Posted on Thursday, January 29, 2015 by Aimee Byrd on Housewife Theologian
Irony of ironies, as we’ve become vigilant advocates for providing our future dinner foul with proper elbow room to roam freely, our children may be the ones living in caged conditions. Actually, there is a bit of a media storm erupting over a “new” style of parenting that has been labeled---wait for it---free range parenting. 
Yes. Some parents are under scrutiny in a town close to mine for allowing their ten-year-old son and six-year-old daughter to walk a mile to the park by themselves and play unsupervised. An outraged onlooker has turned them in and now Montgomery County Child Protective Services is investigating this family. Subsequently, this free range philosophy of parenting is being debated all over social media.
I will be upfront and say that when my children were that age, I was too overprotective to risk allowing them to walk that far independently. I can think of too many things that could go wrong with that scenario. But I do think this is a healthy debate. On one hand, I am quick to criticize the helicopter parenting that is rampant in our society. On the other, I am a total hypocrite. Sure, I would let my 15, 12, and 9 year olds walk a mile together to the park without me or their dad---but probably not without their cell phones. And they have been so pampered in their upbringing that they would expect a ride. 
Even then I would worry over whether I have coached them enough on safety precautions. The truth is, I may have coached them too much. They may actually prefer singing in cages rather than free roaming to a park with all its dangerous variables.
I don’t want to pay the consequences of potentially neglectful parenting. And I certainly don’t want my kids to pay those consequences. But I also don’t want to base my parenting on fear. My job is to raise my kids to need me less. My husband and I are supposed to raise adults.
I struggled with this topic two years ago on my blog, and I’m still asking some of the same questions:
 
I find myself now wondering which apron strings to loosen as my kids are growing. Do I still need to regulate every calorie that goes into their mouths? Do I let them go to school not listening to my advice that their outfit just isn’t working out, or do I make them change? At what point should I stop editing their papers and let them find out for themselves through the red pen?
An article in Psychology Today, A Nation of Wimps, has provoked a lot of thought about my own parenting. Instead of healthy, functioning adults, are we raising a bunch of co-dependent, anxious, namby-pambies? The article suggests that the cell phone is functioning as an eternal umbilicus that we are all too happy to continue coddling our children through. Here’s an excerpt of my favorite part that makes the point oh too well:
It's bad enough that today's children are raised in a psychological hothouse where they are overmonitored and oversheltered. But that hothouse no longer has geographical or temporal boundaries. For that you can thank the cell phone. Even in college—or perhaps especially at college—students are typically in contact with their parents several times a day, reporting every flicker of experience. One long-distance call overheard on a recent cross-campus walk: "Hi, Mom. I just got an ice-cream cone; can you believe they put sprinkles on the bottom as well as on top?"
"Kids are constantly talking to parents," laments Cornell student Kramer, which makes them perpetually homesick. Of course, they're not telling the folks everything, notes Portmann. "They're not calling their parents to say, 'I really went wild last Friday at the frat house and now I might have chlamydia. Should I go to the student health center?'"
If I am running five minutes late, I get the text, “Are you coming?” Or, a half hour before time to pick my daughter up from school I may be alerted with, “I’m so thirsty, please bring a water bottle.” I get pictures sent to my phone while my daughter is out and about. It feels great that she’s thinking of me. And I have the benefit of knowing that a psycho-maniac has not abducted her while she’s away from me (just a little fear of mine). But is it good for our children to have this constant communication with us?
The perpetual access to parents infantilizes the young, keeping them in a permanent state of dependency. Whenever the slightest difficulty arises, "they're constantly referring to their parents for guidance," reports Kramer. They're not learning how to manage for themselves.
Again, I encourage you to read this article for yourself. Studies are showing that our children are missing out on major coping skills and it is leading to depression, immaturity, short-sightedness, and curtailing their intelligence.
Of course, this isn’t just a Christian issue, but I think our faith has a lot to do with over-parenting. We should certainly take our responsibility in raising kids seriously. As Christians, we know at a deeper lever what a privilege our vocation is. But as I mentioned before, we are hurting our children when we perpetually step in as their savior. This is hard. Our vocation is to reflect, to point to, our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. But as our children grow, we need to make sure we are not usurping his title.
As far as the cell phone is concerned, I wonder if we are stunting our child’s prayer life when we are their constant lifeline? Instead of remembering to pray without ceasing, our children can just pick up the phone—“Let me ask mom…” Even in our relationship with God, we don’t have this kind of growth-stunting immediate response. We are called to seek him continuously in prayer, confident that he is working all things for the glory of his Son and our good. But we hold to his authoritative Word revealed in Scripture. We need to study it, mediate on it, and all the while, the Holy Spirit helps us to recall it as we make our decisions throughout the day. 
This is how God works to grow us in wisdom. He doesn’t verbally tell us what to make for dinner or how to dress each day. He lets us wrestle with the everyday issues as we apply his Word and grow in wisdom. He is our God, not our crutch.
 
