Monday, August 20, 2018

Quotes of Note


Each Monday, we share quotes we found encouraging, convicting, thought-provoking,  or all of the above.

Persis:

This is a pray by W.E.B. DuBois for humility that seemed very fitting in today's climate of increasing tribalism.
May the Lord grant us both the honesty and strength to look our own faults squarely in the face and not ever continue to excuse or minimize them, while they grow. Grant us that wide view of ourselves which our neighbors possess, or better the highest view infinite justice and goodness and efficiency. In that great white light let us see the littleness and narrowness of our souls and the deeds of our days, and then forthwith begin their betterment. Only thus shall we broaden out of the vicious circle of our own admiration into the greater commendation of God. Amen.
Rebecca:

There are some little gems to be found in Charles Hodge's Systematic Theology. Here's one on God's rest on the seventh day of creation that makes me smile every time I read it:
The rest of God on the seventh day contains first of all a negative element. God ceased from his creative work. But to this must be added a positive element, namely, that He took delight in His completed work. His rest was as the rest of the artist, after He has completed his masterpiece, and now gazes upon it with profound admiration and delight, and finds perfect satisfaction in the contemplation of His production. "And God saw everything he had made, and, behold, it was very good." It answered the purpose of God and corresponded to the divine ideal. Hence God rejoices in his creation, for in it He recognizes the reflection of His glorious perfection. His radiant countenance shines upon it and is productive of showers of blessings.

Friday, August 17, 2018

Five Star Links

Each Friday, we share links we found especially interesting or inspiring during the previous week. 

Persis:

Tim Bertolet writes about several heresies that arose in the early church. Why learn about them? "Sometimes, when we look at ancient heresies it helps us see with clarity errors in our own day. As we said, these specific heresies have long since faded into the dust of history. However, sometimes in our modern age you can find similar points of overlap."

Kim:

I really appreciate Mike Leake's writing. He is especially thoughtful regarding matters of mental health, He asks a very good question: "Where Does My Disability Come From?"
Here is my question. Is God the source of my mental disorder? (And frankly, I’m still not quite comfortable with that designation, but I’ll pick it up here for the sake of argument). And what if I extend my question out a bit further and ask if God is the source of physical and emotional disabilities as well?

Rebecca:

This is the story of the life of one Singer treadle sewing machine.
Therese Pierrot runs her hand across the splintered wood of her Singer sewing machine. 
She’s had it since she was 14 years old, working at a hospital in Aklavik, N.W.T.

For almost 70 years, Pierrot has used the machine to make clothes for her children and community, but with failing eyesight, she decided this year that it was time to let it go.
This piece isn't specifically Christian, but I do think it's the best thing I read online this week.

Deb:

This blog post from Jasmine Holmes hit home this week in many ways. Though I won't completely understand the details and unique parts of this story, so much of it is relatable for me - and I trust for most Christian women today. Excerpt:
"These few verses outline three immediate benefits of community: humility, right judgment, and fellowship.

Community enables us not to think of ourselves more highly than we ought. In fact, it calls us to be others-focused, thinking outside of ourselves more than in (Philippians 2:1-11). Without community, I become incredibly self-centered and self-deprecating. I fail to seek out ways to love others.

Community also helps us to have right judgment of ourselves. I tend to be a navel-gazer, and while self-examination is good (and biblical — 2 Corinthians 13:5), doing it alone is a good way not to be able to see ourselves clearly. Life on an island reinforces skewed self-perception.

And community enables us to take part in the fellowship that we were made for."
Read the entire article.

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

History, literature, and theology

I am taking a course in the Synoptic Gospels this semester. I'm really looking forward to this course. A whole semester looking at the gospel is something to be excited about. I already bought my textbooks, and have begun the readings. As well as the gospels themselves, our main text is Four Portraits, One Jesus, by Mark Strauss.

The gospels have a three-fold focus: they are literature, history, and theology. They don't claim to be just narratives, just theology, or just history. Woven within the historical events is theology, delivered in a literary form. Our faith rests on the truth of those events: the life, death, burial, and resurrection of Christ. The beauty of having four gospels is that we are given differing presentations of the same truth, and each gospel has its particular emphasis. Taken together, we have a rich picture of what Jesus did and taught.

In Strauss's book, he provides a very helpful exercise: he shows the opening verses of each gospel. I have highlighted these verses, using the NASB. The emphasis is mine.
Matthew 1:1: The record of the genealogy of Jesus, the Messiah, the son of David, the son of Abraham. 
Mark 1:1: The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. 
Luke 1:3: it seemed fitting for me as well, having investigated everything carefully from the beginning, to write it out for you in consecutive order, most excellent Theophilus. 
John 1:1: In the beginning was the Word, and the word was with God, and the Word was God.
All four gospels are giving an account of something which actually happened. Notice that Mark, Luke, and John, talk about something from "the beginning." The idea of a "record" implies a beginning. Also notice that each writer talks about the gospel in a unique way. Matthew refers to Jesus' Jewishnes; Mark talks about him as the Son of God; and John dives right into the theological by using a metphor: Jesus is the Word. Luke doesn't identify right away his theological emphasis. His opening presents to Theophilus (and us!) that he is about to reveal events in "consecutive order." He has "investigated" everything. We don't often think of the gospel writers as investigators. I remember as a new Christian assuming that they wrote as if they were in a trance, having God dictate to them. That isn't the picture we get if we really read the gospels. They have a divine and a human element.

This semester, my class focuses on Matthew, Mark, and Luke, specifically, but it is a worthwhile exercises to read all four of the gospels together. We can read them independently, from beginning to end, seeing the unique emphasis of each, and then we can compare them to see the similarities and differences. It is most beneficial to read them in both ways.

If you are interested in time of study in the gospels, Bible Study Tools has a 45 day plan for reading the gospels. Click here to view.

What a treat! To focus on the gospel. I'm looking forward to it. The gospel is something we should think upon daily.

Friday, August 10, 2018

Five Star Links

Each Friday, we share links we found especially interesting or inspiring during the previous week. 

Kim:

Theology isn't just for men. For those who read here regularly, you already know that is how we feel here. This article "Why Women Should Be Readers of Good Books" explains that our knowledge of theology is important for others in our own lives, including husbands and children.

Be sure to click on the "open" icon to open the article.


Persis:

Simonetta Carr writes about Bathsua Makin (1600-1675) a champion for the education of women during a time when women were discouraged from reading studying and thinking independently.


Rebecca:

"The triune gospel is . . . God giving himself to you in creation and redemption. The same Son who was begotten by the Father before all worlds was sent by the Father into this world, to live and die for us and our salvation. And the same Spirit who proceeded from the Father and the Son from all eternity was sent by the Father and the Son into this world, to live inside us and bring us to Christ—and through Christ to the Father—so that we might be taken into his family, surrounded by his life and love, to glorify and enjoy him forever.

"This is the Holy Trinity. This isn’t just a doctrine; this is our life."

Monday, August 6, 2018

Quotes of Note


Each Monday, we share quotes we found encouraging, convicting, thought-provoking,  or all of the above.

Kim:

More good reading in Grant Osborne's commentary, Revelation, Verse by Verse. I really encourage you to try reading a commentary as you read any other book. Choose a book of the Bible, and find a devotional or pastoral commentary, and have your daily Bible readings and prayer in conjunction with a commentary. If you're ever looking for a place to find commentaries, try Best Commentaries. This site has many good suggestions, and indicate whether the commentary is devotional, pastoral, or technical.

