Posted on Monday, July 06, 2015 by Aimee Byrd on Housewife Theologian
I love reading Simonetta Carr’s Christian Biographies for Young Readers. The books in this series highlight those who have persevered in the faith. Some are familiar names, like all the “Johns:” John Calvin, John Owen, John Knox, and Jonathan Edwards. But Carr has also written on some lesser known saints such as Lady Jane Grey. I was eager to read her latest on Marie Durand because I knew little about this French Protestant from the 18th century.
 
One thing that I appreciate about Carr’s writing is that she doesn’t debone it. What I mean is, she doesn’t take out all of the inconvenient truths and stumbling blocks that most children’s authors would remove for easy digestion. Carr tells is like was and leaves the reader faced with some of the same perplexities as the Christian figures in her books. Our faith isn’t in people or in present blessings, but in Jesus Christ our Lord and the resurrection life to come. Carr’s biographies showcase how this truth helped God’s people to endure in some of the worst of circumstances. I am reminded of our great cloud of witnesses in Hebrews 11, “These all died in the faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar” (Heb. 11:13).  
 
Carr opens up with a killer hook, “Born in the enchanting region between the Rheine River and the Massif Central Mountains in Southern France, Marie Durand chose to spend most of her life in a dark, unhealthy prison rather than follow a religion she considered contrary to the teachings of Christ” (4). Carr then gives the background of the tension between the French Protestants and the Roman Catholic monarchy, including a time Protestants were allowed to worship according to their conscience under the rule of King Henry IV, his great grandson revoking that law that protected Protestants after his grandfather’s death, and the following war of rebellion. By the time Marie was born in 1711, her family had to worship in secret.
 
Her brother Pierre became a Protestant pastor and also a wanted man. Sadly, because the authorities could not find Pierre, they imprisoned his family. At the age of 19, the newly engaged Marie was sent to the Tower of Constance, “an ancient building that had been used as a watchtower and prison,” simply for being the sister of a Protestant pastor (20). She was never to see her fiancé again. The rest of the book unfolds the dreadful living conditions that Marie endured with about twenty-five other female prisoners for the next thirty-eight years. As Marie persevered, holding fast to her confession of hope, she watched some of these women lose their children, lose their mind, health, and some their faith. Some recanted their Protestant faith and converted to Roman Catholicism in exchange for their freedom. 
 
During her long imprisonment, Marie’s brother Pierre was captured and executed. Marie developed an intimate correspondence with her niece, Anne. After Anne’s mother died, Marie tried to provide that motherly love for her from a distance, sacrificing her own health to make and send Anne new clothes from the prison, and encourage her in the Protestant faith. Carr gives us a glimmer of hope when she shares the happiest part of Marie’s life, when Anne was able to live in the area for a whole month, visiting her aunt frequently. 
About nine years later, after many crushed prospects for release, Prince de Beauvau was moved by compassion for these women, releasing them against direct orders from his superior. Marie was fifty-seven years old.
 
This is part where we would think Marie would be able to live out the rest of her life, close to her niece, enjoying her long-awaited freedom. But that is not the case. Her house had been ransacked and robbed by cousins. Anne wedded a wealthy Roman Catholic and cut off correspondence with Marie. “In fact, instead of supporting her needy aunt, Anne had allowed her husband to rent out part of Marie’s farm without asking for her permission and to charge Marie for any repairs he had to make” (50). I can’t imagine how devastating this betrayal of the faith was to Marie, who had sacrificed her entire life for it while loving her niece so dearly. Thankfully, a Protestant church in Amsterdam stepped in to support her with yearly donations, saving her from complete poverty. “Marie continued to rely on God’s providence until the end of her life and died peacefully in her home at the age of sixty-five” (50).
 
These kind of stories force the reader to ask some of the same questions that Christians like Marie must have constantly been faced with: Is God sovereign? Is God good? The answer is of course yes, and Marie held this truth until the end, where she has received her true reward, Christ himself.
 
Simonetta Carr has given us another great biography that can be thoughtfully read by adults as well as children. And the illustrations by Matt Abraxas along with all the accompanying photography further enhance Carr’s flashbacks into history. I recommend it, bones and all.

