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Sunday
Jun172018

I Lay My Sins on Jesus

I lay my sins on Jesus, the spotless Lamb of God;
He bears them all, and frees us from the heavy load;
I bring my guilt to Jesus, to wash my crimson stains
White in His blood most precious, till not a stain remains.

I lay my wants on Jesus; all fullness dwells in Him;
He heals all my diseases, He doth my soul redeem:
I lay my griefs on Jesus, my burdens and my cares;
He from them all releases, He all my sorrows shares.

I rest my soul on Jesus, this weary soul of mine;
His right hand me embraces, I on His breast recline.
I love the Name of Jesus, Immanuel, Christ, the Lord;
Like fragrance on the breezes His Name abroad is poured.

I long to be like Jesus, strong, loving, lowly, mild;
I long to be like Jesus, the Father’s holy Child:
I long to be with Jesus, amid the heavenly throng,
To sing with saints His praises, to learn the angels’ song.
- Horatius Bonar

Thursday
Jun142018

Anxiety may hit you at your peak

In 2015, just when I was about to begin seminary, I noticed myself feeling more anxious than usual. I have always been a worrier, but for the most part, after a few days of churning, I would settle back down again. Not this time. And then physical symptoms began to happen. It was actually my family doctor who suggested I had out of control anxiety.

It is easy to think that Christians become anxious because they are spiritually lazy; or sinful; or apathetic. But that was not the case for me. I was about to embark upon something I had been waiting for: going to seminary. That is not spiritual apathy or sin.  

At that time, I was active in my local church. I taught women regularly. I had a consistent prayer and Bible reading habit. That did not prevent anxiety from lowering me. And maybe, that lowering was not entirely bad. When we are in a place of spiritual growth, it is sometimes easy for our minds to tell us: "You are invincible." Those three words used in combination like that -- subject, verb, predicate -- are deadly.

I was thinking about that idea of lowering as I was working on my translation of Philippians. I'm doing it from my Greek NT, a verse a day; slowly. Here is my rather crude translation of Phil. 2:5-7:

Have this mind in you which is also in Christ Jesus, who being in the form of God did not consider being equal with God something to hold on to, but he emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, made in the likeness of men.

Jesus lowered himself by becoming human. He was divine, yet he took on the flesh of humanity. That is a kind of lowering I don't think we will ever understand. When we are lowered, it can feel like we are being humbled into someone we don't recognize. I did not feel like myself when my anxiety was out of control. I railed inwardly at myself because I could not get it under control, and I felt guilt and shame. And of course, it made me cry out to God. Praise God, in time, I got better.

It is true that when we are spiritually weak, we are a target for Satan and his attacks. But there are also times when things are going well, that we don't see the weak spots, and we are open to being tempted. And when it comes to anxiety, we have to remember that there is a whole physiology accompanying it. We don't always understand why we have the reactions we do. I don't think we fully understand how the mind and body work together. That is both the beauty and the mystery of human creation; it is a combination of spirit and body, and each is influenced by the other.

When we see Christians struggling with anxiety, we should not automatically conclude that they aren't trying hard enough, or praying hard enough, or reading their Bibles enough. They may be doing exactly that. The anxiety Christians feel is not necessarily linked to a particular sin, although while we're struggling with anxiety there is ample room to sin in the midst of it. My anxiety sideswiped me at a time when I least expected it.

Having had a time when my anxiety was beyond my control was ultimately good for me for many reasons; one of them being that I have grown more sympathetic to others who struggle.

Tuesday
Jun122018

Let your ordinary bloom

In the book Expressing Theology the reader is encouraged to write engaged theology. Engaged theology is not detached from every day life, but gives feet to our faith. Even an unbeliever can know theology in her head, but the one who seeks for theology to shape her life and change it is putting theology to work.

The sources for engaged theology are Scripture, tradition, experience, and research. Now, before someone gets nervous, by tradition the authors do not mean embracing tradition as equal with Scripture. We all observe tradition in our religious lives. The fact that a child grows up in the tradition of going to a youth group is something that will influence him. After my conversion at the age of 20, my faith grew churches which while not Baptist in name, may as well have been. The traditions which were observed there contributed to my theology.

