Sunday, January 27, 2008

Sinners in need of a Savior, Any Way you Look at it

I've started to read Jerry Bridges' "Discipline of Grace", and have already stumbled across some important gems. As he sets up the book, he talks about the difference between a pharisee and a tax collector. The pharisee has mostly "good" days and thinks that because of his faithfulness, he has somehow earned God's favor. The tax collector has mostly "bad" days and thinks that because he feels guilty, he can't be blessed or used by God. But in fact, both are in the same situation - both are sinners, deserving death, in need of God's mercy. Both can come to God with a repentant, humble heart, and expect forgiveness and possibly even blessing - this is the beauty of the gospel, that "Your worst days are never so bad that you are beyond the reach of God's grace. And your best days are never so good that you are beyond the need of God's grace."

The gospel message frees us to be honest about our sin with ourselves and God. "We can call sin exactly what it is, regardless of how ugly and shameful it may be, because we know that Jesus bore that sin in His body on the cross. With the assurance of total forgiveness through Christ, we have no reason to hide from our sins anymore"! This helps both the pharisee and the tax collector, by humbling us in our pride, and showing grace to us in our weakness. Hallelujah that I can freely say, "I am a sinner" and yet at the same time, "I am forgiven"!

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Is the Education of American Women Problematic?

As I read Carolyn McCulley's recent post ( on the growing state of educated women in the US, I couldn't help but wonder how real a concern this is. Yes, I do believe that women are becoming more educated than they have been in the past. No, I do not believe that is wrong. So what is the problem? Here are some of my thoughts on the possibilities:
- Women are using their education and knowledge to "lord it over" their husbands, whether or not they are more educated than their spouse.
- Men are giving in to the "authority" of their more educated spouses, possibly because they don't care, or because they'd rather have someone tell them what to do instead of figure it out for themselves.
So what are we, as women of God, supposed to do in response to this? Do we simply stay at home, forget education, and seek to be "barefoot and pregnant" (as some might 'lovingly' term it)? I suggest an alternative - coming from the Authority on all life:

An excellent wife who can find? She is far more precious than jewels. The heart of her husband trusts in her, and he will give her no lack of gain. She does him good, and not harm, all the days of her life.
...She considers a field and buys it; with the fruit of her hands she plants a vineyard. She dresses herself with strength and makes her arms strong. She perceives that her merchandise is profitable.
...Her husband is known in the gates when he sits among the elders of the land.
...Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she laughs at the time to come. She opens her mouth with wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue. She looks well to the ways of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness.
...Charm is deceitful and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised. Give her the fruit of her hands, and let her works praise her in the gates. (Proverbs 31:10-31)

In this day and age, I believe the author of Proverbs would agree with the idea that women can and should pursue education as they are interested and able, and use it in such a way as to benefit her family. Whether this is by helping to provide monetarily, educating their children in the home, or advising and encouraging her husband, all are important and respectable ways for a woman to use her education for God's glory. It is an action that is not selfish, seeking to become smarter or greater than her husband, but one of love and interest in helping out in any way possible.

Forgiveness, Part II

In the following quote, Dave Harvey shares an example of true forgiveness at work between a couple that was torn apart by the sin of adultery, and then reunited by God's saving grace at work in their hearts. As I read through this amazing story of God at work in the hearts of His people, it is a reminder to me that it is truly only by His grace that any of us are saved, that any of us do not fall into greater sin than we do. Here, the husband who committed the sin speaks about his experience coming back to his wife and starting over:

Our story is one of God's faithfulness to an unfaithful sinner. The depth of my sin stands in stark contrast to the inexhaustable glory of God's grace. From this tragedy, I know in a unique way that no one is ever too far removed from the grace of God.

It took years for God to restore our marriage. Though the memory of our dark years will never be erased, there is an undeniable cleansing of the past. When scripture says that the Lord will restore the years that the locusts have eaten, I feel as if that passage was written with us in mind. ...I know this is only possible because of the shed blood of our Savior. He has given me a righteousness not my own which overwhelms all my sin.

...I wish so many things were different. I wish I had never committed adultery and caused such pain. I wish that I could tell my children that I had been faithful to my wife from the day we were married. However, because of my sin, these are only wishes. And ultimately, my wishes pale in comparison to God's plan. I will likely never know in this lifetime why God chose to use my sin to get us to where we are now. However, we are beyond asking those questions because they are eclipsed by the glory of God's forgivenss and blessing. By God's grace we no longer look back with regret but rather forward with anticipation to what he has called us to do.

