Only Jesus Opens Blinded Eyes

I’ve been reading Charles C. Ryrie’s Basic Theology over the last year with my fellow McLean Bible Church Residents (second year Future Leaders). We meet monthly to discuss different theological topics and gain a solid understanding of where MBC stands doctrinally. I really appreciate that I have the opportunity to learn and grow in my understanding of Scripture – and it’s part of my job!

As this year has progressed, I’ve found myself always eager to dive into the next section of Ryrie’s book. I don’t always agree with him, but I’ve enjoyed skimming the surface of a lot of doctrinal topics this year and it’s built great anticipation in my heart for the coming three years I’ll spend in seminary.

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Article Review: “A Wife’s Testing Ground” – Jen Smidt

I read a great article today entitled “A Wife’s Testing Ground,” by Jen Smidt

She articulates well what I’m only just beginning to learn about the balance between being one with my husband but fully reliant on the Lord. It’s an interestingly complex situation. One particular sentence struck me – “There is no more heart revealing place for a wife than when her husband is vulnerable.” That is so true. When Josh is fearful, I feel afraid. When he seems vulnerable, I feel I am as well. If he’s not leading, I question venturing. If he’s discouraged, I struggle to have faith. I lean on him, I trust him, and often, I expect him to remain steadfast, stable, and strong so that I can be those things as well. However, while there areas of our marriage that Josh can support me in these ways, that’s not ultimately his role. And besides all of that, while he’s an incredible husband, he’ll never be perfect.

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One of the Reasons I Can’t Wait to Take Church History

I’m currently reading Charles C. Ryrie’s Basic Theology for tomorrow’s Resident Meeting and, as usual, I learned something new.

Here’s an excerpt of his chapter “The Worship of the Church,” that I found to be particularly interesting:

IV. THE DAY FOR CORPORATE WORSHIP

The New Testament church used Sunday as their day of corporate worship. They did this in spite of the fact that it was not a weekly holiday that people had free. Undoubtedly many Christian slaves were on call all day every day; yet they made time for corporate worship. (Ryrie, 499)

A. The Origin of the Lord’s Day

Though modern writers invariably attempt to emphasize the connection between the Lord’s Day and the Sabbath, the early church and the church Fathers did not make that emphasis. They did see a moral value in applying the Ten Commandments but made an exception of the fourth one concerning the Sabbath. Notice the absence of a Sabbath-Lord’s Day problem in Acts 15:29 and the clear teaching of the New Testament as to the end of the Mosaic Law, including the Ten Commandments (except as nine of them, all but the Sabbath one, are repeated in the epistles, 2 Cor. 3:7-11; Col. 2:16). The idea of a particular day for worship may have been connected with the Sabbath, but the particular day was unrelated to the Sabbath. (Ryrie, 499)

[T]he only explanation as to why the early church established a new day of worship unrelated to the Sabbath and the existing calendar was that Sunday was the day of the Lord’s resurrection. He not only arose on Sunday, but six post-Resurrection appearances were also on Sunday, and the Day of Pentacost when the body of Christ was formed fell on Sunday. Almost always the day is designated as the first day of the week (Matt. 28:1; Mark 16:2, 9; Luke 24:1; John 20:1, 19; Acts 20:7; 1 Cor. 16:2). In Revelation 1:10 it is called the Lord’s Day, a term similar to the Lord’s Supper (1 Cor. 11:20) and used by believers to protest and contrast the Emperor’s or Augustus’s Day. The Lord’s Day, then, is the first day of the week, the day of His resurrection, and the day used by believers to celebrate that greatest event in history. (Ryrie, 499)

B. The Distinctiveness of the Lord’s Day

Clearly the early church made this day distinct, for though they went to they synagogue services on the Sabbath they went to evangelize. When they met other believers it was on Sunday. Romans 14:5 does not mean that Christians did not distinguish the first day for worship. Rather Paul was exhorting them not to be pressured by the Jewish element in the church to observe or fast on certain days. (Ryrie, 500)

I had no idea! I had always thought that it was linked to the Sabbath. This is why knowledge of theology and church history are so vital for the church today. We need to know what we believe, why we do things, and how these traditions began. I can’t wait to get to seminary! Josh and I are registered for History of the Church to the Reformation and I’m really looking forward to it.

