Posted on Sunday, July 10, 2011 by Aimee Byrd on Housewife Theologian

I came across a Tim Keller sermon this weekend that’s got me thinking like crazy.  You can listen to it here. **It’s awesome.** I stumbled upon it on Carolyn McCulley’s blog.  The whole theology behind our eternal rest has been an interest of mine lately, so I was eager to hear Keller’s teaching on work and rest.  McCulley outlines the main points for you if you want to check out her article here.  My next few articles are going to be some reflections that have been growing in my head since I took a listen.

We think of rest as taking a well deserved break.  Rest is something we do when we’re tired.  Keller rightly discerns in his sermon that our culture is lacking in proper rest.  Even when we vacation, get extra sleep, and try to incorporate rest into our lives, we find ourselves restless. We just can’t earn proper rest.

The Genesis account of creation tells us that God worked for six days and rested on the seventh.  Did he need a break?  Was God tired?  Of course not.  Keller was so illuminating in this part of his sermon when he explained that this meant God was utterly satisfied in what was done.  That’s true rest.  That’s the eternal rest that we seek.

But we keep falling for the oldest trick in the book.  Adam and Eve were to follow God’s model.  This pointed to what Adam was to earn for his progeny: to sit at the right hand of the Father and rule in true rest. Now there are infralapsarian and supralapsarian theological debates that I am not going to divulge here.  But I do want to affirm that God’s eternal plan was for Jesus Christ to be our sufficiency.  Even when Adam was to earn eternal life by his own righteous obedience, his satisfaction came from God’s work in creation.  The command not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil has many implications.  One is that Adam was to trust in what God says is ultimately good.  Adam and Eve were not to have that say.  God created man, the heavens, and the earth, and said; It is very good.

Eve, and Adam, lost our rest in God’s work.  Now, we rebel against rest, while at the same time working for it.  We rebel against being utterly satisfied in God’s work for our salvation.  We want to be good on our own.  We want to earn eternal life.  We want to earn our value; our significance.  But Keller explains that only through Jesus Christ can we look at our lives and say it is ultimately satisfying.  Through Christ,
the work is complete.

That’s why the Sabbath has been moved to the first day of the week.  Christ boldly and bluntly said the He was Lord of the Sabbath (Luke 6:1-11).  He fulfilled its true meaning.  In Christ, God is utterly satisfied with me, apart from my own efforts.  But I need to be constantly reminded because the sin that remains in me wants to trust in my own efforts.  At the beginning of the week, I worship and
hear the gospel preached.

In Revelation we learn of the number of the beast (Rev. 13:16-18).  This number, 666, does seem to be a numerical value for Nero, a dreadful persecutor of believers during the fall of Jerusalem in 70 A.D.  But I think by relating it to Nero, John was also pointing to a symbol of the number of man without God in general.  There is no 666 for the Christian.  666 represents man’s constant working without rest.  There is
no rest when you trust in your own efforts.

There remains then a rest for the people of God (Heb. 4:9).  Sunday, the first day of the week, points us to the eternal rest that we will have.  By that, I am liberated to serve during the week, with the proper perspective and knowledge that it is God who is good.  He keeps the world running.  I don’t have to enslave myself by the constant quest for importance and significance.  The only One who I need to impress has already declared me to be good on the count of his Son.  And now, he is working in me through his Spirit.

But just like a baby playing peek-a-boo, I am shocked by this good news every time it is revealed to me.  I find myself constantly with my eyes covered, thinking I’m running the world, and getting stressed out that I can never do enough.  My meaning and value get caught up in my accomplishments.  When God’s face is revealed to me in his gospel every Sunday, I rest in the sufficiency of Christ.  And like that vulnerable baby, I want to say, Do it again!

Posted on Thursday, July 07, 2011 by Aimee Byrd on Housewife Theologian

Living in God’s Two Kingdoms, David VanDrunen (Crossway, 2010)

How should I educate my children?  Is there such a thing as Christian politics? Should my church tell me how to vote?  Is it nobler for me to seek Christian employment rather than a secular job?  How can I best serve my community as a Christian?  These are some of the questions addressed in VanDrunen’s Living in God’s Two Kingdoms.  Some are easier to answer than others.