The memories remain, yet they no longer influence our lives. Each year, our marriage is sweeter and more satisfying than the one before. By fixing our eyes on the Savior, he has done far more abundantly than all we could ask or think. How amazing is that?!

How many times must I forgive?

A selection from "When Sinners Say 'I Do' ", by Dave Harvey:

...In the eyes of our compassionate and loving God, sin is sin, guilt is guilt, and all sin is against his limitless holiness...but...God was inconceivably benevolent toward the ungrateful servant (representing us) who by his behavior demonstrated that he had completely missed the significance of what had been done for him. ...As one of the Puritans in the Valley of Vision prayed, "Let me never forget that the heinousness of sin lies not so much in the nature of the sin committed, as in the greatness of the Person sinned against." ...Sin is infinitely wicked because it rejects the one who is infinitely holy and good. The more we recognize the perfection of God's holiness, the more obvious this truth becomes.

How can we not forgive our brothers and sisters, and even our enemies, if God has forgiven us so much? If we do not forgive them, we become like the ungrateful servant, who, after being forgiven our 10,000 talent (think, $1 billion) debt, we go out and find the brother who owes us 10 denari (think, $10). So too, will God call us to account for our actions - "You ungrateful wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. And should you not have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?" (Matt. 18:33)

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Who are we really offending?

I have just started to read a book entitled, "When Sinners Say, 'I Do' ", by Dave Harvey, and it is certainly not your average marriage "self-help" book. As you might have guessed from the title, the focus of the book is not on "Three key principles of communication" or "Seven ways to divorce-proof your marriage", but understanding the heart of the whole matter of why marriage (and life!) is not and will never be perfect - because WE are the problem (we're sinners!).
Once we have this concept understood, it is easy to see why even the best marriages have conflict, hurts, and less-than-perfect stories to tell. While there are many aspects of sin that the author talks about as he lays the groundwork for recognizing we are sinners, one of the points he made that stuck out to me is on the issue of sinning against others. Harvey makes the claim (to which I agree) that while we sin against other people, such as our spouse, children, friends and other family, our sin is "most strongly, and therefore primarily, against God! ...Every sin, however small or great its apparent impact on people, violates the purity of the perfectly just and holy God. Sin is always aimed first and foremost against God (Deut. 9:16, 1 Sam. 15:24, Ps. 51:4)."
This is truly something great to understand, for when we realize that our sin does not just affect ourselves and others, but each sin is also a direct offense to the author and sustainer of the universe, we realize that an empty, "I'm sorry" does not satisfy God's call to repentance. Being human, as we are, we like to maximize pleasure and avoid pain - but this is not the call of a Christian. We must realize the true gravity of our sin, seen by God as a rebellion against His perfect ways, and then confess it before Him, repent of our continued sinfulness, realize God's mercy and grace in His forgiveness of our sin, and then turn from it into His way. When we realize who our sin is really offending, we get to the heart of the matter, and can then practice grace and forgiveness toward those who offend us (reminescent of the Lord's prayer: "forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors").
Taste and see the grace, mercy, and peace that comes from knowing God has forgiven His children even when we do not acknowledge we have sinned against Him! "For it is by grace I am saved, through faith, and this not of myself - it is the gift of God."

Monday, September 10, 2007

One last item for submission...

As I continued reading, more was said on this topic, so I decided to add more that continued what I was saying in my earlier post, one more time from John Ensor:
"When God sets forth the complementary expression of love - manly sacrifice and womanly submission - he connects it to something so profound and powerful that it must be highlighted as its own directive in doing things right in matters of the heart...Brothers, to love sacrificially is not a sacrifice! Sisters, in submitting you are not giving up something, you are gaining something!
...Christ's sacrifice, as is true with all godly sacrifice, is a sacrifice that brings gain. Sacrifice is a means of increasing and fulfilling our own lives. Sacrificial love always increases personal joy in the long run. It is a self-fulfilling self-sacrifice...The power, or motivation, for sacrificing and submitting comes from seeking your own happiness in the other person's well being, as if your spouse is truly an extension of your own body...
Love is basically seeking your own happiness in the well-being of another. It may be more than that, but it can never be less. Selfishness is seeking your own need separate from the needs of others, or at the expense of others, or apart from God...Seek your happiness in the holy happiness of the other."

