How to get our boys to read – Reformed Perspective

This short article appeared last month (July 14, 2017) on the digital version of Reformed Perspective and was written by editor Jon Dykstra.

Though brief, the article is worth your time, especially if you have boys who may not be interested in reading, or are interested in reading the kind of “potty humor” books referred to here. Dykstra calls us to aim higher with our sons and grandsons, and I couldn’t agree more.

Below is the beginning of the article; find the rest at the link below.

And if you are looking for some good ideas for children’s lit or for adult lit, check out the related site Really Good Reads for reviews and recommendations from a Christian perspective.

In a 2010 Wall Street Journal article, Thomas Spence argues that the way some “experts” were trying to encourage boys to read was all wrong. Their strategy involved pitching boys books like Goosebumps, Sir Fartsalot, Captain Underpants and The Day My Butt Went Psycho. If we want boys to read, so this line of thinking goes, then let’s give them the potty humor they adore. That’ll make them readers, right?

It might get some reading, but what it won’t do is give them any of the benefits that come from reading good books. Thomas Spence insists that instead of “meeting [boys] where they are at” we need to aim higher, and he quotes C.S. Lewis:

“The little human animal will not at first have the right responses. It must be trained to feel pleasure, liking, disgust, and hatred at those things which really are pleasant, likeable, disgusting, and hateful.”

If we point our sons to what’s disgusting and encourage their interest, how can we expect them to learn and appreciate what is good? How can our boys become men if, instead of training them up in the way they should go (Prov. 22:6), we reinforce their childishness? Instead of the gross, we need to fill our shelves with what’s great. We need to give our boys examples to aspire to, in books like Encyclopedia Brown, Saint George and the Dragon, The Green Ember, The Hobbit, Journey Through the Night, and Wambu: The Chieftain’s Son.

Of course, it’s one thing to stock our shelves, and another to get our boys to pull books off of them. How do we get them reading?

Two tips: start early, and get rid of the distractions.

Source: How to get our boys to read – Reformed Perspective

Published in: on August 16, 2017 at 7:06 AM  Leave a Comment  

Your Mind and the Quest for Holiness – J. Stott

mind-matters-stottThere is, however, a second kind of mental discipline to which we are summoned in the New Testament. We are to consider not only what we should be but what by God’s grace we already are. We are constantly to recall what God has done for us and say to ourselves: ‘God has united me with Christ in his death and resurrection, and thus obliterated my old life and given me an entirely new life in Christ. He has adopted me into his family and made me his child. He has put his Holy Spirit within me and so made my body his temple. He has also made me his heir and promised me an eternal destiny with him in heaven. This is what he has done for me and in me. This is what I am in Christ.’

Paul keeps urging us to call these things to mind. ‘I want you to know,’ he writes. ‘I don’t want you to be ignorant.’ And some ten times in his letters to the Romans and Corinthians he utters his incredulous question, ‘Don’t you know?’ Don’t you know that by being baptized into Christ you were baptized into his death? Don’t you know that you were the slaves of the one to whom you have yielded yourselves in obedience? Don’t you know that you are God’s temple, and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? Don’t you know that the unrighteous will not inherit God’s kingdom? Don’t you know that your bodies are members of Christ?

The apostle’s intention in this battery of questions is not just to make us feel ashamed of our ignorance. It is rather to prevail upon us to recall these great truths about ourselves, which in fact we know very well, and to talk to ourselves about them until their truth grips our mind and molds our character. This is not the self-confidence of Norman Vincent Peale. Peale’s way is to get us to pretend we are other than we are. Paul’s way is to remind us what we truly are, because God has made us that way in Christ.

Taken from Your Mind Matters: The Place of the Mind in the Christian Life (Inter-Varsity Press, 1972) by John R. W. Stott. Specifically, this is drawn from Chap.3, “The Mind in the Christian Life” and the section “The Quest for Holiness,” where Stott points us to the significant role of the Christian’s mind in his sanctification (pp.41-42).

A Little Book for New (All) Theologians – K. Kapic

little-book-theologians-kapicA small and brief book I found in a local Thrift store recently is Kelly M. Kapic’s A Little Book for New Theologians: Why and How to Study Theology (IVP Academic, 2012).

I decided to put it into the seminary library, then took it home to read a bit in it this weekend. I read a couple of chapters and found it interesting and informative. Kapic is professor of theological studies at Covenant College (PCA) in Lookout Mountain, GA. The publisher gives this overview of the book on its website:

Whenever we read, think, hear or say anything about God, we are doing theology. Yet theology isn’t just a matter of what we think. It affects who we are.