I was very excited to read this book. Christianity and culture has been a passionate topic for me.  Isn’t that something every believer needs to think about—how does my faith affect my daily living?  Well, there is a theology behind that important question.  Many today think it is our duty as Christians to transform the culture for Christ.  While there is both good intent and romantic notions in this cause, VanDrunen points to its dangers.  Those who champion this cause of redeeming culture believe it is part of the Christian’s duty to fulfill the Cultural Mandate (given in Genesis 1).  However, VanDrunen demonstrates how we are not to fulfill the Cultural Mandate’s ultimate goal because Christ already has. We are not second Adams, Christ is, and his work is sufficient to earn the new heavens and the new earth.

The two-kingdoms doctrine teaches how God rules the Spiritual Kingdom (the church) redemptively in Jesus Christ, and rules the Civil Kingdom (the state, and other social institutions) as creator and sustainer. He demonstrates adequately how the Spiritual Kingdom is formally set forth in God’s covenant with Abraham, and the Civil Kingdom is formally established through God’s covenant with Noah.  Therefore, “the kingdom of God proclaimed by the Lord Jesus Christ is not built through politics, commerce, music, or sports.  Redemption does not consist in restoring people to fulfill Adam’s original task, but consists in the  Lord Jesus Christ himself fulfilling Adam’s task once and for all, on our behalf.  Thus redemption is not ‘creation regained’ but ‘re-creation gained” (26).

VanDrunen organizes his thoughts well as he takes the reader through the covenants God has made and how they unfold for us. After the doctrinal teaching, he discusses the authority, responsibilities, and limits of the church, family, educational, vocational,and political institutions at detail. This is a very helpful section by which all Christians will be encouraged in their daily living.  In the end, we can serve our God and love our neighbor with greater confidence and joy in God’s sovereignty.  However, we are made aware of our great responsibility in discernment as we live and worship.

For those of you reading this review feeling unfamiliar with some of the language I’m using, this book is for you.  VanDrunen is a good teacher.  You will be challenged, but won’t drown in a bunch of intellectual speak.  For those of you familiar with this debate already, I highly recommend this book as well. VanDrunen’s tone is well-balanced, not arrogant or sarcastic, but all the while affirming his passion and truth. It is written respectably toward those who hold the opposing view.

With that being said, I did have a few expectations that were unmet in this wonderful read.  I wished he would have wrestled more with para-church organizations in relation to the two-kingdoms.  Instead, he acknowledges the elephant in the chapter and says it will not be discussed in this book.  This makes me wonder if it’s because he doesn’t think his conclusions/opinions would be appealing to most of his readers?  Or maybe the publisher did not want him to address the issue?   Related to this, I wished he would have addressed some thoughts that he has brought up in some conventions regarding the conjunction of Kuyper’s spheres and two-kingdoms.  (Side note: Michael Horton addresses some of these issues well in The Gospel Commission, which I later read.)  Lastly, I would have liked to hear his views of the early and late teachings of Francis Schaeffer, as much of his followers are in the neo-calvinist (opposing) camp. Although I affirm the two kingdoms, I was helped very much through the articulate earlier teachings of Schaeffer.

Posted on Tuesday, July 05, 2011 by Aimee Byrd on Housewife Theologian

Last night our family celebrated the Fourth West Virginia style.  Let me explain.

About seven years ago my husband and I, and our two daughters, moved out of our home state.  We had lived in Frederick, Maryland (my hometown) for the first seven years of our marriage.  In search of a bigger yard that we could afford for our family, we moved into the Eastern Panhandle of West Virginia.  Sure, we had heard the many West Virginia jokes growing up, but hey, Martinsburg is only thirty-one miles from Frederick.  The Panhandle is a bit of a melting pot of its own since its narrow strip boarders both Maryland and Virginia.  After doing our research, it seemed kind of exciting to take the plunge.  Seven years later, I want to share some things I’ve noticed, and connect them with my church’s sermon from Sunday.

