Tag Archives: Church

#FindingGodChallenge: Introduction

The first #FindingGodChallenge has been issued: find a Bible verse, a song, and a moment with God from your life that show God is with you and meet back here next week to discuss!

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For the Love of the Church

“What I’m hearing you say is you can’t love these people.”

This came on a hot July Sunday morning after many explosive words on both sides.

My anger had never been loud before that day; it was a quiet anger that manifested itself in a hardness in my eyes and an igneous rock casing around my heart.  In the face of volcanic anger that day, though, something gave way inside of me, and I found the courage to express myself in a small way.

And I’m going to tell you what I told my parents that day: I don’t want to be part of a local body whose primary method of dealing with sin, or challenging people or situations, or difference of opinion is to hold itself apart from the offender, the difficulty, or difference.

My dad heard me correctly.  I could not, or far more likely, would not love these believers.  In fact, my lack of love made me not want to fellowship with them at all.

My dad (being who he is) swiftly turned this around on me and asked me how my behavior was any different from how I was accusing the Church of behaving.  (Touché).

I’ve shared different parts of this story before: how my dad accused me of taking the easy way out (many times before that), how I finally asked him how that could possibly be, and how I have long since learned that he meant that I didn’t fight for anything.  I’ve even talked about my lack of love, and how God began growing me in that almost immediately after that blustering anger-turned-argument-turned-discussion.

Honestly, three years ago, I would have told you I had the whole loving-the-Church thing down pat. (I think because I was a part of a local body that did a great job of loving me unconditionally).

But I bring it up now, because over the course of the past three years, God has shown me that I still don’t love the Church well.   I still don’t want to be part of local bodies or be friends with Christians who shy away from people in sinful or challenging situations, or oversimplify the problem and the solution.   And in these three years, I’ve uncovered some new things that give me pause about the Church: the pedestal it has set itself on and its love and affirmation of the people it can use.

Now, before you run and get your “not going to church because of hypocrites is like not going to the gym because of fat people” meme, or your illustration comparing your one bad experience at Chick-fil-a to a bad church experience, or the popular Rick Warren illustration about having to have a good relationship with the Church (the Bride of Christ) in order to have a good relationship with Christ, please understand: I love the Church and I identify with her – I belong to Christ, too.  I strive to be a part of a local body.  If I didn’t, I wouldn’t be any better than the parts of the Church that I’m less-than-thrilled with.

I’m just saying, loving the Church is hard.  And it clearly doesn’t happen overnight where there is history like mine.  It’s not impossible, either: I believe that with Christ alive in me, I do have the power to love the Church, no matter how sticky and challenging it gets.  I have a complicated relationship with the Church.

This is important with what’s coming tomorrow in the Big Reveal Extravaganza and in six months when the book is released. (Ergo, if you’ve been following, you were just got a little reveal a day early.  You’re welcome).

I say all of this because for a large part of the novel I’m writing, the protagonist and her story center around the Church, but by the end her priorities have shifted and realigned to something better. There’s a whole lot of flat out not-lovin’ and imperfect-lovin’ of the Church that goes on, and I can’t promise that she nails it at the end.

So, don’t get offended, at least not until you’ve read the whole thing.  (Or do get offended, if that’s your thing.  Just know I’m not taking any complaints from people who haven’t read the book).

 

 

 

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My Song for 2014

Oceans

by Hillsong United

You call me out upon the waters
The great unknown, where feet may fail
And there I find You in the mystery
In oceans deep, my faith will stand

Your grace abounds in deepest waters
Your sovereign hand will be my guide
Where feet may fail and fear surrounds me
You’ve never failed, and You won’t start now

 I will call upon Your name

And keep my eyes above the waves
When oceans rise
My soul will rest in Your embrace
For I am Yours, and You are mine

Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders
Let me walk upon the waters
Wherever You would call me
Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander
And my faith will be made stronger
In the presence of my Savior

