This inner life that God lives, in the happy land of the Trinity above all worlds, is a livelier life than any other life. We know about it because we have overheard Father, Son, and Holy Spirit talking amongst themselves with the intent that we overhear them and be brought into the conversation. Simply knowing that the life of God in itself is the liveliest of all lives is a medicinal correction to our sick, self-centered thinking….
The crucial thing is that we should rejoice in it. The knowledge that God enjoys perfect blessedness is a great thing. Even if it stays a kind of secret at the back of our minds, as something that we cannot say much about, it nevertheless exerts a tremendous gravitational pull on the rest of our thoughts and affections. Thomas Traherne said, “I have found that things unknown have a secret influence on the soul, and like the centre of the earth unseen violently attract it.”Fred Sanders, The Deep Things of God (Wheaton: Crossway, 2010), 81–82.
Is it too bold of us to declare what God was like, or what he was doing, before creation? It requires boldness, to be sure, but only the boldness of the New Testament.
One of the characteristic differences between the Old Testament and the New Testament is that the New Testament is bold to make such statements. Look, for instance, at the way the New Testament takes a step further back with its declaration of salvation: where God declares in the old covenant, “I have chosen you,” the new covenant announces that “he chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world.”
The prophets do not make declarations about what happened “before the foundation of the world,” but the apostles do.Fred Sanders, The Deep Things of God (Wheaton: Crossway, 2010), 63.
…When we lose our ability to see the Trinity as directly connected to the gospel, we tend to reduce it to an issue of authority and mental obedience. No wonder, then, that the doctrine of the Trinity has been treated as something of a burden by many evangelicals.
But this dysfunction of the doctrine is only one side of the story of evangelical Trinitarianism. The other side of the story is that the life of every healthy church and every true Christian is a manifestation of the work of the Trinity. Evangelicalism, even when it is handling the doctrine of the Trinity as a foreign artifact difficult to deal with, is nevertheless always already immersed in the rich, Trinitarian reality of the gospel.
We are often in the strange position of being Trinitarian without knowing it, or of living in an encounter with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit that we then give very weak and inadequate explanations of. We have the thing itself but act as if we do not know we have it.Fred Sanders, The Deep Things of God (Wheaton: Crossway, 2010), 44.
Three beautiful stories, all from Christianity Today:
A New Age Healer Discovers a Greater Healer
But I was becoming increasingly uncomfortable with the Reiki world. Every day I felt a greater burden of conviction to tell people that whatever healing they experienced during Reiki sessions was a gift from God, not me. He was the answer to all their questions, problems, and longings.
Yet saying this was forbidden. New Age philosophy treats this world as an illusion, a school for our spiritual mastery where many gods, spirits, and guides are honored. To speak of Jesus as one deity among many, equal in power and authority, is permitted. But to speak of him as the Way, the Truth, and the Life is out of the question.
A Former Muslim Describes the Olive Skin of the Gospel
As a Middle Easterner, every time I read Bible stories, a smile crawls across my face because its aphorisms sound so much like those my relatives use. I can almost smell the spices of dishes I came to love as a child. My heart warms at the examples of hospitality. After all, Jesus and his disciples were not sharing apple pies, french fries, or hot dogs as they ministered to those around them. The Bible’s Eastern tang is so pungent that one wonders how Christianity has come to be viewed as a Western, white religion.
A Global Pandemic Opens Doors for Worship Without Borders
Our modern world is filled with people and emptied of gods. In the ancient world, the reverse was true. Nearly every culture had a pantheon of deities, and every god was a god of something. These gods were vain and petty and murderous, but each had a role to play in the operation of the created order. It is in milieu of these deities that the Hebrew Scriptures utter, with decisive authority, “in the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” This is not another god of something; this is The God of All Things.
Later, John circumscribes the whole of created history with this: “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away” (Rev. 21:1). The story of the Bible is about how God is not only the Divine Creator, but also the Sovereign King of the Cosmos.
Jesus exemplified the unpretentious life the heavenly Father honors in his servants. Despite the fact he was the only person in history with justifiable reason to exalt himself, being God’s Son, he chose to live and die in humility.
The Father continually affirmed his Son, as at Jesus’ baptism, when God proclaimed: “This is My beloved Son. I take delight in Him!” (Matt. 3:17). Likewise, on the mount of transfiguration when Peter attempted to take charge of that sacred moment, the Father, not the Son, intervened: “This is My Son, the Chosen One; listen to Him!” (Luke 9:35).— Henry Blackaby, Spiritual Leadership, 158
At the beginning of 2020, we decided to shift from the local public school to educating our kids at home. We had some strong principles for getting into public school in the first place, and then, they shifted. What were the values for starting with public school, and what are the values that are shaping us now?
Why we started with public school
There were three main reasons we initially had our children in the public school system. First, we wanted to free up Jen’s time. We wanted to give her opportunities for ministry, time to meet up with friends, and time to get the rest that she needed (you know, that moms always need and hardly ever get). Second, we wanted to be integrated into the community around us. We wanted to be a part of the fabric of our neighborhood. Finally, we want to be around kids and parents that were different than us. Different cultural backgrounds, different religious beliefs, different economic statuses.
