Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Glory to the Newborn King!

Hark the herald angels sing
"Glory to the newborn King!
Peace on earth and mercy mild
God and sinners reconciled"
Joyful, all ye nations rise
Join the triumph of the skies
With the angelic host proclaim:
"Christ is born in Bethlehem"
Hark! The herald angels sing
"Glory to the newborn King!"

Christ by highest heav'n adored
Christ the everlasting Lord!
Late in time behold Him come
Offspring of a Virgin's womb
Veiled in flesh the Godhead see
Hail the incarnate Deity
Pleased as man with man to dwell
Jesus, our Emmanuel
Hark! The herald angels sing
"Glory to the newborn King!"

Hail the heav'n-born Prince of Peace!
Hail the Son of Righteousness!
Light and life to all He brings
Ris'n with healing in His wings
Mild He lays His glory by
Born that man no more may die
Born to raise the sons of earth
Born to give them second birth
Hark! The herald angels sing
"Glory to the newborn King!"

May your Christmas Day be filled with joy in the newborn King, our Christ, who was born to give us second birth and make us sons of the living God. Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Repentance and Jane Eyre

Every so often, and not nearly often enough, I am struck with how far from the mind of Christ my sinful heart actually is. A kind woman from my church had a bunch of girls over to eat chocolate and watch this four hour British rendition of the classic Charlotte Bronte novel. Jane Eyre is my new favorite movie. (Warning: If you ever want to see Jane Eyre, or read it, and still be surprised, do not read this post. It might ruin it for you.) Like many love stories of the like the viewer is taken through many ups and downs before the final resolve in which the young couple is finally brought together. The only glitch in the story was that Jane and Edward cannot be married because he is still married, to a wife who is literally insane.

But I found myself internally saying “just divorce the crazy lady.” Throughout the entire movie I was cheering them, and then scoffed in disgust when Jane refused to be with a married man, despite her feelings. In my faulty logic it seemed only natural that this crazy woman should be abandoned for the sake of Jane and Edward’s budding relationship. After all, they were in-love. What was most troubling to me was not just the fact that I cried “divorce” in the name of love, but that I didn’t even feel convicted about it until over a week later.

We live in a divorce culture. And sadly, I am deeply affected by it. My problem in watching the movie was that I wanted Jane and Edward together no matter the cost, even if it meant breaking a covenant made before God. Unfortunately we, even Christians, live in a culture that seeks to preserve happiness and instant gratification rather than a holy covenant. It is no secret that the divorce rate in our churches is similar to the divorce rate of our unsaved neighborhood. Divorce is everywhere, and it is normalized.

Jesus said, “what God has joined together let no man separate.” God does the joining, and he does the separating too. The court system, divorce attorneys, and unhappy spouses are wrongly taking the place of the sovereign God when they freely offer divorce for such reasons as “irreconcilable differences.” My problem when I watched Jane Eyre was that I had a worldly view of both God and marriage. And even though I talk often about the importance of upholding marriage, this incident made me see that I still have a long way to go before my sinful, distorted views of happiness are really sanctified. How many times do we not even realize our sinful views of marriage, and the world in general, because we are so much in the world that we can’t recognize truth from error anymore? This is a scary thought.

Living as a Christian in this world means that I need a lot more grace, and a lot more discernment, in order to recognize where I have been indoctrinated wrongly. A recovery of the sanctity of marriage must begin not with legislation, but with Christians, like me, not secretly wishing that a movie marriage would dissolve so my favorite characters would be happy. There is far more at stake than whether or not fictional people are united in matrimony. The Gospel is at stake in marriage. When a man abandons his wife because he loves someone else, we are preaching to the world that we have a Christ who will abandon us if he falls in love with another—and that never happens.

In the end Jane does marry Edward, but not because he abandoned his wife. I wonder if the story would have been as meaningful if they rode off into the sunset while his wife languished in his abandoned castle. Probably not. But it won’t be the last time I am faced with a movie of this nature. And maybe next time the red flag of conviction will penetrate my sinful heart immediately, and not seven days later.

Friday, December 14, 2007


I am still alive, just busy. But, I wanted to let those of you who are still wondering know that I will be back very soon. The end of the semester was a little crazier than I anticipated, but it's over and I will be writing again.

Though I might have killed the blog with my absence, thank you for continuing to wonder about my whereabouts, and or writing, while I have been buried under school work.

So, stay tuned....I will be back this week.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Do Christian Feminists Exist? A Response to Julie Clawson

Julie Clawson, a wife, mother, egalitarian and emerging church pastor, asked this question on her blog a few weeks ago. She says:

“I do understand that there are various streams/waves of feminism and while I have serious issues with some of them (the ones that hate men or think that sexual openness means equality), I am not willing to give up the entire history of the movement because of some fringe views (kinda like I feel about Christianity). I am a feminist because I am a Christian. I believe all people are created in the image of God and are therefore worthy as imagebearers. We are all called to serve God in the ways we are called (in ministry, work, the home, school…) and to say otherwise is to stifle the will of God. Since it has been women who have generally been seen as inferior, I think feminism is necessary to overcome that lie.”

At the end of her post she takes her stand for Christian feminists:

“So I am a feminist. I think women are people too. I think we are worthy of respect and human rights. I think God is big enough to use whoever he wants to serve him. And I will stand up with feminists against those who out of fear or hatred try to tell God otherwise.”

I am a complementarian, and I readily agree with Julie that women are people too. She is absolutely correct that women are worthy of respect and human rights. I think God is bigger than we all can imagine, and that He is a speaking God whose Word we should obey. But feminism will not achieve her goals.

Feminism is not necessary to overcome the lie of oppression. The Gospel is. We can never forget the centrality and sufficiency of the Gospel in talking about gender. Jesus Christ, the perfect God-man, is our hope, and it is to him that we look. History has shown us that feminism leads to the oppression it cries out against. It leads to women exercising “free choice" to murder baby girls in the womb because they are seen as an intolerable burden. And it is the “liberated woman” of pornography who pretends to represent to men how women truly are.

I do not deny that there are men in churches who are not biblically-driven complementarians, but oafs and tyrant wannabes. I am saddened by them. Nor do I deny that there are women in our churches who see biblical womanhood as being a doormat, and that is grevious. But personal experiences and the examples of sinful men and women do not serve as the foundation of our faith or complementarian position.

The whole point of the gender discussion is Jesus Christ. I want people to see Jesus, despite how flawed my presentation of him may be. God has spoken to us, and we must listen. If our theology of God is not rooted in biblical truth, we run the risk of being disillusioned at the first harsh word from our husbands or fathers.

A Christian feminist must be categorized as an oxymoron. A recovery of true equality and dignity for women will first begin at the Cross, and in men and women living in the way that God designed them to be. If we abandon that, we will eventually abandon the Gospel itself.

Mary Kassian says in her book The Feminist Mistake:

“Many Christians view feminism as an ideology that merely promotes the genuine dignity and worth of women. If this were true, feminism would definitely be compatible with Christianity, for the Bible does teach that women and men are of equal value in God’s sight, co-created as bearers of God’s image. But the philosophy of feminism adds a subtle, almost indiscernible twist to the basic truth of woman’s worth. Feminism asserts that woman’s worth is of such a nature that it gives her the right to discern, judge, and govern that truth herself. It infuses women with the idea that God’s teaching about the role of women must line up with their own perception and definition of equality and/or liberation. Feminism does not present itself as an outright affront to the Bible, but it nevertheless contains an insidious distortion that erodes the authority of Scripture. Acceptance of the feminist thesis may not drastically alter one’s initial beliefs, but if followed, will naturally and logically lead to an end miles away from the Christianity of the Bible.”

Instead of running from God’s design in the quest for freedom, the quest for equality should drive us to our God-ordained distinctions, because only there where we will find true freedom and true worth.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Mrs. Dubert

One of the greatest problems, I fear, of my generation is that we are often too isolated. Certainly we are a community driven generation, but we like to stay within our own niches. It is rare to see, anymore, a twenty-something in a willing conversation, let alone relationship, with an older member of society. And sadly, this is not foreign to the evangelical church. There is much to learn from the Baby Boomer and Senior Citizen in our congregations, and many times we aren’t even in churches where that could be an option.

A great joy of mine has been to get to know Mrs. Marjorie Dubert. She is the mother of my mom’s best friend, Sonja. In 1960, Mr. and Mrs. Dubert were accepted for translation work with Wycliffe Bible Translators in Papua New Guinea. They were there until 2002, when they retired and returned back to the States. For 42 years they labored in translation work and raised 7 children. It was not without trials, though. Their first translation work was for a tribe with a dying language. They realized once they had begun the work that this was a language that after the current generation passed away would no longer be in existence. Yet they stayed for the few people who would be impacted by the Gospel and completed the New Testament. Upon completion of this work, they could have returned to the United States to enjoy their grandchildren and retire, like many in their generation were doing. Instead, they chose to begin another translation work for a tribe where many were hungry for the Word.

