Sunday, May 24, 2015

Luther on the Christian Life by Carl Trueman

Luther on the Christian Life: Cross and FreedomLuther on the Christian Life: Cross and Freedom by Carl R. Trueman
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Honestly I had a bit of trouble getting into this book. It starts off with an overview of Luther's life and shows that he was human and had weaknesses just like all of us. Once I got further into the book it grabbed my attention more, perhaps because it was talking about Luther's emphasis on the importance of the Bible and the need for the Word to be central to the Christian's life. "Luther's view of the Christian life, like his view of the success of the Reformation, was rooted first and foremost in the overwhelming power of the preached Word."
This book, while not a biography, gives an extensive look at Luther's theology and life, and doesn't hold back from the warts and weaknesses of Luther. Too often we focus more on the successes of our heroes, but they are human too and Luther had failings. While not spending too much time on these failings, the author doesn't shy away from them. Also, Luther's theology was continually forming and wasn't set in stone when he nailed his Ninety-Five Theses. It was an ongoing process. We too often think he had it all figured out, but he was continually learning just as we do.
So far, my favorite book in this Theologians on the Christian Life series is either the one on Schaeffer or Warfield. While this one on Luther didn't grab me quite as much (hence the 3 stars instead of 4), it was still a good read and a good look at Luther's life and what he believed on different issues (such as the importance of the Bible and the sacraments of baptism and communion, as well as his views on civil authority, marriage and family).

*I received a copy of this book free from the publisher Crossway in exchange for my review.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

The Message of the General Epistles in the History of Redemption by Brandon Crowe

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The "general" epistles, also known as the "Catholic" epistles (meaning universal, not to a specific church or individual) are the books of 1 and 2 Peter, James, Jude, 1, 2 and 3 John. Sometimes these books can be confusing, particularly James with its message of works which seems to contradict Paul's message of salvation by faith. In this book the author provides a very readable commentary on these epistles by breaking down what they say regarding our salvation (the indicative) and our sanctification (the imperative).
Each book is walked through, first examining how the book presents our salvation and then looking at how that is lived out by our Christian walk. Noting themes of who each book is primarily addressing, such as "scallywags" or "scoffers", the author breaks down the overall message of each book and shows how they relate to the rest of the Bible. Rather than being contradictory, these epistles go along with the theme of the rest of the Bible - Christ accomplishing our salvation for us.
I found this book very readable and understandable, even addressing some of the harder passages in these books. Each chapter also ends with questions for discussion so it could easily be used as a group study to better understand these books of the Bible.
Some quotes:
(In Jude) "The call for those who are more stable in the faith is to lead others to the safety of our genuine, holy faith."
"Here is a warning for all who study Scripture: may we never allow knowledge of the Bible to occlude the reality and glory of Christ, whom we meet on its pages."

*I received a copy of this ebook free from the publisher P & R Publishing through Netgalley in exchange for my review.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Thoughts from the Simeon Trust Workshop Training

Originally published on my private blog on March 12, 2015:

Where to even begin regarding the impact that going to the Simeon Trust Workshop had on me. And not just the workshop itself but the conversations with other ladies that pointed me in a different direction than I was doing. Realizing how bad I am at studying the Bible and the incredible need for studying with other believers. And yet my still having the desire to teach and share with others what the Bible says and to awaken a passion within them for God's Word and knowing it. To spend a few days surrounded by other Christian women who are passionate about studying God's Word and want to do it correctly was an amazing experience. Too often I feel that others around me aren't as invested in studying God's Word as I am or don't have the desire to know and read the Bible like I do. Oh that others would see the joy that can be found in knowing God through His Word!
As I continue on this path of teaching and leading, I have found that while leading a discussion group is part of it, my heart is to teach. BSF leadership training is not the direction to prepare me for that. I've struggled a bit with being at BSF, finding it not as deep as what I would like. While I have learned a lot this year through the study of Moses - the holiness of God and the horribleness of our sin - it's still a more basic study than what I would prefer. And there is a tendency for the text to be moralized in order to bring out application, when perhaps there really isn't a direct application in that particular text. After conversations at the workshop, I've come to the decision that continuing in BSF is not the route I want to take. I will likely finish out the year but not continue in the fall. Dropping BSF will free me up for other potential Bible studies or perhaps even teaching opportunities with Sunday School. Though I don't know that I really am good enough for teaching. Perhaps starting with teaching theology rather than a direct Bible study will give me room to grow in how I study the Bible and help me to become more proficient at it before leading an actual study.
I've also seen that I long for actual Bible study, not just a book discussion group. But others don't seem to have that desire, at least not as strongly.
I think part of the allure or encouragement of the workshop was being around other women that seemed to be similar to where I am in my spiritual walk. Sometimes I feel alone, that with the books I read I'm further ahead than others and find it hard to have conversations. But I have to be mindful of pride and remember that I'm only where I'm at because of God's grace to me. And I need to learn how to pass on my knowledge in a way that can be understood and help others to grow further.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

