Friday, September 13, 2019

Five Star Links



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

Persis:

As human beings, we are body and soul, and our souls include thinking and emotion. However, it is easy to pit one against the other, and we become imbalanced. That's why I appreciated this article by Brian Borgman - "God Cares About How You Feel". Rather than elevating vs. suppressing our emotions, God is restoring them. 
Our emotions received the fatal infection of original sin and a fallen human nature. Like a few drops of dye into a pitcher of water, every molecule of our nature has been colored by the toxic dye of sin. Emotions, which were designed to be good and work in tandem with the mind and will, now either dominate or become dormant. On the one hand, they can dominate our thinking so that what controls us is how we feel, how we determine what is true is based on how we feel, and how we relate to others is based on how we feel about them. The chaos of such life can be painful. On the other hand, trying to ignore or repress our emotions (and be like a Star Trek Vulcan rather than a human) is also a recipe for disaster. Truth and beauty in God and in life become black and white, and we fail to be whole people. What we need in our mangled humanity is full restoration.

Rebecca:

Lamentations is one book of the Bible that I haven't spent a lot of time in. But this piece made me want to change that: How to Read Lamentations Theologically. Or, to put it another way: What does Lamentations teach us about God?

As I was searching for this link, I found a similar piece from a few years ago: Can Your Theology Handle the Book of Lamentations?
If you can’t handle the themes and trajectories of Lamentations then you can’t handle the gospel. Every thread in this book is divinely stitched to Calvary. 
Therefore, take up and read Lamentations!
Now I really want to!

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

Review: Not Forsaken

Not Forsaken: A Story of Life After Abuse, Jennifer Michelle Greenberg, The Good Book Company, 2019, 232 pages.

Not Forsaken by Jennifer Michelle Greenberg began as series of letters to her husband to try to explain the trauma and emotional, mental, and physical aftermath of her child abuse. She also wrote for her own understanding of herself and to try to make sense of what she endured. Those letters became this book, and I am so glad she wrote it for the rest of us.

The book begins with memories from Jenn's childhood. Painful memories of fear and betrayal. But also memories of crying out to God to be the father she did not really have. These recollections, while written with discretion, are raw and a window into the abuse she suffered at the hands of her father who was a professing Christian.

The subsequent chapters work through the questions that she had to come to terms with. Was she really abused? Does Jesus understand? Jenn also deals with the issues of trauma, which she describes as a "concussion of the heart," self harm, guilt, and more. The misunderstanding that victims endure regarding reporting, the fear of not being believed, and pain of being doubted are eye-opening especially for readers who haven't suffered abuse. Also basic concepts like being made in God's image, the fatherhood of God, and love itself have been so distorted that they needed to be learned perhaps for the first time. Jenn's chapter on forgiveness is one of the best that I have ever read. She upholds the grace of God for sinners in balance with the need for repentance, God's justice, and care for the victims.

I had a hard time putting the book down once I started reading it, although there were times I had to pause and cry. Jenn's writing is candid, powerful, and full of hope in the God who did not forsake her. In her reflections, she sometimes incorporates the stories of other survivors but always draws her conclusions from the Word of God. While Not Forsaken isn't meant to be prescriptive or a clinical manual, it provides spiritual and practical insight on how to support and not add to the hurt through ignorance or misunderstanding.

I strongly recommend Not Forsaken. If you are a victim/survivor, you will find a compassionate friend who has walked a similar path. If you are a church leader or anyone who cares about the suffering of others, this book is for you, too. It will help you to better love and support the child abuse victim/survivor who may be in your family, next door, or in the next pew.

I received a copy of this book from The Good Book Company. 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."

Friday, August 30, 2019

Five Star Links



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


Kim:

I really enjoyed (and identified with) this video clip by Shona Murray, who is the wife of David Murray. David is a professor at Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary as well as a pastor and author. He writes a lot about mental health issues. Shona went through a very difficult time with mental illness. Her honesty and wisdom are wonderful. A very helpful video clip.

I Never Understood Burnout and Depression -- Until It Happened to Me.


Persis:

This is an encouraging reflection from Scott Schultz on the first question and answer of the Heidelberg Catechism: Rest Well, Christian.
You, Christian, are not your own. You belong to Jesus. If you have called out to Jesus for mercy and trust in him alone to save you, then you belong to him. You are his. He loves you perfectly and will always love you perfectly... Rest well, Christian, knowing that Jesus loves you and always will. 