When they did retire, Mrs. Dubert began having problems with her eyesight. The doctors soon realized that years of taking malaria medicine had affected her eyesight to the point of blindness. It was only a matter of time before she would be legally blind. In spite of all of this, she still serves in many ways, including penning a story of her time in New Guinea. I hope that this is a blessing to you, as it has been to me. Reading the words of a woman, who despite losing her own sight so the eyes of the spiritually blind may be opened, is an encouragement to be faithful no matter the cost.

by Marjorie Dubert

“Whatever Jehovah pleased, that hath he done.”
—Psalm 135:6

“He who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords.”
—1 Timothy 6:15

A very vivid object lesson, showing me that God is Sovereign, occurred during my years of serving him in Papua New Guinea with Wycliffe Bible Translators/Summer Institute of Linguistics.

LaVonne Scherers was a fellow graduate student at Columbia Bible College. In the summer of 1954 she sang in my wedding. The next time I saw her in early 1962, she was Mrs. Walt Steinkraus doing Bible translation with her husband and children for the Tifalmin people in Papua New Guinea. They welcomed my husband and me with our children as fellow translators.

In March of 1971, Vonnie came by our home at Ukarumpa to say good-by. She and the 2 girls, Kerry 12 and Katherine 2, were off to the village to join Walt. She could have left Kerry in the Children’s Home to attend the International Primary School, but Kerry chose to go to the village. Vonnie told me, “We want to Glorify God as a family.”

Vonnie and the girls arrived in the village March 19, and 2 days later, on a beautiful sunny Sunday, the Steinkraus family attended church in a nearby village, returned home and lay down to rest while many in the village took the opportunity to go work in their gardens or gather firewood. At 3pm, a freak landslide, ½ mile long, 300’ high and 100’ deep with terrific force crossed the river and covered the village, instantaneous death for the 10 victims remaining in the village. An envelope found in the debris had this verse written on it, “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:6).

Other translators, Al and Susan Boush with their children, took up the translation project and the Tifamin people now have the New Testament in their language.

However on another occasion July 17, 1998, when an earthquake occurred a few miles off the shore of Arop, Papua New Guinea, it caused three 33 ft high Tsunamis to come ashore. All the houses and people in Arop village at the time, including the home of the Nystroms doing Bible Translation for the Arop people, were swept out to sea. In the Sovereignty of God, John and Bonnie Nystrom with their two children and all their translation materials were safely at Ukarumpa Center.

God used the Nystrom family to give the remaining people hope, to choose more translation helpers, and to set up a training center where they now train and work with translators from eleven other languages as well as the Arop.

I marvel at the mysterious hand of our Sovereign Lord and King. His ways are indeed, higher than my ways. He chose to take the Steinkraus family yet allow the Nystrom family to remain, all the while furthering his Kingdom and glorifying himself.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Halloween 2007

When I was a little girl I always looked forward to Halloween. My brothers and I would plan our costumes weeks in advance, expectantly wait for dark on the 31st of October, and then pile into the family van, pillowcases in tow, which served as makeshift trick-or-treat bags. There was only one condition for our Halloween activities—we were never allowed to wear “scary” costumes. The Tarter children would never be seen as witches, devils, vampires, or any other horror film character. I never understood this as a kid, and hadn’t thought about it in years until this past Wednesday night. It hit me, sadly for the first time, that my parents were protecting me from real evil, evil that I did not understand because I was naïve. They knew what I didn’t. The costumes, though they seemed to be mere pieces of fabric, were representing something actual, not pretend like I thought.

On Halloween this year some friends and I dressed up like the Wizard of Oz characters and passed out candy for the annual Halloween on Hillcrest extravaganza in Louisville. Complete with a projector playing the movie and a real life Yellow Brick Road, we were no ordinary endeavor. There were thousands of people, and I realized that I was seeing a very different Halloween than the one I experienced 15 years ago. Not because it has changed and suddenly become more pagan. I just grew up somewhere between being Tinker Belle and the Cowardly Lion.

I saw hundred of little devils, witches, Freddy Krueger’s, and dead prom queens, all who have yet to reach junior high. One of my friends even made the comment that “there is something wrong about a baby being dressed up as a devil.” There is a Prince of Darkness who desires to have the souls of every one of those little devils, witches, and prom queens, and that should make me tremble. The fact that there are toddlers dressed up as pop stars and evil spirits is indicative of a much larger problem than whether or not we celebrate Halloween. We live in a confused world that trivializes evil to the degree that we coo at a baby in a devil costume.

This Halloween was a reminder to me that we are not there yet. We don’t need to go very far to see that. Our neighborhoods are perishing, and the kids in the costumes are a direct reflection of the parents who dress them. There is something seriously wrong with parents who send their daughters out as pre-pubescent Britney Spears. Apart from Christ, we are no different. Though there is room for Christian freedom regarding Halloween convictions, this holiday, like all other holidays, should remind us and incite us to weep and pray for the lost.

And though Halloween is quite different for me than it used to be, I still look forward to it, but for very different reasons. It is a motivation to pray, a motivation to witness, and a motivation to know my neighbors lives. Maybe next year, by the grace of God, we will be able to say that the infant devil has been overcome by the Holy Babe—our Lord, Jesus Christ.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Friday Devotional: Our Condition

“To whom shall I speak and give warning, that they may hear? Behold, their ears are uncircumcised, they cannot listen; behold the Word of the Lord is to them an object of scorn; they take no pleasure in it.”—Jeremiah 6:10

Left to ourselves this is our predicament. At one point in our lives, if not now, we were (or still are) unable to listen to the Word of the Lord. It sounded like nonsense, or even the same as the heresy we heard last week at a different church service. We were perishing. We were lost. And the hope of Christ sounded like complete and utter foolishness to us. Now that we are found, we all probably know someone who is still floating in a sea of darkness, separated from God.

This verse should first make us grateful, grateful that we understand it, and the implications of it. But also it should make us grieved. There are many who are still uncircumcised, some of them live under the same roof as us.

It is a reminder that God is the one who circumcises and opens ears. Jeremiah is where God tells us that he will give his people a new heart and make a new covenant with them. We cannot make ourselves hear what we do not even have an ear for. Apart from sovereign grace, the hardness of our own hearts keeps us from taking pleasure in, and even hearing God’s voice.

We must not give up on praying for the lost friends and family who are in our lives. Without the Holy Spirit, the word of the Lord is to them an object of scorn. The very thing that gives us life and spiritual food is foul to them. God is the only one who can turn the scorn into delight, and give them new eyes.

It’s very easy for me to get angry with people who scorn Christ. I get frustrated with their inability to recognize that which seems so clear to me. But then I am quickly reminded that God put people in my life, (mainly my parents) who did not get frustrated with me when I scorned their Savior. I, too, must do the same.

Is there a person in your life, dear Christian, who needs new eyes to see the beauty of the Savior? Pray for him. Do you have a family member who continuously mocks you for your faith in Christ? Pray for her, that she may seem him as infinitely valuable.

We all were once lost, despising the One who died for us. Praise him that our dreadful condition is no more. And pray for the ones who have yet to come. May the power of the Cross break the chains of death that makes them scorn the very thing that leads to life.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Meet the Waldemar's!

Meet with Waldemar’s. They are urban missionaries with Bethlehem Baptist Church. For a little over a year (I think, I’m not sure exactly), they have been living in the inner city of Minneapolis, just a stone’s throw from the church, building relationships and sharing the Gospel with the urban neighbors around them.

They are a tremendous example of Christ to me, and many others in the Bethlehem community. Not only because of the work that God has done in their family, but also due to their labors for the Gospel in the city. Living for Christ takes on a whole new meaning when you witness a drug deal happen on your door step while your three children are sitting inside, or when you hear the shouts of drunk neighbors at 3 AM and you wonder if this will be the night where you hear the gun shots. City living is never easy, but they do it not to be adventurous, but so the nations will bow the knee and worship Jesus Christ, the Lord of all. They don’t try and dress up the Gospel and make it cool, and they most certainly don’t try and be something that they are not. It is simply pure, fervent, humble Gospel living, and it shows.

For the Waldemar’s, being an urban missionary means eating Afghani pizza and taking food and the Gospel to a homeless person in an abandoned house. I praise God for this family and for the work that they do in Minneapolis. May God be pleased to grant much fruit for his glory and for the joy of the nations!

They also have a blog where they give ministry and family updates. You can visit it here:

Saturday, October 6, 2007

What is True Greatness?

While flipping through channels the other evening I came across special about celebrity lives on the Entertainment Channel. Though this is not a normal occurrence, I found myself engrossed in the tales of the lives of these celebrities. The commentator took the viewer through the various purchases and extravagances of the rich and famous in a way that seemed to almost normalize them. One woman who owned a famous boutique in Beverly Hills in the middle of her explanation of the star treatment flippantly said, “I drop everything when Paris comes in because she deserves it.”

