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Sunday
Feb122017

Daily Readings - John 4:7-15

J.C. Ryle, Daily Readings
John 4:7-15

We should mark Christ's readiness to give mercies to careless sinners. He tell the Smaritan woman that if she had asked, 'he would have given her living water.'

The infinite willingneses of Christ to receive sinners is a golden truth, which ought to be treasured up in our hearts and diligently impressed on others. The Lord Jesus is far more ready to hear than we are to pray and far more ready to give favours than we are to ak them. All day long he stretches out his hands to the disobedient and gainsaying. He has thoughts of pity and compassion towards the vilest of sinners, even when they have no thoughts of him. He stands waiting to bestow mercy and grace on the worst and most unworthy, if they will only cry to him. He will never draw back from that well-known promise: 'Ask and ye shall receive: seek and ye shall find.' The lost will discover at the last day that they had not because they asked not.

We should mark the priceless excellence of Christ's gifts when compared with the things of this world. Our Lord tells the Samaritan woman, 'He that drinketh of this water shall thirst again, but he that drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst.'

The truth of the principle here laid down may be seen on every side by all who are not blinded by prejudice or love of the world. Thousands of men have every temporal good thing that heart could wish and are yet weary and dissatisfied. Riches and rank and place and power and learning and amusements are utterly unable to fill the soul. He that only drinks of these waters is sure to thirst again.

There is no heart satisfaction in this world until we believe on Christ. Jesus alone can fill up the empty places of our inward man. Jesus alone can give solid, lasting, enduriing happiness. The peace that he imparts is a fountain which, once set flowing within the soul, flows on to all eternity.

Friday
Feb102017

What makes a book timeless?

Yesterday, in my theology class, we were discussing the gifts of the Holy Spirit, and specificallly, the debate between continuation and cessation of gifts. Part of our assignment was to engage with a chapter from Charismatic Chaos and Showing the Spirit. Both of these books were published more than twenty years ago; Charismatic Chaos in 1992 and Showing the Spirit in 1987. I was curious if there had been any works that were more recent, and while I didn't spend a whole lot of time on the matter, I didn't find much. In fact, Carson's book is one of the Leader Recommended books at Westminster Books. My prof said that he thinks it is still one of the best books on the subject. John MacArthur, however, has written another book on the topic, Strange Fire.

I was perusing my book shelves this week, making space for books which had previously been beside my bed, and wondering what I could remove from the shelves. I noted that there were many books I purchased in response to some controversy or issue I'd been interested in. I think I can safely say that while I don't think I'd throw them out, the books on the Emergent Church (I have about four of them) can safely be tucked away in the Rubbermaid bin until such time as I have more bookshelves. Does anyone talk about the Emergent Church anymore? I don't think I'll read those books again.

There are other books on my shelf that I know I will read again. Books by Lloyd-Jones, David Wells, J.I. Packer, the Puritans, church history, and biographies by Iain Murray. The commentaries I have by Karen Jobes have been utilized more than once, and will no doubt be again. Yet there are other commentaries I have purchased which have made their way into the Rubbermaid bin because what I want from a commentary has changed over the years.

I've been trying to sort through what I think it is about a book which guarantees that someone will be reading it in ten years or even ten months. These days, books come so fast and furious, the lifespan of the interest in a good book can wane quickly. What was yesterday's "Must Read!" may be gathering dust on the shelf tomorrow.

One thing I think which makes a book have a longer appeal is what its concerns are. Matters like holiness, righteousness, conversion, the atonement, the Trinity, and the Scriptures are examples of ones that have always pre-occupied the church. And yes, marriage and children are similar topics, but the way those concerns are approached have changed. I doubt very much that the concept of "biblical womanhood" was probed too deeply 150 years ago, but men and women like the Puritans gave a lot of thought to marriage and family. I think many of the contemporary issues we spend a lot of time on ultimately become non-issues in a few years, despite our fascination with them at the time. Those books can ultimately provide historical material about the times, but there are still books which are read for their content which endures.

The question about what makes a book timeless is a question I continue to ask myself. Hopefully, my thoughts on the matter will shape my book purchases. I have far too many books which are kind of "obsolete" in a sense. I'm asking myself more and more if the book I'm investing in is something which will guide my thinking over the long haul or if it's just satisfying a momentary pre-occupation. If it's the latter, then maybe I don't need to buy a book, but instead just partake of a few well-written articles instead.

Yesterday, I finally acquired the Battles/McNeill translation of Calvin's Institutes. I wanted a hardback copy, and I didn't want to sell a kidney to get one. I found one used. It was cheaper than the new softcover edition. The dust jackets are pretty worn and its previous owner has underlined, but the bindings on both volumes are tight. I'm confident these will be well used for many years. Now, if I can just decide which books will be put into the Rubbermaid bin to make room, I'll have space for them.

Wednesday
Feb082017

Trade-offs in seminary timing

I'm taking two classes this semester, both taught by the same professor. Perhaps that is why I keep getting things mixed up in my head. Plus, I have classmates in both classes. This week in Theological Foundations, we are studying the Holy Spirit, something which includes reading a chapter from John MacArthur's Charismatic Chaos, and a chapter from D.A. Carson's Showing the Spirit. Carson's writing is much denser, and requires a lot more concentration, but it is worth the effort.

In my Moral Theology class, we are studying euthanasia and physician-assisted death. I have a case study this week to respond to as well as coming up with a response for our weekly discussion question, where I have to decide between two competing views of whether or not withdrawing water and nutrition from someone in a persistent vegetative state.

