Thursday, May 25, 2017

Comfort in Revelation

There was a time when the book of Revelation was my least favorite book of the Bible. I thought its main message was to foretell all the horrible things that would happen before Jesus comes back, and those horrors would be my fate unless I achieved a certain level of spirituality whereby God would deem me mature enough to escape them. Cold comfort, indeed! At least, Revelation was at the end of the Bible so I could avoid reading it as long as possible. But what a terrible state to be in. I had no assurance as to my salvation. God and His gospel seemed weak and ineffectual, and I was afraid to read part of the Bible. But I couldn't be more wrong.

The gospel isn't the power of God to just get me in the door and then the rest is up to me. What Christ has accomplished covers the beginning, middle, and end of my Christian life. I am not living in a dualistic Star-Wars-like universe where good and evil battle one another on a level playing field. Who in his right mind would contend with the Almighty? God has no rivals. And what if Revelation is less about decoding the events of the 21st century but a word of comfort and consolation for Christians down through the ages?

Providentially my pastor has been preaching through Revelation, and I have grown to love this book because I need it just as much as my brothers and sisters in the 1st century. I need something greater than earthly security when I hear of the lives lost in the bombing in Manchester and gas attacks in Syria. I need hope when I read of the injustices that mankind has inflicted on fellow image bearers throughout history and even today. I need the promise of the life to come when loved ones suffer in body and mind. And I need to be reminded of these truths:

~ There will be trials and persecution, but Christ is seated on the throne even now. He has won and is worthy to bring God's plan of redemption to completion. (Rev. 5:5-14)

~ We have all had our share in the thread of suffering that began in Genesis 3, but it ends in Revelation. Sin and evil will be no more. "and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away." (Rev. 21:4 NASB) 

~ God's purpose in redeeming people from every tribe, nation, and tongue will be fulfilled to the praise of His glory. And not only that, the good work He began in us will be accomplished. The Bride of the Lamb will be fit for her Heavenly Bridegroom (Rev. 7:9-17; Phil. 1:6; Rev. 21:1-2)

~ Fellowship with God was severed, and Adam and Eve were barred forever from Eden. But we will be united with Him forever with no shadow of sin, never to be parted again. And we will see His face. (Rev. 21:3, 22:4)

This is quite different from how I had previously viewed the book of Revelation. A source of fear has now become comfort and consolation indeed. May it take root in my heart. 

Amen. Come, Lord Jesus. 


Sources:

Revelation sermon series, J. Ryan Davidson, Grace Baptist Chapel.

The Gospel in Revelation, The Goldsworthy Trilogy, Graeme Goldsworthy, Paternoster Press, 2011, originally printed 1981.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

When It All Started

What is the root of the story of Christianity? Why is there a story of the Christian faith in the first place, especially one that unfolds over two thousand years—so far?

In 2000 Years of Christ’s Power: The Age of the Early Church Fathers, Dr. N. R. Needham answers these questions by pointing to one historical event: the resurrection of Jesus. Here’s how he explains the significance of the resurrection in creating the Church and starting the story of Christianity:
The original followers of Jesus were all Jews, and they had no intention of being anything other than faithful and pious Jews. They continued to worship in the Jerusalem temple, to obey the law of Moses, and to have a negative attitude towards Gentiles. The living heart of their faith was not so much the death as the resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth. When Jesus was executed, despair had engulfed his followers: they seemed to have a dead leader and a lost cause. Is was Jesus’s resurrection from the dead that transformed these broken and despairing people into the fiery apostles and martyrs of a new faith — a faith which, within three centuries, and despite vigorous persecution, would conquer the whole Roman Empire. In the thought and preaching of the early Church, the resurrection was seen as God’s mighty vindication of all Jesus’s claims: He really was the long-promised Messiah of Israel, the Son of God, the Saviour of sinners, the source of God’s gift of the Holy Spirit to all wo obeyed Him (see for example, Acts 2:33-6, 4:10-12, 13:30-39, 17:30-32, and Romans 1:3-4). So whichever period of Church history we are studying, it is always worth pausing and reminding ourselves of this: the entire history of the Christian Church is rooted in one central reality — the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. If Jesus of Nazareth had not risen, there would be no Church history. 1
The resurrection changed everything.

You probably already know that if you are a believer, the resurrection changed you. You were made alive together with Christ and a new sort of life — a resurrection life grounded in your union with Christ’s resurrection life — began within you (Ephesians 2:4-6). Because you are united with the resurrected Christ, you are new creation. You have begun your life in the realm of the resurrection and sin no longer has dominion over you. For you, right now, the old things have passed away and the new things have come (2 Corinthians 5:14-17). And you look forward with certainty to full resurrection life after you die. You will one day be raised with an incorruptible body to live forever with the resurrected Jesus (1 Corinthians 15:20-23; 42-49).

But the resurrection of Jesus also started the Christian faith, spurred its growth, and fueled its spread. If Jesus had not risen, Christianity would not exist. There would be no story of Christianity to trace through the ages.

Yes, the resurrection of Jesus changed everything. It changed you, and every other believer. And it changed the history of the world, too.

[1] 2000 Years of Christ’s Power: The Age of the Early Church Fathers, pages 44-45.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Pivotal Doctrines

This week the subject of our group post is doctrine; specifically, which doctrines have been pivotal in our lives in Christ. Feel free to use the comments section to share your own experiences.

Kim:

About seventeen years ago, I reached a place in my faith where I began to ask questions. To make a long story short, I was becoming a little disenchanted with evangelicalism. I was homeschooling at the time, and my own intellectual curiosity stirred questions in my mind. After reading Mark Noll's The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind, I began asking more questions.

I had been baptized as a Catholic, although the only real instruction I had was when my parents made me attend mass as a teen because I was planning to become a Mormon. In my desire to know truth, I thought to myself, "Am I wrong to just dismiss Catholicism?" I had come to see that evangelicalism often misrepresents Catholicism, and I wondered if I had got it wrong. I started searching. At the same time, I knew that my own attitude lacked grace and I wanted to understand more about that. Looking at a Ligonier catalogue, I ended up buying R.C. Sproul's What is Reformed Theology (at that time, it was called Grace Unknown). It was there that I was introduced to the Reformed doctrine of justification, and specifically, its relationship to sanctification.

In my study of Catholicism, I had learned that justification is progressive. One can be more or less justified, and there is a heavy emphasis on works, especially the sacraments. I was a little uneasy about this, because it just didn't seem right to me, although I could not explain exactly why. Once I began reading about justification through Sproul's book, and through more extensive searching in Scripture, it became clearer to me: justification is a positional reality, although it has wide-reaching implications. We stand before God being right in his sight through the blood of Christ. It is sanctification which is progressive, as we become more and more conformed to Christ. Roman Catholicism merges the two rather than viewing them as separate occurrences.

