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Jesus, Thy Blood and Righteousness

Jseus, Thy blood and righteousness
My beauty are, my glorious dress;
'Midst flaming worlds, in these arrayed,
With joy shall I life up my head.

Bold shall I stand in that great day,
For who aught to my charge shall lay?
Fully absolved through these I am,
From sin and fear, from guilt and shame.

Lord, I believe Thy precious blood,
Which at the mercy seat of God
For ever doth for sinners plead,
For me, e'en for my soul was shed.

Lord, I believe were sinners more 
Than sands upon the ocean shore,
Thou has for all a ransom paid,
For all full atonement made.


"Just for women"

I'm in the final pages of Rebecca Stark's book The Good Portion: God, The Doctrine of God for Every Woman. It was entirely what I anticipated: writing full of depth yet not inaccessible, and writing that could be read easily by a man and a woman. She is a careful teacher of truths, and uses illustrations well. And her illustrations are not the kind that are specifically tailored to women, which I like. Even though the subtitle of this book indicates it is for women, it is a book men can read. I plan to write more about this later at Out of the Ordinary.

I am torn between two positions on books that are "doctrine for women." On the one hand, I am disappointed at the notion that doctrine must be pared down for a woman, as if she can't understand a book of doctrine written for a general audience. I know that is not the intention with this series of books, however. This series of books is to encourage women that doctrine is for them, too. 

That brings me to the other side of the argument: as much as I find it disappointing that women must have their own source of doctrinal books, I am thankful that there are those who see that women need doctrine. I'm thankful that Christian Focus has two books in this series. I wrote about Keri Folmar's contribution here

I still struggle to understand where the notion came from that women don't need doctrine. It is clearly an idea we have come to embrace. I have met my share of women over the years who have said, "I just need the Bible; I don't need theology." Thinking theologically has been given as the task for pastors and men. I have not studied the history of women in the Church enough to come to a conclusion about that. And so far, I have not come across anyone who has explained it adequately to me. I think that question must be explored in a context larger than just women, and one that investigates an attitude of anti-intellectualism in general.

I do have days when I would like to take women by the shoulders, and give a (gentle!) shake and say: "Doctrine is what will equip you when the hard times come!" All of the "how to's" and encouragement about being a more productive this, or a more efficient that won't do it. Those are just distractions.

So, while I feel sad that women need to be told that doctrine is for them, I am glad for books that do just that. Hopefully, this series of books will encourage women to realize that they don't have to read books that are "just for women."


You can't put the internet toothpaste back in the tube

I tried to read the book 12 Ways Your Phone is Changing You. I saw recommendations for it, but I got bored about one-third of the way through, and I was generally underwhelmed. In the past few weeks, I've read articles by people talking about how to use their phones less because of what it's doing to their concentration, relationships, etc. I totally get that. I have a husband who is a news junkie, and having news at his fingertips thanks to a smartphone is the answer to all of his news loving prayers. Yes, I get that.

I don't like reading on a teeny screen. Now that I have an iPad, when I want to use Pinterest away from my desk top, I use my iPad. I use my phone as a phone and for texting my kids and friends. Why would I want to read a book on a dinky little screen? I don't play video games, period, so something like playing games on my phone is not an issue. Yes, I could live without a smartphone, but I do like to know that I have the capabilities it offers when I really need it. I don't have any problem at all with leaving my phone in another room and forgetting where it is; until it rings, of course, and then I am running.

I can't say the same thing for using the Mac on my desk, though. One morning, during the school year, I was awake (courtesy of the Beagles who live here) by 5:30 and ready to work. I decided to check the student platform at school to see how I'd done on a Greek quiz. That meant getting online and signing in. Well, I was already online, so I figured I would check my email. And then, when I saw the emails in my "promotions" tab, which featured a new book, I was distracted to that site. I wasted thirty minutes. And where was my phone? Upstairs, charging.

Is the problem really the phone? Aren't the same distractions an issue with any device we use to go online? As long as we conduct much of our lives online, it's always going to be a struggle to stay off, whether we use a phone, watch, or reading device. I have to go online to check my progress at school. I have to go online to register for my classes. If I want to contribute to paperless billing with my hydro provider, I have to go online to find out what my monthly bill is. You can't put the toothpaste back in the tube, so learning to use it without a mess is the goal.

I can't say that my husband's tendency to spend too much time reading the news began with the smartphone or even online news providers. It was there when we were married thirty-one years ago. And manifested itself in paper. Everywhere. Magazines. Newspapers. Well, I have to admit that I'm glad that is gone.

Don't blame your smartphone for being a distraction. If it wasn't that, it might be something else.


I'm thankful I was boy crazy

I have three brothers, and I have a mother who wasn't a "girly girl." My first best friend was a boy. I always liked being friends with boys. And when I got to be 12 or 13, they became even more fascinating. I was boy crazy. I wish I had not been. Being too boy crazy distracted me from other things. When I think of what I am learning at seminary and what I would like to do, I'm sad, because for me, at 53, it's a little late. 

