Category Archives: Notable and Quotable

Her-Story – A daily walk with Christian women from across the centuries

her-story

 

  • A Year’s Daily Readings

  • Lessons from Christian women of the past and present

  • Beautifully presented in hardback format

Women were an integral part of Jesus’ life and ministry as described in all four Gospels, and they are integral to the life of the church wherever Christianity has spread. In whatever position they found themselves, whether queens or slaves, they lived for their Saviour and sought to bring others to Him.

Her-Story brings together well-known names, such as Fanny Crosby and Joni Eareckson Tada, to lesser-known Christians from across the centuries in 366 devotions. The recurring theme – their love for Jesus.

Her-Story_Cloth Versions 2

Praise for Her-Story:

“Beautifully-written, a reader (woman or man!) will daily read, worship, and learn about many Christians, both well-known and lesser known. I highly recommend Diana Severance’s new book, published by Christian Focus.”

Denise George, Author, teacher, speaker www.denisegeorge.org

“Read this for new insight into church history, fresh gratitude for God’s glory in women’s lives, and strong motivation to aspire to the levels of faith, love, sacrifice, and service on display in these fascinating vignettes.”

Robert W. Yarbrough, Professor of New Testament, Covenant Theological Seminary, St. Louis, Missouri

“Arising from the stage of history with the inspiring legacy of personal faith, each woman leaps from the page to encourage and motivate all of us who read these daily devotionals penned by a church historian who knows our hearts and has tasted our trials.”

Dorothy K. Patterson, Professor of Theology in Women’s Studies, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Forth Worth, Texas

About the Author:

Diana Lynn Severance has broad experience teaching history in universities and seminaries. She is a Director of the Dunham Bible Museum at Houston Baptist University and is the author of Feminine Threads: Women in the Tapestry of Christian History.

Where to Buy:

Her-Story: 366 Devotions from 21 Centuries of the Christian Church is available at any good Christian bookstore. If you don’t have a Christian bookstore near you, you may want to consider purchasing a copy from one of the online book retailers listed below:

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Notable and Quotable – Walter C. Kaiser Jr. on Ecclesiastes

“Ecclesiastes has as its central concern that basic hunger of mortals to see how the wholeness of life fits into a meaningful pattern where its purpose and plan is owned and directed by God. Can this current age with so much brutality, injustice, and lack of cohesiveness come to be at once accepted, enjoyed, and understood to fit in any way into the divine plan and purpose for life? And if the same laws and plans of the omnipotent God apply to all reality, why does there often seem to be so little evidence of the positive sides of the divine plan in effect? Where are the goodness and joy of life evident in the constant change and transitions of a life that so often puzzles us? Where is the sovereign direction of a wise, powerful, and good God when suffering Christians need Him most and seemingly He is not there?

Ecclesiastes was written to give perspective and some practical advice on the above questions. It is in many ways a companion book to Job. Yet in other ways it is also a book of very unusual, but desperately needed, messages especially for our day. It is no wonder that of all the books of the Bible read by contemporary college and university students, this is the one that, more often than not, “turns them on” the most. There is a good reason for that: it was written for persons just like them, and, in fact, for persons just like all of us who are afflicted with the postmodern, Western trends and diagnoses.”

Excerpted from Coping with Change – Ecclesiastes (Christian Focus, 2013)

Where to Buy:
Coping With Change – Ecclesiastes by Walter C. Kaiser Jr. is available at any good  Christian bookstore. If you don’t have a Christian bookstore near you, you may want to consider purchasing a copy from one of the online book retailers listed below:

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John Piper on Prayer

John Piper On Prayer

“God delights in the prayers of the upright for the same reason that he abominates the sacrifices of the wicked – because the prayers of the upright are the extension and outworking of the heart; but, unlike the heart of the wicked, the heart of the upright magnifies the power and grace of God. The prayer of the upright is a delight to God because it expresses those affections of the heart which call attention to the all-sufficiency of God.

