Surely He Has Borne Our Griefs

31.days.

Day Five

My journey through 31 Days to Deeper Faith continues. I discovered this beautiful drawing (below) from Adam Ford. I wanted to share it with you because I believe it captures so perfectly the atoning work of Christ.

Regardless of your crisis, you can have a deeper faith. Simply meditate on the finished work of Christ.

He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces, he was despised, and we esteemed him not.

Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed. (Isaiah 53:3-5, ESV, emphasis mine)

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Pressing In

Day Three

I have pretty painful tendonitis in my achilles tendons on both heels.

It can catch me off guard if I stand after sitting for awhile or sometimes when I wake in the morning. Getting moving can be rough.

I asked the doctor about it and she advised that I stretch my legs—specifically, those tendons on each heel—regularly. And I do try.

But I find that I’ll go a few days without stretching, and then the pain is almost unbearable when I get up and start walking.

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Talking to Myself

31.days.

Day Two

I talk to myself a lot.

Maybe most people do and they don’t admit it. Or maybe most people don’t and therefore have nothing to admit.

But I proclaim loudly that I talk to myself—out loud—and it helps me. It helps me be a better writer and a better student. It helps me sort out life.

Sometimes, though, talking to myself is self-destructive. I’m pretty good at beating myself up and noticing my flaws (I am a former perfectionist, you know—ahem).

And when tragedy strikes, I find that talking to myself becomes a raw discovery of who God is and what he’s doing.

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31 Days to a Deeper Faith: Seeking God While Surviving a Crisis

writingmomof3.com

I recently re-discovered the Nesting Place blog and noticed that she was hosting a “31 Days” Blogging Challenge.

I had been looking for something to motivate me to write more regularly, and I thought this challenge would be a good one for consistency.

Right now, my husband is unemployed due to a crazy string of events. God is moving us through a trying time and teaching us all sorts of things about himself, ourselves, and our faith.

I thought this topic would be a good one to explore from various angles for 31 days.

Join me, won’t you? Let’s discover together what it’s like to really seek God’s will in the middle of a crisis. When you are faced with struggles and hardship, how does your faith deepen? What does God teach us when we are stripped of all our comforts and crutches?

For background, read this post first: The Job Saga of 2013.

As I blog each day, I’ll post the link below so you can simply check back to this post.

I’m excited to spend October pursuing the heart of God.

Day One

31 Days to a Deeper Faith: Seeking God While Surviving a Crisis

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Disclosure: I am not a medical doctor. Any statements made on this blog about essential oil use are not meant to treat, diagnose, or cure any condition. My statements about essential oils are my opinion and are based upon my own experiences and research.

I occasionally feature affiliate links in my blog posts. Should you follow my link and make a purchase or join a membership website, I will be compensated for my referral.

The Job Saga of 2013

So, it’s been three years since I’ve blogged here and you’d think I would choose some happy or funny or thought-provoking post to “resurrect” my entries.

But, no. See, I’ve begun a few of those posts but haven’t finished them quite yet.

Instead, I choose to tell you a long tale of misery and woe, of lies and deceit, of hope and peace.

Hmmm …. sounds like a plot line for a daytime soap, doesn’t it?

The Short Version

For those of you who just want the facts, here they are:

Chris received a signed offer letter and accepted a job offer in mid-July with a start date of August 1. His start date was repeatedly pushed back with excuse after excuse until it was September 8. After talking with the VP, he discovered that the job did not exist and the offer letter was a forged fake.

So, Chris needs a new job with full benefits, a robust salary, stability, and a future.

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Disclosure: I am not a medical doctor. Any statements made on this blog about essential oil use are not meant to treat, diagnose, or cure any condition. My statements about essential oils are my opinion and are based upon my own experiences and research.

I occasionally feature affiliate links in my blog posts. Should you follow my link and make a purchase or join a membership website, I will be compensated for my referral.

