Friday, July 27, 2018

Five Star Links

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


The way we conduct ourselves online is something I think about quite a bit. Karen Swallow Prior has a lot of wisdom in her post 9 Ways to Make Social Media More Christian
The world is watching, too. And there is likely nothing more representative of the spirit of Christ in this narcissistic world than genuine spirit of humility. Sadly, this spirit is too rare on social media, even among Christians.


Diane Bucknell shares the story of the mystery woman who told her the Good News at the Minneapolis Bus Depot. Her seed eventually bore fruit, but there's even more to the story.


Some wisdom from Pastor Sam Powell on the importance of listening -
We are OCD with theological error. We completely miss someone’s trauma, but woe to the uninformed that uses the word “potluck” (you mean “pot providence”) or “My father was a good man” (THERE IS NONE GOOD; NO NOT ONE!) Just like Mr. Monk, if all of the theological ducks aren’t neatly lined up to our liking, we shut down... There is a time and place for correcting theology, but remember that we would be in a far better place to do that if we first learned how to listen.

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Ten lessons for growing older

Life becomes harder and more complicated when you grow old. I'm not all the way there yet, but my parents are. We moved my mom into memory care a couple months ago, and I will be heading back in a few weeks to move my dad into assisted living. The packing and physical move were the easy part. The hard part is the emotional and mental adjustment to living in a new place, which is difficult for anyone let alone for someone with Alzheimer's or frail health. I'm thankful for my parents and how God has kept them, but I also want to use this situation to learn now before it becomes harder to do so. On the drive home, I shared with my daughter some lessons I want to learn while I still can. I wrote them down to help me remember. Maybe they will help you too.

1. Don't wait to de-clutter. The saying goes, "You can't take it with you," and maybe my daughter won't want to take it with her either. Ask what items would be meaningful to her and don't assume that she has the same attachment. Give things away so others can use and enjoy them now.

2. Accept my mortality. I will grow old and die barring Christ's return in my lifetime. Make plans accordingly in wisdom, not in fear. Prepared legal documents make decisions and transitions easier.

3. Accept my present limitations with humility and the limitations of others with compassion. This will prepare me as my limitations grow.

4. Learn to accept change and receive help now while it is easier to adjust. Refusing help and resisting change makes it harder for those who have my best interests at heart.

5. Learn to give up control. It's an illusion anyway because the Lord is the only one who is truly in control. To quote a good friend, "God's got it." I don't and realizing it will make the reality of not being in control much easier.

6. Invest in community. People and the memories we make with them matter more than stuff.

7. Cultivate patience. I will only need it more, not less, in the future.

8. Build a solid foundation of the doctrine of God. A small, weak, and truncated God will not withstand the trials of aging. "When all around my soul gives way, He then is all my hope and stay."

9. Find my ultimate worth and meaning in Christ, not in what I do or in my physical and mental abilities.

10. While I should take care of this temple of the Holy Spirit, there is a better body awaiting for me that will never know what it is to be sick or to sin. Hope in the resurrection of the body and the life everlasting.

Photo credit: By Jules Grandgagnage [CC BY-SA 4.0  (], from Wikimedia Commons
(Updated from a previous post on my personal blog.)

Monday, July 23, 2018

Quotes of Note

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


I have been reading the poems of George Herbert. He used language with such brilliance. In his poem "Easter," the imagery revolves around music. The poem is unique in that it has one rhyme scheme for the first 18 verses and a different one for the remainder. You can check out the entire poem here. Have a look at the first part of the poem where he uses images of music:

Rise heart; thy Lord is risen. Sing his praise
Without delays,
Who takes thee by the hand, that thou likewise
With him mayst rise:
That, as his death calcined thee to dust,
His life may make thee gold, and much more, just.
Awake, my lute, and struggle for thy part
With all thy heart.
The cross taught all wood to resound his name,
Who bore the same.
His stretched sinews taught all strings, what key
Is best to celebrate this most high day.
Consort both heart and lute, and twist a song
Pleasant and long:
Or since all music is but three parts vied
And multiplied,
O let thy blessed Spirit bear a part,
And make up our defects with his sweet art.


