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Praise For the Fountain Opened

From The Olney Hymns
William Cowper
Hymn 79, Praise For the Fountain Opened 

There is a fountain filled with blood
Drawn from EMMANUEL’S veins;
And sinners, plunged beneath that flood,
Lose all their guilty stains.

The dying thief rejoiced to see
That fountain in his day;
And there have I, as vile as he,
Washed all my sins away.

Dear dying Lamb, thy precious blood
Shall never lose its pow’r;
Till all the ransomed church of God
Be saved, to sin no more.

E’er since, by faith, I saw the stream
Thy flowing wounds supply:
Redeeming love has been my theme,
And shall be till I die.

Then in a nobler sweeter song
I’ll sing thy pow’r to save
When this poor lisping stamm’ring tongue
Lies silent in the grave.

Lord, I believe thou hast prepared
(Unworthy though I be)
For me a blood–bought free reward,
A golden harp for me!

’Tis strung, and tuned, for endless years,
And formed by pow’r divine;
To sound, in God the Father’s ears,
No other name but thine. 


Seminary true confessions

Last Thursday was my first day of seminary. I'd been waiting for this opportunity. I was excited about it. But as I got up in the darkness and got ready, one thought ran though my mind, and I expressed it to my husband: "I don't want to go."

What on earth was that about?

Last week at this time I was waiting for some test results. Early in February, I was experiencing some persistent chest pain, and I had lost weight without trying. Women at 50 don't usually lose weight without trying. It isn't fun to lose weight that way. These things were beginning to stir a little concern in me, especially as the wait between doctor's appointment and test dragged on, and then time between test and being given results dragged on. One's impatience and even the barest amount of internet research into symptoms can get an already over-active imagination working even harder.

Anxiety is a funny thing. It breeds more anxiety. You start to get anxious about being anxious. It's also something you don't want to whisper too loudly, because we Christians don't get anxious, no no, we don't. We must lack faith if we get anxious, right? 

My growing anxiety about these tests results spilled over into my attitude as I left for school that first day: what if I fail? What if I'm a bad student? What if I can't do the work? My anxieties grew even more as I went through that first day, as I listened in discussion to the other students talking. So many brilliant women. Quite providentially, one of the first passages we looked at as we practiced working with the text was Philippians 4:6-7. Each time we went through it, my conscience was pricked, and I thought about those verses a lot.

As I worked on my homework this week, preparing to hand it in, a good friend gave me an encouraging word about waiting for test results. She said that it was good that I had school to keep my mind on something else, especially because I was in the Word. That really jumped out at me. 

I've read about people who attend seminary talk about how the academics of it all can leave one forgetting what the heart of theological study is: knowing God more intimately. My purpose for attending seminary was to learn more about God, and I knew that, but I went into it with more pressure to be perfect that was necessary or desirable.

Doing a job well is something I always want to do. In fact, if there is any possibility I will really be bad at something, I don't do it at all. Hence, my reluctance to play laser tag. I went on one of those outings with my family in February, loathing every minute, because I'm terrible at shooting at things. And in all honesty, that's okay with me. I won't be doing it again.

I'm glad I went through the past few weeks of wondering and uncertainty about my health, because it really challenged me. Where is my faith? Is it in my ability to study well or produce well-written blog posts or bible study questions? If it is, it shouldn't be. My faith should be in Christ, and in His Word. My joy should be in the study of His Word, and how I want it to change me, not on getting an A. If I do, fine, but I think I'd rather not care so much if it means I'm missing the bigger picture: that the word is to be learned so that my mind will be renewed. That was my reason for going to seminary. Only three days in, and I was forgetting already. 

The good news is that my test results did come in, and it's something which can be treated quite easily with medication and diet modification. My tendency toward perfectionism can now be directed into researching these matters. In the meantime, as I prepare to hand in my first assignment tomorrow, I'm not going to give into the stress of thinking it has to be perfect. I believe I observed well, interpreted correctly, and put together some good questions. The best part is, one of the passages was James 1:1-18, about counting trials a joy. If my assignment is not as well-received as I might like, well, I guess I'll live with it. And I'll be glad of the lessons I've learned as I've studied. And I'll be praying that those lessons will grow in my heart.


Thankful Thursday

This morning, as I hear birds outside, I am thankful for warmer weather. Though it was grey and dull most of yesterday, the end of the day went out with a blaze of sunny glory.

I'm thankful for my son's 23rd birthday today. I wish I could be there to celebrate, but he has a class tonight. I miss him.

I'm thankful for my daughter, who, knowing I don't like being alone when hubby is away on business, rented a car and came home last night to spend some time with me. 

