Archives for category: Summer Reading Challenge 2013

DG @ GC

Guest writer: Sue Weaver

1. God made man to be a sharer.
2. God created us not to be cul-de-sacs of His bounty, but conduits.
3. Animals help plenty, but only a person can be a fellow heir of the grace of life.
4. God did not create the union of Christ and the church after the pattern of human marriage — just the reverse! He created human marriage on the pattern of Christ’s relation to the church.
5. Those of us who are married need to ponder again and again how mysterious and wonderful it is that God grants us in marriage the privilege to image forth stupendous divine realities infinitely bigger and greater than ourselves.
6. The church submits to Christ by a disposition to follow His leadership. Christ submits to the church by a disposition to exercise His leadership in humble service to the church.
7. The redemption we anticipate at the coming of Christ is not the dismantling of the created order of loving headship and willing submission, but a recovery of it.
8. Seek your joy in the joy of your beloved.

Sue Weaver

DG @ GC

John Piper’s problems started when he decided to use the word “Hedonism” in the title of his book. If there is a word that is irreversibly attached to pursuit of self, it is the “H” word. Merriam Webster defines it as “the doctrine that pleasure or happiness is the sole or chief good in life.” In order to “Christianize” this concept which has for ages been associated with a godless way of life, Piper has to put on the moves of a fit gymnast just about every few paragraphs throughout the book, and he has to write a couple of post-scripts to try to explain what for some could be unexplainable.

Just to clarify, I like this book a lot. This is the second time I am reading it. I am in fundamental agreement with its main thesis, namely, that God gets most glory when we are most satisfied in Him. I also believe that God desires for us to experience joy and joy to the fullest. But make no mistake about it: the chief end of woman (and man) is to glorify God with every fiber of their being, every breath, every creative gene, every enterprise. And, not surprisingly, Piper agrees with that. And throughout his whole book he tries to convince the reader that “Christian” hedonism is really the same as seeking to glorify God — the chief end of men.

Again, just to clarify, though I like the book a lot, I don’t consider myself a Christian hedonist. I am not comfortable with using that word to define this lofty goal of seeking to glorify God with all my being. So what I do with this book, since I am fundamentally in agreement with its main thesis and love the deep insights that it offers about my daily pursuit of God (in fact, sometimes you find truth there that is breathtaking… it takes me days to truly digest it and think of its implications), so what did I do with this book? (I lost my train of thought). I put the word hedonist, (or hedonism) in quotation marks every time I come across it. That’s it.

Piper’s chapter on marriage (chapter 8) is an illustration of the brevity with which he could have approached the whole book — it is crisp and to the point. He argues that when you pursue the happiness of your spouse, you are basically pursuing your own happiness. Now, this concept will bother some folks. He anticipates that and gives some well-reasoned arguments as to why this can still be called “love” and not simply a pursuit of self-directed gratification.

The example he gives is Christ, of course. It is Paul’s main point in Ephesians 5. I totally get that, but I hasten to add — it is not as simple as Piper would have us believe. For example, the text in Hebrews 12 says, “… for the joy set before Him endured the cross.” (see discussion on p. 206 of Piper’s book). It is significant that the text does NOT say, “for His joy.” It says “for the joy set before Him.” Set before Him by whom? By His Father, of course. In other words, the expression speaks of a design, of something that was planned beforehand. Yes, it is true that Jesus was pursuing His own joy, but that is not all of it. He was also part of a plan, fulfilling a destiny, if you will. He was obeying the will of the Father. And the will of the Father was for Him to go to the cross. That’s much richer than saying He was pursuing His own joy.

And in fact, there may have been a moment when obedience trumped the pursuit of His own joy. Hours before the crucifixion, Christ agonized over His own fate when He said, “Father, if it were possible, let this cup pass from me.” So one could say that Jesus looked quickly ahead and saw that the crucifixion was going to be anything but a “joyful” experience, so He asked for a reprieve. But even in the asking, He was quick to say, “not my will, but yours, be done.” So, in going to the cross, Jesus was first performing an act of obedience and only secondarily pursuing personal joy.

Not that the joy was not part of his thinking. The author of Hebrews says He was keeping His eye on the big prize, namely joy, but it was not only His joy. (Remember, “the joy set before Him”). It was the joy of obeying the Father. It was the joy of seeing men, women and children the world over come into the light of His redemptive gospel. And sure, in the end, it was His own joy, but it is a lot more nuanced than “Jesus was pursuing His own joy.”

