Thursday, January 19, 2017

Christian books: It's not "just fiction"

I love to read. With the New Year and all the 'Reading Challenges' that emerge as people make decisions at the start of the year, I'd decided to go back to reading for pleasure. This is an activity that had fallen by the wayside as I got busier, and my eyes grew more tired at night. Aging. It's not for sissies, lol.

I also decided to read the books that were on my own shelves to start with, rather than going out to buy a bunch of new books. Shop my own shelves, so to speak! So as I'd picked up that novel or this novel I'd had on my shelf since before salvation, and began to read them, I became dissatisfied. Sadly, the secular novels of today, even the literary ones, contain things my sanctifying soul objects to. Especially if there is profanity or blasphemy.

Are Christian books safer? Well, no. Take the book The Shack, for instance. This was a runaway bestseller back in 2007-2008 and onward. It was sold in Christian bookstores as a Christian book. Its author, William P. Young, wrote about a man who was staggering under heavy grief due to the kidnapping and death of his little daughter, which had happened in a derelict shack. One day the man received a handwritten note in his mailbox, with no stamp or postage, requesting his presence...in the shack. It turned out to have been an invitation from God. Curious, the man goes to the shack, where he also 'meets' Jesus and the Holy Spirit in addition to being greeted by 'God.' It turns out that according to the author's presentation of the Trinity, God is a woman, as is the Holy Spirit. The book goes on to present discussions between the persons of the Trinity and the man, regarding sin, evil, salvation, judgment, and other doctrines. The book teaches that sin is its own judgment, that hell exists to purge away unbelief (not punish for sin), that there is universal reconciliation, and other aberrant, non-biblical doctrines.

Many credible leaders in the faith negatively reviewed the book. I reviewed it negatively also. A common rebuttal to our negative view of the book was, "Lighten up. It's only fiction!" Or, "It's only a novel!"

Dear reader, novels teach an author's point of view, either subtly or overtly. It's no different for Christian novels. Novels with Christian themes use narrative to teach. We must all be Bereans and check to see that these things in the 'Christian' book are so, in whatever form the doctrines are coming to us. Doctrine is taught in songs, poems, sermons, lessons, theological books...and fiction.

Below are three essays regarding Christian fiction and theology that flesh out these issues.

Dr. R. Albert Mohler Jr. serves as president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. In this first essay I'm linking to, Albert Mohler offers thoughts on the missing art of evangelical discernment as encapsulated by evangelical response to The Shack. The massive popularity of the book meant that Christians were accepting of, or at least overlooking, the heretical doctrines The Shack espoused. Fiction or not, false doctrine is gangrenous, (2 Timothy 2:17) and spreads infection to all who come into contact with it. Infection is no respecter of literary genres.

Though The Shack was published 10 years ago, it is still evidencing strong sales, sure to be spurred by the imminent release of the movie of the same name. Dr Mohler wrote,
Even as Wayne Jacobson and others complain of those who identify heresy within The Shack, the fact is that the Christian church has explicitly identified these teachings as just that — heresy. The obvious question is this: How is it that so many evangelical Christians seem to be drawn not only to this story, but to the theology presented in the narrative — a theology at so many points in conflict with evangelical convictions?
[Professor Timothy Beal of Case Western University] then asks: "What are these progressive theological ideas doing in this evangelical pulp-fiction phenomenon?" He answers: "Unbeknownst to most of us, they have been present on the liberal margins of evangelical thought for decades." Now, he explains, The Shack has introduced and popularized these liberal concepts even among mainstream evangelicals.

So we see that Christian fiction is deliberately used to bring heretical ideas to the masses and worse, popularize them. Christian reader, beware! It's not "just fiction"!

In this linked essay, Samuel D. James muses on the current state of Christian Publishing, where adult coloring books and bubble-gum devotionals litter the top ten, and wonders why there is a gap between the thought-provoking content we regularly read on social media and blogs, versus the tripe we're exposed to in hard copy publishing.
As I look out on the confessional evangelical writing scene, I see a lot of good, even in places where I’d find much to disagree with. There is quite a bit of thoughtful, meaningful commentary out there right now. So when I see a list like this, I can’t help but wonder: Where’s the disconnect? Why am I seeing such a stark difference between the content I inhabit on a daily basis and the content that the average Christian is consuming at bestselling rates? I don’t have an answer for that.
There are a few things I do know:
The space right now for creative Christian writers is enormous. There is a real material need in American Christian culture for literary talent. We can’t talk to teenage and twentysomething believers about using their gifts for the good of the body of Christ and only point them toward vocational ministry or the mission field. Christian art matters (it always has), and it requires Christian artists. They won’t grow out of the ground; they have to be cultivated, encouraged, identified, and supported.
Hear hear. Where are the new authors? People who might have written acceptable fiction twenty years ago are not only growing older but many of them are growing more liberal (Max Lucado...Ted Dekker...etc) Where are the young credible, solid authors coming up? Many of those older authors have taught their own family and their offspring are now writing books, such as Max Lucado's daughter Jenna, and Beth Moore's daughter Melissa. This is even a more important question because the twenty-somethings of today have been raised entirely in a liberal, prosperity, market-driven church growth model with sermonettes passing for deep theological thought and 7-11 praise songs that pass for hymns.

Jesus noted the pattern when sinful doctrine is allowed to remain for periods of time in teaching, the next generation adopts it.

But I have this against you, that you tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess and is teaching and seducing my servants to practice sexual immorality and to eat food sacrificed to idols. 21 I gave her time to repent, but she refuses to repent of her sexual immorality. 22 Behold, I will throw her onto a sickbed, and those who commit adultery with her I will throw into great tribulation, unless they repent of her works, 23 and I will strike her children dead. (Rev 2:20-23a).

Christian reader, keep your eye out for good new authors, and buy their books and encourage them personally by offering good reviews on Amazon or even directly through their social media or email (if published).

I recommend reading the remainder of Mr James' article, also. He has several additional bullet point thoughts on the matter that are worth your time.

Here is the third article for your consideration, 12 Fiction Books That Will Shape Your Theology

I am mentioning this article not for the list, which may or may not contain books that are healthy 'eating' for the Christian, but for the fact that the author writes that it's a given that Christian fiction shapes theology.
When we think about the role of reading in our spiritual formation, we generally think of non-fiction books that help us understand scripture and theology, but fiction powerfully shapes the ways in which we think faithfully about God and the world. Here is some of the best fiction that has been most formative in my own theology. 
Here Albert Mohler states, that Christian books, specifically The Shack, are in fact sustained theological arguments.
In evaluating the book, it must be kept in mind that The Shack is a work of fiction. But it is also a sustained theological argument, and this simply cannot be denied. Any number of notable novels and works of literature have contained aberrant theology, and even heresy. The crucial question is whether the aberrant doctrines are features of the story or the message of the work. When it comes to The Shack, the really troubling fact is that so many readers are drawn to the theological message of the book, and fail to see how it conflicts with the Bible at so many crucial points.

