Monday, September 29, 2014

We Are Not Insignifcant

I've been thinking a lot about how the same fear can cause seemingly opposite responses in different individuals. Perfectionism, for instance, can cause some people to work themselves into a frenzy and others to procrastinate.

And though I do not recommend the book, one of the more interesting insights from the book Captivating was the observation that women who have been hurt in relationships often respond in one of two ways: by either becoming controlling or desolate.

The cure for these things is not a higher view of ourselves, but a higher view of God. I like how Hannah Anderson unpacks this in her book Made for More: An Invitation to Live in God's Image. In this section, Hannah is talking about feelings of insignificance. But isn't that the root of a lot of our negative emotions? I believe it is.

The fear that our lives lack significance, that we are merely specks of dust floating in the massive cosmos, can easily spark the search for identity. When you consider the enormity of the universe, when you realize that Earth itself comprises only an infinitesimal part of it, and when you recognize that you are only one out of the billions of people who have lived, it's easy to feel small. Add to this the fact that we must devote vast amounts of time on the basics of daily life (I once calculated that in my lifetime I will prepare nearly 50,000 meals for my family), and it's a wonder we all don't run off to exotic places in search of ourselves!

This fear that we simply trudge through our allotted days without ever making a difference drives some women on a never-ending pursuit of success and perfection. From the fast-paced executive always scrambling for the next deal to the tiger mom bent on shaping her child into a future Supreme Court justice, we are hounded by the thought that our existence will somehow e worthless unless we achieve quantifiable success. For others, this same fear causes them to retreat into their own zone of comfort and hide from the greater world, content to be a big fish in a small pond if it means avoiding the constant reminders of their limitations and irrelevance.

And yet the deeper magic is that no matter how small we may feel—no matter how small we actually may be—we are not insignificant. We are not lost in the grand cosmos. We do matter. But it's not because of anything we've done; it's because of something God did back at the beginning. Because back when God created all this beauty, all this life, all this splendor, He capped it off with one final masterpiece—one that He did not leave to words alone. No, for this final masterpiece, He stooped down and left His own fingerprints in the dust.

And that final masterpiece was us.[1]

[1]Hannah Anderson, Made for More: An Invitation to Live in God’s Image (Chicago: Moody, 2014), 31.

(In case you missed it, Kim reviewed this book a few months back.)

Friday, September 26, 2014

Now as always

In Philippians 1:20 Paul expresses his hope that "now as always Christ will be honored." This is the heartbeat of his life and ministry as seen throughout this letter and others. In fact, in the very next breath he asserts that for him to live is Christ and to die is gain. And just a few sentences prior he dismisses his jealous rivals with apparent unconcern because his one aim is "only that in every way...Christ is proclaimed and in that I rejoice."

Now. As always. Only that. In every way. Talk about single-mindedness!

Commenting on Phil. 1:20, J.A. Motyer writes in his book The Message of Philippians,
How that word 'now' needs to eat its way into our minds and hearts and wills! It is now that we must show how great Christ is. Never again will we have the chance to live for him through this moment, to please him in this circumstance, to gladden him by trusting in this ordeal.
I don't know what your "now" looks like. Just prior to me sitting down to type this post, my "now" consisted of laundry (always and forever). When I get up from the computer, my "now" will most likely include cleaning out the refrigerator and vacuuming my dog's crate. It's not exactly the glamorous life I lead here in my "now".

For some of us, our "now" entails risk and danger. Some of our brothers and sisters in Christ around the world face persecution and peril in their "now". For some of you, your "now" may be full of pain or doubt or loneliness or struggle. Maybe your "now" means reading Goodnight, Moon for what is surely the millionth time, wondering if you will go crazy with that millionth-and-first reading.

Maybe you're exhausted in your "now." Maybe you're misunderstood. Maybe you feel invisible. Maybe you're like me and you're cleaning the bathrooms. Maybe you're doing the kind of ministry that takes everything you've got and then some and you think you haven't got anything else left to give.

