Monday, October 29, 2018

Quotes of Note


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

Persis:

From All That's Good by Hannah Anderson:

The possibility (probability) of making a mistake has the power to paralyze us. Not wanting to ever misstep, we set up strict guidelines and fence upon fence. But most of the time, we are not trying to protect ourselves from bad decisions as much as we are trying to protect ourselves from the punishment we’ve learned comes with misstepping. But if our choices are being driven by fear instead of faith, they are wrong regardless of whether we ever step outside the boundaries or not. Instead of being paralyzed by the possibility of making mistakes, we must learn to trust the goodness of God—to trust that even if we do fail, even when we do make a mistake, His goodness will lead us to repentance and bring us safely home.  (pp. 164-165)

Rebecca:

Fred Sanders on how the doctrine of the Trinity is revealed to us:

In order to inform us that the Father has a Son and a Holy Spirit, the Father sent the Son and the Holy Spirit in person. The triunity of God was revealed when the persons of the Trinity became present among us in a new way, showing up in person and becoming the object of our human observation. The apostles testified that what they saw with their eyes and touched with their hands was “that which was from the beginning,” because it “was with the Father and was made manifest to them (1 John 1:1-3). Doctrines that are first announced verbally have the character of revealedness less directly; the doctrine of the Trinity has it more directly. . . .[T]his is an indicator that the doctrine of the Trinity is more than just another doctrine on the list of true things we have been taught by God about God. It is God’s self-revelation by way of presence in a more direct, intense, and personal way [The Triune God, page 40].

Friday, October 26, 2018

Five Star Links

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

Kim:

Crossway has been putting out a series of articles entitled "10 Things You Should Know . . . " I really enjoyed this instalment, "10 Things You Should Know About Bible Study." I especially appreciated the distinction between reading and studying.

Persis:

From Michael Horton - Heaven Is Not Your Final Destination. "The final state is the resurrection of the body and life everlasting."

Rebecca:

I know I keep linking to biographical sketches of women from Christian history, but I love reading them. Some of those Reformation women lived really difficult lives, but remained faithful to the end. Courageous is the only way to describe these two.
Deb: 

A profitable take on a difficult passage from 2 Kings 2: What's the deal, Elisha? Bears attacking kids? Derek Rishmawy helps explain from the context. 
Additional link: Dr. Michael Kruger on why we can't unhitch from the Old Testament.

Thursday, October 25, 2018

All That's Good - Review and a Giveaway

All That's Good: Recovering the Lost Art of Discernment by Hannah Anderson, Moody Publishers, 2018, 215 pages.

What is discernment? Is it knowing who to unfollow and who to mute? What books not to read? What foods and medicines will make you sick? But what if discernment is more than just what and who to avoid? What if discernment is not only rejecting the bad but also embracing what is good?

This is the case Hannah Anderson makes in her new book All That's Good. She writes that discernment is not just a life hack or tips and tricks. It's being "changed by wisdom" and becoming "people who know the difference between what's bad and what's good, what's good and what's better." (pg. 14) It is a quality of life to be cultivated that goes deeper than a checklist. Thus "discernment does not change the challenges we face; it changes our ability to face them." (pg. 25)

All That's Good begins by turning the reader to the source of discernment, God himself, and the promise that he will give wisdom to those who ask it. He can also open our eyes to the beauty and goodness that still exists amidst the brokenness in this world. "With the eyes of faith we can see the work that God is doing in it - the work He is doing to those of us who come to Him seeking to be made good." (pg. 43) In appreciating the good gifts that God has given us, he uses them to draw us closer to him. As a result, we are changed into people of virtue, who learn how to think and not just simply what to think. (pp. 53-58)

The second half of the book is based on Phil. 4: 6 "whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable." Hannah discusses how discernment relates to the pursuit of truth, honor, purity, justice, and what we commend or condemn with our speech. These are very practical and challenging chapters that address issues of day-to-day holiness as we live in community with our neighbors and fellow Christians.

I read All That's Good in one sitting as I had time to kill on a 7-hour train trip. I meant to put it down after a couple hours and take up another book, but I couldn't put this one down. I've appreciated Hannah's previous books, but this one struck a deeper chord with me. I've been trying to cultivate the life of the mind after decades of letting it go dormant, formerly believing that spirituality and thinking were mutually exclusive. But initially, discernment (or what I thought was discernment) was more about proving my rightness and ammunition against someone else's wrongness. It was selfish and prideful. However, what Hannah writes is far from this. It's true that we will be transformed as we grow in wisdom, but this transformation does not occur in isolation. Its goal is not for ourselves alone. This gift of discernment, which allows us to see and enjoy so many other good gifts from God, is "for the healing of the body of Christ." (pg. 182.) When I read those words, I nearly started crying, but I managed to hold it together because I was in the quiet car. Hannah described the burden in my heart for the last few years that I could not articulate until now. "As much as we must learn to discern the goodness in the world around us, we must learn to discern it within His Body to see its goodness despite its brokenness... To know the goodness of those with whom we "live on one bread and one wine."" (pg. 184)

All That's Good is a book that I will be returning to again and again, and I highly recommend it. You won't find a list of "10 easy steps to discernment," and your thinking will be challenged. In fact, Hannah writes that she is going "to do my best to complicate your decision-making process, to lead you away from our common disposition to fear-based thinking toward a place of hope and abundance." (pg. 14) But it will be worth it in the end.