What is meant here is, is the heretical message simply a mechanism to propel the narrative, as in an
example of a character who believes something unorthodox but eventually is saved from his sinful devotion to an aberrant theology, or is the aberrant message THE point of the book?  One of my favorite books of all time is Elmer Gantry by Sinclair Lewis. It tells the story of a false convert who rose to fame and celebrity pastor status, all the while not being a believer in any sense. The message of the book was to illustrate how this can happen, not promote that hypocrisy is to be accepted. The sustained theological argument of Elmer Gantry is that hypocrisy is bad, while the sustained theological argument in The Shack is that God does not punish sin and everyone will eventually be reconciled to God.

Friends, do not accept the argument that "it's just fiction!" Unorthodox theologies come to us in song, poems, art, sermons, movies, and books. We must be Bereans and test every theological argument that we absorb. If this sounds like a lot of work, it is. Paul repeatedly advised his readers to be vigilant. (For example, 1 Corinthians 16:13). We are on a battlefield in a war, and we don't only hear the cannons booming, but we must be alert for snipers, too. When it comes to accepting things not of the Lord, it all matters. A sniper is not "just a sniper," and Christian books are never "just fiction."

-------------------------------------------

Further Reading

The Gospel Coalition, Christian Reading List for 4th-5th grade (other grades and reading levels at link)

Pilgrim's Progress: (free online)
Pilgrim's Progress is a great work of Christian literature. Originally composed in the 17th century, this spiritual allegory has entertained and delighted innumerous readers for over 300 years. Part I tells of "Christian" and his journey to "Celestial City;" Part II tells of the journey of Christian's wife Christiana and their children to Celestial City. The two parts work together as a unified whole, which describes and depicts the believer's life and struggles. Indeed, given the easy style of the book, readers of all ages can understand the spiritual significance of the depictions in the story. However, Pilgrim's Progress does not simply instruct readers with spiritual allegories; it entertains them as well, through Bunyan's creative story telling. Enjoyable and spiritually instructive, Pilgrim's Progress is highly recommended. 
Pilgrim's Progress at Amazon for purchase







Wednesday, January 18, 2017

At table: What the Table of the Showbread signifies

Our relationship with God is like a meal with Him at table.

From my Ligonier class 'Understanding the Tabernacle', we read,
We tend to appreciate a delicious meal enjoyed in the company of good friends. Such delight in a common meal should not surprise us, because the Lord in His Word describes many times in both the Old and New Testaments how our relationship to Him is like a meal we sit down to enjoy together with Him. In this lesson, Rev. Hyde explains to us the "bread of the presence" in the tabernacle and how it communicates to us God’s desire for intimate covenant fellowship with His people by way of presentation, preservation, and participation.
Here is the main verse where God tells Moses what and how to make the items for the tabernacle.

"You shall make a table of acacia wood. Two cubits shall be its length, a cubit its breadth, and a cubit and a half its height. You shall overlay it with pure gold and make a molding of gold around it. And you shall make a rim around it a handbreadth wide, and a molding of gold around the rim. And you shall make for it four rings of gold, and fasten the rings to the four corners at its four legs. Close to the frame the rings shall lie, as holders for the poles to carry the table. You shall make the poles of acacia wood, and overlay them with gold, and the table shall be carried with these. And you shall make its plates and dishes for incense, and its flagons and bowls with which to pour drink offerings; you shall make them of pure gold. And you shall set the bread of the Presence on the table before me regularly. (Exodus 25:23-30).

Did you ever wonder about this verse below...where the beginning part of the verse states that the Angel of the LORD (Jesus) encamps around those who fear Him, and then the verse goes into tasting and seeing that the LORD is good? What does a encampment have to do with tasting? If you remember that our relationship with the LORD is like eating with Him at table and enjoying a meal, the verse shows that you are enjoying intimate fellowship with Him even in the midst of enemies.

The angel of the LORD encamps around those who fear Him, And rescues them. O taste and see that the LORD is good; How blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him! (Psalm 34:7-8).

Especially in the midst of enemies! As David wrote:

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. (Psalm 23:5).

If you read Exodus carefully you might notice a particular word that occurs often, it's the word 'regularly'. I underlined it in the verse above. The LORD regularly meets with His priests who represent the People. He makes regular visits with His people at table. Often, frequently, repeatedly. What a God we have, who regularly meets with His people to partake of intimate fellowship!

In the tabernacle, there was a table on which the priests would place the bread. The table had a raised crown molding around the edge. The description of the table reminded me of the table that was in my old living room growing up:


There was a lip around the edge of it. In the Tabernacle, the raised edge signified the following:
The table contained crown molding to keep the bread and utensils from falling. This prevented the bread from becoming defiled. This pictures the Lord’s preservation of His people. He who never slumbers ever keeps His children in the grip of His grace. The table permitted partaking in the bread, denoting the participation of God’s people with Him. Source: Ligonier Connect courseUnderstanding the Tabernacle

On the last day, we will join the Lord in His presence and eat with Him and drink with Him.

I tell you I will not drink again of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom. (Matthew 26:29).

And the angel said to me, "Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb." And he said to me, "These are the true words of God." (Revelation 19:9).

Blessed are those invited (called, elected) to participate with intimate fellowship in Him, our King, Priest, Friend, and Savior at His table!


Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Deuteronomy passage reveals a stupendous God!

Just bask in this wonderful passage. We can never extol the virtues and attributes of our God enough. He is so wonderful, holy, perfect, majestic! He revealed Himself through His word. What a gift.

Deuteronomy 4:32-40,

The Lord Alone Is God
32 “For ask now of the days that are past, which were before you, since the day that God created man on the earth, and ask from one end of heaven to the other, whether such a great thing as this has ever happened or was ever heard of. 33 Did any people ever hear the voice of a god speaking out of the midst of the fire, as you have heard, and still live? 34 Or has any god ever attempted to go and take a nation for himself from the midst of another nation, by trials, by signs, by wonders, and by war, by a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, and by great deeds of terror, all of which the Lord your God did for you in Egypt before your eyes? 35 
To you it was shown, that you might know that the Lord is God; there is no other besides him. 36 Out of heaven he let you hear his voice, that he might discipline you. And on earth he let you see his great fire, and you heard his words out of the midst of the fire. 37 And because he loved your fathers and chose their offspring after them and brought you out of Egypt with his own presence, by his great power, 38 driving out before you nations greater and mightier than you, to bring you in, to give you their land for an inheritance, as it is this day, 39 know therefore today, and lay it to your heart, that the Lord is God in heaven above and on the earth beneath; there is no other. 
There is no other God. Our God did all that, and He allows us to know Him! He meet with us at table, comforts us, gives us what we need, loves us. He is a great God, and there is no other.



Monday, January 16, 2017

What's in your pocket? Lists? Or Nails?

We are sinners. The Syro-Phoenician woman knew that. (Mark 7:26). The Tax Collector in the temple knew that. (Luke 18:13). Mary knew that. (Luke 1:46). We know we are sinners.

