Housewife Theologian

The Gospel Interrupting the Ordinary

The Homophobic Bogeyman

Written By: Aimee Byrd - Sep• 19•14

I’ve noticed a theme lately in some of my reading in blogs, magazines, and books. Basically, guys can’t have close, dare I say vulnerable, friendships with other guys or they will lose their man card.

Carl Trueman recently shared something Scot McKnight posted on Charles Marsh’s biography, Strange Glory: A Life of Dietrich Bonhoeffer. With the overwhelming evidence of a kind of biblical friendship that many would envy, Marsh suggests that Bonhoeffer was gay, and that he pursued such an intimate friendship with Eberhard Bethge to satisfy his romantic feelings.

45502And then last week, I get the latest issue of Christianity Today in my mailbox. This is interesting because I do not subscribe to Christianity Today and have no idea why it was mailed to me, but the cover story caught my attention: “Why Can’t Men Be Friends?” Well, dang, I was just wondering the same thing, so I thumbed through the article. In it, Wesley Hill shares a study social scientist and author of Deep Secrets: Boy’s Friendships and the Crisis of Connection, Niobe Way, conducted revealing how boys share intimate friendships with other boys until adolescence, and then they sadly disengage from such a close level of friendship with other guys as they age, because they do not want to be perceived as feminine or homosexual.

And just last night as I was reading reading through The Company We Keep, Jonathan Holmes has a section on The Homophobia Bogeyman in his chapter, “Threats to Biblical Friendship.” That about sums up the problem: there’s a bogeyman in the closet of every male friendship!

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Horton on Spin

Written By: Aimee Byrd - Sep• 17•14

Today we have a reluctant Dr. Michael Horton take a psychological test to see if we can continue interviewing him for the podcast. Fortunately for you guys, he passed. But we were a little worried after the first question. In fact, we got him a new tie to wear for any future casual conversations that count.

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Carl asked the questions that we have all been wondering. What does Dr. Horton think of the Biebs? I know, I know, you’re dying to find out.

Todd asks about Horton’s history with PCRT and James Montgomery Boice. It is quite an inspiring story that gives us a little hope among the evangelical celebrity culture, puka shells and all.

I ask the other question that you’re dying to know: Is Dr. Horton an antinomian or what?

And once again, Carl reminds us that we are all going to die.

This episode offers a good mix of hilarity and serious topics that you’ve come to expect from us mortifiers of spin.

Be sure to listen through to the end for a preview for next week’s extended Bully Pulpit, and to visit the MoS site for a chance to win a copy of Dr. Horton’s book, Calvin on the Christian Life. I’ve written a few reading reflections on it if you’d like a taste:

On orthodoxy

On Providence 

On Doctrine vs. Experience 

Listen to the podcast here.

Substitute Friendships?

Written By: Aimee Byrd - Sep• 15•14

COMPANY-COLOR-364-96My CruciformPress book arrived in the mail this weekend, and it is a topic that has been on my mind lately: The Company We Keep: In Search of Biblical Friendship, by Jonathan Holmes. I had few free minutes last night, so I sat down and read the first 40 pages (this is an advantage of CruciformPress books, you can whiz through them). After listing some scenarios of different frustrations we encounter and ways we settle for superficial friendships, the author asks a really good question: “Should a Christian’s expectations for friendship differ from those of a non-Christian?” (17). He recognizes that many churches do not have a good friendship “climate.”

The first chapter teaches how we are created for community, and then gives three ways our sin interferes with biblical friendships. It’s a great chapter that points to our most important friend of all, Jesus Christ (John 15:13-15). It ends with a long, helpful definition of biblical friendship:

Biblical friendship exists when two or more people, bound together by a common faith in Jesus Christ, pursue him and his kingdom with intentionality and vulnerability. Rather than serving as an end in itself, biblical friendship serves primarily to bring glory to Christ, who brought us into friendship with the Father. It is indispensable to the work of the gospel in the earth, and an essential element of what God created us for. (27)

This is a great definition which motivates me in my relationships. In Chapter Two, Holmes highlights “three substitutes we frequently take for the real thing: social media friendships, specialized friendships, and selfish friendships,” explaining that they “fall woefully short for God’s purposes for true friendship” (32). He offers some helpful categories here, but I found myself pushing back a bit. I only found the last one, selfish friendship, to be one that works against God’s purposes in friendship.

Are these really substitutes? Aren’t there different types of friendship, that may not be equally valued, but certainly valid and even essential for a Christian in but not of the world? Let’s take a brief look at the three.