This is a quote by B.B. Warfield from his review of Lewis Sperry Chafer's He That is Spiritual, with which he had strong disagreement.  Having grown up in a system of two-tiered Christianity, I wish someone had told me this a long time ago but better late than never.
He who believes in Jesus Christ is under grace, and his whole course, in its process and in its issue alike, is determined by grace, and therefore, having been predestined to be conformed to the image of God's Son, he is surely being conformed to that image, God Himself seeing to it that he is not only called and justified but also glorified. You may find Christians at every stage of this process, for it is a process through which all must pass; but you will find none who will not in God's own good time and way pass through every stage of it. There are not two kinds of Christians, although there are Christians at every conceivable stage of advancement towards the one goal to which all are bound and at which all shall arrive.


No matter how many times I've read Veith's introduction on the doctrine of vocation, I am encouraged to be reminded each time. Yes, the Scriptures are our daily bread. Yet, the literal sense in which He meets our physical needs as well, through such ordinary means, in contrast to Israel's supernatural manna that fell from the sky, helps me appreciate how much I depend on my neighbors daily. By God's good providence, I'm grateful for his provision:

When we pray the Lord's Prayer, observed Luther, we ask God to give us this day our daily bread. And He does give us our daily bread. He does it by means of the farmer who planted and harvested the grain, the baker who made the flour into bread, the person who prepared our meal. We might today add the truck drivers who hauled the produce, the factory workers in the food processing plant, the warehouse men, the wholesale sale distributors, the stock boys, the lady at the checkout counter. Also playing their part are the bankers, futures investors, advertisers, lawyers, agricultural scientists, mechanical cal engineers, and every other player in the nation's economic system. All of these were instrumental in enabling you to eat your morning bagel.
- Gene Edward Veith, Jr., God at Work: Your Christian Vocation in All of Life (p. 13).


My little women's Bible study group is still working through the book of Jude, so I've been reading Doug Moo's commentary on Jude. In verse 20, before Jude gives his readers instructions on how to deal with the people in their church who have been influenced by false teaching, he commands them to build themselves up in their "most holy faith." At the beginning of Jude, he urged them to "contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints" — to fight for the doctrine of the apostles and against the false teaching that was infiltrating their church— and now he urges them to strenthen themselves in the same once-for-all-delivered faith. Moo writes,
"Contending for the faith" does not mean only fighting against heretics to preserve Christian truth. It also means fighting against our own weakness and temptation so that we can maintain our own faith. Jude knows that you can never take a person's spiritual condition for granted. Thus, before he tells his readers how to confront those affected by the false teaching, he reminds them that they must take a good look at their own condition (vv. 20-21).
And later:
Moving ahead in the Christian life often involves looking to the past. The growth that Jude calls for is growth in "your most holy faith"—that "faith once for all entrusted to the saints" (v. 3). The foundation must be secure before the building can go up. We can never grow away from our roots; we can only grow through them. In the church today, there is an increasing flirtation with what is new. We want to hear what Christianity has to say about the latest fad or issue; we want to learn new things. But in our (legitimate)  eagerness ot push ahead, to stretch our understanding, to make the church relevant to a new age, we must always be careful to "secure our rear," as a general would put it. Solid understanding of Christian doctrine, the kind of understanding that changes hearts and minds—this is something we never grow away from. 

Friday, July 20, 2018

Five Star Links

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


Todd Pruitt shares about his experience with depression and anxiety - The Hard Apprenticeship of Sorrow
This hard apprenticeship of sorrow has caused me to long for Christ’s appearing more than I otherwise would have. The promise that our returning Lord will wipe away every tear from our eyes is fuel for my desire for the New Creation. Christians who suffer from depression and anxiety tend to long for that home for which we were ultimately made."


Social media has affected the way we read, how our attention span works, and even how we think.  Trevin Wax gives a brief discussion about how social media has changed us.


Remember the story of Israel and the golden calf? It's a bit shocking, isn't it? How could the Israelites so brazenly—and stupidly—disobey the God who brought them out of slavery in Egypt? And who worships a golden calf, anyway? Why would they do what they did?

And what significance does their story have for us? Is there anything we can we learn from this piece Israel's history? James M. Todd III answers these questions and more in Credo Magazine.


