Quiet Time

Please, sit. Make yourself comfy. I have a lot to say today. There are two book reviews in it for you if you make it that far.

So, you have assuredly noticed that I haven’t posted a book review in ages (excepting the Valentine’s post, of course). I haven’t posted in ages, frankly, but a book review in even longer. This is because I refuse to write a negative review. Couple reasons: the internet has too much hate anyway, and when you post something negative, you just start a snowball of negativity. Bleh. Two, I think that God can absolutely use any book, no matter how ridiculously bad, to start something in you if He wants to. Frankly, my faith has gotten so much bigger from reading “what does the Bible really say?” by none other than the Jehovah’s Witnesses. (Ministering to them is fun. Also stressful. Also OH MAN YOU LEARN A LOT.) So, if you got something out of reading a book that wasn’t biblical, and you left the dross behind, good for you! Who am I to say that your favorite Christian book is awful?*

So, no negative. Which means a lot of “no review.” And on my first review back, I’m going to break that rule. Shatter it thoroughly. Whoops.

But! There is good reason! Too Busy Not to Pray by Bill Hybels is, ahem, too good not to read. Mostly because you’ve already heard the bad stuff, and reading this book is getting these ideas from the source, before they were snapped up by legalistic people with an agenda.

What I mean is, Hybels has a few ideas in this book that are decent prayer suggestions that have been made into prayer gospel. You’ve heard these ideas. I promise. You might not have heard some of the other ideas in this book, also practical, biblical suggestions for what might be wrong with your prayer life. I took notes. Also there may have been post-it markers and random quotes sent to my husband.

However, like I said, there’s some junk in this book that needs dealt with. I could do that myself, but why would I do that when someone else has already done it more awesomely than I could have? I wouldn’t, that’s what. Please, please read Guilt-Free Quiet Times by Emily E Ryan (You can get the ebook there, or there’s a link there to buy it in paperback). It debunks 10 prayer and study myths, some of which are found in Too Busy Not to Pray, some of which have cropped up in the meantime – and some of which I didn’t realize I was believing. I loved this book, but I actually got more out of it after I had read the other.

Ryan does a really good job of releasing any guilt surrounding the non-sins of failing to have a consistent 30 minute quiet time in a perfectly private location (if I get a 30 minute time without my children in a private space, I love You God, I am taking a nap. This is biblical, I’m supposed to take care of this temple You gave me. I’ll make it up to you at 3am sometime.)

So, in the end, I would recommend both of them. I would also try to read them in quick succession, and note the scriptures they use. Maybe do a bible study on quiet times! PS: I recommend starting with Psalm 119. It’s a doozy, but it’s also one of my favorites. ❤

*Oh, hey. If you want me to tell you my opinion of a Christian book privately so you can know if you should read it or not, just email me. I am absolutely here to help with that sort of thing. I’m just not going to criticize books publicly, because I can’t be specific to people and situations that way. It’s kinda hard to speak “truth in love” to someone you know exactly nothing about.

 

Published in: on February 23, 2014 at 8:06 pm  Comments (1)  

For Women Only/For Men Only

Ask Strings. I am the most conservative reviewer ever. Which is to say, chances are really good that whatever it is, I don’t like it. I’m a fun-killer. My response to controversy is “avoid.”

So, I was a little bit surprised that I liked For Women Only and For Men Only by Shaunti Feldhahn.  The books are pretty controversial. They are definitely not politically correct, but neither are they particularly biblical. They’re just important.

Wait, what?

The author originally was writing a novel and wanted to make sure to correctly portray the inner dialogue of her male characters, and so she asked a bunch of guys that she knew how they would react in specific situations. She was stunned by the results–so stunned that she went on to conduct a formal study on male thought patterns, which became For Women Only.

And therein lies the key: the study is scientifically done. The answers are statistically significant, though there is intentional bias; she specifically polled Christian males who are or have been married. While she does let her faith show in some of her solutions (and in the fact that she only polled Christian dudes), the stats are valid no matter what. This book isn’t “Is it right and good that males think this way?” It’s not “How do we help males think differently?”

It’s just a “This. This is what your man is probably thinking. This is how he would answer that trick question if he could be sure you wouldn’t throttle him.” What you do with that information is up to you, though she does provide tips for your consideration.

Similarly, after a time Feldhahn noticed there was a demand for a men’s version of the book. She and her husband went off polling Christian women, creating For Men Only, a little book that has the answers to those trick questions dudes wish they could ask their wives, but know perfectly well the answer they got wouldn’t be worth much.