 

Posted on Tuesday, June 30, 2015 by Aimee Byrd on Housewife Theologian
This past weekend Matt and I celebrated our 18th wedding anniversary. We were planning on a night away together in a nearby town. Except it happened to be the same weekend as my son’s MMA campout. And next weekend Matt is driving our oldest and some youth to the location for their mission trip. So we settled for a dinner out and hope to get that overnight trip in a couple of weeks.
 
This is normal life stuff. It doesn’t make me question monogamy or wish I had some other guy to whisk me away. I want to spend time with the man I married 18 years ago. Thankfully, I get to wake up next to him every morning.
 
I mention all this because I got an email from a reader this weekend, wondering if I would respond to an article an old friend of hers wrote titled Monogamy is NOT for Amateurs. It’s the first of a series. This article is a bit eye opening for a Christian to read. And I find myself now writing on a topic that I didn’t think I would ever need to defend. 
 
I guess an 18-year wedding anniversary is as good a time as any to reflect on monogamy. With the latest Supreme Court redefinition of marriage, it’s easy to see how monogamy can simply be reduced to one decision among several other so-called equal options between consenting adults. 
 
This article displays monogamy as a relationship option that is not suited for most. Kelly Marceau first introduces the “Sexy-Consciously Awake Women Relationship Series” (yes, that is the real name of it) that will “explore all the different elements of relationship” sharing her own preferences:
 
While most women in the world are looking for THE ONE or dream of meeting that man they can share an infinite love story with, I am like a woman at a French Bakery who wants a little taste of everything. I don’t just like cupcakes, I like carmel eclairs, chocolate mousse cups, and macaroons too. So, why would I choose just one of anything when I can have a little taste of them all?
 
She then opens her first article of the series with this line:
ONE THING, I have never understood about MONOGAMY is the notion that one person could be everything for you. 
 
And with that first line it is clear that Marceau does not have a good understanding of love, relationships, and monogamy (or when to use capitol letters). My husband and I would certainly have had 18 miserable years if we looked at monogamy this way. Love is not consumeristic. I do not look to my husband to satisfy me, and thankfully that word was not in our wedding vows. I too would be as insatiable as the author if that were the case.
 
I agree with Marceau when she says, “It’s seems like a really tall order to think that one person could be your everything,” if we are talking about earthly husbands. But I look to the only One who satisfies, Jesus Christ, and I can then love and serve my husband and receive his love and service in return.
 
The author continues to show her consumerist understanding of love as she talks about the need for variety to grow. I agree that different types of people help me to grow. But do I need to be in a sexual relationship with someone to grow with them? And connecting that with her opening paragraph, am I to think of human beings in the same way I look at a sumptuous dessert? If someone has appealing qualities, is it a proper response to want to devour them for myself? How does that qualify as a relationship?
 
She argues that we do not know who we will be in the future, so we can’t possibly expect to be with the same person even ten years down the road. Here is what separates a Christian. I do know what I will be in the future. As unbelievable as it seems, I am being transformed into the likeness of my heavenly groom, Jesus Christ. He never changes and he who promised is faithful.
 
So this is the part where I would emphasize the importance of marrying within the faith. It is extremely difficult for the Christian married to an unbeliever. God uses marriage for his glory and our sanctification. We are told not to be partners with anyone who would try to deceive us with empty words. Husbands are to love their wives “just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word” (Eph. 5:25-26). The Christian understanding of monogamy has a shared goal of holiness. It is to picture Christ’s love for his church.
 
Marceau does try to get a little deeper, defining monogamy as “a collaborative effort where together you elevate the two combined energies.” I have no idea what this means. She explains further that it this is about taking responsibility for what you want, and that we need to put ourselves out there to get what we want. Again, we are back to a consumerist view. But I do think she getting to something important here. What we want is love. For Marceau, this is something that takes moving beyond our personal limitations, requiring devotion and commitment. 
I will agree there. 
 
We do want love. We desperately need love. But no earthly relationship will satisfy the kind of love that we need. We need a love that makes us new. We need a love that brings us into the Father’s presence. We need a love that rescues and redeems. And we find this in Jesus. 
 
I agree with Marceau that “MONOGAMY IS NO JOKE.” I may even join her in using all caps. It’s an honor. It is our godly context for sexually intimate relationship and family while we await something even greater on the new heavens and new earth. Because God is faithful, I can be faithful. But this author has got it all wrong when she says, “love, in monogamy, is a selfish pursuit.” That is a one-sided relationship and there is nothing intimate about it. My husband does not need the burden of trying to satisfy me. Because of that he can truly love me in Christ as we serve our Lord together. 
 
