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Sunday
May012016

The Storm Hushed

From the Olney Hymns
John Newton
The Storm Hushed

’Tis past—the dreadful stormy night
Is gone, with all its fears!
And now I see returning light,
The Lord, my Sun, appears.

The tempter, who but lately said,
I soon shall be his prey;
Has heard my Savior’s voice and fled
With shame and grief away.

Ah, LORD, since thou didst hide thy face,
What has my soul endured?
But now ’tis past, I feel thy grace,
And all my wounds are cured!

O wondrous change! but just before
Despair beset me round;
I heard the lion’s horrid roar,
And trembled at the sound.

Before corruption, guilt and fear,
My comfort blasted fell;
And unbelief discovered near
The dreadful depths of hell.

But JESUS pitied my distress,
He heard my feeble cry;
Revealed his blood and righteousness,
And brought salvation nigh.

Beneath the banner of his love,
I now secure remain;
The tempter frets, but dares not move
To break my peace again.

LORD, since thou thus hast broke my bands,
And set the captive free;
I would devote my tongue, my hands,
My heart, my all to thee. 

Thursday
Apr282016

The value of face to face

Yesterday, I filled out the course evaluation for my hermeneutics class. I checked the "strongly agree" box for almost every question. Yes, it was that good. It sharpened me. My classmates encouraged me, and I learned a lot from them. I love attending classes weekly. There is great convenience in being able to complete a course mostly online; I did that in the fall semester. But I loved being in class weekly. In September, I'll be there twice weekly to take Hebrew. My other class, on Augustine, and taught by Michael Haykin, will meet for eight hours four times over the semester. Eight hours in a classroom may sound like a drudge to some, but the time passes very quickly, and I'm looking forward to it.

I don't know my hermeneutics prof as I know other people, but I know him more than I did when I began. Lord willing, I will be able to take another course with him. Next week, I start my course "The Old Testament in the New Testament," and we will meet every day, from 9:00 - 4:00 for the entire week. The prof is the one I had for Biblical Introduction, and I'm looking forward to hearing more from him, too. I'm looking forward to hearing other students share their insights. I'm sure there will be a couple of familiar faces.

Face to face is just better than online. Don't get me wrong; I love my internet friends. There are a handful with which I've been friends for ten years now. But the ones whom I have met face to face have a special place. To see their faces, to hear their voices, to hear the sound of their laughter, to embrace, or even to shake hands just adds something to the relationship. 

Being in school every week has reminded me that there is a limit to our online connections. Sure, we can text, skype, email, or do battle together on Twitter against a host of our detractors. But there is something far better about an hour over coffee, or sharing a meal. There are many times when I wish I could do exactly that with a few of the women I have met online. Over ten years ago, I met a fellow homeschooler online, and we only live an hour apart. Last summer, we met weekly. This summer, we are going to do it again. Blogs are great, but face to face is much sweeter.

I am thankful for things like Facebook to keep in touch with those I don't see regularly, but there is always the understanding that if we had our way, we would be face to face.

Tuesday
Apr262016

Sin isn't going anywhere

One of the lessons I keep learning is that sin isn't going anywhere. Of course, that is a no-brainer. But I think on some level, I believed as a younger woman that somehow, sin would become less of a factor as I got older. Surely, Christian maturity would mean sin would magically become less of a problem. That has not happened, of course. While it may be packaged in different scenarios than previous years, sin is still there. 

When we have our sin pointed out, or are convicted by our sin, we have two choices: confess it or deny it. In order to deny sin, we must also reject what Scripture says, because Scripture tells us that if we deny sin, we make God out to be a liar (I John 1:8). To be a Christian and to deny sin means we must change our attitude toward Scripture: perhaps it's wrong in places; perhaps it's not really inspired; perhaps that is just a cultural mandate. In the extreme, we may reject Scripture altogether. It's easier to deal with sin if we reject the existence of a standard.

In Psalm 32, the Psalmist gives details about what his unconfessed sin wrought:

For when I kept silent, my bones wasted away
through my groaning all day long.
for day and night your hand was heavy on me;
my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer (v.3-4)

That last phrase reminded me of Psalm 1, where the one who delights in the law of the Lord is compared to a tree by a river, well-watered and refreshed (Ps 1:3). When we are aware of unconfessed sin, how easy it is to avoid the very words which will convict us. The consequence of avoiding God's word is dryness, not refreshment. It's a slow fade from unconfessed sin to complete apathy toward God.

Sin has consequences. Aside from the reality that it separates us from God, like the Psalmist, we can experience physical symptoms. Guilt can be deadly. And yet, in our current culture, we are discouraged to feel shame and guilt for our sin. And I understand why that is. Many people are made to feel shame and guilt for things that are not their own sin, and it can eat away at a person to feel shame and guilt for past abuses at the hands of other people. When it comes to or own sin, though, we have to resist the temptation to deny our culpability.

