Monday, May 20, 2019

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 You Are What You Love by James K.A. Smith which may be one of the most eye-opening books I have read this year.
Christian worship, we should recognize, is essentially a counterformation to these rival liturgies we are often immersed in, cultural practices that covertly capture our loves and longings, miscalibrating them, orienting us to rival versions of the good life. This is why worship is the heart of discipleship. We can't counter the power of cultural liturgies with didactic information poured into our intellects. We can't recalibrate the heart from the top down, through merely informational measures. The orientation of the heart happens from the bottom up, through the formation of our habits of desire. Learning to love (God) takes practice. (pg. 25)

Rebecca:

In None Greater, Matthew Barrett writes that God's aseity—that he "has of himself all that he has"—
is wrapped up in . . . his role as Israel's covenant Lord and Savior. When God enters into a covenant relationship with Abraham and later on with Israel, he does so as the God who is independent. His independence entails his possession of (rather than his dependence on) all things. As the God who is sovereign over all things, he can give to Abraham and Israel a great and prosperous land and make them a nation that will bless all nations. 
What's more, the gospel depends on God's aseity:
If God were not life in and of himself, if he were not independent of us, then he would not be . . . able to save us . . . .  If God were not a se, then he would be weak and pathetic, for he would be needy and dependent to. He would need saving, just as we do . . . . 
[I]t is precisely because God is free from creation that he is able to save lost sinners like you and me (Ephesians 1:7-8). If God were a needy God, he would need our help just as much as we need his. What good news it is, then, that the gospel depends on a God who does not depend on us.

Friday, May 17, 2019

Five Star Links


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

Persis:

Theology for Everyone has started a series, Seven Letters Seven Dangers. Each letter is written to the church on a particular area of concern. So far the posts have covered Pride, Fear of Man, and Zeal & Complacency. I appreciate these warnings because I am not immune and need to take heed lest I fall. (1 Cor. 10:11)

Rebecca:

One pastor gives one piece of advice to mothers of wayward adult children:
I believe that behind many of the lives I've seen transformed in my years of young-adult ministry are moms who refused to quit praying even when it felt hopeless . . .  —Austin Gohn
He uses Monica, Augustine's mother an example of a mother who prayed fervently for her son's salvation. If you want to know more of Monica's story, here's a biographical sketch by Simonetta Carr.

Friday, May 10, 2019

Five Star Links


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

Rebecca:

Some of the most beautiful (and saddest) lines in the Psalms are found Psalm 137: 
By the waters of Babylon,
there we sat down and wept,
when we remembered Zion.
2 On the willows there
we hung up our lyres.
3 For there our captors
required of us songs,
and our tormentors, mirth, saying,
“Sing us one of the songs of Zion!”
4 How shall we sing the LORD's song
in a foreign land?
Here is a reflection from Stephen Nichols on Singing the Lord's Song in a Foreign Land:
When Israel first arrived in Babylon, the degree to the which the land was foreign was striking. We know from the book of Daniel, for instance, how idolatry ruled the land. How foreign was that place from Jerusalem and from the Temple and from the land of the Lord their God. The psalmist calls the Babylonians not only his captors, but also his tormentors. The foreign-ness of that place was palpable. It threw the Psalmist off balance. How could he sing?

Persis:

It’s easy to find articles indicting the church for its failure to welcome and help people with mental illness. A Google search of these keywords brings up dismal results. That’s probably because we are quicker to report bad news than good ones. There are, in fact, loving communities where people with mental illness find love and inclusion...
Realizing we are all in the same boat and in equal need of a Savior brings down barriers, eliminates stigma, fosters sincere compassion, and encourages open communication. In that sense, Covenant OPC is not unusual. There are many other churches where the gospel is preached every Sunday, constantly changing hearts of stone. They are still imperfect, but so are families, doctors, and hospitals. We all learn as we go, and it’s this willingness to admit we’re broken and to humbly learn to love our broken neighbors that makes a difference.

Monday, May 6, 2019

Quotes of Note


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

Persis:

This was a convicting quote from Dietrich Bonhoeffer on the "Ministry of Listening" in his book, Life Together:
The first service that one owes to others in the fellowship consists of listening to them. Just as love to God begins with listening to His Word, so the beginning of love for the brethren is learning to listen to them. It is God's love for us that He not only gives us His Word but also lends us His ear. So it is His work that we do for our brothers when we learn to listen to him...
Brotherly pastoral care is essentially distinguished from preaching by the fact that, added to the task of speaking the Word, there is the obligation of listening. There is a kind of listening with half an ear that presumes already to know what the other person has to say. It is an impatient, inattentive listening, that despises the brother and is only waiting for a chance to speak and thus get rid of the other person. This is no fulfillment of our obligation, and it is certain that here too our attitude toward our brother only reflects our relationship to God. 

Kim: 

I am really enjoying Ed Hirsch, Jr.'s Validity in Interpretation. It's not a Christian book, but it is about hermeneutics in general. It really gets to the heart of what meaning and interpretation are. And that can only be helpful when applied to Biblical texts.

Hirsch reminds us that interpretation is an art:
A translation or paraphrase tries to render the meaning in new terms; an explanation tries to point to the meaning in new terms. That is why interpretation, like translation, is an art, for the interpreter has to find means of conveying to the uninitiated, in terms familiar to them, those presuppositions and meanings which are equivalent to those in the original meaning. 
Even as I think about this in the context of teaching (which relies on paraphrase), I realize that finding ways which draw on the student's presuppositions and pre-understandings is something very challenging.


Friday, May 3, 2019

Five Star Links



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

Persis:

I loved this article by Karen Kessens and the parallel she drew between our favorite book genres and the people we normally gravitate to in the local church -  How Well Are You Reading Your Church?
Next time you walk into the human library that is your local church, take notice. We are surrounded by “a great cloud of witnesses” (Heb. 12:1) of saints who have gone before us but all around us are living stories of what God has done and continues doing as he is building his church.

Don’t miss out on the vastness of his redeeming work by only reading in one or two genres, but look outside your normal spheres of interaction to broaden your engagement with the community of believers he has specially chosen to put you among that day.

