Advent In A Dystopia…

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In a time which profess’ so much social, scientific and technological progress, we also find ourselves in a world of peril. Our so-called progress has still not eliminated the darkest things the human race can produce…like war, famine, murder and greed. We still find ourselves at odds with each other over all kinds of issues of the day. And every time we think we’ve nailed that final progress piece into place, more turmoil rises to the surface.

It appears as though our planet is in a downward spiral. As though this great historical narrative is indeed a dystopian.

We’re working so hard to find our utopia. But alas, I believe all efforts just add to the looming reality that the pursuit for personal happiness can only be found on the backs of others losses. One persons victory, usually means another persons defeat.

Will we ever live in a world where everyone gets a taste of the glory?

Perhaps it feels much like the Roman empire felt long ago. Maybe in a small way we can relate to that same longing and wonder about the fate of this world and where this narrative will take us.

Before an angel would confront a young girl about her own body and it housing a redeemer, God’s people knew hardship and disappointment well. They had wandered in the desert, elected kings and judges, heard the prophets and yet still found themselves wearily lost in sin and subject to the lofty whims of selfish rulers.

Where was the justice in all this? Perhaps this story won’t end as the prophets taught? Maybe its a downward spiral, with no victory.

Advent comes to us every year in the midst of tragedy. It shows up right smack dab at the center of a world in peril. The human race doesn’t put down their guns, greed and hardship just because its  Christmas time. Those things continue, we just begin to sing songs that say “peace on earth”. But there is no peace on earth. Not now. Not just because we sing it.

And there was no peace on earth when a plain and simple jewish girl came face to face with the spiritual realm and was called the ‘favored one’.

In that moment on the planet hate and crime and sin didn’t cease and desist. And yet something was happening. Something big was happening. The political climate was scary, but an ancient plan was unfolding. One that no human person seeking utopia could have ever imagined. It was a plan only someone large enough to see the whole story could have thought up. Someone who knows the ending.

Every Advent I find myself here. Wondering what’s going to happen next. We will turn a page to a whole new year soon, and what will happen then? Everything in me feels like it’s a dystopia. This story. It can feel that way.

But the Writer isn’t done writing yet. And those who call Him Lord know a bit about how this one ends. Glory and hope and justice does prevail. “Peace on earth” is in the forecast and that’s why we sing it.

Something is happening. Something big is happening.

Although today seems grim for those still stuck in sin and for those held under the thumb of a tyrannical government – we know because of that Angel encounter back in history that this narrative ends in victory. And we long for it to come. We wait in wonder of how this plot will thicken and climax until the last triumphant Word is written.

And we trust that though it feels like we’re in a dystopia…this narrative is one of redemption. Which is why we light candles in the dark – In remembrance and joyful expectancy. We see the light and we know He’s here. Our God. Emmanuel. The long-awaited Saviour. We remember His promises and breath deep His love for us.

Because the day will come…the story is already set. Hardship still stand in our way but even in the middle of it, may we echo Mary – that chosen girl’s response to the unknown and say with our eyes heavenward…

“Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.”

May we look to the light – The light of the of the world.

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Biblical Womanhood – Women And Their Lord (Part 7)…

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This is the last post of the Biblical Womanhood series. Thanks for reading!

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I’m so excited we’re here now. I’ve been chomping at the bit for this study and not because its done after this. But because everything I’ve been writing about in this series rises and falls on this. On Jesus. He is the hinge for which all this biblical womanhood stuff hangs from.

So let’s get into it. And lean in with me on this. We’re looking at Luke 10:38-42. First let me get you up to speed as to what has been happening so far in this book. Luke writes about the life and teaching of Christ. Jesus has been healing folks and sending out people to minister. He’s been walking with his disciples and now he is currently in the village of Bethany on His way to Jerusalem. So He’s on his way to the Cross. It’s getting close at this point.

But first He comes to the house of a family who he seems to know well. This family consists of three siblings, Martha, who’s the oldest and whose house this belongs too. And Mary. This is not Mary Magdalene, just yet another Mary. And their brother Lazarus, which is the Lazarus who died and was raised from the dead by Christ. So Jesus has a special relationship with this family. And so he goes to their house and the following ensues…

Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching. But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.” But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.”

What we have here is a story in which the author Luke is setting before us two examples. He’s giving us two pictures.

And in the picture of Martha we see her distracted with much serving. That’s the language, which is better interpreted to say she was “dragging all around”. Meaning she was over-doing it and fussing about being unnecessarily elaborate in her service.

This over-doing it shows us that Martha might be in her own way trying to earn Jesus favor. But make no mistake, Martha loves Jesus. She knows who He is. She isn’t like one of the pharisee’s who doesn’t believe He is who he says He is. She believes. She’s His friend. In fact in the story of Lazarus dying and being raised from the dead in John chapter 11 it says in verse 5 “Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus.” Which gives us a fuller picture of the relationship Jesus had with this family.

Yet even so, her response to Him coming over, like so many of us would do…was to be  elaborately hospitable to the neglect of her guest.

However she believes what she’s doing is proper and right. In fact she’s so sure of this, that she goes as far as to get angry with Jesus, and goes up to Him and says “do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone!” She fully expects that she’s going to get His support with this one. But it doesn’t go that way.

And then we have the second picture in the story, of Mary. This is a woman in awe of Jesus. She just knows that she has to learn from Him while He’s there. She just can’t help but sit as His feet and hear from Him. Mary chose the one thing necessary in that moment. And that was closeness, intentional, meditative learning from Jesus. Mary is the one after-all who would later bust open very expensive perfume to anoint Jesus feet while worshipping Him to prepare Him for His coming death and burial.

