Monday, October 15, 2018

Quotes of Note



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

Rebecca:

John Calvin was sure the book of Hebrews belonged in the Bible even though he was also sure it wasn’t written by Paul, but by some other unknown author. In this quote from the introduction to his Commentary on Hebrews, he explains why it merited a place in the canon of scripture.
I, indeed, without hesitation, class it among apostolical writings; nor do I doubt but that it has been through the craft of Satan that any have been led to dispute its authority. There is, indeed, no book in the Holy Scriptures which speaks so clearly of the priesthood of Christ, so highly exalts the virtue and dignity of that only true sacrifice which he offered by his death, so abundantly treats of the use of ceremonies as well as of their abrogation, and, in a word, so fully explains that Christ is the end of the Law. Let us not therefore suffer the Church of God nor ourselves to be deprived of so great a benefit, but firmly defend the possession of it.
[Calvin’s Commentary on Hebrews]

Kim:

One of the books for my Synoptic Gospels class is F.F. Bruce's Hard Sayings of Jesus. The assignment was to look for some area of disagreement we had with Bruce's analysis. Thankfully, it was a group project. It's kind of daunting to be told to critique someone of Bruce's stature. Here is a conclusion Bruce made regarding the parable of the camel going through the eye of the needle (Mark 10:25):
No doubt Jesus was using the language of hyperbole, as when he spoke of the man with a whole plank sticking out of his eye offering to remove the splinter or speck of sawdust from his neighbour's eye (Matt 7:3-5; Luke 6:41-42). But the language of hyperbole was intended to drive the lesson home: it is impossible for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God --  humanly impossible, Jesus concedes; for God, with whom nothing is impossible, can even save a rich man. But if so, then the rich man's heart must be changed by having his attachment to material riches replaced by attachment to the true riches, 'treasure in heaven.'

Friday, October 12, 2018

Five Star Links

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

Kim:

Find some "Encouragement for Bible Reading From Puritan Women." These women always inspire me. They were often said to have been known for "their piety." Is that something I will be remembered for?

Rebecca:

Here's the story of Anne of Bohemia, who is said to have carried copies of the New Testament in Latin, Czech, and German, when, as a 15 year old, she travelled from Bohemia to England to marry Richard II, King of England. John Wyclif would use this piece of information in defense of his work to produce a Bible in English, an act that was "considered heretical by church officials, who feared that untrained minds would misunderstand its teachings and cause further problems in the church." If church officials considered him a heretic, he argued, wouldn't they have to call the Queen a heretic, too, since she probably "had the Gospel in three languages: Bohemian, German, and Latin”?

In this way, and maybe more, young Anne played a small part in what would eventually become the Protestant Reformation.

Deb:

One of the remarkable (and little-known) facts about the early Christian movement was its popularity among women. The ministry of women was critical to its success and expansion in the earliest centuries. Dr. Michael Kruger, President and Professor of New Testament and Early Christianity at Reformed Theological Seminary in Charlotte, NC, recently spoke about this very topic to the women who attended The Gospel Coalition's Women conference. His session explores the impact of women during this time period (particularly the second century) and helps to draw out lessons to be learned for the modern day. Listen to the session here.

Monday, October 8, 2018

Quotes of Note



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

Kim:

One of the books I'm reading in my Synoptic Gospels class is F.F. Bruce's Hard Sayings of Jesus. I read something interesting in his discussion of the saying in Matthew 5:29, about plucking out your right eye if it offends you:
Shortly after the publication of William Tyndale's English New Testament, the attempt to restrict its circulation was defended on the ground that the simple reader might mistakenly take such language literally and 'pluck out his eyes, and so the whole realm will be full of blind men, to the great decay of the nation and the manifest loss of the King's grace; and thus by reading of the Holy Scriptures will the whole realm come into confusion.' So a preaching friar is said to have declared in a Cambridge sermon; but he met his match in Hugh Latimer who, in a sermon preached the following Sunday, said that simple people were well able to distinguish between literal and figurative terms. 'For example,' Latimer went on, 'if we paint  fox preaching in a friar's hood, nobody imagines that a fox is meant, but that craft and hypocrisy are described, which so often are found disguised in that garb.'
Even back then, the presence of figurative language was easily understandable by the general reading audience.


Persis:

This is from a prayer for a time of bereavement by John MacDuff.
Let us hear Jesus' voice of encouragement and love, sounding amid the stillness of the death-chamber, and from the depths of the sepulcher, "Don't be afraid! I am the First and the Last. I am the living one who died. Look, I am alive forever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and the grave!"

O Helper of the helpless, Comforter of all who are cast down, better and dearer than the dearest and best of earthly relatives--give us that grace which You have promised specially in seasons of weakness. May we realize the truth of Your own precious promise, "As your day--so shall your strength be."