If we have a wrong understanding of justification, we will struggle. We will attempt to do good so that we may "feel" more justified. There is no deeper level of justification; we either stand before God justified or we don't. Sanctification, however, is a different matter. We are sanctified over our entire lifetime. And it is something done by the Holy Spirit, although we must yield to the will of the Spirit ourselves. This reality that there is nothing I can "do" to be more justified has been very helpful, and understanding the gradual process of sanctification has helped me, I hope, be more gracious about the whole process.

Of course, I'm still learning about sanctification, and even this past semester in my Systematic Theology class, I realized that there is much to learn about the balance between these two doctrines. I will always be thankful that I was directed to Sproul's book, because it answered a crucial question in my life, even if I'm still learning.


Persis:

I grew up in a Christian home. I believe God saved me as child, but for decades I didn't understand what I believed or why I believed it. Because of this lack, I thought the gospel was baby stuff to get me in the door. Then the rest was up to me. This was terrifying when I began to realize how weak I was in myself. I had a dread of denying Christ if I faced persecution, but I also feared His coming because I thought I would only be received by God if I achieved a certain level of spirituality. Needless to say, I didn't have much assurance.

I had begun attending a Reformed Baptist Church 9 years ago and slowly began to understand that the gospel was much more than the truncated version I used to believe. I also began listening to lectures on theology, one of which was R.C. Sproul's series -  What is Reformed Theology?. I loaded the talks on my IPod and listened to them while raking leaves in the fall of 2010 when the heavens parted, as it were, and the doctrine of imputation clicked. Sproul asked, why was it necessary for Jesus to come to earth as an infant? Why didn't He just show up as a man, die on the cross, and then go back to glory? What was the point? If Jesus only died for our sins and exited this world, our sin debt would be paid but we would still lack a perfect righteousness that was required by God. We needed both - atonement for sin and a perfect record before God. And praise God, Christ has done both. He took the record of our sins and bore their just punishment on our behalf on the cross. But that's not all. He lived a perfect, righteous, and holy life, and His record is credited or imputed to us. God can now declare us righteous in His sight because both requirements have been fulfilled. As Sproul said,
"In the final analysis, the only way that any person is ever justified before God is by works.  We are saved by works, and we are saved by works alone.  Don't touch that dial..."
What?!
"[W]hen I say that we are justified by works and by works alone, what do I mean by it? I mean that the grounds of my justification and the grounds of your justification are the perfect works of Jesus Christ. We're saved by works but they are not our own. That's why we say we're saved by faith, and we're saved by grace, because the works that save us aren't our works, they're Somebody else's works."
This is such a comfort to me because I still sin as a believer. I sometimes doubt whether God fully accepts me. But I don't need to despair because I don't look to myself or my record. I can point to the perfect work of Jesus Christ in His death and life and rest in what He has done. As Dr. Tom Ascol writes, "If justification is the heart of the gospel, then imputation is the heart of justification." And it is beautiful.


Rebecca:

When God created the first human beings, he made them in his image—or, to put it another way, he created them to represent him in his creation. He gave them a mandate to “be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth” (Genesis 1:26-28).

These truths from the creation story stands behind the doctrine of vocation—the teaching that all human work, unless it is immoral, is a calling from God. Understanding the doctrine of vocation has transformed my thinking about the work I do, and the work others do, too. This doctrine not a first order one, I suppose, but it has influenced both my thought and my practice significantly over the past few years.

According to the doctrine of vocation, all human tasks have meaning and dignity, even the mundane ones, because when we work, we represent God. He stands hidden behind every job we do and accomplishes his providential care for his creation through us. Or, as Martin Luther put it, our tasks are “masks of God.”

For example, this past weekend I dog sat for my daughter and her husband. I took care of their dog and my own, feeding, watering, and walking them both. These are small, seemingly unimportant chores, but the doctrine of vocation teaches me that they are significant to God. I was representing him by protecting and providing for two of his creatures.

As I vacuumed the floors this morning, I also wore a “mask of God.” He maintained my home—a place where dogs, grandchildren, and others thrive—through my work. And the mail carrier who just delivered the parcel with a few boxes of noodles and a jar of pea butter imaged God by providing food for me. What's more, as my son tilled my garden this afternoon, he was representing God by preparing the soil to grow food to sustain my family and me.

The doctrine of vocation helps me do my work—the work God calls me to do, both big jobs and small ones—joyfully, and reminds me to thank God for the work he gives me—and everyone else—to do.

Deb:

The Lord saved me later in life through a fairly radical conversion out of the kingdom of darkness and death. Such stark and dramatic changes wrought by the Lord in my life provided the fertile soil on which the doctrines of grace, God's sovereignty, and regeneration of the Holy Spirit took hold quickly. I can remember how learning the basics of Reformed Theology made more sense in those early years than anything I'd heard before. Yet, it took a bit longer before I'd hear about what might be the most pivotal doctrine in forming my life as a Christian: The Doctrine of Adoption.

Adoption expounds upon grace and explains how an unworthy sinner such as myself, could not only be bestowed with grace upon grace (John 1:16), but also granted full admission to the family of God (John 1:12). Having been adopted by well-meaning natural parents, I never felt that I fit in or fully belonged to my parent's legacy, my sibling's inheritance, or the genealogy of extended family. Therefore, I take the wondrous and beautiful privilege of being called a full-fledged, beloved child of God (Ephesians 5:1) to heart. As believers, we are true members of God's eternal family (Titus 3:7) and co-heirs in Christ to the glorious inheritance that He has already bought and keeps for us in heaven, to the praise of His glory (Ephesians 1:7-12).

Nick Batzig does a great job conveying the personal significance adoption by our Heavenly Father. He describes justification as how "we're taken to God's law court as guilty criminals and dismissed as pardoned and righteous." Furthermore, in adoption, Batzig explains, "We are taken from the law court to the living room." In other words: from an enemy and child of wrath to a beloved child of promise. "In love He predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of His glorious grace" (Ephesians 1:5-6).

Perhaps I struggle more than most Christians with slipping into feeling and thinking like an orphan,  an alien, or the outcast. And perhaps we all struggle with this mindset. The doctrine of adoption is the truth that moves us out of the bondage of fear and performance, and sets our minds on the Father's love and care for us. "For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” By the Spirit, we have the assurance and promise that no matter what trial or suffering we endure in this life, God has promised his unfailing love to His children.  "For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord."