I don’t need variety in men to hook up with. I need holiness. That’s where I find love, and that is the source from which I can give love. And so it is sad that this author is writing authoritatively on sexiness, consciousness, and wakefulness in relationships, when she doesn’t have eyes to see the love that she truly needs. 
Posted on Wednesday, June 24, 2015 by Aimee Byrd on Housewife Theologian
Well school is out and the calendar also confirms the beginning of summer. But it’s not quite official for me yet because I haven’t started on my summer reading list. My family has moved from West Virginia back to Maryland and the busyness that comes with that has me plodding a little slower than usual. I thought a couple of quick reads would be good while I am doing the whole “paint the house” thing. And so I just finished Bryan Litfin’s book After Acts: Exploring the Lives and Legends of the Apostles.
 
Since I’ve read some history on this topic in the past, there weren’t any big surprises for me in this book. It is a great introductory book on the lives of the apostles and other popular biblical figures of the time. I thought it clever that at the end of each chapter, Litfin gave a report card with grades corresponding to the historical probability of each legendary claim on the person. 
 
Of course, I would love to have more information on some of these prominent people in Scripture than we actually have. And yet I know that we have everything that we need and all that God wants us to know. But this book got me thinking a little more about that when I was through reading it. There are chapters on Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Mary, Thomas, James, the other apostles, Peter, and Paul. Do you see what he did there? Before getting to the two most prominent apostles, thrown in there and yet carefully placed is a chapter on the other apostles.
 
Liftin opens this chapter asking the reader to try and name all twelve disciples. Can you? We know very little about more than half of these twelve select men. Four of the twelve disciples get their own chapter in Litfin’s book, but seven of the original disciples are summed up rather briefly in this designated chapter on the other apostles (Judas Iscariot does not get the dignity of a bio, and we know little about his replacement, Matthias). It makes you think, doesn’t it? Why do a mere third of the disciples have so much more recorded about them in Scripture and in history books? Why did Jesus choose twelve? Why not only choose four if the other’s lives are so obscure to us?
 
And yet, as Litfin points out, all twelve “must be very important in God’s plan, because Revelation 21:14 states that in the New Jerusalem, ‘the wall of the city [will have] twelve foundations, and on them [will be] the twelve names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.’ Jesus himself said the twelve disciples would rule over the tribes of Israel (Matt. 19:28; Luke 22:30)” (126). We know this is a significant number, as there were twelve tribes of Israel and the church is the new Israel. And we know that God’s choices are never arbitrary. These men were appointed to special positions in the church and spent precious time with our Savior. And yet we see so much more of Peter and John’s contributions than we do of Andrew’s or James the son of Alphaeus. Only three disciples were privileged to be in that inner circle where Jesus revealed his divine glory in the transfiguration. Why not all the disciples?
 
My wondering about this makes me think about when James and John’s mother asked Jesus if her two sons could sit at the right and left hand of Jesus in his kingdom. In some ways they are no different than the rest of us kingdom citizens, there are plenty of times when we just don’t get it. We jockey for positions and question God’s purposes in where he has us to serve. We think of ourselves above God and his kingdom. Jesus answered, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I am to drink?” (Matt. 20:22). 
 
G. K. Beale commented in his lectures I am listening to on ITunes U that Jesus came to serve us before we received the privilege to serve him. That is truly amazing. Of all the things I don’t know, I am sure that all twelve disciples were fully satisfied in Christ. And we may not know much about their history but we know the one they were discipled by. And we join them in service wherever we have been called. It is a great privilege to be in the kingdom of God.
 
As Litfin was sifting through all the legends, debunking most of them, I couldn’t help but think of how much more glorious the real story is going to be when we see all the workings of God revealed in glory. That’s the point, isn’t it? To God be the glory.
 
