Tag: book reviews

Exposed

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What do the Bible Reading Challenge, the Sheologians Book Club reading of “(A)Typical Woman“, the Grace Church of the Valley womens study of “A Gospel Primer“, and ongoing discussions with several of my friends all have in common?  They all had me rethinking this week what went on in Eden and what certain occurrences there mean for women today. Come take a stroll with me down the garden path of Genesis 3. I’m taking stops at nearly every verse so pardon the halting pace. Verse 1:

“Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the LORD God had made.”

This has not changed. Can we all just keep that in mind? The serpent is still crafty but he’s not infinitely creative in his craft, which means he’s mostly always up to the same old tricks.

“He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?”

Ladies, something should happen when you hear words like “the Bible never says…” or “the Bible doesn’t explicitly forbid…” There should be an instant red flag. This should cause us to spring into action, pull out our concordances and do a little fact checking. We may find that it’s true — that the Bible truly says no such thing. Or we may find that the Bible actually does say the very thing we’re being told it doesn’t say. Or we may find that the Bible says something similar but we’re not sure if it’s the same thing, in which case we better do a little research till we are sure. But in every case we should be sure about what the Bible actually does and doesn’t say, NOT BECAUSE SOMEONE TOLD US SO, BUT BECAUSE WE’VE ACTUALLY READ IT THERE. Which brings me to my next point.

2 And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, 3 but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’”

Poor Eve. She was so close to getting it right. But this passage shows how being off just a little bit can open the door to some really big error. Of course, talking to snakes in general can open that door pretty wide, too. But notice her little added phrase, “neither shall you touch it,” which was absent from God’s original command.  One could say that adding not to touch a thing would only rightly reinforce the command not to eat it. And indeed that is the reasoning behind much of the legalistic “X is forbidden, Y could lead to X, therefore Y is forbidden as well” mentality.   It’s not just legalists who error in this regard.  There are other ways to be just a little bit off when it comes to wielding God’s Word.

Think of Christ’s temptation in the wilderness. Satan used a similar tactic with Him in Matthew 4:1-11. The twist here was instead of questioning God’s law, he abuses God’s promises. Didn’t God say, “He will command his angels concerning you?” Didn’t God say, “On their hands they will bear you up?” Do you really think Satan is beyond using those same tactics today? “God promised X to this person. You are a person. Therefore you should demand God do X for you as well.” If this tactic doesn’t sound familiar to you go watch “American Gospel” now on Netflix.

Whether it’s something we’re told the Bible says not to do, or something we’re told the Bible says God will do, the consequences for not getting it absolutely right can be disastrous. This is why Bible translations matter. This is why the content of our worship matters.  This is why the books and the podcasts and the conferences that we ingest matter.  This is why the cute little Christian sounding memes we repost matter. A little error can have enormous consequences.

But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” 

Now this one doesn’t seem that subtle but for some reason it works on us women anyway. In Genesis 2:17 God says “Of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” In Genesis 3:4 Satan says, “You shall not surely die.” This seems to be a pretty obvious contradiction of the law of God.  The average Christian woman should be able to see right through that kind of tactic, right? Yet on any given day I can scroll through my social media feed and see a whole lot of messages that should come with a little red flag warning Christian women that the following statements should definitely be checked against scripture. Instead they are being reposted with little praise hands. “Love yourself” “You are enough” “Believe all women” “Divorce doesn’t disqualify you from anything” “Woman can be pastors too” “You deserve to feel great” “This drink will solve all your problems” “Yoga is just stretching” “Exposing all your ugly stuff is actually beautiful and real” “It’s wrong to judge” “We don’t have to obey. We’re not under the law” “God’s not angry about sin.” Maybe you don’t think any of those statements are lies. Maybe you think all of them are. Maybe you think some are and some aren’t. The question I have for you is, can you show me in your Bible what makes them true or false?  Are you letting Scripture determine what is true? Or are you, like Eve, allowing your own desires and appetites to govern your decisions?

So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate. 