What a glorious picture of the Lord's unfailing, loving Fatherly care!

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Seeking the Good Portion

Sometimes, theology and doctrine can be intimidating, but Keri Folmar has written a book that will surely engage women, yet does not skimp on solid teaching. You know for sure you're getting into something good when the author includes a Select Bibliography. I love books like that; something to get you started and keep you going.
I have used Keri's Bible study materials before, so I was very excited when I was offered a copy of her new book The Good Portion: The Doctrine of Scripture for Every Woman. Keri loves the Scriptures, so I knew this was going to be good. I was not disappointed. The book, as the title suggests, introduces the reader to the doctrine of Scripture. Why do I need to know the doctrine of Scripture? Why can't I just open my Bible and read? This book will answer those questions.
We need to know what we are reading if we are going to benefit from the Bible, and there are ways to read the Bible which will help us to do just that. And Keri does not forget the most important aspect: the Bible is God's word to us. It is a personal word. She never lets us forget that this Bible is for us. This is how we know God.
She opens the books with an introduction to the Bible's importance, and then explains the nature of Scripture. She discusses its inspiration, its authority, its clarity, its necessity, and its sufficiency. I really appreciated her discussion of studying the Bible as a literary work. She talks about the genres of Scripture: historical narrative, prophecy, biblical poetry, letters, and apocalyptic literature. That was one of the most significant lessons I learned a number of years ago. Focusing on the literary genres makes us see the text for what it is rather than what we would like it to be. Further to that, she encourages us not to go into Bible study without checking our presuppositions. When we focus on the text, we are moving in the right direction.
Throughout each chapter, Keri discusses the theoretical aspect of the issue, but she never lets the reader forget the personal aspect of study. She continues to bring the matter back to a personal level so that we can see that the theoretical has practical value. Understanding the doctrine of Scripture is not for academics or pastors alone; it is for women who want to know God more deeply. Also throughout the book are reminders that emotional reactions to Scripture must be secondary to its meaning, and for women, that is especially important, because there are large numbers of books which want us to pay more attention to feeling than truth. We cannot grow in Christ unless we are willing to filter our emotions through Scripture, not the other way around.
Above all, Keri reminds us that we need Scripture. It is part of our sanctification. I love what she says:
We set our minds on the Spirit by thinking about the truths of God, and we put to death our flesh with the sword of the Spirit, 'which is the word of God' (Eph. 6:17). With the Word of God we nourish the roots of our hearts and grow the sweet fruit of the Spirit. Without God's Word those roots will shrivel and die . . . 
Better knowledge of Scripture leads to better knowledge of God's will and a greater desire to live it out. Greater desire to live it out leads to more dedication to the Scripture. And so on.
That last quotation makes me thinks of a spiral. Not a circle; the circle stays in one place, but a spiral keeps on going. 
I plan on investing in a few copies of this book to give to interested women. Each chapter ends with discussion questions, and this book would be great to discuss with other women. With the suggestions in the bibliography, a group of women could find much to feed their growing study skills. This book was a joy to read, and it spurred me on to study more. I hope there will be other books in the series. The beginning of being equipped as women is the Scriptures, and we are fortunate to have many good resources to help us in this pursuit. There really is no excuse for not partaking of this good portion.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Review and a giveaway: Is the Bible Good for Women?

Is the Bible Good for Women?: Seeking Clarity and Confidence Through a Jesus-Centered Understanding of Scripture by Wendy Alsup, Multnomah, 2017, 212 pages.

When we think of the Bible and women, what verses come to mind? Titus 2, Proverbs 31, or the book of Ruth? How about the Apostle Paul's teachings on marriage in Ephesians and Colossians? While we may gravitate towards these passages, there are much harder ones to deal with. What do we make of the laws concerning uncleanness? How should we respond to the injustice towards women in the rapes of Dinah and Tamar and the atrocity in the closing chapters of Judges? These accounts are disturbing and difficult to understand, and yet they are in the Bible. This may lead some to ask, "Is the Bible Good for Women?" While most of us know the answer, a simplistic "Yes" is not enough. This is why I recommend Wendy Alsup's new book, Is the Bible Good for Women?.

Before delving into specific passages, Wendy lays some basic groundwork. First we need to know if the Bible is good in general before we can trust that it is good for women. But in order to know if it is good, we need to know what it is trying to tell us. Too often we may think of it as "separate file folders of stories" with nice moral lessons. But from Genesis to Revelation, the Bible is one story of God's plan of redemption that was culminated in the coming of Jesus. This can be seen in the theme of the "scarlet thread" in the Old Testament. (pp. 17-30)

Then what does the Bible say about women? For that we are taken back to Genesis 1 and 2 where God created man and woman in His image. The word ezer or help is used for woman, but this is not in a derogatory or menial sense. God uses this word to describe Himself as a strong help to His people. Thus He is our example and the One we reflect in our lives and labor for the Kingdom. Yet we can't escape what happened in Genesis 3. We were alienated from God because of sin. The harmony that existed between man and woman was ruptured as well, and we feel the effects today. There are different interpretations of the meaning of Genesis 3:16, but I think we can agree that redemption in Christ is the key to restoring our relationship with God and between one another
We have something that bridges the gap between the godly longings of our hearts in Eden and our fallen reality. It is the gospel, the good news of this access we have to God through Christ... the bridge that makes a way for us to return to Eden, live in light of God's commission to man and woman, and once again be "imitators of God." (pg. 71)

Once this foundation is laid, Wendy tackles the law, some of the touchier instructions from Paul and Peter, and stories in the Old Testament that we may want to avoid. But what if we looked at them from a different vantage point where they are seen in the light of the gospel and the fact that Jesus has fulfilled the law on our behalf?
Can God's perfect love really cast out my fears when I examine Scriptural teachings (see 1 John 4:18)? Security in Him and confidence in His perfect love for me has empowered me to reengage instructions, laws, and commandments in Scripture that my fundamentalist upbringing misused against me. Clothed in Christ's righteousness, I don't feel threatened by reading Scripture's instructions at face value anymore. (pg. 131)

The book ends with the question, Is God good for women? There many places in the world where women are still marginalized. Some may even accuse Christianity of adding to the oppression. But it is in the pages of Scripture where we find that we are made in God's image. We learn that Jesus died to redeem us so we can become who we were created to be. So is the Bible good for women?
Our Father in Heaven values women. He revealed His goodness, care, and noble plans for women through His revelation of Himself to us in the Bible. The Bible is good for women, and it is good for men. It sets us out on an important, eternal journey and calls us to walk together in community. Like Him. (pg. 199)

I give a hearty recommendation to Is the Bible Good for Women? I believe it answers that question from the Bible in light of the gospel. As far as specific takeaways, there are several things that stand out. Throughout the book, Wendy emphasizes that Scripture is the best interpreter of itself as applied by the Holy Spirit. This is a hermeneutical principle that is vital for every student of the Word. I also appreciate her sensitivity in approaching some very difficult passages. We may not realize it, but there are women in the church who have suffered from trauma and abuse. Rather than taking a "just believe the Bible and get over it" attitude, this book can be an excellent tool in showing that the Scriptures reveal the One who takes away shame, restores, and renews. Lastly, Is the Bible Good for Women? was a pleasure to read. Wendy's writing is very clear and the logical progression of the book was easy to follow.