Cell phones aren’t evil. And I will admit that I mostly like the way that they enable me to “be there” in some way when I’m not physically there. But my kids need more than their dad and me. 
Free range parenting isn’t new, it’s actually a return to the way our grandparents did it. But we can’t exactly rewind the clock. While I’d like to be challenged as a parent that the helicopter approach is harmful, and that every minute and crumb in my child’s day does not need to be planned and accounted for, our changing technology presents both benefits and challenges our ancestors didn’t face. Perhaps if we don’t ruin them too much, the next generation can contribute to the future of sustainable parenting.
Posted on Thursday, January 29, 2015 by Aimee Byrd on Housewife Theologian
As I was listening to the latest Mortification of Spin podcast yesterday, something struck me a little different. Carl asked about Thomas Oden’s contribution and legacy and we answered appropriately. But this time as he was asking that question, I thought about something else.
I think an important part of Oden’s legacy is hinted at in the title of the book. He explains, “One reason for writing A Change of Heart is in part to alert people to question the realism of my collectivist and unexamined illusions. Those who test them critically will be less likely to be hurt by them or hurt others. The wrongs I failed to recognize in my youth had ripple effects that I will never completely know, but on the last day I will be accountable for them” (56).
Contrition. That is a huge legacy to leave behind in our evangelical culture. In an environment filled with leaders and influencers who boast in having no regrets, admitting culpability is a refreshing and needed contribution. Oden had led people the wrong way. His sorrow over this and his passion to point people to the truth is evident throughout every page of his memoir. He is less concerned about what people think about him, and more concerned with what people know about Christ.
Consequently, that is the real legacy Oden leaves. A Change of Heart shows us the fruit of repentance. And that is a beautiful thing. Thinking about Oden’s contribution and legacy motivates me to reexamine what contribution I will leave behind. 
My old pastor said something years ago that I have tucked away. He was preaching on Philippians 1:25-26, where Paul concludes that the Lord would have him live longer to help others rejoice in Christ. My pastor mentioned how one of the most beautiful things for a Christian to hear from a loved one upon their death would be, “It’s been an honor knowing Christ through you.” We may not all be as influential as Thomas Oden, but we all leave a legacy. I don’t want to lead others to be satisfied in me, I want to point them to Christ. I pray that I will be more zealous for the truth than being right.
False teaching points away from Christ and toward ourselves. May we follow Oden’s lead in expressing sorrow whenever we lead others away from Christ. May our contribution be to cause others to rejoice in Christ, that it would be a pleasure for our friends to know Christ through us. That is a legacy worth leaving.
Posted on Monday, January 26, 2015 by Aimee Byrd on Housewife Theologian
My husband has an irrational fear of food poisoning. I can’t even tease him about it, because I would then be the one who has to deal with the imagined stomach aches. I can’t tell you how many times I have heard him ask some sort of question before we sit at the table to the effect of, “This meat is cooked all the way, right?” Some of our friends have witnessed the infamous “cross-contamination” speech that he has given before fondue parties.
Well, I read about a different sort of cross-contamination at an invitation to a very different table in Thomas Oden’s, A Change of Heart. It was a much more dangerous form of poison coming from a chapel service at Drew University. And it was the confirmation for Oden to speak out about the quality of theological education the liberal universities are feeding the future pastors of mainline churches.
I knew it was getting bad, but when I read this I was completely shocked.
Even though most of the women who attended Drew were moderate to conservative family women, there was a small group of feminists inserting themselves as the female voice for the university. This led to a truly blasphemous service sponsored by the women’s caucus. The popular feminist who was leading the service coauthored a book, Wisdom’s Feast, introducing the goddess Sophia as worthy of Christian worship. Oden describes this service beginning with a hijacked hymn that touted Sophia as a “lover, comforter, and counselor,” a feminist agenda disguised as a sermon, and then an invitation to the Lord’s table that was not going to be in the Lord’s name. Instead, “the invitation came not on behalf of the Lord of glory crucified on a cross but the idea of wisdom seen through the lens of feminist political activism” (260). 
With that, Oden quietly excused himself from the service.
Shortly after this he wrote his book Requiem (1995) to help the laity understand what was going on behind closed doors at the seminaries their pastors are coming from. This service wasn’t a mere isolated event that somehow slid through the cracks. It was one of many ideological dishes on the menu of bad theology that the seminaries were serving. Strangely enough, Oden explains how this is all in the name of ecumenism:
The predominant theme of the 1993 Re-Imagining Conference was the audacity of reimagining God, using Sophia worship as its key liturgical expression. It was sponsored by the National Council of Churches in Minneapolis, touted as a major ecumenical event and funded by United Methodist, United Church of Christ, and Presbyterian boards and agencies. (261)
Oden couldn’t believe something so divisive and contrary to historical, orthodox Christianity could ever be brazen enough to call itself ecumenical. Of coarse it’s the irony of ironies to completely miss true Wisdom in the name of worshipping wisdom, as well as to come to the Lord’s table and miss the feast that he bids us to receive. Oden argued for a rediscovery of the classic Christian faith. He stayed in both his denomination and his seminary to try call them back to the ancient faith.
But I love how Oden didn’t merely focus on the seminary and the religious professionals. He wrote a book to expose them to the congregants who were affected by this poison. Discerning worshippers had already been noticing something different being preached from their pulpits. When theology is reduced to ideology, it’s the local church that is starved and poisoned in the end. Oden faced great opposition from some in his own denomination and faculty for his work. But that didn’t stop him.
He quietly slipped out of that blasphemous communion service and worked even harder to make the words of the early church commentaries available to all. Many frustrated congregants in mainline churches were protesting the teaching in liberal seminaries and church bureaucrats by leaving their church. I wondered, where did they go? I’m sure it was a mixture of some leaving for a more confessional church, and some leaving the church altogether. 
Twenty years later, this is still a wake-up call to the laity. Liberal theology is still soliciting its ideologies to the church. Congregants need to take responsibility in seeking true wisdom. We need to make sure that there is no cross-contamination at the table that we approach or the pulpit that we sit under. While I am thankful for many wonderful professional theologians, their qualifications do not take away my responsibility to discern whether the meat has been fully cooked. We don’t need an irrational, suspicious fear of theological poisoning every time we come to worship, but we do need an appropriate fear and awe of our holy God. 
That being said, I am thankful for good pastors who faithfully preach the Word of God to their congregations without getting caught up in the latest movements. And I am thankful for leaders like Oden who have the integrity to stick their neck out and confront false teaching in the institutions they are serving while also taking the time to inform the laity.
 
