Thursday, December 29, 2016

Look up!

It is impossible to say what will happen to us, or what will be required of us this year — but "Look up!" This direction, if properly attended to, will . . . procure for us all that we need, secure us against all that we dread, and make us more than a match for all our foes and fears!

Fellow-Christian, are you fearful? "Look up" and hear Jesus saying to you, "Do not be afraid — I Myself will help you!"

Are you discouraged? "Look up" — and your youth shall be renewed like the eagle's, and fresh light, comfort, and courage shall be given to you!

Are you desponding? "Look up" for Jesus never breaks the bruised reed, nor quenches the smoking flax.

Do not look too much at your sin — look most at the infinitely meritorious blood of God's dear Son!

Do not look too much at self — but look at Jesus, who ever lives to make intercession for you in Heaven.

Are you stripped of your comforts, your props, and your goods? Then look up! He who stripped you — loves you! He will be more than all these to you! He will bind up your broken heart, calm your perturbed spirit, cheer your drooping mind, and fill you with his own peace and happiness.

Look up . . .
for all that you need;
from all that you fear;
through all that would obstruct your way;
and notwithstanding all that would deter you from doing so.

Look up every day, saying with David, "In the morning, O Lord, You hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before You and will look up!" Psalm 5:3

Look up in every trial, saying "I will lift up my eyes unto the hills, from whence comes my help: my help comes from the Lord, who made Heaven and earth!"

Do not look at your sin — it will discourage you!

Do not look at your self — it will distress you!

Do not look at Satan — he will bewilder you!

Do not look to men — they will deceive, or disappoint you!

Do not look at your trials — they will deject you!

But do as the church did, look up "until the Lord looks down from heaven and sees" (Lamentations 3:50).

"Let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us — looking unto Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith!" Hebrews 12:1-2. Look only, look always, look intently, to Jesus; run looking, work looking, fight looking, suffer looking, live looking, and die looking — to Jesus, who is at God's right hand in glory. Oh, look, look, look to Jesus!

From A New Year's Motto, sermon by James Smith, 1865.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Which Jesus?

During this time of year, it is more acceptable to bring up Jesus. I've seen plenty of nativity scenes in people's yards and even in front of businesses. (The fortune teller with the plastic creche out front broke the cognitive dissonance meter, though.) Even traditional Christian Christmas carols are being played on the airwaves. Many see the story of the baby in the manger as just that, a feel-good myth about love, joy, and peace on earth in sentimental but indistinct terms that don't offend anyone's sensibilities. But is that good enough? Many people say they believe in "Jesus," but sadly we live in a day when we need to press the issue and ask "Which Jesus?"

Even among professing Christians, this question needs to be asked. We may not be as vague as the secular world, and one does not need a D.Min. to be saved, but the message of the gospel cannot be separated from the Savior of the gospel. So to get the gospel right, we need to get Jesus right.

In the latest round of posts, Rebecca and Kim reminded us of Jesus' full humanity and deity, which is the doctrine of the hypostatic union. This is not just a topic for an advanced seminary class. This is not a secondary or tertiary issue of minor importance. Our salvation hinges upon the fact that our Savior is God and man.

In the 1st century, one heresy that crept into the church was Docetism. According to this teaching, Jesus only appeared to have a physical body. Thus there was no problem with His deity but a rejection of His humanity. This fit in well with the Gnostic idea that the physical and material was evil, and the metaphysical and immaterial was good. But the implications for the gospel are dire.

There was no need for resurrection if Jesus did not have a physical body, but where would that leave us? According to the Apostle Paul, if Christ was not raised, our faith is futile and we are still in our sins. (1 Cor. 15:17) We were made sinners by the transgression of one man, but how could we be made righteous through the obedience of another man if He was not a man? (Rom. 5:18-19) Also how could Christ fulfill the law and live a life of perfect righteousness as a man for our sake? (Gal. 4:4-5) No active obedience means no imputation which means we have no right standing before God. If Jesus is not a man, this is really, really bad news.

But we have good news of great joy. Our Savior was born who is Christ, the Lord. (Luke 2:10-11) He lived, died, rose again, ascended on high, and is coming again. This gives us reason to rejoice and worship Him, not just at Christmas but every single day of the year. So with the words of the Nicene Creed, I gladly affirm:

I believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible.
And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all worlds; God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God; begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father, by whom all things were made.
Who, for us men for our salvation, came down from heaven, and was incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the virgin Mary, and was made man; and was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate; He suffered and was buried; and the third day He rose again, according to the Scriptures; and ascended into heaven, and sits on the right hand of the Father; and He shall come again, with glory, to judge the quick and the dead; whose kingdom shall have no end.

