Moms, Love God With All Your Mind

Much recognition has been given lately to frontline workers, and rightly so. Medical personnel, retail employees, truck drivers, postal workers, and countless others have kept our country functioning in the midst of the current crisis, even as others have been asked to stay home. Moms have never been strangers to the frontline. They may not be in the public eye, but they are the original frontline workers in their children’s lives. As mothers bandage one boo boo after another, prepare countless meals, and dry rivers of tears, they are attuned to their children like no one else on the planet. Motherhood is physically, emotionally, and mentally demanding. In my experience and observation, moms often give more attention to maintaining their own physical and emotional health than to nurturing the life of the mind, despite the fact that it is equally important to our spiritual health.

When asked by a scribe to identify the greatest commandment, Jesus replied, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.” (Mark 12:30) As women, we are typically very good at the heart, soul, and even strength sections of that verse. Often we are so worn out from performing the roles of short order cook, janitor, activities director, dispute mediator, and taxi driver, that we brush past the mind portion of the greatest commandment. But our children are fighting a new kind of battle in the world today that can only be defeated through sound reasoning. This requires that we strengthen and engage our minds with God’s Word, learn to apply critical reasoning skills, and teach our children to do the same.

While playground bullies still exist, a larger threat is posed by a culture that engages in linguistic gymnastics by redefining words and invading our children’s minds with unbiblical ideas. Our children are no longer just fighting against enemies on the playground who want to pummel them with their fists. They are up against an invisible foe who wants to capture their thoughts. One particularly insidious inroad is the cyber-bully capable of throwing virtual punches to their psyches from the other side of a device screen. Just as we would teach them to defend against physical threats, we must also train them to take every thought captive for Christ. 2 Corinthians 10:5 says, “We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ.” Our kids may not even recognize the danger at first glance, but it is our responsibility to teach them to recognize the hazards inherent in a culture trying to remake God in its own image. How can we equip ourselves so that we are prepared to equip our children? As moms, we need to put on our helmets, work out our salvation, and hold on to truth.

Put On Your Helmet

Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit — which is the word of God. Ephesians 6:17

The first line of defense in the life of the mind is to put on the helmet of salvation for ourselves before we ever try to come to our child’s aid. This may seem counterintuitive at first, because as moms our first instinct is to protect our kids without thought for our own safety. But think of it as being similar to the way flight attendants instruct parents to respond in emergency situations. They tell parents to place the oxygen mask on themselves first before attending to their children. Salvation works the same way. Until we accept the life sustaining gift of salvation by grace and through faith, it is difficult for our children to realize its importance. We cannot pass on what we haven’t received ourselves. As they observe the peace, assurance, and security we find in our salvation, our children will be drawn to the hope we have in Christ.

Work Out Your Salvation

Therefore, my dear friends, just as you have always obeyed, so now, not only in my presence but even more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. Philippians 2:12

After we have protected our minds with the helmet of salvation, we are responsible to daily work out our understanding of what it means to be saved. The sanctification process requires that we soberly and reverently seek to mature in our comprehension of the finished work of Christ on our behalf. We grow in our understanding that not only did Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection save us from something, but it saved us for something. We were rescued from sin and death for the purpose of walking daily in the abundant life God promises His children. Not only that, but we look forward to eternity in heaven with our Lord. If we only view salvation as a kind of “fire insurance,” we and our children miss out on realizing the full benefit of all that Christ accomplished for us. We miss out on the joy of cooperating with Him in His plans for us on this earth until He calls us to our eternal home.

Hold On To Truth

But test all things. Hold on to what is good. 1 Thessalonians 5:21

Finally, we should seek to practice discernment by letting go of those things that are not healthy for our minds. We are bombarded with information and entertainment choices coming at us from news sources and social media accounts from the moment our feet hit the floor in the morning until the time we lay our heads down on our pillows at night. It is incredibly easy to become absorbed in our own virtual worlds without carefully holding up the things we hear and see against the truth of God’s Word. Our microwave culture insists on instant gratification, and tells us that everything ought to be quick and easy. But sometimes the discernment process requires that we let our thoughts slowly simmer on the back burner for a while. By so doing, we allow truth to permeate our minds without reflexively accepting things that may not line up with God’s Word. As our children watch us wrestle well, test all things, and hold on to what is good, they learn to do the same.

