Will Blogging About Me Honor Him?

Writers, if they take their craft seriously, read others who write in the same genre. That being the case, I find myself reading a lot of blogs, finding both styles of blogging/writing and current topics. Although my blogrolls on this blog are copious, I read well beyond their scope, although I still major in reading blogs from a Reformed perspective.

In the past couple of weeks, several women within the circle of Reformed bloggers have been writing about the need for and importance of “mature” woman bloggers. By “mature,” they mean women in their forties. That tickles me, since I’m in my sixties and have serious questions regarding my maturity. But I digress…

In my reading on this topic of “mature” women bloggers, I came across an innocuous little paragraph that I haven’t been able to get out of my mind. Aimee Byrd, in her post Platforms, Blogs, and Why We Write, simultaneously challenged my thinking and offered me a sense of liberty in terms of what I do with this fledgling blog:

I was not a “somebody.” I am not a wife of a big name pastor. My husband is a public school teacher. I didn’t know anyone with a writing career or in the publishing industry. I was just a housewife in West Virginia. But I have found that if you’re not seeking a inner-circle position, you do have the freedom to say what you really want to say. And as we plug away in areas that we see a need and want to contribute, we tend to find like-minded people.

Aimee’s words challenged me in the sense that I wanted this blog to be taken more seriously than The Things That Come Out Of My Head (my last blog).  After nine years on that blog, I had finally gained a fairly respectable following, and I had every confidence that those readers would follow me to this blog. Some did. Most didn’t. From studying the stats on that blog, most people gravitated to posts about the excursions John and I took into Boston.

That’s nice, but but the Supreme Court’s ruling on same sex marriage this past June gave me a sense of urgency about how I use my blog. Boston still delights me, as this photo that John took of me last week clearly shows.

Enjoying fall leaves in Boston Common
Enjoying fall leaves in Boston Common

But writing about the joys of driving my wheelchair seems so trivial in  comparison to  addressing the problems in the visible church. Those of us who take God’s Word seriously stand at the threshold of very real persecution, and I don’t want to waste my blogging time reminiscing about Boston when I could be helping women to get into Scripture and prepare for what lies ahead.

Aimee’s words cause me to ask myself if this more sober approach to blogging, although necessary, merely replicates the blogs I already read. Probably. Some of the “right” people have even noticed this blog and promoted it, which pleases me.

In my efforts to have a more Christ-centered blog, however, I’ve tried to write like the bloggers I most admire. I’ve made an effort, feeble  and imperceptible though it may be, to avoid  mentioning myself. Not only has that resolve  failed miserably, but my new autobiographical series has substantially boosted my readership. John hopes that those readers I gain through autobiographical posts will then read my posts about the Lord.

And that point dovetails with the comfort I derived from Aimee’s remark. Because I’m not really in the big leagues of blogging, perhaps I have more freedom to blog about the Lord  by demonstrating His sovereignty in my life.

I’m much older than most “mature” women bloggers, and I’ve come to Reformed theology the hard way. Maybe explaining how the Lord has patiently and faithfully worked with me to bring me a more accurate understanding of His Word will be my most effective means of giving  glory to Him.

Unburying The Gospel

Blood of ChristWe Christians get caught up in a variety of ideas, causes and activities, some of which actually reflect Biblical principles. And honestly, the busy pace of 21st Century western culture brings its own distractions, so that we often have little time for spiritual nourishment. I confess to occasionally rushing through  my personal Bible study times so that I can read blogs about popular evangelical trends that challenge the sufficiency of Scripture and/or present a compromised Gospel. (Don’t try this at home.)

Busyness, and I think especially church-related busyness, can often  numb us to the very Gospel we claim to believe. Additionally, the secondary and tertiary doctrines, as important as they are, can displace the basic Gospel.

I worked in full-time ministry for 12 years, plus engaging in drama ministry, youth group and teaching Sunday School (among other things) before, during and after that 12-year period. I never actually rejected the Gospel message in the midst of all my ministry, but I ignored it and sometimes misapplied it to temporal matters.

The Lord, in His gentleness and forbearance, permitted me to neglect the Gospel for a number of years, but finally He woke me up to its importance. On September 9, 2001, I returned home from a friend’s 50th birthday party to learn that one of my mom’s closest friends had died unexpectedly. To the best of my knowledge, the lady didn’t have a saving relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ (only God really knows), which of course would mean she went to hell.

The next morning, in talking to a friend at church about it, I admitted that I hadn’t thought about hell much in years. Since no one else in my family knew Christ, I’d gotten to the point of not praying for their salvations so that I could avoid thinking of hell. By extension, I also rarely thought about the Gospel.

Yet without the Gospel, Christianity has no point. Using Jesus as a means of financial prosperity and physical health, a wellspring of emotional fulfillment or aid to behavior modification misses the whole reason for His death, burial and resurrection. Paul made it clear, however, that Christ’s death for sinners and His resurrection constitute the very core of the Gospel.