Monday, December 12, 2016

His Name is Jesus

by Robert A. Bucknell
“She will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus,
for He will save His people from their sins.”

    Jesus’ name is Holy and Awesome (Ps. 111:9).    Jesus’ name is above all names (Phil. 2:9).   Jesus’ name is to be believed on (I Jn 5:13).   Jesus’ name is to be hallowed (Mt. 6:9).   Jesus’ name is our authority in prayer (Jn. 14:13).   Jesus’ name is to be glorified (Rv. 15:4).   Jesus’ name is the Word of God (Rv.19:13).   Jesus is the Word of God (Jn. 1:1,14).   Jesus’ name is to be loved (Heb. 6:10).    Jesus’ name will cause all to bow and confess (Phil.  2:10-11).    Jesus’ name is to be magnified (Ac.19:17).    Jesus’ name is the only name under heaven for salvation (Ac. 4:12).    Jesus’ name is faithful and true (Rv.19:11).

    Jesus existed before Abraham (Jn.  8:58).    Jesus spoke to Moses (Ex. 3:14).   Jesus appeared to Abraham (Gn.18).    To Jacob (Gn. 32).    To Joshua (Josh. 5:13-15).    To Daniel (Dn.10).    To Paul (Ac. 9:1-19).    To John (Rv.1:9-20).    Jesus was conceived in Mary’s womb by God (Mt.1:18).  Jesus is the Mighty God (Is. 9:6).    Jesus created the Universe (Co. 1:16; Heb.1:2).    Jesus personally manages every atom (Col. 1:17).    Jesus is called God by His Father (Heb. 1:8).    

   Jesus raised people from the dead (Jn.11:43-44, Lk .8).    Jesus raised Himself from the dead (Jn. 20).    Jesus told the Pharisees that He was God (Jn. 5:18; 10:30).    Jesus was human (Phil. 2:6-8).    Jesus ascended into a cloud (Ac.1:9).    Jesus will descend in the same way (Ac.1:11).    Jesus is preparing a Bride for Himself (Ep. 5:25-27).     Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life (Jn.14:16).   Jesus is the Everlasting Father (Is. 9:6).      Jesus is the Light (Jn. 8:12),   Jesus is the Lamp (Rv. 21:23),  Jesus is the Bread (Jn. 6:35),  Jesus is the Lamb (Jn. 1:29),    Jesus is the Lion (Rv. 5:5),    Jesus is the Rock (I Cor. 10:4),    Jesus is the Morning Star (Rv. 22:16),   Jesus is the Vine (Jn. 15:1),   Jesus is the Rose and the Lily  (Song 2:1).  

   Jesus is the Friend of sinners (Mt. 11:19).  Jesus is our brother (Heb. 2:11).  Jesus is our Advocate (I Jn.2:1).  Jesus is the Good Shepherd (Jn. 10:11).  Jesus is our Counselor (Is.9:6).   Jesus is full of love (I Jn. 4:19),  mercy and compassion (Mt. 20:30-34).     Jesus is Lord (Lk. 2:11).   Jesus is our Savior (I Jn. 4:14),   Jesus is our Redeemer (Gal. 3:13-14).   Jesus is the Christ—Messiah  (Jn.20:31).   Jesus is our High Priest (Heb. 4:14)    Jesus is the Prince of Peace  (Is. 9:6) 

   Jesus is the firstborn from the dead (Rv. 1:5).   Jesus is the King of Kings (Rv. 19:16). Jesus is the Lamb of Wrath (Rv. 6:16).    Jesus has flaming eyes (Rv. 2:18).    Jesus will rule on the earth for a 1,000 yrs (Rv. 20:4).  Jesus will rule with a rod of iron (Rv. 2:26).   Jesus has a two-edged sword (Rv. 2:12) with which He will slaughter all people small and great (Rv. 19:15, 18).  Jesus wears a robe dipped in blood (Rv. 19:13).   Jesus will tread the winepress of His wrath (Rv. 19:15).  Jesus holds the key of Hell (Rv. 1:18).   Jesus is seated on a White Throne (Rv. 20:11).   Jesus will cast Satan and all unbelievers into the Lake of Fire (Rv. 20:10-15).    
   Jesus will provide His people with a new heaven, earth, and city (Rv. 21:1-2).    Jesus will wipe away every tear (Rv. 21:4).    Jesus will eliminate suffering and death (Rv. 21:4).    Jesus will give His people new bodies (I Co. 15:35-49),    white garments (Rv.3:15),  and secret new names written on white stones (Rv. 2:17).     Jesus has placed His people’s names eternally in His Book of Life (Rv.3:5; 20:11-15).    Jesus will have us to reign with Him forever (Rv.21:5).    Jesus is able to present His people blameless before the presence of His glory with great joy. (Jd.24).    Jesus will share His glory with us  (Jn. 17:22).   Jesus is the Alpha and the Omega (Rv. 21:6).    Jesus is the Beginning and the End (Rv. 21:6). 
Jesus’ Name Is Wonderful!