May this thought reconcile us to bear all and suffer all--that we shall soon be done with this present evil world--and be with our God, and that forever and ever! Hide us meanwhile, in the clefts of the Smitten Rock, until this and all other of earth's calamities are over and past. May we trust Your heart--where we cannot trace Your hand! We wait patiently for the great day of disclosures, when all shall be revealed; and all be found redounding to the praise and the glory of Your great name!

Friday, October 5, 2018

Five Star Links

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

Persis:

Do you wish to get well?
He didn’t come for those who think they see. He didn’t come for those who think they walk. He didn’t come for the rich or the powerful or the entitled. He didn’t come for the ones on the top.
He came for the hungry, the oppressed, the afflicted, the widow, the orphan. Those that don’t have the strength to get to the water.
He came for those who have had their choice and their voice taken away.

Kim:

Mommy Drinking is No Joke

I had honestly never heard of the phrase "mommy juice" in reference to mothers drinking alcohol. Perhaps it is because I've only attended churches where most people did not drink. Whatever your position on the freedom to drink, the idea that mothers must rely on a drink to get by is something to be concerned about. Any joke about drinking to excess whether mom or dad or anyone else is in poor taste.


Rebecca: 

The Bible study I hold at my home is now moving from the Epistle of Jude to the Epistle of Hebrews. (We are going to have to pick up our game a bit. We spent 9 sessions on the 25 verses of Jude. It was great going over each verse with a fine-toothed comb, but at that pace, we will be working on Hebrews for several years.) Searching for resources on Hebrews, I was reminded this series of Bible studies on the book of Hebrews led by Michael Kruger of Reformed Theological Seminary. To start at the beginning, you will need to scroll down to Season 1, Week 1.

Thursday, October 4, 2018

The Essential Truth

The Lord is good to all, and his mercies are over all his works (Ps 145:9)

One of the most humbling moments I've ever had came during a time as a new Christian when I worked in a word processing pool. My boss told me at my 6 month review that there were comments from others in the pool that I complained too much. I was mortified. Over the years, I have had a struggle to stop complaining.

Concentrating on God's goodness has been one of the most helpful things to my tendency to complain. I keep learning that in every difficult situation, God is always good. I was reminded of this last Sunday when I was talking to a friend at church. She has been dealing with a very serious health situation. I had not seen her for a while, and when I commented that she looked good and seemed to be in very good spirits, she said, "Well, look around; I could have it much worse." In the face of her own illness, she recognized that there are others in our congregation (and there are; many) who are dealing with much worse. She sees God's goodness. She counts God as good for providing improvement, for providing medical care. She was looking outside of her circumstance and toward God.

In the past, while complaining, I have had people suggest that I look for God's goodness. I have not always responded to that counsel in a good way. When we are feeling sorry for ourselves, we want validation, and sometimes, we secretly enjoy feeling that we deserve to complain. There is definitely a time for allowing someone to express her frustration, but ultimately, we cannot stay there.

Complaining infects our thinking, taking our attention away from God to ourselves. We stop seeing God as good, but it is crucial to avoid that. God's goodness is why he shows mercy time after time whenever we sin. It is why he sustains us, why he sustains the world, why he delays the coming of Christ that others may come to know him. God's goodness is in the big things and the small things. If we have trouble seeing God as good, there are two things we can do: 1) read the Word of God daily, and 2) look around us. There are little signs of God's goodness everywhere.

Last week, I was struggling with a cold, and I complained. I grumbled about the timing. A stuffy head, runny nose and fatigue were not helpful for my crowded to-do list. One day, late in the afternoon, I sat outside and watched as a hummingbird hovered at my feeder. A harried squirrel realized there was a human and a Beagle on my deck and ran furiously at the sound of barking. I noticed that my maple tree is showing its colours among the top leaves. I caught the scent of someone burning leaves, and I heard the sounds of the kids two doors down from me playing outside. I had my cup of Yorkshire tea, comfortable on my Muskoka (or as the folks south of me say, Adirondack) chair, outside of a comfortable home, with a book on my lap for a class at seminary where I'm privileged to go; little things given by the hand of a good God.

The essential truth of God's goodness can shape our thinking in both the little things and the big things. It can bring us out of a funk or give us a strategy for avoiding grumbling and complaining. It may not solve our situation, but within it, we can see God's goodness. In these days when it seems like all around us see nothing but doom and gloom, we need to understand that God is good.