For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, ~~1 Corinthians 15:3-4 (ESV)

To understand why Christ died for our sins, of course, we obviously need to first understand that those sins condemn us to eternity in hell. We simply can’t appreciate His death of atonement unless He opens our eyes to see how desperately we need that atonement. The Gospel can’t be good news until we acknowledge the bad news.

I don’t believe that I was a false convert during those years I’d been distracted from the heart of the Gospel, but now I pay more attention to the significance of Christ’s death on the cross. The events of that terrible day, when the Creator of the Universe voluntarily suffered and bled and died to accept the punishment for my sins, changed my life so radically that I can no longer keep from talking about their effect. Not that Christ’s death inspires me to avoid sin (although it does), or that He makes me a “better” person (although He gives me His righteousness). My response to His crucifixion must never take center stage.

Jesus’ death accomplished the transformation in my life. Even my ability to trust that His blood atoned for my sin comes as a precious gift from Him!

Paul’s letter to the Colossians best explains the power of what Jesus did on that Friday that He took my place on that hideous Roman cross. Read this passage carefully, asking the Holy Spirit if you have applied this glorious transaction that annuls your debt to the Holy God.

13 And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, 14 by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. 15 He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him. ~~Colossians 2:13-15 (ESV)

I know that my debt of sin went far deeper than I could ever begin to imagine. They rendered me dead in this present life, and assured me of eternal damnation upon the Last Judgment. But the Lord, Who rose from the dead, paid my debt as He shed His blood on the cross! He did so much more than inspire me to behave in accordance with His Holy standard; He actually assumed full responsibility for my sin so that He could declare me righteous.

The Gospel should never be buried under other doctrines, ministry activities, or the hustle and bustle of 21st Century life. In fact, all of Christian life absolutely depends on the Gospel! Some aspects of it cause pain, certainly, but that very pain enables us to joyfully embrace His wonderful blessing of salvation.

Autobiography With Purpose: God Had Me Before Birth

NewbornShe suffered two miscarriages, and then her son was stillborn. As soon as she knew she was pregnant with me, Mom obeyed the doctor’s orders by staying in bed–flat on her back–during the entire pregnancy.

When I still hadn’t arrived by the tenth month, Mom found little humor in a friend’s comment: “I thought only elephants gestated this long!” My mother, usually a  stickler for proper etiquette, retorted, “Oh shut up!” as she slammed down the phone. She felt frustrated and undoubtedly fearful. At age 37, she had little time left for her dream of being a mother to come true.

But my September 30, 1953 arrival, a full month after the due-date, failed to be the joyous occasion my parents had expected. Because I weighed only five pounds and had extreme jaundice, the doctors immediately whisked me away to an incubator. I remained in the incubator for a month, during which time the doctors urged my mom to put me in an institution and forget she ever had me. They explained that I’d be little more than a vegetable, and faced a life of severe physical and intellectual disability.

My parents brought me home.

As I look back on the history of my birth, I admire the courage and determination of both my parents, and especially my mom. They were both from Christian Science backgrounds (and attended a liberal Presbyterian church once my little sister came to complete our family), so I suppose their faith was in their love for me. And I certainly praise the Lord for blessing me with parents (particularly a mom) who refused to accept the predictions and advice of medical “experts.”

Obviously, even at my conception, God worked sovereignly in my life, showing that He had His plans and purposes to glorify Himself through me. Of course He won’t change the world through me, but He has use for me in His kingdom that I’ll understand one day. Meanwhile, His protection of me during Mom’s pregnancy and the first month of my life reminds me of Psalm 139:13-16:

13 For you formed my inward parts;
    you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Wonderful are your works;
    my soul knows it very well.
15 My frame was not hidden from you,
when I was being made in secret,
    intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
16 Your eyes saw my unformed substance;
in your book were written, every one of them,
    the days that were formed for me,
    when as yet there was none of them. (ESV)

The Lord blessed me with parents who wanted me. He used their tenacity in the face of hopelessness to make sure I had a life that would lead me to Him.

Purposeful Autobiography: For His Honor

Head Stick Pics 006People throughout my life have often urged me to write an autobiographical book. This advice certainly appeals to my already inflated ego, but more serious consideration leads me to doubt that such a book would profit any publishing house brave (or stupid) enough  to underwrite such a project. And as I age (I’m 62 now), typing grows increasingly difficult for me, making the idea pretty unappealing.

Blogging suits my physical limitations at this point in life, though I started this particular blog back in July with the idea  of minimizing autobiographical elements. In my introductory post, I wrote:

Unlike my last blog, this blog won’t showcase my digital art except in the sense that I will use my creations, as well as John’s photos (many of which I’ll manipulate with Paintshop Pro) to illustrate my posts. Accordingly, I will also dispense with accounts of our “Boston Adventures” unless they contribute to Biblical discussion. In other words, I anticipate a greater emphasis on the Lord, with any autobiographical comment serving only as auxiliary material that will direct attention back to Him.