Rebecca:

The legacy of Susannah Spurgeon:
Yes, Susie was the wife of Charles Haddon Spurgeon, but she was more than just his wife; she was his earthly support, and she is the reason that we have Charles Spurgeon as we have him today. Charles was prophetic when he said during their engagement that Susie was necessary to him.

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Two Views on Women in Ministry - Book Reflection

Writing about the issue of women in ministry is something I have been reluctant to do. And my reluctance is because of something said by the editor of the book Two Views on Women in Ministry. James R. Beck says at the conclusion of this book:
Deciding this one issue responsibly requires vast knowledge of a great many subjects. As we have seen in this volume, one needs to know a great deal about both Testaments and about sound principles of interpreting the Scriptures. It is helpful to know about the cultures surrounding ancient Israel and the church. Since so many of the questions that emerge while deciding this issue revolve around grammar and the meaning of words, we need linguistic experts to help us make good, balanced decisions. And the list of helpful skills goes on and on.
This is a complicated issue. Despite notions to the contrary, this isn't a "what verse tells me the answer?" question. I recognize my lack of expertise in these areas, and I realize that to understand it fully, I need to invest some time reading and thinking. The only reason I'm doing this now is because I  have chosen this topic for term paper I am writing for a class this semester.  This is the first volume I have read as I begin my research.

In this Counterpoints Series volume, four scholars present their views: two from the egalitarian view and two from the complementarian side. After each essay, each scholar submits his/her evaluation of that argument. The contributors are all well-educated in their fields, and have proven their scholarship. They aren't the only voices to hear, but they are a good place to start.

Linda Belleville and Craig Keener write from the egalitarian perspective. I appreciated both of their contributions. They both take a great interest in the cultural background of the Scripture passages involved. In the past, when I have read complementarian articles this has not always been the case. Keener, especially is great with this; it is his area of specialty.

Craig Blomberg and Tom Schreiner bring the complementarian views. I was especially appreciative of Craig Blomberg's essay because he was very good about acknowledging areas where he agreed with the other scholars. He was willing to acknowledge when 100% certainty was not possible. Schreiner is a great New Testament scholar, and I have benefitted from his writing in other venues, but I did not find his essay as convincing as Blomberg's, and there were times when came across as simply dismissing something without explanation or serious thought.

This book was a learning experience, and I took away some very helpful things:
  1. There is more agreement between the two sides than you may think.
  2. Egalitarians do take Scripture seriously. And they do take the Gospel seriously. It simply isn't true that every egalitarian lacks respect for Scripture.
  3. Complementarian men are not all harsh and overbearing. Craig Blomberg wrote very sensitively, and while I didn't always agree with Schreiner, he did express a concern to support the equality of gifting between men and women.
  4. Sometimes complementarians downplay the cultural setting of Pauline letters. 
  5. Sometimes, egalitarians make too much of the cultural setting.
  6. Sometimes, both sides extrapolate too much on what the text doesn't say.
  7. We must resist the temptation to hinge our views on one specific verse. In our contemporary culture, we look for easy, explicit answers, and that simply may not be possible.
  8. This is a complex issue. Because it is complex, those with influence who would speak publicly on the matter should do their homework.
A number of months ago, a friend on Facebook had a graphic posted on her timeline. It showed a piece of paper with a phrase across the top: "Verses in the Bible That Say a Woman Can be  Pastor." The joke was of course that the paper was blank. At the time, when I saw it, I thought, "I think it's more complicated than that." And it is. But it's a serious issue, and one worth pondering.

I highly recommend anyone who is interested in this issue pick up a copy of this book. If all you get out of it is the ability to see scholars debate with grace and civility, it's worth the price.


Monday, August 12, 2019

Quotes of Note


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

Kim:

From Bavinck's Reformed Dogmatics, Vol. 2, talking about the Trinity, and specifically, God's fatherhood:
The scriptural name "Father" is a much better description of the personal property of the first person. Implied in the word "fatherhood" is a positive relation to the second person. The name "Father" is even more appropriate than the word "God," for the latter is a general name signifying transcendent dignity, but the name "Father," like that of YHWH in the Old Testament, is a proper name, an attribute describing a personal property of God. Those who deny to God the name "Father" dishonor him even more than those who deny his creation. This name of "Father," accordingly, is not a metaphor derived from the earth and attributed to God. Exactly the opposite is true: fatherhood on earth is but a distant and vague reflection of the fatherhood of God (Eph. 3:14-15).