Posted on Friday, January 23, 2015 by Aimee Byrd on Housewife Theologian
I came across this excerpt from Martin Luther’s Tabletalk today. It is under the chapter heading “Offences”:
We little know how good and necessary it is for us to have adversaries, and for heretics to hold up their heads against us. For if Cerinthus had not been, then St. John the Evangelist had not written his gospel; but when Cerinthus opposed the godhead in our Lord Christ, John was constrained to write and say: In the beginning was the Word; making the distinction of the three persons so clear, that nothing could be clearer. So when I began to write against indulgences and against the pope, Dr. Eck set upon me, and aroused me out of my drowsiness. I wish from my heart this man might be turned the right way, and be converted; for that I would give one of my fingers; but if he will remain where he is, I wish he were made pope, for he has well deserved it, for hither to he has had upon him the whole burthen of the Popedom, in disputing and writing against me. Besides him, they have none that dare fall upon me; he raised my first cogitations against the pope, and brought me so far, or otherwise I should never have gone on. (381-382)
I often find myself weary with all of the offences to the faith within our own so-called evangelical camp. It is good to stop and think for a moment about how God uses adversaries to the truth to awaken us from a dreadful state of drowsiness to our own confession of hope. This makes me grateful to be offended when false teaching makes it’s way into the church. It sends me back to the Word. It also reminds me to cling to Christ.
Heb. 12:15 reads, “See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no ‘root of bitterness’ springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled.” This is a reference to Deuteronomy 29:18, a strong rebuke against false teaching that leads to apostasy. In our culture of tolerance, it seems that the one pointing out a false teaching can get more criticism than the person proclaiming a different gospel. The one contending for the truth appears to be the offender of niceness. Speaking out in discernment is viewed as divisive to the unity and peace of the church. But this admonition in Hebrews is one that the church needs to take very seriously, as we see this root of lies exposed in Deuteronomy as a poisonous fruit that can bring disaster to the covenant people. 
From this verse in Hebrews we see that God’s covenant people are to “see to it” to shepherd one another. Like brothers and sisters, we are to look after one another in our perseverance to the end. So part of our striving for peace with everyone is to promote holiness in one another. We are to make sure no one is flirting with false teaching. How well do we strive to take care everyone is on the right path in the race, and that they are getting back up when they fall down? 
We can’t run a race to the end in a drowsy state. I’m thankful for those who have gone before us holding fast to our confession of hope. I am glad they have clearly responded to adversaries of the faith. The Son of God told us we would have adversaries. And he has already successfully dealt with them so we will not grow weary.
Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. (Heb. 12:1-3)
Posted on Tuesday, January 20, 2015 by Aimee Byrd on Housewife Theologian
I read an article over the weekend on the Aquila Report that disturbed me. The article warned of a disturbing trend that we will see in our churches in 2015:
“What is this one trend? It's that your most committed people will attend worship services less frequently than ever in 2015. [Emphasis added.]
“What does this mean? Simply that people who use[d] to attend 4 times a month may only attend 3 times a month. Members who used to come twice a month will only come once a month.”
Maybe you don’t think that is a big deal. Well that disturbs me too.
The three main reasons given for missing church on a regular basis are kid’s sports, travel for work, and internet “church.” I would have expected to read that maybe children’s illnesses were the number one reason. There are some instances where we just can’t make it to church and we are sad to miss. But the study referred to in this article reveals a trend that even the most committed people just don’t think we need to be there every week.
