Wednesday, January 16, 2019

The True Captain of My Soul

I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.

These are the last two lines from the poem, Invictus, by William Ernest Henley. It's been quoted by many people throughout history as an expression of the tenacity and triumph of the human spirit. It also invokes the idea that no matter the odds, we have the ability to control our own destinies. While some may find this inspiring, this is terrifying to me.

During a past trial, I was faced with the grim possibility that the outcome of my future was solely up to me. There was no one nearby who could give me the help I needed. The loneliness and being at a complete loss felt worse than the situation itself. What if I made a wrong decision? Not only could I ruin my life but also the lives of others. I was a believer, and my concept of God was better than the absent deity in Invictus, but not by much. He was just one of many players in the drama with slightly more power but not enough to be fully in charge. But then in God's mercy, his sovereignty dawned on my soul like the sun breaking through months of emotional gloom. I began to cling to the hope that God was really in control even though circumstances wanted to convince me otherwise. There was a growing security I had never known before -  the knowledge that my life was in his hands instead of my own. 

Fast forward to a week ago. I may be facing another big change in my life. Nothing on the scale as my previous trial but with enough similarity to resurrect the past. Anxiety is also good at taking bad memories and extrapolating them into present day worst-case scenarios. The fear of being alone, yet again, was overwhelming, and my stomach began to knot up with the same visceral response. I knew objectively that God was, is, and will be faithful, but it was a struggle as the fears would rise, abate, and rise again. Stiff-upper-lipping one's self out of worry is impossible. I've tried it more times than I can count. But God is a compassionate Father who is able to minister to his children in just the right way and at just the right time.

My pastor was out of town, so the pulpit was filled Sunday evening by another brother who spoke on Psalm 139. These are familiar verses, but this time, they were fresh, living, and active, as the Holy Spirit took them and applied them straight to my heart.

O Lord, You have searched me and known me.
You know my sitting down and my rising up;
You understand my thought afar off.
You comprehend my path and my lying down,
And are acquainted with all my ways.
For there is not a word on my tongue,
But behold, O Lord, You know it altogether.
You have hedged me behind and before,
And laid Your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;
It is high, I cannot attain it.

God's knowledge of us isn't detached but intimate and bound up with his love and care. He knows our concerns before we voice them. He knows our sitting down and rising up and every mundane detail of our lives. He knows where we've been, where we are right now, and where we are headed in the future. Nothing is hidden from his gaze. He has seen us at our worst, and yet he has saved us. Time, distance, and even space cannot separate us from him. And as I heard these truths, the knot in my stomach began to loosen, and relief washed over my soul.

Afterwards, I thanked this brother and told him that his sermon was exactly what I needed to hear. He then shared that he had originally intended to speak on a different text, but Psalm 139 kept coming back to mind. All I can say is that this is further evidence of the Father's kindness to his poor struggling child.

So while there may be merit to Invictus as a literary work, thanks but no thanks to its worldview. I still don't know what my future will hold, but I am glad to be reminded again of who is the real Master of my fate and the true Captain of my soul. And I praise him that he knows me. It's no wonder that David writes:
How precious also are Your thoughts to me, O God!
How great is the sum of them!
If I should count them, they would be more in number than the sand;
When I awake, I am still with You.

Update: Here is the link to Will Brown's sermon

Monday, January 14, 2019

Quotes of Note

Each Monday, we share quotes we found encouraging, convicting, thought-provoking, or all of the above.


A common refrain in contemporary discussions of gender roles asserts that the concept of complementarianism was invented in the 1980's by a para-ministry. However, several historical sources cite the philosophical and theological seeds of the concept to the early church, through Aquinas, and in other scholastic writers. Formally, Prudence Allen documented how the terminology was coined in the early 20th century:
"With the development of quantum physics, the naming in 1927 of the principle of complementarity by Niels Bohr, and the application of complementarity to the married relation of a woman and a man by Dietrich von Hildebrand in 1929, integration of the history of the concept of woman reached a new high point. The simultaneous relation of equal dignity and significant difference now had a  name: complementarity." - Prudence Allen, The Concept of Woman, Volume 3: The Search for Communion of Persons, 1500–2015.


This is another quote from Simonetta Carr's Broken Pieces and the God Who Mends Them:
As a wise friend explained to me, the best thing is to lay open our hearts to God, admit that we don’t know how to resolve the situation, and pray that in his providence he would direct events so that our children can get help without hurting themselves in the process.

With that in mind, I kept praying my bumbling prayers, trusting that God would, by his Spirit, decipher the cry of my soul (see Rom. 8:26). As the Heidelberg Catechism teaches, “It is even more sure that God listens to my prayer than that I really desire what I pray for.” God’s answer was not always what I wanted to hear, but I knew it was according to his will, and he always supplied me with sufficient comfort and strength.

