Posted on Wednesday, November 26, 2014 by Aimee Byrd on Housewife Theologian
I’m really looking forward to a Mortification of Spin interview we will be doing with Todd Billings on his upcoming book, Rejoicing in Lament. Todd has been diagnosed with a rare, terminal cancer at the age of 39, and his book explores how living in his condition relates “to the abundant life that we enjoy in Christ.”
While I was listening to the part of our discussion on today’s podcast about what Christians are to look for in a pastor, I remembered a great question I had just read in Billings' book. In his chapter on “Death in the Story of God and in the Church,” he shares a reflection he had while teaching a Sunday school class on lament, promise, and the life of Christ, from the perspective of his experience with cancer.  
In speaking to members of my congregation on this topic, it forced a level of honesty that I found striking: this is
 a place where funerals take place on a regular basis; in this room are cancer survivors who have gone through chemo; and there are others who have lost spouses and other loved ones to cancer and other disease and tragedy. The congregation is the only place (that
 I can think of!) in Western culture where we develop relationships, celebrate our faith and life together, and also extend those same relationships all the way through death and dying. A place of employment, a hospice—they have indispensable roles, but in neither is a community life that celebrates the birth of babies and the growth of young and old and extends these same relationships all the way to death. It’s a gift, really. It’s a marvelous gift that the church who baptizes and celebrates new life in Christ also does funerals, mourns with the dying, and celebrates the promise of resurrection in Christ. For some young people, the church is one of the only places that they are exposed to death in a real, personal way—where someone they knew has died. And I think that is a gift of the church. I would go so far as to say that a top recommended question from me for “church shoppers” might be this: who would you like to bury you? Think about that one for a while! (101)
I have been thinking about that one for a while. On several occasions Carl and Todd have emphasized the duty of the pastor to include preparing their congregants for death. The church is a gift in both celebrating life and in facing death. We embrace our confession of hope together. As a creation of God’s Word, we know that death is not the end, but look forward to our resurrection in Christ. 
However, we also live as we are called as theologians of the cross. As we follow our Savior, we can be angry at death. We can express our deep lamentation that things are not as they should be because we know our God and we know that he is good. We don’t hope in good feelings but in an eternal life of holiness before the Lord. Our ultimate expectation isn’t in a better world here, but in a new heavens and a new earth. 
Reading these words from Billings also reminded me of a sermon Paul Wolfe preached. Pastor Wolfe urged us saying, “The gospel makes us recognize the size of the gulf between the way things are and the way they are supposed to be.” He defined groaning as “the sound at the intersection between pain and hope.” That’s who I want to bury me. Someone who is intimate with that sound.
We are ambassadors of Christ, bearing witness to a different kingdom. The church experiences true joy and honest groaning because it is rooted in real hope, knowing he who promised is faithful. 
Posted on Monday, November 24, 2014 by Aimee Byrd on Housewife Theologian

This is the month of Thankfulness. All you have to do is log on Facebook to affirm it. Many friends participate and show their gratitude by posting a different thing they are thankful for each day leading up to Thanksgiving. While it’s good to give thanks for our blessings, Flannery O’Connor’s short story, "The Turkey," made me reflect on both the grace God provides in ordinary life, as well as what he asks of his disciples.

The story begins with Ruller, an 11-year-old boy “playing by himself” in the woods when he spots an injured turkey. He figures it must be at least ten pounds. Once Ruller realized that it couldn’t even fly, he determined he was going to get that turkey. What a gift God was giving him! Immediately, he began to think about all the glory that would come his way when he came home with a wild turkey over his shoulder. This news would surely make the list of things his parents would talk about in bed. Unbeknownst to them, Ruller stayed awake, carefully hanging on to every word of their pillow talk. Eventually dad would ask, “How are the boys?” each night. Although a bit peculiar, he was faring better than his older brother Hane, who was wearing his mother “to a frazzle” with his rebellious behavior. “Hane played pool and smoked cigarettes and sneaked in at twelve-thirty and boy he thought he was something.”