Wednesday, December 7, 2016

A Mystery

At the right time, God sent his Son, and the Word who is from the beginning came into our history. The Word who was with God became God with us.

According to God’s plan, as the centerpiece of history, God the Son emptied himself. The One who created thrones and dominions and rulers and authorities, and who upholds them all by his powerful word, humbled himself by taking on the form of a servant. God-with-God and God-equal-with-God made himself nothing by adding rather than taking away. The Creator took on the likeness of his creatures.

For our salvation the omnipotent One became weak, and the self-existent One became subject to death. To make us rich, the heir of all things became poor. To destroy the one who has the power of death, the radiance of the Father’s glory veiled himself in humanity so he could die.

And in the mysterious wisdom of God, it is by the veiling of his glory that the Son displayed God’s glory to us. “No one,” God told Moses, “can see me and live,” but in the Son, the image of the invisible God, we can see the unseen One. In Jesus, who came from the Father’s side to show us God’s glory, we see “all God’s goodness pass before us.” We see the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

In the mystery of God’s will, for our sake, the exalted Son chose to make himself nothing and be born as one of us. The one for whom and by whom all things exist came to die to free us from the fear of dying. The Lord-of-all was born as Mary’s little son, bringing us salvation.

Friday, December 2, 2016

Learning to let go

When my daughter was learning to drive, I was determined to not be one of those parents who gasped, yelled, or reached over to grab the steering wheel. If I was calm, she would remain calm, and all would go well. Thankfully, she was required to take a behind-the-wheel class from a qualified instructor who was not winging it like me. There were no mishaps, and she was now armed with a driver's license. The next milestone was the first time she drove on strange roads to a new place. At night. In the dark. Alone. 

I asked her to call me when she reached her destination and to call again when she was coming home. I was determined to not be one of those parents who was constantly checking the phone or the clock, but I began to get nervous when the minutes ticked by. When she called upon her arrival, I was so relieved. However, she left much later than I had hoped, so I stayed up and alternated between praying and worrying. Thankfully, there were no mishaps, and the baby bird came back safely to the nest. Since that first time, she has taken other journeys farther from home, so I have had to learn to let go and not fret quite so much. 

You probably have your own stories of when your children first learned to drive and that first big trip alone in the dark. But what about the spiritual journeys our children are on?

As a parent, I believe that my daughter's salvation was of the Lord. Not because of what I did or did not do as a parent, thank God! I also believe that her keeping and growth are in His hands as well. But what if the path He has placed her on includes suffering, struggles, and questions? This is where it gets hard and where it can be hard to let go. That maternal instinct in me wants to reach out and grab the wheel, as it were, and steer her toward what I think is the smoother road. But there comes a point when Mom can't make everything all better anymore. 

Even though, a parent's spiritual influence is so important, I was never meant to fill the place that only God can in my daughter's life. He is a better teacher, protector, and guide than I can ever be. It has also been good for my sanctification to learn to pray first and speak second, when it has been my habit to do the reverse. This transition has been a growing experience and caused us both to depend upon the Lord in ways that we would not have learned otherwise. There are times I still struggle to let go, but I don't need to hold it together because I never really could. He was holding us all along, and He will never let us go.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

A Community of Thanksgiving

Years ago, back in the days when the internet blog world was more of a community, I hosted something I called November’s Thanksgiving at my personal blog. Every day for the whole month, I’d post a few things I was thankful for and invite others to join me. All that thankfulness made what can be a dreary month a joyful one.

I miss those days!

