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.

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!

Lectures to My Students, by Charles Spurgeon

I haven’t had the chance to read Spurgeon’s Lectures to My Students, but it comes highly recommended by many pastors and seminarians that I know!

And it’s FREE online! You can download four PDFs here!

If you get the chance, download them to your Kindle, your iPhone, or just read them online! And let me know what you think!

Character Close Up: The Proverbs 31 Woman

I wish we knew her name… but there’s probably a reason we don’t.

So often Christian women hear that they should be just like the Proverbs 31 woman, but are so intimidated by the passage that they never pursue that goal purposefully.So instead we do to her what we do to so many other women – we compare ourselves to her.

Seriously, who do you know who actually lives like that? I’ve always been pretty overwhelmed by this passage personally. She seems to be the unattainable goal. For a long time, in my mind, I evaluated the Proverbs 31 woman the same way I would a Barbie doll. She sounds like “perfect woman,” and though she sounds amazing,  I’ve often flipped back and forth between wanting to be just like her and then wondering if I even wanted to try.

And if you’re like me – big dreams, a strong personality, ample will, and a desire to change the world, this chapter might inspire fear in your heart. You might begin to wonder if there’s something wrong with you if the majority of this passage doesn’t sound appealing or sound like it matches the dreams you have for your life. However, the truth about the Proverbs 31 woman is that she is strong (vs. 25). But the woman who desires to be like her has to recognize that she cannot accomplish the things that the Proverbs 31 woman did in her own strength. Instead, all that she is and does must flow out of her relationship with Christ.

I love the way that Josh Harris taught on the Proverbs 31 Woman in Fall 2009 at Covenant Life Church. You can listen to his message here. The high points are below, but I strongly encourage you to listen to what he has to say about the life of a godly woman.

Context of Proverbs 31:

1. It was written by a mother to her son (vs. 1). Thus, it’s not a man’s view of “the perfect woman,” it’s a mother telling her son what kind of attributes to look for in a wife.

2. It’s an acrostic poem (beginning in vs. 10 – A-Z characteristics of a godly woman). It’s a poetic expression of how godly wisdom plays out in the life of a woman.

3. “It’s not a demanding description of every characteristic you should embody. No, it is a joyful celebration of womanly excellence, resourcefulness, and skill.”

4. “These characteristics are like a person stringing pearls on a necklace” – John Piper. God is describing the unbounded potential of a godly woman.

4 Characteristics of a Valiant Woman:

1. She fears the Lord. This is what is most important (vs. 30). “This is the key quality that holds up everything else about her. She has placed God as the center of her life. This is the starting point of wisdom.”

– Read the rest of Proverbs 31 and understand that this verse is the context for how she accomplishes the rest of her life.

– The fear of the Lord is the quality that really matters. This is the non-negotiable. The other qualities and characteristics will vary by woman, but the fear of the Lord must be present.

– Proverbs 31 is not a list of all the household chores a woman has to do. It’s a description of what wisdom in motion looks like in the life of a godly woman. It’s wisdom applied. This is what knowing and loving God unleashes in the life of a woman who loves God.

2. She is others-centered. What she does, she is not just doing for her own gain. What she does is motivated by a desire to be a blessing to others around her. Her life is interwoven with the community around her and she is spending herself for the benefit of others. It’s not about a certain list of activities. It’s all about your heart before God and your motivation for doing things. She courageously turns her back on independence and selfishness.

3. She is capable. These capabilities go beyond mere abilities. She’s been educated and has cultivated her mind in different ways. 1 Peter 4:10

4. She is influential. Proverbs 31 shows us a woman who has incredible power. Her godliness, her example, and her determination serves and influences others. She exerts an amazing influence on the world around her (vs. 28-29). She influences and teaches others with her words – her life gives her a platform to teach others – “She opens her mouth with wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue” (vs. 26). Such women are desperately needed to teach and disciple those who are coming up behind them in the church (Titus 2).

