Posted on Tuesday, March 03, 2015 by Aimee Byrd on Housewife Theologian
At my last speaking engagement, I had a Pinterest-worthy basket of goodies waiting for me in my room. I could tell that the women who put it together had researched my taste a little bit. There was a cute bag of granola by “Mama Bird,” a tin can of Jittery Joe's coffee (The Freudian Drip), Trader Joe's chocolate, along with some other cool stuff. And in my little mini fridge, there was a mixed six-pack of assorted drinks: iced coffee, soda, a German beer, and a hard cider.
So when I rolled back into my room around 10:00 PM, after a great evening of meeting, dining with, and speaking for a wonderful group of women, I thought that beer sounded like a great way to unwind. Except there was a problem: I didn’t have a bottle-opener. But I wasn’t going to let something like that stop me. I did what every self-respecting, thirsty, determined person would do---I went to Google. There had to be some trick for opening a bottle cap. My search led me to askmen.com. Sure, I was at a women’s retreat, but this is where my evening was ironically ending. 
As it turns out, the most popular method is to use a key to pry open the top. I thought that sounded easy enough. Except there was another problem. My husband drove me to the airport and I had a lovely woman chauffeuring me around for the retreat. I had no keys.
What to do, what to do…
I scanned my suite, wondering what MacGyver would do at a time like this. And then I remembered something awesome, even providential, that was in my gift basket: The Giving Key. That’s right,  a cute little canvas bag was holding a key on a necklace chain. The word “grace” was engraved on one side, and there was a tag that read:
Give this key away to someone when they need it more than you---then blog your story at THEGIVINGKEYS.COM. 
That was me! I was in need! And I was providentially given this key the very night that I needed it. I pulled out that blessed key from it’s canvas bag, and proceeded to pry open my beer like a boss. I drank that baby with a whole new sense of satisfaction. And I saved the bottle cap.
I went over to The Giving Keys website to share my story and read this:
Written Story Submissions (This is where you write your story and make us cry).
As meaningful as my story is, I’m not sure this is what they have in mind. But my story needed to be shared all the same.
Posted on Friday, February 27, 2015 by Aimee Byrd on Housewife Theologian
The MoS gang is once again gathering together in my hometown today to do a batch of recordings. Aside from hearing Carl repeatedly pronounce Maryland wrong, I am looking forward to what we have lined up for the day. One of our topics for discussion is the excellent commentary on Job by Christopher Ash.
Ash articulates the question that Job is stewing with and that God responds to in his first speech. It is a question that we all face throughout life: Do we live in a well-run world? 
Even though I theologically know the answer to this and I wouldn’t dare want to utter that question, I have to continually remind myself what I know to be true about God when things do not seem to confirm it. How can the world be well-run when a mom in her prime dies of cancer, leaving her family to ache in darkness? How can a world be well-run when a 17-year-old, Christian young woman crashes into a school bus, immediately leaving her parents and community to mourn her death? It wasn’t drunk driving. It wasn’t even texting and driving. Yet she was distracted. How can a world be well-run when a seventh-grader unexpectedly goes into cardiac arrest and isn’t strong enough to make it? 
And even on a smaller, everyday-life scale I am still confronted with this question. I make plans---pretty good plans. And yet providence of bad weather (“an act of God”) can close a whole airport down, rendering my well-ordered plans into chaos. How can a world be well-run when I need to fly from Atlanta to Cincinnati, with a sketchy layover, to then get to DC?? How does that make any sense? My flying time is doubled and I may not even make that second plane. Well-run??!! I’m a mom with a plan, ready to happily join my family in worship after a great two days with women who love the Lord! Should I be punished for trying to do good?
I wanted what was good---to worship with my family in my local covenant community. Except my stupid flight was cancelled. And to top it off, just to make things more dramatic, my cell phone dies and my charger does too---the night before travel. 
But God is there. I pray knowing God is there, and that he is sustaining me in all things. And I think, how dare I pray for cell phone power and connecting flights when my neighbor just died of cancer? Who cares if I’m stranded in Cincinnati? Who cares if I miss a night of sleep over stupid travel anxiety? There are more important problems in the world to be solved. There are families truly hurting. 
And there is a God who is in control.
We live in a well-run world. We do. We do because it is run by a good God. The God. And he is good. Only faith sees this because in our sinful nature, we have our own ideas about what is good and who is good. There is one source of good. 
Oh, he is Good! If we could hold fast to this truth, we would live in such wisdom and peace. And yet we want to hold the power of deciding good. 
But because God is good, and because of his great love for his people, he will not let us have that word. His Word is much better. And it commands the water into position. It controls the darkest places that we cannot fathom. It is the source of true light. It puts the angelic stars in motion. And it made an oath for the salvation of his beloved.
How beautiful is the wisdom and the Word of God! How wonderful is his goodness! While we think we are amidst chaos, he knows that this world is well-run. And he continues forever according to his goodness. 
No, nothing is random. God does not miss a thing. He does not react or concoct. He knows. He is sovereign. And he is good.
And his rule is good, all the time. All the time.
Posted on Wednesday, February 25, 2015 by Aimee Byrd on Housewife Theologian