Persis:

Some thoughts on conflict from Forbearance: A Theological Ethic for a Disagreeable Church by James Calvin Davis:
Forbearance is not built on a fear of conflict, but on a desire to work through conflict in a healthy way. Surely it is impossible to completely avoid conflict in any human community, even a church. Conflict is a natural by-produce of an association of persons who are not carbon copies of each other...
In a society whose citizens care deeply about truth and justice, conflict is the inevitable consequence of incompatible but equally passionate perspectives. Similarly, a church that does not care enough about anything to be conflicted is one that does not take seriously its commitment to belief, character, mission, or duty... The cultivation of forbearance assumes a community of Christians who care deeply about matters of belief and practice, and it does not require ambivalence to principle in order to extend forbearance to others. If anything, to talk of "bearing with" another implies that we often remain unconvinced by their opposition to us. But the physical connotation embedded in "bearing with" another lends us the image of carrying one another through difficult times, and this mutual accord speaks to the distinctive Christian character of the approach to conflict I am commending. Forbearance is more than modus vivendi, an ideological cease-fire. It is instead a positive commitment to living with the productive discomfort of difference as a reflection of the grace of God.

Rebecca:

Here's a poem by Richard Baxter (1615 – 1691):
Lord, It Belongs Not to My Care 
Lord, it belongs not to my care
Whether I die or live;
To love and serve Thee is my share,
And this Thy grace must give. 
If life be long, I will be glad,
That I may long obey;
If short, yet why should I be sad
To welcome endless day? 
Christ leads me through no darker rooms
Than He went through before;
He that unto God’s kingdom comes
Must enter by this door. 
Come, Lord, when grace hath made me meet
Thy bless├Ęd face to see;
For if Thy work on earth be sweet
What will Thy glory be! 
Then I shall end my sad complaints
And weary sinful days,
And join with the triumphant saints
That sing my Savior’s praise. 
My knowledge of that life is small,
The eye of faith is dim;
But ’tis enough that Christ knows all,
And I shall be with Him.

Friday, August 9, 2019

Five Star Links



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


Persis:

Can We Identify Our Lack? by Joshua Torrey
How am I participating in the fellowship of the body by letting people serve me? Not just in a superficial way (beer and mangos are delicious and good for my soul) but in a deeply dependent way. For that is precisely what it means to reject a theology of perfectionism—announcing a lack that can only, for now, be fulfilled by the church community. We can hear the echoing warning from Paul, “If anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself.”
Kim:

Yes, another good video from Bill Mounce! In all honesty, in the past couple of weeks, I have read almost no blogs. I've started working on my research project for one of my classes, and I just haven't been online a lot.

I have listened to this video, and I think Mounce is absolutely right: our bodies were made to move. Because we live in a very technological world, our bodies have no need to do what our ancestors before us had to do. That means our bodies are not being used as they could be. In the past four months, I have exercised more than I have since I was 15 years old. It has made a huge difference to my energy level, my attitude and my concentration.



Rebecca:

When Jesus was facing his death, in his farewell discourse to his disciples, he began to reveal "the inner nature of God to them. " He began to show them that God is Trinity—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. 
Many Christians tend to think of the Trinity as an impractical, speculative doctrine. But not so the Lord Jesus. For Him, it is neither speculative nor impractical—but the very reverse. It is the foundation of the gospel. Without the love of the Father, the coming of the Son, and the regenerating power of the Holy Spirit, there simply could be no salvation.
Read the rest of Deep Theology by Sinclair Ferguson.

Friday, August 2, 2019

Five Star Links



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


Kim:

I'm really enjoying Bill Mounce's reflections on writing. In this episode, he talks about the importance of clarity.

"Every Word Counts."

Rebecca

August’s issue of Tabletalk magazine is all about commonly misunderstood passages of the Bible, like 1 Corinthians 13:13 (“… faith, hope, and love abide, … but the greatest of these is love.”) and 1 John 4:8 (“God is love …”). Check it out: What Does That Verse Really Mean?

Friday, July 26, 2019

Five Star Links



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

Rebecca:

Do you imagine God looking into the future to discover what will be? Is this how he knows what will happen


Persis:

A very helpful podcast about a difficult topic. Ecclesiastical Dogmatism: Abuse in the Church.

Monday, July 22, 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 Forbearance: A Theological Ethic for a Disagreeable Church by James Calvin Davis. I wanted to read this book because of the question that opens the preface:
What happens when we approach theological disagreement not as a problem to solve or a crisis to endure, but as an opportunity to practice Christian virtue? ... Of course, some Christians may be concerned that a call for forbearance sounds like I am asking us to soften or abandon our commitment to what we think is right and true... To the contrary, forbearance invites us to believe, to defend our convictions, and to pursue what we think is right and true in God's eyes. But it invites us to do all of that good work with a certain character and attitude, so that our pursuit of justice and truth itself is reshaped by the practice of forbearance.
This practice of forbearance intrigues me because disagreement between Christians has become more divisive of late. Thus I am curious about what the author has to say.