She had a special desire to honor and worship Christ.

Often times we read this story and we see the two pictures it shows us and it makes us feel terrible. At least it makes me feel terrible, because I’m a Martha. I’m a doer by nature. I get things done.

So when I read this I can feel pretty terrible because I relate so much to Martha. And I think just in general for women we often feel like Martha. Because we live in a world where there’s a lot to do and get done. And sometimes if we don’t do, it just won’t get done. There’s laundry, and dishes and vacuuming and cooking.

Not to mention just the busyness of life. Your life in general probably consists of having a strict time-sensitive schedule. We all have it in us to keep ourselves endlessly busy.
But let me encourage you at least a little bit here because what Jesus doesn’t say in this text is “Martha, you got it wrong!” He just says, “Mary chose better.”

She just chose what was most important. Which doesn’t diminish the hospitality work Martha was doing. It’s a good thing to do those things. Especially when we do them with a desire to bless not to impress. It’s just that there is something even better that we must not sacrifice on the altar of busy. It says Mary chose the “good portion”. And the word Portion is the same language used to mean “lot of land” or even portion in terms of a meal.

Halloween has come and gone and many of us were probably faced with the same food conundrum I was. I had to choose between having 23 mini chocolate bars or having a healthy meal. What would be the good portion? Or more importantly, what would be the portion with the longest lasting benefits. We all know it’s the healthy meal.

And no matter how temporarily satisfying those mini mars bars are. Because they are delightful. Right? It’s not the good portion that will satisfy in the long run.

Mary saw the opportunity to seek first the kingdom of God, and she took it. She did what was most important first.

We usually hear this message preached at the beginning of a new year to be reminded to prioritize our lives better. We are reminded to put what’s most important first. Like the rocks illustration. You know, you put the big rocks in first. Like Jesus, studying the Word, and prayer. He’s the big rocks. He’s the best choice. The good portion that will have eternal value. Then the small rocks, like friends and family. And then the sand, like work and leisure. And that’s a good message and an important reminder for all of us.

But what I really want to look at in this story is what it tells us about Jesus.

We can see clearly what it means for us and what we need to do. But lets lean in and see what it shows us about Jesus.

We’ve just finished an extensive series on biblical womanhood here on this blog. We’ve tried to discuss it from every angle we can. We started in the beginning in the garden talking about the fall of man-kind. We talked about beauty, and marriage and motherhood and church governance and the sisterhood. And we’ve gone deep into what it means to be female in this world.

And now we are here with Jesus and two women.

What does this story tell us about Jesus and how he treats women? Does He respect these women? Does Jesus value these women?

This is what is so magnificent about this story. Because it answers those questions with a big YES. He’s in their house, which is a sign of mutual respect, and we know He has a deep love for them from John 11.

In this story we see so clearly just how Jesus interacts with and cares for women.
As I’ve written before, women were of very little value in the Jewish culture of this time. Especially if you didn’t have a husband. And there is no mention anywhere that these woman were married. So it could mean a few things for them. It’s possible these women were young and had been orphaned and not married yet. They also could’ve been older widows who had not remarried. Another possibility is that Mary and Martha belonged to a Jewish sect and had chosen singleness and celibacy.

But any of these scenarios put these women in very low standing because they’re unmarried women.

Yet, Jesus is still there. Giving them His time. He knew how precious His time was at this point. He knew how little of it He had left.

Shouldn’t He have spent all of it with the men? I mean, just practically speaking they were the ones with all the influence and clout in the community. You know, time is precious at this point. Shouldn’t he have spent it with the ones with the most cultural value so that He could have gained their support?

If He was a politician that’s what He’d be doing. He’d be hobnobbing with the ones with influence.

But No! He’s not a politician. And thank God for that.

In His wisdom He saw to it to spend time with every kind of person. Male and female. Lowly and rich. There was no prejudice or favoritism in His heart. And it’s miraculous to me that He spent so much of His life caring for the lowliest of women.

And add to that, He gave them the opportunity to be discipled by Him. They weren’t considered one of the 12 disciples, but he is shown here spending time teaching Mary. A woman. In such a counter-cultural way, Jesus taught whomever would desire to be taught. Breaking all the rules.

Jesus’s interactions with women are usually the same in the gospels. He’s gentle, tender, straight-forward about the sin in their lives and he calls them to repentance and faith. This goes for the woman at the well, the unclean woman who touches the hem of His garment, this Mary and Martha story, the widow who lost her son, the woman crippled by a demon in the synagogue. Just to name a few.

And it was women who He first revealed Himself to after he was resurrected back to life!

You see Jesus places value on almost every woman He meets in the gospels. After coming off of a series like this that discusses the difference between men and women, it can make you feel like women have less value. But please, oh please, do not take away a message like that. That is so far from truth and it’s not a message I’d want you to take from me. Are their distinct roles? Absolutely. But value is without a doubt equal.

So what does this mean for us?

Well it means we need to be like Mary, which is obvious. We need to be women of the Word! We don’t have God incarnate Jesus in front of us like these women had. But we do have His Words. So we need to be women who just feast at God’s Word. There should be no one here that is accused of being shallow. Because Christ is the teacher and we ought to sit at His feet in humble submission to all He has for us.

Romans 12:2 says,
Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

We live in a biblically illiterate age…and we women should desire to turn that tide.
I want so much for us to walk away from this study, desiring to mimic Mary by prioritizing Christ so intentionally that we become Scripture eating beasts.

Women who can pick up books from the book store and read it with piercing discernment. And know when an author is trying to pull the wool over our eyes and sell us something counter to what the Scripture’s say.