Read broadly and don’t neglect the great shelf of witnesses placed on the pew next to you.
Kim:

I found very helpful this article  by Steve Matthewson, "How Can I Regain the Use of Hebrew and Greek?" . I completed my Greek studies this year and I begin Hebrew in September. I have to say that learning Koine Greek has been one of the most satisfying and helpful things I've done.

There are ways to study the biblical languages without going to seminary. Bill Mounce has resources to learn online. Think of it this way: if you have time to spend an hour or two a day on a hobby or activity, consider investing that time in learning Greek. It's worth the effort.

Rebecca:

No one wants to have to make end of life medical decisions for a loved one who is unable to direct their own medical care, but if (when) you find yourself in this difficult position, this piece by Kathryn Butler lays out a few bibilical principles to ground your decision making and suggests some questions to help you sort through the issues.

Monday, April 29, 2019

Quotes of Note


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

Persis:

This is a quote on love for our neighbor in Body Broken by Charles Drew:
Zeal for the coming Christ and love for people go together. Our practice of public goodness aims not to put people down but to win people to him before it is too late. What our culture needs these days is a vibrant, plausible, winsome Christianity. Intellectual and philosophical arguments are important and good, but they cannot stand alone. They must come from lives of people who have evidently been changed for the better by the God they profess. Do we love people enough, we must ask, to showcase - by how we talk, how we do business, how we do politics, how we treat people, and how we as Christians get along with each other - something of the goodness, justice, loyalty, beauty, and love of our true home?

Rebecca:
If we know anything about God, it is because he has chosen to make it known; revelation is a gift. In that light, our task cannot be speculation. Our response to his revelation concerning himself is not to demand knowledge of that which he has chosen to conceal. 
Instead, Christian humility requires us to receive with gratitude what he has spoken and to limit ourselves to what he has said and done, rather than pine after what he has not said and those works he has left unperformed.

 [Matthew Barrett in None Greater: The Undomesticated Attributes of God]

Kim:

From Herman Bavinck's Reformed Dogmatics: God and Creation.  Bavinck has spent time discussing the arguments for the existence of God:
Faith attempts to give an account of the religious impressions and feelings that we humans receive and carry with us in our soul. That faith also exerts its influence on the intellect, which in turn seeks little by little to introduce some order in that chaos of impressions and notions. It classifies them and reduces them to a few categories. Impressions come to us from the world of ideas (the ontological argument); from the world of finite contingent, and mutable things (the cosmological arguments); from the world of beauty and harmonious design (the teleological argument); from that of moral order (the moral argument); from the speech of history of all humankind (the universal consent and the historical argument). However, although these impressions may be so classified, no one should ever think that these six proofs are the sole, isolated testimonies God sends us. On the contrary; to the believer all things speak of god; the whole universe is the mirror of his perfections. There is not an atom of the universe in which his everlasting power and deity are not clearly seen.

Friday, April 26, 2019

Five Star Links


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

Rebecca:

5 Minutes in Church History is one of my favorite podcasts. Here's an interesting episode about Perpetua and Felicitas, two early Christian women who were martyred for their faith.


Kim: 

Karl Vaters discusses "6 Important Differences Between Performance Music and Worship Music"  It contains good points but also generates more questions. My first question is how does the us of "worship teams" with multiple people on a platform as the centre of attention make the risk of performance greater than a more minimalist approach.


Persis:

I appreciate Pastor Sam Powell's posts. This is from Good Friday of last week but worth contemplating any day - Ye Who Think of Sin But Lightly...
How bad is our sin? Our sin is so bad that the only solution was the death of the Son of God. He who is perfect innocence, infinite love, immaculate beauty, pure and undefiled goodness….the one who cried out with tears in Gethsemane “If you are willing, take this cup away from me”. But the cup would not be taken away, because it is the only way that sinners can stand before God. His compassion and obedience were perfect, for he is true and righteous man. And his power is infinite, for he is true God. “Not my will, but thine be done.”

Monday, April 22, 2019

Quotes of Note


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


Kim:

My Greek professor, Wayne Baxter, has written a book We've Lost. What Now? Practical Counsel from the Book of Daniel. It deals with the issue of coping as Christians in culture when we have become marginalized:
God knew that the Western church would eventually lose its footing in society and be shoved into the periphery. And yet, God is still there for us. In the midst of the mockery and the animosity that we so often attract, we can still humbly turn to God with confidence, knowing that he has not excused himself from the scene. Though sometimes feeling abandoned, he has not left us as orphans (Isa. 49:15). Therefore, although we live in exile we should never live with a sense of despair over our circumstances, simply biding time until Jesus "calls it" and finally returns for his church. For not only can we count on God's abiding presence, he has also given us unique gifts to equip us in our exile in order to enable us to speak prophetically, through word and deed, to a watching world so that we can witness more effectively to our community.

Persis:

We just finished a Sunday school class on John Owen's Mortification of Sin. Here is an encouraging quote on who supplies the wherewithall to mortify sin.
Christ is the fountain from which the new man must draw the influence of life and strength, or he will decay every day. If we are 'strengthened with power ... in [our] inner being', it is by Christ's 'dwelling in [our] hearts through faith' (Eph. 3:16-17).
That this is not to be done without the Holy Spirit we have already considered. You might ask: 'Whence, then, do we expect the Spirit? From whom do we look for Him? Who has promised Him to us? Who has secured His aid for us?' Is not the answer to all these questions, Christ alone?

Friday, April 19, 2019

Five Star Links


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

Rebecca:

Natasha Crain models one excellent way to help older kids (middle school aged and up) think through some of the so-called wisdom they hear: Choose Kind Over Being Right?
This morning I attended weekly chapel with my kids at their school. At the end, one of the kids from student government shared an “inspirational quote” . . . 
I was happy that both of my 10-year-olds immediately looked up at me with a questioning glance. This is the kind of secular wisdom that sounds good but has layers of problems. Like other quotes of this nature, there is some truth, but it’s also very misleading.

Persis:

Amy Mantravadi continues her articles on the doctrine of God - How Can We Know God? 
Christianity is a religion of revelation, and our God is a God who reveals himself. Perhaps you, like me, experience dark days when you feel that God is distant or even absent from your life, but it is a great comfort to know that God has not left us as ignorant orphans. He has condescended and spoken, authoritatively and finally, into our lives. Human history is the story of the revelation of God.