We're giving away a copy of this book. Please use the form below to enter the giveaway. One entry per person please. The giveaway ends midnight October 28th.

* The giveaway has ended. * 

 I received a copy of this book from Moody Publishers. 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, October 22, 2018

Quotes of Note


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

Persis:

This quote is from All That's Good by Hannah Anderson. I read it all in one sitting literally as I was on a train for 7 hours. Lord willing, I will be reviewing it soon.
Discernment does not overlook the brokenness of the world. It does not deny the need of redemption. It does not excuse sinfulness, live in a false reality, or pretend that a damaged statue is just as good as a carefully preserved one. What discernment does is equip us to see the true nature of the world and of ourselves, - both the good and the bad. Discernment helps us see the world for what it was made to be and believe that God is powerful enough to restore it to its intended purpose. That somehow we are part of that process. That somehow we will be restored ourselves.  (pg. 42-43)
Kim:

Martyn Lloyd-Jones, in a compilation of his sermons on Isaiah 40, comments on v.1-2, and what the message of God is:
The message of God is one that comes to us in Christ and comes to us exactly where we are, even as the Lord himself put it in that perfect picture he once painted of a man going down from Jerusalem to Jericho. This man fell among thieves and was wounded and left there on the road. Certain people passed him by, but the one whom our Lord praised crossed the road and went to where the man was lying and cleaned and bandaged his wounds and took him to an inn and paid for him. He dealt with the man exactly as he was and here he was. And that is what the gospel does; it speaks to the heart of Jerusalem. How wonderful it is that the gospel of Christ comes to us exactly where we are, however weary and sad we may be.

Rebecca:

Hebrews 1:1-2a says this:
Long ago God spoke to the fathers by the prophets at different times and in different ways. In these last days, he has spoken to us by his Son. (CSB)
Notice the contrasting pairs of phrases:
  • Long ago/in these last days
  • God spoke to the fathers/he has spoken to us
  • By the prophets/by his Son
In Tom Schreiner’s Commentary on Hebrews, he writes this about these verses and their contrasting phrases:
[W]e see that the one phrase with no corresponding phrase is “at different time and in different ways.” Still the author expects the readers to fill in the gap. The revelation in the former era was diverse and partial, but the revelation in the Son is unitary and definitive. The final revelation has come in the last day for God has spoken in his last and best word. No further word is to be expected, for the last word focuses on the life, death, and resurrection of the Son. As 9:26 says of Jesus, “But now He has appeared one time, at the end of the ages, for the removal of sin by the sacrifice of Himself.” Believers await the return of the Son (9:28), but they don’t expect a further word from God. No more clarification is needed. The significance of what the Son accomplished has been revealed once for all . . . .
We don't expect more revelation from God. He has spoken finally and definitively in the Son. We have it all.

Deb: 

Writing on the gulf between the scholarship of the academy and Bible study from the pews, Dr. Craig Carter highlights some of the central issues in scripture interpretation today. One example:
Many people seem to confuse the allegorical method with postmodern reader-response methods of hermeneutics in which the reader actually reads meaning into the text that was not there initially. The difference between at least some of the allegorical approaches of the fathers and the modern, reader-centered approaches, however, is that the former do not seek to read the reader’s ideas into the text, but rather to extract a second layer of meaning from the text itself. As David Steinmetz makes clear in his classic article, “The Superiority of Pre-critical Exegesis,” the allegorical method actually lies between the two extremes of the Enlightenment’s single-meaning theory, on the one side, and a postmodern reader-centered approach, on the other. The allegorical approach views the text as having more than one meaning, but not an unlimited number of meanings and certainly not mutually contradictory ones... 
A fundamental choice confronts the would-be interpreter at the outset: inspiration or naturalism. This basic choice cannot be avoided, only obfuscated. The choice between inspiration and naturalism is the basis of the gulf between the academy and the church of which Steinmetz spoke. Classical interpretation of Scripture— which was the approach in Western culture from the early centuries up to the Enlightenment and still is the approach followed in the (conservative) preaching and teaching of much of the worldwide church today— cannot adopt methodological naturalism without rendering inoperative the doctrine of inspiration.
Carter, C. A. (2018). Interpreting Scripture with the Great Tradition: Recovering the Genius of Pre-modern Exegesis. Baker Publishing Group. Kindle Edition (pp. 5, 16).

Friday, October 19, 2018

Five Star Links

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


Kim:

You Say "Horseface," and I hear . . . 

I felt my heart go out to Michelle Van Loon when I read her post. It was not just for her words concerning the U.S. President which moved me, but also for what she endured as a child, and the reminder that words sting. Many of us have painful memories generated by someone calling us names. Words do hurt.

Rebecca:

How should do we answer our children's questions about death? These are questions we might wish we could avoid forever, but sooner or later, life circumstances will force the issue. What should we tell them? "The good news is that God has given us answers in the Bible" [Rachel Miller].

Persis:

Before Abraham was, I am  - Pastor Sam Powell writes about who Jesus is - fully God, fully man, the only mediator, and the only way to God.

Deb:

The Whole Earth Groans - Michael Hanby writes about how the present anthropological heresy denies both God and human dignity.

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.