Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Mary, a Woman Used by God

As I reflect on Christmas, I think it's interesting to go back and look at Mary, an ordinary woman who God used to do extraordinary things!

Chapter 4: A Portrait of a Woman Used By God in Biblical Womanhood in the Home discusses this well. Enjoy!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Monday, December 7, 2009

Body Image

Do any of you receive the Proverbs 31 Ministries' Encouragement for Today emails? Well, my mom does and she shared this one with me on Friday. I think it hits home for most of us, regardless of our age or how many kids (or not) we've had, and it's is a fantastic reminder that we are God's daughters. God created every inch of our bodies and He thinks we're beautiful.

There's obviously a certain level of care we need to take with our bodies because they're not our own, they're a temple for the Holy Spirit, but when we become obsessive and elevate body image over God and make it our idol, we're truly missing the mark.

Jesus extends grace upon grace to us and has already freed us from that bondage on the cross. So, we just need to accept that grace and pursue Jesus with our lives and allow Him to be our measure of beauty and not our own expectations or those that we perceive from the world.

Here's the Body Image email from Proverbs 31 Ministries, written by T. Suzanne Eller. Thought you ladies would enjoy it:
"Now we see things imperfectly as in a cloudy mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God knows me now." 1 Corinthians 13:12 (NLT)

I walked by the mirror in the department store. I stopped, backed up, and took a second look. Was that really me? I was nearly nine months pregnant with twins and looked like Mrs. Potato Head. My arms and legs stuck out of a huge protruding stomach. My belly button looked like a cork ready to pop!

A few days later Ryan and Melissa arrived. I loved my babies! But as the months passed, I didn't love my body with all its stretch marks and a baby bump that remained no matter how hard I tried to get rid of them.

Flash forward twenty-five years. Melissa loves to serve as Mom's fashionista, and tries to keep me up with the times. One day she and I were shopping for a pair of jeans and she'd picked out a couple of things she wanted me to try on. She knocked on the door of the dressing room. "Let me in, Mom."

I cracked open the door. "I'll be out in a minute, hon."

She frowned. Later she confronted me. "Mom, you were hiding your stomach, weren't you? I don't get it. You just need to get over it."

How many times have I met a truly beautiful woman and complemented her, only to hear her say, "Well, thank you, but I need to lose five pounds," or "I'm having a crazy hair day," or "Did you see that woman over there, now she's beautiful." What I saw was a smile that was warm and welcoming, or beautiful hazel eyes that were filled with compassion, or a woman who was frugal and fabulous. My complements were sincere, but fell flat as she f ocused on her flaws instead.
My conversation with Melissa that day reminded me that I was doing the same thing. Worse, I was modeling this behavior in front of my daughter.

The truth is that I'm healthy. I have given birth to three beautiful children. And more importantly, I'm God's girl. I'm beautifully made in His image. That's a fact etched on my heart and my mind.

Now if only someone would remind my mouth.

In Bible times ancient mirrors were polished metal, easily tarnished, and the reflection was hard to see. If a woman had a flaw, she had to rely on her friends or sisters to give her a head's up.
But today we can scope out our features in detail with three-way mirrors or a 5x-, 10x-, or even 15x magnified mirror where every pore and every flaw is magnified! Too often, those mirrors are reminders of the cultural message of what beauty is - or is not.

But what would happen if we focused on the mirror Paul is talking about in 1 Corinthians 13:12 instead? The more we get to know God, the clearer things become. We stop checking out our own image and discover more about Him. That helps us see the bigger picture—5X-, 10X-, and maybe even 15X magnified!

And there's a bonus. The more we get to know Him, the more others see us through His reflection.

Now, that's real beauty.

Dear God, I am made in Your image. I matter to You. Make me wise. Let me be grateful for physical healthy. Will You join me as I pursue joy, wisdom, peace, and selflessness? I want to look like You. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Defined By God, Not Culture

The Council on Biblical Manhood & Womanhood posted a neat article on their blog yesterday as they looked back over the Time stories that came out last month on the state of women today. The blog post is an encouraging reminder that we need to define ourselves according to Jesus and not culture.

Have a read: http://www.cbmw.org/Blog/Posts/More-on-the-State-of-the-American-Woman.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Godly Women on Mission

A few weeks ago at the women's ministry meeting at church a woman brought up a fabulous question about pursuing godly womanhood in regards to missionality. She asked if it was appropriate that once we begin to understand what God's call is for us as women, that we begin to live it out in a way that affects women who don't know Jesus yet -- use what we know to help other women love their families well, respect their husbands, and bring up their children in the ways of the Lord. And yes, that couldn't be more appropriate! This does, however, seem like a daunting task because it seems like it would take so long just to communicate Jesus to the woman (at least that's how I feel at times), and it would take even longer to influence her in such a way that she wants to shape her life around Jesus and build her family on Jesus. But what am I thinking, Jesus is in control ... all we have to do is TRUST him. He's the one with the power to do all things, so why shouldn't we be pursuing other women in this way so that they not only come to know Jesus themselves, but introduce their family to him as well!

I began thinking about this again after studying Mark 6:30-44. (Yes, I know this passage is about feeding the five thousand, but hang with me.) The verse that really did it for me was verse 37:
But he answered, "You give them something to eat."
They said to him, "That would take eight months of a man's wages! Are we to go and spend that much on bread and give it to them to eat?"
Here, we see that when Jesus presented a need to the disciples (feed five thousand people), they automatically thought that Jesus wanted them to take care of the situation in their own strength. Most of the time, this would be my reaction too. If we go back to my initial point about loving other women well who don't know Jesus, I would naturally think, "Ok Lord, I see that you want me to build a relationship with __________. But wow, that's going to take a lot of time and maybe money to invest in her. I don't know if I have that to give, but I'll see what I can do." Hmm, sounds similar to the disciples response, huh?

But as the passage continues, we see that Jesus instructs them, graciously and compassionately, on how to take care of the need. He doesn't require them to spend the eight-months wage (money they don't have) or even buy the food needed to feed the people. He doesn't even say, "Of course not, I'll take care of it." Rather, he simply instructs them on how to go about taking care of the need (Mark 6: 38-44).

This particularly struck me because our financial situation has changed dramatically in the past year since I chose to follow God's call for me and stay at home with my son full time, causing us to "lose" an income, and then even more so since my husband followed God's lead and changed jobs. (I'm not complaining, but I'm just being honest about where we are. In fact, I know with certainty that the Lord is using this time to challenge me and my false securities so that I begin to give everything to Him!) But after reading this passage, my response to live missionality or even generously with other women around me shouldn't be based on money at all. Jesus is very clear about that in this passage. He's basically saying, "It's not about what you can give at all. It's about trusting in ME to fulfill that need. My spirit lives within you and enables you to do the work that only I can do (1 Corinthians 12:4-7). Just trust me and believe!" If that need requires money, God will provide. If it requires time, God will help us re-prioritize our day to give more time. Etc.

Of course the Bible is also very clear that everything belongs to Jesus anyway (Psalm 24:1, Psalm 50:12, Haggai 2:8) -- our time, our money, our possessions ... everything! So when we think about giving those things, they aren't really ours to give anyway. We're only stewards of those things -- be it a lot of money or a little -- and we should give it back to the Lord willingly in response to the grace he's shown us. I believe this is a different conversation, but one that requires us to place our trust in Jesus as well. If we trust Jesus with our whole lives, our only response should be, "It's all yours Jesus, do with it as you want. Thanks for using me in the process!"

And when it all boils down, regardless of our financial situation or schedule, we should be able to say that Jesus is enough ... period, and allow that truth alone to compel us to change our cities for Him, regardless of the cost!

If you want to explore stewardship a bit more, Deuteronomy 8:17-18 and 1 Corinthians 4:7 are good places to start.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

God's Best for Single Women

Are you a single woman who is looking for sound theology on what your current life season should look like as you pursue the Lord and His plans for you? I'm in the process of digging into some resources and learning more about godly singleness (whether that's a place of longing to marry one day or if it's God's life call) to help strengthen that area of Mark of Beauty, and I stumbled across Boundless Webzine. It's a resource from Focus on the Family and it looks like the creator, Candace Watters (and her husband), collaborates with many of the women whom I look to for sound resources on godly womanhood, so this looks to be a solid find. As I was scrolling through the list of topics that this webzine covers, I found a nice handful of articles on singleness. To dive in, follow the link and scroll down to recent articles. I haven't read them all yet, but just by browsing through some of them and the titles and descriptions of others, it looks like there's some good stuff here.

For instance, here's a great point that Suzanne Hadley makes in her article, Vessel of Honor:
So how can we adopt a balanced view of God's intention for marriage and singleness?

First we must realize that God's will for people isn't dependent on marital status. Both faithful marriage and chaste singleness proclaim God. Marriage is an earthly reflection of the union with Christ and other believers awaiting us in heaven. Celibate singleness declares that ultimate union by forgoing sexual union on earth for a season — or, in special cases, for a lifetime.