Maybe your "now" is good, real good, so good you're tempted to grow comfortable and complacent. Or maybe you feel hopeless or helpless. Maybe you're wondering if God is there, if He hears, if He knows, if He will answer.

Take heart, sister. No matter where your "now" finds you, be encouraged by Paul's example. "I am sure of this," he tells the Philippians, "that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ." Paul writes with great confidence but he also writes from a place of great difficulty, from prison. Motyer observes,
Such sentiments elate the heart, but there can have been small elation for Paul as he looked at his chain and his flesh worn by its chafing. No elation--but a resolve: now as always!
Your "now"? It's part of that good work, it's part of what God is bringing to completion. Your today--no matter how hard, how easy, how blessed, how difficult--it's important, it's necessary, it's getting you ready for the day of Christ.

So let's praise Him now, wherever we are, whatever we are facing. Let's resolve to trust Him even in the hard places. Let's be fully confident that He is working it all out for His purpose and His glory. Let's show Christ as more precious, more wonderful. Now. Today. Tomorrow. As always.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Let All Things Their Creator Bless

In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. Genesis 1:1

The first chapter of Genesis is probably one of the most familiar passages in the Bible. It's read by many believers on January 1 to kick-off their Bible reading plans. These verses are also scrutinized when discussing the origin of the universe both inside and outside of Christendom. But after listening to a recent sermon on Genesis 1, I've looked at this chapter in a fresh way.

My pastor stated that our response to this text should be to look at our God as He is gloriously displayed. His words gave me reason to pause. I've focused so much on the details of what happened on which day and what it could possibly mean in terms of time, space, and science that I may have missed the forest for the trees. So I reread Genesis 1, and it brought me to worship.

Nouns such as intellect and genius seem woefully inadequate when it comes to describing the wisdom of God displayed in the act of creation. It's beyond my comprehension to imagine the power and authority that can create matter out of nothing with just a word. No wonder the psalmist writes:

The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork. Psalm 19:1
Know that the Lord, he is God! It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture. Psalm 100:3 
O Lord, how manifold are your works! In wisdom have you made them all; the earth is full of your creatures. Psalm 104:24
I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. Psalm 139:14

And from Wayne Grudem:
As God created the universe, it was perfectly suited to bring him glory, both in the day-by-day processes and in the goals for which he created it. Even now, while we still see the effects of sin and the curse on the natural world, we should be amazed at how harmonious and intricate God's creation is.1

So let me bring it down to where you are today:

As you read this post, light is traveling from the screen to the lens behind your eye. Your retina converts the light into electrochemical signals which travel from the optic nerve to your brain. It then translates those impulses from symbols into words which you comprehend. Your brain may send another signal down your spinal column to nerves that stimulate the muscles in your arm and hand, causing you to grasp the mouse and scroll down the page or lift that mug of coffee to your lips. All the while, your heart is beating, pumping blood containing life-giving oxygen to the cells throughout your body. Each cell is made up of molecules which are made up of atoms which are made up of subatomic particles which scientists have yet to fully figure out. You are sitting and not flying up to the ceiling because of gravity. The earth is not an uninhabitable wasteland because forces keep our planet at exactly the right distance from the sun. So the cell, the solar system, and everything in between is a demonstration of God's handwork. But it gets even better.

The "God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ." (2 Cor. 4:6.)  So now we can know our Creator as our Father, and the One who "upholds the universe by the Word of his power" (Heb. 1:3) is our Savior. 

I hope you didn't mind the science lesson, but isn't creation awesome? Isn't God awesome!? So go out tonight and look at the stars or examine a dew drop on a blade of grass tomorrow morning. Consider how fearfully and wonderfully you are made. And as His redeemed children, may we be the first to "their Creator bless and worship Him in humbleness."2

1. Systematic Theology, Wayne Grudem, Zondervan, 1994, pg. 193.
2. From All Creatures of Our God and King, Francis of Assisi, translated by William Draper.

