Twelve Ordinary Men

Twelve Ordinary MenTwelve Ordinary Men by John F. MacArthur Jr.

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A look at the 12 disciples of Jesus.
“When they do come to the foreground, it is often to manifest doubt, disbelief, or confusion. Sometimes we see them thinking more highly of themselves than they ought to think. Sometimes they speak when they ought to remain silent and seem clueless about things they ought to have understood. Sometimes they exhibit more confidence in their own abilities and their own strength than they should. So their shortcomings and weaknesses show up more often than their strengths. In that sense, the raw honesty of the Gospel accounts is amazing.”
“The Gospels are the record of how Jesus trained them. Scripture deliberately records more about Jesus and His teaching than it does about the lives of these men. It all serves to remind us that the Lord loves to use weak and common people. If the faults and character flaws of the apostles seem like a mirror of your own weaknesses, take heart. These are the kinds of people the Lord delights to use.”

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Paperbackswap

In case you haven’t heard of it, there’s this wonderful book-swapping site called Paperbackswap. Now the name is slightly misleading because it’s not just paperbacks that get swapped, but hardcovers and audio books as well. You list the books you’re willing to mail out on the site. When someone requests them, you mail it out (paying for postage). When that person receives it and marks it received, you get a credit that you can then use to request a book from someone else.

This is a great way to get rid of unwanted books (or books you’ve finished and want to get rid of) and obtain new ones relatively cheaply (cost of postage and a swap fee of 49 cents). You can also add books that aren’t currently available on a wishlist so that if someone posts that book, you get a notification so you can request it if you still want it.

So I broke my “no-book-buy” freeze and bought 2 books. This was after I requested several books through paperbackswap. And then I requested 4 books from inter-library loan – Funny Story: So part of my no-book-buy freeze was to not request any library books as the whole point of the freeze was to get through my own physical books. My local library requires you to renew your library card annually on your birthday. I forgot to do that this year and as I was trying not to request books it hadn’t really been an issue. Until Thursday when I decided to request a few and remembered that I had forgotten to renew. Well, it was snowy on Thursday and I didn’t really want to go out, but I couldn’t renew over the phone. So after a brief try at using my old library card from where we previously lived, I ended up going out to renew my library card. I think I officially qualify as being addicted to books!

The good news is that I have been able to read through my own physical books for the last couple months, so I was making progress. After this library request, I will go back on my no-book-buy freeze and try to go longer this time. 🙂

 

A Season of Waiting

It appears that I am currently in a season of waiting. I don’t know what God has for me regarding future ministry with teaching. While there are other ways I’m able to be involved at this time, teaching is not one of them. And I don’t know if it will even be a possibility in the future. I’m also trying to find someone to do a Bible study with. Currently I have not found anyone who is available to add on to what they are already involved in. I have found that I don’t particularly care for doing Bible study on my own. I am waiting for a Bible study book to arrive that I requested for review. That will be something I can work on until closer to summer when other ladies may be available to do a study with.

Waiting is never much fun. Yet God has designed that waiting be part of our lives. Even daily we wait in traffic at traffic lights, or in line at the grocery store, or on the phone trying to resolve a bill. And patience is part of the fruit of the Spirit that is to adorn the Christian’s life. God can use seasons of waiting to draw us closer to Him, to help us to depend on Him more and to develop our trust in Him. Perhaps I won’t have a chance to teach again. That is up to God. He is the one who gifts and provides opportunities for using those gifts. Am I desiring these things in my life rather than trusting God to fulfill His purposes in me? Even good things can become idols. We are all teachers in one way or another just in the relationships we have with others. God can use me to help teach others through my friendships and day-to-day living. It doesn’t have to be a formal teaching situation.

What I do during this time of waiting is important. In all areas of our lives we are to glorify God, to honor Him and obey Him. I need to be about the task of exalting Christ in what I say, how I act and my attitude through it all. “Do everything without complaining or arguing,” (Philippians 2:14). Perhaps you find yourself in a season of waiting as well. Or you are in a stage of life where you desire to use your gifts and are not able to because of other obligations with family or work. Rather than focusing on what we are not able to currently do, let us use the waiting time to focus on God and exalting Him to others around us.

Bible Study in Community

One of the things that I learned from the Simeon Trust workshop last year is the importance of studying the Bible in community. We don’t have all the answers ourselves. In studying the Bible, it is important to study along with other believers in order to keep each other in check, making sure we are understanding the text properly and not going off into some strange interpretation. I recently did a study on the book of Romans on my own and found it quite challenging. It was overwhelming and I felt like I had no way to check myself that I was on the right track in my understanding. Now I realize that commentaries can be used as a way to check oneself and see whether our interpretations are in line. But there is much to be said about studying the Bible with others who are studying it at the same time and can provide accountability and balance. My husband has been studying the Bible with a friend for the last several years. They study on their own and meet weekly to discuss what they’ve learned. I have seen the growth in him by studying the Bible this way. I long for something similar. Group studies are one way that this can happen and I am part of a weekly study at our new church.