In the tradition of Helmut Thielicke’s A Little Exercise for Young Theologians, Kelly Kapic offers a concise introduction to the study of theology for newcomers to the field. He highlights the value and importance of theological study and explains its unique nature as a serious discipline.

Not only concerned with content and method, Kapic explores the skills, attitudes and spiritual practices needed by those who take up the discipline. This brief, clear and lively primer draws out the relevance of theology for Christian life, worship, mission, witness and more.

“Theology is about life,” writes Kapic. “It is not a conversation our souls can afford to avoid.”

Today I give you a few samples from the book for your profit. I see this book as useful not only to those new to theology but also to those who want to be reminded of the significant place theology ought to have in our lives even as mature Christians. Read on and then pick up some good theology to read!

Theological questions surround our lives, whether we know it or not. A wife and husband facing infertility inevitably struggle through deep theological questions, whether or not they want to voice them. College students working through issues of identity, culture, politics and ethics struggle – in one way or another – with theological convictions and how to live them. Our concepts about the divine inform our lives more deeply than most people can trace. Whether we view God as distant or near, as gracious or capricious, as concerned or apathetic, the conclusions we reach – whether the result of careful reflection or negligent assumptions – guide our lives.

Keep in mind that Kapic is talking generally about the role of theology in that paragraph. But he goes on to say,

Christians must care deeply about theology. If the true God is renewing our lives and calling us to worship him ‘in spirit and truth’ (Jn.4:24), then such worship includes our thoughts, words, affections and actions. Do we want to worship Yahweh or waste time and effort on a deity we have constructed in our own image? [p.16]

A little later he adds:

Theological reflection is a way of examining our praise, prayers, words and worship with the goal of making sure they conform to God alone. Every age has its own idols, its own distortions that twist and pervert how we view God, ourselves and the world. …We aim not to escape our cultures, however, but to recognize that God calls us to respond faithfully to him in our place and time, whatever our particular social and philosophical climate. We, not just our ancestors, are invited to know and love God – and thus to worship him. [p.18]

Perhaps we can return to more of Kapic’s thoughts in the future. For now, that’s it for this Monday morning.

“By reading [the Bible] we can see divine glory!” ~ J. Piper

To me, it is simply wonderful that God would lead Paul, in Ephesians 3:4, to make unmistakably explicit this breathtaking fact about reading, namely, that the riches of the glory of God are perceived through reading [the Bible]. It is wonderful because reading is so ordinary, but the unsearchable riches of Christ are so extraordinary. It’s as if he said that you can fly by sitting. Or that you an be on top of Mount Everest by breathing. By reading we can see divine glory! By the most ordinary act, we can see the most wonderful reality. A surge of joy goes through me when I think about this. In that book, by the act of reading, I may see the glory of God. O Lord, incline my heart to that book and not to vanity! That is my prayer – for myself and you.

Which leads the author to make this point of application:

But I must not lose sight of the point I am trying to make: that we should read God’s word in order to see his supreme worth and beauty. …Do you want access to the riches of the glory of God in Christ? Do you want to ‘perceive’ them (Eph.3:4)? Do you want to be empowered by them ‘to comprehend… the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge’ (Eph.3:16-19)? Then, Paul says, read! Read what I have written. Or we may say, read the Bible [p.71].

Reading-Bible-Supernaturally-Piper-2017Quotation from Chapter 3, “Reading to See Supreme Worth and Beauty” of John Piper’s new book Reading the Bible Supernaturally: Seeing and Savoring the Glory of God in Scripture (Crossway, 2017).

Your Mind Matters (2) – J. Stott

mind-matters-stottI have tried to show how basic is man’s rationality to the great doctrines of creation, revelation, redemption and judgment. God has constituted us thinking beings; he has treated us as such by communicating with us in words; he has renewed us in Christ and given us the mind of Christ; and he will hold us responsible for the knowledge we have.

Perhaps the current mood (cultivated in some Christian groups) of anti-intellectualism begins now to be seen as the serious evil it is. It is not true piety at all but part of the fashion of the world and therefore a form of worldliness. To denigrate the mind is to undermine foundational Christian doctrines. Has God created us rational beings, and shall we deny our humanity which he has given us? Has God spoken to us, and shall we not listen to his words? Has God renewed our mind through Christ, and shall we not think with it? Is God going to judge us by his Word, and shall we not be wise and build our house upon this rock?