Women who watch a movie and not just let every cultural message that comes through the screen just be absorbed into our psyche like little sponges. But who can wisely sort through the good and bad because Scripture is written on our hearts.

Women who listen to preachers of all kinds and lovingly weigh their words and can look at the Bible and know when what’s being said is right or wrong.

Women who seek first the kingdom of God and find our peace at the foot of the Cross and in the hope of heaven!

Listen I don’t want us to fill our heads up with information just for the sake of it. Just to puff ourselves up and make us feel super-spiritual and become irritating little know-it-alls. I want women to be in the Word so that we get to know this Jesus more and more and more. As Romans 12:2 says, that we would be transformed by the renewal of our minds.

Because we can’t love what our minds don’t know. And there is always more to know about Christ. We never just know enough.

2 Peter 3:18 says,
But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

That’s our job, to grow in grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ.

But when we do, what we find when we grow in grace and knowledge is we start to see our own sin more. And we start repenting more. And we begin to see how glorious Jesus is in providing what we need. And we recognize just what that need is. What our biggest need is.

And it’s not that we get paid more at our job. Or that we lose 10 more pounds (because we ate 23 chocolate bars on Halloween). Or that we find a spouse. Or that our kids behave better. Or that our marriages be fixed. Or that all our specific problems go away.

We see that our biggest, most pressing need is that we just sit at His feet. That we silence the noise around us and find our strength and our peace and our rest and our wisdom and our identity there.

Mary knew her need. She needed Jesus. And so do we.

We need Him to give the breath to everything else we endeavor to do in this life. Be it a wife, a mother, an employer, a minister of Jesus. You see, learning about biblical womanhood is so important. But it’s nothing unless it’s infused with the Christ’s strength.

When my daughter was a little younger she loved to push the cart when we went grocery shopping. She was like 3 or 4 and didn’t quite have the best upper body strength yet. So she’d stand in between me and the cart and push with all her might. And she’d grunt and moan at how heavy it was. It was adorable, of course, because she thought she was pushing the cart. But who was really pushing the cart?

I was.

She sure thought she was. She was proud of herself pushing the cart. But I was the one standing behind her, guiding and pushing it forward.

And it’s the same thing with God, isn’t it? We hear His commands about everything we just studied about motherhood, being wives and true inner beauty and we try and try and push and sweat and we think we’re doing all the work. But it’s Him. In the same way that the second I let go of the cart, that cart stops moving, no matter how hard my daughter pushes.

So it goes with Christ. When we invite Him in and ask Him to, He will give all the movement to our work for Him. And that’s why we must return to Him, with whom all our strength is found and like Mary fall at His feet.

I’m so glad that we end this series on the verge of Advent. Because for the next several weeks we have the opportunity to marvel at the mysterious beauty of the incarnation of Christ. We have the chance to mimic Mary, and meditate on the coming King. The one with whom will crush the head of the snake that helped start the mess in this world. He’s our long-expected snake-crushing Saviour, born to set the people free; from our fears and sins release us, let us find our rest in Thee.

And I hope our soul’s can be refreshed by that wonderful truth in this coming season.

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Let Me Direct You Elsewhere…

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On Daughters And Dating – How To Intimidate Suitors: Instead of intimidating all your daughter’s potential suitors, raise a daughter who intimidates them just fine on her own. Because you know what’s intimidating? Strength and dignity. Deep faith. Self-assuredness. Wisdom. Kindness. Humility. Industriousness. Those are the bricks that build the wall that withstands the advances of Slouchy-Pants, whether you ever show up with your Winchester locked and loaded or not. The unsuitable suitor finds nothing more terrifying than a woman who knows her worth to God and to her family.”

Why Difficulties In The Bible Are A Good Thing: This is a short and sweet post about something really important – the difficult parts of the Bible. If you ever find yourself scratching your head at what you read in the Bible sometimes, give this one a read.

Sister’s Jesus Is Not Your Cheerleader: I can’t express how much I love and agree with this. As I get more involved in women’s ministry and women’s events I absolutely see how easy it is to fall into this mind-set. And I desire to resist it with everything I’ve got. Be sure to give this one a read.

One Little Christmas Tree – Stevie Wonder: This is one of my favorite Christmas songs and because the season has arrived (que internal fireworks of joy!), I thought I’d share this right here.

 

Posted in Christian Living, Let Me Direct You Elsewhere, Music, Parenting, Theology, Video's, Womanhood | Leave a comment

Biblical Womanhood – Women And Their Sister’s And Brother’s (Part 6)…

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I hadn’t been a Christian very long before I began working at a church. And when I got the job, I felt very out-of-place. I was rubbing shoulder with pastors and people who I thought knew everything about the bible and had it all figured out. Which made me feel like I shouldn’t be there. In time I started to realize that they were just as human as I was, and in time I grew more comfortable.

But I also knew there was a lot I needed to learn. So I began a mentor relationship with the two different people. One was our female children’s pastor and that happened in a pretty formal setting. We would read books together and discuss them. We would meet regularly together and pray and it was very intentional training. I look back very fondly at that time in my life.

And the second person was our male lead pastor. That was in a very informal and protected setting. Given the fact that he is a male. But he still mentored me. We never went out for dinner or read books together. That would have been very inappropriate. But while he prepped his sermons during the week he would talk through his points with me as a sounding board. And we would discuss theological concepts and sometimes debate each other on doctrine and philosophy of ministry. Often leaving those discussion’s irritated with each other. It was very much a brother/sister relationship.

Both relationships were absolutely shaping in my spiritual walk. And both mentors taught me so much! And yet the way we operated as sisters needed to be different then the way we operated as sister/brother.