Here’s the thing about most women’s ministries. They seek to indulge our appetites rather than change them. “Women want to hear this and they want to eat that and they want it to look like this and they want to experience that and they want to leave feeling like this.” And voila, the publishing companies, and the conferences, and the Etsy shops deliver all of the above.  It’s interesting to me that when the Israelites needed to be fed in the wilderness, God didn’t just rain down the cucumbers and leeks they were craving from Egypt. He gave them a brand new diet of manna meant to whet their appetite for the true Bread of Life. I’m not saying that the books and Bible studies and conference themes shouldn’t be beautiful and appealing or that austerity is somehow more holy in nature. But I am saying that if the focus of your ministry to women is giving them what they want, maybe you should stop taking your cues from Eve.

It’s not that her desires were overtly corrupt either. She just wanted organically grown fruit which I’m sure was packed with gut cleansing probiotics, and it just happened to have all the right filters to make it glow and all she was really going for was an authentic growth experience in self awareness and personal truth… so “she took of its fruit and ate.” Oh and then because she happened to be extremely influential with her husband she was somehow able to convince him to do the same. Don’t know how. Who ever heard of a woman being able to change her husband’s mind about anything?

Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths.

The original bikini bottom right there. And even with just her hubby around Eve knew it was a little unsubstantial. As soon as God shows up they hide themselves and their beachwear out of fear of exposure.

And they heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden. But the LORD God called to the man and said to him, “Where are you?” 10 And he said, “I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself.” 

Ladies, what’s changed? Why is exposing our bodies, our sins, our sexual history, our conflicts with others, our messy homes, TO EVERYONE IN THE WORLD suddenly an act of bravery cleverly captioned as “authentic” or “vulnerable”? Have we forgotten that God’s solution for His scantily clad creatures was not to remove their sense of shame or or analyze their guilt complex or take a picture and post it for all the fallen angels to relate to? No! His solution is right there in verse 21 of the same chapter. “The Lord God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins and clothed them.” God lovingly, mercifully, compassionately stooped and covered them properly.

No, I don’t think we should all pretend to be something we’re not. And yes, true confession born out of repentance of sin has it’s rightful place. I’m just suggesting that FB and IG and Twitter and the blogosphere and your women’s Bible study group and the conference podium are NOT that place. As brave as exposing one’s self to the world might seem, I can’t help but wonder what other fears our exposure is covering up.

With that, I’d like to invite you to a different kind of exposure that takes a different kind of bravery. I’d like to invite you to a feast with no forbidden fruit. It starts June 1 and it’s called Same Page Summer and you can find out more by clicking here. For about 4 chapters a day, 5 or 6 days a week, you can join thousands of other women all over the world as we read through the New Testament together, with our families, with our Bible study groups, on-line, and in many languages.  Come, take and eat.

“For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And no creature is hidden from His sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account.” Hebrews 4:12,13

 

Tolle Lege and Spectare, too

Anyone else find themselves with extra time on their hands?  In my last post I put up a Bible reading and memorization calendar for the month of April.  Click April 2020 Printable for a link to the printable version. It’s never too late to come to the table and feast on the Living Word.  Already filling up on Scripture and have even more time to spare?  I not only have some suggestions to “take up and read” but some “sit down and watch” ones as well.

The first book was highly recommended by John MacArthur at the G3 Conference I attended back in January when such goings-on were still perfectly normal and legal. “Delighting In The Trinity” by Michael Reeves is perfectly suited to it’s title.  I had never thought of the doctrine of the Trinity as something to be delighted in.  Mainly it just seemed vague and confusing. This book truly is a must read for every Christian and anyone else seeking to educate themselves about this foundational element of our faith.

I happened to be reading this book by my Dad’s bedside the week before he died (you can read more about that by clicking here). One of the things he kept saying while he was “journeying” (the Hospice term for the time of transition between life and death) was “Wow!” It’s like he was getting glimpses of the glories to come. I found my own heart echoing my Dad’s rapturous exclamations with each turn of the page.  Wow! “Since God is, before all things, a Father, and not primarily Creator or Ruler, all his ways are beautifully fatherly (23).”  Wow! “Because the Father’s love for the Son has burst out to be shared with us, the Son’s inheritance is also (extraordinarily!) shared with us (50).”  Wow! “While the Son establishes and upholds all things (Heb. 1:3), the Spirit perfects or completes the work of creation…the Spirit garnishes and beautifies the heavens and the earth… And so, while the Nicene Creed speaks of the Father as the ‘Maker of heaven and earth,’ it speaks of the Spirit as ‘the Lord and giver of life’ (51).”