Rebecca:

God's omnipotence and his care for us go together, writes Matthew Barrett in None Greater. The lives of Sarah and Hannah are examples of this:
Though women like Sarah and Hannah were embarrassing to society—barren and cursed—they were God's instruments of salvation, through which the seed of Genesis 3:15 would come to crush the serpent's head. The point is, the wisdom of God's power is displayed in our weakness. His wise omnipotence shines bright in our darkest hour.
One of my favorite truths is that God is accomplishing his wise purposes in our suffering. But I don't think I'd put it together quite like this before: As God works his plan through our weakness, his wisdom and power are revealed. His glory shines bright in a way it would not otherwise.

This is one universal good purpose for every bit of suffering we endure.

Friday, July 19, 2019

Five Star Links



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



Kim:

I really enjoyed this brief video, by Bill Mounce, who talked about having a special place to write.

I completely understand his comment about not having the internet nearby as a distraction. I love my office, but sometimes, it's work to avoid the distraction of my computer. Next time I need a new computer, I'm getting a laptop, and I can keep it out of the room.


Persis:

The importance of communication, compassion, and understanding have been on my mind a lot. Here are links to two articles. One is from a secular perspective and the other is written by a Christian, but I think they are both worth considering.

The Mistake I Made With My Grieving Friend
Love Through the Awkward


Rebecca:

Simonetta Carr on Kata Bethlen

I love biographical sketches of historical Christian women. Many of them suffered much, but it didn't turn them into shrinking violets. No, their suffering, in God's hands, worked to make them into strong, persevering women.  

Monday, July 15, 2019

Quotes of Note


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

Rebecca:

On the relationship between the kingdom of God and the cross from The Kingdom of God and the Glory of the Cross by Patrick Schreiner:
At times an emphasis on the kingdom [of God] displaces or at least shifts attention away from a theology of the cross. It seems that we are prone to speak either of the kingdom or of the cross, unintentionally driving a wedge between the two. However, it is precisely in Jesus’s announcement, “The kingdom of God is at hand,” that he presupposes the kingdom will be accomplished by his death. The kingdom is not a higher or more important theme than the cross. These two realities are forever joined; separating them is an act of violence.

If the kingdom is the goal, then the cross is the means. But this does not mean that the cross simply falls between the ages. Rather, it is the wheel that shifts one age into another; it is the great transition piece, the turn of the ages for the people of God seeking their place. Martin Luther said that the cross must be the test of everything, and that includes a biblical theology of the kingdom. Jesus becomes King through the cross.

Persis:

Here's another quote from None Greater by Matthew Barrett which is fitting since my pastor preached yesterday from Romans 3.
[T]he just God has not compromised his holy character by passing over sins but has put forward his own Son as a propitiation. He has not given grace at the expense of his righteousness, but his righteousness itself has produced grace. Christ is the perfect sacrifice, the holy substitute, whose spilled blood satisfies divine justice itself. The cross is the way - the only way - God can remain righteous and just yet legitimately justify guilty sinners, like you and me. At the cross, justice and mercy kiss. For God is both “just and the justified of the one who has faith in Jesus.”

Kim:

Grant Osborne, in his commentary on Matthew, talks about chapter 5 verse 20:
The problem is inherent in all legalistic movements: certain patterns are identified with holiness, but they are too easily external (acted out) rather than internal (truly believed and lived). The result is hypocrisy (see Matt 23). Therefore, a mere righteousness by fiat is insufficient. The lifestyle God demands of the heart, lived out in daily actions.

Friday, July 12, 2019

Five Star Links



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


Kim:

Ligon Duncan and D.A. Carson team teach a session called "From Exegesis to Exposition." It is almost an hour long, but it is worth the time investment. Looking at an Old Testament passage and a New Testament passage, Carson does the exegesis and Duncan does the exposition. It is useful for teaching as well as preaching.


Persis:

Here is a playlist from The Charles Simeon Trust containing five talks on Women's Bible Study Tools.  

While pain is a persistent reality in this fallen world, our life on earth is not meant as a prelude to Purgatory. For Christians, it’s a pilgrimage to the place Christ has gone on to prepare for us, where the realities we see vaguely will be manifested in full. And thankfully, he gives us glimpses of those joys even in the here and now.