What's all this about submission?

Submission - another unfriendly word, almost anywhere you go. But why? Don't people realize that every day we are submitting to somebody, something, somewhere? Unless we are running around doing every single thing our heart desired (yikes!) we are submitting to some authority other than ourselves, whether it be the government (law), our boss / teacher / parents, or God. So why when the Bible talks about women submitting to their husband as to the Lord does everyone have a hissy fit?

Most likely because we do not realize we are submitting to someone or something every day, and we live in ignorant bliss. Either that, or we do realize it and are mad at the world, government, etc. for making us do what we don't want to. But most of the time, we do things, submitting to some higher authority, without even realizing it. What would the world be like if people didn't obey traffic laws and employees told their bosses to take a hike? Chaos, for one, and unhappiness for another - because God created us as people who need direction, and in most cases, people figure out that they are happier submitting their own desires to a higher authority than taking matters into their own hands and suffering the consequences. In this same way, wives can submit to their husbands in happiness, not even realizing it, and reap great rewards from it in the meantime! But it doesn't come naturally, and sometimes we do have to learn the hard way before we give our own desires over to God.

John Ensor's quote below shows us how true submission is not a burden, but in fact a blessing; while selfishness will never lead to happiness:
"Sacrificing and submitting must become the established patterns of our lives, especially in seeking agreement and resolution (remember unity - not winning - is the heart of the matter) when the inevitable conflicts come. Without unity as the goal, battles are won and lost in daily interchanges of "what about what i want?" and "what about my needs?" Whenever these words are spoken, something in the relationship dies...These words kill. Unity has been sacrificed on the altar of self. One has returned to two. It is no longer 'you and me against the world!' It has become 'to each his own.'...
[However...] In a marriage of two equals, the way the husband shows his reverent submission to Christ is in submitting to the burden of leadership. The way the wife shows her reverent submission to Christ is in respecting her husband's obligation to lead and submitting to it in spite of his weakness and inadequacies...Submission is a disposition or attitude of honor and respect for her husband as the leader."

Ladies, when we submit our own desires to our husband, we tell him that we respect his decision and will follow him, even if we don't agree with it. Ultimately, he is responsible before God for making that decision and we are responsible to follow him in it [unless it is against God's law]. A loving husband, on the other side, should also be sacrificing his own desires for the better happiness of his wife, so that he might show her he cares for her before himself. With both husband and wife looking towards the other person first, there is no fear of a domineering husband or a rebellious wife, but a unified relationship seeking happiness in serving each other (which, in fact, is what Christ calls us to do in life).

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Thoughts on Chastity

What a word. These days, it seems like a bad word - Who wants to be described as "chaste"? Pure, yes, but chaste? They mean pretty much the same thing when it comes to sexual abstinence, but they seem to have different connotations. To me, something that is pure is undefiled and untouched by others, a state of being; but being chaste seems to require action on the part of the person described, to prevent himself from becoming defiled. With these definitions in mind, take a look at what John Ensor has to say about chastity and purity with respect to men and women in his recent book, "Doing Things Right in Matters of the Heart".

"Men protect women by their chastity. Women, by their chastity, test the maturity and character of the man pursuing them...

Brothers, our power to abstain from sexual impurity and to practice sexual self-control with those with whom we fall in love comes from two sources. One is the love of God accompanied by a childlike desire to please him. The other is love for others, accompanied by the desire to protect, that such love prompts within us. Brothers, practice sexual self-control out of a desire to protect her from sin, guilt, shame, embarrassment, pregnancy, and the fallout that all women bear so disproportionaltely from sex outside of marriage.

Sisters, abstaining from sexual immorality is, for you, to, a matter of submitting to God and his commands. But it is more, It is God's 'Mature Manhood Test Kit' for women. The immature, self-centered ungodly man will test negative in a matter of weeks. The deceitful and cutnning predator will test negative in a matter of days. Men willing to wait, and wanting to wait, will test positive. It is not a lack of sexual interest; it is a healthy fear of God. It is love, which at this point rightfully expresses itself as protection from sin and shame. If he weakens, help him succeed. If all else goes well in the development of the relationship, you know you are marrying a godly man, on who has self-control and a clear sense of his calling as a man."