Maybe we have a distorted view of our needs. Maybe there are those that think they have enough in the tank for every other Sunday. They even serve at some capacity, so they are “doing their part.” Check it off the list. 
I can tell you one thing. No matter how many Sundays we step through those doors, I doubt the pastor is going to say, “What are you doing here? You don’t need to be here! Isn’t there a game you could be at or wouldn’t you be more useful to others somewhere else? Don’t you have some home renovations you could be doing?” I can go out on a limb and say that none of us play hooky because we really didn’t need to be there. And it isn’t just a need. We are called.
I was thinking about this article while I was sitting under the preached Word this Sunday. The sermon text was Matt. 3:11-17, the baptism of Jesus. Jesus travels about 70 miles from Galilee to show up and be baptized to hear John the Baptist pretty much ask, “Why are you here?” Of coarse, John had been announcing his impending arrival beforehand, but even he is shocked to see the Christ willingly joining the others to receive his baptism. 
He had no sin. He needed no repentance. He was right with God. 
There is much worth sharing from my pastor’s sermon, but I couldn’t help but meditate on his comment about how willingly Jesus responded to the call to fulfill his mission “now” (v.15). And do you know what else is disturbing? The illustration my pastor used as he painted a picture of the Sinless Savior, the Suffering Servant, the Chosen One, Beloved Son entering the water for baptism is disturbing. 
Have you ever heard the expression, “Don’t toss out the baby with the bath water”? It comes from back in the day when everyone shared the same bath water. The oldest would wash off his filth from all his labors, then the next born, and the next…you can imagine the color of the water by the time it’s baby’s turn. You might not even see him in all that grime and accidentally throw him out with the bath water.
That’s the picture our pastor gave us of the Jordan, full of the filth of the sin of all those who have come for baptism. That is the water Jesus entered for baptism. In baptism, the spotless Holy One associated himself with all those filthy sinners, with all of us, his church. And he inaugurated his work on our behalf. Willingly. He makes us clean. Amazingly, as John the Baptist was horrified at the prospect, Jesus responded that it was fitting, now, in this moment, to fulfill all righteousness. 
And the heavens were opened.
As Pastor Vandelden reflected on the magnificence of God’s character being displayed in the willing obedience of the Son, I thought about how we are blessed and honored to come to the covenant renewal ceremony every week and be given Christ in Word and sacrament. Vandelden pointed out that the Father also looks on us through his own good pleasure in and through the Son. As the Father rejoiced in the Son and is well pleased, he “will rejoice over you with gladness” (Zech. 3:17). What a joy it was to hear God’s Word preached. What an honor is to gather and worship the Triune God with his covenant community. 
Sometimes I’m convinced that the spiritual warfare is the thickest in the Byrd house on Sunday mornings. It doesn’t matter how early I rise, how lovely the music I play is to set the mood, or how wonderful the breakfast may be, we all seem to run into a special kind of crazy trying to all be accounted for in the car by precisely 8:30 AM. By that time I have cracked enough to challenge my worth to walk through those doors to meet with holy people and approach the living God in worship. I am reminded that because of Christ, I may come. I am called to come. And although we may be traveling in a Traverse that is now conglomerated with five different attitude problems, I am so thankful that the Son was willing.
Posted on Wednesday, January 14, 2015 by Aimee Byrd on Housewife Theologian
Have you heard of the book, Eat This, Not That! ? I thought I would play off of that for a teaser to a book review I have featured on Books At A Glance. Here is a bite:
 