Ironically, our neighborhood is named Federal Hill.  That still cracks me up.  I mean really, who are we kidding?  Yet, many of my neighbors have also relocated from Maryland and Virginia.  It is pretty common around here for people to commute to D.C., Rockville, and Frederick.  The natives to this area don’t usually fall into the typical West Virginia stereotypes.  They are well educated, have all their teeth, and keep their front porches clean.  However, I gradually noticed some cultural differences just from my short move.

My first keen observation was West Virginia pride.  It is strong.  I realized that I never really had strong Maryland pride, but now I try to have both.  It seems that no matter where you went to school, everyone around here is a huge WVU fan.  You will see their logo everywhere: on many cars, windows, flags…heck, my son (who technically was born in MD even though we lived here) has a WV room complete with the trademark bedspread, flag on the wall, and, for extra male toughness, camouflage touches.  You live here; you ARE a fan.

The Fourth of July was a difference I learned a little later.  For a while, we were still trekking to Frederick for our usual concert series at the park and fireworks--until we got invited to one of our neighbor’s “picnics.”  West Virginians play a game called corn hole (don’t laugh, well, okay, go ahead).  It is a bean bag toss onto a raised wooden board with a hole.  Of course the ones around our parts are decorated with the trademark WV colors, and the homemade models are way cooler.  Anyway, there’s a serious corn hole tournament on the Fourth.  We draw names and get put into brackets.  The retired Wood Shop teacher next door makes official corn hole trophies that are coveted by all participants.  There is a mini ceremony to present them (yes, they wondered why the ESPN truck was not present).  As the kids swim, we play corn hole, eat ribs, and listen to loud music.

But watch out when it gets dark.

That’s when the crazy WV fun begins.  Fireworks are brought out that were purchased in Chambersburg, PA.  They are the good ones.  They are illegal.  Nobody cares.  Sure enough, grown men find it their duty and greatest pleasure to put on a fireworks display right on their driveway.  I stand amazed at the beauty and intensity, stunned by the pounding boom in my chest, and worried that we all might catch on fire.  As I look around, many surrounding neighbors are doing the same thing.  It’s really quite beautiful and surreal.  I could go on and on, but I need to get to my point.

One of our elders preached a good sermon on 1 Kings 19:1-18.  This is when Elijah was at about the end of his rope.  He was on the run to save his life, and at the same time asking God to take his life.  After his miracles professing the true God and his ministry as a prophet, Elijah felt like he was no more effective than those who went before him.  Mike focused on encouragement as a major application of this text.  In fact, through sleep, strength (food), and a personal encounter, God encouraged Elijah.

During the sermon, I got to thinking about being a Marylander in WV.  I also thought about being a Christian in this world.  Although I’ve been living here for seven years, I still consider myself a Marylander.  Will I ever move back to MD?  Who knows.  But I do know that I am a pilgrim wherever I live.  My true destination is a new heavens and a new earth.  And just like my awesome WV friends, I have some peculiar marks as a Christian.  Christians are stereotyped as uptight and judgmental.  Just like my WV buds, we have to work even harder sometimes to debunk our bad rap sheet.  Are we known for our encouragement?  And is our encouragement in Christ?

In Mike’s Sermon, I was encouraged by Christ, the true prophet who was killed on our behalf.  We are his beloved, to whom he gives strength.  Like Elijah, we are fed by his presence through the Lord’s Supper.  And we wait, we long, for that personal encounter.  Those fireworks reminded me of the strong wind, earthquakes, and fire that preceded God’s encounter with Elijah.  But it was his tender, merciful, small voice that made Elijah aware that he was in the presence of God.  And that is the age in which we now live--the age of God’s grace.  May we continue to encourage each other of this marvelous news.  And like Elijah, be encouraged to continue in our pilgrimage because it is not our work, but Christ’s.  May my West Virginia front porch be one of encouragement.

Posted on Sunday, July 03, 2011 by Aimee Byrd on Housewife Theologian

So I have like three Reading Reflections orbiting around my brain right now.  As I was asking myself which one I wanted to consummate, I had a reflection on reading.  All this talk I’ve done on the rise of ebooks lately got me thinking about the future for reading.  Right now, we have technology moving faster than the publishers can keep up with.  But where is it going?