No one believes in Jesus Christ the savior unless they see a need in Him. Martyn Lloyd Jones, sermon Isaiah 1:10, Repentance and Salvation.

Before we are saved, we are blind to our sin. After the Lord graciously gives us the ability to see ourselves as we are, the scales having fallen off our eyes so to speak, (Acts 9:17-18), we repent of our sins. But that does not mean we stop sinning. We have the Power to resist sin thanks to the Holy Spirit in us, but we still sin. (Matthew 16:24). We will continue to sin until we are glorified.

Legalists like the Pharisees to whom Jesus contrasted the Tax Collector, believed they would attain heaven by their good works. This belief is not expired. People believe it to this day. If you watch street pastors Ray Comfort or Todd Friel, when they ask people on the street if they expect to get to heaven and how, the people always respond that they are a good person doing good things so surely they will go to heaven.

We ourselves are Jews by birth and not Gentile sinners; yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified. Are you so foolish? (Galatians 2:15-16)

After we are saved, however, we still have a tendency to give in to our to our sinful nature. We can easily start to believe satan's propaganda that we earn God's regard by doing good things, that we maintain our salvation by doing good works. Or we start to make lists of the things we must do to preserve our good name before the Lord. Paul addressed this in Galatians 3:3, asking rhetorically,

Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?


John MacArthur said of the verse,
The notion that sinful, weak human nature could improve on the saving work of the Holy Spirit was ludicrous.
We should always remember that it is by grace through faith that we have been saved, not by works. After salvation, the good works that we do are an inevitable result of our gratitude for this great gift, and it is the proof of the existence of the new creature. But our works do not save us and they do not add to the preservation of our salvation. Martin Luther said,
We all carry about in our pockets His very nails.
Erik Raymond at The Gospel Coalition succinctly said,
Legalists keep lists in their pockets, while Christians keep nails.

What's in your pocket today? Lists? Or nails?


Sunday, January 15, 2017

Here I raise my Ebenezer

We sing the hymn Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing at our church. Hopefully you do as well. It is a beautiful hymn written in 1757 by Robert Robinson. Here are the original lyrics from the first two of five stanzas. Some hymn books have updated it to modern language but I like the original.

Come, Thou Fount of every blessing,
Tune my heart to sing Thy grace;
Streams of mercy, never ceasing,
Call for songs of loudest praise.
Teach me some melodious sonnet,
Sung by flaming tongues above.
Praise the mount, I’m fixed upon it,
Mount of Thy redeeming love.

Sorrowing I shall be in spirit,
Till released from flesh and sin,
Yet from what I do inherit,
Here Thy praises I'll begin;
Here I raise my Ebenezer;
Here by Thy great help I’ve come;
And I hope, by Thy good pleasure,
Safely to arrive at home.

What is an Ebenezer? Our church had put an explanation in a box at the bottom of the bulletin, which was helpful. We should know what we are singing. Words matter. When we sing in church, or pray, or listen to the sermon, we are meeting with God, eating at His table. We should know what we are about and be mindful of the things we say or do or read or sing.

The phrase comes from 1 Samuel 7:12. Here's the verse:

Then Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Shen and called its name Ebenezer; for he said, "Till now the Lord has helped us."
In the first narrative (1 Samuel 4:1-11 ), the Philistines defeat the Israelites, even though the Israelites brought the Ark of the Covenant onto the battlefield in hope of it bringing them a divinely assured victory. As a result of the Philistine victory and the Ark's presence on the battlefield, it was captured by the Philistines, and not returned until many months later (1 Samuel 6:1-2).
In the second narrative (1 Samuel 7:2-14 ), the Israelites defeat the Philistines, after Samuel has offered a sacrifice. Samuel puts up a stone in memorial and names it Eben-Ezer (the placename in the previous narrative resulting from this). This monument is referred to in the hymn Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing. (Source)
The Lexham Bible Dictionary also explains-
EBENEZER 
"The stone of help" that Samuel set up to commemorate a great victory over the Philistines (1 Sam 7:12). Also the name of the place where the Philistines defeated Israel and captured the ark of the covenant (1 Sam 4:1; 5:1). 
Ebenezer as a Place Name
First Samuel 4 describes a battle between the Philistines and Israel, whose army was camped at a place called Ebenezer (1 Sam 4:1). The battle ends in disaster for the Israelites, as the Philistines defeat the Israelite army, kill many men, and capture the ark of the covenant.
Ebenezer as a Monument 
Scripture also refers to Ebenezer as the monument stone that Samuel set up after a successful battle against the Philistines. Several months after Israel’s defeat at Ebenezer, Samuel called for the people of Israel to gather at Mizpah and repent of their sins (1 Sam 7:2–14). The Philistines again massed their armies to attack; but as Samuel was praying, God threw the Philistines into a panic. The Israelites cut down the Philistines as they fled, chasing them "as far as below Beth-car" (1 Sam 7:11). In commemoration of the victory, Samuel erected a stone "between Mizpah and Shen and called its name Ebenezer; for he said, 'Till now the Lord has helped us'" (1 Sam 7:12 NRSV).


Raise your own Ebenezer in thanks to the Lord for His help. Our victories are not ours, but His. God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. (Psalm 46:1).

So that we may boldly say, The Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me. (Hebrews 13:6 KJV).


Saturday, January 14, 2017

Miracle Max explains Arminianism v. Calvinism



"With all dead, there's only one thing you can do. Go through his pockets and look for loose change."

LOL. For those who might not know, Miracle Max is a fictional character in the movie The Princess Bride. Of course, the movie was an entertainment fairy tale move, not a theological treatise. But Max's words summed up a critical difference in the two actual approaches to salvation.

The Arminian believes we are slightly alive, and that in some corner of the heart, we can at some point in life choose salvation.

The person who understands the Doctrines of Grace knows that divine grace is the only catalyst for salvation, and that we have nothing to do with it. God saves us. As a matter of fact, He chose every person He decided He was going to save before the foundation of the world. (Ephesians 2:1-6).

There's a big difference between Mostly Dead (Arminianism) and All Dead (Calvinism). Miracle Max, you are very wise!


Thursday, January 12, 2017

Mail Call 4: Why do some women discern false teachers and others accept false teachers?

Q. A reader asked how can she understand that Beth Moore and Joyce Meyer and other false teachers like them go dramatically outside of Scripture, while other women don't?

A. The Holy Spirit is giving discernment. Discernment is a skill. You as a believer pray, study, read, and work the scriptures through your mental capacities and reactions. Like any skill, it grows muscular through use. Other women who don’t use it, are weak. They are the ones who get captured, laden down by many sins. The Bible says "For among them are those who creep into households and capture weak women, burdened with sins and led astray by various passions," (2 Timothy 3:6.)

