Archive | January 2013

Upholding God’s Design for the Family

family
God has a beautiful design for His world, for the order of relationships and the nature of roles. And they all fit together in a beautiful symmetry and perfect coherence to adorn His doctrine, to bring glory to His name, to bless His people. His design is perfect and works perfectly.

But this is a fallen world and sin infects and contorts everything. His design is challenging to accomplish because sin limits our ability. But that doesn’t mean we abandon His design. No. We must rather hold it up all the more prominently and pray that it may evermore closely be approximated in our lives and in the lives of those around us. And we can at the same time praise Him for how He uses these limitations for His glory and our good. I think of the Samaritan woman of John 4 who was convicted of her sin and of His power, when Jesus held up to her the beauty and necessity of monogamy of which she fell substantially short. His understanding is always higher than ours. And we may not judge others. We do not know the intricacies of other Christian’s lives nor the competing demands that factor into decisions they make.

Yet, we can fervently pray for each other that the eyes of our hearts would be opened to see and love His design. And we can always keep in mind and prayer not just that individuals would grow into His image but also that families and marriages would be growing together also to ever more closely match His design spelled out in Scripture. This witness of the biblibal design for men and women, marriage and family is incredibly powerful. We talk much of the witness of the individual submitted Christian. But I think the witness of the biblically submitted and ordered family may be exponentially more powerful. As we uphold this design, He is proclaimed and praised and He draws His lost children to Himself.

When I was 26 I met my first Christian couple. When I was 28 I met my second. Those were the only Christians I knew until near my salvation at 42. Their visible conformity to and love of His design had an unspeakably powerful impact on me. It was such an effective witness. The complementarity was profoundly expressive of the reality and distinctiveness of God. It stayed with me consistently over those desert years of my continued secular humanist rebellion.

The real life articulation of the gentle, sacrificial love of a leader, provider, protector husband was powerful, but the real life articulation of the submissive, respectful helper-suitable, keeper-at-home was absolutely captivating to me as a woman. This image endured 7 years of post modern feminist graduate education and a few years of lucrative professional practice. But the witness did its work. The doctrine was adorned and I was smitten and saved.

On account of sin we cannot fully achieve that ideal nor often even come close. But we must not ever let go of it or ever stop aspiring to it. To whatever extent we can, we ought to die to ourselves and live to Christ in this design for our lives. As long as we keep the covenant image before us we adorn His doctrine.

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Wearing Dresses

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I have always loved wearing dresses.  Part of the reason, I admit, is that I was always very uncomfortable with my behind and legs and felt exposed in pants.  But I did wear them.  About eight years ago, though, I decided not to wear them anymore.  I don’t think the Bible commands this, though it does command that women, being different from men by God’s design, are to look like women and not like men.

Around the time I was planning and carrying out my leaving work and coming home, I became very convicted about wearing dresses.  Resonating with my growing inclincation, articles at the LAF/Beautiful Womanhood website, and especially the articles by Lady Lydia, encouraged and informed me a great deal.  I was also influenced by Fascinating Womanhood, the book by Helen Andelin (who, I didn’t know at the time, was Mormon).  I started wearing more feminine clothes – longish skirts and dresses (rather than the Talbot’s suits and coordinates) – to work and I began to feel more and more domestic and out of place.  Correspondingly, I developed more feminine mannerisms and I found that I just felt more delicate and in need of protection (not weak and wimpy, but, I think more aware of the creation order and my place in it). One of the ways I intuitively knew I would find the necessary protection was by being home (in terms of primary role rather than exclusive place), in the private sphere where I sensed I better belonged, and out of the public sphere in which I had come to feel incongruent.

After some thought and investigation, I came up with the wardrobe elements that would stylishly and comfortably take me though my days in dresses, and I took the plunge. Since I tend to be obsessive and perfectionist (just a few of my sinful tendencies!), I decided that I would, as much as possible, exclusively wear skirts.  Otherwise I would spend time deliberating each morning and drive myself crazy.  I was and continue to be bold – in that I wear skirts easily and comfortably everywhere, including to professional hockey games and walks around our (currently) snowy property.  I can climb bleachers and snow banks without difficulty, yet I do often elicit chivalrous assistance on account of my feminine attire.