How does one abide in Christ? We read a passage like John 15:5, “I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing,” and our desire is to bear much fruit as one who abides in Christ.
While this is God’s will for every Christian, I am afraid that many have gotten the wrong idea about what that looks like. The popularity of the book Jesus Calling suggests that numerous Christians believe that our abiding involves receiving a special message from Jesus and feeling his presence, which leads to experiencing his peace. But is this what Scripture teaches?  
I mention this because Stanley Gale’s book, A Vine-Ripened Life is a great book to recommend in place of Jesus Calling. Identifying bad doctrine is important, but we also need to be able to offer something better to people who are attracted to such books.
We have a pretty personal message from Jesus in John 15. And there is some good news here. Those who abide in Christ will bear much fruit. One of these fruits is the peace that many who read Jesus Calling are after. But Gale doesn’t need extra messages from Jesus to learn about abiding in him...
 
Read the rest of the review at Books At A Glance. And good news, WTS Books is running a speacial deal on A Vine Ripened Life this week.So follow the link over at Books At A Glance to take advantage of that.
Posted on Wednesday, January 14, 2015 by Aimee Byrd on Housewife Theologian
Carl takes his queue from "My Fair Lady" as he asks me a preposterous question at the end of today’s podcast. We are all meeting up to do a batch of recordings tomorrow and I have half a mind to show up filthy, stinky, and crass, which is what the world would look like in the stereotypical question Carl posed.
Instead, I will show up with my usual: nunchucks and chocolate chip cookies. I embrace the fact that women are complicated and men will never figure us out. Sorry we can’t be as predictable as you fellows of the opposite sex.
Carl and Todd can hardly bear being with themselves, how would they fair if women more like them? The two are a bit of an anomaly: born within a week of one another, somehow huckstered and married amazing women in the same year, and now are both balding, middleish-aged, and bitter pastors. Think of how curmudgeonly they must have been before their significant others entered their lives. Think of all the work that God has done for their sanctification through these two brave and gracious women. Where would Carl and Todd be without them? Thankfully, we don’t have to see that picture.
And yet, these two still tried to carve out some guy-time for themselves and cohost a podcast where they could function comfortably as their balding, bitter, aging, male selves. How did that work out for them? Well, seems like they couldn’t survive long without a woman’s touch. So they invited me. They’ve tried to nurture their egos by inducting me as “one of the guys.” I could be troubled that I am the closest thing they have found to a woman who is more like a man. But then again, there is much that is troubling about Carl and Todd, so I don’t lose any sleep over it. We all know men do not really want to live a life where women are more like them.
Posted on Monday, January 12, 2015 by Aimee Byrd on Housewife Theologian