Depending on God for the supernatural this year – things so far out of my reach and control.
I’ve gotten out of the habit of believing or trusting Him for anything HUGE anymore.  I’ve become entirely too accepting and satisfied with my life.  My life has been too easy, too unchallenged for too long.  I’ve grown complacent, desensitized.
It’s time to be planted.  (How my heart cries to be planted).  It’s time to grow and bear a lot of fruit.  It’s time to snap out of this funk, get out of the boat and walk towards Jesus.
You guys, I really believe God is preparing me to relocate to Seattle.  I really believe He has opened doors for such a move, and will continue to do so.
What I covet your prayers for:
  • Renewed and passionate focus on my writing.  There are a lot of things I say with a level of hesitation, but this is not one of them: God has made it inescapably clear that writing is my path.
  • A church in Seattle.  This is actually something I’ve “researched” extensively, and I believe I know where God is leading me in this area, but confirmation is always good.
  • A full-time job that pays $37,000/year.  This is my cost of living in Seattle.  (Yes, Texas folks, I’m aware that is WAY more than it would be in Dallas, BUT this is about God and where HE directs).
  • A good living situation.  Studio apartment, a house with other women, whatever God wants – just that it will be good.

Verses to consider while praying for me:

  • “A man’s gift makes room for him, and brings him before great men” (Proverbs 18:16).
  • “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus” (Hebrews 12:2)
  • “For we walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Corinthians 5:7).
  • Mark 14:22-34

It is truly my heart’s desire to be who God wants me to be, do what He asks me where He asks me to do it.  Pray with me?

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Lessons I Learned

Lessons I Learned Writing and Directing a Play for Eleven Months

Whether you know this or not, some eleven months ago I was approached about writing a play for my church’s Christmas program. (That’s right, the one that just took place last Saturday night).  We began bouncing around themes and ideas in February and decided on “Emmanuel: God With Us” in March. We wrote the script and I was asked to direct in July.  Finally, we performed the play on Saturday night.  This play has pretty much characterized my year, and many of the lessons I’ve learned this year have centered around its production.