Wendy has graciously offered to give away a copy of her book! Please use the form below to enter your contact information. The giveaway ends on Sunday April 30.

(The giveaway has ended.)

I received a copy of this book from Multnomah. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Our Greatest Spiritual Influences

Our topic for today is the person who has been the greatest spiritual influence in our lives. If you want to give a shout out to the person who has helped you spiritually, please leave a comment.

Kim:

The person who has most influenced me spiritually is my husband. It makes sense; he is the Christian I've known the longest, and from the moment I met him, I could see that there was something different about him. Perhaps it is not the most original thing to say he has been my greatest influence, but I can't think of anyone who has been an influence at as many points in my life as he has.

My husband and I can be honest with each other about our spiritual lives. There have been times in the past where his comments, though hard to hear, have been exactly what I needed. Many years ago, as I struggled to adjust living in a new place, I lamented that it could not possibly be God's will that I struggle so much. My husband said quite simply, "Maybe it is." Later, when we were going through the hard years of parenting teens, it was my husband who reminded me not to let my pride interfere with my expectations. And when things with our teens became difficult, he was never bitter toward them or showed any sign that he did not love them despite our disapproval of their choices.

During the time when I struggled with heavy anxiety, I was often unable to even leave the house, and I found being alone a great struggle. During that time, my husband demonstrated compassion despite not always understanding what was going on in my head and heart. He patiently served me and cared for me. Some days, he would work at home so I would not have to be alone. When he couldn't be home, and he was concerned about me, he would solicit the help of our kids to be with me. And he did it without judgment. There were no exhortations of "Pray the anxiety away." He is a true servant; uncomplaining and never seeking accolades. He reminds me regularly that service to God is not self-seeking, that real love is not self-seeking. He would he has arrived spiritually himself. I am thankful for the example he's live in front of me.

Persis:

The person who has had the greatest spiritual influence on my life is my pastor, Ryan Davidson. We had joined the church shortly before he was called as pastor. These have been years of change and growth for me as a believer and mainly the result of a steady diet of sound preaching. Nothing fancy but the ordinary means of grace for which I am very thankful.

Specifically, there are two highlights that stand out to me. Several years ago, Pastor Ryan taught hermeneutics at a seminary in Uganda. When he returned, he taught the same course to the women in the church. We didn’t have homework or tests, but the content was basically the same. It was a great learning experience, and I still try to apply those tools today. But it also speaks volumes that our pastor wanted to make sure that the women in the church would be equipped to be good students of the Word. The second highlight was the sermon series on the Doctrine of God. This was truly one series that I didn't want to end and one I don’t think I will ever forget. I felt as though the curtain was pulled back, and I got a little glimpse of the majesty and character of the Triune God like I never had seen before. This led to great post-sermon discussions at home. These teachings were very practical as well because everything springs from knowing God. Providentially, Pastor Ryan preached these sermons prior to the Trinity Debate of 2016, so this topic was already fresh on my  mind.

There were also several difficult years during which my family went through a major crisis. Pastor Ryan and his wife, Christie, were such a help with their presence as well as wise counsel. My daughter and I would not have made it to the other side without them and the church body. I thank God for my pastor, and I am grateful for the influence he has had on my life.

Rebecca:

Until I left home, my father was my pastor. Most of the sermons I heard as a child were his. He had a talent for making deep things simple to understand, so even as a little girl I listened to the sermons and learned from them.

But I didn’t just learn from his sermons. My dad loved nothing more than answering questions about God and the things of God that his daughters asked. Many nights we lingered over the supper table while he answered our questions, often going deeper—and longer—than we’d intended when we asked. He was especially skilled at explaining how the truths he was teaching us fit together. Over time, truth by truth, he gave us a thoroughly Christian worldview. I credit my dad for my love of theology. He loved it, and his passion was contagious.

It was only as I left home and went to Bible college that I realized how unusual my upbringing was. Most of the young Christian adults I met there—particularly the young women—didn’t have anything close to the biblical and theological background I did. I was surprised at the basic truths they didn’t know, and this left them vulnerable to sub-christian influences and ideas. I was thankful then for the grounding my father’s teaching gave me.

But most of all, my dad was an example of a servant leader. He loved the people in his congregations, the students he taught, his wife, his daughters, their husbands, and his grandchildren. He was always willing to serve—and no job was beneath him. One of the most moving moments of my life was arriving at my husband’s hospital room to find my elderly father emptying his bed pan. Throughout his life, my father modeled Christ-like love and humility for me.

Deb:

Although I didn't grow up in a Christian home,  my dad was my greatest life influence overall. Someone recently asked a large group of Christian women what we liked about growing up as a girl in our respective generations. I had to answer that if it had not been for my relationship with my dad (who is still the best man I know, by the way), I'm not sure I would have had anything good to say about growing up as a girl. You see, my mom wanted Jane Bennett, but she got something closer to Lizzie when she adopted me.

In my relationship with my dad, it was okay that I liked to dig in the sand, run in the woods, and shoot bows and arrows with the boys in my neighborhood. Yet, when I came home, he still treated me like his little girl. He encouraged my intellectual curiosity and my natural interest in questioning assumptions. If it had not been for my dad, I would have grown up believing I was a failure as a girl. I never fit the stereotypical picture, played with dolls, or enjoyed the things my mom and most of the rest of society expected. My dad made it okay for me to enjoy playing baseball and learning about cars without wanting to be a boy like my brothers. Looking back, I'm immensely grateful for having my dad in my life. A few years ago, I bought a house down the street from him, so I can still see him as often as possible.