Monday, September 22, 2014

The EEEWWW! Factor

Besides being downright fun, teaching youth girls was eye-opening. Nearly every Sunday, I left with just as much to think about as they did. But there was one Sunday when I was able to startle them into near silence. Any of you who've had experience with youth girls know what a feat that is! We were discussing modesty. I asked each girl to picture her favorite swim suit. No problem there. Then I asked each girl to picture her mother wearing that exact suit.

EEEWWW! followed by peals of laughter and then quiet. They couldn't find the words.

The point was that if you would be ashamed to see your mother wearing it, why would you wear it yourself? (In case you're curious, I've pretty much covered the topic of modesty: here, here, and here.)

It's only been the past few months that my daughter has stopped wrinkling her nose and saying EEEWWW! when she sees her dad kiss me or hears him give me a cheesy compliment.  (We may or may not have tried to provoke her.)

I've had more than a few laughs at the EEEWWW! response, but some posts I've seen on social media lately have made me want to express myself in the same fashion. I can't think of a more appropriate word.

Letting us know how sexy you think your husband is? EEEWWW! I believe it goes without saying that wives generally think their husbands are handsome, sweet, and loving.  I agree there are times when it's acceptable to praise our husbands publicly, but I wonder how many husbands even read what their wives are saying. Oftentimes, such posts come across as bragging rather than showing appreciation. Call me prudish, but I like to compliment my husband privately. I don't want to call another woman's attention him.

A selfie with duck lips and cleavage? EEEWWW! I'll be honest. I don't understand the whole duck lips phenomenon. When I was a kid, we put two Pringles potato chips in our mouths to form duck lips. It was fun for about 2.4 seconds, and certainly wasn't considered cute or sexy. Duck lips aside, selfies with seductive poses are quite common even in Christian circles. I often find myself wondering if it's a symptom of the lack of attention at home.

Sharing too much personal information? EEEWWW! I'll never forget my first real diary. It had a lock on it and I guarded the key with my life. I didn't want ANYONE to know my most secret thoughts. Today it seems that many people not only want the world to know their secret thoughts, but that they demand the attention. Screens have desensitized us. We easily type and post things we might think twice about saying aloud. We believe we are safe hiding behind the barriers of our computers and phones.

There's no accountability on the internet; we have carte blanche. If anyone questions us...well, they're just being intolerant. Yet the Apostle Paul cautions us to use our freedoms wisely.

“All things are lawful for me,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful for me,” but I will not be dominated by anything. (1 Cor. 6:12)

“All things are lawful,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful,” but not all things build up. Let no one seek his own good, but the good of his neighbor. (1 Cor. 10:23-24)

Oh! how I want my social media presence to be helpful to me and to others! What's more, I am deliberately seeking to model social media discretion for my daughter. During a recent conversation I was telling her about some things I'd seen her friends post on Instagram. She replied, "I'm not on Instagram for a reason. I don't want to know everything that's going on." Don't think I take any credit for her resolve; it is purely the the Lord's grace.

In the eight years I've been blogging, I've had a continual inner dialogue regarding what I will and will not post. My guidelines have changed as my daughter has gotten older and as my focus has shifted to living quietly. I will continue to evaluate my participation in social media and the content of my posts. Before I hit publish, I'll ask myself these questions:

Would my grandmother  post this?

Would Abigail?

Would this post cause a teenage girl say EEEWWW!?

Friday, September 19, 2014

We Must Believe

"What must I do . . . ?"
Do you remember the story of the Philippian jailer's conversion (Acts 16:25-34)? Paul and Silas were jailed in Philippi when a "great earthquake" freed the prisoners. The prisoners' bonds were broken loose and the doors of the prison were shaken open. The jailer saw the open prison door, assumed the prisoners had escaped, and was about to kill himself when Paul assured him that no one was missing. All the prisoners were still there.