In a passage discussing the church at Laodicea (Rev. 3:19-20), we learn about the redemptive aspect of God's wrath:
We are used to thinking of the wrath of God as the basis of judgment, yet God's love is shown to the spiritually defeated as well as to the victorious. All passages on judgment against God's people from the 40 years in the wilderness to the exile to discipline in the New Testament, are redemptive in purpose and meant to wake God's people up spiritually and bring them to repentance. For the righteous, God's discipline is a purifying process; for the weak it is a wake up call. Rebuke and discipline build on each other. The first connotes a reproof that points out a problem and convinces the person to act on it. The second refers to a punishment that corrects the error and trains the person in the right way to live for God.

Persis:

My pastor, Ryan Davidson, who is also a counselor, taught the adult Sunday school class yesterday on the Christian and Anxiety. He wrote a short booklet on the subject, which I am quoting here:
The Christian, including the Christian struggling with anxiety, is united to Christ (Rom. 6). Christ is our redemption and sanctification (1 Cor. 1:30) and the Lord will complete the work He has begun in us (Phil. 1:6). Therefore, in our continual wrestling with fear, worry, and anxiety, we need to constantly remember, that we are assured resurrection and ultimate freedom from every sin and infirmity on the last day. Our struggle must be framed with the reality of who we are in Christ. This One, who will not bruise a tender reed (Jer. 42:13), is the One to whom we are indivisibly united. 

Rebecca:

James M. Hamilton on God's design for work in his creation as it was before the fall:
In the very good world as God created it (Genesis 1:31), prior to the entrance of sin (cf. 3:1-8), God gave man marriage to enable the completion of God-given and God-sized responsibilities. This is true in merely logistical terms—without the woman the man cannot be fruitful, multiply, and fill the earth. What the narrator draws our attention to, however, is the more significant relational blessing that God's gift of the woman was designed to be. God said that it was not good for the man to be alone (Gen. 2:18), and he created a very good companion in the woman (2:22). This means that the fellowship and companionship and soul-deep oneness in the marriage of the man and the woman (2:23-25) were given to make the filling, subduing, and ruling over the world a delightful adventure undertaken together. [Work and Our Labor in the Lord, page 20.]
Of course, we live after the fall, so this picture of work and marriage is not our reality. But this is how it should be: shared responsibility and shared joy in work that fulfills God's purpose for us as image bearers.

Friday, August 3, 2018

Five Star Links

Each Friday, we share links we found especially interesting or inspiring during the previous week. 

Persis:

Are women inherently less wise than men? Is this just an issue of gender or is the root deeper than that?  Rachel Darnall takes the issue back to our understanding of "the nature, source, and purpose of wisdom."
If women are barred from understanding the things of God based on our sex, then we are indeed to be pitied, but not because our folly disqualifies us from standing behind a pulpit. A pulpit is a nothing more than piece of wood, and it is of little eternal consequence whether one stands behind it or sits in front of it. What matters is eternal fellowship with Christ; and if we do not have the mind of Christ – which is the only way to be wise – then we do not have Christ.
Kim:

I remember being very unprepared to answer this question from my own children: "How do we know the Bible is authoritative?" I'm pretty sure many people ask that question. Here is a helpful article which discusses 7 Things You Should Know About the Formation of the New Testament:
We have over 5,800 Greek manuscripts of the New Testament. The second closest ancient text is Homer’s Iliad. We possess less than 2,000 copies of this work. The works of Aristotle, Plato, Herodotus, Tacitus, and many others are even more poorly preserved; and yet, no one doubts their authenticity. 
Rebecca: 

Do you have a family member who is apostate? Many of us do.

Here's some good advice on how to respond when a family member—or friend, for that matter—leaves the faith.

Monday, July 30, 2018

Quotes of Note


Each Monday, we share quotes we found encouraging, convicting, thought-provoking,  or all of the above.

Kim:

Reading the letters of the seven churches in Revelation reveals what a successful church looks. In the letters to the churches at Philadelphia and Thyatria, both which had no negatives applied to them, we are reminded what God wants in churches: faithfulness, not worldly success. In his commentary Revelation Verse by Verse, Grant Osborne points out the truth that God prefers faithful churches:
These two churches are important reminders that God prefers faithful churches over big and seemingly successful ones. Many of us feel insignificant, and our churches may seem small and unimportant. But when we remain centered on Christ and live for him, God greatly honors both us and our churches. We must not allow the world to determine the criteria for success. God will lift us up and open the doors of heaven to us when we endure hardship for him and remain faithful. This is what really matters.

Persis: 

The following is a quote from The True and Only Heaven by Christopher Lasch, a historian and social critic. I have not read this book but only a quote by him in another book. Lasch's distinction between nostalgia and memory intrigues me, which makes me want to read more.
Nostalgia appeals to the feeling that the past offered delights no longer obtainable. Nostalgic representations of the past evoke a time irretrievably lost and for that reason timeless and unchanging. Strictly speaking, nostalgia does not entail the exercise of memory at all, since the past it idealizes stands outside time, frozen in unchanging perfection. Memory too may idealize the past, but not in order to condemn the present. It draws hope and comfort from the past in order to enrich the present and to face what comes with good cheer. It sees past, present, and future as continuous. It is less concerned with loss than with our continuing indebtedness to a past the formative influence of which lives on in our patterns of speech, our gestures, our standards of honor, our expectations, our basic disposition toward the world around us.
Deb:

One of the most relevant books written in the last century, still applicable today is Christianity and Liberalism by ― J. Gresham Machen. The following quote has been attributed to him, even though the quote does not appear in his published works. Nonetheless, the quote aligns very well with some of my own recent research, so I'll share it even though I'm unsure of the source or its author:
For Christians to influence the world with the truth of God's Word requires the recovery of the great Reformation doctrine of vocation. Christians are called to God's service not only in church professions but also in every secular calling. The task of restoring truth to the culture depends largely on our laypeople.

To bring back truth, on a practical level, the church must encourage Christians to be not merely consumers of culture but makers of culture. The church needs to cultivate Christian artists, musicians, novelists, filmmakers, journalists, attorneys, teachers, scientists, business executives, and the like, teaching its laypeople the sense in which every secular vocation-including, above all, the callings of husband, wife, and parent--is a sphere of Christian ministry, a way of serving God and neighbor that is grounded in God's truth. Christian laypeople should be encouraged to be leaders in their fields, rather than eager-to-please followers, working from the assumptions of their biblical worldview, not the vapid clichés of pop culture.

Friday, July 27, 2018

Five Star Links


Each Friday, we share links we found especially interesting or inspiring during the previous week. 

Kim:

The way we conduct ourselves online is something I think about quite a bit. Karen Swallow Prior has a lot of wisdom in her post 9 Ways to Make Social Media More Christian
The world is watching, too. And there is likely nothing more representative of the spirit of Christ in this narcissistic world than genuine spirit of humility. Sadly, this spirit is too rare on social media, even among Christians.

Rebecca:

Diane Bucknell shares the story of the mystery woman who told her the Good News at the Minneapolis Bus Depot. Her seed eventually bore fruit, but there's even more to the story.


