Posted on Friday, October 31, 2014 by Aimee Byrd on Housewife Theologian

Last weekend I had the privilege to attend a women’s conference featuring Susan Hunt as the speaker. It was a small gathering at a quaint, PCA church in Frederick, MD. Faith PCA was hospitable enough to open their event to the local churches. And so 106 women from 15 different churches filled their modest sanctuary.

Have you heard of Susan Hunt? Maybe not. She wasn’t at any of the recent major women’s conferences. You didn’t see her at the last TGC or the IF:Gathering. She isn’t tweeting or podcasting. I don’t think she’s done any rounds at the homeschool conventions and she certainly doesn’t carry nunchucks. But Susan is tough, and she has influenced both men and women in the church.

The first reason I would call such a graceful and classy woman like Susan tough is because she pioneered the women’s education and ministries for the PCA church. She was the first official Director of Women’s Ministries for the PCA (Georgia Settle established the women’s ministry for the PCA), accepting a position that had absolutely no material for her to work with, except her Bible. Susan created the material, writing books educating women on their design, engaging in the lies our culture wants us to believe, highlighting the importance of gender distinction, and working with others such as Ligon Duncan to write on the importance of women’s ministry in the local church and how to start one. Susan made the curriculum for women and their churches. And she didn’t stop there. She has written for children and teens as well.

Susan Hunt superseded her job description of Director of Women’s Ministries for the PCA because she didn’t only care for women in the PCA. Susan speaks to those who who listen. And she doesn’t think of herself too highly or her time more valuable than others. You don’t need to have at least 500 people and $5,000 to invite Susan to speak at your church. You will find her walking around, getting to know the women who are there to listen and learn. How many speakers do you know who give away their personal email in the handouts? She invites women to bring their daughters to these events because she truly believes in Titus 2 mentoring. And the young women aren’t invisible to her. Susan invites them up front, gives away copies of her books (yes, even authors have to pay for their books), and challenges the older women to pray for them.

Susan inconveniences herself for her message. She has served for a number of years with a group of reformed Baptist women from Iglesia Biblica del Señor Jesucristo (a large church in Santo Domingo, DR), and traveled there just last year to deliver the same talk to 1,000 women (with the help of a Spanish translator) that she gave to our small group last weekend. A friend of mine traveled with Susan to the Dominican Republic and was there for this recent talk. She is always taken back at how fresh and passionate Susan delivers her message each time. Susan made the comment to me that she’s always amazed that people would come hear her give the same message they’ve already heard. But then again, she’s always excited to deliver it, so she’s happy people are just as encouraged to hear it over.

But last weekend, some of my friends and I were thinking about how amazing it is that in her mid-seventies, when Susan can respectfully retire from the rigamarole of traveling and speaking, she would agree to hop on a plane and come and talk to us about “Biblical Womanhood: Generation to Generation.” She’s tough! And she’s the real deal. She takes her responsibility as an older woman in Christ seriously and passionately wants to to teach women about Christ.

Susan isn’t a big personality. She’s just a little woman who has done very big things--things that she believed herself to be inadequate to do, but Christ provided. When she is speaking, she’s not interested in drawing us in with a bunch of sentimentality. She delivers a heavy theological message, taking us through the scriptures. And she doesn’t point us to Susan, even though we could look at her life and accomplishments and learn a lot.

Susan doesn’t care about her profile or her status in the evangelical market. She cares about God’s people and she cares about the truth. Sure, Susan has participated in big conferences, speaking to many people. There were plenty of opportunities for her to become one of the gears in the evangelical machine, well-oiled and programed for big numbers and accolades. But she didn’t. That’s why I wanted to hold up a picture of a woman who has faithfully lived her life in service for God, written many books, someone who has interacted with plenty of Christian "celebrities," very easily could have been one herself, but has managed to avoid the self-importance hype, and is still happy to speak to a small church of women. She isn't hip or young, doesn't appeal to sentimentalism, or use a bunch of technology in her presentation, yet managed to make women from a diverse group of churches in the community care about good theology and God’s design for women.

Susan emulates the “life-givers” she encourages us to be in Christ. What a beautiful woman.