This Mother’s Day as your children shower you with gifts, consider reciprocating with the gift of a mom who loves God with all her mind. Let’s weep and laugh with our children. Take time to run and play with them. But let’s not neglect to think critically and deeply about spiritual things, and to teach them to do the same. Our children will reap long-lasting benefits from such an investment. It will be a gift that keeps on giving as they pass it along to their children, and there is no greater joy in the life of a mom than watching a Godly legacy bloom and flourish.

Easter: A Bittersweet Season

Bittersweet. An odd combination of sorrow and celebration. That is the best word I have found to describe this Easter season. Those of us who are in Christ are simultaneously experiencing the tragic effects of living in a fallen world, while rejoicing in our future hope. We understand that this world is not our home, yet it’s where we find ourselves during this brief moment in time. In a time of year typically celebrated together with family by hunting beautifully decorated eggs, eating lovingly prepared meals, and joyously celebrating our risen Savior, many now find themselves isolated, alone, and longing for the warm embrace of loved ones. The fallen nature of even the natural world necessitates physical separation from family and friends this Easter.

The world as a whole desperately longs for healing. Scientists all over the planet are racing to find a cure for a virus that has left sickness and death in its wake. But long before COVID-19, the world was already ill. Jesus came to earth as the first and only frontline response to the pandemic of sin that has separated us from our creator since the very first transgression. He is still our only rescue from that horrible ailment. As such, He understands our pain, and provides the antidote that gives us hope. Isaiah 53:5 tells us “But he was pierced because of our rebellion, crushed because of our iniquities; punishment for our peace was on him, and we are healed by his wounds.”

I read recently that even unpleasant, bitter tastes serve a purpose in helping to identify poison in the things we might attempt to ingest. The same article indicated that sweet tastes help us identify energy-rich, beneficial nutrients. If we apply this physical principle to our spiritual lives, we need both bitterness and sweetness in our lives. The bitter times remind us that we live in a fallen, sinful world and cause us to long for the hope of eternity. The sweet times compel us to express gratitude for all our Heavenly Father has bestowed upon us. I believe we are living in the tension between these two necessary flavors of life right now.

As I read over the events of the very first Holy Week described in scripture, the words leave a bittersweet taste behind. Jesus knew full well what events lay ahead of Him as He prepared to drink the bitter, poisonous cup of death. He was completely aware that it was only by consuming this cup prepared for Him by the Father that we could reap the sweet, life-giving benefits of forgiveness. In my mind’s eye, I juxtapose the ugliness of the cross, arguably the most brutal execution known to man, against the beauty of redemption accomplished once and for all by our Savior and Lord.

As we consider our current most unusual Easter season, may we be encouraged by the accomplished work of Christ on the cross. The words of scripture in 1 Peter 5:10 assure us that “The God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, establish, strengthen, and support you after you have suffered a little while.” My prayer is that God would use the bittersweet flavor of these days to cause us to hunger all the more for fellowship with our brothers and sisters in Christ, and ultimately with God Himself by drawing near to Him to answer the deepest needs of our hearts.

Book Review: Talking With Your Kids About Jesus

Natasha Crain’s newest book, Talking With Your Kids About Jesus, is an essential resource for anyone seeking to provide spiritual guidance to children in today’s cultural climate. It could not have come at a better time as children ask parents big questions in light of the current COVID-19 pandemic. The author makes these critical conversations manageable even for busy parents or grandparents as she provides content broken down into short sections that can be easily digested in just a few minutes a day.