Ephesians 5:25-27 says:

Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.

By loving their spouses devotedly, married men and women demonstrate on a small scale Christ's love for the church. And by keeping themselves pure, singles express the significance of Christ's coming union with His church (a moment fraught with such greatness that the trials of denying the flesh in this life pale in comparison). In both states — singleness and marriage — a believer reflects Christ through a lifestyle of self-giving.

At this time, I do that by serving the people God has placed in my life — friends, the kids in my Sunday school class, my housemate. In the future, I may fulfill this calling by serving a husband and children. Now I minister as an individual; in the future, I may minister through a family unit. In both states, my life testifies to God's miraculous plan as I pour it out for His use.

I think this is right on and worth exploring more deeply. If you have the time to read any of this stuff -- more from Suzanne Hadley or from other authors featured in this section in the Boundless Webzine -- I would challenge you to go for it. Feel free to leave a comment and let us know how the reading goes.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

The 5:00 Club

Well, I can't say that I'm really in the 5 AM club ... it's actually more like the 6:30 AM club at my house, but either way, here's the jist.

A month or so ago I wrote about my need to get up early, have my quiet time and spend time with the Lord to prepare myself for the day, so that I am on top of my game and in a place where I can put the Lord before me on all my days' decisions, plans, thoughts, emotions, etc. I can't say that I am very successful at giving the Lord all of my decisions, plans, thoughts, emotions, etc. yet ... that probably won't come in this life, but at least I'm starting down that road. For me, this starts at 6:30 AM.

I've been setting my alarm for 6:30 the past few weeks and so far it's working out fairly well. I may hit the snooze a time or two, but for the most part, I've been able to get up, get my coffee, make my husband his lunch and dive into scripture. I may only have 15 or 30 minutes, depending on the internal alarm of my 15-month-old, but it's enough time right now to lay my day at Jesus' feet and ask Him to equip me with what I need for the day -- patience, gentleness, a gracious spirit like Jesus, the ability to love my family well, the ability to manage my time well so that I can be effective for the gospel, etc.

So far, I can see a huge difference in the way my days play out. I obviously have to continue to pray throughout the day or my efforts just become self-centered again -- which happens all too often -- but I'm at least able to start off well and ask Jesus to give me his perspective for the day.

You may be wondering why the tile of this post is call "The 5:00 Club"? Well, I didn't actually know about this until yesterday, but it's a club that the Mahaney ladies of girltalk formed back in 2006 to hold each other accountable to wake up early and prepare themselves for the day. Nicole Whitacre, one of the Mahaney ladies explains it this way: "I want to stress that this will look different for everyone! The point is not that really godly women get up at 5:00 a.m.! Nowhere in the Bible will you find such a principle. The point is that there are great benefits to rising early—both for your spiritual life and the good of your family. And there are Scriptures that encourage this practice (Psalm 5:3, Prov. 31:15, Mark 1:35). But “early” will look different for every woman reading this post!" So, if the Lord is tugging on your heart, like He did mine, to encourage you to rise early and spend time with the Lord, I would encourage you to read more about The 5:00 Club and take the challenge. As I'm finding, it's revolutionizing my days for the Lord, and I think it will do the same for you.

If you decide to give it a try, feel free to post your comments about how it's going for you under this post or on our Facebook page. I think it would be really encouraging for all of us to see how the Lord is working in our lives and how He's changing us to be more like Jesus.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Movement Toward Women's Ministry

We had our first meeting in a long time toward building a women's ministry at Vintage21 Church yesterday. (There have been many attempts to get this kind of thing running over the course of our history ... 7 years to be exact ... but nothing ever quite stuck and things slowly fizzled out.) So, needless to say, I was a little wary going into this meeting, but it turned out to be excellent!

I feel that in many cases, women's minsitry in general seems to be very pragmatic and program-driven and is not interwoven into the DNA of a church and it's mission. It tends to be a ministry that wants to empower and build it's women, but not propel them toward the gospel in everything it does and build the kingdom. Not that I have a whole lot of experience with women's ministry, so I could be wrong, but that's my overall impression.

The beautiful reality that came out of yesterday's meeting is that our elders stated the importance and absolute need for this ministry to be gospel-centered in all it does, and not just be a sin-management program. And so the elders are going to begin building this ministry at the root level by identifying the fruit that the Bible says a biblical woman should possess and move backward to develop systems and structures to make that happen -- one that leads to mission ... pointing women toward the truth of the gospel at all times and equipping them to go out and love other women well so that those women, who may or may not know Jesus, have an opportunity to see Him more clearly. How beautiful! I'm siked to be a part of this process!

Join me in praying for this ministry and that God would bring the right people to begin laboring for it and leading it!

In relation to this, I was reading over some stuff about missionality this morning. If you're not familiar with the term missionality, or missional living, it basically means that we should adapt and reformulate the way we [the church and it's people] do absolutely everything in worship, discipleship, community, and service -- so as to engage with the Non-Christian society around us. (This is very relevant to us as women because we have the beautiful opportunity to share with women who don't know Jesus, or who do for that matter, the beautiful design and purpose that He has for them that is contrary to the feminist ideology that is so present in today's society. We have the opportunity to adapt the way we live, to live and breathe scripture, but to be relevant within our culture so that we can take Jesus to the women around us gently, lovingly, authentically, and humbly.) Pastor Tim Keller of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York has a great paper on this (not necessary directed toward women in general, but it definitely applies). If you're interested in learning more, I would encourage you to check it out!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Dealing with Sin ... What Fun!

Sin is not something that I like to talk about or much less think about a whole lot. As a follower of Jesus, I obviously believe that I am sinner because Jesus says that I am in His Word and that's ultimately the reason why God sent him to earth, bottled up his godliness into human form to live the life that I couldn't live, died on the cross to pay for the sin that I couldn't pay for and rose again to give my blemished self new and eternal life. I know that I am sinner. But somehow, I live my life as if it's not always a big deal. Society doesn't emphasize it, why should I? (Eww ... so wrong!)

Not that I would outwardly communicate that my goal in life is to sin and gratify my fleshly desires as oppose to glorify the Lord ... but when I look at my behavior and my words and my thought life, I can't believe how easily I fool myself. My own mind is numb to the sinfulness of my heart and many times I can't even identify the sin in my life, much less verbally confess it and repent of it and plead with the Lord to help me not do it again. How terrible! If I'm a believer and spend time in the Word, shouldn't this be a natural out pour of my life? Maybe it's not so natural ... maybe it's something I really have to learn, become disciplined at and grow in. But if my heart was originally created in the image of God, there is hope for me, but it's going to take a lot of sin whittling to get there!

Somehow, the Lord has broken through the numbness of my mind in the last few weeks and has begun to point out the areas of my brokenness and how desperately I need the Holy Spirit to intervene! It's amazing how He can use marriage to reveal this truth in our lives! How great and how frustrating at the same time!

As I was really trying to address some of this stuff this morning, I stumbled across a fantastic sermon transcript from a pastor by the name of John MacArthur, Jr. of Grace Community Church in Panorama City, California. The sermon focuses on dealing with habitual sin. Now I'm always a bit weary to utilize and refer to resources that I am not familiar with, but after reading through this sermon transcript and referencing the scripture behind it, I feel that it is totally legit and worth studying. Funny thing, I have been a believer for about 20 years and I have never come across a better explanation of how to deal with my sin than this. I want to share some of the highlights of the sermon below and then I'd encourage you to check it out for yourself. It's definitely worth your time!

MacArthur focuses his sermon around Hebrews 12:1 by saying, "... let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us." He uses this to simply express that as a fallen people, who are separated from God, sin is a part of who we are (Jeremiah 13:23), that our hearts our deceitful (Jeremiah 17:9), and that sin does not remain separate but it mingles in all of our motives and actions (Romans 7), regardless of how hard we try to separate our goodness and our sin.

This thought is not new to me at all, in fact that's what brought me to this place, but the question that I have and that MacArthur answers so well is, "How do we 'lay aside the sin that so easily entangles us'?" We see in 2 Corinthians 7:1, Ephesians 4:22, Romans 6:12 and 1 Peter 2:1 & 11 that we're commanded to do this. Sadly, I find myself wrestling with the same sin over and over. It may present itself in different situations, but when I look at the root of it, it's all the same, and I can't seem to move past it.

Now, I'm not saying that I never confess my sin and seek forgiveness ... that's not true at all, but as MacArthur communicates so well, my confession tends to be more periodic, prior to communion or when I'm seriously convicted rather than ongoing. And when this is the case, MacArthur says that we tend to walk away from those events with very little change in the pattern of our sinning. He says that we want to confess our sins and that we have the confidence that He is faithful and just to forgive, which is true of me, but that we don't take the steps toward a decreased load of sin -- where our list of sins becomes shorter and shorter because we're dealing with it on an ongoing basis. (Not that we ever stop sinning completely, but we're moving toward healthy, progressive sanctification.)