This week's MoS podcast is about Sunday. Well that reminded me of the cool table. I wrote it a couple of years ago, but it's a reflection from one of my favorite books:

You know what I’m talking about—the coveted table. The exclusive table. Maybe there was a time in your life (hopefully not past middle or high school) that you measured your own status by whether or not you sat amongst the cool. Although, it’s not like the food was any different at the cool table. Maybe you’ve wondered about what cool people talk about. I guess sometimes the quality of cool conversation can rise above some. They get to talk about those exclusive parties that promote their eminence. But that’s neither here nor there. Maybe we can credit those at the cool table with a better propensity for style. At the very least, the coveted table looked cool. They have that down to an art.

Perhaps even though you didn’t sit at the cool table, you prided yourself with the notion that at least you didn’t sit at that other table—the loser table full of misfits. Well, that’s the table where Jesus usually took his seat. In The Ongoing Feast, Arthur Just Jr. quotes R. Karris saying, “…in Luke’s Gospel Jesus got himself crucified by the way he ate” (128). Who you ate with was an even bigger deal to the Jerusalem society than it is now for us. It went beyond social status to one of righteousness. In order to sit amongst the righteous, there was a very rigorous, “detailed description of those considered to be ethnically pure Israelites according to the lines of descent based on genealogies of Ezra, Nehemiah, and the Chronicles. The purpose of this was to determine who was worthy to engage in table fellowship with them. Anyone not worthy of commensalism was considered a sinner, and the categories of sinner were long and detailed” (132).

Imagine the uproar then when Jesus is spotted supping with Levi, the tax collector. Jesus was very inclusive in his table fellowship. Now the tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to hear him. And the Pharisees and scribes murmured, saying, “This man receives sinners and eats with them” (Luke 15:1-2). It seems that if Jesus wasn’t eating and drinking with sinners, he was talking about eating and drinking through parables. Food and table fellowship are a major theme in Luke. That’s because there really is meaning attached to who we eat with.

We see in Scripture that Jesus ascribes much more to a meal than refueling. “Meals are a prime symbol of election, forgiveness, and eschatological blessing…” (140). Who did this guy think he was, God? Well, yes.

Right now, Christ’s table is inclusive. The invitation goes out to all sinners, misfits, and dejected. What does this imply concerning our attitude toward those we sup with? Just as biblical times, table fellowship now insinuates “peace, trust,… (and) sharing one’s life” (133).

Christ used table fellowship as one of his major means of teaching. He communicated his death, resurrection, and the new age to come. And on that great day when our Lord returns, we look forward to the best feast of all. This is the table that we should aspire to be seated. And this table is exclusive. It is only for those who have trusted in Jesus Christ for their righteousness. He has paid the highest cost for this supper, his own blood, all to invite us to the table.

Until then, we are called to the table fellowship of the Lord’s Supper, where ordinary bread and wine become a means of grace to convey the benefits of his death and resurrection. It is an eschatological meal amongst fellow redeemed sinners and confessors of Christ. The future breaks into the present, the age to come breaks in to these last days. God’s promises of the reality of the new creation are ratified in this meal.