  • Lesson #1: I learned not to over-commit.  If I could go back and do it all over again, when approached about writing in January, I would say, “I’m sorry, that’s eleven months out still, and I just can’t commit that far in advance.” In eleven months’ time, a lot can come up, and it did for me.
  • Lesson #2: I learned about long-term commitment. This is the other side of the over-commitment coin. While there were times I definitely had way too much on my plate, times when nothing was going the way I thought I should, times when it would have been much easier to walk away, I stuck with it.  As many fun times as there were, as nice as the finished product was, there were many, many times in the course of the production where I genuinely wanted to save myself some grief and take myself out. I didn’t, but I wanted to.
  • Lesson #3: I learned how to communicate with guys in a ministry context.  Oh brother, guys just don’t communicate, do they?  And it’s just so darn frustrating, especially when I need an answer, like, now.  Towards the beginning of this process, I sent out long, detailed emails about what I was thinking and visualizing for the play, and the guy on the creative team wouldn’t read them or respond.   I learned this wasn’t going to be effective if I wanted his input (and I did), so I learned to communicate succinctly via email for his benefit. I noticed measurably different responses from all of the guys I worked with, not just in the play.
  • Lesson #4: I learned to let someone else lead. Confession: I’ve been facilitating Christmas programs and the like since I was thirteen years old, and I was involved in a small-time production group during middle school before that.  I went to college and earned a Bachelor of Arts in Radio, Television, and Film, and have been producing and directing independently since that time.  I have become attached to a certain way of doing things, namely, the way that is most effective for me. While I was the writer/director, I was NOT the coordinator/facilitator of this production, a role I am accustomed to filling, a role I have a LOT of experience in.  You see, I like being to control all of the factors, but somebody else had that control in this production, and that was hard.  Towards the beginning, I would express if I thought things were not going the way I thought they should to our coordinator, mainly because she was younger and less experienced than I am in these things, and I wanted to share the benefit of my expertise with her. (Haha).  Then, one day as I spent time with God, I realized I was striving for what I wanted, and not giving our coordinator the opportunity to grow as a leader through her decisions and yes, even mistakes.  I’m not going to lie, she still did things that made me cringe at times (and she usually heard about it in the form of “This is your decision, but…”), however, the power struggle was over on my end. It was no longer worth it to me to strive and be in constant turmoil fighting for control.
  • Lesson #5: I learned to trust people to do things I wasn’t able to do myself.  Last Saturday, I was scheduled to work until the program began.  I work half an hour a way from my church, so that meant I was going to arrive late, but it also meant I would not be at our final rehearsal.  I had to trust all of my kids to remember their roles and blocking, and I had to trust someone to direct in my stead.  I also had to trust someone to do facilitate scene changes, because I had other work to do during the play itself.  (Nobody disappointed me, by the way! They all did a tremendous job!)
  • Lesson #6: I learned to communicate my needs and assert myself. It’s hard to put myself in a vulnerable position, but in the past month, that is exactly what I had to do with some people I was working with.  They had communicated to me in such a manner that the end result was discouragement. (Like, crying for an hour discouragement, thinking about what was said and trying to honestly assess whether or not it was true,…).  I could have let it go and never brought it to this person’s attention, but I chose to deal with it instead, and let them know honestly they had discouraged me. I didn’t want to because these things are generally not well-received and can go horribly wrong, but I chose vulnerability, and I was able to put it away from me once I had communicated my discouragement.  I didn’t deal with any desire to walk away from the production after that point. (Which, granted, was only two weeks ago).
  • Lesson #7: I learned to ask for support. This program has been prayed over by A LOT of people, but my role in it has been brought before God’s throne of grace by so many more.  I am thankful for my faithful praying Facebook friends from every church I’ve ever been involved in covering me in prayer.  I am thankful for my sweet friends who came out to the program Saturday night, not just to see the play, but to remind me to breathe before, and to say good job at the end.  I am thankful for my little brother who came to two rehearsals to hold my hand and keep me from going crazy.  I need a support system – not in a needy, clingy way, but sometimes I just need to clearly see and know those who are standing with me, and y’all have shown me that. (THANK YOU!!!)
  • Lesson #8: I have learned that God is with me.  The theme.  I have spent more time meditating on this theme – Emmanuel: God With Us – than I have any other theme in my life.  This passage sums it up:  “I can never get away from your presence! If I go up to heaven, you are there; if I go down to the grave,you are there. If I ride the wings of the morning, if I dwell by the farthest oceans, even there your hand will guide me, and your strength will support me. I could ask the darkness to hide me and the light around me to become night—but even in darkness I cannot hide from you. To you the night shines as bright as day. Darkness and light are the same to you” (Psalm 139: 7b-12 NLT). This Christmas, and all year long, I’ve been thankful for the gift of God’s presence, which became available to as many as receive Him in the person of Jesus Christ.

“One of Jesus’ many names is Emmanuel, which means, ‘God with us.’ During His life and earthly ministry, Jesus walked with humans, changing their lives with His presence.  He healed the sick, spent time with social rejects, and even made sure His own mother was taken care of as He was dying.  More than that, Jesus took the punishment for our sin on the cross and defeated death by rising again.  Although our sin had separated us from the Holy God, through Jesus, God set up a plan for humans to enjoy His presence forever.  If you accept Jesus’ work for you, He can and will save you from your sins and change your life through a relationship with Him.” ~Emmanuel: God With Us, by Joselyn Varghese and Lydia Thomas

Other posts about the 2013 Christmas Play:

 

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Why’d You Have to Go And Make Things So Complicated?

“But if you are always biting and devouring one another, watch out! Beware of destroying one another” (Galatians 5:15 NLT).