And this is what todays post is all about. Le me begin with sisters.

Now bear with me because we’ve already gone over some of this. And we’re going to look at a text that we’ve already looked at before which is Titus 2:3-5. But that’s ok, lets go over it some more.

Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves too much wine. They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled.

I wrote about it mostly in regards to women training women in our motherhood. But it says so much more also.

Titus is a letter written by Paul to the people of Crete which is an island off the Mediterranean. He and Titus had shared Christianity with the people of Crete when they visited the Island and then Titus stayed behind to organize the new converts to the faith and essentially set up church there. And these people, the Cretans, at the time of Paul’s writing were in a very poor moral state. They were giving in to dishonesty, gluttony and laziness.

And in this text in particular the slanderous talk and gossip was apparently common for women. Which is no surprise to me, as this is a common temptation among women in general.

So there is an importance being placed on the tongue. For women to tame their tongue. Which refers to slander and irreverent talk, gossip and perhaps even swearing. And in the context of this Scripture it’s the older women who ought to model this tongue taming and teach this to the younger women. And sometimes that can happen organically. And sometimes we need to find a mentor as young women for special times of training. But either way there needs to be a willingness to do this. To teach and to grow.

We need to be willing as women to share our lives, our hearts and our doctrine with each other for further growth in God’s Word.

But let me tell you something. When you open yourself up to be mentored by another person. You open yourself to learn great things and also to be faced with where you fall short.

One of the areas it says we need to be trained is in our self-control and our purity. And those areas are touchy subjects. I mean, what would be your response if an older women, lovingly in Christ, challenged you on what you watch on TV? What if she said, “You know I see how that favorite movie, or TV show is working against your desire for purity, so maybe you shouldn’t watch it anymore.”

Are we open to that kind of practical correction?

Or what if she said, “Hey watch your language, you’re letting yourself curse too often and it’s unbecoming.” Would we be open to receiving rebuke?

In love, of course, I’m not saying we need to start calling each other out at random. I’m talking about doing this within the bounds of love, friendship and trust.

Often we think of mentorship as just nothing but beautiful early church practice of organic older women loving younger women and everyone living in harmony. And it is beautiful but not always harmonious. It requires us to rub up against each other and also requires us to challenge each other sometimes.

Proverbs 12:18 says,
There is one whose rash words are like sword thrusts,
but the tongue of the wise brings healing.

Are we willing to hear wise words from women who love us? Because if we do, it will bring healing. It is ultimately for our good. We just have to be humble enough to hear it.

How many of us are seeking out Christian friendships whether it be in a mentoring capacity or in a casual sisterly capacity, in order to build up another and be built into by another? Do we view friendship in this way?

Proverbs 13:20 says,
Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise,
but the companion of fools will suffer harm.

We know the old adage, you are the company you keep. Which is exactly what this proverb is saying. When we surround ourselves with wise people, there is a good chance that wisdom will be passed to us. But we have to desire it first.

And as women we should desire true Godly friendship with each other. So that we can encourage each other in our race of faith and help each other when it gets really hard. Because it will get hard.

As I wrote before, just trying to be all these things – self-controlled, pure, kind and submissive to our husbands, even when life is going great is just not easy to do on our own. In fact, I dare say we likely just won’t do it, if it’s just us trying in our own singular strength. And it’s especially difficult in the middle of trials.

But when we have each other the journey is far easier. We can share our experiences and our short-comings and our wins and our loses with one another. And in the process gain wisdom for the journey.

Over the summer I was invited to join a book club that one of the women from my church decided to start all on her own. There was a book that really helped her in her motherhood journey and so she wanted to read it with other women and talk about it. And I love that! We got to meet and share and encourage each other in a formal, yet informal way and it was a beautiful thing to be a part of. And all it took was one women wanting to share.

We need each other.

We also need our brothers in Christ.

But in a different way. Friendship between men and women in the church should be characterized by love and purity.

Ephesians 5:1-6 is a text that gives us an example of how to live for the sake of others. Ephesians is written by Paul yet again, and this letter was passed around from church to church within the region. And he is stressing in this section how when we live sacrificially, like Christ, it’s like a fragrant offering to God and a benefit to others. It says this…

Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.
And it goes on to tell us what not to do, if you want to be imitators of God.
But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints. Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving. For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God.

This Scripture is not talking about male and female friendships. But it is talking about how all people should conduct themselves. So let’s look at it in regards to how we interact with men.

Our current culture loves to impose and encourage men and women to only ever see each other as sexual options. No matter the scenario, men and woman cannot be represented as anything other than potential sexual partners. This is the culture we live in.

And so it is up to the Christian to re-train our minds to think differently about this.

Now if you’re single, this gets complicated because in some ways this is true for you. In that when you meet a man, he could be your future husband. However these verses still apply. Being sexually immoral, whether it be in how you view men or what you’re allowing within dating relationships, is not proper for someone who professes to love Christ.

And this also goes for us married folk. How we view men and what we allow within the friendship of another man can fall within the sexually immoral category.

Then there’s how we speak. In this Ephesians text it is warning us again that what we say matters. What kind of joking do we allow in our conversations? Are we quick to tell or laugh at crude or filthy jokes? Does this help us in our purity and how we view men? I think it’s easy to throw men under the bus on this one and assume that’s only what guys do. But that’s not always true. We can get dirty when we want to. And so these verses should be very clarifying on the appropriateness of this.

One thing we cannot do as women is believe this lie. “I could never cheat on my husband, boyfriend or future husband.” “Nope, not me”.