Posted on Thursday, June 18, 2015 by Aimee Byrd on Housewife Theologian
There has been much to say in books and blog posts about sanctification. This is a doctrine that is both important and practical for every Christian. As I’ve been listening to G.K. Beale’s lectures “Biblical Theology of the Gospels” on ITunes U, something he said in his first talk, and has been essentially expanding upon in all of them, connected once again while I sat under the preached Word last Sunday. Here is what Beale said:
“Eschatology is the key to your sanctification in the Christian life.” 
He continued, “The better you understand eschatology, the better you are going to be able to live your spiritual life…The better you’ll understand God, and yourself, and your relationship to him, and what your purpose is.” 
I was immediately drawn in when he said this because although it is good, true, and important to discuss Christ’s work on the cross and how that applies to our sanctification, the believer also needs to hold fast to where Christ is now, interceding on our behalf at the right hand of the Father, and what he is going to do, return for his bride and reign with her on the new heavens and the new earth. All of this is good news, and helps us to strive for that eternal Sunday.
In preaching on the Lord’s prayer in Matthew 6:7-15, my pastor opened up saying that Christ completely reorients our lives. He pointed out that from the beginning of the Lord’s prayer we see that we are to be zealous for God’s glory and honor. We are to have a zeal for his name, for who God is. We bear that name! So this zeal for God’s name affects our lives and witness. 
Continuing in the prayer, we learn that we are to have a zeal for God’s power and his purposes. We pray for his kingdom to come and for it to be done on earth as it is in heaven. 
And here we are confronted again with the tension of the already and the not yet. Our new lives in Christ have begun, we are new creations. But as we are in the process of sanctification longing to rid ourselves from sin and death and to be glorified with our great Savior, we are completely dependent upon God’s grace. He is glorified in that. Are we zealous to go to him acknowledging our dependence for our sustenance or are we living in our own strength? My pastor pushed us to examine whether God’s great forgiveness is reflected in us, and if we glorify his name even when we are tested.
And then he said something that brought me right back to Beale’s statement again---this prayer reminds us to live in the reality of who we are. My world can become so small as I get caught up in all of my own drama. I may begin thinking my spiritual growth is also that small and insignificant. Or my small world and its problems seem big to me and I become overwhelmed as I try to pull everything off in my own strength. But this prayer does reorient, or recalibrate me to remember who I am---a Christian. I am in Christ. I bear his name. And he is transforming me into his likeness, using all the circumstances in my insignificant life for his glory, his purposes, and my good. 
We are moving towards something that is almost indescribable. I can barely imagine what it will be like before the face of God, in a resurrected body, with his church, to serve him in joy for eternity on the new heavens and the new earth. 
My pastor closed his sermon on the Lord’s prayer reminding us of something very important: Jesus prays now for you too. Beale keeps talking about how our battle with sin is not private. It is eschatological, and the key is the be loyal to Christ. He who promised is faithful, and that motivates me to live a life of faith and obedience and to finish strong. Christ does reorient our lives. And the end game is to enter into his joy.
Posted on Thursday, June 11, 2015 by Aimee Byrd on Housewife Theologian
Well this is interesting. A transgender “female” is now competing as a woman in MMA. After a 37-second knockout victory in 2013, the fifth first-round victory in a row against women, it was revealed that Fallon Fox was not born a female, but had transgender surgery in 2006. 
He made the headlines after breaking his female opponent’s eye socket in a 2014 match, which he won by TKO in the first round. The opponent, Tamikka Brents, commented in a post-fight interview:
"I've never felt so overpowered ever in my life."
“I’ve fought a lot of women and have never felt the strength that I felt in a fight as I did that night. I can’t answer whether it’s because [he] was born a man or not, because I’m not a doctor,” she stated. “I can only say, I’ve never felt so overpowered ever in my life, and I am an abnormally strong female in my own right. ”
His “grip was different,” she added. “I could usually move around in the clinch against...females but couldn’t move at all in Fox’s clinch.”
Many lead voices in the MMA community have spoken out that they usually have a liberal point of view socially, but when it comes to combat sports transgender men should not be able to compete as women. A popular commentator and announcer in the MMA community, Joe Rogan, commented on his podcast over a year ago “that a transgendered man would ‘have all the bone structure that comes with’ being a man. ‘You have bigger hands, you have bigger shoulder joints.’” LifeSiteNews reported military veteran and UFC competitor Jeff Nader's response that "Fallon Fox has had the benefits of being a man for most of his life. [He has] bone density, muscle mass, and other physical benefits that one gets from being a man. You can't have that, and then make a minor adjustment---basically, a cosmetic adjustment---and suddenly claim to be a woman."