Posted on Thursday, October 30, 2014 by Aimee Byrd on Housewife Theologian

Good Question, Todd. I received some new interest in the topic, a little bit of pushback, and one really good suggestion. A pastor emailed me a suggestion about defining our terms clearly. Since we started off with a two-kingdoms response, I thought it would be good to define this doctrine using the words of VanDrunen himself, as he wrote in his book Living in God’s Two Kingdoms. Of course, the books Todd recommended by VanDrunen are much more thorough than a quote I can give. This is a helpful excerpt that also clarifies what Two Kingdoms is not:

 

This two-kingdoms doctrine strongly affirms that God has made all things, that sin corrupts all aspects of life, that Christians should be active in human culture, that all lawful cultural vocations are honorable, that all people are accountable to God in every activity, and that Christians should seek to live out the implications of their faith in their daily vocations. A Christian, however, does not  have to adopt a redemptive vision of culture in order to affirm these important truths. A biblical two-kingdoms doctrine provides another compelling way to do so. According to this doctrine, God is not redeeming the cultural activities and institutions of this world, but is preserving them through the covenant he made with all living creatures through Noah in Genesis 8:20-9:17. God himself rules this “common kingdom,” and thus it is not, as some writers describe it, the “kingdom of man.” This kingdom is in no sense a realm of moral neutrality or autonomy. God makes its institutions and activities honorable, though only for temporary and provisional purposes. Simultaneously, God is redeeming a people for himself, by virtue of the covenant made with Abraham and brought to glorious fulfilment in the work of the Lord Jesus Christ, who has completed Adam’s original task once and for all. These redeemed people are citizens of the “redemptive kingdom,” whom God is gathering now in the church and will welcome into the new heaven and the new earth at Christ’s glorious return. Until that day, Christians live as members of both kingdoms, discharging their proper duties in each. They rejoice to be citizens of heaven through membership in the church, but also recognize for the time being they are living in Babylon, striving for justice and excellence in their cultural labors, out of love for Christ and their neighbor, as sojourners and exiles in a land that is not their lasting home. (14-15)

 

With that in mind, here’s my response to Todd’s points:

 

  1. I am persuaded by the two-kingdoms doctrine. As a housewife, the implications of living out my faith in everyday life became confusing. Do I need to try and participate in God’s plan of redemption by Christianizing the activities my family and I were involved in? What exactly is God redeeming and transforming in this age? Being invited to things like “Christian” yoga and Upwards sports led me to ask questions. I found biblical help in learning that God rules the common kingdom (shared between believers and unbelievers) differently than his holy kingdom of the church. In the church we see a redemptive rule in Christ, and in in the government of the secular world and its accompanying social establishments, we notice God rules with different means and purposes as creator and maintainer. This distinction, along with the definition above, helps me see that the church’s greatest responsibility to the world is to proclaim the gospel and properly administer the sacraments. As a citizen in both kingdoms, Christians are receivers of grace who are then given a benediction, sent out to love our neighbor and serve alongside of them. We are the salt of the earth.

  2. I am not a transformationalist. The bible is pretty clear that Christ is not going to return to a Christianized culture. My doctrine of Christ and culture is very much connected to my eschatology. This frees me to live as a Christian in my culture and make my cupcakes to the glory of the Lord, daggone it. But I am not transforming the cupcake industry for Christ.

  3. “Some of the advocates of 2K and Transformationalism send me running in the opposite directions.” Amen, preach it brother.

  4. “The three of us don’t occupy the same place among the 2K/Transformationalist continuum.” Translation: Todd is busy fighting hard to make the government ban women from combat, Carl is ready to throw every sharp-shooting woman in the front lines, and I require that they can do the solid three pull-ups and pass the same physical test as the men. Maybe that’s a bit of a caricature.

  5. “The purpose of MoS is not to criticize our guests.” No, we criticize each other, not our guests. But we can challenge them sometimes. And our listeners may have been offended on occasion...

  6. “The next interview that airs on MoS is going to make the 2K folks really mad.” You see? We are equal opportunity offenders. Conversations that count.

  7. “Which group do you want to make angry next?” I don’t know Todd, maybe those who sing “Sweep Me Away” in worship?
Posted on Tuesday, October 28, 2014 by Aimee Byrd on Housewife Theologian

This was the closing statement made by Chris Larson on the latest Renewing Your Mind Broadcast: “The State of Theology.” Ligonier Ministries has just teamed up with Life Way Research to conduct a survey of 3,000 people to find out what Americans believe about God, the Bible, man, and salvation.

While discussing the results, the blaring evaluation question is, “What is the impact of the church?” How does the church influence the world? This is an important question for Christians. The relationship of Christ and culture is a topic that professing Christians disagree on a bit, even heatedly at times. But every believer should agree to have a high view of the church as the ambassador of Christ.

In order to be ambassadors, we need to know what we are proclaiming. The convictions of those interviewed in the survey are very bleak. Americans between the ages of 18-85, from different denominational affiliations were asked to provide true or false answers to statements like, “There will be people in heaven who have never heard of Jesus Christ.”  Larson writes, “This study demonstrates the stunning gap in theological awareness throughout our nation, in our neighborhoods, and even in the seat next to us at church.”

