Friday, October 31, 2014

The Bohemian Morning Star

Today is Reformation Day, a day to remember and be thankful for the Protestant Reformation and the men like Luther, Calvin, Zwingli and Tyndale who worked to restore the church to faithfulness to scripture as her ultimate authority. To commemorate, I’m posting a biographical sketch of Jan Hus, who was not technically one of the Reformers, but rather a forerunner to the refomation.

Martin Luther was, of course, the first Reformer. In the providence of God, the Reformation was sparked when he nailed his 95 Theses on the door of the Castle Church in Wittenburg. But there were a few men who lived before the historical event we call the Reformation whose teachings were in line with those of the Reformers of the 16th century. One of these pre-reformers was John Wycliffe, the man some call the morning star of the Reformation.

If Wycliffe was a Reformation morning star, then Jan Hus was too, because he followed right along in Wycliffe’s footsteps. While Hus was studying at the University of Prague, he began to read and translate works of John Wycliffe brought back by students returning to Bohemia from Oxford. As he read and studied, he embraced Wycliffe’s teachings.

Hus became a priest and the rector of the University of Prague. He also preached at Bethlehem Chapel, a church in Prague built for the specific purpose of preaching in the language of the people.

Jan Hus preaching at the Bethlehem Chapel in Prague by Alphonse Mucha

Hus’s Beliefs

What did Jan Hus teach when he preached?

  • He taught that the Word of God is our highest authority. All of his preaching was based directly on scripture, and when he was accused of heresy, he asked to be shown from the scripture where he was wrong. 
  • He taught that Christ alone is the head of the Church. In Hus’s time, there were three men who claimed to be pope, and the Church was divided over which so-called pope was the true one. Hus said that it didn’t really matter because the church’s only pontiff was the Lord Jesus Christ. 
  • He taught that God alone can forgive sins through the merits of Christ. Hus said, "Let the pope, or a bishop or a priest say, 'I forgive thy sins; I absolve thee of thy penalty. I free thee from the pangs of hell.' It is all vain. It helps thee nothing. … God alone can forgive sins through Christ."
Do you see the seeds of the Reformation in these doctrines?

Hus’s Excommunication, Trial, and Execution

As you can imagine, Hus and his followers—and by now, there were many—were not popular with the powers-that-be in the Church. Pope Alexander ordered that all of Wycliffe’s writings be burned and that Hus stop preaching. Hus didn't follow the Pope's orders, so in 1411, he was excommunicated.

Eventually, after being imprisoned and tried before a church council in Constance, Hus was declared to be a heretic and sentenced to death. He was given opportunities to recant and escape execution, but each time he refused. In his final declaration, he wrote:
I, Jan Hus, in hope a priest of Jesus Christ, fearing to offend God, and fearing to fall into perjury, do hereby profess my unwillingness to abjure all or any of the articles produced against me by false witnesses. For God is my witness that I neither preached, affirmed, nor defended them, though they say that I did. Moreover, concerning the articles that they have extracted from my books, I say that I detest any false interpretation which any of them bears. But inasmuch as I fear to offend against the truth, or to gainsay the opinion of the doctors of the Church, I cannot abjure any one of them. And if it were possible that my voice could now reach the whole world, as at the Day of Judgment every lie and every sin that I have committed will be made manifest, then would I gladly abjure before all the world every falsehood and error which I either had thought of saying or actually said! 
I say I write this of my own free will and choice. 
Written with my own hand, on the first day of July.
Preparing for the execution of Jan Hus
On July 6, 1415, Hus was burned at the stake. The accounts of his death recorded by the best historians say his last words were “I shall die with joy today in the faith of the gospel which I have preached.” Then as he burned, he sang, “Christ, thou Son of the living God, have mercy on me.”

There’s one well-known tale about Hus’s death that's probably not authentic. Before he was martyred, Jan Hus supposedly said, "You, this day, burn a goose, but a hundred years hence a swan will arise, whom you will not be able to roast or boil." It’s a play on words, since Hus meant goose in Hus’s language. The swan that would rise, the story goes, is Martin Luther, for it was a little more 100 years later that Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses. It’s a compelling story, but the sources for it are unreliable.