When we write about theology, we should give voice to the ordinary:

Experience as a source for theology encompasses both our personal experiences and our experiences of the wider culture. Ordinary acts like eating, shopping, cleaning, driving, and working become realities with which to grasp the ultimate principles if we reflect on them with the help of Scripture, tradition, and research. Everything is both ordinary and extraordinary. Write about the ordinary: the extraordinary often blooms from it.

Everyone lives an ordinary life, even those with exceptional circumstances. Everyone has regular, typical, routine days. How we bring theology to bear on our everyday life is important. Being an ordinary Christian is not something we should apologize for.

Part of my developing theology comes from the resources I utilizie. Right now, attending seminary at  Heritage College and Seminary is one those resources. As I learn principles of theology through my classes, they affect how I interpret and understand my ordinary circumstances. One of the lessons I have learned at seminary is the value of community. Being with a group of students every week over a number of months means we learn together, support one another, and care about one another. That principle has reminded me of the importance of my local church and the reality that we are all learning and growing together in our faith.

To avoid writing about the ordinary is a lost opportunity to not only practice writing, but a lost opportunity to understand how the ordinary and the theoretical work together. I will continue to write about the ordinary, here on this quiet little place on the internet. Who knows when something extraordinary may start blooming?

Monday
Jun112018

Where is the hope?

My church celebrated its 54th anniversary yesterday. We had a guest speaker, the president of my school, Dr. Rick Reed. He preached a great sermon from John 15:1-8, talking about becoming more fruitful. Ultimately, from the passage, it was concluded that abiding in Christ's word + asking in Christ's name = abounding in Christ's fruit. There was much emphasis on the need to be in God's word regularly. He actually quoted some sobering statistics regarding evangelical Christians in Canada. To put it bluntly, most who claim to be evangelical Christians don't read the Scripture regularly. 

Despite those statistics, however, the encouragement from God's word was refreshment for my soul. We had a fellowship time following the service and I was able to have a visit with Dr. Reed's wife, who was one of my professors in my first year at seminary. 

Last week, there was a point when I felt very overwhelmed with all the negative things going on. Aside from the usual sorrow flowing from the news of the country and the world, there were things among Christians online that never seem to end. There is a new debate every day, a new controversy, a new shocking story to share. In the face of those events, it seems like people cannot resist fomenting indignation. I have come to believe that some people live on a diet of conflict; a lack of it seems abnormal to them, and when there isn't any available, they create it. While exposing church controversy is necessary, where are the voices who remind us of the hope we have? Hope isn't nearly as titilating as controversy, so perhaps those voices are simply not heard.

I'm so thankful for Sunday morning when the purpose is to gether and be reminded of the hope of the resurrection. Even when the music is too loud (as it was yesterday) I am thankful that there is a place where we gather to worship. I'm thankful that it is a glimpse of what is to come; the eternal worship of Christ.

There is hope. It may be hard to find at times, but if we just open up our Bibles and feed on the truth found in it, we will find the hope. A steady of diet of online dialogue, even from the fingertips of Christians, may not expose us to the hope in Christ; and it may actually be harmful. The hope is there. God is still on the throne. But we do need to separate ourselves from the conflict in order to see it. Even though I really believe worship is a daily exercise, I'm thankful that we have a day set aside when I can focus on Christ alone and leave the indignation aside.

Sunday
Jun102018

I Will Sing of My Redeemer

I will sing of my redeemer
And his wondrous love to me;
On the cruel cross he suffered
From the curse to set me free.

Chorus:

Sing, O sing of my redeemer,
With his blood he purchased me.
On the cross he sealed my pardon,
Paid the debt, and made me free.

I will tell the wondrous story,
How my lost estate to save,
In his boundless love and mercy
He the ransom freely gave.

I will praise my dear redeemer;
His triumphant power I'll tell,
How the victory he giveth
Over sin and death and hell.

I will sing of my redeemer
And his heavenly love for me;
He from death to life hath brought me,
Son of God with him to be.