It turns out you can’t play pretend when it comes to sports. Transgender surgery does not make a woman. Reality sets in. And so ironically, Fallon Fox seems to be hurting the transgender case by trying to fight as a woman. Of course Fox asserts that any women who do not want to fight him are full of hate and bias. I find it very interesting that a man who was not upfront about his transgender surgery, competing as woman, and overpowering them with his physicality, plays the victim card. Really?
Brents made the comment that it isn’t fair. Here we see an interesting clash, one that I think we are going to be seeing a lot more of, between women’s rights and LBGT rights.
Some in the conservative Christian community have already spoken out that women should not be fighting in the MMA at all. I disagree. But it should be fair. Women should at least be assured that their opponents are actually women. And the truth comes out on the mats. You just can’t pretend you are something you’re not.
Do we protect the rights of a man who feels like a woman on the inside, or the actual women?
Posted on Tuesday, June 09, 2015 by Aimee Byrd on Housewife Theologian
Even the fit have to suffer. In fact, the fitness inclined intentionally suffer for the greater glory. Let’s take the marathon analogy from Hebrews 12. No matter how much you may train, running a marathon is no easy task. Actually, the more conditioned you are, the better idea you have of the suffering that you are about to embark on. This is why we all aren’t signing up for the next long distance race that passes through town. The truly fit do not have a false confidence in their abilities. They know what it takes to make it to the end. 
We really cannot comprehend what Christ endured on the cross. We have no idea what it takes to bear the full wrath of God for our sin. We can’t even handle the full disclosure of the deceit of our own hearts. God is patient in maturing us through his Word and Spirit, even as he progressively unveils our sin to us in sanctification. But Jesus, although sinless, knew the cost. We see this as he prayed in the garden of Gethsemane, 
saying, Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done. And there appeared to him an angel from heaven, strengthening him. And being in agony he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground. (Luke 22:42–44) 
We know that as the Christ, Jesus had the fitness to endure the cross. But we see a vulnerable picture of his sinless humanity here in Luke. There’s something interesting about this prayer. As Christ sees the affliction before him, he submits to the Father’s will in obedience before he is strengthened to continue. He prays in anguish for another way, obeys his call, and then an angel is sent to strengthen him. That is the epitome theological fitness. We see a fighting faith in Christ’s prayer. Jesus is actively engaging in prayer and exercising his faith, and he perseveres because of his intimate knowledge of the Father. He trusts in the promise. That is his joy—a joy worth the cost. Something my previous pastor pointed out in his sermon on Mark 14, titled “Seeing Clearly,” applies here so fittingly as well: “Christ can see the hand of God at work, knowing that not one blow will fall on him unnecessarily for our salvation.” That is holding fast to the confession of your hope without wavering, knowing that he who promised really is faithful. 
In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to him who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverence. Although he was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered. (Heb. 5:7–8) 
David Allen notes how similar this verse from Hebrews is to the description of the account that is given in Luke. Both emphasize the suffering and humanity of Christ and his ability to truly relate to us as our high priest. “It is only in Heb 5:8 and Luke 2:52 that we have a statement regarding Jesus’ inner human development”(Lukan Authorship of Hebrews, 203). These verses also connect our marathon analogy in chapter 12 with the agony of fitness and theological stamina. 
W.R. Paton suggested that the Greek word agonia was often used to describe the kind of agony that a runner experienced in an athletic contest prior to the start of a race, and that this meaning best fits Luke22:44 . . . 
The parallel to Heb 5:7–10; 6:20 (where Jesus is said to be the “forerunner”) and also to 12:1–2 (where the same Greek word agonia occurs) is unmistakable. In Heb 12:1, the race is said to be ton prokeimenon hemin agona, “the race that lies before us.” This same participle is used again in v. 2 in reference to the “joy” that “lay before Him.” The implication is that God set the joy before Jesus and thus set the race before us (204).
Think about it. Christ, who had the fitness to obey the Father’s will, prayed in agony. He knew the cost. He felt the cost. As he depended on the Father through the Sprit, we see that he was strengthened to complete his mission. Particularly, he was motivated by joy to patiently endure. We are told to look to Jesus, who is our joy, to run the race set before us. He’s gone ahead. The same Spirit that sent angels to strengthen Jesus to finish has applied his victorious work to his people. We can finish! Sure, he knows we will fall. But he’s got it covered. He is with us. He will take us to the end. 
Another thing is clear. It will be through the path of suffering. We may not be signing up for the local race in town, but every Christian has a marathon to run. And running a marathon is no passive endeavor. We will be strengthened; we will be changed. 
 
