Monday, September 15, 2014

Foolish Words

Several years ago, I was watching my nephew’s little league game. The father of one of the boys on the opposing team was being obnoxious, and he got louder and ruder as the game wore on.

He also happened to be wearing a fanny pack. I have nothing against fanny packs; I’ve worn them myself a time or two. But I have a lot against obnoxious parents at little league games. I began to make cracks to the person next to me about “the man with the purse.” I’m not sure if my seat mate was amused by my comments, but I was.

Near the end of the game, a man a couple of seats away from me stood up. And there, around his waist, was a fanny pack. I knew this man, and I liked him. He had been within earshot of me the entire game, and had heard every one of my comments about men who wear accessories just like his.

I think this man was more amused at the situation than anything. We had several interactions in coming years, and he didn’t seem to hold it against me. Since he is no longer living, I know he’s not worried about it today. But I am still blushing as I recount this story.

I wish I could say this type of thing was an isolated incident, that I had to dig deep in the recesses of my memory to think of a time I had said something to embarrass myself. But that’s not the case. The well of stories to draw from is woefully deep, and many of them come to mind often. Just the other day I was on a walk, and the memory of something mortifying I had said a few years ago nearly stopped me in my tracks.

I struggle with what to do with these memories. Why do I seem to be so plagued with them? Is it wrong to remember them? To be so embarrassed by them?

In her book Grace Is Free, Marci Preheim refers to this phenomenon as “day-after-girls-night-out regret.” That feeling you have after time with friends that you’ve said too much.

Whether we talk too much or quietly hide ourselves in the crowd, the root of our turmoil is the same. We desire to be perceived a certain way. Our sin doesn’t bother us when it remains hidden, but when everyone sees it, we fret, withdraw, and justify ourselves.

We like to think these things are embarrassing because they are so uncharacteristic of us, but in reality, they reveal sides of us that we would prefer to keep hidden. I am more act to embarrass myself when I’m trying too hard to be funny or clever, or trying to draw attention to myself. I don’t usually put my foot in my mouth when I’m trying to build others up. If I spend my time listening to other people, rather than thinking of the next thing to say, things go better.

I wish I had a helpful hint, or three steps to banish careless words from your conversation. Many people probably don’t need as much help as me. But I don’t have them. My foolish words will be a problem of mine as long as I am still a fool, and I am afraid that will be a very long time.

And when the foolish words come, as they do far too often, I remind myself that they are. The words themselves are not the problem, they are instead a symptom of a far larger problem: my sinful nature. I am a sinner in need of great grace. The fact that I embarrass myself from time to time is actually the least of the problem. But all that has been paid on the cross.

Someday, my faith will become sight. I will be free from the effects of sin, and I will no longer put my foot in my mouth. Will I even notice? Probably not. I will finally be, for the first time, not focused enough on myself to think about it.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Favorite Summer Reads

I, like all true bookworms, make reading a priority all year long, sometimes all day long if it's an especially good day! However, there are those times of year that seem naturally suited to reading. The week between Christmas and New Year, for example, is a stretch of days where I tend to do not much more than lounge on the sofa with a book or two or five.

Summertime is another season that seems all the better for the happy enjoyment of a good book. Since we are now in September and at the close of another one of those perfectly suited reading spells, I thought I'd offer to you a list of some of the best of the best of the books I read this summer and I read some really good ones! In no particular order...

Death by Living: Life Is Meant to Be Spent by N.D. Wilson. I mentioned this book in an earlier post here at this site and, really, words fail me when I attempt to describe what I appreciated most. It is certainly an unusually written book, the first I've read by Wilson. Suffice it to say it won't be the last. I laughed and I cried and I thought, a lot. All marks of a good book, in my opinion.

Women of the Word: How to Study the Bible with Both Our Hearts and Our Minds by Jen Wilkin. Jen's passion for women to know and love the Bible and to know and love the God of the Bible echoes my own. Her book is practical and encouraging. I am grateful for it and I hope many women read it and take its message to heart.

Dispatches from the Front: Stories of Gospel Advance in the World's Difficult Places by Tim Keesee. So, so encouraging to read of the advance of the gospel to the uttermost parts of the world.

Made for More: An Invitation to Live in God's Image by Hannah Anderson. Hannah takes on the issues of gender and all the many complications therein in this smart, engaging, and encouraging look at what it means to be made in the image of God. Like Jen's book, this is one that needs to be widely read.

Teach Us to Want: Longing, Ambition and the Life of Faith by Jen P. Michel. It didn't matter what Jen wrote about necessarily, I might have loved it for her prose alone! But this book is more than its beautiful and honest expression; it is an examination of desire and of prayer and of authenticity in each. Jen does write beautifully but she also writes with great wisdom. I loved this book and its message.

