Friday, March 29, 2019

Five Star Links


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


Kim:

Who "is" or "Becomes" your neighbour?

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

Persis:

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

Rebecca:

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

Monday, March 25, 2019

Quotes of Note


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

Kim:

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

Persis:

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

Rebecca:

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

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

Friday, March 22, 2019

Five Star Links


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

Persis:

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

Rebecca:

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

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

Monday, March 18, 2019

Quotes of Note


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

Persis:

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

Rebecca:

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

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

Friday, March 15, 2019

Five Star Links


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

Persis:

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

Rebecca: 

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

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

Kim:

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

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

Monday, March 11, 2019

Quotes of Note


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

Persis:

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

Rebecca:

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

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

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

Friday, March 8, 2019

Five Star Links


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


Kim:

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

Persis:

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

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

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

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

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

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

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

Monday, March 4, 2019

Quotes of Note


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

Persis:

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

Kim:

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

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

Rebecca:

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

Friday, March 1, 2019

Five Star Links


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

Kim:

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


Rebecca:

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


Persis:

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