Posted on Thursday, September 29, 2011 by Aimee Byrd on Housewife Theologian

I read a blog post this week that stimulated some reflection. Now I’m thinking that I should do more Reading Reflections on blog posts, isn’t that why we write them? While I hope my reflections on the books I read inspire you to read some of them as well, it is both free and expedient to throw you a blog bone every now and then. So I plan on integrating more blog posts with the books I read.

Today’s reflection is on a post written by Paul Tripp titled, God’s Will While You Wait. You can find it by clicking here. I felt like I was reading my bildungsroman as Tripp explained some of the work that God does in sanctifying us through the process of waiting. Haven’t we all been through a rough patch when we have to wait on the Lord? Well, that’s one of Tripp’s first pieces of advice:

Remind Yourself You Are Not Alone

As you wait, tell yourself again and again that you have not been singled out. Remind yourself that you are part of a vast company of people who are being called to wait. Reflect on the biblical story. Abraham waited many years for his promised son. Israel waited 420 years for deliverance from Egypt, then another 40 years before they could enter the land God had promised them. God’s people waited generation after generation for the Messiah, and the church now waits for his return. The whole world groans as it waits for the final renewal of all things that God has promised. In ministry, it is vital to understand that waiting is not an interruption of God’s plan. It is his plan. And you can know this as well: the Lord who has called you to wait is with you in your wait. He hasn’t gone off to do something else, like the doctor you’re waiting to see. No, God is near, and he provides for you all that you need to be able to wait.

You might feel like the only one waiting for that job,  ministry, baby, or significant other, but God calls us to look outside of our own ideas of what we think we need or how it needs to be done. This is the theme throughout the article as Tripp concludes,

All of these outcomes are contingent on whether you choose God or self, fruitfulness or futility, his powerful grace or your own feeble will. Always remember that God is never separate from your wait. He is the Lord of waiting. He is the liberal giver of grace for the wait. Because your wait is not outside of his plan, but a vital and necessary part of it, he is with you in your wait. And remember God is not so much after the success of your ministry, he’s after you. So as you wait, tell yourself again and again: Waiting is not just about what I get at the end of the wait, but about who I become as I wait.

I found myself both comforted by these words and convicted of the way that I talk to those whom I know are going through a waiting process. I always ask, “How is the job hunt coming along,” or “Has your relationship improved with so and so?” Of course, the conversation ends with a word about how God knows what he’s doing and how things will work out for his glory, but I keep pointing to the end result as I’m supposedly being a compassionate friend. I should be asking about the waiting process because there is much to share and glorify God in there. Tripp talks about recognizing and celebrating what little control we have. In a close relationship, I could be asking what things God has revealed through this process that they may have had too strong a hold on. Tripp also reminds us to count our blessings, a big one being how waiting strengthens our faith. What a great question to have a friend reflect on: How has this waiting process strengthened your faith? Do you find that you long for God himself over the blessings he provides as you are forced to wait? How has waiting made you more active in your relationship with God? Man, oh man, would that be a much more profitable conversation than, “I’ll be sure to pray for you…” That’s good and all, but now I’ll have a lot more prayer material.

Posted on Tuesday, September 27, 2011 by Aimee Byrd on Housewife Theologian

Now there’s a comeback that I hated to hear as a child. I remember making a mental note when I was like 8 years old that I would never give, “because I said so,” as an explanation. I wanted to really know why my parents were making the decisions they were making. I mean come on, I was 8, practically a grown up! I was mature enough to weigh in on their reasoning and then do a little evaluating of my own.

And now I’m 35.

“Because I said so” is a wonderful lyric to sing to my own children. Like any other great ditty, you can overdo it. You hold on to that fine little tune in your head, and belt it out at the fitting moments. With all the weight in between those lines, you save it for when your children need a little lesson on authority. The heavy implication is: "I’m the boss here, and therefore, what I say goes. As a matter of fact, since I have proven myself to be a loving, nurturing, caring (albeit a little crazy) mother who constantly seeks your well-being; you will have to trust me on this one. Yes, this four-letter-phrase is a reminder that you need to trust me. Talking back will do you no good because my will cannot be changed on this matter. Maybe you would like to take a moment to celebrate the fact that I do say so, because I do know so, and you don’t have to be bothered with all the other puzzle pieces to the matter right now. You’re welcome."

