Housewife Theologian

The Gospel Interrupting the Ordinary

Remembering Sermons

Written By: Aimee Byrd - Sep• 02•14

Decluttering. That’s what my husband and I set out to do over the long weekend. Sure, I’m pretty reliable for regular housecleaning, but closets and bookshelves, well, they are projects for me. And my desk is always a project. I have a way of messing it up just as fast as I clean it. But this time I was getting rid of some things.

I took on the task of looking through the many well-intended journals that I’ve started and never followed through with and I had to tell myself, “Okay Aimee, you are just not going to be disciplined enough at this stage of your life. It’s just too busy; toss it.” Some of them I just couldn’t throw away, so I put them in a spot for when the kids don’t demand so much time. The hospitality journal and a prayer journal are something I’d like to pick up again sometime.

But then I stumbled upon a journal I had totally forgotten about. It is a sermon journal. I usually take notes on Sundays, but eventually, when I declutter my Bible, they get tossed as well. So back in 2008 I came up with the idea to keep a sermon journal. In rediscovering it I thought, “How the heck did I forget about this? It’s awesome!” The sermon journal is easy to do, great to go back and read, and therefore got promoted to a shelf on my desk. It’s just three easy steps:

Highlights

The journal comes to church with me on Sunday and gets cracked open with my Bible. I title the entry with the date, Scripture for the sermon, and sermon title. While the preacher is doing his thing, I take some notes. I don’t try to record the whole sermon, but just catch the main points that I believe the pastor is trying to convey. I also write down some questions I may have, or other Scriptures that connect well or would be good for further study. Maybe the pastor read a quote from a commentary or an author that I would like to look up later.

Reflections

I don’t want to just leave the sermon on the church pew, and go live the rest of my week unaffected. (And we know that God’s Word accomplishes what he purposes.) I want to meditate on God’s Word and glean more from a second round. Maybe I sat under the preached Word and caught the main pieces of meat, but there’s still a lot of chicken on the bone that I don’t want to waste. So on Sunday afternoon or Monday, while it is still fresh, I go back to my notes, read the Scripture again, and write some more reflections down. This is also where I will think more about personal application.

Prayer

Although I am tempted to write some wonderful, elaborate prayer so that when I die my kids will discover this journal and find how magnificent I am (because it’s all about me), I resist the urge and write a brief prayer that God’s Word both written and preached led me to pray by his Spirit. Sure, I can pray more about my reflections and further thanks and requests, but keeping it short in writing will hopefully help keep me disciplined to continue.

Benefits

The benefits are obvious. What pastor wouldn’t love for his congregants to give the preached Word more careful attention? After all, if he is putting the time into preparation all week, we can put the effort in to be better listeners. God’s Word always affects us, but how many sermons do you actually remember a year from now? How about five years from now? Ten? This is where the journal really comes in handy. Rediscovering my sermon journal has also helped me to rediscover sermons I sat under, and prayers that I’ve prayed. I can look back and see how God has answered these prayers, and give him thanks.

The grass withers, the flower fades,
 but the word of our God will stand forever. (Isa. 40:8)

A Glimpse at the Mad Woman

Written By: Aimee Byrd - Sep• 01•14

If you would like to catch a glimpse at MoS’s notorious Mad Woman in the Attic, as well as hear Carl Trueman shriek like a girl, look no further:

 

Dagnabit Carl, I don’t like to back down from a challenge. But I do like choosing my own charity.

Seeing Jesus in the Prophets

Written By: Aimee Byrd - Aug• 28•14

I’ve reviewed Nancy Guthrie’s latest book The Word of The Lord: Seeing Jesus in the Prophets over at Books at a Glance. Here is a teaser:

If you haven’t read anything by Nancy Guthrie yet, you are really missing out. Her Seeing Jesus in the Old Testament series is a gift to the church. I don’t know how many times women have asked me about finding a good resource for starting a Bible study. It can be intimidating to lGuthrie Word of Lord pic_1409018639ead a Bible study, and there are many men and women who are looking for help. Just handing someone a few commentaries and leaving her on her own to come up with a lesson and questions for discussion can often discourage a gal from even trying. And yet people who are serious about the Word of God and who want to grow in their knowledge of Scripture are insulted by the countless fluff studies out there that seem to stray way off course from the meaning of the text.