Here are the 8 steps that MacArthur identifies as ways to begin "laying aside our sin" or in reality, leaving it at the foot of the cross and pleading with Jesus to help us not do it again!
  1. Don't underestimate the seriousness of sin. When I first read this, I thought to myself, "Oh, I know that my sin is a serious offense toward God," and began to read on. But darn it, if I really knew how serious the offense was, my life would look a lot different. I would try a lot harder NOT to sin! My heart would be so changed that the out pour of that change into my actions, words and thoughts would be very different. I think this is the same idea as knowing the Gospel. On the surface, we know it well, but when we look to see if it permeates every area of our life as a response to Christ's gift of grace to us, we quickly realize that we know a whole lot less about the Gospel than we think we do. It's time to hit the books (scripture, really) and get down on my knees.

  2. Strongly purpose and promise God not to sin. Now at first, I was a little suspicious of this call. "How am I suppose to promise God that I won't sin again if I know that I am a sinner and cannot live a perfect life?" But MacArthur uses strong commands from scripture to support his point. Not that we won't sin again, but if progressive sanctification is our goal, and scripture says it should be (Romans 6:1-23), we need to seek forgiveness from sin and move forward aiming not to do it again. Psalm 119:106 -- "I have sworn, and I will confirm it, that I will keep Thy righteous ordinances." Psalm 119:32 -- "I shall run the way of Thy commandments, for Thou will enlarge my heart." Hmm, looks like Psalm 119 is just bursting with support and directives!

    In addition, verse 32 brings up a great point about endurance. I typically think of my faith as a growing test of endurance, not necessary my heart's capacity to strive toward righteousness. MacArthur says that this verse communicates the endurance that we need for our heart to push forward, to exceed limitations, or to enlarge. And when I think about this, it makes perfect sense ... God created my heart in His image, therefore my heart has the capacity for perfect obedience, without the existence of sin. I'm not going to get there while I'm on earth, but that doesn't mean that I can't be in training for that day and continually strive to strengthen my heart and it's capacity grow and change for good.

  3. Be suspicious of your own spirituality. MacArthur references Job 31:1 and Proverbs 4:23 here. The verse from Proverbs particularly strikes a chord with me: "Watch over your heart with all diligence, for out of it are the issues of life." Gracious, why am I not more careful of the things that I allow in my heart? MacArthur says that we need to "understand that except for the grace of God we would fall into any and every sin and we would be deceived so easily." Praise the Lord His gift of GRACE!

  4. Resist the first risings of the flesh and its pleasures. MacArthur's biggest point here is to stop sin at it's conception not at it's birth. This will root out a great deal of sin and it's ability to penetrate into all areas of our life. MacArthur then reminds us that if we find ourselves sacrificing for ourselves and seeking pleasures that we desire, instead of what the Lord desires for us, we've already given in. This is huge ... I've got to stop and think ... it's not about me and what I want, it's about Jesus and what pleases him!

  5. Meditate on the Word. MacArthur brings Psalm 37:31 to mind here: "The law of his God is in His heart; his steps do not slip." When a heart is controlled by the Word the steps don't slip. Hmm, I remember referencing this idea a few weeks ago in my post on Atheistic Enterprising. This again reminds me that if we're surrounded and immersed in God's Word, that's the stream that will out pour from our souls. If we're immersed in other things -- materialism, selfishness, fame, pride, etc. -- those things will take the place of godliness in our lives.

    MacArthur goes on to say that "It is the constant input of God's Word that begins to fill up the mind and control the thinking, and that alone becomes the strength and resource in us that can resist the initial impulses of the flesh." Psalm 119:9 & 10 and Colossians 3:16 are three great verses here.

  6. Be immediately repentant over your lapses. Here's a big one for me: MacArthur notes that repentance is not just saying, "I'm sorry, Lord, forgive me," but rather, "I'm sorry, Lord, forgive me, and I don't want to do it again." We can't fool God about the genuineness of our hearts. Yikes! This is a tough one for me ... I feel like I earnestly come to the Lord seeking repentance but many times, I sinfully want to hold on to my sin because I like doing it. How awful is that! All that shows is that I'm deeply rooted in my sin and that I'd prefer my way [the sin] than God's way. But in reality, my way only leads to death and there is no life or hope in that! I simply need to realize that my longing for my way, which is sin, is just a false reality. Again, I was made in the image of God, God is not sinful but completely righteous, and I am lying to myself if I say that my heart longs to sin. That's the sin in me that's distorting God's true reality for me.

    MacArthur recommends that we name the sin that we're confessing and the related behavior to help keep our heart and ears accountable. If we hold back from naming the sin, we're essentially saying that we want to do it again and that's hypocritical before God! Yikes!

  7. Continually pray for divine help. Colossians 4:2 is a beautiful reminder here: "Watch and pray for you know not when you are going to enter the hour of temptation." MacArthur recommends praying anticipatory prayer. "Lead me not into temptation today, and pray before the flesh begins to rise and entice."

  8. Establish relationships with other believers to hold you accountable. Now this point is a good plug for accountability. For married folks, we know that marriage is really a litmus test for our sin ... there's not much that can slip by our spouses, but for the stuff that does, it's a good reminder to bring it up and be open and honest. Single and married folks alike, it is equally important to have friends that surround us that are going to hold us accountable to living the life that God calls us to. A staff member at Vintage21 Church, Lachlan Payne, just gave a great talk on this topic, and if you're interested in learning more about healthy, biblical accountability, take some time to listen. The important point he makes here, which is contrary to a lot of teaching on accountability, is that confession and prayer are not the only components, but it's 4 thronged: Intentionality, Confession, Prayer and Healing. Healing being the big kicker ... if you have confession and prayer without healing, it's not really worth the time.
* ADDENDUM: After reading through this post again, let me clarify that dealing with sin is not about US rooting out the 'evil' in our life ... but taking steps to actively pursue Jesus, seeking only his righteousness. If the former was communicated, that was not my intention. Rooting out the sin in our life is part of the process, but not on our own strength. It's really about trusting in Jesus' GRACE as we move forward -- seeking forgiveness and embracing the grace that he's already bestowed on us and not relying on our own strength or will. It obviously takes action to move toward progressive sanctification, not just idleness, but we have to keep our eyes focused on Jesus and dependent on Jesus the whole time or we're just focusing on our own ability not the Lord's to redeem us. (My husband was reminded of a relevant quote from C.S. Lewis on this matter and when he finds it, I'll post it in the comment section.)

Friday, November 13, 2009

Sanctification in Marriage // A Great Talk

My husband and I are currently listening to a great sermon on the sanctification in marriage by Matt Chandler of The Village Church in Dallas, TX ... yes, a very hot and exciting Friday night :) (It is actually.) But as we listen to this ... it's based on 1 Peter 3, a chapter of scripture that we've visited a lot on Mark of Beauty, and man does he hit it on the mark!

If you're married or not, this is well worth your time! Enjoy: http://hv.thevillagechurch.net/resource_files/audio/200910251115HWC21ASAAA_MattChandler_ThePathPt07-SanctificationInMarriage.mp3

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Revisiting Mary & Martha ...

I was browsing through my blogroll this evening and I noticed that girltalk just published a post called 'A Martha Moment,' and I quickly thought back to my post a few weeks ago about Atheistic Enterprising. I was encouraged to read that I'm not alone in this issue and that there's hope to rise out of a mere Martha-like serving mentality and into a Mary-like devotion to Jesus.

If you're interested in this, I would encourage you to follow girltalk this week. I'm sure that Carolyn Mahaney has a wealth of information to share.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Teaching Good Theology to Our Kids

I just started reading a fantastic book, Big Truths for Young Hearts, by Bruce Ware. (Yes, I do have a couple books going at the same time right now, but it keeps things interesting.) I'm only about a fourth of the way into it, but so far it's great and I don't see how that will change.
Ware is a pastor and father of 3 and has a long history of explaining theology in a way that kids and adults can understand. The preface, which was written by his two daughters, explains how this book really morphed out of the bedtime stories that he told his kids as they were growing up. Can you imagine having your dad use theology to put you to sleep? Well, maybe that makes perfect sense (on face value, it's not so exciting ... but when you get down into it, it blows me a way!). What a cool practice though; to know biblical theology so well that you can piece it down and jazz it up so that your kids are at the edge of their beds yearning for more ... and then their little heads are filled with beautiful truth as they dream! This book is really a gem ... the the way that Ware articulates concepts and relates them to tangible things that we as parents can learn to articulate ourselves and make them tangible for our kids is wonderful! It'll probably be a while until I start having these conversations with my 14-month-old, but I'm anxious to finish the book and to continue processing this information so that when the day comes, when it's appropriate to dive in; I'm ready! But in the mean time, I think it gives me better perspective on theology and is equipping me with a better understanding and to be able to share it with others.

