7.30.2015

Book review: Monster in the Hollows

The Monster in the Hollows (The Wingfeather Saga, #3)The Monster in the Hollows by Andrew Peterson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Unlike other series, each of these gets better than the one before.

The characters develop nicely, giving lots of depth, while the action doesn't slow down much, either.  Lots of wrestling and sneakery for boy readers!

Peterson deals with themes old and new.

Brotherly love
The relationship between Janner and Kalmar is shown to be the centerpiece of the trilogy.  In book 2 we saw relational breakdown and hostility.  Here they are able to love each other as brothers do, though they haven't yet resolved everything in their past and continue to make mistakes.

Rejection of evil
Characters must continue fighting temptations old and new, especially not to condemn and rage against those who condemn you.

Condemnation for past failures
Many people reject Kalmar as a Fang, since he looks like one, though he didn't turn into one all the way.  This does much harm and hinders the battle against the real Fangs.

Racism
Connected to the condemnation - since Kalmar LOOKS like a Fang, he's rejected.


View all my reviews

7.29.2015

1 Thessalonians 1-2

1 - Paul, Silas and Timothy, to the Thessalonian Christians: we thank God when we remember your conversion by the Spirit.  You serve the true God now, waiting for His Son to return again.

2 - Our ministry to you was sincere, not based on greed.  We supported ourselves and endured lots of hostility for you, as a father or mother works for their children.  You believed our message as from God, not man-made, and suffered persecution from Jews as we did.  We wanted to come see you, but have been prevented; you are our joy!


Application
It is a great encouragement to remember back to when we first believed, or if we don't remember that (being raised in the faith), to consider the basics of what it means to be a Christian.

Those who speak the Gospel for a living must take care to their motives.  It'll become obvious over time if you're in it for the money or fame.  Be willing to sacrifice for people to know Christ.

Sharing a common faith in Jesus Christ is a huge source of joy.  Don't ignore this gift; share life with other believers if you are able to do so!

Psalm 111-112

111
God's works are great.  Those who delight in God study them.
He gives food, nations, justice, redemption, and His covenant.
The beginning of wisdom is fearing God.

112
Fearing God brings blessing: mighty children, a rich house, etc.
He is generous and fair, not fearful.
The wicked are mad at him, but it doesn't matter, because they fade away.


Application
111 - take time to recount God's works in your life, and in history.

112 - This is a general principle, not a specific promise that every believer will be wealthy or have influential children.  But this doesn't mean there's nothing to it.  Left to its natural course, those who fear God will experience these things.

Psalms 104-106

104
God is above the heavens and gives the angels their power.
Everything we see in nature, God has done: mountains and valleys, springs and rivers, grass and grain, trees and birds, moon and sun, food for animal and man.
When God gives food and life, we get it; if He doesn't give it, we die.
May He rejoice in His works, but remove the wicked from His earth.

105
Sing to God and glory in Him; remember and tell of His works.
He made covenant with Israel to give them land, and brought them in, protecting them from kings.
He sent Joseph to preserve them through famine; he ruled Pharoah's house.
He made Israel numerous in Egypt, sent plagues on Egypt, and brought Israel out.
He provided for them through the desert, and brought them into Canaan.
He did this so we would keep His law.

106
Praise the Lord!
We sinned in Egypt, but You graciously delivered us from there, anyway.
In the desert we complained for food and against Moses.  We worshiped the calf.
We opposed going into Canaan at first, worshiped Baal of the Moabites, and demanded water.
Once in Canaan, we didn't destroy all the Canaanites and copied their wicked idolatry, even child sacrifice.  So God let them be subject to other nations, but spared them in His mercy.
Save us so we can worship You, Lord!  May God be blessed forever.


How this is about Jesus
104 - All things were made through Him and for Him.  He is the bread of life that truly feeds us.
105 - God's covenant with us is established in Christ.  He said the meek shall inherit the earth.  He will rule kings, and provide for His people.

7.28.2015

Acts 17

After Philippi, they wind up in Thessalonica, where there is some response to the gospel in the synagogue.  This provokes the Jews and the extort money from Jason.  The believers send Paul and Silas on to Berea.  In that synagogue, they are more open-minded and hold the gospel message up to the standard of Scripture, resulting in many believing.  But the Thessalonian Jews send and turn many against them.  So they send Paul on, though Silas and Timothy stay behind.

Paul winds up in Athens!  He argues in the synagogue, and in the marketplace, bringing him to the Areopagus, out of their desire for novel teaching.  He appeals to their many gods, that (summarizing) "there is One who made all things, and us, who doesn't need temple offerings.  We live in Him, as your poets have said.  He calls us to repent of serving metal idols; He will judge the world by a man He raised from the dead."  Most mock him, but a few believe.


How this is about Jesus
"This Jesus is the Christ/Messiah."  This is the same message, in every synagogue in every city they come to.


Application
It seems Paul was good at introducing the Gospel and arguing for it in a new place, but needed Silas and Timothy to do the quieter follow-up work behind the scenes.  Once you newly believe, adversarial apologetics isn't the need of the hour (Paul), but study and examination of your life for discipleship (Silas and Timothy).  They actually have to hustle Paul out once he kickstarts things, to avoid hostility that interferes with discipleship.  There is a time for a public controversy, and a time to avoid it.  The church needs different personalities, so we don't make these choices based on personality.

