wrong underlying philosophies. Without proper thinking, he makes unbiblical choices, is easily swayed by others, and allows his life to be controlled by his emotions.

Incorrect thinking can be deliberate. From time to time, someone says something like this: “I know that’s what the Bible says, but I don’t care.” This person chooses to make his own thoughts the basis rather than God’s. The solution for this wrong thinking is to submit to God.

In many situations, incorrect thinking is due to ignorance. In these cases the believer has never been taught or has never sought out God’s answers to the issue in question. This can especially be true of new Christians and of those whose church attendance and personal Bible study have been limited. The solution for this incorrect thinking is to spend more time in the Word. For specific situations, there may be a need for focused study or for seeking counsel from a spiritual leader.

In the majority of situations, I believe that neither of these reasons is the key to wrong thinking. Many Christians know the truth for their situation and are willing to submit to that truth. The problem is in maintaining focus on that truth. How often has a Christian sincerely said, “I know what I need to believe, but I struggle to remember it”? He may find himself in a constant battle, wanting to believe the right thing, but finding those proper thoughts elusive. The solution for this problem is learning to control the thoughts.

For sake of illustration, imagine someone who has just been diagnosed with an aggressive cancer. There are huge question marks about his prognosis. The doctors hold out little hope, and they have only a risky surgery to offer as a possible answer. It appears that this man’s days are limited.

The person in our first example may recognize the truths that his life is in God’s hands and that God is in control; instead of turning to God for help, however, he insists, “I have to fight this on my own.” He spends hours in research and seeks out extreme diets, intense physical regimens, alternative treatments, and so on. He is self-reliant, leaving God out of the decisions.

The person in our second scenario may think that doctors are the ones who can help him and that the answer is found in science. Not understanding God’s role, he depends on the doctors and relies solely on their advice. He goes to the support groups they suggest and talks to the counselors they recommend. He doesn’t understand the divine level of help that is available to him.

The third person knows the right truth to help him in this difficult time. He knows God is with him, that God can give wisdom, and that God’s grace is sufficient. At times he clings tenaciously to those truths and they give him hope. Just as frequently, those truths are chased out of his mind when the test results come back, when the doctor shares the odds of survival, when he thinks of his family’s having to live without him, or when the pain level surges in the middle of the night.

This person wants to think right thoughts. How does he do it? His thinking is corrected as he directs his thoughts to the Bible. He must first of all identify the correct thoughts and the truths that are especially applicable to his situation. For example, this man may realize that he needs the truth of Philippians 4:6-7, that God’s peace can replace his anxiety as he takes his requests to God. He may also focus on God’s constant presence (Hebrews 13:5), inseparable love (Romans 8:35-39), available wisdom (James 1:5), or sufficient grace (II Corinthians 12:9).

Having identified these truths, he needs to do something to make them readily accessible and to provide frequent reminders of them. He may write them in a notebook that he keeps with him, on cards that he places in his pocket, or on the desktop of his computer. His goal is to remember those thoughts as frequently as possible throughout the day.

Thinking correctly is a habit. Perhaps this man’s nature is to worry. Worry has been his habit for years. He needs to break that habit, something that is done with repeated efforts at establishing a new habit. Each time he focuses on truth throughout the day, his thoughts are corrected. They may remain correct for an hour or maybe only five minutes, but the next time he remembers the truth, his thoughts come back into line again. With practice, his thoughts will return to truth more frequently and remain on it for longer periods of time. Gradually the Word of God renews his mind and creates a new way of thinking.

Think of streams of water that flow down a bank. There are certain channels or grooves that the streams naturally follow. Someone who wants to change those channels, perhaps to protect his garden at the bottom of the bank, has to create new grooves to divert the water. He blocks off the current channels and digs new ones. At first the channels he makes may not be deep enough or may take unnatural turns. After the next rainstorm, the streams revert to their previous channels. The man goes back to work, and eventually through his digging of trenches and building of walls, the water comes to follow his channels just as naturally as it used to follow the old ones. The tendency toward the old channels may still exist, but it becomes increasingly less likely for the water to return to them as the landscape is changed.

There is no doubt that the mind is a battlefield. The battle is not easily won. It requires consistent and repeated attention. When the thoughts stray to their old patterns, the Christian must bring them back again to truth. This may happen dozens or even hundreds of times a day, but the truth of the Bible is powerful and effective. With continued readjustment by thinking according to the Bible, wrong thinking can be corrected and biblical thinking can prevail.

