Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Theological Fitness: Part Four

The book questions for chapter 4, Theological Conditioning, are in red and my answers are in black.

But before I get into these questions, I have to say that I am getting convicted to do more for my own physical fitness other than take my dog on more walks. The exercise equipment I had in Florida, I did not bring with me to Alabama—it just wouldn’t fit into the U-Haul truck. So, I am getting a key to the gym at my apartment complex. All these terms author Aimee Byrd is putting in this book are convicting me: heavy licking laid on by Aimee’s fitness trainer in her fitness DVD, weighted-side-plant-T-stand-pushup craziness!! 

Now on to the mental and theological fitness of this chapter with Aimee Byrd's questions.

1. How can perseverance be a gift and yet not be a passive endeavor? When we remember that Christ endured the cross for the joy set before Him, we also receive the joy of perseverance. We do our part, but we have His strength.

2. How are both joy and agony set before us in the marathon that is the Christian life? Sanctification demands both disciplines. We need obedience and we need joy. My Huntsville pastor has been doing a series on the Galatians 5 fruit of the spirit which includes both joy and self-control.

3. How does what we know to be true about God help us in our most vulnerable moments? What particular Scriptures would be helpful for you to memorize for your struggles in perseverance? Passages on the LORD’s strength help with this struggle--Psalm 27:1; 46:1; 84:7; Prov. 31:25; Is. 40:29; Jer. 16:19; and 2 Cor. 12:9 which points out that we can take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

4. Do you sometimes find it more difficult to pray when you are weighed down with a heavy burden? What does Jesus’ prayer in Luke 22:42-44 reveal about the way we can approach God in these difficult times? What can we expect as a result? As Christ did facing His resurrection, we can pray for God’s will in the matter, not our will. As a result of His agonizing prayer, an angel appeared from heaven to strengthen Him.

5. Read John 10:17-18. What does this statement tell us about both the authority and the obedience of Christ? How do you think this knowledge helped him as he prayed in Gethsemane? How does it help us now as we pray for perseverance? Christ had the power to lay down His life through death or to not do that. But He knew that this was God’s will that He face death for us on the cross.  He knew even with this huge command for Him that His Father loved Him. Through our perseverance and self-control we also will be blessed.

6. How would you evaluate the theological state of the evangelical Christian books listed by Amazon or some other popular bookseller? What is the quality of teaching about God? How can you have better discernment in finding good teaching? What have you been filling your mind with? Why is this important? Actually I do not study the quality of evangelical books other than I read Joyce Meyer’s book on the subject of my spiritual biography, Getting Off the Niceness Treadmill; Joyce was not biblical as I pointed out in my book.

7. Read 1 Peter 3:13-17. How do these verses speak to our theological stamina? What two things should you expect after reading them? We need to be ready to give a good defense to everyone, and we can expect that we make be criticized.

8. When might you see FOMO revealing itself in your own life? What other idols might you be chasing down when you give into this proclivity? How is theological conditioning important here? FOMO is “fear of missing out”. We think we have to be in the “know” or we will be missing out. Do I have an “insatiable desire to hear the new”(p. 91)? I am curious and cautious about the manifestations of Political Correctness in our politics and in the church. However, I do not chase them all down and rant and rave about all of them on Facebook.

As a side note I am praying for whom the LORD wants me to influence. I may not even know who that is. I have a rap on my YouTube channel, MC AC The Rap Lady, with the line that says “Heed God’s Word” and I realize that the students I substitute for may listen to that rap on YouTube but rarely in class. The messages I give through that rap appeals to young people—their language. I also teach biblical principles such as stop bullying and stop swearing in my raps.

9. If Christ is the mirror of our election, what does this say about our perseverance? What happens when we look to something else to help us endure? We sin when we look to something else to save us. Aimee writes at the end of this chapter on Theological Conditioning:

We will fail as we battle the flesh. But we get back up again. Because of the grace we have been given in Christ, we look to him and love righteousness. We see his work on the cross and we hate sin. We can confidently run into our Father’s arms in repentance . . . . We can be assured that we will persevere, because we see our preservation as a gift. And all that the Father has give him, he will never cast our (John 6:37) (p. 95).