Monday, July 8, 2019

Quotes of Note


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

Persis:

From None Greater by Matthew Barrett:
Sin against an infinite God cannot be atoned for by a Savior who has emptied himself of his divine attributes. No, it is his divine attributes that qualify him to make atonement in the first place. Sin against an infinite God can be met only by a Savior who is himself deity - and all the perfections identical with that deity - in infinite measure.

Rebecca:

Well! My chosen quote is from None Greater by Matthew Barrett, too. This not surprising, really, because this book is full of quotable bits.
While we may long for that day [the day we see our Savior face-to-face] with great expectation, we do not look for it as those who have not tasted of it here and now. While the banquet may be yet to come, already we have tasted its firstfuits. We may await the new heavens and earth, but on this earth, this side of glory, the Spirit is with us and within us. Every guarantee of that future day is assured in the ongoing, persistent, and unrelenting presence of the Spirit in our daily Christian lives. Every little victory over indwelling sin and every little desire to love others as Christ has loved us is a sign that the Spirit is at work in us, preparing us for that final day. The Spirit truly is a gift through whom we, as his little temples, enjoy fellowship with our Triune God . . . .
Kim:

And while I've purchased None Greater, my quotation is not from that book :)

From Paul Tripp's Instruments in the Redeemer's Hands:
If we want to know what people really want, we have to learn about their emotional life. Happiness is the result of getting what my heart craves. Discouragement is the emotional response of my heart when a thing I live for moves farther away from me. My heart is filled with fear when I suddenly lose what I am convinced I need. In short, our emotions reflect what we worship.

Friday, July 5, 2019

Five Star Links



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


Kim:


That is an excellent question.


Persis:

God’s aseity, then, had clear implications for the audience of the Old Testament, and those implications remain significant for Christians today. Since God is necessary and we are contingent, we utterly rely on him for everything. Everything. Let that sink in.

Rebecca:

Christ Our Ransom 

What does it mean that Christ is our ransom? And to whom is the ransom paid?


Friday, June 28, 2019

Five Star Links



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


Persis:

"As a people, we must strive to return to what’s true: That life is precious. Each life is unique. Each one irreplaceable. Each one unrepeatable." On Suicide: We Are Our Brothers' Keepers

Rebecca

Why Should I Read Deuteronomy? Not only will this piece make you want to read Deuteronomy, but it can also guide as you make your way through the book.

Monday, June 24, 2019

Quotes of Note



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

Kim:

I have been reading -- and enjoying immensely -- Paul Tripp's Instruments in the Redeemer's Hands. Tripp discusses the importance of true heart change as opposed to merely changing our circumstances:
One of the things you will quickly discover is that when most people seek change, they seldom have the heart in view. They want change in their circumstances, change in the other person, or change in their emotions. They think that if "things" would change, they would be better off. But when the focus is put only on the outward circumstances, the solutions are seldom more than temporary and superficial. Certainly, it is true that elements in a situation often need to change, but you cannot stop there. Your goal must be to lead your friend to a deeper, fuller view of change. Your goal is to help her to examine her heart and to see the importance of change at that level.
I wonder how sermon and Sunday school lesson "applications" would change if this principle was closely adhered to.

Rebecca:

Have you ever thought about spending eternity with God and felt that it might get a little boring after a while? In the chapter on the eternity of God in Matthew Barrett's None Greater, he explains why it won't:
Everything we enjoy in this world is dissatisfying for two reasons: (1) it doesn't last but is short-lived, and (2) the object itself does not prove ultimately satisfying but falls short in some way. God defies both. Since he is an eternal being, enjoyment of God will never cease. Since he is an infinitely beautiful, majestic, and glorious being, enjoyment of God will prove more than we could ever take in. If we think about God's being only in comparison with objects in this world, we struggle to understand how both of these truths can be true. "How can I spend eternity enjoying God? Won't that get old?" No, it never will. Why? Because each attribute of God is infinite. His love is an infinite love, his grace an infinite grace, his holiness an infinite holiness, his power an infinite power. It will take an eternity to enjoy God, because he is an infinitely grandiose being.

Friday, June 21, 2019

Five Star Links



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


Kim:

I found this article interesting: "Five Ways to Dwell on the Word When You Can't Read" very helpful. Sometimes, we take the ability and the time to read for granted. Last semester, one of my profs was still battling with post-concussion syndrome. Sometimes, people with that condition are instructed not to read. It's helpful to remember that for the majority of Christian history, most people could not read. 