Monday, October 1, 2018

Quotes of Note



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

Persis:

This is a quote from Walking Through Twilight by Douglas Groothuis who recently lost his wife to dementia.
Learn to lament with people...  Listen to the stories of the suffering and identify with them. Say unprofound but appropriate things like "I am so sorry" and "That is terrible." It is not wise to try to cheer before it's time... I am still but a babe in this loving skill, suffering well with others. Will you join me in the school of lament? Will you learn to sit on the mourner's bench before God and with those whom you love? (pgs. 168 & 170)

Rebecca:

Four principles from New Testament passages on how to love God through our work from Work and Our Labor in the Lord by James M. Hamilton:
1) Work to please God: The parable of the talents (Matt. 25:14-30). In the parable of the talents Matthew presents Jesus commending initiative, diligence, and even savvy attempts to earn interest on one’s money (Matt. 25:20-23, 27). He likewise discourages a slothful, fearful failure to be fruitful (25:26-30). 
2) Do all for God’s glory (1 Cor. 10:31). 1 Corinthians 10:31 communicates Paul’s view that all things should be done for God’s glory. God created the world to fill it with his glory, and those who would make God’s character known should join him by pursuing his renown whether eating, drinking, or doing anything else. 
3) Do all in Christ’s name (Col. 3:17). The name of Jesus is about the character and mission of Jesus. To work in the name of the Lord Jesus, then, is to work in a way that reflects his character and joins his mission. To put his character on display is to be transformed into the image of the invisible God (2 Cor. 3:18; Col. 1:15). This means for Paul to speak of working in Christ’s name is another way for him him to urge working for God’s glory. 
4) Work from your soul for the Lord (Col. 2:23). In addition to working for God’s glory, Paul instructs the Colossians to work from the soul for the Lord. This appears to mean that they should put all they are into their work rather than merely doing things to preserve appearances before men. Christians should employ their creative capacities and soul-deep energies as they seek to serve God in their work. With God’s glory as our aim, nothing less will suffice.

Kim:

Another quote from D.A. Carson's Exegetical Fallacies:
Unless we recognize the "distance" that separates us from the text being studied, we will overlook differences of outlook, vocabulary, interest; and quite unwittingly we will read our mental baggage into the text without pausing to ask if that is appropriate. We are truly prepared to understand a text only after we have understood some of the differences between what the text is talking about and what we gravitate to on the same subject.
Deb:

From Elizabeth Garn, speaker at the recent PCA Women's One Conference in Annapolis, Md:
In Genesis 1 the Lord says, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness” (v. 26). God suddenly stops the unfolding creation account, invites us in, and tells us what he’s about to do: create mankind. Not only that, he tells us why. He’s going to place his image on the earth, and he’s going to do it in the form of men and women (Gen. 1:27). Our purpose as children of God, as women, is to bear his image.

Images are reflections, and that’s what we were crafted to be—reflections of God here on earth. We were created to be signposts pointing others to him, mirrors displaying his character to the world. When people see us, they see aspects of God. How amazing! Your purpose, then, isn’t something you earn or work for; it’s something you already are.

Friday, September 28, 2018

Five Star Links


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


Rebecca:

As you know, right now Jesus is in heaven in glorified human form, and he will remain in human form for all of eternity.  Does his everlasting humanity limit him anyway? For instance, how can he be omnipresent if he is in heaven in a human body? [Clint Archer].

Kim:

Are you familiar with the Apostles' Creed?  If you are not, Zondervan Academic has a post that provides a good summary. Included is a video clip from Mike Bird who is always very interesting, and who has a lovely Aussie accent. If you want to learn more check out Bird's book What Christians Ought to Believe. I read the book when it came out, and enjoyed it very much.

Persis:

What place does biblical counseling have in helping a family face dementia? Dementia: A Biblical Approach for Care.

Thursday, September 27, 2018

The Great Equalizer


When you have loved ones who are aging and declining, it's hard to avoid facing death, and it is sobering. For some reason, the phrase "Death is the great equalizer" came to mind the other night, so I googled it. References to Shakespeare came up, but the Bible describes this far better than any literature could.

"The wages of sin is death" 

This statement certainly encompasses us all no matter our station in life, bank account, or IQ score. In Adam all die, and none of us are exempt. But the verse doesn't end there, thank God.

"but the gift of God is eternal life in Jesus Christ our Lord."

Death may be a great equalizer, but there's another far greater equalizer. The gospel. When it comes to salvation, there is nothing we can do to merit God's favor. No matter how good we think we are or what sort of spiritual lineage we think we have, those things are nothing. But there is also no one who has sunk beyond the reach of God's grace. There is one Savior for the pharisee, the publican, you, and me. Christ alone paid the debt that we could never pay. Christ alone lived the life we could never live. The only thing we bring to the table is our sin, but Christ brings everything.

There are brothers and sisters who I would disagree with doctrinally, but when we stand before the throne of God, we aren't going to be pulling out our theological resumes and showing them off. We will be bowing before the Lamb and saying that He is worthy.

And when, before the throne,
I stand in Him complete,
"Jesus died my soul to save,"
My lips shall still repeat.