So ... next time you get an extra $10.87 in your cookie jar, pick up this great tool and enjoy a good read that will last your kids a lifetime and beyond! (Price is specked according to Amazon.)

Saturday, October 31, 2009

A Mother's Job Description

I had the chance to read a page and a half of Womanly Dominion this morning, pretty good for a Saturday, and I'm encouraged by the words that I read that remind me of my job description as a mom.
Homemaking motherhood is no refuge for the inept woman who can't cut it in the real world. Rather, stay-at-home mothering is the ultimate profession for the elite of her gender.

Her skill set must be highly diversified. She's no mere babysitting caretaker. She realizes she's raising thoroughbreds for the kingdom, and so she studies and reads and prepares meals with the inspiration of a dietitian and a nutritionist. Her health care duties summon her often to rise to the level of nurse or physician. Domestic engineer is a suitable title for her who exercises dominion over her household headquarters by subduing swarming details into workable order. She is an economist in keeping the budget, holding the purse strings as the accountant, and acting as the purchasing agent for the family corporation, averting bankruptcy and maintaining solvency. She's a psychologist in analyzing the peculiarities of each temperament, tracing the development of each child, and bringing the apt word as a counselor in every situation. She's a personal trainer and disciplinarian as she cultivates obedience and self-control in her natively wild herd. She's a teacher and professor in instructing her students in reading, spelling, grammar, mathematics, history, science, and art. This is exceptionally and overwhelmingly true of a homeschooling mother. She's a pastor and theologian as she educates her children in the lofty themes of morality, spirituality, and eternity.
 Wow, what a job we mothers are called to! I don't think there's any job in the workforce that would call us to wear this many hats ... but while at the same time has such a high calling -- "raising thoroughbreds for the kingdom." What an amazing blessing!

Chanski continues by saying:
A mother is handling things of a far greater magnitude. She's handling never-dying souls. She's daily conducting heart surgery on eternal spirits whose forever destinies are influenced most profoundly by the hands that rock their cradles, wipe their noses, spank their fannies, open their Bibles, prepare their after-school snacks, and turn off their bedroom lights. Those motherly hands are molding characters which will become men and women who will turn the world upside down either for good or for evil. Now that's a job that counts.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

A Good Remedy for Teething ...

I just finished reading Mark 5:21-43. As I'm digesting it and trying to figure out it's practical application for me, it seems to provide the perfect remedy for my son's teething pain ... his first molar started breaking through late last night. Needless to say, we didn't get a whole lot of sleep last night and nap time this morning didn't work out so well. It seems to be the times when he needs to sleep that it's the worst. Playtime is fine, but it's just when he's laying there, that the pain is evident to him (and the rest of the house.) So, to remedy the matter, we already used up the rest of our children's Motrin and we've been applying the baby oral gel religiously. But in reality, the true remedy outside of my human comprehension should be the Lord.

This does sound hokey ... "Just trust in the Lord and everything will be fine." But that's not really what I mean. God gives us the ability to think and pursue wisdom, Godly wisdom, to make Godly choices so that we don't make those decisions blindly. We see this all throughout Proverbs. God gives us access to science and medicine, so why not use it ... but still we need to understand that medicine, science and wisdom are all within the realm of God. But no matter what we do, God is still in control. God controls health and sickness, life and death, wealth and poverty, and the list goes on. Here's an example of this truth from Isaiah 45:5-7:
I am the Lord, and there is no other besides me; I am the Lord, and there is no other. I form light and create darkness, I make well-being and create calamity, I am the Lord, who does all of these things.
So ... needless to say, I can pursue wise options to help heal my son's pain, but unless the Lord wills it, it won't happen. However, the point here that I don't understand is this: If I choose not to give my son medication for his pain and I just bring it to the Lord, would I just wait on the Lord to direct me to the right remedy or wait for His sovereign healing? I have a difficult time getting my human mind to comprehend this ... Does anyone have any insight here?

But on another note, as I read Mark 5:21-43, I see how Jesus brought the little girl back to life and how He increased her father's faith; ultimately healing him spiritually. I also see how the bleeding woman came to Jesus, despite her embarrassment and shame, touched Jesus with confidence, knowing that He would heal her. Both of these situations, though much more severe than my son's teething pains, bring me back to Jesus' feet too. If Jesus healed people in those situations, why don't I come to Jesus with my son's teething pain? Why shouldn't I have confidence that He can heal him as well, even at a year old, and begin to make Himself real to him in his one-year-old heart and soul? What a beautiful lesson of faith that would be for him and for me!

Once I had this realization, I did take my son to Jesus' feet and pleaded with him to heal him. Now, I don't necessarily think this will automatically stop the pain ... Jesus may choose to do that, but if not, He is teaching me to rely on Him and not on my own strength or knowledge (knowing what medicine's or human remedies to consider). While those options are still good and I will continue to use Motrin and Oral Gel, my confidence needs to be in Jesus first and foremost. I need to take these worries and troubles to the Lord and know that He is faithful to listen and heal, regardless if His definition of healing is the same as mine or not.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Atheistic Enterprising?

As I was plowing through chapter 5: Womanly Dominion in the New Testament, in, you guessed it, Womanly Dominion, I was struck at the contrast that Chanski highlighted between Mary and her sister Martha. Now I can't tell you how many times I've read Luke 10:38-42, but until now, I've never quite identified with Martha the way that I did this morning. Not to say that I have always identified perfectly with Mary and her devotion to Jesus while forgoing all other hospitality-related duties during his visit, but I guess the reality of Martha's servant-like drive over her worship of Jesus is what got me. I find myself wearing Martha shoes WAY too often these days, and Nancy Leigh DeMoss calls this atheistic enterprising. Yikes!

In DeMoss' book, Lies Women Believe, Lie #19 is "I can make it without consistent time in the word and prayer," and she then warns that "Satan knows that if he succeeds in getting us to live independently of the Word of God, we become vulnerable to deception in every area of our lives." Sadly, I believe this happens very subconsciously. At least that's what seems to happen in my own life. I set out to have time with the Lord before the day gets going, but somehow, I manage to replace that time by checking email, hopping on Facebook, blogging, getting a quick load of laundry started, or even just spending extra time to get my coffee brewing. While these activities are not bad in and of themselves, when they take the place of the time that I need to give to the Lord before I begin my day, they are harmful.  And sometimes ... I consider it a feat that I at least woke up before my husband left for the day or my son wakes up. That's definitely a great start, but unless I "get up while it is still dark;" (Proverbs 31:15) and petition the Lord for strength and direction for the day, I'm communicating that I can handle the day on my own!

Chanski has this to say about this attitude: "When we throw ourselves into important projects without consulting the Lord, we're acting arrogantly. Practical womanly dominion without devotional womanly dominion can easily deteriorate into atheistic enterprising. He explores this deeper in James 4:13-15:
Now listen, you who say, 'Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money. Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.' Instead you ought to say, 'If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that.' But now you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil.
At first glance, I wasn't too sure how this lined up with my lack of committing my day to the Lord, but as I dove into David Guzek's commentary,  I quickly understood. He makes three important points:
  1. You who say, "Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, spend a year there, buy and sell, and make a profit": James rebukes the kind of heart that lives and makes its plans apart from a constant awareness of the sovereignty of God, and with an underestimation of our own limitations (you do not know what will happen tomorrow).

  2. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away: James asks us to consider the fragility of human life, and the fact that we live and move only at the permission of God. James will not discourage us from planning and doing, only from planning and doing apart from a reliance on God.

  3. Instead you ought to say, "If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that." It is nothing but sheer arrogance that makes us think that we can live and move and have our being independent of God. This boastful arrogance is the essence of sin: a proud independence, the root of all sin, as was the case with Lucifer (Isaiah 14:12-15) and Adam (Genesis 3:5-7).
Wow ... that strikes hard! If I'm honest, I wouldn't typically think of myself as arrogant, but in relation to point #3, I guess I am. Not intentionally, of course ... and as far as my own justification goes, maybe that's all I need to be 'ok' with it. But, in actuality, by not coming to the Lord at the beginning of my day and praying for His will in all decisions I need to make (not just the big ones) and for His strength to live out the calling that He has called me to ... I am really saying, "Don't worry God, I have this all under control!"

Now, you could argue that you don't really need to have a specific time when you go before the Lord each day; you can do it any time. And I would have to agree. We should be praying continuously and growing in our understanding of Him continuously. But, I would have to argue in response that the time spent in the morning should not be replaced by the sporadic times we spend throughout the day. (I certainly don't do this well, so I understand that it's difficult. But I do not underestimate the importance and the priority that time should take in the morning!) Proverbs 31:15 is a good example of this, Psalm 5:3 is a good example, and Mark 1:35 shows us that even Jesus did this.

