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On the broom of gracious gospel: A Q&A with Gloria Furman
Hilary Tompkins talks with Gloria Furman, whose first book Glimpses of Grace comes out on Friday, about being “enough” and sweeping away false hopes and lies.
Hilary Tompkins: Gloria, thank you so much for writing Glimpses of Grace. I’m excited to recommend it to many women I know who will certainly identify with much of what you share in your book. I loved reading your story and hearing what God has taught you. Thanks for the opportunity to ask you questions—there are so many women whose stories I have in mind as I ask these.
Gloria Furman: Thanks so much for this opportunity!
HT: What prompted you to write this book? What were you hearing from women, or experiencing yourself, that caused you to recognize that women needed some glimpses of God’s grace?
GF: This book was borne out of a desire to remind myself (and others) of the governing reality in our lives when we belong to Jesus—that of being “in Christ.” I was so weary of fixating on my fleeting circumstances, and I found myself standing on the sinking sand of falsehood, lies, and worldly wisdom. Instead of these temporary things, I want to be obsessed with what I’m going to be obsessed with three zillion years from now—that is, seeing and savoring Jesus for all eternity. I figured that if my own heart needs to be reminded regularly to build my hope on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness, then perhaps other women can relate, too.
“We can never ask for too much grace.”
HT: What do you think is the difference between Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s “cheap” grace, and the many, many times we need to draw on God’s grace to get through the day. Is there ever a time when we ask for too much grace?
GF: I don’t think there is ever a time when we can ask for too much grace. We’re utterly dependent on a God who gives to his creation life, breath, and everything according to his will. Contrary to “cheap” grace, grace that flows from the work of our crucified, risen, and reigning Savior is costly—indeed, it is priceless. Drawing on this grace is our blood-bought privilege as Christians, a privilege that our Lord is delighted to give.
“Even our discontent can direct us to God’s grace.”
HT: Many women struggle with contentment. Whether we are working at home or outside the home, single or married, we believe we will find contentment elsewhere. How would you encourage women who long for something “more?”
GF: I completely understand the struggle with contentment. It seems that whatever season I find myself in, I have nagging thoughts of malcontent. These thoughts can be directly traced back to my sinful heart, which seeks to fill itself with lesser pleasures and my own ideas of happiness.
In light of all this, I’ve found one tremendous thought—one expulsive affection—that is able to displace my nagging thoughts of malcontent and fill me with peace and joy: Jesus is infinitely more precious than whatever it is that I feel like I’m missing out on. When we direct our affections to Jesus we find that even our feelings of discontent can serve to direct us to God’s grace.
HT: I know a lot of young moms who have small children, a husband who works long hours, a tight budget, and numerous responsibilities outside their homes (e.g., aging parents, children’s activities, volunteering at church, etc.). In the midst of busy lives it’s hard to find time for Bible reading and prayer. Their own spiritual growth suffers and they feel guilty. You say you’ve struggled with this too—what would you say to other moms?
GF: Oh, how I have struggled with this! In Glimpses of Grace, I address this issue directly and expound on the reality of the grace we have in those times.
For a long time I felt that God would only commune with me in his word and in prayer when I was free of distractions and noise. And then more and more things began to be added to my day (and night). I’ll catch up with you later, Lord, when life settles down, was my thinking. But Jesus’ words (quoting Deut. 8:3), “Man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord,” serve as a helpful correction. God created us to be bread-dependent creatures so we would understand what Jesus meant when he said, “I am the bread of life” (John 6:35).
“We’re not ‘enough,’ but God justifies us.”
Apart from Christ I can do nothing (John 15:5). Prayerfully, consciously dependent on Christ for all things—this perspective helps me prepare my mind for action instead of hopeless despair. Every moment of my life is propelled by the grace of God into more and more of his future grace that is given to me in Christ Jesus because he gave his body to be broken for me. And this grace teaches me time and again to anchor my hope fully on the grace that will be brought to me when Jesus returns (1 Pet. 1:13).
HT: Often, we struggle with being enough. We tell ourselves, I don’t volunteer enough, I don’t read to my kids enough, my house isn’t clean enough, I don’t pay enough attention to my husband, I’m simply not good enough. Help a sister out here, Gloria, and tell me the truth about being enough.
GF: This is such a timely question for me to consider as my family faces a season of transition. In a couple of months we’re expecting Baby #4’s arrival, our oldest child will start a new school, and my husband will take on some new ministry tasks. As we consider all of this, we realize that indeed we’re not “enough.” I think this feeling of weakness serves to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead (2 Cor. 1:9). And indeed, he has raised us from the dead.
The good news is that in Christ, God has provided for our greatest need. This greatest need is the most truly desperate “not enough” situation that any of us will ever be in. Each of us is a depraved sinner who desperately needs to be reconciled to a holy God. But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit (Titus 3:4–5). No, we’re not “enough,” but God justifies us by his grace. And he regenerates and empowers us by his Spirit so we can serve with the strength he supplies so he gets the glory through Christ Jesus (1 Pet. 4:11).
“Remind one another of God’s truths (even if it’s awkward).”
HT: At various stages of life we can feel overwhelmed, lonely, burned out, and discouraged. As women who love Jesus, how do you think we can love each other well during those times? What does that practically look like for you in your role as a ministry wife, mom, and friend?
GF: God has saved us out of darkness into his marvelous light, and he’s designed us to need one another as we walk in his light. I know I need my friends to sweep the sand off my feet so I can see that the rock I am standing on is Christ and him alone. And then on other days, I’m the one holding the broom of gracious gospel reminders and I can help my friends brush away the false hopes and lies that we think we should stand on.
Practically speaking, among many things, that means cultivating friendships where you lovingly remind one another of the truths in God’s word (even if it makes for an awkward conversation at times). The love of Christ in us controls us, compelling us toward other women with words of grace and peace—reminders that he died for us, so we who live might no longer live for ourselves but for him.