Taken from Your Mind Matters: The Place of the Mind in the Christian Life (Inter-Varsity Press, 1972) by John R. W. Stott, p.26.

Entertainment and Worship – July 2017 “Tabletalk”

The July 2017 issue of Tabletalk takes for its theme “Entertainment,” and though I am just getting started with the articles in it, I have profited from what I have read so far about this complex and difficult subject.

In his editorial “Discerning Entertainment” Burk Parsons touches on the proper place of entertainment as well the dangers of it for the Christian:

Entertainment of all sorts can be a wonderful way to rest and recuperate from the busyness, noise, and struggles of life. Entertainment allows our imaginations to travel the world and explore the universe, to go on adventures with hobbits and knights in shining armor, to go back in time and experience history, and to better understand people and our culture. But we must always guard our eyes and our hearts. For we cannot even begin to understand all the ways that Hollywood has affected us. Entertainment affects our minds, our homes, our culture, and our churches. Consequently, we must be vigilant as we use discernment in how we enjoy entertainment—looking to the light of God’s Word to guide us and inform our consciences.

In Joe Thorn’s article linked here for the rubric “Pastor’s Perspective,” he addresses the danger of bringing entertainment into our worship of God.

Below is part of what he has to say about the current trends found in the church today and what our focus ought to be when we enter the Lord’s presence:

The encroachment of entertainment into our worship is not a matter of style but of substance. Entertainment is a good thing, but its purpose is the refreshment of the mind and body, not the transformation of the mind or the edification of the spirit. The danger of entertainment in worship is not about which musical instruments are permitted or what era of hymns the church should sing. The danger is found in what the church is aiming at. Entertainment has a different aim than worship. Entertainment is something offered to people for their amusement. Yet worship has a different focus and produces a different result.

The focus of worship is God, not man, which immediately pits it against entertainment. We offer ourselves to the Lord individually and collectively on Sunday morning. The church ascribes honor to God in the reading, preaching, singing, and praying of His Word. True worship is inherently God-centered and God-directed. What is done when the church is gathered is to be done according to God’s will and for His pleasure. This stands in opposition to entertainment, which is a spiritually powerless work directed at the people.

To read the rest, visit the Ligonier link below.

Source: Entertainment and Worship by Joe Thorn

I might also add that the daily devotionals this month are on the Reformed-biblical view of the law, or as the issue has it in its introduction to the devotions, “The Right Use of God’s Law.”

Blessed Pure in Heart, Blessed Peacemakers, Blessed Persecuted

As we noted before this month, the June Tabletalk is devoted to the Beatitudes our Lord spoke during His ministry on earth (cf. Matt.5).

Each of these beatitudes are given a brief explanation and application in the issue. Today I was able to read three more of these articles before our worship times.

On this Sunday night, I want to leave you with quotations from all three, so that you can also benefit from these edifying articles. I give you the links to each article so that you may also read the entire thing if you wish (they are all brief).

First is “Blessed Are the Pure in Heart” by Michael Allen:

…Our salvation involves nothing less than the gift of our Savior Himself. God is not merely the author of the gospel—God is the end of the gospel.

The “pure of heart” are those who see that we are made for and only satisfied ultimately by the sight of God. Other gifts are good; this prize alone is ultimately blessed. A crucial facet of growing in the kind of purity envisioned and given by Jesus is the insatiable sense that we would not delight in any other good or reward apart from His giving Himself to us. With David, the “pure in heart” can say to the Lord, “You are my Lord; I have no good apart from you” (Ps. 16:2).

Second is “Blessed are the Peacemakers” (linked below) by Dirk Naves:

Rooted firmly in the peace made by Christ, today’s peacemakers must look to His life as a model. His peacemaking earned Him the hatred of religious leaders and the derision of His family. His peacemaking led Him to a garden, not for quiet repose, but for midnight wrestling; not for cool refreshment, but an overflowing cup of almighty wrath. His peacemaking led Him to a cross. It led Him to outer darkness.

It also led Him to a crown, a throne, and a people from every tribe and tongue and nation. This is the lot of peacemakers. Their bodies are scarred and they have been despised, but their harvest is full and their title is no cause for shame. They shall be called sons of God.

And finally, we quote from “Blessed Are Those Who are Persecuted for Righteousness’ Sake,” penned by Rev. Michael Glodo.