The insecurities really seem to flair when it comes to teaching the Old Testament. In her series, Nancy Guthrie is able to paint the big picture of redemption for us while we study the details. Her last book in the series, The Word of the Lord, tackles what may be the most intimidating genre in Scripture: the Prophetic Books. Guthrie acknowledges and empathizes with this right from the start: “The Prophetic Books of the Old Testament are the books of the Bible I have understood the least and avoided the most” (11). She then reasons that if all Scripture is profitable for a godly life, and it is (2 Tim. 3:16-17), then every section is important – even the prophets.
Overview

Why are the Prophetic Books so intimidating? Guthrie addresses this in her great “Introduction to the Prophets” chapter to her book. First, she lays out the role of the prophet as a spokesperson for God. She teaches the specifics of their role, who they were, and how the Prophetic Books are God’s message for us still today. Then Guthrie suggests why they seem so daunting. We live in a much different culture from Old Testament times. And the average person frankly does not have adequate knowledge of the history and geography of God’s people, so we do not see the connections of how these stories fit together. Since the books of the prophets are not in chronological order, this can sometimes add to our confusion. And then there’s the language. Sometimes we just don’t follow what’s going on with all the “repetitive oracles.” This all makes it difficult to understand the relevance of the Prophetic Books to us now.

But Guthrie helps us to overcome these obstacles by breaking it down for the reader. She provides helpful maps, highlights the connections, and points out the main themes in every Prophetic Book: sin, judgment, and hope. And these are themes on which every reader can relate!

 

Jesus in the Prophets

Beyond simple comprehension, the author pledges to point us to “the Person in the prophets we must see.” She successfully delivers on this pledge in every chapter. But Guthrie gives us a delightful preview in the Introduction that really sums up her book well:

In Jonah we’ll see by contrast the compassion of Jesus, who ran toward those under judgment rather than away from them.
In Hosea we’ll see Jesus as our faithful bridegroom, who paid the price of his own blood to redeem us, his unfaithful bride, from our slavery to sin.
In Micah we’ll see the humble justice and mercy of Jesus as the one whose life and death answers Micah’s difficult question: “What does the Lord require?” (6:8).
In Isaiah we’ll see Jesus as the divine King seated on the throne Isaiah saw the year King Uzziah died, as the suffering servant who will be punished in place of his people, and as the coming conqueror who will put an end to evil.

 

Read More

 

Sometimes It’s Good to Fall Off the Wagon

Written By: Aimee Byrd - Aug• 27•14

Or better yet, Carl, Todd, and I make the case that every bandwagon isn’t worth jumping on.

Today’s Bully Pulpit was a fun one to record. I give the guys a little challenge to test how well they can relate to their congregations, and I close the podcast with a question that leaves Carl vulnerable. All in a good days work, as they say.

bandwagonBut back to bandwagons. The evangelical subculture is certainly susceptible to hopping on the latest trend. And some leaders seem to have a draw that is hard to resist. Why do we follow so easily? Why don’t we listen to warnings of discernment when they are given? Why do we stay on the wagon when we know we should jump off? These are some relevant and timely questions that even the Reformed community needs to consider. Because you never know where you may end up.

Take a listen.

Pass the Salt Shaker

Written By: Aimee Byrd - Aug• 26•14

images-4As a writer and just a thinker, I kind of like metaphors. So when I see a metaphor in Scripture, sometimes I like to take some time to really think about how it is used. Last night in my Housewife Theologian group, we spent some time discussing how Jesus calls us salt:

You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet. (Matt. 5:13)

James Montgomery Boice goes into the different uses of salt in his commentary on The Sermon on the Mount:

  • Salt was the most common of all preservatives: it was able to resist spoilage and keep putrefaction at bay.
  • It is a source of flavor: The Christian, through the life of Jesus Christ within and the verities of the gospel, is to lend flavor to a flavorless, insipid world.
  • Salt makes one thirsty: Do you make anyone thirsty for Jesus Christ?…Your responsibility is not to satisfy the thirst yourself, but to point men to Jesus Christ.
  • A common substance: Salt is one of the most common things of life…It is from the common things—from the weak, the foolish, the despised, the things that are not (1 Cor. 1:26-29)—that God brings the greatest glory to his name. (63-66)

Good stuff, right? There’s a lot to meditate on there about what Jesus is alluding to when he says we are the salt of the earth. But sometimes I get a little carried away with metaphors. So I added a few more. Mine aren’t as sophisticated:

  • If a body doesn’t release salt through perspiration, it retains water and becomes bloated.
  • You can’t flavor a dish with just one grain of salt
  • Melts ice, protects us from slipping
  • Raises the boiling temperature
  • Pregnant women need more salt
  • Salt kills the slugs

Maybe you can see where I was going with some of my own additions. We are sent out with a benediction every Sunday, and we exercise our faith throughout our everyday lives. This takes some grit. If we behave different from our identity in Christ, our profession is a bunch of hot air. And one grain of salt just doesn’t cut it. God hasn’t sent us out alone, but has given us the church. We are to encourage and exhort one another, which in turn helps keep us from backsliding. We don’t escape persecution, but through it we become stronger in the faith.

Yes, I am getting all this from the properties of salt. But why am I bringing up slugs? Well, in high school a couple of my girlfriends and I had a code for when a guy was maybe hitting on us or being annoying. We referred to these guys as slugs. And my friend Liz was horrified by slugs. We of course used this knowledge of Liz to torture her on many occasions (rainy days brought all kinds of entertainment). Anyway, we would somehow think of a way to ask for a salt shaker. That meant, “This guy is a slug, and I either want to get out of here, make fun of him without him knowing, or need help getting away from this conversation.” You can go ahead and draw your own conclusions of how this analogy applies to Christians being the salt in a world full of slugs…

Slug_vs_Salt_by_Wolfgangmustdie

Slug vs salt by stuartmcghee

Can I Handle the Seasons of My Life?

Written By: Aimee Byrd - Aug• 22•14

This may be one of the most meaningful song lyrics to me personally. It comes from Stevie Nick’s Landslide, one of my favorite songs. The way that she sings her “I don’t know” afterwards conveys the same wondering in my own heart sometimes. Seasons change, and I do seem to hit some landslides in each one.

Solomon contemplates a similar theme in Ecclesiastes. I’ve been reading Ecc. 3:9-15 over and over this week:

What gain has the worker from his toil? I have seen the business that God has given to the children of man to be busy with. He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man’s heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end. I perceived that there is nothing better for them than to be joyful and to do good as 0-3long as they live; also that everyone should eat and drink and take pleasure in all his toil—this is God’s gift to man.

I perceived that whatever God does endures forever; nothing can be added to it, nor anything taken from it. God has done it, so that people fear before him. That which is, already has been; that which is to be, already has been; and God seeks what has been driven away.

This excerpt follows the beautiful poem that has even made it to the pop charts, the idea being that “For everything there is a season” (Ecc. 3:1). When I read Ecclesiastes, I hear the familiar groaning of the Christian living in the light of the gospel. The observations that are made and the questions that are asked are similar to my own sometimes. And the excerpt above gives me the peace that its preceding poem ends with, a peace that even extends way beyond the season of war in which Pete Seeger was immersed when he put it to music.

Sometimes my laboring seems utterly futile. My best attempts in all my roles can just leave me disappointed. And I too wonder, “What gain has the worker from his toil?” I buy groceries, only to hear my kids tell me what I should have gotten instead. I clean the house, only for another round of mess to invade. I try to build relationships, but still run into conflict. And of course the writing comes with its blessings and burdens. “I have seen the business that God has given the children of man to be busy with.” It can be frustrating. At times I wonder if there is any lasting gain. Other times I wonder if I am even going to keep my sanity through a particular season in my life, or is it going to completely suck the soul out of me? And this is the world we live in that has been subjected to the curse.