Upon reading the commentary on Mark 1:35, I found a quote from Spurgeon on the matter that was quite striking: "Look no man in the face till thou hast seen the face of God. Speak thou with none till thou hast had speech with the Most High."

And in reality, if we don't come to the Lord in the morning, I think it's very easy to forget, begin to rely on ourselves and to progress in a downward cycle toward atheistic enterprising. Chanski continues to explain this concept by saying, "Such atheistic enterprising is the very thing we do if we put our hands to the daily plow without taking time to pray and plead for the help of God to establish the work of our hands. 'In the morning, O Lord, Thou wilt hear my voice; in the morning I will order my prayer to Thee and eagerly watch'"(Psalm 5:3).

The Lord has been convicting me of the need for this practice for many months, but I am SO slow to get into a good routine of it. Slowly though, I think it will happen, and I pray that as we all continue to pursue the Lord, that we will pray about this discipline for our lives and that through it, we will be transformed and experience a new perspective on daily living.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Trusting in the Lord ... even in the tough times

This past year and a half has been one of the most difficult seasons of my life. I was pregnant. We had to sell a house. I had a baby. We adjusted to life with a baby. We moved into "temporary housing." We made a choice as a family that I would quite a job that I loved to stay home and raise our son full time. We had to adjust our budget to reflect one salary. I've had to find my "place" as a stay-at-home mom. We're renovating a house, about to move in a month, and now other life changes are on the horizon. If I were to imagine that this last year and half would have been like this even two years ago, I would have been incredibly fearful. But the beauty of it all is that God has only given us what we could handle, and He has taught us to trust in his provision along the way. I am incredibly grateful for this past year and a half, and I'm amazed to see how God has blessed us through what seemed to be "tough" at the time! And in reality, I can't imagine what my life would be like without going through this and experiencing God's joy each step of the way (sometimes in hindsight).

In a very prophetic sense, my father-in-law shared this devotional reading with us yesterday:
The education of our faith is incomplete if we have yet to learn that God's providence works through loss, that there is a ministry to us through failure and the fading of things, and that He gives the gift of emptiness. It is, in fact, the material insecurities of life that cause our lives to be spiritually established.

The dwindling brook at the Kerith Ravine, where Elijah sat deep in thought, is a true picture of each of our lives. 'Some time later the brook dried up' -- this is the history of our yesterdays, and a prophecy of our tomorrows.

One way or the other, we must all learn the difference between trusting in the gift and trusting in the Giver. The gift may last for a season, but the Giver is the only eternal love.

The Kerith Ravine was a difficult problem for Elijah until he arrived at Zarephath, and suddenly everything became clear as daylight to him. God's hard instructions are never His last words to us, for the woe, the waste, and the tears of life belong to its interlude, not its finale.

If the Lord had led Elijah directly to Zarephath, he would have missed something that helped to make him a wiser prophet and a better man -- living by faith at Kerith. And whenever our earthly stream or any other outer resource has dried up, it has been allowed so we may learn that our hope and help are in God, who made heaven and earth. F.B. Meyer
It is yet again that we must step out in faith. I wish that I did this with the "everydays" of my life, even though these type of decisions have come in bulk lately and seem to be more of our "everydays." I share this simply to encourage you ladies that when God asks us to step out in faith and to "endure" what seems to be a difficult time in our life, that it's God's provision and God's security that will ALWAYS be there for us -- not our own wisdom, strength or material possessions.  God calls us to rely on Him with everything that we are. The more that we're able to submit to His authority in our lives, regardless of the situation, we're going to find ourselves in a much better place -- the place where God has planned for us. The place where He promises to provide for us and make us prosper, regardless if that translates to our earthly understanding of it or not -- usually it doesn't.

Here's one more encouraging thought in relation to this from Womanly Dominion:
Panic attacks are a common affliction in stressful times. Sarah is a heroine worthy of imitation, for instead of fretting and surrendering, she managed to 'hope in God' and 'do what is right without being frightened by fear.'

We're introduced to Sarah immediately after God called her husband to uproot and move from the familiar hometown surroundings of Ur, across the howling Abrabian Desert, to set up house in the alien land of Canaan (Genesis 12:5). She subdued any fears she may have faced, and courageously went, humbly acquiescing to her husband's conscience convictions.
What a beautiful example of trusting the Lord in tough situations!

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Mark of Beauty Hits Facebook

Ok, I did it .... I just created a Mark of Beauty page on Facebook. I debated for a while whether or not I should do it, but in actuality, if the goal of Mark of Beauty is to create a forum where women in all stages of life can come, learn more about godly womanhood, find new resources to continue that study, and help other women come to an understanding of God's true design and purpose for their lives outside of what society tells them, than Facebook is just the right place for Mark of Beauty! And ultimately, if that study brings someone to the feet of Jesus, what more could we ask for? So, after about 4 months online, Mark of Beauty hits Facebook, and I'm eager to see what happens as more people (hopefully) browse through this blog. It's definitely not my intention to highlight my own study of this material, but to share it with Mark of Beauty readers in hopes that we can dialogue about it and continue to point each other to the TRUE beauty of life that is only through Jesus.

If you haven't become a fan of Mark of Beauty on Facebook yet, stop by and do so. I'm going to try to post all blog updates on that page, so hopefully it will be a good way to keep tabs on us.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Excuses For Not Pursuing God's Call

As I mentioned last week, I am slowly working through Womanly Dominion. In chapter 3, Chanski looks at how the great Deceiver convinces us to blame circumstance, genetics, our husbands, etc. for not allowing us to pursue God's calling in our lives. In this chapter, he quotes Nancy Leigh DeMoss quite frequently from her book, Lies Woman Believe, a book that Anna referenced a few months ago. As Anna elaborated on Biblical Womanhood of the Home yesterday, and mentioned God's design for women, it made me think of this point that Chanski reiterates here.

In Chanski's argument against being a 'marital victim,' blaming your husband or lack of having a husband for your inability to "Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the sky and over every living thing that moves on the earth...," (obviously you need a husband to "be fruitful and multiply," but that's beside the point here) he says this:
It's not time to fixate on a husband's duties, but on a wife's. The Serpent points fingers at others, blaming them. The Savior presses us each with our own personal responsibility. "Peter therefore seeing him said to Jesus, 'Lord, and what about this man?' Jesus said to him, 'If I want him to remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow Me!'" (John 21:21-22)
Our responsibility, married or not, is to first and foremost FOLLOW JESUS. Not our husband or the ideal of having a husband. If we have been blessed to have a husband that follows Jesus first and dies to himself to make us thrive; our job is much easier because we have a vibrant example of this right beside us; and I have to say that I am exceedingly blessed to have a husband that tries to live life like this. But if you're not in this situation, although it's difficult for me to say this, Chanski and DeMoss show us in scripture that we can't use this as an excuse to NOT pursue Jesus and follow his commands for our lives. It is up to the Lord to change our husbands, not us, and as we are obedient, God can choose to use us to show Himself to our husbands. (We see truth of this in 1 Peter 3:1.)

For the married ladies out there, Chanski and DeMoss point us to Proverbs 31:10-31 as a beautiful example of what it looks like to put Jesus first, embrace the role as helper and discover the blessings that the Lord has for our obedience. And then Chanski says this, "Stop blaming your man, and start helping him!" (I talked about this a few months ago in my exploration of what it means to be a helper.)

For you single ladies out there, here's what DeMoss says about using the 'marital victim' card:
Lie #21. I have to have a husband to be happy. The truth is that the ultimate purpose of marriage is not to make us happy. Women who get married for the purpose of finding happiness are setting themselves up for almost certain disappointment; they seldom find what they are looking for.... The truth is that happiness is not found in (or out of) marriage; it is not found in any human relationship. True joy can only be found through Christ.
And this is something new to me, but DeMoss herself is nearly fifty and she is not married! What insight she has on what it means to be a godly woman and uphold godly marriage!

Chanski reminds us of Phillipians 4:11b, 19: "I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.. And my God will meet all your needs according to His glorious riches in Christ Jesus."

So, regardless if we're married or not, we cannot continue to use the 'marital victim' card as an excuse to sit and mope in our situation. We must use everything that God has given us (talents, singleness, husbands, children, wealth, influence, etc.) to make Jesus known. God obviously doesn't NEED us to proclaim His name and make His Son known, but He commands us to do it in response to the overflow of joy we receive from knowing Him. And really, our response to Jesus' gift of grace shouldn't be anything less!

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Biblical Womanhood: Revisited

I know Courtney read Biblical Womanhood in the Home back this summer and did some great posts on it, but I am just now digging into this book with 10 of my Sunday School girls. We are reading/discussing it together over the next several months and in preparing for our meeting this week-- the introduction and chapter one have provided some eye opening thoughts to me that I thought I would share.