I think that my favorite parts of this passage are found in vs. 10-12:

The heart of her husband trusts in her, and he will have no lack of gain (vs. 11)

She does him good and not harm, all the days of her life (vs. 12)

vs. 10-12: These verses make a statement about the rarity of this kind of woman. This woman possesses “competent strength.” “There’s nothing wilting in this description. This is a strong woman. Womanhood, according to God’s Word, can and should be strong, even valiant. The word ‘valiant,’ means ‘strong and determined.'”

Based upon this understanding, the Proverbs 31 woman is a woman that I want to strive to be just like. It’s not about doing what she did. It’s about learning to fear the Lord the way she did… pursuing a heart like she had. This passage isn’t about DOING. It’s about BEING.

In addition, this understanding of her makes it okay for me to be me. It makes it okay for me to be passionate, determined, strong, and intelligent. And I can’t really explain the kind of relief that this understanding brings, but suffice it to say that the understanding that God created me this way with purpose brings great joy. Each believer should desire and pursue to fear the Lord, to be others-centered, to be capable, and to be influential. It should be part of our DNA as Christ-followers.

And now, the question is how. How do we attain this sort of spiritual strength? The Gospel. It’s because of Christ and His grace that we, as women, can be like this woman that we see in Proverbs 31. It’s in committing our life to Christ and in striving to live for His glory that our hearts are transformed to the point that we can live this passage out well.

Living the Cross Centered Life

C.J. Mahaney’s book Living the Cross Centered Life is incredible. Basically, he articulates in clear and profound ways all that the Lord has been walking me through in my relationship with Him throughout the past year or so.

I love the questions he asks… Questions like, “What’s really the main thing in your life? Only one thing can truly be first in priority; so what’s at the top of your list, second to none? […] What are you most passionate about? What do you love to talk about? What do you think about most when your mind is free? […] What is it that defines you? Is it your career? A relationship? Maybe it’s your family, or your ministry. It could be some cause or movement, or some political affiliation…” (13)

The Apostle Paul tells us that the Gospel is the only essential thing for our lives – “Now I would remind you brothers, of the gospel I preached to you… For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received; that Christ died for our sins.” (1 Cor. 15:1,3)

What an introduction. And that’s only the first page. Trust me – you need a copy of this book. The foreword warned that it is “nothing less than a manifesto for turning your world upside down” (9) and boy, is it correct.

We all want to say that it’s our relationship with Christ that defines us. Most of the time I firmly believe that the Gospel is the thing I love the most… the thing I lean on and cling to; the thing I strive to remember and reflect on constantly. I talk about it daily and it is always my goal to live out the Gospel to those that I interact with and lead. But does it hold the foremost place in my heart and in life? Do I love HIM most?

I’m also currently reading Gospel Coach by Scott Thomas and Tom Wood and today I read one of the most convicting things that I have ever read:

“The tricky thing about idolatry is that it is usually the pursuit of something that is otherwise good…Idolatry is enslavement to something we love… it’s a good thing that is elevated to a god thing […] a sin becomes an idol when we hold it in greater value than we value Jesus for our ultimate joy and satisfaction” (68)

This has led me to ask the following questions:

Where in my life do I pursue Christ as a means to an end? Where is merely who He is not enough for my ultimate joy and satisfaction?

Is there an area of my heart that I’m enslaved to something I love? If so, what is it?

Asking these questions is absolutely critical if I’m to live a Christ-centered life. I don’t have all the answers to them yet, but I know that I desire for the Gospel to be the thing that I’m most passionate about. I want it to color the way I look at each circumstance I walk through and every relationship I’m a part of. I want the Holy Spirit to constantly be transforming me into the image of the Son – all to bring Him glory and spread His name.

Mahaney says that “in the Scriptures we discover a profound urgency for focusing all we are and everything we do around the gospel of the cross. For not only does this good news come first chronologically in our Christian experience, but it stays foremost in critical importance for creating and sustaining our joy and our fruitfulness” (15).