As much as it may seem sometimes, it isn’t completely random. Seasons are appointed. And we see in these verses that they are appointed by a sovereign, good God. “He has made everything beautiful in its time.” How can this be? Sure, there is abounding beauty in my life, but everything? What about suffering, adversity, and dirty dishes? The Scripture goes on to explain, “Also, he has put eternity into man’s heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end.”

God’s work is eternal. And while I am living through the seasons of my life, at this very moment typing at 12:04 PM on a Friday afternoon, I work in my vocations with a confession of hope. God’s providence is a beautiful thing that we just don’t understand in our own time. But we hold fast to the hope we have in Christ, that he is using every single moment, every single circumstance, for his glory and our good. He who promised is faithful and we look forward to the age to come when we will live free from the curse, eternally with Jesus. When I lay hold of this truth, I know there is no futility with God.

And so, as these verses go on to teach, we can take pleasure in our toil while doing good in each season of life. This is God’s gift to us. We do this by faith, which is also God’s gift. We live by faith in the time God gives us. And whatever God does endures forever. There’s a season that I look forward to living in: eternity. And since eternity is in my heart and I know that I am blessed to live it with my Creator and Lord, I have the confidence of knowing that my work is not in vain. There is eternal value to our laboring through each season because God’s work is eternal.

When I get to the point of despair asking, “Can I handle the seasons of my life?” I, like Pete Seeger suggested, turn, turn, turn. I turn to Christ. Nothing can be added or taken away from the work of God, and I am in awe. And I am reminded that in his wisdom, goodness, and sovereignty, these seasons are not futile. He is producing lasting fruit for his kingdom.

Sure, there are some landslides. But they do not end God’s people. They remind me that no, I can’t handle the seasons of my life on my own. But “He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it” (1 Thess. 5:24). He who “is seated at the right hand of the throne of God” is interceding on my behalf and will see me through the race. And he is making even me beautiful in his time.

Sex, Dating, and Relationships

Written By: Aimee Byrd - Aug• 21•14

Many of the comments under my recent dating article are helpful. After reading through them again, I thought it would be good to repost this book review that I wrote a little over two years ago. The authors discuss the whole problem with contemporary dating and try to offer a solution. This book has a great combination of being biblical, pastoral, and practical:

Sex, Dating, and Relationships, Gerald Hiestand and Jay Thomas (Crossway, 2012)

I remember when I was in middle and high school, if you wanted someone to be your boyfriend or girlfriend you would ask, “Will you go with me?” My parents would always laugh at our expense saying, “Where are you going?” I would just roll my eyes because obviously they didn’t understand these important matters. Now, my daughter is in the 7th grade and I’m hearing how Alice is dating Daryl, and on it goes. And as a mother, I find myself wanting to roll my eyes again. I have tried to explain to Solanna that dating involves first of all a guy who is old enough to drive, and secondly, employed enough to pay for your date. Then I explained that much of this “dating” goes on before you ever make any kind of commitment to a girlfriend/boyfriend relationship. They have it all backwards, and they aren’t anywhere close to old enough to turn it forwards. In middle school, “dating” seems to be more of a status than anything else. But we all know how quickly things can move to “anything else” if we ignore these situations or think they are just cute.

So, Matt and I have been discussing these issues with our daughter, and last summer I started a mother/daughter book club, inviting other concerned parents and my daughter’s peers. We went through Mary Kaissen’s Girls Gone Wise. I picked up a copy of Sex, Dating, and Relationships as soon as I read the marketing for it because it sounded perfect for this summer. I LOVE THIS BOOK!

One of my biggest praises is how deeply theological it is. While these two pastors have certainly backed their claims with Scripture, it is far more than proof-texting or isolating all the “don’ts.”  They explain, “…the Bible’s commands regarding sex are never arbitrary—they are endowed with great purpose” (29). This purpose is far greater than passing some morality test before marriage, or even bearing children. “God ordained human marriage—from the very dawn of creation—to testify to the coming wedding supper of the Lamb…In the end, our final hope of salvation is that we have been married to Christ” (24-25). They had me hooked with that line. But when Hiestand and Thomas started using the language of types and shadows that point to the reality of our future hope in Christ, I wanted to stand up and clap.

