An Anxiety Update

I’ve alluded to the fact that I’ve been suffering with generalized anxiety disorder.  In fact, 2017 has been a long and often disappointing year for me.  I’ll be glad when we flip past January into the hopefulness of a new year.  Things are looking up a little, but my anxiety has waxed and waned in ways that have occasionally taken me by surprise.

When I was reading David Powlison’s How Does Sanctification Work?I found a quote that I wrote down. I’ve been pulling it out and mediating on the words from time to time, letting them seep down deeply into my soul. This is the quote:

I learned to identify specific situational triggers for my anxiety. I learned how anxiety presumes a great distance between God and my present concerns. I learned how anxiety puts distance between me and others—it is the opposite of loving people. I learned to identify deviant motives: self-trust, over concern for the opinions of others, desire to control outcomes, love of ease–all these erase God and make this my universe not his.

Some days I struggle and feel weighted down.  I struggle to believe that God cares or is near to me.  Other days I know that God is near to the broken hearted.  I come to him broken, begging for healing and knowing that this struggle is in my life because he appointed to be for my sanctification.

I’m learning.  I’m making progress.  I’m not there yet. However, I’m still in the struggle, and I’m still happy to be able to wrestle.  Even happier on the days that I see God and am able to find that I trust in his sovereignty and in his care for me. These days are outnumbering the bad days most of the time right now.  I’m not healed yet, but sometimes I am seeing how the healing is working in my life, and how I am cracked and yet beautiful.

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The Scope and Purpose of Theology

As I continue to study theology and to work my way through Biblical Doctrine, I have decided, in the interest of reading broadly and allowing myself to experience different positions, to work in different authors and resources to work through and to learn more about theology.

So, in the interest of broadening my understanding of what theology is, I decided that right now is the perfect opportunity to read R.C. Sproul’s Everyone’s a TheologianIt’s a miniature work compared to Biblical Doctrine at a mere 339 pages of text.  (The print and spacing is also not quite as teensy as the format of Biblical Doctrine.)

I do have two caveats about Sproul before we get started, and then I won’t mention them from here on forward.  (1) Sproul is a reformed theologian and one of the biggest apologists for Calvinism in modern theology.  If you are wanting to completely avoid reformed theology, he’s not an author you will want to read.  (2) I sometimes disagree violently with Sproul and his ideas, but I have never found engaging with his ideas anything less than worthwhile endeavor, and I consider him to be an excellent and learned Christian.

With that out of the way, let’s talk about theology.

Sproul discusses the value of theology, much as I have over numerous blog posts, so you know that we both consider studying theology to be of great value.  In fact, Sproul goes so far as to say,

Theology is unavoidable for every Christian. It is our attempt to understand the truth that God has revealed to us–something every Christian does. So it is not a question of whether we are going to engage in theology; it is a question of whether or theology is sound or unsound.

Along the way, Sproul asserts that that theology is a science.  Science comes from the Latin word that means “knowledge,” so he feels that since theology is an -ology of God that it is similar to the quest for knowledge in biology or in physics.  I don’t think I buy that argument for because of points that Sproul makes further along in the text.  For example, he mentions that in sciences like physics we find anomalies that can’t be explained by current scientific theory.  In those cases, sometimes new scientific theories contain a huge paradigm shift that completely changes the way we view science.

On the other hand, theology doesn’t have that.  Instead changes in theology seem to come from two errors.  First, people might be trying to make the Bible conform to current cultural ideas. Second, if we segment the scriptures too deeply, we might find ourselves developing contradictions that don’t exist if we take the scriptures as a whole.

Both of these errors are ones that I have seen, however, as we become more invested in how differently theology and a science like biology works, I think we can rule theology out as a science in the same way that physics or chemistry is. Instead, we should ascribe a great weight to the words of God and remember that we have the answers in front of us theology.  Unlike in biology or chemistry, we don’t have to wonder the answers to our questions.

(I’ll be back soon with more consideration of Sproul.)

Becoming Momstrong

Becoming Momstrong: How to Fight with All That's in You for Your Family and Your FaithBecoming Momstrong: How to Fight with All That’s in You for Your Family and Your Faith by Heidi St. John
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I have been familiar with Heidi St. John’s work for a while. I’ve listened to her podcast off-and-on, followed her on Facebook and read her Busy Mom’s Guide to Daylight and Busy Mom’s Guide to Romance.