But before I go, I can’t stress this enough. You do need to read this chapter. It is one of the best presentations I have read anywhere about the biblical roles of husbands and wives in a Christian marriage. Talk about handling “submission” with tact and persuasive biblical reasoning. Like I said, there are countless insights in this book, if you can shed the layers of terminology and meandering explanations that sometimes seem to cause you to wander away from the place where the nuggets of wisdom can be found.

And a note to Piper: when you get to heaven (I am assuming you will get there), and you greet Jesus with “that was a nice thing you did for us, but I spent my whole life trying to tell people that you also did it for yourself, so what say you?” Don’t be surprised, Piper, if Jesus laughs and says, “This was not about me, Piper, it was about my Father. Check the facts with him; He is around the throne.”

Pastor Ivanildo C. Trindade

DG @ GC

Guest writer: Sue Weaver

Here in Lancaster County, I know people who do things for/because of/about God. In fact, I like to think of myself as someone who serves God in her work. So Piper’s words surprised me: we don’t serve God, He serves us.

Piper points out that serving God is always receiving! The Apostle Paul asked a question to help believers see this:”Having begun in the Spirit, are you now being perfected in the flesh?” (Gal 3:2-3). Serving God is always and fundamentally receiving His mercy, not rendering Him assistance. We do tend to think that we are doing God a favor with our service and work, but that is just not the case. Psalm 50 puts it this way: “If I were hungry, I would not tell you, for the world and its fullness are mine…Call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me.” (v12, 15)

Here’s the thing Piper emphasizes: God is a Giver, not a Taker. As we see both Him (wise, merciful, powerful) and ourselves (dependent on Him) more clearly, we become what God created us to be — we become people of prayer. In prayer we joyfully receive His mercy; and God gets the glory!

Probably the most memorable part of this chapter is a section called “the Difference Between Uncle Sam and Jesus Christ.” Piper says:
The difference between Uncle Sam and Jesus Christ is that Uncle Sam won’t enlist you in his service unless you are healthy and Jesus Christ won’t enlist you unless you are sick. “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners” (Mark 2:17). Christianity is fundamentally convalescence (Pray without ceasing = Keep buzzing the nurse). Patients do not serve their physicians. They trust them for good prescriptions.
We serve God by believing his promises, and by realizing that we do not put our power at his disposal, but that through prayer his power is at our disposal for our good. In all our prayers and obedience, it is we who are the beneficiaries! This realization makes me want to pray more. And Piper shares his secret for making want-to-pray-more happen: plan. Set a time, pick a place, and choose a passage of Scripture — and start!

Guest writer: Sue Weaver

DG @ GC

Guest writer: Sue Weaver

Fatigue and exhaustion are woven into our days. They make a good welcome mat for chapter five and Piper’s words about the normal Christian life being a repeated process of restoration and renewal.

Teaching that the Bible restores us, Piper points out that it is normal for the Word of God to restore — because it is life. Moses said in Deuteronomy 32:46-47, “Take to heart all the words by which I am warning you today, that you may command them to your children, that they may be careful to do all the words of this law. For it is no empty word for you, but your very life.”

It is sobering-yet-necessary to be reminded that the Word of God is not a trifle, but it is a matter of life and death: if you treat the Bible as empty words, you forfeit life! All life is linked to God’s Word: our physical life is created and upheld by the Word of God, and our spiritual life is quickened and sustained by the Word of God.

  • Physical life depends on God’s Word because by His word we were created (Psalm 33:6; Heb 11:3); He upholds the universe by the word of his power (Heb 1:3).
  • Spiritual life depends on God’s Word because, “Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth” (James 1:18); and, “You have been born again…through the living and abiding word of God” (1 Peter 1:23).
  • And not only do we begin to live by God’s Word, we go on living by God’s Word: “Man shall not live by bread alone but by every work that comes form the mouth of God” (Matt 4:4; Deuteronomy 8:3).

Here’s how it works: the Word of God begets and sustains our spiritual life because it begets and sustains our faith. “Faith comes by hearing,and hearing through the word of Christ” (Romans10:17). The Scriptures also give us hope, which is necessary for life: “He established a testimony…which he commanded our fathers to teach to their children…so that they should set their hope in God” (Psalm 78:5,7; also Romans15:4). And we gain freedom and escape sin through the Bible: “by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire” (2 Peter 1:4, also Psalm 119:11, 105).

At the end of chapter five Piper quotes a wonderful testimony from George Muller’s autobiography. Muller wrote that he came to understand that his number one job each day was to make his soul happy in the Lord. His primary business was to give himself to the reading of the Word of God and to meditate on it. As he shared how this provided delightful food for his soul, he said, “I did not, as it were, give myself to prayer, but to meditation, yet it turned almost immediately more or less to prayer.” When we read and think about God’s Word daily, we grow close to Him and converse easily with Him.