I Belong

God’s been dealing with me lately about the idols of my heart—those things that I tend to value more than him. Those things that tend to thrill my soul when all is going “right.” And those things that tend to send me to the pit of depression when all is going “wrong.” 
I suppose that this self-examination may not make sense to one who is not a Christian, since you probably assign “good” things the attribute of “good” (a new job is “good”; a new baby is “good”) and “bad” things the attribute of “bad,” right (losing one’s job is “bad”; experiencing a miscarriage is “bad”)? But in your heart of hearts can you admit that even the “good” things—even when they are cranked up to the highest level—don’t ultimately satisfy? 
That restless longing is because we were created for more than a superficial affection for “stuff.” We were created for communion. And the only way to experience that true, eternal communion is by devotedly loving Jesus.
I belong to Christ. I am his. And since I am his, he doesn’t tolerate being second or third on the list of my interests. No. He commands first place. When I deny him his rightful claims on my life and chase after empty idols, I’m left broken, confused, and exhausted. 
What does this look like in my life? 
I desire comfort and security more than trusting in Christ. I desire accolades and recognition more than glorifying God. I desire equity and self-preservation more than following God through a wilderness experience.
 
But the Bible tells me over and over that the Christian life is one of ownership, discipleship, sacrifice, and service. Because I belong, I am required to confront those things in my life that cause my heart to wander. Because I belong, I am required to love Christ more than any other earthly thing. Because I belong, I am required to deny my will and embrace God’s will. 
As my pursuit of Christ intensifies, my pursuit of idols will lessen in its attraction. As my hunger for God deepens, “empty calories” will make me sick to my stomach. 
And that peace of God—the peace that passes all understanding—will guard, strengthen, and preserve me because 
“I am not my own, but belong with body and soul,
both in life and in death to my faithful Savior Jesus Christ.”
—from the Heidelberg Catechism, Answer #1
If you want to read more about this topic, I recommend Idols of the Heart by Elyse Fitzpatrick. It is an excellent study!  (Disclosure: I am an Amazon affiliate and do receive a small commission from sales I recommend.)

~~~

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Pat Robertson Explains the Ten Commandments

I must begin this post with a disclaimer.

I never watch Pat Robertson on The 700 Club. Never.

But yesterday, as I was unloading the dishwasher in the kitchen, I turned to Channel 4 for something to listen to.

You see, at that time of morning, I would have ordinarily tuned into The View. But in the kitchen, we don’t have cable and only have the digital converter box—which, incidentally—doesn’t work very well at all. So, the only local channel I get is 4.

Channel 4 is Nashville’s NBC affiliate. I cannot for the life of me figure out how The 700 Club got the mid-morning weekday timeslot. But, anyhoo, someone somewhere is paying big bucks to have Pat Robertson relay his particular stripe of theology to middle Tennessee viewers every day.

I just happened to catch the last minute or so of the program. As I reflect upon those fading seconds of the show, I’m amazed at how few words it takes to butcher so completely a fundamental tenet of basic Christian belief.

But Pat Robertson did. Oh, yes, he did.

I tuned in just as he was answering viewer mail.

A viewer wrote to Pat with this question:
What is the point of the Ten Commandments? No one can keep them all, so I don’t understand why God asked us to try. What do you think, Pat? 

He answered:
That’s nonsense. Of course we can keep them all. The Ten Commandments aren’t all that hard.

Watch the clip below, beginning around the 53-second mark.

Here’s what Robertson should have said (in some form or fashion):

No. We cannot keep The Ten Commandments. Ever. 

Even if we don’t murder, don’t commit adultery, and don’t lie—even if we “do” all things “right” and keep all the outward definitions of the Law, we still fail. 


Why? Because God demands perfection and complete obedience. We are incapable of that. 


Wasn’t this topic primary to Jesus’ ministry? As I recall, Jesus shot down the rich young man—pointing out the greed in his heart, despite his “keeping” the Law. He taught that hatred was the same as murder and lusting was the same as adultery. Jesus was quick to point out the necessity of the Law but he also told us that he was the fulfillment of it! He did it. He kept the Law and he expanded it. 


Now, under the New Covenant instituted by Christ, while believers are still held to God’s unchanging standard, that standard is expanded. It’s not just an outward motion of “keeping” a ritual or “avoiding” something. No, Law-keeping has expanded to the condition of one’s heart, one’s motives, and one’s thoughts. 


Feel defeated yet? Sure, we could stay there in the knowledge of our inability. But, here’s the good news that is the Gospel. Jesus kept the Law and possessed pure thoughts, motives, and attitudes. In Christ, we are seen as him: Law-abiders. We are saved from the Law by grace so that we may desire to keep the Law out of worship (we know it pleases God) and gratitude. 


So what is the purpose of the Law today? Since Jesus kept it, can we just forget it about it since we believe in Christ? 


No. The Law is an aspect of God’s character. If we want to know how to live a life that pleases God, we are required to study his character. It reveals our sin so that we may confess and repent. The Law also foreshadows our Savior, giving us greater insight into him and his work on our behalf

I’m really hoping that Pat Robertson wanted to respond with something like that. I single him out because he has singled himself out. He’s put himself on a syndicated television show, calling himself an “authority.”

The Bible says that teachers will be held to a higher accountability. His answer to a question so fundamental to the proper understanding of law and grace, Christ’s purpose, and the sanctification of the believer is an impromptu misquote at best and a theologically bankrupt and ignorant proclamation at worst. Either way, Pat, you got it wrong.

I had hoped you’d know better.