It’s pretty good. I have a quibbles with the conclusions they draw from their data, but the data is RIGHT THERE, so you can, and should, draw your own conclusions as needed. I’d do the same with For Women Only, as well.

I’d recommend these books over some of the other marriage books on the market for that reason, actually. While I love some of those other books, they say the same things as these two, but the other books do it without providing much non-anecdotal support, either scientific or biblical.

These books aren’t going to change the face of feminism. That’s not their point. They are neither books about how men and women ought to feel about one another, nor are they books about how to make men and women change their thought patterns. They are books describing people as they are now, leaving the course of action up to the reader. And that’s why they are so important.

Published in: on February 14, 2014 at 10:41 pm  Leave a Comment  

Clive and Ian!

So, if you like What’s In the Bible as much as we do, you may already know this. But, if you don’t, let me tell you something. Clive and Ian have their own show! 2 DVDs worth! It’s called Clive and Ian’s Wonderblimp of Knowledge, and we. love. it.

It’s 6 questions per DVD of fantastic What’s in the Bible goodness: Is God bigger than a superhero? Can I rely on God when I can’t even rely on my parents? How old is God? Questions inquisitive little minds need to know!

The best part, as a mother of a toddler, is that the segments are not even 5 minutes long. I don’t have to worry about my kid getting zoned out in front of a screen for 30 minutes, wasting every moment of screen time he’s allocated in a day. I get five minutes to do whatever, he gets a Buck Denver video, and we can still watch music videos with daddy later, guilt free!

I will tell you, though, that these are way (way, way) more formulaic. I can barely watch two of them in a row. Where I could (hypothetically, here. Yep) watch What’s in the Bible all by myself, Wonderblimp of Knowledge is definitely a kid’s show. 10 and under only. Anyone older may well find them obnoxious.

Published in: on November 14, 2013 at 10:48 pm  Leave a Comment  

Immutability

First and foremost, my apologies for the days I have missed. It seems that whenever you commit to something like this, you always end up having a bad month! Even with the advance posts I wrote, I ended up a few days short. I have every intention of getting you all your theology, but I’m going to spread the last handful of posts out over November. I’ll get back to doing Food Waste Friday, too. Now, onward to the next concept!

31 days bigYahweh. I am who I am. The idea of aseity is born of the divine name, and so too is the idea of immutability. God is immutable, or not susceptible to change. Indeed, He never changes; neither does anything about Him ever change. James 1:17 Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.

There’s more evidence for this particular idea, of course. It’s a big one. Check out Numbers 23:19, one of my favorite verses. Or Hebrews 6:17-18. 2 Timothy 2:13 is also good. Malachi 3:6 is God’s own opinion on the subject.

This is a really good one for just sitting and chewing on. God doesn’t change; His unchangeability changes us. When we say things like God will draw near to us, we’re not saying that God wasn’t there and is now. He was always there we’re just now noticing. The sun didn’t lift a finger when you opened your curtain, but now the light is flooding your living room, because of the nature of light. The music didn’t get louder when you took out your earplugs, it just started affecting you.

Malachi 3:6 “For I the Lord do not change; therefore you, O children of Jacob, are not consumed.

2 Timothy 2:13 if we are faithless, he remains faithful—for he cannot deny himself.

Hebrews 6:17-18 So when God desired to show more convincingly to the heirs of the promise the unchangeable character of his purpose, he guaranteed it with an oath, so that by two unchangeable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled for refuge might have strong encouragement to hold fast to the hope set before us.

Numbers 23:19 God is not man, that he should lie, or a son of man, that he should change his mind. Has he said, and will he not do it? Or has he spoken, and will he not fulfill it?

Published in: on October 31, 2013 at 9:22 pm  Comments (1)  

Aseity

Some teachings, like total depravity, are hard because our human pride doesn’t like them. Some are hard because they are confusing to wrap our heads around: oh, the trinity.

Some are hard because language is poopy.

Wikipedia defines aseity as the property by which a being exists in and of itself, from itself, or exists as so-and-such of and from itself. Does your head hurt? My head hurts. Can we all agree to never read that again? Good.

Webster gets it a little better: the quality or state of being self-derived or self-originated; the absolute self-sufficiency, independence, and autonomy of God.

Still, could use clarification. Sometimes, when trying to define a word, it’s easier to look at its antonyms: created, developing, dependent. Aseity is the opposite of all those things.