It is a process. If you abort the process at the start, and do not read scripture and study it and allow it to divide marrow from bone (Hebrew 4:12), then we have these ladies who are laden down. They are unable to endure sound doctrine because the sin in them prevents clear thinking. Then they seek a false teacher to suit their passions so the sin in them won't collide so harshly with the sound doctrine of the Bible. Last, they begin heaping these teachers up. There is a flavor of a false teacher for every flavor of sin. Beth Moore offers psychology and self esteem, also emotionalism. Joyce Meyer offers health-wealth. Christine Caine offers social justice. IF:Gathering women offer a faux-discipleship/fellowship.

Discernment begins with prayer, study, and repentant worship. The exercise of the discernment muscle comes in when you check the scriptures to see if the things you are taught are so, as Paul noted that the Bereans did. (Acts 17:11). The more you listen, check, pray, and read from the Bible, the more you are exercising that muscle, and it will get strong. The discerning ones can spot and resist these false teachers because they are not laden with sins and seeking fulfillment though them by following a teacher who promotes one's pet sin. They have clear vision. The Word has divided false from true.

This is my take on it. Other thoughts and verses welcome. As always, check the Bible and test what is written her and anywhere. :)


Further Reading:

Expository Listening: A Practical Handbook for Hearing and Doing God’s Word
“Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.”––James 1:22 In many people’s mind, if they don’t get anything out of the sermon, it’s the preacher’s fault. But that’s only half true. The Bible teaches that listeners must partner with the preacher so that the Word of God accomplishes its intended purpose of transforming their life. Expository Listening is your handbook on biblical listening. It is designed to equip you not only to understand what true, biblical preaching sounds like, but also how to receive it, and ultimately, what to do about it. You need to know how to look for the Word of God, to love the Word of God, and to live the Word of God. In this way, God and His Word will be honored and glorified through your life

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Natural history lesson: acacia wood

I mentioned before about Bible reading plans. I have been following a plan of 'Read the Bible in 90 days". I've read through Genesis and Exodus so far.

In Exodus, you can't swing a cat and not read that God ordered someone (usually Moses) to build something or other (always for the tabernacle) out of acacia wood. After so many mentions of acacia wood, I decided to look it up.

Sometimes it helps just to look up the plants, animals, processes, and materials mentioned so frequently in the Bible. I've done a study on ancient linen making, onions of ancient Egypt, how grain was threshed, wine-making, sheep, almond blossoms, and more.

Acacia Tree Straw beehives dangle
from the branches of an acacia tree south of Arba Minch, Ethiopia.
David Stanley photo, Creative Commons.


So here is a short study on acacia wood. First, some verses-

[ The Ark of the Covenant ] "They shall make an ark of acacia wood. Two cubits and a half shall be its length, a cubit and a half its breadth, and a cubit and a half its height." (Exodus 25:10)

[ The Table for Bread ] "You shall make a table of acacia wood. Two cubits shall be its length, a cubit its breadth, and a cubit and a half its height." (Exodus 25:23)

[ The Bronze Altar ] "You shall make the altar of acacia wood, five cubits long and five cubits broad. The altar shall be square, and its height shall be three cubits." (Exodus 27:1)

And so on. What IS acacia wood? What are its properties? What is it about those properties that made it such a good selection for the task at hand? These are the kind of questions one can ask as they read. As I told my second graders today, 'good readers think', and 'good readers ask questions'.
ACACIA: Hard wood with a beautiful fine grain or close grain, which darkens as it ages. Insects find the taste of acacia wood distasteful, and its density makes it difficult for water or other decaying agents to penetrate. The Israelites pitched their tents by Jordan, from Beth-jesimoth as far as Abel-shittim, translated “meadow of the acacias” (Numbers 33:49). Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary (p. 15). 
Ahhh, so that's it. The wood had properties within it that made it super resistant to decay. Well, that makes sense because the tabernacle was assembled, disassembled, moved, and used by the Israelite priests for over 400 years.
Moses received the instructions for the building of the tabernacle on Mount Sinai (Exod. 25–35), in the Arabian Desert (Gal. 4:25) where acacia is among the larger of the few timber species to be found. Items constructed for the tabernacle of acacia (shittim) wood include: the ark of the covenant and its poles; the table of showbread and its poles; the brazen altar and its poles; the incense altar and its poles; and all the poles for the hanging of the curtains and the supports (Exod. 36:20, 31, 36; 37; 38). 
The acacia wood was so precious that Exod. 25:5 says that besides the offering of silver and brass, every man who had acacia (shittim) wood brought it for the Lord’s offering. In Joel 3:18 Judah will be blessed “in that day” with a spring that will water the valley of Shittim. Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary (p. 16)
Acacia wood (a branch). The International Standard
Bible Encyclopaedia (Vol. 1–5, p. 27)
Bible trivia:
SHITTIM (שִׁטִּים, shittim). City in the plains of Moab located just east of the Jordan River. The Hebrew city name Shittim means "acacia trees." The city was likely named after a great quantity of the trees present at its location. Acacia wood was a valuable commodity in the ancient Near East, and Shittim would have been a key locale for trade and commerce. The Lexham Bible Dictionary. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.
The yellow blooms of a modern variety of the acacia (shittim)
tree in Israel. In Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary (p. 1495).
Ten Things you didn't know about African Acacia Trees
They protect themselves
The African acacia is self-protecting in many ways. First, most species have long, sharp thorns, which prevent (most) animals from eating their leaves. Second, sometimes stinging ants live inside hollowed-out thorns, which provides another disincentive for predators. And furthermore, the trees create poisonous chemicals when they detect an “assault.” Not only can these chemicals be fatal to animals, but the trees “warn” nearby acacias to start making their own poison. How it works: When the leaves begin to fill with poison, they release ethylene gas, which drifts out of their pores and toward other acacias (within 50 yards). In response, the nearby trees begin to manufacture poison themselves.
So that is a quick lesson on acacia, its location, its uses, properties, and how it looks. It is the iconic tree of Africa, and remember, Africa is where the Israelites were released from as they fled Pharaoh and crossed the Red Sea on dry land.

God is good!


Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Thank you to my readers

A few days ago, on January 6, 2017, it was the 8th anniversary of The End Time blog. I have posted every day of every year for the better part of a decade. There are 3,865 essays on this blog.

I value all the people who have read the blog and those who I have gotten to know. I have been encouraged by you, ministered to by you, and inspired by you. It is the biggest thrill when someone comments or emails that they were encouraged by something on here. Even the detractors inspire me in different ways and for different reasons.

I praise the Lord for giving me the opportunity to write. I thank the Lord for readers.

Are all doctrines equal? Or are some primary and others secondary?

As I'm going through the online lessons at Ligonier Connect, the second lesson in the course "Principles of Biblical Interpretation" opens with the teacher, RC Sproul, asking his audience if, after sharing an interpretation of scripture with a person they have ever been confronted with the rejoinder "That’s your interpretation!" Sometimes the person means to give a subtle (or not so subtle) rejoinder that really means, 'You're wrong!' Most often it can mean that the person believes that there are multiple ways to interpret a specific verse or passage of scripture.