~~~

If you want to read on this topic further, I beg you to check out the Larger Catechism of The Westminster Confession of Faith (Questions 98-150).

I think Question and Answer #149 sums up the point of this post precisely:

Q. 149. Is any man able perfectly to keep the commandments of God?
A. No man is able, either of himself, or by any grace received in this life, perfectly to keep the commandments of God; but doth daily break them in thought, word, and deed.

This historic document—upon which my denomination is based—is an exhaustive, yet easy-to-understand explanation. After reading through it, you’ll be confronted with your sin, and you’ll never read the Ten Commandments the same way again. 

What do you think of Pat Robertson’s explanation of the Ten Commandments?
How do you regard the Ten Commandments?
~~~

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Life’s Struggles. Hope in Christ.

I’m sitting down to write tonight and just feeling the weight of being a grown-up.

As a child, teen, college student, and even as a young adult, I confronted inevitable tragedies with a hope that things would change and improve. While that is still a somewhat valid coping mechanism, it’s ultimately empty.

That belief places its hope in some nebulous something (what? the future? “life”?) that is fallen, temporary, and unpredictable.

The older I get, the more I realize how empty and futile it is to put my hope in anything in this world.

Within the last couple of weeks, I’ve received all sorts of bad news–sad, heart-breaking, concerning news–from family and friends.

I am faced with so many realities in these sober times.

My loved ones aren’t necessarily going through things that are terribly exceptional. Others have endured similar pain, suffering, and confusion. But their pain is so close.

And it makes me sad.

I am reminded that everything (EVERYthing!) in this world will ultimately disappoint–if not destroy–us.

I can only deal with what “this day” may bring because I have Christ.

So, how do we respond?

  • We must live always with the end in mind. I’m not afraid to die, nor do I dread it. No. I want to more deeply, more consistently, more consciously meditate and long for heaven. I am merely a sojourner here. Understanding our place in this world is central to dealing with suffering.
  • We must not clutch too tightly to the temporary, sin-tainted things of this world. At best, their good qualities are but a fraction of that which awaits us; at worst, they become “little gods” for us and derail us from the whole-hearted devotion to which God calls us.
  • We must prioritize our lives accordingly. One of the most important tasks I see before us Christian parents is to equip our children for their future battles. I don’t know that they will face anything more seemingly insurmountable than other covenant children have faced previously. But I am convicted that we, their parents, are much less prepared to train our children adequately for maturity in the Faith. We must feed our own souls so that we are strengthened to nourish them.
  • We must live in the love of Christ. Jesus has conquered all of this! He has defeated sin, death, sorrow, and suffering. Jesus is the Rest that gives a final relief, a complete comfort, and an everlasting peace.

(I’ve submitted this post to the Blog Nosh Magazine’s Loads of Hope for the Holidays Blog Carnival. Read some of the other carnival entries here.)

Did Jesus Die for Everybody?

Tulip Tuesdays: Calvinism, Part 3, the “L” in TULIP

I’ve had a few questions from friends about my beliefs in Calvinism and what it means to call myself a five-point Calvinist. I’ve decided to devote Tuesdays to exploring my beliefs, outlining them for you here.

Simply, Calvinism can be explained using the acronym, TULIP. Persons who affirm
all five of the points of the acronym, are called “five-point Calvinists.”

Today I continue with the third point: the “L” in TULIP, which stands for “limited atonement.”

If you are visiting for the first time, get caught up by reading the posts on total depravity (“T”), unconditional election (“U”) and some questions and answers on election and predestination.

