Training in Righteousness
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Lord, is there a quiet corner?

The only way to avoid hearing any sort of political dialogue is to shut everything down; cell phone, tablet, computer, television, radio (do people still listen to radio?). It's everywhere. The recent political events in the U.S. dominate everywhere. Even in little old Canada, especially among some of my fellow evangelical Christians, it's a topic. Even the opening of our sermon on Sunday morning mentioned the inauguration. 

"Calgon, take me away!"

Some of the demeanor of people online is positively disheartening. I understand the commitment to convictions, but the aggressive, condescending, belittling stance of some Christians makes me think: "and you wonder why young adults are walking away from church?"

Where is there a quiet corner where one can rest? The only place is within the walls of my house, with no sound. And I am actually very thankful that I have the freedom to have that alone time. Going to school also provides a place of respite. I have connected with fellow classmates, and we enjoy talking shop over soup at our Thursday Toonie Lunch after chapel. We don't talk much about American politics. The only real mention of it this past week came from my prof as he opened chapel and reminded us that we need not fear the future. God is with us. That's the best kind of encouragement. Would that more men in the ministry would open with that approach rather than using their partisan views to bash the heads of others.

Maybe my ecclesiology is wonky, but I've always thought that the Body of Christ was supposed to be a place where we could be with others and take time away from the world for a while. I am thankful that while there are differences in views in my local church, it doesn't resemble the law of the jungle mentality that social media has taken on lately. And I am thankful that my home is still a quiet corner where I can be reminded that, as my prof encouraged us, God is with us.

Where can I go from your Spirit?
Or where can I flee from your presence?
If I ascend to haven, You are there;
If I make my bed in Sheol, behold, you are there.
If I take the wings of the dawn,
If I dwell in the remotest part of the sea,
Even there Your hand will lead me,
And your right hand will lay hold of me. (Ps. 139:7-10) 


The god of my feelings

It is hard to escape the influence of the world around us. We don't realize how it affects us until we sit back and look at ourselves with a critical eye. I grew up thinking that my feelings were as important as truth. In all honesty, I don't think I gave much thought to objective truth until I was much older. I felt justified in being easily offended because my feelings were important. We live in a world where feelings are exalted. I feel offended so people must tip-toe around me. We have to keep lists in our minds about what offends this person or that person so we know how best to relate to them. It can be exhausting.

When I was struggling with anxiety two yeas ago, feelings were my worst enemy. Even though I poured over the Psalms daily, filling my head with truth, my feeling of foreboding ruled me. I feared just about everything because I felt like something bad was going to happen. I had no tangible reason to explain that feeling. Its origin was in my own heart. Now, some people would say I just didn't have enough faith to conquer that. Some may question whether or not I was really saved. Believe me, that was one fear that plagued me the most: that I wasn't really God's. I read a lot of William Cowper's poetry at that time, too, and I know he felt the same way during his life.

The temptation with trusting my feelings is that I am in control. If my feelings are the arbiter of truth, then I control the shots. I feel offended by something my husband said or did, so I control the situation by being cool toward him. When I get over my offended feeling, I can control things again by warming back up to him. Perhaps I am the only wife who ever does this; if I am, do I get a prize?

There are times when I feel like my kids have forgotten me. Young adult children have their own lives and they are in the process of moving out in the world. When I don't hear from them from time to time, I feel like they don't give me a second thought, that I am no longer important to them. My husband will remind me that I am trusting my feelings, not truth. That is one of the dangers of sitting with our thoughts for too long; we are so good at allowing them to blow out of proportion. Especially when we experience a lull in activity is when feelings can be our enemy, not our friend. This is why we need to fill our minds with good things and keep our hands busy with service. We take the attention away from ourselves.

Ultimately, giving too much weight to my feelings is an indication of my pride, my self-centredness. And it's something I need to work on daily. I love the section of Romans 7 where Paul talks about his struggle between what he wants to do and what he struggles to do. It is my struggle, too, and I think often to myself "Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver set me free from the body of this death?" (v.24). 

Emotions and feelings are part of who we are, but apart from regular exposure to truth, they can run away with us. Some of us have more trouble than others. For those of us who struggle with putting aside our feelings, we need reminders of what is true, and we also need patience. After all, my struggle may not be yours, and you may not understand it, but chances are you struggle with something I don't, and I ought to practice patience with you as well.


Daily Readings - John 2:1-11

J.C. Ryle, Daily Readings
John 2:1-11

How honourable in the sight of Christ is the estate of matrimony! To be present at a 'marriage' was almost the first public act of our Lord's earthly ministry.

Marriage is not a sacrament, as the church of Rome asserts. It is simply a state of life ordained by God for man's benefit. But it is a state which ought never to be spoken of with levity, or regarded with disrespect. The Prayer Book service has well described it as an 'honourable esate, instituted of God in the time of man's innocency, and signifying unto us the mystical union that is betwixt Christ and his church'. Society is never in a healthy condition and true religion never flourishes in that land where the marriage tie is lightly esteemed. They who lightly esteem it have not the mind of Christ. He who 'beautified and adorned the estate of matrimony by his presence and first miracle that he wrought in Cana of Galilee' is one who is always of one mind. 'Marriage', says the Holy Ghost by St. Paul, 'is honourable in all' (Heb. 13:4).