Maybe you’ve been longing to be invited to some other meal, some other exclusive table. Let me encourage you that the King is summoning a people to his table. Just as when he was walking this earth, it may appear to the world that we are being invited by a rejected Savior to a table full of outcasts. It certainly looks odd that we now feast on our Savior's body and blood. But because of his body and blood, there will come a day when we are invited to the great feast, in which Christ is the host. “Blessed are those who are called to the marriage supper of the Lamb!” (Rev. 19:9). And trust me, the food at this table will be amazing.

Here are some other articles that came from this book: Proleptic Meals, Hold the Bread, An Old-School Mediated Device, The First Thing We Will DoEschatological Feasting

 

Posted on Tuesday, February 24, 2015 by Aimee Byrd on Housewife Theologian
I consider Luma Simms a friend. We aren’t close in the sense that we keep tabs on everyday life kind of stuff, but we have met in person, we have communicated online, and we have even talked on the phone about some pretty deep matters in the Christian life. So it saddened me to see that she has converted to Roman Catholicism. I did ask her about this surprise, and Luma graciously responded. 
Since then, she has written some interesting articles that have perplexed me a bit. Her most recent, Why I Wear A Mantilla, had me asking some more questions. Although my correspondence with Luma is infrequent, I do consider this a friendly response.
In her article for First Things, Luma opens saying that one of the reasons that she converted to Roman Catholicism was so she could wear a mantilla. She states, “The mantilla is a lace veil women have worn over their heads while worshipping God since the time of the New Testament Church.” But was it? While women did wear head coverings in the New Testament Church, the mantilla is a more recent, fashionable custom that originated from Spain and seems to have made its way into the west around the 1960’s. Women in the New Testament church were not wearing lace. 
I do not believe that 1 Cor. 11:1-16 indicates that women today should wear head coverings in worship. Here is a good answer from the OPC website that offers several reasons why. And Luma does point out that the Catholic Church does not require women to wear a mantilla in worship, that it is not something she “has” to do, but rather something she “gets” to do. And she encourages other women to join her in this because it sends a message of our femininity. She asserts, “the covered head says, ‘this is a woman.’” 
Does it?
Well, I guess it may in the sense that I’m not likely going to see a man worshipping with a mantilla (I know, it’s ironic that it’s called mantilla). But I do not believe I need to add something extra to display my femininity. And that is what I find odd about this argument. Luma laments with Neil Postman that our culture is now more image-centered than word-centered. And then she encourages us to wear a mantilla as a “visual expression of distinction between men and women.” Why would we add another image to express our womanhood? Why add to the image-centered proclivity?
And as she suggests, does my uncovered head exclaim, “this is a man”? No, of course not. A head covering does not have the same significance that it did in Paul’s time, and I don’t think a mantilla in particular has anything to do with my identity as a female or with resisting the rampant feminism of our time. And yet Luma believes the mantilla is both a statement and a righteous weapon for women in the church: 
What area of life can be more foundational to rebuilding culture than the mass? And the most beautiful symbol of this complementarity on display during the mass is the mantilla.
I defy the sexual revolution and its destructive consequences. I fight it with every weapon it is righteous and Christ-honoring to use. I fight it with my mantilla.
Of course, as a Protestant I have much to disagree with here. But this argument reminded me of another recent article from Luma explaining that she was glad as a divorced and remarried woman that the Roman Catholic Church would not allow her to participate in Communion (she is currently pursuing a Decree of Nullity). 
I would say one of the most beautiful symbols of the complementarity on display is when a pastor administers Communion. The Lord’s Supper pictures our head, Jesus Christ, nourishing his bride with his own body and blood until he returns. It also points to the great feast we will have on that approaching day. Here we have the Word preached, followed by the sign and the seal of that good news proclaimed. 
But Luma is now excluded. Maybe a mantilla makes my friend feel more included in the worship service, I don’t know. 
Like Luma, I also defy the sexual revolution and its destructive consequences. But I do not see the mantilla as a righteous weapon in that cause. I “get to” participate in the ordinary means of grace that God has promised to convey Christ and all his blessings to me in worship. 