I haven’t changed my desire to use autobiographical material here for the sole purpose of magnifying the Lord Jesus Christ. I know that Christians in the United States most likely have little time left to publicly proclaim the Gospel and offer Biblical truth, so I don’t want to squander that precious time composing a vanity blog.

Yes, I’m physically disabled, yet I’ve done things that some people consider “amazing.” Get over it. I have!

At the moment, however, John and I think I should write a  series of posts about my spiritual progression. In doing so, I don’t want the focus on me. Rather, I propose to show the Lord’s grace and sovereignty as He has patiently brought me through various sinful patterns and questionable doctrinal positions to where I am now. He has worked so gently as He’s corrected me over the years, and His faithfulness to keep  me rooted in His Word both astonishes and delights me.

I pray that these stories from my life (which I’ll share only once or twice a week) will help you avoid the pitfalls that kept me spiritually retarded for so many years. But more than that, I pray that you will learn more about Who Christ is and how He desires us to worship Him. If I must write an account of my life, at least let me do so in a manner that honors Him and helps my readers know Him better. I don’t have time for anything less.

15 Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, 16 making the best use of the time, because the days are evil.   ~~Ephesians 5:15-16 (ESV)

The Lamb Upon His Throne

A long-time member of our church passed into heaven a few days ago. I never met him, but he was on the church’s weekly prayer list,  so I had prayed for him enough to care about him.

At church this morning, our pastor reminded us that, as we worshiped in our sanctuary, so this man now worships in the direct presence of the Lord. His worship, however, no longer struggles against selfish pollution. He now adores the Lord completely, not looking for what Christ  might do for him. I envy this man’s freedom from self and his consequent ability to focus all his attention on Jesus.

Jesus alone deserves the praise, both for what He did in shedding His blood to save us from the wrath we deserve and for the holy God He is. The hymn I’ve selected today highlights His worthiness of our praise and worship by extolling various aspects of His grandeur. We see this grandeur by faith, but the man from our church now experience it directly!

Avoiding The Distractions

Cross of GloryWe definitely need to identify and challenge the false teachings that proliferate among professing Christians, as Michelle Lesley wrote yesterday in her blog post, I Can’t Sit Down, Shut Up, and Play Nice! Interestingly, Erin Benzinger’s This N That column yesterday spoke of her weariness with Discernment Bloggers always talking about who and what to avoid. What a mental tug-of-war!

Of course, both Michelle and Erin really meet in the middle. They both want to help women ground themselves in the Lord Jesus Christ and His Word, so that we won’t be swayed by personalities and doctrines that deviate from the Gospel. I agree! As women, we all too often settle for self-focused theology designed to stroke our egos and make us feel valued when we really need to be studying Scripture to learn Who the Lord is and how we can glorify Him.

It seems to me that evangelical Christianity has slowly shifted, over the past 50 years (perhaps longer) from worshiping and adoring Christ to making Him a means of meeting our “felt needs.” I plead guilty to buying into this attitude. To be brutally honest, I still catch myself wanting my relationship with God to be all about me. Like the majority of evangelicals, I get lost in my concerns over what I want Him to do for me until I forget to ask how I can offer myself to Him (Romans 12:1-2).

Let me give you a glimpse of what I mean. In the book of Revelation, the apostle John gives us a few glimpses of the pure worship that will happen in heaven. Let me give you one example:

11 Then I looked, and I heard around the throne and the living creatures and the elders the voice of many angels, numbering myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands, 12 saying with a loud voice,
“Worthy is the Lamb who was slain,
to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might
and honor and glory and blessing!”
13 And I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, saying,
“To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb
be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!”
14 And the four living creatures said, “Amen!” and the elders fell down and worshiped. ~~Revelation 5:11-14 (ESV)

None of the worshipers makes any mention of self, but rather total attention gravitates to the Lamb (Jesus Christ). He is the entire reason they loudly praise Him. They don’t do it to whip up their emotions so that Christ can enjoy their happiness, although they undoubtedly feel tremendous joy. And they don’t praise Him with the expectation that  their apparent worship obligates Him to bless them in return. Instead, their joy is secondary to the glory that rightly belongs to Him.
If (okay, when) I write about teachings and people that undermine Biblical Christianity, trust that I do so because those teachings and people obscure Christ and distort His Word. I do pray that, instead of producing just another Discernment Blog that rails against false teaching, I can exalt the Lord and encourage you ladies toward a deeper understanding of Him and His Word. If I focus only on hunting down heresies and ignore Him, I completely miss the point.

For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. ~~Romans 1:16