Monday, September 24, 2018

Quotes of Note



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

Persis:

This is from Spurgeon's Treasury of David on Psalm 103:13 -
"Like as a father pitieth his children, so the Lord pitieth them that fear him." To those who truly reverence his holy name, the Lord is a father and acts as such. These he pities, for in the very best of men the Lord sees much to pity, and when they are at their best state they still need his compassion. This should check every propensity to pride, though at the same time it should yield us the richest comfort. Fathers feel for their children, especially when they are in pain, they would like to suffer in their stead, their sighs and groans cut them to the quick: thus sensitive towards us is our heavenly Father. We do not adore a god of stone, but the living God, who is tenderness itself. He is at this moment compassionating us, for the word is in the present tense; his pity never fails to flow, and we never cease to need it.

Rebecca:

Why should a Christion treat animals humanely? Why should they value all of nature? From Nancy Pearcey:
Genuine respect for animals and the rest of nature . . . derives from the conviction that all creation comes from the hand of God and therefore has intrinsic dignity and value. Scripture teaches that humans are stewards of creation, responsible to a higher authority for the way we care for the world around us (Gen. 1:28). Proverbs 12:10 says, "The righteous care for the needs of their animals." Humanity is not the highest rung of an evolutionary ladder, free to use nature any way we want for our own benefit. Instead we will answer to the Creator for the way we treat his creation.
[Love Thy Body, page 103.]

Kim:

For my Greek Exegesis class, we are reading D.A. Carson's Exegetical Fallacies. It is a truly eye-opening, thought-provoking book. In the introduction, Carson outlines the reasons why examining fallacies is helpful, and he provides a potential danger:
The first is that persistent negativism is spiritually perilous. The person who makes it his life's ambition to discover all the things that are wrong -- whether wrong with life or wrong with some part of it, such as exegesis -- is exposing himself to spiritual destruction. Thankfulness to God for both good things and bad things and for his sovereign protection and purposes even in bad things will be the first to go. It will be quickly followed by humility, as the critic, deeply knowledgable about faults and fallacies ( especially those of others!), comes to feel superior to those whom we criticizes. Spiritual one-upmanship is not a Christian virtue. Sustained negativism is highly calorific nourishment for pride. I have not observed that seminary students, not to say seminary lecturers, are particularly exempt from this danger. (p.22)
What Carson is talking about here is the tendency to allow knowledge to puff us up, and it isn't restricted to those studying Greek or those in seminary, for that matter. For anyone who is perceived to be in a position of authority, there is always a fear of spiritual one-upmanship. There is a lot of "sustained negativism" online. We probably see it daily.

Deb:

Sometimes, it can be tempting to give up -- to stop putting forth the effort to walk in obedience and grow in the knowledge of God and His grace. Especially with the rapidly changing cultural environment and the increasing polarization among fellow Christians, my personal motivation and inspiration can wane significantly.

Mike Leake in Torn to Heal encourages us to hold onto God's promises and His Word even when we're navigating the toughest times in life:
Yet God is in the process of redeeming us. The process is slow and it is painful, but God will stop at nothing to bring it about. Completely. All things, both good and ill, work together for our greatest good — conformity to Jesus. This includes our pain… He will stop at nothing to fully redeem us. He does this by changing our desires. And this is good (p. 16).

Friday, September 21, 2018

Five Star Links

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


Kim:

I so appreciate the writing of Christina Fox. She is insightful, humble, and encouraging. I really enjoyed her "Writer's Prayer."

Forgive me for the ways in which I have stolen your glory in my writing. Forgive me for the ways in which I have not glorified you in the words I have written. Forgive me when I fail to use the gift you've given me in a way that honors you, when I waste the gift and horde it, or when I fear what others think of my writing more than I fear you.

Persis:

This is the story of Kim In Tae, a survivor of Japanese-occupied Korea and the Korean War, written by her grandson - Hope When Hope is Lost.
While we commemorate the stories of freedom fighters, we tend to overlook the vast majority of regular people like my grandmother whose own hopes were sacrificed on the altar of someone else’s ideologies, ambitions, or societal norms. Their stories deserve to be heard as well.
Rebecca:
Scripture says that we should [glorify God] in every facet of our lives. “Whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Cor. 10:31). This includes our God-given vocations. And it applies in our mundane, ordinary lives . . . . 

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Book Review: God Is Better Than Trucks


What is God like? When a child asks this question—or a similar one—how should we answer?

There’s a real sense in which God is nothing like anyone or anything in a child’s world. (He’s not much like anything in an adult’s world, either.) “To whom then will you compare me, God asks, “that I should be like him?” (Isaiah 40:25 ESV). The right answer to his question is “no one!” There is nothing in creation that is like the Creator (Isaiah 46:9). He is so far above and beyond the things he has made that there is really no comparison to be made (Isaiah 46:5).