In my dresses and skirts, I feel so wonderfully feminine.  I am what I dreamed of as a young girl, before my feminist detour.  It is in part the attire, but it is also what I know the attire represents to me – my biblical role as my husband’s respectful helper suitable, the keeper, guard and ruler of the home, the lover of husband and children, neighbor, widow, fatherless.  The Keeper of the Springs, as Peter Marshall calls us.  Oh, the delight in my heart from knowing that this is where my Father wants me!  And the joy I experience being a feminine woman.  I just love being a woman!

Sometimes I am tempted to and sometimes I do, wear pants, and that is ok.  But when I do the mystique, the softness, the sense of modesty is for me more elusive and is replaced with a feeling of hardness and self-exaltation.  My mannerisms change instantly as does my attitude.  Maybe it is because of my history as a feminist, striving, discontented, bossy unbeliever that makes me so sensitive to and needful of the encouragement that wearing dresses gives me.  It may seem superficial, and it may well be superficial, but my heart’s desire and intent is not.  More important than anything is that I am clothed with Christ and that I adorn myself, by God’s grace and power, with a quiet and gentle spirit, with kindness, patience, humility and love.  I simply want to praise and obey my glorious God who made me different by design.  Wearing dresses is one way I delight in His design.

This entry was posted on January 19, 2013. 3 Comments

Why The Sunday Sabbath?

tree of happiness

Why is the Lord’s Day celebrated on Sunday? What a delight it has been to do a little research into God’s Word as a follow-up to my previous post. This is just the kind of refining to my doctrine that I hoped this blog would accomplish. I consulted a few tried and trusted resources as well as a new one. G. I. Williamson has written a brilliant study guide for the Westminster Confession of Faith which I have carefully studied, as well as a commentary for the Westminster Larger Catechism, which to date I have used more as a reference. A dear friend gave me Joel Beeke’s A Puritan Theology for Christmas and I consulted his chapter on the American Puritan, John Owen’s, exploration of the Sabbath.

As I study Reformed Theology, I am awestruck and overwhelmed by God’s brilliance and His beautiful design. The Reformers, the Westminster Divines and the Puritans in particular, have so thoroughly and faithfully immersed themselves in God’s word, so reverently and deeply plumbed its depths, and the result is an incredibly profound, cohesive and comprehensive articulation of God’s revelation of Himself to us and of His plan for us. It is from their explication and my biblical verification that I understand God’s intention for the Sabbath.

The Sabbath was always intended to be devoted to God as a celebration and remembrance of His work. In the Old Testament, it was from the beginning a day to rest from work as God did on the seventh day. As Genesis 2:3 makes clear, “then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it He rested from all His work which God had created and made.” He sanctified the seventh day, set it apart, made it holy and elevated it above the other six days. On the Sabbath, from that time forward, man is to remember God’s work of creation. This reminds us of our total dependence on Him as well as our moral responsibility to Him.

In the New Testament, when Jesus was alive, He, a Jew, also celebrated the Sabbath on the seventh day. He affirmed the Sabbath, and reasserted that it is for all time and for all men. But He took exception to and rejected the Pharisees’ man-made laws regarding the Sabbath. He made it clear that as a result of sin and its damage to creation, the Sabbath cannot be perfectly kept. Accordingly, He demonstrated that exceptions to the command to refrain from any work activities common to the other six days of the week can be made in cases of piety, necessity and mercy. Piety refers to works that must be done for God to be worshipped; necessity refers to works that cannot be delayed without harm to life or property; and mercy refers to acts of kindness to a person sick or in distress.

Yet Jesus’ death and resurrection changed the Sabbath. “But man’s sin and misery required that this Sabbath be broken, as it were, if man was to be redeemed. This came about when Christ did the “work” of redemption. The very reason for a “new” Sabbath was that Christ did His work of necessity and mercy on the former Sabbath of God.” (G.I. Williamson, The Westminster Confession of Faith for Study Classes, p. 222) Now the Christian Sabbath is on the first day of the week in remembrance of God’s work in redemption, in celebration of Christ’s resurrection from the dead.
Isn’t this brilliant? When you look more deeply into the Bible, patterns and connections, especially between the Old and the New Testaments, become beautifully and inspirationally clear.