Our upcoming podcast takes a look at the best seller's list for Christian books. This year, I would love to do what I can to get people reading with more discernment, and to pursue reading good books. While I want to continue to highlight good books on the blog, this goal also means that I should probably spend some time reading and reviewing a book here and there from the best seller list. In the meantime, here is an article I wrote exactly a year ago that offers some advice on how to read up:

There is a reading program in the public school system that I despise: Accelerated Reader. Of course, the name sounds all smart enough. But don’t let the name fool you. The students take a computerized test to determine their reading levels. They are then assigned a color that corresponds to their capabilities. The books in the school all have colored stickers on the spine that indicate their reading level. The children are told that they are to read only the books that match to their tested and approved color. After they read their book, they take a comprehension test on the computer and receive points for their scores.

I fight this every year. If you want to grow as a reader, you must read above your reading level. And while comprehension is important, so is learning. We don’t stop where we don’t understand, we actively engage to grow in our understanding. There are methods we can employ to grow in our comprehension. My point is, we need to be challenged to grow, not coddled and encouraged to stay where we are. I’d rather my child read a book they don’t completely understand and work hard for a “B” grade than get an “A” reading something that is easy for them. Sure, sometimes it’s okay and even good to read material that comes easy, but to grow in understanding we must read from someone smarter than ourselves.

Same goes for adults. So often I see people start a book, only to neglect finishing it because they think it is over their head, or just plain above their reading level. It may have been a topic that they were really interested in, and they might have even been excited about the particular author. But as soon as they stumble over a concept taught in it, they conclude that this book just isn’t for them. I want to say, maybe this book is exactly for them—for that reason! Instead it would be good to think, “This book is over my head, maybe I could really grow in my understanding from reading it.”

But this requires an active engagement from the reader. In their great book, How to Read A Book, Mortimer J. Adler and Charles Van Doren compare the reader to the catcher in a baseball game. Just because the catcher is the receiver of the pitch doesn’t mean that their job is inactive. These authors teach the reader how to do this (I know, the irony of reading a book to learn how to read…).

Adler and Van Doren teach about different levels of reading. In their chapter on inspectional reading, the authors explain that sometimes our expectations are set too high when we pick up a difficult book, and we mistakenly give up when we realize those expectations won’t be met. When up against a book that is “over our head,” they recommend doing a superficial reading of the entire book. Look, you just might not get full comprehension the first time through. But that doesn’t mean that you cannot grow in your understanding. So their rule is:

In tackling a difficult book for the first time, read it through without ever stopping to look up or ponder the things you do not understand right away. (36)

Just keep reading. Read through the parts that you may not grasp, and eventually you will find some balls that you can catch. They encourage the reader to concentrate on those sections that you do understand.