In Psalm 147:11 we read that “The Lord takes pleasure in those who hope in his love.” Here we see that the Lord takes pleasure in prayers that give expression to that hope. The reason our hope is a pleasure to God is because it shows that all our joy comes from the bounty of his grace. And the reason our prayers area a pleasure to God is because they express this God-exalting hope. It is a precious thing beyond all words-especially in the hour of death-that we have a God whose nature is such that what pleases him is not our work for him but our need of him.”

*Excerpted from How Prayer Impacts Lives, p. 85

John Piper is the founder and teacher of DesiringGod.org, chancellor of Bethlehem College and Seminary, and author of over fifty books. For thirty-two years, he served as pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church, Minneapolis, Minnesota (USA). John and his wife Noel have four children and twelve grandchildren.

Where to Buy:
How Prayer Impacts Lives: 41 Christians and their Conversations with God by Catherine Mackenzie (editor) is available at any good  Christian bookstore. If you don’t have a Christian bookstore near you, you may want to consider purchasing a copy from one of the online book retailers listed below:

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Wishing all of our readers a blessed Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving to our American readers. In honor of this special day, we wanted to share this quote from Stephen Charnock. It reminds us of the love and thankfulness due God for our crucified Redeemer.

Evidence of His Love

We love him, because he first loved us. 1 John 4:19

Let us be thankful to God for a crucified Redeemer. There is nothing in heaven or earth which is such an amazing wonder as this; nothing can vie with it for excellence. All love and thankfulness is due to God, who has given us His Son, not only to live, but to die for us a death so shameful, a death so accursed, a death so sharp, that we might be repossessed of the happiness we had lost. All love and thankfulness is due to Christ, who did not only pay a small sum for us as our surety, but bowed His soul to death, to raise us to life, was numbered among transgressors, that we might have a room among the blessed. Our crimes merited our sufferings, but His own mercy made Him a sufferer for us; for us He sweat those drops of blood, for us He trod the wine-press alone, for us He assuaged the rigor of divine justice, for us, who were not only miserable, but offending creatures, and overwhelmed with more sins to be hated, than with misery to be pitied. He was crucified for us by His love, who deserved to die by His power, and laid the highest obligation upon us, who had laid the highest offenses upon Him. This death is the ground of all our good; whatever we have, is a fruit that grew upon the cross…Nothing is such an evidence of His love as His cross; the miracles He wrought, and the cures He performed in the time of His life, were nothing to the kindness of His death, wherein He was willing to be accounted worse than a murderer in His punishment, that He might thereby effect our deliverance.

Daily Readings - the Puritans - Edited by Randall PedersonExcerpted from Daily Readings – The Puritans (Christian Focus, 2012), p. 77. This book allows to you draw daily from the wisdom of the Puritans, where you’ll find renewed joy for your daily service. This beautifully presented gift edition has 12 months of readings from Richard Baxter; John Bunyan; Stephen Charnock; Jonathan Edwards; John Flavel; William Gurnall; William Guthrie; Matthew Mead; John Owen; Samuel Rutherford; Thomas Watson; and Thomas Vincent.

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Robert Murray McCheyne on the Song of Solomon

Royal Company: A Devotional on Song of Solomon by Malcolm MacLean

On 14 August 1836, a young man, who was later to have a remarkable ministry, preached a sermon as a candidate for the position of minister in a new congregation. He chose to expound a passage from the Song of Solomon (2: 8-17). His opening words may have startled his audience. Here is what he said: There is no book of the Bible which affords a better test of the depth of a man’s Christianity than the Song of Solomon.

(1) If a man’s religion be all in his head – a well-set form of doctrines, built like mason-work, stone above stone, – but exercising no influence upon his heart, this book cannot but offend him; for there are no stiff statements of doctrine here upon which his heartless religion may be built.

(2) Or, if a man’s religion be all in his fancy – if, like Pliable in the Pilgrim’s Progress, he be taken with the outward beauty of Christianity –if, like the seed sown upon the rocky ground, his religion is fixed only in the surface faculties of the mind, while the heart remains rocky and unmoved; though he will relish this book much more than the first man, still there is a mysterious breathing of intimate affection in it, which cannot but stumble and offend him.

