Saturday, June 27, 2009

A Good Read: Feminine Appeal

I'm out of town this week visiting family in Atlanta and while I'm here, I have the wonderful chance to indulge in some good reading. My book for this week is Feminine Appeal by Carolyn Mahaney. I think I mentioned that I would like to read this book in an earlier post, but now that I'm reading it, I absolutely love it. Carolyn is right on as she unpacks the truths of Titus 2. So, if you have some time in the next few weeks and are looking for a good read, pick up Feminine Appeal and share your thoughts. When I get back into town, I'll share more of my thoughts about the truths I'm learning here, but until then, enjoy a good read!

Carolyn and her daughters are the authors of girltalk, a blog that I link from Mark of Beauty, so if you're looking for some additional wisdom, check out their blog as well.

Friday, June 19, 2009

More Thoughts On Being a Helper

I just finished the chapter on How to Raise Feminine Daughters by Susan Hunt in Biblical Womanhood of the Home, and as Hunt focused on the ways to raise daughters well, she highlighted the characteristics we mothers need to have in order to train our daughters to be godly, feminine women. (I don't have a daughter yet, but if the Lord chooses to bless me with one, I'm eager for the challenge.)

In Hunt's discussion, she touches on these points in relation to women as helpers:

"The helper design of the woman brought a completeness to the garden home [Eden] that received God's pronouncement, 'It is very good.'"

Hunt also mentions several references to 'helper' in scripture ...
  • Exodus 18:4: God as Moses' Helper
  • Psalms 10:14, 72:12 and 86:17: God is the Helper of the victim, the fatherless, the needy, and the afflicted
  • Psalms 20:2, 28:7, 33:20: God is referred to as our Helper who is our support, strength, and shield.
Hence, these references to 'helper' do not depict the word as one of fragility, but one of defense, comfort, and compassion! (Here's a few more practical ways to understand what it means to be a helper.)

And finally, Hunt explains that in Psalms 146, the words help (ezer) and hope are linked together. And she says, from an excerpt from her book, By Design:
Help apart from hope is superficial and temporary....The woman who can give authentic help is the one who has come to a place of hopelessness in self that drives her to God's Word where she finds her 'help is the God of Jacob,' and her 'hope is in the Lord.' She is qualified to help others because she has an eternal relationship with the Lord and she is SATURATED (emphasis added) with His Word. She points them to the only viable Object of hope by directing them to the only veritable Source of hope. This is authentic help.
Can you imagine if we were to help our husbands in this way? Like I mentioned the other day about how we should help our husbands to Jesus like the men did with the paralytic in Mark 2:1-22 ... what if we did it with such humility and confidence in the Lord that everything in us 'points them to the only viable Object of hope'? How awesome would that be? (Hunt's example and explanation of helper encompasses our helping ability toward our husband, but also to others around us too, but for the purpose of our ongoing discussion of how we can be a helper to our husband, I'm going to keep the focus on our husbands.)

And ultimately, as Hunt explains further, the woman that she explains above is the REDEEMED helper. The woman who will "defend her family and the covenant family [fellow believers] on her knees ...." So, one additional quality of a helper, a redeemed helper, that we need to add to our ongoing list of helper characteristics is that of a prayer warrior!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Practical Ways to Be a Helper

Earlier in the week I explored somewhat of what it means to be a helper to our husbands and since then, I've been contemplating what that looks like practically. Based on what Barbara Hughes says in Biblical Womanhood in the Home about being a helper and following the steps of the Holy Spirit, the ultimate helper, we are to: 1) Encourage, 2) Comfort, 3) Come Alongside, and 4) Help.

When thinking about ways to encourage & come alongside my husband, I can easily see how that attempt could transpire into nagging, suggesting, reminding or mothering -- all tendencies that we women excel in at times -- but instead, what would it look like if I just took my husband to Jesus in the way that I encourage him? If we look at Mark 2:1-12, we see the beautiful faith of the men who brought the paralytic to Jesus. They even cut a hole in the roof of the house Jesus was teaching in and lowered him down ... what a scene that would have made! I'm not saying that our husbands are incapable of walking to Jesus like the paralytic, but one way that we can encourage our husbands is to take them to Jesus when they're not thinking about it, when they can't or they just need us to help them. This is one way we can demonstrate and grow our faith in Jesus' ability to lead us and our husbands. In verse 5, we see how faith plays out: "When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, "Son, your sins are forgiven." Not, men who brought you to me, your sins are forgiven ... but you, paralytic, the one who couldn't even walk to me on your own, YOUR sins are forgiven. How amazing!