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Theological Fitness: Part Three

In the last blog post Aimee herself commented she could imagine talking on the porch with 
me about her book, Theological Fitness. So I read chapter three on the front porch as pictured. My dog Ziggy enjoyed sitting there in the shade.  Join us in this discussion. 

There are lots of terms in chapter three that are part of Aimee Byrd’s life and vocabulary and an author should write about things they know. First you have the martial arts terms—circuit training and super-sets, sissy-squats, open dojo, jujutsu, blitz attack, skull crushers, spider push-ups, supination arm extensions and then the reference to an 80’s karate film and extra chins. Extra chins? Than is what old ladies have I’m thinking!  But she means that you go to God’s Word for extra strength in your faith journey, to be able to endure extra rounds as in a fight. You have the terms Aimee’s kids have made up and their toothpaste battles.  In this athletic family Aimee even endures childbirth without drugs. But this is all well and good because the analogy goes along with spiritual fitness, the subject of this book.

Now about the term in the title—“Superabundantly Engaged”, her HWTV or Housewife Theologian version of Hebrews 2:1 and giving more earnest heed. By this term she means to pay attention to Scripture, to the preached Word, and to opportunities to encourage others and to pray. We are to pay attention to our faith, our calling and the ministry of the Gospel. She also uses the term active listening for engagement.

Lady Jane Grey was brought up. I thought I had to look this up to refresh my knowledge as I was tempted to do for the martial arts terms.  But soon Lady Jane Grey is discussed—an historical figure in England who for the joy set before her was executed as a teenager. She endured to the point of death because she stood for her faith. Aimee then writes about Jesus Christ on the cross and notes, “We cannot even pretend to understand the theological, spiritual, emotional, and physical fitness this took”(p. 75). Anchored in Jesus Christ we hold fast and He has the victory.

Below are the questions from “Superabundantly Engaged”. The book questions for chapter 3 are in red and my answers are in black. The questions are called “Going the Extra Mile”.

1.     Why is it such a struggle to hold fast to your hope? When is it particularly more difficult for you to hold fast to your confession? When life has handed me challenges, it is a struggle to hold fast. When I am criticized or called a hypocrite I have had to hold fast, not defend myself, and carry on. Because I want people to like me, this can be hard. But people do not have to like me—hopefully they see Christ in me and that I am a pilgrim on a journey, not yet arrived at the destination. I can point them to Scripture such as some of the great passages mentioned in this chapter of the book. See Hebrews 3:14; 4:14; 6:17-18; 10:23; 1 Corinthians 15:1-2; Philippians 2:14, 16; I Thessalonians 5:20-21; and finally Revelation 2:25-26.

2.     Do you find that you tend to be easily distracted or persuaded to give up on the whole Christian life? I am in my early 70s and I realize that there is no way I would want to give up the whole Christian life. Christ has been my strength and burden bearer and what a privilege it is to come to Him daily. My daily Scripture dependence is much better than other disciplines in my life such as careful eating, exercising and house keeping. I did not grow up in an athletic family, but my parents did live a godly life. 

3.     Are you more tempted to look to your own successes and accomplishments in order to persevere than to God’s promises in Christ? Do your failures send you into despair that you may not finish the race? When I look to “my own successes and accomplishments” I really am just overwhelmed at how the LORD has helped me. Yesterday I had a group of ladies over who had prayed for me during my caregiving, death of my husband and also my downsizing and moving. I rejoiced with them at the answered prayer that they could see in my apartment. Failures and despair—not really because I know that finishing the race will be in God’s timing and with His strength. I watched my husband die in our bedroom; he finished the race in God’s time with His strength. 

