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.

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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.

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.

The Meaning of Church

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

While this blog allows me a place to chronicle my journey in teaching and leadership, it is also a place to write out other issues that come through my life. We are not isolated compartments but whole beings. While the struggles I face in one area might have nothing to do with teaching, they affect me which in turn affects how I respond to situations and perhaps to teaching issues that arise.
Struggling with church issues has been an off and on, up and down issue throughout my entire life. Having not grown up in one specific church, my childhood memories of church consist of sitting uncomfortably in a church where I didn’t understand the language. As well as memories of the English “church” service that the missionaries held on Sunday nights, where different men would take turns speaking or a tape of a sermon would be played. For the years I lived in the US, I was part of a local church, attending youth group and Sunday School, and even being part of the choir. Church in Kenya was listening to sermons in 2 languages, which often caused a lack of paying attention, since the train of thought kept getting stopped to interpret. Again missionaries met for an English service, which I found a time of hanging out with my friends and the boy I liked.
In college church was required, which didn’t make for a lasting bond. Often I had no choice in what church to go to, as I didn’t have a car and there was a church in walking distance. If I couldn’t get a ride elsewhere, I had to trek to the church in walking distance. There wasn’t a strong tie to the church as so many that attended were part of the college. During my senior year I was able to attend the church of my choice as I had a regular ride there. Once graduated and living in the same area with my own car, I was able to be part of this church. And making friends and getting involved there was beginning to happen for me as a young adult. But then I moved out of state. And discovered that finding a church as part of a couple was no easy matter.
Jono and I struggled with finding a church in Michigan. My past issues with churches reared their ugly head from time to time and I would withdraw from church to lick my wounds. Eventually we found a church and have now been there for 9 years. But no church is perfect and sometimes issues will arise. Lately we have been struggling with concerns at our church. Others have actually left the church – long-time members. This is concerning. Yet for now we have chosen to stay. We are hoping to be a positive influence for change. Yet the struggle is real and the discouragement hits often. How long will this take? Are we really making a difference?
I want to look at what the Bible says is the purpose for church. What is a church supposed to be accomplishing? Is our church doing this? If not, what needs to change or happen for it to be fulfilling the God-given mandate? If it is accomplishing its purpose, why the apathy and malaise?
I believe church is a body of believers who are Christ’s disciples, growing in likeness to Him and producing more disciples as commanded in Matthew 28. Using our gifts to edify each other and be effective disciples of Christ – this is what I see in the Bible. What does that look like in practical terms? These are questions I am looking at.

The More You Learn

Originally published on my private blog on October 19, 2014:

Sometimes ignorance can be bliss. But we are called as Christians to grow in our knowledge and maturity, to move from milk to meat. Part of spiritual growth is learning theology through study of God’s Word. It’s also learning discernment and comparing all teachings to Scripture to see if they line up. As I read and study, I learn that some books or authors that I previously thought were great, do not teach what lines up with the Bible. Discernment means being able to determine if someone is Biblical. Recently I learned some of the beliefs of one of my favorite Christian music groups-Phillips, Craig and Dean. Apparently they are part of the Oneness movement and do not believe in the Trinity. Rather they believe that God manifests himself either as God the Father, God the Son or the Holy Spirit. One of my favorite songs by them isĀ You Are God Alone. Yet, when the one singing the song doesn’t believe in the same God that is found in Scripture, what god are they really singing about? I found I was no longer comfortable listening to that song since the god they are singing about is not the God of the Bible. I’m no longer able to listen to their music now that I know what they profess to believe about God. It’s a shame, but as part of our growth we must always compare with Scripture. Even the music we listen to, the lyrics of Christian songs, must be compared with what the Bible says to see if it is accurate teaching.

When Discouragement Hits

Originally published on private blog on Tuesday, October 14, 2014:

It seems that discouragement comes often when one seeks to follow after God. The state of the world, the state of America, the state of churches, the state of Christians (or seemingly so-called anyway), and on and on. Apathy, relativism, pluralism, intolerance, lack of discernment, Biblical illiteracy, emotionalism, materialism – so many issues that are part of the world today. New Age practices and mysticism have creeped into the church and become mixed with Christian terms. People seek emotional experiences rather than solid truth. How to break through seems impossible.
I don’t have an answer for how to deal with the discouragement. Other than to keep plodding on and not use it as an excuse to give up. If I can influence just one person, is it worth it? I can’t change the world but maybe I can make a difference in at least one person’s life. And as long as I’m still on this earth, God can still use me. I need to be open, willing, and available.

The Happy Christian by David Murray

The Happy Christian: Ten Ways to Be a Joyful Believer in a Gloomy WorldThe Happy Christian: Ten Ways to Be a Joyful Believer in a Gloomy World by David P. Murray
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I had heard great things about this book. It was an easy read and had good things to say. Yet it didn’t really grab me. If it hadn’t been a review book, I may not have continued reading it. Though I attribute part of this to my being distracted by other things going on in my life while I was trying to read this.
I think overall, the book is very practical and challenges us to be mindful of how we look at things. One of the points that stood out to me was finding God’s common grace in the world, in those we come into contact with who may not believe as we do and yet have truth to say to us. Also the section on forgiveness was interesting. His take on how we are to forgive as God forgives and then explaining what that means was different than I’ve ever heard before on the topic of forgiveness.
I would recommend this book to those who may struggle with finding good in life. It is a helpful and practical book to look at things from a positive perspective.