(3) But if a man’s religion be heart religion – if he hath not only doctrines in his head, but love to Jesus in his heart – if he hath not only heard and read of the Lord Jesus, but hath felt his need of Him, and been brought to cleave unto Him, as the chiefest among ten thousand, and the altogether lovely, then this book will be inestimably precious to his soul; for it contains the tenderest breathings of the believer’s heart towards the Saviour, and the tenderest breathings of the Saviour’s heart again towards the believer.’

Who was the young candidate for the ministry and where was the new church? The preacher was Robert Murray McCheyne and the church was St. Peter’s in Dundee, Scotland. In fact, during his ministry, which was not very long in terms of years, he would preach from almost every verse in the Song of Solomon.

Excerpted from the introduction to  Royal Company: A Devotional on the Song of Solomon by Malcolm Maclean (Christian Focus, 2012)

 

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Notable and Quotable – Carrie Sandom

The growing feminisation of our society has had a huge impact on the workplace, but it’s our families and our churches that are feeling it the most. ‘Having it all’ may be the dream of many twenty-first century women, but there are others who question whether it’s really what they want. Many conclude that it’s not. Not when our desire to be treated the same as men means we’re never really treated as women; not when our families are being run by highly competent, multi-tasking women, because the men have stopped competing with them and made a run for it; and not when our churches are great at drawing in women while the revolving door for men is as busy as ever.

Excerpted from Different by Design: God’s Blueprint for Men and Women (Christian Focus, 2012)

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Why Doesn’t God Intervene?

19. Why doesn’t God Intervene?

As I look at the violence and persecution of the world today, at the ethnic and sectarian strife, I long for God to intervene. Surely he could put these things right at a single stroke.

Christians, of all people, should be encouraged, because – as Chapter 6 suggests – God’s promise to deal with evil follows hard on the heels of the sin of our forebears, Adam and Eve (Gen. 3:15). The woman’s future offspring is a person; He will crush the serpent’s head.

‘But why not at once?’ we ask. The answer is that for God in Christ to right all the wrongs of the human race at a single stroke would mean wiping out the human race at a single stroke. Many people long that violence and pain could be banished – but the answer to our question is itself a question:  ‘How righteous are YOU? What risk have you of being wiped out with the rest of the evil-doers, if God was going to end the troubles just like that?’

The Bible teaches that God is going to act at a single stroke. In fact it keeps warning us that he will (Zeph. 1:2, 18; Rev. 20:10, 14). But when it happens, it will be on a day and at a time known only to him (Matt. 24:36). And it will be the end of the world.

Meanwhile we are presented in the Scriptures with a God of amazing patience, ‘not wanting anyone to preish, but eveyone to come to repentance’ (2 Pet. 3:9). No action at a single stroke, then, because of the great numbers of people who would go down under the judgment required to set the balances straight.

So God waits. He works. He agonises. He grieves. He sends messenger after messenger, prophet after prophet. Doctors and aid agencies too. He’s not required to! But out of love he persists. Many of these emissaries are rejected. It is a pattern of his mission (Heb. 11:32-38). Finally the Lord comes in the person of Jesus…still working, loving, wooing. He suffers hell’s agonies himself, on the Cross.

There is God, the greatest sufferer in the universe.

The Bible teaches us that God has acted once and for all in Jesus Christ, in dealing with our greatest problem – unforgiven sin. On coming to Christ and his Cross, men and women are forgiven, even of the most hideous antisocial sins, for he has endured the divine judgment in their place, provided they repent and believe. There are many who refuse his offer.

We are still being given time – that is the situation. And while believers can never afford to be complacent, we can certainly be confident, because we know the end result. It is going to happen, as prophesied. If you have a strong view of the future, then be assured that the present will make sense. It is only if we have an inadequate view of the future that the present will seem meaningless.

The Top 100 Questions: Biblical Answers to Popular Questions by Richard BewesExcerpted from The Top 100 Questions: Biblical Answers to Popular Questions by Richard Bewes (Christian Focus, 2003)

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Dale Ralph Davis on Finding God in the Darkness by Irene Howat

A decade ago I was browsing in the bookstore of the seminary where I was teaching. On the used book shelves I spied a copy of Irene Howat’s Finding God in the Darkness. I bought and read it. Not long afterwards I was back in a pastorate. I kept referring to the testimonies in this book; I thought how helpful they would prove to any number of our members; and in a flush of uncharacteristic generosity I decided to purchase a number of copies to give out as ‘free-bees’ in our congregation. Only to find it was out of print. In such a case one can only tell the publishers how highly you regard such a book and urge them to reprint it. Which may explain why I was asked to write this brief essay.