Crossway is featuring seven video snapshots exploring the Christian life from seven of church history's greatest theologians.
The Bible calls us to be conformed to the image of Christ, our greatest example of godly living. Yet God has also given us examples of faithful Christian living throughout the history of the church—examples we would do well to emulate.
Interested in church history? Check out these teaching segments from some solid teachers, such as Michael Reeves, Steven Nichols, and Tony Reinke

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Review: Why Can't We Be Friends?

Why Can't We Be Friends? - Avoidance is Not Purity by Aimee Byrd, P&R Publishing, 2018, 243 pages.

Four year ago, the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals invited Aimee Byrd to join Carl Trueman and Todd Pruitt as a cohost for their podcast, The Mortification of Spin. To her surprise, not all the listeners were pleased. There were concerns about where this interaction would lead and even warnings that Aimee was an affair waiting to happen and a potential cause of moral downfall for two pastors.1 When I read this account in the beginning of Why Can't We Be Friends?, it reminded me of a another story.

In Openness Unhindered, Rosaria Butterfield was preparing a Lord's Day meal with another sister. It was just the two of them in the kitchen quietly working together, and then the question came up,
"Is this safe? Being alone together in the kitchen?"... "Does being alone with a woman bring back those feelings for you? Those kind of feelings."
Suddenly, the danger was exposed: I. It was I. I was the potential source of unsafety. I felt that chill of isolation creep in. She couldn't even name those feelings, they were so dirty, or foreign, or dangerous.... I was perplexed that even though I was a new creature in Christ, that was not good enough. I pondered why my identity in Christ did not seem to be good enough for her, and it made me wonder again, if it was good enough for God... Why did she not see that my identity in Christ was bigger than my past? Because there is another category of personhood that takes preeminence: sexual orientation."2
These responses from Christians aren't that different from the dictum of Harry Burns in the movie, When Harry Met Sally - "men and women can't be friends because the sex part always gets in the way."3 If Harry and the naysayers are right, then Aimee should be booted off the Mortification of Spin, and we should be wary of all cross-gender friendships in the church. For Rosaria, even same-gender friendships are potentially dangerous, so perhaps it would be safer to segregate her with just her family.

But is this how God wants his family to function? Are we called to commune around the Lord's table as fellow blood-bought believers and then view each other with suspicion? In our desire to obey the 7th commandment, do we inadvertently break the 9th by imputing sinful motives to one another? Is Christ's work in making us new creatures not good enough? Or have we lost something along the way? I think we have, which is why I am so glad Aimee wrote this book. The solution to the friendship problem is not just behavioral. It is, at its heart, theological.

Aimee identifies four theological categories that form the foundation of friendship, and these categories anchor the discourse in the subsequent chapters:4

Anthropology - What are we here for? We are created for communion with God and with one another.
Christology - Who are we as Christians? Christ, our elder brother, has not only given us new life but brought us into a new relationship as brothers and sisters.
Ecclesiology - We are God's family. How does he expect us to treat one another?
Eschatology - What is our ultimate hope?

Then in the first half of the book, Aimee examines the reasons why we think we can't be friends:5
- Our concept of identity is shaped by the culture and seen through the lens of stereotypes.
- We've forgotten the goal of communion with God and the outflow of that communion in the church.
- We've narrowed purity down to sex.
- Immaturity and fear weaken relationships.
- We've forgotten that we are family.

In the second half of the book, she gives ways where sanctified siblingship can flourish in the local church:6
- Our identity comes from our Elder Brother.
- Consider the "one anothers" in scripture.
- Cultivate holiness in one another through encouragement and exhortation.
- Practice community through table fellowship.
- Celebrate and suffer together.
- Model affectionate and appropriate relationships to the world.

There has been a lot of discussion about Why Can't We Be Friends? even before its release. There have been concerns that Aimee is advocating antinomianism (disregarding the moral law) in the area of friendship. I don't think this is the case at all. I believe she steers a theologically straight course between license and legalism, which is why I strongly recommend this book. She is not advocating permissiveness in our friendships. Neither does she give a list of cast iron dos and donts. Rather she raises the bar by encouraging her readers to look to Christ and what he has done on our behalf. It is through our union with him that the family of God can be family in holiness and purity. He sets the standard for friendship, not the culture. After all who gave us a new heart? Who gives us new desires? Are we perfect? No. Are we still tempted? Yes. But who convicts us of sin? Who delivers us from temptation and gives wisdom from situation to situation? Who is building his church and able to present her blameless at the last day?
Can men and women be friends? It's the wrong question. How could we even ask such a question if we understood the meaning of friendship?
Are we opposed to friendship? No - we are opposed to sin, and we are for holiness. And for this reason, men and women are called to be more than friends. We are called to Christ, in whom we become brothers and sisters As the saying goes, blood is thicker than water.7