In addition, the Fourth Commandment, as one of the ten moral laws we are still to observe (not for salvation but for God’s glory and our good) only requires that one of seven days be set apart to God; it does not specify a particular day. And finally, the Apostolic Church clearly observed the Sabbath on the first day of the week (see Matt. 28:1; Mark 16:2,9; Luke 24:1; John 20:1, 19; Acts 20:7; 1 Cor. 16:2; Rev 1:10).

So we are to celebrate the Sabbath on the first day of the week, Sunday, in remembrance of Christ’s resurrection from the dead. “Thus it may be said that the Old Testament Sabbath commemorated God’s original creation, while the Christian Sabbath in addition calls attention to God’s new creation, His great work of redemption in Jesus Christ.” (G. I. Williamson, Ed., The Westminster Larger Catechism; A Commentary, p.323).

I hope this helps you understand the Sabbath better and increases your appreciation for our magnificent God! It has done that for me. Let me know your thoughts.

The Joy of the Sabbath

church landscape
Oh, how I love the Lord’s Day! My sense of the importance of it started to grow when I started seeing the offense of worldly and recreational activities scheduled on Sundays and conflicting with Worship Services. About two years ago, I learned about the Sabbath in earnest. We have been studying the Ten Commandments in Sunday School, based on the Westminster Confession of Faith and the Catechisms. It was an amazing revelation to learn that the whole day is to be a day thoroughly different from the other six days of the week, and that it is a day to devote to the Lord, to His praise and our public and private worship of Him. Furthermore, I learned that as a Creation Ordinance, a command given by God at creation, Sabbath observance is the duty of all men – believers and unbelievers.

The Lord’s Day is a joy to me. It is the one day in the whole week that I can devote to the activities I love most – worship and fellowship with my Church family in the Lord’s House, time reading and studying God’s Word, time meditating on His Word, time talking with others about and praying for the needs of those we love and our own walk with the Lord. It is a day to rest from the activities that we engage in the other days of the week. It is such a relief to me to be able to relax into these pursuits without the demands of other responsibilities hanging over my head. I am free on Sundays!

The Lord’s Day shapes the other days of the week for me and makes Him always the focus of my week. I plan for the Lord’s Day. I must get clothes and meals for both Sunday and Monday ready in advance, since those are activities that I want to engage in as minimally as possible on Sundays. I must get other jobs done ahead of time that I will not engage in on this day of worship. It truly is a joy to me to have this structure and the aim of having a day free for communing with my God. In all of the preparations, I am worshipping Him with joy and anticipation. I guess in a way it emulates and provides a pattern for our waiting for His return!

One whole day to devote to the Lord! As I think about the Sabbath, I see that it is a wonderful example of how obeying Him is joyous. Obeying Him in this command is such a blessing for me, full of such loving anticipation and pleasure. I realize that obeying in every other way can involve the same kind of love, anticipation, and joy. All of His commands are for our good. We tend to think that they are limits to our freedom and hindrances to our good. Though my eyes may not see it now, I can know that as I obey my God in other ways, the same kind of rest and blessing I delight in around Sundays will be my reward. Obeying Him in any way is a way we worship Him and rest in Him. It shows me that obeying Him in general is true freedom.

Finally, as sovereign, omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent, good and loving Creator and Sustainer, the only true God, He deserves such single-minded praise and worship always. It simply is His due. He just asks one day completely to Himself. Who are we to deny Him?

How will you celebrate the Sabbath? How will you worship Him all day this Sunday? Let us encourage one another to wholehearted obedience to and worship of our gracious and glorious God!