Then the jailer fell down in front of Paul and Silas and asked this question: “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” Perhaps he'd been listening to their prison prayers and songs, because somehow he knew he was guilty before God and needed to be saved from divine judgment. The answer from Paul and Silas was simple: “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved . . . .”

About this reply, J. I. Packer states,
For the honor of Christ, it needs to be stressed that this was, and still is, a complete answer to the question asked.1
Belief in Jesus is what is required of us for salvation from God's judgment. This is the "faith alone" that the reformers preached: faith in the Lord Jesus is the full answer to the question of how to be saved.

What does it mean to believe?

Yes, the answer to the jailer's question was simple and complete, but this doesn't mean it can't use a little explanation. When they spoke of "believing," Paul and Silas were not referring to simply affirming that something is true. In the language of scripture, believing in Jesus is not merely knowing true things about him and agreeing with them, although this is part of it. The one who believes in the Lord Jesus also trusts him to provide forgiveness for their sins and bring them into eternal life with God. Belief in Jesus requires knowledge of who he is and what he has done, and based on that knowledge, dependence on him to save.

We might say true belief (or saving faith) is confident, wholehearted trust, a "whole-souled" commitment, "involving mind, heart, will and affections."2 If you think of faith as a whole-souled commitment, you see why scripture presents repentance as inseparable from faith. Repentance is simply the other side of the commitment coin. It's the radical change of life—of values, goals, desires, and actions—that comes from unreserved allegiance to Jesus. Anyone who is truly committed to Christ will want to walk in obedience to him and leave their disobedience behind.

What does it mean to believe in the Lord Jesus?

In the Bible, faith always has an object; it is trust in someone or something. Saving faith is faith "in the Lord Jesus Christ." It is trust in the crucified and risen Jesus, and trust in the accomplishments of his death and resurrection. Faith is effective to save because its object—Christ and his atoning work—is effective to save.

To look at it another way, "[f]aith is an activity which takes men [or women] right out of themselves and makes them one with Christ."3 Faith unites us to Christ, or, to use the language of Paul and Silas, puts us "in the Lord Jesus Christ," and in this way gives us all of him—all that he is and all that he has done. No one can possibly need anything more than Christ's perfect salvation.

Can you see why Packer, in the quote above, says seeing "Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ" as the whole answer to the question of how to be saved preserves Christ's honor? Nothing is required of us but a trust that looks away from ourselves to Christ and his work. The entire focus of "Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ" is Christ himself—not our work, or even our faith—so the honor and glory for  our salvation belongs to Christ.

Where does true faith in the Lord Jesus come from?

Except for one post on the fall and original sin, every post in this series has been about God and his work. God spoke, planned, created, and saved, and the only thing we've contributed to the story so far  is the sin we need to be saved from.

You might think this post is finally about something good we contribute, but it's not. Scripture tells us that when someone believes in Jesus for salvation, their belief has its source in God. Saving faith is God's gift (Ephesians 2:8; Philippians 1:29). It, too, is God's contribution to the story. We must believe to be saved, but it's only because of God's work within us that we can believe to be saved.

We'll look at how God gives saving faith in a future post.

Learn More
  1. Study Romans 4 to learn about the role of faith in salvation.
  2. Read Hebrews 11 for a description of faith as the foundation for a life or perseverance.
  3. Read up on the nature of faith in Jesus Christ in your favorite systematic theology. It's in chapter 35, Conversion (Faith and Repentance), in Wayne Grudem's Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine. You can read the section on faith from Berkhof's Systematic Theology online.
  4. Read the chapter on Faith in J. I. Packer's 18 Words: The Most Important Words you will Ever Know (previously known as God's Words).
  5. Listen to Wayne Grudem teach about faith and repentance: Doctrine of Conversion (Faith & Repentance)
1] J. I. Packer, 18 Words, page 128.
2] J. I. Packer, Concise Theology, page 159.
3] Leon Morris, quoted in Wayne Grudem's Systematic Theology, page 711.

