Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Theology Reading Group

When our Women's Ministry Team began talking about having a monthly discussion of Housewife Theologian: How the Gospel Interrupts the Ordinary, we were unsure of what to call it.

Bible study was obviously out, even though we use the book as a guide for a systematic study on the issues confronting women today; Bible study is just that, studying the Bible. (Jen Wilkin recently wrote a fantastic post about Bible study and Bible literacy).

Book club was also a misnomer. We wanted our time together, and the time spent reading between meetings, to be so much more than that.

I think we landed on book study because it was somewhere in the middle. (And it was late and we were tired.)

Then I read Eric Bancroft's post entitled "The Joy of Theology Reading Groups". Bancroft's words struck a chord in my heart, perfectly outlined my hopes for our group.

I wanted to see the people entrusted to my care know their God better and live lives reflecting joyful devotion to him. I wanted that for myself too. I also wanted to provide an environment where Christians would enjoy discussing truth and working out its implications together. In other words, the goal of a theology reading group is to get people reading, thinking, talking, and living in light of God's revelation.
And so we borrowed Bancroft's label. We formed a theology reading group.

I was flabbergasted at the response. One of our elders and his wife offered their home to us. Our pastor demonstrated his support, which was itself a tremendous grace to me. We had our first meeting earlier this month. As I gazed around at the faces of women in all different stages of life, I was struck by the goodness of the Lord. To see these ladies and teenage girls gathered to learn more about theology - to pursue, as Bancroft wrote, lives reflecting joyful devotion to him - warmed my soul. I was overwhelmed at such grace the Lord bestowed upon me by granting one of the desires of my heart.

To lead this theology reading group is both a privilege and a responsibility. I take neither lightly. The words of Titus 2:7 ring in my ears: Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, dignity.

I pray that the Lord will enable me to be a woman of integrity and dignity for my family, my theology reading group, and in this space  - all for His glory.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Thoughts on This, Good Friday

Under the Old Testament law more than 1,200,000 lambs were sacrificed every day. 6,000,000 animals were sacrificed on the first day of the month (see Numbers 26:2, 51; Numbers 28:1-3, 11).  The priests must have been covered in blood. Did their hands ever come clean? Yet the carnage wasn't sufficient; it wasn't meant to be. The animal sacrifice merely pointed to the ultimate sacrifice that would come.

John the Baptist recognized it.
The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! (John 1:29)
The Jewish leaders, Jesus' followers and His disciples did not. They didn't understand that redemption would require a far greater sacrifice.
Therefore he is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance, since a death has occurred that redeems them from the transgressions committed under the first covenant.For where a will is involved, the death of the one who made it must be established. For a will takes effect only at death, since it is not in force as long as the one who made it is alive. Therefore not even the first covenant was inaugurated without blood. For when every commandment of the law had been declared by Moses to all the people, he took the blood of calves and goats, with water and scarlet wool and hyssop, and sprinkled both the book itself and all the people, saying, "This is the blood of the covenant that God commanded for you.” And in the same way he sprinkled with the blood both the tent and all the vessels used in worship. Indeed, under the law almost everything is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins. (Hebrews 9:15-22)
We couldn't inherit the promise without the blood of the Spotless Lamb. His death was horrific, unimaginable. Yet, as Luther so eloquently writes, Jesus had an "inexpressible and unendurable yearning" that caused Him to suffer death for us. (source)  Jesus "came intentionally to be the true Lamb of God, the Passover Lamb. He came to be the Scape-goat on whom the iniquities of the people were to be laid." (J.C. Ryle, source).

Oh! how we need that Scape-goat! We remain dead in our sins apart from new life in Christ. Nothing dead can bring itself back to life. There is no way for us to resuscitate ourselves. Has a corpse ever done such a thing?  We died the spiritual death as we drew our first breath; it was no less real, no more temporary than physical death. All hope was lost. 
But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us,even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus. (Ephesians 2:4-6)
 Although Satan thought he had gained sure victory at Calvary, "[h]e did not realize, and this is the devil's greatest blunder, that by bringing the Son of God to the cross he was defeating himself and bringing about his own ultimate doom." (Martyn Lloyd-Jones, source)  As the Apostle Paul writes, by His death Jesus put Satan to shame and triumphed over him.
And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him. (Colossians 2:13-15)
As I contemplate the cross this Good Friday, I am filled with wonder, humility and gratitude unspeakable. By His grace, Easter means more to me than chocolate bunnies, colorful eggs, and new church clothes; it is a memorial of the most scandalous crime ever committed and the most amazing victory ever accomplished.