In just the first few paragraphs of the introduction, Nancy (I act like I know her personally ... haha) talks about "successful" women in society. What a fabulous question for women to ask themselves daily! Success is defined by so many in such different ways. So what/who defines success for you? God truly outlines it for women, but is that we strive for every day or is it something entirely different we are after? Something self-seeking? WOW-- what a simple eye opener. At the end of the day, was I successful in God's eyes?

Moving into Chapter 1, as a former biology teacher, I was so glad to see Carolyn Mehaney touch on the idea that we were CREATED feminine. It isn't a choice you make, it is a gift from God.

I also pondered for quite sometime on page 24-- the fact that "God said it was not good for the man to be alone. We have no record that Adam had complained of any lack. Rather, it was God who declared that aloneness is not good for a man. God was the one who made man aware of his need for a woman." WOW!! Who doesn't know a single woman out there that needs to hear these words-- or wish they had been told this back in their singleness? It is no wonder that single men seem so much more content with singleness than single women. God awakens single men to the desire in His own timing -- not the timing of a less than feminine woman. I never had really considered this but how true it is and it is just one more time that I am reminded that God created us with such different needs that only He can truly meet.

I look forward to sharing more about the book in the weeks ahead!

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Up to My Knees in Laundry ...

I woke up this morning about 20 minutes before my son, in hopes to seek the Lord and prepare myself for the day. In doing this, I picked up Womanly Dominion and read a few pages to 'put on' the right perspective for the day. As I was reading, I realized how out of control the laundry had gotten in the last few days. The laundry basket is busting at the seems, the clothes that are in the dryer have been there since Monday and the dishes await me in the left-hand side of the sink (we do not have a dishwasher). It seemed like all of this 'work' just starred me down as I was standing in the kitchen drinking my coffee and trying to get a few pages read before my son woke up. To my benefit, these are the words that I read as I stood there though:
For a woman who rejects the mind of the world and puts on the mind of Christ, it is counted a great honor to follow in the submissive footsteps of the servant-hearted Son of God. For there's no more prestigious role in the world than humbly occupying the position, and performing the role assigned by one's heavenly Father. This is what it means to be Christ-like (p. 40-42).
 After reading these words, God quickly began to put my 'work' into perspective. Yes, the laundry is out of control. Yes, the dishes are dirty and piling up. Yes, I need to rerun the dryer and fold those clothes. But in doing that, I should do it for the glory of God. It's a privilege to be able to do this work for Him, and I should do it with a glad and rejoicing heart. All of this work is part of my role as a woman, wife and mother and being the manager and keeper of my home. No, I shouldn't allow everything to pile up like this. I need to be more disciplined and get it done on a regular basis. But God's grace is sufficient for me even when the laundry piles up, and His grace is sufficient to save me from my self-centeredness when I just want to do what I want to do and NOT the things that I should do -- take care of my house and family well. Although it feels 'lowly' at times, it's no comparison to the servant-like example that Christ provided for us, and I'm very thankful to be reminded of this great gift this morning.

Here are some similar thoughts about Womanly Dominion from the discussion of the book on girltalk.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

A New Gospel-Centered Parenting Book ...

I was just browsing through my blog list and noticed a recommendation for Gospel-Powered Parenting: How the Gospel Shapes and Transforms Parenting on the CBMW blog. Moms, you might want to check this one out. Looks like a great resource. I'm going to add it to my to-read list.

Drop me a comment if you know anything else about the book.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Longing For the Gospel

It's interesting ... toward the end of last weekend, I had a conversation with my aunt, who is not a believer to my knowledge, about the longing that we feel for something greater in life -- that longing for deep passion, completeness and soul satisfaction. And it all started as we were sorting through my Grandma's short stories and poetry ... pieces that I had never seen or heard before. As she read them aloud, I was struck by the deep passion in them and how I could almost see my Grandma's soul lift off the page and speak of years of longing for something that she once had or thought she had.

Isn't it true for us women that we always long for something like this, even if we are in a healthy place in marriage and know how deeply our husband loves and cherishes us? Or, it's in those growing moments or days or weeks when we do feel distant due to our own selfishness and desire for something that's not real at all -- an almost Hollywood-like romance.

When we put it all in perspective though, this is the longing that God has ingrained in us for His glory (whether we know it or not). This longing is our soul's desire for the gospel, and it's only the gospel that will fulfill that deep longing and nothing else.

This is the longing that I believe my Grandma was writing about in her poetry, and the longing that my aunt sensed that she has always yearned for -- whether in silent moments as she longs for the past, or during those peaceful and awe-inspiring moments amidst the Colorado mountains, or as she simply reads about someone else's life, like my Grandma's, and longing to experience those things for herself.

At times, we think that it's just a healthy marriage that will bring back this passion or the right boyfriend. Or for some, it's just the right job, or that new car, or the security of a higher paying job. But as believers, when we sit back and really think about it, while God does provide some of these things to provide for us here on earth, those things aren't the answer to our soul's longing. The only answer is Jesus Christ!

We see this in Solomon's writing in Ecclesiastes. Solomon seeks after and achieves all the love, pleasure, riches, and wisdom that he could possibly obtain, yet he still finds it all meaningless. He doesn't conclude that the answer is Jesus Christ since it is the old testament, but he does say this: "... Here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man" (Ecclesiastes 12:13). And if we look to the new testament to see what God's commandments are, I think we find our answer in John 15:10-11: "If you obey my Father's commands, you will remain in my love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete."

It doesn't seem like this verse spells it out in black and white, but it does say that if we obey God's commands (as Solomon suggested), Jesus' love will remain in us, and his entire reasoning behind having his love remain in us is so that His joy may be in us, which ultimately COMPLETES our joy. So, I guess that's it! We seek high and low for joy and pleasure from God-created things, but the only way for that joy to be complete is to have Jesus' love in us ... that only comes through his gospel and knowing Jesus Christ himself.

Pastor Tyler Jones of Vintage21 Church begins to unpack this truth in his study of Romans 1.

Sacred Romance, by Brett Curtis and John Elderidge, is a book that explores this sense of longing too. It's been many years since I've read the book, but I do have fond memories of the book as I read it while sitting on the beach and peering out into the ocean before me. It's a good read and I recommend it if you're looking to explore this topic in more detail.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Ladies, Get Ready For Action!

I just got back from a 4-day trip to Ohio. This trip has been anticipated for a while now, but I never quite knew when it would come. This trip was for my Grandma's funeral.

This was the 3rd funeral that I have attended in the last 8 months -- all of which were funerals for my grandparents. Grandpa passed away in November. Pop passed away in February. Grandma passed away on the 6th of this month. They all lived very full lives -- 98, 91 and 96 years ... a total of 285 years in total, but when death comes, you're never quite prepared for it.

And with all of this death lately, I feel like God has really sparked an urgency in my heart for the gospel ... the type of urgency we see in 1 Peter and Colossians where we need to be "prepared for action" to give an answer for what we believe and to "make the most of every opportunity" we have to share the good news of Jesus Christ with the people that God has place within our sphere of influence. This urgency comes because of the fact that I don't know if my grandparents knew Jesus the way that I know Him. And to think that even in the end of their lives, be it a few months or even the last nanosecond of their time here, how different their lives would have been because of their belief in Jesus. It is my hope that they were able to experience His saving grace for themselves and are now basking in His eternal glory in heaven. Sadly though, I will not know until I too meet Jesus in heaven. (However, when I get there, I am sure that my grandparents will only be a fleeting thought, if they come to mind at all, when compared with the resplendent glory of Christ.) But it is sad to me, that I don't know if they knew Jesus and I feel that it is my life's call to make sure that I do everything in my power to communicate the gospel to everyone that God places within my sphere of influence so that I might be able to celebrate the joy of Jesus' grace with them while they're here on earth and use that shared joy to introduce yet more people to His love as well.

Fortunately, I did have the opportunity to share the gospel with my Grandpa 9 months before he passed away ... that visit was actually the last time I saw him. My explanation was a bit shaky and there are definitely things that I wish I would have said differently, but I know that regardless of what words came out of my mouth, God was able to use them for His glory. I wish so much that I would have been more courageous earlier on in my life so that we would have had more time. But that too is all in God's timing, and I can only trust that God used that situation in Grandpa's life to meet him exactly where he was and is using that situation to grow me for the future.

I feel however that this sense of urgency comes in spurts though. Over the last year and a half, I would get all fired up when one of my grandparents would be in the hospital and we wouldn't know how much longer they had, or immediately after one of their funerals, or as I reminisce about their lives, but then I allow myself to get sucked back into my selfish desires and forget about the call God's placed on my life. How do I change this? Obviously ongoing prayer and immersion into God's word is the only fix, but to be honest, I don't always yearn to do those things. I am a sinful and self-indulgent person. But I know I need God's discipline to get in a healthy rhythm. Only God can change my perspective and give me a compassionate heart that longs for others to know Jesus. This is not going to be an easy task, but I pray that you will join me in this challenge, and that we would not be apathetic and just sit on the sidelines and watch the people in our lives struggle through life without Jesus. It might seem like a scary task to approach our neighbors, co-workers, and even family members and share Jesus with them time and time again, but on an eternal spectrum, it should be worth it.