On the topic of spiritual influence and the Christian side of my walk, there have been so many women and men who have impacted my life over the years that it's difficult to chose just one. On this score, I need to give a big shout out to one of the most wise, Godly, and gracious women I know. Her teaching and distant friendship truly gave me the seedlings of passion for the Church, for being a Christian woman, and for being involved in women's ministry in my denomination. When Tara Barthel, author of Peacemaking Women and The Peacemaking Church, spoke at our women's presbytery conference about 12 years ago, I was at a crossroads in my spiritual walk. That day was a crucial turning point for me in terms of commitment to the church and my love for being a Biblical, Christian woman. I'm grateful to know Tara from a distance over these many years and will always be grateful for her ministry.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Women in Scripture: Ruth and Naomi (Titus 2 in Reverse)

Ruth 1:16 But Ruth said (to Naomi), “Do not urge me to leave you or to return from following you. For where you go I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God my God."
Like most women, I've always had a particular affinity toward the portrait of redemption handed down in the story of Ruth. The sweeping tale of Boaz, the kinsman-redeemer, restoring the line of Elimelech by taking Naomi's daughter-in-law, Ruth, as his beloved wife upstages Disney by a mile. That such a noble man as Boaz would be willing to risk his own inheritance so that the inheritance of a deceased family member would be left intact defies conventional wisdom and truly boggles the rational mind. This is a man who understands love and covenant. Learning that the son of this Gentile widow and her kinsman-redeemer would not only become the grandfather of King David, but eventually would even be named in the bloodline genealogy of the Messiah, ought to inspire us all, especially those of us who were not born into the covenant and raised in the church.

An equally inspiring relational dynamic in this redemption story tends to be overlooked.  Ruth's relationship with her mother-in-law, Naomi, models something of a role reversal between the younger and older women. Both women suffered devastating losses, as told in first chapter of the narrative. During a time of great famine in the land of Moab, both Ruth and Naomi lost their husbands. Naomi suffered greatly in a land far from her original, because she not only lost her husband, but also both of her sons as well. Several times in the first chapter of Ruth, Naomi stated that she believed the Lord's hand had gone out against her. She even told Ruth and the other women to no longer call her Naomi, changing her name to "Mara" instead, which meant bitter. Naomi had grown bitter in Moab and believed the Lord had dealt bitterly with her by bringing great calamity upon her family.

After Naomi's pleas for Ruth to stay with her own family and with her Moabite god, Ruth, the younger woman, responded in a surprising way. Ruth, in faith, chose to bind herself to her mother-in-law Naomi, to Naomi's people, and to Naomi's God - the only One, true God. Ruth's dedication and commitment was no small sacrifice. Ruth chose to forsake her family, her ethnic culture, her past, and her previous belief system to follow Naomi into a completely different community and way of life.

Meanwhile, Naomi seemed have forgotten her true identity as child of the God. She lost her Biblical and covenantal perspective. Naomi's example is far from the Titus 2 ideal of the older woman of the covenant community. Yet, because of Ruth's covenant commitment to Naomi and her people, God not only restores Naomi to the covenant community, but He also provides a kinsman redeemer who blessed them both -- and eventually redeemed the rest of us, too

This was no ordinary friendship. The younger woman, Ruth, demonstrated real covenant commitment through active faith, love, and encouragement to the older woman, Naomi, to Naomi's people, and most especially to the Lord. Because of Ruth, the Lord redeemed the devastation that Naomi and Ruth experienced in Moab, while Elimelech and Naomi were separated from their covenant community. Because of Ruth, we see the Lord's providential provision to transform Naomi's life from an untimely tale of loss and discouragement to a phenomenal epic of life-giving rescue.  In this regard, the text and the older women in Naomi's life speak for themselves

Ruth 4:14 Then the women said to Naomi, “Blessed be the Lord, who has not left you this day without a redeemer, and may his name be renowned in Israel! 15 He shall be to you a restorer of life and a nourisher of your old age, for your daughter-in-law who loves you, who is more to you than seven sons, has given birth to him.”
We could use a new generation of younger women like Ruth who make the active decision to commit to their local covenant community and to the older women in their midst, like Naomi. During seasons of trial and suffering, whether dealing with the loss of a loved one, ill health, or just lagging faith, most older women could really use the energy and enthusiasm that younger women often bring to their interactions. As a middle woman, I feel the tug to be both a more committed younger woman, as well as a more gracious older woman. 

May I be willing to open up my life and share it with those who are newer in the faith -- and to sit, listen, and learn from the older and wiser women around me.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

A Time to Weep

Have you considered why Jesus wept when his friend Lazarus died (John 11:1-44)? Before he left for Bethany with his disciples, Jesus told them he was going there to awaken Lazarus, who, he said, "had fallen asleep." We know, then, that he planned to raise Lazarus. Jesus knew Lazarus's death would be temporary—at least this time around. As Jesus wept, he knew that in minutes, Lazarus, his sisters, and all those who loved them would see the glory of God, and they would all be rejoicing like never before. But still, when Jesus saw Mary, Lazarus's sister weeping, and others weeping with her, he was “deeply moved in his spirit and greatly troubled,” and he wept, too.

Do you think he wept because he knew that however brief their sorrow this time round, and however joyful their coming reunion, Lazarus would die again? Was he deeply moved because he knew their sorrow would return, inescapably, over and over for the rest of their lives. Was he greatly troubled because he saw the terrible results of sin in the world, and knew that overcoming them would require his own death on the cross?

When I was young, every church I knew had a service on Good Friday afternoon. My present church  doesn't have a service on Good Friday, but we do have one on Thursday night—a Maundy Thursday service. We sing a few hymns, share the Lord's supper, and hear the story of Jesus's betrayal, arrest, trial and crucifixion read aloud from scripture. The readings—and the service—end with Jesus on the cross, "[breathing] his last." Only a hard-hearted person could listen to this solemn story and not be moved by it.

Not all churches have a special service before Easter to remember the death of Jesus. Some go straight from Palm Sunday and the triumphal entry (if they celebrate Palm Sunday, that is) to Easter Sunday and the resurrection. Whether your church has a service centered on the cross or not, I hope you'll pause sometime during this week between the commemoration of Jesus's triumphal entry into Jerusalem and the celebration of his glorious resurrection to contemplate his humble death.

Before Jesus raised Lazarus, he wept over sin and suffering and death. Mourning came first, and then those words with power over death: "Lazarus come out!" Shouldn't we, then, weep for Jesus's suffering and death before we rejoice that he has risen? Shouldn't we pause to ponder the dreadful results of our sin and be deeply moved in our spirits? On Sunday morning, the beauty of the resurrection of Jesus will shine brighter if it's set against the darkness of his obedience "to the point of death, even death on a cross" (Philippians 2:8). Let the mourning come first, and then those words of true glory: "He is not here, for he has risen. The Lord has risen indeed!"