This entry was posted on January 13, 2013. 6 Comments

Let’s Cultivate Kindness!

snow scene 2
Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.
Ephesians 4:31-32 (NKJV)

Kindness. It is one of those words, like love, like forgiveness, like joy, of which you think you know the meaning, you just assume you do…until you meet God’s Word, in Jesus. Well, I am praying that He will open my eyes and heart to deeply know the meaning and the practice of kindness. It is closely related to forbearance which, as I mentioned in my first post (which I will link you to when I figure out how!), is my focus for the early part of this new year.

Recently, I studied kindness in a chapter of the book Feminine Appeal by Carolyn Mahaney. She quotes Jerry Bridges definition of kindness which is “a sincere desire for the happiness of others.” He differentiates kindness from goodness and describes goodness as “the activity calculated to advance the happiness of others.” So since kindness is more of an attitude, she talks about the things that can hinder kindness, specifically anger, bitterness, and judgment. As I read about these heart orientations, I saw myself more clearly and learned a great deal about the state of kindness in my heart. It is sorely lacking for these very reasons.

Anger is the first hindrance to kindness that she addresses. As Jesus says in Matthew 15:18, “what comes out the mouth proceeds from the heart.” As a hindrance to kindness, anger flows from a sinful desire for my own way. Carolyn Mahaney illustrates this with James 4: “Where do wars and fights come from among you? Do they not come from your desires for pleasure that war in your members?”. Harmony is broken and discord flourishes when I am angry that my desires are not being met. Then I am not kind. For example, I want my children to be obedient – ‘right away with a happy heart’ I have been chirping for years now! When they are not obedient (shall we say occasionally!?!?!) I can be angry and speak harshly and hurtfully to them. I do this when I am cherishing and pursuing my desires – even ones that are good, like perfectly obedient children – more than I cherish my children and pursue their good and God’s glory.

Thankfully, Carolyn offers biblical solutions to each hindrance. In this instance, she refers back to the passage in James 4, which concludes with the antidote to anger: to humble myself and submit to God. In all of this effort towards kindness, I am truly incapable of accomplishing anything but for the word and power of Christ. So I can at this time ask the Lord to show me my heart that I may know what it is I am so desiring that I am willing to be harsh and hateful, to sin, in order to acquire it. Then according to the trusted biblical pattern, I am to confess this sin – to God and to those I have offended – and to turn from the excessive and wrong desire. Now, without obstruction, I can then choose to think and act kindly.

Bitterness is the next hindrance to kindness. Bitterness arises when we hold onto the memory and nurture the hurt from the sin or offense someone else has made against us. Basically it is being unforgiving. Ephesians 4:31-32 admonishes unforgiveness and commands that “all bitterness… be put away from you…and be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another as God in Christ forgave you.” This has revolutionized my dealings with my husband and children. Rather than replay their lapses towards me, I remember and relish the unfathomable and undeserved forgiveness that has been granted me by God. I love the tenderness I then have towards my family in my thoughts and deeds as I put away bitterness and forgive them. Praise God!

Finally, Carolyn addresses judgment as a hindrance to kindness. This may be my greatest offense, and it refers to” looking for other’s faults and without valid and sufficient reason, forming unfavorable opinions of their words, actions or motives.” Basically, it involves looking for the worst in others. How I hate to write those words with the conviction that this is a pervasive habit of mine. John 7:24 calls me up short:” Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment.” Judging sinfully is a serious obstacle to kindness. First Corinthians 13:7 offers the beautiful remedy to this unloving pursuit: love “bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” The remedy is to make loving judgments, to think the realistic best of people. It is with thanks to God that I am now able to teach my children to avoid sinful judgments and to look for the best in others – because He has been changing me!

There is so much more to explore about kindness and loving others according to God’s word and ways. I am thrilled to have this way to review and consolidate what the Lord is teaching me. I hope it encourages you also. Let me know how He is working in your lives. I would love to hear!

Believing Prayer

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Another spiritual goal that I have for this year is to deepen my prayer life. While I enjoy a quiet time with the Lord most mornings, I often seem to “run out of time” and sometimes attention for a full engagement with Him in prayer. It is sinful and unbelieving, but I realize that I easily conclude that He will accomplish His will without my input and that this huge and awesome God is busy with much more important things than my little world. I am horrified to acknowledge this – to myself and to others. He is a consuming fire, but He is also my Abba. So I am committing myself to believing prayer this year.