~~~


If you’ve spent anytime at all in or around the Church—especially in more conservative or evangelical groups—then you are probably quite familiar with the sentiment that “Jesus died for all persons” or “Jesus died for the world.” You may even heartily agree with that yourself.

That, however, is not quite the case. Jesus DIDN’T die for every human being on the planet. In fact, Jesus died only for a select group of people. His atonement was and is “limited” rather than broadly-applicable. (“Limited” refers not to Christ’s power or efficacy but to the number of persons to whom the atonement applies.) It is “particular,” effective for a specific group of persons. It is “definite,” decided by God before the foundation of the world, applicable to the elect.

Limited (or particular or definite) atonement is perhaps the most controversial and debated point of TULIP. Lots of Christians have a hard time believing that Jesus would die for some but not die for others. But consider this:

  • Jesus’ death and resurrection was EFFECTIVE in achieving God’s purpose of redemption.
  • We know that NOT every person goes to Heaven, correct? Some persons are elect; some are not. Some will spend eternity with Jesus; some will spend eternity in torment.


Therefore …


  • If Jesus died for every human being on the planet, but—for whatever reason—even ONE person did not go to Heaven but to Hell, then that makes Jesus’ work on behalf of that one person ineffective and a failure.

Is that a God you want to serve? A God who gets it right 99% of the time?

No. I believe that Christ’s work was ONLY for those who would believe in him. We call those persons the “elect” and know that their faith in God only comes from God. Christ didn’t die for every person and he’s not scratching his head trying to figure out who will accept his offer of life.

I hope you’re beginning to see how all of these points hang together. Because of our total depravity, we cannot “make a decision” for good. God sovereignly and from eternity past, chooses some for election. It is for those elect only that Christ died.

But, Mary! Wait. The Bible says Jesus died for the “whole world.” How do you explain that?

He [Jesus] is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.”

—1 John 2:2 (ESV)


In this context, “whole world” speaks of Christ’s sacrifice being offered not just to John and his readers but to all (the “whole world”). In a previous post, I addressed the role of evangelism for the Calvinist. Christ is still the only way to salvation—the only available atoning sacrifice to the whole world. This language also suggests that salvation in Christ is not exclusive of one ethnic group or race. Salvation has come to every race and nation: the “whole world.” The “whole world” must be told about him. Only the elect will receive him.

As with all things Calvinistic, the doctrine of limited atonement brings me to a place of humility and gratitude. The “narrowing” of the scope of the atonement makes it sweeter to me.

~~~


Next week, we look at “Irresistible Grace”—the “I” in TULIP. I’ve already touched on it as I described Christ’s 100% effectual sacrifice. But we’ll explore more next week the idea that God always “gets his man or woman”!

~~~


Questions? Comments? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Oh, No! That DID NOT Just Happen to Me!

Or …


I’ve finally arrived as a writer/theologian/political commentator since I’m now blackballed.

First, a little background for historical context:

About six years ago, I stumbled upon a small online/email group of women who follow Reformed theology. If you’re not familiar with it and want to know more, read this. Basically, the Presbyterian denominations are based upon it (as is the Presbyterian Church in America, of which I’ve been a member for fifteen years). Reformed tradition holds to the teachings of John Calvin. You may recognize the words, sovereignty of God, predestination, or election. We believe in all of those.

The Reformed denominations can cover a lot of ground and many different nuances. One of the things that most Reformed folk think they’re really good at is grace—and most are. Some, however, can be intolerably narrow-minded even towards their “own like-minded sisters and brothers.”