But like me, my kids don’t seem to appreciate that answer. In a similar way, I believe we sometimes lack a proper grateful response to some of our theological indicatives. If you’ve been catechized as a child, or if you are just beginning to delve into theology, you quickly notice that one of God’s primary concerns is his own glory. Question one of the Westminster Shorter Catechism is: What is the chief end of man? The answer: The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy him forever. The goal of our accomplishments and our failures, our thoughts and our motives, should be how God is being glorified.

As a child, we may think God is being pretty selfish. After all, why is he so concerned with his own glory? Why is he demanding that we take notice? Isn’t being God enough—why does he continually seek our praise? We read about it so often in Scripture and hear it spoken from the mouths of so many teachers that we know it must be important, but what weight does it carry between the lines?

Obviously, God doesn’t need our praise. His glory isn’t diminished in any way if we do not give him proper credit. What we fail to recognize so often is that God is good. Sure, we know that to be true, but we don’t always act as if we really believe he is the source of all good and everything he does is good. There is no good apart from God. Our sinful nature wants to maybe take God’s advice, cherry-pick what we think best benefits us, and then independently build our lives upon it. Sound familiar? Maybe Adam and Eve ring a bell?

I’m always reminded of Augustine’s words in his book, The City of God,when it comes to our need of God’s glory.

For our good, about which philosophers have so keenly contended, is nothing else than to be united to God…We are enjoined to love this good with all our heart, with all our soul, and with all our strength. To this good we ought to be led by those who love us, and to lead those we love…This is true religion, this is right piety, this is the service due to God only. If any immortal power, then, no matter with what virtue endowed, loves us as himself, he must desire that we find our happiness by submitting ourselves to Him, in submission to whom he himself finds happiness(307).

We are created beings, made in the image of our Creator. He is the source of all good, of all blessing. We were made to be united to him and therefore cannot live autonomously. It is evil to seek good in anything else.

The cause, therefore, of the blessedness of the good is adherence to God. And so the cause of others’ misery will be found in the contrary, that is, in their not adhering to God (380). And,… when the will abandons what is above itself, it turns to what is lower, it becomes evil—not because that is evil to which it turns, but because the turning itself is wicked (386).

How often do we turn from God? Evil is a strong word that we barely utter. But why do we use the word good so flippantly? God is good. Any turning from him is evil. Peter may have thought he had good intentions when he didn’t want to see his Lord suffer, but Jesus rebuked him by saying, “Get behind me, Satan!” We want to have our own ideas about how God should be glorified in us. We constantly need to be reminded that God will be glorified because he is good. How can our depraved hearts comprehend this?

We must therefore acknowledge, with the praise due to the Creator, that not only of holy men, but also of the holy angels, it can be said that “the love of God is shed abroad in their hearts by the Holy Ghost, which is given unto them” (389).

With that I will echo a ditty that never can be overdone--praise God from whom all blessings flow!

Posted on Sunday, September 25, 2011 by Aimee Byrd on Housewife Theologian

The Weight of Glory, C. S. Lewis, (Harper One, 1949)

My last article beckoned me to return to this wonderful essay of Lewis’s. I think Spurgeon’s use of the word sublime made me think of Lewis. This excerpt from his essay lends well to the far-sighted vision I was talking about:

And this brings me to the other sense of glory—glory as brightness, splendour, luminosity. We are to shine as the sun, we are to be given the Morning Star…In one way, of course, God has given us the Morning Star already: you can go and enjoy the gift on many fine mornings if you get up early enough. What more, you may ask, do we want? Ah, but we want so much more—something the books on aesthetics take little notice of. But the poets and mythologies know all about it. We do not want merely to see beauty, though, God knows, even that is bounty enough. We want something else which can hardly be put into words—to be united with the  beauty we see, to pass into it, to receive it into ourselves, to bathe in it, to become part of it…For if we take the imagery of Scripture seriously, if we believe that God will one day give us the Morning Star and cause us to put on the spendour of the sun, then we may surmise that both the ancient myths and modern poetry, so false as history, may be very near the truth as prophecy. At present we are on the outside of the world, the wrong side of the door. We discern the freshness and purity of morning, but they do not make us fresh and pure. We cannot mingle with the splendours we see. But all the leaves of the New Testament are rustling with the rumour that it will not always be so. Some day, God willing, we shall get in (42-43).