I was reminded of C.J. Mahaney’s sermon on true greatness. Amidst all of the idol worship around us, he painted a very different picture of what we should ascribe supposed deserved adoration. He pointed to Christ and that what he said and did on our behalf was worthy of the term greatness. He preached from Mark 10: 32:45 and in that message the Lord used him to reveal areas that we as Christians have a distorted understanding of greatness. Consider the words of Jesus, “You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave to all. For the Son of Man came not to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

Our first mistake in recognizing true greatness is believing the people we praise to be the source of their greatness. Every good and perfect gift comes from above, including talent, riches, and beauty. There is nothing that we have that was not given to us by the Creator. We are simply the created. Therefore we must first recover our theology of God, and His Lordship over all, in order to see greatness for what it truly is.

We must also pray for a discerning mind to think like our Christ. He did not count the things of this world as something to be grasped and held to. He came as a servant, therefore when we hear of people talking about “deserving” something, our minds should immediately look to Christ and what he said we are deserving of.

To live as Christians in this post modern world will mean that we must learn to discern true greatness. Instead of being drawn in awe and wonder into the “Lifestyles of the Rich of Famous”, we should be able to recognize it for what it is—darkness. What good does it profit a man to have fifty Roll’s Royce’s in a customized garage if he loses his soul? And what good does it profit a woman to have $500 designer jeans and racks of Jimmy Choo shoes if she, too, loses her soul in the end? Floating around in the sea of ever flowing champagne and cash is the sad reality that this is false greatness that leads to death.

True greatness is not the movie star or the athlete. It is the small town pastor who works three jobs to support his family and preach the Gospel to his people, even when there is no fruit. It is the faithfulness of a mother to raise her children in the fear and admonition of the Lord, even when it is hard. And it is the courage of a missionary to go the poorest of the poor, the despised and lowly, to bring them the Gospel of the Lord, Jesus Christ. Maybe their faces will never grace the cover of Christianity Today and they probably will never have their lives chronicled on a 20/20 special. But the Father knows their name, and he knows their ministries. Their names are written in heaven and their labors will one day be recognized when the last are finally first and they hear “well done, my good and faithful servant.” And that is true greatness.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Friday Devotional: Through Many Tribulations

“Through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God.”—Acts 14:22

Often when I read this verse I quickly breeze over, barely acknowledging the weight of its meaning. The apostles weren’t merely offering helpful tips to be a Christian. They were giving a definitive statement; tribulation is a given necessity in order to enter the Kingdom. Paul had just been stoned and left for dead, and now he is telling the young Christians that this is how we must live. Surely it must have seemed strange to a new believer that this much suffering be necessary.

You do not have to live long as a believer to either experience suffering in your own life, or witness it in the lives of those around you. Pain is very real. Babies die suddenly. Children rebel and turn away from families. Cancer afflicts little children. Hurricanes wipe away entire villages. My relatively short time on earth reminds me that I cannot postpone the inevitable. It is through many tribulations that we must enter the kingdom. But this is not a morbid text. It is not a death sentence for the repentant sinner. There is a promise attached to the tribulation—we will enter the Kingdom. This momentary affliction of earthly suffering will be made right in the Kingdom of our Christ. We are able to live, serve, and even die freely because we seek the coming Kingdom, the city that is to come.

We may weep and grieve rightly through the “toils and snares” but we can trust that this grace that brought us through will one day lead us safely home to the Savior.

May this truth strengthen you today, dear Christian. Whether you are facing a sunny season in your life or whether the clouds are down, know that the Kingdom is coming. The darkness has been overcome by the Son.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

A Whole New Way to Learn About Gender...

Well, sort of. The Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood launched their redesigned website over the weekend. It's full of free articles, audio, and back issues of the Journal for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood. They truly have done an amazing job. If you are looking for introductory reading, the Fall 2006 issue of the Journal was by women for women, and I frequently go to it as a very helpful resource.

They are the place to go if you are new to understanding biblical gender, or even if you have a little more knowledge on the subject. There is something for everyone.

So, check it out, add it to your favorites, and let them know what you think!


Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Who's Afraid of the Dark?

Though there are many things that can be a source of fear (deep water, heights, large crowds, etc.), fear always seems heightened in darkness. As a child, I used to be afraid of the dark. And though it was often used as an excuse to stay up a little later than normal, there were some nights when I would lay in bed, fearful of the unknown darkness of my bedroom. Now that I am an adult, the fear is a little different. This is partly because I can’t go to my parents room when I have a nightmare, and also because I know more about the world. I watch the news and hear of murders and assaults in my neighborhood, sometimes not far from my own home. Falling asleep in an empty house can often bring back feelings reminiscent of childhood.

Psalm 121:3-4 says: “He will not let your foot be moved; he who keeps you will not slumber. Behold, he who keeps Israel will neither slumber or sleep.” This is a reminder to us of how we need much, and how God needs nothing. The created must be guarded by the Creator. But this verse also comforts us. The God who needs no sleep, is never asleep. He never tires. He never grows weary. He never dozes off. He is always watching, always guarding, always holding our sleeping heads in His grip. Which is why we can pray at any time of day, even in the middle of the night after a bad dream, and know that He hears us. This verse serves as a promise to the believer. It is not just that God does not need sleep, it is that He says He will not slumber or sleep, calling us to trust in His Word. Though darkness may feel like the unknown, this darkness is not unknown to the Almighty.

God’s does not sleep so we can. He created us as finite creatures who tire and grow weary. He gives us rest as a gift from our labors. When we neglect it because of anxiety, or busyness, we are slowly rendering ourselves useless for the tasks that He has called us to. Psalm 127:2 says: “It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; for he gives to his beloved sleep.” This is a tremendous reality for the believer. There was a period in my life where I was constantly afraid to fall asleep at night. Night after night I would lay in bed while my stomach knotted up in anxiety over being alone in my apartment. There are many verses in the Bible that warn against slothfulness and laziness regarding sleep, but there is another end of the spectrum where we are reminded that sleep is given to us, and commanded, by God. Anxiety is bound up and destroyed underneath the promise that our God never sleeps, which is why we can rest in peace.

And so, when you fall asleep tonight, dear Christian, do not fear. God is protecting you in the slums of Brazil, in the jungles of New Guinea, in the inner-city of Minneapolis, and in the suburbs of America. You can rest knowing that the sleep you receive is a gift from your Heavenly Father, who is not a man that He should need sleep. And if you happen to see Who’s Afraid of the Dark at your local library, trust with confidence that you can no longer say, “I am.”

Monday, August 27, 2007

Confessions of a Recovering Feminist

When we think of a feminist we can all probably think of a person we know, or know of, who typifies the feminist ideology. There are all types of fixtures of feminism ranging from Presidential candidates to evangelical scholars to college students—and I am one of them. Prior to conversion I was the stereotypical Generation Y feminist—anti-marriage, anti-child rearing, and corporate ladder hopeful. After conversion I sang a slightly different tune, although held onto many of my previous ideals regarding marriage and settling down. I simply masked it with a missions/ministry focus, content to be the single girl on a mission to save a third-world country for Christ. What I did not want, or think I needed, was the idea that my changed life meant changed priorities. It was not that I needed to find a husband or chuck any career aspirations, the problem was that I thought feminism was an outside of the church issue, at least the conservative church that I belonged too. I had no notion that my heart, at its core, was fighting against the authority of God in the Scriptures, and still does have a lot of change left to be done to it.

I may have moved out of the militant feminist camp, but I most certainly have been a part of one too many male bashing conversations in a dorm room and coffee shop with my girl friends. What we must understand about feminism is that it did not originate in the wake of the women’s liberation movement of the 1970’s. And the mother of feminism is far older than Ms. Magazine and her friends. Feminism started in a garden in the Middle East thousands of years ago. Feminism is at the very heart of our fallen nature, and manifests itself in many different forms.

Recovering from feminism must first start with an embracing of the Gospel of our Lord, Jesus Christ. Only then will we see the roots severed because we will be clothed in the humility of Christ, who willingly submitted himself to the Father on our behalf. For older women it will mean embracing and modeling femininity, motherhood, and marriage in a Titus 2 way. For younger women it will mean knowing the godly women in our congregations better than we know the celebrities on late night television.

Feminist ideology is not simply relegated to the brash Gloria Steinem types, or even the female executive with the corner office. Rather, feminism rises up in ordinary women in our congregations, homes, and in the least obvious place, the mirror. Feminism is in the core of our hearts apart from the saving work of the shed blood of Christ, and not simply because we are militant against male authority, but primarily because we are opposed to the greatest authority of all—our Creator. The feminist is not some abstract “out there” woman. She is staring right at us every morning when we put on our make-up.

If we are going to make any headway in the gender discussion, we must first admit that our problem lies much deeper than a woman filling the pulpit on Sunday morning, or stay-at-home dads. Our problem lies in the fact that there is no one righteous and we are all opposed to God—we are all feminists at heart. And we can’t wake up one day and decide to be a Proverbs 31 woman any more than a man can decide to lead like Christ. Instead of seeing our gender differences as mere cultural constructions we must first admit that there was something far greater going on in the Garden than we now realize, and when Creation fell, it was distorted. In creating man and woman differently, God was pointing to the beauty of the Trinitarian relationship, and the relationship between Christ and His Church. The fact that we fight against it reveals our depravity even more.

