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I like this girl’s blog. I like the way she writes. I like the way she thinks.

I happen to like the girl too. She happens to be my niece. Check out her archives.

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Once again, blowing the dust off my blog. Maybe it will stay off this time…

You need to find a copy of this book.

Theology is a word that can frighten people. It may sound highbrow and out of reach for the ordinary everyday christian; something you study if you go off to bible college. But really it just means thinking and speaking about God (Packer’s own simple description). This book Concise Theology; A Guide to HIstroic Christian Beliefs by JI Packer is a pithy little book which explains in just a few paragraphs, great, big, whole, concepts about our Creator and God.

There’s a storm brewing outside my little room and I need to bury my head in some German grammar but not before I insert an excerpt from this morning’s reading. Enjoy:

Self-existence: God has always been. Before the mountains were born or you brought forth the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God. Psalm 90:2

Children sometimes ask, “Who  made God?” The clearest answer is that God never needed to be made, because he was always there. He exists in a different way from us: we, his creatures, exist in a dependent, derived, finite, fragile way, but our Maker exists in an eternal, self-sustaining, necessary way – necessary, that is, in the sense that God does not have it in him to go out of existence, just as we do not have it in us to live forever. We necessarily age and die, because it is our present nature to do that; God necessarily continues forever unchanged, because it is his eternal nature to do that. This is one of many contrasts between creature and Creator.

God’s self-existence is a basic truth. At the outset of his presentation of the unknown God to the Athenian idolaters, Paul explained that this God, the world’s Creator, “is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything because he himself gives all men life and breath and everything else” (Acts 17:23-25). Sacrifices offered to idols, in today’s tribal religions as in ancient Athens, are thought of as somehow keeping the god going, but the Creator needs no such support system. The word aseity, meaning that he has life in himself and draws his unending energy from himself (a se in Latin means “from himself”), was coined by theologians to express this truth, which the bible make clear (Pss. 90:1-4; 102:25-27; Isa. 40:28-31; John 5:26; Rev. 4:10).

In theology, endless mistakes result from supposing that the conditions, bounds, and limits of our own finite existence apply to God. The doctrine of his aseity stands as a bulwark against such mistakes. In our life of faith, we easily impoverish ourselves by embracing an idea of God that is too limited and small, and again the doctrine of God’s aseity stand as a bulwark to stop this happening. It is vital for spiritual health to believe that God is great (cf. Ps. 95:1-7), and grasping the truth of his aseity is the first step on the road to doing this.

As mentioned in a previous post, Christians should, without a doubt, read books. I got thinking about it again today when I came across this post from Tim Challies:

10 Tips to Read More and Read Better.

I’ve linked to this one before: Desiring God blog’s post – On Reading

A couple of extra tips:

– Don’t compare yourself with other (more voracious) readers. Be realistic for you (but challenge yourself)

– If you are not a natural ‘book worm’ read with a friend; set a realistic deadline and get together to discuss it.

– Discipline time into the regular things of life. When my children were young, the hour after lunch was a quiet time when they had to stay on their bed and read (or think) or sleep. So with bed time…you could read till you fell asleep if you were quiet. [I most often fell asleep both times 🙂 but I’m better at it now they are older]

– Turn off the TV (or throw it out?)

– Talk to people about the books you read.

– Think about mind renewal. If this is what God is about (Romans 12: 2) let’s show him we are serious about it.

NB (for that unusual overstimulated-by-books-type-person):

I just found this post which aligns with my first tip.

This coming Saturday is the meeting for our mini book club. There is generally quite a mix of women involved, but it appears that the only women who will be attending this month are all single (except me!) and with one exception are all older than me. I had already put some thought into how the book will be of benefit to single women but I didn’t realise until now that it is going to be the focus.

On thinking a little more specifically it occurs to me that this book, essentially written for wives and mothers, can be of great benefit to single women. Below is the line (very briefly) I thought I would take but I’d also like to ask for feedback on this. Can you think of something I may have missed? Please offer your suggestion if you have one.