*An excerpt from Theological Fitness
Posted on Monday, June 08, 2015 by Aimee Byrd on Housewife Theologian

I'm over at Books at a Glance reviewing a series that I am buying books from like crazy for summer gifts. This is how I stumbled upon it:

One afternoon while I was innocently getting my mail, I pulled a Reformation Heritage Books catalogue out of the mailbox. As I walked up the driveway, flipping through the pages, it happened. You know, it was one of those moments where there seems to be a light glowing from the page and angels singing in the background. That's when I saw them.

Read more here to solve the mystery and join me on the bandwagon.

Posted on Friday, May 22, 2015 by Aimee Byrd on Housewife Theologian
One thing that really stands out to me while I am reading through the letters to the churches in Revelation is the danger of majoring on one good cause. We can be doing so well in one area, but if we are neglecting another, we are still culpable for our sin. Jesus’ words of judgment and call to repentance are severe. 
And it is interesting how similar the battles our churches face today are to the first century churches addressed in Revelation. We tend to capitalize on one virtue at the neglect of another. The church at Ephesus was commended for their stance for truth. And yet, it was convicting to read the letter to this church. While they were praised for their discernment, they were reprimanded for abandoning their love to share the gospel with others. Shouldn’t a zealousness for the truth motivate us to be generous with this good news?
And then you see the flipside in Thyatira. Dennis Johnson’s commentary on the letter to this church in his book Triumph of the Lamb made me pause. He quotes Colin J. Hemer, “The longest and most difficult of the seven letters is addressed to the least known, least important, and least remarkable of the cities” (79). Jesus begins his words to this seemingly insignificant church with praise for their “love and faith and service and patient endurance,” recognizing that their “latter works exceeded the first” (Rev. 2:19). 
But he has strong words against them. Johnson sums up Jesus’ words to be, “I love your love but I hate your tolerance.” They are tolerating a woman Jesus calls Jezebel, giving us a flashback to Ahab’s wife in 1 and 2 Kings, a prophetess who seduced the Israelites into Baalism. We see the same kind of seduction from this Thyatirian Jezebel, who Jesus says is enticing his servants “to practice sexual immorality and to eat food sacrificed to idols” (2:20). Johnson explains, “The combination of sexual immorality and food sacrificed to idols may suggest a setting of trade-guild banquets, held in honor of the patron’s trade-guild deity, especially in a city as dependent on manufacturing as Thyatira was” (80).
Here we see a capitulation to the materialism of the culture. Of course we want to participate in the economy and to be accepted by society. To decline participation in these events came with consequences. Johnson suggests that “Jezebel” was assuring God’s people that what they do with their bodies isn’t significant to their spiritual life, so they could participate. “Such a Jezebel was more dangerous to Jesus’ servants than a military oppressor, because her secrets drive a wedge between God’s people and the Lord” (80). Jesus goes so far as to say that these “deep secrets” that she supposedly reveals are actually from Satan. We cannot separate our spiritual life from our physical. God made us physical beings for a reason, and we look forward to real, resurrected bodies on the new heaven and new earth.
This false teaching and leading the saints into such sin sounds atrocious. What did the church do to correct and discipline her? Nothing. They tolerated Jezebel, and that is not loving. Jesus makes it quite clear just how damaging that is:
I gave her time to repent, but she refuses to repent of her sexual immorality. Behold, I will throw her onto a sickbed, and those who commit adultery with her I will throw into great tribulation, unless they repent of her works, and I will strike her children dead. And all the churches will know that I am he who searches mind and heart, and I will give to each of you according to your works. (21-23)
I guess the church in Thyatira isn’t so insignificant after all. And the language from this Jezebel situation is developed even further in Revelation 17, when the harlot is introduced as another false prophet leading people away from truth. There are many similarities. So we see that this incidence in Thyatira is not unique to them.
There’s a lot to consider and apply here for our churches today. In his Shorter Commentary, G.K Beale reflects on the ability for one person in infect an entire church. Was Jezebel a true believer? Are we to treat someone so dangerous to God’s people as a true believer? Often, we compromise in areas where we shouldn’t because we want to give the benefit of the doubt. We want to be loving. We can be loving in so many other areas, and yet our tolerance could be the very thing that gives a green light for God’s people to sin. Protecting perpetrators of both spiritual and physical harlotry is not loving.
It is tempting for us all to compromise. I know I would like to be accepted and well-liked in the church and in my society. It is much more comfortable for me to compromise some of the truths of Scripture and even allow myself to be deceived in areas where there is conflict between Scripture and culture. But Jesus has taught us all a lesson through this “Podunk” church.  He places this letter right in the center as a sort of bull’s eye.
Beale asks yet another tough question, “Do we focus on God’s mercy because we are involved in compromise and would prefer to believe He will tolerate our behavior?” (77). I have to say that I am convicted by the question.
Posted on Wednesday, May 13, 2015 by Aimee Byrd on Housewife Theologian
My new book, Theological Fitness: Why We Need A Fighting Faith, is now available (May 15th). Part of my contract with P&R is to provide a brief book trailer. That puts me in a bind right away because book trailers aren’t exactly as exciting as movie trailers. They are usually either boring or cheesy. So I decided to do something a little different to make it worth your while. 
I decided to just go with the whole cheesy thing and give you a bit of a spoof on 80’s karate flicks, while completely making a fool out of myself. Doesn’t that sound more interesting and worth your three minutes? I’m hoping that it will leave you asking questions that can be answered in my book. Because, you know, nunchucks lend a great illustration to perseverance and theological fitness. Take a look at the trailer, and then you can continue to read about my book:
 