Persis:

This is an older post that Lisa Spencer retweeted this week - De-Humanizing Christianity. In reacting to man-centered Christianity, it is easy to swing to the opposite extreme where we become brains-on-a-stick and not whole people, soul and body.
Our humanity has far more to contribute than mouths that make the right confessions, hands that serve the church and feet that take the good news to the world. We have different personalities, family backgrounds, experiences, fears, concerns, wants and needs. What may satisfy one person, may unsettle the other. Treating our humanity as irrelevant or in a one-dimension fashion kind of undercuts the very thing that makes the multi-faceted, diverse fashion of our witness to Christ so rich. Rather than ignoring our humanity, our Christianity should make us more aware of it. Because it is within that reality that we recognize our need for a Savior.

Rebecca:

Nick Batzig on the huge divine significance in the manner in which Christ died: The Blessed Cursed Tree. This is packed full of important stuff, so it isn't an easy read. But the work it requires pays off big time.

Friday, June 14, 2019

Five-Star Links



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

Persis:

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.

Rebecca:

I married young, and if I had it to do over again, I'd do exactly the same thing. So I heartily endorse this message: The Case For Getting Married Young. [Update: Someone pointed out that the Atlantic chose a photo of two male hands to accompany this article. I hadn't noticed this when I shared the link. It is a very unfortunate choice, because Karen Swallow Prior definitely has marriage between a man and a woman—her own marriage in particular—in mind in this piece. I am going to leave the link up, because I hate it when people just delete things and act as if they never happened in the first place. The article itself is  good,  but the photo—which Karen probably had no control over—is not. I am sorry I didn't see it before I shared the link in the first place.]

Kim:

When I purged my books in January, I came across quite a few that were merely "trends," I realized I needed to be more careful about my book buying.

Old Books, New Books, and Trends That Fade Away.

Monday, June 10, 2019

Quotes of Note




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


Kim:

From Bavinck's Dogmatics, Vol. 2, on sanctification:
Yet, sanctification is something more than merely being set apart; it is, by means of washing, anointing, sacrifice, and the sprinkling with blood (etc.), to divest a thing of the character it has in common with all other things, and to impress upon it another stamp, a stamp uniquely its own, which it must bear and display everywhere.
I really appreciated the part of this comment about "divesting" ourselves of things as we are sanctified.


Persis:

I've been considering for a while that our theology is embodied. Thus how we treat our bodies matters. It's true that our bodies can be pandered and worshipped, but the opposite ditch is to push them beyond what is healthy as though they are expendable for the greater good. But what does that say about our attitude to our Creator if we disrespect his creation?  Given that I often don't get enough sleep (and exercise), I appreciate what Tish Harrison Warren writes about sleep in Liturgy of the Ordinary:
About one third of our lives are spent in sleep, Through these collective years of rest, God is at work in us and in the world, redeeming, healing, and giving grace. Each night when we yield to sleep, we practice letting go of our reliance on self-effort and abiding in the good grace of our Creator. Thus embracing sleep is not only a confession of our limits, it is also a joyful confession of God's limitless care for us. For Christians, the act of ceasing and relaxing into sleep is an act of reliance on God. 

Rebecca:

From Matthew Barrett's None Greater on one of the ways the gospel depends on God's impassibility (That God is impassible means that he cannot experience emotional change; he cannot suffer.):
It is precisely because God does not suffer that he is able to send his Son to suffer for us as a man. As we learned, that does not mean that Christ's divine nature suffers; we must be careful not to confuse the human nature with the divine nature, humanizing his divine attributes. But it does mean that the person of the Son suffers on the cross in the fullness of his humanity. Yet he is able to do so only because suffering does not victimize him in the first place. If God is just as much a victim of suffering as we are, then he is helpless, powerless, and hopeless to embark on a rescue mission. That is not the picture we see in the Gospels. The Gospels portray the Son of God fully in control of his mission. Again and again, as he sets his face toward Calvary, he announces, even predicts, his redemptive suffering, putting on full display his total sovereignty (Matt. 16:21-23).
Impassibility is one of the attributes that has fallen out of favour in the last century or so. People like the idea of a God who suffers with us, but they really shouldn't. We need a God who cannot suffer.

Friday, June 7, 2019

Five Star Links



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


Kim:

This week's episode of "Mortification of Spin" talks about the danger of success in leadership. One of the comments made was that when someone is up in front of a congregation (or a Sunday school class) and we see people engaged with us, we can become more interested in our own glory than God's. Carl Trueman commented that we should welcome evaluation because it is a humbling thing. As I listened to this, I could not help but think how Twitter can foster a lot of ego, because we can garner many followers who validate us, while at the same time, blocking the criticism.