And yet, I know that God is in control of the universe. He is in control of my destiny. I was reminded of that as I read Rebecca Stark's book The Good Portion: God. In her chapter on God's wisdom, she points out that God has perfect and unlimited knowledge. And it is a knowledge about my life. She says:

Let your mind rest in this: God knows everything you don't, and not merely because He sees into the future, but because he planned the future. You are in the hands of the one for whom nothing future is uncertain, the one who knows it all because He planned it all.

When I look back at things in my past, when it is tempting to feel regret, I take this truth retroactively and remind myself that God knew what he was doing in my past. 

Eleventh grade was a difficult one for many reasons. Not having been raised with any religious training, other than having been baptized as a Catholic, I used to spend my Saturday afternoons in St. Cecilia's Catholic Church, which was across the street from my high school. I would just sit there and wonder. What did it all mean? I was too shy to ask anyone, and no one really ever came into the building while I was there, anyway.

And then, there was a boy (wasn't there always a boy?) in my 11th grade English class whom I liked a lot. I wanted to get to know him more. This boy was a Mormon. There were many Mormons in my school, living in Calgary, Alberta, as I did. How could I get to know this boy? A girl across the street from me was Mormon. On previous occasions, she had invited me to the dances that were held every Saturday night (an evangelistic tool) for young people. I would kill two birds with one stone: I would ask to investigate the Mormon Church.

And I did. And I was immersed in it for a number of months. And I was a good Mormon. The anticipated romance of the century with the red headed boy in my English class never came to fruition. Ultimately, I decided against the Mormon church in an eleventh hour change of heart. And while I knew it wasn't for me, I knew one thing: whatever church I looked into, it needed to use the Bible. While the missionaries who taught me eventually guided me to the Book of Mormon, they started with the Bible; James 1:5 to be exact (and it was taken out of its proper context).

After I changed my mind about Mormonism, I finally got the courage up to visit that Catholic church again and ask to speak to a priest. I remember that morning well; the Calgary Stampede parade was on a little television in the office of the Church as I waited. The priest listened to my story, but when I asked him if he could tell me where in the Bible it said I must do things like go to confession, and how the bread and wine became flesh and blood, he had one answer: "Come to mass." 

Well, thanks for that.

That was the end of that. I was seventeen years old that day, and when I was twenty, after meeting the man who would become my husband, I read in the Bible what my greatest need was: salvation because of my sin. That was the beginning of the rest of my life. And it all started with a boy. 

God knew my future in that school in Calgary. He knew where he would take me. Perhaps being boy crazy interfered too much. Well, it did. In high school, I never got the grades I did while in university or seminary. I was looking for meaning in a relationship with a boy, but God knew there was something better for me. And he patiently allowed me to fumble and bumble about until the moment when he knew I would see in his word how I could know him.

God has a reason for everything. It may not be something we understand, and trusting in that takes faith. But it's faith he will give us.


Those pesky Bible editors

I am thankful that the Bible has chapter and verse markers. When I want to tell someone where something is, or rememer where I read something, they are very helpful. Just imagine if the Bible didn't have such markers, and you had to cite where you were reading. We would have to rely on page numbers, and that would mean everyone having the same version. Considering the number of versions and formats, that is an unlikely scenario.

However much I rely on those markers, I have seen that they can be misleading or a distraction. Bill Mounce, in his post yesterday, talked about how incorrect paragraph markers can interfere with the intention of the writer. He mentions in this post about the value of seeing the biblical text without verse and paragraph markers.

I'm going to be taking a class on the Synoptic Gospels in the fall, so over the summer, I am going to be reading those gospels. In May, I am reading Matthew; in June, Mark; and in July, Luke. I hope to read each one in multiple translations, the ESV, NASB, NIV, and NLT. I also want to read each one in a version without verse and chapter markers, so I'm reading the ESV Reader's Bible

As an aside, I know many people who were bothered by the kerfuffle about the ESV's translation of Genesis 3:16, and the fact that Crossway wanted to make it so that the text could not be updated in the future. Many determined never to read the ESV again, and many don't. I like the ESV. For years, I used the NASB, but when I read the Psalms in the ESV, I preferred that translation. I decided not to let those issues deter me. I use both the NASB and the ESV, and I've even warmed up to the NIV. The fact of the matter is that they all get it wrong at times. But considering the alternative, which is everyone knowing Koine Greek well (not just rudimentary understanding), we are lucky to have those translations. And while we get disgruntled about how they are translated, the bottom line is the translators know more about Koine Greek than the average Bible reader.

So, all that to say this: I love the ESV Reader's Bible. I have had it for a while, having purchased it when Westminster Books had it on for 50% off. I have only read Epistles so far, so this is the first time I've read narrative without the verse markers. It does indeed make a difference; and a good one. In narrative, as readers of English, we are accustomed to see a continual flow until the action changes. Having artificial markers can interfere with how the action is presented. So far, reading narrative without verse and chapter markers has been great.

For those who like the NASB, I don't know as if there is a version without verse or chapter markers. I know there is a version of the NIV without markers. I'm pretty sure that if one has Logos software, it's possible to get a text only version of what one reads in the Bible. Barring that, there is always the option of copying and pasting to make your own copy. It really is a helpful way to read the text.