If we are out of God's word, away from the sound of biblical preaching, and secluded from the fellowship of the church, how easy it is to think God doesn't care about our sin. How easy it is to stick our fingers into our ears and cry, "la la la la," and go on our merry way.

If we truly believe in a holy God, we can't pretend that sin isn't a problem. If we want to be reconciled to him, we can't ignore it. But thanks be to God for I John 1:9, which promises us forgiveness for confessed sin. When the Psalmist confessed, he received forgiveness:

I acknowledged my sin to you,
and I did not cover my iniquity;
I said, "I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,"
and you forgave the iniquity of my sin. (v.5)

While many of the dispositions of my heart stubbornly cling to me, I know that God will not refuse forgiveness. That gives me hope. 

Sunday
Apr242016

Cheer Up My Soul

From the Olney Hymns
John Newton
Cheer Up My Soul

Cheer up, my soul, there is a mercy–seat
Sprinkled with blood, where JESUS answers prayer;
There humbly cast thyself, beneath his feet,
For never needy sinner perished there.

Lord, I am come! thy promise is my plea,
Without thy word I durst not venture nigh;
But thou hast called the burdened soul to thee,
A weary burdened soul, O Lord, am I!

Bowed down beneath a heavy load of sin,
By Satan’s fierce temptations sorely pressed,
Beset without, and full of fears within,
Trembling and faint I come to thee for rest.

Be thou my refuge, Lord, my hiding–place,
I know no force can tear me from thy side;
Unmoved I then may all accusers face,
And answer every charge, with, “JESUS died.”

Yes, thou didst weep, and bleed, and groan, and die,
Well hast thou known what fierce temptations mean; 
Such was thy love, and now, enthroned on high,
The same compassions in thy bosom reign.

Lord give me faith—he hears—what grace is this!
Dry up thy tears, my soul, and cease to grieve:
He shows me what he did, and who he is,
I must, I will, I can, I do believe. 

Friday
Apr222016

I wish you could have all come with me

There were more than a few times this past semester when I wished that I could have had taken some of my friends to seminary with me. The content of the course, studying and interpreting the Bible, is one that I know many of my friends, on-line and face-to-face, would have loved. 

Aside from learning biblical interpretation skills, I also learned a lot of other things, and one thing continually came up: this book is amazing. The Bible is amazing. And several times, it occurred to me that not every Christian has a copy of the Scriptures in her own languages. My husband and I support missionaries in Papua New Guinea who are in the position of the tribe they live among not only lacking a Bible, but they lacak a written language. This is a huge challenge. I can't even imagine what that it like.

There was a time when owning one's own copy of the Bible was frowned upon. Even 150 years ago, not every family had its own copy of the Bible. There was a day when the Bible was chained to a pulpit in a church to protect it. Books were expensive. Women did not have the kind of time to study that we do now. They had no modern conveniences to wash their clothes or cook their meals. Likely, they were juggling more than 2 children. Likely, the daylight hours were filled with work, not study, and when evening came, there may have been no electric light. We are priviledged.

Yet, for all that priviledge, there are still many who don't put Bible reading and study on the top of their priority list. There are many other things that interfere. We have technology that is meant to give us more time, but are we using it to get into the Bible? This should be an age when biblical literacy ought to be at a high, but it isn't. We have hundreds of different kinds of specialty bibles, but are we studying them? And I don't mean the obligatory chapter a day. I mean sitting down and asking ourselves, "What does this mean, and what are the implications?" Yes, we have pastors whose job it is to preach the Bible, but since we have our own Scripture and the resources to study, why don't we?

Not everyone needs to attend seminary, but all Christians should be invested in study of the Scripture. And we ought not to be afraid of throwing ourselves into the pursuit. A while ago, someone asked me why I was attending seminary if I have no plans to become a pastor (because I don't). I said I wanted to learn more about God and the Bible. The answer was: "Aren't there any ladies bible studies at your church?" I had a hard time explaining that yes, there are, but I wanted more than that. I suspect that I am occasionally looked at as if I'm getting above my station.

Some of the best moments of the class this semester was when our prof went out on a bunny trail about a biblical principle and got a discussion going. It was wonderful to learn among others who are just as invested in learning as I am. Not everyone needs this, but I think everyone needs to be invested to some extent if we as the church are going to survive in a culture that is not our own. Christian womanhood involves caring for our loved ones, our children, our husbands. Yes, it involves being hospitable and keeping a good home. But surely there is time for study. Surely, with all the ease we have, there is time. 

I'm getting off my soapbox now.