Persis:

I appreciate this post by Lisa Spencer, On Platt and Priorities, about the recent reaction, both pro and con, to Pastor David Platt's prayer for the president of the United States. When it comes to politics and its ability to polarize even Christians, it is possible to forget the priority of Christ and his gospel. Lisa reminds us of that:
The book of Jonah is instructive here. God told Jonah to bring a message to the Ninevites about turning their hearts towards him. Instead, Jonah did everything he could to avoid such a spectacle and begrudged the fact that God would ask such a thing. Just like Jonah, who qualified who should receive God's grace and mercy, we might be saying the same thing disguised as anti-partisan interests.

Rebecca:

Stand to Reason has a series of videos with apologetics tips. In the latest one, Alan Shlemon reminds people like me (those who feel guilty for not saying enough when talking with non-believers) to set a modest goal for our conversations.  We don't need to get the gospel in every time. "Instead," he says, "aim to put a stone in their shoe." 

Thursday, June 6, 2019

Do I Need to Change the World?

It has never occurred to me that I would ever change the world. Think about it: changing the world is something you can't know you've done. Changes on that scale take generations to manifest themselves. Did Gutenberg know he was changing the world at the time he lived? It's doubtful.

What we do will have consequences. Whether or not we plan to leave a legacy, we will leave one. As long as we live in relationships with others, our actions can make an impact on someone else, good or bad. But must I feel obligated to change the world?

I cannot help but wonder if in even suggesting such a thing, we aren't setting ourselves up for discontent. The majority of us will lead quiet, typical lives. Even with social media giving people a voice, there are still only a few who will leave a lasting impression. The myriad of voices means that only a handful will be remembered. It could very well be that the people we believe today to be the most influential voices in our lives will be unheard of or unremembered in ten years. That isn't meant to discourage. It's a simple fact. I will be remembered by people who know me and love me. How will they remember me? As someone who was more concerned with getting likes on social media or managing to have five seconds of attention because my blog post or photo went viral? Or will I be remembered as someone whose faith was real, no matter how much attention I got?

One of my favourite passages in the New Testament is Romans 12:1-8. After giving his rich, intricate presentation of what it means to be born again, and to belong to Christ, Paul gives one of the most beautiful "therefore's" in all of Scripture: present your bodies as a sacrifice; a living one. And there is more:

  • don't be conformed to the world (v2)
  • be transformed by the renewing of our minds (v2)
  • don't think more highly of ourselves than we ought (v3)
  • think as to have sound judgment (v3)
  • we are part of one body (v4)
  • we do not all have the same function in the body (v4)
  • we are members of one another (v5)
  • exercise the gifts we have (v6)

We could spend a life time learning to live in light of that passage. Even the simple fact of presenting our bodies as a living sacrifice can take years to accomplish. If I think of my life in Christ as something that must change the world, I may forget about what I'm really exhorted to do. In this day and age of mass information and access to a platform, it can be easy to feel entitled to be more than what we're meant to be. We talk a lot about the beauty of the ordinary, but do we mean others when we say that? Are we prepared to live in obscurity? The fact is, most of us will.

And yet the task ahead of us is extraordinary. It's difficult. It isn't easy to live within the body of Christ. There is sin, division, conflict, and all too often, acrimony. It seems to me it can take an entire lifetime to figure out how to function well within the body of Christ, never mind thoughts about how to change the world. Whether or not I change the world is rather incidental.

Ultimately, God is the one who changes the world. We are vehicles, but he is sovereign and he can take anything and turn it into something for his glory. I know I need to worry more about how I will submit to the ways God is changing me than worrying about whether or not I will change the world. Part of faith is allowing God to do his work and living by faith daily.

Monday, June 3, 2019

Quotes of Note


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

Persis:

I'm rereading All That's Good by Hannah Anderson with a group of women from church. The whole book is great, but the last chapter sums up the reason for discernment. A reason that is just bigger than my individual Christian life. It's for the healing of the Body of Christ.
Here's the hard truth: If you are entrusted with a certain gift, most of the people around you won't be similarly gifted. They won't be able to see as clearly because God has not equipped them to. But being gifted with discernment does not give you permission to be spiteful, arrogant, or judgmental toward them. It is your responsibility to help the community by raising uncomfortable questions, and then waiting patiently while it struggles with them. And more than likely, you'll have to wait much longer than you want... you will have to remember that you are part of the Body, you are part of something bigger than yourself. You will have to remember that the clarity you enjoy is not for you alone. It is for the healing of the Body of Christ.
Rebecca:

The simplicity of God can be hard to understand. That God is simple means that he is not made up of parts. Or to put is another way, he is not a composite being. Still, we list God's attributes (love, righteousness, and power, for instance), and consider them separately, although we know God is truly one undivided essence.

