February 27, 2015
by julie
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Sleeping Through the Storm

One thing I have wrestled with a lot over the past few years is how does a Christian consider anxiety?

On one hand, our experience tells us that it is utterly impossible not be anxious, and so for many of us, our instinctive interpretation of “be anxious for nothing” is something along the lines of “that can’t possibly actually mean that.”  Or “anxiety isn’t a sin, it’s what you do with it that’s a sin.”  And so on.  And we have to categorize the idea of anxiety disorders and panic attacks, as well, which just don’t seem to fit into the biblical prohibition of anxiety as a sin.

I too find myself swayed by these arguments, and by the passionate testimony of my many friends with anxiety issues.

And yet.  Scripture actually doesn’t leave a whole lot of wiggle room.


  • Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God. (Isaiah 41:10)
  • Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. (Philippians 4:6)
  • Do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on… therefore, do not be anxious about tomorrow… (Matthew 6:25-34)
  • Cast all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. (1 Peter 5:7)
  • There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. (1 John 4:18)
  • Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous.  Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go. (Joshua 1:9)
  • Let not your hears be troubled, neither let them be afraid. (John 14:27)
  • The Lord is my light, and my salvation; whom shall I fear? (Psalm 27:1)
  • Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. (Psalm 23:4)
  • The Lord is on my side; I will not fear. What can man do to me? (Psalm 118:6)

Does any of this, any of this at all, leave room for “it depends on what you do with your anxiety” or “don’t sin in your anxiousness”?

Does God ask the impossible?

Last week, there was a terrible windstorm at our house—our house which has more trees within falling distance than I can count!   Trees which sway horrifyingly in the nighttime gloom and it is so easy to lie in bed listening to the wind howl and the sides of the house quake from the force of the wind, and imagine a tree falling on the house.  It’s easy to imagine our lovely children coming to harm in their beds from such a tree, and I was duly lying there imagining it!

But I had been thinking about this question of anxiety that night, and especially thinking about Jesus in Matthew 8:23-26:

As He got into the boat, His disciples followed Him.  Suddenly, a violent storm arose on the sea, so that the boat was being swamped by the waves. But He was sleeping.  So the disciples came and woke Him up, saying, “Lord, save us! We’re going to die!”

But He said to them, “Why are you fearful, you of little faith?” Then He got up and rebuked the winds and the sea. And there was a great calm.

Imagine: such a violent storm—an unexpected and sudden storm!—that the boat was actually being swamped.  This isn’t just a scary situation, it’s a lethal one.

We might think holiness would be to pray fervently for mercy and try to discipline our hearts to accept God’s will.

But Jesus, the very picture of holiness, was… asleep.

I love the way Michael Card tells the story in his lullaby for children:

Were You simply fearless, a sleeper so sound,
that You could find rest with the storm all around?
Was it simple trust in Your Father that made
the dangers seem like a charade?

Sweet Jesus, You slept through the storm in the bow;
through lightening, through thunder, You slumbered, but how?
You totally trusted your Father, that’s how
You slept through the storm in the bow.

[Michael Card, from “Come to the Cradle”]

Jesus also teaches us that there’s a time to pray fervently, of course; Gethsemane comes to mind.  But still there’s something to be said for the fact that He was asleep in the middle of a tremendously terrifying event.  In Gethsemane, I think, He was not anxious; rather, He knew something dreadful was surely coming, something to endure.  One can dread something without being fearful of it.

So I considered the trees, and the wind, and my fear.  Is God a good God?  Does not He care even more for my children that I ever could?  Does a tree fall without His willing it?  Was there, in short, any justification at all for my even being distracted by the howling wind?  My heavenly Father is the One who holds each tree upright even in the calm!

Why should I even be anxious?  Our God is sovereign, and He is good!  What could we possibly be afraid of, in light of that?  In Christ I may sleep peacefully even through the loudest, most dangerous storms!  And I can also recognize all my little excuses for anxiety—that it’s “realistic” or “impossible” or “natural”—for what they are.  I am not called to be anxious about worldly things, rather to fear nothing but God.  I am not called to worry, when He knows every hair on my head and every sparrow that falls and every flower that needs adornment.

