Posted on Tuesday, May 03, 2011 by Aimee Byrd on Housewife Theologian

I like fun words.  I love learning new words or rediscovering old ones to use in my vocabulary.  So every Wednesday I will be posting a new word of the week, along with its definition.  I challenge you to use it in conversation throughout the week so that it can sink into your normal rhetoric.  It might be cool to involve the kids as well!  Also, if you would like to submit a word you can email me at mail@housewifetheologian.com and if I decide to post it, I will give you the credit.  Why don’t you have a crack at using our word in a sentence in the comment section…could be interesting.

This week’s word is:

Ubiquitous:  Do you know someone who just seems to be everywhere?  Well, they're ubiquitous!  Maybe they really are everywhere.  God is ubiquitous because He really is omnipresent.  But we mainly use the word as hyperbole (I know, another fun word).  Like, how certain people ubiquitously keep showing up on reality TV shows...

Posted on Monday, May 02, 2011 by Aimee Byrd on Housewife Theologian

According to the American College of Sports Medicine, approximately 60% of well-meaning people who begin a workout routine give up.  And then there’s a small percentage out of the 40% left, who encounter overtraining syndrome.  Martha Pyron, Md., wrote an article about it for ACSM’s quarterly publication.  According to Martha,

The normal effective cycle of training involves an increase in training, which tires the athlete, but also stimulates improvements in fitness.  The vast majority of this improvement occurs during the rest and recovery period after an intense training bout.  The rest and recovery period is therefore extremely important for the training athlete to make improvements in fitness.

Interesting.  To improve our fitness level, we need to increase our training to fatigue, and then incorporate a proper rest and recovery period.  As it turns out, proper rest and recovery might not be exactly what you think.  In the fitness world, I have picked up on the benefits of active rest.  During my day off regular exercise routines, engaging in light, low stress activity can be more beneficial than say, bonding with my couch.  Slightly increasing blood flow on my rest day speeds muscle recovery by flushing out lactate and other toxins faster from my body.  For me, this is the joy and reward of fitness.  I train hard (well, only for an hour) six days a week so that I can enjoy regular life with ease.  Things like taking a walk in the neighborhood, playing with the kids, or digging out my garden may raise my heart rate a little, but they are light exercise.  For me, the goal of training and conditioning is active rest.

So what’s the theological connection?  Sunday and eternity.  At the beginning of the week, Christians are given a day for rest and worship as a covenant community.  Also known as Resurrection Day, Sunday is given to us as a foretaste of our future eschatological hope.  It is modeled after creation.  The original day of rest was a symbol to Adam of what he was working for, that is a place of eternal rest with the Father.  It was on Saturday, the last day of the work week.  We all know how that went.  But what the first Adam failed to accomplish for his progeny, the second Adam, Jesus Christ secured.  Now our Sabbath Day is in the beginning of the week.  First we rest in Christ before we are called out to labor in our secular vocations.

What is this eternal rest to which we anticipate?  Is it merely inactivity?  As we learn about the Sabbath, we see that Christ is our rest.  In one sense rest is a place.  Verses like Heb. 4:1 and 8-10 use the Greek word that can be translated abode, or to colonize.  On Sunday, Christ’s covenant community meets together for worship.  Michael Horton calls it holy people and holy space.  Here we are given Christ and all His benefits.  In another use, rest is a sort of status.  Revelation 14:13 speaks of our future, eternal rest, contrasted to 14:11—the condemned’s endless, restless state.  The condemned will forever be tormented by their sin. The redeemed will be delivered from suffering.  My concordance translates the Greek rest from this passage: to repose [be exempt], remain, to refresh, take ease.  Why is this so?  Because unlike Adam, Jesus Christ won for us the new creation and all of its blessings—by His efforts—apart from our efforts.  We will be freely active to worship the Lord and serve Him, safe in His truth and goodness.

Until then, we are called to suffer in this world.  We live between the already of Christ’s victory, and the not yet of its full consummation.  In this tension, the believer goes through intense training bouts as they take up their cross and follow Christ.  We may have already been qualified by the work of Christ, but we are being conditioned (a.k.a. sanctified) for holiness.  All the while, we look forward to that day of final jubilee.  We will be given our new land where we rest in the efforts of the One who has prepared it for us.  There will be jobs for us in our new home—I’m not going to be hanging out on a cloud all day with my formerly deceased pets.  But finally I will be able to serve God free from all the constraints from the curse.  Active rest is freedom in our full recovery to holiness--freedom to fulfill our purpose to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.