Social Media Friendship: If you are reading my blog, you are probably involved enough on social media to have some cyber-friendships. Many may be physical friendships and acquaintances that you just don’t get to see very often, and therefore catch up with on Facebook and the like. There’s even a new word added to the dictionary for those we interact with online, but have never met in person: equaintance.

I agree with the author’s warning that we should never be satisfied with social media friendships to the point that they replace or substitute having face-to-face biblical friendships. Social media friendships certainly should be distinguished in our discernment. But they may grow to the level of biblical friendship pretty nicely. I have had that experience.

Specialized Friendship: These are the friendships that we have that focus around a shared activity or stage of life. College friends, workout friends, moms at the playground, and work friends are a few examples. Again, it is good to distinguish, but I see advantages in having these types of friendships. I wouldn’t want to settle for them to substitute for biblical friendships, but they may be stepping-stones to something deeper. And even if they don’t move past the specialized stage, I think it is good and even special to have some friends that share common interests.

Stage of life friends are helpful for coping, and may last passed the stage they were meant for in surprising ways. I can think of several examples off the top of my head:

  • My sister-in-law’s mom became friends with the woman she shared her delivery room with. They have gone through the baby stage, toddler stage, school-age, and now grandma stage together. Their friendship is still growing after 35 years.
  • One of my college roommates is a non-Christian friend who pursues me to keep in touch even though we live a good distance apart. I am thankful that she does. We enjoy one another’s conversation.
  • I think that one reason why we like to reconnect with high school friends on social media and see how they are doing is because those were such transformative years in our lives. I’ve recently reconnected with an old high school friend who is now a Christian. It was great to catch up.

Some of these friendships do happily move past the “specialized” stage. This can really be a good field for local missionary work in a sense. But I think they also have a value in them as specialized friendships. We really do care about the people, even when we don’t have that wonderful biblical friendship for which we aim.

Selfish Friendship: Holmes says, “Out of the three friendship substitutes, this is the most sinister.” Well, I agree that we should never look at a relationship we have formed for our own selfish gain as a friendship, but that sentence was what made me push back the most. I guess he’s saying that it is sinister to substitute any of these friendships for biblical ones. But the selfish friendship is just plain bad. I don’t think the other two categories were sinister forms of friendships to have alongside of biblical friendships in our pilgrimage between this age and the age to come.

Sure, I want to have rich biblical friendships, and I agree with the author that I shouldn’t settle for cyber friends and specialized friendships as a substitute for my need for biblical friendships. I would look at them under the umbrella of that goal, since I am a Christian in all of them. I don’t think that all cyber friendships and specialized friendships are superficial. And when we do find that we have an imbalance with superficial friendships in our lives, I believe that makes us long for enriching, biblical friendships.  Holmes does acknowledge the goodness and function for some of these relationships when he warns in closing, “Technology, social media, and common interests are helpful contexts and tools to help facilitate friendship, but friendship itself is always more than these” (41).

Because, yes, a Christian’s expectation for friendship should differ from an unbeliever’s. Here are two ways the author closes his chapter regarding how the gospel applies to our friendships: “you are brought into friendship by Jesus Christ in order to:

  1. pursue the lost for friendship ideally leading to Christ,
  2. pursue fellow believers for friendship grounded in Christ” (42)

I’m looking forward to the next chapter on the marks of biblical friendship.

Can Facebook Really Ruin Your Marriage?

Written By: Aimee Byrd - Sep• 12•14

There’s an article being circulated from ABC News that exposes Facebook as a growing factor in divorce cases.

A third of all divorce filings in 2011 contained the word “Facebook,” and more than 80 percent of U.S. divorce attorneys say social networking in divorce proceedings is on the rise, according to Divorce Online and the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, respectively.

I posted some reflections on whether we give Facebook too much credit over on Reformation21. You can read it here.

 

Taking the Spin Out of Dating and Courtship

Written By: Aimee Byrd - Sep• 10•14

This week I was brave enough to talk with Carl and Todd about dating and courtship. Basically, I’m desperate.  I wrote an article a couple of weeks ago about the whole ‘to date or not to date’ dilemma, and now I’ve resorted to Curly and Moe for input on the matter.

Carl and Todd did manage to marry up. Back in the day, Todd was a real Rico Suave. Here’s a picture of him asking his wife on their first date. I think he pulled the bandana off pretty well.

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Take a listen here.

The Average Joe

Written By: Aimee Byrd - Sep• 09•14

Screen-Shot-2014-07-16-at-2.27.07-PM-590x900My family has been following the show American Ninja Warrior. It is a spin-off from a Japanese show where athletic competitors try to make it through different stages of insanely difficult par courses at the fastest time. But the last stage of Mount Midoriyama, the final obstacle course in which they are all trying to make it to, is so difficult that it is not timed.