For more on the book:
Mortification of Spin Podcast on Why Can't We Be Friends?
Theology Gals interview with Aimee Byrd 

1. Why Can't We Be Friends? - Avoidance is Not Purity, Aimee Byrd, P&R Publishing, 2018, pg. 7.
2. Openness Unhindered, Rosaria Butterfield, Crown & Covenant Publications, 2015, pp. 35-36. (bolding mine)
3. Byrd. pg. 25.
4. Ibid. pp. 15-16.
5. Ibid. Chapters 1-7.
6. Ibid. Chapters 8-13.
7. Ibid. pg. 229.

I received an e-copy of this book from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

Monday, July 2, 2018

Quotes of Note

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


A friend recently asked me about How to Think by Alan Jacobs. I finished it last year, and it's one of the best books I've read on how thinking, or its lack, is intertwined with how we treat people. If you want examples, just observe how well people respond when someone disagrees with them on social media. Usually not so well, which is one of the main reasons Jacobs wrote this book.
Why would people ever think, when thinking deprives them of "the pleasure of sharing an attitude one knows is socially approved" - especially in an online environment where the social approval of one's attitudes is so much easier to acquire, in the currency of likes, faves, followers and friends? And to acquire instantaneously? (pg. 21)
People invested in not knowing, not thinking about, certain things in order to have "the pleasure of sharing an attitude one knows is socially approved" will be ecstatic when their consensus is gratified - and wrathful when it is thwarted. (Social bonding is cemented by shared emotion, shared emotion generates social bonding, It's a feedback loop from which reflection is excluded.)...  Anyone who claims not to be shaped by such forces is almost self-deceived. Human beings are not built to be indifferent to the waves and pulses of their social world. For most of us the question is whether we have even the slightest reluctance to drift along with the flow. The person who genuinely wants to think will have to develop strategies for recognizing the subtlest of social pressures, confronting the pull of the ingroup and disgust for the outgroup. The person who wants to think will have to practice patience and master fear. (pg. 23)

J.I. Packer is not only an astute theologian, he is a great writer. In this passage from Concise Theology, he describes beautifully the importance of Christ's resurrection:
Jesus' resurrection, which was a divine act involving all three Persons of the Godhead (John 10:17-18; Acts 13:30-35; Rom 1:4), was not just a resuscitation of the ruined physical frame that was taken down from the cross for burial. It was, rather, a transformation of Jesus' humanity that enabled him to appear, vanish, and move unseen from one location to another (Luke 24:31, 36). It was the creative renewing of his original body, the body that is now fully glorified and deathless (Phil. 3:21; Heb. 7:16, 24). The Son of God in heaven still lives in and through that body, and will do so forever. In I Corinthians 15:50-54, Paul envisages that Christians who are alive on earth at the moment of Christ's return will undergo a similar transformation, though in 2 Corinthians 5:1-5 he shows himself aware that Christians who die before the Second Coming will be "clothed" with their new body (the "eternal house in heaven") as a distinct event, at or after the time of the body's return to dust (Gen. 3:19).

Last Friday I linked to a 5 Minutes in Church History piece on William Cowper. Cowper was a British poet and hymn writer who suffered from some kind of mental illness. In his melancholy episodes, which were long-lasting, he was convinced that he had been forsaken by God. Although he was a believer, he was sure that ultimately he would be what he called a “castaway”; that is, in the end, Christ would say to him, “I never knew you.” These compulsive thoughts were, I'm certain, symptoms of his mental illness. After all, he truly believed that all those who trust in Christ are surely saved, and he knew that he was trusting in Christ. Yet he couldn’t rid himself of the idea that he was the one and only exception to the rule, the only person who ever lived who would trust in Christ and still be rejected.

Elizabeth Barrett Browning wrote a beautiful poem called Cowper's Grave that reflects on William Cowper's sad life and the peace that he found only in the afterlife when he saw Jesus face to face—when he "felt those eyes alone, and knew—'My Saviour! not deserted!'"