Posted on Saturday, April 30, 2011 by Aimee Byrd on Housewife Theologian

Girls Gone Wise, by Mary A. Kassian (Moody, 2010)

Pre-Fall nakedness symbolized the purity and innocence of humans before God.  Post-Fall nakedness symbolizes the inability of humans to make themselves presentable before Him.  God did what Adam and Eve were unable to do.  He covered them and made them presentable.  He shed the blood of an animal—probably a lamb—and clothed them with its skin.  By means of a bloody sacrifice, He covered their sin and shame.  Do you see the symbolism here?  Do you feel the surge of hope?  God’s merciful solution to Adam and Eve’s sin and their inadequate attempt to cover shame, was to clothe them with something infinitely more adequate.  The skin of the sacrificed animal pointed to the time when God would sacrifice His Lamb—the Lord Jesus Christ—to atone for sin, alleviate shame, and clothe us in His righteousness (Gen. 3:21)…

Clothing bears witness to the fact that we have lost the glory and beauty of our original sin-free selves.  It confesses that we need a covering—His covering—to atone for our sin and alleviate our shame.  It testifies to the fact that God solved the problem of shame permanently and decisively with the blood of His own Son.  It also directs our attention forward to the time when we will be “further clothed” with spotless, imperishable garments (2 Cor. 5:3 NKJV, Rev. 3:5). (99)

I think it’s good that Kassian reminds us of the purpose of clothing.  Our goal is not to be naked and unashamed before the world.  Our clothing is a testimony of our own righteousness.  It points to our hope in being clothed in Christ before God.  Rev. 3:5 mentions how those who overcome will be clothed in white garments.  These garments, symbolizing a wedding (as the bride of Christ), should motivate us now to purity (1 John 3: 2-3).  We are clothed in and by Christ!  As our Groom is sanctifying us, we look forward to that day when our union is consummated.  His red blood makes our garments white.  When we think of His cost for our so-called wedding dress, we are motivated toward purity.

Posted on Thursday, April 28, 2011 by Aimee Byrd on Housewife Theologian

I seriously got back into a regular workout routine about two years ago.  Having been raised in a family that values physical fitness, I have always lived a somewhat active life.  However, in my thirties it became apparent that my body was not as obliging to my requests.  It was time to get a little more disciplined if I wanted to feel as strong as I did in my twenties.  So I did the practical thing for a mother of three:  I started buying DVD workouts by experienced trainers.  The first workout I did was an hour long.  As I was chugging along I thought to myself, “You’re a little winded, Aimee, but you’ve still got it!”  And then I woke up the next morning.  Ouch!  Going down the stairs, “Ouch, eeew, ugh!”  That just told me I needed strengthening, I’m not in my twenties, and the exercise was working.  So, even in pain, I kept at it six days a week.

For this installment of my theological fitness series, I want to get into the trenches of our metaphorical race (Heb. 12:1-2)—the experiences of obstacles and triumph.  First of all, we need good training.  I might be able to think of some good exercises, but I do not have the knowledge of putting together the most beneficial workout routine.  And I certainly wouldn’t go for a full hour unless I was being led.  Many of the workouts I do combine circuit training and super-sets.  I would not have thought of concepts such as combining emphasis on aerobic and anaerobic metabolic systems or active rest.  But these trainers have a plan for me to follow.

Often, these routines require each circuit to be repeated.  There are many benefits to this.  The first time through, my muscles and my brain are being introduced to the form.  The second time through is even more advantageous.  Now I already know the technique.  So if I’m told it’s time for the second set of UFC’s, or sissy squats, I know what in the heck that means and the technique involved.  At this point my muscles are reaching fatigue, and I am told that this is good because that is where “the magic happens.”  Muscles are being further toned on the second time through.  This point of muscle fatigue is also the point in the workout where I ask, “Why did I get myself into this?”  That’s when I know change is happening.

Where am I going with all this?  Much of our conditioning in the Christian life is hard.  As biblical pastors, teachers, and mentors lead us we realize that we aren’t quite as spiritually fit as we thought we were.  When we face a challenge or obstacle, we find our strength and stamina are weak.  First we have to learn the form.  Theology has specialized language just like every other discipline.  For my workouts, I need to learn lingo such as skull crushers, spider push-ups, and suspended arm extensions.  When learning what the Bible teaches about God’s redemptive plan through Jesus Christ there’s all kinds of vocabulary involved such as propitiation, imputation, eschatology, and covenant.  Also, in many of our first experiences in trying to live according to the gospel, we fall on our faces.  We are in a continuous battle with sin.  But through repentance and prayer, the Lord uses even those times to strengthen us.  When we encounter our new vocabulary the second time, we know it and can learn deeper by the use of it.  When we encounter a similar temptation over, we are stronger and wiser to turn away.  Our trust in the Lord grows as we see how He has been faithful all along. 