I’m going to try to resurrect that community of thanksgiving here on this day before Thanksgiving. (We’re sort of a sisterhood here at Out of the Ordinary, right?) I’ll list a few things I’m thankful for and then open the mikes (so to speak) to you.

You can tell us what you’re thankful for in the comments of this post or in the comments on our Facebook page, and as I have time, I’ll move what you’ve written to the list in this post.

Today I’m thankful for
  • Snow. I’m not a fan of winter, which has already arrived where I live. But if it’s going to be cold, a little snow is a good thing because it brightens up the dark winter days. I’m thankful, then, for my white world.
  • The dog, who gets me out every day for a walk in the winter woods.
  • For all the readers of this blog. There are more of you than we anticipated when we started and I’m thankful for every one of you.
  • For our heavenly Father, who gives us good gifts, including the gift of his Son.
What are you thankful for? Let’s fill this place with thanksgiving!
  • Kim Shay is thankful for a cup of hot tea on a chilly evening.
  • Persis is thankful for a break from work to putter around the house, books that are waiting to be read, family, brothers and sisters in Christ, and that nothing can separate me from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
  • Cara Weineke is thankful for God changing my heart and revealing the mystery of His Will to me. I am also thankful for discovering blogs like this one and female theologians to follow to get a right understanding of Scripture.
  • Diane Bucknell says, "I'm thankful for the faithfulness of God in providing our basic needs over all these years of being self-employed - often at the very last minute. This living example has encouraged our faith in knowing that He will also be faithful to preserve our faith until He calls us home. I Thess. 5:23-24 - Happy Thanksgiving everyone!"
  • Myoshi Gardener is thankful for repairmen who are courteous and know what they are doing. (Yes, good repairmen are a blessing from God!—Rebecca)
  • Elena Parr writes, "My granddaughter, who was born two months early, is out of the NICU, and doing very well. She is my biggest miracle!" Now that's something to be thankful for!
  • Deb Crawford says, "My cup overflows with the best sisters in Christ who encourage me, laugh and cry with me, and love me unconditionally."
  • Barbara H is thankful for "God plucking me from an unsaved family to bring me to Himself and changing my life; my husband, 3 boys, daughter-in-law, and precious grandson (he spent the first ten weeks of his life in the NICU, too, so I can empathize with Elena! He's 2 1/2 now); good books to read; wonderful music to listen to; a beautiful world to live in - though marred by the fall, God's glory can still be plainly seen. He could have made it sheerly functional, but He made it beautiful as well. Learning to like decaf, sugar-free coffee (for health reasons) - it's still warm and tasty in the winter. Rain - our area has been badly in need of it. Facebook for easy keeping in touch with folks. FaceTime to visit with my son who's far away. Blogs like this one that proclaim God's truth and encourage ladies."

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Lot’s Wife—a Woman to Be Remembered

Perhaps one of the most chilling admonitions in Scripture can be found in  the words  of  Christ,  “Remember Lot’s wife!”    Speaking to His disciples, Christ foretells  how His  return to judge the world  will be unexpected and  that judgment will be as swift  as  it was in the days of Noah and Lot.    The abiding truth  He who has found his life will lose it, and he who has lost his life for My sake will find it.” (Mt. 10:39)  is a sobering  warning for people in every age.    Who was this woman who lived nearly 2,000 years before Christ and why does He want us to remember her?

