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A Bible Study for Women on 1 Thessalonians (Free Download)

My sweet wife led the ladies of Kenwood Baptist Church through a study of 1 Thessalonians this summer, and she prepared study questions that prompt a close, meditative examination of Paul’s letter and one’s own heart. This study is geared for women, but I think anyone would profit from reflecting on these questions over an open Bible.

Is there a women’s ministry at your church? Are you part of a Ladies’ Study Group? A group of women in a campus ministry? There are all kinds of settings in which this could be used. Maybe there are some co-workers with whom you could meet for a 5-week study of 1 Thessalonians?

I am so blessed by the gift of my wife. Words can’t communicate what she is to me. I’m glad that other people might benefit from her prayerful preparation of this Bible study, which you can download for free here:

A Bible Study for Women on 1 Thessalonians.

PS: besides being the best theologian I know–there’s no one with whom I’ve had more enjoyable conversations about the Bible, theology, and life–my sweet wife has an M.A. in Biblical Studies from Dallas Theological Seminary.

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Remus Lupin, Werewolf

I love the Harry Potter stories. My first trip through them was an audio excursion guided by the talented Jim Dale. Enthusiasm for the books swept me right into reading them aloud to my children, and we’re almost finished with the series. I am thrilled that J. K. Rowling’s next book, The Casual Vacancy, is appearing any moment now. I can’t wait to read it. Sorry for my effusive delight over these books—what I’m trying to do is tell you about one of the characters in the Harry Potter stories, Remus Lupin.

There’s a play on his name, as lupus is the Latin word for “wolf,” and Lupin is a werewolf. Werewolves are not exactly pleasant, and the surprising thing is that Lupin is one of the good guys. This is one of the ways that Rowling has given us stories that are true to life.

In the Potter stories, if you get bitten by a werewolf, the bite infects you and can make you a werewolf. Remus Lupin’s father had offended an awful villain of a werewolf, and that werewolf sought revenge by biting Remus when he was a child.

Remus did not want to be a werewolf. Abused by an adult, he became a danger to himself and others. He was cut off from society. He suffered terribly, and he had no control over his affliction. At the full moon, whether he wanted to be transformed into a werewolf or not, he lost control of himself and became something dangerous.

Have you ever met anyone who has experienced something like this? Or has this been your own experience? Something tragic, awful, happened during childhood, and its painful repercussions seem all but inescapable?

J. K. Rowling tells a story in which there’s hope for people who have been abused as children, abused in ways that threaten to make them monsters as adults. Rowling’s story helps us to sympathize with people we might not otherwise understand, people we might otherwise fear. Lupin tells his personal history in book 3, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. I saw Rowling interviewed, and she commented on how much Lupin means to her.

Remus relates how it seemed impossible that he would get to study at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, until a headmaster came to the school who believed in giving people second chances, believed in trusting people, believed in the power of love. Albus Dumbledore allowed Remus Lupin into Hogwarts, and he devised a way for Lupin to be protected—from himself and others—when his monthly transformation took place. Dumbledore thought carefully about the situation, about Lupin’s affliction and needs, and he took steps to make sure that Lupin would not destroy others or himself when he became a werewolf.

Lupin goes on to relate how as the years of his schooling passed, his “three great friends” did something for him that made his painful transformations “not only bearable, but the best times” of his life.

What could his friends have done for him?

First, when his friends learned his secret, they didn’t reject him. From there, his friends began to explore ways to care for him, ways to enter into his experience, ways to be in his life in his moment of need, to walk with him through the trial.

Lupin’s friends worked for three years to perfect the complex magic necessary to transform themselves into animals that would not be hurt by a werewolf. They did that so they could keep Lupin company, so they could protect him from himself, so they could keep him from hurting others, and they did it because they were his friends.

Lupin says, “Under their influence, I became less dangerous. My body was still wolfish, but my mind seemed to become less so while I was with them.”

Do you know children who have been sexually abused? Did that happen to you as a child? Do you know children who have been exposed to pornography? Were you?

Consider what Rowling teaches through this powerful story. There is hope for people who have experienced things they wish had not happened, and there are steps that can and should be taken in such cases.