-Paul emphasised to Titus that he must “teach what is in accord with sound doctrine” (Titus 2:1) It follows that these outcomes (loving and living) will be a fruit of faith (3:3-8) and need to be understood and clearly imparted.
-Christian single women are a part of ‘the bride of Christ’ and so a sound understanding of these qualities will enable us to behave as we should towards Christ. Also, as human beings we are God’s image bearers and our relationships here on earth are to speak out about God’s purposes and reflect truth about life in Him.
-As members of the body of Christ, single women will closely relate to women who are wives and mothers. Understanding issues of importance to married women allows the single women to empathise and offer assistance to them as they in turn grow in knowledge of sound doctrine.
Titus 2:3 *doesn’t* say: Likewise, teach the older wives and mothers to be reverent in the way they live…so they can train the younger women… All older Christian women should develop an understanding and a lifestyle which allows for input into the lives of younger Christian women. This would imply that even single older women understand what it means for women to love their husbands and children. Clearly, qualities of self control, purity and kindness are to be developed in us all.

You’ll know this is for you….

Some thoughts about using the bible reading plan:

-Just read and enjoy. Pray every day before you begin that you’ll be enlightened but don’t try to make it happen or stress if it doesn’t seem to be happening. There will be moments when bells ring, and having the content in your head allows it to be built on in the future; through sermons, other reading, conversations….

-rest knowing that by reading in a disciplined manner you are becoming more familiar and your bible knowledge will grow. You also don’t need to think “Where now?” when you’ve finished a book because you have direction.

-use a notebook and perhaps a highlighter. Jot down thoughts or comments and perhaps note the date so you can connect it in the future with whatever reading you were doing.

-2 Peter 3:18 Grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory, both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.

I wrote a whole scree of stuff about this article that Diane sent me the other night. But it was waffle. While it provided much for me to think about (peddling along Diane!) I really doubt my thoughts on it would interest anyone else.

But the article itself might. It is very long *but* it gets better.

Summary: Danish Island committed to sustainable energy alternatives. Swiss innovators working on the project who’ve developed ways to cut a general consumer’s energy consumption by…well, it depends on if you’re Bangladeshi or American…but for most of us, by lots. Wild estimations about how and why and what we’ve done to natural resources which can seem meaningless (and thus easily ignored). Interesting, but unintentional social comments.

Elizabeth has been reading “Do Hard Things” by Brett and Alex Harris, 19 year old twins. I’ve been reading along behind her. I mentioned it in December when I put it on backorder at Koorong, but now it’s finally published.

I want to post some quotes I’ve highlighted as an indicator to the content and it’s helpfulness to teenage Christians:

God’s word is clear. Psalm 1:1 tells us, “Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers” A lot of people, though, seem to quit reading there and miss the next verse: “But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night.”

Our culture seems to hear the don’ts but not the dos.

Charles Spurgeon…commented, “Perhaps some of you can claim a sort of negative purity, because you do not walk in the way of the ungodly; but let me ask you – Is you delight in the law of God? Do you study God’s word? Do you make it your…best companion and hourly guide?” If not, Spurgeon said, the blessing of Psalm 1 does not belong to you.

I appreciate the following comment on our modern culture’s low expectations for achievement; you only need be ordinary to gain accolades for excellence, and let’s face it; most good, Christian kids these days could gain this reputation without effort

The real danger for youths intent on rebelution is that these smarter-than-the-average-bear kudos can become the new and easy standard.

Unfortunately, we often get praise for things that weren’t particularly difficult to achieve. If we focus on the props and the encouragement to those who have low expectations for us, we become mediocre.

It can be challenging to set our sights on excellence, particularly when we’re hearing that we’re already there. One of life’s greatest lessons, which we all must learn, could be expressed in the phrase “That was nothing. Watch this.” Challenge yourself and others to call the normal things normal and save that word excellent for things that really are.

We’ve received [letters] form teens complaining about getting corny awards at school like the Celebration of Excellence for Leadership. All they’d done was turn in their homework and pay attention in class while everyone else goofed off. “It’s sad how little I had to do to earn this award,” wrote one girl.

What do we expect of/for our emerging adults?

This blog post was inspired by a post on the equipbooks blog. The topic was ‘Why reading is important’ (for Christians). One of the results of reading this was to cause me to ask (again!) *why?*.

-Why have we allowed literacy to decline so quickly over just several generations (or less)?

-Why do most people deny that this has happened?

– Why are Christians seemingly so unconcerned with current education practices?

-Why isn’t reading books promoted more by our Christian leaders?