I’d rather remember Hus for his true last words expressing faith in the gospel and trust in Christ anyway. Do you know better words to die by?

Hus's Influence

The Hussite movement continued after Hus’s death, eventually becoming the Moravian church, a church known for its missionary work, particularly in the remote regions of the Americas. I first heard of the Moravian church from friends who attended one in an isolated Alaskan village—and there are Moravian churches in many more Alaskan villages, too.

After the Reformation, Martin Luther acknowledged that his teachings were Hus’s teachings, too. “We are all Hussites,” he said, “without knowing it.” Jan Hus was a martyr for some of the truths that the Reformers would later proclaim, too. He was one of the morning stars who sparked the sunrise of the Reformation.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Fostering an attitude of gratitude

Have you ever noticed that gratitude is contagious? Have you ever sat and listened to someone share how she is thankful about something, only to find your own heart being inspired to express your own thanks?  This is what we hope to accomplish here at Out of the Ordinary in the month of November.

Many bloggers use their blogs for "Thankful Thursday" posts. Becky, Persis, and I regularly do this. For a couple of years, in the month of November, Becky devoted the entire month at her blog for offering thanks. Why? Because it is good to give thanks to the Lord, and there is always something to thank God for. Offering thanksgiving is part of our love for and worship of God.
The Lord is good to all, and his mercy is over all that he has made. (Psalm 145:9)
We can be thankful because God is good. That goodness expresses itself in a myriad of ways, daily. Whether it is the food on your table, the central heating (or air conditioning!) in your home, or the fact that you have been born again and have been brought from death into life, there is always something to be thankful for.

Being thankful reminds us of the source of our hope. When I'm struggling with a trial, an illness, or an aching heart, I may not feel thankful, but when I consciously choose to reflect on my life and identify what I can be thankful for, it reminds me of this hope. Learning to be thankful also reminds us of the source of every good and perfect gift: God. It reminds us that we are not nearly so self-sufficient as we think. Regularly giving thanks fosters humility, as we express gratitude for God's love, which we do not deserve on our own merit.

With that in mind, November will be devoted to thankful thoughts. I don't know what the other ladies are planning, but I know we all desire to promote an attitude of gratitude. And we are asking you to participate. Each Thursday, we will share a separate post highlighting your thankful thoughts. If you want to have one (more more than one!) included, simply share it in the comments throughout the week, and we'll compile them all and post them on each Thursday of November.

You'll see; it's contagious. And it's a good kind of contagious.

Monday, October 27, 2014

'Tis the Season

A couple of years ago, I turned forty. There are a lot of things we could discuss about the forties in general, but let’s talk about the mood swings, shall we? Lately I am experiencing emotions that have no basis in reality.

All three of my sisters are around a decade older than I am, so they reached this stage of life first. Several years ago, one of them said to me, “PMS is for sissies. I have full-on mood swings.” Yes and amen. I spent most of my Junior High years feeling like I could burst into tears at any moment, and I’m right back there again.

First I need to put my emotions in the proper perspective. In the book The Cry of the Soul: How Our Emotions Reveal Our Deepest Questions About God, authors Allender and Longman say, "Our emotions connect our inner world to the ups and downs of life.” For me, I have to think about specific ways in which my “inner world” is mistaken.

Of course, there may be medical things to be done. Address them with you health care provider. God in his common grace has provided medical help for some of this, but that’s another post for another type of blog. For now, I need to focus on what I can fix here and now.

Physical: I didn’t sleep well last night. As anyone who has ever dealt with an overtired toddler knows, it’s harder to maintain self control when you’re sleepy. I haven’t thrown a kicking, screaming fit (yet), but I tend to get overwhelmed more easily on these days. This time there wasn’t a particular cause for my sleeplessness. Other times it’s circumstantial: one child worked late, then another had to be somewhere exceptionally early. But I can also do more to help this. I’ve also noticed if I eat a lot of junk food, I feel awful the next day. I can’t bounce back from these things like I could when I was 25. My lack of self control has always been a bad thing, but now it has more obvious consequences.