Finally, persecution testifies to our union with Christ. In Philippians 3:8–11, Paul relates how the persecutor became the persecuted and that even though he lost all that he once held dear, he gained Christ and the righteousness that comes through faith (v. 9). The purpose or goal of counting everything else as loss is knowing Christ and the power of Christ’s resurrection along with the fellowship of Christ’s suffering, for it is necessary to become like Christ in His death if we want to share in His life. Union with Christ means a share in all things that are Christ’s, including the rejection, reviling, and persecution that was His. For if we have a share in Him, ours truly is the kingdom of heaven. And with this knowledge, we will be able to persevere with joy in trials and answer our persecutors with a benediction (James 5:1; 1 Peter 3:9).

Source: Blessed Are the Peacemakers by Dirk Naves

Final Images and Impressions of the ACL Conference

Yesterday was the final day of the Association of Christian Librarians’ Conference, held this week at Cornerstone University in Grand Rapids.

By the way, while working in the library for a while during a break on Wednesday, I discovered that CU’s Miller Library has a Torah scroll on special display. Impressive display room – you may actually walk into it and examine the scroll up close!

Each day of the conference began with a devotions and worship time (8 AM), but I missed those due to my other duties. I did, however, get to all but one of the workshops I  signed up for, including two yesterday.

Let me say something first about the special “solo librarians” meeting I attended Wednesday night. This is a special group (and online discussion group within the ACL network) in ACL for librarians who work alone, or with a very small staff. While there are large libraries employing many librarians that belong to ACL, there are plenty of us “small” people working in small institutions. And we have our own unique challenges and struggles (blessings abound too!).

I found it very helpful to be able to sit around a discussion table with these Christian colleagues for over an hour (including prayer time) and talk about things on our minds. This being my first experience, I mostly “listened in,” but I did find a few opportunities to ask questions and contribute to the discussion. And again, I found myself drawn to the “solos” at meal times and free times too, so that I could continue to benefit from good talks – especially with those librarians who work in small seminaries such as ours. Some of the key things I wanted to discuss were what programs do their libraries use (for technical services), what policies do they have in place, and how do they teach information literacy.

Yesterday morning I attended two workshops. The first was a great follow up to our “solo librarians'” meeting the night before, as this workshop was specifically on how to thrive as a “solo.” Presentations by six different solo librarians were given (two by video), all of them helpful and encouraging. They key thoughts were “persevere” and “keep evaluating and making improvements” (personally and institutionally), even if they are small.

Especially encouraging (moving, even!) was the talk by Paul Roberts, a “solo” (and a ACL Board member) from Southeastern Bible College in Birmingham, AL, whose school suddenly closed on May 31, leaving him along with many others without a job. He spoke about “scriptural encouragement,” and in the light of the sudden change in his own life, about how important it is to walk close to the Lord, in the Word and prayer each day. I learned quickly to appreciate this humble servant of God.

The second workshop was an “unconference” one (just means it was not specifically planned by the conference team) on library “technical services.” A librarian from Judson College in Marion, AL led a valuable discussion on how our libraries can best carry out these services. While the presentation was simple, the discussion was fantastic – I learned a lot about cataloging, preservation, and maintenance of collections!

At noon we gathered at the Frederick Meijer Gardens across the street for a fabulous banquet and tour of the gardens. The meal was amazing, the fellowship rich, and the tour was…. Let’s just say I had to (wanted to!) leave early so as to catch the end our senior seminarians oral exam at synod at Hudsonville PRC.

As you now know, all seven examinations were approved and all seven men declared candidates for the ministry of the Word and sacraments in the PRC. Graduation was held last night – a happy time for the men and their families, and for the churches. So thankful for these fine young men. For more on this, visit this news item on the PRC website.

How Does Sanctification Work? A New Book and An Open Letter – D. Powlison

Crossway has recently published and is currently promoting a short book on sanctification. The title is How Does Sanctification Work? and the author is noted teacher and counselor David Powlison (executive director of Christian Counseling and Educational Foundation). I have received the book for review and make it available to someone who is interested in the subject.

On its website the publisher provides this description of the book:

Many popular views try to reduce the process of Christian growth to a single template: Remember past grace. Rehearse your identity in Christ. Avail yourself of the means of grace. Discipline yourself. But Scripture portrays the dynamics of sanctification in a rich variety of ways. No single factor, truth, or protocol can capture why and how a person is changed into the image of Christ.