There aren't.

Did you know that the Author of the Bible intended only ONE meaning for each and every passage of Scripture? There is only one way to interpret it and be correct. There are multiple ways to apply the verse, but only one meaning the Author intended.

For example, we know that God is three-in-one. If a person says "I interpret 1 John 5:7-8 as God being three persons in one Being" and the other person says, "No, I interpret that verse as God being only one being but three personalities at any given time," one of these people would be wrong. One person says you should be baptized by sprinkling and another says you should be baptized by immersion, one of those people are going to be wrong because they are opposite actions. One person says the rapture will come before the Tribulation and the next person says that the rapture will come after the tribulation...well one of those is wrong. They are not both right. Contradictions mutually exclude each other.

Scripture cannot contradict itself.

Sproul said,
The right of private interpretation carries with it the responsibility of correct interpretation. Our interpretation must always be monitored and compared to the collective wisdom of others.
Now, knowing that there is only one correct interpretation of scripture puts more light on the Author than it does on the interpreter, hopefully. We know He intended one meaning. But He is God, and we are not. Because we are sinful human beings, we must approach the interpretation of the scriptures humbly. We use a systematic theology, not Bible Dip, do not strip away the context, we're not helter skelter or haphazard about it. As noted above, the privilege of being given God's word comes with it a responsibility to interpret it correctly.

Relying on the collective wisdom of others is also a good idea. God raised up men and women in previous generations who taught, wrote, and interpreted in ways that have remained and remained for a reason. Their works come to us in these newer generations. This is important- it's not 'cheating' to use commentaries or theological tomes of yore that add to our wisdom. We don't use them to the exclusion of the Bible, but as a supporting method. Secondly, since we do rely on the collective wisdom of others in learning the historic faith, we do not go after the lone outlier who says "I have a new way!' Or, "I cracked a code no one has ever noticed before!" When the canon closed, so did the availability to interpret wildly new things from it that very from the historical faith.

But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. (Galatians 1:8).

Thirdly, there are some doctrines with which we must have a settled conviction and do not compromise. These are known as the primary essentials. They are primary because they are salvific. They are essential because the Bible declares them so. Scripture on this point must be interpreted and held dearly among those of the truth faith. These foundational tenets comprise the historical faith.

Other, secondary matters (non-salvific) interpreted differently between two people don't have to mean that one breaks fellowship over them. If one says baptism is sprinkling and the other says baptism is immersion, well, what they are both saying is they agree that the Bible does present an ordinance of baptism. That much is clear. They just differ on how.

Here is a good link explaining primary essential doctrines. They both are to Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry, (CARM). This first one is a visual doctrine grid. This one is to an essay explaining each essential doctrine and why they are essential.

Alternately, back when he was a PyroManiac, Phil Johnson wrote about why the distinction between essential and peripheral is doctrines so crucial. He wrote again on how the Bible itself teaches us how to distinguish between primary and peripheral doctrines. Pastor Johnson concluded his essay by saying,
I'm as eager to see evangelical unity as I am to attack ecumenical compromise. But in order to keep the two straight, it is crucial to have clear biblical reasons for treating various doctrines as either fundamental or secondary.
Hence, this post and the links to good resources on the subject.

Happy studying :)

Monday, January 9, 2017

Just a closer walk with Thee

I like the Appalachian fiddle instrumental version of the old song Just a Closer Walk With Thee. Here are the lyrics, written by an anonymous or unknown author

I am weak, but Thou art strong;
Jesus, keep me from all wrong;
I’ll be satisfied as long
As I walk, let me walk close to Thee.

Refrain:
Just a closer walk with Thee,
Grant it, Jesus, is my plea,
Daily walking close to Thee,
Let it be, dear Lord, let it be.

Through this world of toil and snares,
If I falter, Lord, who cares?
Who with me my burden shares?
None but Thee, dear Lord, none but Thee.

When my feeble life is o’er,
Time for me will be no more;
Guide me gently, safely o’er
To Thy kingdom shore, to Thy shore.

The only mention of anything sovereign is the word 'kingdom' in the last line.

I've been watching the biography of Queen Elizabeth II, called The Crown. It's an excellent biography, by the way, well written, well acted, with sumptuous production values. It is Netflix's most expensive series to date. They spent a lot of money replicating the surroundings of the kings and queens depicted, and nearly exactly replicated the events they lived through.

One thing that this first season's series has firmly shown, is that while the crown is a successive institution, the people inhabiting it alternate. Yet the people inhabiting it are still distinct from the commoners. The Queen, her mother, her sister, her father, any of the sovereigns, are isolated. They live behind fences and high walls. When they appear in public they are again shielded. If they are walking, there is always a large distance between the rows of people and the Queen (or the King as it may be). They might walk past the people, but they do not walk with the people.

Jesus is our King. He is King of KINGS and Lord of LORDS! He is the highest of the high. Has any King ever invited the commoners to walk with Him? No! Did King Ahasuerus (Esther's husband) invite people to walk with Him? No! He decreed that anyone entering his throne room without him having called them there would be put to death! Did King Herod go out and stroll around with Lydia and Timothy and James? No!

Jesus invites us to be His friend, He is our Father, our Brother, our Intercessor, our Priest, our Redeemer, and our Savior. Yet...walking with the King is unheard of!

We sing that song in a lively fashion when we hear it on the radio, because it's familiar to us and it's sweet. But think about the words, really think about them. We ask Jesus to walk closer to us And He will!

None of this is news to any of you. But it does us good to think about Him once in a while as the amazing Person He is, King, who does not isolate Himself behind fences and walls. In what other kingdom at any time or anywhere, does the King invite His people to walk with Him? The King who does not dismiss the commoners, but invites them to participate with Him in his sovereignty is to be praised in wonder and awe.

Walking the long road with the King

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Kay Cude: Rest Well

Kay Cude poetry. Used with permission. Click to enlarge.