Now Ruller was really going to be something to talk about when he victoriously brought home this turkey. Until the chase ran his head straight into a tree branch that cleaned his clock. By the time he realized what he had done, Ruller was on his back and the turkey was nowhere in sight. “It was like somebody had played a dirty trick on him.” That turkey was dangled in front of him as a prize that he couldn’t have. As Ruller now conceded that he was going to go home beat up and empty-handed, the cursing began. First it was just “nuts,” and then “Oh hell.” But this bad providence sent Ruller into cursing God’s name in a way that would make his grandma’s “teeth fall in her soup.” The turkey that got away had Ruller considering, even relishing, the glory he would get as a bad boy. Hane had nuthin’ on him. 

But wait.

The turkey hadn’t escaped after all. It was just behind the thicket. Ruller began to think maybe God had put the turkey there to keep him from going bad. When he finally captured that turkey, he decided to take the long way home through town. Now that he was getting the glory for this spectacular hunt, Ruller grew thankful for this gift from God. In fact, he pledged to give the dime that his grandma had given him to a beggar on the way home. What a good boy he was.

Aren’t we so often the same way? God gives us our heart’s desire and we soak up all the glory for ourselves, parading our accomplishments over our shoulder through town. When God is handing out the blessings, we acknowledge his great favor. But perhaps God’s greatest gift to Ruller was knocking him upside the head with that branch, exposing his sinful nature when he thought his pursuit was for naught. As he was fantasizing about the acclaim of his family members and townsmen, it never occurred to Ruller that God didn’t want the dime from his grandma. God wanted the very thing he gave him. And God was to get the glory.

That’s the ironic twist to the story as Ruller was showing his turkey off to some country boys. In the midst of his own glory as a hunter and giver to the poor, his foolishness didn’t see it coming. Only this time, it didn’t take a branch to clean his clock. Just some country boys who tricked him into handing them the turkey.  Now all he had to show was a bruised and dirty body.

What kind of boy was he going to be now? Our God is good, but it isn’t because of the things he gives us. A studier of his Word will know that the cross comes before the crown. The life of the disciple is one of self-denial. God always deserves all the glory, even in his severe mercies of taking away what we treasure above him. The almighty God is our ultimate blessing. He is our great reward.

 