There will be many blessings throughout our Christian lives, but there will also be times when we ask ourselves how we got into all this.  And, sure, there are obvious moments in life where this question is our wisdom talking, telling us we should not be involved in a particular situation.  It is a discerning question.  Many times this question comes because we did not properly count the cost.  It demands us to estimate the value and purpose of our cause.  But make no mistake, we will find that the most valuable things in life bring us to fatigue.  That’s when we are toning—during the “burn.”

Further meditation: Phil. 3:12-14, 1 Cor. 9:24-27, 2 Tim. 4:7

Posted on Tuesday, April 26, 2011 by Aimee Byrd on Housewife Theologian

I like fun words.  I love learning new words or rediscovering old ones to use in my vocabulary.  So every Wednesday I will be posting a new word of the week, along with its definition.  I challenge you to use it in conversation throughout the week so that it can sink into your normal rhetoric.  It might be cool to involve the kids as well!  Also, if you would like to submit a word you can email me at mail@housewifetheologian.com and if I decide to post it, I will give you the credit.  Why don’t you have a crack at using our word in a sentence in the comment section…could be interesting.

This week’s word is:

Riant--(adj.) smiling, happy

I mean, really, why don't we use this word more?  Huh? Why not?

Posted on Tuesday, April 26, 2011 by Aimee Byrd on Housewife Theologian

  Finally, I get to enjoy my first “real” spring morning of the year.  A couple of weeks ago, I thought spring was ushered in.  We saw daffodils and other early spring blooms.  The robins have appeared.  I quickly ordered new flip-flops and shorts for the kids.  Baseball practices began.  We were given some beautifully warm afternoons, unaware of the upcoming weeks of wind and rain.  Then the temperatures took a dive.  Winter was back.  I’ve been afraid of losing my beautiful tulips, cherry blossoms, and hyacinths before they could even be enjoyed.  The wind kept blowing, and the clouds kept rolling in.

Finally, I retrieved my porch cushions from the storage shed.  My first real spring morning.  Upon a quick inventory, I am thrilled to see most of my flowers have survived the heavy wind and rain…strong enough to bend, as the song goes.  My kids are picking their first dandelion bouquets of the year.

There’s been a lot of tragic news recently—the earthquake/tsunami in Japan, our dog had to be put down, media drama, marriages ending, even a heartbreaking suicide in our town…death and winter everywhere.  I’ve been thinking a lot about how the world’s values and musings are at odds with the believer’s great call and destiny.  I’ve been thinking about how badly I fail in my opportunities to show Christ’s love to others.  Just like the spring turning back to winter, I get caught up in this world’s priorities and methods.  Sometimes it’s just plain discouraging—the wind keeps blowing hard, and the coldness doesn’t let up.

The new life and warmth of spring is such a beautiful reminder of the love of God in Christ.  My trees surely looked dead all winter, but now their life is revealed.  My flowers were out of sight, underground, but have broken through, weathered the storm, and are blooming radiantly.  God loves us through it all and is working in us.  We can sing through trials, like the robins in the storm.

We suffer.  There is loss.  But we will never lose the love God has set on us in Christ.  It is more real than anything else.  It is sure.  Christ has propitiated God’s wrath toward my sin—on an actual day in time—and I am blessed with His righteousness and all the benefits that go with it.  I can love because I have TRUE love, a love that endures.  Trials and suffering drive me to His love, and prove His love.  God is the perfect Father, who is able.  Christ is the perfect husband, who sacrificed all in humiliation, life itself, for me—a harlot.  He is making me pure.  Lord, I pray that in gratitude I can take this love and give it to my husband—that the winters will prove my love.  Enable me with Your steadfastness to live out my calling, knowing that nothing can separate me from You.  My destiny is to become like Christ!  That is how You will be glorified.  I do not feel adequate to speak of such beauty and love.  Help me to bring forth my fruit in season, to be like a tree, planted by the rivers of water, that my leaves will never wither (Ps. 1:3).

