Sunday, August 31, 2014

Reading List! (August 31, 2014)

I used to do this on the 1st of the month, but decided it makes more sense to do it the last day of the month. I got a good amount of reading done this month and am aiming to get a lot done in September as well – at least for the first 2-3 weeks before I start another online class.

Finished this month:

Eternity in Their Hearts by Don Richardson
This was a really fascinating book! Eccl. 3:11 says that God has placed eternity in man’s heart, and Romans 1:21 says that “His invisible attributes are clearly seen… so that they are without excuse”. This book is full of stories of ancient to modern-day civilizations who have had the realization of a supreme creator God, some even have religious rituals similar to Jewish ones or beliefs that are so close to the Gospel it’s almost unbelievable! Why did a remote tribe resist the influences of Buddhism but then immediately embrace Christianity? What about another people group who believed in an “upside down tree” that is rooted in heaven and brings life to the earth? How is it that the Inca’s had some hymns strikingly similar to Christian ones? Did you know that the Chinese symbol for “flood” is 8 people in a boat? (Hint: see Genesis 7!) And how about the people in Burma who believed they lost “God’s book” and were waiting for a “white brother” to come and bring it back? If you are considering going into missions I’d say this is a must-read, but either way you’ll find it interesting and inspiring! There was also a really interesting chapter on false theories of religion and how they have affected others (like Hitler), and a chapter on the book of Acts and how the early Christians struggled with the “all nations” imperative. The only thing I didn’t agree with was his cynicism in regards to there being “no hope” for those who have rejected Christ – as if it was all up to their own free will (p. 173). I firmly believe that salvation is of the Lord and if they’re breathing, there’s still hope for God to intervene and open their eyes! If God is God and He’s precious and beautiful than when eyes are opened to all that He is, how could they still reject Him? But let us be responsible for our part and let God take responsibility for His.

“…I choose not to question God’s way of using unlikely messengers to reach various peoples.” (p. 55)

J. Gresham Machen by Stephen J. Nichols
J. Gresham Machen (1881-1937) was a preacher, author, seminary professor and avid defender of the Christian faith. This book was neat to read especially after visiting and touring the seminary Machen founded last month (Westminster Theological Seminary near Philadelphia). The first part of this book is biographical, the second half goes through Machen’s books, writings and some of his sermons and gives you a really great picture of who he was and what he stood for. He fought hard for some very crucial doctrines of the Christian faith: the infallibility of Scripture, the virgin birth, the deity of Christ and His atonement for sin. When the organized denomination he was in (Presbyterian Church of America) kicked him out for insisting on these things (!!!) he founded his own denomination (The Orthodox Presbyterian Church), his own missions board and his own seminary! It was inspiring how much he labored for the kingdom and the Gospel and he has had a large impacted Christianity still today.

“Controversy of the right sort is good; for out of such controversy, as church history and Scripture alike teach, there comes the salvation of souls.” – J. Gresham Machen (p. 106)

Blame It On the Brain? by Edward T. Welch
Scientific research suggests that more and more behaviors are caused by imbalances or dysfunction in the brain? Is this true? Does someone’s brain make them do what they do? How do you discern between the physical and spiritual symptoms. Does Scripture speak about psychological issues? It does more than you think and here Dr. Welch offers some really great Biblical and practical advice on how to help people who are suffering with mental or brain dysfunction.

“A dysfunctional brain can make it very difficult to understand what is going on, but it can’t create sin. It can only reveal things that were previously hidden in the heart.” (p. 58)
 “God tells us how to love. When we love on our terms rather than his, we are in sin… God defines love as obedience to him.” (p. 162)

In Love With Christ: The narrative of Sarah Edwards
OK, this is one of those books that I really don’t even really know how to respond to. It not only shares Sarah’s own account of a 3-week long deep spiritual experience, but also shares observations of Sarah’s spiritual walk from her husband (Jonathan Edwards) as well that of others. It also talks about her family and the legacy she left behind. Sarah Edward’s relationship with the God is one that very much surpasses my own experience, but what an example she is to me! Her whole-hearted devotion, surrender and love for Christ left much for me to desire. I pray that I will seek the Lord with the same passion and be more in love with Christ!

“I was entirely swallowed up in God, as my only portion, and His honor and glory was the object of my supreme desire and delight.” (p. 70)

Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery
I have never read this series and thought I should so I started reading this after I finished my finals. I won’t review it at all since most of you are familiar with it. Fun reading though! I’m also almost finished reading Anne of Avonlea (wow this one’s very different from the movie!).

Currently Reading:
Spurgeon on Prayer and Spiritual Warfare by C.H. Spurgeon (I’ve already made a dent in this big book!)

Additional books I want to finish this month:
If You Bite & Devour One Another by Alexander Strauch
The Path of Loneliness by Elisabeth Elliot

Monday, August 11, 2014

Better to Love… (A Love Story)

As I’m reading a biography about J. Gresham Machen right now I thought I’d share this blog post. While some may criticize it I happen to think it’s beautiful. We are all meant to love, and in it we experience a small taste of God’s love for us. And what is love anyway if it quickly fades away? “Love never fails” (1 Cor. 13:8). Love lasts. That’s what makes this story so beautiful to me.

(Original post can be found here.)  

“Better to Love and Lose Than Never Love at All”

J. Gresham Machen never married. Apparently, this is the reason:

“Machen did have a brief romance with Mildred B. Stearns that blossomed in the summer of 1920. He met her at Seal Harbor, where she also vacationed with her family. The major obstacle to their marriage was religion. Stearns was Unitarian…Machen corresponded with her throughout his life and visited her whenever in Boston. Members of Machen’s family say she traveled alone from Boston to Baltimore to attend Machen’s burial service at Greenmount Cemetery,” D. Hart, Defending the Faith (P&R 2003), 130.