The book is divided into five sections which cover the identity of Jesus, the teachings of Jesus, the death of Jesus, the resurrection of Jesus, and the difference Jesus makes. Each chapter within the section consists of several pages of content followed by a summary of the key points. The author also includes a conversation guide for parents to use as they talk with their children and train them to boldly defend their faith.

While I believe every conversation in the book is essential, I am particularly impressed by the way the author covers several topics. The first is in the section about the identity of Jesus. Crain highlights the importance of ensuring that our kids have a thorough grasp on knowing that Jesus is God, even though He never says those exact words. She provides a solid foundation of Biblical evidences to equip kids to face challenges from others with different worldviews.

In her section on the teachings of Jesus, Crain addresses another crucial topic by examining what Jesus taught about religion. She explains that many today inaccurately portray Jesus as pitting religion against relationship. The author astutely points out that this is a false dichotomy, and describes the profound impact embracing this belief can have on kids in terms of a lowered view of the nature of truth, the authority of the Bible, and the importance of the church.

Crain addresses the relationship between Old Testament animal sacrifices and Jesus’s death in the section on the death of Jesus. She emphasizes the importance of not only teaching kids the fun and memorable stories of the Bible, but explaining the enormity of sin to them through learning about the sacrificial system, and describing how it took the death of an innocent sacrifice to make atonement for it.

The final section of the book describes the difference Jesus makes in the life of the Christian. The chapter on what it means to trust in Jesus is especially timely in the midst of uncertainty and fear related to the ongoing pandemic. She provides helpful answers to the questions of evil and suffering by describing the biblical concept of trust as well as common misunderstandings of what it means to trust in Jesus. Natasha brings clarity to this difficult topic and provides guidance for parents as they discuss current events and personal disappointments with their children.

While I was familiar with Natasha Crain’s work in equipping parents to engage in apologetics conversations with their kids, this was the first of her books that I had the pleasure to read. Natasha has the ability to write about difficult topics in an easy to understand style even for those with no prior apologetics training. She communicates in a winsome manner, and makes parents feel as if they are hearing from a trusted friend. This book is a great resource for parents, grandparents, teachers, or Bible study leaders who desire to give children a clear understanding of Jesus in a world that often paints a confusing picture of the Founder and Perfecter of the Christian faith.

Curing Heart Disease

The heart is universally recognized as a symbol of love, and the month of February is prime season for all the hearts as we fashion chocolate into hearts, scribble them on our Valentines, and emblazon hearts across our t-shirts. One of my favorite traditions when my boys were young was to prepare a giant chocolate chip cookie cake in the shape of a heart for them to eat for breakfast on Valentine’s Day. After all, what better way to express my love than to offer chocolate chip cookies for the most important meal of the day! On our very first Valentine’s Day as a dating couple, my husband demonstrated his love for me by wrestling a giant inflatable heart up the stairway to my second floor apartment. Songs tell of burning hearts, shattered hearts, and even achy breaky hearts. Our hearts are the source of life flowing through our bodies, contracting 100,000 times a day, pumping 2,000 gallons of blood, and delivering oxygen and other essential nutrients to our vital organs. So it’s no doubt that our hearts are of great importance.

God created our hearts with both physical and spiritual significance, and confirms the vital nature of the heart through the number of mentions in His Word. In the CSB translation of the Bible, the heart is mentioned 508 times. That’s almost ten times the number of mentions of the soul (55), and almost five times the number of mentions of the mind (111). Thomas Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury during the reigns of Henry VIII and Edward VI, recognized the importance of the heart when he said, “What the heart loves, the will chooses, and the mind justifies.”  If this is true, and seeds planted in the heart grow into thoughts and actions, then it’s important to make sure our hearts are both physically and spiritually healthy. In fact, Proverbs 4:23 cautions us to “Guard your heart above all else for it is the source of life.”