Mrs. Lot’s name is never mentioned in Scripture nor do we know where she came from.    She could have been among the Chaldean servants whom Abram,  Sarai, and  his nephew Lot  brought with them from Ur (Gen. 12:1-5),  or she may have been a  native Canaanite. 
As you recall,  after settling in Canaan  Lot and Abraham decided it best to part company and Lot pitched his tents near the  wicked city of Sodom  (Gen. 13).   Later,  when  the LORD  appeared to Abraham and sent two angels to obliterate Sodom and Gomorrah,  Abraham  interceded  and the LORD agreed to spare them if they could find even ten righteous people.    
Arriving in Sodom,   Lot  welcomed  the  two  celestial guests but   "every man"  in the city surrounded his home  and demanded to have relations with the angels.  (Gen. 19:4-5).   When Lot’s pleas to silence the mob failed he tried offering them his two virgin daughters,  which enraged them all the more.    Threats of violence ensued and the angels pulled Lot to safety and then  miraculously struck  all the  men with blindness.     When the angels  asked if there were  other relatives  not in the house Lot  went out to warn  his  daughter’s  fiancées,  but they thought he was joking.   The following morning the angels said, 
 “Up!  Take your wife and your two daughters who are here, lest you be swept away in the punishment of the city.”   When he lingered  the men seized  Lot, his wife and his two daughters by the hand  and brought them  outside of  the city. ”  Gen. 19:15-16 
We don't  know why Lot hesitated,  but we know that when the angels snatched them to safety  Lot and his daughters did not look back but his wife  did.
   “But Lot’s wife,  behind him,  looked back,  and she became a pillar of salt.” Gen. 10:26
The account of Lot's wife is a frightening reminder that one can  have ample knowledge of the truth and experience the goodness of the Lord,  and yet have an unregenerate heart anchored to the world.     Peter tells us that she was married to a righteous man who was daily vexed by the evil in their city  (2 Pet. 2:7-8).     In order for Lot to have been declared righteous he would have had to believe the Gospel that was preached to Abraham in accordance to  Galatians 3:8:
And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, “In you shall all the nations be blessed.”
It's  likely this woman had also seen the  godly examples of Sarah and Abraham and knew of their miraculous deliverance from Egypt.   She  had witnessed  the  violence  in her city towards her guests, her husband, and potentially  her daughters and experienced God’s divine intervention.   She was mercifully brought to safety  while the heavens rained fire and brimstone,  and  yet  she looked back.   This was no ordinary glance out of curiosity because the Hebrew  word  "wat·tab·bê",  which is only used 3 times  in the Old Testament,   implies  that her  heart was still tethered to  Sodom. 
"That look was a little thing, but it told of secret love of the world in Lot's wife.  ... Her eye turned to the place where her treasure was — as the compass needle turns to the pole.  And this was the crowning point of her sin. "The friendship of the world is enmity with God" (James 4:4). "If any man loves the world,  the love of the Father is not in him" (1 John 2:15)  …She was no murderess, no adulteress, no thief; but she was a professor of religion, and she looked back.”  J.C. Ryle (1)

“Remember Lot's wife”.    The Bible warns that Christ will return when we least expect it.    And even if He doesn’t return in our lifetime,  we  could die before the day is over.  (Luke 12:20).   Lest we find ourselves among the self-deceived who are banking on our religiosity to save us,    we  must  consider the gravity of Christ's words.    We are commanded to examine ourselves to make sure our faith is genuine  (2 Cor. 13:5).  Do we secretly find our  fulfillment in  forbidden  pleasures,  riches,  or  the applause of this world instead of  Christ who died for us?    Can we say with Paul  "I have been crucified with Christ.   It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. "?  (Gal. 2:20).    Recently  I posted  20 Surprising Ways a "Believer" Can Be Self-Deceived ,   which is a synopsis of  the Puritan Matthew  Meades’  challenging  book  The Almost Christian  Discovered.    This is one of those gems I believe every professing  believer should have in their  library. 
Lot’s wife was found lacking but God's children can  be encouraged  by this account because it also powerfully demonstrates that God will preserve His elect.   The Scriptures promise that  He will not allow us to be tempted beyond what we are able but will provide a way of escape that we  may endure it  regardless of how wicked our culture is (1 Cor. 10:13),  
“and if he rescued Lot, a righteous man, who was distressed by the depraved conduct of the lawless (for that righteous man, living among them day after day, was tormented in his righteous soul by the lawless deeds he saw and heard)— if this is so, then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials and to hold the unrighteous for punishment on the day of judgment”  2 Peter 2:7-8
* This edited article was originally posted on my blog for the Women in Scripture  series  (2013)  which most of us here at OOTO contributed to.   

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

A Golden Calf and the Big Truth Exchange

Do you know the Old Testament story of the golden calf (Exodus 32:1-6)? Moses, the leader of the people of Israel, went up on Mount Sinai to receive the Ten Commandments and other instructions from God. He was gone for forty days and the people grew anxious without him, so they asked Aaron, the priest, to make gods to lead them in Moses’s absence. Together with Aaron, then, they made a golden calf to worship. It’s shocking how quickly they turned to polytheism and idolatry, breaking both God’s first commandment—“You shall have no other gods before me. (Exodus 20:3)—and his second—“You shall not make for yourself a carved image” (Exodus 20:4). 