Beautiful poetry, just beautiful. Excerpt:





Saturday, January 7, 2017

9Marks' Church Mailbag, a great example of "keeping watch on yourself" AKA Practical Theology

Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers. (1 Timothy 4:16, NIV)

Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers. (1 Timothy 4:16, ESV)

Paul advised young pastor Timothy to do two things. Paul said to watch yourself, and watch your doctrine. People usually focus on one to the exclusion of the other. It's both of these that make the pastor, and by extension, the Christian. When I share a discernment lesson here on the blog about a teacher I'm concerned with or encouraged by, I always say to watch what they say (doctrine) and watch what they do (life). Barnes' Notes says of the verse,
Take heed unto thyself - This may be understood as relating to everything of a personal nature that would qualify him for his work. It may be applied to personal piety; to health; to manners; to habits of living; to temper; to the ruling purposes; to the contact with others. In relation to personal religion, a minister should take heed:
I'm encouraged by the men at 9Marks. I like the 9Marks organization. 9Marks was founded by Washington DC pastor Mark Dever in the late 1990s, and has grown to include Jonathan Leeman, and a host of other writers and leaders who contribute to the ministry. I've bought and read several of the books Dever has authored, including the original, 9Marks of a Healthy Church. Their own mission statement reads,
9Marks exists to equip church leaders with a biblical vision and practical resources for displaying God’s glory to the nations through healthy churches. To that end, we want to see churches characterized by these nine marks of health: 
The 9 Marks of a Healthy Church
I. Preaching
II. Biblical Theology
III. The Gospel
IV. Conversion
V. Evangelism
VI. Membership
VII. Discipline
VIII. Discipleship
IX. Leadership
John Samson of Reformation Theology wrote in 2009 of 9Marks, that the ministry promotes,
a biblical model for the church actually looks like, building on the foundation of the Gospel. As the book title would suggest, Dr. Dever outlines nine distinctive features of a church that is seeking to conform itself to a biblical pattern for church life and ministry. 
If you go to their page, each of the 9Marks is clickable and each one is described on a biblical basis. My own newly planted church was founded based on these marks from the 9Marks' organization. I like what 9Marks says and I like what they do.

As 9Marks has grown, they began to answer questions that have been submitted to them from the public about church life. I enjoy reading these questions and the answers from 9Marks, for a variety of reasons.

The questions that arise- the ones they publish anyway- are based on scripture. As Paul noted in the verse at the beginning, there's doctrine, and then there's living out the doctrine. This interplay between what is written in the Word and how to apply it in life, is always challenging, interesting, thrilling, and open to a variety of interpretations, lol.

The 9Marks people answer these life-doctrine questions from the public according to their best interpretations of scripture. They do so in a way that educates not only according to doctrine, but according to "our life" as Paul had advised. The content of their answers is edifying. The tone of their answers (as far as one can detect on the cold impersonal internet), is also edifying.

Please enjoy the current and previous 7 Mailbag answers and hopefully you will see what I mean and concur. They educate as to doctrine and as to life. Watch both.

Mailbag #47: Applying Paul’s “Able to Teach” Qualification; Confidentiality between Pastors and Members?

Mailbag #46: Tricky Membership Question about Immigration; Pastoring a Church with Lots of Divorcees

Mailbag #45: Transgender Pronouns & Marrying an Egalitarian Couple

Mailbag #44: Applying “Husband of One Wife”; Leaving the Church but Attending Bible Study; Women Voting in the Church

Mailbag #43: Relationship to Excommunicated Members; Baptism & the Developmentally Disabled

Mailbag #42: Hypocritical Church Discipline; Pre-Marital Counseling for Two Unbelievers?

Mailbag #41: When the Church Votes “No” on a Clear Discipline Case; The Biblical Case of “Lay Elders”

Mailbag #40: Too High a Standard for Church Membership; Where Are Churches Commanded to Gather Weekly


----------------------------------------
Further Reading

Tim Challies' Book review of 9Marks of a Healthy Church

9Marks Bookstore


Friday, January 6, 2017

Did God really say "You are precious to me, you are honored, and I love you"? Women's ministries today

Sure, I walk around every day in Renaissance hair and a wedding dress
clutching a crumpled leaf. FYI, read to the end regarding this very verse.
Over these last ten and twenty years we have become used to women's ministers and Bible teachers preaching the consistent message of female empowerment of one sort or another. They put out messages like, "You are beautiful", "You are wonderful." "Jesus created you with a cosmically important job that only you can do". These Bible teachers seek to encourage women, which is good, but they do so by appealing to our self-esteem and growth on the basis of strengths and qualities we possess. What their message boils down to is that we become God-approved by becoming more of ourselves. The cumulative message from all these teachers leads to a place no Christian wants to be. The end result is not growth, but apostasy; not encouragement, but despair.

Here is an example of the mixed messages we see, these are from Christine Caine, founder of Propel, a female empowerment ministry. Caine is an activist, not an evangelist, though she claims the opposite.


Live an unexplainable life, because you were chosen uniquely for a cosmic task ONLY you can accomplish (not God?) so press through and take risks. But don't be arrogant, self-assertive or self-confident about it! #Mixed messages, Mrs Caine.

That's the trouble with appealing to women's emotions and qualities. While these teachers want to make affirmations to women that we are sensitive snowflakes melting in love with Jesus who is in turn melting in love with us, we also possess power, accomplish important tasks, and live a risky unexplainable life to accomplish it all. That is why the encouragement turns to despair- it doesn't add up. The cognitive dissonance grates.

While previous generations of Bible teachers like early Kay Arthur and Elisabeth Elliot taught that our power is in God through submission to Him within the limits of the roles He has outlined for us, these past few generations of Bible teachers teach that our power is in us as women and it demonstrates sanctifying growth when we act on it, which God affirms by giving us more power.

Blogger Phylicia Delta wrote this week on the topic. It's a good essay that makes the point, from which I'll post some excerpts below-

Dear Women’s Ministry, Stop Telling Me I’m Beautiful
If I judged Christianity by its women’s conferences, I’d be led to believe that the Bible is no more than a series of compliments from God to man. Instead, the real story is far less complimentary and far more humiliating. Jesus didn’t come to earth because we were beautiful, special, or great. He came because we were too grossly sinful to bridge the gap between ourselves and God.
That’s not a message we want to hear from the stage of Extraordinary Women, is it? But it’s the one we need, because women who think they’re pretty awesome don’t need a Savior. [emphasis hers] 
The truth is that I’m not beautiful, special, or all that unique. I’m born into sin, bent to rebellion. My insecurities and fears are too deep, pulsing through Adam’s blood in my veins. They can’t be rooted out with shallow “encouragements”.

The solution is simple. Stop preaching the easy message, and start preaching the right one. Stop exalting us as women and start exalting Christ.
A few days later, I noticed this satirical post from the Babylon Bee, which makes the point about the end result of all these esteem-laced female "encouraging messages".

Woman Unsure Why She Needs Jesus After Preacher Spends 30 Minutes Telling Her How Amazing She Is
TWIN OAKS, AZ—According to reports coming out of Hope Community Church, first-time visitor Brittany Wilson remains unsure about why she needed "this Jesus guy" in her life after the pastor spent the entire Sunday sermon reiterating how awesome, amazing, unique, and special she is.

"The message was super-encouraging. It was all about how I need to let the goodness within me shine and 'just do me,' without worrying about all the haters," Wilson said after the service.

"But then the pastor said I needed Jesus, out of the blue. Like, what? It made no sense. I’m not sure what He has to offer that I don’t, based on how wonderful the pastor said I am."
Do you see the devastating cumulative effect of the mixed messages? The point of these particular kind of women's studies and Bible teachers is to appeal to the pride of life. Satan did it in the Garden with Eve. Resist, ladies! The main way to resist being deceived is to stay in the Word. Read and study the Bible. Another way is also feed on good and solid books and studies, like this one-

Women's Ministry in the Local Church

I have not read this book but it is on my 'to-read' list.