Our Hearts Are Sick

Heart disease is the number one killer of people in the United States. According to the CDC, approximately 647,000 deaths occur each year as a result of heart disease. Physical heart disease can be managed through proper nutrition, adequate exercise, and appropriate medication. But what are we to do about our spiritually sick hearts? Spiritual heart-sickness has caused even more devastation over the millennia than physical heart disease. The first mention of the heart in scripture is in Genesis 8:21 when God promises after the flood to never again curse the ground because of man, “…even though the inclination of the human heart is evil from youth onward.” Later in the Old Testament, Jeremiah 17:9 says, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” Thus, we are born with diseased hearts, spiritually speaking. As much as we may desire the cure, we don’t have the means within ourselves to provide it. We can’t reach inside and fix this ailment. Unfortunately, many times we are encouraged to just “follow our hearts.” Perhaps it’s not wise to let emotions guide us without the direction of the one who created our hearts in the first place. Proverbs 3:5-6 instructs us to “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not rely on your own understanding; in all your ways know him, and he will make your paths straight.” Only when God mends our hearts can we be assured that we will remain on course.

God Heals Our Hearts

So is there anything we can do to treat our spiritual heart disease? We can do nothing on our own. The cure rests in placing our faith in Jesus, who suffered, died, and was resurrected to pay the penalty for our sin. Romans 10:10 says, “For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.” Psalm 119:11 instructs us to treasure God’s Word in our hearts so that we will not continue to sin against Him. As God’s Word takes root in our hearts, sin becomes less appealing to us. But, as flawed humans, sin inevitably rears its ugly head, requiring us to cleanse our hearts through the regular practice of confession and repentance. The psalmist is an example for us in Psalm 51:10 when he pleads, “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.” As we strive to keep our hearts pure and live holy lives during our brief time on earth, God promises that we will live eternally with Him in heaven. Jesus assures us in Matthew 5:8 that the pure in heart will see God.

We Satisfy Our Hearts In Him

The first portion of the great commandment in Mark 12:30 says to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart…” So what does it mean to love God with all our hearts? Does it mean mushy emotionalism, or could it mean something more? Psalms 24:3-4 says, “Who may ascend the mountain of the Lord? Who may stand in his holy place? The one who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not trust in an idol or swear by a false god.” We were made by our Creator to worship, and our hearts will never be truly satisfied or whole until we humbly submit our wills to His as an expression of loyalty and faithful worship. Augustine of Hippo said, “Thou has made us for thyself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it finds its rest in Thee.” God’s Word promises in Jeremiah 29:13 that, “You will seek me and find me when you search for me with all your heart.” As we journey on an earnest quest toward deeper fellowship with our Creator, we recognize who He is, and that He is the only one worthy of our whole-hearted devotion.

When my older son was about two years old, he made a Valentine in his Sunday School class. He brought it home, and we proudly displayed the lovingly crafted artwork on his bedroom door. As we went through our bedtime routine every night, we typically read a bedtime story, said a prayer, and went through the standard toddler stalling tactics. One night as he noticed the heart hanging on his door, he said, “There’s a heart on my door. Isn’t it pretty?” I’m not sure why, but we jokingly responded, “No. It’s disgusting, it’s horrible, it’s ugly!” Seeing the shock on his face, we then immediately replied, “No. It’s beautiful, and so are you!” He then said, “And so are you!” Hugs and kisses ensued immediately. For several months this became part of our bedtime routine, and we recited it exactly the same way every night. I admit it was kind of strange, but reflecting back on it, I think it gives a little insight into how we relate to God. We think there’s nothing wrong with our hearts and proudly put them on display. As we hold them up before a holy God, the ugliness within is revealed. Because He loves us, He provides the means to make our hearts beautiful and pure so we can enjoy His presence forever. And that will truly be a magnificent place to dwell for all who place their trust in Him.

Resolve to See Things God’s Way in 2020

Walking By Faith

In ten years of experience as an occupational therapist working with geriatric and stroke patients, I have observed that disruption of vision is one of the most devastating deficits a person can experience. That’s no wonder, since neuroscientists estimate that more than eighty percent of the information we receive about our environment is through the sense of vision. Our brains take in and interpret the information we receive through our eyes.  In the same way that we need physical vision to make sense of our world, we also need spiritual vision to effectively navigate through life. This longing for clear spiritual vision is evident as we cry out to God in worship with songs like “Be Thou My Vision” and  “Open the Eyes of My Heart.”