Sex is about the gospel, just like every other thing in life. That’s why these two authors can say, “[God] desires your sexual satisfaction more than you ever will, for through the proper expression of your sexuality, both you and the world will have a window through which to see the window of the gospel” (30). It is an image of Christ’s monogamous unity with his beloved church. Is our sexuality consistent with the image of Christ and his church? Hiestand and Thomas do not leave us to subjectively try to figure this out, they give us clear, biblical categories for God-ordained relationships, and what our boundaries should be within them.

How far is too far in dating? Well, first of all, what the heck is dating? These two authors articulate better what I was trying to explain to my daughter. The idea of dating in our culture has moved from an activity to a category. We see in Scripture how we are to behave sexually with our family (Lev. 18:6), our neighbor (1 Cor. 7:7-9), and in marriage (1 Cor. 7:3-5). In two of these categories sexual relations are forbidden, and in one it is commanded. But what about the dating relationship? This is not a category that we find in Scripture. It is new to our culture, and so we have somehow given dating a different level of sexual expression than the neighbor or the family relationships. We teach purity, but what does that mean? Where is the line? What can a dating couple do that mere friends cannot? Nowhere in Scripture are we given a special license for sexual activity of any kind outside of marriage.

To answer the question, “How far is too far,” Hiestand and Thomas guide the reader with 1 Tim. 5:2:

Paul suggestively ties together the familial treatment of the opposite sex with absolute purity. In this often overlooked verse he writes, “[Treat] older women as mothers, and younger women as sisters, with absolute purity” (NIV). Most helpfully, Paul here links together the familial treatment of the opposite sex with sexual purity. In the context of this passage Paul is instructing Timothy—a young pastor—as to how he should interact with the women of his church, in other words, his neighbors (40-41).

I said that I love how theological and biblical this book is. I also love its practicality. How do you kiss your mother or your brother? When that question is asked, we all know how far is too far. From here, Hiestand and Thomas lay out some very wise advice for singles who want to pursue marital relationships. They make so many good points about the problems with the modern-day dating category that I will not go into here, but they do give an alternative, and it’s more than just physical. They call it “dating friendships.” But I will leave you wanting for their teaching here so you can pick up this great read for yourself.

Also, quickly, I wanted to note that Hiestand and Thomas do touch on related issues such as modesty, singlehood, and purity as a lifestyle. My only short critique is that sexuality is mainly defined in this book as sexual activity, and while I agree that sex itself is a type that will be ultimately fulfilled in our consummated union with Christ, I do not believe that we surrender our sexuality in the new heavens and the new earth. I don’t really think that the author’s do either. That is why I wish they would have maybe mentioned some of the gifts our sexuality offers to our neighbor, and family members that are different expressions than what our spouse receives. Our sexuality is part of how we communicate to the world.  It is a body language that speaks an awareness of the gift and power of our gender. I do understand that we use the word in it’s narrow sense to talk about sexual activity, but it also defines our sex…which has many God-ordained distinctives and modes of expression. While the authors value singlehood in a way that has not been written about as often in these kind of books, I would have liked to see them talk about how our sexuality is not only for our spouse.

Parents, please buy this book! Church members, pick up a couple of copies for the church library. I really think we need to articulate these categories well as adults before we can lovingly share our wisdom with our children, teens, and singles. Especially if we want to keep the eye-rolling to a minimum.

Related articles: Our Sexuality is Meant to be Shared and Walking Stories

Two Out of Three Ain’t Bad

Written By: Aimee Byrd - Aug• 20•14

Well, maybe not for Meat Loaf, but we’re talking pastors and sin on the Mortification of Spin today. And since we are talking with our favorite, distinguished pastor from Wales, we decided to meet up in a Welsh karaoke bar, of course. That’s right, Dr. Derek Thomas is back, and we may have even gotten a little singing out of him this time. As a matter of fact, Carl now refers to him as the Peter Frampton of Reformed theology. And I think he’s on to something with that comparison. I mean, just look at the pictures and see for yourself:

DF

And the more I thought about it, it became clear that the future is not good for these two brilliant men (or are they the same man?):

doc-brown-620x3501 Uncanny.