*Originally posted on 11/16/2012

Posted on Friday, November 21, 2014 by Aimee Byrd on Housewife Theologian
So every Thursday night my husband and I have a date. Whiskey is poured, we sit together in our famous “hot tub chair” and watch our favorite show, Parenthood. Last night Matt was busy grading papers and my brain was expired for the night. So I turned the TV on to the channel of our anticipated show and (not so) patiently snuggled in the chair by myself, waiting for him to finish.
Well, I learned something. There’s a sitcom that comes on before Parenthood (with a hilarious supporting actor who IS the show) that I ended up watching the second half of and I learned about the Bechdel Test. Apparently I am way behind, because lesbian feminist Allison Bechdel wrote a cartoon depicting this challenge in 1985. For a movie to pass “the test,” it has to feature two females in a conversation about something other than a man. That’s it. Anytime in the whole movie. Are all my women readers depressed now?! It’s like my whole life flashed before my eyes, and I was trying to find SOMEthing to make this test look stupid.
I mean, a bunch of feminists came up with this, right?!?
And don’t get me wrong. A movie absolutely can be good and still not pass the Bechdel test. It’s not so much the test of one movie, but an indicator of a stereotypical pattern of token women characters. 
I like guys. I think they can be clever, insightful, and hilarious. I don’t have some sort of power-need to watch films that are anti-man and filled with independant women. But I began thinking this characterization of women is why I’ve preferred just following a couple shows on television over films lately.
More than that, it got me thinking about the evangelical parallel. How often do you see the token woman thrown in to discuss, wait for it….women’s issues. Whether it’s about purity, mothering, homeschooling, submission, or anti-feminism in general, women seem to be invited to speak about the second chapter in Titus or the 31st chapter of Proverbs more than anything else. Hannah Anderson likes to refer to this realm as the pink verses of Scripture. But the women that encounter Jesus do not seem to be very pink. Sure, these are important issues that we should spill plenty of ink and converse over, but there is more to a woman than women's issues.
In a Facebook thread, the discussion came up about how few women attend ETS and whether they should. It was an interesting thread because there are good, valid reasons why few women do. It is a more academic environment. Not many conservative women go to seminary. Not many conservative churches have positions for women, so it isn’t very practical for women to invest time and money in seminary. The thread continued to discuss the situation for women in conservative Christianity in general, and then the tension between the laity and the professional theologians. There was gratitude expressed that women are beginning to be able to write more and participate in theological discussion as informed lay people.
And again, I am humbled because I get to do this. I really do. How many venues do Christian women get a seat at the table for their perspective as a woman, but not necessarily about women’s issues? That’s what I get to do on Mortification of Spin. We joke around and say that I am one of the guys. Why is that? Because it isn’t just about me being a woman, even though I am happy to be one. I want to represent a woman’s perspective, but maybe not every woman’s perspective. But even so, I speak as a fellow human being, even more, a fellow believer in Christ, on all the issues.
It was a particular humbling honor for me to participate in the pastor’s conference at Westminster Theological Seminary recently. MoS was invited to do a panel discussion with Kent Hughes. I thought, "Carl and Todd are pastors, why the heck do they want me there?" And I pretty much said,  “Please don’t be polite, you guys can go without me being offended at all…” But they welcomed the perspective of the housewife in the pew, knowing I represented a huge percentage of whom they preach to. 
I didn’t have a Byrd test, but if I did, that wins the highest achievement award! A complementarian, conservative seminary was truly complementary. I don’t want to leave men out of the conversation (ahem, Bechdel) anymore than I want to leave women out of the conversation. We both count, whether we are talking about preaching or homemaking. It is a privilege to be able to participate in conversations with men and women in the church that have nothing to do with the world’s base views of sexuality, and everything to do with true, reciprocated contribution about things that actually matter---all things, not just pink or blue things.
The Bechdel Test makes a good point, but the Byrd Test takes it up another notch.
Posted on Thursday, November 20, 2014 by Aimee Byrd on Housewife Theologian
I think everyone agrees that convictions are a good thing. All you have to do is scroll through a Twitter or Facebook feed to see many strong beliefs held by your friends in cyber-world. Some of these convictions are well-intended, but uninformed. I am afraid that many Christians fall into this category.
That’s why I am really appreciating the time I am spending in Fred Zaspel’s biography, Warfield on the Christian Life. A theme running throughout the book is that truth is important to living. Doctrine and life aren’t two separate categories. And so, “For Warfield theology is not merely some added, optional dimension to the Christian life: it is the very stuff of Christian living” (37).
Warfield argues that if you are indifferent to Christian doctrine, then you are indifferent to Christianity. What is a confession of hope without content? “Warfield argues that in this sense Christianity aims first at the mind. In terms of both evangelism and Christian growth Christianity offers first a message, a word from God---that is, doctrine” (39). 
And yet, in scanning Facebook or in casual conversation I can see that many strongly held convictions are shaped out of fear, sentimentality, or some other emotional appeal. Sure, emotions are important, but I’m afraid we have wrongly given them the steering wheel. For example, it is easy to see the appeal of reading about themes such as gratitude or even suffering, and that sounds pretty good so far. But these themes can be romanticized to the point where we become lax on discernment and then pay no attention that mysticism is driving the car, I mean book. 
The sentimentality in evangelicalism becomes very apparent when you look at the Christian bookstore’s best sellers list or talk to people about their favorite authors. In his book Homespun Gospel, Todd Brennenman reasons, “It is not theologians or seminary professors who are making the most impact on evangelicalism. It is these personable ministers who have cultivated publishing and product empires through their emotional appeals” (3). More and more, I am seeing well-meaning Christians, who attend good churches, unable to discern truth from error in what they are reading because the authors appeal so well to their sentimentality. My first suggestion is that if anything they have written is marketed on wind chimes, you can confidently weed them out to begin with.
This is a real problem. But it isn’t all that new (well, maybe the wind chimes). Warfield implored Christians to put their minds back in the driver’s seat and Zaspel expands upon it so well.  “The character of our theology will shape the character of our religion, and any defective view of God’s character will be reflected and in the soul and peace of conscience we are meant to enjoy. If we have no doctrine, we have no Christianity. If we have scanty doctrine, we have scanty Christianity. If we have profoundly informed convictions, we will have a solid and substantial Christianity” (48). Zaspel exhorts us to be guided by the truth found in God’s word. Let’s hold informed convictions. Proper theology, what God’s word reveals about his person and his work, comes first. Let that drive our talk and shape our emotions. If we let sentimentality drive the car, theology becomes a warped add-on and we find ourselves riding down the wrong path---one littered with wind chimes.
Posted on Monday, November 17, 2014 by Aimee Byrd on Housewife Theologian