A long while back when I was working at the church I spoke about before. We were in a staff meeting and at the time  there was some news in the media about a very prominent and popular American pastor who had been caught cheating on his wife. And in this meeting everyone was talking about it very glibly. Saying things like, “oh well, he had bad theology, so no wonder”, or “he deserves the harsh criticism he’s facing” and “how dare he do that.”

Then one of the pastors stopped everyone and looked at us all intently and said, “No one is immune to this. Watch what you say, because it could happen to any of us.”

And I will never forget that stern warning. I believe it’s what Paul is trying to do here. Do not put yourself above the possibility of a moment of weakness, because that all it takes. One moment.

One click on the computer. One tap on the phone. One private conversation. One small fantasy that no one needs to know about.

Because before you know it, you’re in it deep. Our hearts get attached that easy. And none of us are immune to it.

But if we view men as brothers, our perspective changes. One of the best ways for men to kick a porn addiction is for them to start viewing those women on the screen as their sister or daughter. And all of a sudden, it’s not so enticing.

Men are our brothers, and so we should remember that. Our relationship with them should be driven by love and care for their spiritual walk and their standing with the Lord.

However let’s also not make the mistake in thinking that it’s impossible for men and women to be friends within the church. That’s just another lie!

I like what Jen Wilkin has to say about this. She says…

What bothers me most about the question, “Can men and women be friends?” is that even if I answer it in the affirmative, I have not done justice to the issue. Yes, they can be friends, but more than that, they must be friends. Appropriate forms of friendship—those in which we see each other as people rather than potential sex partners—must exist between men and women, especially in the church. How else can we truly refer to each other as brothers and sisters in Christ? Jesus extended deep, personal friendship to both men and women. We are not him, so following his example requires wisdom and discernment about our own propensity to sin as well as that of others. But his example is worth following.

Jesus was friends with men and women. So we should be friends with men and women. We need Christian brothers to encourage us and strengthen us on the journey and we need to encourage and strengthen them on their journey as well. Let’s just do it wisely.

What I love about the church is that, by Christ dying on the cross, giving us new life and establishing the body of Christ, He then puts us all in the same room and then says “ok now that’s your family”. And so every kind of random person from every kind of walk of life, with different pasts and struggles get to rub shoulders, care for one another and often step on each other’s feet all because of Christ. We have nothing else in common but Him.

Because of Him we become family.

As humans what we naturally do is gravitate towards what we know. We tend to mingle with the folks who are in same life stage as us, usually the same wage bracket as us, or the same hobbies as us, or the same race as us. We like people who act and look like ourselves because it makes us feel comfortable.

But in Christ none of those distinctions matter. We all come together in the name of something far bigger than us and love each other because Christ first loved us.

I remember back when my husband and I first got married. We were new to the faith and decided to join a life group. We had no clue what we were getting ourselves into. And when we showed up to that little apartment that first night, I found myself being challenged way out of my comfort zone.

These people were nothing like me. It was like a rainbow of diversity in regards to personality, stage of life and economic bracket. There were easy to get along with people and challenging to get along with people there. But we were there. And we had the most important person in common. And as time went on we became family.

And when one of the members of our group died in a car accident, every single one of the members of that group dropped everything we were doing to come out to the hospital and be there together for his wife of one year when she woke up from the accident.

And we cried and mourned and spent the day with her as she wrapped her mind around what just happened.

But we were there, because she’s our sister and he was our brother. And we wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.

Jesus sums all this up perfectly in John 15:12-17…

This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this that someone lay down his life for his friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command you. 15 No longer do I call you servants,[a] for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you. 16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you. 17 These things I command you, so that you will love one another.

Did you deserve to be chosen by God? You may be a lovely person. But none of us are loved by God because were just so lovable. He loves us because He is a good and merciful God. Which means we have to love the unlovable too. Every family has that one awkward family member that no one knows what to do with. And you better believe it’s the same way in the church.

Jesus doesn’t say here, love the people who are just like you and easy to love, He’s saying, “hey if I can choose you and call you friend, you better be able to love each other!”

And so I want to encourage us ladies as friends and sisters, to love each other. I encourage us to share life together. Formally in a mentorship way as well as informally as friends who care about each other and confront each other when necessary. And I encourage us to look at our Christian brothers with love and purity.

Because we so desperately need one another in this unpredictable journey of life.

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Hold Every Thought Captive – Just Not On Facebook…

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I remember when I first read the verse, We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ, (2 Corinthians 10:5) – It was a game-changer for me.

Seeing how Paul interacted with philosophers and unbelievers of all kinds was masterful. And he was the living embodiment of that verse. There is no question why God would intervene so dramatically in Paul’s life and then use him for this specific reason and so much more. He was clearly a man who knew how to hold thoughts captive and dismantled arguments to the glory of God.

And when I first discovered this, I knew I wanted to be just like him. I wanted to be an argument-destroying woman who could see a thought before it was even spoken in order to bring it under God’s submission. Or my submission. Or God’s. That part is unclear to me now.

It’s an important thing to be as Christians – Wise and discerning of what this world’s arguments are against the faith. And its a message more Christians need to hear.

But then came Facebook. And Twitter. And more.

Places where thoughts run wild. Like a sluggish and murky reservoir of everyone’s feelings, opinions, idea’s and passionate views on all manner of things. Some maddening, some irritating, but plenty problematic. We see as Christians all kinds of holes in arguments being thrown into the pool of cyber-thoughts and we can’t help but engage. If we didn’t, that would be a lack of faithfulness and boldness and 2 Corinthians 10:5…right?

Why should we sit back and let these false statements stand. That gives them the upper hand. Right?

And the more politically heated, the worse it gets.