And I'm not saying that we should just hand them a track and be done or just scream Jesus to their face. Heck no! That's not the example we see in scripture at all. It's all about building relationships with people, loving them, learning all about the gospel that we can, and then showing them the gospel through the way we live our lives and speak it to them and teach it to them when it's appropriate. But we cannot convince ourselves that speaking about Jesus and teaching them about Jesus only happens on rare occasions. I think we'd be surprised how much people will welcome the thought of Jesus. They may not believe it right away, but just to mention his name and make Him more of a frequent part of our conversation and life -- non-compartmentalized -- would make a huge difference.

In the case of my Grandpa, regardless if he believed or not, he did communicate a sense of understanding and trust in the words that I spoke to him because of how those words lined up with my life. I don't remember his exact words to me, but I do remember that he respected me and thought very highly of me, so because of that I am very thankful and hopeful that the Lord used that to help him forget reason and accept Jesus for who He is because of the small glimpse he saw of Jesus in me. (I'm not saying this to boast about myself. But as I try to understand how to make this urgency a greater part of my life and something that actually compels me toward ACTION, it helps to relate it to past experience.)

Do you have any stories like this that you'd like to share? If so, please feel free to share in the comments section.

Addendum: So, after I had the chance to digest what I wrote, I had a few more thoughts that I want to add in regards to my Grandma.

After talking to mom on several occasions about Grandma's beliefs, mom seems to feel pretty strongly that Grandma was a believer, and for that I'm very thankful. And if that's the case, I'm less sad about her death, because that means that she is now with Jesus. Who could want anything better? However, it saddens me that Jesus wasn't so much apart of her life that we got to talk about it together. (I am able to do that with my mom and it's a huge blessing in  my life.) My mom seems to think that "it was just her generation - people were more personal about their spirituality and just didn't talk about." That may be true for some, but I can't believe that's the case for an entire generation. I respect my mom and so I don't want to use this medium to call her out or anything like that, but I do believe that scripture is very clear about how we're suppose to live our lives and they're suppose to be lives of ACTION not SILENCE; regardless of the generation or time we're living in. (Paul shows us this in 1 Corinthians 9:19-23.) The Bible is still living and active and we're suppose to follow its directive for our lives because it's God's Word. (Not that we always follow this to the T because of our sinful nature, of course.) The only difference should be the way that we live our life out according to our culture -- to live in the world, to have influence in that world ... but not to adopt the practices of that world that are contrary to the Lord.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

My Response to 'A Woman's Place in Christianity' #3

Ok, here we go ... on to #3 (3 of 10). (If you're just tuning in for the first time, check out my previous posts about 'A Woman's Place in Christianity' and then read my response to Cline's post below):
Response #3, Cline's quote from Ambrose:

Ambrose (339-97): "Adam was deceived by Eve, not Eve by Adam... it is right that he whom that woman induced to sin should assume the role of guide lest he fall again through feminine instability."

Ok, I believe that there is some truth to Ambrose's quote here, but again, when used out of context, like Cline has done, it does depict a negative view of Christian womanhood rather than the biblical reality of womanhood. So, when we look at Ambrose's quote, we see a few things:
  1. Adam was deceived by Eve, but Eve was deceived as well -- all originating from the deception of the serpent.
  2. Ambrose infers that the role of guide, or helper as I've referred to it before, is given to Eve as a consequence to Eve's "deception" or because of her sin. But in actuality, we see in Genesis 2:18 that God designed this role for Eve and every other woman even before the Fall; making the role of helper a beautiful calling, not a consequence or punishment. (Follow the "helper" link above to learn more about being a helper.)
  3. And while the words "feminine instability" probably drive our blood pressure up several pulses, we do have the tendency to become unstable when we're not living life as God has called us. "Feminine instability" is probably an over generalized term here, but in the case of Eve, when she chose to disregard Adam, follow her curiosity and take control, she did become unstable and gave Satan a foothold, which lead both she and Adam to sin for the first time. So, as women who are prone to desire control and to 'devour' our husbands instead of love and support them, we have to be on our toes and in prayer consistently to flee from our sinful desires and not carry ourselves and our husbands into sin and destruction.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Being a Helper is like Beating a Mountain Lion ...

This sounds a little strange, but I just read a new post on Metro Moms Blog (linked in my blog roll) and Jaime one of the blog contributors shared some of the things she's learned at a recent conference. She shared a story that her mom used to illustrate the tremendous role that we as women have as helpers and the effect that we can have on our husbands, ourselves and our marriages in our effort to honor the Lord.

See how she relates our helper role to beating a mountain! (She also links to the podcast from the entire conference she attended which might be a good resource to listen to.)


Thursday, September 3, 2009

Spiritual Mothering?

Last week I posted about how we can practically live out the calling of Titus 2, and as I was blog browsing this morning, I stumbled across a book that might provide some very helpful advice on how to pursue and walk through Titus 2 relationships with other women. The book is called Spiritual Mothering. I haven't read it yet, obviously, but I'm looking for a new book right now and this one might be it. Susan Hunt wrote it. She was a contributing author to Biblical Womanhood in the Home, and so I would imagine that she's got some quality stuff to say.

Anyone read this book? If not, consider picking up a copy and as I read through it, hopefully soon, and comment about it, share your two cents as well.

Other books that I'm considering to read right now are Womanly Dominion, which the crew at girltalk just recently read together, and God, Marriage & Family, which Todd Perkins of Vintage21 Church just recommended to families at V21. All three seem like great books, Spiritual Mothering included, but obviously due to time restraints and my budget, I can only choose ONE right now, so I better choose wisely .... I'll just have to pick up the others at another time.

For other good reads, check out the goodreads section of my blog on the right-hand column, toward the bottom.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

My Response to 'A Woman's Place in Christianity' #2

If you're just tuning in for the first time, check out my previous posts about 'A Woman's Place in Christianity' and then read my response to Cline's post with us:
Response #2
In Austin Cline's post, 'A Woman's Place in Christianity', he used 10 quotes from historic "Christian" figures and authorities to prove that Christianity promotes a negative view of womanhood. In his post, Cline uses a quote from Tertullian as the 2nd of 10 to 'prove' this point:

Tertullian (160?-220?)
: "Woman is a temple built over a sewer, the gateway to the devil. Woman, you are the devil's doorway. You led astray one whom the devil would not dare attack directly. It was your fault that the Son of God had to die; you should always go in mourning and rags."

I, however, believe that this quote from Tertullian only paints a portion of the picture here (whether that was his intent or not ... we'd have to see the original text in full context). Some of you may be surprised that I'm even giving the quote this credit, but I believe that Proverbs is very clear about the power that women have to lead people astray when we pursue folly over wisdom, and in those instances it's probably appropriate to paint such vivid images as "a temple built over a sewer" and "the gateway to the devil." Proverbs 5:3-6 says this (this is one of many examples I could use):
For the lips of an adultress drip honey, and her speech is smoother than oil; but in the end she is bitter as gall, sharp as a double-edged sword. Her feet go down to death; her steps lead straight to the grave. She gives no thought to the way of life; her paths are crooked, but she knows it not.
Now, when we first read this, it can be very easy to skip right over these verses because we would never consider ourselves an adultress, and for the most part, I hope that's true. But, if we read past the label that this woman is given and into her actions, I don't believe that we're too far off at times. How many times have we used crafty, coy words to get our way ... to talk our way around something ... to ultimately lead someone astray without even realizing it. We're sinful beings, I don't doubt that we haven't done this! If it's for our own gain, for our best interest, I'm sure that it's happened. But we know deep down that the life of folly is not the path to true life. There is hope and a woman's only fate is not destined to that of "a temple over a sewer." Jesus offers us new life and that's the part that is left out of Cline's argument! He forgot to read Romans! Romans 6: 22-23 says this:
But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves to God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
This is true for both men and women, and this is far from life of folly ... and from a life as a fake temple over a sewer, but the real deal, thanks to the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 3:16)! If Jesus lives in us, we have his Holy Spirit shining through us to resonate the beauty of Christ, not the rankness of sewage. But we have to be cautious not to give the devil a foothold (Ephesians 4:27) and to not lose sight of the grace we have in Christ Jesus.

And to touch on the last part of this quote, "It was your fault [Eve/woman] that the Son of God had to die; you should always go in mourning and rags." This part is untrue. No where in scripture does it say that "woman caused the Fall."But I think that we can infer that it was a 3-tiered problem: 1) The serpent, 2) Eve, and 3) Adam. God reprimands all three in Genesis 3. The serpent was deceptive. Eve stepped out of her bounds, left Adam, took control and was 'convinced' to eat the forbidden fruit. And Adam, in his apathy, just sat back, didn't ask any questions or speak the truth that he knew and ate the fruit that Eve gave to him. Adam failed too because he did not carry out the role God created for him, to "rule over ... every living creature that moves on the ground," including Eve. He just sat back, twiddled his thumbs and allowed her to succumb to her desire to control.