“And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.” Romans 12:2 (NASB)

Saturday, September 14, 2013

The Rising Doubt

There’s an old hymn by George Croly titled “Spirit of God, Descend upon My Heart.” I especially like the fourth stanza, shown below.

Teach me to feel that thou art always nigh;
Teach me the struggles of the soul to bear.
To check the rising doubt, the rebel sigh,
Teach me the patience of unanswered prayer.

The stanza focuses on internal struggles and the desire to respond to them properly. The speaker wants to learn to know God’s constant presence even when he does not feel it. He wants to learn to be patient when he does not see God’s answers to prayer. He wants to learn how to correctly bear the struggles of the soul. He lists two of those common struggles.

Sometimes the soul wants to give off a “rebel sigh.” This is not quite an outright outburst of defiance. Nevertheless, it is an expression of disagreement with God’s plan. It is a groan stemming from lack of submission, a heart-originated protest that wishes for things to be different. The previous post addressed this type of soul struggle. While a Christian may not understand, like, or agree with God’s work, he must yield to it. There should be no rebels among Christians.

The second type of soul struggle mentioned is the “rising doubt.” This one is also very common. When life doesn’t go the way a believer thinks it should, he is inclined to have doubts that accompany his protesting sighs. He starts to ask questions. “Is God really working in my life?” “Will God lead me?” “Is this promise for me, or is my case special?” “If I’m trying to do the right thing, why does it seem that nothing is working out?”

The hymn-writer speaks of checking or curtailing that doubt while it is still in the rising or formative stage. He wants to learn to stop that doubt dead in its tracks before it has a chance to grow larger. Doubts will do that. The initial doubt may be in a small area, but at its root, it is doubt of God. If a Christian starts to doubt God in one area, it is quite natural to begin doubting Him in other areas as well. When he starts to doubt God, the believer finds himself on a very dangerous path. Without realizing what is happening, he can quickly find himself doubting everything he has ever known of God.

Doubts are dangerous. Oh, how the Christian must guard against them! He must identify them for what they are, recognize their danger, and eliminate them before they do widespread damage. As the hymn-writer explains, God’s help is necessary to effectively meet this struggle of the soul.

“We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ.” II Corinthians 10:5 (NASB)

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Yielding to the Potter

         The Vessel (Sonnet 20)
The potter sits intently at his wheel,
His full attention given to the jar.
Then suddenly his probing fingers feel
A flaw or lump or pebble that would mar.
The jar is spoiled; it must now be remade.
His hands reduce the clay into a ball.
His skill is followed and His will obeyed;
The clay is pliant, yielding at His call.
The potter works to press and shape and squeeze;
The quality no longer will be poor.
The final product is designed to please -
Without a doubt, far better than before.
Effective when the clay remains the clay,
And lets the skillful potter have his way.

The work is God’s. God selects and prepares the clay. He spins the wheel. He molds the clay and adjusts the shape. He evaluates the progress and identifies flaws. He chooses what the finished product should look like. God is a master potter, and He knows what He is doing. He will achieve His desired result.

Our part is to submit to His skillful hands. We can’t jump off the wheel. We can’t stiffen ourselves or refuse to be molded. We have to be willing to be squeezed and shaped. We need to trust the hands that are molding us.

“But the vessel that he was making of clay was spoiled in the hand of the potter; so he remade it into another vessel, as it pleased the potter to make.” Jeremiah 18:4 (NASB)

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Sometimes It Gets Ugly

In a lot of areas in life, things can look pretty messy before they actually look good. Think of landscaping a yard or remodeling a house. Crafts, cooking, and baking can look pretty chaotic and disastrous until the final product is achieved. We understand the concept of a work in progress. We accept the temporary mess as necessary for achieving the polished product.

The same is true of Christian growth. God purifies and sanctifies us in order to make us into beautiful masterpieces that bring glory to Him; His work, however, is progressive. Sometimes there are rather ugly-looking views along the way as we advance toward Christ-like maturity. We are not always adept at walking the right way, so sometimes we stumble awkwardly or even fall into the mud. We are on the right path and headed in the right direction, but we are not perfect.

Since starting this blog, I have been reminded often (it seems more often than normal) that I still have not achieved graceful elegance. This realization can have the tendency to be discouraging to any of us. It can be frustrating to see continued struggle in a certain area, renewed struggle with an old area, or awkward, halting attempts to learn the lessons God has for us. Rather than becoming discouraged, we need to think with wisdom rather than emotion.

