Thursday, September 21, 2017

Finding Grace in the Face of Dementia: Review and a Giveaway

Finding Grace in the Face of Dementia, John Dunlop MD, Crossway, 2017, 207 pages.

Dementia is a word that can strike fear in our hearts. Over 6 million Americans have dementia, and that number is only going to increase. One-third of seniors will die from this disease. In the face of these grim statistics, is there any hope? Is it possible to find the grace of God in the face of dementia?

Author, Dr. John Dunlop, believes this is possible. He is a practicing geriatrician with over 30 years experience. He has walked this path with both of his parents and his mother-in-law. And he is a brother-in-Christ who believes that God's grace is sufficient even for a disease such as this.

Finding Grace in the Face of Dementia covers medical information and practical advice such as:

- How do our brains normally work and what happens when they don't?
- What are the different types of dementia? How are they diagnosed? Can they be prevented and treated?
- What is the progression of the disease? What challenges do patients face and what changes will they undergo? How can we treat them with respect as people made in God's image?
- What is the emotional, physical, and spiritual toll on caregivers? What support can we give them? When is it time to consider a nursing home/memory care?
- How do we provide the best care and comfort at the end?

But in addition, this book addresses the spiritual side of the equation. There is a whole chapter devoted to how the church can help. The author gives suggestions for proactive teaching on suffering and honoring the image of God in all people, even when their bodies and minds fail them. I was especially encouraged that this trial can be a means of strengthening the faith of not only caregivers but for the patients themselves. This is an opportunity to grow in prayer as we grieve and make our requests known, but we can also grow in worship and thanksgiving for God's grace and provision. This gives the body of Christ avenues for demonstrating love through practical service. I also appreciated Dr. Dunlop's reminders from the Word of what awaits the Christian dementia patient when they have finished the race. They have hope for "the resurrection of the body and the life everlasting" where disease and death are no more and every tear is wiped away.

When I found out about this book, I was very eager to read it. My mother suffers from memory loss, and it is challenging to support my family from afar. There are decisions to be made and even more unknowns. Thus it seems overwhelming at times. The practical insight in Finding Grace has helped me better understand what my mom faces day to day, what to expect in the future, and considerations for her well-being and those ministering to her. It has reminded me again that God wasn't caught off guard by this diagnosis. He has a purpose, but He is not remote from this situation. The Lord loves her and is intimately involved in the concerns of my family. So I am thankful that Dr. Dunlop wrote this book for folks like me.

I highly recommend Finding Grace in the Face of Dementia for family members, friends, pastors, and for those who are diagnosed with this disease. It offers practical wisdom but also points us to the ultimate source of comfort - the God of all grace.

We are giving away a copy of Finding Grace in the Face of Dementia. Please enter your contact information below. The winner will be announced Tuesday, September 26. Thanks for entering!

You can purchase this book from CrosswayWTS Books | Amazon | CBD | Book Depository


Wednesday, September 20, 2017

We have a winner!

Thank you all so much for your interest and response to our Journey into God's Word giveaway. There were 53 entries, and our lucky winner is Ann Snider!

Thanks all so much for your interest in the giveaway and the blog!

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Journey into God's Word - Giveaway

Last summer, I read and reviewed Journey into God's Word. I've read quite a few "how to" Bible study books, and I believe this is one of the best. You can read the review here.

Fall is upon us, and people are getting back into regular schedules, whether it is school, ministry, or study. In light of that we want to give away a copy of this book. Being biblically literate is one of the most important things we can do as Christian women. Talking about the Bible and about theology is one thing, but getting right into the Word of God is crucial. We cannot be discerning without having a knowledge and understanding of God's Word.

If you would like to enter your name in the giveaway, and you live in the United States or Canada, please see the form below. You can enter until September 16 at midnight. We'll announce the winner and notify her (or him) on September 20th.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Layers of Context

This summer, I have been going through the book Inductive Bible Study, by Andreas Köstenberger and Alan Fuhr. While it is not a beginner's book, it is worth the effort to read. Köstenberger looks at biblical interpretation through a triad: history, theology, and literature. I find the motif very helpful. It is a similar approach to that of my hermeneutics prof.

Proper application flows from correct interpretation, and good interpretation pays attention to the context. Early in my years as a Bible student, I was taught to look for the context among the verses before and after the passage in question. That is correct, but there is much more to context. On top of the immediate, surrounding verses, there are layers of context.

Nine Facets of Context

Köstenberger and Fuhr point three levels of context within each of the three members of their interpretive triad:

Historical Context: Geopolitical Context, Situational Context, Cultural Context
Theological Context: Thematic Context, Revelational-Historical Context, Covenantal Context
Literary Context: Surrounding Context, Canonical Context, Literary Genre of Subgenre

This list may seem overwhelming, but it really helps when we consider these levels of context. It is worth slowing down and thinking about them. We live in a world of instant this and immediate that; learning what the Bible says takes time and patience. Delving into a detailed look at the context can reap valuable fruit.

