No doubt you’ve heard of the tragic school shooting on SC. One victim was the six year old son of my brother-in-law’s cousin. His femoral artery was torn by the bullet and he had to be revived twice. I don’t know the family personally but I know they and everyone involved would appreciate your prayers.
September has seemed like a long month to me, though it’s a shorter one. But I look forward each month to sharing what I’ve been reading and seeing what others have as well.
Since last time I have completed:
The Promise of Jesse Woods by Chris Fabry, audiobook, reviewed here. A young man revisits his past growing up in a small Southern town with his two best friends: a mixed race boy and a girl from the wrong side of the tracks. Good.
Home to Chicory Lane by Deborah Raney, reviewed here. Empty nesters turn their big family home into a bed and breakfast only to have one daughter show up on opening day estranged from her husband. Enjoyed it quite a lot.
I’m No Angel: From Victoria’s Secret Model to Role Model by Kylie Bisutti, reviewed here. Kylie reached the top of her profession and then walked away after concluding that it didn’t fit in with her new Christianity. A look at the seamy side of modeling. Good.
A Sparrow in Terezin by Kristy Cambron, reviewed here. A modern timeline of a newlywed’s husband being investigated for fraud and one a young woman in Prague during WWII intersects in the life of one girl. Good.
I’m currently reading:
Give Them Grace: Dazzling Your Kids with the Love of Jesus by Elyse M. Fitzpatrick and Jessica Thompson.
I’m Still Here: A New Philosophy of Alzheimer’s Care by John Zeisel
The Prayer Box by Lisa Wingate, audiobook.
Five Brides by Eva Marie Everson
June Bug by Chris Fabry
Waiting For Peter by Elizabeth Musser
As usual, I have stacks both on my shelves and in my Kindle app to choose from after these.
As with her first book, this one follows two timelines. The contemporary one picks up where it left off in the last one, with William and Sera getting married, only to have him get arrested shortly afterward. In trying to sell off some of his family’s assets, he unwittingly sold some things that he didn’t realize were no longer his, and now he is being investigated for fraud. To try to clear his name, Sera delves into a past that he’s unwilling to reveal.
The other timeline begins with a young woman, Kaja, heading to a Prague train station with her family in 1939. Her father is Jewish and her mother a Christian, but being even half Jewish is enough to get one in trouble at that time in Eastern Europe. Kaja had thought her whole family was going and is stunned to learn at the train depot that only she and her sister and brother-in-law are leaving: her parents are staying behind. Kaja protests, but it has already been decided. After spending a year with her sister in Palestine, she travels to London to work at a newspaper. There she meets Liam, a reporter who is kind and helpful to her. She suspects he is involved in something covert. Just as their relationship grows to the point of commitment, Kaja learns that her parents are in danger and travels undercover to Prague to help. But she’s caught and sent with her family to the Terezin prison camp.
The two timelines intersect with a little girl named Sophie, whom Adele helped in the last book and whom Sera met at the end. Kaja’s path also crosses Sophie’s and eventually impacts William’s family.
I mentioned in my review of Butterfly that there were a few awkward places in the writing, but I felt the story superseded them. I wished I had made note of them now, because there were some here as well. There were a few things that didn’t make sense to me at first, though they were a little more clear when I looked at them again just now.
One of my pet peeves in movies in when there is some kind of calamity, and the couple involved decide that’s a good time to kiss. That happened in this book. I seriously doubt that if I’m outside with bombs falling in London, I’m going to choose that moment to kiss. No, I’m going to be running for cover, and fast.
I didn’t end up loving this one as much as I did the first one, but it’s still a good story, Kaja’s especially. I always wonder how people could not only survive, but extend grace and love in a situation as awful as a prison camp. I thought the faith element was woven in naturally.
Genre: Christian fiction
My rating: 8 out of 10
Potential objectionable elements: None that I can recall unless one is very sensitive to descriptions of war.
Across the will of Nature
Leads on the path of God;
Not where the flesh delighteth
The feet of Jesus trod.