Many times we are so busy looking for the woman with the hyphenated name that we miss the woman who scoffs at a man for opening the door for her. Both of these actions are products of our feminist heart. My “recovery” from feminism is not about learning how to bake pies or a decision to be more feminine (though these are important and helpful things), it is about repentance. Repentance of my desire to be in control and to raise my fist against God’s created order. Only through repentance and faith in Christ am I, or any one for that matter, able to renounce rebellion and submit to the Lordship of Christ. It also means truly believing that God’s Word regarding gender, and everything else for that matter, is true. Recovery for many of us will mean a reversal of the way we approach women in our congregations. It is no wonder why so many young women don’t desire motherhood when what they often hear from older women is to “get your degree first and live your life,” acting as if marriage and children was the final stamp on the end of your life as you know it.

And when I still feel the judgment rising up in me when I see a young woman joyfully choosing marriage and a family over a college degree, I realize that I have a long way to go before this feminist is fully recovered. As I grow in my walk, there is a great hope in the Holy Spirit’s promise to complete the work that Christ began (Phil. 1:6). From the time the first feminist (Eve) came on the scene, until now, we have been in a cosmic battle against the flesh and Satan because he hates the image of Christ and His Church. We await the final consummation of the good work that was started by King Jesus on Calvary. With the curse came the promise. Feminism was, and will finally be, defeated when the Seed crushes the Serpent (Gen. 3:15). And that’s good news for recovering feminists like you and me.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Christ and Genesis

Every time I read Genesis, I am amazed with something new that had never seemed as exciting to me before. The account of Joseph was a tremendous blessing to me last week and further helped me to see the sovereignty of God over every detail of our lives.

Consider Joseph, sold into slavery by his own brothers. As we watch the story unfold it seems that all of the odds are against Joseph initially. He is despised and misunderstood by his brothers, falsely accused by Potiphar’s wife and then sent to languish in an Egyptian jail for no crime at all. But God had not left him. God had sent him away from his family, a family that was falling apart with immorality, deception, and dissension, in order to preserve the family of Israel and keep the Abrahamic covenant.

This part of Genesis includes, in my opinion, some of the sweetest accounts of God’s providence. It is fundamentally about the Gospel of Jesus Christ. God is here preserving a people for Himself, but He is showing Joseph as a type of Christ. Like the Christ to come, Joseph grew in favor with God and man (Genesis 39:21, Luke 2:52). Joseph was sent to an unknown place, enduring sorrow and hardship, in order to preserve and save the people of God. Christ was sent to a dying world, bearing shame and our sin, in order to bring ruined sinners to Himself.

So many of our stories are largely unwritten and we have no idea what the outcome will bring. Maybe God is not giving you exactly what you want right now, His purposes will still stand in your life. Maybe you are facing great uncertainty with direction in your life, God has not forgotten you. Just like in Joseph’s life our small frames are mere pieces in the much bigger picture of redemptive history. God is working all things out for our good, and His glory. Imagine the feelings Joseph must have had when he realized that his dreams were coming true years later. It is no wonder that he had to excuse himself on more than one occasion to weep. And when he finally reveals himself we read such an amazing verse of complete trust in the purposes of God:

“And now do not be distressed or angry with yourselves because you sold me here, for God sent me before you to preserve life.”

Only in Christ can we express, and believe, such things about the purposes of God. Like the Christ that his life is pointing to, he did not revile back when he was reviled. There is a trust that comes after weeks, months, or eve n years, of darkness that begin to show glimpses of light. Surely the disciples were distraught in the three days before Resurrection Sunday, but the conqueror arose victorious that by His death He may preserve life eternally.

Joseph preserved the life of his immediate family, but like every person (with the exception of one) in the book of Genesis, he too died and was no more. And every other leader in the Old Testament died too, until the Man came, who conquered sin and death for those who are found in Him. Trust in His purposes this day, dear Christian. They are far more perfect than we could ever imagine. And He never forgets His children.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Lessons from Jamaica

Saturday evening our team returned from Jamaica after a week of work in the Robin’s Nest Children’s Home, a Christian orphanage. Jamaica, known for its resorts and tropical haven for Americans (among other things), may have seemed almost like a pseudo-vacation for a team of twenty five people from Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minnesota. But I assure you, we were far from the illusion of Jamaica’s problem free paradise. Coming back after seeing first-hand the reality of a third world country makes me really think about my priorities. Many things seem much more insignificant than they did before I left. And blogging seems quite trivial when I realize that there are twenty five Jamaican orphans on the top of a mountain in Montego Bay going to sleep tonight without a mother or father to kiss them goodnight. Not to mention the countless other children in far worse situations in that depressed country.

It would be quite difficult to recap all of the things that happened on this trip, so I will simply say a few things. Michelle Robinette, the founder and leader of Robin’s Nest, asked us three questions our last night there: what was your favorite moment, what was your least favorite moment, and how did the Lord touch you—and here are my answers.

My favorite moment of the trip was fellowshipping and praying with an eighty year old Jamaican woman, named Neta, at the market on Saturday. She sold me Blue Mountain Coffee (amazing, by the way), and really was a blessing to Whitney and me. The last thing she said to me before I left was, “If I don’t see you again, I’ll see you at the Pearly Gates.” And oh, what a glorious day that will be!

My least favorite moment was being sick. I caught something awful on Monday and ended up being out until Thursday. I had not been that sick in a long time and seriously thought I was never going to get better. Something about being really sick in a hot, humid, country that is not America makes it all the worse. God really used it to stretch me and show me even more His trustworthiness and absolute sovereignty over all things, even bacteria’s in our body. He also used it to show me that I am not in control, nor do I always have to be in control (even though I often try to control everything).

The Lord touched me by solidifying in my heart how much I really do want to adopt someday. I knew I wanted to before, but spending the days with the little ones, and putting faces to their parentless status made me want to save all the children of Robin’s Nest, Jamaica, and the world. I pray that one day I will be able to be a mother to many orphans, whether through parental mothering or spiritual mothering.

People always talk about how hard it is to come back and describe what you have seen, and it is. But the thing that stood out to me the most on this trip was that one day all things will be made right by King Jesus. One day the knees of all Jamaicans will bow down, along with the rest of the Earth, and acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord over all. This is why we do missions. We want the nations to be among the saints who bow voluntarily, not the judged who bow under compulsion. The women living at the dump and the children living in one room shacks with fifteen other family members are reminders that all is not right just yet, but it’s coming soon—so we wait for our glorious King. And when He comes, I pray I’ll be standing next to Neta and the little ones of the Robin’s Nest, praising God that now there are no more tears and the meek have inherited the Earth.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Minneapolis, My Home

I write this after a long night of waiting, praying, and watching the coverage on television. As the countless reports show, at approximately 6:00 this evening the 35W bridge collapsed sending many cars into the Mississippi River. This is the same bridge that I traveled on every Sunday for church in college, the same bridge that I traveled on last night with my brother, and the same bridge that is a few miles from where I live. Many people from my church travel it every week to give of their time to minister.

Pastor John has written a wise post at the Desiring God blog about this event. Our neighbors were among the kids on the bus, and tragedy doesn’t seem as real until you see the scared face of a mother who doesn’t know where her little girl is. Suffering is real. Pain is real. And this is an even greater reminder that this world is groaning for redemption, bridges and all. Oh that the Phillips neighborhood, and all of Minneapolis, would embrace and believe in Christ.

Here is the link to Pastor John’s post:

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

An Encouraging Poem by Pastor John

This is a poem that Pastor John Piper wrote, which has been a great encouragement to me this summer. I pray that it blesses you like it has blessed me.

Not grace to bar what is not bliss,
Nor flight from all distress, but this:
The grace that orders our trouble and pain,
And then, in the darkness, is there to sustain.

You can listen to the whole sermon here:

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Sunday Devotional: Taming the Tongue

“The heart of the righteous ponders how to answer, but the mouth of the wicked pours out evil things.”—Proverbs 15:28

I don’t know about you, but I can relate to the wicked person. Apart from Christ, my sharp tongue can shoot darts into the hearts of those I love. And on more than one occasion I have had to go back and ask forgiveness for an ill word spoken in anger or haste. Most of the time I find myself quickly saying the first thing that comes to mind instead of praying about, or even thinking about, the implications of my words.

Notice first how the verse says “the heart of the righteous ponders how to answer.” The taming of the tongue cannot be a result of exerted will power. Every time I vow to never speak impulsively again, I find myself sorely disappointed by my own lack of ability to refrain. A thoughtful answer is the overflow of a righteous heart, and not righteousness from ability, but righteousness from the truly Righteous One—King Jesus. Even if we were able to answer kindly, apart from Christ, that kindness will eventually turn to pride in our ability.

So much of our frustrations with our own sinfulness stem from our continual attempts at “doing better next time,” instead of trusting in the fact that a Jewish carpenter did it perfectly 2,000 years ago and intercedes for us before the Father. This news, this amazing truth, is what keeps us from wickedness. The heart of the righteous man recognizes that he will never graduate from the Gospel and move on to something else. The minute we think that we are ready for something other than the Gospel it reveals that we have lost the wonder of what saves us.