The study seems to show that Americans have convictions about God, goodness, and even the afterlife, but not necessarily true, biblical ones. Seventy percent of churchgoers replied that they do not use historical creeds in their church. Dr. Steve Nichols passionately pointed out the despair: “That’s just cutting yourself off from two thousand years of the Holy Spirit’s ministry to the people of God.”

What are your convictions? Are they true? Does it matter? The writer to the Hebrews emphatically exhorts them to persevere by holding fast to their confession of hope, as a covenant community, and to do it without wavering (Heb. 10:23). What is your confession? Is it the confession of hope based on God’s promises that has been faithfully delivered in his word and proclaimed by the church for over 2,000 years? Do we confess that Jesus is Lord? Who is Jesus and what does it mean that he is Lord?

The office of the pastor is important. He is proclaiming God’s word to his people in an authoritative way. The preached word is a means of grace by which God’s people are sanctified. What is the state of theology of American pastors? What would that survey look like? Probably a lot like this one. That is why it is so important for laypeople to understand their responsibility as theologians as well. Like the title of Dr. Sproul’s book, Everyone’s A Theologian. That survey interviewed 3,000 theologians. Many of them are terribly poor theologians. The results should be informative for pastors.

What is the state of your theology? Every week we are called out from our ordinary work to gather together as a peculiar people: God’s church. By grace, we are receivers of God’s promised blessings in Christ and we are sent back out with a benediction. A Christian without conviction should be an oxymoron. And yet we need to be warned to hold fast to our confession because there are many opposing forces. Our sinful natures are tempted to waver. We need theological stamina! We get that by actively engaging in God’s word, training ourselves by it, and exercising our faith. We are new creations who are given a fighting faith to persevere.

Thankfully, we belong to a God who has made an intratrinitarian oath before the the beginning of time. As a result, he has entered into a covenant  with his people to redeem and sanctify us through the blood of his only Son. And he who promised is faithful. Jesus is Lord, whether you confess it or not.

Maybe you have cruised over to the Ligonier site and took the survey for yourself, affirming that you know the right answers and that you are a good theologian. What is your witness? And what is our role in sharing our confession of hope? How does the church influence the world? These are some questions we will be addressing in some upcoming episodes on Mortification of Spin. Stay tuned to listen to our interview with Dr. David VanDrunen tomorrow. He speaks from what is called a two kingdoms perspective. And on November 12th, we will air our interview with a pretty influential pastor who takes a transformationalist perspective on Christ and culture. Any guesses on who it is?

Posted on Monday, October 27, 2014 by Aimee Byrd on Housewife Theologian

“It costs God nothing, so far as we know, to create nice things; but to convert rebellious wills costs Him crucifixion.” ---C.S. Lewis

 

 

This quote was given for part of the morning reflection before worship. So as I was sitting in my seat I was thinking about how often we try to be or think we already are “the nice things.” Whether it’s in my friendships, vocations, or my relationship with God, I don’t really want to be that high maintenance person. I want to be easy to befriend, easy to serve alongside, and easy to save.

 

And so my life echos the adage, “I don’t want to be a burden.” I want to be a nice thing that God created: delightful, pleasant, good, and low maintenance. But sin is not low maintenance. What did it cost God to create nice things “in the beginning”?

 

In one sense, we can say with Lewis that it cost him nothing. There was no apparent sacrifice in speaking creation into existence. He created a holy temple garden with a righteous couple to carry out his mandate. But there is a condescension on God’s part to enter into a covenantal relationship with man. So even though God created the world and man and called it good, the Westminster Confession explains:

 

The distance between God and the creature is so great, that although reasonable creatures do owe obedience unto him as their Creator, yet they could never have any fruition of him as their blessedness and reward, but by some voluntary condescension on God’s part, which he hath been pleased to express by way of covenant. (WCF 7.1)

 

In another sense, we know that there was an intratrinitarian covenant made between the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit before time:

 

It pleased God, in his eternal purpose, to choose and ordain the Lord Jesus, his only begotten Son, to be the Mediator between God and man, the Prophet, Priest, and King, the Head and Savior of his church, the Heir of all things, and Judge of the world: unto whom he did from all eternity give a people, to be his seed, and to be by him in time redeemed, called, justified, sanctified, and glorified. (WCF 8.1)

 

With that in mind, there was already a presupposed cost determined in eternity to convert rebellious wills. And so as God created the world through the Son (Heb. 1:2), he already knew what it was going to cost. He already knew that we would be a burden. And we have a great illustration of the weight of this burden in Matthew when we read about Jesus falling on his face to pray to the Father for any possibility to not drink the cup of his wrath (26:39). I love how Jeremiah Burroughs expounds on this passage in his book The Evil of Evils:

 

He, who upholds the heavens and the earth by his power, now falls grovelling upon the earth, having the weight and burden of man’s sin upon him. He falls upon his face; He falls to the ground. Certainly, brethren, Christ had that weight and burden upon Him that would have pressed all the angels in heaven and all the men in the world down to the bottomless gulf of despair.