So, when I heard that Becoming Momstrong was being released, I immediately pre-ordered it. I know that it was a book that I was going to like. I was not wrong.

In Becoming Momstrong, St. John is the chatty mentor that every woman is always looking for. She turns her experienced eye on facing your fears, being willing to do the difficult thing, staying aways from drama, building your mom tribe and many other topics related to motherhood and raising a family. She shares both the good and the bad in her life, and her tone is both warm and witty. I often found myself chuckling at the humor that she had found in her story, even as I groaned at the idea that I wouldn’t have handled myself with as much grace.

Another thing that I loved about St. John’s book is how she pointed us to the Bible. She reminded us that God’s word is to be the foundation of our lives and of our parenting. She reminds us that good parenting and Biblical parenting aren’t something that is just going to happen in our lives. We must be intentional if we are to be the parents that God has called us to be.

Although St. John is still in the trenches of day-to-day parenting, she has seen the end of the parenting journey with her older children, and she is even a grandmother. Because of this she has a unique perspective on parenting, reminding us of how important it is to stay engaged, even when all you want to do is to check out and let the television babysit. She reminds us of the joy of having children who walk in the Lord, and she reminds us of how short our active parenting time is. She also reminds us that we are raising not just our children, but the parents of the next generation, in fact, we are raising the parents of our own grandchildren.

That’s a thought that may have to sink in for a while. She’s reminded me of the urgency of good parenting, and she’s reminded me of the importance of my role, not just in the right now, but also in how my parenting will affect future generations. Along the way, she examines many pitfalls along the way, and I felt like my perspective on my own importance as a parent and how crucial my job is has been truly changed by reading this book.

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Three Things a Woman Can Do that a Man Can Not

Lately, Emalee has struggled reading the Bible.  She has struggled with ideas in Genesis, such as the idea that man was created before the woman.  The has struggled with the idea that woman was created out of the man and to be the man’s help.  She worries that God does not value women as much as he values men.

I can’t completely assay her fears, but I could say that I Corinthians 11:7 says, For a man indeed ought not to cover his head, forasmuch as he is the image and glory of God: but the woman is the glory of the man.  I don’t think that being the “glory of the man” is a bad break.  It sounds like a place of value to me.  She seemed okay with that for now, but I know that it won’t be long until the questions and struggle are back.

Because of that I wanted to quickly jot down three things that a woman can do that a man can not do.  I got these from one of the When We Understand the Text podcasts, but I can’t actually remember which one right now.  If I can, I’ll link the specific podcast.

First, a woman can be a mother.  She can carry a child and give birth.  She can nurture a child and have the primary role in her life of carrying out the day-to-day raising of the child.  As a mother, I have the joy of being with my children every day, of influencing their lives and of helping to educate them in the fear and admonition of the Lord.  It’s a big responsibility and privilege. It’s not something I take lightly, and as I mother my children, I find myself raising the parents of my grandchildren, affecting hopeful generations far into the future.

The second thing a woman can do that a man cannot is to show humility and submissiveness.  Although a man, of course, shows submission to the Lord, only a woman is given the distinct role of submitting to her very own husband.  Coming under a flawed human’s leadership places you in a role of humility and has you occasionally taking a backseat on decisions made in issues that are important to you.  I work on this, and I struggle continually with my pride and my need to be right, and I don’t always submit to my husband’s leadership with grace.  However, the practice is good for me, and it gives me the practice I need to make it ever more easier to submit to the Lord.

The third thing that I can do that a man cannot do is to be a mentor to another woman.  I also have the opportunities to receive guidance and advice from another female mentor. Titus 2:3-5 tells me that my responsibility is to give and receive guidance in these areas:

The aged women likewise, that they be in behaviour as becometh holiness, not false accusers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things; That they may teach the young women to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children, To be discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God be not blasphemed.

I can only pray that I am a good mentor and that I receive advice from the other ladies that have much advice to give me well. The woman’s world is very different from the men’s world and so much depends on relationship in a woman’s life.  Seeing that my special abilities are all connected to relationship is something that truly thrills me, and I hope that as my daughter grows and matures it will be a place of happiness to her instead of a place where she compares herself negatively to a man.

The Spiritual Value of Sound Doctrine

This year has been a nice intersect in my life because I have spent a lot of time obsessively reading about Henry VIII and about the Reformation.  I started with Henry the VIII, and then I found myself drawn to the Reformation because there’s no way to fully appreciate Henry and his successors without understanding the dynamic of the Reformation and how it played out in England.