Notice how Dumbledore let Lupin into school, but he acknowledged that because of what had happened to Lupin, he had to take measures to restrain Lupin when he became a werewolf, measures that would protect Lupin himself and other children.

What boundaries are necessary because of what has happened in your life, or in the life of someone you love?

If you find yourself experiencing a transformation at the full moon—that is to say, if there things that happen, or that you see or hear, that cause you to experience impulses that are beyond your rationality, beyond your control—are you acknowledging your need for help in those situations?

Do you find yourself risking everything that matters most in the world to pursue some desire that most of the time you don’t want to gratify at all? Dumbledore built a place where Lupin could go to be safe at the full moon. What kind of place do you need?

Notice also that Lupin had friends who loved him—friends who knew the awful reality of his condition, friends who knew the worst about him and loved him anyway, friends who thought carefully and persistently about how to help him, friends who went to extraordinary lengths to stand by their brother who was in need.

Oh to have such friends. Oh to be such a friend.

We all need second chances. We all need boundaries. And we need one another.

There’s something better than having Albus Dumbledore as your headmaster and great classmates like Lupin’s three great friends: belonging to Jesus and being part of his church. Rowling has given us a picture of the human condition in an unlikely place. She has shown us that sometimes even the good guys turn into werewolves. The good guys, however, know what their problems are, take steps to address those problems, and they know they can’t make it alone.

If you haven’t read the Harry Potter stories, trust me, Rowling’s narrative is much more powerful than this little reflection on it. Consider this my encouragement for you to read what I think will prove to be the publishing event of the century (get them here). These books are the third most read books in the world.

More importantly, if you’re not a member of a church where Jesus shepherds his people through the preaching of the word, it’s better than Hogwarts. If you don’t have friends who will listen to you and think about your plight and be creative about how to help you, the church is better than magicians who can turn themselves into animals. And the great redemption Christ has accomplished is the substance of which the Potter stories are but a shadow.

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This post originally appeared at Christianity.com

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Go to the Ant

Proverbs 6:6, “Go to the ant, O sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise.”

Some time back we watched some video with the kids, probably a BBC thing on the world or something of the sort, and I noted down some stats on what ants accomplish–these were ants in Africa, I think, but I don’t remember their exact location or what kind of ants they were. Their accomplishments are impressive:

  • The ant “megalopolis” was built of the equivalent of 10 tons of cement.
  • The ant megalopolis covered 50 square meters.
  • Forty tons of soil was moved in the construction project.
  • Each load carried by an ant weighed 4 times as much as the worker carrying the load.

UPDATE: Patrick Schreiner has the video:

Well spoken, Solomon.

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How I Mark My Bible

As I read the Bible, I try to make note of repeated words, resumed themes, quotations of earlier passages, and other key ideas. I don’t want simply to see them, however, and move on. I want to mark them so that when I later have a vague recollection of something I read a while ago I can go back and find it.

So as I read the Bible, I use a mechanical pencil, a set of colored pens, colored pencils, and occasionally a highlighter to note things. As I’ve done this over the years, I’ve developed a color code for key ideas that breaks down like this:

Orange = references to God’s glory or name

Green = references to earlier Scripture, whether quotations or otherwise

Purple = references to royalty/kingship/the coming Messiah

Red = anything notable, but particularly the actions the Lord himself does

Blue = references to faith, believing, piety, etc.

Pink = knowing or fearing God/the Lord

Yellow (colored pencil) = anything notable, repeated words in the passage, etc.

Brown (colored pencil) = references to times or dates

Mechanical Pencil = notes in the margin, underlines, connecting lines, etc.

Those are the constants. Some colors vary from book to book, but these are pretty standard throughout. For instance, I recently re-read Proverbs all at one sitting with the intention of noting everything the book says about raising children. I marked all those references with a lime green color, and all the references to the “path” of the righteous or to the “ways” of a man with an aqua green color. And since Proverbs has a few unique “headings” (1:1; 10:1; 22:17; 24:23; 25:1; 30:1; 31:1) I used a highlighter to mark those. Bible pages tend to be thin, so I try to keep a highlighter that is almost used up to try to cut down on the bleed-through affect.