Thus, although it would be easy for me to say, "this statement is not true because I just simply don't want to be blamed for the Fall" and stuck in mourning and in rags my entire life, I know that I can confidently say that this is not true because scripture says that it is not true in Genesis.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Living Out Titus 2

I had the unexpected opportunity to catch up with a friend over the phone yesterday, and what I think was intended to only be a few-minute phone call to ask me a question, turned into a 30-minute conversation about godly womanhood and scriptures mandate for older women to 'disciple' younger women in Titus 2. (This is not that unusual though because this friend and I have a long track record of carrying on like this ... but now that we both have kids and don't see each other as often, I tend to forget about these fun conversations that we've always tended to have.)

I'm not really going to get into our conversation, but my point in posting about this is that our chat made me think about how women really need to be in relationship with other godly women so that they can learn from one another -- life experiences and from scripture -- and figure out how it relates to God's call to us as women. (This has been the main purpose of this blog, actually, as I'm learning this stuff, but it can't be solely dependent on reading material like a blog or a book. We must be in relationship with one another!) And to come to find out, women all over our church are organically seeking out and entering into these relationships that we see mapped out for us in Titus 2, and I think it's so beautiful! When there's a need, even if there's no cut-and-dry ministry to fulfill that need, God still finds a way to care for his daughters! (Duh, I know ... but when it's played out before your eyes, it's still very awe inspiring.)

So, as I sit in awe of how God is working in our midst, I am taken back to chapter 11 of Biblical Womanhood in the Home to see how a formal Titus 2 ministry could be shaped. I'm not saying that this is something that has to be in place formally, but it does provide helpful insight into the 'underground' development of the organic relationships that are already forming, and that could potential form within our community groups. This could be a great prayer point to keep on your prayer list, so that women, regardless of age or life experience, could have the opportunity to enter into a Titus 2 relationship that will help them continue pursuing godly womanhood.

Check out chapter 11 of Biblical Womanhood in the Home for yourself and feel free to share any comments that you have.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

My Response to 'A Woman's Place in Christianity' #1

A few weeks ago, (sorry, life's been busy), I posted a link and my reactions to an atheist's view of Christian womanhood, based on Christian history. And while I don't believe that all of these quotes are wrong -- when they are not taken out of context and used to communicate a false image of godly womanhood -- some of them do represent a misunderstanding of scripture and God's call for women (at least in this context ... I'm not sure where these quotes were taken from ... if you have any background knowledge about this information please feel free to share). I know that this happens all the time, and when people use information out of context or information other than scripture and God-honoring references that point back to scripture to summarize 'Christianity's view of women,' you're always going to find a negative and untrue picture. So, in effort to point this argument back to scripture and "redeem" this negative view of Christianity, I am going to attempt to communicate the biblical truth that these quotes miss, even though the author and original commentators of this article will never read it. (The article was written back in 2005.)

(The quotes that were referenced in A Woman's Place in Christianity are italicized.)

Here's 1 of 10 (this may take some time):

Clement of Alexandria (150?-215?): "Every woman should be filled with shame by the thought that she is a woman." This is NOT true!
  1. Women were created by God and in His image: Genesis 1:27 says, "... God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them." Thus, regardless of cultural influence, no woman should feel ashamed for being what God created her to be because 1) God created her, and 2) He created her in His own image, so there is NOTHING for her to be ashamed about! As I've mentioned in previous posts, since God created male and female in his image, each being represents the male and female qualities of God, and without woman, we wouldn't be able to experience that side of God!
  2. God said that ALL that He created was GOOD: In Genesis 1:31, on the evening of the sixth day, "God saw all that he had made, and it was very good." This refers to 'woman' too and thus God sees woman as something good, not something of shame.
  3. God praises women: Proverbs 31:29-30 says, "'Many women do noble things, but you surpass them all.' Charm is deceptive and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised." This account is far from shameful, the psalmist says that there are many noble women, but the woman in this passage surpasses them all -- not because of her outward beauty but because of her fear of the Lord -- and for that she is to be praised NOT put to shame!
  4. Women are of great worth to God: You may remember from 1 Peter 3:4 that we should have "unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit" and it is through that demeanor and heart that Peter says women are of "great worth in God's sight." This is by no means a conditional sort of love, but if we obey God and do as He calls us to do, God can use us in incredible ways and that's of great worth for Him and His kingdom.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

A True View of Womanhood?

I was browsing through About.com for an unrelated topic to godly womanhood and discovered this interesting article: A Woman's Place in Christianity, written by an atheist. I feel like I reference a counterrevolution to feminism/societal views of womanhood periodically but I rarely have cut and dry examples of what we're up against. This article is a prime example ... take a look at the comments at the end of it as well.

I can see how the quotes that are mentioned could tick people off and portray a negative view of Christianity and how it depicts womanhood (regardless if these quotes were wrong or just taken out of context) ... it definitely fires me up, heck even the best of us do that though at times, but that's why we can't put our hope in man but in God, the holy creator of the universe! Because of our sinful nature (believers or not), unfortunately we will always have the capacity to lead people astray because we can get caught up projecting our own "righteousness" and not the work of Jesus' grace and renewal in our hearts. We can only lead people to the Lord and trust that he's going to redeem their view of creation.

I would love to hear your comments about this and hopefully put together a 'counter' (on this blog since the article that I reference was written in 2005) to this article referencing where scripture does call womanhood a godly and blessed calling!

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

The Beauty of Submission, Part 3

It's interesting ... I just finished the last two chapters of Feminine Appeal last night and guess what one of those chapters was called? The Beauty of Submission ... how appropriate! I promise I didn't read ahead or catch a sneak peek before I started this submission series.

I haven't had the chance to dive into Genesis like I had mentioned last week, but with the bit of study that I ventured into last week, I believe that Mahaney's wisdom ties up many of the loose ends for me that I was unsure about in 1 Peter 3:6, where we see that Peter uses Sarah as the example for us to follow:
5 For this is the way the holy women of the past who put their hope in God used to make themselves beautiful. They were submissive to their own husbands, 6 like Sarah, who obeyed Abraham and called him her master. You are her daughters if you do what is right and do not give way to fear.
As we look at Sarah's life in Genesis, we see that even though she acted in obedience to her husband, Abraham, and accompanied him on a long journey from their home in Ur to unknown places, where she did indeed trust God to lead Abraham, she still failed many crucial times.
  1. Not standing up for truth when Abraham asked her to "act" like his sister, not his wife, so that Pharaoh would spare his life and give him wealth

  2. Recommending and having Abraham marry Hagar so that he could have a child with her to be his heir ... failing to believe God's promise to her and Abraham ... ultimately causing bitterness between she and Hagar and introducing violent hostility between two peoples, Ishmael and Isaac, that has evolved into the Arab-Israel conflict today
But despite this sin (and maybe her 'good' intentions at times), God's faithfulness was greater. God still chose to bless Abraham and Sarah, and we see this as he gives them new names, a great covenant that they will be the father and mother of great nations in Genesis 17, and that Sarah will bear their child, Isaac, at 91 years old.

And the beauty of Peter's example here is that he does use Sarah, a woman who has screwed up, but even in the midst of her sin and after pursuing forgiveness, continues to put her trust in God, over her husband to do what's best for her. Mahaney says this:
Sarah's story doesn't end in failure. By the time she gave birth to Isaac -- a full fifteen years later -- God had performed a momentous work of grace in her life. Her lack of trust in God matured into a robust faith. In fact, she is one of only two women listed among the Hebrews 11 'heroes of faith.'

This God who transformed Sarah's disbelieving heart can do the same for us. If we embrace his plan for our lives and purpose to obey His commands, He will develop in us the beauty of submission. He will enable us to trust Him to lead our husbands to lead us.
How beautiful is that! That even at 91+ years of age, God still chose to use Sarah and to change her for His glory. So much for the saying, "You can't teach an old dog new tricks." Sarah was definitely an old dog (no derogatory meaning implied)! And I think the encouraging thing for us here is that regardless if we've been married for a year, 10 years or 50 years, we ALL still need God's grace to submit well. Hopefully at the 50 year mark (and before) our hearts will be more soft and our attitudes will be more gentle to submit well, but we're all in need of the same grace and it's only through that grace and submission to the Lord that submission to our husbands will ever be beautiful. And it's also through that grace and reliance on the Lord that we can stand firm and "not give way to fear" as we continue down this journey.

Stay tuned ... I think I'll take one more post to wrap up this submission series, but in the mean time, here's what looks to be a great resource on Sarah and Abraham if you're interested in diving in deeper: http://bible.org/seriespage/yes-my-lord%E2%80%94-ithe-story-abraham-and-sarahi.