Can you identify with this longing? As great as my joys can be on this side of eternity, often I feel like I am merely looking through the window. Like a bride-to-be gazes at that sparkling diamond on her finger, I look forward to that day when Christ will have transformed his people to be glorious as the most pure gems. So pure, that they are transparent. All you will see is holiness in its most captivating glory.

While Lewis is right in saying, “Meanwhile the cross comes before the crown and tomorrow is Monday morning,” he reminds us that this future glory should affect the way that we look at our neighbor. “The load, or weight, or burden of my neighbor’s glory should be laid on my back, a load so heavy that only humility can carry it, and the backs of the proud will be broken” (45).  Let’s not fool ourselves into thinking that we are amongst ordinary people, as Lewis would say.

Posted on Thursday, September 22, 2011 by Aimee Byrd on Housewife Theologian

So I mentioned in my last article that I have a new dog, Weezy, who is afraid of everything. She doesn’t seem to realize that instead of breeding in a kennel, she is now a pet for a loving family. And although she loves to run around the yard with her “special collar” on, she will not go out there unless I am with her. It’s a bit frustrating.

Yesterday when I wanted to do my workout, Weezy wanted some more outside time. Since the weather was nice enough I just left the French doors behind me open. I thought the temptation would overcome her fear, and maybe she would do some roaming in the yard on her own. Well, it took 15 minutes into my workout before she even realized the door was open. With a look of curiosity in her eye, she timidly tip-toed onto the back porch. As I was doing a set of “surrenders” Weezy was longingly staring out at the yard. And then, just when I thought she was going to go for it, she came running back into the house and laid herself right in front of the open door. She let out a sigh and watched me finish my workout.

I was bothered by all this while faithfully pumping out my plank twists. Why in the world wouldn’t she just take the opportunity? How could fear hold such a grip on a dog riddled with instincts for fresh air and adventure? The analogy hit me like a Looney Toons anvil. How many open doors do I lie in front of out of fear?

The thought stuck with me so I delved into a Spurgeon sermon (Vol. 4) this morning titled, Fear Not.  His passage was Isaiah 41:14: “Fear not, you worm Jacob, you men of Israel! I will help you,” says the Lord and your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel. Spurgeon points out that we should know our own weakness; and believe God’s strength (360). Sounds great, doesn’t it? Of course, I had to read the whole sermon to get that point hammered in tight. (Has anyone picked up the irony here of opening an article with strengthening the body and then commending you to rejoice in your weakness?)

The fact is the sinful nature in me hates my weaknesses. Here we see that God can call the men of Israel worms, because that’s about all our own attempts at righteousness add up to. But when we see this, our fear of man is revealed as well. Why should I fear what man can or cannot do when I have an almighty God? Do I doubt God’s strength and fear my own? Spurgeon says, “It is childish to doubt; it is manhood’s glory to trust” (361).

My “aha” moment was at the end of the sermon when he says, “You know not, ye atoms, but that your destiny is sublime” (362). Do we live like we believe our destiny is sublime? Or do we feel more comfortable building our safe, man-made towers of achievement? Whether it is in raising my three lovely children, taking care of my body, creating a great atmosphere in my home, or even pointing others to Christ, I seem to lock doors on even my biggest blessings.

How does our future destiny affect our current daily living? I think one major difference is the fear-factor. Our actions or non-actions will not be fear-based. We will be far-sighted rather than near-sighted. We will be less controlling and more risk-taking. Instead of building walls around our weaknesses to protect ourselves, we will allow ourselves to be more vulnerable as we faithfully lean on God’s strength.   

My so-called achievements listed above are blessings, don’t get me wrong. My Weezy-lesson is to not turn them into safe houses. When my vision is corrected with a proper eternal perspective, I see that the children God has blessed me with are eternal beings and I have the privilege to partake in their transformation. They aren’t mine—they are the Lord’s. My body isn’t just a deteriorating vehicle for passage through this world. It has been made in the image of God and points toward a future resurrected renewal. My home isn’t just an expression of my tastes, economic status, and interests, but an intimate place to share the mini-culture of our family in service.  And as big as these treasures are in my life, they are really the little things that I am to be faithfully serving.  

My trust in God will diminish my fear of losing these blessings, because I know that he himself is the true blessing. It’s like the cartoon picture of opening a door to find another door, and another, and another, until we finally find the one we’ve been knocking on all along opened for us.