I’m learning that once you fall in love with the Gospel the next step is to make your life match (be worthy of) the weight of the Gospel and Scripture. And I think that the first step in doing so is actually establishing Christ as first. Making Him my ultimate joy and expecting that He’ll make a beautiful thing of me.

walking with Christ: uncertainty wrapped within total security

I’m learning to love the uncertainty that’s wrapped within total security and certainty.

Sounds crazy, right? But that’s what faith is all about. And faith is what enables us to walk with Christ. I said that in an e-mail to a friend the other day and after I reread what I had written, I realized that it is a perfect description of my relationship with Christ. The only light I have is the light I’m given. The only revelation I have is what’s been revealed. We see only because we are given sight. Everything is unknown and everything is uncertain except for the fact that all of that is unimportant and meaningless because I’m carried by sovereign grace.

Funny how God uses random things to speak to us very clearly, right when we least expect it. I read an article today that totally hit home:

http://www.boundless.org/2005/articles/a0002224.cfm

Think about this dialog for a minute and let the meaning sink in –

“‘I’d say you’re wrestling with God.’

‘What?’

‘Brother, God’s ways are beyond us,’ said Pablo. ‘So when He lets hurt into our lives, we have to revise our opinion of the nice Man Upstairs who just wants us to be happy.’

‘That’s not what I think about God —’

‘Well, you’re pretty ticked about this one —’

‘Because I thought God was good,” spat Andrew. “And there’s not much ‘good’ in losing the girl I thought I was gonna marry.’

‘So the Lord’s only good when you get what you want?’

‘No, but a good God wouldn’t — lie to me, OK? I really believe He said —’

‘Brother, before you call Him a liar —’

‘Fine, then I have no ability to understand His will for me. And that’s almost as bad.’

Pablo sighed heavily. ‘Brother, we can talk about God’s will,” he said. “But that’s not the real issue here. Are you willing to wrestle with God — to stay with Him until you know Him more; to figure out what He’s doing? Or are you going to run because He doesn’t fit your ideas?'”

To me, that says that if I keep searching, chasing, and running after truth, truth will be revealed. And we need it to be revealed because something C.S. Lewis said is very true – “Christianity, if false, is of no importance, and if true, of infinite importance. The only thing it cannot be is moderately important. ” Similarly, Scriptural doctrine is of infinite importance… it’s worth wrestling with God to know Him in a more intimate way.

Isaiah 42:16 is a remarkable promise: “I will lead the blind by ways they have not known, along unfamiliar paths I will guide them; I will turn the darkness into light before them and make the rough places smooth. These are things I will do; I will not forsake them.”

We can never be forsaken!

Women and the Church, Part II

Excerpts from “The Woman of Valor” by Josh Harris (all emphasis mine):

“Women when you read this passage [Proverbs 31], you need to read it with humility and with faith. Humility in understanding that it’s not all about you and that He is already aware of your deficiencies. And read it with faith, believing that God has good for you in His Word. And there’s joy and blessing that comes as you study His Word. The question I encourage you to ask when you study this passage is ‘What does God want to accomplish through this passage in me?'”

“Proverbs 31 is not a demanding description of every characteristic you should perfectly embody. No, it is a joyful celebration of womanly excellence. Resourcefulness and skill.”

“Proverbs 31 is not a list of all the household chores a woman has to do. It’s a description of what wisdom in motion looks like in the life of a Godly woman… This is what knowing and loving God unleashes in the life of a woman: diligence, service, creativity, boldness, and influence.”

“This woman exemplifies competent strength and these are qualities that every woman, married or single can seek to cultivate… There’s nothing wilting in this description. This is a strong woman. We see that womanhood, according to God’s word, can and should be strong, even valiant. This word valiant means courageous and determined and you sense that as you look at her life – she is throwing herself into different activities.”

Four Characteristics of a Godly Woman:

1. She fears the Lord (Prov. 31:30) – “this is the most vital, essential thing to know about the Godly woman. It’s the key thing that holds up everything else about her – she has placed God at the center point of her life.” She stands in awe of God.