The mantilla does indeed make a statement. But I think it is a statement that identifies Luma with the contemporary Roman Catholic Church over any kind of statement of the complementarity on display, or as a righteous weapon against the sexual revolution. And I do believe the mantilla is quite fashionable
Posted on Wednesday, February 18, 2015 by Aimee Byrd on Housewife Theologian
Well this is strange. My daughter was playing a song called "Car Radio" off her phone while we were riding in the car and something about it made me think of cancer. Well, not just cancer in general, but cancer and faith as Todd Billings describes it in his outstanding book, Rejoicing in Lament.
This Twenty-One Pilots song certainly didn’t sound like the type of music I suspect Billings listens to. But there is a message in this song about a guy whose car radio had been stolen, thus his distraction from his fears and emotions has been stolen. And now he is thinking like crazy when he’s driving in his car. During all this deep thinking that he’s been subjected to, he realizes a terrifying thought that we are all battling fear. Thinking further, he decides that there are only two answers in this battle: faith or sleep. So he concludes:
Faith is to be awake
And to be awake is for us to think
And for us to think is to be alive
And I will try with every rhyme
To come across like I am dying
To let you know you need to try to think
Todd Billings suffers from a much more costly loss than a car radio. He has been diagnosed with terminal cancer at the age of thirty-nine. Billings is a man of faith, a professor of theology in fact. And like this song, Billings also articulates a faith that needs fresh thinking. The distraction of regular life has been stolen from him, and he is forced to think more deeply about his own fears and his own faith. He asks, “How does this sudden loss, which sinks in gradually, relate to the abundant life that we enjoy in Christ?” (x). 
While in his song Tyler Joseph doesn’t articulate the content of faith, Billings spent his career thinking and teaching what his faith consists of. And yet now facing suffering and death, he realizes that he is awake in a new way as well. Now his faith, which he knows to be true, is seeking understanding. He explains, “In my tears, there was not only grief but also joy that in the body of Christ theological truths are not a commodity trafficked and controlled by professional theologians” (2). His book wonderfully wakes us all up to an active faith, one that can openly lament to our God of hope, one that joins the resistance because we bear witness to another kingdom, one that fights to understand, and one that also accepts what our sovereign God has not answered for us yet.
We need to try to think.
Joseph’s song also has a sense of urgency to it, and even a sense that he is alone in recognizing the darkness because everyone else is content to be distracted by entertainment. He even laments repeatedly:
I have these thoughts, so often I ought
To replace that slot with what I once bought
'Cause somebody stole my car radio
And now I just sit in silence
In a way, Joseph is leading a resistance in this song as he is challenging people to a faith that thinks. He seems to be alone as a thinker. Billings actually comforts the reader that “we are not pioneers in the darkness:”
Our own “loud cries and tears” are not those of ones blazing new trails into grief; they are a Spirit-enabled sharing in the suffering of the One who has plunged even deeper into the darkness than us—yet not without hope. 
Thus, when on the cross Jesus cries with the psalmist, “My God, my God, why have your forsaken me?,” this is a cry of desolation that shows us that when we pray this ourselves, we are not pioneers; we are not in a free fall. It is a cry of unspeakable anguish and yet profound hope because in Christ the covenant God himself has taken on our human suffering, even our sufferings of alienation and dread. In this moment on the cross, Jesus Christ—as the embodiment of the true Israel and the new Adam—takes on the exile and forsakenness of humanity in order to exhaust it; desolation itself is emptied of its finality by the Son’s assumption of human misery in a faithful, covenantal lament. (156)
The content is important. But we don’t place our faith in mere theological statements. Our faith is in the person, Jesus Christ. Billings does come across like he’s dying---because he is. So are we. That’s why we should all read this book.
Faith is to be awake.
And I would add that while faith is a gift from God, it is a fighting faith. Billings reminds us, “As our lips say, ‘Thy kingdom come,’ we pray—and act—as revolutionaries who protest against the darkness in this ‘present evil age’” (78).
It is much more laborious for Billings to use his mind and articulate all the rich content in his book. The cancer and the aggressive treatments have wearied him. But we were privileged to be able to interview him for MoS. So maybe now you could turn off your car radio and listen to this conversation that counts. Join the resistance. 
 
