For a while, I had a pretty good job, and so I had a steady flow of books coming into the house – mostly things like commentaries and systematic theologies. She would tease me about what I was reading, and so I’d quote Alister McGrath back to her: “Christian theology is one of the most fascinating subjects it is possible to study” (from his Christian Theology, An Introduction: Oxford, UK and Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishers, ©2001, pg xxv).
But getting a diagnosis of leukemia has the effect of focusing the mind. Early on, during her first hospital stay, she turned down a request from my pastor to visit her, though she asked a priest to come in. But over the summer, she not only started going to church with me and the kids, but she’s become a regular attender, leading the charge not only to get us to the service on time, but to get us to Sunday School early enough to get the good seats in the front.
The catalyst was a sermon series on Isaiah 36 and 37, regarding the LORD’s defeat of Sennacherib king of Assyria.
“Therefore thus says the LORD concerning the king of Assyria: He shall not come into this city or shoot an arrow there or come before it with a shield or cast up a siege mound against it. By the way that he came, by the same he shall return, and he shall not come into this city, declares the LORD. For I will defend this city to save it, for my own sake and for the sake of my servant David.”Sennacherib is, of course, well-attested not only in various books of the Old Testament (2 Kings, Isaiah, 2 Chronicles), but in Assyrian texts and archaeology as well. Kenneth Kitchen (Reliability of the Old Testament, Grand Rapids, MI and Cambridge, UK: William B. Eerdmans Publishing, © 2003) notes that “with careful observance of the features of both the Assyrian and Hebrew texts, a coherent picture of the whole episode emerges.” For some reason, Assyrian military history, especially their interactions with Israel, fascinates her.
And the angel of the LORD went out and struck down a hundred and eighty-five thousand in the camp of the Assyrians. And when people arose early in the morning, behold, these were all dead bodies.
Our Sunday School lessons are being taken in part from the CCEF program (“Restoring Christ to Counseling and Counseling to the Church”), and here’s what she wrote:
Christian Life: My life growing in Christ with thanks and praiseWe were talking about this – in the context of “Union with Christ,” justification and sanctification. And she told me, “Roman Catholicism has really missed something very important.” What they’ve missed is God’s legal declaration of “not guilty” as foundational for everything else that happens in the Christian life. What she wrote above is a bookmark at page 54 (she is further along in the book) where Paul to the Colossians is quoted at length. Here she has highlighted, “When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; he took it away, nailing it to the cross.”
With joy I am a new creation in Christ. With humility I still have sin in my heart and need God’s grace today as much as I did when I first believed. The Spirit overpowers the things that once dominated my life. I am in Him, but not yet completely like him, so I commit myself to the ongoing heart change that is God’s loving focus.