Environment: The sun doesn’t rise until noon this time of year. (Not really. That’s only true where Rebecca lives. It’s more like 7:15 here. But still.) It’s hard for me to get going in the dark. The best solution, however, is not sitting around thinking ill thoughts about Benjamin Franklin and his invention of Daylight Savings Time, but turning on the lights and emptying the dishwasher. Getting out of my pajamas is a good idea, too. Complaining has always been one of my besetting sins. Now, rather than simply making me unpleasant to others, it makes me unpleasant to myself.

Fear: Things are changing fast, and change is scary. My oldest will be leaving home soon, and the other two are right behind him. Our kids are “good” kids. (In the traditional sense of the word. I realize, in a theological, Romans 3:23 way, that we’re all sinners.) But they have their own ideas and will make their own mistakes. Some things they will have to learn for themselves (as their parents did). But I am surely wrong about some things, too. I don’t always know what’s best, and only God can sustain and protect them. This has always been the case, it was just easier to fool myself into thinking I was in control when they were little.

In light of that, I have to start talking to myself, rather than listening to my feelings. As Martyn Lloyd-Jones says,

The main art in the matter of spiritual living is to know how to handle yourself. You have to take yourself in hand, you have to address yourself, preach to yourself, question yourself. You must say to your soul: ‘Why art thou cast down’–what business have you to be disquieted? You must turn on yourself, upbraid yourself, condemn yourself, exhort yourself, and say to yourself: ‘Hope thou in God’–instead of muttering in this depressed, unhappy way. And then you must go on to remind yourself of God, Who God is, and what God is and what God has done, and what God has pledged Himself to do. Then having done that, end on this great note: defy yourself, and defy other people, and defy the devil and the whole world, and say with this man: ‘I shall yet praise Him for the help of His countenance, who is also the health of my countenance and my God’.

So today, I turn my thoughts to truth:

How I feel doesn’t necessarily reflect reality.

This too shall pass.

This world is not my home. Part of my unease is run-of-the-mill longing for heaven.

God is in control, as he always has been.

God has sustained me in the past. He will sustain me in the future.

"He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?” (Romans 8:32).


[1] Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Spiritual Depression: Its Causes and Cure, page 21.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Why I love Spurgeon

Painting by Robert Bucknell
God has blessed His church with theologians, past and present, who have equipped the saints through their sermons and writings. Kim wrote last week of her appreciation for the good Doctor, Martyn Lloyd-Jones. I am going to borrow her idea and share why I love Charles Spurgeon.

I first heard of Charles Spurgeon from a fellow InterVarsity member when I was in college. I still remember his exact words: "Spurgeon is awesome!" To be honest, my first thought was, "Why on earth would someone want to read anything by a long-dead Baptist preacher?"

Fast forward nearly 30 years. The bottom had just dropped out of my marriage. I wasn't attending a local church at the time, which is another story. I had no idea where to turn for help, so I called a close friend who promptly told me, "You need to read some Spurgeon." I wasn't sure what advice a 19th-century minister could give to a 21st-century woman who was facing a broken marriage, but I was desperate. I googled "Charles Spurgeon" to see what I would find. The first site on Google's list was The Spurgeon Archive. This seemed like a good place to start, so I clicked the link for the daily devotions.  Given my present state, it would not be an exaggeration to say that I had never read anything like this in my life.

Even though I had been a believer since childhood, my view of God was pretty pitiful. Like Job, I couldn't wrap my mind around the idea that God would allow His children to suffer, and like Job's friends, there was a nagging sense that if I had been a better Christian, none of this would be happening right now. On top of this, I was spiritually malnourished from the lack of sound teaching and fellowship.

My view of God was small, but Spurgeon's view of God was BIG. The God he described was glorious and awesome in His holiness and power. Yet He was unchanging in His love for and faithfulness to His children. If there was any doubt on that score, look at the Cross and look at Christ. He also ordains every second of our lives, watching over us as a loving Father who has our eternal good in mind.