Maybe this crazy time of social isolation is the perfect time to understand the relational aspect of God’s character. He is a God all-together “together.” And moreover, we were created to be in fellowship with that perfect Triune fellowship of the One True God, the Great I AM.  Any loneliness you might be feeling during this pandemic will vanish as you get to know God better through this book. As the introduction states,

“To know and grow to enjoy him is what we are saved for–and that is what we are going to press into here.  Nonetheless, getting to know God better does actually make for far more profound and practical change as well.  Knowing the love of God is the very thing that makes us loving.  Sense the desirability of God alters our preferences and inclinations, the things that drive our behavior: we begin to want God more than anything else.  Thus, to read this book is not to play an intellectual game. In fact, we will see that the triune nature of this God affects everything… (10)”

The second book was brought home by my husband from The Shepherds Conference right before the world shut down.  “Gentle and Lowly” by Dane Ortlund zeroes in on the second Person of the Trinity and His heart for “sinners and sufferers.” I haven’t finished reading this one yet but I’m recommending it anyway because I like it so much already and because I think it is such a timely read. Consider this description from the introduction:

“This book is written for the discouraged, the frustrated, the weary, the disenchanted, the cynical, the empty.  Those running on fumes.  Those whose Christian lives feel like constantly running up a descending escalator.  Those of us who find ourselves thinking: “How could I mess up that bad–again?”  It is for that increasing suspicion that God’s patience with us is wearing thin.  For those of us who know God loves us but suspect we have deeply disappointed him.  Who have told others of the love of Christ yet wonder if–as for us–he harbors mild resentment.  Who wonder if we have shipwrecked our lives beyond what can be repaired.  Who are convinced we’ve permanently diminished our usefulness to the Lord.  Who have been swept off our feet by perplexing pain and are wondering how we can keep living under such numbing darkness.  Who look at our lives and know how to interpret the data only by concluding that God is fundamentally parsimonious.  It is written, in other words, for normal Christians (13).”

But here’s the clincher, “Gentle And Lowly” totally builds right off of “Delighting In The Trinity.” It addresses key questions like “How does the heart of Christ relate to the doctrine of the Trinity–does Christ relate to us differently than the Father or the Spirit relates to us?…How does his heart related to his wrath? Yet again, how does Christ’s heart fit with what we find in the Old Testament and its portrait of God (14)?”

The book takes its title from the one passage in all four gospels where Jesus gives us a description of His own heart–Matthew 11:28:30, which reads, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly of heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light (18).” Ortlund builds heavily on this description, but with the following important qualifier:  “This is not who he is to everyone, indiscriminately. This is who he is for those who come to him, who take his yoke upon them, who cry out to him for help.  The paragraph before these words from Jesus gives us a picture of how Jesus handles the impenitent: ‘Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida!… I tell you that it will be more tolerable on the day of judgment for the land of Sodom than for you” (Matt. 11:21.24). ‘Gentle and lowly’ does not mean ‘mushy and frothy.”

Go get on Amazon and buy these books. And I’m not even getting paid to say that.              I should be getting paid to say that.

And while you’re over at Amazon, might as well check out these watch recommendations:

  1. Tomorrow is April 9, the 75th anniversary of the execution of Dietrich Bonhoeffer by the Nazis.  My first recommendation would be to read his “Letters and Papers From Prison.” But if you happen to have Prime Video check out “Bonhoeffer: Agent of Grace.”
  2. While we’re on the theme of martyrdom, my boys all gave two thumbs up to “Poycarp.”  This film was really well done and gave a beautiful portrayal of life in the early church, highlighting the faith of not just everyday Christians of the time but of such well known heroes of the faith like Justin Martyr and the Apostle John’s disciple, Polycarp.
  3. Another biographical film we enjoyed was “Charles Spurgeon: the People’s Preacher.”  Again, I always recommend books first, but this is a great introduction into this unparalleled pastor’s life for members of the family who aren’t quite ready for his “Complete Sermons.”
  4.  Now, hands down the absolute most thumbs up goes to “The Riot and the Dance.” Prime Video only has the first one up for free but we can’t wait to see the sequel to this stellar nature documentary from a creationist’s perspective. It is truly stunning.
  5. Finally, here’s one (actually two, wait.  three) just for mature teens and adults. I recommend “American Gospel: Christ Alone” and its sequel, “American Gospel: Christ Crucified” to every one but kids. The only reason I don’t recommend this series for children is not because of content but because of format. Because the interviews switch so quickly between false teachers and theological sound teaching, its really hard for a younger person to distinguish between “the good guys and bad guys” and they could walk away really confused about what is the truth. Those are the only two films on my whole list that you have to rent ($2.99 and $4.99 respectively). The rest are free, including my final recommendation, again, for mature teens and adults only and that is “Babies Are Still Murdered Here.”  Just watch it.  That’s all I’m gonna say.