Posted on Tuesday, September 20, 2011 by Aimee Byrd on Housewife Theologian

What is the Mission of the Church?, Kevin DeYoung and Greg Gilbert (Crossway, 2011)

The title of this book has been a cultural hot topic lately. Many believe the church should spend less time proclaiming, and more time getting their hands dirty in the more important business of cultural renewal. But the actual question is; what did Christ Commission his church to do? This book tackles that question in a very gregarious way. In looking graciously at all sides of the debate, Gilbert and DeYoung teach that Christ rules redemptively over his church, and has given them a specific commission to proclaim his gospel and make disciples. But they also acknowledge the “wide lens” picture of the gospel, encompassing all the benefits that will come to his people. However, they make the important distinction that you cannot emphasize the wide lens of Christ’s Kingdom without including the crux of his good news:

The gospel of the kingdom necessarily includes the gospel of the cross. You cannot proclaim the “full gospel” if you leave out the message of the cross, even if you talk for an hour about all the other blessings God has in store for the redeemed. To do that would be like picking up an armful of leaves and insisting that you’re holding a tree. Unless those leaves are connected to the trunk, you don’t have a tree; you just have an armful of dead leaves. In the same way, unless the blessings of the gospel of the kingdom are connected to the cross, you don’t have a gospel at all. Take a look again at those passages from Matthew and Mark where Jesus preaches the arrival of the kingdom. If you look closely, you’ll notice that Jesus never preaches simply, “The kingdom of heaven is at hand.” He always preaches, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand, “or, “The kingdom of heaven is at hand; therefore repent and believe the gospel.” That is a crucial thing to keep in mind; indeed it is the difference between preaching the gospel and preaching something that is not the gospel at all (107-108).

And here is one of the implications they give that stem from this mission of the church:

No one is a Christian simply because he or she is living a “kingdom life.” To be a Christian is to have come to the Christ in faith and repentance, trusting him as the only one with power and authority to forgive sins and secure a righteous verdict from God. It is never enough to simply recognize him as a good teacher or a wise rabbi, or to “follow him” as an example of moral, kingdom living. This would be to sell him short. Not only so, but it entirely misses the way into the blessings of the kingdom. If you have not come to the King in repentance and faith—recognizing him as the one who was crucified in your place and now reigns in resurrected life—then you are not a citizen of God’s kingdom, and you are not a Christian. The New Testament could not be clearer. The only way into the kingdom is through the blood of the King (111-112).

After all, it is Christ’s work that is the basis of our salvation, not the church’s. We are ambassadors of His good news. Like Paul, we should not be ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for all those who believe. No one is ashamed to say “help the poor and oppressed and strive for social justice.” These are wonderful things that we want to do as we live out the calling of God in our lives. But let’s not forget, the poor are not “those people over there.” We are the poorest of all without Christ. And the greatest thing we can do for someone, is to share the gospel—even the offensive part.

Posted on Sunday, September 18, 2011 by Aimee Byrd on Housewife Theologian

We have a new dog. Her name is Weezy. She is a 2 ½ year old Labradoodle who has had two litters of pups for a professional breeder. They like to retire their mommies early so they can also find a nice home and enjoy a family life. It sounds so romantic doesn’t it? And Weezy is such a good little girl. But I have to say I’m surprised that after almost three weeks with my loving family, she is still kind of afraid of us. This move has been pretty traumatic for her. I guess that makes sense—she doesn’t understand that she’s here to stay, that we will always love her, and want to take care of her. She’s used to life in a kennel on a farm. She’s used to having a job: making puppies and taking care of them…and then they disappear. Now she’s brought into a family as a pet—a family with three kids that want to run around and wrestle.

If you’ve been reading this blog for any amount of time, you know that I’m constantly spinning spiritual analogies from life’s circumstances. So, for the last couple weeks I’ve been considering how we as Christians don’t realize how we’ve been rescued, constantly fighting against the transformation the Spirit is working within us. I could pull an article from that thought for sure. But Weezy made me a little jealous this week.

You see, we started training her on the invisible fence. It sends a radio signal, and with a special collar, Weezy hears warning beeps as she is approaching her boundaries. If she is stubborn and ignores the beeps, the collar will give her a little jolt (a very convincing one, apparently). I know what you’re thinking, No wonder your dog is still afraid; her new family has donned her with a shock collar. But she loves it when she gets her collar on to go outside. It symbolizes her freedom to run, as well as clear boundaries to stop.