This was food and drink to my starving soul. I eagerly read Morning and Evening and Faith's Checkbook each day. I printed out sermon after sermon until I had bulging 3-ring binder. Spurgeon's love of God and His Word was so contagious that I began to read the Bible in a new light. My trial did not miraculously disappear. I still shed many tears and battled fear and unbelief, but my view of God changed which changed everything.

I truly believe God used this long-dead Baptist preacher to keep me from throwing in the towel and abandoning the faith. My weak and rather unbiblical understanding would never have stood the test, but He was faithful to give me a bigger glimpse of Himself in His power, His love, and His sovereignty.

So I thank God for His faithful servants down through the ages, and I especially thank Him for Charles Spurgeon.

The Lord and no one else shall save me. I desire no other helper and would not trust in an arm of flesh even if I could. I will cry to Him evening, and morning, and noon, and I will cry to no one else, for He is all sufficient.
How He will save me I cannot guess; but He will do it, I know. He will do it in the best and surest way, and He will do it in the largest, truest, and fullest sense. Out of this trouble and all future troubles the great I AM will bring me as surely as He lives; and when death comes and all the mysteries of eternity follow thereon, still will this be true: "the Lord shall save me." This shall be my song all through this autumn day. Is it not as a ripe apple from the tree of life? I will feed upon it. How sweet it is to my taste!  
Faith's Check Book, August 28


Monday, October 20, 2014

Food for Thought

 Whom have I in heaven but you?
And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you.
My flesh and my heart may fail,
but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. 
~Psalm 73:25-26

All the riches of the covenant of grace that Christ has purchased with his precious blood, and all the good that an infinite God can give, you shall have them. God will fill your soul to its utmost capacity. When you have these, you desire no more and quietly rest forever. What a portion is this! The pleasures of sin are for a season, a little inch of time. This portion is forever...Death parts all other portions from the sons of men, but gives you your full portion. Then you will know your portion's true worth. When fire burns up the world it will not even singe your portion. You may stand upon the ruins of the world and sing: I have lost nothing, I have my inheritance, my happiness, and my God still.
~George Swinnock

Friday, October 17, 2014

Believers Have New Life

If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation . . . .
And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked . . . 
But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved . . . . (Ephesians 2:1, 5 ESV)
God's salvation, Paul writes, brings spiritual life to people who are spiritually dead. Scripture also calls this work of the Holy Spirit being born again (John 3:3-8; 1 Peter 1:23), being newly created (Ephesians 2:10; 2 Corinthians 5:17), or becoming a new self or person (Ephesians 4:24). Theologians usually call it regeneration.

Everything Changes

This pivotal transformation occurs when God implants spiritual life in someone who, to use another scriptural term, has been spiritually dead. When this change happens, says Louis Berkhof, "the governing disposition of [a person's] soul is made holy".1 If you're familiar with Ephesians 2, you know that between the verses quoted above, Paul says that our natural governing disposition—the spiritually dead one—is decidedly unholy. A spiritually dead person is
following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience—among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind . . . . (Ephesians 2:2-3)
Before we are reborn, we are governed by Satan and our own sinful desires, but when we are reborn, we come under the dominion of the Holy Spirit. Or to put it another way, in the new birth, the Spirit unites us to Christ, who lives his resurrection life in us.

At the moment our new life begins, everything changes. Without new life, we see no need for repentance, but with new life, repentance becomes a life principle. Without new life, we have no desire or ability to follow Christ, but with new life, we do.

New Life Gives Faith

Someone who has been born again believes Christ, loves him, and trusts him. In the last post in this series, we learned God gives us the faith by which we are saved. He does this by implanting new life within us, and "conscious, intentional, active faith in Christ is [the] immediate fruit"2 of this new life. Everyone who has been regenerated repents and believes, and no one repents and believes without it.

New Life Grows Holiness

What's more, regeneration brings ongoing changes in our attitudes and actions. Like faith, obedience is also a fruit of regeneration. The person who has been born again is increasingly obedient to Christ (1 John 2:29); they cannot keep on living a life of sin (1 John 3:9). Yes, sin will continue to be a problem in this life, but someone with new life keeps on growing in holiness.

