“Saved Without a Doubt” by John MacArthur

“Every true Christian should enjoy the reality of his or her salvation.  Not to have that assurance is to live in doubt, fear, and a unique form of misery and spiritual depression”

This weekend I’ll be preaching on Christian assurance of salvation.  While reflecting on the topic, I remembered we had a copy of John MacArthur’s Saved Without a Doubt: Being Sure of Your Salvation tucked away somewhere (I think we had acquired it as an e-book a few years ago when it was being offered for free).  This seemed like a good time to read it.

Synopsis

The book is comprised of nine chapters, divided into three parts.

Part 1 is called “Is it a done deal?” and deals with the lasting nature of salvation.  Chapter 1 talks about how all three members of the Trinity are involved in salvation. Chapter 2 deals with “troubling passages” that seem to suggest you can lose your salvation.  Chapter 3 is an exposition of Romans 5:1-11 laying out the security of salvation.  Chapter 4 dwells on Romans 8:28-30 and the glory of God.

Part 2 asks the question “Is it real?”. Chapter 5 is the only chapter in this section, and lays out 11 “tests” that a believer can use to assure themselves of salvation.  These 11 items are all drawn out of 1 John.

Part 3 asks “Is it something I can feel?”  Chapter 6 deals with doubt and lays out eight reasons a Christian may lack assurance.  Chapter 7 deals with the piling up of virtues, while working through parts of 2 Peter.  Chapter 8 is on victory, and lays out practical steps for establishing a pattern of victory in your life (and thereby experiencing the resulting assurance).  Chapter 9 is on perseverance.

The back of the book includes a discussion guide and study questions by chapter which can be used for a small group meeting/Bible study.

Impressions and Comments

The points made throughout the book rely heavily on Scripture, and all verses are quoted in full, making the book readable without having to stop and look things up every other sentence.  There are a few personal anecdotes as well.

Greek words are occasionally mentioned and explained.  I got the impression that the book was a compilation of sermons edited together (which isn’t a bad thing).

The book is written from a Calvinist perspective, so the author takes the stance that people who “fall away” didn’t really have saving faith to begin with.

I read this book as part of sermon preparation for a message on Christian Assurance.  I had already covered many things he had mentioned, and was able to jot down several more Scripture references and few more ideas that I had missed.  So over all, it was a helpful read, and I ended up feeling more assured of my salvation when I was done reading it!

I’m claiming this as a Christian Living/Ministry book for my 2017 reading goals.

Thesis Journal: July 24th, 2017

Thesis chapter 1: Submitted!

Last week it came together, I got my wife to proofread it, and then sent it off!  This first chapter introduced the topic and described methodology.  I think I should wait to receive feedback before doing too much more.  (If my method needs adjusting, I’d like to know before I start doing it!).

Goals for this week:

  • Work through Jeremiah 23 and 24 in Hebrew, Greek and Aramaic
  • Go through library books (which just arrived in the mail today)
  • Hopefully I’ll receive feedback on chapter 1 within the week and can make any adjustments as necessary.

 

Timeline: Chapter 1 due in 1 week.  I like that I’m ahead of schedule for the moment.

Thesis journal: 17 July 2017

Last week I hit most of my goals.  The chairman of my committee sent the dissertations right at the end of the week, so I didn’t have time to do anything with them right away, but have been glancing at them this evening.  I put my library book back in the mail and ordered a couple of other books from the school library.

Things are going well.  Part of me wonders if I should just blitz through the entire thesis manuscript this summer (at least in outline form), so that I have a better idea of what I’m looking for as I continue researching.  Then I can spend the fall tinkering, tweaking and enhancing.  We’ll see what I have time for.  I suppose I had that thought because I did a bit more research and found things that would go well into “other chapters” of the thesis.  I made note of them, but I’m concerned that my “notes” are becoming an incomprehensible pool if I don’t start putting the other thesis chapters together simultaneously, and I’m not sure how new research sheds light on what I already know if I haven’t synthesized it, yet.

Goals this week:

  • Work through Jeremiah 21 and 22 in Hebrew, Greek and Aramaic
  • Complete a draft of chapter 1 of the thesis.  Submit to chairman.
  • If I have time: begin chapter 2

 

Timeline: Chapter 1 due in two weeks.

“What’s it like to be Married to Me?” by Linda Dillow

“If you woke up tomorrow and discovered you were married to you, would you be delighted?  Or would you be devastated?”

What’s it like to be Married to Me? by Linda Dillow is a marriage book aimed at Christian wives, whether in a good marriage or a bad marriage.

We had acquired this book a few years ago, when it was being offered as a free ebook.  I finally took the time to work through it.  Even though it is aimed at wives, large portions are applicable to husbands as well.

I read a chapter a week, taking time to reflect and put the chapters into practice in between chapters.