Change

Heraclitus of Ephesus, a Greek philospher said this: Πάντα ῥεῖ καὶ οὐδὲν μένει, meaning, “Everything flows, nothing stands still.”

He was quoted by Plato in Cratylus, and by Diogenes Laërtius in Lives of the Philosophers Book IX, section 8
Various translations of this saying are below, but all make the same point – that the only thing constant in life is that life is always changing.

Variant translations:
Everything flows and nothing stays.
Everything flows and nothing abides.
Everything gives way and nothing stays fixed.
Everything flows; nothing remains.
All is flux, nothing is stationary.
All is flux, nothing stays still.
All flows, nothing stays.
Nothing endures but change.
From Lives of the Philosophers by Diogenes Laertius
Variant translations:
There is nothing permanent except change.
Nothing is permanent except change.
The only constant is change.
Change is the only constant.
Change alone is unchanging.

Change alone is unchanging. That’s terrifying. As followers of Christ, we are constantly being called to change to conform more to the likeness of Christ. Sanctification is not an easy process.

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“Fighting Verses”

Feeling downcast, weary, or just plain unable to get through today?

Here are a few of my “fighting verses,” as I like to call them (and all emphasis is my own):

1 Cor. 15:58 – “Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.”

2 Cor. 4:7- – “ But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. So death is at work in us, but life in you.

 Since we have the same spirit of faith according to what has been written, ‘I believed, and so I spoke,’ we also believe, and so we also speak, knowing that he who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and bring us with you into his presence. For it is all for your sake, so that as grace extends to more and more people it may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God. So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.”

Hebrews 12 – please, please read this chapter. It is so relevant to any situation you may be encountering right now that may be causing you to doubt, particularly verses 12-13: “Therefore, lift your drooping hands and strengthen your knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint, but rather be healed.” This whole chapter is an incredible follow up to the chapter just before it – Hebrews 11, where we learn about the amazing faith given to the fathers of our faith! I encourage you to live in and meditate on these chapters for as long as it takes for your heart to gain strength!

Also, Romans 4 is the first place I head to when I need to be reminded of what faith in action looks like. I draw incredible strength from the life of Abraham. I want to have the kind of faith that we see evident in his life. I want what was said of him to be said of me as well: “But he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised” (Romans 4:20-21).

You Need to Hang Out With Married People…

I’m not just saying that because I am married, I promise.

Josh and I had the opportunity to hang out with an incredible young family last Tuesday night and it really impacted me. It’s remarkable how much you can learn in a short amount of time as you watch a couple interact with one another, interact with their child(ren), and talk about marriage. They took precious time out if their schedule to serve us by making us dinner and sharing their home and lives with us for an evening. We talked about our families, our ministries, theology, and much more. They encouraged us that marriage and ministry do get easier – if only because you grow in unity as a couple and the Lord continues to refine you. Those three or four short hours had a long-term effect on my heart. I’m still thinking about our conversation and what they had to teach us about marriage, even a week later.

Unfortunately, it’s all too easy to stay within our comfortable friend groups made up of people in a similar life stage or age range. However, when you keep your social circle limited to a particular group or age range, you deprive yourself of an important segment of the body of Christ. And even more importantly, you might be limiting opportunities for you to grow and mature in your faith.

Let me challenge you to spend time with people who aren’t just like you. Get outside of what is comfortable or convenient. Spend time with younger children and elderly people. If you are single, spend time with married people. To those of you who are married, invite single people into your home. Serve them. Show them the realities of marriage, coupled with the blessing of covenant. Reflect the Gospel with your life.

The rewards will be great – both for those who step outside of their normal friend group as well as for those who welcome new friends in.

Together for the Gospel 2012

I highly recommend that you head over to www.t4g.org to listen to all of the main sessions from #T4G2012. The theme was The Underestimated Gospel and the messages were AMAZING! I’m still working my way through all of them, but based on what I’ve seen from Twitter and heard from Josh, you will not be disappointed.

Let me know what you think! I’ll be posting more of my thoughts as I am able to get through each sermon, so check back soon!

Jim Newheiser – “Why (and How) I Get Up on Monday Mornings”

It’s always good to start your Monday morning with a good, gospel-centered article on why and how you should face another potentially grueling week of ministry. This article was really encouraging to me this morning and I hope it will encourage you as well!