4.     Do you have a plan for theological training? How could you get a plan together or help someone else in discipleship? What unanswered questions do you have about Christianity that you may want to investigate? Is there a doctrine that you have wanted to learn more about? As a matter of fact I do have a plan for theological training. I have been taking seminary counseling classes and daily email others with Scripture and/or encouragement. I will be in a study group in the fall for a David Jeremiah book and a Randy Alcorn book. No doubt there will be more theology that will come up for me to study. Like who is Melchizedek? Aimee, I will look out for those doctrines and appreciate your weekly Mortification of Spin podcast with two ministers. Many theological terms I can handle now because of my excellent pastors in the past. Beyond orthodox theology, however, is orthopraxy—how I am living out the Christian life and I have observed some in the Reformed faith who know the doctrines but lack some of the fruit of the Spirit in their Christian walk. 

5.     Often I have well-meaning friends who confess they just aren’t good readers. They also may have trouble focusing on the sermon. What are some methods that can help teach someone to be more engaged before, during and after they read or sit under the preached Word? In my youth I had the privilege of listening to Rev. Dwight Small, a man who worked with Dr. Donald Grey Barnhouse. I took notes. I regret that I threw away my notes from those early days. Maybe six years ago I purchased a small notebook computer for note taking of sermons and seminary classes. I listen to sermons on podcasts. I am worshiping in a church that provides a template for the pastor’s sermon and I follow along and take notes with that. 

I want to add that engagement includes meditation and praise during the whole worship experience. Engagement includes not looking around the sanctuary observing people. Engagement includes looking up related Scripture and writing in the large margins of my Bible. 

6.     Hebrews 12:12 acknowledges the heavy blows that we all encounter. But it doesn’t excuse our staying down. How can we be encouragers of the gospel to one another at these times? I have several lady friends whom I am contact with daily through the computer. I am writing a seminary dissertation on dementia caregiving and am there for these caregivers myself, having gone through seven years of caregiving myself. I send these caregivers encouragement by email. 

7.     See this chapter’s definition of having “extra chins”—what does it mean to have extra chins in the Christian life? How is this analogy important for both the heavy blows and the trivial, mundane matters that may wear us down? What kind of conditioning does a Christian train under for extra chins (think ‘80s karate movies)? Aimee I am not thinking of those movies! Extra chins means to me being strengthened with Scripture and prayer. During the time I needed to give my late husband morphine every four hours, I had Scripture cards by my bed and I prayed for strength. Others were praying for me as well. Extra chins means practicing forgiveness of others and being quick to ask for forgiveness from them when I am wrong. Extra chins means listening to the quite voice that tells me what is the next thing to do. I heard of a doctor who was told to go back and pray. See HERE for his exciting story.

8.     How does it put things in perspective when we think of the image that Hebrews 6 gives us of Christ being our anchor in the heavenly sanctuary? Who’s the One really holding on? He is our anchor and He is the one holding on to us. Hebrews 6:19-20 reads: 
This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast, and which enters the Presence behind the veil, where the forerunner has entered for us, even Jesus, having become High Priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek. 

Monday, August 3, 2015

Theological Fitness, Part Two

Below are the questions for "It Depends on How You Read the Scale". Reading the scale, hmm. I go to Weight Watchers for instruction and accountability. I do not own a scale, but get that weekly accountability every week. Scripture is really my accountability and this morning I read in Ephesians 5 about redeeming the time. Today I am blogging to redeem the time. Please buy this book and comment along with this series. Thanks. It will be great accountability for me and for you.

The book questions for chapter 2 are in red and my answers are in black.

1. You have to have a goal to persevere. This goal determines how you read the scale. We learn from 2 Corinthians 4:16-18 that the Christian goal is unseen. How does this affect the way that we press on? What difficulties does it bring? Aimee calls our goal "glorification" on p. 41. I think this means that perseverance for sanctification. We press on for that "eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison".

2. Why is self-image really a hoax? How might this change the way that we comfort and counsel others? Years ago I wrote secular curriculum called "Improving Self-Esteem and Relationships". I thought life was all about humanistic self-esteem, even though I was a Christian. It took many years for me to realize life is about God's glory, not mine. I do counsel about God's glory now, not self-image. Really if our hope is in the LORD, 

we persevere

and the peace comes.  
Lately I have been using Romans 12:12 to counsel people.