The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics by Daniel James Brown. An utterly fascinating look at the US men's rowing team, the elegance of the sport and its demands, and the world just before WW II.

One Summer: America, 1927 by Bill Bryson. Al Capone, Charles Lindbergh, Babe Ruth, and more, all in one summer in 1927. This book also falls into the utterly fascinating category.

Good News for Weary Women: Escaping the Bondage of To-Do Lists, Steps, and Bad Advice by Elyse Fitzpatrick. The title says it all. Yes and amen.

I didn't read a lot of exceptionally good fiction this summer and not for a lack of want to! I did stumble upon Cinder, the first book in the Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer. Stay with me here, but it's a cyborg meets Cinderella mashup which I actually enjoyed very much. Very clever storytelling! I've since the read the second of the series and eagerly await the arrival of the third at my library. I also just finished reading Somewhere Safe with Somebody Good, the much awaited (and long overdue) latest installment in the Mitford series by Jan Karon. I loved it because, well, Mitford. And Father Tim.

I told you I read some good ones this summer! What about you? Did you enjoy any good reads this summer? What do you recommend?

Note: this post contains affiliate links. 

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Check your scale

I had good intentions to watch my diet and exercise regularly this summer. But alas, my good intentions ended up being just that - intentions. I hadn't weighed myself in a while, so I climbed on the bathroom scale one morning and did not like what I saw. But it got even worse. The number kept creeping higher and higher, about half a pound a day. Was my metabolism changing this drastically? Had menopause finally caught up with me with a vengeance? Finally it dawned on me that the scale might be broken. I tested this by weighing myself multiple times throughout the day, and sure enough I gained 3 pounds by the evening. Time to get another scale. Out of curiosity, I weighed myself a few days later and "lost" 2 pounds. The next day was another 2 pound drop. Hmmm, maybe this scale wasn't so bad after all? I'd soon be down to my ideal weight if I "lost" 2 pounds a day. But there was a big problem. The scale was lying, and I would be lying to myself if I believed it.

But isn't this just like human nature? Tell me what I want to hear. Tell me what makes me feel good, and for goodness' sake, don't tell the truth! But the Word of God isn't so obliging.

It does not lie. It does not flatter. It cuts deep, revealing the thoughts and motives of our hearts. (Heb. 4:12) As C.H. Spurgeon says, "As a man sees his outward self in the looking glass, so may he see his inward self in the Word of God."1 Our depravity isn't a pretty sight, and it would be enough to undo us, but there is more, much more. In the Word, we see God's plan of redemption fulfilled in Jesus Christ. We see His atoning death for our sins, His sinless life, and by saving grace, we find ourselves in Him. (1 Cor. 1:9) The Word can still be painful when it shines it's spotlight into dark corners, bringing to light hidden sins. But this is accompanied by the call to repent, confess, and believe and the Holy Spirit's enabling to take another step on the sanctification road.

There may be alternatives that are more soothing to my ears (2 Tim. 4:3-4), but they are as accurate about my spiritual condition as my broken bathroom scale is about my weight. When it comes to God's truth, there is only one standard, His Word.

All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness,  that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work
2 Tim. 3:16-17

1. The Looking Glass, Sermon No. 1848, C.H. Spurgeon, July 5, 1885.

Monday, September 8, 2014

No Label Necessary

The Christian cyberworld is inundated with articles on femininity and women's roles. At times I feel we've been reduced to the debate of complementarian versus egalitarian. Not that these aren't important issues to discuss, but sometimes I wonder if we get so caught up in rhetoric that we lose sight of Scripture. Lord, save us from that trap!

In preparation for the ladies' theology reading group I am blessed to lead, I revisited the story of Abigail found in 1 Samuel 25.  Abigail is explicitly praised for some of her attributes, but there is much more to observe and glean from this story. In fact, as I poured over the account of her meeting with David I realized it is a primer on God's design for women.

Abigail was discerning (v. 3). Scripture draws a stark contrast between Abigail and her husband, Nabal. Verse 3 tells us that she was "discerning and beautiful", but he was "harsh and badly behaved" (ESV). The Oxford English Reference Dictionary defines discerning as "having or showing good judgment or insight". Abigail knew that her husband was a fool (v. 25), but she did not allow his folly to affect her good judgment or to keep her from pleasing God. She was wise enough to realize that if David followed through with his plan to destroy Nabal, it would also be detrimental to David (v. 31). By approaching David, she saved both her household and the future king's conscience.

Abigail was beautiful. (v. 3) A truly beautiful woman will be discerning (see Proverbs 11:22).  While the author of 1 Samuel is referring to her physical appearance, this passage clearly indicates that Abigail had "the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit". (see 1 Peter 3:3-4)

Abigail was respected. (v. 14). One of Nabal's servants approached Abigail when he realized that Nabal had incurred David's wrath. Obviously, the servants knew that Abigail was discerning and could be trusted to handle the situation wisely.