God’s Words are the best words — for growing personal joy, for grappling in meditation, for right-on prayer, for a happy soul ready to face a new day. God’s Words are LIFE!

Guest writer: Sue Weaver

DG @ GC

I like to think of myself as a fully engaged worshipper.

I grew up in Brazil and people from those parts know how to express their feelings. In fact, I am one of nine children and I remember the spirited conversations we had around our dinner table growing up.

A friend from the U.S. came to spend a few days with me and my family once. After the first day he was visibly disturbed. He thought we were fighting during dinner. He was wrong. We were just having a normal “debate” at the Trindade table. We loved trying to defend our ideas and reducing others’ ideas to naught. But in the end, we laughed, hugged, and shared a fabulous meal together, thanks to my Mom, who was never called in to referee, though she had the power to stop the session with just one of her, “Now, that’s enough” comments.

I learned to hold my own in a verbal sparring while munching on my Mom’s famous fried fish. Our dinner table talks sowed the seeds of confidence in my ability to state a thesis, withstand a barrage of arguments, and stand tall at the end. I experienced many victories and defeats around that table, in between snacks of tapioca and sweets of all sorts.

So I didn’t think I would ever have problems showing God my affections and feelings in worship, but over time, as I moved and got acquainted with all things U.S., I noticed that I had become more subdued during the worship time in church. There were times when I wanted to raise my hand but as I looked around me I quenched that desire. “What are they going to think of me?” I thought, “Some kind of a charismatic Christian?” The fear of being labeled by that word “charismatic” killed all spontaneity in worship.

When I noticed what I had become – a stiff, swift, self-sanitized Sunday servant – I decided to make a change. So I started closing my eyes and imagining that I was alone in the presence of God. At times I had feelings of shame, fear, exhilaration, awe, joy, and reverence in the presence of the Holy One. And I wanted to express that before my wonderful Heavenly Father. Worship in church was never as meaningful as when I began to do that. And it continues to be thus today.

Now, I have to say I have not gone all the way yet. At times I feel the urge to go up to the front and simply kneel there before the “altar.” But, alas, we have no altars in our Protestant churches and no kneeling benches either (don’t you wish we had some of those sometimes?). So I stop myself and kneel in my heart. I don’t want people to think I am “super spiritual.” I don’t want them to see me as the Pharisees who displayed the outward signs of fasting only to receive praise from men.

But some day I just might forget all these objections and simply rush to the “altar” and prostrate myself before this Holy God I love and revere so much. If you happen to see me do it, please don’t call me a “Brazil nut. “Christian hedonist” will be bad enough.

Pastor Ivanildo C. Trindade

DG @ GC

Here is a thumbnail sketch of chats last week about Desiring God.

While enjoying a cookout Saturday, I discovered that Ken and Kathy Keener are both reading Desiring God. She is very much enjoying Piper’s thoughts; he, some less. He finds it difficult to connect with the book; she is encouraged by Piper’s validation of joy — the kind of joy that comes from trusting God and focusing on His sovereignty, even when circumstances are dark. She said that people tend to think remaining joyful means you don’t understand the seriousness of a situation. But to Kathy, joy in hard times indicates focusing on the eternal value of a situation rather than on the circumstances themselves.

On Sunday, chatting with Sandy Reist and Dot Myer, I realized that they’re also both reading Desiring God. Interestingly, Sandy’s comments were much like Ken’s — it’s hard going — and Dot’s mirrored Kathy’s comments — she’s liking it. Dot characterized the book as thought-provoking and encouraging;  like a lens through which life is viewed in eternal and heaven-focused perspective.

Score: 2 for 2
2 – The book is hard
2 – I’m loving it

 

DG @ GC

Guest writer: Sue Weaver

If Chapter 4 Were Bumper Stickers…

  • Real Love = Real Gain
  • Fleeting Pleasures: the Enemy of Joy
  • Love What God Loves
  • Love is the Victory of Grace
  • Break the Bondage of Private Pleasures
  • Love Is Costly
  • The Source of Love is Joy

Source of Joy

  • No Disinterested Benevolence

No Disinterested Benevolence

  • Believe Jesus? Give>Receive

Believe Jesus

  • Refuse to Settle for Prosperity and Comfort

Refused to Settle

  • Go for Eternal

Go for Eternal

  • The Gain Outweighs The Pain

Gain Outweighs Pain

  • Lose Property, Gain Joy

Lose Property

  • Your Power Co: God Increasing in You

Your Power Company

Guest writer: Sue Weaver