I have reflected extensively on the importance of vision because of my family history of eye disease. I have seen first hand how a deficiency in physical eyesight can affect a person. Both my grandmother and my mother were diagnosed with macular degeneration, and because this disease has a strong genetic component, I am a good candidate for developing this condition as well. I do all I can to reduce the odds by taking vitamins specifically designed to slow the process, protecting my eyes in bright sunlight, and paying attention to diet, but am I equally vigilant when it comes to maintaining good spiritual vision? Ensuring our ability to make sense of spiritual matters has far greater consequences than protecting our physical eyes. So how can we maintain 20/20 spiritual vision?

Three primary components of vision are necessary for making sense of our physical world: visual acuity, oculomotor control, and visual field. If any one of these is absent or deficient, we have a difficult time safely interacting with the environment. Acuity enables us to see clearly, oculomotor control directs the eyes toward a particular target, and visual field enables us to see the whole picture. In the same way that these components are necessary to make sense of the physical world, they are also applicable to the spiritual realm. Just as a skilled optician can create the perfect pair of glasses to bring our physical vision to 20/20, God has given us tools to utilize as we journey through life.

Seeing Clearly

We must maintain visual acuity or clarity in our worldview. We can only see clearly from a spiritual standpoint by viewing the world through the lens of God’s Word. Let us not underestimate the importance of being in the Word daily in order to keep from stumbling and falling due to blurry vision. As an occupational therapist, one compensatory strategy I have at my disposal to improve acuity is increasing light. The Bible tells us in Psalm 119:105 that, “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” (NKJV) Let us as followers of Christ use the application of Biblical wisdom as our strategy to prevent us from stumbling along life’s path. It is only when God’s Word illuminates our way that we can see the obstacles ahead poised to trip us up or cause us to stray off the straight and narrow road. Darkness cannot prevail against the light of God’s Word.

Fixing Our Gaze

When the muscles in our eyes demonstrate good oculomotor control, our gaze is maintained and fixed in the right direction. Weak eye muscles can be retrained and strengthened through tracking exercises in which an individual practices following a target with his eyes. Control of our spiritual muscles is necessary to keep our lives focused appropriately, and they also require training. We must make the conscious decision to only engage in those things which are conducive to our spiritual growth, and divert our gaze away from anything that is not beneficial. Hebrews 12: 2 says we are to run the race while “keeping our eyes on Jesus, the source and perfecter of our faith…” (CSB). It is only with Jesus as our target that we are able to safely navigate this world. While it is easy to turn aside and follow worldly passions, we will only keep moving in the right direction as we train ourselves to daily keep our eyes fixed on Him through employing the spiritual disciplines of prayer and Bible study.

Staying Alert

We maintain an awareness of all that is going on around us through a functional visual field. One strategy used in cases of visual field deficits is called visual scanning. Through this technique, individuals are trained to be acutely aware of areas of decreased vision, and employ a specific pattern for scanning toward those sections of the visual field. We need to be aware of our deficits spiritually as well and utilize strategies to compensate for our weaknesses. If our spiritual field of vision is deficient, we cannot perceive attacks coming from the enemy. Blind spots in our vision give the enemy an opportunity to assault and isolate us. John 10:10 says, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” (ESV) We must have a strategy to stay vigilant and alert regarding anything or anyone that would enter our world seeking to take away the blessings of life in Christ. Fellowship with other believers can be very helpful in this regard. Others are often able to see things in us that we cannot see in ourselves. Our brothers and sisters in Christ help fill in our blind spots and alert us to areas in which we need to grow.