Henry, while believing he was the supreme authority over the church in England, persecuted both protestants and catholics fairly equally.  It’s a very interesting dynamic because you find him persecuting such diverse theologians as the catholic Thomas More and the protestant William Tyndale.  Just let that sink in for a moment to remind you of how unsound Henry’s doctrine was, and how bankrupt his resulting moral fiber is.  As MacArthur and Mayhue say in Biblical Doctrine, “the absence of sound doctrine and the presence of false doctrine will always lead to sinful behavior.”

2 Timothy 3:16-17 tells us

All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:  That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.

This reminds us that sound doctrine is important because it defines truth and error.  Through sound doctrine we are perfected or matured into more righteous people.  Sound doctrine gives us the foundation we need for correcting our errors i thinking and behaving so that we can please God. It reproves our sin and shows us our false thinking and our disobedience. It instructs us on how to sin less and obey God more.

Knowing what the Bible says and having sound doctrine protects us from false teachers.  That may be one of the biggest benefits of doctrine to my life right now.  Titus 1:9 says:

Holding fast the faithful word as he hath been taught, that he may be able by sound doctrine both to exhort and to convince the gainsayers.

I pray for those who hold to false doctrines to have their eyes opened to see the truth of God’s word and for them to see truth and sound doctrine.  I hope that, by studying doctrine, I will be more prepared to take my real life and the real lives of those who I interact with who are non-Christians to the truth of scripture.  I pray to be able to use my knowledge of doctrine to be able to speak into people’s lives.

Sound Teaching

As I was reading through Biblical Doctrine this week, I found a quote that really sticks with me and shows me the importance of sound teaching.

The Teaching of Scripture serves as the yardstick, gauge, standard, paradigm, pattern, measure, and plumb line by which all other teaching on any given subject is determined to be true or false, received or rejected, sound or unsound, orthodox or heretical.

That is the application of why I study.  I want to recognize sound doctrine. I want to teach sound doctrine.  I need to always remember that my teaching serves as someone’s yard stick for life. No wonder James tells teachers in James 3:1

My brethren, be not many masters, knowing that we shall receive the greater condemnation.

I stand convicted.

When I Want to Check Out

Sometimes four children seem like a lot. A lot of noise. A lot of needs. A lot of personalities. A lot of fighting. A lot of testing every single boundary.

I don’t want to overlook the fact that four children also equal a lot of love. It’s not the love that sometimes makes me feel like I’m on the edge though.

Sometimes I get very tired.

Sometimes it seems easier to let my four precious children, who I love, play their video games while I retreat into my book or my computer and have an escape.

Sometimes I do that.

Then, I realize that I’ve checked out.  That’s not what I want for them.  I want to be a parent who leans in and is engaged.

It is not loving my children when I check out and just give them what they want.  It is the opposite of love.

The Bible tells us the story of a little boy whose daddy checked out.  His name was Adonijah, and his story is told in the book of I Kings.  If you want to read the story, it’s in I Kings 1:1-14.

We are told in I Kings 1:6 that

And his father had not displeased him at any time in saying, Why hast thou done so? and he also was a very goodly man; and his mother bare him after Absalom.

His father never displeased him.  His father never asserted his will. His father never even questioned why Adonijah made the decisions that he made.  This didn’t seem to be a problem until his father, King David, grew old and needed to name his heir.

Adonijah decided that is should be him and had his friends name him King, even though David had appointed his son Solomon to be king.  To make a long story short, the spoiled little boy who wanted to be king was executed by Solomon because Solomon couldn’t trust him not to rebel against his rule.

After all Adonijah had never had to obey David.  Why would he obey a king that he had plotted to supplant.

Sometimes I don’t want to discipline.  Sometimes I just want to let things slide and to keep the peace. Then I remember that I am responsible before God for training my children in righteousness.  That doesn’t mean that they’ll turn out perfect.  After all, the results are up to God.  This does mean that I can’t check out, and that I must be engaged.

Author’s note: I was reminded of the story of Adonijah through Heidi St. John’s new book, Becoming Mom Strong.  I will never forget the first time I heard this story through her podcast, and the weight of conviction I had for not doing my job. I am thankful for the opportunity to read this story and contemplate it again as I have read through St. John’s book.