How, then, do we bridge the gap between a child’s limited concrete knowledge of the material world and true knowledge of our infinite, transcendent God? How can we explain to a child what our God, who is pure spirit, and cannot be seen or touched, is like?

Even though God is like nothing in his creation, everything in creation reflects the One who made it. Every created thing points to its Creator. Throughout scripture, God uses some of the small ways things in creation reflect him to teach truths about himself. Scripture calls God a rock (Deuteronomy 32:18), because God, as the ultimate protector, is a little bit like a rock, which can also protect people from harm. God is full of life and strength, and, in a much lesser way, so is a cypress tree, so God tells us, "I am like an evergreen cypress" (Hosea 14:8). Even things made by his image bearers point to him, so he likens himself to some of them, too—a fortress (Psalm 46:7, 11), or a  shield (2 Samuel 22:3), for example—to explain aspects of his divine nature.

We can’t see or touch God, but we can see and touch things in our world. As he explains himself using illustrations from the material realm, we can know something about our immaterial, transcendent God. But we need to be careful how we use these illustrations, because, in the end, no illustration, or even a collection of illustrations, can adequately describe God.

In the picture book God Is Better Than Trucks, Sarah Reju teaches children about God’s nature and works using things from their world and their interests—trucks and other modes of transportation, twenty-six of them, from A to Z—and finds the perfect balance between these two truths: God is like nothing in his creation, but everything in his creation reflects him.

In this book, children can learn about God by comparing him to an ambulance, a bulldozer, a car carrier, a jet, a kayak, and many more. Each comparison is accompanied by a verse from scripture that supports it. Here is the text from the page for the letters F and G, which accompanies a picture of a fire truck and a garbage truck:
The fire truck sprays water to put out a fire, but God sends rain to water the whole earth. God is better than fire trucks! The garbage truck cleans up garbage, but God cleans our hearts. God is better than garbage trucks!
By the end, a child will know something about God’s nature and his works, and it will also be clear that God is so much better and so far beyond any truck that exists—or ever could exist—that there is really no comparison at all.

If you are looking for a book about God to read aloud to a 3-5 year old, you can't do much better than God Is Better Than Trucks. It would make a great Christmas gift, too.

Sarah Reju is a pastor’s wife, homeschooling mom of five kids, and lives in Washington, D.C.

Monday, September 17, 2018

Quotes of Note


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

Persis:

This is a quote about the Trinity from Rebecca's book, The Doctrine of God for Every Woman.
[F]rom the overflow of love between the Father, Son, and Spirit, the Father chose you in eternity and then sent His Son to die for you. In love, the Son came from the Father, lived and died for you, and now lives in heaven interceding for you. And out of love, the Spirit came from both the Father and the Son. In love, He regenerated you and is now living in you, making you more and more like Christ. From start to finish, your salvation depends on the Trinity - Father, Son, and Spirit - working together in love. Without the triune work of our loving God, you could not be saved and neither could I.
Yes, the doctrine of the Trinity is deep, but it is also beautiful. The triune God is a God, who can love deeply and save completely. Our God is perfectly glorious because He is three-in-one.
Rebecca:

Once again, I'm quoting from Doug Moo's NIV Application Commentary on 2 Peter, Jude, from his comments on Jude 24-25.

"New Testament doxologies," he writes, "tend to follow a common pattern with four basic elements:
(1) The person praised (usually God); 
(2) A word of praise (usually 'glory' [doxa]; hence the name 'doxology'); 
(3) An indication of time (usually 'forever and ever'); 
(4) 'Amen.' "
He also notes that "[t]hese doxologies 'Christianize' their content with the addition of the phrase 'through Jesus Christ'. . . ."

Here's Moo's list of New Testament doxologies (Don't forget Jude 24-25, as well.) if you would like to check them out to see how these elements are used:
If you really want to be thorough, here's a longer list of New Testament doxologies from James M. Hamilton.

Deb:

I'm featuring an older quote that I stumbled upon from Paul Miller's book, A Praying Life:
God takes everyone he loves through a desert. It is his cure for our wandering hearts, restlessly searching for a new Eden. Here's how it works: The first thing that happens is we slowly give up the fight. Our wills are broken by the reality of our circumstances. The things that brought us life gradually die. Our idols die for lack of food... The still dry air of the desert brings the sense of helplessness that is so crucial to the spirit of prayer. You come face-to-face with your inability to live, to have joy, to do anything of lasting worth... Suffering burns away the false selves...
After a while you notice your real thirsts.
While in the desert, David wrote:
O God, you are my God, earnestly I seek you;
my soul thirsts for you;
my flesh faints for you,
as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.
(Psalm 63:1)

The desert becomes a window to the heart of God. He finally gets your attention because he's the only game in town.