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

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

The One Friend Who Won't Delete You

It's always encouraging to me when other bloggers write things that have been on my heart. Not long ago, Diane Bucknell emailed me with some thoughts that I knew would make a great blog post. She graciously agreed to let me post them today. You may remember that in November 2012 Diane wrote a simply wonderful post about anxiety. Welcome, Diane!

* * * * * * *  

One of my favorite I Love Lucy episodes was the one where Ricky and Lucy’s friends planned a surprise birthday party for her and pretended to forget. Lucy felt so crushed and rejected that she  joined  a band of outcasts called  “The Friends of the Friendless”.  To the beat of a drum, they marched into Ricky’s Tropicana Club singing their theme song only to be greeted by a cheering crowd of friends and a giant birthday cake. Things that make us laugh often have a  painful tinge of truth to them that we can all relate to. 
 I doubt there’s ever been a time in history when people could be so easily rejected by friends as they can now through social media. With a click we can  delete or be deleted by people who once were our “friends” – whether they were actual friends to begin with or not.  The ease with which we can eliminate people who offend us is disturbing.
Social media aside, there’s nothing new under the sun, and we know the problem of being kicked to the curb has been going on since the beginning. Abel was betrayed and slain by his own brother out of jealousy. And David bemoaned, “Even my close friend in whom I trusted, who ate my bread, has lifted his heel against me.” (Psalm 41:9)
Losing friends just seems to be a part of this fallen world and if you’re like me, there are times  it can make you feel alone, even though in reality we are surrounded by people who care for us. Maybe  it’s not such a bad thing to feel this way once in awhile because it causes us to flee to our one Friend who is always true, always available, and always willing to help us.
How easy it can be to neglect finding our complete satisfaction in the Savior when our life is happily  engaged with people who love and appreciate us. I think even marriage can present temptation this way when our emotional dependence on our spouse eclipses our complete dependence on Christ.      How often do we look to a spouse, children, friends, or even our spiritual leaders for that which can only be found in the Friend of sinners?
It is in  Christ alone  that  our deepest  longing  for love and acceptance can be found.
  • He laid down His life for us:  John 10:15    
  • He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows : Isaiah 53:4
  • He has called us his friend:  John 15:15
  • His love is unconditional:  Ephesians 2:8-9
  • He promises to forgive and cleanse us of every sin:  I John 1:9
  • He even  promises to forget them!  Hebrews 8:12
  • His love for us  is never ending:   Jeremiah 31:3
  • He completely empathizes with all of our weaknesses:  Hebrews 4:15
  • He wants us to cast all our worries and cares on Him: I Peter 5:7
  • He promises   His  grace will be sufficient  in our weakness:   2 Corinthians 12:9
  • He promises to give us wisdom when we ask:  James 1:5 
  • He is faithful to us and His mercy  is new every morning:   Lamentations 3:23 
  • He never ceases to pray for us.  Hebrews 7:25
  • He knows everything about us, including our thoughts before we think them:  Psalm 139 
  • He has promised to use every trial we go through for our good:  Romans 8:28
  • He is preparing a heavenly home and has promised to return for us:  John 14:3

What a friend we have in Jesus!
“I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee” Hebrews  13:5

Diane lives in Northern Nevada with her husband Robert and an adopted stray cat named Spurgeon. Diane and Robert have been married for 41 years and have a son, two daughters and seven grandchildren.  They attended Moody Bible Institute, and Robert has served in three senior pastorates. He is an artist by trade, and when Diane is not reading, blogging, or baking cookies for the grandkids, she attempts to manage their business, Bucknell Arts.

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 apt 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 what 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:

  1. God Has Spoken (posted at the True Woman Blog)
  2. God Is Three and God Is One
  3. God Is Who He Is
  4. God Had a Plan
  5. God Created the Universe
  6. We Are Made in God's Image
  7. We Are All Sinners
  8. God Saves
  9. The Son Came
  10. Jesus Lived and Died
  11. Jesus Is Risen