Posted on Monday, February 16, 2015 by Aimee Byrd on Housewife Theologian
There are plenty of commands in Scripture to be discerning. As I am reading through Christopher Ash’s excellent commentary on Job, I am realizing what a great illustration this book of the Bible is on the significance of separating the truth from the lies. I’m also getting further conditioning in the practice.
The speeches of Job’s three so-called comforters and friends have always wearied me. But Ash takes care to give them credit where credit is due. Perhaps we aren’t as attracted to the rich poetry in Job as we should be because we’ve reduced our repertoire to sappy talk about “being loved real.” And we know that part of the storyline is that these three wise guys are wrong. But they can be quite profound. Ash goes as far to say:
One of the most frightening things about Job’s comforters is how beautiful their speeches are (at times) and how very close they are to the kinds of things we often say to one another in our churches. (153)
A reader of Job knows that good theology isn’t merely an academic pursuit. Proper knowledge of God, and even a healthy acquiescence of what we don’t know, prepares us for suffering. It helps us to lament well and it helps us to comfort other sufferers with truth. Which god do we run to when we are afflicted? Which god are we pointing others to in their pain? Discernment is that kind of important. 
But discerning the truth from the lie isn’t an easy exercise. The best lies are marinated in beautiful truths. Again, Ash shows us the difficulty in discerning Zophar’s first speech in Job 11:
We love to hear Paul exclaim, “Oh the depth of the riches and wisdom of the knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!” (Romans 11:33). What a wonderful thing to say and how beautifully expressed! But Zophar says something similar when he says that the deep things of God’s wisdom and the limits of his power expand higher than Heaven, deeper than Sheol, further than the earth, and wider than the sea (Job 11:7-9). We love to hear Jesus promise us life in all its fullness (John 10:10). And yet Zophar offers Job something not dissimilar in verses 15-19 of this speech.
So what’s going on? After all, God says that Zophar has “not spoken…what is right” about him (42:7). Are we to conclude that Paul and the Lord Jesus have not spoken rightly? Surely not! The same concepts and remarkably similar words may have different implications and alternative meanings depending on the contexts in which they are spoken. (153)
Zophar was not a comforter to Job at all. Ash breaks down his speech in Job 11 to give a cruel accusation, a barbed challenge, and a deceptive offer. His teaching about God is what Ash calls “the System” and warns that this is a very attractive but dangerous theology for all of us. It is a sort of default theology for us all. And it is a lie. “An immersion in the speeches of Job will help us really and deeply to know what we know, to remember that our default system is not true, and so to prepare us for the realities of discipleship” (160).
Ash’s commentary on Job offers great conditioning in discernment. Because of this, I’m not served a tasteless and tainted piece of meat that has been marinated in beautiful truths, but a pure feast on the richness of Christ and the glory of God. The System leaves no room for the wisdom of the cross, therefore it can never offer true comfort. We see how imperative it is to recognize a lie when we read a book like Job. I recommend Ash’s commentary for anyone who would like to be pointed to the truth.
Posted on Thursday, February 12, 2015 by Aimee Byrd on Housewife Theologian

Have you ever thought about what your dying words would be? Well, I have, and I asked that question to my Bible study gals as we were studying the faith of the patriarchs. In Hebrews 11:20-22 we see faith that finishes well. Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph end their lives holding fast to the confession of their hope without wavering (10:23).

I don’t really think that I’m a dark person, but I have thought about what I would want to say if I knew I was dying. It is your last chance to witness to God in this world. Actually, who doesn’t think about God when they are witnessing or experiencing death? Arthur Pink believes that these are the most blissful moments in a believer’s life. If I have the opportunity for dying words, I want to say,  “God is good.” Pretty simple, but it could be profound to someone witnessing your death. Even if I die the worst of deaths, I want to be able to witness to this glorious truth—God is good!