Persis:

Some wisdom from Pastor Sam Powell on the importance of listening -
We are OCD with theological error. We completely miss someone’s trauma, but woe to the uninformed that uses the word “potluck” (you mean “pot providence”) or “My father was a good man” (THERE IS NONE GOOD; NO NOT ONE!) Just like Mr. Monk, if all of the theological ducks aren’t neatly lined up to our liking, we shut down... There is a time and place for correcting theology, but remember that we would be in a far better place to do that if we first learned how to listen.

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Ten lessons for growing older


Life becomes harder and more complicated when you grow old. I'm not all the way there yet, but my parents are. We moved my mom into memory care a couple months ago, and I will be heading back in a few weeks to move my dad into assisted living. The packing and physical move were the easy part. The hard part is the emotional and mental adjustment to living in a new place, which is difficult for anyone let alone for someone with Alzheimer's or frail health. I'm thankful for my parents and how God has kept them, but I also want to use this situation to learn now before it becomes harder to do so. On the drive home, I shared with my daughter some lessons I want to learn while I still can. I wrote them down to help me remember. Maybe they will help you too.

1. Don't wait to de-clutter. The saying goes, "You can't take it with you," and maybe my daughter won't want to take it with her either. Ask what items would be meaningful to her and don't assume that she has the same attachment. Give things away so others can use and enjoy them now.

2. Accept my mortality. I will grow old and die barring Christ's return in my lifetime. Make plans accordingly in wisdom, not in fear. Prepared legal documents make decisions and transitions easier.

3. Accept my present limitations with humility and the limitations of others with compassion. This will prepare me as my limitations grow.

4. Learn to accept change and receive help now while it is easier to adjust. Refusing help and resisting change makes it harder for those who have my best interests at heart.

5. Learn to give up control. It's an illusion anyway because the Lord is the only one who is truly in control. To quote a good friend, "God's got it." I don't and realizing it will make the reality of not being in control much easier.

6. Invest in community. People and the memories we make with them matter more than stuff.

7. Cultivate patience. I will only need it more, not less, in the future.

8. Build a solid foundation of the doctrine of God. A small, weak, and truncated God will not withstand the trials of aging. "When all around my soul gives way, He then is all my hope and stay."

9. Find my ultimate worth and meaning in Christ, not in what I do or in my physical and mental abilities.

10. While I should take care of this temple of the Holy Spirit, there is a better body awaiting for me that will never know what it is to be sick or to sin. Hope in the resurrection of the body and the life everlasting.

Photo credit: By Jules Grandgagnage [CC BY-SA 4.0  (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], from Wikimedia Commons
(Updated from a previous post on my personal blog.)

Monday, July 23, 2018

Quotes of Note


Each Monday, we share quotes we found encouraging, convicting, thought-provoking,  or all of the above.

Kim:

I have been reading the poems of George Herbert. He used language with such brilliance. In his poem "Easter," the imagery revolves around music. The poem is unique in that it has one rhyme scheme for the first 18 verses and a different one for the remainder. You can check out the entire poem here. Have a look at the first part of the poem where he uses images of music:

Rise heart; thy Lord is risen. Sing his praise
Without delays,
Who takes thee by the hand, that thou likewise
With him mayst rise:
That, as his death calcined thee to dust,
His life may make thee gold, and much more, just.
Awake, my lute, and struggle for thy part
With all thy heart.
The cross taught all wood to resound his name,
Who bore the same.
His stretched sinews taught all strings, what key
Is best to celebrate this most high day.
Consort both heart and lute, and twist a song
Pleasant and long:
Or since all music is but three parts vied
And multiplied,
O let thy blessed Spirit bear a part,
And make up our defects with his sweet art.

Persis:

This is a quote by B.B. Warfield from his review of Lewis Sperry Chafer's He That is Spiritual, with which he had strong disagreement.  Having grown up in a system of two-tiered Christianity, I wish someone had told me this a long time ago but better late than never.
He who believes in Jesus Christ is under grace, and his whole course, in its process and in its issue alike, is determined by grace, and therefore, having been predestined to be conformed to the image of God's Son, he is surely being conformed to that image, God Himself seeing to it that he is not only called and justified but also glorified. You may find Christians at every stage of this process, for it is a process through which all must pass; but you will find none who will not in God's own good time and way pass through every stage of it. There are not two kinds of Christians, although there are Christians at every conceivable stage of advancement towards the one goal to which all are bound and at which all shall arrive.

Deb:

No matter how many times I've read Veith's introduction on the doctrine of vocation, I am encouraged to be reminded each time. Yes, the Scriptures are our daily bread. Yet, the literal sense in which He meets our physical needs as well, through such ordinary means, in contrast to Israel's supernatural manna that fell from the sky, helps me appreciate how much I depend on my neighbors daily. By God's good providence, I'm grateful for his provision:

When we pray the Lord's Prayer, observed Luther, we ask God to give us this day our daily bread. And He does give us our daily bread. He does it by means of the farmer who planted and harvested the grain, the baker who made the flour into bread, the person who prepared our meal. We might today add the truck drivers who hauled the produce, the factory workers in the food processing plant, the warehouse men, the wholesale sale distributors, the stock boys, the lady at the checkout counter. Also playing their part are the bankers, futures investors, advertisers, lawyers, agricultural scientists, mechanical cal engineers, and every other player in the nation's economic system. All of these were instrumental in enabling you to eat your morning bagel.
- Gene Edward Veith, Jr., God at Work: Your Christian Vocation in All of Life (p. 13).

Rebecca:

My little women's Bible study group is still working through the book of Jude, so I've been reading Doug Moo's commentary on Jude. In verse 20, before Jude gives his readers instructions on how to deal with the people in their church who have been influenced by false teaching, he commands them to build themselves up in their "most holy faith." At the beginning of Jude, he urged them to "contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints" — to fight for the doctrine of the apostles and against the false teaching that was infiltrating their church— and now he urges them to strenthen themselves in the same once-for-all-delivered faith. Moo writes,
"Contending for the faith" does not mean only fighting against heretics to preserve Christian truth. It also means fighting against our own weakness and temptation so that we can maintain our own faith. Jude knows that you can never take a person's spiritual condition for granted. Thus, before he tells his readers how to confront those affected by the false teaching, he reminds them that they must take a good look at their own condition (vv. 20-21).
And later:
Moving ahead in the Christian life often involves looking to the past. The growth that Jude calls for is growth in "your most holy faith"—that "faith once for all entrusted to the saints" (v. 3). The foundation must be secure before the building can go up. We can never grow away from our roots; we can only grow through them. In the church today, there is an increasing flirtation with what is new. We want to hear what Christianity has to say about the latest fad or issue; we want to learn new things. But in our (legitimate)  eagerness ot push ahead, to stretch our understanding, to make the church relevant to a new age, we must always be careful to "secure our rear," as a general would put it. Solid understanding of Christian doctrine, the kind of understanding that changes hearts and minds—this is something we never grow away from. 

Friday, July 20, 2018

Five Star Links

Each Friday, we share links we found especially interesting or inspiring during the previous week. 

Persis:

Todd Pruitt shares about his experience with depression and anxiety - The Hard Apprenticeship of Sorrow
This hard apprenticeship of sorrow has caused me to long for Christ’s appearing more than I otherwise would have. The promise that our returning Lord will wipe away every tear from our eyes is fuel for my desire for the New Creation. Christians who suffer from depression and anxiety tend to long for that home for which we were ultimately made."