There is a way to do women's ministry biblically. This book addresses that. Here is the publisher's synopsis:

Susan Hunt and Ligon Duncan walk through the Scriptures to help readers better understand what it means to have an effective, biblical women's ministry in the church. The benefits of women's ministries are great: training and discipling, evangelizing, and reaching out to the poor and needy. This book, written by seasoned ministry leaders, provides many proven tools to help start a women's ministry in your church.

Here is a verified purchaser's review of the book:
This book was very helpful in understanding the biblical view of women's roles in the church. It encourages the empowerment of women in a positive way. This is an excellent guide for developing a meaningful ministry to women of all ages within the church body. Women want to know how God can use them to make a difference for His kingdom and this book addresses that concern very well.
As for the difficulty with many female Bible teachers in this day and age, and the Instagram, Pinterest, & other Social Media picture verses they put out... the Isaiah 43:4 verse above is a partial verse! Usually when a partial verse is written, it's proper to indicate so, either by stating it or by putting a or b after the verse to show if it's the beginning part of the verse one has excerpted or the latter part of the verse you've excerpted. In this case, the verse should read Isaiah 43:4a since the author saw fit to only paste the first half of it.

The FULL verse reads:

Since you were precious in my sight, you have been honorable, and I have loved you: therefore will I give men for you, and people for your life.

The word "since" here is key. It connects the former verse to the latter verses. It is a concluding thought. As a reader one must have the previous verses in mind when arriving at the conclusion, which in this case begins "Since". Excising the since off the verse is destroys both the meaning and the context.

So first, ladies, when you re-post a social media verse like this, check the actual Bible to see it is at the address stated and if it is the entire verse.

Secondly, CONTEXT is key. In the verse, God has been talking to the Prophet Isaiah to tell the NATION ISRAEL His message, not special snowflake ladies in the 21st century. Moreover, He is not telling them that He is so in love with them, as the way the verse is presented over the photo. He is saying that he is setting apart the NATION and will keep it intact, even to the point of KILLING men (nations) to do so. Puts a different spin on the whole thing, doesn't it? Barnes' Notes explains the verse:
Since thou wast precious in my sight - This verse contains another reason why God would defend and deliver them. That reason was, that he had loved them as his people; and he was willing, therefore, that other people should be overcome in order that they might be saved.
Thou hast been honorable - This does not refer so much to their personal character, as it does to the fact that they had been honored by him with being the depository of the precious truths of his religion. It means that he had made them honorable by the favors bestowed on them; not that they were honorable in reference to their own personal character and worth. [emphasis mine]
Therefore will I give men for thee - As in the case of Egypt, Ethiopia, and Seba Isaiah 43:3. He would cause other nations to be destroyed, if it were necessary, in order to effect their deliverance, and to restore them to their own land.
Puts an entirely different spin on things, doesn't it?

I hope you have enjoyed reading this two-fold lesson. Firstly, we looked at women's ministries and how their skewed emphasis perverts the mind of women into thinking their inherent worth is the reason God is so concerned with them. I quoted from two articles, one was a well-written article from Phylicia Delta and the other was a satire piece from the Babylon Bee.

Secondly I used as an example one of the women's ministry photos I found on Pinterest to demonstrate how verses are twisted to falsely emphasize how God is allegedly concerned with women as special women He is in love with. Double check all memes before posting, please.

Now that you are aware of these discernment issues, what can we do about them? You can buy the above mentioned book by Duncan and Hunt about Women's ministries. You can pause before clicking the meme to check that it's actually a verse, the whole verse in context, and the correct address. You can check out the MOOC (Massive Online Open Course) offered for free at Southwest Baptist Theological Seminary calledBiblical Theology of WomanhoodI and II. It's free. I have not taken it so I can't say one way or another if it's good. I have signed up. I'll let you know. There are many free courses, usually MOOCs, that can be taken either through colleges or seminaries or places like Ligonier or other parachurch ministries. As always, use your prayerful discernment when submitting to teaching.

Ladies, don't be taken in by pop psychology self-esteem teaching. We love who Jesus made us to be, but we love him more for who He is.



Thursday, January 5, 2017

Unpopular The Movie

New movie coming out this month! The good folks at Red Grace Media asked:

"Would love your help getting this out with the Hastag #UnpopularTheMovie and the Link www.unpopularthemovie.com"

Their description reads:
Unpopular The Movie is a Evangelism resource for the church. Unpopular is a gospel presentation by Emilio Ramos, Dr James White of Aomin.org, and Paul Washer from Heart Cry Missionary Society. Unpopular is meant to serve as a tool to evangelize non-Christians with the gospel of Jesus Christ. To stay up to date visit http://www.unpopularthemovie.com

Here is the trailer



Wednesday, January 4, 2017

What does it mean, you will recognize them by their fruits?

Sinclair Ferguson preached on the Sermon on the Mount in a recent series (Sermon on the Mount)
In the second-to-last sermon called Ultimate Choices delivered on January 3, he taught about how we recognize the false ones by their fruit. There are some spiritual tests to discern whether they are true or not. He said (and I recommend the entire half-hour sermon!)
You will recognize them by their fruits. What does this mean? 
1. Does this person remind me of the character and speech of the Lord Jesus Christ? Spiritual fruit in scripture, especially in the NT, is first and foremost likeness to Jesus in character and in speech. Alas, so often, that spiritual test will enable you to see thru a spiritual charlatan. 
2. And then you need to ask the question what is the fruit if this ministry and those who are influenced by it? What is the fruit of this teaching as you see the impact of it? Jesus is saying not only look at the person’s teaching and their character, but look at the impact he makes on others. 
See if this person’s teaching enables them to grow in fruit of the spirit. See if what he teaches sets them free from himself, to live for the glory of God. 
3.Many will say Lord Lord, didn’t we prophesy in your name etc … Jesus will say to them depart from me I never knew you. Here, Jesus is teaching us to distinguish, to judge, to discern between the possession of abilities that impress us, and the presence of grace that draws us to Jesus Christ. It’s possible to preach wonderfully eloquently, to prophesy, but apparently not really be a genuine Christian believer. 
4. The test is this- does the teaching draw my eyes to the Lord Jesus? Or does it draw my eyes to him, her, the gifts they have, the impression they make? It is this that helps us make the judgment of whether we follow this teacher.

In the January 2 sermon from the same series, called Condemnation and Discernment, Ferguson looked at the verse from Matthew 7, "Judge not, that you be not judged" is the most misunderstood teaching from the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus who says judgment in the form of condemning is dangerous, but judgment in the form of discerning is absolutely essential."

I recommend that half-hour sermon also.




Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Prata Potpourri: Books, Books, Books, and Instagram Bible

Bible Reading Plans, Reading Challenges, Reading Resolutions, what's a girl to do? Read!