 

If all the strength of all the men who ever lived since the beginning of the world, and all the angels in heaven, were put into one, and he had only that weight upon him that Christ had, it would have made him sink down into eternal despair: for had not Christ been God as well as man, He could never have borne it, but would have sunk down eternally. This burden and weight which was upon Christ was so great that he sunk down to the ground. (100)

 

The crucifixion, and all that it entailed, was a burden none of us could carry. The Son of God condescended to take on flesh, fulfill all righteousness, bear the wrath of God for our sin, and be the mediator of the new covenant. Glory to God! Yet he fell to the ground and sweat great drops of blood in agony over the weight of the burden.

 

He spoke the world into existence knowing the cost. He came in the flesh knowing the cost. Jesus knew the cost when he made the promise with the Father and the Spirit before the world began. He didn’t come to save nice things or nice people. He didn’t make a promise to redeem nice, low maintenance Christians. This leads to another quote in the morning reflection:

 

“What meaning can there be in love which is not costly to the lover?”---HW Robinson

 

Our sermon was on Zechariah 11: “God’s Price Tag.” This scripture passage has a strong warning for treating God like a commodity. What is the the price tag of the good shepherd who cared for a rebellious flock? In Zechariah it is the cost of a slave, thirty pieces of silver. Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?  But pastor Francis VanDelden pointed out a difference between Zechariah and Christ. Because the people were so insubordinate, Zechariah broke the staff of favor and the staff of union, annulling the covenant that he made with his people and the brotherhood between Judah and Israel. On the cross the rods of favor and union were broken over Jesus’ head, the One who was rejected for thirty pieces of silver, so that we, a rebellious and stiff-necked people, could know the Good Shepherd.

 

Because of this, I know he will continue to make good on his promise. I’m high maintenance, alright. But I have been given a priceless gift, Christ himself. All those who trust in the Good Shepherd are better than nice. We are redeemed. We are given the righteousness of Christ. And by his Spirit, we can now extend the favor of God as we are being sanctified into his likeness.

Posted on Wednesday, October 22, 2014 by Aimee Byrd on Housewife Theologian
Things have been pretty crazy at the new bar/website. Todd, Carl, and I didn’t realize just how busy we would be with all the new frequenters. You know what they say, bartending involves counseling skills. And not to name any names, but some of us are a little more sensitive than others. Nonetheless, we have had many men, women, and children come visit.
 
All the commotion distracted us from realizing that some people weren’t getting in the door. Apparently, the new place came with a few glitches. The comments have been showing an unwelcoming "access denied" page to some of the regulars who would have participated well in the conversation and our Mortification of Spin app failed to update last week’s great podcast on discipleship. But we have a great team that has been working behind the scenes, and the tap, I mean app, is working again. So if you are headed to work, driving your kids to school, taking the dog for a walk, or washing the dishes, catch up on our last two episodes. It's all wonderful news because we are now inspiring babies on their first words. After listening to today’s Bully Pulpit, I hope the words won’t be too, ahem, “moving.”
 
So please don’t despair, it’s back to “Norm”al here at the bar. 
 
 

Posted on Monday, October 20, 2014 by Aimee Byrd on Housewife Theologian

I am meeting up with Todd and Carl this Tuesday and Wednesday at Westminster Theological Seminary to particiapte on a panel discussion with Dr. R. Kent Hughes for the 2014 Pastor's Conference. I'm honored that WTS invites a housewife's perspective into the discussion. But it all got me thinking about how far the three of us have come. In case you have ever wondered about how a reasonably sensible housewife like me wound up dealing with the likes of Carl and Todd, here is a little flashback of how it all began. As you can see, the guys didn't go far with their aspirations to be cage fighters. Todd used to have quite a head of hair though. The poor guy is making less and less visits to the Cut and Coral. He's put on a few pounds, but he does still enjoy wearing horse decals on his shirts. As it turns out, I am the one with the nunchuck skills. Carl has since ditched the glasses, but no longer loves technology like he used to. His insult about my mother is rather ironic given this week's events. 