Posted on Sunday, April 24, 2011 by Aimee Byrd on Housewife Theologian

In my last article, I considered the fitness of Christ in His ability to bear the cross with patient endurance, along with how we are exhorted in Hebrews 12:1 to run the race set before us with endurance.  The Christian life requires fitness.  At the end of the race, I want to be proved qualified.  Our Savior makes us fit, regenerating and justifying us by grace, through faith.  But there is much conditioning ahead in our sanctification process.  To be sure, He is preserving us through the race, but anyone who’s ever been involved in any exercise program knows why the author of Hebrews uses this metaphor.

I am one of those people.  I love exercise, and I think the main reason is that I want to always be fit.  That is, I want to be ready, able--free to do whatever opportunity may come before me.    If my daughters challenge me to a backyard showdown, I’m ready to clean their clocks (or at least keep up with them!).  I can enjoy bike rides, and rollerblading with my kids.  I don’t want my fitness level to prohibit me from enjoying life’s moments, or even protecting myself or my children, if need be. 

Likewise, our spiritual life requires much fitness.  Peter tells us to always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you.  He gives this exhortation in the context of suffering for God’s truth.  There are two qualifications of fitness here:  knowing Gods truth, and the patient endurance of suffering for the sake of it.  This requires conditioning, strengthening, and training. 

Just like our bodies need continuous practice in any kind of physical training, so do our minds in theological growth.  Do you like to learn?  Theology refers to a knowledge of God.  You may not be a professional theologian, but you do have some sort of knowledge of God, whether it is true of false.  How do we expect to run the race with endurance if we do not know the One we are running to?  A race has a boundaried path with a particular destination.  If we do not know our destination, how are we assured it is the right one?  How will we be prepared to suffer for His name if we do not treasure it above all the world offers?  What if in the end, we hear, “Depart from Me; I never knew you.”

Romans 12:2 is one of my favorite verses of Scripture: And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.  We are always learning, whether it is purposeful or passive.  What are you filling your mind with—meat or fat?  The Bible gives us everything we need to know who God is and what He requires of us.  Our knowledge of God shapes our desires.  Our minds shape our wills. 

As I condition myself in learning, I pray for wisdom.  For proper training and conditioning, I need to put myself under the preaching of God’s word, alongside of others who are in the race.  As we receive Christ and all of His benefits together, we are strengthened, ready to live accordingly, and share our faith with others.  We are equipped by the truth, thereby able to identify the false.  By God’s grace He transforms us through His word and the power of His Spirit.  As my knowledge of God increases, so does my joy in serving Him.  As the fitness level of my mind rises, He combines my knowledge and experiences to produce wisdom.  Even when the apparent injuries come, the joy remains through suffering.  Why?  Because I know that my salvation is based on what Christ has already done, not in my own abilities.  In Him I find my meaning and my value.  For this reason I have confident hope as I strive to hear at the finish line, “Well done, my good and faithful servant.”

Further Meditation: 1 Peter 3:13-17, Matt. 7:21-23

Posted on Friday, April 22, 2011 by Aimee Byrd on Housewife Theologian

The Evil of Evils, by Jeremiah Burroughs (Soli Deo Gloria, 1992 [first published 1654])

Oh, you heavens!  How could you behold such a spectacle as this was?  How was the earth able to bear it?  Truly, neither heaven nor earth was able, for the Scripture says that the sun withdrew its light and was darkened so many hours.  It was from twelve to three that the sun withdrew its light and did not shine, but there was dismal darkness in the world for it was unable to behold such a spectacle as this was.  And the earth shook and trembled, and the graves opened and the rocks split in two, the very stones themselves were affected with such a work as this, and the vale of the Temple rent asunder.  These things were done upon Christ’s bearing of the wrath of His Father for sin.  Here you have the first fruits of God’s displeasure for sin, and in this you may see, surely, that sin must be a vile thing since it causes God the Father to deal thus with His Son when He had man’s sin upon Him. (102)

Surely we think of sin as too small a thing.  As we reflect on Good Friday and the Easter season, it is clear that there is no such thing as a small sin.  We try to compare ourselves to others who seem like worse offenders.  In all this we try to make our own sins look light.  In reality, I couldn’t approach my Holy God with even one of my “smallest” sins.  The creation couldn’t even bear the sight of Christ carrying our sin, propitiating the Father’s wrath.  The perfect Jesus Christ had my sin—every bit of it—imputed to Him and faced His Father’s judgment.  In exchange, His righteousness was imputed on me.  What magnificent love!  How can I be so cavalier with my sin?  Could anything ever come close to showing us the evil of sin as God pouring His wrath for it on His Son?  Who else could be worthy of our praise and worship?