Kim:

Matthew Boffey shares "Three Rules for Using Commentaries." I am thankful that he points out that we need to think ahead before choosing one. 
When you know the kind of question you have, you know the kind of commentary to reach for. If it’s a textual question, a critical commentary is best suited to help you. If it’s interpretive, reach for a critical or expository commentary. And if it’s about theology or application, scan a theological or application commentary. Conveniently, the type is usually in the name. 
A very helpful site that I have benefitted from is Best Commentaries. It has the added help of indicating whether the commentary is technical, pastoral, or devotional.

Thursday, April 18, 2019

Look for the Helper


I knew a young man who embraced the gospel joyfully (or so it seemed), began to attend church, but then rejected it all when his old friends rejected him. His friends thought he’s gone nuts, especially when they found out what Christianity teaches about sexual morality. Their insults and ridicule were too much for him to bear, and before long he chose his friends’ approval over Christ’s.

It can be difficult to be a Christian when your friends, family, and culture reject you. The temptation to leave the faith because of the suffering that comes from this kind of abuse is real.

The people to whom New Testament book of Hebrews was written had experienced similar suffering, but to an even greater degree. After they “were enlightened,” they had “endured a hard struggle with sufferings, sometimes being publicly exposed to reproach and affliction . . . .” Their possessions were confiscated, too, and some of them were imprisoned (Hebrews 10:32-34 ESV). They were mistreated because of their faith, but unlike the young man I knew, they stayed the course. They could have avoided their trials by walking away from the faith, but instead, they courageously and joyfully chose a path they knew would bring more trials to them.

At the time Hebrews was written, it seems they were facing suffering again, and the author of Hebrews was concerned for them because they “were being tempted to be disloyal to God and give up their Christian profession.” [1] This time around their trials might be even worse. This time, perhaps, a few would be called to lay down their lives for their faith (Hebrews 12:4). Would they all stand firm once more? Or would some of them “drift away” (Hebrews 2:1) when the going got rough?

The author of Hebrew encourages them to withstand this round of suffering by pointing them to Jesus:
For since He Himself was tempted in that which He has suffered, He is able to come to the aid of those who are tempted (Hebrews 2:18 NASB)
I’ve quoted this verse from NASB because it (along with the NRSV) translates this verse in a way that makes a point that both of the commentaries I consulted [2] also make. The subject of the paragraph this verse is in is Jesus offering himself as a sacrifice for human sin. This verse, then, isn’t focusing on Jesus’s experience of human temptation in general, but rather on the temptations he experienced as he faced the cross.[3] He was tempted to choose an easier path than the “way of suffering and death.”[4]

But he didn’t give into temptation. Jesus was “obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Philippians 2:8).

Those who first received the Epistle of Hebrews could look to Jesus, the founder of their salvation (Hebrews 2:10), as an example of endurance in suffering. But he wasn't simply an example to them. He could help them stay true when they were tempted to turn away from him in order to avoid trials.  Jesus experienced temptation similar to theirs, so he could intercede for them before the Father. “What a source of strength it was to them,” writes F. F. Bruce, “to be assured that in the presence of God they had as their champion and intercessor one who had known similar and even sorer temptations, and had withstood them victoriously.”[5]

Jesus is our intercessor, too. When we are tempted to do whatever it takes to avoid insults and rejection because of what we believe—and at this point in time, that’s probably the worst we’ll have to endure, although I expect thing to get worse in the future—we have a helper who understands how much this kind of suffering hurts. He will come to our aid. Because "He Himself was tempted in that which He has suffered," he can help us endure our trials and stay faithful to him.


[1]F. F. Bruce, The Epistle to the Hebrews, page 89.
[2]Bruce's commentary, and Thomas R Schreiner, Commentary on Hebrews.
[3]See Matthew 16:23 for a specific example, and also Jesus's experience in Gethsemane.
[4]Bruce, page 89.
[5]Bruce, Page 89.

Friday, April 12, 2019

Five Star Links


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

Kim:

Dr. Stan Fowler, an emeritus professor at my school, reflects on the "Toronto Blessing," which promoted the Vineyard movement in the 80's. Dr. Fowler has been, without a doubt, the most encouraging professor I have had thus far. He's a man of the word of God, and he knows exactly how to disagree and debate with kindness, grace, and knowledge. I'm at the place in life now where I have more in common with this 72 year old professor than I do with people my own age. Any time he writes, I read.


Persis:

Here are two links that made me think:

Deconstructing Destruction in the Church: Loving One Another - Stephan Unthank
Mature Christian love works hard to care for a sister who voted differently than you did, or a brother who’s economic philosophy challenges yours. As one friend has wisely put it, “whether you’re a member of this party or that party, the local church is where we learn to love our enemies, forsake our tribalism, and beat our swords into plowshares and spears into pruning hooks.”

In Which I Call Todd Pruitt an Angry Conservative (on purpose) and Prove Carl Trueman Right (accidentally) - Coralie Cowan.
The issue of celebrity isn’t that we feel a sense of intimacy or relationship with someone else. It is that we don’t really believe they are real. We create an idol of them in our mind, and mold it in our image. They are not image bearing humans, they are fictional characters in our mental world.

Rebecca:

How Can God Forgive Me? - Amy Hall
God’s forgiveness is not merely a matter of His will. It’s not merely an expression of His power or His authority. It’s not a decision to temporarily suspend His justice because “being God” gives Him the right to sweep evil away unpunished. It’s so much more beautiful, and solid, and unshakable than that.