Thus, saying that God is aseity or has aseity (it is a noun, by the way) means that God is unchanging. He is and has always been. He is independent of all things, including Himself. He relies on nothing. This is different from His status as creator and mediator of all things; He is uncreated and needs no mediator. He has no need; there isn’t anything that exists that isn’t already His.

Acts 17:24-25  The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything.

Psalm 90:2 Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever you had formed the earth and the world,    from everlasting to everlasting you are God.

Psalm 102:25-27 Of old you laid the foundation of the earth, and the heavens are the work of your hands. They will perish, but you will remain;    they will all wear out like a garment. You will change them like a robe, and they will pass away, but you are the same, and your years have no end.

Job 41:11 Who has first given to me, that I should repay him?    Whatever is under the whole heaven is mine.

Malachi 3:6  “For I the Lord do not change; therefore you, O children of Jacob, are not consumed.“

John 8:28  Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.”

Published in: on October 27, 2013 at 8:55 pm  Comments (1)  

Glorification

31 days bigWay back in the dark ages of two weeks ago (how is it still October? I do not know) we talked about justification. Then we talked about sanctification. There is a third (and final) process to Christian development: glorification.

What’s that? At the most basic level, it is exactly what I said – the final process of Christian development. It is the realization of our salvation, the achievement of perfection in Christ, the entry into Heavenly Glory. Most people believe that it’s only realized postmortem (except the raptured; thats a different day).

Beyond that, glorification is the receiving of our perfect sainthood: to be conformed to the likeness of Jesus. We have some idea what this will look like. We are now perishable, weak, natural; we will be imperishable, powerful, spiritual. This is what we are working toward when we allow God into us to change us. We put off the old and put on the new to this end.

Your reading today is 1 Corinthians 15:12-58. There are other verses on the subject of glorification and our resurrection bodies, but this is the most comprehensive Scripture on the subject. Also it’s really long. And has a lot to say. Have fun!

Published in: on October 27, 2013 at 5:39 pm  Comments (1)  

Conditional Security

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If we assume that our behavior is the fruit of our being saved, and that we are saved in spite of ourselves, why is the Bible chock-full of warnings to the believer? We are called to confirm our election. We are told to walk in Him. We are told to abide, lest He not abide in us! If our election is sure, if we will persevere in spite of ourselves, why did God give us so many reminders to behave?

I mean, there was a lot of work in getting those Scriptures to you! First somebody had to write these things down. Then, the words had to stick around until Constantine (unlike the first letter to the Corinthians!). After that, they were confirmed as divinely inspired. Finally, they had to be translated at least once again to get to the book in your hands. That is a lot of effort. And yet God used a lot of the New Testament to specifically tell us how to keep our act together.

The Arminian belief regarding apostasy is called conditional preservation of the saints, or sometimes conditional security. Because I like being able to talk, we’re going with the one that’s less of a mouthful.

Conditional security means that our faith and salvation are sure, so long as we abide. So long as we walk with Him. Nothing can take our salvation from us; yet we may take it from ourselves. Arminians don’t think believers are engaged in a divine tug-of-war. They feel believers are trying to walk a difficult road, with easier choices on all sides.

2 Chronicles 15:1-2 The Spirit of God came upon Azariah the son of Oded, and he went out to meet Asa and said to him, “Hear me, Asa, and all Judah and Benjamin: The LORD is with you while you are with him. If you seek him, he will be found by you, but if you forsake him, he will forsake you.

Luke 8:11-13 “Now the parable is this: The seed is the word of God. The ones along the path are those who have heard; then the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, so that they may not believe and be saved. And the ones on the rock are those who, when they hear the word, receive it with joy. But these have no root; they believe for a while, and in time of testing fall away.”

John 15:5-6 I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned.

Romans 11:19-21 Then you will say, “Branches were broken off so that I might be grafted in.” That is true. They were broken off because of their unbelief, but you stand fast through faith. So do not become proud, but fear. For if God did not spare the natural branches, neither will he spare you.

1 Corinthians 15:1-2 Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain.

Published in: on October 25, 2013 at 9:17 pm  Comments (1)  

Prevenient Grace

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Last but not least, prevenient grace! It is everything irresistible grace isn’t. Done.

No, I’m not leaving you like that.

Prevenient grace is like common grace++. It is available to all people, regardless of saved status, but it is (resistibly) salvific. Wait, what? Let’s back up. Prevenient means preceding in time or order. Thus, prevenient grace is the grace that is available to all people before they are saved that allows them to accept Jesus. However, unlike irresistible grace, people have the ability to accept Christ or not – prevenient grace is like leading a horse to water.