Much cyber-ink has been spilled about the changes in today’s reader.  With the information age explosion, readers are really becoming skimmers.  There’s just so much to consume.  Many readers spend just seconds on a blog article(are you still with me?).  The attention span is short these days.  There are numerous casualties of this reality.  We have fewer deep thinkers.  Less reflections.  Information has become a commodity.  Adler &  Van Doren must be upset over the lack of syntopical readers.  Are we becoming any wiser or just obese with information?

Two years ago I would have laughably dismissed anyone who suggested blogging to me.  Why are so many people blogging?  Because there are reflectors out there—and they like to blog…and read…and read blogs.  I've already written an article about the invisible audience, which you can read here.  It hit me in my shower today that the future of reading might put the invisible audience right into the book.  If ebooks and the internet marry, would they have bloggie babies? 

We already promote study groups and discussion along with reading these days by incorporating questions at the end of chapters.  What if these became interactive comments?  Anyone reading the same book could have immediate discussion.  Authors will have immediate feedback.

I don’t know if I like where this is going.  Obviously I like blogging.  I even like cyber-discussions.  But I hope we don’t ever dismiss the value of sitting back and letting our book soak in.  Soak into our day, our cup of coffee, our afternoon errands…our night of sleep.  Sometimes (a lot of the time) we need to just chew on our thoughts and our new perspective before commenting, critiquing, and offering our opinions.  That’s the delight of a book club or review.  We have padding, margins in our thought processes that allow them to ripen a bit before offered.  This is the same reason why I try to write a post at least a day before hitting the “publish” button.

And, maybe for another post, how will this affect the way author’s write?

What do you think?

Posted on Friday, July 01, 2011 by Aimee Byrd on Housewife Theologian

My pastor asked me to “fix up” the church library.  It was in need of some updating, and hasn’t really even been used much lately.  When my daughter, Solanna, and I first meandered in the modest space, she proclaimed her obvious reason for its abandonment: “Ooh! This place majorly needs new carpet!”  Well, that’s not in the budget, but the elders were happy to let me order a beginning installment of new books.  That’s like giving a five-year-old a twenty dollar bill and free reign in a candy store.  Things were looken’ up!

…until I took a look around.  About 25% of the library space was filled with media—not the kind of media you’re thinking.  There were numerous shelves overtaken by cassette tape collections of audio studies and sermons, as well as an extensive VHS collection.    The carpet was starting to look pretty.

I already knew that my version of updating with printed books is becoming everyone else’s dinosaur.  Future church libraries, if they keep them, will probably have more e-readers than printed books.  That saddens me a bit.  As I looked around, packing up large containers full of Veggie Tales and Ligonier cassette studies, I found I was amongst a cloud of witnesses that went before me.  I dusted off many treasures that have surely passed through hands of members from our church who are now with the Lord.  E-reader’s can’t offer this kind of intimacy.

I’m really hoping I can revive the community that a library offers in my church.  As you suggest and lend books, you share more than just knowledge.  Seth Godin made a good point that the librarian is an important tool in which we need to keep.  My school librarians were always kind of intimidating; and the Dewey Decimal system made me cringe.  I’m happy to say goodbye to the card catalog. 

With the internet and interactive ebooks, today’s reader can conduct quick, independent research.  Tim Challies talks a lot about how these mediated devices of technology have isolated their owners. 

We might have magical books, but we’re losing magical rooms.

Here is the challenge for the church librarian.  Can we act as a human mediator of reading material?  Can I get to know my fellow congregants better to understand their reading needs?  Am I researched enough to know what is available to them?  Can I connect them with other people in the church who may help, or have similar interests?  Can I get the younger crowd to look passed the ugly carpet and see the magical room?

Many churches today have some sort of coffee-room to encourage community.  I’m a lover of all rooms with coffee.  But I think we are missing the point.  Coffee rooms in churches are usually missing the barista.  And my church library has been missing a librarian.  Hopefully I can focus on using my resources to point our small covenant community to the Ultimate Mediator, Jesus Christ.  Technology changes the usefulness of VHS and cassette tapes.  But even if we do ever have the resources for ipads and Kindles, I’m also holding onto many of the treasures I found that will never lose value.  And look out Pilgrim Presbyterian people; I’m going to be looking for your hands to put them in.