So I have to ask myself, Why my strange attraction to this little book? What is it about Mrs Howat’s collection of testimonies that makes it so beneficial to Christians who read them? Why does this tiny tome pack such value for the church?

I think there is a kind of ‘undertow’ one feels when reading through this book; one feels caught by a quiet assurance that all we’ve heard about God’s strong grace is true. I have sometimes felt the same effect when I have been making a pastoral call. Here is a man or woman telling me of a trouble they were in or a dilemma they had faced (sometimes severe, sometimes relatively minor) and rehearsing how the Lord – perhaps by simply some small token of assurance – had made them able to stay on their feet and keep on clinging to him. I don’t think these people were conscious of the fact that they were bearing testimony as they disclosed these things. But that’s what they were doing. And my inner response was: Grace must be real after all. ‘[He] will sustain you to the end’ (1 Cor. 1:8, ESV) is no smokescreen. And the stories here help us to go on believing it, for they tell of wobbly people who went on standing or of some who dropped into the pit and yet found that God’s grace had built a floor in the pit. There is more ‘glue’ in grace than we have imagined.

There’s an obvious grammatical shift that takes place in Psalm 23, though it may be that our familiarity with the text keeps us from noting it. In verses 1-3 David always speaks of Yahweh his shepherd in the third person (he…he…he…) as he describes the Shepherd’s ordinary care; but when he comes to the valley of the shadow of death (or, ‘valley of deep darkness’) in verse 4, he speaks in the second person—‘you are with me; your rod…your staff….’ In the darkness he no longer speaks about the Shepherd but to him. It’s as if in the darkness the Shepherd seems nearer. And that, I think, is the testimony of this little book.

Adapted from Dale Ralph Davis’ introduction to Fining God in the Darkness: Twelve accounts of God’s Care through difficult times by Irene Howat (Christian Focus 2012)

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Notable and Quotable – J. I. Packer

J. I. Packer

J. I. Packer is Professor of Theology, Regent College, Vancouver, Canada and was named by Time Magazine as one of the twenty-five most influential evangelicals alive.

The Bible meant nothing to me at all as a child. I was brought up in a churchgoing family and taught two prayers to say each bedtime, but my parents were not Bible-readers. Bible teaching was never discussed at home, and I had no Bible of my own until at sixteen I commandeered a stout, board-bound Edwardian King James Version that belonged to no one in particular, and began, off and on, to read it.

Why did I do that? An Austrian Jewish refugee family had come to our town, and the oldest and brightest of their three sons was a peer of mine in the sixth form, the school’s top grade. He was a science student who argued vigorously for atheism, as at that time many well-known scientists did. I found myself propelled into championing the historic Christian faith (I had been reading some C.S. Lewis), and thought I had better get on terms with the Bible, to make sure I knew just what I was talking about. My reading, however, was spasmodic, and made no difference at all to the way I lived.

However, in 1944 I went up to Oxford, heard the gospel for the first time, and experienced the Lord Jesus Christ breaking in and reshaping everything. The group that discipled me stressed the importance of reading and meditating on Scripture daily as a means of communing with my Saviour, and they started me on John’s gospel. The Lord Jesus was good to me, as so often to young converts, and knowing him through Scripture became a constant joy. And then, six weeks after my conversion, I went into a Bible exposition meeting assuming, as I had always done until now, that the Bible, wonderful as it was proving to be, was a mixed bag of wisdom and fantasy. I came out however, inwardly certain that the whole Bible, while fully human, was also wholly divine, and to be revered as such. I remember feeling bemused at the suddenness and strength of this conviction. It has never left me, and is part of my identity today.