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

A Dark, Mysterious Night

One of the most dramatic accounts in the Old Testament is found in Genesis 15:
"Bring me a three year old heifer, and a three year old female goat, and a three year old ram, and a turtledove, and a young pigeon." Then he brought these to Him and cut them in two, and laid each half opposite the other; but he did not cut the birds. 
It came about when the sun had set, that it was very dark, and behold, there appeared a smoking oven and a flaming torch which passed between these pieces. On that day the Lord made a covenant with Abram, saying:
To your descendants I have given this land. (Genesis 15:10, 17-18)
This account, following Abram's call out of Ur in Genesis 12, is the beginning of a covenant that is at the heart of redemptive history. Seeing God in a vision, and cutting up animals seems unusual to us, but to Abram, this was typical of the way ancient Near Eastern covenants were made. 
Abram was promised he would be a great nation and have descendants as numerous as the stars. But there was a problem: Sarai was barren (Gen 11:30). At the beginning of Genesis 15, when God speaks to Abram, promising him this great legacy, Abram's question of how it was possible is understandable. Without an heir, how could Abram pass on his inheritance, let alone be the founder of a great nation? Abram had already shown his trust in Yahweh by leaving Ur, and in Genesis 15, he is being put to the test. To show his faithfulness to the promises, Yahweh initiates the covenant. Abram was to cut up animals and lay them down. Later, when the sun went down, Yahweh appeared in the form of a smoking oven and a flaming torch and walked through the pieces.
The exact meaning of Yahweh's walk through the pieces is debated. Some see Yahweh as taking a self-maledictory oath. In the ancient Near Eastern covenants, this would have been akin to saying, "If I don't keep my promises, may what happened to these animals happen to me." Some have a problem with Yahweh taking on such a curse, but if one looks ahead to the New Testament, we are told that Jesus took on a curse for us. Others emphasize that this act of walking through the pieces represents God's presence with his covenant people. What we can know for certain comes right from the text: Yahweh was making a covenant (Gen 15:18) and Abram understood perfectly. And covenants were serious and binding. 
When this passage is expounded, its importance as the initiation of a covenant which is ultimately  fulfilled in Christ is the major focus. But there is something else I found interesting: it is preceded by a promise of struggle. In v.13, Yahweh tells Abram that his people will be oppressed for 400 years, referring to the Jews in slavery to Egypt. Even before Yahweh walks through the pieces, he tells Abram that it isn't going to be easy.
Put yourself in Abram's shoes: he is a very old man at this point, still has no child, has been promised by Yahweh that he'll be a great nation, but that he's not actually going to see it. In fact, many people will trust in Yahweh's promises but never see them fulfilled. We are given a commentary about this reality in Hebrews 11. Yet Abram still trusts. He trusts so profoundly that in Genesis 22, he is seen willingly offering up Isaac. 
Like Abram, we wait for the fulfillment of God's promises. Like Abram and his descendants, we experience trials and struggles. Unlike Abram, we have so much to encourage us in our faith. We have the cross. We have God's Word, which reveals to us that the promises are true. That is much more than Abram had on that dark night. 

What does our waiting look like? How do we deal on a daily basis with the reality of struggle and suffering? Are we surprised that we suffer? Abram was not promised a life free of suffering and struggle. And neither are we who are in Christ. But like Abram, all we must trust in the promises and look ahead to a day when all will be fulfilled.

Monday, April 8, 2019

Quotes of Note


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

Kim:

From Reformed Dogmatics: God and Creation, by Herman Bavinck

Dogmatics is always called upon to ponder and describe God and God alone, whose glory is in creation and re-creation, in nature and grace, in the world and in the church. It is the knowledge of him alone that dogmatics must put on display. 
By pursuing this aim, dogmatics does not become a dry and academic exercise, without practical usefulness for life. The more it reflects on God, the knowledge of whom is its only content, the more it will be moved to adoration and worship. Only if it never forgets to think and speak about matters rather than about mere words, only if it remains a theology of facts and does not degenerate into a theology of rhetoric, only then is dogmatics as the scientific description of the knowledge of God also superlatively fruitful for life. The knowledge of God-in-Christ, after all, is life itself (Ps. 89:16; Isa. 11:9; Jer. 31:34; John 17:3).
Bavinck originally wrote in Dutch, so much of the eloquence of writing is a partnership between source and translator. I'm thankful for people who translate well.


Persis:

This is another quote from Bavinck and one that I shared previously shared on my blog. I love what Bavinck writes about humanity being body and soul. This is also from the second volume: God and Creation.
The body is not a prison, but a marvelous piece of art from the hand of God Almighty, and just as constitutive for the essence of humanity as the soul. It is our earthly dwelling, our organ or instrument of service, our apparatus; and the "members" of the body are the weapons with which we fight in the cause of righteousness or unrighteousness. It is so integrally and essentially a part of our humanity that, though violently torn from the soul by sin, it will be reunited with it in the resurrection of the dead. The nature of the union of the soul with the body, though incomprehensible, is much closer than the theories of "occasionalism" or "preestablished harmony" or "a system of influence" imagine. It is not ethical but physical. It is so intimate that one nature, one person, one self is the subject of both and of all their activities. It is always the same soul that peers through the eyes, thinks through the brain, grasps with the hand, and walks with the feet. Although not always present in every part of the body in its full strength, it is nevertheless present in all parts in its whole essence.  It is one and the same life that flows throughout the body but operates and manifests itself in every organ in a manner peculiar to that organ. Now, this body, which is so intimately bound up with the soul, also belongs to the image of God.

Rebecca:

Here's a quote from John Calvin. I'm pretty sure it's actually from the Institutes, but I found it in this while doing a bit of research on the place of good works in salvation this week.
Let us . . .understand that there is no salvation whatsoever outside of Jesus Christ, for he is the beginning and the end of faith, and he is all in all. Let us continue in humility, knowing that we can only bring condemnation upon ourselves; therefore, we need to find all that pertains to salvation in the pure and free mercy of God. We must be able to say that we are saved through faith. God the Father has appointed his Son the Lord Jesus Christ that he might be both the author and finisher of our salvation. We are to deny ourselves and give ourselves to him wholly and completely, that all the praise might belong to him. 
Now let us fall before the majesty of our great God, acknowledging our sins, and asking that he would make us increasingly aware of them, that we may hate them more and more, and grow in repentance (a grace that we need to exercise all our lives). May we learn so to magnify his grace, as it is shown to us in the Lord Jesus Christ, that we might be completely taken up with it; and may we not only do so with our lips, but place our entire trust in him. May we grow in that trust until we are gathered up into our eternal home, where we shall receive faith's reward. May he not only grant this grace to us, but to all peoples, etc.

Friday, April 5, 2019

Five Star Links


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


Kim:


This is a brief article which discusses whether or not anxiety is a sin. It does provide a very helpful starting point. However, the brevity of the article, while helpful initially, does not communicate the complexity of anxiety. While I do agree with this article's points, as someone who deals with anxiety and has been crippled by it, I have two questions: first, has the author personally dealt with it, and second, has the author done any research on the topic. The fact that someone would ask a para church organization whether or not anxiety is a sin tells me that people still need to understand this issue. 