Theologians call this process—the growing holiness of the one who is regenerated—sanctification. Sanctification is primarily God's work, for the Holy Spirit works within the believer, causing them to want to please God and giving them the power to do it (Philippians 2:13). But the believer has work to do, too (Philippians 2:12). The believer's effort is God-dependent effort, but it's real effort.

Out with the Old, In with the New

Fundamentally, a believer's work in sanctification is to become, more and more, what they already have become through God's regenerating work. Paul exhorts the believer to "put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life" and "put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness" (Ephesians 4:22-24).

Jesus, the one we have been united with in the new birth, whose resurrection life gives us our new life, is our example as we live out our new life of obedience. In sanctification, we are becoming conformed to his image—and the more we grow in our knowledge him, the more we become like him (2 Corinthians 3:18).

Are you a believer? Then strive to be what you already are—a new person recreated to be like Christ.

Learn More
  1. Study Ephesians 2:1-10 and Ephesians 4:17-32. Read the entire book of 1 John to learn more about the life results of being born again.
  2. Read up on regeneration and sanctification in your favorite systematic theology. In Wayne Grudem's Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine, chapter 34 is about regeneration, and chapter 38 on sanctification. You can also read about regeneration and sanctification online from Berkhof's Systematic Theology.
  3. Read the chapters Regeneration and Holiness and Sanctification in J. I. Packer's 18 Words: The Most Important Words You Will Ever Know(previously known as God's Words).
  4. Listen to Wayne Grudem teach about regeneration and sanctification (part 1, part 2, part 3).
1] Systematic Theology by Louis Berkhof, page 469

2] Concise Theology by J. I. Packer, page 158.

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
  13. We Must Believe

Monday, October 13, 2014

Book Review: Captivating

This review originally appeared on my personal blog.

Captivating: Unveiling the Mystery of a Woman’s Soul by John and Stasi Eldredge has been one of the most popular books in the Christian market over the last decade. Its 2005 release has led to the publication of journals, Bible studies, gift books, and an updated edition. Ideas put forth in this book have found their way into a lot of Christian women’s books, even from authors who have a reputation for being biblical and orthodox.

This is not a comprehensive review. I found many things in this book that are unbiblical, but I’m not going to pull it apart point by point. I am going to focus on two things: what makes the book insightful (and therefore popular), and the book’s most glaring error (which in many ways leads to all its other errors).

What it Got Right

There’s a reason why this book is so popular, and there’s a reason why so many women find it helpful. The authors have a good handle on what makes women tick. Women are relational. In fact, we obsess over our relationships in ways men often don’t understand. This goes back to the curse found in Genesis 3:16. Just as men tend to find their worth and identity in their work (Genesis 3:17-19), women tend to find their worth and identity in relationships. But since we live in a world marred by sin, these things don’t bring the peace that we think they should.

According to the Eldredges, when a woman has been hurt in relationships, she tends to respond in two different ways. She either becomes controlling or desolate. These titles are self-explanatory, and we all know women who fall in these categories. The controlling woman strives to take matters into her own hands, while the desolate woman continues to put herself at the mercy of people who treat her badly.

This is one of the more insightful explanations of the connection between the Fall and women’s behavior that I’ve read. Since understanding why we do what we do is enlightening (especially for women who are well-grounded in Scripture otherwise), I understand why so many women find this book helpful.

Now, even with that, there are problems with this portion of the book. They put a lot of blame for a woman’s troubles on things that happened in her childhood. I’m not saying a woman (or anyone) should be made to feel that abuse is her fault, so please don’t misunderstand me on that. But although they devote plenty of space to the ways others sin against us, they rarely mention how we sin against God.

They also state that Satan has a special hatred for women and attacks her more forcefully. I don’t know of any place in Scripture that confirms this. Yes, Satan is our enemy and accuser, but we sin when we give way to our own evil desires (James 1:14).