Christians today who reject a historical Adam are denying clear Scripture in verse 26.  Whatever the genetics today tell us, all humanity came from one man.

Evangelism should make a connection with people where they are, and take them to Jesus.

Psalms 99-100, 102

99
Yahweh is great, enthroned between the cherubim (on the ark?).  He loves justice.
He answered when His prophets called to Him.  He forgives and corrects us.

100
Come serve and praise God with thanksgiving, for we are His sheep, His people.
He is good, forever faithful and loving.

102
Hear my cry, Yahweh, for I'm fading fast.
But we remember You, and You will remember and pity Zion.
I write so a generation yet to be born will praise God - He is going to deliver us to praise Him again.
God has broken me, and I've asked to be sustained.
He laid the heavens and earth; they will wear out, but He won't.  So we are secure.


How this is about Jesus
99 - He has all authority in heaven and earth, and yet He loves justice.
100 - He is the same, yesterday, today and forever, as God will be faithful forever (vs. 5).
102 - He was cut off in mid-strength (vs. 23), working to save a generation yet to be born.  He says, "Here am I, and the children God has given Me" (Isaiah 8:18; Hebrews 2:13).

Psalms 96-98

96
Sing, declaring God's glory among the nations; only He is Lord, with splendor and majesty.
Give Him the glory and offering due to Him.
God reigns, and will judge the earth fairly; so the heavens, sea and fields rejoice!

97
Yahweh reigns.  Fire and lightning surround Him, showing His power.
The heavens proclaim His purity.  Israel rejoices at His fair judgment.
He preserves her and sows in her seeds of light and joy (which will blossom into... what more?!)

98
Sing a new song to Yahweh, for He has saved us, and everyone has seen it.
Use your harps and trumpets and voices to praise Him!
The sea and whole world sound forth His praise, because God is coming to judge all with equity.


How this is about Jesus
96 - He is the majestic one (Psalm 45 is about Him).
97 - He showed His hatred for evil (vs. 10) in cleansing the temple and rebuking the Pharisees.  He came to give us fullness of joy (vs. 11).
98 - God's right hand (Jesus) saved us.  Jesus is coming again (vs. 9) to judge the living and the dead.

7.27.2015

Sixth, Pause, then Seventh and Last

Something I forgot to mention in my sermon on Revelation 14 last night.

I noted the pattern in the book of 6 trumpets or seals or bowls, then an interlude that shows attention and care for God's people, and then the 7th concluding thing, usually the consummation and Second Coming of Christ itself.

What I forgot to say is that this pattern is embedded in the creation week itself.
6 days of creation, then an interlude where God speaks to Adam and Eve with commands and blessings, then the 7th concluding day of rest.

Philippians

1
Paul and Timothy to the church at Philippi:
I thank God for you - He'll finish what He started in you.
My imprisonment has advanced the Gospel, so rejoice with me.
I expect to be released, but I'd almost rather die and be with Christ, which is better.
Live up to the grace you've received, suffering for Christ if need be.

2
Be like-minded and like Christ, in His humility, putting others before yourself.  He did this, going to the cross, and was exalted afterward.
So work out your salvation, avoiding complaining like the whole world does.  If you stand out like that, I don't care if I die, I'll rejoice.
I'll send Timothy to you soon, a faithful son.
Epaphroditus comes now, since you were worried about his sickness.  He almost died, but now you can rejoice and we can all be relieved that God spared him.

3
Watch out for those dogs, the Judaizers, who put confidence in their circumcision.  I put confidence in nothing of my own.  It's all loss compared to knowing Christ and having His righteousness.  I press on to know Him and forget things I used to trust.  Imitate me in this, instead of following those who talk down the cross.

4
Help one another be in harmony, especially Euodia and Syntyche.
Rejoice always!  Be gentle, and know God's peace as you pray to Him for everything.
Think on things true, good, lovely, and right.
I'm glad you sent me a gift again.  I can be content with whatever, but you did well to think of me.  I seek the fruit the gift helps bring about, not the money itself.
God will meet your needs, as you have contributed to mine.
There are Christians in Caesar's household, and they with all the saints greet the Philippians.


Application
When things are hard for others, we focus on the restoration of their comfort and convenience.  Paul goes a different direction: how is this hardship advancing the Gospel or growing me in the Lord?  This leads him to tell the Philippians repeatedly to rejoice, even though he's in jail.

Christ-likeness (chatper 2), seeking to know Him (chapter 3), and make peace with His people (chapter 4) are more important than other circumstances like imprisonment or financial hardship.


Philippians 3:7-11
"But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ. 8 Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith; 10 that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, 11 if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead."

Psalms 93-95

93
Yahweh reigns.  His throne and world are established, even as the waters rise.
"Holiness befits your house."

94
Rise up and avenge, O God, for they crush Your people.
They think You don't see it, but You made the eyes in the first place.
Who is going to stand up for me against them?  Only God.
He can encourage me when I get down over it all, and He "will wipe them out."