Persis:


This is a thought-provoking post by Jason Meyer on Jonathan Edwards and our reaction to the knowledge that he was a slave owner. We can overreact or under-react, neither of which is helpful. But it is worth considering this:
He could connect theological dots like no one else. If he could succumb to such obvious, woeful oppression and injustice and theological hypocrisy, then we should be spurred on to greater levels of self-examination. Where are our blind spots? Or where do we willfully turn a blind eye to things we’re simply afraid to address?

Rebecca:
The “life everlasting” keeps eternity in view as we grieve and pray for the suffering in this world and contemplate our own mortality. For all the joys we have tasted, sin has left its mark on our bodies and minds. No one is exempt from sickness and death, and the latest news is ample evidence of how far we have fallen. This is hardly our best life now, and we should be pitied of all people if the present is all we have to look forward to. But Jesus has promised us, “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die.” (John 11:25-26 NASB)

Friday, March 29, 2019

Five Star Links


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


Kim:

Who "is" or "Becomes" your neighbour?

Bill Mounce discusses verb tenses and briefly reflects on becoming someone's neighbour. Yes, this is a discussion of biblical Greek, but perhaps it will reveal the usefulness of knowing the original language!

Persis:

Promoting the Work of Others - Christina Fox
God gives us all different gifts and graces to use to build up and help the church body grow. Each one of us has gifts and they are all important. Your gift might be teaching or preaching. Another's might be service. Still another may have artistic or musical gifts. Some gifts are more prominent and noticeable, while others have gifts that are used behind the scenes. Each one of those gifts is important. We need everyone's gifts to make the church body function.
And one more link: I believe in the life everlasting - Sam Powell

Rebecca:

Can the idea that God suffers with us bring us comfort in times of suffering? On first glance, it might appear to, but if you really think about it, there's little hope to be found in a suffering God. No, in times of suffering we need a God who does not suffer [Matthew Barrett].

Monday, March 25, 2019

Quotes of Note


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

Kim:

One of the assignments for my apologetics class is to summarize in single spaced page each chapter of our assigned readings. It has been a tedious process. I would much rather interact in a more dynamic way. That said, there have been a lot of encouraging bits. This is a reminder from the book Christian Apologetics, by Douglas Groothuis, from the chapter about religious pluralism:
Religion is wide, but truth is narrow. Truth captures reality in statements, and any statement that fails that task is erroneous. Error in religion is no small thing, and it can be a matter of eternal consequence if that error be egregious enough. The end of true religion must be truth, saving and flaming truth.  According to Christianity, Jesus Christ is the eternal cornerstone of reality and ruth incarnate (John 14:6). This is no idle claim, but is backed up by considerable philosophical and historical arguments. Christ is, therefore, the only source of undying liberation. To err at this point is catastrophic. While other religions contain elements of truth, they reject the most important truth of all: Christ crucified, resurrected and offered for the redemption of the cosmos. Therefore, all religions are not created equal.

Persis:

This is from Herman Bavinck's Reformed Dogmatics, Volume 2, pg. 561. I am beginning to see why Bavinck is one my pastor's favorite theologians.
In the teaching of Scripture, God and the world, spirit and matter, are not opposites. There is nothing despicable or sinful in matter. The visible world is as much a beautiful and lush revelation of God as the spiritual. He displays his virtues as much in the former as in the latter. All creatures are embodiments of divine thoughts, and all of them display the footsteps or vestiges of God. But all these vestiges, distributed side by side in the spiritual and the material world, are recapitulated in man and so organically collected and enhanced that they clearly constitute the image and likeness of God. 

Rebecca:

I'm late to the game for this week's quote post because yesterday was busier than I expected.

To introduce the preface to his new book, None Greater, Matthew Barrett quotes one of my favourite two sentences from C. S. Lewis. It's from Lewis's essay "On the Reading of Old Books," which I first read in a collection of his essays, God in the Dock.
For my own part, I tend to find the doctrinal books often more helpful in devotion than the devotional books, and I rather suspect that the same experience may await many others. I believe that many who find that "nothing happens" when they sit down, or kneel down, to a book of devotion, would find that the heart sings unbidden while they are working their way through a though bit of theology with a pipe in their teeth and a pencil in their hand.
This is the source—for me, anyway—of something I sometimes say: "Theology makes my heart sing!"

Friday, March 22, 2019

Five Star Links


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

Persis:

I've been reading Herman Bavinck on imago dei and the importance of the soul and the body. So this biographical sketch by Simonetta Carr on Elizabeth of the Palatinate was timely. She challenged 
Rene Descartes to reconsider his view of the emotions and the separation of body and soul.

Rebecca:

Amy Hall highlights eight posts she wrote covering some of the key ideas Christians need to know about evil and suffering .

And William Cowper reminds us that in this midst of suffering, no one will seek God's face in vain.

Monday, March 18, 2019

Quotes of Note


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

Persis:

I just finished reading Disruptive Witness by Alan Noble. It's one of the most thought-provoking books I have read this year. This is quote on how Christian witness during times of suffering can be counter-cultural.
Virtually every force in our culture mitigates against us contemplating our mortality and its implications. Rather than a traditional period of mourning as we find in other cultures and times, American culture encourages us to cope and move on. We can offer a disruptive witness merely by weeping with those who weep, giving them space and dialogue to experience sorrow and to contemplate mortality, suffering, and evil. Our presence and openness to the weight of tragedy will itself be a witness to God's compassion and the significance of each human life. (pg. 168)

Rebecca:

All week long, as I read I kept my eye open for a suitable quote for the Quotes of Note, but I found nothing. So how about a little poetry?

Here are the last two verses of Christina Rosetti's poem The Offering Of The New Law, The One Oblation Once Offered:
Sacrifice and Offering
None there is that I can bring,
None, save what is Thine alone:
I bring Thee, Lord, but of Thine Own— 
Broken Body, Blood Outpoured,
These I bring, my God, my Lord;
Wine of Life, and Living Bread,
With these for me Thy Board is spread.
Now go read the whole thing.