Well, he had me by page 31. Of course, I want it to be true. A while back ago, I wrote an article about my top three questions I have when I get to heaven. What I only hinted at then is my cockamamie housewife theologian theory. I was too embarrassed. But now, thanks to David Allen, I am going loud and proud.

You see, after teaching Hebrews for the last year (or so), I couldn’t shake the suspicion that we were getting something very similar to the “explanation” Jesus gave to the two disciples on the way to Emmaus. What if the mystery disciple on the road to Emmaus was also the writer to the Hebrews? Although it’s merely a theory, some people believe the unnamed disciple to be Luke. Allen gives us much more than a theory on the writer of Hebrews. He gives us a polite scholarly smack down. And even if Luke wasn’t the unnamed disciple, he is the one who gives us the most detailed account of the Emmaus event, showing a knowledge and interest in this amazing exposition Jesus gave about how all the Scriptures pointed to and found their fulfillment in him. Just saying.

But let’s move on to this wonderful, well-written book. I doubt Allen had housewife theologians in mind when he wrote this almost 400 page, scholarly hardback. And I can only review it as an inquiring lay person. When he is breaking down Greek phrases, along with the use of Greek present tense form, well, I kind of have to take his word for it. But, without sacrificing the academic integrity of his work, Allen has written accessibly enough for an interested lay person such as myself. If there are any smarticle (my daughter's word) people who are reading this post, I’m sure you will benefit from Allen’s work much more than I did, but I am very grateful for the education it gave me.

I have a whole new appreciation for Luke—doctor, historian, and linguistic master. “Both Luke and the author of Hebrews are described by most New Testament scholars as the most literary writers of the New Testament” (139). A writer would do well just studying the prologues of Luke, Acts, and Hebrews. Luke is doing so much more than telling a story in his Luke-Acts narratives. Both Luke and the writer of Hebrews reveal a masterful use of the Septuagint. And although the genres are different, Luke seems to have a sermon peppered through his narrative. Luke’s purpose to writing to Theophilus in his two-volume work seems to be the same as the sermon to the Hebrews: to motivate him to persevere in the faith by explaining how “Christianity is the fulfillment of the Old Testament hope of Israel” (176).

One thing about this book that really impressed me is the tone. It’s easier to read a scholarly work when the passion of the author is apparent. It’s inspiring. And yet, Allen doesn’t let this passion take the front seat. He “plays the ball” of the argument, and gives both opposing and supporting scholarly arguments their playing time. In interacting with the opposition, he doesn’t discredit the people, he takes their work seriously and even concedes to other possibilities. Allen is confident enough in his work to reveal the solid evidence, be honest about the educated guesses, as well as reveal which arguments are based more on creativity and possibilities rather than absolute certainty. By doing this, he gets 1,000 more credibility points. It also stimulates the reader to use Allen’s research to think for themselves.