Stay tuned to The Mortification of Spin to hear a future podcast recording of the panel discussion.

What do you think, should I bring my nunchucks to our glam shots photo session?

 

Posted on Friday, October 17, 2014 by Aimee Byrd on Housewife Theologian
My cohorts and I have been reading through Todd M. Brenneman’s Homespun Gospel for a future podcast. So the recent book review of it over at 9 Marks was interesting to me. Matt McCullough does some interacting with the book. The premise of Homespun is that sentimentality has triumphed as the primary language in contemporary American evangelicalism over doctrine and scholars need to recognize this change.
Brenneman demonstrates his case by examining the work of three mega-church pastors and best-selling authors: Max Lucado, Rick Warren, and Joel Osteen. “The writers tell of a God who is infatuated with human beings and who desires to know the intimate details of an individual’s existence while at the same craving the same type of affection in return.” These authors command a certain type authority through the use of emotion and sentimentality over doctrine, to the point where “A variety of media outlets are often interested in their views on current spiritual crisis and climates…It is not theologians or seminary professors who are making the most impact in evangelicalism. It is these personable ministers who have cultivated publishing and product empires through their emotional appeals” (2-3).
While McCullough concedes that yes, sentimentality is certainly a powerful factor that we need to take seriously, he is not convinced that it has affected evangelicalism to the extent that Brenneman describes in his book. He pushes back saying:
There's no doubting Lucado, Warren, and Osteen have a wide-ranging influence. But there is a large and growing segment of evangelicalism in which these figures and their marketing empires are more often the butt of bad jokes than taken very seriously. Their books aren't read. Their methods aren't followed. Their rhetorical style comes off kitschy and foreign.
I don’t think Brenneman’s claims can be brushed off so easily. Does the term “best-seller” mean anything? I think it means a lot of people are reading their books. And they aren’t professing unbelievers; they are professing evangelicals. These books are read like crazy, and unfortunately, by many people who are in the so-called circles that should know better. How many theology books are best sellers (without the help of ehem, scandalous methods)? Should we compare the sales of say, Dennis Johnson’s commentary on Revelation to Heaven is for Real and the Left Behind series? Speaking as a housewife from the pew who loves to talk with my fellow Christians about theology and discuss what we are reading, I can affirm that this is indeed a real problem even in Reformed circles. 
Sure, I think Brenneman needed to qualify some of his critique a little more so that it wouldn't be taken defensively. And McCullough does something in his review that I think would have been a great addition to the book. He breaks down the helpfulness and the dangers of sentimentality. The reviewer asked what we are to do with sentimentality, and I was hoping the author would cover that. It does have some function.
My critique of the book isn’t that the author argues that evangelicals are too sentimental and not concerned enough with doctrine and intellectual arguments. I’m more perplexed about the audience he is aiming for. Unfortunately, in order to appeal to the crowd that is reading these best-sellers, Brenneman needed to write in a more popular level style (and not in a hard back that costs $27.95!). So, the people who already think that evangelicals are over-sentimental and that we need to discuss actual theology more may read it (if we are willing to sacrifice the cost of a bottle of whiskey to buy it), but the sentimental, Lucado-readers are certainly not going to invest in it.
And if Brenneman is writing to those who are trying to communicate intellectually to a crowd who is tuning out, he makes a good case that their means of communicating are falling on many deaf ears (like his own book would to the same crowd). But, the author gives no helpful suggestions on how to resolve this communication barrier. What do we do to build up the theological stamina of evangelicalism?
There’s plenty more to discuss about this book. What do you think, are evangelicals too sentimental?
Posted on Tuesday, October 14, 2014 by Aimee Byrd on Housewife Theologian

 

When Your Husband is Addicted to Pornography, Vicki Tiede  (New Growth Press, 2012)

I saw that Tim Challies has highlighted that Vicki Tiede's book is available for free today on Kindle. I posted this review when it was first published two years ago and thought it would be a good idea to repost for those of you who may be wondering about it now that it is free!

Talk about a loaded title! Perhaps it is a bit of an uncomfortable subject, but I was looking forward to having this resource for my church library. While I’m glad to see more and more resources available for men who struggle with sexual sin, their suffering wives have not had much available to them. And I have had more friends than I’d like to number who have been in this painful struggle--When Your Husband is Addicted to Pornography. Of course, the gospel can minister to even this tragedy, but I was eager to have a resource to share.