Friday, March 15, 2019

Five Star Links


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

Persis:

We all have strengths and weaknesses, and we can and should all work together as the Body of Christ. So, with compassion let us as Autistics and Neurotypicals build each other up and bear with one another in love. The Neurotypical Christian can help the Autistic feel more comfortable and to learn social skills, boundaries, and body language. The Autistic Christian can use their interests to grow the Body and show them the deep wonder of the ordinary world God made. In all our weaknesses, God uses our weakness for His glory!
And another link for good measure. The testimony of how Dr. Michael Haykin was rescued from Marxism to Christ:
The third night—to my amazement—I fell on my knees, crying out to God for salvation. Graciously he opened my eyes to know his Son, and to know that in Christ there is salvation not only from sin’s power, but also from sin’s wages—eternal death. When I went home that weekend to Ancaster and Hamilton on the Greyhound bus, I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that I was no longer alone—God had graciously come into my heart, the citadel of my life, and taken possession of it by his Holy Spirit.

Rebecca: 

Bill Mounce asks, "What's the proper way to translate John 3:16?"  Read the piece and take the poll.

Also, Amy Mantravadi on the simplicity of God, an important doctrine that "is the common confession of most Catholics and Protestants, medievals and moderns."

Kim:

I appreciated Christina Fox's post "Favorite Books About Writing." I have read three of the five on her list, and I agree with her on the usefulness of them. I was intrigued by the suggestion of a book by C.S. Lewis on writing, and have added that to my wish list. My favourite book on writing is Stephen King's On Writing.

And seeing as we're giving bonus links, also check out Christina's post, "We Don't Always Need Something New."

Monday, March 11, 2019

Quotes of Note


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

Persis:

We were blessed to have Dr. William Vandoodewaard speak at my church's theology conference this past weekend. This quote is from his book on the Marrow Controversy and contains a quote from Thomas Boston on the mystical union of Christ and the believer.
Boston describes the two parts of "the mystical union betwixt Christ and believers" as begun and sustained by the work of "the Spirit on Christ's part, whereby he apprehendeth, taketh, and keepeth hold of us" and the subsequent "faith on the believer's part" whereby "the believer apprehends, takes, and keeps hold of Christ," Boston states, "This faith is that true one, whereby a sinner rests on Christ for all his salvation.... [This] faith is the only mean on our part.... a self-emptying and creature-emptying grace.... The soul having faith wrought in it by the Spirit actually believes and receives Christ, putting forth the hand of the soul to embrace him."  pg. 83

Rebecca:

Here's another quote from F. F. Bruce's commentary on The Epistle to the Hebrews.
It calls for an exceptional effort of mind on our part to appreciate how paradoxical was the attitude of those early Christians to the death of Christ. If ever death had appeared to be triumphant, it was when Jesus of Nazareth, disowned by the leaders of his nation abandoned by his disciples, executed by the might of imperial Rome, breathed his last on the cross. Why, some had actually recognized in his cry of pain and desolation the complaint that even God had forsaken him. His faithful followers had confidently expected him to be the destined liberator of Israel; but he had died—not, like Judas of Galilee of Judas Maccabaeus, in the forefront of the struggle against the Gentile oppressors of Israel, but in evident weakness and disgrace—and their hopes died with him. If ever a cause was lost, it was his; if ever the powers of evil were victorious, it was then. And yet—within a generation his followers were exultingly proclaiming the crucified Jesus to be the conqueror of death and asserting, like our author here, that by dying he had reduced the erstwhile lord of death to impotence. The keys of death and Hades were henceforth held firmly in Jesus’ powerful hand, for he, in the language of his own parable, had invaded the strong man’s fortress, disarmed him, bound him fast, and robbed him of his spoil (Luke 11:21f). This is the unanimous witness of the New Testament writers; this was the assurance which nerved martyrs to face death boldly in his name. This sudden change from disillusionment to triumph can only be explained by the account which the apostles gave—that their Master rose from the dead and imparted to them the power of his risen life.
This is written specifically in regards to Hebrews 2:14, but you don't even need to know the context to see that this is a powerful paragraph. Commentaries don't have to be boring!

Kim (Chiming in late; it was a busy weekend!):

The book Creation and Blessing: A Guide to the Exposition of Genesis, is one my professor recommended to me for my paper on Genesis 15. This is a short paragraph, but I believe it is important. The author, Allen Ross, is discussing the need to develop the theology of a passage:
In the final analysis the narrative unit has something to say theologically. It may include theological motifs and statements, but together they will express a unified theological idea. Accordingly, the exposition should develop the theology of the passage; failure to do so will inevitably leave the exposition on the level of storytelling, historical inquiry, or Bible trivia. (emphasis mine)

Friday, March 8, 2019

Five Star Links


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


Kim:

My Pentateuch professor, Dr. Vaillancourt, has written a short reflection on the Messiah and the Psalms. This is my first class with him, and in September, I will begin my Hebrew studies with him. He's a knowledgeable, caring professor, and a man who clearly loves the Lord. 
Old Testament scholar, Bruce Waltke, made this point: “Of the 283 direct quotes from the Old Testament in the New Testament, 116 (41 percent) are from the Psalter. Jesus Christ alludes to the Psalms more than fifty times (see Luke 24:44)” (Waltke and Yu, An Old Testament Theology, 892). In other words, the Psalms are important witnesses about Jesus!

Persis:

We just had a discussion at my small group last week about being family. Thus, this article at Table Talk is very timely. All The Lonely People:
That longing for deep relationship was placed in us before the fall. We are created to bond and to have deep relationships.

So, why are we so lonely? Why do we isolate ourselves? There are many cultural and sociological factors at play, from American individualism to social media and many others, but the primary answer takes us back to Genesis 3—we are afraid.

Rebecca:
If we’re honest, we all want to be strong—not all of us in the same areas, but all of us in some areas. We wish we were thinner and more attractive or beefed up and more muscular. We’d like to be smarter, more athletic, more musical, more successful at work, have better kids, get better grades, make more money, have a bigger house and newer car, or simply a better church parking lot. We’d like to have more influence, more sway, and more followers. In some or all of these areas, each of us desires to be strong, or at least stronger than we are. 
But, as we know, the Bible speaks more highly of weakness than strength.
So why does the Bible prefer weakness to strength? And in what way? (Kevin DeYoung)

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

The Journey of Leviticus: Who Shall Ascend to the Mountain of the Lord?