We are always given a choice. We can choose righteousness or we can choose wickedness. But those of us who have had the scales fall off of our eyes, see that righteousness leads to life. A wicked answer may seem harmless in the beginning, but in the end it leads to spiritual death—separation from God. We obey because we love Him, and know that He is far better than any second long high from lashing out at another person.

The Bible is full of references to taming the tongue, which should tell us something. God cares about our words. He cares about our answers. How we respond to people says everything about our belief in the Gospel. With every word that pours out of our mouths we are either saying that Christ is enough or that Christ is worthless. Let us pray for a new heart, dear Christian, so the world may see only Jesus and not be clouded by our own sinful reactions. May this Lord’s Day be a great and glorious reminder of the sweet mercy of God for us on Calvary.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

The Providence of God and A New Car

First, let me say that, thankfully, I was not in my car when it was hit. But, as you can probably see the car is deader than dead. About a month ago my mechanic, Buzz, told me that, after a series of car problems this year that it was time for me to upgrade to a newer, more efficient car. After much unnecessary anxiety and deliberation, I decided to look for a new car, and I found one. The only catch was that I had to sell my current car (the one pictured). Buzz, being the nice man that he is, was going to sell it for me. While he was in the process of preparing it for sale, he parked it in front of his house, and it got hit—by a drunk driver. Upon hearing the news, my mind immediately raced with all of the preparations for my move in a month, and all I could think about was how much I didn’t need this added stress. But then my dad reminded me that I did sell my car, to State Farm Insurance of Minnesota, who kindly presented me with a check in the amount that I was initially selling it for. So, God did answer my prayer for a car buyer, just in a way that I had never anticipated.

Although it may seem like a very small event, it is reminding me that God is working every detail of my life (even obscure one’s like this one) for my good. As I have been getting ready to move and start school again, I have been humbled by the sweet providence of God, even in the smallest things.

The book of Esther teaches us about the providence of God as well. As I read the progression of events in this book, I see the providence of God in every page. It reminds me that God is over every detail, even details that seem insignificant, or seem to thwart the whole process.

The text doesn’t tell us how Esther felt when she was carried away to the harem of Ahasuerus (Xerxes), but it couldn’t have been a feeling of excitement. And all throughout her time in the harem, we see her obeying Mordecai, and receiving the favor of those around her. When the edict was made to annihilate the Jews, they did not know the outcome, though they had vague memories of the covenant promises of God. And when Esther went in to Ahasuerus to petition for her people, she had no assurances that she would make it out alive.

We see the book of Esther, and the whole Bible for that matter, from an entirely different vantage point than those involved in the biblical narrative. Many times God calls us to obedience before He reveals to us the means of His provision for that specific calling. Esther could not see the outcome, and on occasion it might have seemed quite bleak. But as I read her story, I see the mighty hand of our sovereign God guiding and orchestrating her every step—for the glory of His great name and for the joy and sanctification of His people.

And while getting a new car may seem like a very insignificant point in the story of my life. Often times the insignificancies are reminders that God is working just as much in the minor details of a believer’s life as He did in saving an entire people from a vengeful man. He is caring for the sparrows just as much as He is the kings. As I look at my new car, it is a sign to me that God is a very personal God. He numbers the hairs on my head, He formed me in my mother’s womb, and He provides for my every need. Every small mercy is further knitting into my heart a deep trust in the provision of God, so when true trials come, I can look back and see that He is a God who always provides for His children.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Friday Devotional: Here Comes the Bride

“Then I heard what seemed to be the voice of a great multitude, like the roar of many waters and like the sound of mighty peals of thunder, crying out, ‘Hallelujah! For the Lord our God the Almighty reigns. Let us rejoice and exult and give him glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and his Bride has made herself ready.”—Revelation 19:6-7

The wedding season is upon us. At the dawn of the first day of summer the wedding invitations begin pouring in, and our weekends are quickly booked with all of the festivities of our friends and loved one’s happy nuptials.

As women, many of us have been planning our wedding since we were five years old, down to the color of the flowers and the number of attendants that we have already chosen. All we’re really missing is the groom, and we are pretty certain that he will come soon to sweep us off of our feet and carry us off to wedded bliss. This is not wrong. In fact, we should desire marriage and look forward to that day, should God choose to give us that. But the end result of our wanting to be married should be a hope in a marriage to a very different man—the God man, Jesus Christ.

Marriage exists to point people to the Gospel, and it’s really easy to lose sight of that when we desperately desire marriage here on earth. Often times we have a Hollywood understanding of marriage, thinking that our life will be complete if that “perfect man” came to our doorstep and promised us love and happiness for ever. The perfect man did come, and will come again to redeem His Bride, the Church.

For many of us, our days are spent dreaming of a marriage here on earth, even to the extent that with the first “hello” from an eligible bachelor we are planning the big event before we even know his name. And for others, we can probably confess that we are all too guilty of confusing a phone call with a marriage proposal. Are we content with our only marriage being the final marriage where we are eternally joined to our Bridegroom, Christ? Carolyn McCulley says that if Jesus came back tomorrow and you are disappointed because you aren’t married yet, you are idolizing an earthly husband, and desiring the wrong marriage. And I think she’s right.

The marriage we should long for is the final marriage that all marriages should point to, Christ and the Church (Ephesians 5:32). Jesus is not our own personal boyfriend/fiancé/husband. The marriage supper of the Lamb is not an individualized marriage. We will not each be personally walking down the aisle to Jesus in the last day, despite what some women’s Bible studies and worship songs allude to. He is the Bridegroom of the Church collectively, of which we are a part if we are in Christ. In our preparation to meet our Groom, our lives should reflect less of an American, individualistic ideology, and more of our brothers and sisters in the book of Acts, who gave their lives for the building up of the local church. This means we should spend more time changing diapers in the nursery and sitting in the pews under the Word of God, than picking out our wedding songs and drooling over designer dresses.

We muddy the Gospel when we bank all of our happiness on a marriage here on earth. Instead, let us cry out with the whole earth “come quickly, Lord Jesus!” All of our right, earthly desires for a husband are here to give us a temporary picture of an eternal reality—the Gospel.

I am all for marriage here on earth, and I love going to weddings where God is glorified in the joining of two Christians declaring a covenant before God and His people. Like Calvin said, our hearts are idol factories, and every good and biblical desire always has the potential to replace God as our object of worship. Whenever I am struggling with whether or not a desire is an idol, a question I always ask myself is “if God chose to never fulfill this desire in my life, would I still love Him? Would I still desire to serve Him?” Those are hard questions to ask, because more often than not, I find myself chafing at the idea of not getting what I want. But as we seek to honor God with our desires, let us keep an eternal perspective. Resolve today, dear Christian, to love and serve your local congregation, members of the Church. And dream of the greatest wedding party of all, where the Vera Wang dress will fade away in the face of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

Monday, July 9, 2007

Theology with Sinead O' Connor

Christian Music Today (an affiliate of Christianity Today) published an interview with Sinead O’Connor regarding her newest album. When I first saw the article, I had to take a second look, primarily because the only reason I really recognize her name is that I wasn’t allowed to listen to her when I was younger, so it seemed rather strange that a mainstream Christian music magazine was even giving her time. Before you think that Sinead O’Connor will be joining us in the local evangelical church next Sunday, think again. Her new album is called Theology, and is “loosely” based on the writings of the Old Testament, particularly the Psalms and the Prophets. And though it sounds intriguing at first, the interview reveals that her “theology” is at best sadly confused.

What’s troubling about this new album is her very reasoning for creating an album only from the Prophets and the Psalms:

“But the only time God actually speaks for himself is in the books of the prophets. That’s what kind of interests me. I’m interested in the idea of separating God from religion...I don’t believe God supports war or violence. I wanted to dig out Scriptures to show the opposite to be true”

It’s not surprising that she is coming out with an album of this nature. Religious rhetoric is all around us these days, especially regarding what God thinks about war, violence, and social justice. It’s also not surprising that a woman who has made her living glorifying base sexuality, crass behavior, and rebellion, would now be “settling down” to make an album about her view of God. She has always made a statement, and this time she is trying her hand at religion. Faith and spirituality are the new trend. Our society has so deconstructed the language of Christianity, and our Creator, for that matter, that any glimmer of the word Christian gains our loyalties and trust. Marketing God is a booming business these days, and we must not give in so easily.

Ms. O’Connor’s understanding of the Old Testament is sadly mistaken. Our God is extremely violent, regardless of her admission of that fact. But He is not violent in the abusive Catholic Priest way, or even in the violence of her home country of Northern Ireland. There has been a lot of talk about the discontinuity between the supposed violent God of the Old Testament, and the peaceful God of the New. There isn’t. The warfare of the Old Testament was fulfilled when Jesus Christ said “my Kingdom is not of this world.” So now we rage not against flesh and blood, but against the principalities that seek to destroy the Kingdom of King Jesus. Our weapons are of the Ephesians 6 kind, not AK-47’s and machetes. And we wage war against the powers of darkness that hold people in bondage to sin, so that they may see Christ. But we also recognize the power of the state to take us to war as necessary, all the while acknowledging that one day all will be made right by our glorious King.