Kim:

Social media has affected the way we read, how our attention span works, and even how we think.  Trevin Wax gives a brief discussion about how social media has changed us.

Rebecca:

Remember the story of Israel and the golden calf? It's a bit shocking, isn't it? How could the Israelites so brazenly—and stupidly—disobey the God who brought them out of slavery in Egypt? And who worships a golden calf, anyway? Why would they do what they did?

And what significance does their story have for us? Is there anything we can we learn from this piece Israel's history? James M. Todd III answers these questions and more in Credo Magazine.

Deb:

Crossway is featuring seven video snapshots exploring the Christian life from seven of church history's greatest theologians.
The Bible calls us to be conformed to the image of Christ, our greatest example of godly living. Yet God has also given us examples of faithful Christian living throughout the history of the church—examples we would do well to emulate.
Interested in church history? Check out these teaching segments from some solid teachers, such as Michael Reeves, Steven Nichols, and Tony Reinke

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Understanding gives way to compassion


I have been close to my aunt and uncle my whole life. Their daughter is probably the closest thing I've had to a sister. As we grew into adulthood, I could sense resentment directed toward me. I didn't understand, and I felt angry toward her. I attributed it to her being a difficult person. While visiting her this summer, she shared some things with me that gave me insight and clarity. It's something that I wish I'd known all along. As I began to appreciate her experience, my frustration with her gave way to compassion and mercy. It is like a wall has been removed.

It is not always easy to understand the perspective of others. We cannot get inside the body or mind of another to understand her perspective. But we can acknowledge the reality that our situation is not the prototype. As a Christian woman, I have a particular background and life situation, but that is not true for all Christian women. I don't set the standard.

Last year, I had an opportunity to spend time with someone who had a very difficult past. She had issues that were beyond anything I could speak into. She referred to other girls with happy childhoods as those who had lived "charmed lives." She described the typical Christian fare directed to women as being only suitable for those women, not her. That was an eye-opening conversation, and it made me wonder how often I have been judgmental or critical of someone because I assumed her experience had to mirror my own.

I Corinthians 12:12-13 talks about the body of Christ:
For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body -- Jews and Greeks, slaves or free -- and all were made to drink of one Spirit.
In the Church, we are tempted to think that our unity is from shared life experiences: we all feel the same way about how short a woman's skirt should be, which political figure to support, or whether homeschooling is bad or not. But those experiences are not what truly give us unity in the body. The most significant experience which we have in common is being baptized into the body of Christ; in being made to drink of one Spirit. That unity may foster shared opinions, but then again, it may not.

It is crucial that we understand what faith is; what the body of Christ is; what unity is. And that means studying and thinking deeply about God's word. And when we do apply Scripture, we must be careful to avoid a "one size fits all" approach. I've often wondered how single mothers react when they read that their children's spiritual health depends on a strong male presence in the home. What if that isn't a possibility? How do we encourage a woman in that situation? It can begin with something as simple as putting ourselves in the shoes of others and really ponder what that different situation is like on a practical, day to day basis.

It is easy to find unity in common preferences for incidentals. But it is a shallow unity. Real unity comes from a shared life in Christ, and it is practiced in an environment of different life experiences. The church is not a gathering of clones. Unity in Christ is not a process by which everyone finally comes around to my point of view. It's about loving someone in spite of the ways in which we differ. One of the ways we can foster compassion and mercy is to be willing to recognize and understand how we differ.

Monday, July 16, 2018

Quotes of Note


Each Monday, we share quotes we found encouraging, convicting, thought-provoking,  or all of the above.

Kim:

My early instruction as a Christian took place in church circles which were highly dispensational. Study and preaching from Revelation had more to do with talking about the rapture and wondering who the anti-Christ was than it did with actually studying the words themselves. I've long wanted to read Revelation with open eyes. I have a copy of the book Revelation Verse By Verse, by Grant Osborne, and I'm hoping to study more closely what Revelation teaches. Revelation has a lot to say about worship:
Worship takes place in virtually every chapter and becomes the unifying center of the action. It is the natural response to God's absolute sovereignty and Christ's atoning sacrifice. The worship scenes elevate readers into the very presence of God and lift them above elements to the Almighty Lord. In fact, there is an antithetical element, for readers are asked to choose between worship of the Triune Godhead and the false trinity . . . The well known challenge says it well -- who is on the throne of your life? There is serious idolatry in the Western world today; there is a god-shelf in our homes, and it can contain anything we choose to put above God in our lives -- even good things like our checkbook, our possessions, our family and our comfort, or our security. God and the Lamb are alone worthy of worship (4:11; 5:9). In fact, the best way to persevere and be a victor is to live a life of worship.

Deb:

Earlier this year, I purchased and read with great enjoyment Sarah Ivill's wonderful book written to help laypersons to better think Biblically and live covenantally. I appreciated the richness of the theological teaching and the practical application throughout the book. Here is one sampling from the second chapter to chew on:
The Westminster Larger Catechism explains in answer 4 that “the Scriptures manifest themselves to be the Word of God, by their majesty and purity; by the consent of all the parts, and the scope of the whole, which is to give all glory to God; by their light and power to convince and convert sinners, to comfort and build up believers unto salvation.” Let’s unpack this answer a little bit to better understand how the Scriptures reveal themselves to be God’s Word. 
First, the Bible reveals itself to be God’s word by its “majesty and purity.” Since God Himself is majestic, greater than all other names, His word is also majestic, greater than all other words. The psalmist says, “Open my eyes, that I may see wondrous things from Your law” (Ps. 119:18). God’s word is also pure. The psalmist tells us, The words of the LORD are pure words, Like silver tried in a furnace of earth, Purified seven times. (Ps. 12:6) And, “the commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes” (Ps. 19:8). Second, the Bible reveals itself to “be the Word of God…by the consent of all the parts, and the scope of the whole, which is to give all glory to God.” Jesus told the Jews, “You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me” (John 5:39). It is Christ who is the climax of the covenant story and who is testified about on every page of the Bible. As the Covenant King who comes extending grace and mercy, as well as the Covenant Servant to perfectly obey what God’s people failed to obey and die a cursed death in their place, He holds the covenant story together as the hero of it all.

Ivill, Sarah. (2018) The Covenantal Life: Appreciating the Beauty of Theology and Community (Kindle Locations 378-392). Reformation Heritage Books.

Persis:

There were more quotes that I wanted to share in my review of Why Can't We Be Friends? last week than space would allow. Therefore, here is one that I omitted on how our identity is found in our Elder Brother, Jesus.
The best-intentioned biological brothers could not possibly fulfill the vocation of keeping one another to this degree. But Jesus claims that position—the keeper of Israel, the keeper of his church; he has kept us in the Father’s name and hasn’t lost even one whom the Father has given him (see John 17:12). Psalm 121 shows us that Jesus can do this because he is the keeper of our souls. Charles Spurgeon remarks, “Soul-keeping is the soul of keeping. If the soul can be kept, all is kept.” While Cain resented his brotherly responsibility to care for Abel, Jesus graciously assumes this office, “fulfilling it in person.” He does this through suffering. To be our Elder Brother, Jesus assumed flesh and blood so that he could truly guard and preserve us from eternal death by living the life that we could not live and dying the death that we all deserved. Cain took Abel’s life because he was jealous of the Father’s affection for him. Jesus gave his own life so that we could share in the Father’s name and in eternal communion with him. This is the beautiful story of brotherhood.