Well, that oughta keep y’all busy for a while.

 

Tolle Lege: Feasting Amid Fears

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Yesterday was a big day for us.  Titus had been feeding his homemade sourdough starter (appropriately named Patrick) for 2 weeks and yesterday he turned it into fragrant, golden loaves to supplement our St. Patricks Day feast of corned beef, bangers, mash and all the fixings. Don’t know the story of Patrick, who after being kidnapped by Irish pirates and forced into servitude, escaped, and then went back to Ireland to bring his captors the good news of Jesus Christ? Click here for a great biographical article from Ligonier Ministries.  Since our kids are half German/half ScotchIrish we use holidays like Reformation Day and St. Patricks to celebrate and learn more about the Christian heritage of those cultures. And yes, we consume copious amounts of pork sausage for both. This year I made bookmarks with Saint Patrick’s “Lorica” printed on them so we could recite it together around the table. Timely words in a world riddled by fear of disease and economic upheaval.

Stuck at home with extra time on your hands?  Why not study up on other saints (and I mean that in the broadest, most Biblical sense of the word) in church history?  How have others believers braved times far more perilous than that which we now face? My boys have thoroughly enjoyed “Sketches From Church History” put out by Banner of Truth Publishing where you can read all about defenestration (Joel’s favorite new word, and don’t let anyone tell you German doesn’t have at least some Latin roots) and other such violent acts.  For my more genteel readers I want to suggest the two-volume set, “Memorable Women of Puritan Times” by James Anderson (Soli Deo Gloria Publishing). Tom bought me these when we were newly weds and I have returned to them again and again. In tumultuous times there is nothing to gird one up like considering others who have “endured opposition from sinful men.”

And finally. Once upon a time, Christian families had the time, or rather I should say, MADE the time to read God’s Word together and talk about what it said. The result of this was more often-than-not believing children who grew up knowing what they believed and why they believed it.  If you’re one of those families who have never tasted of the sweetness of reading scripture TOGETHER (and judging by the rampant Biblical illiteracy even in our churches, there’s probably more of you than you’d care to admit), why not use this time to invest in a habit that according to Isaiah 55:11 is guaranteed eternal returns? Our family is using the chronological Bible reading plan this year but we’ve used all kinds of others. You don’t need a reading plan. You just need to read. Aloud. Together.

And talk about it. If you want to combine church history with your Bible readings, Crossway has put out a couple really excellent Bibles to keep on hand for that purpose. I already did a review of their ESV Prayer Bible. You can read it by clicking here.  Recently they sent me a copy of their “ESV Bible With Creeds And Confessions.” It’s really beautiful and has large enough print that if you’re passing the Bible around during family read aloud time your younger and elderly readers will have no trouble participating.  It really is the perfect “family Bible” and has enough of that “heirloom quality” to be cherished for generations. Best of all it is a great tool for all believers who want a better understanding of the essential doctrines of the Christian faith. Because it contains all the creeds and confessions of Orthodox Christianity you will see not only the doctrines considered by all to be essential, but also the variances deemed (relatively 🙂 )unessential such as the different views of baptism contained in the London Baptist Confession and the Heidelberg Catechism.

Please understand that I’m not throwing this all out there to make anyone feel like we’re using this as an opportunity to prove our own holiness over others’.  But people I love are starving.  I see friends and family picking at crumbs fallen from the table and drinking great gulps of poisonous teachings that have spread like the yeast in Ty’s bread through our churches. All the while, we more than any generation have a splendidly nourishing and sumptuous feast spread before us 24/7.  Oh dear ones, please, take and eat. You too, can choose feasting over fear.

Some of you really liked the link to one of Titus’s youtube videos that ended up in the comments last week so here’s another one for your listening pleasure.