We are so blessed to be able to rest in His marvelous and perfect provision, and there is never a reason to doubt it.


Because I do have dear friends who struggle with (medicated) anxiety, I want to clarify that “anxiety,” as the Bible uses the term, is worrying about things instead of trusting God.  It doesn’t mean shortness of breath or mental cloudiness or any of the other things which are beyond our consciousness and (hopefully) helped by medication.  It is unhelpful that our language conflates the theological concept with the physiological functions of our fallen bodies.

February 24, 2015
by julie
Comments Off on A Woman with Initiative

A Woman with Initiative

On the one hand, I am staunchly complementarian.  I don’t believe women should teach or have authority over men, or even speak in church.  I believe women should consider themselves positionally beneath (i.e. “submissive”) to their husbands.  I believe those four things are very clear in Scripture.

But I also think there are some nuances in Scripture that get confused with our cultural traditions of patriarchy—in short, that the patriarchy of 16th century France and the patriarchy of Scripture may not be the same thing, but it can be hard for us to sort out.

In particular, I find it hard to understand Deborah being a judge, and hard to understand Abigail blatantly going against what she knew would have been the wishes of her husband, if he had had the chance to contradict her.  But she knew he would be displeased.

Today I read and noticed another such story, one I had read but not really thought about: 2 Samuel 20.  This man named Sheba has decided to rebel against David, and Joab is sent to quench the rebellion and destroy, apparently, the entire town of Abel.

Now—first of all, David is clearly in the right here.  Sheba was evil and wicked and it was entirely correct to destroy him.  Secondly, there’s a whole town involved, with plenty of elders and men to step up and do the right thing.  The “leadership,” apparently, made the executive decision to twiddle their thumbs.

But, enter this unnamed woman, who we only know as “a wise woman.” (v. 16).  While Joab is trying to break down the walls of the city, she—and she alone—calls out.  “Listen! Listen! Please tell Joab to come here and let me speak with him.”

And Joab listened.  And she made an argument, a very neat, concise, persuasive argument.  She let him know that there were faithful people in the city, and reminded him of the importance of the city, both presently and historically, and theologically.  Her words are rebuking and even harsh: “Why would you devour YHWH’s inheritance?”

She got Joab’s attention, and he protested: “Never! I do not want to destroy!”  And he offers her a solution—deliver Sheba, and the city will be spared.

This is a woman he’s bargaining with.  A woman who responds by promising him Sheba’s head.

So what does she do?  Does she go to her husband and say, hey, tell the elders about this, get them to make a decision so we can abide by it?

Nope.  This woman, who the Bible declares to be wise, goes straight to “all the people” and offers “her wise counsel” (v. 22).  They listen to her, cut off Sheba’s head, and throw it over the wall to Joab, who promptly retreats and goes back to David.  Disaster averted.

There are many things here that are both encouraging and perplexing.  Scripture seems quite clear that the woman was wise and correct, both in her character and in her actions here.  And yet she is very avidly arguing with men: first Joab, then the men of her city.  She is contradicting authority, both Joab (in his authority to destroy the city), and the city rulers (by not waiting on them to approach Joab, and not going to them first to ask them to give up Sheba).  She makes arguments and gives counsel—to men!—not suggestions and obeisance.  She is single-handedly responsible for pushing them to cut off Sheba’s head.

Now, what she doesn’t do is try to usurp authority.  She doesn’t remind one of Jezebel.  Like Abigail, and Deborah, when the men are willing to do what ought to be done, she fades into the background and we never hear tell of her again.  She works by persuasion and arguments, not force or unjust threats.

She’s an excellent example of bold biblical womanhood, womanhood that takes initiative, makes persuasive arguments, is not daunted, and whose wisdom is not hidden under a bushel, but ably helps all those around her, even a whole town and a king, for the glory of God.

February 18, 2015
by julie
Comments Off on Gentleness: Christian speech.

Gentleness: Christian speech.

The book of James is a hard read for anyone who is in possession of a tongue.