Friday, September 14, 2018

Five Star Links

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



Kim:

Have you ever feared, deep down in your soul, that your faith is not strong enough? Do you ever fear falling? I do. In this article by David Mathis, we are encouraged to remember that "He Will Hold Me Fast."


Persis:

This is a post I could relate to - Worrying about worry.
Today I was reminded that worrying is a sin. So I started to worry about whether I worried too much.
And then I started thinking – it is true that worrying is a sin, but how do you overcome the sin of worrying. Do you worry about worrying? Do you work hard trying to overcome worry? But it seems that working to overcome worry simply involved more worry.
Rebecca:

Why do we suffer? The Bible doesn't tell us every reason, but it does give some "broad macro reasons" we may suffer . Here are four of them (Tim Barnett).

Monday, September 10, 2018

Quotes of Note


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

Kim:

The fact that Jesus was both man and God is a crucial aspect of our faith. As Christians, with 2,000 years of teaching behind us, we take it for granted. Set in its own time, the claim that Jesus was God was a difficult truth to grasp. It was truly an earth shattering reality. In the book How God Became Jesus, Michael Bird comments on how scandalous it was for Jesus to be considered God and to be worshipped:
To Jewish audiences, worshiping a crucified man was blasphemy; it was about as kosher as pork sausages wrapped in bacon served to Jews for a jihad fundraiser. To Greeks, worshiping a man recently raised from the dead was like doing obeisance to the first zombie you met in a zombie apocalypse. If Christian ideas about God were so snug and down within the ancient world, then why was Paul flogged by Jewish communities (2 Cor 11:24) and laughed out of the Athenian Areopagus by Greek philosophers (Acts 17:32)? Could it be that the Christian idea of God was startling, odd, and even offensive to the Jews and pagans, who had trouble swallowing its claims about Jesus? Perhaps the reason why New Testament authors like Paul, Luke, and John spent so much time talking about Jesus and God is because they meant something very different by "God" than what their Jewish and Pagans neighbors thought, and it took some effort to get the redefinition of God across.

Persis:

Something to ponder from Francis Schaeffer's essay, The Weakness of God's Servants.
Utopianism is cruel for it expects of men and women what they are not and will not be until Christ comes. Such utopianism, forgetting what the Bible says about human sinfulness, is hard-hearted; it is as monstrous a thing as we can imagine... 
Utopianism is terribly cruel because it expects the impossible from people. These expectations are not based on reality. They stand in opposition to the genuine human possibilities afforded by the realism of the Scriptures...
If we demand, in any of our relationships, either perfection or nothing, we will get the nothing. Only when we have learned this will we be Bible-believing Christians, and only then will we understand something of life. Only then can we be more understanding toward men and show real compassion. Consequently, I would repeat, if in any of our relationships of life we demand perfection or nothing, we will have nothing.

Rebecca:

I’m using Doug Moo’s NIV Application Commentary on 2 Peter, Jude to help me study Jude for a Bible Study I’m participating in. We’re at the end of the study, and right now we’re working on Jude 24-25, the last verses in the book. You are probably familiar with them because they are commonly used as a benediction for worship services.
Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen. (Jude 24–25 ESV)
Moo warns that there is a real risk that we will hear these words so often that we no longer really hear them.
What is most important is that we be careful that these words do not become on our lips a thoughtless and even hypocritical recitation of words. Here, of course, lies the danger in using Jude’s doxology in worship. We hear the words so often that they cease to have any meaning for us; they are all jumbled together in our heads (“To-him-who-is-able-to-keep-you”; “to-the-only-wise-God”). Thus, we need to pause and reflect on what these words really mean—and be prepared to live as if we meant them!
Here are some of his words of reflection on verse 24:
Think of the marvelous security promised to us in verse 24. God is able to preserve us so that we can stand before him on the last day spotless, forgiven, assured of an eternal “home in the heavens.” Doubt and anxiety are constant companions on our earthly pilgrimage. We worry about our health, about money, about our children, about our jobs. In sober moments we perhaps become anxious about death. God does not promise to take away these worries, but he does take away from us our greatest worry: where we will spend eternity. Do we reflect this confidence in the way we live? Do we truly value heaven enough so that our earthly worries, while sometimes pressing, fade in importance in light of our eternal destiny?
This not a dry or boring commentary! I am often moved to worship or prompted to act as I read it. If you need a readable commentary on Jude, one suitable for a lay person, this one is excellent.

Friday, September 7, 2018

Five Star Links

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


Kim:

Brad Hambrick asks a question I have asked myself: "Can Someone Be Spiritually Healthy and Still Experience Mental Health Challenges." This is an excellent article that doesn't give a pat answer.