 
No really, there is a connection. Shortly after I turned in my manuscript for  Theological Fitness, I logically thought that this would be a great time to really learn the art of nunchaku. Think of all the illustrations nunchucks lend to perseverance and stamina in God’s Word!
It just so happens that my dad and brother are both something-degree black belts in several forms of the martial arts (that’s my brother in the video). I grew up in that environment, and nunchucks were a pretty ordinary weapon that I was exposed to amongst the naginata, kama, you know, the ushe. Back then I would pick them up and play around with the recognized figure eight motion, but I was uncommitted. Dad and Luke were the ones who had nunchuck skills.
Nunchucks are hard. Literally! It’s difficult enough to learn the moves and get the coordination down on your dominant hand, but you need to be strong on both hands to master the nunchaku. I’m getting some moves down and even learning some cool tricks, but I am lacking the finesse that comes as your fitness increases to a masterful level. I’m also lacking the tips of three of my fingernails and have gained a bump on my head. Hurt my toe pretty bad too. These were all casualties to my attempts on nailing the wrist spin. For this move, as you are spinning the nunchucks, you let go of the one side, turn your hand, and grab the other nunchaku while still in motion.
But stamina requires constant exercise and conditioning. And a bit of obsession. Before I could get to the wrist roll, the over-the-shoulder passes, or the figure eight, I had to practice the simple forward and backward spin over and over. And over. It needs to become like second nature. To work on coordination with the weaker hand, I needed to get good at moving my dominate hand forward, backward, and sideways while simultaneously spinning with the weaker. It looked kind of silly. I’m still not very good at it. But if I want to persevere with the nunchucks, I need to press on in my training. Eventually muscle memory kicks in, and I actually begin to know what I’m doing.
Theological fitness requires much of the same kind of fight to continue. The preacher to the Hebrews exhorts us to hold fast to the confession of our hope without wavering (Heb. 10:23). If Christians are to persevere by holding fast to their confession, they are going to need to know that confession front, back, and sideways. 
Theological fitness refers to that persistent fight to exercise our faith by actively engaging in the gospel truth revealed in God’s Word. It is something we fight to develop as we persevere in the everyday life of faith and obedience. When we are tempted to backslide, are challenged about our faith, experience affliction, or are just trying to make it through ordinary life, really knowing our hope set forth in God’s Word helps us to hold fast to it. We are strengthened as we read it, hear it, study, meditate on, and talk about it.
Just as with the nunchucks, this requires constant repetition. Thankfully, unlike any other kind of fitness training, we know that we don’t hold fast because of our own skills, but rather because “he who promised is faithful.” As we may figuratively break a nail or crack our head in our attempts to persevere, that muscle memory will kick in. God trains and disciplines us in the everyday. We usually have no idea what he is up to, but we can be sure that it is for his glory and our good. We may be bored, tired, or just plain beat up from enduring whatever our normal is at the time, but we should never waver in doubt of God’s will for us. It is nothing less than to be conformed to the likeness of Christ and he will have his way to get us there.
While breaking down Hebrews 10:23 to exhort and equip Christians in theological fitness, I hope to illustrate that while faith is a gift from God, it is not passive. Perseverance takes a fighting faith, and I would like to help get you to the end, which is really only the beginning.
Posted on Tuesday, May 12, 2015 by Aimee Byrd on Housewife Theologian