3. What ideas that you hold about how sanctification "looks" might need to be challenged in light of this chapter? How might that affect the way you look at your fellow believers "in the race"? We begin in faith, continue in faith and are justified by faith. One day faith will be sight, but meanwhile as Aimee puts it so well "sanctification is no passive process; it is a daily struggle"(p. 50). Secular people and lukewarm Christians think of us Christian believers as "hypocrites" when we mess up, but we know that we are called to go on to maturity in Christ and to encourage fellow believers to work towards maturity.

4. How have you changed throughout your Christian walk? As you grow in holiness how have your ideas about the extent of your own sinfulness been challenged? Oh yes, and I continue to be challenged. When I got into a Reformed church, it finally dawned on me that my works do not bring glory to God; I need to get over myself and seek His glory. Furthermore, I can admit my sinfulness, because He gets the glory, not me. When I am challenged to do good works for others, I need to be careful that Carol doesn't get the glory--a huge temptation in this goal-oriented society.

5. How do we know if we are really maturing in Christ? I desire to meditate on Scripture and apply it to my life. I am prompted to pray more and with others. As I do this I am gaining the peace that passes all understanding (see Philippians 4:7).

6. Do you agree that the fight to persevere doesn't always look pretty? If so how can we be more honest about how God is working in our lives? Why do we feel so compelled to candy-coat our spiritual condition? It doesn't always look pretty. We have to be honest. I remember the year I worked for Gospel Light Publications writing Sunday School curriculum; a famous writer I admired very much sat down by me at coffee break and talked about her eating too much candy--she didn't sugar-coat anything! It was refreshing. I write down what I eat for Weight Watchers when I am being careful. I realize I need to write down what I eat every day, and examine when I have emotional eating instead of eating for health. I also need to confess every day and ask for God's help.

7. Sometimes we can conjure up our own imaginary scale with our so-called "Christian scorecard." Paul tells us in Philippians 3:4-7 that he held an impeccable score by all outward signs. And yet he counted it all as dung (v. 8 KJV). What did he trade it for? How did he estimate the real value of his works? How does this encourage you as a Christian? Paul traded it all (all his accolades and resume) for Christ. Paul wanted to "know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death" (Philippians 3:10). This encourages me in my struggle to live as Christ wants me to live. Having things easy is not the answer. Paul says "I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus."


Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Theological Fitness, Part One

This blog has been on a sabbatical, due to my downsizing and moving to Alabama, but I knew when Aimee Byrd's second book, THEOLOGICAL FITNESS: Why We Need a Fighting Faith, came out that I would be blogging about it as I did her Housewife Theologian earlier. See HERE for the beginning of this 2013 series. Aimee in both books asks reflective questions at the end of each chapter. Buy your book from Amazon or wherever and reflect with me on her questions.

Chapter One is called "The Toughest Event on the Planet". Aimee compares physical prowess of her brother and daughter to the spiritual stamina we need to persevere. We need the body of Christ to persevere, and we need to be encouragers with other Christians.

Aimee's questions are in red and my answers are in black.

1. My previous church was actually named Pilgrim Presbyterian, which is a great reminder of my pilgrim status. What exactly is a pilgrim? How does this status make us different from the rest of the world?
Pilgrims usually banded together. Many Reformed churches consider that they are part of this old Pilgrim faith that came to America. I once asked my Florida pastor, Dr. Kenneth Talbot, what church represents the current Pilgrims and he said the Reformed faith are essentially in the line of the Jonathan Edwards type churches of the 18th century. Seeing that we love one another is part of this tradition and also is biblical according to John 13:35.

2. In Philippians 1:27 Paul tells us to stand firm in one spirit, with one mind. How does this exhortation play out when we are in disagreement over doctrine or practice? How important is theology to our Christian union?                                         
Truth needs to come before unity. In choosing a church in my new location, I considered how the pastor treats the Word of God. The first Sunday I heard Dr. Randall Jenkins preach, he made a definite biblical statement about biblical marriage and I was impressed. I also liked how he and the church had left the PCUSA and joined the Evangelical Presbyterian over unity with that old denomination. Truth prevailed, even though it cost them to get out of the PCUSA.