So here’s a shot of a passage before I studied it and marked it up. I was preaching through Jeremiah, and the marked passage in the column on the far left ends at Jeremiah 25:14, which was where my last sermon on Jeremiah ended. I took this photo right before I began to study Jeremiah 25:15–38, which was the next sermon in the series on Jeremiah. This passage begins at the bottom of the far left column and continues through the two columns in the middle. I had already underlined Jeremiah 26:1 in brown colored pencil because it has a statement about when Jeremiah got this word, and the green colored pencil is there because of the reference to the way the word came from the Lord.

As I worked through the passage, I underlined all the places where Jeremiah has something like “Thus says the Lord” in green colored pencil (see 25:15, 27, 29, 31, 32).

Then as I read and re-read the passage, I noticed that in both 25:16 and 27 Jeremiah is told to command the nations to “drink . . . because of the sword that I [Yahweh] am sending among you,” so I underlined the matching phrases in the two verses with an aqua green colored pencil.

Cities and nations are listed out in Jeremiah 25:18–26, with some comments on each. So I underlined each city or nation mentioned in yellow colored pencil.

Jerusalem was to be a city that reflected Yahweh’s glory, from which his glory radiated outward, so I underlined the reference in Jeremiah 25:29 to “the city that is called by my name” in orange pen.

In Jeremiah 25:30 the Lord twice roars like a lion, and I’ve circled those in mechanical pencil, drawing a line from that verse to 25:38, where similar imagery is used, and noting that Yahweh also roars like a lion in Amos 1:2, Joel 3:16, and Hosea 5:14.

I have also noted the next to Jeremiah 25:33 places where Jeremiah says similar things at 16:4 and 8:2.

Then in Jeremiah 25:34–36 there are several references to the “shepherds” who are the “lords of the flock,” and these are underlined in jade green colored pencil. The two calls for these wicked leaders of Israel to “wail” are underlined with a mechanical pencil, with a line connecting them. Here’s a photo of the page I’ve been describing:

I’ve marked up several copies of the Bible this way, and when I teach I want to have a copy of the Bible in front of me that has everything that I will have a faint memory of clearly marked so that I can find it (relatively) quickly when I’m asked a question, and I know I read something about that around Luke 12. I flip to Luke 12, and I can usually find what it was I had in mind because I usually remember, however faintly, what I’ve marked.

If I want an uninfluenced, fresh reading of the text, I can read a Bible that I haven’t marked up. But if I want to layer reading upon reading and go deeper this time than last, it helps me to read a copy that will have my previous study notes in it.

I recommend reading large chunks of Bible all at one sitting, whole books if possible, thoroughly marking them up as you go. Doing this book after book helps us see the interconnectedness of individual books and the thick intertextuality of each book of the Bible with all the others. Obviously you don’t have to do it exactly the way I do, but perhaps my method will spur your own thinking and you can adapt it to suit your own study.

Mark well what you read, and may the Word of Christ dwell in you richly (Col 3:16).

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This post originally appeared at Christianity.com.

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Championship Basketball

It’s better to honor God than to win, but that doesn’t mean we don’t try to honor God by winning!

My oldest son’s 9 year old basketball team played in the championship game at Southeast Christian Church today, and with a great team effort we came home with the victory.

IMG_3462Our watchwords were Defense, Dedication, Discipline, and everyone on the team learned the definition of discipline: doing what you’re supposed to do, when you’re supposed to do it, to the best of your ability, every time. Everyone responsible for everyone else. Bloodhounds for rebounds. We didn’t buy a ticket, so we’re not standing around watching. Leave it all on the floor, baby, go hard or go home.

Praise be to God, we came home with an 8–2 season and a victory in the championship game of the tournament.

There were some teams in the league that came to be identified by the best player on the team. “So-and-so’s team” was the way everybody identified them. That wasn’t said about our team, though we had several very good players.

These Bulldogs worked hard on defense, helped each other, stayed in position, rebounded, and ran a good offense that got the whole team involved.

Great season Bulldogs!