Confronting someone who is in sin or error with the truth is a very sensitive topic. As we strive to teach with truth in love, Christians often disagree about delivery. At times it’s hard to discern when we are being overly offensive or not offensive enough. Sometimes we are just plain ignored. 
We want our message to be heard and received. But with the culture becoming more and more hostile to Christian teaching, there have been attempts and pleas to make the content of our faith more palatable. Maybe if we didn’t focus on the language that turns people off, we could present Christianity as the best choice and less of a stumbling block. There have also been appeals to the compassion of Jesus when dealing with sinners. But compassion never compromises truth. Compassion doesn’t mean that we should be comfortable with sin and error. And if there is one thing I’m learning, truth is never comfortable. 
I have been studying Revelation with the help of G.K. Beale’s Shorter Commentary and Dennis Johnson’s Triumph of the Lamb. As I am going through the beginning section on the letters to the churches, Beale’s explanation of what he calls the hearing formula has caught my attention. 
Each of the seven letters conclude with the exhortation: “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” Beale points out that Jesus uses this clause in Matt. 13:1-17, repeating a familiar statement seen in Isaiah 6:9-10, Jeremiah 5:21, and Ezekiel 3:27; 12:2. So what does this exhortation mean? And why is it repeated? Is this just a fancy way to say to all of us who have ears to listen up? And does that mean that what was just said before wasn’t as important?
Beale reminds the reader that leading up to the exhortation in Isaiah 6:9-10, the people would not listen to his plain teaching. They were hard of hearing, as we like to say. So this command to all those who have ears to hear is a warning and a signal that what follows is not going to be as clear. Isaiah “has an encounter with the Lord in which he is given the commission to render the ears of unbelievers dull so that they can no longer hear with them (6:9-10), following which his preaching becomes mixed with parables and symbolic actions” (57). A similar circumstance is going on in Ezekiel as well.
“These actions and parables had the effect of gaining the attention of true believers, shocking some unbelievers or backsliders into repentance and hardening the hearts of the rest, whose lack of spiritual wisdom prevented them from seeing the significance of the actions or parables” (58). We see Jesus using this same prophetic pattern of first speaking plainly, and then after he invokes the hearing formula borrowed from Isaiah, he teaches in parables.
And we have this same formula in Revelation. “Speaking through John, Jesus indicates by this phrase that what is about to unfold will be parabolic or symbolic in nature.”
Think about it. This hearing formula is now addressed to the church, the true Israel. Before the unfolding of horrific images of the beast, the harlot, trumpets, and the dragon, there is a clear message to the church---professors of the faith. Are we listening? What will happen to those of us with dull ears? In the section offering suggestions for reflection, Beale again reiterates how “the use of parabolic form from the OT prophets through Jesus to John shows that when people do not respond to instruction, God speaks through more indirect means which reach those seeking Him, but harden the hearts of the lost.” Beale challenges us to look at our methods of softening the hard truths in order to be more seeker-sensitive. “Are we removing stumbling blocks God set in place to reveal the heart? Are we seeking to fill our churches with people who are drawn to a reduced version of the gospel but without a true commitment to follow Christ in the way of the cross, which is the ultimate stumbling block (Matt. 16:21-28)? Is preaching the story of the cross in a hedonistic, postmodern society such as ours close to functioning like a parabolic declaration?” (60).
One thing is for sure. I still need to be shocked out of my own complacency. I wish I could say that I am one who learns the first time through straightforward instruction. I’m ever so thankful for the strong warnings to have ears.