Last night we watched this stage with bated breath. It has been a great season. The first woman ever completed round one, and was followed by one more woman contender. This is so rare because the obstacle course just wasn’t built for women. Height is a definite challenge in some of the courses where a reach of 5 feet or more is required, and many them are very demanding on upper body strength. And yet 5’, 100 lb Kacy Catanzaro also made a historical run completing the second phase of the competition. You can watch her amazing run at the Dallas Finals here (Watch it!). Unfortunately, the Jumping Spider took her out in the third course.

Although I certainly do, the course has no favorites. There are no do-overs. If your foot touches the water, or you run out of time, that’s the end of the line for you. People train hard for this competition, many building their own par course in their back yard. There are now par course gyms where contenders train for the competition. Some form training teams to help support one another. A handful of competitors have now made it to Mount Midoriyama several times, and yet we still do not have an American Ninja Warrior. Not one person in the six seasons of the show has completed the final course and won the $500,000.

Both white-collar workers and blue-collar workers enjoy this sport. In fact, the only two people who made it to Stage Four of images-3Mount Midoriyama this season were a weather man and a ski lift operator. The course definitely takes a working man’s grit and determination to press on for the prize. As they approach certain obstacles I think there is just no way anyone could complete it. I mean, “The Unstable Bridge” doesn’t sound like anything I would want to attempt. And it’s not too comforting to have turning door knobs as your only grip to reach for when ascending at a height around forty feet.

The show also gives plenty of back stories. The final contender of this season was Joe “The Weatherman” Moravsky. He is better known as “Average Joe.” Many of the competitors are martial artists, professional athletes, rock climbers, free runners, and professional gymnasts. But Joe is a weatherman. He is utterly unassuming in his looks: no ripped physique, no bravado, no bells or whistles. He looks completely average. And he made it the furthest this year. Here is a preview of the Average Joe’s run.

Don’t we all love a story like that! Of course, it would have been even more wonderful if Average Joe completed the whole course and became the first American Ninja Warrior. He will be back next season with many others. But what an illustration of the Christian life. If we were shown the obstacles that we will encounter before hand, many of us would probably just give up. One thing we do know is that we have to train. Disciples require discipline, and Christians need to exercise their faith over and over as we run with endurance the race set before us. And we are not to grow weary. When we are knocked down, we are exhorted to get back up (Heb. 12:12-13).

Just your average super-hero.

Just your average super-hero.

When we think of discipline, it is often in the form of correction for what we have done wrong. But we are to endure discipline like athletes training daily. And we do not lose heart because we do have the most important finisher that went before us in the race. We are to look to Jesus, the founder and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God (Heb. 12:2). What a beautiful verse of Scripture that is. What a glorious truth for us to confess.

Our prize isn’t half a million dollars. It is eternity with the founder and perfecter of our faith, Jesus Christ. It is holiness and worship on the new heavens and the new earth. It is a kingdom that cannot be shaken. We are disciples of Christ, learners in training. Our Father disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness. For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it (12:10-11). And we are given a cloud of witnesses who went before us, as well as the church, fellow believers to run the race and rub elbows together. Let’s exhort one another to be finishers for the prize. In our race, many average Joes will persevere to the end, but we will be anything but average on the new heavens and new earth.

The Opposite of Name It, Claim It

Written By: Aimee Byrd - Sep• 05•14

I have a post on Ref21 today highlighting the difference between a benediction and the prosperity teacher’s infamous “name it, claim it.”

If you are interested, you can read it here.

All Misfits Welcome Here

Written By: Aimee Byrd - Sep• 03•14

4toysSo my MoS cohorts and I were feeling a little down and out as we were banished from Polite Society when lo and behold, we found a fellow misfit, Phil Johnson. This podcast episode showcases the whole idea of a casual conversation that counts. We talked about all kinds of things like being misfits, Phil Johnson blogging before there was barely an internet to blog on, Pyromaniacs, the Spurgeon Archive, Downgrade controversy, playful approaches to worship, and prayer.

If you’re going to talk Spurgeon, Phil Johnson is your man. And I am a fellow Spurgeon fan. But after spending some time with Phil, I began feeling as if I was with Spurgeon himself. Has Phil Johnson’s passion for Spurgeon transformed him in more ways than one? Take a look at him in this picture Phil’s lovely wife snapped while we were talking.

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And now take a look at this:

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Uncanny.

You can listen to our conversation on Misfit Island here.

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.