I am so sick of all the biting and devouring, of all the damage we inflict on one another.

I suppose we just don’t get it: we’re only hurting ourselves, weakening our own body and curbing our own effectiveness as partners in Christ.  I suppose we think it’s okay, defending individual egos, individual agendas, without realizing something much bigger is at stake.  I suppose we all think we know best and are looking out for ourselves or looking after the ones who have the most to offer us.  I suppose we forget we’re all part of each other, no matter how little we like each other.

What are we doing, screaming at each other?  Tearing each other down?  Not  speaking to each other?  Don’t we realize these things are counterproductive to spreading the gospel?  Why can’t we just get together around Christ? Why do we have so much extra stuff we need to agree on before we coexist and cooperate?

We really think it’s all about us as individuals. We think it’s about our agendas, our reputations, our feelings.  And we will fight to the skin of our teeth to make sure we are protected.  We’re sold out for ourselves.

It’s like we’re Corporate America or something.

And this is why I’m struggling: I don’t want to be a part of the biting, devouring, and destroying anymore. (For the record, I never wanted to be a part of that).  I just want to worship God, to worship simply, yet with everything I have. I just want to make friends with people and tell them about Jesus and how He loves them, and gave His life so they could have a relationship with Him.  I just want to be a part of a Christ-centered community where we all grow together, even if we have different opinions on stuff, even if we sometimes struggle.

I don’t think it should matter if I’m non-denominational or a Baptist and you’re a Pentecostal or a Methodist.  I don’t think it should matter if I take communion every Sunday morning or you take it once a month or during small group.  I don’t think it should matter if my worship service is traditional and yours is contemporary.  I don’t think it should matter if I start conversations with people so I can get to know them before sharing the gospel with them and if you just go up to them and ask, “Do you love Jesus?”  I don’t think it should matter if I was homeschooled and you were public schooled.  I don’t think it should matter if I’m “all natural” and you eat whatever you want.  I don’t think it should matter if I voted Libertarian and you voted Republican or (gasp, haha) Democrat.  I don’t think it should matter that I support a complementarian view of marriage and you support an egalitarian marriage.

No, it’s not that I don’t think it should matter.  It. Does. Not. Matter.  And there are countless other little, non-essential things we squabble over that do not matter.

A while back, someone made a really big deal to me out of something that was not a big deal.  For some reason, the issue at hand was of extreme importance to the person dealing with it; I would never have thought twice about it or thought anyone else would have either.  It just didn’t matter.  And it wasn’t that it didn’t matter to me, but the fact that it mattered to anybody … Ugh.  It’s just petty.  (By the way, I did explain the situation to the person).

These are the conversations, the situations I don’t want to be in anymore.  They just don’t matter.

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Why I Don’t Wear High Heels

Keeping it light this week, because I am in my head too deep. If I take on a heavy topic, I might accidentally-on-purpose verbally sucker punch somebody, and then I’ll feel worse.

On Sunday, a friend and I were talking about high heels, and why I never wear them.

Never wearing them is an exaggeration on her part.  I have a pair of black boots with heals, that I consider my big girl shoes. Much like big girl panties, I put them on when I’m dealing with big girl stuff. I also own two pairs of black sandal heels that I bought for two siblings weddings five years ago. I wore them to the weddings, and when I’m feeling especially daring I wear them now.

But the bottom line is, I really just don’t like wearing high heels.

And my last outing in them illustrates why.

It must have been a Sunday morning at the beginning of June. I was wearing a purple and black dress with black leggings and (you guessed it) a pair of black sandal heels. I was feeling pretty confident.

Thing # 1: They just aren’t comfortable.

Then I got to church and found out I had nursery duty. Guess what? Those heels came off, because it’s just not comfortable squatting and playing with kids while in heels.  During the second service, I help in a Sunday School class. One of the kids’ favorite songs to sing is “Hallelu-Hallelujah/Praise Ye the Lord”, which if you didn’t know is an up and down song. Yep, the heels came off again. I spent my morning barefoot.