Toward the end of her ninety-four years on earth, my grandmother lost much of her eyesight as a result of macular degeneration. It was difficult seeing her struggle to do everyday tasks we all take for granted. This disease also robbed her of the ability to do things that she once enjoyed such as reading her Bible, doing crossword puzzles, or playing along with Wheel of Fortune. It was comforting though to see that a physical disease could not steal the joy of the Lord from her life. She continued to walk with Him, allowing the Lord to take her hand and guide her when she couldn’t see the way. That’s the way spiritual eyesight works. We allow God to be our eyes, guiding us to places He’s already been, along a path He created for us, in order to follow His will for our lives. One of my grandmother’s favorite verses was Proverbs 3:5-6 : “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths.” (NKJV) And that is how Nannie was able to function when she all but lost her sight. She put her hand in God’s hand and submitted to his guidance when she couldn’t see the path ahead of her. We would do well to do the same.

Give Thanks for Goodness’ Sake

Why do I give thanks? While there are many things, people, and circumstances for which I am thankful, 1 Chronicles 16:34 provides the most essential reason of all when the author declares, “Give thanks to the LORD for He is good…” So why should we express gratitude for God’s goodness above anything else? Simply because God’s goodness is the foundational attribute underlying all other things for which we give thanks. A.W. Tozer explains in The Knowledge of the Holy, “The goodness of God is the drive behind all the blessings He daily bestows upon us. God created us because He felt good in His heart and He redeemed us for the same reason.” We would enjoy no other gifts, relationships, or experiences if God were not first of all good. Because of God’s goodness, I am comforted and not fearful of the remarkable power He wields over all of creation. I am encouraged rather than uneasy at His intimate knowledge of my every thought.

What does it mean to say that God is good? The Psalmist proclaims in Psalm 16:2, “I say to the LORD, ‘You are my Lord; I have no good apart from you.’” Goodness itself cannot be defined without first looking to God. All that He says, does, and is reflects His goodness. Tracing the movement of His hand throughout history reveals a picture of His good plan and redemptive story that began unfolding at the first sinful act of man. I heard it said recently that the Christian faith is unique because we worship a God who, because of His goodness, became the solution to mankind’s biggest problem. No other religion offers a deity who embodies that kind of self-sacrificial goodness. He was under no obligation to offer Himself up for us, except that He was compelled by His kindness and benevolent nature to do so.

Even creation itself reveals His goodness as He generously surrounds us with amazing treasures that delight our senses and leave us in awe of our Creator. He thrills us with the brilliance of the starry heavens that span across the horizon as far as our eyes can see. He lavishes us with the refreshing fragrance of the rain following an unexpected summer storm. He provides the sweetness of a freshly picked piece of fruit to satisfy our hunger. He entertains us with the melodious songs of birds to awaken us in the morning. He shines the luminescent glow of the sun on our faces to remind us of the warmth of His love. Only a good God would do such things.

Psalm 34:8 instructs us to “Taste and see that the LORD is good.” Goodness is not just a descriptor of how He is; it’s who He is. As humans who reflect the image of God, we can be good for a time, but our imperfect nature eventually claws its way to the surface. In contrast, God is only ever good. God is good because that’s who He is. I am sometimes good because of His Holy Spirit living in me. I can be a good parent for a while, but eventually I’ll lose my temper over some act of childish misbehavior. I can be a good friend temporarily, but at some point I’ll respond selfishly and let my closest companions down. I can be a good citizen for a time, until I’m cut off in traffic or beaten in line for some awesomely amazing Black Friday deal! I can be a good wife for the short term, but I’ll inevitably say something unkind at the end of a stressful day. A.W. Tozer continues in The Knowledge of the Holy, “Divine goodness, as one of God’s attributes, is self-caused, infinite, perfect, and eternal. Since God is immutable He never varies in the intensity of His loving-kindness. He has never been kinder than He now is, nor will He ever be less kind.” What a comforting thought to know that He is so unlike me, and is always only good!