First I want to say that I really appreciated the clarity in the introduction. The book is not a manual on how to fix your husband. It is also more specifically geared for encountering the first level of sexual addiction, which is pornography (and acts associated with it). While Tiede does address affairs and other forms of sexual perversion in the book, her main aim is to minister specifically to the women of her title. This was an emotional read for me. I seriously had a bit of a breakdown about 25% of the way through the book because Tiede really touches on the pain that these women go through. She can identify with them because she went through it herself. In addition, the book is peppered with quotes from numerous women whom she has interviewed. Their words reveal the raw anguish a woman goes through in this trial, along with true hope in Christ. The loss of trust, the fear, lies, wrestling with constant suspicion, and rejection are but a few of the topics addressed in this book. It is pretty heavy. But someone experiencing these very heartaches in their marriage will be comforted to hear from others who have been through similar experiences, and can point them to the One Comfort that they will always have—Christ is with us in our joy and in our pain. He is sufficient. By pointing the reader to their greater need, Vickie Teide is able to show that this trial can produce a good kind of suffering:

Good suffering…reduces you to a point of being completely ineffective in your own efforts and old patterns of coping and requires dependence on God (29). When the thing you desire more than anything else is to be close to God, you won’t place demands on your husband to meet your needs (30).

She reminds the reader over and over that her husband’s choices do not affect God’s ability to meet her needs.  God is the one who we place our trust in above all, and he is faithful. Tiede also delivers some hard words in love. Dealing with a husband caught in such a serious sin can cause a wife to become self-righteous. I loved her illustration of trials being like a magnified mirror into our own hearts. Often our own sinful hearts are revealed when we are sinned against. The reader is gently nudged:

It might be very difficult to admit this, but if your husband has taken responsibility for his addiction and has shown sincere remorse, he may be better able to walk in freedom from his pornography addiction than from your disapproval and judgment. I’m just asking you to think about it (193-194).

So in many ways, I found this book helpful for a friend or a counselor who would want to better understand what their suffering friend may be going through. It also would be beneficial for husbands to really see the consequences of this sin. I can’t imagine how difficult this book was to write. Tiede does a great job relating to the reader, while not demonizing or even demeaning offending men. Her tone is more like a friend helping you grieve and grow through the process, rather than give you all the answers. These are all great strengths. But I did find myself having some imaginary conversations with the author while reading. I don’t want to come off as a theological curmudgeon, because I appreciate the intent and passion of this author and the labor of love that is evident in her book. But I want to be honest with some caveats. While The Message may be helpful as a commentary for some, I cringe when it is actually used as a Bible translation. It’s used at least four times in the book. Here is one example where I think it clearly effects the meaning of the passage:

Matthew 5:1–4 in The Message paints a beautiful picture of Jesus’ message to you as you grieve your losses: “You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and his rule. You’re blessed when you feel you’ve lost what is most dear to you. Only then can you be embraced by the One most dear to you” (23).

The beatitudes are not about Jesus’ message to me as I grieve my losses, but rather the beatific vision of Christ himself. While the above “translation” may have a good message, I think it takes away the power of Christ being the One who was truly poor in Spirit and in mourning on the count of our sin. Of course, because we are in Christ, we can then be called to these beatitutes. There were some more instances where I felt like the focus was more subjective and inward rather than focusing on Christ’s work on our behalf. Sometimes the reader is asked to listen to God in prayer and record the truths that he brings to her heart. While the Holy Spirit surely leads us, I would want to teach from what we can objectively say from the authority of God’s Word in Scripture. The heart can be deceitful, especially in a time of suffering like this. It can trick us into thinking we are hearing something from God that may really be our own sinful desires. God’s Word in Scripture is sufficient to thoroughly equip us for our sanctification.

Also, I struggle with the whole admonition to “surrender” things to the Lord. While I know that it is important not to try to control things on our own, which is what I think most mean when they say this, it can sound like another subjective area of obedience. How do we know when we’ve really surrendered enough? If I say that I surrender my anger to the Lord, and tomorrow I get angry again, what did I surrender before? You see, this language is placing me as the giver instead of the receiver of grace. So in her chapter on surrender, Tiede encourages the reader to surrender their guilt, control, fear, and anger to the Lord—to “release” it and “let go.” That’s the prayer we are encouraged to make. But I wished she would have emphasized more (because she does at different points in the book) here about how God dealt with these through Christ on the cross. The balloon analogy she gives of letting go and not holding onto the string to pull it back gives the picture of our fears and anger just floating away. But I know from other parts of the book that Tiede would agree that Christ took them to the cross, and our holding onto any control is an illusion in the first place.