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The Beauty and Joy of Answered Prayer

I’m so thankful for Jason Skaer (follow him on twitter), and what a joy to read this account of how the Lord answered prayer and provided:

PROPERTY PRAYER – There were many nights where the men’s ministry consisted of monthly gatherings on the corner of Branch Crossing and Alden Bridge to pray.  I remember hot nights with lots of mosquitoes, and a group of guys asking God to move so that we could leave that old YMCA and build a campus on these 5 acres filled with woods.  I think many felt like we were hoping against hope, all we could see were tall trees and low funds, and the people driving by in the middle of the night must have thought we were nuts.  But God proved once again He does hear and answer prayer.

MACY’S PARKING LOT  – It was your ordinary Sunday in 2008 that turned extraordinary with one phone call.  Suzanne and I were going to the mall when I got a call from Roger Yancey explaining that someone had anonymously donated $700,000 to TCAAB to help build our new campus (see above prayer).  For a church whose annual budget at the time was south of $200,000 this was BIG news.  I remember running from the Macy’s parking lot where I took the call, all the way in to the store where I found Suzanne and started crying.  God is good.

The whole thing – 10 Years of God Memories

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My Dad’s Coins

We Christians sin. All the time. But most of us don’t set out to spit in God’s face. We don’t mean to attack God by our sin, nor do we get up in the morning planning to transgress his boundaries.

What happens to us?

How is it that a genuine Christian can sin, and so often, sometimes so flagrantly?

In Hebrews 5:2 we read of how people are “ignorant and wayward,” of how we are all “beset with weakness.” One of the first steps to overcoming ignorance, waywardness, and weakness is recognizing it for what it is.

I had a dream the other night that brought this home to me.

We recently celebrated “father’s day” here in the US (June 17, 2012), and the dream I had was probably connected to the fact that I didn’t feel I had done enough to communicate to my dad how grateful I am for him.

In the dream I was in the office at Southern Seminary where the faculty have mailboxes. I was talking with a student as I poked my head into that office to see if there was any mail in my box. I noticed on top of my box a glass jar full of change that my wife had wanted out of the house, so I took it up to the school. Not wanting it in my office, I had stuck it on top of my box.

Seeing the change now, I thought to myself that I could buy a coke with it.

I stuck my hand in and counted out what I thought were four quarters.

But when I looked at them, I realized what I held in my hand, and my heart smote me.

These were old coins, and valuable. Silver dollars, Susan B. Anthonys, pre-1963 quarters, none of which, now that I realized what they were, I wanted to throw away on a can of coke. These were coins that my father had collected, coins that he had looked for, found, kept, and passed on to me.

Suddenly the old coins I held in my hand—in the dream there was a silver dollar from 1903, there were coins with designs on them that have long since passed out of circulation, coins that clearly came from this country but that were so old they had become exotic—suddenly these coins in my hand were much more than merely pieces of change. They had become mementos. Mementos of my father. Gifts he had given to me.

The gifts evoked memories of my Pappaw, my dad’s dad, sitting on the couch, almost lying down really, with a stack of coins on his chest, rubbing the quarters together until their faces were smooth. They reminded me of times when I was the ages my own sons are now, 8, 6, 4, times when my dad and my sister Dayna and I would sit at the table or sprawl on the floor and sort coins. The Gifts I held in my hand made me think of recent days when my dad has done the same thing, sort coins, with my sons, only now he wears reading glasses to see the dates and designs.

Those memories showed themselves to be linked in a vital way to my whole relationship with my dad: all the ground balls and free throws and conversations in the car. All the ways he shaped me and loved me and cared for me. All the time he spent with me, the mound of moments we have enjoyed together.

There I was in my dream, holding those coins in my hand. They had become priceless to me because of what they signified, and I was horrified that I had almost thrown them away on a cola that wouldn’t have been good for me anyway.

This is how our ignorant, wayward, and weak hearts find their way to sin. We forget the gifts our God and Father has given us. We become unmindful of what his mercy means to us. We neglect the mementos, the testimonies, the stories and songs of the Scriptures.

And all too often we are prepared to cash in our relationship with the living God for filth, filth that would ruin our lives and destroy everything precious and sacred to us. We are ignorant, wayward, and weak enough to throw away the world to come in exchange for a syrupy mixture of caffeine, sugar, and fizzy water, or worse, far worse: shameful things not to be named. God help us get hearts of wisdom.

“Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord, and turn away from evil. It will be healing to your flesh and refreshment to your bones”
 -Prov 3:7-8.

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Originally posted at Christianity.com

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The Epic Quest of Your Life

The Journey to the Bible’s World: The Epic Quest of Your Life

Sydney Carton went to a far better rest than he had ever known. Jane Eyre heard the voice of her old master. Alexei helped his brother Dmitri escape. Raskolnikov found grace with Sonya. Jean Valjean became a father to Cosette. Bilbo found the ring. Frodo carried it to Mount Doom. The man and the boy carried the fire on the road. Jeeves saved the day, repeatedly, as Bertie’s keeper. Harry faced down Voldemort, laying down his life for his friends.

These events that take place in great stories only make sense in the context of the wider narrative in which they’re set. In the novels, these events are powerful, thought provoking, moving, beautiful. But if you haven’t read the stories and don’t know the context, they mean very little.

Jesus accomplished an exodus in Jerusalem. He came as the lamb of God. He called himself the bridegroom. He spoke of his death in terms of the tearing down of the temple. When he died on the cross, dead people came out of their graves.

Like the events in the novels, these things about Jesus make sense when read against the back-story that gives them meaning. It can be hard to see the big story of the Bible because the narrative thread is harder to pick up than it is in most novels.

When I first started reading the Bible, it puzzled me that though this book was the one inspired by God, it seemed to me that other books were so much easier (and seemingly more fun) to read. Those other books seemed so much easier to understand. Often those other books were putting life’s big questions right on the surface. Reading other books was like picking low-hanging fruit. Reading the Bible was like searching for diamonds in a desert.

The problem was not with the Bible. The problem was with me and my expectations. For all the fun and ease I found in stories, I couldn’t find answers. I couldn’t find Truth.

If our fingers learn to feel the Bible’s narrative thread, we can follow that thread through the desert to the diamonds. We will feel the power and beauty of the descriptions of Jesus in the Gospels because the notes they sound will resonate in music our ears have learned to hear. The imagery will communicate rather than confuse. We will come away thinking the biblical authors were not only inspired but of subtly brilliant, no more thinking other writers tell better tales. We will come to see that the best of the world’s writers have merely sought to capture something of the shimmer on the Bible’s pages.

This is what biblical theology is for: to take you to Truth, to lead you all the way to God.

If you understand biblical theology, you won’t think that Homer, Virgil, Dickens, and Hugo were better storytellers than Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. You won’t think the Gospels rough and rude. You’ll see how they’re carefully crafted, structurally sound, climactic presentations of a story far more significant than any novelist invented.

If you come to understand biblical theology, the Bible will explain not merely what God has done in Christ but the whole world and its fullness, including but not limited to the world’s great works of literature. Better: you will learn the insight of the men of Issachar, who understood the times and knew what Israel should do.

Best: if you come to understand biblical theology, it will be because you will have come to know God. You will understand what the Spirit inspired the biblical authors to write, and if the Lord has truly made you a biblical theologian, you will see how your life fits in the Bible’s big story, the true story of the world. You will have learned the interpretive perspective of the biblical authors, embraced it, and begun to apply it to your own life.

Becoming a biblical theologian is an epic task worthy of every human being. It goes beyond the mere reading of books on the topic, though that will aid those who join this quest. It requires a lifelong study of the Scriptures for the glory of the Father in the power of the Spirit by faith in the Son.

Are you ready to begin your journey? This is an adventure that will take you into the real world, the world of the Bible. And my prayer is that once you’ve been there, you’ll never want to be anywhere else. Count the cost. Bring your Bible. Join me for THINK|13.

This post also appeared today on the College Park Church Blog.

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We Love Homeschooling

I am so thankful that our kids are enrolled in Hamilton Classical Academy, and here’s just one reason. The other day their history book from Veritas Press (Pages of History by Bruce Etter and Alexia Detweiler) introduced this acorn to oak-tree concept of the growth of the promises in the OT from the acorn of Genesis 3:15 to the oak-tree of fulfillment in Christ. After she read the section to them, my sweet wife encouraged the kids to draw what they had learned, and here’s our oldest son’s reproduction of the chart from the book.

photo-7

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Guest Post from Adam Richardson: 52 Hours with My Son Jon

My friend Adam Richardson and I were students together at DTS. After Seminary, Adam served as a missionary in Russia for eleven years, and he is now pursuing a PhD at the University of Leicester, doing his work at Tyndale House, Cambridge. At the time the events he relates below took place, he was in Seattle for a brief furlough and a few routine medical appointments.