“There was however one real romance in his life, though unhappily it was not destined to blossom into marriage…He identified the lady by name, as a resident of Boston, and as ‘intelligent, beautiful, exquisite.’ He further stated that apparently they were utterly devoted to each other for a time, but that the devotion never developed into an engagement to be married because she was a Unitarian. [She] made a real effort to believe, but could not bring her mind and heart to the point where she could share his faith,” N. StonehouseJ. Gresham Machen (Banner of Truth 1987), 318.

Evidently, Machen found himself in a dilemma which some other men have also confronted throughout the centuries: What if the right woman is the wrong woman?

(No doubt some woman have confronted the same dilemma in reverse.)

Of course, Machen could have married another woman. But maybe he felt that would be unfair to his wife. It’s wrong to live with one woman, but long for another.

That’s one of the ways in which the cost of discipleship may manifest itself. In a conflict between love and duty, he put duty above love.

But while he suffered a profound deprivation, it wasn’t a total loss by any means. He met the love of his life. He never got over her. And, evidently, the feeling was mutual.

He knew what it was like to fall in love, be in love, and stay in love. Many men and women have settled for less.

So even in a fallen world, there may, by God’s grace, be rainbows after the storm. Things which make life both bearable and enjoyable, despite the hardships and heartaches here-below. Machen and Stearns were star-crossed lovers. Yet their lives were enriched by that stellar conjunction–when their stars aligned in the summer sky.


I have good reason to think that Machen likely prayed for her very often throughout the rest of his life. I’m sure he desired to see her come to the truth and then to be able to marry her. Why God never affirmatively answered his prayer I don’t know, but knowing the same God he did I’m sure it was still worth it. You may never feel at home again because your heart is elsewhere but that is the price you pay for the richness of loving someone. And it’s worth loving, because God is love. Of course, love God first of all and keep your hope set firmly upon Him, but don’t be afraid to love others for that is the expression of all that God is.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Reading List! (August 1, 2014)

OK, yes, I know it's actually August 2, but I was at camp until today, sorry I'm a day late...  :-)
Finished this past month:

The Intolerance of Tolerance by D.A. Carson
This book is a vital tool for our current generation! Tolerance is a word we hear very often, but what does it mean to the person using it?  It’s important to realize that there are 2 definitions of tolerance – and older one and a newer one, and we must know the difference. This book is worth its weight in gold just for the introduction (which is very thorough) and the final chapter which gives some great practical advice. I learned a lot from reading this book as a whole though and I was reminded that government is not our savior – we must look only to Christ, for governments will fail, they will become corrupt, no matter how much you try to do it right. That is no reason however, to give up and not fight for freedom of religion and freedom of speech in this country! It is a blessing and a gift that we must seek to protect and safeguard!

“Every culture and every age necessarily displays some tolerance and some intolerance. No culture can be tolerant of everything or intolerant of everything; it simply is not possible.” (p. 47, italics his)
“…while the secularist wants all other religious to retreat into the private sphere, he or she insists that secularists have the right to control the public sphere because they are right – completely unaware that they are trying to impose their worldview on others who disagree with it.” (p. 120, italics his)

Instruments in the Redeemer’s Hands by Paul David Tripp
This is a book I read for my counseling class, but it’s probably one of the most practically helpful books I’ve ever read! I cried through the first chapter, and over and over it offered so much hope and encouragement! Of course, it was somewhat overwhelming too – ministry is like that. If you really want to know how to help people who are struggling, and/or if you want to learn how to grow and change yourself than this is a must read! Paul Tripp gives really great examples and steps in really getting to know people, to listen, how to speak and how to actually help them.

“I am deeply persuaded that the foundation for people transforming ministry is not sound theology, it is love.” (p. 117) – This is a pretty bold statement, but his point is that we can have really good solid theology and not be able to help people change. Theology matters, but in order to minister to people, you must first love them.

“We forget that God’s primary goal is not changing our situations and relationships so that we can be happy, but changing us through our situations and relationships so that we will be holy.” (p. 241).

The Heart of a Servant Leader by C. John Miller
I loved this book! It is letters written by Jack Miller (a pastor, missionary, church planter, professor) to men and woman most of whom were in ministry (pastorate, mission field, local church ministry, etc.). I felt as though I was being discipled by him as I read. There are several sections: Motivation for serving, basics for serving, practical applications, perseverance in serving, persevering through conflict, persevering through change, and encouragement for sinners and for sufferers. All extremely helpful personally and relationally.
Three things that particularly stood out:
I really appreciated Jack’s humility in his writing – he was always wanting to be more aware of his shortcomings and was willing to be corrected. He would be writing a letter that was centered around correcting someone else, and he was asking for prayer and correction if needed! This was very humbling to me! Along with that is his emphasis on prayer. He was a firm believer that prayer was essential to seeing change happen – whether it’s with a situation or with a person. This was convicting and reminded me of the need to pray diligently for others. The third thing was his love for people – he really loved the people he was writing to and it was very evident. This was so inspiring!

 “But I do think the chief thing in effective ministry – as a total endeavor – is the presence of the Spirit in the man – changing him through the gospel, breaking down our idols, and building us into the glorious image of Christ.” (p. 100)
“I get overly concerned over how to be a better leader, but Jesus is concerned about making me a better, more humble follower.” (p. 218)

Currently Reading:
Eternity in Their Hearts by Don Richardson

Additional books I want to finish this month:
J. Gresham Machen by Stephen J. Nichols (biography) – I’m especially excited to read this after visiting the seminary he started and funded out of his own pocket for years near Philadelphia (Westminster Theological Seminary).