Thing # 2: They make me waddle. Thus, any cuteness the heels may inherently possess is completely undone by the unattractive waddling.

I then agreed to help out with an outreach my church does on Sunday afternoons. (Back story – I live like 40 minutes away from the church, so it was impractical for me to go home and change, otherwise I would have).  My feet and my back were in pain from wearing my heels for about fifteen minutes, and I was taking them off every opportunity I got. Our outreach was outdoors, and I thought, “Eh, that’s fine, I’ll just take my heels off and go barefoot.” Unfortunately there was broken glass everywhere, and I had a vision of myself getting a piece of it stuck in my foot and having to explain to my dad exactly why I was barefoot. (He’s a stickler for shoes being worn outdoors). So I waddled around outreach, and couldn’t play the games with the kids because I was wearing heels. (And I’m pretty sure some people who don’t have the back story like you do were judging me just a little bit for wearing heels to outreach).

Thing # 3: I am already an Amazon woman, I don’t need (or want) to be taller.

Working with kids, I like to be on their level for communication purposes. (Well, actually, that’s true of anybody). That’s already challenging because I’m pretty tall, but in heels, it’s even harder.

I laugh when girls tell me they want a guy who is tall enough that they can heels and he’ll still be taller. I just take the whole heel thing out of the equation, and can be happy with a guy right around my height. (Let me tell you, it opens your world up).

I’d rather wear a cute pair of flats, exude confidence, feel beautiful and comfortable in my own skin. Heels just don’t do that for me.

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Framework: Dating and Courtship Models

The Traditional Courtship Model

When I refer to the “Traditional” courtship model, I don’t mean that it is necessarily normal, and I certainly don’t mean that it is somehow better or more Scriptural than any other brand of courtship.  I do mean that it is the model I was raised in and that many of the people I grew up with were raised in. However, even among us, I use the term “traditional” very loosely, because there are varying degrees at which it plays out.

At its most basic, this model teaches that the father is the keeper and protector of his daughter’s heart until she marries, at which time those duties are passed to her husband.  For this reason, any young man (or maybe old man, I don’t know) expressing interest in the daughter must be sent to the father. The father ascertains the man’s suitability for his daughter on the basis of maturity – spiritual, emotional, physical. If he passes the father’s inspection, and the daughter agrees, the man and  the daughter get to know each other within predetermined (by the father and sometimes the couple) boundaries. Again, it can work a little differently depending on the family or even the daughter.

I have been blessed to see my two older sisters have successful courtships and marriages based on this model. I even have a handful of friends who have courted and married. For me personally, there is something hopelessly romantic about a guy who talks to my dad about getting to know me, mostly because if you don’t know him well, talking to my dad takes courage. (And I value courage). And I certainly prefer this model to the commitmentless dating games that go on in secular relationships.

But I’m not completely sold on this model. (Shocking, I know).

My Reservations About the Traditional Courtship Model

Despite what some people believe (yes, even in my circle), the “Traditional” courtship model is not commanded in God’s Word. Trust me, I’ve been asking and looking for years. Nor can I find a shred of evidence to support the principle on which this model is based – that of the father being keeper and protector of the daughter’s heart. Don’t get me wrong. As I said earlier, I like the idea of courtship. I am so thankful to have a dad who is willing to look out for me, who desires to know who and what I am involved with, who prays with me and for me. But. The Bible is clear: I am responsible for my own heart. Proverbs 4:23 says, “Keep your heart with all diligence, for out of it flow the issues of life.” The command to keep one’s heart falls to the individual, not her parents, I think for obvious reasons.