And we all know what kind of week we’ve had in terms of politics. Even me – a Canadian girl, has found myself all wrapped up in a very tense election that’s not even happening within my own country. It’s been like a car wreck. Equally terrifying as it is completely intriguing. The whole world’s been watching our neighbors try to figure this thing out. And none of us were expecting the outcome.

Without saying anything about my personal opinions on the matter…I believe this American battle has opened up a door into the evangelical world and we’ve seen it’s just as divided as that red, white and blue country we’re all watching in confusion.

I wish I could say that the Christian cyber-discourse I see online has looked remarkably different than the non-Christian one. But that’s not what’s happening. And its a sad state. Trust me, I feel the battle within myself and I don’t like what I feel.

However, I think I understand why it’s happening.

Because of 2 Corinthians 10:5.

No, its not the Bibles fault. But those of us who’ve been personally touched by this verse, whether it be directly or indirectly, I believe are the ones engaging with lots of ferocity and very little tact. And I think many of us feel its the right thing to do. And it is…right?

Here’s where you may disagree with me, but I’m going to say no.

Before you shut your laptop, let me explain.

When Paul went on his missionary journeys and spoke to every kind of person, he did so face to face. The only time his messages were in print was when he wrote to the church. And when he wrote to the church he did so with directness and boldness, so that his words would be clear to them and not taken out of context.

And right before he said the words written in 2 Corinthians 10:5, he said this in verses 3-4…

For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds.

Showing us exactly where he knew the real battle lies.

Here’s the thing. Social Media is a breeding ground for misunderstanding. It’s the place we want our feelings understood most, and yet so often that’s exactly what gets lost somewhere in cyber-space. Intention can be misunderstood, love can be misinterpreted to be right-fighting and rarely are the thoughts expressed in two sentences in a status update fully representative of a person’s fullest opinion.

It’s just hard.

But its much harder when you view social media as your personal battle ground for every thought being taken captive.

You start to feel like its your mission-field to correct everything you read. Never have I seen this happening more, then right now. (Thank you American politics!)

And never have I seen someone’s political opinions change because of online debate.

It’s not just one political side causing these needless battles. Its Christians on both political sides of the coin imposing themselves into every conversation in the name of “truth” trying to captivate thoughts and tear down arguments. And just like that, peaceful discourse becomes debate, which becomes right-fighting, which just adds to one of the biggest problem’s we have – Civil political conversation.

Listen, I’m not saying we can never talk about what we believe on social media. We can. And sometimes we’ll find ourselves in conversations we never meant to be in. Sometimes it just comes knocking on our cyber-door. So…then what? Well…engage! But maybe move to a private conversation to avoid the random added comments of people not needing to be involved. And definitely keep it short while making it very clear your care for the person you’re talking to. Be sure to hear them and affirm where they are right, then speak truth that comes from God and then end it.

And sometimes a response is not necessary at all. Some people are just not worth engaging online.

We have to understand that our only hope to bridge the terrible gap currently killing our political and social climate is for us Christians willing to hear the “other side”, without quick judgement and reactionary debate. We don’t have to agree with them. But we have to listen. We have to be calm. We have to be different. We just have to.

And I dare say…we will do a far better job being a bridge if we start looking into the eyes of real people. Face to face engagement. What a concept! Yes its easier to stay behind a safe screen, and there is a level at which we can’t help the reality that our generation mostly lives behind a screen. But we’re far more gracious in person. So let’s try and be in-person more often. Yes, even with people we disagree with.

Then when we see the pain in someone’s eyes and the struggle of their hearts, lets show love and care. And if they make nonsensical arguments riddled with holes, feel free to capture those thoughts and hold them captive to obey Christ.

I would love to finally see Christian’s lead the way in love for other’s. I long to see us be wise as serpents and gentle as doves online. Its not easy, but we must try harder and be trail-blazers in closing the gap.

We also must remember that our mission on earth is not a political one, but a spiritual one. We battle the spiritual realm and the only balm to everyone’s thoughts and feelings is Christ crucified and risen. May we never get so caught up in the earthly issues of the world, that we forget to share the Healer of this world.

Tensions are high…let’s not just dive into the sludge of opinion carelessly.

Let’s be gap-bridger’s, with grace on our lips and Christ on our tongues.

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Biblical Womanhood – Women And The Family Of God (Part 5)…

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We live in a feminism driven culture, and so this conversation is a touchy one. But the culture didn’t invent the church nor did it invent the family unit. God set up both and therefore it is His right to have rules for how it ought to work – given the fact that He loves us and just happens to know everything. So we are about to embark on a counter-cultural journey through Scripture.

But I want to start with the best news about all of this. And that comes from Galatians 3:23-29…

Now before faith came, we were held captive under the law, imprisoned until the coming faith would be revealed. 24 So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith. 25 But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian, 26 for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. 27 For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave[g] nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise.

I love these verses. These are some of the best verses in the Bible, because this is why we call the gospel the good news. But back in this time when Paul would have written this, He did so knowing it would be very controversial. Because if you were a Jewish man in this time there would have been three things you would have gotten up every morning and thanked God for…number one that your Jewish and not one of those pig-eating gentiles (you are an heir of Abraham!), number two that your free and not a slave, and three that you’re not a woman.

You see the bottom of the barrel in terms of people with value were gentiles, slaves and women.

This was the culture in its time, not how God wanted it, but just the way the culture went.
And what Paul says here is, guess what everyone, Christ came and fulfilled the law so perfectly that there is no restriction to His saving grace. He has made a way to salvation for every single kind of person.

And you better believe this would have come as a big surprise for the Jewish men who had been working their whole lives to uphold the law knowing that a dirty greek, or slave or emotional woman would have the exact same standing as them with God.