O bliss to leave behind us
The fetters of the slave,
to leave ourselves behind us,
the graveclothes and the grave.
~ by Gerhard Tersteegen
The first two lines of this poem have been coming to mind often the last few days, so I had to look them up. It’s the first stanza of a poem which Amy Carmichael found inspirational. I had thought it was one of Amy’s, but I probably just first came across it in her biography.
There was a little ditty going around when my kids were teens: “Just two choices on the shelf: pleasing God or pleasing self.” One of my sons just hated that because it made it sound like any personal choice, from liking meatloaf to walks on an autumn day, were directly opposed to God. That’s one problem with reducing doctrine to a catchy phrase.
On the other hand, it is true that we have an old nature that above all else wants its own way, and often that runs contrary to what God wants or what other people want. That’s been my problem this week (well, really, my whole life. Some years ago I did a Bible study on wanting our own way – it was quite eye-opening). There are duties in my life that I really wish I did not have to deal with, but as they are squarely in my path, placed there, I am sure, by God, they’re mine to do. I wrestle with this often, and know there is nothing to do but do them and pray for a better attitude. I wish I could once for all work this out in my thinking and have the “don’t want to” go away forever. But it doesn’t work like that.
I’m sure that’s one reason Jesus said, “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: but whosoever will lose his life for my sake, the same shall save it” (Luke 9:23-24).
I’m immeasurably thankful that, though “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way,” God, in His love and patience, did not leave us there. Instead, “the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all” (Isaiah 53:6).
Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful…1 Corinthians 13:4-5
(Sharing with Inspire Me Monday)
Before I get to another installment of my bimonthly roundup of recent noteworthy reads on the Web, I wanted to mention Write31Days. The idea is to choose a topic that you can blog about for the 31 days of October. I’ve participated the last few years with 31 Days of Missionary Stories, 31 Days of Inspirational Biographies, and 31 Days With Elisabeth Elliot. I’m still undecided about this year – and October 1 is only a week away! It is a lot of work, and I’m a little afraid of over-burdening readers with so many posts. But I enjoyed and benefited from it before and received positive feedback. So I am still praying about it. One topic foremost in my mind was one I was actually thinking about compiling into a book, and I thought doing it for Write31Days might be a good precursor for that. Then I thought – why would anyone buy a book if the info. is here already.🙂 So I am still thinking and praying. At any rate, I wanted to let you all know about it in case you might want to participate as well. This year’s Write31Days page gives you the guidelines, a list of categories, links back to previous topics, etc.
On to this week’s links:
Is the Bible Foundation to Christianity? (Short answer: Yes! But here are good reasons why.)
5 Practical Guidelines for Reading the Old Testament Laws. This is probably the hardest section of the Bible to read – maybe after the genealogies – but these help put them in perspective.
Feed My Sheep. I wish I had thought more like this when my mother-in-law was in assisted living and a nursing home.
Christians, Cribs, and Co-Sleeping. I’m linking to this not for the discussion about where babies should sleep, but for how she applies truths here to others areas of parenting and faith and practice. There are fundamentals and then there are secondary issues, and on the latter we need to give each other grace to be different.
And a couple of videos to give you a smile: an adorable three year old and her dad singing “At Last I See the Light” from Tangled.
It’s Friday, time to look back over the blessings of the week with Susanne at Living to Tell the Story and other friends.
After a busy weekend, it’s been kind of a quiet week. Here are some highlights:
1. Jesse’s birthday. It’s a joy to celebrate my youngest son plus all the other good components of a birthday – having the family all together (one via FaceTime) and lots of talking, visiting, fun, and cake!
2. A surprise birthday party. Jason and Mittu wanted to give Jesse a surprise party with his friends, so planned it at their house for the day after the family celebration. They invited him over under the guise of playing games with them and another couple, and Jim and I were supposedly going out on a hot date since all the kids had plans (thankfully Great-Grandma’s caregiver was available to stay with her that evening), so we left early to go over to J&M’s. He didn’t suspect a thing til he drove up and saw cars – there was no way to hide them in the neighborhood. It was a fun evening.