Persis:

While we share a constellation of symptoms to various degrees, people on the spectrum are unique individuals who land in many denominations and churches.  We will be in your congregation, and I pray your mind and heart are open to us. For we, too, are fearfully and wonderfully—if a little differently—made.

Rebecca:

Are you in a dry spell when it comes to reading the Bible? Do you find reading more of a duty than a delight? Here are a few suggestions for fostering delight in the Word (Steve Midgley).

Monday, September 3, 2018

Quotes of Note


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

Persis:

This is a quote from Kelly Kapic's Embodied Hope: A Theological Meditation on Pain and Suffering. This is one of the best books that I've read on physical suffering and one I go back to often as I have a family member who is going through physical trials right now.
We may not be able to take away the physical pain, but we can point one another to him who promises one day to completely heal us. For now we cling to his promise of restoration, cling to him who has the ability also to restore the body. He will make all things new (Rev. 21:5). We will be free from sin, pain, and tears (Is. 65:19; Rev. 21:4). We will be free from isolation, self-condemnation, darkness, fear and anger (cf. Is. 35:10 //51:11; Rev. 21:22-27). We will be utterly free to love our Creator and our neighbor. While we may not fully experience that freedom now, we can help one another to experience genuine tastes of shalom even in the present, even in our pain, even as we struggle with our sin.

Rebecca:

I am reading Nancy Pearcey's book Love Thy Body: Answering Hard Questions on Life and Sexuality. This quote is from the chapter on issues related to euthanasia.
It is outrageous that people today are terrified of one day requiring "help." We must stand by people struggling with their fears and let them know that even when they become less independent and productive, they are worthwhile persons deserving of care and respect. A student of mine named Alison Delong, who works for a suicide hotline, told me, "I spend hours every week persuading people not to end their lives, telling them that their lives still have value. It breaks my heart that people think they must be able to function in a certain way to be considered significant."
Most of us will need help with our basic care at some point, so this message about the significance and value of everyone is something we need to tell ourselves, too.


Deb:

I am also reading Nancy Pearcey's book, so I won't share another quote from the same book. However, this one from Sinclair Ferguson seemed perfect:
“When we behold the glory of Christ in the gospel, it reorders the loves of our hearts, so we delight in him supremely, and the other things that have ruled our lives lose their enslaving power over us.”
Sinclair B. Ferguson, The Whole Christ 

Friday, August 31, 2018

Five Star Links

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



Kim:

Todd Scacewater provides readers with Three Reasons to Catechize.
Having grown up in “low churches,” I never knew what a catechism was until I learned about them in seminary. At first, I thought it was odd that people would spend time memorizing what I took to be commentaries on the Bible, while I was spending time memorizing the Bible itself. It wasn’t until I became a father that I realized the benefits of catechisms.

Persis:

When you know someone who struggles with mental illness, how can you help? Amy Simpson offers some good suggestions in this article: How to Help a Friend with Mental Illness.
The truth is, as with other complex troubles, there are many ways to help. But when it comes to mental illness, many of us respond with fear or avoidance, and this compromises our creative abilities. Once we start thinking beyond the solutions most of us are not qualified to provide, we begin to realize we can do far more than we guessed.
Rebecca:

The story of Ratramnus of Corbie and His Book on the Lord’s Supper (Simonetta Carr).
Nearly forgotten for the first 200 years, misattributed for the next 600 and condemned until the 20th century, Ratramnus’s book is today still obscure. In some ways, Ratramnus is like Augustine: both Roman Catholics and Protestants claim him as their own. In reality, his book stands in church history more as a question mark than a period. It has contributed to raise important inquiries, and has proven that the history of Christian thought is not as black and white as we often depict it.

Thursday, August 30, 2018

Making the Best of It


Imagine what it’s like to be the leader of a democratic country. You are elected to power, and you make progress implementing what you believe to be the best policies for your country. But unless you’re a fool, you know that most likely, sooner or later, someone with a different political philosophy will replace you, and much of the headway you have made will be undone. Your legacy may well be destroyed by the one who comes after you. It’s simply the way it is in our fallen world—a world with in which there are deep disagreements about the best way forward and no perfect governmental solutions.

The writer of Ecclesiastes (most likely King Solomon, but possibly some other “king in Jerusalem”) understood this. He held more power than an elected leader of a present-day country, and he probably stayed in power for longer, but still, eventually, his accomplishments, he writes, would be left
to the man who will come after me, and who knows whether he will be wise or a fool? Yet he will be master of all for which I toiled and used my wisdom under the sun (Ecclesiastes 2:18–19 ESV).
In a fallen world, even the work of a king may be an exercise in futility.

It's not much different for us. We may start out hoping to right some of this world's wrongs, but over the years, we begin to see that the problems we're trying to solve are more complicated than we thought, and real long-term solutions may be beyond our capabilities. Progress is slow—if there is any progress—and there are unforeseen difficulties with every step we take. And in the end, our accomplishments, if there are any, may be left in the hands of a fool. All our work may only be “striving after wind” (Ecclesiastes 2:11 ESV).