As I’m chasing Weezy around the yard, I find myself wishing my boundaries were so clear. What would it be like if God just gave me a little buzz every time I was moving outside of his will? Well, I would have the confidence to know that when I wasn’t being shocked, I was obediently living in God’s revealed will for my life.

I can see why some churches or families can get caught in the trap of legalism. It seems appealing at first, like a safe environment for growth. But while my motivation may be good (wanting to avoid sin and be forced into right living), God doesn’t just focus on the external. I’m not a dog, and my loving Savior does not treat me like one. He graciously gives us his Word, revealing God’s character. We also are equipped with his Holy Spirit, who guides and directs us into right living. But we have to be careful not to turn the Christian life into an extra set of rules that God does not require. Biblical decision making is hard. It requires wisdom. We have to ask for wisdom. Sometimes we miss the boundaries.

Why does God allow us to do this? Because he knows there are more important things than merely the external appearance of doing the right thing. He is producing strong people of faith who come to freely desire God himself over everything else. He doesn’t really care about our image in the process. He knows that more rules never make us more spiritual.

There are lots of invisible fences we put up in our lives. We set different boundaries, but Christians struggle with God’s will in the entertainment we take in, the clothes we wear, the Bible translation we use, who we date, how we educate, what means of birth control we use, whether to allow Santa Claus to come down our chimney, temperance or teetotalism in alcohol consumption, our amount of personal devotion time in Scripture, and if it’s okay to have lunch out after the Sunday service. I’m sure you can fill in the blank with many more fences. These are those gray areas that the Christian must discern. And I guess what I’m saying is that we should humbly help one another. Sure, we should be developing strong convictions; but where God’s word is silent, let’s not be overly judgmental. He is transforming us into the image of his Son, Jesus Christ. As we struggle to be responsible to the loving call he has given us, we trust that he who has began a good work in us will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ (Phil. 1:6). Until then, God matures us as we walk by faith. We encourage one another to live lives that are pleasing to the Lord. All the while, our confidence is not in our own works, but in the perfect work of the author and finisher of our faith, Jesus Christ the Son of God.

Meditation: Romans 4:13-22


Posted on Friday, September 16, 2011 by Aimee Byrd on Housewife Theologian

God at Work, Gene Edward Veith, Jr. (Crossway, 2002)

Do you ever feel like you could do more for God if only you didn’t have to work in that pesky job of yours? Do you get frustrated about how much time you spend doing secular work? Sometimes I long to retreat from my household chores and responsibilities to others to spend more time in my Bible. We all know that it is certainly a good thing to spend more time in God’s word, but do we truly value God’s purpose for us in the world? The Reformation recovered the doctrine of vocation, and the value of the ordinary person in their different vocations, whether as a mother, a brother, a bus driver, or a doctor. In our vocations, we are not trying to earn our salvation by our upstanding service, but as Christians we can serve our neighbors as we rest in the work of Christ. This knowledge comforts us even when we stumble in our service. Here is an excerpt from Veith’s book on this topic:

However much we sin in and against our vocations—and we sin a great deal—God is at work in them. It is God’s love that is active in vocation, and though we may try to thwart it in our sinfulness, and though we make ourselves obstacles to God’s will, He works in what we do despite ourselves.

“Even persons who have not taken the gospel to their hearts serve God’s mission, though they be unaware thereof,” says Wingren, “by the very fact that they perform the outer functions of their respective stations.” But those who have received the Gospel have the joyous confidence that their access to God does not depend on either their works or their sins, but on the free gift of Jesus Christ. Christians, by faith, can know that God is working in them and through them.

As Luther tells the servant girl, if she can be made to realize the truth about vocation, she “would dance for joy and praise and thank God…with her careful work, for which she receives sustenance and wages, she would obtain a treasure such as those who are regarded as the greatest saints do not have.” “How could you be more blessed or lead a holier life,” he asks her. “In God’s sight it is actually faith that makes a person holy; it alone serves God, while our works serve people. Here you have every blessing, protection, and shelter under the Lord, and, what is more, a joyful conscience and a gracious God” (“Large Catechism,” 406-407) (p. 141-142).

For some reason, we have reverted to feeling guilty or less spiritual when we work in the common sphere. So today, I will try to clean my toilets with joy from this encouragement, thankful for the opportunity to serve my family.