In None Greater: The  Undomesticated Attributes of God, Matthew Barrett illustrates simplicity this way.
What I love best about traveling is seeing old churches. Churches that are several hundred years old typically have stained glass. Back then, churches would hire a craftsman to fashion biblical scenes using the colorful glass. Stepping back from the glass, one could see the entire story of the Bible pictured. The beauty of stained glass is seen most when one sunbeam hits the glass and several different colors are portrayed on the inside of the glass—yellow, red, blue, and so on. That imagery pictures simplicity in a way. God is one, and his attributes are identical with one another. Yet when God's undivided essence is revealed to humanity, it shines in various ways. Nevertheless, it is the same, single ray of light that radiates. God's attributes, says the Puritan George Swinnock, "are all one and the same; as when the sunbeams shine through a yellow glass they are yellow, a green glass they are green, a red glass they are red, and yet all the while the beams are the same."
As finite creatures, we can't know God in his infinite simplicity, but we can see him as he "shines through glass," so to speak. From our human viewpoint, we see various perfections, and with each perfection, we can understand another aspect of God's one undivided essence.

Kim:

From Grant Osborne's commentary on Matthew:
Jesus is never called "Immanuel" (1:23) as a proper name; rather, the term is a metaphor for the fact that in Jesus God is present "with" his people in a whole new way. There are four stages biblically: (1) God is present via his "Shekniah," or dwelling via the pillar of fire and cloud in the exodus and his throne at the midpoint where the wings of the seraphim meet above the ark, i.e., in the Most Holy Place throughout the OT. (2) God is present via his son, who was in a sense a walking Most Holy Place during his life on this earth. (3) God is present via the holy Spirit during the church age. (4) God is present physically and in full reality throughout eternity (Rev. 21:1-22:5).

Friday, May 31, 2019

Five Star Links


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

Persis:

What do we do when the figures we admire in church history have feet of clay? Ignore or gloss over those flaws? But if we believe the gospel saves sinners and that believers struggle with sin until they are glorified, what should our response be knowing that we have been saved as well? This is a thought-provoking post on one of those figures, George Whitefield, by Jared Wilson - Was George Whitefield a Christian? 

Rebecca:

In the video How Is Brokenness Different from Sin?, Jeremy Treat and Eric Thoennes discuss the relationship between brokenness and sin. I’ll admit I’m not crazy about the word “broken,” but then the people I hear use it seem to think “brokenness” is humanity’s primary problem. (It isn't; sin is.)

But if “broken” is used along with the word “sin”—and simply used to describe the effects of sin in this world—I might be okay with it.

Kim:

Here is an opportunity to understand how to better help missionaries reaching out to unreached people groups. Seth Callahan shares a couple of interesting ideas. I have known Seth for a long time, and have served with him in camp ministry. 
OK, so here’s the starting point for the conversation: The Evangelical church spends 99.7% of their (our) funds engaging with people in REACHED people groups, that is, people who already have access to God’s Word in their language and have a functioning indigenous church.

Friday, May 24, 2019

Five Star Links


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

Persis:

This is another letter in the Seven Letters Seven Dangers series - The Doctrinaire Church, a post that hits close to home. How easy it is to love the truth but fail to love the Giver of truth. This shows in how we use the truth.
You are right to pursue truth and know the Scriptures. But be on guard against being doctrinaire. Our brother Paul said “watch your life and doctrine closely.” Our temptation is to use our doctrines in ways that is cold, dry, or even forceful, hurtful and graceless.

This is also another thought-provoking post - On Being the Church for the Weak. When the goal is tp be a "church for winners," does that create real community? Or is it enduring together knowing full well that we are weak and broken?
Even my own life is full of habits of being that pursue prominence and push away vulnerability. The church is a profoundly painful place because we all have ways of hurting each other by our very ways of being...
So why do I choose church membership again and again? The church is the place where the Lordship of Jesus Christ is confessed and enacted week by week. The church is the place where I can climb down the ladder to meet him as he reaches down to the dust to heal the weakest.
Rebecca:

On putting a theology degree (or even just some solid knowledge of theology) to work in unexpected places. 
Could a theology degree equip you to produce a blog, newsletter, curriculum, or podcast to serve your local church?
Could a theology degree allow you to answer the complex questions of younger women?
If you’re a woman with a theology degree—or just a solid foundation through your childhood, church, or college ministry—you are needed.
And one more for good measure: Jared Wilson shows that Job 31:13-15 tells us at least three things about the unborn.

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.