Friday, July 13, 2018

Five Star Links

Each Friday, we share links we found especially interesting or inspiring during the previous week. 


Kim:

Helpful thoughts from the article "I'd Like to Have an Argument, Please."
Many pundits have rued the widespread lack of courtesy on social media. Here, then, is a fundamental mode of courtesy that could revolutionize our participation in, and experience of, social media: Resist the impulse to just sound off and make an argument or offer an alternative. 
Take the time to give your readers a gift: some novel information, another interpretation of the facts, or a new framework in which to see the issue

Persis:

This is a moving post about the aftermath of abuse - But He Promised 
Sometimes when I’m trying to pray, I ask the same question.
What if you stop loving me?
It feels childish and ridiculous. But I have to know. Everything hinges on the hope, the truth of Christ’s love now. It’s all I have. Having it, I need it, desperately.
Rebecca:

"The doctrine of God’s sovereign love—and the fact that nothing is outside his control—will help keep me going through whatever lies ahead"—Christopher Catherwood in How Reformed Theology Helps Deal With Death.

And one more—a time-lapse video of a glacier in Greenland calving an iceberg half the size of Manhattan. (This happened last week.)



Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Review: Why Can't We Be Friends?

Why Can't We Be Friends? - Avoidance is Not Purity by Aimee Byrd, P&R Publishing, 2018, 243 pages.

Four year ago, the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals invited Aimee Byrd to join Carl Trueman and Todd Pruitt as a cohost for their podcast, The Mortification of Spin. To her surprise, not all the listeners were pleased. There were concerns about where this interaction would lead and even warnings that Aimee was an affair waiting to happen and a potential cause of moral downfall for two pastors.1 When I read this account in the beginning of Why Can't We Be Friends?, it reminded me of a another story.

In Openness Unhindered, Rosaria Butterfield was preparing a Lord's Day meal with another sister. It was just the two of them in the kitchen quietly working together, and then the question came up,
"Is this safe? Being alone together in the kitchen?"... "Does being alone with a woman bring back those feelings for you? Those kind of feelings."
Suddenly, the danger was exposed: I. It was I. I was the potential source of unsafety. I felt that chill of isolation creep in. She couldn't even name those feelings, they were so dirty, or foreign, or dangerous.... I was perplexed that even though I was a new creature in Christ, that was not good enough. I pondered why my identity in Christ did not seem to be good enough for her, and it made me wonder again, if it was good enough for God... Why did she not see that my identity in Christ was bigger than my past? Because there is another category of personhood that takes preeminence: sexual orientation."2
These responses from Christians aren't that different from the dictum of Harry Burns in the movie, When Harry Met Sally - "men and women can't be friends because the sex part always gets in the way."3 If Harry and the naysayers are right, then Aimee should be booted off the Mortification of Spin, and we should be wary of all cross-gender friendships in the church. For Rosaria, even same-gender friendships are potentially dangerous, so perhaps it would be safer to segregate her with just her family.

But is this how God wants his family to function? Are we called to commune around the Lord's table as fellow blood-bought believers and then view each other with suspicion? In our desire to obey the 7th commandment, do we inadvertently break the 9th by imputing sinful motives to one another? Is Christ's work in making us new creatures not good enough? Or have we lost something along the way? I think we have, which is why I am so glad Aimee wrote this book. The solution to the friendship problem is not just behavioral. It is, at its heart, theological.

Aimee identifies four theological categories that form the foundation of friendship, and these categories anchor the discourse in the subsequent chapters:4

Anthropology - What are we here for? We are created for communion with God and with one another.
Christology - Who are we as Christians? Christ, our elder brother, has not only given us new life but brought us into a new relationship as brothers and sisters.
Ecclesiology - We are God's family. How does he expect us to treat one another?
Eschatology - What is our ultimate hope?

Then in the first half of the book, Aimee examines the reasons why we think we can't be friends:5
- Our concept of identity is shaped by the culture and seen through the lens of stereotypes.
- We've forgotten the goal of communion with God and the outflow of that communion in the church.
- We've narrowed purity down to sex.
- Immaturity and fear weaken relationships.
- We've forgotten that we are family.

In the second half of the book, she gives ways where sanctified siblingship can flourish in the local church:6
- Our identity comes from our Elder Brother.
- Consider the "one anothers" in scripture.
- Cultivate holiness in one another through encouragement and exhortation.
- Practice community through table fellowship.
- Celebrate and suffer together.
- Model affectionate and appropriate relationships to the world.

There has been a lot of discussion about Why Can't We Be Friends? even before its release. There have been concerns that Aimee is advocating antinomianism (disregarding the moral law) in the area of friendship. I don't think this is the case at all. I believe she steers a theologically straight course between license and legalism, which is why I strongly recommend this book. She is not advocating permissiveness in our friendships. Neither does she give a list of cast iron dos and donts. Rather she raises the bar by encouraging her readers to look to Christ and what he has done on our behalf. It is through our union with him that the family of God can be family in holiness and purity. He sets the standard for friendship, not the culture. After all who gave us a new heart? Who gives us new desires? Are we perfect? No. Are we still tempted? Yes. But who convicts us of sin? Who delivers us from temptation and gives wisdom from situation to situation? Who is building his church and able to present her blameless at the last day?
Can men and women be friends? It's the wrong question. How could we even ask such a question if we understood the meaning of friendship?
Are we opposed to friendship? No - we are opposed to sin, and we are for holiness. And for this reason, men and women are called to be more than friends. We are called to Christ, in whom we become brothers and sisters As the saying goes, blood is thicker than water.7

For more on the book:
Mortification of Spin Podcast on Why Can't We Be Friends?
Theology Gals interview with Aimee Byrd 

1. Why Can't We Be Friends? - Avoidance is Not Purity, Aimee Byrd, P&R Publishing, 2018, pg. 7.
2. Openness Unhindered, Rosaria Butterfield, Crown & Covenant Publications, 2015, pp. 35-36. (bolding mine)
3. Byrd. pg. 25.
4. Ibid. pp. 15-16.
5. Ibid. Chapters 1-7.
6. Ibid. Chapters 8-13.
7. Ibid. pg. 229.

I received an e-copy of this book from the publisher. 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."

Monday, July 9, 2018

Quotes of Note


Each Monday, we share quotes we found encouraging, convicting, thought-provoking,  or all of the above.


Kim:

Another great one from Concise Theology:
Christ's death was God's act of reconciling us to himself, overcoming his own hostility to us that our sins provoked (Rom. 5:10; 2 Cor. 5:18-19; Col. 1:20-22). The Cross propitiated (i.e., quenched his wrath against us by expiating our sins and so removing them from his sight). Key texts here are Romans 3:25; hebrews 2:17; 1 John 2:2 and 4:10, in each of which the Greek expresses propitiation explicitly. The Cross had this propitiatory effect because in his suffering Christ assumed our identity as it were, and endured the retributive judgment due to us ("the curse of the law," Gal. 3:13) as our substitute, in our place, with the damning record of our transgressions nailed by God to his cross as the tally of crimes for which he was now dying. 
Take note of the sentence beginning, "The Cross propitiated . . . " This is exceptional writing. Packer makes the cross the subject of the sentence, and gives it a transitive verb, "propitiated." This adds a powerful emphasis on the significance of the cross. Forgiveness is because of the cross. The cross has won our redemption for us. Packer has beautifully drawn our attention to the essential nature of the cross.