Posted on Wednesday, September 14, 2011 by Aimee Byrd on Housewife Theologian

I have a coffee mug that reminds me that today was made by the Lord, and I should rejoice in it. It was a gift. It’s a nice cup and all, but I am bothered when I walk into a so-called Christian bookstore and find oodles of everyday, common paraphernalia spiritualized with quaint sayings, even Scripture.  Christian bookstores are supposed to sell books about Christianity, not sanctify bracelets, gum, and coffee mugs. They are common, not holy…and that’s okay.

Earlier I wrote about the church, where Christ redemptively rules in his spiritual kingdom. What is frustrating for the Christian is Monday through Saturday. On Sunday we have a taste of our eschatological future and are given a benediction to return to Christ’s common, civil kingdom. In a way, it’s like Moses walking down the mountain. There is a great tension as believers and unbelievers work together in God’s civil kingdom because we have two different goals. A Christian aims to glorify God in all that they do; an unbeliever works for their own glory. Yet God has willed that we work together in his common kingdom. 

Scripture speaks of Christians being sojourners, pilgrims in this world, as we wait for the world to come (1 Pet. 2:11; Heb. 11:13). In this way, we are much like the captive Israelites living in Babylon. Jeremiah sent them a letter speaking for the Lord:

Build houses and dwell in them; plant gardens and eat their fruit. Take wives and beget sons and daughters; and take wives for your sons and give your daughters to husbands, so that they may bear sons and daughters—that you may be increased there, and not diminished. And seek the peace of the city where I have caused you to be carried away captive, and pray to the Lord for it; for in its peace you will have peace (Jer. 29:5-7).

Like the captives from Jerusalem, we know that God’s children have a future land we call home that is much different from the culture we live in now. But we also know that we are going to be here for a while and we are right where God wants us to be. Although the world as we now know it is temporary, we are to be good stewards in the place God has put us.

Living as salt and light in the world can be very challenging, as we are being sanctified ourselves. I can use the reminder that Ps. 118:24 gives me, from my Bible. You see, the gospel message challenges us to much more than slapping a trite Christian ditty on a coffee cup. And even engraving Scripture across it does not make my latte holy. My morning cup of mudd is common, and I thoroughly enjoy it as a blessing of God’s common grace. My cup doesn’t need to be made by a Christian for me to feel good about drinking out of it either. Our unbelieving neighbors are also well equipped for cultural work.

I think that one reason that we believers want to label our common activities as “Christian,” is because we long for that day when we receive the holy land that Christ has earned for us, the new heavens and the new earth. As I read Rev. 19 & 21, I long for my new home where Christ royally reigns over his new creation. I ache to be made holy, living where everything around me is also holy. John gives us a vision where even the road we walk on will be gloriously showcased in pure, transparent gold (Rev. 21:21). Dennis Johnson suggests in his commentary on Revelation, Triumph of the Lamb, that this passage is similar to Zechariah 14:20-21, where Jerusalem is foreseen as a place where even the cooking utensils are as holy as the temple vessels. Imagine that, holy cups.

Johnson also points out that John’s “vision speaks in visionary symbolism not of the physical components of a spiritual metropolis but of the spiritual qualities of the people of God, the true identity of the bride, which is to be revealed from heaven at Christ’s return” (p. 316-317). And in this we can rejoice all the more. Jesus Christ is preparing a holy city for our eternal dwelling with him. Meanwhile he is calling a people to himself and transforming them into his image. He is the beatific vision which we long to see. What a privilege to be cared for as his bride!

And as I enjoy God’s common blessings, it also serves as a reminder to me that his good creation has been horribly marred by sin. While there is much good remaining in the common, I long for holy perfection.

Posted on Sunday, September 11, 2011 by Aimee Byrd on Housewife Theologian

The Fruitful Life, Jerry Bridges (NavPress, 2006)

We are using this book for a small group study in church.  Here was one of my favorite sections in the first chapter, Taking on God’s Character:

Growth in godly character not only is progressive and always unfinished, it is absolutely necessary for spiritual survival. If we are not growing in godly character, we are regressing; in the spiritual life we never stand still. The word train in Paul’s admonition to Timothy, “Train yourself to be godly,” occurs only four times in the New Testament: 1Timothy 4:7, Hebrews 5:14 and 12:11, and 2 Peter 2:14. In three of those instances, the result of such training is positive and God-honoring.