Beneath Thy Cross 
Am I a stone, and not a sheep,
That I can stand, O Christ, beneath thy cross,
To number drop by drop Thy Blood's slow loss,
And yet not weep? 
Not so those women loved
Who with exceeding grief lamented Thee;
Not so fallen Peter weeping bitterly;
Not so the thief was moved; 
Not so the Sun and Moon
Which hid their faces in a starless sky,
A horror of great darkness at broad noon--
I, only I. 
Yet give not o'er,
But seek Thy sheep, true Shepherd of the flock;
Greater than Moses, turn and look once more
And smite a rock.

—Christina Georgina Rossetti

Monday, April 10, 2017

Our Favorite Authors

We decided it might be fun to do another round of group posts. Our topic for today is favorite authors - one dead, one living, and the reasons why. If you want to share your favorites too, please leave a comment.

Kim:

I find it really hard to choose favourite writers, because there are so many good ones. For an author to be a favourite for me, I must have read quite of few books, and I must feel like I've enjoyed most of them, if not all.

In thinking of a living author, my first thought was D.A. Carson. In addition to his theological acumen, I really appreciate his versatility. He writes more technical volumes such as his commentary on  John, but he also writes more accessible works, like Basics for Believers. His versatility means he can make complex principles understandable, such as in The God Who is There. Carson also writes eloquently, and that can be a stretch for some theologians. Woven in with the propositions are vivid passages which are anything but dry. His practical applications are warm and pastoral, and he is devoted to promoting the greatness of God. And at the end of the day, when he's done with theology, he writes beautiful memoirs like the book about his father, Memoirs of an Ordinary Pastor.

My favourite author among the dead is Lucy Maud Montgomery. I began reading the Anne books as a child, but it was not until I was grown with children of my own that I began to really appreciate the complex and fascinating woman she was. She had a deep love of nature, and her writing is full of rich pictures of the land she loved. Some people dislike her lengthy descriptive passages, but I love them. Even in her personal journals, she provides detailed pictures of the walks she loved to take. She was also funny and entertaining. She had a keen understanding of human nature, and was able to flesh out human foibles and ironies in a humorous way. Sadly, her life was nothing like her books, and for that, I love her even more. Despite her sad, lonely life, she was able to write engaging, beautiful stories. As well as the Anne stories, I love the Emily of New Moon books, and another of my favourites is The Blue Castle.


Persis:

At first I thought it wouldn't be too hard picking my favorite authors, but then I started looking at my bookshelves. I've also changed over the years. There were certain authors who helped me at a particular point in my life and those who write about my current concerns. I finally decided on the two people whose books have had a lasting influence on who I am as a Christian.

Without a doubt, my favorite dead author is Charles Haddon Spurgeon. I had heard of Spurgeon when I was in college from a fellow InterVarsity member. When I asked who he was, my friend told me he was a famous Baptist preacher in the late 1800's known as "The Prince of Preachers." Well, I had never heard of him, and I wasn't that impressed. More fool me. Decades later, when I was going through a crisis and not attending a church at the time, God providentially brought his writings across my path. They were food and water to a spiritually starving woman. I began to read both of Spurgeon's devotionals every day. Faith's Checkbook is still my all time favorite. I also began to read his sermons, and I now have 3-ring binders bulging with print-outs. I even credit Spurgeon with leading me to my church. Since he was a Reformed Baptist, I typed those two words into Google, and the rest is history. His writings are available online at The Spurgeon Archive and Spurgeon Gems.

My choice for living author is Nancy Pearcey, the author of Total Truth. It's hard to convey the impact this book has had on my life. I was coming from a Christian background that was largely mystical. I was never taught to think carefully about my faith. But the life of the mind and heartfelt faith are not mutually exclusive, and Total Truth set that false dichotomy to rest. I was challenged to become a worldview detective and examine what I believe, why, and its history. Consequently, my reading material has changed as a result, and I've grown to appreciate subjects that I formerly thought were total bores, namely history and philosophy. Pearcey's book The Soul of Science is also excellent and counters the idea that science is at odds with religion.


Deb:

My top two authors came to mind quickly, but then I wanted to second guess my favorite dead author as potentially too obvious. Over a couple of thousand years of Christian thought and several centuries since the Reformation, certainly I had to have overlooked someone. Yet after much reflection, I've decided to stay true to my first inclination.

My favorite author who is no longer physically alive is John Calvin. Only after what has been many years now of studying the scriptures and the Church have I landed on this spiritual giant and father of the faith. His work, The Institutes of Christian Religion, is perhaps my favorite read outside of the Bible. I return to it regularly, on average as much as once per week. His emphasis on the knowledge of God and the knowledge of self has provided my epistemological foundation and formation. Calvin's ecclesiology, doctrine of atonement, covenant theology, doctrine of sin, and teaching on the Christian Life surpasses many others. Finally, I always consult Calvin's expository commentaries first when studying a Bible passage in depth.

Beyond doubt, my favorite living author is Sinclair Ferguson. I first encountered Dr. Ferguson's teaching about 12 years ago, when I stumbled up his treatise on The Holy Spirit from the Contours of Christian Theology series. Since that first read, I've been increasingly moved by the doctrinal depth and relevant application in titles from On the Christian Life to The Whole Christ: Legalism, Antinomianism, and Gospel Assurance, and most recently Devoted to God: Blueprints for Sanctification. With each new volume, Dr. Ferguson's work continues to supersede the last, an indication that he will remain my top author for some time.

One newer author who I like a great deal is James K. A. Smith. As pressure increases to engage postmodern realities, Christians in need of a guide and interpreter to make sense of the issues will do well to include Smith's work in their discourse.

Rebecca:

I'm fickle. My favorite author tends to be whomever I’m reading and enjoying right now.

Like Kim, I really like D. A. Carson. If he writes a book, I buy it as soon as its published. But since he’s already taken, I’ll go with J. I. Packer for my favorite living author. I don’t agree with him on everything, but he has a way of writing about theological things that makes me want to either laugh or sing — and that’s a good thing. It might simply be his British English, but he has a way of turning phrases that makes the concepts interesting rather than boring.

Here's an example of his ability to make me laugh, even in a somewhat technical theological discussion. In the introduction to In My Place Condemned He Stood (which is a collection of Packer’s essays on the atonement with one by Mark Dever thrown in for good measure), he takes on contemporary theologians who allege that if, on the cross, Christ substituted for sinners and bore the wrath of God in their place, it would be divine child abuse. He writes, “smartypants notions like ‘divine child abuse’ as a comment on the cross are supremely silly and as irreverent and wrong as they could possibly be.” So if you want your theological reading peppered with phrases like “smartypants notions” and “supremely silly,” Packer is your guy.