And the tongue is a fire. The tongue, a world of unrighteousness, is placed among the parts of our bodies. It pollutes the whole body, sets the course of life on fire, and is set on fire by hell… no man can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.

[James 3:6,8, hcsb]

The passage is bleak.  He doesn’t present tongues as a neutral thing, useful for blessing and cursing, he presents it as an evil thing, an untamable, impossible thing.  Like our flesh, like Paul complains about in Romans 7:15.  If only we could rip out our tongues!  If anyone doesn’t stumble in what they say, James says, they’re a perfect man (James 3:2).  The tongue is the final frontier of sanctification, the last chip to fall.

Honestly, I found this one of the most depressing chapters of Scripture I’ve studied lately, and it wasn’t until rereading it this morning that a little ray of hopefulness—of purpose—started to seep in.

The hopefulness, I think, is in verses 13 and 17-18:

Who is wise and has understanding among you? He should show his works by good conduct with wisdom’s gentleness. … the wisdom from above is first pure, then peace-loving, gentle, compliant, full of mercy and good fruits, without favoritism and hypocrisy. And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace by those who cultivate peace.

My Bible helpfully cross-referenced 1 Peter 3:15, which tells us to make our defense (for the Gospel) “yet do it with gentleness and respect,” as well as 2 Timothy 2:25 which tells elders to correct their opponents—in the context of teaching sound doctrine!—to correct their opponents “with gentleness.”   And that when we are correcting a sinning brother, we should restore them “in a spirit of gentleness” (Galatians 6:1).

And, of course, verses like Proverbs 15:1 (“a soft answer turns away wrath”) and Titus 3:2 (“avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people”), 1 Corinthians 13 (love is patient, kind, not provoked, not selfish, doesn’t keep a record of wrongs, bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things, never ends!), Ephesians 4:2 (“walk… with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace”), James 1:19-20 (“be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God”).

Gentleness is all over Scripture.  Soft words.  Patience.  Long-suffering.  Gentleness is the way we respond to even our opponents and enemies.  Gentleness is the heart of the yoke Jesus tells us to take upon ourselves (Matthew 11:29).  Your gentleness made me great,” David praises in Psalm 18.

And here, in James 3, gentleness is the proof of wisdom, of maturity.  Gentleness that loves and leads to peace.  Wise people “cultivate peace.”  Beautiful phrase.  Gentleness that is compliant (interesting word, that!) and merciful.

The tongue works great evil.  And James is really honest about that, and it’s really… disturbing, the power that one little part can wield over the whole.  But then he spells out the alternative—the wise man is the gentle man, the one who seeks peace and pursues it (Psalm 34:14).  The wise man isn’t the one who is full of great insights and always quick to correctly exegete a passage, or even the one everyone regards as giving reliable advice… the wise man is the one who is speaking gently and kindly and selflessly and actively working to cultivate peace.  And while the anger of man doesn’t produce the righteousness of God, the gentleness—a gift and hallmark of God, a fruit of the Spirit—that is indeed how “the fruit of righteousness is sown, in peace, by those who cultivate peace” (James 3:18).  The wisdom from above—which leads to the fruit of the righteousness—is gentle.

February 9, 2015
by julie
Comments Off on younger son in the pigsty, older son on the porch.

younger son in the pigsty, older son on the porch.

I enjoyed this video of Piper’s:

I remember reading the prodigal son as a child and being so confused about what was wrong with the older son.  I remember at first thinking that he was the good son, and that he did in fact get a bit of a raw deal… and then all the years since, when I’ve heard it preached, it was in the context of “the younger son is the Christian, the older son is the hell-bound Pharisee.”  Piper shows that it’s a lot more nuanced than that, and a lot more hopeful, and a lot more challenging, all at once.

Also some good thoughts on parenting, and how we respond to sinners.

January 29, 2015
by julie
Comments Off on Memorial stones.

Memorial stones.

I love the part in Joshua 4 where Joshua tells Israel to set up 12 memorial stones, so that,

In the future, when your children ask you, ‘What do these stones mean to you?’  you should tell them, ‘The waters of the Jordan were cut off in front of the ark of the Lord’s covenant. When it crossed the Jordan, the Jordan’s waters were cut off.’ Therefore these stones will always be a memorial for the Israelites.”