3. Bath aide. I mentioned last week our favorite bath aide for my m-i-l had been out with an injured hand. She’s still wearing a brace but was released to resume work this week.
4. Pudding Chip Cookies. I don’t do much baking for just the three of us – because
we I can’t seem to keep my hands off of it, and we can’t send many home with J&M since she is gluten intolerant. But my husband mentioned recently that I ought to make some chocolate chip cookies, and it had been a long time since I had, so I finally found an evening to do so. Scrumptious!
5. The first day of fall. It’s still not feeling and only barely starting to look like fall, but it is official now, and I am looking forward to the rest of the season, trusting it will feel like it soon! I may get out my decorations this weekend.
Over the last several years there has been much discussion about people leaving the church and speculation about why.
I’ve seen a number of blog posts and articles the last couple of years written to people who have left church completely because they’ve been hurt by one. The articles are usually quite sympathetic in tone, and the writer (who doesn’t know the person or the church or the situation) apologizes to the wounded absent church member on behalf of the church and gently tries to woo them back. I do appreciate those posts, and we do need to reach out. Sometimes these folks are in a fragile state and need much love and care to rebuild bridges and repair damage wrought by a previous church.
And there are times that leaving a particular church is necessary. Churches can hurt their members in numerous ways, sometimes seriously. Sometimes even when members try to discuss issues with leadership, they’re not heard, or worse, vilified for not being with the program.
But I don’t see anywhere in the Bible a good reason to leave church all together.
No church is perfect. None ever will be because they’re made up of sinners. Redeemed sinners, yes, but, people who are not perfect yet. That’s why there is so much instruction in the epistles about the need for forgiveness, unity, forbearance, love. Just as our personal sanctification is a matter of growth in grace, so is the church’s.
If you’re familiar with Acts and the epistles in the Bible, you may be aware of these issues that were problems in some New Testament churches:
Open factions preferring different preachers.
False teachers insisting that believers had to keep portions of the OT law to be saved.
A member living in incest with a family member which other church members knew of but did nothing about.
Teachers proclaiming to have a deeper, mysterious knowledge of Christ that differed from Biblical revelation.
A segment complaining that their needs weren’t being met.
People conspiring to lie to the leadership.
People showing favoritism to wealthy members.
People who quit their jobs to sit and wait for the Lord’s return.
In fact, most of the epistles were written to correct false doctrine, teaching, and practices within the church.
But nowhere in the epistles, the letters to the early churches, do any of the writers urge believers to just quit church over the problems. Now, some of these and other issues would be grounds to leave a particular church if, after attempting to deal with them, there was no change. We’re instructed in the NT to separate from those who preach false doctrine and believers who “walk disorderly,” who live habitually in ways that go against what the Bible teaches after every attempt has been made to reconcile them to God’s Word. We’ve been on the verge of leaving a couple of churches that didn’t have these problems but were headed in ways that we felt were contrary to Biblical teaching and example, but thankfully a job change took care of that for us.
But nowhere in the Bible are believers encouraged to just give up on organized church all together. I bring up that incomplete list of NT church problems just to contrast it with some of the lesser reasons people leave church these days. Yes, the church has problems: it always has and it always will, and we shouldn’t take them lightly.
But – and I am trying to say this as gently and kindly as I can – sometimes, sometimes, I wonder if the problem is unforgiveness or carrying a grudge (which is a type of unforgiveness). Even when there is just cause for leaving a church, is there a just cause Scripturally for leaving church all together? Could one perhaps be short-circuiting their healing or stifling their spiritual growth (or that of their children) because they are not in a church with fellow believers?