2. She gives her life away (Prov. 31:12, 15, 18, 20) – Proverbs 31 honors a woman who lives an 0thers-centered life. “The point of Godly womanhood is not about a list of activities… it’s all about your heart before God and your motivation for doing them.”

3. She is capable (Prov. 31:13, 14, 26) – She has cultivated skills and has worked to develop these capabilities. This chapter shows the fruit of her faithfulness over the years – this chapter doesn’t show her failures, but definitely occurred over the course of her lifetime.

4. She is influential (Prov. 31:28) – Proverbs 31 shows us a woman who has incredible power – she exerts an amazing influence on the world around her.

___________________________________________________________________________________________

So, the take away?

Well – firstly, be encouraged – God made women with purpose, something I have to sometimes continuously keep in mind. It’s easy to become discouraged, disillusioned, and angry because of the verses we find regarding women in Scripture. But actually, we have a very vital role to play (despite the confusion regarding what that actually looks like in the local Church). We’re half of an amazing, God-ordained partnership – necessary and irreplaceable in the covenant relationship of marriage that God has ordained.

Genesis 2:20-24: “But for Adam there was not found a helper fit for him. 21So the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. 22And the rib that the LORD God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man. 23Then the man said,

‘This at last is bone of my bones
and flesh of my flesh;
she shall be called Woman,
because she was taken out of Man.’

24 Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.”

(and that point will be an entirely different post at some point because I have a remarkable book on the topic of what it means to be a “helper” or “helpmeet” based on the Hebrew word)

Secondly, as 2 Timothy 3:16-17 says, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.” These verses are FOR us… for our sanctification and maturity in Christ. They’re not to constrain us – they’re to bring us joy.

Our job is to do what Josh Harris suggests above – ask ‘What does God want to accomplish through this passage in me?’ Beg the Holy Spirit to make passages such as 1 Corinthians 14:34-5, Titus 2:3-6, and 1 Timothy 2:11-15 clear to you. I know that’s what I’m doing… I can’t even begin to make complete sense of the combination above on my own, so today I’m trusting that God’s sovereignty will prevail and that He will make His will and purposes for the above Scripture clear to me. As long as I’m striving to walk in humility and seek truth in Scripture, I’m on the right path.

Women and the Church

So, on to another step in my journey of theological discovery: The Role of Women in the local Church

http://www.covlife.org/resources/3499575-The_Woman_of_Valor

This is definitely one of the best sermons I’ve ever heard on Proverbs 31 and I’m revisiting it today in effort to really understand God’s heart toward women and our role in the body of Christ and the local Church.

Since the Proverbs 31 woman is always extolled as being – the – example of a Godly woman, one who fears the Lord, honors the spiritual authority in her life, and is who we should want to be like, it stands to reason we should start with her.

Join me!

Does God’s Intent Equal His Will

Recently I’ve been thinking and studying a lot about the will of God. I’ve been seeking to understand how we know it, how we follow it, and whether or not it changes (i.e. God himself never changes, but does His will?).

I want to know whether our prayers change Him or change us, and if both happen, why. I see in Scripture that prayers seemingly change both God and man, but are the prayers placed in us by God first?

Essentially, I guess I want to understand all of the secrets of God and life, in a nutshell.

Today, while reading in Jeremiah 18, I ran across verses 1-11 and it appears here that our repentance or disobedience play a large part in the incongruities between God’s intent and His will.

For example – verses 9-10 – “And if at any time I declare concerning a nation or kingdom that I will build and plant it, and if it does evil in my sight, not listening to my voice, then I will relent of the good that I had intended to do it.”

Very interesting, especially in light of the fact that it appears through Scripture that God molds and shapes the hearts of men (Romans 9). So why would God declare something that was not to be? And does he ‘relent’ on His ‘intent’ or does He passionately pursue His own will?

Ahhh… Headache. Your thoughts?