My Inspiration:

Miss Loon is our librarian, She hides behind the shelves, And often cries out. “Louder!” When we’re reading to ourselves.

(Hooray for Diffendoofer Day!, Dr. Suess, Jack Prelutsky & Lane Smith)

Posted on Thursday, June 30, 2011 by Aimee Byrd on Housewife Theologian

You’re familiar with the question: What’s the first thing you grab to save if your house is on fire (assuming your precious children are safe)?  Of course, every decent mother and woman in general will go for her pictures.  The digital age has made this a much easier task.  We can easily stick our hard drive and camera in our pockets.

Great!  My hands are still free!  But my trouble is just beginning…

I have not crossed over to the digital age of books.  Nor do I really want to.  My next article discusses that in further detail.  But as I was putting my thoughts together for that article, the horrifying fire question haunted me again.  My daily workouts will not prove as adequate training for running from a burning house while carrying Calvin’s Commentaries.  And that is only one important shelf from my library.  I must rescue Spurgeon’s two volume autobiography!  He was my companion throughout my pregnancy with my son.  Of course I have his sermons, including the Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit collection handed down from my granddaddy.  And I can’t leave behind my first systematic theology books!  Grudem, Hodge, and Berkof taught me so much in my formative theological transitioning years.  And Edwards!  I slaved over reading that tiny print while trying to find a comfortable position holding a volume as big as that family-super-size-Bible (you know, the one our parents displayed on the coffee table).  Sproul helped feed me the baby food of reformed theology, while Horton refined me with the covenantal meal.  And then there’s Schaeffer’s works that were there for me when I needed to articulate my college experiences and cultural questions.  I must rescue all my friends!!  All the marks I made on those pages…the coffee stains in the paper, and the crumbs in the bindings, each with their own smell and feel—how can I digitize that?

So, if anybody wants to invent one of those force-fields that I see in all my son’s superhero cartoons, I would be much obliged.  Or, maybe I could get a pair of those jet-propelled shoes he always talks about.  Although, I suppose it wouldn’t be wise to use jet-propelled shoes in a fire.  I bet Thing One and Thing Two would be real helpful for saving a bunch of books in a pinch.  They could juggle them all while running on a playground ball.   Needless to say, you Kindle and iPad owners probably have far less fire anxiety than me!

Posted on Wednesday, June 29, 2011 by Aimee Byrd on Housewife Theologian

The Screwtape Letters, C.S. Lewis (Lord and King Assoc., Inc., 1976)

This passage came to my mind after I wrote my last article, so I dug it up as I found it to be fitting.  If you are not familiar with this book, Screwtape is a type of devil, or demon, who is mentoring a younger demon, Wormwood.  So when he mentions the Enemy, he is speaking of God.

The humans live in time but our Enemy destines them to eternity.  He therefore, I believe, wants them to attend chiefly to two things, to eternity itself, and to that point of time which they call the Present.  For the Present is the point at which time touches eternity.  Of the present moment, and of it only, humans have an experience analogous to the experience which our Enemy has of reality as a whole; in it alone freedom and actuality are offered them.  He would therefore have them continually concerned either with eternity (which means being concerned with Him) or with the Present—either meditating on their eternal union with, or separation from, Himself, or else obeying the present voice of conscience, bearing the present cross, receiving the present grace, giving thanks for the present pleasure. (77)

Time is such a controlling part of our lives that it is hard to fathom eternity.  Think for a moment about the present being the point which touches eternity.  Do you get where Lewis was going with that idea?  That’s how I felt about my weekend away (see last post).  Sometimes it requires a step back from our schedule to take in the actual life that you are living.  This is also why church is such a refuge of the future breaking into the present for us.  Every Sunday morning we are a part of a covenant renewal ceremony, partaking in a communal worship of our God and Savior.  The gospel message preached stays the same, as it proclaims the truth about our Creator, our sinful condition, and his redeeming love.  Eternity is presented in our present time for either its horror, if you are not a believer, or its rapturous beauty for those united to Christ.  This day of rest is a present pleasure our good Lord has provided to point toward the eternal rest we will have in Christ our beloved.