The other thing I have noticed (and it sort of goes hand in hand) is a really subtle, but harmful message being sent to some Christian young women because of the execution of this model in some circles. I was reading the courtship story of a woman from a prominent homeschooling family. She said was not equipped to discern God’s will for a husband because of her gullibility. And I just about cried. Who gave her this view of herself? This view that she cannot be trusted to know what God’s will is for her, what is good and necessary for her? Again, please don’t take this the wrong way. I don’t think it’s the “Traditional” courtship model sending this message. I think it’s the courtship model in the hands of an enemy using a fallen race to destroy each other. Still, I think it’s an issue worth considering.

Women were created in the image of God, just as much as men. He created women for a high purpose: to be helpers and companions of men.  On top of that, I am a redeemed woman. That is the blood of Christ covers my sin just as much as it covers the sin of any man. The Holy Spirit indwells and seals me, just as much as redeemed men. And as He leads and guides, I am able to discern His will, His heart for me, what I really need. Oh sure, I make mistakes, but it’s not because I’m a woman. It’s because I’m a sinful human being.

My Personal Preference

Basically, the way I want to go about a relationship involves balancing a watched-over heart with vulnerability, getting to know a guy to see if there is marriage potential, and seeking out godly counsel and accountability for the relationship. It doesn’t necessarily involve a guy getting my dad’s permission to get to know me, or letting a guy do all of the “work”, or letting someone else set up the boundaries.

Guarding my heart and being vulnerable. In terms of relationships, this is the ultimate tight rope walk for me. On one hand, I don’t want my heart to be broken by developing an emotional attachment before anything official happens, and on the other hand, I want to be the kind of girl who is approachable and vulnerable with any godly man who wants to pursue me.

I think for women it is important to know our emotional triggers so we can better watch what is going on in our hearts. There is nothing I like or respect more than when a guy takes the time to draw me out, or to ask for and listen to my opinion on something. Since it means so much to me, I have to be careful not to make more of his consideration than it actually is. If I end up developing feelings for or an attraction to him because of this trigger, I know I’m in dangerous territory. Not because my feelings are bad (because I typically am attracted to good things), but because these feelings can quickly develop into lust for me – where I get possessive and protective of someone who isn’t mine. The other option I have is being aware of my feelings, bringing them before God whenever they arise, and resting that if He thinks this is a good thing, He can make it happen, or otherwise take care of my feelings.

My other struggle is that I’m sort of unapproachable. I’m not intentionally this way, I’m just quiet until I’m comfortable. I’ve been praying about being more approachable in general, and last week, God convicted me to smile more. So simple.  I’m also not very good about initiating vulnerability. I will share when I’m asked, but I typically don’t volunteer information. Sometimes, I’m pretty self-centered and don’t think of other people’s needs to be vulnerable. Availability is important.

The objective of marriage. For the record, I do want to get married. I believe that someday I will be married. If I didn’t want to get married, and I wasn’t ready to be married, I wouldn’t be interested in being in a relationship right now.

So what does an objective of marriage mean to me? It means that throughout the relationship, we will get to know each other within the context of, “Could I be married for the rest of my life to this person?” If yes, we will go from there. If no, the purpose of the relationship has been fulfilled and we can hopefully move away from it amicably. Obviously, a lot of prayer will go into it.

Godly counsel and accountability. I want to have an open relationship. Not just openness between the guy and I, but an openness that makes people feel comfortable giving us advice and keeping us accountable. These people include parents. I think our parents typically know us well, and can offer insights that our feelings may be blocking. And older siblings who have been there before. And other couples who have relationship experience. Proverbs says, “In the multitude of counselors there is safety.” And I believe that.

And this is the approach I will use when discussing dating and relationships from this point forward on my blog.

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Framework: Authority

I look at authority this way.

I ultimately answer to God, and will someday give an account to Him of what I have done (or not done, as the case may be), as will all believers.

In this life, however, God has provided me with an authority structure in the form of my parents. Mostly they just provide counsel, but occasionally, they will tell me what to do.