Persis:

These related quotes are from The Whole Christ by Sinclair Ferguson. If you are looking for a book that addresses antinomianism and its "nonidentical twin," legalism, this is the book for you.
There is only one genuine cure for legalism. It is the same medicine the gospel prescribes for antinomianism: understanding and tasting union with Jesus Christ himself. This leads to a new love for and obedience to the law of God, which he now mediates to us in the gospel. This alone breaks the bonds of both legalism (the law is no longer divorced from the person of Christ) and antinomianism (we are not divorced from the law, which now comes to us from the hand of Christ and in the empowerment of the Spirit, who writes it on our hearts.) (pg. 157)
Commandments are the railroad tracks on which the life empowered by the love of God poured into the heart by the Holy Spirit runs. Love empowers the engine; the law guides the direction. They are mutually interdependent. (pp. 168-169)

Rebecca: 

I'm still reading The Essential Trinity, a collection of essays on the "New Testament foundations and practical relevance" of the Trinity. I'm three-quarters of the way through the last chapter, the one on the Trinity and preaching, which is written by Michael Reeves. You might think a chapter on preaching would have nothing to say to an ordinary woman who will never preach, but much of what Reeves has written is also applicable in some way to every Christian.

It "will not do," writes Reeves, "for Christian preachers to mouth a vague or general theism. How, then, will the glory of the living God be distingished from the glory of all others?"

The same thing goes for the lay Christian. It will not do for us to think and speak about God as if he were a generally theistic god. Our God—the one we hold in our minds when we worship, and the one we speak of in our daily lives—should be the one true God who exists as Trinity.

Reeves continues, speaking to the preacher, but much of what he says also applies to every believer:
A faithful servant of this God will be eager to speak in trinitarian language as often and as clearly as possible, knowing our natural propensity to squash God into our own fallen perception.
'Preaching the Trinity' really (unfortunately) requires a little explanation. All too easily that could be taken to mean that, every now and again, the preacher departs from his usual expository ministry and puzzles his congregation with the question of how three can be one. Out with the verse-by-verse that week; in with talk about triangles and 3-in-one shampoo. But the Trinity is not an addendum to the gospel of Jesus, a side room for those ready to move on: the triune God is the God of the gospel. To preach the Trinity is simply to preach the Father who is made known by his son Jesus Christ in the  power of the Spirit. It is, in fact, no more than to preach Jesus Christ, who is the Son of God anointed with the Holy Spirit. Note the trinitarianism of the simple summons to faith in Jesus found in John's Gospel: 'these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Sond of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name' (John 20:31).
So when you read your Bible, especially the New Testament, look for the Trinity. Where is the Father in the passage you are reading? The Son? The Spirit? The Spirit sometimes hides, but behind any words about new life, new creatures, being made new, becoming like Christ, and more, is the Spirit, who is working withing every believer to recreate them in the image of Christ. When you think about the gospel, think about each person's role in the work of salvation. And when you speak of God to others, speak frequently of Father, Son, and Spirit.

When you worship, are you worshipping the Christian God—Father, Son, and Spirit—or a vague or general theistic god?

Friday, July 6, 2018

Five Star Links

Each Friday, we share links we found especially interesting or inspiring during the previous week. 


Kim:

Two years ago, on the way to school, my very expensive Schuyler goatskin ESV Bible got a bath from a poorly sealed water bottle in my book bag. I wish I'd seen these "Tips for Repairing a Wet Book." I'm not sure how these procedures would work for the thin paper, but I could have taken some of the tips and tried them.

Rebecca:

I seem to bounce back from grief—or at least come to the "new normal"—fairly quickly, and I'll admit that I can be privately impatient with those who don't. This piece was a needed reminder to me to be patient and continue to support those who are grieving even when their experience is different from mine.

Persis:

Here's a post from Diane Bucknell who was one of the contributor's here at Out of the Ordinary. The ministry of presence and just being there for one another is so important. "Having sound doctrine is fine and dandy, but unless it produces both a love for God and His people that is made evident by our actions, it really won't be worth much."

Monday, July 2, 2018

Quotes of Note


Each Monday, we share quotes we found encouraging, convicting, thought-provoking,  or all of the above.

Persis:

A friend recently asked me about How to Think by Alan Jacobs. I finished it last year, and it's one of the best books I've read on how thinking, or its lack, is intertwined with how we treat people. If you want examples, just observe how well people respond when someone disagrees with them on social media. Usually not so well, which is one of the main reasons Jacobs wrote this book.
Why would people ever think, when thinking deprives them of "the pleasure of sharing an attitude one knows is socially approved" - especially in an online environment where the social approval of one's attitudes is so much easier to acquire, in the currency of likes, faves, followers and friends? And to acquire instantaneously? (pg. 21)
People invested in not knowing, not thinking about, certain things in order to have "the pleasure of sharing an attitude one knows is socially approved" will be ecstatic when their consensus is gratified - and wrathful when it is thwarted. (Social bonding is cemented by shared emotion, shared emotion generates social bonding, It's a feedback loop from which reflection is excluded.)...  Anyone who claims not to be shaped by such forces is almost self-deceived. Human beings are not built to be indifferent to the waves and pulses of their social world. For most of us the question is whether we have even the slightest reluctance to drift along with the flow. The person who genuinely wants to think will have to develop strategies for recognizing the subtlest of social pressures, confronting the pull of the ingroup and disgust for the outgroup. The person who wants to think will have to practice patience and master fear. (pg. 23)
Kim:

J.I. Packer is not only an astute theologian, he is a great writer. In this passage from Concise Theology, he describes beautifully the importance of Christ's resurrection:
Jesus' resurrection, which was a divine act involving all three Persons of the Godhead (John 10:17-18; Acts 13:30-35; Rom 1:4), was not just a resuscitation of the ruined physical frame that was taken down from the cross for burial. It was, rather, a transformation of Jesus' humanity that enabled him to appear, vanish, and move unseen from one location to another (Luke 24:31, 36). It was the creative renewing of his original body, the body that is now fully glorified and deathless (Phil. 3:21; Heb. 7:16, 24). The Son of God in heaven still lives in and through that body, and will do so forever. In I Corinthians 15:50-54, Paul envisages that Christians who are alive on earth at the moment of Christ's return will undergo a similar transformation, though in 2 Corinthians 5:1-5 he shows himself aware that Christians who die before the Second Coming will be "clothed" with their new body (the "eternal house in heaven") as a distinct event, at or after the time of the body's return to dust (Gen. 3:19).
Rebecca:

Last Friday I linked to a 5 Minutes in Church History piece on William Cowper. Cowper was a British poet and hymn writer who suffered from some kind of mental illness. In his melancholy episodes, which were long-lasting, he was convinced that he had been forsaken by God. Although he was a believer, he was sure that ultimately he would be what he called a “castaway”; that is, in the end, Christ would say to him, “I never knew you.” These compulsive thoughts were, I'm certain, symptoms of his mental illness. After all, he truly believed that all those who trust in Christ are surely saved, and he knew that he was trusting in Christ. Yet he couldn’t rid himself of the idea that he was the one and only exception to the rule, the only person who ever lived who would trust in Christ and still be rejected.