There have been times over the past week when I have forgotten which assignment I'm working on. Moral Theology is delivered partially through online forum and class time, whereas Theological Foundations is a weekly class. As I was reading about the persistent vegetative state matter, I was perplexed about a few things, and I comforted myself, "Well Dr. Fowler will go over this in class this week." Um, no. We don't meet on campus weekly. It was not like this when I was a first year university student and juggling five classes. I had an easier time remember what was what.

Yes, concentration can be affected as we age. The long and short of it is that for women, decreasing estrogen can affect concentration. Thankfully, I can still work very effectively in the morning, so while it's not always fun getting up at 5:00 a.m. (now that puppy has re-established my morning wake-up time) those two hours of work I get in before my husband gets up are usually very helpful.

A few days ago, I was reflecting on how different it may have been had I decided to attend seminary when I was younger. Instead of staying home with the kids, I would have taken a class here while they were in school. Would I have found it easier? Well, with small kids, I doubt it. The financial burden would have made it difficult as well. Had I attended seminary before having children, while time and concentration may have been better than now, would I have appreciated it?

Being an older student has its benefits. Not only do I have a bit more life experience to bring into some discussions (which is becoming evident in Moral Theology), but waiting for it as I have has made me appreciate this opportunity. I can't speak for younger students, but I know for myself that when I was younger, I probably would not have felt the same way. As we get older, we begin to appreciate more than things are not necessarily owed to us, but are, rather, gifts from God. Furthermore, because I am an older student, and I have been studying the Bible all along, my core Bible knowledge is very helpful. Also, I have been studying theology in the past few years, and that has helped in coming to terms with new concepts we're learning.

Unlike some younger students, I don't know as if I see anything in the future for me beyond getting a piece of paper that says I have completed the requirements for a degree. But the knowledge I am gaining will have been worth it. And if I had been a younger student, perhaps I would not have felt that way.

Sunday
Feb052017

Daily Readings - John 3:16-21

J.C. Ryle, Daily Readings
John 3:16-21

These verses show us the true cause of the loss of man's soul. Our Lord says to Nicodemus, "This is the condemnation, that light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil."

The words before us form a suitable conclusion to the glorious tidings which we have just been considering. They completely clear God of injustice in the  condemnation of sinners. They show in simple and unmistakable terms that, although man's salvation is entirely of God, his ruin, if he is slost, will be entirely from himself. He will reap the fruit of his own sowing.

"God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through him might be saved." There is no unwillingness on God's part to receive any sinner, however great his sins. God has sent "light" into the world and if man will not come to the light the fault is entirely on man's side. His blood will be on his own head if he makes shipwreck of his soul. The blame will be on his own door if he misses heaven. His eternal misery will be the result of his own choice. His destruction will be the work of his own hand. God loved him and was willing to save him, but he loved darknesss and therefore darkness must be his everlasting portion. He wouldl not come to Christ and therefore he could not have life (John 5:40).

The truths we have been considering are peculiarly weighty and solemn. Do we live as if we believed them? Salvation by Christ's death is close to us today. Have we embraced it by faith and made it our own? Let us never rest till we know Christ as our own Saviour. Let us look to him without delay for pardon and peace, if we have never looked before. Let us go on believing on him, if we have already believed. "Whosoever" is his own gracious word -- "whosoever believeth on him, shall not perish, but have eternal life." 

Friday
Feb032017

Seminary gets me out of the echo chamber

For many years, I knew very few women who liked to discuss theology; who were even all that interested in it. Yes, there were women I attended Bible study with, but I had a frustration with some of the directions the studies went: more about me than about God.

When I began homeschooling and visiting a parent forum, I met other like-minded women. Then I began blogging. Then there was Twitter and Facebook, and the rest, as they say, is history. Over time, though, I am afraid that I have been tempted to stay more within the circles with whom I agree, and shown reluctance to interact with those I disagree with. At times, there was criticism directed to those who went outside the circle. And in true female fashion, there was often the cold shoulder to the one who dared question the status quo. That discouraged me. I didn't want to be frozen out or or criticized. I'm afraid I have tended to live in a bit of an echo chamber, and it's something I'm trying to remedy.

It is not an quick or easy process. I am a creature of habit. Mentioning that I agree with something an egalitarian says may cause people to question if I have abandoned complementarianism (I am wondering if that word has gone the way of "evangelical" and has become meaningless) or even worse, *whisper* become a feminist. In the past couple of years, I have braved the waters and sampled from voices outside of the echo chamber in which I often take refuge. It's been very educational, and I have lost my fear that I will spontaneously combust if I read an egalitarian writer.

Going to seminary has really helpled in that regard. We are encouraged to read outside where our convictions may lie. We are encouraged to evaluate our presuppositions. My theology prof, in relation to the Trinity controversy, suggested we read all views, not just the ones by the popular writers. In addition, being in seminary takes me out of a strictly female, married with children venue. 

My theology class this semester has more women than lasts semester: there are five of us. One of the ladies is not originally from North America. There are men young enough to be my children, men with young families, retired men, and single women. It is more ethnically diverse than my own local church. This is what I like about this class. There are varieties of opinions and backgrounds. Yes, we all chose to attend this institution, and that probably says something about what we believe, but there are still differences in experience, and that means we all see things a little differently. And we can learn from one another. There are writers I read, both male and female, who attract large audiences to their writing who could learn from my classmates. And everyone is gracious, respectful, and kind. That isn't always the case when one gets her theology talk fix from social media.

Some may say I'm just in a different echo chamber, and that's partly true. All of us in the class are focused on a similar goal: getting a theological education. Every private group runs the risk of becoming an echo chamber. However, this group has provided a breath of fresh air for me, and I'm thankful to God for being able to interact regularly.