I am an adult. I do not like being told what to do. Furthermore, I do not have to do what I’m told.

But, when my parents tell (not advise) me to do something, I generally do it. I don’t always like it, but I try to listen to and respect my parents.  When I get married, the authority will be transferred from my parents to my husband. My husband will then have the final word. And I’m sure there will be times when I don’t like it, but I will listen to and respect my husband.

This is why I had to talk about perceptions of gender. To an egalitarian, what I just described sounds oppressive, even abusive. To someone within patriarchy, what I just said was disrespectful, and I should get off the computer and learn to keep house. It might not even sound great to your run-of-the-mill complementarian.

Here’s the thing. As believers, we are all called to submission.

I submit first to God. I recognize His Sovereignty and I long more than anything to do His will. He has placed me with my parents on purpose. If I ever get married, He will have orchestrated that as well. When I disagree with what my parents tell me to do, I commit that situation to God. I ask Him to either change their hearts, or change mine, knowing that if He chose to, He could change my circumstances in a heartbeat.  If He doesn’t change anything, I accept that this is where He wants me to be.

I say all of this because the authority I am under has determined the relationship model I will follow.

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Framework: Gender

Since I’m going to be talking about romantic relationships a lot on this blog, I think it is important to address the different perceptions of gender that exist among Christians as a sort of framework for future posts, and where I come in on that debate. To be clear, I don’t think one’s perception of gender is a salvational issue, but how I view gender has certainly informed the views I’ve developed regarding romantic relationships. Since this is not a salvational issue, I don’t expect you to go away questioning your faith because you disagree with me, nor will I question my faith because I disagree with you.

I have been exposed to three views concerning gender in Christianity: egalitarianism, patriarchy, and complementarianism. According to Theopedia, egalitarianism ” is a movement based on the theological view that not only are all people equal before God in their personhood, but there are no gender-based limitations of what functions or roles each can fulfill in the home, the church, and the society.” Conversely, complementarianism “is the theological view that although men and women are created equal in their being and personhood, they are created to complement each other via different roles and responsibilities as manifested in marriage, family life, religious leadership, and elsewhere” (Theopedia). It is harder to nail down a definition for patriarchy (in other places known as Biblical patriarchy). Wikipedia says patriarchy “sees the father as the head of the home, and responsible for the conduct of his family,” and I think that is fairly accurate. I would add that traditionally in patriarchy, the woman’s place and purpose are in the home.

All three of these belief systems are more like spectrums: people vary in degrees of liberalism and conservatism in all of them. Because of this, there are fringe groups between egalitarianism and complementarianism and between complementarianism and patriarchy. (But never between egalitarianism and patriarchy – they are pretty much opposed).

I was raised on the borderline of complementarianism and patriarchy, but as I’ve developed my own convictions about gender, I am squarely complementarian.

Unlike egalitarians, I do not believe that God created males and females to fulfill the same roles in life. As a woman, my fundamental design is different from that of a man – physical, emotional, spiritual – and therefore my purpose is also different. My purpose may include anything God has laid on my heart to do, but rest assured, God does not call anyone to do anything outside of His revealed will (the Bible).

Unlike those within patriarchy, I do not believe I am a lesser being because I am a woman, more susceptible to temptation and sin and thus incapable of making  my own decisions. Granted, I have made bad decisions in my life, but that’s not because I’m a woman; it’s because I’m human. Nor do I believe my father or future husband will be held accountable for my faith. I have the same access to God as any man and am responsible for my own response to Christ’s salvation and following Him.

What does any of this have to do with romantic relationships? The way we look at God’s design for gender will inevitably determine how we look at authority. How we look at authority will determine how we look at potential mates.

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Flavorful Living

“You are the salt of the earth. But what good is salt if it has lost its flavor?” ~Matthew 5:13a, NLT

My dear fellow believers in the United States, we are losing our flavor. We live in a society captivated with the idol of self. I am sad and burdened to say it, but this attitude has seeped into the Church. The glaring result is that modern Christendom adds little flavor to our lost and dying society.