Doesn’t this make you want to jump for joy?

It’s such good news. And yet what some of us want to do is use these texts as a reason to ignore the good created order. Often these verses are used to say, “here look, Paul is saying there is no longer male nor female, and that must mean there are no longer male and female roles”. But is that the context of this passage?

Not at all, we’re in a part of this book which is talking about the rights to salvation…not roles. So lets not miss the beauty of what it’s saying by imposing another meaning on it.

I remember when this concept of male and female roles within the church first came to me. My husband came home from work one day and he started talking about it and my ears perked up in complete shock. Who had I married? We had only been married for a couple of years. I was stuck with a man now who seemed to have an archaic view of gender roles. All I could think about was all of the ladies I knew who were gifted leaders and speakers and how this was an injustice to them.

I didn’t know anything about what he was talking about. This was just my knee-jerk reaction to it.

So I embarked on my own journey of discovery. Without letting my husband know, I began studying this. I read Scripture and articles and watched sermons and dug deeper. And as I understood more carefully and more fully what Scripture said, it all made sense and it all looked beautiful. Lucky for my husband I came out on the other side agreeing with him.

But I saw it for what it is. And it is beautiful.

Why don’t we move on to the portion of Scripture that makes for the most controversy,  1 Timothy 2:11-15…

Let a woman learn quietly with all submissiveness. 12 I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet. 13 For Adam was formed first, then Eve; 14 and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor. 15 Yet she will be saved through childbearing—if they continue in faith and love and holiness, with self-control.

These verses are extremely controversial today. But I have to tell you, just like in Galatians, they were even more controversial back when Paul originally wrote it. It was deeply counter-cultural that Paul would say these words…Let a women learn. Yet again we have Paul affirming that women are equal human-beings and Jewish men would have been shocked. Women were without a doubt culturally less than men. Scripture never taught that, but it was imbedded within the Jewish culture at the time. And here Paul is giving permission that women should learn.

Such scandal. I love it.

We see here the value Paul is placing on women, not devalue. But often all we think, looking at it through our 2016 cultural lens is that what he’s saying is devaluing. But it’s not.

Back to 1 Timothy, one thing to remember when reading this is that we’re in a pastoral epistle, which means Paul is speaking here about church governance. He is helping Timothy in this letter as to how the church should be governed. How it should be run and operated. 1 Timothy 3:14-15 says this…

I hope to come to you soon, but I am writing these things to you so that, if I delay, you may know how one ought to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, a pillar and buttress of the truth.

And these instructions are for when the church gathers together for worship. Were not talking about how schools should run or the government or business’s. This is just for the church. I want that to be made clear.

But back to the controversy of verses 11-15. When Paul says women should learn quietly, what does that mean? Quiet in this context more appropriately means, peaceably. And why must he say this? Why is this a necessary instruction for women? Well…remember Eve?
See what we have here is Paul reminding us of the beginning. He brings us right back to Genesis in the garden. He is reminding the church of what happened when Eve took on the role of head and Adam took on the role of the submissive one and where that led. It was far from peaceful in the way Eve conducted herself. And Paul is reminding us of the created order. Adam being created first giving him headship and then Eve being created out of him. And the importance of their roles working properly.

And there are lots of reasons why we know this word quiet is best interpreted by the word peaceable because of other Scriptures. The best way to interpret Scripture is by using other Scripture. And another text making reference to submission uses the same language. And its 1 timothy 2:1-2, speaking about respect for authority. And it says,

First of all, then I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.

Peaceful, quiet, godly, and dignified is what Paul means here. That’s how women ought to conduct themselves.

We also know that quiet means all those things because of a women named Phoebe.
Some of you have been thinking about her as you read, so lets learn about her. In Romans 16, Paul commends his faithful sister in Christ, Phoebe for two verses. She was likely a deaconess and perhaps may have even read this letter out loud to the church. Which is not a quiet thing to do for a woman, right?

Which means that quiet couldn’t possibly mean that we as women must zip our mouths the second we dawn the doors of the church.

So in 1 Timothy Paul is talking about how the church ought to be governed. What’s the best way? Well the way God originally intended. That men function as the moral and spiritual leader of the church. As Adam was supposed to be the moral and spiritual leader in the garden, and husbands should be the moral and spiritual leader in the home, so ought men be the moral and spiritual leader in the church. Which means it is within the male role to protect the flock by teaching sound doctrine. And it is within the female role to receive that doctrinal instruction peacefully.

Because Paul is speaking about church governance, this still very much applies to us today. But what this teaching isn’t saying is that we all better shut up.

It’s answering the question, who should govern the doctrine of the church? And we see that that’s the elders job (which is laid out for us in 1 Timothy 3). And so the elders role would be filled by men. But not just any men. It’s not just about having the proper genitalia. 1 timothy 3 gives an extensive list of what men who desire to be elders should be like. They must be above reproach with a good reputation, not ladies-men, not hot-headed and prideful, they must be respectable and peaceable, just to name a few. It’s a high calling, and not just any guy is going to fit this role.

So it’s not just about being male…its so much more than that.

The lead pastor role is also one who most prominently teach’s doctrine and so that falls within the role of a man.

Some of you may already have an objection that you’d love to reach through the screen and shout out at me and that is…”Hey wait, what about Deborah?”

So lets look at Deborah. She was one of the best judges in a long line of terrible judges in the book of…what for it… Judges. Her role was mainly in the realm of prophesy, but she was not raised up to be a judge like a lot of them were. And there isn’t a lot spoken about how she got that role, but its most likely that she was filling that role because no other man would and she was gifted by God and so therefore God used her.