I'm thankful for my other son, who lives with my daughter, who stayed behind to babysit her cat while she's gone.

I'm thankful my husband will be home tomorrow.

I'm thankful for a friend who also knows I don't like being alone at night, and called me to keep me company.

I'm thankful that I've pretty much completed my first assignment for my seminary class. When I'm done that, I can tackle my Sunday school lesson.

I'm thankful for God's daily provision of grace in my life.


To overthrow our faith

From The Works of William Perkins, Vol. 1, "The Combat Between Christ and the Devil Displayed."

Satan's main drift in temptation is to overthrow our faith, whereby we believe every part and parcel of God's Word to be true: see this in his tempting of Eve; first he labors to weaken her faith in the truth of God's threatening, which done, he easily brought her to actual disobedience in eating the forbidden fruit. The same course he holds at this day; first he will seek to nuzzle men into ignorance, that he may keep them in unbelief. If he fails that way, then will he endeavor to plunge their souls into some damnable error and heresy; and by one of these means does he destroy the faith of many; for while a man remains in ignorance he can have no faith; and if he misses of the truth of God, he wants ground for his faith. Now the reason why the devil labors so much against our faith is, because we cannot truly rely upon god's mercy, nor depend upon His providence, nor yield any acceptable obedience to His commandments, unless we believe His Word.


What is the goal for women's bible study?

That question was the one of the first questions we discussed last week at my seminary class. Before we could even begin to discuss how to write a bible study for women, we had to ask ourselves what is the goal. The way the question was phrased at one point in our discussion was, "What kind of women we do want to be?" The answer was that we want to be women who love the word of God. Any bible study we undertake should leave us loving the word of God. 

Get into the text

As we discussed how to implement a study that would leave a woman as one who loves God's word and wants to meditate upon it day and night, we concluded that the study must contain a lot of interaction with the text. While there is room for preaching (where others exposit the text for us), there is room for women interacting with the text themselves. Therefore, bible study should contain a lot of interaction with the text. A lot.

But bible study is more than an academic exercise. What is the point of having in-depth interaction with the text if it does not change us? That is another goal of bible study: to be transformed by the renewing of our minds. That means that bible study must be done with a mind to applying the truths to our own lives. Application is based on observing and interpreting the text, and that takes work.

As we studied the bible passages with the goal of producing lessons, we practiced observing the text, interpreting the text, corrrelating the text, and then applying the text. This can be a very lengthy process. One of my assignments will be to develop a set of flow questions, which include observation, interpretation, correlation, and application questions, on Mark 5:21-43. I began working with this passage in class last week, and I'm still working on it. Reading and re-reading, looking for things like contrasts, cause and effect, progression, comparisons, etc. This is similar to Precept's approach; it's inductive study.

We concluded that a good bible study will have the student engaging in a lot of observation before interpreting, and that the student will work toward her own interpreations, even if she does need a little help. Of course, commentaries are not suggested until the student has done her own study, and that's always how I have worked.  

Reviewing other bible studies

On the last morning, we reviewed bible studies which are published. We were each given one to look at, and were encouraged to flip through it and evaluate the study based on the balance between biblical depth and group dynamics. Of course, many were good with group dynamics and light on interacting with the text. Many of them asked more "feeling" type questions than they did observation and interpretation questions. 

One of the women had a study by Beth Moore, her study on James. We actually spent a fair bit of time discussing that as she gave her report. Many of the women there had done Moore's studies before. What was seen was that while Moore's studies do focus on a passage of Scripture, frequently there contains more of Moore's commentary than there does opportunity for the student to dig into the text, especially when it comes to thoroughly observing the text. In one example, the student was asked two or three questions, but that was followed by Moore's commentary. It was basically like watching Moore exegete the text, not having the student do it. Commentary is always more meaningful when we've done our own indepth study first. 

Doing studies with Moore may be good for a new student of Scripture, who feels uncertain about doing her own study, but for someone who really wants to dig into the text, we felt it wasn't the best option. A number of the women there said they started out doing Moore's studies, and ended up leaving them for something with more interaction with the text and less commentary. There was never anything negative said about Moore, and the other aspects of her ministry which has often been critiqued were not mentioned. We looked at it strictly from what is the best way to get a woman into the text of Scripture.

I have worked through a couple of Moore's studies. I have concerns with them. But from now on, when someone asks me about doing them, I will mention what I have learned. For getting into the text, they just aren't the best option. If you're not looking to engage deeply with the text, but want to watch someone else exegete the material, that's a different goal altogether.