Abigail protected her husband and his household (v. 24). Even though Nabal was a fool, Abigail quickly took action to persuade David not to carry out his plan. She accepted the blame for a wrong she didn't commit. She admitted that her husband was foolish, but she did not leave him to face the consequences of his actions.

Abigail was discreet (v. 33). David recognized her tact, her trustworthiness, and her ability to avoid disgrace (see Oxford English Reference Dictionary). She spoke to David candidly, but tactfully. Her behavior may have brought honor to Nabal, as the future king of Israel praised her.

Abigail was humble (v. 41). After Nabal's death, David wanted to make Abigail his wife. He recognized her value. He knew that she would be a woman to be praised, that she would bring him honor. Even though she had single-handedly saved their household, she bowed to David's servants and declared she would be a servant to wash their feet. She did not assume an air of authority or presume to be entitled to anything as David's wife. 

Sometimes labels are important. They let people know exactly what we stand for. Yet sometimes labels can do more harm than good. A woman who possess the qualities of Abigail needs no label to bring honor to her husband and to God.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Jesus Is Lord

"All thing under his feet. . . "
As central as the resurrection of Jesus is to the Christian faith, it is also a first step to something more—to the return of the Son of God to the glory he left behind when he came into the world from his place at the Father's side. After the Son "emptied himself" by being born as a human being and "humbled himself" by dying on the cross (Philippians 2:7-8), God
raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church . . . .(Ephesians 1:20-22 ESV)
His Ascension

The resurrected Jesus ascended into heaven in his resurrection body. He went from one location—earth—to another location—heaven—in a real body (Acts 1:9-11). Don't let anyone tell you heaven is state of being or mind or consciousness! It's a place—the place where the resurrected Jesus went, and the place where he is right now, ruling over everything.

As I write this, and as you read this, the Jesus who died to save us is enthroned in heaven as master of the universe. The Son's glory has been restored, only this time, he is glorified as the God-man.

His Session

Theologians sometimes call Christ's present reign his heavenly session. When a court is in session, the judge (or justices) are sitting. Christ's session refers to his sitting at God's right hand, the place place where he rules over creation—over (to quote the verses from Ephesians above) all other "rule and authority and power and dominion," above "every name that is named" throughout history past and history to come. He is the master of all human authorities and all spiritual powers.

He also rules and protects his church, the body of believers united to him. The ruling Jesus sends the Holy Spirit to equip his church and build it from within (Ephesians 4:8-12). Since Pentecost, he has been guiding his church through the Spirit, who was active in the inspiration of the Scriptures, the church's founding document, and who is active in the preaching of those Scriptures in the church by his ministers.

The ascended Jesus intercedes for his people (Romans 8:34; Hebrews 7:25), bringing their requests to the Father and intervening on their behalf. He pleads "for their acceptance on the basis of his completed sacrifice, and for their safe-keeping in the world."1 J. I. Packer explains that since Jesus intervenes from his throne, his position is "not one of sympathy without status or authority."2 Because he is ruler of everything, he can ensure that his people possess forever all the saving benefits he purchased by his death. We can be confident in our continued and final salvation because Jesus is Lord.

What's more, those united with Jesus share in his rule, a rule that will come into completeness in eternity, but which we possess in part right now. Those who belong to Jesus have his authority and power as they fight evil in the world.

Christ's heavenly session will last until all his (and our) enemies are defeated, including death, the final enemy. The risen and ascended Jesus will appear again for the resurrection of the dead before the final judgment, and then he will deliver the kingdom to God the Father (1 Corinthians 15:24).

That Jesus is Lord—that he is ruling now at the right hand of the Father and will continue to rule for the rest of history—gives us complete confidence that everything will finish up exactly as it should according to God's plan. It also gives those who belong to him confidence that they will be kept by his power until they are resurrected to rule with him.

Learn More

Here are a few ways to learn more about the ascension and session of Jesus.
  1. Study Acts 1:9-11; 2:33-36; Ephesians 1:20-22, 4:8-12; Hebrews 7:24-25, 8:1-6.
  2. Read up on the ascension and session of Christ in your favorite systematic theology. It's in chapter 28 of Wayne Grudem's Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine, section B. You can read the section on Christ's state of exaltation from Berkhof's Systematic Theology online.

1] Louis Berkhof, Systematic Theology, page 353.

2] J. I. Packer, Concise Theology, page 128.

This post is the latest in a series of posts on truths every Christian woman should know. Here are the previous posts:
God Has Spoken (posted at the True Woman Blog)
God Is Three and God Is One
God Is Who He Is
God Had a Plan
God Created the Universe
We Are Made in God's Image
We Are All Sinners
God Saves
The Son Came
Jesus Lived and Died
Jesus Is Risen