My decision to focus on prayer this year was encouraged by our Sunday School class this week. A familiar substitute pastor gave the lesson, based on Nehemiah 1. He made some points that I plan to incorporate into my prayer life.

Our degree of faith is reflected in our degree of prayer, he stated, and that was a wake-up call to me and the foundational call to me to believing prayer. He thus encouraged us to make prayer the first step rather than the last act. This starts, he reminded us, by daily committing our lives and each step in the day to Him. I want to remember in the morning hours to ask Him to help and to be glorified by my life that day. I know that makes it more likely that in the moments of my day I will be more inclined to pray before I act.

I particularly loved and want to daily remember his second point that we must recognize to whom we are praying…to our God “who is greater than any task or struggle” that I might face in the day. He is sovereign; He sees and knows and can do everything and anything. And He is faithful – He does what He says He will do, and that includes fulfilling this promise: “whatever things you ask in prayer, believing, you will receive,” Matthew 21:22. Another encouragement to believe! Though I don’t think this means He is like Santa Claus – giving me everything I want. But I know and must remember that He does hear and is making me like His Son, which is in and through every event of my day, what I hope for most.

Finally, Pastor G urged us to ask God to act. “God wants us to ask Him for what He knows we need and to ask for His help,” he said. When I heard this, I realized acutely how sometimes I do not really expect Him to do anything. Again, it horrifies me to realize this unbelief. But it exorts me to lovingly and believingly implore my God to be active on my behalf – to acknowledge that He personally is active on my behalf. That is certainly bold but also faithful.

In conclusion, he summarized the benefits that we can find in such believing prayer. (1) Prayer makes me wait. How wonderful to wait on God knowing that we have made petition of Him and that He will act. (2) Prayer clears my vision. And don’t we all need that focused and unobstructed view – obviously I do! (3) Prayer quiets my heart. Psalm 131 beautifully corroborates this:

Lord, my heart is not haughty,
Nor my eyes lofty.
Neither do I concern myself with great matters,
Nor with things too profound for me.

Surely I have calmed and quieted my soul,
Like a weaned child with his mother;
Like a weaned child is my soul within me.

O Israel, hope in the Lord
From this time forth and forever

And finally, (4) Prayer cultivates my faith. And that is my goal for this year – that the degree of my prayer and the degree of my faith will be greatly increased. May we all be encouraged to believe Him more.

This entry was posted on January 2, 2013. 6 Comments

New Year, New Blog

It is the eve of a new year.  I have been planning to start a blog for a while; today seems like a great time to begin.  The Lord has been “rooting and grounding” me in His love (Ephesians 3:17).  I have been a pretty unstable Christian as I have wrestled to extricate psychological thinking from my mind and to replace it with sound biblical thinking.  It has been a long and arduous journey and I must stay vigilant to attacks and steadfast in my adherence to true doctrine and practice.   I am uncertain about making this public, but it is my hope and prayer that others might be encouraged by my experience and hard-earned understanding.

At present, I am wanting to learn more about and to grow in forbearance.  I have been a very exacting, judgmental and impatient woman.  Lack of forbearance is shown by being “intolerant of others…especially…of those who have different opinions or ideas as well as those who have sinful weaknesses that [I] do not have,”  says Martha Peace in her most favored book, Attitudes of a Transformed Heart.  “A person who is forbearing is tolerant.  In other words, they put up with differences and biblically bear with the sin and mistakes of others.”  I praise God that He as revealed to me my heart in this area and is empowering me to change.  I hate how I have been, and am loving learning to be patient and to lovingly bear with the differences and weaknesses of the people around me – especially my dear husband and children.

So for the first part of this year at least, I plan to keep studying, praying for and showing forbearance and kindness to those with whom I come in contact.  And foundationally, I will continue to treasure, protect and enhance my precious, hard-won biblical thinking.

I look forward to growing together with you in Christ.  Happy New Year!

This entry was posted on January 1, 2013. 7 Comments