Elizabeth Barrett Browning wrote a beautiful poem called Cowper's Grave that reflects on William Cowper's sad life and the peace that he found only in the afterlife when he saw Jesus face to face—when he "felt those eyes alone, and knew—'My Saviour! not deserted!'"

Cowper's Grave 
I.
It is a place where poets crowned may feel the heart’s decaying;
It is a place where happy saints may weep amid their praying;
Yet let the grief and humbleness as low as silence languish:
Earth surely now may give her calm to whom she gave her anguish. 
II.
O poets, from a maniac’s tongue was poured the deathless singing!
O Christians, at your cross of hope a hopeless hand was clinging!
O men, this man in brotherhood your weary paths beguiling,
Groaned inly while he taught you peace, and died while ye were smiling! 
III.
And now, what time ye all may read through dimming tears his story,
How discord on the music fell and darkness on the glory,
And how when, one by one, sweet sounds and wandering lights departed,
He wore no less a loving face because so broken-hearted, 
IV.
He shall be strong to sanctify the poet’s high vocation,
And bow the meekest Christian down in meeker adoration;
Nor ever shall he be, in praise, by wise or good forsaken,
Named softly as the household name of one whom God hath taken. 
V.
With quiet sadness and no gloom I learn to think upon him,
With meekness that is gratefulness to God whose heaven hath won him,
Who suffered once the madness-cloud to His own love to blind him,
But gently led the blind along where breath and bird could find him; 
VI.
And wrought within his shattered brain such quick poetic senses
As hills have language for, and stars, harmonious influences:
The pulse of dew upon the grass kept his within its number,
And silent shadows from the trees refreshed him like a slumber. 
VII.
Wild timid hares were drawn from woods to share his home-caresses,
Uplooking to his human eyes with sylvan tendernesses:
The very world, by God’s constraint, from falsehood’s ways removing,
Its women and its men became, beside him, true and loving. 
VIII.
And though, in blindness, he remained unconscious of that guiding,
And things provided came without the sweet sense of providing,
He testified this solemn truth, while phrenzy desolated,
—Nor man nor nature satisfies whom only God created. 
IX.
Like a sick child that knoweth not his mother while she blesses
And drops upon his burning brow the coolness of her kisses,—
That turns his fevered eyes around—“My mother! where’s my mother?”—
As if such tender words and deeds could come from any other!— 
X.
The fever gone, with leaps of heart he sees her bending o’er him,
Her face all pale from watchful love, the unweary love she bore him!
Thus woke the poet from the dream his life’s long fever gave him,
Beneath those deep pathetic Eyes which closed in death to save him. 
XI.
Thus? oh, not thus! no type of earth can image that awaking,
Wherein he scarcely heard the chant of seraphs, round him breaking,
Or felt the new immortal throb of soul from body parted,
But felt those eyes alone, and knew—“My Saviour! not deserted!” 
XII.
Deserted! Who hath dreamt that when the cross in darkness rested,
Upon the Victim’s hidden face no love was manifested?
What frantic hands outstretched have e’er the atoning drops averted?
What tears have washed them from the soul, that one should be deserted? 
XIII.
Deserted! God could separate from His own essence rather;
And Adam’s sins have swept between the righteous Son and Father:
Yea, once, Immanuel’s orphaned cry His universe hath shaken—
It went up single, echoless, “My God, I am forsaken!” 
XIV.
It went up from the Holy’s lips amid His lost creation,
That, of the lost, no son should use those words of desolation!
That earth’s worst phrenzies, marring hope, should mar not hope’s fruition,
And I, on Cowper’s grave, should see his rapture in a vision.

Deb:

In my research and studies I keep bumping up against theories that tend to dichotomize reason over against experience, truth verses imagination, and modernism against postmodernism. To that end, I recalled how much I previously enjoyed our church Sunday School a couple of summers ago in which we studied Fool's Talk: Recovering the Art of Christian Persuasion by Os Guinness. He wrote:
Creative persuasion is a matter of being biblical, not of being either modern or postmodern. In today’s climate, anyone who prizes reason and truth and makes use of them in the defense of the faith is apt to be dismissed as a modernist. Equally, anyone who uses imagination and stories is apt to be either praised or dismissed as postmodern, depending on the speaker’s view of postmodernism. But the fact is that the Bible itself is the grandest of grand stories, yet it prizes truth and reason without being modernist, and it prizes countless stories within its overall story without being postmodern either. In short, the Bible is both rational and experiential, propositional as well as relational, so that genuinely biblical arguments work in any age and with any person (pp. 33-34).  

Friday, June 29, 2018

Five Star Links

Each Friday, we share links we found especially interesting or inspiring during the previous week. 


Persis:

When theologians talk about the doctrine of divine simplicity or God being simple - what do they mean, and is it important? This Tabletalk article by Dr. James Dolezal answers those questions:
All that is in God is God. He, being His own existence and essence, and so not derived from causes as are all other beings, is alone adequate to ultimately account for all that is caused-to-be. He is the One from whom, and through whom, and to whom are all things (Rom. 11:36). This identifies Him as the lone worthy object of all our worship and gratitude. All things look ultimately to Him for their being, but He looks to none.

Kim:

In the article How to Help Someone With Depression, we are given some really sensitive, helpful advice about how to be a support for someone who is struggling with depression.

Rebecca:

Speaking of depression, do you know William Cowper's story? He battled depression for most of his life, but also wrote some truly beautiful hymns. (If you aren't regularly reading—or listening to—Stephen Nichols' 5 Minutes in Church History, you should be.)

Monday, June 25, 2018

Quotes of Note



Each Monday, we share quotes we found encouraging, convicting, thought-provoking,  or all of the above.

Kim:

I finished reading a book called Expressing Theology: A Guide to Writing Theology That Readers Want to Read. This is not only an excellent book for seminary students, but also bloggers who write about theological matters. I found these two passages very thought-provoking and convicting. They remind the writer to remember and respect her audience. First, the need for humility:
Theology requires a humble approach, but not an in-your-face screaming match. . . Don't lecture your audience; join with them to explore. When prose oozes a know-it-all, better-than-you, shut-up-and-listen-to-me, put-down attitude, readers stop reading. 
There are a number of blogs which I have stopped reading because of that kind of approach. And I know I have written that way in the past. It is unappealing.  Second, pay attention to our words:
Don't commit the sin of jargon. Jargon reeks of insider language. Jargon encapsulates the horizon of soteriological processes encircled by the memoria passionis, mortis, et resurrectionis Jesu Christi and embedded by the Sitz im Leben of the here and hereafter eschatology . . . Jargon leaves outsiders in the dark. You want to bring people into the light of beautiful, clear words.
And if we really need to use theological terms -- and we should because they are helpful -- make sure we explain them.