 But there’s something else to note: When the Israelites made the calf, they said, “These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt!” In their minds, the one golden calf was not their only god. They were, it seems, crediting the calf with working with the one true God to bring them out of Egypt. They may not have been denying that God brought them out of Egypt, but rather, denying that he had done it alone. And when they feasted after sacrificing to the calf, they called it “a feast to Yahweh.” Yahweh is the true God’s name, so when they celebrated, they were trying, in their twisted way, to honor God. And as they tried to honor him, they got at least two details about God right. They called him by the right name, and they acknowledged one of his works.
But a few right ideas about God didn’t keep the Israelites from idolatry. Even as they attempted to worship him, their minds remade the one true God into a smaller, weaker god. They reimagined him as a god who wasn’t powerful enough to accomplish his will without help from other powers, and one who was willing to share his glory with an image they had crafted from things they owned.

Their story is evidence of what the apostle Paul writes in Romans 1: All people are naturally inclined toward idolatry. The Israelites exchanged “the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things” (Romans 1:23) and “the truth about God for a lie” (Romans 1:25)—and it didn’t take them long to do it. We read their story and wonder how they could have been so foolish, but worshipping a carved image alongside Yahweh didn’t seem bizarre to them because believing in multiple gods and practicing idolatry were normal in the culture they came from. We live in a different culture and time, and aren’t surrounded by idol worshipping polytheists, so we might never build an actual golden calf to worship, but as fallen people we too are prone to idolatry. Like the Israelites, we are naturally inclined to reimagine God as someone or something more like “mortal man” than the glorious almighty God he is. Even though we might never fall as far and fast as they did, to the extent we view God as different from the One he has revealed himself to be, we have also “[exchanged] the truth about God for a lie.”

Erin, a young woman I once knew, liked to think of God as spontaneous (to use her word), because she thought a spontaneous god would be more exciting than one who planned everything ahead of time. But we know the true God isn’t spontaneous. He has told us he has a plan and he always sticks to it. When Erin imagined that God was impulsive, she was exchanging the truth of God who is always the same for the lie of one who changes from moment to moment. She may have believed many accurate things about God, but this didn’t keep her from building a false image of him in her mind—and all because, like many her age, she placed a high value on living in the moment without a plan for the future. She preferred a god who was more like she was.

Like the Israelites and Erin, we have a natural inclination to view God as more like us than he is, and more like whatever the culture around us values than he is. But thankfully, the Spirit works within us to fine-tune our thoughts about God as we study his revelation of himself. Yes, until we see him face to face, the picture of God we hold in our minds will never be exactly right. Even our best thoughts of God will be a little idolatrous, but the more we work to conform our thoughts to what God has told us about himself, the more clearly we will know him, and the more truly we can worship him.

Friday, October 28, 2016

Grace Incognito

This is a repost from 2013.

The ladies in my church had a get-together Sunday evening. To break the ice, we were divided into random groups and given several questions prepared by our hostess. These questions weren't the typical "What is your favorite color? What was your most embarrassing moment?" Rather her intent was to encourage us to go beyond small talk and delve a little deeper. Two of the questions were:

- Do you feel you need to portray a perfect front?

- Do you have sin in your life that you are struggling with and need prayer?

My group had a very good discussion, but there were two observations from the pastor's wife that struck home. First, we may be willing to let others know about our struggles but only after the fact. Second, we may be maintaining a front even though it's not the "I am the perfect Christian woman who has it all together" variety. It may take the form of making sure others see how well we handle our brokenness.

Does this ring a bell? It does for me.

We like happy endings and success stories, so it's easy to think experiencing triumph is the epitome of the Christian life. The prayers were answered. The sin was conquered. The problem was solved. We don't have much stamina either, so the quicker God moves, the better. If He comes through according to our expectations, hallelujah! But what if He chooses otherwise? What if the battle with sin is lifelong or the circumstances don't change? If I am only willing to share my struggles when they are over, I could be waiting a very long time trying to hold out on my own. In addition, I may like the idea of portraying the strong Christian woman weathering adversity with a brave face, but I don't get to choose the scene of my martyrdom that will show off my good side. 1

But what if the point isn't sprinting across the finish line in record time, but knowing God in every halting, baby step along the way? So instead of grumbling, "Here we go again", my attitude could be, "Lord, thank You for another opportunity to cast my cares on You." "Thank You for being faithful and just to forgive my sins even if it's for the nth time today." Rather than feeling like a burden when asking for prayer from the church, God could be using a drawn-out situation to increase love among the saints and strengthen the bonds of fellowship.

What if grace not only grants deliverance but gives patient endurance year after year? It may not wear the champion's laurels, but be incognito, dressed in the plain clothes of the long-term struggles of life. God's grace is present and sufficient even when it's hiding in plain sight.