So what are his arguments for the case of Lukan authorship of Hebrews? Totally Awesome. Ahem, I mean, they are historical (yep, some fellers in the early church suspected Luke), linguistic (“lexical, stylistic, and textlinguistic evidence), theological, and, drum roll…pretty darn convincing that Luke was in fact a Jew, and not the Gentile that modern scholars have made him out to be. Allen also looks at the main candidates for Hebrew’s authorship (with the presupposition of the Holy Spirit's inspiration) like Paul, Barnabas, and Apollos, and highlights where they are wanting. It’s a pretty exciting read for theological dorks like me. Some parts were amazingly convincing, like the chiastic framework of all three books, the similarities in their prologues, the use of vocabulary, and the comparison of Acts 7 and Hebrews 11. I also found Allen’s notion on the identity of Theophilus and the recipients of Hebrews as converted high priests to be quite interesting. The historical reconstruction that he gives at the end of the book is also conceivable.

Whether one agrees with Allen’s conclusions or not, they will definitely have to wrestle with his work. He has thrown a respectable pitch into the discussion and wondrous study regarding the writer to the masterpiece of Hebrews. I’m happily persuaded, especially with my underlying, biased theory. And although we will probably not know the identity of this writer with 100% surety in this life, I have just learned a wealth of information from Allen in the process of discovery.

 

*(This article was first posted in March, 2013.)

Posted on Friday, November 14, 2014 by Aimee Byrd on Housewife Theologian
There’s an article being shared all over the internet this week titled, “Don’t Waste Your Two Most Productive Hours.” The article reports on the statement by behavioral scientist Dan Ariely that our two most potentially productive hours are the two hours after we are fully awake. This is when we supposedly have the best mental capacity to get things done. The first thing I wonder is what qualifies as “fully awake”? I usually measure my wakefulness in cups of coffee. That first cup always reminds me of the illustration of salvation that Arminians like to use: 
You are drowning and completely helpless. Someone has thrown you a life raft and all you have to do is reach out and grab it and you are saved.
My coffee is my morning life raft. Unfortunately, I have to get it myself.
Even so, I am probably what people would categorize as a morning person. And yet, this article insults me a little. Melissa Dahl gives commentary on Ariely’s plea that we not waste our most productive hours on mindless activities such as scrolling through social media. I get that. I do. Dahl concludes with a suggestion:
One way to fight against this tendency is to decide the night before what you want to accomplish in the morning, so you can jump right into your day. There is a time for mindlessness, but maybe save it for later. 
This statement is a complete joke for a mother. Sure, I predetermine what I would like to accomplish all the time. I even wake up before the rest of the family to try and be more “productive” before the morning officially starts. But the morning begins pretty early in the Byrd house and it is littered with interruptions to my list. By 6:30 (only one cup of coffee in, mind you), I am braiding hair, making breakfast, four separate lunches (MTO), signing folders, feeding the dog, barking out reminders, encouraging young minds, dealing with drama, and driving my rounds. 
It’s so easy to look at the first couple of hours in my day as the ones that hinder my productivity. With this frame of mind, my family members become obstacles to the mindful things that I would like to be fruitful in. After all, I’ve created even more hindrances in the process. Now I also have to clean a kitchen and reassess my resources for when they return.
Sure, we can all be kind and say, “But you are being productive, look at all you’ve produced!” But I don’t think that is the kind of innovation to which this article is referring. That’s why it’s insulting. 
I take pride in my morning routine, even if I fail to serve with the godly joyfulness that I should. And in some ways it is quite mindful. It takes a level of skill to multitask in beast mode like that. I am thankful for the many blessings God has given me and want to be a good steward of them. Even so, I don't look at the morning send-off as my most productive hours of my day. It's just a part of my day.
Scrolling social media can also be a mindful activity, especially for a housewife who just pumped out lunches and breakfast at the same time and wants to see what’s going on in the world while she’s waiting for her slow 9-year-old to turn off lights, get his backpack, and get in the dang car ("Did you remember your lunch?!"). That’s how I found the article and began thinking about productivity. 
I had a list this week that I would like to accomplish, but I have been pelleted with one interruption to my productivity after the next, such as friends going through a trial, a sick kid, and that dentist appointment that I somehow didn’t enter into the calendar. And what about that blessed half hour in the morning before it all begins? Do I soak up this sacred time of half-wakefulness to write or edit?  Do I spend time in prayer? Can I even stay awake if I pray first thing? Do I read? Well, often that time is interrupted as well. That is normal life for a mother. 
Sometimes when my husband returns home he will ask, “What did you do today?” It’s meant to be a friendly question to engage in conversation. But as I file through my day, I wonder whether to share my “accomplishments,” that is the tasks that I completed that I had planned to do that day, or all the interruptions that didn’t make the accomplish list. 
Maybe my most productive hours are still ahead of me, but I don’t want to begrudge the blessed interruptions to them. Most of all, I thank God that I am a girl interrupted. He has interrupted my false delusions of my own accomplishments with the good news of his own. As much as I love to contribute to my family, friends, and society in meaningful ways, I also know that my worth and my value aren’t in my productivity, but in what I have received from God (and it wasn’t a life raft that I had to reach out for). This knowledge helps me to serve without the fear that I missed my most productive hour slot, or that others can’t measure my accomplishments in material ways. I can also face the rest of my day with vigor (and two cups of coffee in me), even though I’m already hours passed Ariely’s professional advice. Or maybe I’m right on schedule, and the morning whirlwind and caffeine has rendered me fully awake.
Posted on Thursday, November 13, 2014 by Aimee Byrd on Housewife Theologian