We know the truth about the Word of God because it has been revealed to us by the Holy Spirit, and if He had not opened our eyes, we, too, would be as lost as Ms. O’Connor. We also know that it never comes back void, even the Psalms and the Prophets. I pray that God would reveal to Ms. O’Connor the whole counsel of God, and point her to the most violent event in human history—the Cross of our Christ.

Sunday, July 8, 2007

Sunday Devotional: Sarah's Children

And you are her children, if you do good and do not fear anything that is frightening.”—1 Peter 3:6

If you spend any amount of time with a group of women, it won’t be long before you probably will hear “I am so freaking out about this” from one of their mouths. “Freaking out” has become the modern day equivalent to the nervous break down of twenty years ago, and it floods our churches, our homes, our work places, and our very souls.

When Peter, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, tells us that we are like Sarah if we do not fear anything that is frightening, he is not saying that the Christian life is free from fear. He is implying that there are very frightening things out there, but you need not fear those things. How we react in frightening times speaks volumes about our belief in the Gospel. Our response to fear is either telling the world that God always keeps His promises, or that God cannot be trusted.

Panic attacks, freaking out, and nervous break downs are not characteristics of a godly woman. In fact, they are characteristics of a woman who has nothing to hope in but herself. Learning to trust in the promises of God often times requires us to go through agonizing suffering and great uncertainty because God knows exactly what we need to conform us into the image of Jesus—even if it means great fear for a season.

If “freaking out” is not becoming of a godly woman, how do we remedy anxiety? Know God through His Word. If we do not know God’s promises, we cannot trust them in the first place. Read, study, and love the whole Bible—Genesis to Revelation. It is there that we will see the power of God in keeping covenant with His people, and it is there where we will find our source of strength. So much of our anxieties can find their calming rest in the precious Words of our God—go to Him, He will not forsake you.

For some of us, frightening circumstances may seem very foreign right now, to others it may seem more real than we would prefer. Regardless of the present, there will come a day when it will not seem so easy, and the reality of the frightening will be very near. Hope in God, dear Christian. Sarah faced great uncertainty: infertility, moving to an unknown land, and a husband who put her in dangerous predicaments. Yet God, in His mercy, molded her into a woman who hoped in God (1 Peter 3:6, Hebrews 11:11).

God cares far more about our reactions than our situations. He lovingly squeezes us until we can joyfully say that Jesus Christ is all, no matter the cost. May our reactions to all things frightening be proclaiming to the lost world around us that God always wins.

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Jesus Loves the Little Children

Lord willing, in less than a month I will have the tremendous privilege of serving with a team of women (and a few men) from my church in a Jamaican orphanage. Part of our team preparation includes reading a short book about the life of Amy Carmichael. As I have said before, Amy Carmichael is woman whose life and testimony for Christ I greatly admire. The book is entitled Amy Carmichael: Let the Little Children Come and it chronicles her ministry to Indian children at the turn of the 20th century.

Though she has become, to some, a great hero of the faith, she was not admired by her countrymen, or the native Indians around her. The caste system in India created much disdain for the temple children and for little girls in general, often scorning her and calling her work “demeaning”. But for some, she was considered a great blessing, and was frequently asked to speak in churches in her area, though she almost always turned down opportunities to travel away from the children. While reading the other day, this section stuck out to me:

But Amy knew that if she reared Indian children to be strong Christians, they could do more for Him among their own people than any foreigner ever could. She would be multiplying herself over and over in the lives of the children, helping India evangelize India.

For 50 years she taught, rescued, mothered, and served nearly a thousand Indian children, saving them from the horrors of temple prostitution and idol worship, many times at great risk to her own health and life. She wanted India to know the Savior, and she knew that this was only possible through much toil and work.

So much of the Christian life is about perseverance. And in a day where everything is expected to be quick, easy, and painless, a self-less, Cross carrying life, like Amy lived is completely foreign to much of our culture.

Amy’s prayer was answered. To this very day, the Dohnavur Fellowship (which Amy started) still stands, and is run by Indian women. Her work was not “demeaning”. It was a picture of the Gospel, and our own adoption into the family of God. She did not do it for fame, she did not do it for power—she did it so the little ones would know Jesus. James tells us that “religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world” (James 1:26-27). It is pure and undefiled because you get no external return on investing in the lives of orphans and widows. They are helpless. Even our Savior, Jesus Christ, rebuked those who did not love the littlest ones and allow them to come near (Matthew 19:13-14). It is not cool, easy, or powerful to be seen taking care of children, let alone talking to them. But God makes it very clear to us that children are to be welcomed, especially children who have no parents.

Taking care of the poorest of the poor, in the name of Jesus, reflects the Gospel because we too are the poorest of the poor. We were dead in our sins and orphans, but God redeemed us and made us sons of God (Ephesians 1:3-10). May God be pleased to raise up a generation of men and women in the humility and perseverance of Christ, to go to the lowly fatherless children, and point them to the perfect heavenly Father.

Sunday, July 1, 2007

What is Beauty? Part 2

"Beauty is truth, truth beauty," - that is all
Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.

The meaning of the last two lines of John Keats’ famous poem “Ode on a Grecian Urn” is much disputed among literary scholars and students, including my literary theory class in college. While much of the discussion centers on who Keats is really addressing when he speaks about beauty, the essence of this statement speaks to a very real aspect of the nature of true beauty—beauty is truth, beauty points to truth.

Psalm 24:1 says:

“The earth is the LORD’s and the fullness thereof, the world and those who dwell there in.”

God has created every inch of the universe, every cloud in the sky, and every hair on your head. Our understanding of beauty must first be rooted in a proper theology of God. If God created all things, then the created things should reflect the Creator—God, Himself. And if beauty is truth, then all things, to be truly beautiful, must point to the ultimate truth—God, Himself.

Beauty is not defined by the latest fashion magazine; it is defined by the One who created beauty. Do you purchase new shoes, or get your haircut, or buy new makeup to put Christ on display, or for man’s empty praise?

There is a common misconception among evangelicals that beauty is something to be avoided, but if God created the earth and saw that it was good (Genesis 1:31), we must believe that He didn’t create it ugly and call it good. Why are we drawn to things that are attractive, if God does not want things to be beautiful? It is our fallen nature that distorts true beauty. God created us with a desire for things beautiful because He wants us to worship Him. When we divorce beauty from God we wind up with a host of problems.

So how does this affect us in our daily date with the mirror and closet? If your shirt is drawing more attention to body parts then your person, it is not declaring the beauty and truth of Christ. If your outfit is drawing more attention to your impeccable style then your heart for Jesus, it is not declaring true beauty. We should want to be beautiful, but not so we can win pageant awards and a host of boyfriends. We should want to be beautiful because we want people to see our Christ.

Peter addressed this in 1 Peter 3:3:

“Do not let your adornment be external—the braiding of hair, the wearing of gold, or the putting on of clothing.”

Now surely Peter is not telling us to forego clothing. He isn’t. Rather, he is saying that our outward appearance should not define us, and most certainly should not be a distraction in worship and daily living. There is much freedom in the Gospel regarding make-up use, hair styles, and clothing. But, all of these things should seek a common purpose—the truth of the Gospel. Christians, of all people, should be the most beauty seeking ones in society because we know the real source and definition of beauty.

No matter how many times a college student, or academic, can try and deconstruct the language of truth, the heavens are not silent—they are declaring the glory of God (Psalm 19:1). Is your appearance declaring the same thing? Do you seek to point people to Jesus, or to your new American Eagle shirt? May our lives and appearance be declaring the same thing—Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

To be continued (imperishable beauty and the beauty of fearing the Lord)…

Friday, June 29, 2007

Louisville, Here I Come!

This weekend I will pick back up on the posts on beauty. In the mean time, I have been enjoying a nice week with my wonderful mother!

All that aside, some of you may know that I applied to The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary for the fall semester. Well, today I recieved a phone call from the nice people in the Admissions Office and they politely informed me that...

I have been accepted!

So, in August I will be headed off to the great state of Kentucky to go to seminary.

Hope you all have a blessed Friday.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

What is Beauty? Part 1

We live in a culture that is obsessed with image, and every day we are bombarded with advertisements promising to deliver beauty and happiness. For many of us, it is a daily struggle to leave the house content because of the constant anxiety we feel over looking “beautiful enough.” With all of the hype surrounding being beautiful, we must ask ourselves—what exactly is beauty? Every day we are faced with a choice, will we choose worldly beauty, defined by fashion magazines and the culture? Or will we choose godly beauty, defined by the perfect, holy words of our God?

In the next week (or so), my prayer is that we would be able to look at godly beauty through God’s eyes. Today, I want to lay a framework and in the next few days I will write about what the Bible says we should seek regarding beauty.

First, we know that there were beautiful women in the Bible. God is not silent on beauty. Being beautiful is not a sin, but, for example, if Esther had sought her own gain and refused to help her people, her beauty would have meant nothing. And though Sarah was beautiful, she probably would have traded her beauty for a baby. Beauty does not buy happiness, nor does it save you.

Everything around us is a reminder that we cannot trust in external beauty. All of us will be subject to the natural process of aging. And even in our youthfulness, we could all probably attest to the fact that many times our daily date with the mirror leaves much to be desired.

