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Sunday
Mar052017

Daily Readings - John 5:41-47

J.C. Ryle, Daily Readigs
John 5:41-47 

How can you believe, when you receive glory from one another and do not seek the glory that is from the one and only God? (John 5:44)

A deep principle is contained in this saying of our Lord's and one that deserves special attention. True faith does not depend merely on the state of man's head and understanding, but on the state of his heart. His mind may be convinced. His conscience may be pricked. But so long as there is anything the man is secretly loving more than God, there will be no true faith. The man himself may be puzzled and wonder why he does not believe. He does not see that he is like a child sitting on the lid of his box and wishing to open it, but not considering that his own weight keeps is shut. Let a man make sure that he honestly and really desires first the praise of God. It is the want of an honeest heart which makes many stick fast in their religion all their days and die at length without peace. Those who complain that they hear and approve and assent, but make no progress and cannot get any hold on Christ, should ask themselves this simple question: 'Am I honest? Am I sinere? Do I really desire first the praise of God?'

Friday
Mar032017

Do theology with humility

I don't remember exactly where, but within the tome that is my Systematic Theology textbook (albeit, an excellent tome!), a comment is made about doing theology with humility. One of the greatest lessons I have learned this past year is the need to hold knowledge with humility.

When one is in seminary, learning new things, it is often difficult to withhold one's excitement. It's a great experience to have frequent epiphanies as we learn. Why did I not see that? is a frequent question. Another question, as we discuss questionable doctrine is "how could I have believed that?" 

It's comforting to know that our understanding of doctrine and theology is a process. Sometimes, you have to believe something questionable, and see the consequences in all their misery, before you can find the patience to sit and work through things. Sometimes, when we are young Christians, we are so eager to learn that we grab on to something and hold it fiercely without asking ourselves why.

My theology professor has shared a few stories about his own developing theology as he was a student at Dallas Theological Seminary. The way he put it to me recently, he is a graduate of DTS, but he's not a "Dallas man." My hermeneutics professor, last year, shared many stories about his gradual change in various doctrines as he learned more. Both men hold their views with humility. There was no, "Man, how could I ever have believed that?" There was just gratitude for continuing to learn.

My theology prof is pretty brilliant. He thinks well on his feet. When someone in the class asks a question that leaves me wondering what they are actually asking, he seems to have figured it out right away. But there is no whiff of superiority from him. I can learn from someone like that. I don't suppose that I will ever have the level of knowledge that he does, but I don't get a feeling of inferiority being around him. The kind of people I can't learn from are those who present themselves as having attained some level of proficiency that makes them a little cut above others.

I have no idea where my seminary education will take me other than I plan to be teaching in my local church as long as they will have me. I want to be a teacher who holds her knowledge with humility. I know for sure that if older women want to minister effectively to younger women, coming across as if we know it all is not the best way to approach things. Showing others that we are still growing in our faith is a more excellent way.

Instead of thinking "how on earth could I have ever believed that?" I think a better response is, "I'm so thankful God continues to show me truth."

Thursday
Mar022017

Married woman, do you have single friends?

There are five women in my theology class, including me. While two others have children, I am the only one who is married.

Recently, we got on the topic of the kind of teaching material that is offered to women in typical church settings. We all agreed that we would rather prefer to study a book of the Bible rather than a topic, especially books that are focused only on marriage and motherhood.

Over the years, when I have taught young mothers, I have taught specifically about those things, largely because there were many in my audience to whom those issues were pertinent. But in talking to my single friends, I wonder how often there was a single or childless woman in my group who was wondering when I would get to something else. Was I insensitive to the differences among women?

In getting to know these single women I have been reminded of a couple of things:

Ultimately, my identity is in Christ. It is not in my marital status or my children. At our group blog, a couple of years ago, I wrote a post called "Can I Love My Child Too Much?"  A lot of people didn't like it. I received some nasty mail over that one. I still stand by the principle, though: we can turn our family into idols. As I have got to know these single women and our conversation has focused on matters other than children and husbands, I have been reminded of where my ultimate identity is. It's something I'm learning daily.

My experience is not every woman's experience. It is natural for us to assume that others thing like we do, or experience life as we do. They don't. My life here in my comfy little corner of semi-rural Ontario, with a husband who has never laid a hand to me is nothing like the experience of the woman who struggles with an abusive husband while wondering how she will feed her kids. The gospel is sufficient to address every painful circumstance, but I have to be careful about thinking that the gospel includes replicating my circumstances. I think this also includes being sensitive to cultural differences. Trying to force a model of Christian womanhood that can only work in affluent North America may actually work against spreading the gospel. 

Married women, do you have single friends? If you don't, find some! Part of the beauty of the Body of Christ is its diversity. If we only ever stick to nurturing relationships with women exactly like ourselves, we will miss a great deal.

Tuesday
Feb282017

Curiosity and the New Living Translation

A while ago, as a gift for a donation, the Gideons sent me a copy of the New Living Translation. I have not used this translation much in the past. In my plan to read as many translations of Romans as I can, I decided to try this out. I'm only five chapters in, but already something has popped up that reminds me why I am leary of more dynamic translations: a lack of precision.

In Romans 5:19, the NLT renders the verse this way:

Because one person disobeyed God, many became sinners. But because one other person obeyed God, many will be made righteous.

By way of comparison, here are how the NASB and the NIV render it:

NASB: For as through the one man's disobedience the many were made sinners, even so through the obedience of the One the many will be made righteous.

NIV: For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous.

The NASB capitalizes pronouns referring to God and Jesus, and so has capitalized "One" to indicate that Paul is talking about Christ. Yes, it is interpretive in its choice. You'll notice that the NIV uses the more general term "man." I suspect in its goal to avoid gender specific language, the NLT has chosen the word "person." I may be wrong about that. 

What is important to remember is the context. Prior to verse 19, Paul was drawing a parallel between Adam and Jesus. Adam's sin is imputed to us, and Christ's righteousness is imputed to us. The crucial point here is that it is Christ's obedience which becomes our obedience, resulting in justification. We can understand what is meant by "the man" or "the One" because we know the context. Unfortunately, the NLT is less precise when it uses "one person." Which person? Can anyone impute sin to another? Can anyone impute righteousness? While the NLT can be helpful in complicated texts, what it lacks in precision could present a problem. When it comes to this doctrinal issue, the imputation of Christ's righteousness, we should strive for precision.I'm not a Greek or Hebrew scholar, so perhaps my ignorance has clouded my view of this. Hopefully, when I start Greek studies next fall, I will be able to look more closely at the original language and evaluate the accuracy of this rendering in a better way.
Saturday
Feb252017

Canadian Patriotism

From Barometer Rising, by Hugh MacLennan

The railway line, that tenuous thread which bound Canada to both the great oceans and made her a nation, lay with one end in the darkness of Nova Scotia and the other in the flush of a British Colombia noon.

Under the excitement of this idea his throat became constricted and he had a furious desire for expression: this anomalous land, this sprawling waste of timber and rock and water where the only living sounds were the footfalls of animals or the fantastic laughter of a loon, this empty tract of primordial silences and winds and erosions and shifting colours, this bead-like string of crude towns and cities tied by nothing but railway tracks, this nation undiscovered by the rest of the world and unknown to itself, these people neither American nor English, nor even sure what they wanted to be, this unborn mightiness, this question mark, this future for himself, and for God knew how many millions of mankind!

Barometer Rising is set in 1917, a time when Canada's national identity was in its infancy. Canada's participation in World War I would be a watershed its history.