With Thanksgiving in two weeks, I thought I'd share this excerpt about the first Thanksgiving from Nathaniel Philbrick's great book, Mayflower. 

We do not know the exact date of the celebration we now call the First Thanksgiving, but it was probably in late September or early October, soon after their crop of corn, squash, beans, barley, and peas had been harvested. It was also a time during which Plymouth Harbor played host to a tremendous number of migrating birds, particularly ducks and geese, and Bradford ordered four men to go out “fowling.” It took only a few hours for Plymouth’s hunters to kill enough ducks and geese to feed the settlement for a week. Now that they had “gathered the fruit of our labors,” Bradford declared it time to “rejoice together…after a more special manner.” The term Thanksgiving, first applied in the nineteenth century, was not used by the Pilgrims themselves. For the Pilgrims a thanksgiving was a time of spiritual devotion. Since just about everything the Pilgrims did had religious overtones, there was certainly much about the gathering in the fall of 1621 that would have made it a proper Puritan thanksgiving. But as Winslow’s description makes clear, there was also much about the gathering that was similar to a traditional English harvest festival—a secular celebration that dated back to the Middle Ages in which villagers ate, drank, and played games. Countless Victorian-era engravings notwithstanding, the Pilgrims did not spend the day sitting around a long table draped with a white linen cloth, clasping each other’s hands in prayer as a few curious Indians looked on. Instead of an English affair, the First Thanksgiving soon became an overwhelmingly Native celebration when Massasoit and a hundred Pokanokets (more than twice the entire English population of Plymouth) arrived at the settlement and soon provided five freshly killed deer. Even if all the Pilgrims’ furniture was brought out into the sunshine, most of the celebrants stood, squatted, or sat on the ground as they clustered around outdoor fires, where the deer and birds turned on wooden spits and where pottages—stews into which varieties of meats and vegetables were thrown—simmered invitingly. In addition to ducks and deer, there was, according to Bradford, a “good store of wild turkeys” in the fall of 1621… The Pilgrims may have also added fish to their meal of birds and deer. In fall, striped bass, bluefish, and cod were abundant. Perhaps most important to the Pilgrims was that with a recently harvested barley crop, it was now possible to brew beer. Alas, the Pilgrims were without pumpkin pies or cranberry sauce. There were also no forks, which did not appear at Plymouth until the last decades of the seventeenth century. The Pilgrims ate with their fingers and their knives (117-118).