As women there is no arguing that we want to be beautiful. It is a gift, and I will be the first to admit that I enjoy styling my hair, putting on makeup, and picking out an outfit every morning. But I also must recognize that if my hope is in my $40 straightener and my Great Lash mascara, I will be disappointed and discontent every time. There is a healthy balance between being feminine and making the products of femininity an idol.

For many of us we know that leaving the house everyday can be a big struggle because we are faced with a barrage of self-criticism and comparison to others around us. For others, we know that when we walk into a group of women our first reaction is to judge the beauty of those around us, even to the point of gossip—“did you see what she was wearing?” We must repent of both of those things.

Unless we see that all of our comparisons and self-criticisms are fundamentally pride and unbelief in God, we will spend our entire lives never feeling good enough—and that is a worldview that will ultimately lead us to death. The fact that some women bury themselves in a sea of credit card debt just to buy the newest designer style, is fundamentally saying that “God is not really God, He is not sufficient to meet my needs.” The fact that some women spend the wee hours of the morning hugging a cold toilet after forcing themselves to throw up, is fundamentally saying “God does not meet my needs, and He is not sovereign over my weight.” Obsession with image, no matter how detrimental it is to your health or well being, is a form of pride and self worship—just like all of our disbelief is pride and self worship.

We can, and should, recognize beautiful, modest, godly women when see them. But we should not bank on those affirmations in our own life. And, most importantly, our characterization of beauty must not come from the latest InStyle magazine.

If the Lord allows us to live that long, when we are 80 years old no one will remember the face of our 20’s, 30’s, or 40’s. All they will see is the wrinkled face of a woman nearing her last. As we prepare to meet our Savior, no amount of Botox or fad-diet will prepare us for our final breath. Only a life spent pouring over the mirror of God’s Word will prepare us for that glorious day.

It’s really easy to pay lip-service to the truths of the Bible, yet still live in constant anxiety and unbelief. The fight of faith is hard, and this is not any different. If you feel yourself struggling with true beauty versus worldly beauty, ask God to reveal the areas in your life that need to be changed. Preach the Gospel to yourself daily. If you find yourself anxious about how you look in the morning, proclaim Christ to your wayward heart. Do not choose bondage to the world’s ideals any longer—choose life in Christ. So let us not be ashamed to recognize true beauty as we see it, but let us also put our hope in Jesus blood and righteousness, lest we think on that final day that it’s our trendy outfit and size 2 body that will save us.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Is Marriage about Memory?

As my roommates will attest, I am an avid blog reader. I came across a blog last week that caught my attention. The subject was divorce, and the man (a Christian) was making a case for staying together in marriage. His overarching reason for keeping covenant with your spouse was memory. Memory is a powerful force, one that is ripped apart by divorce, comparable to a chapter being ripped out of a book—it’s just never the same story after that.

While I greatly appreciated this man lifting high the beauty of his own marriage, and speaking out against divorce, it seemed that something was missing from his argument for staying together. Memory is most certainly a very viable reason to want to stay married. No one can replace years of events that happen between a husband and a wife, but memory is not enough. Memory won’t make a woman stick with it when she has vowed to pick up her husband’s dirty clothes for the last time. If anything, memory would make her remember why she made that rash vow in the first place. Memory is easily clouded by emotions and feelings, especially in the heat of turmoil.

Memory of a life spent together is special and part of what makes growing old together so exciting. But there is a deeper memory that keeps a marriage intact, a memory that has been around since the beginning of time.

God created marriage to point to Himself, first to point to the nature of the Trinity, then to point to the relationship between Christ and His Bride, the Church. When people get divorced, they are preaching a Gospel of abandonment, of a Christ who leaves His Church, and that is fundamentally opposed to what the Bible teaches. God hates divorce not because memories are ripped apart, though that is certainly true. God hates divorce because it is blasphemous.

The current view of marriage in our culture is showing us that we must talk about marriage as something far greater than feeling and memory. Turn on the television and we will see that the quest for love and marriage has been reduced to nothing more than a reality show game where companionship ends as quickly as it begins. We see countless men and women staking their very credibility on desperately seeking “true love”, and while this desires and longings are true and right, we must speak to them in biblical language.

While memory is a very real and practical reason to stay married, it leaves much to be desired, and can easily be explained away by those in marriages with memories that are less than ideal. As Christians, we must speak to the divorce culture with truth and clarity, showing them that a Christian man leaving behind his wife and children is preaching to the world that he believes that the Gospel does not matter, that Christ does not keep covenant with His Bride.

Marriage is very much about a story, a story about our great God sending His Son to die to redeem His Bride. Marriages point to that story, they are not simply autonomous stories in and of themselves—though the memories made are individual and priceless. May our language about marriage be as great as God makes it. And may we be preaching the one true Gospel of salvation in our local churches, not only in the pulpit, but inthe 60th wedding anniversaries of the oldest members of our congregations.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

The Search is Over

At 2:45 this afternoon, I received word that they had found the body of Benjy Heil. It appeared that he had drowned, though the cause of death has not been determined yet. Though this puts an end to the nearly 6 day search for this 7 year old boy, it does not put an end to the sorrow that the Heil family now feels at the loss of their youngest child. Thank you for praying for his return, and I ask for your continued prayers for their family in this time of mourning.

In events like these questions inevitably arise, and our understanding of God, and His purposes, really is challenged. It is also easy to offer pat, simplistic answers that simply regurgitate theology and do not truly address the problem at hand. Lest there be any confusion, God is completely sovereign, even over such horrific circumstances. He is not silent on anything, even this. I do not want to challenge God, nor offer simplistic answers, but it is times like these where we realize that all is not right in the world. As we live in the time between the times, the evil and tragedy remind us that this is not natural, that Creation is groaning for redemption.

But there will come a day when creeks will no longer swallow up little boys, when mudslides will not wipe out entire villages of people, when the carnivorous lion will lie down next to the unassuming lamb and not devour it, and when our disease ravaged bodies will be made whole again at the coming of our Christ to redeem His people and claim the final victory over Satan and death. Until then we pray and wait in eager expectation like Paul tells us in Romans 8:18-25:

I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God.

We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he already has? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.

Please pray for the Heil family in this time. Come quickly, Lord Jesus.


Monday, June 18, 2007

Please Pray for Benjy

Benjy Heil has been missing from his home since Thursday evening when he wandered away from his home. He is the 7 year old brother of a girl I graduated with. He has non-verbal autism, which could make it more difficult for him to hear people calling his name, or even tell people he needs help. If you think about it, please pray for the safe return of this little boy to his family. Here are some article links that give more information on the search.





Thank you for your concern. I am sure the Heil family would greatly appreciate your prayers.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Happy Father's Day

As convinced as I am that praising our mothers encourages motherhood, I am equally convinced that praising our fathers encourages fatherhood. So, it seems only fitting that today, on Father’s Day, I praise God for my dad, and also speak briefly to the necessity of male leadership in the home.

While feminists will try and tell us that patriarchy is the root of all kinds of evils, God reveals to us in, His holy Word, that biblical patriarchy is the way in which He chose to order His creation and reveal His glory. The Fall has so distorted manhood that at the very glimpse of male leadership, we feel the urge to cry “oppression”. But the type of leadership that God designed for men is the very antithesis of a domineering, slave driving, lustful man that is caricatured by the culture and those opposed to biblical patriarchy. And I am convinced that in order to redeem what has been lost by the Fall, we must begin recognizing true manhood when we see it.
My dad did not grow up in a Christian home, and when he married my mom (at age 20), he didn’t have a model to follow. By the grace of God, he and my mom resolved then to know and study the Bible, and then to live by it. To this day, I am still “old fashioned” when it comes to Bible study because I was raised by a dad who simply opened the Bible and taught it to us.

I still remember the frustration and embarrassment I felt when I had to tell my employers that I couldn’t work on Sunday’s because it was the Lord’s Day. While I did not understand, or embrace, that lifestyle then it has now become a conviction that I hold on my own. And when teenage attitudes threatened to reign in our house, there would be no slamming doors and storming out of conversations—we always had to deal with the conflict.

Even though my dad would be shaking his head right now, only remembering the ways he could have done better, his ability to admit his shortcomings and apologize instilled in all of us a sense of humility, and even more respect for his leadership over us. In a day where many dads are out to climb the corporate ladder, my dad would spend his time coaching pee-wee football and taking his sons and other fatherless children to basketball tournaments. And as much as I despised his intentionality with my English classes in high school (after getting a “C”, he made me get a weekly progress update from my teachers until my grade improved), it made me work harder—even to the point of graduating from college with a degree in English.