95
Come to God with singing and thanksgiving!
We are His sheep, so don't harden yourselves against Him like we did in the desert.
They had to wander for 40 years and not enter the rest of Canaan.


How this is about Jesus
93 - He can manage and rule when the waters rage - He stilled the wind and waves on Galilee.
94 - He knows when His people are hurt and will take vengeance (2 Thess. 1:6-10; Rev. 14:14-20).
95 - He is the shepherd and we are the sheep.  We followed Christ, wandering in the desert (1 Cor. 10:4).  We are to worship and kneel before the Lamb, as well as before God the Father (Rev. 5:8-10).

7.24.2015

Psalm 89 & 92

89
I will sing of the Lord's faithfulness and majesty forever!
You rule the sea, the heavens, the mountains, the behemoth.
You covenanted with David to establish him and his descendants forever.
But now we are defiled and plundered.  Where is your faithfulness to Your servants?
"Blessed be Yahweh forever!"

92
It's good to thank the Lord for His great works to us.
The fool doesn't know, and won't listen.  He may flourish now, but he's headed for destruction.
The righteous will flourish forever like fruitful trees in God's house, green and full of sap.


How this is about Jesus
He is the offspring of David, living forever, who makes this promise possible.  A descendant of David on the throne forever?  Only by the eternal King and son of David, Jesus.

He is the root of David, the tree on which we grow and bear fruit.

NYTimes on ISIS / Confederate and Rainbow flags

1. This is some good reporting from the NY Times, on the atrocities of ISIS.
"It has been nearly impossible for two U.S. presidents — Bush, a conservative evangelical; and Obama, a progressive liberal — to address the plight of Christians explicitly for fear of appearing to play into the crusader and ‘‘clash of civilizations’’ narratives the West is accused of embracing."


2. If you're not sick of the "Confederate flag - racism" topic yet, this is good reading to make all my different kinds of friends mad.  It'll make you think and cuts against the grain of assumptions of both north and south, conservative and liberal.  A few excerpts:
"a main reason for Christians to be critical of the flag is that the Confederate States of America was founded on a societal ideal that increasingly rejected Christian orthodoxy and orthopraxy in favor of a culturally driven ideals, ideals that appealed to Christian aesthetics, in order to curry favor with the dispositions of the contemporary cultural elite." 
"Contrary to both the narratives of the paleo-conservatives and the social justice warriors, today’s progressives actually stand in continuity with the motivations of the Confederacy. And so perhaps they ought not be pulling down the Battle Flag after all. It pairs nicely with the rainbow."
"while the flag that flew in South Carolina was the battle flag of the Army of Northern Virginia, to assign it the values Fitzhugh articulated is not a historical overstatement. The battle was itself caused by the secession, and Southern states seceded to defend slavery. The Army of Northern Virginia fought to preserve a republic devoted to maintaining slavery. (An excellent work for any Christian who sees slavery as anything but a primary cause for secession is Charles Dew’s Apostles of Disunion.)"

7.23.2015

Psalm 67 & 71

67
God will bless us with His face shining on us.
All the people will praise You, O God!
The nations will "be glad and sing for joy."

71
I take refuge in You, Lord.  Be my refuge as You have since birth.
Everybody thinks I'm going down, but I praise You yet.
Shame and turn back my accusers!  I will sing of what You have done.
Revive me after trouble, and don't forsake me, even to old age.
I will praise You, for You have defeated those seeking to hurt me.


How this is about Jesus
67 - the light and glory of God is found in the face of Jesus Christ.  Any blessing from God comes through Him.  The nations are HIS inheritance (Psalm 2), so they will be glad, since they will have such a King.

71 - this Psalm is like Psalm 22.  David is surrounded by trouble, but his focus remains on praising God, trusting Him.  So it fits well to imagine Jesus singing Psalm 71 from the cross.

7.22.2015

The Battle Hymn of the Republic - a Critique

Studying for a sermon on Revelation 14, where the Son of Man tramples out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored, I got curious about this song, and found this informative article.  The original lyrics and extra verses had my eyes widen in amazement.

I didn't agree with everything in the article, but I think the conclusion is spot on.

Psalms

33
Praise God with skillful music!
God's word is faithful; He made all things by it.
His purpose stands, whatever earthly rulers try to do.
He sees all things, especially the king trying to deliver by his army.
He sees those who hope in Him, like we do.

43
Vindicate me against the deceitful, Lord!
Why do you let them oppress me?
Send Your light and truth to lead me to worship You.
Hope in God, cast down soul of mine, for He will save you.

66
Shout for joy to God.  See what He has done for us.
You brought us out of trials and into abundance.
I will come worship You, and tell everyone what You did for me.
You wouldn't have listened if I cherished iniquity, but You HAVE heard me.


How this is about Jesus
33 - He is the Word by which all things were made (Col. 1).  He knows His own (Rev. 2-3).
43 - God's light and truth were with Him, even when His soul was cast down (Luke 22:43-44).
66 - God brought Him through the crucifixion to glory, and by His Spirit and Church He sees that the whole world knows about God's salvation through Him.