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God has given our family the priceless gift of perspective. I want to share that 52-hour experience with you.

It was Tuesday morning Dec 16, 2008, and I was doing what most of you were doing – year end work and meetings wondering when and how I would shop, when I got the call.

“Adam this is Dr. Shreuder (Jon’s pediatrician. Jon was 3.) Jon’s lab results came back; you need to take Jon immediately to Children’s hospital for a blood transfusion. He has acute anemia. They are waiting for him on the sixth floor; his room is ready. Take several days’ worth of toys and books.” My mind flooded with questions – could I give the blood for him? Is the transfusion safe? What then? Why would we be there several days? As I am thinking of all this, the doctor continued: “Normal blood contains many fluids, and red blood cells should be about 35-40% of that. They carry oxygen to the body. Jon’s RBC count is not 35-40% but 9%. Meaning, he has about 25% of the oxygen carrying power he needs. His body has compensated with his heart working in overdrive, but this could lead to heart failure.” That’s when the world stopped rotating.

Heather and I hastily packed and headed to Children’s Seattle; they were waiting. They explained that he would soon begin a 16-hour transfusion of four pediatric units of RBC’s only. This should bring him out of the danger zone. For the first time we asked what could be causing this – why his bone marrow had stopped producing RBC’s. She spoke in general terms, but we caught the gist. There seemed no good news answers. He had only complained that his “tummy hurt” so we took him in for some blood tests. And now, hours later, we were about to get a transfusion to treat the symptom caused by inactive bone marrow. Wow.

Meanwhile, my dad who is a physician was communicating with me over the phone; he got the lab report, ran it by his people and gave us the first shaft of light – a viral condition called TEC that that temporarily suppresses the marrow and resolves on its own like most viruses. It affects 1 in about 200,000 children; maybe Jon would be the one. In light of alternatives, we were actually now HOPING for this illness.

They moved us to another room and started the transfusion. There would be no time for me to donate since they have to test, treat and specially package donated blood. Praise God someone had seen fit to give their blood so my son could receive it in his hour of need.

To experience the full force of our shock at Jon’s comment (I will relate in a minute), I want to set the scene – It’s now Tuesday evening and Jon has been in a hospital bed for over 4 hours (12 to go this round), wires everywhere, and arm splinted with an IV. We have no assurance when or how this will end. That’s when Jon blurts out, “This is the best party ever!” After all, Grammy sent balloons, he’s eating candy canes, watching the movie “Cars” for the third time, he got to pee in a jug (perk for a boy), his bed has a good stash of toys, ride bikes in the hospital halls (a childrens’ hospital), and to top it all off – Santa’s elves came to visit him to take his list straight to the Pole.

Bottom line is this – everything turned out as a best case scenario. As for the transfusion, the first round got his RBC count from 9 to 21. They kept us an extra day and gave Jon another four units of RBC’s and got his count up to 31. Close enough to discharge. As for the diagnosis – TEC was it. Basically, it’s the freak happenstance of some virus that he picked up (and has already gone) that just happened to have the exact combination to Jon’s physiology and opened the vault, suppressing his bone marrow for a period of 2-8 weeks. It is not contagious; millions of other children could get the same virus with no effect. The body should recover “on its own” (amazing design isn’t it?) in a matter of weeks with no long term anything. Our follow up visits confirmed his recovery.

What did we gain from this?

* SIMPLICITY – Walking out of the hospital on December 18th I still didn’t know what would be under tree (seriously), but I knew we’d all be there together. Our extended family of faith reached out as well with prayers and notes and calls. If your biological family is small as you celebrate this Christmas, know that your spiritual family is huge – and we are glad to be a part of it.

* SACRIFICE – For about six weeks until he recovered, some stranger-saint’s red blood cells were running through my son’s body to bring him oxygen and nutrients. I was at the blood bank on Monday morning rolling up my sleeves. Please join me in this.