Then Joshua set up in Gilgal the 12 stones they had taken from the Jordan, and he said to the Israelites, “In the future, when your children ask their fathers, ‘What is the meaning of these stones?’ you should tell your children, ‘Israel crossed the Jordan on dry ground.’ For the Lord your God dried up the waters of the Jordan before you until you had crossed over, just as the Lord your God did to the Red Sea, which He dried up before us until we had crossed over. This is so that all the people of the earth may know that the Lord’s hand is mighty, and so that you may always fear the Lord your God.”

I mean, this incredible supernatural event just happened: the fast-flowing waters of the Jordan suddenly stopped and piled up in a giant pile that reached all the way over to the next city, so that the ark of the covenant (and all the Israelites) could cross over on dry land downsteam.

So they made a memorial, plucked from the middle of the now-dry riverbed, and a mirrored memorial in the middle of the Jordan itself.  Something to remind themselves, and to provide an opportunity to testify to their children, and indeed the whole earth, of God’s mighty work and providential care.

There are a lot of ways in which this seems odd to me.  Unlike the Israelites, we are not a people of holy days or symbolism or relics.  We have Christ, we have changed hearts; we are not a people of sinners and a remnant, we are a people who know God.  We are in the New Covenant and the symbolic has become realized (Hebrews 8), the copy and shadow is now manifest.

And yet: God was the one who instructed this memorial of Joshua’s, and it pleased Him to have His name glorified and to have an occasion for them to tell their children.  I think how often we pass over things that ought to remind us of God’s past goodness to us, and not remark on them.  When maybe, what we ought to be doing, is taking every opportunity to remember and remind others—wow, do you remember when God provided this car for us?  I love our yard—do you remember when we were so amazed that God led us to this “perfect” house, and how very great of a blessing it has been to us?  Wedding anniversary—an opportunity to praise God for His sovereignty and grace in our marriage.  Birthdays—do you remember when God gave us this baby?  The hardships that were involved, and yet by His grace we overcame?  The things we have learned from interacting with this child?

Something to think about.  We can’t take “too many” opportunities to recount His faithfulness!

January 28, 2015
by julie
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Getting Scripture Right

Then the man who had received one talent also approached and said, Master, I know you. You’re a difficult man, reaping where you haven’t sown and gathering where you haven’t scattered seed. So I was afraid and went off and hid your talent in the ground. Look, you have what is yours.’

“But his master replied to him, ‘You evil, lazy slave! If you knew that I reap where I haven’t sown and gather where I haven’t scattered, then you should have deposited my money with the bankers. And when I returned I would have received my money back with interest.

[Matthew 25:24-27, hcsb]

l have been reading through Deuteronomy this week, with a bit of a better understanding of Judaism now, and the wild differences in the way we interpret some of these passages (e.g. Deuteronomy 16:18-20; 22:5-12) and the way Judaism does… the differences in the way we understand Scripture itself compared to how Judaism (or even Eastern Orthodoxy, Roman Catholicism, etc.) understand it—it is no small thing.  The assumption that Scripture is clear compared to the assumption that Scripture requires specific interpretation from an appointed body makes a resounding difference.

And I think about this passage in Matthew, and: fear God.  Wow.  The man who received one talent had the totally wrong idea of what his master wanted.  He feared, but in the wrong way.  His fear immobilized him and underlined that his fear was for his own skin, not for pleasing his master.  And he didn’t understand his master at all.  He may have known things about him, but he didn’t know him.  He had the wrong interpretation.

One thing I have come to understand a little bit more over the past year is that people misinterpret Scripture.  I have misinterpreted Scripture; I was thinking just this morning about the way I used to understand John 3:16 compared to the way I understand it now.  Scripture is clear—the doctrine of the perspicuity of Scripture is clear enough in its statements about itself—and yet our pride and our sin and false teachings certainly lead us into misinterpreting it.

