Comforts from the Cross

I am not a big women's-devotional-reader. I don't like fluff, and I don't like bricks - which is probably why I loved reading Elyse Fitzpatrick's Comforts from the Cross last month. 

A friend gave me the book while we were in Kansas City for home leave. My home church held a women's conference this summer at which Elyse spoke, and I was lucky enough to get the audio recordings passed on to me in Cambodia. "No fluff and no bricks" is Elyse's mantra: no feel-good-spirituality telling you just to think positive thoughts and be happy; and no extra weight, judgement or shame for not being the perfect Christian woman. 

Comforts from the Cross focuses on applying the Gospel to our every day life. What does Jesus' birth, life, death, and resurrection have to do with my marriage, my job, stressful relationships, my nagging sin, and my shortcomings? Does it apply?

Reading through the 31 brief chapters was like looking a different facet of my faith every day. I walked through my tendencies to believe God still wants to punish me for my sin, that I have to obey the law perfectly like a slave to earn his approval, and that my efforts actually make me a better person.

All of that is a lie.

Jesus already took on himself the wrath of God - there's none left for me. There's no karma effect left over, as if God will make bad things happen to me if I don't have my devotions in the morning or if I fail to love my neighbor as myself {although often, he will let me experience the consequences of those actions to remind me why his way is best!}.

Obedience that pleases God comes from love, not from slavish fear - and that love comes from meditating on Christ's love for me - not on how I need to love him more. Focusing on what I do wrong {or right} and how I fail God only makes me turn inwards, onto myself, instead of running towards the Savior.

Only God can transform my heart and make me into a new creation. He is the one who motivates me to obey him, and even in my imperfect state, he sees me through the lens of Jesus' holiness. I am perfect in his sight already.

These are just three lessons that stuck out to me as I look back on my notes and underlined passages in the book. And I could pull out dozens of quotes that I want to plaster on my wall to remind myself of Jesus, his love for me, and what he did. But this quote sums up the truth of the Gospel:

"I am more sinful and flawed than I ever dared believe, more loved and welcomed than I ever dared hope. I deserve less than nothing but have been given everything."
-page 89

It's been a long time since I've underlined, highlighted, and quoted an actual book {reading off a Kindle 90% of the time does that for you} like I did Comforts. Most of its pages looked a lot like this:

So if you're looking for a new devotional or you need a spiritual kick in the pants or just a reminder of how much we are changed by Christ's love - I'd pass this book on to you in an instant.

What books have you read recently that have given you a needed spiritual jolt? I'm making my list of must-reads for 2014, so I'm open to suggestions!
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