a book recommendation

johnAs folks around the world and web remember R.C. Sproul’s life and influence, I’d like to point you to one of his books that you may not have encountered. This past fall, I went through his commentary on John very slowly – a chapter a day – and I highly recommend it as a devotional. Here are a few passages I marked along the way:

All light finds its origin in Jesus Christ, who is the fountain of all truth.

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Therefore, if you have in your heart today any affection for Christ at all, it is because God the Holy Spirit in His sweetness, in His power, in His mercy, and in His grace has been to the cemetery of your soul and has raised you from the dead. So you are now alive to the things of Christ and you rejoice in the kingdom into which He has brought you.

[I love that phrase “…to the cemetery of your soul and has raised you from the dead.” I didn’t need to be persuaded or wooed to come to Christ. I was doornail dead and had to be brought to life.]

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The whole of Scripture speaks to us of the love of God for His people, but so often we fix our attention on God’s love for us that we forget that the ground of that love is the love that the Father has from eternity for His Son. Remember, we’re not the natural children of God. We’re the adopted children of God, and even our election must always be understood to be in the Son.

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We have to keep a close watch on what we do in worship, asking ourselves: “Is this according to the truth of God? Is this God’s teaching in His Word?” Our worship must be based on God’s self-revelation in Scripture. He is truth and His Word is truth.

[This is completely counter-cultural.]

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The deepest theological question that I can think of, the one for which I have no adequate answer, is the question, “Why me?” My students come to me with all kinds of conundrums from theology, but they rarely ask, “Why did God save me?” It sometimes seems as if we’re thinking: “Why wouldn’t He save me?” Yes, we have little aphorisms such as, “There, but for the grace of God, go I.” Do we really believe that? Are we really amazed by the measure of grace God has poured out on us? Can we say with John, “Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on its, that we should be called children of God!”

“Why me?” indeed. Why do I live in a time where solid, rich biblical teaching is at my fingertips day and night? Why was I “introduced” to R.C. Sproul’s teaching as a very young woman so that I could benefit as I grew in my relationship with Christ?

Amazing grace.

 

“…they were written down for our instruction…”

My reading through the Bible has recently taken me through 1 Samuel and some corresponding Psalms. I have been struck (not for the first time) by David’s trust in God and the resulting obedience, even while his life was threatened by Saul. David refuses to kill Saul when he has the chance, and I can’t say that I would have done the same.

Consider David’s thoughts in Psalm 34:

Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good!
Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!
Oh, fear the Lord, you his saints,
for those who fear him have no lack!
The young lions suffer want and hunger;
but those who seek the Lord lack no good thing.

He acknowledges how his God delivers those who cry out to him, and he has actual experience with this. These words are pouring out of a soul that knows and loves God. He’s a refugee; God is his refuge.

And yet, this David is the same man we know will go on to seek another man’s wife with such fervor that he has the man killed to get what he wants. Clearly, something changed. At some point he began to believe that he did lack something (someone) that God had not provided.

I now have to preach to myself:  Anne, take heed lest you fall. I’m not sure I have the faith David showed when he did not take the opportunity to kill Saul in the cave, but I am reminded that I have ability to fall from what faith I DO have. I, too, have tasted the goodness of the Lord and seen His provision over and over again. Yet, I forget.

Now these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come. Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall. No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.
~~Corinthians 10:11-13

I am thankful for God’s Word and my access to it. I’m thankful that it is living and active. And I’m thankful that He is faithful.

 

“We listen every day to the voices of the culture around us…”

johnFrom John (St. Andrew’s Expositional Commentary) by R.C. Sproul:

All of us, even the most pious Christians among us, are overwhelmingly influenced by the cultural customs and conventions of the societies in which we live. It starts in school, where popularity means “being with it,” that is, being in line with the morality of the society, even if that morality includes things of which God does not approve. That’s what our innate struggle with sin is all about. We listen every day to the voices of the culture around us that tell us what’s politically correct and what isn’t, what is socially acceptable and what isn’t. Then, for a few minutes on Sunday morning, we hear the law of God. We know they don’t match up, but unless or until the Holy Spirit takes the law and pierces our souls with it and convicts us of sin, we don’t really pay attention to it.

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“How arrogant is that?”

johnFrom John (St. Andrew’s Expositional Commentary) by R.C. Sproul:

I’m sure you’ve seen the popular bumper sticker that says, “God said it; I believe it; that settles it.” How arrogant is that? We need a new bumper sticker, one that says: “God says it; that settles it.” It doesn’t matter whether I believe it. It’s settled long before my assent. If God Almighty opens His holy mouth and declares something, we don’t need another witness. It’s over.

 

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“God doesn’t tell us the future for this simple, yet profound reason…”

just-do-somethingFrom Kevin DeYoung’s Just Do Something:

Wisdom is the difference between knowing a world-class biologist who can write your papers for you and studying under a world-class biologist so that you can write the kind of papers he would write. Too many of us want God to be the world-class scholar who will write our papers and live our lives for us, when God wants us to sit at His feet and read His Word so that we can live a life in the image of His Son. God doesn’t tell us the future for this simple, yet profound reason: We become what we behold. God wants us to behold Him in His glory so that we can be transformed into His likeness (2 Corinthians 3:18). If God figures everything out for us, we wouldn’t need to focus on Him and learn to delight in His glory. God says, “I’m not giving you a crystal ball. I’m giving you My Word. Meditate on it; see Me in it; and become like Me.”