Prayer is one of the great privileges that Christ has purchased for us with his blood—it gives us the ability to go to our Creator and call him Father, and it is in itself a comfort in the midst of all the thorns and thistles that have filled our lives since Adam’s sin. In fact, Christ is constantly interceding for us in heaven, even when we forget (or are too lazy) to pray. He will never leave us or forsake us (see Deut. 31:6; Heb. 13:5; see also Matt. 28:20).


I'm still reading Can We Trust the Gospels by Peter J. Williams, but I'm almost finished. Here's a quote from the last chapter, Who Would Make All This Up?:
There are many particulars in the Gospels that the authors would be unlikely to have invented. Although one can usually think of complex reasons why someone might invent them, those are not the simplest explanations. The simplest explanation is that these reports are true.  
The most obvious example is the shameful death of Jesus through crucifixion, which of course was the Romans' way of showing that they were in charge and the one crucified was a defeated failure. However, the Gospel writers record this event and many others that could seem embarrassing to their cause. All four Gospels tell of the leading disciple, Peter, three times denying that he knew Jesus. In all four Gospels the disciples are portrayed as lacking understanding and as disloyal at the key moment of Jesus's arrest. 
It's hard to envisage why either the disciples themselves or anyone who looked to them for leadership would make up such stories. It is also hard to see why anyone would write a Gospel that implies its dependence on the disciples for information and then invent such things about them. And this is not the limit of the difficulty. Passages critical of disciples are found in different sorts of Gospel material. For the core texts of Christianity to contain so much material critical of the first Christian leaders is unusual when considered against other religious or political movements. A simple interpretation is that the critical accounts of early leaders signal the trustworthiness of the sources.

Monday, January 7, 2019

Quotes of Note

Each Monday, we share quotes we found encouraging, convicting, thought-provoking, or all of the above.


I'm taking Apologetics this semester, and we are expected to read John Frame's Apologetics: A Justification of Christian Belief. I was really excited when I saw it on the syllabus. I have read quite a bit of John Frame's writing, and I have always found his arguments compelling. Frame argues from what is known as a presuppositional view. That means the idea of a purely neutral view is rejected. Classical apologetics works to prove God's existence by rational arguments. R.C. Sproul was a classical apologist.

In the opening chapter, Frame articulates his view that neutrality is not possible. Because we hold to the truth that Jesus is Lord, it will determine how we argue:
To tell the unbeliever that we can reason with him on a neutral basis, however that claim might help to attract his attention, it is a lie. Indeed, it is a lie of the most serious kind, for it falsifies the very heart of the gospel -- that Jesus Christ is Lord. There is no neutrality. Our witness is either God's wisdom or the world's foolishness. There is nothing in between. Even if neutrality were possible, that route would be forbidden to us. . . .  When I oppose neutrality, what I oppose is appealing to something other than God's revelation as the ultimate source of truth.


This quote is from Broken Pieces and the God Who Mends Them: Schizophrenia Through a Mother's Eyes by Simonetta Carr. The book will be released in February, and Lord willing, I will write a review here.
Almost mindlessly, the fatigued soldiers follow their king, step after step, their eyes still low. The fight is over, but walking back is still an arduous task. And yet it’s a task they can take on, step after step, as they remember that everything— the battle, the victory, the journey back and the prospects ahead—is not about them. Everything is for God’s glory. There is a larger story, much larger than any human plan and conjecture, as gripping and absorbing as these may be.

So I do the same. As impossible as letting go seems at this moment, I walk on, doing what I know God wants me to do right now—what he has always wanted me to do: trust him, worship him, and help others in the limited sphere of my ordinary life. And it’s there, in the ordinary steps of daily living, that I feel sustained. Doing dishes, cleaning floors, giving rides, teaching and translating, singing and worshiping with other believers on Sundays. This is all God is asking right now, and, by his grace, this I can do.


Here’s an interesting tidbit from Can We Trust the Gospels by Peter J. Williams:
According to the Gospels, Jesus spent much of his time by the Sea of Galilee. Sea is, of course, a rather grand word for a body of water just twenty-one kilometers (thirteen miles) in length, but from the perspective of any local Galilean who had not traveled far, this was the sea and did not need further description.
Williams goes on to tell us that Matthew used the word sea twelve time to refer to the Sea of Galilee. Mark used sea for the Sea of Galilee seventeen times, twice calling it specifically the Sea of Galilee, but
[o]therwise, it is simply “the sea.” This is what we would expect if Mark’s Gospel were written on the basis of information supplied to Mark by the fisherman Peter, for whom this would have been the sea par excellence.
But Luke?
Luke is rather different. It uses the word sea only three times and never in reference to a particular body of water. If, as is traditionally thought, Luke came from Antioch on the Orontes, not far from the Mediterranean, he certainly would not have thought of the tiny Sea of Galilee as the sea. He just calls it “the lake.”