Common grace, by the way, is covered under prevenient grace. While some of the stuff common grace talks about, like divine providence, aren’t included, proponents of prevenient grace believe that it is what is responsible for things like your conscience and civil law and such. Following prevenient grace to the fullness of what it has to offer is what saves a person. Listening to your conscience is considered something of a beginning to that.

Verses to check out:

Phil 2:12-13 Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.

Titus 2:11 For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people,

Jeremiah 31:3  the Lord appeared to him from far away. I have loved you with an everlasting love;     therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you.

John 16:7-11 Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you. And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment: concerning sin, because they do not believe in me; concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you will see me no longer; concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.

Romans 2:4 Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?

Ezekiel 34:11 “For thus says the Lord God: Behold, I, I myself will search for my sheep and will seek them out.

1 John 4:19 We love because he first loved us.

So. Now you know about these graces. Pray, ask for wisdom and understanding, crack open your Bible and go for it!

– Strings

Published in: on October 24, 2013 at 5:46 pm  Comments (1)  

It’s Irresistible!

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We’re back with irresistible grace, the “I” in TULIP. Irresistible grace is the idea that you start out with a person predestined by God to have faith, and thus God bestows on him grace. This grace will (not may, will) bring him to the Father. John 6:37 and 6:44, both words of Jesus, support this idea: “All the Father gives to Me, will come to Me”

Irresistible grace means that there is nothing a gal can do either way; she cannot “skip out” on becoming saved any more than she can save herself. The Spirit is doing all the work on her behalf, and she’s just along for the ride (remember, this is called monergism). Romans 9:16 and John 1:12-13 certainly suggest this; proponents of this belief will suggest that every indication we cannot be saved through works (Titus 3:5, etc) also imply this. They suggest that to submit to Christ’s authority is a work, and thus cannot be salvific.

Irresistible grace should not be confused with the doctrine of free grace, sometimes called eternal security. Free grace, which is more about sanctification than justification anyway, says that “once saved, always saved” — if you believe, you are now saved, end of story. You have been called to believe. The call to obey will come at a different time (if at all).

Behavior after salvation is immaterial. You were saved at that convention or revival or whatever it was, now you’re saved. Sounds kinda Calvinist, right? Not so fast — free grace believers think that if you’re not demonstrating fruit, that’s okay. You’re still saved. Calvinists believe that you were never saved in the first place.

Verses to read:

John 10:16 and I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd.

Romans 8:29-30  For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.

1 Corinthians 6:11 And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.

Ephesians 1:7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses,according to the riches of his grace,

Deuteronomy 30:6 And the Lord your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your offspring, so that you will love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, that you may live.

Ezekiel 36:26 And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.

Published in: on October 22, 2013 at 9:51 pm  Comments (1)  

Grace, a study

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Grace is all tied up in a lot of other ideas, and anything involving salvation necessarily must involve grace. Therefore, we ought to have a pretty good idea of what grace is by now, right?

Oh, would it be that easy! Grace, at it’s core, is defined as unmerited favor. That much, everyone can agree on. From there it gets hairy. Very hairy.

There is common grace, prevenient grace, free grace, and irresistible grace, and those are just the big ones. I promise, it won’t be as hard as it sounds! It will be fun. And edifying!

We’ll stick with common grace today.

Common grace is grace available to all people, no matter what you believe about predestination, election or even Jesus. You, me, the heathens down the block, etc., all affected by common grace (hence the name). It is also not ‘salvific’ (salvation-inducing) grace: this grace is how God has (mostly) kept the world afloat, since the majority of people are to be presumed unsaved.

Common grace allows people to be “humane,” per this belief. Romans 13 suggests that God certainly has a hand in the civil authorities of man, thereby to keep the peace and establish order. Further, there is precedent for God intervening to prevent sin aside from saving grace: the pharaoh in the story of Abraham and Sarah, and David in the story of Nabal and Abigail. More directly, God has provided even the unbelievers with consciences that they may know right from wrong.

Common grace also includes “divine providence,”  the part where God made everything and made it well. Certainly there is creation; things like rain and sunshine that are for both the good and the evil. Common grace goes further. John 1:3, under the lens of common grace, suggests that things like vaccines and chemo, computers and electric light bulbs, are absolutely a part of God’s providence. He held back humanity from going completely nutso and inspired us to do awesome stuff, aside from any salvific grace that the creators of those things may have had.

So, common grace. Common to all, not saving anybody from hell, but generally preventing people from being totally awful. Potentially a thing.

Published in: on October 21, 2013 at 9:00 pm  Comments (1)