Here’s an excerpt of what Jim had to say:

“So, when Monday morning rolls around, I may initially groan about my physical and even my spiritual weakness, but I will get out of bed anticipating what God will do for His own glory through His Word in the lives of our counselees and trainees. Time and time again, I have been amazed to see Him use my “weakest” state and seemingly ‘foolish’ choice of days to confound me and my counselees with the glories of powerful gospel change.”

If you are interested in reading further on counseling or need counseling resources, I highly recommend that you check out The Biblical Counseling Coalition’s blog. Another great counseling resource is Biblical Counseling for Women.

Join the Conversation

When you’re exhausted, what motivates and empowers you for ministry?

How do you begin your week?

Leave a comment – I’d love to hear from you!

A Desire to be Comfortable and the Call to Suffering

This past week has been one of the best weeks I’ve had with the Lord in a long while. You know how sometimes you are so stuck in yourself and your situation that you can’t see clearly where the Lord is taking you? All too often that is the state of my heart. I allow my heart to get caught up in all of the “what ifs” and “I can’ts.” Maybe it’s just me that’s this hardhearted, forgetful, and stubborn, but I’m so thankful that the Lord is willing to continue to speak to my heart and reinforce His message everywhere I turn. After going through a season of confusion and doubt, I can often see proof that the Lord’s been working on my heart for a long while but I haven’t had ears to hear or eyes to see what the Lord has been working to reveal.

I often identify with Jesus’ apostle Peter. This is the guy who Jesus referred to as “a rock” in Matthew 16:18, but who though he was willing to get out of a boat and walk on water to Jesus, eventually faltered as he took his eyes off of Jesus to look at the situation surrounding him. The cool part of these stories to me is that Jesus didn’t call Peter a rock and say He would use him to build His Church BEFORE He saw all of Peter’s weaknesses in Matthew 14. No, Jesus’ statement about Peter came in Matthew 16, even after he faltered on the water. Jesus knows our weaknesses. He knows my heart’s tendency to wander. He knows my tendency to take my eyes off of Him. He knows of my desire to stay safe and dry in the boat. And He still wants to use me.

I had a startling revelation on Monday. I was watching C.J. Mahaney’s T4G2012 talk “The Sustaining Power of The Gospel,” and the Lord made so many different things click into place in my heart. I realized that all of the confusion I’ve been feeling lately is a direct result of unbelief that has taken up residence in my heart. Like the Israelites of old, I’ve made myself comfortable with where I am and I’ve become unwilling to venture out, even in response to God’s call. I’ve forgotten the perfection of God’s provision. I’ve convinced myself that suffering isn’t inevitable and that security lies exactly where I am right now. I’ve let fear of the future and the failures of the past convince me that God isn’t faithful. Me, the girl whose favorite attribute of God is His faithfulness. I took my eyes off of Him and didn’t even want to venture out. I desired comfort more than I desired Christ.

Mahaney’s talk was phenomenal. If you are in ministry, you MUST listen to it. If you’re close to giving up, you MUST listen to it. If you need to remember His faithfulness, you MUST listen to it. If you need an eternal perspective, you MUST listen to it. The entire sermon was phenomenal but his second point was the one that penetrated my heart – the Apostle Paul understood that the context and condition of Christian ministry is suffering. His text was 2 Corinthians 4:1-18, and he referenced verses 7-12 as he stated that “the proclamation of the gospel, by definition, involves persecution, suffering, trials, afflictions, bewilderment, being struck down, etc.”

And this sentence is the one that changed everything: “You need to have this theology of suffering in place, before you experience these things, or you will be blindsided.”

It’s not supposed to be easy. Life isn’t easy, just as marriage isn’t easy (see Marriage is Nothing Like a Hallmark Card). We’re not called to the American dream. And God made it this way on purpose. Despite my desire to be safe, secure, and comfortable, God is calling me to suffer. And what makes it all worthwhile is that “these realities have a divine design. They are purposeful. Each of these times of hardship is an opportunity to show His power… when [others] watch you in suffering, they want to see if the Gospel makes a difference.” He is developing our character, building our witness, and bringing Himself glory.

It is the grace of God that enables us to follow His call. His Spirit can penetrate even the hardest of hearts, strengthen the weakest of knees, and illuminate the darkest of paths. This week I’ve been encouraged by Paul’s theology of suffering, his expectations of ministry, and by his eternal perspective that is captured for us in 2 Corinthians 4:16-18: “So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing us for an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.”