We live in a broken world, or more precisely, we live in a world that is cursed by the God who made it. The word “futile” is written across everything in this world, and there’s not much we can do about it. It's foolish for us to place too much hope in what we or our leaders can accomplish.

But the God who cursed this world is gracious, and he has given us a way to find joy in the midst of life’s inevitable futility. He has given us a way to make the best of things as they are. The writer of Ecclesiastes, who foresaw that his hard work might come to nothing, has this bit of wisdom to share:
There is nothing better for a person than that he should eat and drink and find enjoyment in his toil. This also, I saw, is from the hand of God,  for apart from him who can eat or who can have enjoyment (Ecclesiastes 2:24–25 ESV)?
And this too:
Enjoy life with the wife whom you love, all the days of your vain life that he has given you under the sun . . .  (Ecclesiastes 9:9 ESV).
For the one who pleases God, for the person who recognizes his gracious hand in tasty food and refreshing drink, in opportunities to work hard for the good of others, and in a loving spouse and/or  family, these simple pleasures bring true joy. All these things are good gifts from our good God, gifts that remain with us even when our circumstances are difficult. When our life seems senseless, God sustains us with his small mercies, and by enjoying them, we please him and make the best of things as they are in our troubled world.

Of course, our ultimate hope is in a future world, in the new heavens and new earth, when this cursed world is set free from its bondage to futility (Romans 8:20-21), and when our own personal re-creation is completed. On the basis of his Son’s work—work that will bring permanently perfect results—God will redeem our world, and us, too. But in the meantime, when we grow frustrated with events in our world, and when life seems like a struggle for nothing, we still have the little gifts.

When I’m asked, one piece of advice I give to someone who is suffering is to take time to savor the everyday blessings—a fresh loaf of bread, a bowl of homemade soup, a cup of tea, or loving family—and to keep busy with service to others. And to remember to thank God for these little reminders of his loving care.

I learned these lessons from life experience as I grasped for peace in the midst of turmoil, but I know now that they are also taught in the Bible. There is “nothing better” for us “than to be joyful and to do good as long as [we] live.” There is nothing better than to “eat and drink and take pleasure in all our toil” (Ecclesiastes 3:12–13 ESV). There is nothing better than to enjoy life with our families and good friends. These simple pleasures are God’s gifts to give us joy when we are surrounded by reminders that something is very wrong with our world as it is.

[I am indebted to James M. Hamilton Jr.’s little book Work and Our Labour in the Lord for many (maybe most) of the points in this post.]

Monday, August 27, 2018

Quotes of Note


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

Persis:

This is a quote from Gregory of Naziazen on the full humanity of Jesus, which I've been pondering after my pastor's recent sermons on the resurrection in 1 Cor. 15.
Do not let the men deceive themselves and others with the assertion that the Man of the Lord, as they call Him, Who is rather our Lord and God, is without human mind. For we do not sever the Man from the Godhead, but we lay down as a dogma the Unity and Identity of Person, Who of old was not Man but God, and the Only Son before all ages, unmingled with body or anything corporeal; but Who in these last days has assumed Manhood also for our salvation; passible in His Flesh, impassible in His Godhead; circumscript in the body, uncircumscript in the Spirit; at once earthly and heavenly, tangible and intangible, comprehensible and incomprehensible; that by One and the Same Person, Who was perfect Man and also God, the entire humanity fallen through sin might be created anew...
For that which He has not assumed He has not healed; but that which is united to His Godhead is also saved.

Kim:

My Greek professor, Dr. Wayne Baxter has written a great little volume about church unity, based on Philippians. It is entitled Growing Up to Get Along: Conflict and Unity in Philippians. The subtitle gives an apt description about what the book is about. The first line of this excerpt really struck me:
Dissension and discord often follow spiritually immature Christians around because they have no deep, genuine commitment to or regard for other Christians, but only for themselves. Paul, however is clear: living the Christian life is not about independence but interdependence. Growing up to get along means that believers must practice their faith for the benefit of others and sisters. This is one of the distinguishing marks of spiritual maturity. And it is one of the factors that will enable Christians and churches to move through conflict redemptively and deal with it more effectively.

Friday, August 24, 2018

Five Star Links

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

Kim:

It has been almost ten years since Terry and Juanita Stauffer lost their daughter, Emily. Terry reflects on forgiveness in this post.


Rebecca:

Are you a senior saint? Here are four reasons your church needs you.


Persis:

This is a video from Wycliffe Bible Translators on the work of Bible translation in Eastern Ghana. God is faithful to preserve His Word.

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 clich├ęs 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.