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 2 Cor. 12:9

1. My Utmost For His Highest, Oswald Chambers, reading for November 11.

Monday, October 24, 2016

8 Women of Faith

by Michael Haykin

I fell in love with the life stories of people from history when I was a young girl and I still love them. As an adult, I've concentrated mostly on biographical sketches of people from Christian history—short stories of the lives of my spiritual ancestors. But there aren't all that many accounts of the lives of historical Christian women, probably because it's hard to tell a woman's life story when there aren't many written records of her life.

I was eager, then, to read Michael Haykin's new book, Eight Women of Faith. I've listened to most of his biographical lectures and sermons and enjoyed them, so I was ready for more of his stories from Christian history, especially if they focused on women.

It turns out this book isn't what I expected. The chapters aren't really biographical sketches, but essays on the faith of each of the eight woman featured. In each chapter Haykin examines the way one historical Christian woman served Christ and his church in the historical circumstances in which she lived. His purpose is to "remind contemporary Christians, especially evangelicals of the vital role that women have played in the history of our faith.
The eight women featured are
  • Lady Jane Grey (1537-1554), the young queen who was martyred for her Protestent faith. Jane is notable for her courage as she faced death and her defense of her own faith and the tenants of the Reformation when the Roman Catholic Benedictine monk John Feckenham tried to convince her to embrace the Catholic faith before she died.
  • Margaret Baxter (1636-1681), the wife of the Puritan Richard Baxter. This essay is based primarily in Richard Baxter's accounts of their marriage and they ways his wife supported him in his ministry.
  • Anne Dutton (1692-1765), a Baptist poet and theological writer. She wrote on many theological subjects, including the nature of the Lord's Supper, Calvinism (She defended it.), and John Wesley's perfectionism (She was critical of it.).
  • Sarah Edwards (1710-1758), the wife of Jonathan Edwards. Haykin looks at Sarah Edward's spiritual experience as presented in her husband's writings.
  • Anne Steele (1717-1778), one of the great hymn writers of the eighteenth century, on par with Charles Wesley, Isaac Watts, John Newton, and William Cowper.
  • Esther Edwards Burr (1732-1758), the daughter of Jonathan and Sarah Edwards. This essay focuses on her friendship with Sarah Prince. The two woman made an agreement to keep a daily journal they would share with each other, journals which included conversations about spiritual things.
  • Ann Judson (1789-1826), pioneer missionary to Burma and the wife of Adoniram Judson.
  • Jane Austen (1775-1817), well-known author of several novels. Jane Austen's "serious Christian" faith is viewed through one of her written prayers.
My favorite chapter was the one on Anne Dutton, who I knew very little about before I picked up this book. She wrote about theology, something I like to do, and she did it in a time when many thought a woman shouldn't be an author. She found it necessary, then, to also write a defense of herself and her work. To do this she argued that the prohibition of 1 Timothy 2:12, in which Paul writes, "I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet," referred to public worship only. Her works, she wrote, were meant to be read "by believers in 'their own private houses.'"

I suspect each reader will be drawn to the women whose circumstances and calling most closely mirror her own, so your favorite chapter will probably be different from mine.
In the end, I wasn't disappointed that Eight Women of Faith wasn't exactly the book I expected it to be. The focus on how these women lived out their faith in their historical time was encouraging to me. Each of them lived in a time when women had less power than we do now, and still, they all influenced others as they lived out their faith. Through their stories, they serve as examples to us.

Michael Haykin is professor of church history and biblical spirituality at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and director of the Andrew Fuller Center for Baptist Studies. He has authored, coauthored, or edited more than twenty-five books.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

12 Steps to a Happy Marriage

 "There is no more lovely,  friendly,  and charming relationship,  communion,  or company than a good marriage."     Martin Luther

When I  first considered  writing this blogpost I  said to Robert something to the effect,   “I think I  can sum up our marital felicity  these past 43 years in just two words:  'Christ and Grace’  - What do you think?”    Without hesitation he said,   “Honey,  I’ve never known you to say anything in just two words."  

On that note,  these are some things we've learned  together over the years.   