Practically, I think this means that we pray for our husbands individually and alongside them ... that God would daily transform them into the godly men that He desires them to be, that they would have the strength and ability to lead their families to Jesus well and exhibit the traits of godly men to their families and others in their circle of influence. And gently and lovingly speak the truth of scripture to them and just plain love them! (Love them, duh ... but we need to remember to love our husbands for who they are, not what we want them to become and without letting our selfish desires get in the way!)

Let's try this out and see what happens!

Check out some of these creative suggestions at girltalk to see how prayer and just loving our husbands can be lived out each day! (These suggestions were made based on a series they were doing on 'Doing Your Husband Good' from Proverbs 31:12.)

Monday, June 15, 2009

What it Means to be a Helper

I am currently working through DeMoss' book, Biblical Womanhood in the Home, and I wouldn't say that I've had aaha moments during the entire read, but there are definitely many noteworthy portions and much to be learned from the book. One of these sections is on a woman's role as helper by Barbara Hughes. (The book is actually a compilation of articles/chapters from seven different woman ... DeMoss compiled them and edited the book.)

Now, I've recognized this role before and understood it to be part of my role as a godly woman, but I haven't fully gotten my head around it ... other than doing the obvious and helping my husband ... but that's kind of vague (this is part of the reason for my study on what it means to be a godly woman and for writing this blog).

But it's interesting because we see that the first mention of 'helper' in scripture comes at the very beginning, Genesis 2:18, when God said, "It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him," and this is right before He caused Adam to fall into a deep sleep and God created Eve from Adam's rib. Hughes says that this is where God established the foundation of marriage to communicate God's order and orchestrated it to be a reflection of the unity of God -- the three persons of the Godhead. Genesis 1:26 says, "Let us make man in our image," which reflects God's unity (Father, Son, Spirit) and the fact that He is not alone and is a God of relationship. Therefore, when God created man, he couldn't leave him alone either because God Himself is not alone and is relationship.

But even in God's unity, there is diversity ... diversity among the Father, Son and Spirit ... and that diversity yields differing roles even within the Godhead. And when God created man in his own image, He designed male and female to have their own roles too.

I am a complementarian, so the idea that men and women were designed to have different roles totally makes sense to me, but to then realize that the reason for that design is because we've been created in the image of God ... because God in and of Himself has different roles ... makes the idea of complementarianism even that more awesome!

And one of the roles that we see that God has created us for is to be a helper. Hughes says that as women "our blood pressure [seems to] rise at the mention of the word helper .... [because] No one wants to play second fiddle. But the fact is, without a second violin there is no harmony."

So, what does it mean to be a helper?

Hughes says that from the example we see in the Garden of Eden, Eve was supposed to help Adam. She was supposed to help him carry out God's order to rule and subdue the earth. She however failed and submitted to Satan instead. To live contrary to Eve, with Christ's help, Hughes says, "Our task is to encourage our husbands to obey God's Word and will for their lives." And when we see the word 'encourage,' we are to do so in the manner of the Holy Spirit, for God also called Him "another Helper" (John 14:16, NASB). Hughes says, "Trace the Holy Spirit's actions through the New Testament, and you'll find the Spirit repeatedly encouraging, comforting, coming alongside, and helping." And we see in 1 Peter 3:4 that we're to do this with the "unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit" and with humility (Mat. 11:29, NASB) and respect (Eph. 5:33b).

I find that it's easy at times to be the 'encourager' and 'comforter', but my sinfulness gives way ill-motives at times and my encouraging and comforting is solely done to accomplish my own desires, not that of my husband or the Lord. To remember that the Holy Spirit is the ultimate Helper is a beautiful reminder of the pureness of heart that needs to be present to perform my role well. (And to also think back to the new person (Eph. 4:22-24) that I am in Christ ... realizing that truth every day and pleading for God's help daily will be the keys to make this possible.) If performed with ill-motives, my 'helping' will only lead to folly and I will lead my husband and my family to eat poisonous apples like Eve!