If you haven’t yet read Packer’s Knowing God, what are you waiting for?

Favorite dead author? Right now, I’m reading some Flannery O’Connor short stories (again) and marveling at her ability to capture speech and bring characters—in all their depravity—to life. If you’re thinking of checking her writing out, be forewarned: O’Connor's writings portray people from her place and time—the Southern U.S. in the 1940s and 1950s—and some of the depravity she captures is blatent racism. She uses the n-word, or at least her characters do. And many of her stories are intentionally disturbing.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Women in Scripture: Esther


When we examine the life of a biblical character like Esther, we run into the inevitable stumbling block of time. Quite simply, her life was vastly different from the one we live here in the western world in the 21st century. It can be tempting to evaluate her as if she lived right now, and impose moral judgments to her that are not necessary. It can also be tempting to speculate unnecessarily. When we read about Esther, we need to focus on what we know from the biblical text. What do we know about Esther?

We know that Esther was a Jew (2:7) and that she lived in the Persian capital of Susa, with her cousin, Mordecai. She was being raised by him, having been orphaned. They were part of the people who were taken captive to Babylon. The books of Nehemiah and Ezra recount the beginning of the return of some exiles to Jerusalem, and the book of Esther falls somewhere in between those two. We know, however, that Esther and Mordecai remained in Susa.

We are told that Esther was beautiful in face and form (2:7). When Ahasuerus decided to replace his previously banished wife, Vashti, Esther was among the beautiful women taken from Susa to be considered for this position. The author uses the passive term “taken” to indicate that this was not something the women sought themselves. We don't know what Esther thought about this, and it's important to remember that. We may feel indignation to her situation, but we must be careful not to subject our feelings on to Esther. Her feelings aren't part of the story; what is important is that Esther found herself in the palace of the king.

The author tells us that Esther pleased Hegai, the King's eunuch (2:8). Again, we don't know why, but she impressed Hegai in some way. We also know that she her her Jewish identity, something she did in obedience to Mordecai. The reason for secrecy is not important, but the secrecy itself is, because Haman will later make an edict against the Jews, unaware of who Esther is.

We also know that Esther took Hegai's advice when she went into the king. Each young woman was allowed to take something in to the king when it was her turn to be with him. I often hear this described as a beauty contest, but it was not so innocent. To be blunt, it was a sex contest. The women were to go into the king to be intimate with him, not demonstrate their beauty. We may wonder how Esther faced such a demeaning act. We may feel outrage at the situation. That's not the point, though. The point is that Esther became the queen, and as we discover later, God had a reason for this.

We know that once Mordecai comes to Esther with the news that Haman has hatched a plan to exterminate the Jews, she is initially hesitant to help. She is fully aware of what kind of man the king is. She knows the world she lives in. When Mordecai appeals by reminding her that she could very well be in the palace for a reason, Esther takes charge and chooses to stand up for her people with her famous words, “If I perish, I perish” (4:16).

Two crucial certainties stand out for our purpose of learning from the life of Esther. First, Esther was “taken” into Susa. She was in exile, in a foreign land, with foreign gods, under pagan rule. As a Jew, this was not where she was meant to live. Esther was faced daily with questions of compromise. How did she cope with the grievous reality that she had to marry a Gentile? Did she give into the temptation to let the culture influence her? Was there any “right” choice in her situation? Did she allow herself to blend into the culture in order to keep her identity hidden?

Second, when the moment of truth came, Esther identified with her people. Despite her fear, when the moment came, she chose to act. It was a risky venture, but one that was under God's providence. Every detail, every seeming co-incidence was orchestrated by God to preserve His people.

Is Esther's situation not ours today? Do we not live in the kingdom of the world, but also as part of the Kingdom of God? As the people of God, determined to live godly lives, do we not face situations like Esther where there seems to be no easy choice? Are we tempted to compromise? Do you find secrecy necessary?

In 4:16, Esther faced a defining moment. We all face defining moments like this regularly. How will we act in that moment? Karen Jobes, in her commentary of Esther, reminds us that we all face such moments when we first confront the gospel, but that this choice is a daily one:
... the new birth is only the beginning of decisions. It is followed by a continuous sequence of defining moments throughout life as we daily face decisions that demand we choose either to identify ourselves with Christ by obedience or to live as pagans in that moment. 
I do wonder how Esther felt to endure what she did. I wonder what it was like to be treated as a possession. I wonder how she withstood the daily tedium of harem life. We are simply not told. But I do know what she did, and she was bold at the crucial moment. May we be as bold in the daily moments of truth that we face.

Monday, April 3, 2017

Women in Scripture: Mary the mother of Jesus, Part 2


Mary the Mother of Jesus  
    
   Today as we continue to consider the biblical account of Mary, I would like to begin with Genesis 3:15. In this passage God is speaking to the serpent that has been the instrument of temptation for Adam and Eve.   It’s a comfort to consider that although the first act of sin for the human race happened at the hands of the first woman, even so the cure for sin would be brought into the world through the obedience of a humble woman.   God said to Satan in the garden “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed. He will bruise you on the head (a fatal wound) and you will bruise him on the heel (non-fatal wound).    God used the seed of Mary,  the young virgin, to bring forth his promised Son, the Messiah, the sinless sin bearer.  If Jesus was not born of a virgin he would have been born with Adam’s imputed sin. Because no male was involved with his conception-no sin nature was passed to Jesus. This is mystery and it’s beyond our ability to fully comprehend—these facts have to be believed by faith alone. It is no wonder that through the ages the doctrine of the virgin birth of Jesus has been so attacked—without  the virgin birth we would have no sinless Savior. 
   I want to move to Mary’s marvelous song of praise where so much of her godly character is revealed to us (Luke 1:46-55).  As you study this you will find that her understanding of God’s goodness-mercy-power-justice and sovereignty are beyond her years or her station in life.   She knows the history of her people and the greatness of her God-the one true God. Her regard for the treasure of humility shines through everything she says.  Mary understood the value that humility and thankfulness have to the heart of God. In fact, God is so high on the virtue of a humble heart (Isaiah 66:2) that we should seek that in our lives as though we are seeking pure fresh water in the desert. Mary did. 
   When Jesus was eight days old his parents took him to the temple to be circumcised (Luke 2:25-38). Mary and Joseph met two very special old saints in the temple, Simeon and Anna. Simeon is described as righteous and devout.   The Holy Spirit had revealed to him that he would not die until he had seen the Messiah, the “Consolation of Israel.”  When Simeon saw the baby Jesus in the temple that day he took him into his arms and blessed God  for the gift he held. Simeon prophesied over Jesus and then he addressed Mary with these words  “Behold this child is appointed for the rise and fall of many in Israel, and for a sign to be opposed-and a sword will pierce even your own soul-to the end that thoughts from many hearts will be revealed” Luke 2:34-35.  I want to focus on the phrase “and a sword will pierce even your own soul.” This is, of course, a reference to the pain and heartache that is in the future for Mary.   As a mother she is destined to suffer in that role in a manner that most of us could never imagine. Since the bible tells us on two occasions that Mary treasured and pondered everything about her role in the life of her unique firstborn son in her heart, I always wonder what she thought of these words from Simeon. Mary had no idea at all that Jesus would be crucified on a Roman cross. God is good to spare us the knowledge of things we will have to endure until they are upon us because his grace is sufficient during the pain of our suffering-not before. 