Persis:

When there is so much suffering in the world and suffering among people you love, it is easy to get overwhelmed. I've gone back to this quote multiple times in the past few weeks from Embodied Hope: A Theological Meditation on Pain and Suffering by Kelly Kapicwhich I finished reading earlier this year. It is always good to be reminded that we can pour out our hearts to a "God who hears and acts."
[W]e need to be honest about the pain of lament and why we are inclined to avoid it. It hurts. And if we fully and completely felt the lament of this broken and sinful world, it would crush any and all of us. We know that because it crushed Jesus. But thanks be to God, this Jesus also rose from the depths of despair and from the grave. He rose and lives even now. For now, let us simply appreciate that we are allowed, even invited, to lament. Yet we must take those laments to God since they will not crush him.
Yahweh can absorb our frustrations; he doesn't fret before our questions; he is able to respond to our concerns. We must never forget "what ultimately shapes biblical lament is not the need for the creature to cry its woe, but the faithfulness of the God who hears and acts."
Rebecca:

In his chapter on The Trinity and Worship in The Essential Trinity, Robert Letham comments that many of the great historical prayers of the church, including those in The Book of Common Prayer, are filled with teaching about God as triune. "[T]hey contain a nucleus of trinitarian expressions," he writes, "that can be internalized in the minds of the faithful."

He goes on to make this observation:
One wonders how much of the decline in appreciation of the Trinity is due to exclusively unguided extemporaneous prayer. At times of theological strength and spiritual vitality this may be fine, but when decline sets in there is nothing to check it. I am not suggesting that written liturgical prayer should be the exclusive, or even the main, diet of church worship. However, it can and does provide a backbone, a foundation, for the prayers of the church. 
I think he may be on to something. What do you think? Does your church ever use historical prayers in the worship service?

Friday, June 22, 2018

Five Star Links


Each Friday, we share links we found especially interesting or inspiring during the previous week. 

Kim:

I always appreciate the wisdom and teaching of J.I. Packer. In this video clip, he talks about repentance.

J.I. Packer: What Does It Mean to Repent?

Persis:

Melissa Kruger interviewed Rebecca about her book, The Doctrine of God for Every Woman.

Rebecca:

Keep reading aloud to your children (and grandchildren). I know this is an old link, but I saw it for the first time this week. It's message is timeless: Don't stop reading to your kids. Even when they are old enough to read for themselves, don't stop reading to them. 

Need suggestions? Two of my favourites chapter books to read to primary-aged children are Charlotte's Web and Little Pear.

Monday, June 18, 2018

Quotes of Note



Each Monday, we share quotes we found encouraging, convicting, thought-provoking,  or all of the above.

Kim:

Do you know the poetry of George Herbert?  If you don't, why not try it out? Theology is not always expressed in big, dry books. It is also expressed in artistic forms like poetry. In his poem, "The Sacrifice," Herbert utilizes four line stanzas, ending each one with the exception of two, with with the refrain "Was ever grief like mine?" The other two end with "Never was grief like mine." In these stanzas below, you can see how Hebert connects the tree in the Garden of Eden to the tree upon which Jesus hung.

O all ye who pass by, behold and see;
Man stole the fruit but I must climb the tree,
Th tree of life too all, but only me:
Was ever grief like mine?

Lo, here I hang, charged with a world of sin,
The greater world o'th' two; for that came in
By words, but this by sorrow I must win:
Was ever grief like mine?

Such sorrow, as if sinful man could feel,
Or feel his part, he would not cease to kneel,
Till all were melted, though he were all steel:
Was ever grief like mine?

But, O my God, my God! why leav'st thou me,
The Son, in whom thou dost delight to be?
My God, my God --
Never was grief like mine.


Persis:

I am on the launch team for Aimee Byrd's new book, Why Can't We Be Friends?, which will be released at the end of this month. As Christians, we know that we should flee from sexual immorality, but is that the sum total of all that purity entails? Or is that bar even too low and actually diminishes what we are called to as children of God? In the following quote, Aimee states rightly from Scripture that purity involves our whole selves in who we are, what we think, and what we do. Is this something we achieve and maintain in ourselves? No.
The dynamic nature of God’s generosity applies to our purity. Our purity is from God. Think of all that this purity entails. It involves our hearts and our thoughts, proper active love, integrity and holiness, and cleanliness, without being mixed with sin in body, mind, and soul. Can anyone uphold this in herself? Himself? No! But God graciously gave us his Son, imputing Jesus Christ’s full righteousness to every believer. From him we are given everything that purity entails. Everything! And through him we remain pure.
Jesus didn’t just pay for our impurity and give us his purity; he has given us the Holy Spirit! Paul makes this argument when discussing purity: “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body” (1 Cor. 6:19–20). God has given the Holy Spirit to dwell within us—to tabernacle with us. Now that is holiness and purity! While affirming God’s ownership of us, Paul tells us that God has given us himself. Talk about divine generosity! He then concludes that we are to glorify God in our bodies. Our purity is from God and through God, and we respond by offering it back to God. Purity isn’t merely abstaining from sexual activity; it isn’t even having sex within marriage. It is offering our whole selves back to the Giver.


Deb:

Melissa Kruger's latest book, In All Things, traces Paul's conversion narrative in Acts and the  subsequent epistle he penned to the young, Philippian church. Through her devotional presentation of relevant Scriptures, Kruger recounts how Paul's words and life helped convey the secret to unshakeable joy and peace -- even during some of the toughest times of trial and suffering.

Early in the first chapter of In All Things, she shared a wonderful quote from the good doctor, D. Martyn Lloyd Jones:
If ever the world needed the witness and testimony of Christian people it is at this present time. The world is unhappy, it is distracted and frightened, and what it needs is to see stars shining out of the heavens in the midst of the darkness, attracting the world by rebuking that darkness, and by giving it light, showing how it too can live that quality of life. 

Rebecca:

Carl Trueman on the difference the doctrine of the Trinity makes in the everyday life of a believer:
[T]he doctrine is, in fact, one of the most immediately practical for Christians. The Trinity is far from being an abstract doctrine, and is not to be relegated to a virtual appendix in Christian theology. On the contrary, trinitarianism shapes everything, from Christian doctrine to Christian practice. If the Christian is one who is adopted by the Father through being united to Christ by the Holy Spirit, then to be a Christian is to have an identity that is trinitarian at its very core. Thus everything the believer is and everything the believer does has to be understood at some level in trinitatian terms. 
From the chapter The Trinity and Prayer in The Essential Trinity, edited by Brandon D. Crowe and Carl R. Trueman.

Friday, June 15, 2018

Five Star Links



Each Friday, we share links we found especially interesting or inspiring during the previous week. 

From Kim:

Youth Group or Frat House

When my daughter was a teen, she went to a day camp where they played a take off of "Fear Factor," and it involved dead animals and seafood. People couldn't understand why I was bothered by this. This article expresses much of how I felt, and still feel.

From Persis:

On Professors and the Cult of Personality

The celebrity culture is nothing new. In this article, Carl Trueman writes about the pitfalls in academia, but you could just as easily substitute pastor, favorite author/blogger, or women's ministry leader. This warning goes both ways - for those who lead as well as those who follow.

From Rebecca:

The Missing Ingredient in Our Parenting

Some excellent parenting advice from Margaret and Andreas K√∂stenberger. (It's an excerpt from their new book,  Equipping for Life: A Guide for New, Aspiring & Struggling Parents (Christian Focus, 2018).)

From Deb:

Acedia: Despair and disdain for life based on the habit of bad thoughts

An old term originally coined by monks during the fourth century, "acedia" (pronounced ah-SEED-e-uh) used to be viewed as one of the most severe afflictions of the soul. Though the word may no longer be in use, its connotations perhaps carry even more weight today.