Although I am eternally grateful for the dad that God has given me, I am reminded today of the many children who had no dad to give a card to this morning. For many of these children it is just another Sunday, another reminder of the void that is left by the absence of a father. As Christians, not only should we recognize our fathers for their presence and work in our lives, but we should also reach out to the fatherless and orphans who have no one to call “daddy”, who have no dad to take them on dates, and who have no dad to take them to Little League games. The beauty of biblical patriarchy is that it points us to a heavenly Father who is a father to the fatherless (Psalm 68:5). So, if the Lord has graciously blessed you with a dad, praise Him, but remember that somewhere there are little hearts breaking, little one’s who did not celebrate Father’s Day. Let us not forget about their cries tonight, and point them to the perfect Father.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Friday Devotional: Our Faithful God

Today’s Friday devotional comes from an expositional book on Ruth by Sinclair Ferguson called Faithful God. He captures the beauty of the sovereignty of God that I would like to share with you. It is my prayer that it will encourage and strengthen you as it did me.

“Yet at the same time we recognize that in the midst of our confusion and the happenstances and surprises of life there is a sovereign God in heaven whose hand is upon us every moment of the day, a God who reigns over every inch of the universe in which we live. So we know that nothing ‘just happens’. Not even a sparrow falls to the ground without his knowledge, interest and rule (Matthew 10:29). All things comes to pass under the sovereign wisdom and purpose of our heavenly Father, working together for the good of those who love him, who are called according to his purpose (Romans 8:28).

That is why we can be quietly confident—not because we know exactly what God is doing in this unpredictable world, but because we know that what is unpredictable to us is already predicted by him. He has written his purposes for us in his own book, and numbered our days before one of them was given birth or saw the light of day (Psalm 139:16).”

May these truths give you a greater measure of hope in the keeping and sustaining power of God today. What a grace and mercy to know that we have an all powerful anchor, Jesus Christ.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Learning Patience

We live in a “microwave” society. Very rarely are we faced with the necessity to wait on something for an extended period of time. Why should we wait when everything we could ever want, or need, is right at our fingertips? In such an instantaneous society, it is apparent that patience and waiting are not virtues in high demand.

But God does not see it that way. We see in Galatians 5:22 that patience is a part of the fruit of the Spirit. And all through the Bible we are exhorted to remain patient in all manners of things: tribulation (Romans 12:12), waiting on the Lord (Psalm 37:7, Psalm 40:1, Romans 8:25), with people (1 Corinthians 13:4, 1 Thessalonians 5:14), and the list could go on. Contrary to what the world is telling us, we are not entitled to having all of our desires met in the exact moment that we feel the urge. Often times, God is calling us to wait and be patient.

I was in a meeting with a group of women earlier this week, and as we were all sharing prayer requests each one of us shared a need for more patience: more patience with people in our lives, more patience in waiting on a job, more patience in waiting on details to work out, more patience in pleading with loved ones to come to Christ—all of our lives are characterized by a greater need for patience.

As I was reflecting on our time together, and our desperate need for more grace every hour, I was reminded of Eve and the curse that she received in Genesis 3:16 “Your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you.” Though, this passage might not sound like it is speaking to our need for patience, it is speaking to a deeper issue that we all face—we desire control over our lives. So much of our anxiety and frustration stems from the fact that in the core of our unregenerate being we desire to rise up and rule, like our first mother did.

Many times our lack of patience is stemming from our own inability to trust that God has our life in His hands. God has an appointed time for every detail that transpires in our lives, and when He ordains the time, we can rest assured that it will not delay (Habakkuk 2:3). As women, so much of our lives are characterized by waiting, and it is good for us to learn now how to cultivate a patient heart. Anxiety is not a quality of the Proverbs 31 woman—it will only lead to unnecessary stress.

In a culture that screams at us to aggressively seek our own, we have a Bible that tells us the exact opposite. If the Lord gives us husbands, submitting to them in a loving and joyful way will many times seem like a great chore. If the Lord allows us to bear children, there will be a whole host of difficulties awaiting us as we seek to raise them in the fear and admonition of the Lord. If the Lord allows us to remain single, living in community with the local church will require discipline and grace. Though the task seems impossible, we have a hope. Like the godly women who hoped in God before us, we too must look to our Christ as we seek to cultivate a patient heart. As we wait, God is crafting in us a deeper love and hope in His unshakeable promises. And like fast food, and microwave dinners, instant gratification is always a cheap copy for the real thing. We would not trust, or appreciate, His mercy and provision nearly as much if it was given to us right away, therefore we wait. May we be willing to wait on the Lord, and trust that His promises are sufficient.

“And you are her children, if you do good and do not fear anything that is frightening” (1 Peter 3:6).

Friday, June 8, 2007

Friday Devotional: Jesus, Our Hope

Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go?” You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed and come to know that you are the Holy One of God.”—John 6:68-69

This is one of my favorite verses in the Bible. Jesus had just given them some truths that were hard to take. The disciples were faced with a decision, to leave Christ with everyone else or stay with this man from Nazareth. People wouldn’t have blamed them, it is hard to accept that our “flesh is of no avail” in regards to our own salvation. Many had already deserted Jesus at the sound of this teaching, and He asks an honest question of His disciples. “Do you want to go away as well?”

We are faced with that decision on a regular basis. Circumstances surrounding us can make us think that leaving Christ and going out on our own would be much better, much easier. Every trial, every obstacle, and every ounce of suffering that comes our way beckons us to choose, Christ or the world.

But deep down, we don’t really want to choose, really. We know, with Peter that without Christ there truly is nowhere else to go. The followers left Jesus because the road ahead looked hard and they didn’t like the picture that they saw. And though often impulsive and sharp-tongued, Peter’s confession, like another instance (Matthew 16:16), reveal eyes that have been opened. Though the deserters were culpable for their actions, the fact of the matter is, they left because they could not see.

Jesus was preparing them for the hard road ahead, just as He prepares us. If we did not have the trials, we would not long for Christ because we would be too busy being comfortable. But in all of our circumstances, no matter the sorrow, no matter the pain, no matter the uncertainty, we can rest in the promise that there truly is no other place to go but to our Christ.

The narrow road is paved with tears, but we are not walking on uncharted territory. It was laid out for us on the Calvary Road two thousand years ago by a Jewish carpenter. He knew the tears, He knew the pain, He knew the scorn and judgment. You can run to Him, dear Christian. He will not fail you. May God give you the grace today to say, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.”

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Does God Care How We Worship and Serve?

“Worship is worship. What does it matter how I do it? God cares about my heart and desire to bring Him honor.” So often in evangelical circles we adopt a philosophy that sees worship as primarily about my feelings, all the while saying that it really is about God. God can’t really be upset at me for serving Him in this way, can He?

So often in the gender debate we get bogged down on particulars—who can be pastor’s, who can lead in the church and home, who can preach, can my wife teach our mixed gender Sunday School class, etc. We get so stuck in the banter of church logistics that we are blinded to the real distortion—we don’t understand God. And this is not limited, primarily, to the gender issue. It shows itself in all areas of church life, even down to the teenager in the youth group who is mad about the modesty code.

A friend of mine asked the question recently, “What is a church to do when there are no men to fill the role of pastor, especially in another culture.” I am not going to get into my ideas here about whether or not women should go alone on the mission field. But I am simply going to say this in relation to the American church, often time we, in a genuine earnestness to serve Christ and His Church, make hasty decisions because it seems that at the time there are no other options (i.e. lack of men). Circumstances cannot be the deciding factor for correctness in our decisions, no matter how daunting the outcome may be.

The Israelites were not immune to this sort of thing either. God gave them strict commands for worship, and even told them to not mix their practices of worship with the pagans of the land. All through the books of the Old Testament we see the Israelite people on a trajectory to exile because they did not recognize the holiness of God in His commandments for worship. Every time reformation came with a new king we see the common theme, “but he did not remove the high places.” The high places were convenient, but the high places were also products of the idolatry of the land.

Very often we think that because we want to worship and honor God we can forego His commands for the time being, recognizing that it should be different. God tells us that obedience is better than sacrifice because He has a purpose in all of His commandments—to point to Christ. To worship outside of God’s parameter’s is almost saying that our worship is what God needs, when in reality we are really showing the world, the Church, and God, Himself that His commands are a mere secondary issue.

The fact that the high places were not removed may have seemed like a noble and pure idea in the beginning, just like having a woman serve as pastor for a brief interim may seem like a pure and noble idea. But as we see in the Old Testament, failure to adhere to what God says leads to destruction. What the Israelites missed in their worship of God is the same thing that we miss in our worship of God. The specifications for worship in the Old Testament point to the same thing that the specifications for gender roles point to in the whole of Scripture—Jesus Christ. There was a mystery being displayed in the intricate details of the Pentateuch that was revealed when the veil was torn in two, and the Son of Man said “it is finished.” And there is a mystery being displayed in the Garden of Eden when God created man and woman in distinctly different ways and gave them both a role to play.

I have been a part of a small church that started fifty years ago as a women-led congregation because all of their husbands were unbelievers. The intent was noble and right, but there was a pattern of leadership set in that congregation that never went away. Fundamentally our disagreements about gender roles are too shallow, just like our disagreements about so many things in church politics are shallow. It all will eventually come down to whether or not we trust God. Do we trust that God is who He says He is? If we do, then we must trust that when He tells us how to live, He will provide for us the means to live in such a way. We must establish a framework of Scripture and God that ultimately sees the mystery that Christ has with His Bride. Maybe then our dialogue would get somewhere.