Weaving together personal stories, biblical exposition, and theological reflection, David Powlison shows the personal and particular ways that God meets you where you are to produce change. He highlights the variety of factors that work together, helping us to avoid sweeping generalizations and pat answers in the search for a key to sanctification. This book is a go-to resource for understanding the multifaceted, lifelong, personal journey of sanctification.

To give you a taste of the book and the way the author approaches the subject, I quote from his “Introduction”:

…To be sanctified is to have your faith simplified, clarified, and deepened. You need God. You know God. You love God. You see life, God, yourself, others more truly. And to grow as a saint is to grow in actually loving people. How other people are doing matters increasingly to you. You care. You help.

Becoming more holy does not mean that you become ethereal, ghostly, and detached from the storms of life. It means you are becoming a wiser human being. You are learning how to deal with your money, your sexuality, your job. You are becoming a better friend and family member. When you talk, your words communicate more good sense, more gravitas, more joy, more reality. You are learning to pray honestly, bringing who God really is to the reality of human need.

And to grow in holiness does not mean that you now talk in hushed tones and every third sentence quotes the Bible. It means you live in more clear-minded hope. You know the purpose of your life, roll up your sleeves, and get about doing what needs doing. You are honestly thankful for good things. You honestly face disappointment and pain, illness and dying [p.14].

As part of their promotion, last Friday (June 2) Crossway published an “open letter” from Powlison to those struggling with their progress in holiness. This is the way that letter opens:

Dear friend,

We all love it when life leaps into forward gear and we make all kinds of progress. Problems just seem to fall away. Perhaps in your life you’ve had a season like that, a season when your life seemed to shine and flourish. Maybe it was when you first became a believer or during some period when you were very well nurtured by good community and wise input.

Then there are those seasons where things go very slowly. You wonder, “Is this all there is? Why do I keep struggling with the same old things? I keep losing my temper, or feeling anxious, or being clumsy in relationships . . . ” What vision does God give us for what our lives are supposed to look like, especially when we’re dealing with the long, hard struggle part of being a Christian? Let me say two things.

If that resonates with you, then go on to read the rest of it (cf. link below) – it will encourage you in your walk with the Lord.

Source: An Open Letter to Those Frustrated by Their Progress in Sanctification | Crossway Articles

Loving God and Our Minds – R.C. Sproul

TT-June2017-BeatitudesIn the new issue of Tabletalk, Ligonier Ministries’ devotional magazine, R.C. Sproul, Sr. has an edifying article on “Loving God with Our Minds.”

After pointing out the effects of sin on our minds, Sproul reminds us that our salvation by grace involves the renewal of our minds, and that this is in part why God calls us to love Him with all our mind.

For this Monday, as we begin our work week and the use of our minds and our hands in our God-given callings in life, Sproul’s thoughts are useful in guiding us in how to love God with our minds.

Jonathan Edwards once said that seeking after God is the main business of the Christian. And how do we seek after God? By pursuing the renewal of our minds. We don’t get the love of God from a hip replacement, a knee replacement, or even a heart transplant. The only way we can be transformed is with a renewed mind (Rom. 12:1–2). A renewed mind results from diligently pursuing the knowledge of God. If we despise doctrine, if we despise knowledge, that probably indicates that we’re still in that fallen condition where we don’t want God in our thinking. True Christians want God to dominate their thinking and to fill their minds with ideas of Himself.

Isn’t it strange that our Lord says that we are called to love God with our minds? We don’t usually speak of love in terms of an intellectual activity. In fact, most of our understanding of love in our secular culture is described in passive categories. We speak not of jumping in love but falling in love, like it was an accident.

But real love is not an involuntary thing. It is something we do purposefully based on our knowledge of the person we love. Nothing can be in the heart that is not first in the mind. And if we want to have an experience of God directly where we bypass the mind, we’re on a fool’s errand. It can’t happen. We might increase emotion, entertainment, or excitement, but we’re not going to increase the love of God because we can’t love what we don’t know. A mindless Christianity is no Christianity at all.

If we want to love God more, we have to know Him more deeply. And the more we search the Scriptures, and the more we focus our minds’ attention on who God is and what He does, the more we understand just a tiny little bit more about Him and the more our souls break out in flame. We have a greater ardor to honor Him. The more we understand God with our minds, the more we love Him with our minds.

To read the rest of the article, follow the link provided in the title above.

And, as you will see, this month’s issue is on the Beatitudes of Jesus. I have started to read those, including this one – “To Be Blessed” by Dr. Brandon D. Crowe.