Anyway, eager for heavy-duty theological discussion, I signed onto this Reformed Women (RW) group. Sometimes interesting topics were discussed with prayer requests added every week. I said my two cents here and there and was always treated cordially. (I did become annoyed with repeated references to political viewpoints during the 2008 election but brushed it aside, just FYI.)

Soon the group expanded to Facebook (FB) and Twitter. I became a member of the group on FB and friended the main moderator and followed her on Twitter.

Well, everything was hunky-dory (you know, we exchanged Scripture, favorite recipes, and family photos) until …

I posted MY OPINION on MY FB PROFILE regarding a recent event that just happened to include George W. Bush.


(If you are reading this on Facebook, you can look back on my profile to read what I’m referencing.)

I saw this article about a Texas school district that refused to air President Obama’s speech to school children last week but are taking school children on school buses to hear President George W. Bush speak. I couldn’t believe the absurdity and hypocrisy. My finger hit the “share on Facebook” button so fast. The inconsistency and contradiction were ridiculous.

And so, with a CLICK, I posted it to my profile. For a split second, I thought, Hmmm. I bet someone will have something to say about this.

It wasn’t long before the moderator of the RW group was begging me to come forward to explain why I had a problem with this. My other friends quickly jumped in to voice their opinions, which matched my opinions exactly.

The RW moderator offended them by insinuating they had not researched the two situations and questioned their faith. Furthermore, she questioned the validity and sincerity of my faith, as well, and invited me to a private exchange via email or the RW group. (Upon reflection, I think she hoped to move the discussion onto her turf where she had more leverage in pummelling my opinions and had more “supporters.” It was obvious that she was outnumbered in the discussion on my profile.)

I quickly explained my position in a fair and bi-partisan manner on my public profile.

This was her response to me:

from Jacy Joypals

This saddens me but I thank you Mary. I think you know after our many years of association where I stand with this. I am praying for you.

And with that condescending remark, our “relationship” was severed.

Blackballed. Kicked out. Cast aside.

She de-friended and BLOCKED me from her FB friend list, removed me from the FB group and her Twitter feed, and removed my blog from the RW blog list. I’m sure she’s already kicked me out of the original email group, but that’s harder for me to figure out (and frankly, I’m tired of investigating this seventh-grade drama).

I see how meaningful “our many years of association” were to her. Hmmph.

The discussion continued with my friends’ (Christians and non-Christians; Reformed believers and others) getting my back. My sweet husband posted a theologically sound defense of my remarks and as one friend noted, “kicked a$$.”

My first reaction was shock. I knew we didn’t see eye-to-eye on some issues, but so what? I never dreamed in a million years that a leader of women’s ministry—who has been in leadership for a few decades—would be so petty and well, just downright mean.

Honestly, though, I’m pleased. Pleased that I have defended my beliefs no matter their unpopularity. I’m pleased that I—usually a real people-pleaser who wants EVERYONE to like her and think she’s smart—didn’t back down when confronted with the possibility of pissing someone off (though I really never dreamed she would go this far).

I am pleased that my writing has elicited such ire and action because I think that means I’m doing and saying something right. Right?

I’m terribly disappointed, though, too. I’m disappointed in her behavior. To cut off all ties with me based on my opinion of a rather insignificant matter is such an immature display. Kind of like a two-year-old’s throwing a tantrum when he or she doesn’t get his or her way.

I think she was gone before she could have seen how much she offended some of my friends, to whom she owes an apology. To judge someone’s faith based on what he or she says on a FB post is—from a logical standpoint—asinine and—from a spiritual standpoint—Pharisaical.

And what of the example she has set of Christianity in her interactions with me? How do her words and actions represent the gospel? Seriously.

I’m appalled that her “true colors” show her to be intolerant of her sister in Christ, judgmental, angry, rash, and legalistic. Love of Christ? Unity of the body? Peace and purity of the Church? Uh-hum. I *think* I’ve read a little something about those somewhere along the way.

No wonder people leave the Church, labeling us intolerant, opinionated hypocrites.

Sadly, no wonder.