Synopsis

To make a better marriage, you only really have control over yourself.  This book turns the magnifying glass onto yourself, helping the reader examine important areas of their married life.

The book is structured around the question in the title: What’s it like to be married to me?  The book is broken down into 7 “Dangerous Questions” which explore part of the bigger question:

  1. What is really important to me?
  2. What does it feel like to be my husband?
  3. Am I willing to change my attitude?
  4. What will it take for me to get close to you?
  5. What is it like to make love to me?
  6. Why do I want to stay mad at you?
  7. Is it possible to grow together when things fall apart?

Each chapter is further broken down into “Insights” that shed light on the chapter’s question.  The insights share and apply Bible verses, tell stories, give a prayer, and sometimes give little projects or assignments for the reader to work through, such as writing a marriage purpose statement, wearing a “gripes be gone” bracelet (switch to a different wrist every time you catch yourself griping, thus making you more aware of it), and making a thankfulness/gratitude bookmark.

At the back of the book was an appendix for using the book in a Bible study, complete with instructions for the leader, study questions, etc.

Impressions and comments

I know, I’m a guy.  I read this book because we had it, it was about marriage, and I wanted to read a marriage book.

Even if it was aimed at wives, I think it was helpful for me anyway.  Especially the first two chapters on a marriage purpose statement and on eliminating griping from our lives.  (I didn’t make a bracelet, but simply moved a coin from one pocket to another)

I found some parts were less applicable to me (such as exploring the Biblical mandate of the helper, or other gender specific things), and some sections seemed overly emotional/sentimental, and I wasn’t sure what the point was (which may have been because of the format calling it an “insight”, while it was a story with nothing else), whereas my wife might have been in tears and said it was beautiful.

In the end, I think my marriage is benefiting from my having read this book.

I’m claiming this as a book on marriage for my 2017 reading goals.

Thesis Journal July 10th, 2017

Last week I worked through Jeremiah 17 and 18 in the ancient versions (Hebrew, Greek and Aramaic). I finished going through the library book I had.  I tracked down the fabula sjuzet concept.  (Turns out they are just terms for describing the difference between chronological time and narrative sequence, it’s not a methodology; but comparing the two can help analyze plot.)  I tinkered a bit more with chapter 1 of my Thesis, but didn’t make any big changes.

Goals for this week:

  • Return Library book
  • Request dissertations from my chairman (he mentioned he had access to some things that my library didn’t)
  • Read Jeremiah 19 and 20 in ancient versions
  • Fix zotero codes in footnotes (since I pasted parts of three papers together, I found out last night that not all the zotero codes transferred properly)
  • Rework Methodologies section of chapter 1
  • If the dissertations come in right away, then review their sections on study limitations, then begin drafting my own section on limitations.

Timeline: Chapter 1 due in three weeks

“The Sea of Monsters” by Rick Riordan

Hermes gazed up at the stars.  “My dear young cousin, if there’s one thing I’ve learned over the eons, it’s that you can’t give up on your family, no matter how tempting they make it.  It doesn’t matter if they hate you, or embarrass you, or simply don’t appreciate your genius for inventing the Internet–“

“You invented the Internet?” 

…”that’s not the point.  Percy, do you understand what I’m saying about family?”

Day off!  Time to read a book.  Today I read The Sea of Monsters, which is book #2 in Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson and the Olympians series.  279 pages, published by Hyperion books in 2006.

Synopsis

Percy Jackson is now 13 years old.  The story opens on his last day of school in Grade 7, and the story takes place over about a two week period.  Percy has a new friend in school, Tyson.  Monsters show up in gym class and attack.  Annabeth appears to help them escape. The three of them go to Camp Half-Blood, which is under attack from two Colchis bulls (metal, fire breathing bulls).  Tyson turns out to be a cyclops and fellow son-of-Poseidon, and helps them defeat the menace.

But that’s just the beginning.  The tree magically protecting the camp’s borders has been poisoned, and monsters are getting in.  Time for a quest! … for Clarisse, the daughter of Ares… She is to retrieve the golden fleece, which will heal the tree and restore their borders.  Percy, Annabeth and Tyson set out on their own and end up helping Clarisse.  Percy is getting warnings in his dreams from his satyr friend, Grover.  Grover knows where the fleece is- with the worst Cyclops- Polyphemus- on an island in the Sea of Monsters.

What is the Sea of Monsters?  Annabeth explains it to Percy: “Look, Percy, the Sea of Monsters is the sea all heroes sail through on their adventures. It used to be in the Mediterranean, yes.  But like everything else, it shifts locations as the West’s center of power shifts.”  ….  “The Bermuda Triangle?”   “Exactly.”

So they eventually get to sea and start an island hopping adventure, from one harrowing experience to the next.  Luke shows up again as the bad guy, on his own evil quest to resurrect Kronos the Titan.  That part of the plot is left unresolved at the end of book 2.