I would encourage you to be part of a group Bible study (not just a book study, but actually studying the Bible). Or pair up with another person of the same sex to study through a book of the Bible together. If meeting regularly is an issue, email can be a great way to discuss what we’re learning also. I have done that before with my family since we don’t live near each other. But try to find others to study the Bible with you rather than doing it on your own. The insights learned, the balance of keeping oneself on track, and the fellowship of learning the Bible together is invaluable for a Christian’s growth.

The Strawman Fallacy

One of the things I see a lot of in arguments for a particular view is the strawman fallacy. This is when one misrepresents the other person’s view, making it easier to refute. For example, Arminians may characterize the Calvinist view as saying that people are robots, or that we (yes, I’m a Calvinist) don’t think missions and evangelism is important. However, that is misrepresenting what Calvinists (at least most of them) actually believe and teach. Calvinists hold to a view of God’s divine sovereignty and man’s human responsibility working together in a way that we don’t understand but see confirmed in Scripture. People are not robots. Also, evangelism and missions are the means God uses to reach His elect. Since we don’t know who the elect are, we need to evangelize and spread the gospel. Calvinists may also misrepresent the Arminian view, saying that they downplay God’s sovereignty. We need to be careful that when we are arguing against a view, we are actually representing what that view is saying accurately and not misrepresenting it.

Another one that I see often: Dispensationalists tend to misrepresent covenant theology’s view and call it “replacement theology”, saying that covenant theologians replace Israel with the church in how God is working today. This is a strawman fallacy, a misrepresentation of what covenant theologians actually believe and teach. We (yes, I’m a covenant theologian, at least not a dispensationalist) do not think that the church replaces Israel. Rather, that the church has been made one with Israel, those who are believers, and are all one body in Christ, no longer separated as Jews and Gentiles (this is made quite clear in Ephesians 2). Rather than the church replacing Israel, we are now all part of true Israel, God’s people. God all along had a plan for a people of His own that came from every nation. We are all one in Christ.

Now this one may step on some toes. One of the views that I see misrepresented all the time is Old Earth Creationism (OEC) by those who are Young Earth Creationists (YEC). It seems that a lot of YEC proponents lump OEC in with Theistic Evolution, which says that God used evolutionary processes to create the world. Theistic Evolution doesn’t necessarily hold to a historical Adam (maybe some do, I don’t want to misrepresent their view). So when YEC argues for their view, they consider OEC proponents not to take the Bible seriously (at least the first 2 chapters of Genesis) and not to believe in historical Adam, and consider them the same as Theistic Evolutionists. This is not at all what OEC holds to! Old Earth Creationists believe that God did create the world out of nothing by speaking it into existence and by creating a literal Adam and Eve out of the ground and Adam’s rib. He did not use evolution to guide the process but created the world as it says in Genesis 1 and 2. They may view the language of Genesis 1 as poetic and not necessarily meaning 6 literal days, but they still hold to God creating the world out of nothing and that the Bible is the inspired, inerrant Word of God. They just interpret Genesis 1 differently. Though some Old Earth Creationists would say that there is a gap between Genesis 1:1 and Genesis 1:2, others would say that the 6 days were literal, but there were gaps in between the days. But the bottom line is that in spite of what some YEC proponents state, OEC do believe in God creating the world (not using evolution) and that there is a real, historical Adam and Eve.

Whether we agree with the view is irrelevant, we need to make sure we are accurately portraying the opposing view and not misrepresenting what they are actually teaching.

Guidance and the Voice of God

Guidance and the Voice of GodGuidance and the Voice of God by Phillip D. Jensen

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Very practical, easy-to-read book on how to determine what God’s will is. Reminded me of Kevin DeYoung’s book Just Do Something. The truth is that God has revealed what He wants us to do in His Word. When we look for additional signs outside His Word, we are basically saying that His Word is inadequate.
Would recommend this for every Christian to read. Really tackles misconceptions that abound in today’s Christian culture about how to find God’s will.

Peacemaking Women

Peacemaking Women: Biblical Hope for Resolving ConflictPeacemaking Women: Biblical Hope for Resolving Conflict by Tara Klena Barthel

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Not a “fluff” book – good stuff for helping to work through conflicts in relationships.

Quotes:
“We are prone to worry. Worry is that constant obsessing about the worst possible outcome to a situation. Worry is misplaced faith. When we worry, we call God a liar and deny him as our heavenly Father. Worry is the soul’s usurpation of God’s sovereignty and is the distinguishing mark of the pagan world. When we worry, we usually engage in thoughts, words, and actions that are rooted in unbelief.”

“I realized that all that we strive for, all that we build and imagine, everything we do, will come to ruin. No book we write, no speech we give, and no vision we pursue will make it into eternity. Only people make it into eternity. Our relationships with one another will endure throughout all time, even as all that we have accomplished will fade away. Every human being will live in eternity – some in blissful joy because they have placed their trust in Jesus Christ and some in unending agony because they have rejected his saving grace. The glory of man dissolves away. The glory of God endures forever and is most profoundly revealed in us and in our relationships.”