Posted on Monday, June 27, 2011 by Aimee Byrd on Housewife Theologian

June 27th marks my husband Matt and I’s 14th wedding anniversary.  For the 3rd year in a row, we celebrated with a weekend B&B stay in Solomon’s Island, Maryland.  For those of you unfamiliar with Solomon’s, it is a simple little town with an area of less than 2 miles of land where the Patuxent River and the Chesapeake Bay meet.  That’s what we love about it.  It’s a place for us to get away from our busyness, and just wander around.  Basically, the best part is waking up and saying, “What do you want to do today?”  We already know the answer to that question.

We wake up to the most delicious breakfast prepared by our fabulous, hippie-like host Amanda (who was trained at La Cordon Bleu in Paris, as well as the Culinary Institute in NY).  Then we wander the streets and several shops for a while before our bike ride.  Once we hop on our bikes, our goal is to find the other side of the river while checking out all the local houses.  This time we found an unfinished road that made the ride interesting.  We grab some lunch and then walk over to the notorious Tiki Bar to mingle with bikers, mariners, middle-agers, and barely 21-year-olds.  It’s an eclectic bunch.  After hanging out at the pool for a while, we walk on over to our favorite place for dinner.  It’s not the restaurant on the pier that attracts most tourists.  This place doesn’t have the greatest atmosphere, but has the best food by far.  Every time we leave, I am convinced I had the best dinner of my life.  On our walk back to The Blue Heron, Matt stops for a snow cone while I’m clutching my Styrofoam to-go box with a fabulous secret inside—chocolate canoli cake.  I indulge myself in chocolate bliss while we sit on the balcony watching all the boats at night.

I’m convinced the Lord makes that day longer for us.  It feels so good to get away from the ordinary and celebrate my marriage with my husband.  Removed from our scheduled demands, we just take pleasure in being together.  Turns out I still really like hanging out with him.  And now that I’m back home with the memory, the analogies come flooding…

I’m thinking of that day when our Great Husband gathers his bride for our new home.  The mystery of the new heavens and the new earth occupies our imagination as we serve and enjoy this earth now knowing two things: 1) God created it and called it good, and, 2) It has been horribly corrupted by sin.  As we groan with creation for our glorification in resurrected bodies on a new, heavenly earth, time is both a friend and an enemy.  It is our friend in its sign towards God’s patience with us.  And hey, we all have moments that we DO want to come to an end.  But we are always fighting time.  Our bodies’ age, we miss deadlines, and that alarm clock (or 3rd born child) is so unforgiving. 

But that weekend with my husband made me think of the joy we will have in heaven with our Great Husband.  Imagine joy in eternity--joy without time to end it.  Sure, our purpose now is to glorify God and enjoy him forever; but we will perfectly be able to do this in the age to come.  This joy will be untainted by sin, shared by bikers and mariners and housewives.  Jesus frequently mentioned a great heavenly feast being prepared for his bride.  Will there be chocolate canoli cake?  I can’t say, but it will be the best dinner I ever ate.  And so will the one after that…

But just like my trip with Matt, the blessing won’t be the meal, or even our new heavenly home.  Jesus Christ is the blessing, and he will have finally come, in perfect time, for his bride.  Imagine serving in the moment, being able to worship our Creator and Redeemer without an end—WITHOUT AN END! 

Solomon’s is nothing like heaven.  Or maybe it is a little.  It certainly bears a lover’s name.  Anyway, as Matt and I were leaning against the rail of the boardwalk, watching a wave from a speedboat crash into the rocks, I told him, “If I ever die, I want you to remarry—but don’t ever take her here!”  Solomon’s is our place. 

Jesus is now preparing a place for his bride.  And I can’t wait to go there.

Posted on Saturday, June 25, 2011 by Aimee Byrd on Housewife Theologian

Servanthood as Worship, Nate Palmer (Cruciform Press, 2010)

My favorite part of this short read was the appendix, A Brief History of Service in the Church.  I kind of wish it was the first chapter.  Anyway, I really liked what Palmer had to say about self-control:

Self-control is often seen in our culture as simply the suppression of less-noble desires, something that helps us with weight loss, a bad temper, or an addiction.  In this view, self-control is essentially a negative thing: “I will not do this or that.”