3. The imagery of an advancing line of legionnaires against the enemy is both bold and intimate. Do you have relationships in your church that foster the vulnerability, trust, and soldiering that this illustration represents? When you are with your Christian brothers and sisters, do you have this kind of selfless solidarity, or are you more concerned with how you've been offended by something or someone who's not measuring up?
 I have significant fellowship on the Internet and with email friends. I have selfless solidarity by texting with a couple in my Florida church. I am developing ties in the church I am attending in the new city I moved to in June. About being offended, I had a secular person call me a hypocrite recently and I just choose to not be offended; he thinks that Christians have to be perfect and giving by his standards and we never will be perfect until heaven.

4. Have you made a fighting effort to get to know Christ's bride?                                                                              
Yes I have. For example, recently I volunteered to teach Vacation Bible School Science lessons in the church I am attending. I also was so comfortable with this church that I decided to not roam the countryside Sunday mornings looking for the perfect church, and also wasting valuable worship experiences. 

5.  How does the worship service affect your ideas about what is ordinary and what is extraordinary? Is ordinary bad? Why do you think God has ordained such ordinary means to convey such extraordinary grace? 
I do not attend church for entertainment. I attend for instruction and worship. God wants us to worship him in Spirit and in truth. See John 4:24.     

6. Do you find that your involvement in technology has made it harder for you to pay attention? What are you sacrificing for the constant interruptions from media devices throughout the week? How does this compare to your willingness to be interrupted by the gospel?
Several months ago I visited a church where in the row in front of me two people were on electronic devices, and I mean they were not taking sermon notes as I have done on my notebook computer, and also they were not using these devices to look up Scripture. They were using a smart phone to text. If during the week we are always on an iPad or iPhone, we are missing real opportunities to communicate with people and to have them minister to us.

7. Is regular church attendance important to you? How about membership?
Attendance is essential unless I am sick.  My membership is in my Florida church as I am working on a counseling dissertation at the seminary connected with that church. Aimee emphasizes Hebrews 10:23-25 on corporate worship and I totally agree.

8. When was the last time you were encouraged to persevere? What difference did it make?
Scripture continuously encourages me to persevere. I held on to Romans 12:12 this last half year. The daunting task before me had been to downsize and get ready to move. After moving the perseverance has not stopped, as I have had the tasks associated with getting settled.  If I didn’t do certain things, I feel I would be sinning as the direction for my move seemed to be what God had intended. (See James 4:17.)

Aimee highlights our need to be there for others, watching our own motivation as we encourage them.  On page 36 she writes, “We are exhorted to lift up our own drooping hands as well as to pick one another up.”  And there are more gems to follow in the rest of the book, so comment here and get your book so we can lift up each other's drooping hands.


Saturday, December 6, 2014

Christmas Reflections

Can you imagine that some Reformed Christians do not celebrate Christmas! It was a shock to me. Some thoughts have been posted HERE four years ago. One Christian man even celebrates Halloween, but not Christmas. 

One young Christian woman and I had a heated discussion on this topic last year. She and her husband have now left our church. Sad that we couldn't have agreed to disagree amicably, and I do forgive her, although I wish they would come back to our church and know we can disagree amicably and still fellowship together in Christ. 

What kind of Christmas should the Christian embrace? I think that we can say 
Merry Christmas
and not "Happy Holidays". Of course some folks think "Happy Holidays" is the best because it's politically correct. It's almost as if PC is the new religion for many. 

Of course we don't have to flaunt our tradition in the face of those who we know for certain celebrate Hanukkah and who have not embraced Jesus as the Messiah at this time. Why can't I wear the T-shirt that says "Jesus is the reason for the season"? Maybe this T-shirt is a little cheesy like the movie "Saving Christmas".

Kurt Cameron has gone to all lengths in the movie "Saving Christmas" to defend Christmas. His character compares the swaddling clothes of the manger to the grave clothes of Christ! He notes that there were trees in Genesis so why shouldn't we have a Christmas tree now! For me this exegesis is totally lacking. Somehow the character Kurt plays convinces his brother-in-law, Christian, that Christmas is about joy and that brother-in-law dances at the end of the movie. It totally misses the real joy of Christ's coming to dwell on earth.