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

The Winding Trail

Originally published on private blog Sunday, October 12, 2014:

Life often takes a path that we didn’t expect or plan for. I’m not really sure as a child what I expected or thought my adult life would be like. I changed my mind on career ideas several times, from being a teacher (about the only profession I knew at the time, roughly 3rd grade), to a dietician, a psychologist, sound engineer, counselor. In college I began with a counseling degree, switched to a 2-year degree expecting to transfer, then decided to stay and switched back to counseling, only to end up changing again to a General Ministries degree. As a result, my college courses consisted of several counseling classes, drama classes and Bible electives. My Bachelor’s degree is in Bible, with a General Ministries emphasis. I had no idea I would get into secretarial work and that would be the career path I would take.
While apparently I was never thrilled about the idea of having children, I remember in high school thinking that I would have kids because I would love my husband enough to have them for him. In hindsight, that’s a terrible reason to have children, but at the time I expected it. When the subject of kids came up with Jono and we realized neither of us cared about having them, it was a relief. Looking back now I don’t think I would have done well at all as a parent, with the emotional and health issues I struggled with, along with the levels of stress that I seem able to handle.
After my freshman year of college, I returned to Kenya for the summer to stay with my family and was involved in helping them with their various ministries in Nairobi. One of the ministries I did that summer was help teach a 5-year-olds Sunday School class at the Kenyan church we had planted. Most of the children didn’t know English yet, so an interpreter was involved. I discovered that I was not good with teaching children and that was not an avenue to explore for further ministry. Sometimes it takes trying different things to see what we’re good at.
Later I learned that teaching children and teaching adults are two completely different things. Just because I didn’t see myself able to teach children didn’t mean that I couldn’t teach adults. The opportunity came up at a church we were going to for me to lead an adult Sunday School class. I found that I really enjoyed the prepping for it and the actual teaching as well. Maybe this was something to consider, not as a career, but as a ministry. But with working full-time I found my energies depleted and my ability to be involved in ministry limited.
Now that I’m no longer working full-time, I wanted to try teaching women to see if I still enjoyed it. In finding that I did still enjoy it, and getting some affirmation from others that I did have ability in this area, I began pursuing leading studies. Doing a summer study seemed a good way to try this out – a short time commitment but long enough to get some idea if this was what I wanted to do. That showed me how much I don’t know! And the desire for training became high.
So now the trail has led to my desire to teach and lead women’s studies and getting further training to be more effective in this ministry. As I participate in some options, some providing training, some still a potential for training, I wait to see how God directs and leads in this area. I need to be willing to wait on His timing and for His opportunities not my own. Doors may not be open or timing may not be right. But I can trust God to fulfill His purposes in me as I wait on Him.

The Scripture Cannot Be Broken

A collection of essays regarding the inerrancy of Scripture and the importance of this issue for Christians, this book was a little harder to read than I had anticipated. Each of the essays are by different authors, so the writing isn’t the same throughout, but I had trouble with the book really grabbing me. It may be that the writing was more technical than I’m used to reading. I ended up giving up on the John Murray essay I was attempting to read on “The Attestation of Scripture” and jumping ahead to the next essay by J.I. Packer.
The doctrine of the inerrancy of Scripture is a critical doctrine particularly today when absolute truth is discarded and everyone has their own idea of what is true or not. The essays in this book seek to attest to the importance of this doctrine and to counter arguments against inerrancy. They also seek to define what inerrancy means. Some of the authors included are John Frame, B.B. Warfield, and others I hadn’t heard of before such as Edward J. Young and Alan Stibbs. This book seems to be more geared toward the scholarly reader and it takes a bit of effort to digest what is being presented.

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

My Journey into Teaching

Last year as I began the journey of starting to teach and lead studies, I started a private blog to chronicle the journey. I’ve decided to take those posts and transfer them here to this main blog, perhaps to be edifying to others who might be on similar journeys in discovering their ministry gifts and passions. The below post was originally published on October 9, 2014 with the title: “Time to Dust This One Off”.

Granted, this is a private blog for selected readers, but I think I’m going to “resurrect” it and maybe invite a few select friends to join me on this journey as I leap into the world of teaching and leading Bible studies. It seems to be an up and down journey of excitement and deflatement, giddiness and discouragement. I think chronicling it might help me to work through some of the emotions that seem to be part of the experience.
James 3:1 – “Not many of you should become teachers, my fellow believers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly.” (NIV)
A sober warning that I want to heed. Yet in considering this verse, I also have a passion to tell (or teach) others about the Bible and try to get them as excited about it as I am. I do think that God has gifted me in this area and will lead with opportunities as He sees fit. I just need to be open and follow along. So far I’ve learned:
-I don’t know what I’m doing – definitely need some training
-It’s not about me – what people think of me shouldn’t matter
-It is about God – showing others Who He is and awakening a desire within them to follow Him
-I have a long way to go with handling my emotions
-I need humility!!
Discouragement seems to come often and in various forms. Sad that sometimes it comes from other Christians. Which should not be, but alas, in this fallen world, Christians still hurt each other rather than encourage each other.