We had varying degrees of success in those goals, but overall we loved the experience. So why shift?
1. We wanted more flexibility to move as a family.
Doing public school means that you’re working on someone else’s schedule, at someone else’s pace. While it’s good to learn the rhythms of the wider community, there were times we wanted to have the freedom to travel, to learn, to work and to serve without our kids having to play catch-up with a school schedule.
We also wanted some of the freedoms of learning at a different pace. In a frenetic classroom setting, it can hamper a kid’s ability to focus. Some things take longer to absorb because of distraction, and other things are learned more because of the necessity of classroom management.
2. Classroom metrics are wildly out of hand.
While I can appreciate the desire to provide transparency into a child’s education, and I see the need to assure parents that, indeed, their child is making progress, the kinds of reporting that are required of these teachers is wildly out of control. The time it takes to chart all the information is disproportionate to the time that could be spent investing one on one with children helping them make actual progress.
I don’t know of any teacher who loves doing the analytical paperwork that turns a curious, growing, child into a list of statistics. This investment spills over into every area of learning. Time that could be spent interacting is spent playing computer games and watching videos. This affects not only the mental wellness and education of the child, but it affects the teacher as well, since it adds an additional burden that they have to take with them into long hours after school or into the evening.
3. The beauty of education is amplified when God is central.
Ah, the “religious” reason. However, this isn’t a head-for-the-hills kind of instinct, as if every educator is trying to fill our kids minds with pagan worldviews. For the most part, we loved the community in the public school, and our kids loved their teachers. What was missing was not the indoctrination, but the imagination. A secular worldview strips the universe of its enchantment, and leaves us with moral pragmatism. A Christian worldview, on the other hand, infuses every branch of education with a sense of wonder and reverance.
Every piece of good literature is expressing something that reflects the imago dei, or our fallen sin nature, or the echoes of redemption. Every piece of good science speaks to a world ordered by a powerful—and even playful—creator. Principles of math and philosophy, logic and theology, all tell us that we can know something about God, and about the world he has made. By explicitly placing the Triune God at the center of an education, the world begins to actually make sense.
Of course, no one expected this to happen. We had been considering homeschooling before the pandemic hit. But then it did, and now, just like so many others parents around the nation, getting a home education has become a much more attractive alternative. Not necessarily for health reasons (we’re probably like a 3/10 on the how-freaked-out-are-you scale), but more for the additional restrictions and requirements that are going to be inevitably required in the public classroom.
Nothing’s perfect. The broader issues of friends and community are still important values for us. Both the state of the world and the rhythms of our family will continue to change. But for now, at least, I am thrilled to be attempting what I consider an adventure in education.
God is sovereign over every life, but those who yield their will to him will be shaped according to his purposes. When the Lord is developing someone, all of life is a school. No experience, good or bad, is wasted (Rom. 8:28). God doesn’t squander people’s time. He doesn’t ignore their pain. He brings not only healing but growth out of even the worst experiences. Every relationship can be God’s instrument to fashion a person’s character. At times, through our most painful experiences, God does his greatest work.— Henry Blackaby, Spiritual Leadership, 70–71
I suggest that we need to recover the sense in which the Gospels are testimony. This does not mean that they are testimony rather than history. It means that the kind of historiography they are is testimony. An irreducible feature of testimony as a form of human utterance is that it asks to be trusted. This need not mean that it asks to be trusted uncritically, but it does mean that testimony should not be treated as credible only to the extent that it can be independently verified.
There can be good reasons for trusting or distrusting a witness, but these are precisely reasons for trusting or distrusting. Trusting testimony is not an irrational act of faith that leaves critical rationality aside; it is, on the contrary, the rationally appropriate way of responding to authentic testimony. Gospels understood as testimony are the entirely appropriate means of access to the historical reality of Jesus.
It is true that a powerful trend in the modern development of critical historical philosophy and method finds trusting testimony a stumbling-block in the way of the historian’s autonomous access to truth that she or he can verify independently. But it is also a rather neglected fact that all history, like all knowledge, relies on testimony. In the case of some kinds of historical event this is especially true, indeed obvious.Richard Bauckham, Jesus and the Eyewitnesses (Eerdmans, 2017), 5.
And when Jesus completed these words, the crowds were astounded by his teaching, for he was teaching them as one who had authority and not as one of their scribes.Matthew 7:28–29
Many misinterpret the Sermon as nothing more than good advice. Matthew 7:12 (the “Golden Rule”) may in this sense be the most abused verse in the Sermon. An ironic mistake, since it falls directly prior to the teaching that is designed to prevent this sort of thinking.
The words of Jesus are not one tome in a library of wisdom, nor is the Teacher himself one voice among a pantheon of sages. He stands a world apart from “influencers” and all other self-proclaimed brokers of wisdom. As C.S. Lewis writes, “Let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.”