Wow, there's a lot to learn here, but at least we have the stepping stones in place to begin our journey! Enjoy the ride with me!

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Chick Flicks and Unreasonable Expectations

I just read a blog post from Radical Womanhood this afternoon, You've Got Lies: Chick Flicks and the World's Approach to Men & Marriage. After reading it, it made me think of my recent commentary on The Women and other chick flicks that I browse through on TV. I'm not saying not to watch these films, but as the summer flood of chick flicks come out, we should definitely wave the cautionary flag and think through what we're watching and how it lines up to God's standard so that we're not whisked away by culture's carriage and unreasonable expectations for our marriages, husbands or even husband-to-bes.

Here's a link to the original article that Carolyn McCulley wrote about in Radical Womanhood:

Monday, June 8, 2009

Taking It Back to Jesus

My husband and I had the opportunity to attend a very great conference this past week, Advance09, that was geared to help the local church re-center back on the Gospel. The speakers delivered very powerful messages about the truth of Jesus' Church, and I believe the conference will make a lasting impression on the hearts of those who attended and an impact on the advancement of the Gospel in the local churches in the Southeast! Praise God!

Although the conference was very much directed at the condition of the local church, it also delivered much truth to my heart, the condition that it's in and reminded me of the great love that the Father has for me (I need this every day!). As I was reflecting on the conference, I had a few revelations that I believe are pertinent in my pursuit to become a godly woman. Here are my thoughts:

Scripture says to always put the Lord before me .... If I'm honest, I don't. I can very easily put a task like acquiring knowledge about the Lord or about how He would like for me to live ABOVE the Lord himself. I obviously seek God in the process, but, if I'm honest, I'm only seeking God to acquire the knowledge. My pursuit to become a godly woman, wife and mother isn't a bad thing, but when that pursuit becomes supreme over "knowing God," it becomes a problem (Exodus 20:4-5). Scripture says that this is idolatry! Yikes! Normally when I think of idolatry, I think of the golden calf that the Israelites built when they were impatient when Moses was up on the mountain with God getting the Ten Commandments. I don't usually think of it as something inanimate like knowledge. But an idol can be anything that we worship aside from the Living God of the Universe ... even if it seems 'godly.' If it takes God's place in our daily priorities and in our pursuit of worship, it's an idol. (2 Kings 17:35-39)

Now, I wouldn't say that I 'worship' knowledge, but the pursuit of knowledge does take priority over my pursuit of God at times and that's wrong! Therefore, I need to REPENT and alter my thinking and practice. Pursue God with all that I am (my means, my goal) and through that pursuit, He will show me what it looks like to be a 'woman' after his own heart.

Reading books and studying isn't a bad thing if it points me to Jesus and to a greater understanding of who He is and what He calls me to be. But that study just can't take the spotlight away from Jesus! And I believe it's time for me to get back to the Psalms (this is where I started at the beginning of the year in effort to better learn how to pray)! This is where we find David, and although his life was marred and scandalous, God still chose to use him -- he was even in the lineage of Christ -- to do remarkable things for His kingdom and at the end of his life he was considered to be 'a man after God's own heart.' What a title! What if I could be 'a woman after His own heart'?

God longs for me to pursue Him, to pray to Him and to glorify Him. That is why He made me (Isaiah 43:7). I am a creature of worship and every ounce of that worship should be extolled on Him! (1 Chronicles 16:7-36)

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Proverbs 22:6

I was hanging out with some of my girlfriends last night and in our conversation, I brought up Proverbs 22:6 (not that I'm always quoting scripture when I'm hanging out ... but it just came to mind when we were talking).

"Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it."