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Quote by Harry Ironside

Exposing Error: Is it Worthwhile?
By Dr. Harry Ironside

Objection is often raised even by some sound in the faith-regarding the exposure of error as being entirely negative and of no real edification. Of late, the hue and cry has been against any and all negative teaching. But the brethren who assume this attitude forget that a large part of the New Testament, both of the teaching of our blessed Lord Himself and the writings of the apostles, is made up of this very character of ministry-namely, showing the Satanic origin and, therefore, the unsettling results of the propagation of erroneous systems which Peter, in his second epistle, so definitely refers to as “damnable heresies.”

Our Lord prophesied, “Many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many.” Within our own day, how many false prophets have risen; and oh, how many are the deceived! Paul predicted, “I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them. Therefore watch.” My own observation is that these “grievous wolves,” alone and in packs, are not sparing even the most favoured flocks. Undershepherds in these “perilous times” will do well to note the apostle’s warning: “Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers.” It is as important in these days as in Paul’s-in fact, it is increasingly important-to expose the many types of false teaching that, on every hand, abound more and more.

We are called upon to “contend earnestly for the faith once for all delivered to the saints,” while we hold the truth in love. The faith means the whole body of revealed truth, and to contend for all of God’s truth necessitates some negative teaching. The choice is not left with us. Jude said he preferred a different, a pleasanter theme-“Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints. For there are certain men crept in unawares, who were before of old ordainedto this condemnation, ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness, and denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ” (Jude 3, 4). Paul likewise admonishes us to “have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them” (Eph. 5:11).

This does not imply harsh treatment of those entrapped by error-quite the opposite. If it be objected that exposure to error necessitates unkind reflection upon others who do not see as we do, our answer is: it has always been the duty of every loyal servant of Christ to warn against any teaching that would make Him less precious or cast reflection upon His finished redemptive work and the all-sufficiency of His present service as our great High Priest and Advocate.

Every system of teaching can be judged by what it sets forth as to these fundamental truths of the faith. “What think ye of Christ?” is still the true test of every creed. The Christ of the Bible is certainly not the Christ of any false “-ism.” Each of the cults has its hideous caricature of our lovely Lord.

Let us who have been redeemed at the cost of His precious blood be “good soldiers of Jesus Christ.” As the battle against the forces of evil waxes ever more hot, we have need for God-given valour.

There is constant temptation to compromise. “Let us go forth therefore unto Him without the camp, bearing His reproach.” It is always right to stand firmly for what God has revealed concerning His blessed Son’s person and work. The “father of lies” deals in half-truths and specializes in most subtle fallacies concerning the Lord Jesus, our sole and sufficient Savior.

Error is like leaven of which we read, “A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump.” Truth mixed with error is equivalent to all error, except that it is more innocent looking and, therefore, more dangerous. God hates such a mixture! Any error, or any truth-and-error mixture, calls for definite exposure and repudiation. To condone such is to be unfaithful to God and His Word and treacherous to imperiled souls for whom Christ died.

Exposing error is most unpopular work. But from every true standpoint it is worthwhile work. To our Savior, it means that He receives from us, His blood-bought ones, the loyalty that is His due. To ourselves, if we consider “the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt,” it ensures future reward, a thousand-fold. And to souls “caught in the snare of the fowler”-how many of them God only knows-it may mean light and life, abundant and everlasting.

Friendships

A reminder to be the kind of friend who builds others up

Sojourner Between Worlds

“Let us seek friends that will stir us up about our prayers, our Bible reading, our use of time, our souls, and our salvation” J. C. Ryle

Do we seek this kind of friend?

And we should also seek to be this kind of friend to others. How are we building up our friends? Encouraging them in their walk with Christ? Helping them to focus on Christ in their daily lives? Talking to them about what we are reading in our Bibles and encouraging them in their Bible reading?

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Journey through the Bible

My husband and I do a read-through of the Bible in 90 days every other year from February 1 to May 1 (on even years).  We try to encourage others to join us in this endeavor. Since this is an “even” year (2016), we are starting our read-through today. This is my third time doing this. The first time I used a chronological Bible to read through. Last time I read straight through using the Bible in 90 Days Bible. This year I am using the ESV One-Year Bible. Each day’s reading includes the Old Testament, the New Testament, Psalms, and Proverbs (it actually takes you through Psalms twice). So it is straight through, but in 4 sections at the same time. Rather than taking the full year to read through it, I will read several days’ worth at a time.

My husband Jono and I have found this to be a wonderful way to get an overview of the Bible and to see the big picture. While we are strong proponents of Bible study and digging into the meat of Scripture, we also see the importance of reading the Bible as one book, an unfolding story of God’s redemption for mankind. Another huge benefit for me is that it has helped me to develop the discipline of consistent Bible reading.