Monday, July 19, 2010

Just a few Pics

Just a few pics.... because my kid is so adorable!  We spent last weekend in Wichita, KS for a family reunion on Chris' side of the family and got a few really cute pictures of our Little Man. He is getting more and more fun the older he gets! Seriously... it's SO fun being his mom! My priorities go in the order of  bringing glory to my God (which I partly do by doing the next two things), serving my husband, then my Little Man. Those things are SUCH a joy! I can't thank the Lord enough for the opportunity to love 2 such incredible guys (and the little girl who's on her way!).

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

The Message of the New Testament: Promises Kept

And so I've begun! Horray. I love starting new studies. The newness of them is exciting. I'll let you know when it wears off :) However for now, I'm going to enjoy the newness. I always read everything in the beginning of a book. The introduction and preface have good stuff in them. John MacArthur gave the introduction for this particular book and gave it high praise. Generally speaking I trust his opinion, so it only grew my excitement to dig in! It was followed by Acknowledgements, an introduction, and a section that was simply titled with the title of the book (and this blog entry). That final section is where I'll sit at for today. Dever breaks the New Testament down into three concentric circles: Christ, God's covenant people, and the renewal of all of creation. "First we focus on Christ; then we expand outward to the new covenant people; and, finally, we take in all creation." This section made me curious of Dever's thinking in the area of covenant vs. dispensational theology. I really don't know how he interprets scripture in this area. I'm thinking it may become more clear as we get to that section of the book and look through the Epistles. There were some great quotes I could share, but I hadn't gotten permission to highlight from my husband yet (he is particular about highlighting :) Now that I have done so, I'll have more quotes to share in the future. However he has some great reflection questions at the end of each chapter. I won't go through them all every time (there are roughly a dozen) but I'll share some that I thought really meaningful.

"What is the riddle of the Old testament. Explain how Christ alone solves that riddle."-"The riddle is this: how can God 'forgive wickedness' and yet 'not leave the guilty unpunished'? The Levitical priests could not solve the riddle by sacrificing bulls and goats. The answer is found, of course, in Jesus. Jesus came as priest, sacrifice, temple, and substitute, in order to interceded between God and man by taking upon his body God's punishment for sin. God could then forgive the wickedness of his people and yet ensure that their wickedness is punished. The New Testament provides the answer to the riddle posed in the Old."

"Surrendering the things we long for requires a kind of death--the death of a desire. And willfully choosing that death is hard to do. It requires us to believe--really believe!--that what God promises is even better. Can you remember a time in your life when God proved himself faithful to his promise of something better? Do you think he would do otherwise next time?" --I love his question here. Ok maybe I don't love it because let's be honest, I don't always want to surrender my desires. But it reminds me of a truth I recently learned, that in every instance where I choose sin it's because I'm not believing God's promises. I don't believe in that moment that what God has for me is better than whatever it is that I'm willing to sin to get in that moment. God's promises are always better than my desires in the long run. I've seen that over and over again in my life. Where have you seen it?

"In sixty seconds or less, what's the good news of Christianity?"--I love this. I've heard Dever state it before. In fact I think they require this of their members, to explain the gospel in 1 minute or less. It's hard to do! See if you can do it!

So there is the beginning. I began reading through Matthew this morning... in the Bible not Dever's book. I was struck with the number of women in the genealogies and it made me want to do a study on those particular women and why they ended up in the genealogy. Maybe a teaching serious coming?! :) We'll see. It's definitely one I want to mark down to go back to!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

The Ultimate Prize

This summer our church is going through A Gospel Primer for Christians by Milton Vincent. Chris picked up this book a few years ago at a NANC (National Association of Nouthetic Counselors) Conference in St. Louis that we attended. I had ignored the book all week. There was a nice lady in the hallway handing them out for FREE. But being the superficial girl that I am I thought the cover was pretty ugly, so I didn't take one. Chris on the other hand will take anything that is free and took the book and preceded to read it cover to cover, many times over. It greatly influenced his gospel focus and thinking and often times he would read me a section before bed at night. Well, I have had the privilege of reading it for myself this summer and there really is some great stuff in it. There are short little sections and we are to read one each day to help us focus on the gospel on a daily basis. Today I read this section that I'm going to quote and it really impacted me and the way we're so often taught about heaven. I've heard about the streets of gold and the pearly gates for most of my life, but never (in my memory) did someone remind me that those streets of gold are there to lead us to God himself, not just for our pleasure. Let me share this quote and you'll see what I mean....

"The essence of eternal life is not found in having my sins forgiven, in possessing a mansion in heaven, or in having the streets of gold on which to walk forever. Rather, the essence of eternal life is intimately knowing God and Jesus Christ whom He has sent. Everything else that God gives to me in the gospel serves merely to bring me to Himself so that this great end might be achieved. Christ died for the forgiveness of my sins so that I might be brought 'to God.' Christ is preparing a place for me in heaven so that He might receive me "to Himself" and have me forever with Him where He is. And yes, there is a great street of gold in heaven, but is there any doubt where the street leads? Unquestionable, it leads straight to the throne of God Himself, as do all of God's gifts to me in the gospel. As I meditate on the gospel each day, I find my thoughts inevitabley traveling from the gifts I've received to the Giver of those gifts; and the more my thoughts are directed to Him, the more I experience the essence of eternal life. The "gospel of God" is from God, comes through God, and leads me to God; and it is in Him that my soul finds its truest joy and rest."