I also was nodding and shaking my head at the same time while I was reading the chapter on forgiveness. For example, I was saying “right on” when I read lines like “Trust is earned by a man’s character, but forgiveness is given because of God’s character” (224). But then I didn’t quite align with her warning not to forgive too quickly. In Scripture we are told to forgive, period (Luke 17:3-4). Jesus didn’t tell us to sleep on it, but to forgive seven times in one day if that’s the case. Tiede goes into making sure that your husband is sincere in his repentance, but how can we really know this? Forgiveness doesn’t mean that there are no consequences, but it is recognizing that the offender does not personally owe us justice. God is the avenger. She urges the reader to ask Jesus to tell us when to forgive, but he already did in Scripture. Yet Tiede ends that whole section with a great question, “Would you rather remember this season of suffering and renewal as one marked by all the great things you have done or all the great things God has done?” (258). So I was nodding and questioning throughout that chapter.

The book ends with two appendixes. The first is a fantastic list of resources from the internet, counseling and support groups, workshops, and internet filters. The second addresses the subject of when your church is not behind you. It stinks this even has to be addressed, but I’m glad that she does. What I would really like to see is the church stepping in and stepping up here. Tiede gives statics of one survey showing 50% of professing Christian men and 20% of professing Christian women having an addiction to pornography. I did look up that source and found it to only be a survey of 1,000 people. While it may not be a credible indicator of the church as a whole, it does show a real problem. This could be a whole other book, because I would like to see women mostly encouraged to be under the means of grace and Christian family which Christ has ordained to sanctify his people. As a church, we need to be better equipped to not only counsel families in this situation, but present the picture of Christ and his church that marriage is to point. After all, it isn't the wife or the children whom a cheating husband has offended most, but Christ himself, whom he is supposed to represent. That is why divorce is so violent (Malachi 2:16). I am thankful that Vickie Teide has added much to this conversation, and pray that her book will be a blessing to those who are suffering. I also am encouraged and equipped to be a better friend to those who are. 