I thought about writing an article with a paragraph emphasizing each word separately, first emphasizing that it is God alone who is good, then the amazing truth that the one and only God is the definition of all good, and lastly how we know what goodness is because we can know him. It’s funny because it pleased God to have this be my theme for the week—his goodness & dying words.

Kim Shay wrote an excellent article posted the day after my Bible study titled, God is Good All the Time. I recommend it to you. While reading Kim’s article, I remembered Augustine’s whole section about God’s goodness in The City of God. He warned us that since all goodness comes from God, it is evil to try to seek anything good outside of him—it just doesn’t exist!

"Consequently he who inordinately loves the good which any nature possesses, even though he obtain it, himself becomes evil in the good, and wretched because depraved of a greater good" (388).

Kim discussed seeing goodness even within our trials. Often, our idea of good is to be out of the trial. But if God is the source of all good, we need to recognize and thank him for the good within the trial. Looking anywhere else for our good is evil.

But that wasn’t the end of my theme for the week. Last night I read Flannery O’Connor’s short story, A Good Man is Hard to Find. Here the themes of what is good and dying words converged. The imagery in the story is amazing, and I don’t want to give away all the details, but the grandma is a powerful character. A line in the beginning stood off the page. The family just packed into the car for vacation and instead of dressing for comfort on the ride, grandma is all decked out--"In case of an accident, anyone seeing her dead on the highway would know at once that she was a lady" (The Complete Stories, 118). That takes making sure you have clean underwear on up a couple notches!

In grandma’s character we see that goodness is really status, wealth, and outward appearances. Her whole value-system is rocked when she has a gun to her head. In a way, O’Connor is putting a gun to all of our heads. Your dying words really do reveal your faith.

Grandma, who thought she was good, tries to convince a serial murderer that he’s got good within him too. As the dialogue progresses, grandma tries to get this Misfit to pray to Jesus. I’ve said too much already, if you’ve never read the story and would like to, but finally grandma realizes that she isn’t good. There is no good within herself. Everything she looked to for good was evil because it wasn't in Christ. In a moment of divine grace, grandma realizes that she is no different from the Misfit, “Why, you’re one of my babies. You’re one of my own children!” (132). This actually was a good witness to the Misfit. Although he rejects God’s goodness for his own righteousness, he remarks, “She would have been a good woman…if it had been somebody there to shoot her every minute of her life” (133).

Have you ever thought about your dying words?

 