Keep on this way. Read the book through, undeterred and undismayed by the paragraphs, footnotes, comments and references that escape you. If you let yourself get stalled, if you allow yourself to be tripped up by any one of these stumbling blocks, you are lost. In most cases, you will not be able to puzzle the thing out by sticking to it. You will have a much better chance understanding it on a second reading, but that requires you to have read the book through at least once. (36-37)

What? A second time? Yes! Read the stinking book again, and the understanding that you gained in the first run through will help you with your second date, that will hopefully be less superficial. But, Adler and Van Doren promise that even the superficial reading alone can be enlightening. “And even if you never go back, understanding half of a really tough book is much better than not understanding it at all, which will be the case if you allow yourself to be stopped by the first difficult passage you come to” (37).

This is the same thing a fitness trainer would tell you about surviving one of their workouts for the first time. You may not complete the duration of each exercise. You might look like a wimp and take too many water breaks. Your push-ups may be laughable at first. Heck, you might even puke. But if you persevere to the end, you have taken a great step in increasing your fitness level. You’re body is beginning to change. Sometimes it hurts. Get over it. You’ll do better the next time. And the one after that.

Don’t be satisfied with color-coded stickers telling you what books you can read. There’s no acceleration going on when you’re stagnant. Read up.

Posted on Friday, January 09, 2015 by Aimee Byrd on Housewife Theologian
Now here is an entertaining news story. It's actually a couple of years old but new to me today:
Really. It happened. 
A woman who was on a bus tour in through Iceland decided to go back to the bus and freshen up while they were near the Eldgja Canyon. Apparently, when she returned, none of her bus mates recognized the cleaned up version of their fellow tourist. But the old version of herself was memorable enough for them to think they had a missing passenger. 
Even more perplexing, this woman did not recognize the description they gave of the missing passenger (that would be her!), and joined the search party.
The article doesn’t reveal when the search began, but the coast guard was preparing a helicopter, and fifty people were searching through the terrain in vehicles and on foot until 3:00 AM, when they realized the missing woman was actually with them in the search party, searching for herself.
How many applications can we get out of this gem of a story?
If you found yourself spending a day with a group of strangers, what would be their impression of you?
How would they describe you if you went missing? This woman had to have made enough of an impression to be missed. If it were a mere matter of counting heads, they should have come up even, right? I mean, she was there. 
My daughter just had to pick one word to describe herself for an art project. She said that some of the students picked words that were too vague, like “thoughtful” or “friendly” and the teacher told them to try again. Solanna picked “sunny” and he said it was an apt word to describe herself. 
Does your perception of yourself match how others see you?
This woman could not recognize her own self in the profile that was given. It almost sounds like she was delusional, doesn’t it? How can one be so out of touch with how they look and what their most basic perceived personality traits are? It makes you wonder what she sees when she looks in the mirror. It also makes me think about how a delusional evaluation of ourselves effects our prayer lives. If we are praying out of our own false perceptions, we are going to also have a false sense of our needs and what we are actually grateful for. 
This is where the God’s Word comes in nicely. The living and active word of God cuts through our own masks and delusions and exposes us for who we really are. Maybe the friends whom we choose to spend time with don’t have the heart to tell us the truth, but God does. Ant yet he doesn’t keep us there. Because of the work of Christ and the application of his Sprit, his beloved are actually being transformed into something far better than the clean up this woman returned to her bus mates with. God’s people are being transformed into the likeness of Christ. We do not need to despair when we see ourselves for who we really are because Christ is revealed to us in his Word.
Have you found yourself?
This story gives a whole new light to the adage, “Wherever you go, there you are.”  You could search until 3:00 AM in the terrains of Iceland with the help of a buss full of people and the coast guard, looking for someone whom you’ve never recognized.