But back to the program. Pastors are of course sinners in need of grace like all of God’s people. And yet, they have a special call to be above reproach. Is that any different from the rest of God’s saints? Should a pastor share his weaknesses from the pulpit? What does an authentic pastor look like? How vulnerable should they be? This is a great conversation on pastors and sin that you will not want to miss.

And it turns out the guys got a little carried away with the whole karaoke scene. They have brought their zeal for spontaneous singing back to the States. It’s become a little embarrassing to go out with them at times. But I think they have become quite vulnerable.

file_204469_3_Top_Gun_Youve_Lost_That_Lovin_Feeling

Take a listen here.

To Date or Not to Date?

Written By: Aimee Byrd - Aug• 14•14

Should we allow our kids to date or not to allow them to date? If so, what age will they be allowed? These are the questions my husband and I are up against now that our daughters are reaching that mysterious age. Sure, Matt still insists that 30 sounds like a great age for them to begin considering these issues. But we already see the signs of attraction. We hear the whispers with their girlfriends. And in this new age of technology, we read their texts and stalk their social media accounts. There have been plenty of “talks” about boys in our home.

And there are rules that we never in our wildest dreams thought we would need to make: under no circumstances is it okay to pucker your lips for a selfie. But we always knew that we would need to figure out this whole dating dilemma. Of course, teens now say they are “dating” when no one has a job, and no one can drive. As of matter of fact, they don’t need to actually go anywhere together to be “dating.” It’s more of a status, a label deeming a boy and a girl in some sort of nebulous relationship. Matt and I have no idea what to do with this unstoppable madness. It seems that teens have put the cart before the horse. The relationship status comes before any actual dates.

An interesting article is being shared all over Facebook today, speaking out against the courtship movement. Apparently, Thomas Umstattd Jr. used to be such a proponent of courtship relationships that he started PracticalCourtship.com. But now he has changed his mind. Now that some time has passed to look back at the whole “I Kissed Dating Goodbye” craze, Umstattd sees some major flaws to the courtship model. Foremost, many of the advocates of this model still find themselves single, and not so much by choice. Secondly, he is now discovering that some of the couples that did get married are now divorcing. That wasn’t supposed to happen!

Umstattd exposes the problem with courtship:

The courtship movement eliminated dating and replaced it with nothing.

Or, put another way, they replaced dating with engagement. The only tangible difference between an engagement and a courtship is the ring and the date.

Suddenly, asking a girl on a first date has become entirely too weighty. One must ask permission from an over-protective father to enter a courting relationship with the intention of marriage. Does asking a girl to share some burgers and milkshakes have to mean that you intend to do that for the rest of your life together? How do you get to know people anymore? How do you get experience to learn what type of person you are compatible to spend the rest of your life with? Can dating be an actual activity again instead of a heavy category one is labeled by?

Read the entire article here.

Black, White, and Shady all Over

Written By: Aimee Byrd - Aug• 13•14

Well, well, well. Do you want to know what the most viewed article I’ve ever written is? Okay, I’ll tell you: 99 Shades of Strange. I guess that’s the way it goes. It’s a little reactive, but I was a bit shocked after seeing all the buzz with the release of the trailer for 50 Shades of Grey. And so sure enough, the post I bang out in 20 minutes on vacation while my family was still sleeping DVD-Extra-Mr-Magoo-more-cartoons-HCJ06JP-x-largeturns out to be the one more people have read than any other.

And the discussions that I’ve had following this post have made me even more convinced that the church cannot be nearsighted on this issue. Maybe this can be an opportunity to discuss godly sexuality. My co-hosts and I decide to talk about this phenomenon for this week’s Bully Pulpit. There is definitely some spin that needs mortifying.

So Carl, Todd, and I discuss a couple of these shades. And if you turn us off when the closing song plays us out, you have been missing out on our closing bloopers. This week I am especially delighted that Carl may be getting some feedback from PITA. But no worries. Carl actually enjoys long walks on the beach with his dog. It’s all good.

Elijah Wood takes a human for a walk on Venice beach.

Take a listen here.