Take heart today! Be willing to step out in faith to follow God’s calling on your life. Our current (or future) suffering, when compared with future glory, is completely worth whatever hardships may come our way. The Apostle Paul even goes so far as to say that there is no comparison with the eternal glory that will come as our reward!

Contentment

But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain that we can carry nothing out.” – 1Timothy 6:6-7

I just searched this site for the number of times I’ve tagged a post with the word “contentment.” I found that despite the fact that contentment is something the Lord is constantly teaching me, I found only four previous posts (if interested, you can find them here). Recently, the Lord has convicted me about how frequently my heart wanders into discontentment, as well as the constant comparisons that I make of myself to others.

The area where I find myself most vulnerable to comparisons and discontentment is no longer the mall or when I’m flipping through a J.Crew catalog, though those are still avenues of temptation for me to lust for things. Rather, I’ve found that several of the greatest areas of temptation for my heart in this current season involve social media sites.

Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest, among others, provide a unique environment for online community. They, like many other social media sites, have made it possible for friends and family members to stay connected, despite living on different sides of the country or even on different continents. I often catch myself heading to my sister’s Facebook page so that I can view new photos of my ten-month-old niece. They live in Los Angeles, but thanks to Facebook and FaceTime, I’ve been able to be a part of my baby niece’s life! There are so many other positive uses for social media. We aggregate news, we are inspired to pursue causes of justice and mission, and we pursue a myriad of various interests through social media. The possibilities are truly endless. I’ve made numerous Pinterest-inspired recipes and craft projects. However, despite all of the positive opportunities that Facebook and other social media sites provide, I have recently realized that there is another inherent opportunity in the use and consumption of social media – the temptation and opportunity to covet and compare.

This temptation is not new. God commanded the Israelites in Exodus 20:17 “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male servant, or his female servant, or his ox, or his donkey, or anything that is your neighbor’s.” We all have a proclivity to want what we do not have and Facebook and Pinterest tend to make us much more aware of what is not ours. They bring the whole world to our fingertips! While looking through my News Feed, I’ve found myself comparing my body, my vacations, my family, my home, my job, my marriage, and my friendships to those of my closest 1,028 friends on Facebook. And it doesn’t stop there! You can literally compare every detail of your life to the details of others’ lives that they post for all to see!

I experienced the incredible danger of these comparisons this past fall as I settled into marriage. I had several friends on Facebook, whom had also recently been married, and I found myself in a constant state of comparing myself and my marriage to these women and their new husbands. I wondered if my marriage wasn’t as good as their marriages if I wasn’t also receiving flowers or love notes with the same frequency as the other new wives. Or if I wasn’t cooking for my husband as much as they were. Facebook opened a door into others’ routine lives and relationships that made me feel as though my life and my relationship were somehow inferior. I found myself coveting. I wanted my husband to be more like theirs. Likewise, while Pinterest is super fun (and addicting), even I have “Fitness” and “Fashion” boards. Is it full of exercises that I think would be helpful and outfit ideas that I love? Yes. But it’s also full of images that fill my heart and mind with what culture says I should look like. And sadly, all too often I fall prey to their perspective. And so do many other women. In fact, even the news media has been reporting on Pinterest’s “anorexia problem.”

I’m sure that I compare myself and what I have been given to other people and their possessions even more often without realizing it, but thankfully, the Lord revealed this sin in my heart last fall, before I allowed it to poison my new marriage. I have to constantly remember and reflect on why I entered into marriage in the first place – because God had led me to this specific man and no other! Likewise, I have had to consistently meditate on 1 Peter 3:3-4: “Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear— but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious.

I want to encourage you to take a look at your heart today. Look at where you may have allowed discontentment, jealousy, and covetousness to creep in as you have observed your friends’ lives or dreamed of new clothing, a perfect body, and what your future house could look like. Meditate on Romans 12:2: “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” Please let God Himself define perfection for you. And don’t be lured into thinking that God hasn’t given you exactly what you need. Thank God for where He has placed you specifically – and remember that He is sovereign and that He has determined not just when you would live, but also “the boundaries of your dwelling place!” (Acts 17:26).

And lastly, please place a guard on your heart and do not allow yourself to be lulled back into discontentment. As 1 Timothy 6:6-7 says, “godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain that we can carry nothing out.”