“Foolishness, on the other hand, is turning from God and listening only to yourself.”

just-do-somethingI’ve been reading through Proverbs lately (tweeting a verse here and there), and I’ve been thinking a lot about the contrast between a wise person and a fool. I’m also currently reading Kevin DeYoung’s Just Do Something: A Liberating Approach to Finding God’s Will, and I highly recommend it. He’s making a case that while we’re inundated with information, wisdom is something entirely different. And we’re called by God to seek wisdom, not “some hidden will of direction. He expects us to trust Him and be wise.” DeYoung goes on:

Wisdom is understanding the fear of the Lord and finding the knowledge of God. Wisdom, in Proverbs, is always moral. The fool, the opposite of the wise person, is not a moron or an oaf. The fool is the person who does not live life God’s way. Wisdom is knowing God and doing as he commands. Foolishness, on the other hand, is turning from God and listening only to yourself.

Here are just a few characteristics of a wise man, as described in Proverbs:

~ fears the Lord
~ makes his parents glad
~ diligent
~ walks in integrity
~ listens to advice
~ loves discipline
~ guards his mouth
~ hangs out with other wise people
~ exercises self control

Contrast those with characteristics of a fool:

~ brings sorrow to his parents
~ lazy
~ runs his mouth
~ despises wisdom and instruction
~ refuses to listen to others
~ hangs out with other fools
~ reckless and careless
~ is easily angered

It’s pretty easy to look at those lists and immediately think of people we know – either in person or from television or Twitter. But the trick is finding ourselves there and seeking God’s help to grow in the characteristics of a wise person.

I realize I’m not on to anything new here, but it’s been on my mind and in my reading, and it’s worth pondering. All day long, I’m making little choices to be wise or to be foolish, and I really want to be wise. I’m thankful that God’s doesn’t hide that wisdom from us. He tells us to seek Him and His wisdom, and His word is the place to find it.

For the LORD gives wisdom;
From his mouth come knowledge and understanding. ~ Proverbs 2:6

on taking and leaving

As I’ve mentioned, I recently read The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, and I picked up a few helpful tips (folding my clothes and arranging them vertically, taking all my clothes out of the closet and only putting back in what I want to keep…). I disregarded the suggestions to talk to my clothes, to greet my home when I come in every evening, and to empty my purse every night. Neither my clothes nor my home can hear me, and unloading my purse every night would be a futile task and ridiculous burden.

And that’s okay. Except for the Bible, we’re free to pick and choose, to take what we want and leave the rest. Whenever I see someone jump on a bandwagon or fangirl (or guy) over everything someone says or does, I get a little creeped out. There are so many writers and theologians and really smart, wise people whom I admire, but I can think of no one who is infallible. I have learned so much from John Piper, for example, and his The Pleasures of God changed my thinking, and really, my life. I’ve read many, if not most, of his books. But I don’t agree with him 100%. And no one agrees with me 100%.

And, again, that’s okay.

The only book that I’m not free to feel that way about is the Bible. If there’s something there that I don’t like, or that bothers me, or that just sounds weird (I’m reading through Genesis now, and woah — Jerry Springer show!) , I have to grapple with it. I can’t shrug my shoulders or just write it off. I have to wrestle with it and ask God to change ME. I have to trust Him. 100%.

I can’t pick and choose or take and leave from Scripture. I can’t be trusted to do that. And I don’t trust anyone else who does that.

Just thinking out loud,

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monday miscellany: new year edition

From around the web:

~ Don’t believe in yourself:

One of the most dangerous qualities of pride is that it sneaks into places in our hearts where other sins once lived. We begin to conquer some sinful attitude, or habit, or addiction with God’s help, and soon enough we marvel at our own strength, or resolve, or purity, as if we somehow accomplished it on our own. C.S. Lewis writes, “The devil loves ‘curing’ a small fault by giving you a great one” (Mere Christianity, 127). The confidence we feel in ourselves after defeating sin can carry us as far away from God as, or even farther than, the sin we defeated.

If we battle some sins, but welcome pride, we will lose the war. But if we suffocate pride, we will starve every other sin of its oxygen.

~ 5 Ways Daily Bible Reading Impacts Your Life. Here’s one:

The Word of God is like an anchor. Each time you read it, you are putting your anchor in the ground and holding on. It keeps you from drifting. But without daily grabbing on to this anchor, you may be miles away before you realize what happened. This is why frequent study and meditation of the Word of God is crucial.

~ Speaking of daily Bible reading, this is the plan I’m using in 2017.

~ Lord, deliver me from distraction.

~ This year I’m planning to use a combination of the lists in the 2017 MMD Reading Challenge, with an emphasis on reading books I already own.

My New Year has started off well. I’m off work today and still in my pajamas!

Happy New Year & Happy Monday!

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“There may be no finer words in Scripture.”

heartFrom Heart of the Matter: Daily Reflections for Changing Hearts and Lives

God does not forgive you based on the quality of your confession or your resolve to be a better person. But you keep thinking otherwise. Your standard is what you would do to someone like yourself, and chances are that you would not let the incident pass quickly. God, however, forgives for his own name’s sake. “I, even I, am he who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake, and remembers your sins no more” (Isaiah 43:25). There may be no finer words in Scripture. God bases his forgiveness on himself and his forgiving character, not on the quality of your confession.