The Changing of a Dream

Originally published on my private blog on January 15, 2015:

I worked in the Short-Term department at SEND International, a missions agency, for 2 years and this was my dream job. Because of a unhealthy emotional situation there, I needed to leave after 2 years and ended up at another job where I worked for almost 10 years before quitting to stay at home and work part-time. At the time I had to leave my dream job at SEND, I was devastated and didn't really understand what God was doing, just knew that I needed to leave and He was in control of it. Now, many years later, I realize that what I'm doing now is really a dream "job" and would not have been possible most likely if I had stayed at SEND. By my working at another job that paid more over the last several years, we were able to get out of debt and be in a financial position for me to cut back to part-time work instead of full-time. This has freed me up to be more involved at our church and in ministry opportunities. I am developing relationships and using my gifts in ways that never would have happened if I had stayed at SEND. God's dreams were bigger than any that I had.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

1 Peter

Originally published on my private blog on December 24, 2014:

Reading through 1 Peter multiple times in preparation for my study on it. Which in turn, is preparation for the teacher training workshop I will be going to in March where I will have to teach on two of the passages and critique others on their teaching. In my Bible study how-to, I harp on the importance of context and reading whole passages rather than picking verses out here and there. So reading an entire book in one sitting is helpful in getting the overall feel and theme of the book. So what has been my takeaway so far from 1 Peter?
Be sober and vigilant, be willing to suffer for doing what is right, our inheritance is secure. So often our focus is on what is going on currently in our lives and how we can best prevent trials and suffering. We forget that this world is merely temporary, a blip on the eternal future that we have waiting for us, secured by Christ. The trials now are part of our exile in a land that is not our own.
I'm not experiencing suffering currently. Though that could change in the blink of an eye. Feeling incredibly blessed these days in the life that I have. Yet this life is nothing compared to what awaits.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

From the Mouth of God by Sinclair Ferguson

From the Mouth of God: Trusting, Reading and Applying the BibleFrom the Mouth of God: Trusting, Reading and Applying the Bible by Sinclair B. Ferguson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Having read many "how to study the Bible" books, this one seems to approach it from a different angle. The first section of the book deals with why we can trust the Bible, how the Bible came about, and its inerrancy and authenticity. It then goes into how to read the Bible, and offers 5 keys for approaching the Bible correctly in our interpretation: context, Jesus, the unfolding drama, Biblical logic, and literary character of the book. Then some time is spent on the different literary genres of the Bible and understanding them according to their particular literature style. Finally, it goes into applying the Bible and looks at 2 Timothy 3:16 - profitable for doctrine, reproof, correction, and training in righteousness. The parable of the soils is examined in light of studying the Bible.
This book doesn't give a particular method for studying the Bible, but rather brings out why the Bible is important and how we are to approach it. In a day and age where everything is relative, the Bible remains authentic and inerrant, something we can trust. Knowing it is important because it is how God reveals Himself to us. At the end of the book it gives suggestions for study aids and tools, and for reading the Bible.
"When we are under such pressure (and we are all under it at times), mere knowledge of the Bible will not protect us - we need the God of the Book, not simply the Book about God. But without knowledge of the Book there will be no protection at all. Fail to use the Spirit's sword to unmask the deceitfulness of sin, and the battle to serve Christ will be lost without a blow being struck in our defence. But if we have learned from Scripture to be on our guard, and have grown in discernment through its teaching, we will be able to distinguish between true and false, right and wrong, good and evil, God and Satan. Then it will be possible for us to stand 'in the evil day', and at the end of it to 'stand firm'."

This book wasn't what I was expecting it to be, but it was good nonetheless.

Thanks to Banner of Truth for providing me a copy of this book free in exchange for my review.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

So Many Thoughts

Originally published on my private blog on November 12, 2014:

Sometimes it seems that I have so many thoughts and ideas running through my brain. That my brain doesn't really shut off but continues to percolate. Yesterday I found myself at work thinking about our church and some things I wanted to discuss with my husband Jono about it. I had to tell myself to stop thinking about it until I got home and could actually discuss it with him. Part of it was I didn't want to forget the questions I wanted to ask him. But I needed to stop thinking about it and concentrate more on what I was doing.
I think part of it may be related to my having OCD (obsessive-compulsive disorder). The actual disorder, not the "oh I'm a neat freak, I must have OCD" type. The obsessive nature of thinking about the same things and re-hashing them in my brain is related to the disorder. Thankfully, I'm on medication that helps to keep the disorder under control for the most part. But it does rear its head now and then.
Sometimes I think this desire to get training for teaching better is just causing extra work in my life. Do I really want to pursue this? Is it really worth all this time and effort? But that's the lazy side of me talking. I think God has given me this gift and unless I'm told that no, you're a lousy teacher and shouldn't do it, I think I need to pursue this. The discipline alone is good for me. And regardless of the outcome, it is good learning experience and helpful just to grow me as a person.