THE JOY OF CHRISTMAS is not about gifts of course, but about the great event that happened in history. Of course we do not know that December 25th is the day the Messiah was actually born, but we do have this biblical history from the Old Testament of yearly celebrations. I am loving hearing Christmas carols and mailing greetings to friends and family. As a new widow, I appreciate all the family I do have left and plan to spend the holidays with some of them. I am writing this on some of my Christmas greetings:  


Hugs and Merry Christmas,

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Ligonier Quotes, Part Two

A little over two years ago, while I was home taking care of my late husband, I listened to a Ligoier conference streamed on the computer HERE for 20 quotes.  

Now I live about an hour and a half away from St. Andrews Chapel in Sanford, Florida,  where the September 19 and 20, 2014 conference was held. I worked on the 19th, but I did go on Saturday the 20th. The announcement was made that all taped sessions would be streamed on Thursday September 25th, so look for the conference then.

On Friday R. C. Sproul presented the theme, "The Christological Crisis" in the first session, Michael Morales spoke on "Christ in the Shadows". Stephen Nichols spoke on "Christ and Him Crucified".  I look forward to hearing these Friday sessions streamed next week.

Saturday morning started with the singing of O Worship the King--loved this singing in the cross shaped chapel.

Welshman Dr. Derek Thomas spoke on The Life of Christ and Christ and Him Resurrected. Thomas is the senior pastor of First Presbyterian in Columbia, South Carolina, replacing Dr. Sinclair Ferguson who has returned to his native Scotland. Before he went back to Scotland, Derek asked Sinclair what memorable moment Sinclair has had.  Sinclair said reading John Murphy about the obedience of Christ and Derek went on to elaborate on some of that obedience. Thomas said:

  • God doesn't count our sins against us. We become the righteousness of God.
  • Christianity is based on facts: the early church believed in and saw the resurrection of Christ before He went back to heaven; Saul of Tarsus who became Paul had a dramatic conversion; the tomb was empty. 
  • There is moral order in the universe. Why did Jesus die? Why did God kill him? See John 3:16-18 (NLT):

 For God loved the world so much that he game his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him. There is no judgment against anyone who believes in him.

  •  If Jesus is impeccable, how did God do this? It was the right thing to do the morally just thing.  
  • It was the morally just thing for God to raise Christ from the dead. He quipped,  You can't keep a good man down! This was one of the few humor quips I heard in the conference.*
  • The term in Christ is in the New Testament 67 times

Question and Answers. Above from left to right is the moderator Lee Webb, and speakers Michael Morales, R. C. Sproul Jr., Steven Nichols, Gregory Beale, Derek Thomas, and R. C. Sproul. Here are some quotes from that session:

  • We have the same God as the Reformers and we do not need to just quote from them.
  • Sometimes revival is the quiet steady work of grace.
  • When Psalms are the center of worship revival comes. 
  • The universe is for God's glory and He can do what He wants.
The panel was asked about their favorite parts/books of the Bible:
  • Morales--He [God] who did not spare His own Son [Christ], but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things? Romans 8:32
  • R. C., JR--Psalms and Proverbs
  • Nichols--2 Corinthians 2-5
  • Beale--Acts 7 and The Valley of Vision devotional book for Scripture
  • Thomas--Job
  • R. C. SR--Romans

Just a thought--I am always discovering new parts of Scripture I like as I go through the Bible each year with the Daily Audio Bible. I think it was interesting that they were asked about their favorites. 

Thanks so much to the Reformation Bible College and Ligonier ministries for this free event. Even the coffee was free. I stood in a long line to buy my lunch, but had fascinating conversations with those around me.  

Added Sept. 26th (the Sept. 19th sessions):




*My notebook computer was dead for Dr. Gregory Beake's talk on Why God Became Man and for R. C. Sproul Jr. 's talk on Christ and Him Ascended. I would charge it in the nursery so I could use it again. Now, folks, I wear hearing aides and missed some of the Saturday humor. I must visit my audiologist and get an adjustment, and pick up on some of the humor when I get time to listen to the streamed recordings.