One might say that, since every believer is part of the universal church made up of all believers, and since Jesus said, “Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them,” (Matthew 18:20), then it doesn’t really matter if we go to an “official” church. Any time we meet with other Christians is church! But is that what the Bible teaches? I would say that meeting with a couple of other Christians at a coffee shop (or wherever) is fellowship: I wouldn’t call it church. I say that for these reasons:
- The epistles were written to believers who met together locally and regularly. They and Acts refer to churches which met at specific places: “the church of God which is at Corinth” (1 Corinthians 1:2), “the church which was in Jerusalem” (Acts 11:22), “the church that was at Antioch” (Acts 13:1), “And so were the churches [plural] established in the faith, and increased in number daily” (Acts 16:5), “the church which is at Cenchrea” (Romans 16:1), “the church that is in their house” (Romans 16:5), and several more.
- There is a leadership structure in local churches that is absent in casual get-togethers: “they had ordained them elders in every church,” (Acts 14:23); “Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you” (Hebrews 13:17).
- There is an accountability structure within the church body. Jesus discussed how to respond when a fellow believer sins against us in Matthew 18:15-17, ultimately, if everything else failed, ending up in church discipline.
- God gave gifts of leadership, teaching, and shepherding to the church: “And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ” (Ephesians 4:11-12). John Crotts says in Loving the Church, “Don’t you need shepherds to guide you? Jesus thinks you need them! It is terrible pride to assume that you don’t need what Jesus designed for his glory and your family’s good” (p. 95). Yes, we can hear and read good sermons on the Internet. I do that when I can’t be in church, and they’re great for those who can’t go to church due to age or physical reasons. But it’s not the same as having a pastor who knows you and is praying for you.
Earlier in Crotts’ book, he says that though there are many verses referring to the church universal, “Other verses, however, clearly use the term ekklesia to refer to a smaller assembly of Christian in one location…Throughout the New Testament, the term ekklesia refers to local churches in the overwhelming majority of cases. A local assembly…is not just some tiny part of the universal church, like the pinkie toenail in the universal body of Christ. It is better understood as a local expression of the body of Christ – complete in itself” (pp. 44-45).
Crotts goes on to say in another place, “If you think of your homeschool group, businessmen’s Bible study, or campus ministry as ‘your church,’ your slice of the Christian pie is far too small” (p. 122). “According to some pastors, every Christian needs a Paul, a Barnabas, and a Timothy. Paul represents as older, wiser believer to mentor you…A Barnabas would be a believer around your own age to encourage you as you experience similar life circumstances. Timothy represents a younger believer looking to you for a godly example and counsel as he or she goes through tests you have already experienced” (pp. 122-123).
Some years ago someone sent me this quote about Jesus attending the worship services of His day:
If ever there was one who might justly plead that the common worship of the community had nothing to offer him it was the Lord Jesus Christ. But every Sabbath found him seated in his place among the worshipping people, and there was no act of stated worship which he felt himself entitled to discard…
We cannot afford to be wiser than our Lord in this matter. If any one could have pled that his spiritual experience was so lofty that it did no require public worship, if any one might have felt that the consecration and communion of is personal life exempted him from what ordinary mortals needed, it was Jesus. But he made no such plea. Sabbath after Sabbath even he was found in the place of worship, side by side with God’s people, not for the mere sake of setting a good example, but for deeper reasons. Is it reasonable, then, that any of us should think we can safely afford to dispense with the pious custom of regular participation with the common worship of our locality?
~ B.B. Warfield, Selected Shorter Writings (The full quote can be found here.)
If ever the assembly of professing believers had serious problems, it was then. But the Son of God did not absent Himself from gathering with them. And even though He took steps to correct some of the issues, it wasn’t perfected when He went back to heaven. But He did make provision for its ultimate perfection, the only way it can be fully healed: by dying on the cross for all of its individual members, who can be saved and cleansed and made whole when they repent and believe on Him.
He has not forsaken His church, and neither should we. “Let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near.” (Hebrews 10:24-25, NASB). Notice in those verses how it’s not just a matter of not forsaking church: it’s also a matter of love, good deeds and encouragement. We need only need the church: the church needs us. By being and doing what God wants us to, being filled with His Spirit, and exercising the gifts He gave us, we can be part of the solution.
And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ. Ephesians 4:11-13.