Wishing you a glorious Easter weekend.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Around the House: April

The long winter has finally loosened its grasp. Spirits climb with the temperatures. New life bursts forth in a bright rainbow of colors, yellowed by a heavy dusting of pollen. In these early days of Spring, I am

Reading some fantastic books, none of which were on my original list for 2014. Our Theology Reading Group didn't start until last week. While I'm waiting for the group to catch up with the topics I've already focused on in my extra-curricular reading, I'm enjoying some other titles: Authority by Martyn Lloyd-Jones (because I've never been disappointed by his writing) and Exodus: Saved for God's Glory by Philip Graham Ryken (because my pastor is preaching through Exodus).  In this season, I'm closing the day with Nancy Guthrie's Jesus, Keep Me Near the Cross: Experiencing the Passion and Power of Easter. I'll soon go back to Women of the New Testament: 30 Devotional Messages for Women's Groups by Abraham Kuyper.

Realizing that there is an inversely proportional relationship between the time I spend reading books and the enjoyment I find in social media.

Finding that limiting my social media consumption has many benefits. I confess that on my "unplugged days" I often find myself wondering what's going on in the virtual world. I'm praying God will stifle that curiousity and redirect it to ministering to my family and friends.

Noticing how much more intentional I am when I'm not concerned with social media.

Thinking that after my last two forays into fiction, I need to limit my reading to novels written before 1960. Contemporary works, for the most part, leave me wanting. I have found a few exceptions, but they are scarce.

Savoring sweet fellowship and community in our church home. We've just marked one year since we first visited this gathering of believers. I'm amazed at what the Lord has done by bringing us into this family, yet it has not been a perfectly smooth transition. Not living in the same physical community is a hindrance, an obstacle that is especially difficult to surmount when we're weary of driving. Building new relationships requires time and effort, which has been contrary to my impatient and introverted spirit. We're beginning to see the fruits, and I praise God for what He has wrought this past year.

Pondering this post written by my friend, Lisa. It was a great encouragement to me when she wrote it, as we were just coming into our small body of believers. It remains an encouragement today.

Adjusting to sitting in the passenger seat while my girl is in the driver's seat.

Rejoicing in the start of our Theology Reading Group. More to come on that later!

Checking out various cookbooks from the library in search of kitchen inspiration. Any ideas?

Still trying, by God's grace, to live a quiet and intentional life that brings honor and glory to Him.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

How Easily I Forget

I avoided getting a smart phone for years, but I finally gave in last month. It didn't take long for me to get sucked into the world of apps and games, not to mention constant access to Facebook, Twitter, and email. With just a couple of taps, I could be "up to the minute" on everything.

And that became a problem.

My self-centered, worldly heart soon became enraptured with this bit of technology in my palm. I quickly lost my resolve to reduce the noise. I found that I had little time or attention to give to books. Shamefully, I didn't find the Word as appealing as the latest happening in the cyberworld.

The Lord, in His infinite grace, has convicted me - again - about the amount of time I give to social media, its monologues and diatribes. The truth is, nearly everyone has an opinion on nearly every event and conceivable topic out there. That's not necessarily a bad thing. But placing a priority on others' opinions isn't always to my ultimate benefit. In fact, I have been guilty of being so caught up in the latest topic that I neglect my calling.

Once again I find myself purging my Twitter, Facebook, and blog reader feeds. And I'm instituting some guidelines for my social media usage:

~I will be unplugged more days than not. I've already tried to be mostly unplugged on the weekends, but now I will add two additional "social-media free" days to each week. On the other days, I won't log in until after I've accomplished certain goals for the day, and I'll be off-line after dinner.

~I will use "mark all read" more often. I don't need to read every blog post, status update or tweet my friends post. The world will keep spinning if I don't chime in once in a while.

These are goals. I probably won't achieve them overnight, but I know I need to continually evaluate social media's place in my life. When I returned from my break in December, I had no idea how easily I would sink back into the quagmire; however, that's exactly what occured. I too quickly forgot the lessons I learned. I don't want that to happen again.