A happy Christian marriage must be a Christ centered marriage.   If  you are a  single Christian  and have considered marrying someone who is not a believer  please read  2 Cor.6:14.  However,  if you’re already married to an unbeliever the Bible says to be content  and  stay put  (with the exception of  special circumstances like  infidelity or abuse).  I Cor. 7:13-14 

 “Your word I have treasured in my heart, that I may not sin against You.” Psalm 119:11
Always hold God’s Word in the highest regard.  The Bible is God's revealed Word and is without error.   It is the way God communicates with us and is completely sufficient to guide us in all  matters pertaining to godly living.  2 Tim. 3:16.  Read it.  Memorize it. Saturate your mind  with sound doctrine.  Test everything  in life against it. 

 “Rejoice always,  pray without ceasing,  in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you”   1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
Susannah Wesley,  mother of  the beloved hymnist Charles Wesley,  had 19 children, nine of which died in infancy.    She was noted for her fervent prayer life  but finding a quiet place for her was impossible.  Nevertheless,  that didn’t  stop her and her children knew it was time to be quiet when she threw her apron over her head to pray. 

“Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.”  Hebrews 10:25
 Plug into a  good Bible teaching church and  be faithful to honor the Lord’s Day by  gathering with His people.  Don’t get flaky about this.     Too many Christians allow sports, recreation,  or a bad church experience to sabotage their corporate worship.     If you have children it is essential that they understand not only the Gospel and sound doctrine,  but why Sunday worship takes priority.  

5.  THE "S" WORD
“Wives, be subject to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church, He Himself being the Savior of the body.” Ephesians 5:22-23
Marriage is depicted   as a beautiful picture of Christ and the Church and is said to be a great mystery.     Wives are to submit to the authority of  their  husbands as the church submits to Christ and husbands are to love their wives  as Christ loved the church and gave Himself for her.     Both commands  are tall orders,  right?     Showing mutual love and respect for one another is essential to any happy marriage. 

Like the warmth of a cozy fire,  love needs to be rekindled.    Whatever accomplishes that for you,  keep it up.    And never stop dating each other.   Even when  you're broke as a joke most of us can still scrape up a buck to get a cone at the Golden Arches.    Some of our sweetest dates  have been sitting in the car  with ice cream watching the sunset.  
It goes without saying,  if God gives us children they are a great blessing and we are responsible to train  them up in the fear and admonition of the Lord.   We are all bound to  make some fumbles,  but one big mistake I've seen well meaning parents do is to create a child-centered home—one where everything revolves around the children's interests.   This is true for both married and single parents.   Our children will have a greater sense of security and be better prepared to face the world  when they understand they are not the center of the universe.   And we will also be better prepared for the empty nest.
 “Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.”  Ephesians 4:32
Recognizing  that we are just  two  wretched but forgiven  sinners on this  pilgrim journey together really helps when we blow it.   We are all in need of compassion and forgiveness every day.   I’ve tried to make a habit of never going to bed angry,  but I know it's not  always easy to do.
I don’t know how other wives feel,  but I’ve had to resist expecting more from my husband than I should.   Regardless of how knowledgeable in the Scriptures or how kind  our husbands  may be,  they are not perfect and can NEVER fill the need  for us that only Christ can fill.   I love what Ruth Bell Graham  said:
  “It is a foolish woman who expects her husband to be to her that which only Jesus Christ Himself can be: always ready to forgive, totally understanding, unendingly patient, invariably tender and loving, unfailing in every area, anticipating every need, and making more than adequate provision. Such expectations put a man under an impossible strain”  
He who walks with wise men will be wise, But the companion of fools will suffer harm.”  Proverbs 13:20
This is so important.   God has blessed us with many wonderful Christian friends  over the years who  have encouraged us and sharpened us spiritually.     Like my mom used to say,  “Show me who your friends are, and I’ll show you who you are.”     Who we hang out with will have a big impact on how we think and how we treat our spouse.
“God is our refuge and strength, A very present help in trouble.”  Psalm 46:2
One of my life verses is  Job  5:7   “man is born unto trouble as the sparks fly upward”.    A healthy  marriage will endure the whole gamut of troubles including money, family conflicts,  church problems,  illness, death—you name it.    Run to God  and trust in His sovereignty over all of it.  
A joyful heart is good medicine, but a broken spirit dries up the bones.”  Proverbs 17:22
David Murray writes,  " Christian hope is a realistic expectation of and joyful longing for future good and glory based on the reliable Word of God." 1

The  Christian has every reason to  be cheerful.    Our sins have been forgiven and  we have an inheritance waiting for us in Heaven!  
1.The Happy Christian, by David Murray, pg. 92