Amazing, isn't it? Doing the things that the world tells us are so old-fashioned and timid actually work out for our best interest in the long run! While the world tells girls to dress provacatively, speak your mind, and let that boy know you're interested, God tells us to be modest, wait on Him, and allow the man to lead the relationship. If you've found a godly man, he will respect your modesty and cherish it more than any other half-dressed body on the street. If you've found a godly man, he will ask for your opinion and take your feelings into consideration. If you've found a godly man, he'll let you know that he's serious about pursuing a relationship. But if you take the first step, if you give into the temptation to wait, you'll never know how godly that man might be.

"For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age."
Titus 2:11-12

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

That Knight Fell Off His White Horse Again!?

Alright, so how many of you girls have boyfriends (or wifes who have husbands) out there who are just the perfect "Knight in Shining Armour?" They know exactly what you're thinking when you frown, they respond estatically to that little "cute" surprise you threw them, and they jump at the first chance to go shopping with you for hours on end. Anybody? Ok, so maybe some of you could answer those three examples with a "yes", but my guess is your guy doesn't always do exactly what you want or expect him to. And should he? Well we often think so, or at least we are told so by the movies we watch, the books we read, or the dreams we have of "the perfect man" rescuing us from our distress, no matter how little. Is that really how things work?

Uhmmm, no. (And on the same token, praise the Lord we aren't held to such high standards ourselves!) So why do we have this "idolatry of idyllic love", as John Ensor puts it in his book, "Doing Things Right in Matters of the Heart"? Ensor explains it this way:

"No man can fulfill the deepest longings of the human heart because these longings belong to God alone and connot be fulfilled by another. Our desire for a healthy, tender, passionate, enduring mutually fulfilling life with a good man or woman will always be a work in progress. There is no perfect marriage, only two people pledged to live together for better and worse. The best lover is still a sinner."

Isn't that so true! More often than not, we girls tend to think that if we only had a boyfriend, or if we only were married, then we would be happy and fulfilled. But God tells us in His Word that nothing of this world will truly satisfy the longings of our heart. Even the most fulfilling human relationship can only pale in comparison to the eternal relationship we can have with our Creator. It is also for this reason that the Bible tells us there will be no marriage in heaven. Even the most intimate relationship we enjoy on this earth cannot come with us into the next life - nor should it! For we will be enjoying our True Love for all eternity and praising His Name forevermore, no longer infatuated with the "loves" of this world.

So ladies, as you look to your boyfriend, fiance, or husband to be your "all-consuming delight", remember that you are not only setting him up for failure and dissappointing yourself, but you are also missing the one true fulfillment in life - Christ. (Ensor, 49 )

"Do not be anxious, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' [or 'Who shall we marry?'] For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you." Matther 6:31-33, addition mine.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

All this talk about marriage

I must confess, I have been held captive by a most popular topic for young women (or any woman, for that matter) - marriage...whether it be the events leading up towards, the wedding itself, or the life changing process afterwards. It is the thing most women long for, and many spend countless hours planning for, but all for what? Is the wedding ceremony the culmination of the entire marriage? Or perhaps the honeymoon cruise to the Bahamas? But what happens after the wedding? Does the marriage continue in wedded bliss?
Well, from one on the outside, looking in, I can't answer those questions from my own experience. But I can sure try to find out, with all the books written out there on how to "divorce-proof" your marriage, "spice up" your sex life, and especially those written on how to find "the one" worth keeping, even (or especially) on the Christian side of things. So how many people does it take to unlock the mystery of marriage? Ten? One Hundred? One Thousand? Thankfully, we don't have to read all the books (and believe me, I've tried) or catch the latest "trick" on how to get through married life, because we have God's inspired word to guide us through any problem. I'm not proposing that the Bible is an explicit "how to" book on every issue we face in life, but I am proposing that the Bible is sufficient for any situation we may face in this life, and provides ample direction for our choices. So the next time you pick up a "self-help" book, attempting to solve (or avoid) the problems in life, think again and pick up your Bible instead. While it may not have a table of contents to point you to the exact chapter and verse of wisdom, His Word is sufficient for everything we face in this life, for Christ was tempted in every way known to man, and yet did not sin. He is not only familiar with our trials and temptations, but He endured them unto death on a cross, bearing our sins because we could not.
So when you think that marriage will solve your problems, think again, and look to Christ as your Savior, forever, amen.