* FAITH – Jon was 3 and didn’t even really know what happened. He knew he needed “good blood to make him strong again.” But he was shielded from the myriad of discussions, decisions and processes behind his recovery. All he knows is that he went to the hospital for several days, he didn’t like pokes, he did like candy canes, and now he’s better. I wonder what God shields us from? Jon could not understand why he had to experience some pain there; we the caregivers knew, and put him through it for the greater good. I wondered what God cannot explain to me since I am not able to comprehend it. At times Jon trusted me; at times I had to pin him down. It made me sad to think that sometimes people reject God because they cannot understand everything about God or life or pain. Realizing that God’s love for us is infinitely greater than mine for Jon’s, I’m more willing to believe – even when I don’t understand.

* PEACE – I believe in a sovereign God. I don’t know whether that means He “caused” or “allowed” this to happen – I won’t die on that mountain because it doesn’t matter. What I do know is this – that the valley does not surprise or alarm God. In fact, it’s a part of His plan. And not for us to go there alone – God was with us there. When I got that call and was agonizing over potential long-term scenarios, God was with us. He knew what was happening, was not surprised, and knew the path for us to take would be to trust Him, wherever that path led. His complete sovereignty gives me peace, not because I expect life to turn out well, but because I know He’s got the whole world, with all its joys and sorrows, in His hands.

As for Jon, as we were leaving the hospital, he wasn’t walking, he was hopping. Days later he went sledding and didn’t complain once of his “tummy hurting.” He has fully recovered. Thanks be to God, who is with us, has provided for us through blood donors, medical professionals, and the family of faith. And one day, when Jon is down about something, I’ll tell him this story. He’ll be blown away.

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New Post at Christianity.com: Do You Love Controversy or People?

Some people think it’s either/or. Here’s a bit from (near) the beginning:

A few years ago I would have been suspicious of anyone who mentioned the need to engage in theological controversy in a loving way. I would have done one of those mental clucks of the tongue and inched the person toward the “needs-to-firm-up-conviction” column.

As time has passed, though, I’ve participated in a few controversies (many connected to the sovereignty of God in salvation or the roles of men and women) and I’ve watched some controversialists take issue with views that I hold. Obviously I haven’t been in all these battles, only a skirmish or two, and sometimes I found myself wondering if those involved loved God, people, and truth, or just loved controversy.

You can read the whole thing here.

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The Other 2013 Book I’m Most Excited to See

Tom Schreiner’s New Testament Theology was hailed by Simon Gathercole as “a magnificent acheivement.” What shall we say, then, about his new whole Bible theology, bearing the matchless title, The King in His Beauty?

I can say that there’s not a saner, clearer, shrewder, godlier scholar I know. No one humbler or happier, no one whose life better matches what he preaches and teaches. No one whose writings I find more helpful, more convincing, more instructive. As I’ve read Schreiner over the years, I’ve been so often edified. So many times I’ve been impressed by his ability to summarize so much scholarship so succinctly, and so often I’ve seen him solve what seemed to be intractable difficulties with straightforward common sense that accounts for everything in the text. I don’t know anyone who has read more, anyone more charitable in dispute, anyone more willing to learn from those of different perspectives, and I can’t think of anyone that I’ve learned more from than Tom Schreiner.

In fact, I’m having a hard time thinking of a point where he has failed to convince me. And I can be pretty disagreeable!

So in addition to Brian Vickers’ Justification by Grace through Faith, the other book I’m most looking forward to in 2013 is Tom Schreiner’s The King in His Beauty. These two books will make it a banner year in publishing for SBTS faculty, and then there’s the other other book I’m most looking forward to in 2012 from Denny Burk–what can I say!? All three are superlative. Stay tuned.

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The 2013 Book I’m Most Excited to See

Warning, hyperbolic statement ahead:

More than any other book that will be published in 2013, I’m excited to see this new one from Brian Vickers. Having already published on imputation (which if you haven’t read it already, you should click right here and get yourself a copy of Jesus’ Blood and Righteousness), and having spent years doing exegesis, reading widely and deeply, and faithfully teaching students, to say nothing of living well through joy and sorrow, there’s nobody I’d rather read on the article on which the church stands or falls than Brian Vickers.

