Monday, April 29, 2019

Quotes of Note


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

Persis:

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

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

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

Kim:

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

Friday, April 26, 2019

Five Star Links


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

Rebecca:

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


Kim: 

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


Persis:

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

Monday, April 22, 2019

Quotes of Note


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


Kim:

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

Persis:

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

Friday, April 19, 2019

Five Star Links


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

Rebecca:

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

Persis:

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

Kim:

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

Thursday, April 18, 2019

Look for the Helper


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Friday, April 12, 2019

Five Star Links


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

Kim:

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


Persis:

Here are two links that made me think:

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

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

Rebecca:

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

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

A Dark, Mysterious Night

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

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

Monday, April 8, 2019

Quotes of Note


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

Kim:

From Reformed Dogmatics: God and Creation, by Herman Bavinck

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


Persis:

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

Rebecca:

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

Friday, April 5, 2019

Five Star Links


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


Kim:


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


Persis:


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

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