The reason why I brought it up was because we were talking about well-known people in the Christian world who "seemed" to raise their children in the ways of the Lord, but it seems that there is no fruit of their belief in the way that they live. You would obviously have to question what training those children were actually receiving (and these children are not at the end of their life yet ... the verse above says "old"), because I think the Bible is very clear in how we are to raise our children: Deuteronomy 6, Ephesians 6, and Colossians 3 to name a few. And when we impress these truths on their hearts, surround them with godly wisdom, the outflow of those truths in their hearts will be evident in the way they live. Not to say that their hearts will always be receptive to that training ... we need to be in constant prayer for our children ... but that's the general idea.

And so if we look back at Proverbs 22:6, I am amazed at God's sovereignty in the promise of this verse. He says that if we train our children in the ways of the Lord, when they are old, they will not turn from that truth. It's hard for my feeble human mind to grasp that when I understand that a child has free will and can choose whether or not to follow the ways of the Lord, but then I have to remember that God is God, and because he says this, IT IS. Praise God! I just need to pray like heck that God will equip me with everything I need to raise my child in His ways so that I can see this verse come to fruition in his life.


Wednesday, June 3, 2009

New Book Just In ...

I'm so siked! I just received Biblical Womanhood in the Home today and look forward to reading it very soon. I'm anxious to dive in and share what I'm learning here on Mark of Beauty. If you're just checking us out for the first time, here's why I'm so excited to read it:

I look forward to filling you in soon!

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Fighting For Our Marriages

Marriage was created and ordained by God, and is a beautiful thing. But our culture shows us the opposite: A lifestyle of 'convenient' cohabitation and self-fulfillment. My natural hunch would say that the divorce rate is higher than ever, but according to a recent USA Today blog post, the divorce rate is actually at its lowest since 1970. However, The State of our Unions 2005, from a 2005 USA Today article on the subject, says it’s not because marriages are getting any better, but rather people are just choosing not to get married. How sad! So with this news and the dismay to hear about the state of Jon & Kate’s marriage on Jon & Kate Plus 8, I want to go through scripture and see what God DOES say about marriage and why it’s worth fighting for.

I originally started thinking about this with the recent buzz surrounding the season premiere of Jon & Kate Plus 8. (I’ve been a fan for a while, but I am saddened by their talk of divorce and as “believers,” I’m struck that they’re not fighting for their marriage!)

So, here’s my question: What does God say about marriage and why is it worth fighting for?

1. God Created Marriage
When we look at scripture, we see from the beginning that God created man in his own image (Genesis 1:27) and that he also created a helper for him, woman, from Adam’s very own flesh (2:23), because God said, “… it is not good for man to be alone.” (2:18) And immediately after God created Eve, he brought her to Adam, and Adam said, “This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called ‘woman,’ for she was taken out of man.” And through this creation, God established the first marriage covenant and what we know today as marriage: “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh” (2:23).

From this very first instance of marriage, we see its true beauty and God’s intent for it … that a man and woman would unit together as ONE FLESH … “they are no longer two but one” (Mark 10:6) … that they would relinquish their individualism and become ONE for the glory of God. (Not that we lose our self in marriage, but we assume the identity of the couple, strengths and weaknesses, and our identity as individuals and as a couple becomes even greater.) And the beauty that we see in this oneness is such a wonderful, physical depiction of the unity of God.

And when we look at what Adam says above, “… bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh,” I wonder if this sets up the “boundaries” for marriage between a husband and wife that we see in 1 Corinthians 7:4: “The husband should fulfill his marital duty to his wife, and likewise the wife to her husband. In the same way, the husband’s body does not belong to him alone but also to his wife”? Thoughts?

2. God is Glorified in Marriage
All of creation points to the majesty of God and glorifies him as Creator (1 Chronicles 29:11, Psalms 19:1b), and since God created marriage, he designed it to point to Himself and that it would bring Him glory. Albert Mohler has this to say:
According to the Bible, marriage is not only designed by the Creator as an arena for human happiness and the continuation of the human race--it is also the arena of God's glory, where the delights and disciplines of marriage point to the purpose for which human beings were made…. The exclusivity and purity of the marriage bond points to the exclusivity and purity of the relationship between Christ and His church.
Mohler also mentions this wisdom from Tertullian, one of the early church fathers:
How beautiful, then, the marriage of two Christians, two who are one in home, one in desire, one in the way of life they follow, one in the religion they practice . . . Nothing divides them either in flesh or in spirit . . . They pray together, they worship together, they fast together; instructing one another, encouraging one another, strengthening one another. Side by side they visit God's church and partake God's banquet, side by side they face difficulties and persecution, share their consolations. They have no secrets from one another; they never shun each other's company; they never bring sorrow to each other's hearts . . . Seeing this Christ rejoices. To such as these He gives His peace. Where there are two together, there also He is present.
3. Marriage = Protection
God created the union of marriage for our own good … “it’s not good for man to be alone” (Genesis 2:18). Paul also mentions it in 1 Corinthians 7:1-2, when he says, “It is good for a man NOT (emphasis added) to marry. But since there is so much immorality, each man should have his own wife, and each woman her own husband.” We see here that God created marriage to protect us from immorality. What a blessing!