The Example of Corinth

Anthony Thiselton's commentary on I Corinthians provides a helpful example. The opening chapters of I Corinthians talks much about wisdom. From 1:18 until the end of chapter 3, the contrast between the foolish and wisdom is Paul's focus. He expresses this truth in a paradox:
For indeed Jews ask for signs and Greeks search for wisdom; but we preach Christ crucified, to Jews a stumbling block and to Gentiles foolishness, but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men (I Cor. 1:22-25).
I have heard Bible study lessons and the occasional sermon where the discussion of wisdom and folly in I Corinthians is used as a springboard to criticize academic study. Fields of study such as philosophy, psychology, sociology, and science are identified as the kind of "worldly wisdom" Paul is talking about, and immediately pushed aside. But when we take the time to examine the cultural context of Corinth in Paul's day, we see that there is more going on.

According to Thiselton, Corinthian society, especially those of the Sophist tradition, loved the pursuit of wisdom, but it was not necessarily the pursuit whose end was truth or understanding. Rather, it was the ability to persuade others. What the Corinthians loved was rhetoric, not truth. They loved the debate, and especially the prestige it could afford one. As Thiselton says: " . . . some provincial centers, especially Corinth, were influenced by a kind of rhetoric that was more concerned with "winning" than with truth."

Paul discourages a wisdom for the sake of prestige:
"When Paul rejected the way of "high-sounding rhetoric or a display of cleverness" (1 Cor 2:2), he was rejecting the status accorded to a Sophist rhetorician to which the Christians in Corinth wanted him to aspire."
Sophist rhetoric loved the recognition, but that was not Paul's desire. His defense in 2:2 is not a rejection of education or learning; rather, it is Paul saying that the wisdom he came with was of God, not the wisdom prized by the Corinthians. By having a close look at the cultural context of Corinth during Paul's time, we can better interpret Paul's words.

The Value of Commentaries

Context is more than the surrounding verses, although those are important. Being able to understand Revelation demands we understand its genre, i.e. prophecy and apocalyptic literature. Accurately interpreting Old Testament narrative sometimes demands knowing the geopolitical context, especially during the days of the Kings and when Israel was captive in Babylon. Remembering that Proverbs is wisdom literature keeps us from turning them into promises. Understanding all the layers of context is very helpful.

I recently had a conversation with someone who discouraged the use of commentaries. She believes that she will allow the Holy Spirit to speak better if she refrains from using them. For my part, I find the background information from a commentary or a Bible background book are invaluable as I work to make sense of what is happening in the text. The Bible was written in a particular context for a particular context. Our goal should be to understand that before we bring it into our own.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Even If He Doesn't

It’s been almost a year since I last posted. I have so much to say, and so much I can’t say. It’s a strange combination that makes blogging difficult.

Ministry—along with life in general—can break your heart. The soft-focus promos for small group curricula don’t typically emphasis this, but some of the people we try to love and lead will reject the gospel. I’ve always known this, but lately I’ve felt the weight of it.

I’ve grieved with parents of prodigals and friends who have had their dreams crushed. I’ve watched helplessly as people made choices that left a trail of devastation in their wake. I’ve seen people push away every offer of help and hope to continue on a needless path of self-destruction. He told us the road was narrow, but I wasn’t prepared for how heart wrenching it would be to watch people I love choose the wide path.

One of my favorite testimonies in the Bible is that of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. When threatened with death in a fiery furnace for not bowing to an idol, they chose to stand firm:
Our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up. (Daniel 3:17–18)
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego weren't taking a stand because they were certain of a good outcome. In fact, they didn't know until after the furnace doors were opened how it was going to turn out.

Some translations render "but if not" as "but even if he doesn't." I seem to be in a season of "even if he doesn’t." I am not peering into the mouth of the fiery furnace, but I am begging God to do a bunch of things only he can do. These relationships might never be fixed. And even if they aren't, he is still good. Even as the voices asking, “Did God really say?” get louder, his Word is still true.

We can only plant and water, God makes things grow (1 Corinthians 3:6–7). And this reminder of my human inadequacy actually gives me more hope.

Because the heartbreak is only half the story. I’ve also seen restoration where it seemed there was no hope at all. I’ve seen the person who once had no use for the gospel embrace the truth with passion. I’ve seen marriages restored and families reunited. I’ve been reminded again and again that God is often doing his biggest works when things look bleakest.

I know that God could fix these things in a heartbeat. The test comes when he tarries. He really does have the words of eternal life (John 6:68), but he must give us eyes to see. The waiting just reminds us who is responsible for the victories.