For many Christians, Leviticus is daunting. It feels like a great departure from the basics of grace through faith. The painstaking details of the sacrificial system sound foreign compared to the simple message, “repent and be saved.” Michael Morales's book Who Shall Ascend to the Mountain of the Lord? (IVP, 2015) provides an accessible introduction sure to calm anyone's fear. In his prologue, he shares the hope that he has provided an “entry” into the book of Leviticus. That he has done, and more. 

In eight chapters, Morales divides his discussion into three movements. The first three chapters examine Leviticus in the context of the Pentateuch, placing it firmly in the centre. The next three chapters detail the theology of Leviticus within its own context, outlining the significance of the tabernacle. The final two chapters show Leviticus in its context beyond the Pentateuch and into the remainder of the Bible, culminating with the new heavens and earth. 
This is a biblical theology, so it is not like a regular commentary. It works on a thematic basis, not an exegesis of every verse. The theme of this book is dwelling in the presence of God. The opening chapters set the foundation for what it means to be in the presence of God as seen in Genesis and Exodus. After dealing with the significances of the Levitical system, Morales talks about the theme of dwelling in God's presence as carried through the remainder of the Old Testament, followed by its significance in the New Testament. Morales takes you on a journey through Leviticus, beginning in Genesis and culminating with the eschaton.
I read this book for my Pentateuch class, and we had to do a lengthy review. Following submission of the paper, my prof set aside an entire 2.5 hour lecture to discuss our impressions. One of my fellow students shared her thoughts about how it helped her to read Leviticus in a more purposeful way. She said that prior to reading the book she would read Leviticus as this: "Law, law, law; random story. Law, law, law, random story." And that was one of the best comments in the discussion. Morales helps us to read Leviticus in a way that helps us the reader to see the connections between the law and the narrative. I would submit also that I will read the entire Bible differently after this.
This is not a difficult read, but it isn't one you can finish in a couple of hours. We did actually have a discussion about who should read this book, and our class was divided. If you have been in church all your life, or for any extended period of time, and you have a good grasp of the biblical storyline, this book is for you. It is definitely useful for pastors, academics, and elders. My prof said he felt that if anyone wants to be an elder, he should be able to read and understand this book. If it seems scary, be encouraged; it is worth the effort.
On of the most profound things I took away from this book was the link between the image of God and God's presence. Morales says that being created in the image of God is about more than just what happened on the first six days of creation. It's about being made for Sabbath rest. It's about being fully human. To be fully human is to be in the presence of God (p.47). That was revolutionary for me. I have read a few books about being made in the image of God, and I don't believe I've seen it expressed in this way. Certainly, it is an amazing thing to be in God's presence. As our prof said so eloquently, "You don't just saunter into the tabernacle."
This was one of the best books I have read as a Christian. It's not a book you want to rush through. I had to, for time constraints, read it quickly and get the paper out. I plan on re-visiting it. The teaching is the kind you want to dwell on, to bask in; just like basking in God's presence.

Monday, March 4, 2019

Quotes of Note


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

Persis:

A quote from Devoted to God by Sinclair Ferguson:
If we are to understand the nature of sanctification and successfully pursue it, we must immerse ourselves in appreciating the grace of God expressed to us in Jesus Christ and applied in us by the Holy Spirit. Our response is dependent on it and motivated by it. This alone empowers us to grow in the kind of holiness of which Paul is here speaking. [Rom. 8:3-4] Justification, forgiveness, acceptance, and union with Christ, are the logical and actual grounds for sanctification and obedience - not the other way round. (pg. 35)

Kim:

I'm researching for a paper on Genesis 15, and my professor recommended the book Kingdom Through Covenant. He suggested I read the pertinent sections, but I began reading from the beginning, and found helpful this passage about the link between systematic theology and biblical theology:
Systematic theology involves a twofold task. First, in order to apply Scripture properly, we must interpret Scripture correctly. This requires the doing of biblical theology, namely, as related above, describe for us how God's plan unfolds. This is why biblical theology provides the basis for theologizing and doctrine, since we are not drawing proper theological conclusions unless we first correctly understand all that the Bible teaches in the way the Bible presents it. Yet our reading of Scripture presupposed theological commitments consistent with Scripture and orthodox theology.  Second, systematic theology is more than just the mere repeating of Scripture or the doing of biblical theology since it involves the application of Scripture to all areas of life. Systematic theology inevitably entails theological construction and doctrinal formulation, which is grounded in biblical theology and done in light of historical theology but which also includes interacting with all areas of life -- science, psychology, ethics, and so on.
I remember when I took systematic theology two years ago, I was struck by the truth of that last sentence: that it touches on all areas of life. The systematic theologian has to be a very diverse thinker.

This looks to be a great book. So far, I'm learning a lot about the difference between dispensationalism and covenant theology, something I've long been wanting to do.

Rebecca:

In the Greco-Roman world, the idea that anyone divine would have any relationship with suffering was shocking. To associate himself with suffering seemed beneath a perfect God. The author of Hebrews, then, felt it necessary to explain that it was right for God to cause Jesus to suffer:
For it was fitting that he, for whom and by whom all things exist, in bringing many sons to glory, should make the founder of their salvation perfect through suffering (Hebrews 2:10 ESV).
We may not find this particular concept counterintuitive, but still, we need to be careful not to presume we know what God ought to do. In F. F. Bruce's commentary on this verse, he reminds us that
[t]here are many who are ready to tell us confidently what would and what would not be worthy of God; but in fact the only way to discover what is a worthy thing for God to do is to consider what God has actually done. The person who says, "I could not have a high opinion of a God who would (or would not) do this or that," is not adding anything to our knowledge of God; he is simply telling us something about himself. We may be sure that all that God does is worthy of himself . . . .

Friday, March 1, 2019

Five Star Links


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

Kim:

Here is a two for one. Chuck Lawless has two posts that are best read together: "Eight Dangers on NOT Studying Theology," and "Seven Dangers in Studying Theology."


Rebecca:

I have another ordered list to recommend: 5 Things Every Christian Should Be Doing With God's Word.