There is a great urgency to ask the Spirit to enlighten us, lead us, keep us from error.  And to pay attention, to not be like the servant with one talent who hid it in the ground, but to learn our Master’s ways and seek His benefit rather than satiating our self-centered misunderstandings of Him.

January 5, 2015
by julie
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Wise Young People

Well, person.  Today is Job 32-42 and Genesis 12-14.

Elihu begins the conversation with two objections:

  1. Job justified himself, not God.
  2. His friends didn’t refute Job, but still condemned him.

So no one had defended the goodness of God.

At first he is hesitant to speak—“I thought that age should speak, and maturity should teach wisdom” (32:7) but he realizes that it is “the breath of the Almighty” that brings wisdom, not age (v. 8-9).  So he will speak.  He rebukes Job’s friends to the point of speechlessness, and then turns to Job, and entreats him to listen.  He tells him God does not oppose him, but works to save him (ch 33), and reiterates that God does repay a man according to his deeds and does not pervert justice (ch 34), and rebukes Job for being rebellious, complaining, and speaking against God (34:37).  Finally, he accuses Job of overvaluing his riches (Job 36:16-21) and tells him that this is why God has afflicted him, so that he will not value his success, and warns that God “does not look favorably on any who are wise in heart” (37:24).  He sees the Lord coming (37:22), and then, at last, God answers Job out of the whirlwind.

God begins with an argument much like Elihu’s—who are you, Job? Where were you in the face of my mighty works?  This is a very long description of the wonders of creation (ch 38, 39, and 40).

Job answers that he cannot answer.

God rebukes him for challenging His justice, and for exalting his own righteousness at God’s expense.  Then He talks more about His might.

And Job takes back his words and says he has learned; that the “rumors” he knew about God are now “sight” (42:5).  And he repents.

God rebukes Job’s friends (not Elihu), tells them to offer sacrifices, accepts their sacrifices, and then He restores Job, and then Job dies of old age.

The hard thing to me about Job is always puzzling out who speaks truth, beside God.  Job’s friends are clearly wrong, as they are rebuked by all, but Job himself is a little mystifying because Elihu’s rebuke seems valid, and God’s words seem like a rebuke, yet God also says that Job spoke the truth about Him (Job 42:7).  It seems like maybe Job spoke with sound theology, but errant pride, defending his own righteousness at the expense of making God seem unjust, and finding it troublesome that he lost all his riches though righteous, instead of finding his riches in God alone.  I feel like I could study Job for weeks and still not get an accurate grasp on everything going on!

Job 33:14-30 is one of my favorite passages in the whole Bible.

January 4, 2015
by julie
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Job’s distant God

Today I’ve got my reading plan more exact so it’s officially Job 18-31, part of which I already read.

Job 21:3: “Bear with me while I speak; then after I have spoken, you may continue mocking.”  Job refutes the claims of the prosperity gospel by pointing to the prosperity of the wicked, in terms that reminded me strongly of Ecclesiastes. Eliphaz repeats himself, saying God does good to the righteous (c 22) and Job complains that he would go argue with God, except that he doesn’t know how to find Him (c 23), but is still not without faith.  This is how he accounts for the prosperity of the wicked (24:22-24, hcsb):

Yet God drags away the mighty by His power;
when He rises up, they have no assurance of life.
He gives them a sense of security, so they can rely on it,
but His eyes watch over their ways.
They are exalted for a moment, then they are gone;
they are brought low and shrivel up like everything else.
They wither like heads of grain.

Bildad’s answer seems to be that God is so mighty that it’s hopeless (c. 25) to be good, to which Job answers, “I will never affirm that you are right!” (27:5) and reiterates a) that the wicked prosper in this life, but that b) their fortune is tainted (27:14-23) even in this life, and c) God is ultimately just and merciful and tells us to fear the Lord and turn from evil (28:28).

Finally, Job again bemoans that his friends mock and accuse him (c 30), and that God does not answer him (30:20), and calls God his Opponent.

Tomorrow, Elihu’s reply and God’s answer!

January 2, 2015
by julie
Comments Off on The Problem of Pain

The Problem of Pain

Today, Job 6-20, in which Job and his friends continue to discuss why Job might be suffering.