4. Marriage is a Blessing from God
Proverbs just oozes godly wisdom and when we see what it has to say about marriage it includes countless verses that warn us against immorality in marriage, and sings words of praise for those who place God as the head of their marriage; declaring blessing, rejoicing, goodness and God's favor:

Proverbs 5:18: "May your fountain be blessed, and may you rejoice in the wife of your youth."
Proverbs 18:22: "He who finds a wife finds what is good and receives favor from the LORD."

The first verse above also suggests that part of God's blessing in marriage is life-long companionship ... "the wife of your youth." And for those who fear the Lord, Psalm 128 promises much fruitfulness:
Blessed are all who fear the LORD, who walk in his ways. 2 You will eat the fruit of your labor; blessings and prosperity will be yours. 3 Your wife will be like a fruitful vine within your house; your sons will be like olive shoots around your table. 4 Thus is the man blessed who fears the LORD. 5 May the LORD bless you from Zion all the days of your life; may you see the prosperity of Jerusalem, 6 and may you live to see your children's children. Peace be upon Israel.
Blessing is also given to us through sex ... yes, sex is a blessing from God! (Tyler Jones, lead pastor of Vintage21 Church, has a good sermon on this topic.) Here are the 6 facets that he deems God designed sex for:

1. Knowledge
2. Communication
3. Fun
4. Release
5. Procreation
6. Sign Post to the Glory of God

(This may not be worded for word, but you get the general idea. Listen to the sermon for great explanation of these facets.)

5. God States that Marriage Should be Honored By All
(Hebrews 13:4) Even by the husband and wife in the marriage!

6. God Tells Us to Fight For Marriage
This command comes to us from Colossians 3:23. I’ve read over this verse many times in my life and have labored over it, but until recently, I hadn’t equated it directly with my marriage. Not that I’m not laboring over my marriage, but I just didn’t make the obvious connection. But what a perfect place in scripture for God to insert this verse (you’d think God was all-knowing or something :) … for the verse I'm talking about shows up just after Paul explains a husband and wife's role in marriage! So, when God created marriage, He knew that it wasn’t something that was going to come easy, especially when it involves the mingling of two sinful lives … and he specifically tells us to “work at it with all of our heart, as working for the Lord, not for men” … this means that we're not even working for our marriage solely for our spouse, but for the God of the universe! So, when we choose to obey this command, we can’t just give a blind-eye to our marriages and labor well over our careers, motherhood, and friendships, but we HAVE to labor well over our MARRIAGES too because God commands us to!

And when I say fight, I don’t mean just when times get tough, but EVERY DAY! If we “fight” for our marriages every day, I believe we’ll have more healthy and god-honoring marriages for the course of our lifetime. And when I say “fight,” I mean that we:
  1. Work at our marriages with all of our heart
  2. Pray like crazy
  3. Learn everything there is to know in scripture about marriage and what it means to be godly women that glorify God with our lives and then PRACTICE it
  4. Die to ourselves, submit to God and submit to our husbands as we honor, love and respect them with our entire beings!

This certainly doesn't sound very easy. At times, the easy route would certainly be to just opt-out of marriage (hence, that's why divorce is such a nonchalant topic in our society), but God's call is much higher and greater than that. There is life in the words above and there is peace and strength there to continue on. Let's grab a hold of these words in Isaiah 40:28-31 and FIGHT:
28 Do you not know? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom. 29 He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. 30 Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; 31 but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.