There are very convincing arguments for Christian people to read, to read well and widely, and to think ‘out of the box’. One way of gaining objectivity (which allows one to see past the errors of modern thought) is to read ‘old books’ as CS Lewis* suggests. And for a very good reason:

Every age has its own outlook. It is specially good at seeing certain truths and specially liable to make certain mistakes. We all, therefore, need the books that will correct the characteristic mistakes of our own period. And that means the old books. He goes on: We may be sure that the characteristic blindness of the twentieth century—the blindness about which posterity will ask, “But how could they have thought that?”—lies where we have never suspected it, and concerns something about which there is untroubled agreement between Hitler and President Roosevelt or between Mr. H. G. Wells and Karl Barth. None of us can fully escape this blindness, but we shall certainly increase it, and weaken our guard against it, if we read only modern books.

Combine this ‘natural’ blindness with idea that we are living in an age of sub-literacy, (especially in comparison with what became the norm for hundreds of years after the reformation: most strove to be literate so they might read the scriptures for themselves) and we may wonder how we can reverse the decline. Consider the following quotes from Os Guiness**

Many common people in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries had a knowledge of Shakespeare and the Bible that people today would view as the preserve of the literary scholar or theologian. By 1772, Jacob Duché could write, “The poorest laborer…thinks himself entitled to deliver his sentiment on matters of religion or politics with as much freedom as the gentleman or scholar…Such is the prevailing taste for books of every kind, that almost every mean is a reader.”

George Steiner describes the result of modern mass education as ”semi-literacy.” The ability to read is widespread, but the inability to read any but the shallowest texts is equally widespread. He cites recent estimates that put the literacy of more than half the population of the United States at the level of twelve-year-olds. Steiner concludes: “Such semi- or sub-literacy is not being eradicated by mass-schooling: it is being made politically and psychologically acceptable.”

There are most certainly responses we can make (read aloud to our children, seriously consider alternatives to modern mass education practices, get involved in groups which challenge us to think, plus read, read, read and read. Do you have any other suggestions?) but all of these are limited in their effects; culture has an incredibly strong pull.

So I ask: Is prayer the answer? I’m inclined to think that we possibly haven’t seen this issue as sufficiently serious. Maybe we don’t feel that strongly about the threat to our minds or the minds of our children to see the danger. It can sound all a little exaggerated or fanciful, can’t it?

I can barely scrape the surface of the issues here; for one thing time for writing is so limited. It really warrants a long afternoon walk/talk. Maybe this can get us thinking….

* First and Second Things, Essays on Theology and Ethics.

**Fit Bodies, Fat Minds: Why Evangelicals Don’t Think and What to Do About It

David and I read this today in our daily readings by JC Ryle.

Read Luke 24: 13-35 (Emmaus road) Also read Mal 3: 16-17

What encouragement is given to believers in these verses to speak to one another about Christ! We are told of two disciples walking together on the road to Emmaus and talking of their Master’s crucifixion. And then there follow remarkable words (v. 15)

Conference on spiritual subjects is a most important means of grace. As iron sharpeneth iron, so does exchange of thought with bretherren sharpen a believer’s soul. It brings down a special blessing on all who make a practice of it. Malachi’s words are for the church in every age.

What do we know of spiritual conversations with other Christians? Perhaps we read our bibles and pray in private and [attend church]. It is all well, very well. But if we stop short here we neglect a great privilege and have yet much to learn. The Scriptures exhort us to provoke one another to love and good works and exhort and edify one another (Heb 10:24, 1 Thess 5:11)

Have we no time for spiritual conversations? Let us think again. The quantity of time wasted on frivolous, trifling and unprofitable talk is fearfully great. Do we find nothing to say on spiritual subjects? Do we feel tongue-tied and dumb on the things of Christ? Surely if this is the case there must be something wrong within. A heart right in the sight of God will generally find words (Matt 12:34)

Let us learn a lesson from the two travellers to Emmaus. Let us speak of Jesus when we are sitting in our houses and when we are walking by the way whenever we find a disciple to speak to (Deut 6:7). If we believe that we are journeying to heaven, where Christ will be the central object of every mind, let us begin to learn the manners of heaven while we are still on earth. So doing we shall often have One with us whom our eyes will not see, but One who will make our hearts burn within us by blessing the conversation.

For meditation: Matthew 12:36.

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