  If you read all the accounts of Jesus interacting with his mother (from the time he was 12 and stayed in Jerusalem until his parents missed him in the caravan and came to retrieve him with words of reproach) you will find that the Lord Jesus is distancing himself from the human mother-son relationship. Every time he interacts with her-this is so. It’s always fascinating for me to read these accounts. From the wedding at Cana to the foot of the cross-Jesus gently strives to make her realize her temporary- in time role.

   I want us to finally consider Mary at the cross as her firstborn, sinless son, is put to death in the most horrific manner one could think. I will focus on the account in John 19:25-27. In this passage we see Mary and her sister and Mary Magdalene along with John the beloved disciple watching Jesus die on the cross.   Nothing in scripture indicates that Mary could have prepared herself for such a cruel event. I wonder myself how she could have done this-but then how could she not have been there. The sword she was told would pierce her is now upon her. Words are so inadequate to describe this awful sight that no mother should have to endure.  Mary didn’t know at this point that the Son of God was being sacrificed on that cross for the sins of his people. She had no idea that there would be a resurrection. In the midst of this agony Jesus did a marvelous and wonderful thing. Even as he was suffering this death on that cross-he thought of his mother and what would happen to her. He said to her “Woman behold your son” and to John the disciple he said “behold your mother.” When he said behold your son-he meant John which is very clear from the context.  As he was dying on the cross he gave Mary into the care of his beloved disciple.   Remember that at that time Jesus own half brothers did not believe in him. It was at this point that the mother-son relationship between Mary and Jesus ended. It was over. The One who was born her son had now become her savior.   Her earthly relationship to him was temporary and ended when he died.

    The last time that we see Mary mentioned in the Bible is in Acts 1:14. In this passage she is included with   those in the upper room prayer meeting. She is not singled out anywhere in the NT as having any kind of leading role in the Church-in fact she is not mentioned again.  I love the story of her life and the lessons that we as Christian women can learn from her humble example. 
This post originally appeared on October 9, 2013 

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Review - No Little Women: Equipping All Women in the Household of God

No Little Women: Equipping All Women in the Household of God Aimee Byrd, P&R Publishing,  2016, 288 pages.

When it comes to women's discipleship, there is no shortage of ideas. Most people have an opinion about what it is, what should be taught, and even whether it is necessary or not. There is also no shortage of material that is marketed for this purpose. Some is good but much is not very good at all. What is the average Christian woman to do?

Thankfully, Aimee Byrd has tackled this often sensitive topic in her latest book, No Little Women: Equipping All Women in the Household of GodIf you are looking for tips on how to do women's ministry "right," there is helpful and practical advice to be gleaned, but this book is much more than that.

Part One - Pinpointing a Real Problem
Right off the bat, Aimee points out the problem of error creeping into the church through the backdoor of women's books. This is nothing new. Satan deceived Eve. Paul warned Timothy of false teachers creeping into households and leading silly or little women astray. This does not imply that women are spiritually incompetent and should be shunted to the sidelines but rather that women are targeted because they play a vital role. Thus the work of God is hampered when half the church is ill-equipped and doctrinally weak. Theology is necessary and practical for every woman. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise!

Part Two - Examining Our Context

In our individualistic culture, it is easy to get the idea that spiritual growth is for me, myself, and I, but what if the context is bigger than that? Aimee goes back to Genesis and unfolds the concept of the household of God. Adam and Eve were created to work together and fulfill God's mandate to keep the garden. Sin entered the world, but the mandate has not changed. Jesus commanded the disciples to preach the gospel and make disciples of all the nations. While we are members of individual households, we are part of the church universal and local. Thus for God's household to thrive and function well, every member needs to be equipped for the common mission of the whole.

Part Three - Working Toward a Solution
Drawing from Biblical examples, Aimee unpacks the idea of women being necessary allies to men in the household and mission of God. She clearly affirms male church officers, but this does not exclude sisters from admonishing, encouraging, and serving alongside brothers in the local church. We are in this together.

Part Four - Honing Our Skills
In the last section, Aimee provides guidance in how to be a better reader in general. She then gives criteria to help us discern the quality of our spiritual intake, which I previously shared here. We then have the chance to put these tools into practice with excerpts from popular books that are marketed for Christian women. There may be a few raised eyebrows at the selections, but we need to be wise in discerning truth from error even if it is a bestseller and written by a likable author. (I would personally consider bestseller status a caveat, not a recommendation.)

I've greatly benefited from Aimee's posts on the topic of women in the church, so I loved No Little Women. But what caused me to write "Amen!" all over the margins was her emphasis on the greater context of women's initiatives. I think we miss out when we believe the main source for discipleship falls outside of the the local church and apart from the ordinary means of grace. The preached Word isn't just a supplement to our spiritual nutrition but the main course. Spiritual take-out may be a treat every now and then, but God feeds His people Sunday after Sunday through faithful ministers. Throughout the book, Aimee specifically addresses pastors/elders to encourage them to take an active part in equipping the women in their congregations, which can only benefit the church in the long run. She also provides suggestions to pastors so they can better engage their female hearers and ways we can be better listeners. Also our growth in grace isn't just to fulfill our personal felt needs for spirituality. The gospel comes in and "reorients our lives now so that we live for the life to come." (pg. 194) Thus our lives have purpose in the bigger picture of the kingdom of God.

No Little Women is a great book for women and women's ministry leaders, but it's not just for us. If you are a pastor/elder or a brother who cares about the women in your church, please read this book. It provides very practical guidance but also sound biblical reasons why well-equipped women are necessary allies in the mission of God. Let's work together side by side toward that end.


I received a copy of this book from P&R Publishing. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."