Persis:

How I escaped from North Korea
Fleeing to China, I had lost hope in human goodness. Finding Christians there, I found that hope again. Caring for strangers, acting compassionately without expecting anything in return: That is the beauty of humankind. That is the beauty of the gospel.

Thursday, February 28, 2019

Pay Attention!

Therefore we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it. For since the message declared by angels proved to be reliable, and every transgression or disobedience received a just retribution, how shall we escape if we neglect such a great salvation? (Hebrews 2:1–3a ESV)
When the lessons in the Sunday School curriculum used in my church were set in the Old Testament, some of the teachers were uncomfortable teaching a few of the stories. I sat through one session in which the story, as told by the teacher, made little sense because she left out the part where people were killed because of their disobedience. She was teaching very young children and she was afraid the uncut version of history would be too disturbing for them. When the curriculum finally moved on from the Old Testament to the New, from God-who-smites to “gentle Jesus, meek and mild,” the teachers were relieved.

But according to the verses from Hebrews quoted above, the path from Old Testament to New doesn't lead away from the God of Judgment toward the Son of Love. As D. A. Carson says, “both God’s love and God’s wrath are ratcheted up in the move from the Old Testament to the New.” We see the upward ratchet in this scripture.

There were sanctions for those who broke the Old Covenant law—“the message declared by angels” (Acts 7:53, Galatians 3:19), as our text calls it. Those who didn’t heed God’s law were punished for it. So yes, God is a God of judgment in the Old Testament.

But he’s also a God of judgment in the New. “How shall we escape if we neglect such a great salvation?” the author of Hebrews asks. The answer he expects is, “We won’t! And we don't even want to think about the dreadful judgment this would deserve.”

He’s making an argument from the lesser to the greater: If the law, which came through angels, had sure and severe sanctions for transgressors, how much more sure and severe would be the sanctions for those who neglect the great salvation of the new covenant, which came through the son of God himself? The angels were, after all, only creatures. But the one who mediated the great salvation was the creator of everything, including angels (Hebrews 1:2). He was, at the time the author wrote these words, already ruling at God's right hand. (Hebrews 1:3).

The salvation worked by Jesus Christ—the purification for sins that he accomplished through his death (Hebrews 1:3)—is nothing to be trifled with. “To treat it lightly” writes F.F. Bruce, “. . . must expose one to sanctions even more awful than those which safeguarded the law.” [1] It’s because God’s love is ratcheted up in the New Testament—not, of course, that God becomes more loving, but that his love is revealed more fully in “such a great salvation”—that God’s wrath is also ratcheted up. The just retribution God metes out is harsher for someone who ignores or rejects the salvation declared in the New Testament gospel. Those who transgressed the law received earthly punishments, but those who reject the salvation brought by the Son can expect sure eternal punishment.

What’s more, note how easy it is to expose one’s self to God’s wrath as revealed in the New Testament. It doesn’t require outright renunciation of the gospel message, at least not at first. No, it starts by simply not paying close enough attention to it, which leads to drifting away from it, “until it [ceases] to have any influence upon [one’s life]” [2] The downward slide starts subtly; it requires only inaction on our part. But it ends up in full-blown apostacy.

The people for whom Hebrews was originally written probably faced cultural pressure to stop publicly professing their faith, and this put them in danger of drifting away from it. Our situation right now is not exactly the same as theirs, but there are certainly parallels, which means this passage should serve as a warning to us, too. We, like them, need to pay closer attention to the gospel, lest we drift away from it. This is one good reason to keep on preaching the gospel to ourselves and proclaiming it to others. It’s a good reason to continue clinging to the cross. It's a good reason to always be thanking God for “such a great salvation.”

[1] The Epistle to the Hebrews, F.F. Bruce, page 68.
[2] The Epistle to the Hebrews, F.F. Bruce, page 68.

Monday, February 25, 2019

Quotes of Note


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

Persis:

In Sunday school this week, one of the elders taught the lesson on Chapter 6 in the Mortification of Sin. He quoted from Holiness by J.C. Ryle which inspired me to take a look at it again. This quote is from the introduction.
That a life of daily self-consecration and daily communion with God should be aimed at by everyone who professes to be a believer --that we should strive to attain the habit of going to the Lord Jesus Christ with everything we find a burden, whether great or small, and casting it upon Him--all this, I repeat, no well-taught child of God will dream of disputing. But surely the New Testament teaches us that we want something more then generalities about holy living, which often pierce no conscience and give no offence. The details and particular ingredients of which holiness is composed in daily life, ought to be fully set forth and pressed on believers by all who profess to handle the subject. True holiness does not consist merely of believing and feeling, but of doing and bearing, and a practical exhibition of active and passive grace.

Rebecca:

I'm going to quote some of Tom Schreiner's comments in his book Spiritual Gifts: What They Are and Why They Matter, but first, here are the verses from Romans he's commenting on:
[6] Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; [7] if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; [8] the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness. (Romans 12:6-8 ESV)
One of the points Schreiner takes from this text is that we should focus our time and energy on the particular gifts we have been given.
In verse 7-8 Paul lists three gifts and says that believers should concentrate on the gift one has. For instance, those who have a gift of service should concentrate on serving. Those with a gift of teaching should center their ministry on their teaching, while those who have a gift of exhortation and encouragement should devote themselves to encouraging others.
What Paul says here applies to all the gifts and is immensely practical. We should pour our energy into the gifts we have. Of course, we must be careful and avoid an overreaction. We must not say, "I won't serve because I have the gift of teaching," or, "I don't do evangelism because I don't have the gift of sharing the gospel with others." On the other hand, life is short, and God has designed the body so that it functions best when we concentrate on the gifts we have. We are to spend our time maximizing the particular gift God has given us. To do such is not unspiritual or selfish but wise. [1]
I will admit to being frustrated sometimes when other Christians don't share the particular passions I have. But I think our passions tend to follow our gifts, so it's exactly right for us, because we are gifted differently, to be passionate about different aspects of service to the church. It's not necessarily unspiritual for another believer to not share my specific interests or to not be passionate about the same causes I am.

"Life is short," as Schreiner says. Maximize the particular gift God has given you. Or, to put it another way, "Give yourself completely and joyfully to the work God has given you to do."[2]

[1] pages 66-67.
[2] page 68.