The fact that something is challenging does not make it wrong. Difficulty is not the same as sin. Sometimes we equate the struggle to learn with spiritual failure. Let me give a practical example. Someone might consider himself a failure as a Christian because he has a hard time dealing with his mother’s death. That’s not a valid evaluation. That situation is hard by its very nature. It is a challenge and a struggle. The difficult circumstance, however, is intended and used by God to strengthen spiritual muscles and promote growth. Those results only come through challenge.

Let’s consider a different illustration. Imagine an Olympic figure skater. He probably started skating at the age of two. At first all he attempted was to stand on his feet, then to shuffle a little, and then to skate forward. He reached the point that he looked pretty good at the basics, and then he started adding things like skating backwards and doing figure eights. Over time he added some spinning, jumping, and stopping skills. Eventually, he started doing moves with funny names: axel, lutz, toe loop, and salchow. He learned butterfly jumps, camel spins, spread eagles, and death spirals. When he got really good, he started performing these moves in multiples, in combinations, and even with a partner. At each new stage and for each new skill, he fell down a lot. He got multiple bruises, maybe concussions, and possibly even broken bones. His initial attempts at each skill were awkward and shaky. Some skills took months to learn and years to master.

Would we look at that developing skater and call him a failure? When he stumbles on a triple lutz, do we consider it disaster? When he falls during a camel spin or drops his partner while practicing a lift, do we write him off? No, we recognize that he is learning and developing new skills. It may not always look pretty along the way, but he is improving and progressing. The stumbling and falling are actually signs of the skater’s quest for improvement, as he pushes himself past where he has been before. It is completely normal and expected that he will not master every new skill immediately.

It is the same with us as Christians. God is constantly challenging us to move higher and higher with Him. He introduces new challenges or multiple challenges or new combinations of challenges to stretch us. Our initial attempts are awkward, and it does take time to reach some mastery in each area. The fact that our responses sometimes look ugly does not mean we are failing; it means we are learning. I’m not excusing sin or saying there is no such thing as failure. It should be clear to us, however, that sometimes what we might be tempted to call failure is nothing more than the initial work needed to learn a new skill. We might fall down now just like we did ten years ago, but now we fall down while attempting a triple lutz; ten years ago we fell while simply trying to skate forward.

When we seem to struggle or feel unsteady on our feet, we must remember that the present difficulty is not the problem. The problem would be if we stop trying to learn and stop making attempts when the difficulty is placed before us. It is important to remember that God is the one doing the work, and He will see that it is done properly. If we return to the craft reference from the first paragraph, we can be reminded of God as a potter. He is making a vessel out of each of us. If necessary, He will crush the clay and start over, but He will keep working with us until we are what He wants us to be. It may look messy along the way, but in the end He will create something beautiful and pleasing to Him.

“For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.” Philippians 1:6 (NASB)

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Book Review: Loneliness

Elisabeth Elliot is well-known in Christian circles, primarily as the widow of Jim Elliot, one of five missionaries martyred in Ecuador by the Aucas. Many people are not aware that her second husband was taken from her by illness. In addition to these two seasons of widowhood, Elisabeth also spent many years as a single person prior to her marriage to Jim. Her life experiences, combined with her lifelong study of the Scriptures, qualify her to write about the topic of Loneliness.

She states that God designed people to enjoy companionship with each other as well as with God. After sin marred God’s beautiful plan, people find themselves lonely. They seek to fill their need in various disappointing ways without realizing that only God can truly assuage the loneliness or that God has purposes for their loneliness. Whether caused by rejection, singleness, an unhappy marriage, widowhood, divorce, or an empty nest, the pain of loneliness ought to be a force that drives one to God.

Elisabeth mentions the need to love God more than anyone else. In our trust of Him, an important part of dealing with the loss of loneliness is recognizing that God habitually uses death (or loss) as the starting place for new birth and new beginnings. When loneliness is accepted as a gift from God, one designed to contribute to His good plan, the lonely life can be offered back to God with the intention of serving Him through it. “Our loneliness cannot always be fixed, but it can always be accepted as the very will of God for now, and that turns it into something beautiful.” What seems to be only a burden can become the means of great blessing when it is used in the way that God intends. “If God had eliminated the problem He would have eliminated the particular kind of blessing which it bears.”

The author uses both personal stories and those of others to illustrate the various truths that she presents. While her tendency toward an older style of writing and her inclusion of certain poems and quotations of earlier eras can at times hinder clarity, there is much helpful truth that can be easily gleaned from her writings. The book demonstrates the heart of one who has developed both sensitivity to God and compassion for others. Loneliness was published in 1988 by Oliver Nelson, a division of Thomas Nelson Publishers.