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).