One thing, however, ought not to be forgotten. Marriage is a step which so seriously affects the temporal happiness and spiritual welfare of two immortal souls that it ought never to be taken in hand 'unadvisedly, lightly, wantonly, and without due consideration'. To be truly happy, it should be undertaken 'reverently, discreetly, soberly, and in the fear of God'. Christ's blessing and presence are essential to a happy wedding. The marriage at which there is no place for Christ and his disciples is not one that can justly be expected to prosper.

We learn from these verses that there are times when it is lawful to be merry and rejoice. Our Lord himself sanctioned a wedding feast by his own presence. He did not refuse to be a guest at a 'marriage in Cana in Galilee'.


The Gospel Project: Pros and Cons

Update on 2017-01-23: I am really happy to say that someone from The Gospel Project reached out to me with this issue, and has given me the right direction to what I need. I'm really thankful for such excellent service.

This fall, I returned to teaching teens. Along with my husband and another couple, we are using The Gospel Project Curriculum. We love the content. There is a lot of guidance, it's Christ-centred, and it is a chronological study, which we like. Last fall, each of us was able to download our copies of the teacher guide to our desktops and access it on our other devices via Google Drive. It was really convenient. We enjoyed the ease of ordering online and receving digital copies. It keeps costs down, too.

When I ordered our next installment, Winter 2017, there was a slight change. Instead of each of us receiving a copy of the leader guide that we could download to our desktop, the only option in digital format was an e-book. It was also not an e-book that could be read with a Kindle. It required its own reader. We were given two choices of a reader, the Lifeway Reader and another through a site called My WORDsearch. We opted for the latter, because the customer service rep suggested it.

I will admit to being a little disappointed with this. Another app, another login, another password. I like Google Drive; I already have it on my phone, and the other teachers could use an iPad to access their copies. Now, we must all access our copies on another format. One of the other teachers said he does not like when publishers try to control how you interact with their product. I agreed.

I did check into getting the paper copy rather than the digital. For the leader guide, which is a great price ($6.94 US), the shipping was $47.00. Yes, you read correctly. Almost eight time as much as the product. Needless to say, that was not a real option. I guess being Canadian is a detriment when you interact with Lifeway. It's a shame when teaching kids the Bible is dependent upon companies who are required to make money. But that is a reality.

So while we love The Gospel Project content, we're a little disgruntled this winter. I don't know what will happen in the spring. What this has emphasized to me and the associate pastor who teaches along with us, churches need people to write their own curriculum so that we don't have to rely on publishers. That would be my dream job. Until then, we press on.


Biblical ethics demands good hermeneutics

On Saturday, I had a day long class in Moral Theolgy. One of the things we discussed was the use of biblical imperatives in making ethical decisions. Our prof read a variety of biblical imperative and asked us to, without giving it a lot of thought, raise our hands if we felt the bibilical imperative was one to be maintained universally. Here are some on that list:

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength (Deut. 6:5).

Stop drinking only water, and use a little wine because of your stomach and your frequent illnesses (I Tim. 5:23)

Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you should also wash one another's feet (John 13:14).

Women should remain silent in the churches (1 Cor. 14:34).

Some of them were very straightford, such as the first one. Others, like the verse in I Corthinthians require a little more context. As we discussed this matter further, many of the lessons I learned in hermeneutics last year came back to me. I was thankful that I'd already taken hermeneutics. I think anyone attending a seminary class ought to begin with hermeneutics. If the basis for our ethics and our doctrine is the Word of God, that we understand hermeneutical principles is crucial.

Hermeneutics is not the same as Bible study. Certainly, attending a Bible study is a good thing. Buying a Bible study book is a good thing. But sitting down and learning principles of interpretation is something else. If I'm going to buy someone's Bible study book, I want the writer to have at least pondered those issues at length. No, not everyone can go to seminary (which is why I would love to see churches offering hermeneutics classes for its congregants) but books are easily accesesible and are not expensive. 

I've already written about my favourite Bible study resources. I will say again here that my favourite introductory book is Journey into God's Word. Yes, it is written by a man, but I do not believe women must learn from women. If they can, that is great. However, I've yet to find a book written by a woman that provides what Journey into God's Word does. This notion that I can only buy books written by women because only women can "understand" my particular needs is, in my opinon, misguided, and possibly self-indulgent. I know a lot of women want to read books by women whom they think they could be friends with in real life. They want some kind of personal connection. I just want the knowledge the author can impart, whether she is a woman or not. 

Every day, we make ethical decisions. As Christians, we want to appeal to biblical imperatives. If we don't know how to interpret those imperatives, we will have bad moral theology. It really does come back to the Bible. If this is our standard, we ought to know it, and know it well. And we are not in a position where that is a difficult thing.