My recommendation is that you pre-order your copy today. Seriously, can you think of a topic more central to the gospel than justification by faith? Don’t think you’ve got this one in your back pocket. I’ve had the pleasure of many a conversation with Prof. Vickers, and I’m excited about the insights waiting to burst in the minds of the readers of this book. After you pre-order your copy, I recommend you write P&R to thank them for publishing this important book, and ask the Lord to do more than can be asked or imagined with this important new title.

Just in case you’re wondering why I would give the warning with which this post began, the problem is that my enthusiasm over this new one from Brian Vickers is approximated by my anticipation of forthcoming volumes by Denny Burk and Tom Schreiner.

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On the Eve of the Release of Rowling’s Next Book

I’ve been thinking for a while about what J. K. Rowling teaches us in the Harry Potter stories through her depiction of Remus Lupin, the werewolf who is a good guy. I finally got around to writing up my reflections, and they’re now posted over at Christianity.com. Here’s the opening:

I love the Harry Potter stories. My first trip through them was an audio excursion guided by the talented Jim Dale. Enthusiasm for the books swept me right into reading them aloud to my children, and we’re almost finished with the series. I am thrilled that J. K. Rowling’s next book, The Casual Vacancy, is appearing any moment now. I can’t wait to read it. Sorry for my effusive delight over these books—what I’m trying to do is tell you about one of the characters in the Harry Potter stories, Remus Lupin.

There’s a play on his name, as lupus is the Latin word for “wolf,” and Lupin is a werewolf. Werewolves are not exactly pleasant, and the surprising thing is that Lupin is one of the good guys. This is one of the ways that Rowling has given us stories that are true to life.

In the Potter stories, if you get bitten by a werewolf, the bite infects you and can make you a werewolf. Remus Lupin’s father had offended an awful villain of a werewolf, and that werewolf sought revenge by biting Remus when he was a child.

Remus did not want to be a werewolf. Abused by an adult, he became a danger to himself and others. He was cut off from society. He suffered terribly, and he had no control over his affliction. At the full moon, whether he wanted to be transformed into a werewolf or not, he lost control of himself and became something dangerous.

Have you ever met anyone who has experienced something like this? Or has this been your own experience? Something tragic, awful, happened during childhood, and its painful repercussions seem all but inescapable?

Read the whole thing here.

Get the Potter books here.

Get The Casual Vacancy, which releases Thursday, September 27, 2012, here.

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In Houston October 1–6, 2012

My sweet wife grew up in Houston, and then when I finished my PhD at SBTS in 2003, the Lord opened a door for me to teach at the Houston campus of Southwestern Seminary. I had the privilege of teaching there from 2003–2008. In January of 2004 I was ordained to gospel ministry by Providence Baptist Church in Houston, and then in 2005 I was blessed to get involved with the core group of people planting what has become Baptist Church of the Redeemer. It was my privilege to help pastor that flock with some dear fellow-elders from 2005–2008.  We loved Houston because we loved the people of God we had the joy of walking with there, and the Lord’s people there loved us so well.

So getting to go back to Houston feels a bit like going home. My brother and his wife and their new baby even live there!

All this makes me delighted to have the opportunity to teach a class on the Gospel of John at The Bible Seminary in Katy, TX, just west of Houston. The class will meet Monday through Friday, October 1–5, from 8:15am until 4:30pm. If you’re looking to spend a week in the Word, I’d love to see you there.

Then that Friday night, October 5, and Saturday morning, October 6, I’ll be doing three sessions on Biblical Theology at the recently planted Christ Community Church. Lord willing, we’ll be looking at the Song of Songs in biblical theology, then motherhood in biblical theology, then fatherhood in biblical theology.

If you’re in the Houston area (or if you’re within driving distance of Houston!) and we had the joy of interacting there, please consider this an invitation, yea, a plea, old friend. Let’s reconnect – it would be great to spend the week in the Word with you at The Bible Seminary, and then what a privilege to think together about marriage and parenting in biblical theology at Christ Community Church. I would be thrilled to reconnect with you.

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