*This post was originally published  on Oct. 5, 2012

Posted on Monday, February 09, 2015 by Aimee Byrd on Housewife Theologian
Have you ever had a deep sense of your insignificance? Have you ever had one of those leveling moments when you wonder why the heck God has allowed you to continue with the blessings and responsibilities that he has bestowed on you? Have you thought that you may not be able to keep it going, that the people who love you deserve more, and God deserves more as a witness to his name?
Jesus called this the poor in Spirit. My pastor is preaching through Matthew and we have now reached the Sermon on the Mount. Yesterday he preached on the first three beatitudes. Beatitude isn’t really a word that we use in conversation. We use the term blessed a lot, but not usually in the same manner as Jesus does in his sermon. I think that it is a blessing to have a healthy family and to love God well with all he has given me.
These blessings overwhelm me sometimes because I am so needy. I think of my dearest blessings, my closest neighbors---my family. I just don’t love them as well as I desire. While I am encouraged by the knowledge that Christ has loved me so profoundly and that he blesses my efforts as I strive to share that love with others, I also am constantly aware of how I fail to live accordingly.
This is the greater blessing. We are all there. We don’t measure up to the righteousness of God on our own, and so we don’t love as we should. We don’t even appreciate our blessings enough. We take them for granted. And yet we look to our blessings for satisfaction. Recognizing our bankruptcy here is the greater blessing. The gig is up. 
The world promotes self esteem. Self esteem is not a blessing. It is a hoax. My pastor explained that to be blessed is to be richly satisfied because we know the King. These beatitudes, explaining supreme blessing, teach us the mark of those in God’s kingdom. Self esteem promotes self-reliance, situational happiness, and the illusion of control. The first three beatitudes teach a positional truth for those who are needy, sorrowful, and submissive.
This is a comfort. When I am low, when I sense my depravity and I feel so inadequate, when I sense the chasm between my faith and my actions, when I wish I were more pliable to whatever God ordains, I am blessed to know that Someone has lived a life that embodies these beatitudes---Jesus Christ. My pastor made it clear that we do not get into the kingdom because we are these things.  
And yet I am blessed.
Pastor Vandelden ensured us that we get into the kingdom by trusting the perfect citizen. “Behold the King in his Word.” We need the King, so we are poor in spirit. We love the King, and so we mourn over how we have offended him. We submit to the King, and so we are harnessed by the Word of God in meekness. 
No, I am not poor enough in Spirit, I do not mourn as I should, and I have much growth before me in meekness. Our King Jesus lived the life of a man who embodied these attributes. But as citizens of his kingdom, we are going to be transformed into the likeness of our King. These beatitudes describe what a citizen of heaven will be recognized by. And it is beautiful.
We are sold a convoluted message by society about true beauty. But there is no beauty without truth. For now, it is beautiful to behold the King in his Word. It is beautiful to live according to his Word. But what a blessing it will be to behold the beatific vision, when we shall see Christ as he is in his unveiled glory---a supreme blessing.
Posted on Friday, February 06, 2015 by Aimee Byrd on Housewife Theologian
These days we use the word friend as loosely as “Sure, you look great in those jeans.”  And so we use a qualifying word when we want to express an actual friendship, a “He is a good friend,” or “She is a true friend” kind of thing. Plenty of thinkers have lamented that one can have 942 Facebook friends and still be a lonely person. It is a divine blessing to have three real friends.
Job had three friends like that.
I am reading Christopher Ash’s commentary on Job in preparation for an upcoming conversation I will be having with Carl & Todd for a Mortification of Spin podcast. After Job was stricken with every kind of unbearable tragedy we could imagine, he “sits in the ashes” with a “broken piece of pottery with which to scrape himself” (2:8). Basically, he is sitting outside the city gate on the incinerated pile of the city’s filth and garbage, “the place that Jesus was later to use as the best human image to represent Hell (Gehenna,  the valley of the sons of Hinnom, outside Jerusalem),” as Ash describes it (52). That is where his three friends find Job:
Now when Job's three friends heard of all this evil that had come upon him, they came each from his own place, Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite, and Zophar the Naamathite. They made an appointment together to come to show him sympathy and comfort him. (Job 2:11)
Ash explains that the Old Testament usage of the word friend is much more weighty than our contemporary usage. He describes the meaning of a friend as “pledged, unbreakable, covenant love and loyalty” (58). And we see that these three friends have already traveled a long way to comfort Job. Of course, we know how this will play out and that they do not give the best comfort. 
I wonder if Job even wanted them there when he saw them approaching. Did he want his friends to see him like that? Many people isolate themselves when they are suffering because they are in a state that is impossible for anyone else to enter. What can anyone possibly say that will help this kind of pain?
These three don’t even recognize their old friend at first, but when they do they see that his suffering is so great that they sat with him seven days and seven nights without speaking a word to him. 