Memory moment: A constant accusation against me as a kid was "Why do you always have your nose stuck in a book?" I heard that a lot, from parents, relatives, teachers. Though the teachers may have had a point. I'd put the smaller book by Laura Ingalls Wilder inside the larger tome of Algebra 1 and pretended to follow along in the math lesson. The teacher was not fooled, blast her preternatural senses.

Now that I'm saved, I pray that my nose is always stuck in THE Book, the Bible. Beyond that, reading as a pleasurable activity also engages the mind and stirs the imagination.Reading increases vocabulary, provides conversational topics,and are just plain fun. I'd let reading go to the side for a while but I'm resolving to pick it back up. (do you see what I did there?)

I loved this piece by Jen Wilkin: Beware The Instagram Bible. She spoke against "The Instagram Bible" which is to say, the tendency for girls and women to post frilly and sentimental verse posts on Instagram, fluffed by flowers and feathers and filters, but ONLY the "loving"and "kind" verses and none of the tougher verses. Wilkin mused that if all the Bibles of the world disappeared and we only had access to scripture via these posted Instagram verses, the Bible would hardly be properly represented.

I've written about this before, regarding Church Bulletins, which typically do the same thing. Just once I'd like to see a judgment or wrath verse on a church bulletin.

Are you on the fence about starting a Bible Reading Plan? Yes. Yes I am. I am on day three and I'm already chafing under the self-imposed restrictions I've put myself under. On the other hand, diligence and discipline do often chafe. So there's that. I am sticking with it so far. But Jen Oshman has a good take on the whole thing in her article above. BTW, I am tickled I found Jen Oshman and put her on my blogroll before Challies did. There you go, my first boast of 2017. I repent. But it felt so good.

"Never trust anyone who has not brought a book with them."
― Lemony Snicket, Horseradish: Bitter Truths You Can't Avoid

Victoria Elizabeth Barnes, who is a good and funny writer, shares her latest estate sale find, a mini barrister bookcase. Her photos are gorgeous too. BTW, my former husband had a barrister bookcase, several levels high. It was a cool item, though not as cool as Mrs Barnes' bookcase, because, well, hers is mini and mini means cute and cute is always cool.

Tim Challies is complementarian and he reads books by women. Gasp! LOL, of course men read books by women and unlike the Tower of Siloam, the hierarchy God has instituted for his church does not come unexpectedly toppling down to crush all in its usurping path. Read more to see why.

Here is Solid Food Ministries with a list of Reading Resources. Their Book Review page. And, their GoodReads page. Check them out!!

What does Samuel James believe is the threat to reading?
This is such an important, and liberating, point. You can't read it all, and almost certainly shouldn't try. Indiscriminate buying of books to fill out one’s "personal library" looks great on Instagram, but in practically every circumstance, it undermines the very intellectual pursuit it mimics.
Are your books piled up in stacks around the house? Bookshelves overflowing? 2X4's on milk crates sagging? No mini-barrister bookcase in sight? Here is a Librarian with a website dedicated to organizing your own personal library. BTW I organize my books by genre and size. If you do it any other way, you're doing it wrong. Just kidding. Maybe.

"There are worse crimes than burning books. One of them is not reading them." 
― Joseph Brodsky

A Gentle Madness: Bibliophiles, Bibliomanes, and the Eternal Passion for Books. I have this book. It's on the top left shelf of Bookcase #1. I am too afraid to read it. I have heard that self-diagnosing from the internet isn't a good idea.


A photo I took of a poster at the famous City Lights bookstore in San Francisco
City Lights Books, San Francisco, EPrata photo




Monday, January 2, 2017

Crouching at sin's door: lessons from Lot

Then the men said to Lot, "Have you anyone else here? Sons-in-law, sons, daughters, or anyone you have in the city, bring them out of the place. For we are about to destroy this place, because the outcry against its people has become great before the LORD, and the LORD has sent us to destroy it." So Lot went out and said to his sons-in-law, who were to marry his daughters, "Up! Get out of this place, for the LORD is about to destroy the city." But he seemed to his sons-in-law to be jesting.
(Genesis 19:12-14).

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

When their combined flocks grew too large to sustain them on the land, Abraham suggested to Lot that they separate. Abraham said he would go left if Lot chose to go right, or he would go right if Lot chose to go left. Lot had his choice of anywhere to settle. Interestingly, Lot pitched his tent NEAR Sodom. (Genesis 13:12).


We meet Lot again, and this time he is living IN the city. (Genesis 14:12.) No longer a sojourner in a tent, he has a house.

The next time we meet Lot he is serving as magistrate FOR the city. (Genesis 19:1).

What is meant by the term in Genesis 19:1, "he was sitting at the gate" is that Lot was part of its government. Middle Eastern men of that time were not simply whittling as they rocked in leisure at the front gate. This term 'sitting at the gate' means they were the officials of the city, both to greet visitors and determine their business, friend or foe; and also to settle disputes among its citizens.

In 2 Peter 2:7–8 Lot is called righteous. We know that God considered him so because he did not destroy Lot when the angels came to overthrow the cities. When brimstone came down, Lot had already been warned to leave. Lot had (weakly) tried to warn the aroused mob that what they were doing were evil deeds (Genesis 19:7). Perhaps he had tried to be a good leader to his household and a righteous example in the city, because the 2 Peter verse says Lot was vexed by the sin all around him.

Putting aside the 'perhapses', when push came to shove, Lot's testimony had been so tarnished that his family thought he was joking when He spoke of imminent judgment from God. Joking.

And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is contrary to you, but you must rule over it. (Genesis 4:6b).

Despite the city's reputation for evil and sin, Lot had chosen to pitch his tents near it. This was a mistake. The Bible warns us to flee from sin, not test it. (1 Corinthians 6:18, Ephesians 4:27)

My own prayer is that I beseech the Lord to aid me in fleeing sin, cutting it off, resisting it. (Genesis 39:12, Matthew 5:30, Hebrews 12:4), so that when I speak of Him, the words are taken seriously. What a crushing blow to love the Lord and to have hated sin, but to have lived so weakly that when speaking of Him, it's a joke to the hearers. Lord, let it not be so. Let my words be honoring to You and let my life exalt you also.



Sunday, January 1, 2017

The blessing of a great church...

I thoroughly second the sentiments below, written by one of our church elders, Scott. I love my church. I thank God for the men who lead it and the people who serve & worship there.

Here is the beginning of Scott's Year-End review of the 11-month old church plant called North Avenue Church:

As we come to the close of the year I wanted to write about how encouraged I have been through North Avenue Church. North Avenue’s first official service was about 11 months ago at the end of January. From that first service 11 months ago until now, I have fully enjoyed being a part of North Avenue Church. I wanted to list some of the things that I have enjoyed about North Avenue. 
The first thing I will mention is that I have enjoyed growing in my love for the Savior as a result of North Avenue Church. I can honestly say that I have enjoyed each service that I have attended during the last 11 months. I think I have only missed one service at North Avenue during the last 11 months. Every single service that I attended has in some way stirred up my affections for Jesus. Many…

Read more here