The Most Glaring Error

Out of all the errors of the book, the most glaring one is its insufficient view of God. God is portrayed throughout the book as “yearning for us,” and several places state that we as women can “minister to God.” In one section, they even claim that there is “in God’s heart a place that you alone can fill.” (Location 1323, Kindle edition)

This is a direct contradiction to the Scriptural teaching of God’s self-sufficiency (or, as Arthur Pink says in his book The Attributes of God, God’s Solitariness). This is not some obscure, hidden attribute, but something taught plainly in Scripture.

The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything (Acts 17:24–25).

And also:

Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God!
How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!
“For who has known the mind of the Lord,
or who has been his counselor?”
Or who has given a gift to him
 that he might be repaid?”
For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen (Romans 11:33-36).

To quote Pink:

God was under no constraint, no obligation, no necessity to create. That he chose to do so was purely a sovereign act on his part, caused by nothing outside himself, determined by nothing but his own mere good pleasure; for he “worketh all things after the counsel of his own will” (Ephesians 1:11). That he did create was simply for his manifestative glory.

I’m not being nitpicky by objecting to this. With such a low view of God, they cannot point women to a higher love and devotion. If there is something in us that can “minister to” or “fill” God, that would mean that God is somehow lacking and therefore not perfect. Only a perfect God deserves our trust and worship. All of God’s divine attributes hang together; if we lose one, we lose them all.

Women’s desire for love and beauty is part of what makes us God’s image bearers. (The Eldredges refer to this as our desire to be romanced, to take part in a grand adventure, and to uncover beauty.) Like all good things, though, the human tendency is to turn them into ultimate things. For many women, the good desire for love and beauty is an idol. Instead of showing us how these earthly desires are often a poor reflection of what we can only find in our relationship with Christ, they instead bring Jesus down to the level of some ideal, earthly boyfriend.

Like I said earlier, many women claim this book has helped them. I’m sure some of them have managed to discard the errors and draw help from the insights. But I fear that many women have been soothed into thinking their idolatrous earthly longings are holy. As heartbreaking as it is when people reject the true God, it’s perhaps a greater tragedy when they unwittingly put their trust in a false one.

*This review is based on the Kindle version of the original 2005 edition.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Jesus is my life

I remembered her from a couple of weeks earlier. As she walked toward the door, arms laden with the packages of diapers and wipes I'd just given her, I asked her about her church. In their last visit she and her daughter told me they attended a local Hispanic church but I asked again in the hopes of beginning a gospel conversation.

Nearly all of our clients at the pregnancy center claim some sort of church affiliation. It's a rare client indeed that will freely confess her unbelief. Probing more deeply into what the client means both by church attendance and faith in Christ helps expose the true state of both.

So I asked about church and she responded with such emphatic affirmation that I inquired more directly: "So you're a believer in Christ?" She responded with a great smile and a happy stream of Spanish. She gestured toward the ceiling and clutched her heart and concluded in halting, broken English, "Jesus is my life."

Chill bumps erupted on my arms and tears sprang to my eyes. What a beautiful, humble testimony! "Mine too!" I exclaimed and we hugged. She pointed once again to heaven and joyously affirmed, " sister in Christ." Again, the big smile. Again, a hug. Again, a tear. Or maybe two.

We couldn't be more different, she and I. Me comfortably ensconced in my middle class, affluent world with its first world "probz" and she needy, impoverished, a minority in a culture where she cannot even speak the language with any degree of fluency.

As we hugged and shared smiles and tears, I saw the beautiful, precious, glorious reality of John's vision in Revelation. Every tongue, every tribe, every nation, she, and I, all before the throne of the Lord Jesus Christ.

The bond this precious woman of God and I share in the Lord extends far beyond race, language, and socioeconomic barriers. Glory to God, Jesus has broken down the dividing wall! We are sisters, our hearts knit together by the blood of the Son of God who died to set us free. What glory. What grace.

The evident joy and unwavering faith of this sweet client of mine humble me and instruct me. O, for faith to say "Jesus is my life" not only when I have everything but even when I have nothing.

He is all in all, yes and amen.

Author's note: a version of this post first appeared at my personal blog in June, 2013. 