Psalms 23:6 says, “Only goodness and faithful love will pursue me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the LORD as long as I live.” God’s goodness compels Him to pursue me, allowing me to reap the benefits of a life lived in relationship with Him. His pursuit of me has been relentless no matter where my spiritual journey has taken me. Sometimes He quietly tiptoes up behind me, astonishing me with some extravagant, over-the-top act of goodness. Other times He’s the Good Shepherd who sees me wandering aimlessly into danger and brings me back into the fold for my own protection. At all times He’s my patient Heavenly Father who cradles my hand in His and guides me along the good path. Where else can we find that kind of goodness except in our God?

Because I am confident that God is always only good, I can be thankful no matter the circumstance. On both dreadfully dark nights and breathtakingly bright days I know that I have a Heavenly Father working His good purposes in my life (Romans 8:28). I’m thankful for each breath I breathe, but I know that even if I never drew another breath, God would still be good. I’m thankful for the roof over my head, but I know that if it were to disastrously disappear, God would still be good. I’m thankful for my daily provision of food, but I know that I don’t live by bread alone, and if I were to go hungry, God would still be good. I’m also thankful for my family, my church, my job, my friends, and all things big and small that God provides on a moment by moment, hour by hour, and day by day basis. Apart from all that, however, is God’s goodness. We cannot truly appreciate the good gifts we receive from God’s hand without first understanding how He Himself is good, and giving thanks for that above all.

Book Review: Why I Still Believe by Mary Jo Sharp

In a culture where deconversion stories have become all too commonplace, and often leave faith in tatters, Mary Jo Sharp shines a ray of hope. She brings the reader along on her own journey from atheism, to belief, through doubt, and onward to her destination as a bold apologist for the Christian faith. She draws the reader into her story as she faces head-on the threads of ugliness woven into the fabric of the human experience, and demonstrates in a compelling fashion that even when our stories threaten to become unraveled, we have hope in Christ. Mary Jo then systematically proves how the evidences for the truth of the Christian worldview can be used to weave one’s faith back together again into a beautiful tapestry even in the midst of pain and hypocrisy. She reveals the amazing complexity of the Christian faith, stating that “To reduce Christianity to a neat-and-tidy recipe for happiness is to miss it almost entirely.”

I was eager to read Why I Still Believe because Mary Jo Sharp provided my first serious introduction to apologetics three years ago. I have followed her ministry since then and observed her passion for equipping believers to defend the Christian faith with truth and compassion. I’m impressed by her honest reflections about coming into the Christian faith from an atheistic background, and how despite painful experiences within the church, she still has reasons to believe in a good and gracious God. Through anecdotal snapshots and glimpses into personal conversations, she walks the reader through her experiences as a new Christian and candidly describes the challenges to her faith she faced even as a minister’s wife. Those who have experienced hurt from within the walls of the church will see themselves in her story, and appreciate her encouragement to find hope on the other side of disappointment.

Mary Jo walks the reader through some of the core apologetics arguments she considered while investigating the viability of the Christian worldview. She invites the reader to listen in on her conversations with both scholars and skeptics regarding the existence of God, the resurrection of Christ, the problem of evil, the divinity of Jesus, the moral argument, and the argument from beauty. She ultimately concludes that the Christian worldview is the best explanation for the reality we experience all around us, while honestly acknowledging that a tension exists in the Christian life between how things are and how we know they ought to be.

Reading Why I Still Believe has prompted within me a desire to display a greater boldness in my witness, and to better equip myself to defend the faith. I finished Sharp’s latest book realizing that while each person’s story is unique, we all explore similar questions about the meaning and purpose of life. It has affirmed to me that questioning our beliefs as followers of Christ doesn’t indicate a lack of faith. Rather, it demonstrates complete trust in Him to provide answers to our deepest questions in His perfect timing. The author concludes that “To question my beliefs takes trust…it takes the control away from me and hands it over to God.” This book is an excellent resource for those struggling with doubt and working to reconcile painful experiences, often even at the hands of other believers, with the goodness of God. I recommend it to anyone interested in a refreshingly honest look at how to wrestle well with the ultimate questions of life.