She is one of my favorite ladies in Scripture and we should learn from her courage and strength. But when a national problem arose, God appointed Barak to step forward, which reinforces the pattern of male headship. So her story is worth noting and yet it still does not null and void the direct teaching of Paul in the New Testament about this. What she does do for us though, is give us a lot of grey and grace in how we work all of this church governance stuff out. Some things are clear…like elders and the lead pastor. That’s pretty clear. But Deborah helps make the very important case that women have big roles to play within the church.

Which I very much believe to be true.

And what I love about women like Deborah and Phoebe is that they give us a tangible look at what women of God do. The kind of ministry we can do. Because there is TONS of ministry not just that women are permitted to do, but that women absolutely SHOULD be doing. A church with no women in any leadership positions is a spiritually lacking church.
There is so much work to do and it should not be done by only men.

Often times I hear women say in disgust, “great all that leaves us with is children’s ministry and women’s ministry”. This maybe the biggest complaint I get when discussing this topic. And it’s not true. But can I just address this, if your feeling it. I need to address it firmly though. So don’t hate me.

No one is above children’s ministry. Both men and women should be serving and teaching the kids. It is perhaps one of the most evangelistic ministries in the church. Working with children is not below you. If you have big gifts in leadership and teaching and you have tons of training, you’re not above children’s ministry. That’s pride talking. And it made Jesus furious in Matthew 19 when the disciples tried to keep children out of the big, heady, adult conversation they were having. Because it was the pride of the disciples that didn’t see the value of the children. And this made Jesus irate.

Teaching kids may not be your things, and that’s fine. But see there’s a prideful attitude attached to the man or women who believes teaching children is a small thing.

That also goes for women’s ministry too. Women who take offense with the thought of only being able to teach other women are the kind of people who must have a very low view of women. See the irony in that. If you believe leading women is beneath you and your abilities, you must really think of women as nothing much. But that’s not how Scripture views women teaching women.

But even with that said, these are not the only places for you to use your gifts in the church. The bride of Christ needs you most everywhere. It needs your hospitality, your prayer, your worship, your encouragement, your teaching, your smile, your nurturing. Just to name a few.

So be encouraged. The ministry opportunities are too numerous for me to speak here.
But let’s go back to 1 Timothy and talk about maybe one of the hardest verses to understand, which is vs 15.

Yet she will be saved through childbearing—if they continue in faith and love and holiness, with self-control.

What the heck does that mean?

First off the word saved is not the same as salvation here. We do not find our salvation of sin through childbearing. What this is saying is we will be rescued from the bad reputation of our spiritual mother Eve, if we fulfill our role as women. And a short-hand for women, would have been child-bearer. Which all that means is someone with a uterus. In other words a woman will distance herself from the sins of her female heritage in Eve by living within her role as a woman.

So if you are not a wife and mother this still applies to you. I can see how this would hurt the heart of a women who can’t bear children. But this is about breaking the curse brought on us from Eve through fulfilling our female role. And child-bearing is not the end of that verse. We get a list. We also break the sinful ties to Eve when we continue in faith and love and holiness and self-control.

Which is no small task. But it is done well when a women relies heavily on the strength of Christ.

These verses are challenging ones. But when you take the time to read them for what they are, it’s not so bad. In fact it makes perfect sense.

I’ve noticed something interesting in regards to this over the years. I’ve been involved in a church where they hold firm the beliefs about gender roles and have a strong stance on it, and I’ve been involved in a church that wouldn’t touch this subject with a 10 foot pole, out of fear of angering women. And the church’s that have taken a stance are pumping out strong, biblically savvy, intelligent women leaders. While the women in the fearful church fall to the waist side.

Which if we want to get pragmatic, shows how much conviction in Gods Word leads to human flourishing. It just works. And this is one of the reasons why we should talk about it.

By all cultural accounts, women who are told this theology should be extremely oppressed…and yet, I have never felt so free. A church that really does this well, will encourage their women to be fearless Godly leaders and I’m blessed to be a part of a church that desires to do this. I wouldn’t be a part of a church that ascribed to this theology but didn’t invest and care about their women.

So ladies we should learn. And grow spiritually. We should excercise our gifts in all humility. And we should be peace-makers, desiring to submit to and pray for our pastors and elders.

Posted in Christian Living, Culture, Ministry, Theology, Womanhood | Leave a comment

Let Me Direct You Elsewhere…

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Love Your Neighbor Enough To Speak Truth: Out of all the responses to Jen Hatmaker’s recent controversy, this is the one to read. Rosaria Butterfield nails it…Today, I hear Jen’s words—words meant to encourage, not discourage, to build up, not tear down, to defend the marginalized, not broker unearned power—and a thin trickle of sweat creeps down my back. If I were still in the thick of the battle over the indwelling sin of lesbian desire, Jen’s words would have put a millstone around my neck.

What Jesus Didn’t Say: This is an interesting one: “In that moment, Jesus defied all expectations. No doubt his fans expected a great sermon from this now-famous hometown boy-turned-rabbi. His detractors hoped for a flop, and those who knew him well readied themselves to pat him on the head afterwards with cloying words…”

5 Damning Inconsistencies In Transgender Dogma: This is not meant to make anyone angry. Just to look at what doctors and scientist have to say about this and hopefully encourage healthy dialogue.

Bear’s Den – Gabriel: I know, I know…again? But I’m really loving this whole album and this is quickly becoming my favorite song of the lot. (Yes, I know, the album cover looks 80’s, but the music sounds 80’s too – so it works!)

Posted in Christian Living, Culture, Let Me Direct You Elsewhere, Music, Video's | Leave a comment