Brothers and sisters, we should be different. I’m not talking about being different just for the sake of being different. I’m talking about being different because we are changed by God and are so motivated by His love for us that we no longer live for ourselves, but for Him.

We need revival. I’m not talking about a big meeting where someone preaches “hell fire and brimstone” and we all recommit our lives to Christ as a result. I’m not talking about a spiritual high where we all say and do the right things. I’m talking Holy Spirit-orchestrated change in our hearts to make us more like Christ, individually and collectively, where we live in love, grace and humility.

I think three things need radical change in our lives: the way we think, the way we speak, and the way we behave.

The Way We Think

“Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise” (Philippians 4:8 NLT).

I know I sometimes don’t give as much attention to my thought life as I should. I suppose this is because since no one else can see my ignoble thoughts, others are not able to be affected by them. According to God’s Word, this is simply not true: “As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he” (Proverbs 23:7 KJV). What I think about someone else will inevitably come out in my actions toward them. My intangible thoughts can absolutely have tangible effects.

So I have to focus my thinking. I have to be objective and look for truth (i.e. what in reality is) in people and situations, I cannot be swayed by my personal opinions or experiences. I have to adopt right thinking, that is God’s way of thinking: what are His thoughts towards these people or situations? I have to dwell on good things, pure things, beautiful things in order to counteract the constant influx of negativity from my sin nature and the world around me.

The Way We Speak

“Let your conversation be gracious and attractiveso that you will have the right response for everyone” (Colossians 4:6 NLT).

“Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers” (Ephesians 2:26 NKJV).

I’m not trying to be a hater, but I think this is an area where women especially struggle. We have this terrible to compete with each other and tear each other down. I see it at work in my secular job, and I see it in the Church. It’s ugly. And in the life of a believer, it’s inexcusable.

I am growing in this area, but it’s been a struggle. It used to be that when I saw another woman going after something (or someone) I wanted, I had to build myself up enough and tear her down enough to make myself seem more deserving of what we were both pursuing. I am learning to speak highly of women (like myself) who are completely worthy of earning what we pursue. Where I still have difficulty is with people who have done me or my loved ones harm in their own speech, because they don’t deserve my kindness. And that is where gracious speech comes in – favor when it isn’t merited. I am learning to speak kindly to and about my enemies.

The Way We Behave

“Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself.  Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others” (Philippians 2:3-4 NKJV).

Talk about counter-culture. This is a completely foreign concept in our “to each his own” society.  We are taught that “I” and “me” are the most important people in the universe. I often catch myself thinking, and speaking, and behaving in ways that state that I believe this to be right.

At the end of 2011, God convicted me to pray for a year to die to myself, that is, to live a Christ-centered life with the goal of serving and loving others. I prayed this prayer for two months, and it ushered me into trials that I had never even imagined possible throughout 2012. I was tested in my love for God, trusting His love for me, the basics of my relationship with Him, my relationships with His people, and long held assumptions, opinions, and preferences. As everything in my life as I knew it, as I desired it to be, was pried away from me, I realized.

This. Life. Is. Not. About. Me.

And it’s not about you.

It is about God. Taking pleasure in Him and making Him known. It is about Him taking pleasure in me and conforming me to the image of Christ. About Him working in me to “will and to do His good pleasure.”

When we adopt Christ’s attitude, we are able to humble ourselves and consider and love others. We don’t do it because we’re getting something out of it, or even because we feel obligated. We do it because we love people.

Maybe they don’t deserve your love. Maybe they are completely unworthy of any kind thoughts, words, or actions.

But we’ve done nothing to deserve Christ’s love. In fact, on a daily basis, I sin and spurn that love. And I’m certainly unworthy.

And we are to have the mind of Christ:

“Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God,  but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men.  And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross” (Philippians 2:5-8).

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