But consider the fourth passage, 2 Peter 2:14. The context is Peter’s sharp denunciation of and warning against false teachers. He refers to them as “experts in greed.” The word expert is the same word translated in the other three passages as “train.” In fact, the English Standard Version renders it, “They have hearts trained in greed.”

The implication of Peter’s use of the word train is very sobering. It is possible to train ourselves in the wrong direction! That is what these false teachers had done. They had practiced greed so well that they had become experts in it—they had trained their hearts in greed (23-24)!

So often we deceive ourselves into thinking we can reach an acceptable plateau in our spiritual lives. Bridges reminds us that this is not so. Although our sanctification is in full dependence on Christ through his Spirit, we are commanded to train ourselves. This reminds me so much of the analogy it lends to physical training in fitness. Our fitness level is a testament to our aptitude. As we look to the One who was completely fit to bear our sin on the cross, propitiate the Father’s wrath, and procure our salvation with his own righteousness, we have complete confidence that the author and finisher of our faith will take us to the finish line.

 When I first started this blog, I did a four-part series on theological fitness. You can find it here. One article is on aptitude, and one is on training.

Posted on Friday, September 09, 2011 by Aimee Byrd on Housewife Theologian

It seems like every TV show targeted for children propagates the all important message to “follow your dreams.” It’s become an American virtue. Our children grow up with the message that they can be anything they want to be. Usually, their favorite singers and shows are painting the message that their greatest aspiration should be fame. Even the so-called reality shows feed the cultural hunger for celebrity and attention. The worst cultural sin to commit these days would be to squelch a young person’s dream.

I’m not saying that ambitious personal aspirations are a bad thing. But I do want to spend this article considering the proper value of dreaming and the actual business of discerning its fruit. Countless four-year old girls dream of someday becoming a princess (thanks to Disney). We buy them fancy dress-up clothes knowing it is mainly harmless fun and that one day they will grow out of it. For Halloween, we let our kids dress as astronauts and professional athletes even though their odds of actually becoming one are 13,200,000 to 1 and 22,000 to 1, respectively.

When is it okay to pursue a highly unlikely ambition? Well, there are some obvious indicators: special talent, work ethic, and recognition. But even if all of these line up to a career that fulfills their biggest aspirations, what is the perceived value in that achievement? I join with the others lamenting that back in the day, one chose their career path according to the gifts and opportunities they were given to best serve their community. Now the message seems to be, “how can you best serve yourself?” Career paths are made according to highest salary, status, or acclamation. We are looking for personal fulfillment in our jobs in a very self-centered fashion. And, of course, we are finding ourselves in despair when encountered by rejection of our dreams, or dissatisfaction in their attainment.

I have found Dave Harvey’s book, Rescuing Ambition, to be very helpful in this area. He points out that our ambitions should not be so much about what we achieve, but rather about who we are.

God has an agenda: it’s to change us into the image of his Son. And one way he brings about this change is through our dreams and ambitions. God works in us through that which we aspire.

Sometimes God brings our dreams to life; sometimes he doesn’t. But how we respond to his work becomes an important intersection for change in our lives. As we cooperate with him, we discover that it’s not ultimately about nailing the promotion, or raising well-behaved kids, or winning the Daytona 500—as good as all those things may be. It’s about something much bigger: how I become like Christ while I pursue those dreams (70).

God gifts us all with particular talents and opportunities to serve in his civil kingdom. As we serve our neighbor we have multiple vocations: husbands, mothers, brothers, aunts, students, teachers, entertainers, and even a few princesses. Some pay well, and many are pro bono. But they all come with their crosses to bear in this sinful world. Even in a wonderful marriage, it’s certainly not always wine and roses. The best of careers come with high responsibilities and burdens. Many times, we will be pursuing a path that is laden with God’s blessing, only to find him closing that door for another direction. Some vocations seem to find us when we are not even looking in that direction. Oftentimes, God seems to put the pause button on many of our aspirations.

So how do we direct and encourage our children (and ourselves for that matter) when it comes to all their wildest dreams? We can help them pursue their greatest enjoyment in every vocation, and that is Christ himself:

As we cooperate with God’s work, what delights us is no longer indulged ambition, or even ambitions for God, but God himself.

So let me ask you: What lies at the end of your ambition? Are your goals built around that job you’ve got to have, the weight you’ve got to lose, that position in church with your name on it?

Or are your dreams increasingly built around God and his life-shaping activity in you (p.79)?