The depth of Job’s bitterness surprises me.  He is wishes to die (6:8) and says there is no hope because he can’t help himself (6:13).  He accuses his friends of being very bad friends indeed (6:14-23), but then invites them to prove his error nonetheless (6:24-26) and to reconsider the matter of Job’s righteousness (6:29).  He begs God to leave him alone; “will You ever look away from me, or leave me alone long enough to swallow?” (7:19)

Bildad responds with basically the prosperity non-gospel: do good and God will prosper you (ch 8).

Job says, “but how can a person be justified before God?” (ch 9) in what really is a beautiful defense of the inadequacy of man and pure mercy of God.  But then he moves on to accusing God of treating everyone equally regardless of their righteousness, not blaming, but declaring, and reiterating his wish to die and to be left alone by God.  His description of the afterlife is also a bit odd, 10:21-22 (hcsb):

before I go to a land of darkness and gloom,
never to return.
It is a land of blackness like the deepest darkness,
gloomy and chaotic,
where even the light is like the darkness.

Job’s friends continue to make fun of him and accuse him of some secret sin, and he continues to rebuke their assumptions, and says he’d rather just talk to God: “Even if He kills me, I will hope in Him. I will still defend my ways before Him” (13:15)

One thing that really strikes me is all the theological concepts Job interacts with very clearly: justification, the depravity of man, the problem of punishment for sin, life after death, resurrection, etc.  And he constantly expresses faith in God’s justice and mercy but doesn’t seem to be quite sure how that is expressed in the temporal plane: what is after death? what worth is life? how does God decide whom to visit punishment upon, and whom to leave alone? why does God torment him?

Eliphaz continues to argue that this is the result of Job’s sin, and Job continues to tell him basically to shut up and bemoan that he’s being laughed at by fools.  Bildad again calls him a babbler.  Zophar continues to mock.

And that’s where the story ends for today.

January 1, 2015
by julie
Comments Off on The Story Begins

The Story Begins

With a new year comes a new refresh of “the Bible in 90 Days.”  This year I’m trying to do it chronologically,  which means today I read Genesis 1-11 and Job 1-5.  Again, my intent is to do this breakneck speed once per year, then spend the rest of the year studying more slowly and carefully.  For journaling purposes, these are micro study notes. 🙂


Genesis 1:14: “They will serve as signs for festivals and for days and years…” I never noticed that little word “festivals” there before.  God gave us the sun, moon, and stars so that we may mark time, and so that we may… have scheduled celebrations.  That’s an interesting thought in light of holidays and our tenuous relationship to “special days.”

Genesis 2:3: “God blessed the seventh day and declared it holy, for on it He rested from His work of creation.”  The idea of Christ as our Sabbath rest occurred to me in a new way as I read this passage today.  God worked for six days to create.  Then on the seventh, He rested.  I know when I “rest” after “working,” the rest is very much permeated by the realization of the work.  Rest is more satisfying when it accompanies completion of one’s task.  God, on the seventh day, was finished.  And He rested.  In Christ God works redemption.  And in heaven the number will be completed, and eternity is the rest, joy, and worship of reflecting on His work.  We rest in Christ and His labor now, but how much more in heaven when all things are accomplished?

Genesis 3:6: “the woman saw… that it was desirable for obtaining wisdom.”  Desiring knowledge, in a way that contradicts God’s law, is not good.  It is not an inherently neutral wish.

Genesis 9:12-13: It is so amazing to think that the rainbows we see today are still the sign of God’s covenant not to destroy the earth with a flood again.

Job 1:10-11: the flip side of Satan’s accusation is that God had placed a hedge around Job, and blessed him immensely.  Job feared God, and God blessed him.  Even in the face of Satan’s accusation, God refused to allow him to harm Job himself.  The love here is really… astounding.

Job 2:10: “You speak as a foolish woman speaks,” he told her. “Should we accept only good from God and not adversity?” – such a great verse.  He speaks so directly.

Job 3:1: Job didn’t curse God, but he did curse what God had done.  He is also anxious (v. 26).