In the biblical view, however, self-control has two components, one positive and one negative, with the positive component actually being far more important.  Biblical self-control is far more about saying Yes to God, his commands, and his ways.  It is not fundamentally an exercise for personal power for the sake of a personal agenda.  It is fundamentally a surrender to God’s power for the sake of his agenda—a positive act of reliance on God’s strength, so we can live and serve as our Master calls us to.

For the Christian, therefore, self-control involves obeying God (a positive act) so that we might get better at disobeying our sinful nature (a negative act).  If we exercise and eat right simply so we can look better, we merely change one self-desire (food and comfort) for a different self-desire (vanity).  True self-control is not about exchanging one personal desire for another, but exchanging our desires for God’s (75-76).

For servanthood to be worshipful, it has to be in subjection to God.  Palmer points out how selfish desires strangle true service to others.  How often do we encourage the wrong kind of self-control?  I know this was a great reminder for me not to leave one idol for another.  Come to think of it, the first version isn’t really possible.  This is why we fail so often in our attempts for personal reform.  If we merely replace one selfish desire for another, our sin only magnifies and we are working against God’s gracious work on the cross.  The gospel truly transforms service.

Posted on Thursday, June 23, 2011 by Aimee Byrd on Housewife Theologian

[caption id="attachment_339" align="alignleft" width="259" caption="Are you really watching your kids?"][/caption]

Reading Tim Keller’s Prodigal God provoked me to think more deeply about my own rebellion.  It’s also got me thinking more about the way I parent.  We don’t want our children to fall into a sinful lifestyle, and we surely are responsible to keep them safe.  Yet, in this mission of parenthood, we are so quick to label one type of behavior rebellious, and another as pleasing.

Certain behavior is just labeled bad so we give our children a list of things to avoid as they’re beginning to make decisions on their own.  Did anyone grow up with the aphorism: Don’t drink, dance, do drugs, or run with boys who do?  Some who were raised under this tutelage jokingly refer to it as the eleventh commandment.  However, we all tend to add our own rules to the Bible’s precepts because of the principles in which they point.  God’s word teaches temperance and purity.  Since the body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, we are not to defile it.  But I fear that my children will just look to these markers as signs of rebellion without sharpening their discernment skills.  Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want my girls “running with” boys who carry on drinking, smoking, and the like.  But this is only one means of expressing teenage rebellion. 

There is another danger.  This danger appears praiseworthy in reputation.  Its poison is subtle but the more it’s tasted, the more they may crave.  Like a moth to the flame we get sucked into the light of self-righteousness.  I am speaking of the horror of the good kid.  The good kid is like the older brother in the parable of the Prodigal Son.  He was a rule follower.  But the older brother’s heart was exposed when his father lovingly embraced the younger, repentant, sinful brother and prepared a feast to celebrate.   As it turns out, the older brother was also rebellious.  His good works were the means in which he rebelled against his father’s grace.  Keller explains that there are two ways to run from God: by being bad, and by being good.  The gospel can be even more offensive to the self-righteous.   Like the older son, we can try to accumulate a resume for ourselves and be deceived into thinking God owes us in some way.  In his book, Keller explains that the Father is the true prodigal—the one who has extravagantly spent everything.

In my parenting, I definitely need to have rules and boundaries for my children.  But they are not the ends in themselves.  It’s so easy to heap praise on my kids when they are making good decisions.  Nonetheless, I don’t want good behavior to be my ultimate goal in parenting.  I want my kids to know the One who is truly good, Jesus Christ.  Do I have a formula for this kind of parenting? Nope.  In fact, I fall on my face continually, which leads me to two tips:

  1. Hear the gospel message.
  2. Teach the gospel message.

We all need it.  Everyday.  Unfortunately, my heart is also rebellious.  Even as a recipient of God’s grace, I need to be reminded of His glorious work over and over again.  The more I grow in his grace, the more I realize that I am totally dependent on my Savior for everything.  I don’t want my kids to be fooled into thinking that I’ve arrived somewhere close to the pinnacle of my good life.  I want them to know that Christ is the source of all good. 

Don’t forget, even the good kid needs the gospel—maybe even more so.  May we always be thinking of creative ways to teach it to our children in all their stages of life.   

Reflection: Luke 15: 11-32