Maybe, instead, this story is a good illustration of our old life in Adam.
By faith, the gospel reveals to us the good news that in Christ we are new creations. Our old life, which really wasn’t much of a life since we were enslaved to sin, is never to be found again. 
All I know is that pastors have a gem in this story. Put it in your illustration file for a rainy day when you just can’t think of a good analogy to connect your text to the readers. Every which way I turn this story, I find a new application.
Posted on Monday, January 05, 2015 by Aimee Byrd on Housewife Theologian
Something came up at the end of the sermon this weekend when the pastor was speaking on the last verse in his text, Matthew 2:13-23:
“And they went and lived in a city called Nazareth, so that what was spoken by the prophets might be fulfilled, that he would be called a Nazarene.” 
This is a bit of a difficult verse for a couple of reasons. First of all, try to find one prophet recorded saying that the Savior will be called a Nazarene in the Old Testament. It’s not there. (Well, some make the stretch that it sounds like the Hebrew word for “Branch” and is referring to Isa.11:1.) My pastor said that the plural usage here is important: prophets. And then he started talking about this place called Nazareth.
He called it a Podunk town. It’s such a no-name town that we never even see it mentioned in the entire Old Testament. 
That leads to another difficulty. There’s a line in an old Bruce Lee movie, Enter the Dragon, where ex-Shaolin student, now criminal mastermind Mr. Han tells African American activist/fighter, Williiams, “Your style is unorthodox.” Those words ring true here, where we have Jesus, the true Israel, called out of Egypt (Matt. 2:15, Hosea 11:1), to….Nowheresville? That is where the Savior of the World is going to spend four-fifths of his life on earth? It’s a bit unconventional. 
King Herod has slaughtered all the male babies in Bethlehem in a failed attempt to kill the true King Jesus. We see God’s sovereignty and faithfulness to save his people through his Son as Joseph is following the revelation given to him by an angel of the Lord, first out of Bethlehem, and then Egypt. With all this divine birth and divine intervention, we would expect the next place to be a pretty big deal. The One who has been in exile moves on to be an even bigger nobody.
“Can any good thing come out of Nazareth?” (Jn. 1:46).
You can almost hear the disdain. He might as well have said he came from a van down by the river. If you come from Nazareth, you “don’t amount to jack squat!” My pastor explained that Nazareth was used as smear word.
Well we have heard something like that from the prophets.
But I am a worm and not a man, scorned by mankind and despised by the people. All who see me mock me; they make mouths at me; they wag their heads; “He trusts in the Lord; let him deliver him; let him rescue him, for he delights in him!” (Ps. 22:6-8)
For he grew up before him like a young plant, and like a root out of dry ground; he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. (Isa. 53:2-3)
“Thus says the LORD, the Redeemer of Israel and his Holy One, to one deeply despised, abhorred by the nation, the servant of rulers: ‘Kings shall see and arise; princes, and they shall prostrate themselves; because of the LORD, who is faithful, the Holy One of Israel, who has chosen you.’”(Isa. 49:7)
My pastor pointed out that our Messiah is a humble servant, a lowly man. He reminded us that Jesus left the glory of heaven to live in Nazareth. Because he humbled himself, we can be assured that he ministers to us in our own lowly place. And we can be humble. Rachel wept and lamented over her children; things are not as they should be. Pastor Vandelden preached that “the deliverer has come to hush our loud lamentation.”
Christ is no longer in Podunksville. He is now sitting at the right hand of the father, constantly interceding on behalf of his people. We were reminded of one of the most glorious verses of the Bible, which not only describes the best city ever, but an end to our lamenting for the rest of eternity:
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, "Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away." (Rev. 21:1-4)
We like to think more of ourselves than we actually are. And if we were to narrate our own stories, we would be in important places, ones that aren’t equivalent to smear words, doing important things. But God’s style of sovereignty is a bit unorthodox, for us anyway. The poor in spirit are blessed, and so are those who mourn. God loves the broken, and as we were encouraged this Sunday, he is the great comforter. Our pastor exhorted us to look to the One who was in exile, to bring our lamentations to him. He will comfort the mourning. And he will lead us to eternal holiness where everything will be made right. And we will dwell with him on the new heavens and the new earth.