Posted on Wednesday, April 20, 2011 by Aimee Byrd on Housewife Theologian

We are currently studying the doctrine of Christ in my Sunday School class.  I’ve been reflecting for a couple of weeks now about one of our homework questions.  The text:

Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. (Heb. 12:1-2)

The Question: How is the death of Christ an example of patient endurance?

Of course, there are several obvious answers, and I could quickly write down what the text provided, for the joy that was set before Him.  What a profound statement!  For two weeks now, I’ve been chewing on the relationship of patient endurance and joy.

We don’t really like the words patient or endure.  My Strong’s Concordance breaks down the Greek endured with words like: to stay under, remain, bear, have fortitude, persevere, abide, and patiently suffer.  In my mind many of these synonyms sound like a passive survival.  But no one I know would say, “I hope to passively survive my Christian life.”

The author of Hebrews compares our Christian life to running a race.  He points us to a cloud of witnesses who have forged ahead by faith and have received their future hope.  More importantly, he points us to Jesus Christ, whose patient endurance was active, for the sake of joy.  I’ve been thinking a lot about the fitness of Jesus lately.  He did not give up His life until the proper time.  Think of how He must have longed to be with His Father in heaven.  But even stronger, He patiently endured for the joy set before Him, which was submission to His Father and redeeming a people for Himself.  Jesus had to give up His life; it could not be taken from Him.

You see, none of us could even begin to run if it were not for the author and finisher of our faith.  None of us had the fitness required to bear the curse of the world’s sin on that tree.  Only the Son of God would be qualified as a contender: completely righteous, without sin.  In his earthly ministry, he fulfilled all righteousness, resisted temptation, and was ready to be both our sin offering and our thank offering.  Even as the God-man, the cup of God’s wrath he had to drink was enough to make him fall to the ground.  Jeremiah Burroughs lamented on the weight Jesus bore as He fell on His face in prayer:

He, who upholds the heavens and the earth by His power, now falls groveling upon the earth, having the weight and burden of man’s sin upon Him…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. (The Evil of Evils, p.100)

Only one man qualified for that position—Jesus Christ.

Because of this, we are told to run with endurance the race set before us.  Only Jesus had the fitness for the cross, but because of Him believers are given the fitness for the Christian life.  Fitness requires conditioning.  And we are told to actively endure.  Since I love to exercise, this is a great metaphor for me.  I think of the cloud of witnesses as the before and after shots fitness programs use for promotions.  We are given a real testimony of believers who endured.  My before shot is pretty shabby.  But my after shot will be a glorified, resurrected body!

Anyone can start a race, but only the fit can finish.  By God’s grace, Christians are given endurance to persevere to the end, as Christ conditions us and strengthens our faith along the way.  Most people feel pretty strong in the beginning of a workout.  In one of my regular workouts I do, Bob Harper (yes, I’m a Biggest Loser fan) likes to lay on the heavy licking in the end.  He reminds us that everyone is strong in the beginning of a workout; let’s see who’s strong in the end.  As we begin our weighted-side-plank-T-stand-push-up-craziness, the fitness models begin crying out for mercy (that’s when you know it’s bad).  Bob smiles and encourages, “I am with you.”  I always think of how Jesus told his disciples the same thing in his Great Commission (Matt. 28:18-20).  We can finish strong because the finisher of our faith finished strong.  He really is with us through his Spirit, the preaching of his Word, and the administration of his sacraments.  I can do all things through Jesus Christ who strengthens me.  And He is the joy that is set before me.

Further Meditation: Ps. 78: 12-16, Isa. 45:22, Matt. 26: 36-39, John 10: 17-18, 12:27-28

Posted on Wednesday, April 20, 2011 by Aimee Byrd on Housewife Theologian

Since it's Holy Week, I thought it would be good to use a related theological term for our Word of the Week.  This definition comes from Michael Horton's The Christian Faith:

Penal Substitution: Jesus Christ's sacrifice was the payment of a debt to divine justice as a substitute for his people.

More from Horton on Atonement:

In Christ's flesh, both his life and his death, we have a thank offering that restores what we owe to God's law--a fragrant life well pleasing to the Lord--and a guilt offering that propitiates God's wrath....The sacrificial motif is at the heart of Jesus' own self-identity: "The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as ransom for many" (Mk. 10:45)...While Christ's sacrifice provides a sample of self-giving love, it is a unique and unrepeatable event, bringing to an end all scapegoats, all bloody sacrifices, all substitutions, and all attempts to reconcile ourselves to God by our own efforts. (496-497)