It seems that at times in general teaching the focus just ends up in the wrong place... on me and what might benefit me, and the same is true of teaching on heaven. True heaven is much better than hell and I certainly desire to go to heaven over hell. But heaven and all the benefits of it are not for me, they are to bring glory to the one who created and sustains it all. Heaven is all about God and just as Mr. Vincent says "The 'gospel of God' is from God, comes through God, and leads me to God; and it is in Him that my soul finds its truest joy and rest." Truly heaven would be nothing without our God and it is only in him that I will ever find any satisfaction. The streets of gold or the 'big' mansion I will someday reside in are not the ultimate goal. He is the Ultimate Prize.

Monday, July 12, 2010

New Study Adventure Coming Soon

I'm really excited about my next 'study.' For some time now I've wanted to read through the Bible along with Mark Dever's The Message of the New Testament and The Message of the Old Testament. A few years back Chris and I visited Capitol Hill Baptist Church where Mark Dever pastors and heads up the 9 Marks Ministries. We had the opportunity after that Sunday evening service to visit with him for several minutes and he was kind enough to give us copies of several of the 9 Marks books, The Message of the New Testament being one of them. Ever since I've wanted to read it while reading through the corresponding sections of Scripture and I'm excited to finally get to do so! Mark Dever does an excellent job expositing the Word and has had a a big impact on Chris and I as we considered church life in a more Biblical light over the last several years. In this particular book he gives an overview, kind of a bird's eye view of each book of the New Testament. Instead of breaking it down verse by verse, he strives to capture the message of the book in its entirety. I think it will be a fun way to move a little more quickly through the New Testament, while keeping my eyes fixed on the theme and message of each book. A friend of mine, Susan Heck, challenged me a few years back to take some time to sit down and read through whole books of the Bible at a time in one sitting. She said that she picked up new themes in Scripture when doing so. I'm hoping to make the time to do some of that during this study. That won't be an easy feat with a 15 month old son and another on the way! Fortunately there are several shorter books in the New Testament that I can choose from. Join me as I work through the New Testament (with Mark Dever's help!). I'd love to share with you what I'm learning!

By His Wounds You are Healed-finished review

Last week I finished going through By His Wounds You are Healed: How the Message of Ephesians Transforms a Woman's Idenity by Wendy Horger Alsup. Having finished it I wanted to give my thoughts. Sadly, my initial reaction to the whole book was that I was a bit disappointed. I'll share why, then explain what I really liked about it. I think my disappointment stemmed from 2 key areas. 1) She skipped over a lot of the book. Ephesians is packed full of amazing deep truths and she hit on many of them, but also skipped over a lot and left me with some questions that I'm going to have to go back and study some more. Some of the more difficult passages to understand didn't become any more clear to me, mostly because there was little to nothing written on them. That's ok, but I was hoping for a bit more I think. 2) Wendy seems to have had some difficult times in church. And while we all have a history that plays into our sanctification process, I don't know that we need to hear about it as much as Wendy seems to bring it up. She'll mention how it was done wrong in the past in churches she's been a part of, and move on fairly quickly to the right way, but I don't know that the mention of the wrong was necessary. It adds a negative tone to her writing that I've noticed on her blog as well and has made me a less frequent visitor. 3) I was hoping for more application both at the heart level and at the behavior level. She leaves a lot of the application up to the reader. Granted I didn't do much with the questions at the back of the book, I think because they were at the back. I enjoy questions placed with the chapter they go with. Perhaps even some reflection space throughout the paragraphs.

I did pick up some really cool things from Wendy's study though. I loved the initial definition of grace and the sister passage she uses to explain the greek term. It hit me hard in the way I consider God's grace towards me and the way I think I might be showing grace to others. Do they deserve this? Then it's not grace! I also enjoyed her emphasis on the church and the way we should be living life together as believers. Ephesians talks about this a lot so I'm glad she fleshed it out a bit. Again I might have enjoyed a bit more specific application, but overall I was challenged. I also loved the continuous thought from the beginning to end keeping in mind what we have in Christ from the earlier chapters as we consider the way we live life together in the ending chapters. It brings a whole new light to the life we live together as believers. I particularly found refreshing thinking through the armor of God in light of these truths.

I was hoping to recommend this as a good small group resource for our church. I don't know that I'll be able to... it's missing the kind of application at the heart and behavior level that we like to have, as well as had a few theological differences, but I think I could recommend it to individuals looking for a resource to use along with their personal time in the Word. Thanks Wendy for your hard work!