First, then, I read and value the Bible as a letter, one that I re-read annually and parts of which I read much more often than that. Kierkegaard wrote somewhere: “When you read God’s Word, you must constantly be saying to yourself, ‘It is talking to me, and about me.’” That expresses exactly what I have in mind as I label my Bible a letter from my Lord. It is always and in all its parts, a divine communication addressed to me.

Second, I read and value the Bible as a listening-post, the place where I go to hear the voice of God through the Holy Spirit.

Third, I read and value the Bible as God’s law, the standard for faith and practice, a model for praise and prayer, a compendium of wisdom for pleasing God and serving others, and thus a syllabus for saints.

Fourth, I read and value the Bible as a light in what it has led me to regard as the darkness of my life. Non-Christians often think of life as straightforward, but believers know better. Says Psalm 119:105 (NKJV): ‘Your Word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.’

See the picture! Life, yours like mine, is a journey across open, unfamiliar rough country. As we travel we are constantly at risk, for the terrain is treacherous and it is dark. The easiest thing in the world will be to stumble and fall over obstacles or into potholes that are invisible in the dark, and so do ourselves serious damage. We know that a path is there, but however much we screw up our eyes and glare into the blackness we cannot see it. We need a light and God in his mercy puts a flashlight into our hands. We shine it, and now we can see, not indeed our whole route, start to finish, but the next bit of the path, so that now we know where to put our feet. We walk without stumbling or falling. We move forward step by step towards our destination.

Walking by the light of Scripture is not like walking by daylight, any more than shining your flashlight ahead of you is like the sun coming up. Beyond the little circle of vision that the flashlight gives you, darkness continues to surround you, and it is through this darkness that we must travel as long as we are in the world. Which brings me to my final thought.

I read and value the Bible as my lifeline. Have you ever been near to drowning? I have, and in using this image I do not think I overstate. Deep down life has always felt frustrating in the way that the writer in Ecclesiastes describes. The proverb rightly says, while there’s life there’s hope, but the deeper truth is that only when there is real hope is there anything you call real life. To moderns like me, drowning in hopelessness, disappointed, disillusioned, despairing, emotionally isolated, bitter and aching inside, Bible truth comes as a lifeline, for it is future-oriented and hope-centred throughout. The triune God, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, is the lifeguard, who sees us drowning and comes to rescue us; and the Holy Scriptures are the lifeline God throws us to keep us connected with him while the rescue is in progress. The hope that Scripture brings arrests and reverses the drowning experience, generating inward vitality and joy and banishing for ever the sense of having the life choked out of us as the waves break over us.

Excerpted from What the Bible Means to Me: Testimonies of How God’s Word Impacts Lives (Christian Focus, 2011).

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Notable and Quotable — Martyn Lloyd-Jones on Gratitude

Happy Thanksgiving to our American readers. In honor of this special day, we thought this quote by Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones would be especially appropriate. It reminds us that being grateful is evidence that God has opened our hearts and minds to the glories of the Gospel.

“My dear friends, have you a sense of gratitude to God? Is there a glimmering of praise in your heart somewhere? Is there something within you that makes you desire to praise God and to magnify his grace? Is it possible to be a Christian without feeling something of that? Do you believe your sins are forgiven? Do you believe your soul is redeemed? Do you say that you have got a new nature? Do you say that there is a blessed hope set, awaiting you in heaven with God? Do you believe all that?”

“…Do you really believe it? How can you believe it without feeling some sense of gratitude and of praise and of thanksgiving?

“Do you feel a little of it? I want to try and help you. Is there the faintest flicker of a sense of gratitude within you? If so, you can be hopeful. But if you can consider these blessed facts; if you can consider the Christmas event, the Incarnation and all that followed; if you can look at it with a complete detachment, with a philosophical or intellectual objectivity; and if it does not move you even to the slightest fraction; if there is not a speck of softness in your calloused, hard heart, how can you be a Christian? O no! The one who realises what God is doing and what is happening says, ‘My soul doth magnify the Lord, And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour.'”

Excerpted from Magnify the Lord by Martyn Lloyd-Jones (Christian Focus, reprint 2011), p. 106-107. This book is an extended meditation on Luke 1:46-55 and Mary’s song of praise at the angel’s message to her. Learn more about this title at ChristianFocus.com.

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