Ash points out how they are treating him as if he were already dead. “A seven-day silence symbolized mourning for the dead.” Could you imagine how creepy that must have been? I mean, at first Job may not have wanted them to talk, but seven days!? The text doesn’t even assure us that they were praying for Job. We only read that they didn’t utter a word to him. The author suggests that Job must have felt even more alone as his friends sat there offering no comfort. It is sort of dehumanizing not to be addressed at all. And lonely.
I thought about the times I have felt the most lonely. I also thought about the friends whom I have served poorly when I should have offered better comforting. Ash wrote about “the loneliness Job foreshadows”:
Job in his awesome aloneness foreshadows another believer, an even greater man who endures an even deeper suffering. This believer too was with his dearest friends, in a garden outside Jerusalem. He told them to sit and wait while he prayed. He took with him his three closest friends “and began to be greatly distressed and troubled.” He said to them, “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death. Remain here and watch.” He went a little further, fell on the ground, and prayed “with loud cries and tears.” But when he came back he found them sleeping. “Could you not watch one hour?” he asked sadly (Mark 14:32—42, Heb. 5:7). He prayed and wept alone. And the next day he suffered alone, stripped of his clothes, robbed of his friends, with even his mother having to keep her distance from the cross. He had said to his friends that although they would not leave him alone, he was not alone, “for the Father is with me” (John 16:32). But in the deepest intensity of his suffering he cried out in anguish, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Mark 15:34). As the old hymn puts it, “He bore the burden to Calvary, and suffered and died alone.” (63)
The best friends of the Son of God could not even stay awake to pray for him while he was suffering through his deepest sorrow. Just like Job, Jesus had three “steadfast” friends right there in his presence who might as well have been a million miles away. There he was on the ground, knowing his life was not going to be spared on the cross. 
And Jesus was obedient. He was blameless. He did not curse God even when he suffered the greatest affliction imaginable. It was an affliction that none of us could bear. And he had to go through it alone.
Amazingly, Jesus calls the people the Father has given him his friends. We have unbreakable covenant loyalty in him. Even now, Jesus never sleeps, but is praying at the right hand of the Father, interceding on our behalf. 
Ash closes quoting Jean Danielou:
Suffering encloses a man in solitude…Between Job and his friends an abyss was cleft. They regarded him with astonishment as a strange being…But they could no longer get to him. Only Jesus could cross this abyss, descend into the abyss of misery, plunge into the deepest hell. (64)
The friendship of Jesus is a divine blessing indeed. And Ash assures the reader that because of what he has done in his loneliness, a believer will never enter the depth of the abyss that Job did. But we will encounter suffering. Job points us to the One who gave us a true Comforter. 
Posted on Wednesday, February 04, 2015 by Aimee Byrd on Housewife Theologian
One of the main reasons I even began blogging and writing is that I sensed a real need for women to understand their responsibility to be good theologians. And even now as I travel and speak, I am finding that many women in churches under good teaching still do not have a firm grasp of confessional Christianity.
I meet so many wonderful women whom I would love to see reading better books. Sometimes it’s a matter of getting people to read at all. But often I find that there are a good number of women who go to their local Christian bookstore, find an interesting title in the front displays, and unknowingly bring home a book full of teaching that contradicts what they hear from the pulpit on a regular basis. And I am finding that women are not coming to the conclusions that these books may be harmful, but rather they are captivated by the emotional appeals and the author’s story. They are unable to discern the bad theology that has snuck in through the back door.
I have heard some say, “Well what is the big deal if we all love Jesus?” And, “When we die, are we going to find that we are saved by grace plus a theology exam?” No, we are saved by grace through faith alone in Christ alone. But our faith has content. And it’s kind of important. I am jealous over people knowing my husband rightly. I would be upset if people were sharing things about him that were untrue. And he would we flummoxed if I described him in a false light. Why aren’t we jealous to hold fast to the truth about our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ? How would we know that our faith is in the true God if we are not concerned in the details of who he is and what he has done? 
So I like to review and recommend good books for others to read. But I am finding that is not enough. Unfortunately, many evangelical Christians are theologically out of shape. They do not have the fitness for reading a good book. And with technology changing our brains, we are being conditioned for crisp interfaces and easy scanned information. Cracking open a good book might be like starting a workout for the first time. Not everyone is inclined to build their theological stamina.
The market has catered to this. We have done some Mortification of Spin podcasts on the frightening bestseller’s list for Christian books. I am seeing the need to review some of these. I don’t think it will make me very popular, but I’m hoping that it will be helpful for those who would like to read with discernment.
So I have reviewed a book that is extremely popular right now called The Best Yes, by Lysa Terkeurst. It is the #1 Bestseller in Christian Women’s Issues on Amazon. TerKeurst is a much loved Christian author and speaker. But it is important that we are critical about the content we are reading. What does her book actually say about God and what is our best yes to buy in the Christian bookstore?
You can read my review here at Books at a Glance.