Posted on Sunday, October 12, 2014 by Aimee Byrd on Housewife Theologian
I remember the time. I remember it well. This girl was selected for the fashion page in my first year of high school. Yep, picture in the yearbook. That’s me in the mustard skirt, representing the girls in the Freshman class.
This is a reputation I took seriously. I didn’t want to be like all the others--- you know, those who wore what the mannequins in the store were displaying in the window. No, I needed to be ahead of the mannequins. And the poseurs. Cutting edge. Look at me.
And yet I still fell for the same, old shtick as the others. In high school, I wouldn’t be caught dead in a second hand store. But in college, it was revolutionary. Embracing the poverty of student living, I enjoyed the hunt through second hand clothing, and treasured a good find, as well as the admirers of my one-of-a-kind steal. I was cutting edge cool. But my best piece was a jacket that my grandma saved from my dad’s middle school years. I claimed it for my own and was stopped by strangers asking where they could buy it all the time. “Oh this thing? Sorry, this was my dad’s back in the day. Can’t find it anywhere now” (smiling inside because you’re not as cool as me).
Until about ten years later, when I was way past that stage. You know, I was now shopping Banana Republic Outlet. That’s when I realized that some of my younger acquaintances were thinking they were cutting edge by (wait for it…) second hand shopping. They looked just like I did ten (okay, maybe 15) years ago. Who did they think they were? They weren’t cool; they were mere imitators. The college look. They thought they were being different, but they were the same. (But for the record, my dad’s coats are still cool, and I’ve acquired a collection of his and my grandpa’s. Total score.)
Why am I sharing all this on a website that is supposed to be about theology? Well, there are certainly parallels. And I ran into one while reading Todd Brenneman’s Homespun Gospel. Brenneman’s comparison of Max Lucado and Rob Bell in his chapter, “You are Special,” is spot on. The subtitle is A Tale of Two Hells. Both Bell and Lucado use sentimental means to promote their popular message. They endorse themselves as the cool ones---the ones in the know. The author notes that although you would think that the doctrine of hell is not one that would be discussed in “evangelical sentimentality,” this is where these two seemingly different theologians are the same.
And Bell would want to separate himself from Lucado. I mean, just look at Bell. He’s hip. And although he may look like he’s wearing his father’s old jacket, he is emphatically not driving his father’s Oldsmobile, theologically speaking. Not like Max Lucado. Sure, I haven’t read Max Lucado, but his very name is associated in my head with a Thomas Kinkade picture. Dreamy. Not raw. Not authentic. 
Oh, but he is the same. They are the same. And you are not special either.
On the surface, they seem to be opposite, I’m sure much to Bell’s delight and intent. Lucado affirms the existence of an eternal hell and a just God. But, like Bell, the two popular writers and speakers give hell a sentimental treatment. While affirming its existence, Brenneman demonstrates that Lucado downplays hell by “elevating” individualism. He insists that a loving God would never send people to hell; we volunteer for that lot: “He conceals this fearful language under the saccharine sentiment of God’s love” (76).
And Bell, well, despite his academic schooling, he masters “postmodern sensibilities” to try and enlighten us that Jesus never taught about an eternal hell. Without spelling it out (I-am-wearing-my-dad’s-coat), Bell expressed an evangelical cool that didn’t need to affirm eternal hell (Oldsmobiles).
Brenneman is insightful enough to recognize that:
Bell’s postmodern proclivity toward polyvocality, however, also begins to evidence how much in common Bell has with Lucado and others. Polyvocality is another way to think about the downplaying of doctrinal differences. The route to arrive at this position might take a different direction, but it arrives at a very similar destination. (78)
The author emphasizes that these two men start at the same place: God’s love. While Lucado tries to remain traditional and Bell tries to look divergent, they both reduce hell to something that we can choose now and has sentimental implications in the future. It all emphasizes the familial bonds of fatherhood that appeals to our nostalgic sense of family.
Ironically, Bell believes that even though he doesn’t drive his father’s Oldsmobile, we will all soften “and even the most ‘depraved sinners’ will eventually give up their resistance and turn to God’” (79). And Lucado affirms the existence of hell on the convoluted basis of God’s love for our special selves. It is a love that will even allow for us to make the rare decision to go there, absent from that very love. Love, love, love. “All we need is Love.”
Brenneman concludes, “It remains to be seen whether the vision of the sentimental moderns or the sentimental postmoderns will shape the next generation of evangelicals. What does seem clear, however, is that even postmodern evangelicals believe in the authority of the emotional, often at the expense of the intellectual.” (80)
Maybe they all just look like college. They think they are being insightful. They think they are opposite of their ancestors in enlightening us. But really, they all look the same.
Posted on Thursday, October 09, 2014 by Aimee Byrd on Housewife Theologian
How can we approach our holy God? Isn’t this the age-old question? From the beginning of Scripture we have an amazing event recorded, even more remarkable than the creation itself: God reveals himself to man and condescends to have a relationship with him. The mere fact that we even have the Scriptures testifies to one of my favorite titles for a book, He Is There and He Is Not Silent (Francis Schaeffer). God communicates with his people. That is profound.
Before the fall God gave Adam and Eve covenantal stipulations. They were given a mandate and a restriction. And we know that after their fall, all mankind has been separated from God. How can sinful man approach our holy God? This is one of the themes that runs through Daniel Block’s wonderful book, For the Glory of God: Recovering a Biblical Theology for Worship. 
Block spends the first chapter defining true worship and opens every following chapter with this definition:
True worship involves reverential human acts of submission and homage before the divine Sovereign in response to his gracious revelation of himself and in accord with his will.
He also spends a significant portion of the book teaching from the Old Testament about how God invites worship (35). “But what is most remarkable is that the God of Israel introduces himself by name, YHWH (Exod. 3:15)” (36). Block goes into great detail about the significance of this name, particularly how it “highlight[s] the personal nature of covenant relationship and inviting his people to address him not merely as a heavenly official, but as their personal God” (38). This caused me to pause and think about how amazing it is that God has graciously revealed himself to us and invites us to worship him. He is worthy of worship, and our acknowledgement of that and ability to do so is our ultimate good.
And while there is much to commend about this book, I wanted to reflect on a “remarkable event” that Block points out in discussing Old Testament texts on worship.
The event climaxes in [Exodus] 24, when Moses, Aaron, Nadab, Abihu, and seventy representatives of the people celebrated the new relationship with a banquet in the presence of God (24:9-11). What a moment that was! Eating in the presence of God, yet he did not stretch out his hand against them. This narrative provides a remarkable picture of the God who would first claim Israel’s exclusive worship, and who now claims ours. (42)
We are often comfortable with discussing how Christ invited sinners to the table in the New Testament. But these were a great number of men invited to eat in the presence of God. How intimate! And Nadab and Abihu? Well, clearly God knew what was about to occur with their false worship (see Lev. 10:1). But they are invited by name. What a privilege! And what did they eat? 
It made me think of how much greater their guilt was for their sinful approach to worship with a strange fire after dining in God’s presence.
It also reminded me of a reflection I had from reading Arthur Just’s Jr.’s great book, The Ongoing Feast:
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 in 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, Christians 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).
The writer to the Hebrews reminds us that like the Israelites, we have also been invited to a mountain (12:18-27).
Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire. (Heb. 12:28-29)