I’m guessing they didn’t get to watch the football games either. And I bet it was a lot harder to loosen those big Pilgrim belt-buckles after a meal like that! But I digress. This is a really great book that was awarded “One of the 10 Best Books of the Year” by The New York Times Book Review. And rightly so, it is a page turner of historical narrative genre. Philbrick greatly surpasses his subtitle, A Story of Courage, Community, and War. Aside from debunking many of the candied teachings we were given growing up about this Pilgrim community and their relationship with the Native Americans, Philbrick demonstrates the complexities and tensions involved in trying to live by your convictions while basically fighting for survival. In this fifty-five year  history of Plymouth Colony, one thing that stands out is an observation Philbrick gives in his Preface: “I soon learned that the real-life Indians and English of the seventeenth century were too smart, too generous, too greedy, too brave—in short, too human—to behave so predictably” (xiv).  Therein lies the sweet potato pudding of total depravity.

 

(This article was first posted on Housewife Theologian on Thanksgiving, 2011.)

 

Posted on Wednesday, November 12, 2014 by Aimee Byrd on Housewife Theologian
I reviewed Timothy Witmer's new book, Mindscape over at Books at a Glance. Here is a teaser:
Does becoming a Christian affect your thinking? Should it? How does your faith and knowledge of God change your private thought life? Have you even thought about the significance of your thought-patterns and pondered what the motivations and beliefs are behind them? If anyone had the gift to read your mind, what would they learn about you?
At first glance, Timothy Witmer’s new book, Mindscape: What to Think About Instead of Worrying, might give you the wrong idea about the target audience. I know and love some “worriers,” but I’ve never considered myself one.  That of course doesn’t mean that I never worry. There are definitely some messed up areas in my mindscape, so I knew this book would be beneficial. And I was right.  
In the introduction, Witmer warns and encourages:
Our thoughts give us a picture into what we are really like, and this can be very discouraging. If the mind is the “window of the soul,” our mindscape can betray an inner darkness that casts a shadow over our thoughts, words, and deeds. But our condition is not hopeless—and this is the point of the pages that follow.  (2-3)  
 