Cowper's Grave 
It is a place where poets crowned may feel the heart’s decaying;
It is a place where happy saints may weep amid their praying;
Yet let the grief and humbleness as low as silence languish:
Earth surely now may give her calm to whom she gave her anguish. 
O poets, from a maniac’s tongue was poured the deathless singing!
O Christians, at your cross of hope a hopeless hand was clinging!
O men, this man in brotherhood your weary paths beguiling,
Groaned inly while he taught you peace, and died while ye were smiling! 
And now, what time ye all may read through dimming tears his story,
How discord on the music fell and darkness on the glory,
And how when, one by one, sweet sounds and wandering lights departed,
He wore no less a loving face because so broken-hearted, 
He shall be strong to sanctify the poet’s high vocation,
And bow the meekest Christian down in meeker adoration;
Nor ever shall he be, in praise, by wise or good forsaken,
Named softly as the household name of one whom God hath taken. 
With quiet sadness and no gloom I learn to think upon him,
With meekness that is gratefulness to God whose heaven hath won him,
Who suffered once the madness-cloud to His own love to blind him,
But gently led the blind along where breath and bird could find him; 
And wrought within his shattered brain such quick poetic senses
As hills have language for, and stars, harmonious influences:
The pulse of dew upon the grass kept his within its number,
And silent shadows from the trees refreshed him like a slumber. 
Wild timid hares were drawn from woods to share his home-caresses,
Uplooking to his human eyes with sylvan tendernesses:
The very world, by God’s constraint, from falsehood’s ways removing,
Its women and its men became, beside him, true and loving. 
And though, in blindness, he remained unconscious of that guiding,
And things provided came without the sweet sense of providing,
He testified this solemn truth, while phrenzy desolated,
—Nor man nor nature satisfies whom only God created. 
Like a sick child that knoweth not his mother while she blesses
And drops upon his burning brow the coolness of her kisses,—
That turns his fevered eyes around—“My mother! where’s my mother?”—
As if such tender words and deeds could come from any other!— 
The fever gone, with leaps of heart he sees her bending o’er him,
Her face all pale from watchful love, the unweary love she bore him!
Thus woke the poet from the dream his life’s long fever gave him,
Beneath those deep pathetic Eyes which closed in death to save him. 
Thus? oh, not thus! no type of earth can image that awaking,
Wherein he scarcely heard the chant of seraphs, round him breaking,
Or felt the new immortal throb of soul from body parted,
But felt those eyes alone, and knew—“My Saviour! not deserted!” 
Deserted! Who hath dreamt that when the cross in darkness rested,
Upon the Victim’s hidden face no love was manifested?
What frantic hands outstretched have e’er the atoning drops averted?
What tears have washed them from the soul, that one should be deserted? 
Deserted! God could separate from His own essence rather;
And Adam’s sins have swept between the righteous Son and Father:
Yea, once, Immanuel’s orphaned cry His universe hath shaken—
It went up single, echoless, “My God, I am forsaken!” 
It went up from the Holy’s lips amid His lost creation,
That, of the lost, no son should use those words of desolation!
That earth’s worst phrenzies, marring hope, should mar not hope’s fruition,
And I, on Cowper’s grave, should see his rapture in a vision.


In my research and studies I keep bumping up against theories that tend to dichotomize reason over against experience, truth verses imagination, and modernism against postmodernism. To that end, I recalled how much I previously enjoyed our church Sunday School a couple of summers ago in which we studied Fool's Talk: Recovering the Art of Christian Persuasion by Os Guinness. He wrote:
Creative persuasion is a matter of being biblical, not of being either modern or postmodern. In today’s climate, anyone who prizes reason and truth and makes use of them in the defense of the faith is apt to be dismissed as a modernist. Equally, anyone who uses imagination and stories is apt to be either praised or dismissed as postmodern, depending on the speaker’s view of postmodernism. But the fact is that the Bible itself is the grandest of grand stories, yet it prizes truth and reason without being modernist, and it prizes countless stories within its overall story without being postmodern either. In short, the Bible is both rational and experiential, propositional as well as relational, so that genuinely biblical arguments work in any age and with any person (pp. 33-34).