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Be good and angry

This world can be such a beautiful place. There are natural wonders that take our breath away. God has blessed us with relationships that fill us with joy. His kindness is seen in the seemingly insignificant moments of everyday life.

But this world can also be a tragic place. Nothing has been exempt from the curse. We suffer from the effects of sin in our bodies. We suffer at the hands of one another. The sheer weight of the sorrow in this world is overwhelming if you stop and think about it. So sometimes it's easier to not think. It's tempting to turn off the news and move to a bunker in the wilderness just to get away from the injustice, greed, ambition, and corruption.

But I don't think God has meant us to become hermits. We still live in this world even though we are not of it. Neither does He want us to become callous and numb to the brokenness all around us. We should care deeply about justice and desire righteousness to prevail because our God is a just and holy God. We should care deeply because we have a hope that the world desperately needs. So where to we begin?

Well according to Paul Tripp, we start by getting angry:

Righteous anger should yank all of us out of selfish passivity. Righteous anger should call all of us to be a part of God's revolution of grace. It should propel us to do anything we can to lift the load of people's suffering and to bring them into the freedom of God's truth.
What is this anger like? It is kind and compassionate. It is tender and giving. It is patient and perserverant. It will make your heart open and your conscience sensitive. It will cause you to slow down and pay attention. It will cause you to expand the borders of your concern beyond you and yours…
Most of all, we need to pray that we would be angry. We must pray that a holy zeal for what is right and good would so fill our hearts that the evils around us, that greet us daily, would not be okay with us. We must pray that we would be angry until there is no reason to be angry anymore. And we must be vigilant, looking for every opportunity to express the righteous indignation of justice, mercy, wisdom, grace, compassion, patience, perseverance, and love. We must be agitated and restless until his kingdom has finally come and his will is finally being done on earth as it is in heaven. For the sake of his honor and his kingdom, we must determine to be good and angry at the same time...
God calls you to be good and he calls you to be angry. This broken world desperately needs people who will answer his call.

Broken-Down House, Paul David Tripp, Shepherd Press, 2009, pp. 132-134.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Still Fighting for My Girl's Dreams

16 candles will be pulled out of the box tomorrow. I consider how quickly time has passed since we pulled out a single candle. Back then she was too young to wish, so I made them for her. Even now as she wishes, I silently lift my prayers to the Lord. I listen to her dreams and I think, Go for it!

Although her plans have changed somewhat since I wrote this post in May 2013, these words still rings true...

At 14, I dreamed of a big career in a big city 700 miles to the north.  I didn't understand the bemused smile my mother usually wore as I spouted off my grand plans. I had my life mapped out, but I didn't need that map. Although I anticipated having a 10-hour drive to my parents' home, it takes a mere 10 minutes.

Which is why I, too, wear a bemused expression when my daughter reels off  her great plans for her big life in a city 500 miles to the south. I tell her something my mother wasn't able to tell me, The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps. (Proverbs 16:9) Still, I'm glad my girl has big dreams. Who am I to say that they have not been given to her by God? Her preferred career would give her an opportunity to minister to people in need. It may be that He has a place for her in this particular field for just that purpose.

It seems the blogosphere has recently been inundated with posts about Biblical womanhood and complementarianism. (For the record, I am a complementarian.) I don't want to add to the clamor and I'm not responding to any post I've read. I do want to encourage other mothers to fight for their girl's dreams, no matter what they are.

Some girls dream of impacting the world for Christ through their homes; they have a God-given desire to marry, have children, and work faithfully, full-time at home. This is a noble calling of the Lord and if it is the call our daughter feels, we should not hesitate to offer our support and encouragement in that direction. We should teach her the art of homemaking, procure or provide lessons in different domestic skills, and instruct her in the values and benefits of being a stay-at-home wife and mother.

Other girls dream of living out the Gospel in the workplace. This, too, can be a noble calling from the Lord. Our society benefits when Christian women serve others through their careers. Our support and encouragement is no less important if this is our daughter's inclination. In addition to educating her about her responsibilities as a wife and mother, we can look for opportunities to learn about the benefits - and the pitfalls - of a specific career. We can help her be as prepared and knowledgeable as possible.