Posted on Wednesday, November 12, 2014 by Aimee Byrd on Housewife Theologian
Tim Keller is a well-known contemporary voice on the topic of the church and cultural engagement. He writes pretty extensively on it in his book Center Church. And not only does Keller write on this topic, he’s just a pretty darn engaging guy in general. You will notice from our podcast interview that it is easy and enjoyable to have a casual conversation about things that count with him. Maybe it’s a middle-aged, balding guy thing.
Since I posted David VanDrunen’s explanation of what Two Kingdoms theology represents, I would like to do the same for Keller. In Center Church, he states that the Transformationist model “engages culture largely through an emphasis on Christians pursuing their vocations from a Christian worldview and thereby changing culture. Since the lordship of Christ should be brought to bear on every area of life---economics and business, government and politics, literature and art, journalism and the media, science and law and education---Christians should be laboring to transform culture, to (literally) change the world” (195-196).
The chapter I have quoted from, “The Cultural Responses of the Church,” defines the four prominent models of Christ and culture, showcasing both their strengths and weaknesses. I appreciated how Keller recognized and dealt with the problems in his own view alongside the others. He takes care to extensively quote from some of the main voices in the 2K position. He made some good points that we should heed. Of course, since I identify more with the 2K model, I disagreed with some of the “problems” addressed, wanting him to say that they may rather be inherent dangers that could come from wrong-thinking within that position. For example, I agree that we should be “celebrative of Christians in secular vocations” and I actually hold that as a key tenant from the 2k position, whereas Keller claimed it as something 2K is less celebrative of than the Transformationists.
But that is the cool thing about Keller. He concludes the chapter stating his hope to contribute to what he feels is a convergence in the conversation of both Transformationists and Two Kingdoms advocates to learn from the strengths and weaknesses of each position. I have found that he is genuine in that hope. When we aired a critique, “Gospel-Centered Cupcakes,” of a TGC series on this topic, I received a kind, engaging email from Tim, and have certainly benefitted from our exchanges. That’s what we aim to do on MoS as well.
But let me tell you, running around New York with these guys was a hassle. Here we are trying to get to the recording studio, wishing we could have some of those cupcakes. But between the four of us, we just couldn’t agree on our theology of dessert… 
Take a listen here.
Posted on Monday, November 10, 2014 by Aimee Byrd on Housewife Theologian
Let’s face it; discipline stinks. Our children illustrate all too well this truth that we learn to cleverly disguise as adults. No one asks for discipline. And yet, loving parents know that it is necessary for growth. Our Father in heaven also disciplines every one of his children. And so we are encouraged in Hebrews not only to expect divine chastisement, but also not to grow weary from it because it is a sign of God’s love: “My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by him. For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives” (12: 5b–6). He is merely repeating Proverbs 3:11–12, and themes from Job 5:17, Ps. 94:12, 119:67 and 75, and Rev. 3:19. Hmm, since this is mentioned so many times in Scripture, it must be important and we must have a hard time remembering it!
Well here’s a question: What do your prayers sound like when you are going through a hard time?
Stanley Gale has a great chapter dealing with this tough subject in his book, A Vine-Ripened Life. Gale’s book is based on the much-loved passage in John 15, where Jesus describes himself as the true vine, with the focus on how we cultivate the fruit of the Spirit that is produced from abiding in him. But before digging into all that fruit, there is a wonderful chapter on “My Father, the Gardener.” As the vinedresser, Gale explains that our Father “is at work cultivating us to produce more fruit, toward His goal for us of much fruit, fruit that will endure” (15). 
The thing is, we tend to think we already have a good start on the whole fruit thing. We think of ourselves as further down the road to Christlikeness than we really are. And so we like to think that our sanctification is a matter of some good sunlight, nutrients, and maybe a little polishing (to keep with the gardening analogy). But we also need a good bit of pruning, A.K.A. discipline. God will send us a challenge, difficult circumstance, or may allow even severe trial for our growth in godliness.
Sometimes we know exactly why we are in a trial. We knew we were sinning all along, and we were just hoping it wouldn’t catch up with us. It’s just a matter of paying the consequences for our actions. But other times, we may be the victims. There may not be a particular offense that we have committed that can be directly linked to our suffering. And then we are left wondering why God is allowing this kind of affliction in our life. Of course, the preacher to the Hebrews points out that Jesus is the one who actually got what we really deserve, so that we will not become weary or fainthearted in our sin (12:3). Since he demonstrated his love for us on the cross in our place, we can be confident that even when we are afflicted and don’t understand why, he is sovereignly working “for our good, so that we can share in his holiness” (12:10b).
Gale has a great paragraph that helps us gain a better perspective on our reactions to these trials:
Often in hard times our goal is to escape hardship. We want it behind us. But if we recognize the hand of our Father the gardener behind it, we’ll ask questions like these: “I wonder what God is pointing out in my life?” “What is he showing me that I need to tend to?” Knowing that trials and hardships come to us from the hand of our heavenly Father, we become more accepting of the difficulty and expectant of God’s design for it. Our prayers will take on a different flavor, changing from “Lord, save me from this trial” to “Lord, grow me through this trial.” (22)
This is a prayer that pleases the Lord. It is the fruit of abiding in Christ. Gale teaches us not to make light of God’s discipline, and helps us learn how to abide in Christ through it. The above quotation reminds me that the way I pray evidences whether I am abiding in Christ, or counting on my own abilities to endure. To have that kind of self-examination and to pray for God to use our trials for our growth demonstrates a grateful, rich faith in the person and work of Jesus Christ, and a true desire to be like Him.