Comments and Impressions

One of the themes woven throughout the book is family.  Hermes isn’t giving up on Luke.  Percy’s relationship to Tyson goes through several changes, from friend, to finding out he’s a cyclops half-brother, to being embarrassed by him, to fiercely protecting and loving him.  It was a good message.

This book has been made into a movie as well.  As usual, the book is better.  A movie just doesn’t have time to tell the whole story, so there’s always “shortcuts” in the plot.  The book has more characters, more events, and a more sophisticated plot line.  The book is also funnier.  There’s jokes everywhere.  For example:
…Annabeth muttered.  “I’m surprised the Laistrygonians had the guts to attack you with him [Tyson] around.”
“Annabeth,” I said, “what are you talking about?  Laistry-what?”
“Laistrygonians.  The monsters in the gym.  They’re a race of giant cannibals who live in the far north.  Odysseus ran into them once, but I’ve never seen them as far south as New York before.”
“Laistry–I can’t even say that.  What would you call them in English?”
She thought about it for a moment. “Canadians,” she decided.  

A few weeks ago I had read Lightning Thief.  I had the theory at the time, that if I knew more of the mythology, I’d have appreciated the story more.  My assumption was correct.  Having read the Homeric Hymns, I felt like I enjoyed Sea of Monsters more.  For example, Hermes meets Percy a couple of times in the story.  At one point, he makes a reference to his exploits in the Poem to Hermes (Poem 4 of the Homeric Hymns).  I savored the fact that I recognized the reference and knew exactly what Hermes was talking about.  It was more exciting when I recognized the references.  Meanwhile, there was plenty of unfamiliar mythology elsewhere in the story.  While reading those, the author explains enough so that you know what is going on, but I found it less fulfilling than the parts I recognized.

 

“Literary Approaches to Biblical Interpretation” by Tremper Longman III

“To Learn the conventions of Old and New Testament literature is to take steps toward becoming a competent interpreter”

Published in 1987, Literary Approaches to Biblical Interpretation by Tremper Longman III is volume 3 of the Foundations of Contemporary Interpretation series.  (Other books in the series discuss different academic disciplines and their impact on Biblical Interpretation, such as philosophy, linguistics, history, science, etc.).  Soft cover, 164 pages.

This book is a good introduction to literary approaches, written in simple terms for students of the Bible.

Synopsis

Part 1 discusses Theory, Part 2 gets into application.

Part 1 has three chapters:

Chapter 1 is a historical survey of literary approaches.  Patristic Fathers are mentioned, before jumping to modern theories, which can be roughly categorized as Author centered theories, Text centered theories, and Reader centered theories (i.e., where does meaning come from?).  For each category of theory, he briefly discusses secular literary theory, then talks about how the theory is used in Biblical studies.

Chapter 2 is an appraisal of the Literary Approach, including “pitfalls” and “praises”.  Some of the pitfalls discussed include contradictory theories, jargon-ism, and imposing Western concepts on ancient literature.  Praises include how the literary approach reveals the conventions of Biblical literature, stresses whole texts, and focuses on the reading process.

Chapter 3 gets into the basic principles of literary theory.  Assuming that literature is an act of communication, there are three elements: Author, Text and Reader. Each of these three are discussed and nuanced in the chapter.  The chapter closes with a section on the functions of Biblical literature, such as communicating historical information, theological information, praising God, teaching ethical behavior, etc.

Part 2 has four chapters:
Chapter 4 describes how to analyze Prose.  There was a helpful discussion on genre.  Longman describes genre as a fluid concept, from narrow to broad.  Genre classification tries to find commonalities between texts.  On one extreme, it is all “written” (as opposed to oral), while on the other extreme, each text could be its own sub-genre, since it is unique.  The reason for analyzing genre is because genre triggers expectations, which can help clarify how to interpret.  Deviations from a genre are then highlighted.

The chapter also talked about narrative dynamics, such as author/reader; implied author/implied reader; narrator/narratee; point of view, character, plot, setting; and matters of style, such as repetition, omission, irony and dialogue.

Chapter 5 put chapter 4 into action, demonstrating partial analysis of prose passages, one from the Old Testament and one from the New Testament.  He discussed plot (in terms of conflict), setting, genre, characterization and narrator/point of view.

Chapter 6 was on how to analyze poetry.  Terseness, parallelism, imagery and meter were all discussed.

Chapter 7 put chapter 6 into action, analyzing snippets of poetry from different sections of the Bible: from the Torah, wisdom literature, psalms, prophetic poetry, and the Magnificat from the New Testament.  His usual method was to mention genre and context, then analyze the parallelism line by line.

 

Overall, I liked this book.  It was a good description of the topic without swimming in jargon or going into information overload.

This book was recommended to me by the chairman of my thesis reading committee.