In short, we should exhort her to work heartily, as for the Lord (Colossians 3:23) in her chosen vocation. Even if she chooses a path that is not our own.

We should also be honest about our own calling. My daughter has seen the positives and negatives that accompany having a career outside of the home. She also realizes that our home and family mean more to me than my job. I have taught her that a woman has an incredible opportunity to minister to and bless her family by providing home-cooked meals and keeping a clean home. As much as I have tried to model that for her, she has seen how difficult it is to provide these things when employed outside of the home. She knows that stay-at-home mothers face challenges as well. Whatever choice she makes will require sacrifice. Neither situation is perfect, because we live in a fallen world. It is imperative that she realize that.

Finally, we should accept the fact that we don't know what God has planned for our daughter's future. He may call her into the mission field in Africa or in the local hospital. Perhaps she will remain single. Perhaps she will have a husband but no children.  I don't know if God has given my daughter this particular ambition because He's going to allow her to find the cure for cancer or to prepare her to homeschool the one who will. I only know that I will rejoice in whatever blessing the Lord bestows upon her, whether it is a big career or a big family. If she seeks to do everything to the glory of the Lord (1 Cor. 10:31), how could I ask for more?

Friday, October 3, 2014

Of God, Boxes, and Hooks

You've heard the argument, I'm sure. One person makes an assertion about God and another responds, "You can't put God in a box!"

And it's true. We can’t put God in a box. God is Creator—the one who created us and created the boxes we exist in. We are the ones in boxes, and never the God who stands over us, hemming us in, "behind and before," determining our "times and the boundaries of our dwelling places."

God is in a category all by himself; that's part of what we mean when we say he is holy. He is not like us or anything else we know or experience. He is infinite and we are finite. We can't put him in a box.

Limiting God?

But sometimes the God-in-a-box statement is used to object to any definite statement about God. (Except, I suppose, the assertion that God is love. Everyone agrees with this one!) Since God is beyond us, mysterious, and incomprehensible, we can have no certain knowledge of him, the reasoning goes, and any assertions about him are bound to be false because they reduce the infinite, incomprehensible God to a statement (or set of statements) about him.

Particularly troubling to some are statements that God can't do something or must do something. They seem like automatic God-limiters, don't they? There are no rules or standards to which God must conform his actions and no limitations on his abilities, so can it ever right to say that God can’t or must do something? If God is completely free, how can must and can't apply to him?

God Talks

What these arguments don't take into account is this: Our God is a talking God. He has chosen to communicate to us, telling us about himself. Yes, God is incomprehensible and free, but he also has a  a definite nature. And he's chosen to communicate truths about who he is in language we can understand. God can't be put in a box, but in his Word he's given us big hooks to hang our hats on as we seek to know him.

He Is Unchanging

One aspect of God's revealed nature is his unchangeability. "I change not," he says, so we know he is who he is and he won't be morphing into someone or something else tomorrow or the next day—or ever.

It’s because of his unchanging nature that we are not necessarily limiting God when we make must or can't statements about him. We are not limiting God, for instance, when we say he can’t and won't lie. We're not saying there is a set of rules which includes a prohibition against lying to which God himself is bound, a set of rules that he must always keep even when he desires to do differently. What we are affirming is that God is truthful and he doesn't change; therefore, he cannot lie.

Saying that God must bring judgment against sin and sinners isn't limiting him either. It's simply acknowledging that God is characteristically and unchangeably just. Expressing himself fully and freely means that he always punishes (or judges) sin, and if he didn’t he wouldn’t be who he is.

Using God's Hooks

These examples show that some can't and must statements are simply declarations of God's perfect ability to forever be who he is, and to forever speak and act in accordance with who he is. When you get right down to it, a God with can'ts and musts is not less than a god without them, but more.

It's a good thing for us that God has can'ts and musts. A God who can't lie and can't deny himself is one who can be trusted. And when we assert and believe what God tells us about himself, including the biblical can't statements, we are not dishonouring him by limiting him, but honoring him by trusting his own revelation of himself. It glorifies God when we hang our hats on the hooks he has given us.