Monday, May 10, 2010

New Blog - Moved

I attached all my blogs to one! How exciting.

This Whole Life

All the blogs on here are on there. So, follow it, google feed it - do something to keep up to date!

Thursday, May 06, 2010

Day and Night

Something new...being obedient to all the Psalms that command us to meditate both day and night on the Word.
Psalm 1 is a good place to start.
Well, I am finally obeying it. In his strength, for His glory in my life, mind, heart, and then eventually hopefully in the lives of others, in my writing, and in the world...the Word takes root.
Here is the plan: simple. I read a Psalm before going to bed - helping me rejoice in the day and worship the One who made it. A proverb before going about my day - wanting wisdom, practical ways I can live in obedience today.
Random ways this has been good: day 1 I was able to text a verse to a friend who is praying through many different options for her life right now. It was a good verse for her - Prov 1.33. Psalm 1 helped me remember why I needed to do this in the first place. Ps 3 - last night I fell asleep on the couch and I dreamed about people being able to break into my screen door from my porch. I woke up, went to bed, reading Ps 3 about dwelling in safety and Him providing sound sleep. God is wonderful.
This morning: feeling horrible from my Italian dinner last night both in mind and in body - I read Prov 3. I thanked God for his mercies, grace, forgiveness, and a new day. Here are some wys that is evident to me in that proverb:
1. Do not forget teaching (mind, I know what I need to eat, not eat to live my body in a way glorifying to God), but heart keep commands (but I crave in my heart things that aren't good for me). But I need to remember that the heart is deceitful and above all desparately wicked.
2. Steadfast love and faithfulness need to be how I relate to everyone I come in contact with: to find favor and good success with men.
3. If I turn away from my own wisdom (and worthless rationale) and seek the wisdom that comes from God (which is found in this Book), then it will bring healing to my flesh and refreshment to my bones. Do you take the Word literally. Most people claim that the Word has nothing really to say about health and our bodies and what we do we them or how we treat them by what we intake. We live this out in most of our churches actually. In most of our homes. But, this passage: Prov 3.7-8 speaks to just that. If we turn away from seeking our own wisdom and evil things (over eating, indulgent and seeking our worth in food) then it will bring healing to our bones, refreshment to our bodies. I love that promise!
4. Honor the Lord with your is a recapture of Mal 3. God is blessing me in many ways and I've seen the truth of this played out in my life. Neat how God says He will reward obedience - and He really does. When He tells us to "test him in this" (Mal 3) He actually will come through. That is the amazing God we serve.
5. Do not grow tired of His reproof: I even was so glad He gave me an upset stomach this morning and wiggly vision last night (after eating so much white pasta and white bread). This is part of his reproof in my life for overeating and not heading my body and how He has made it. I want to be obedient in this way. I desire the Lord's correction in that.
6. He blesses the dwelling of the righteous. This last proverb in chapter 3 brought to mind two others. Often times we'll see signs that "Bless This House" - sorta the welcome sign on most southern doors. But, do we think about this verse. He blesses the home of the righgteous. I think in light of Proverbs and preceeding verses he is talking about those who make righteous choices and seek wisdom and understanding. But, also and most importantly...our righteousness is found in Christ - we must abide there. If we abide there, part A will come.

Do you meditate on Scripture day and night - do you see it impacting your day?

B90x Update

Some of you may recall that back in January I started B90x - a reading plan from Elevate Church in Charlotte for reading through the entire Bible in 90 days. Started off well, like most New Year's Resolutions and Bible reading plans.
March is where I really slacked off - as I was preparing to move, pack, late nights, working much - it was tough - I was sinful and lazy in forgetting this daily need.
Well - here is my update. I finished the OT the end of April. I start the NT. Hopefully the NT won't take me as long as the OT took. I doubt it.
Here are good things about the B90x reading plan:
1. It makes you prioritize the Word. It takes about 50 minutes each day to read the allotted segment. I'm not a fast reader.
2. It helps to give a bigger picture to the Word. One thing I dislike about most reading plans is that you get 2 chapters here and there in 4 different places. I like seeing complete pictures. It helps me follow story lines better. One day I think I read the whole story of Abraham from Ur to death. Joseph followed a day later. It helps when all of Genesis is done in 4 days. You see the connectedness of Scripture.
3. Themes. It also helps because you can draw out themes or words that help in preparing Bible studies or seeing the Big Picture of the Word of God. This was probably my fave part.

I will keep going. His Word is important.

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Community, Trinity, Love and DeYoung

Ever read one of those paragraphs...that you want to read aloud to whoever is in the room and it expresses a new way of thinking or a new way of understanding a complex thought? Sorta an "aha" moment.
Here is one:
I am reading Kevin DeYoung's book The Good News We Almost Forgot - Rediscovering the Gospel in a 16th Century Catechism. Basically, Kevin takes the Heidelberg Catechism and applies the gospel found in it to modern day. Putting this hard to read or understand or even say in a fluid pattern - something in paragraph form and explaining it. Quite good. More of that later though.

"The Trinity matters for relationships. We worship a God who is in a constant and eternal relationship with Himself as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Community is a buzz word in American culture, but it is only in a Christian framework that communion and interpersonal community are seen as expressions of the eternal nature of God. Likewise, it is only with a Trinitarian God that love can be an eternal attribute of God. Without a plurality of persons in the Godhead, we would be forced to think taht God created humands so that He might show love and know love, thereby making love a created thing (and God a needy deity). But with a biblical understanding of the Trinity, we can say that God did not create in order to be loved, but rather, created out of the overflow of the perfect love that had always existed among Father, Son, and Holy Spirit who ever live in perfect and mutual relationship and delight." (p 52)

Love this. God didn't create us because He needed us. My friend, Sean Cordell, preached on this topic as well a few weeks ago at Treasuring Christ here in Raleigh: Pursuing Community. You can not know true community without the knowledge of the true Creator of Community.
We must know love and community only through an intimate relationship with the one who desires to be in community and sent Jesus to die to make that possible.

Book Review: Collaborate

In light of the title of the book, Collaborate is a collaborative effort by many ministers in the field of children, family, and student ministry to bring the best of the best of their ideas to the table. Chanley, at Southeast in Louisville, KY, put together these short chapters filled with excellent events you can do at your church to help bridge the gap that is evident in ministries and families across America.
Good things about this book:
1. Rob Rienow's chapter. I had read a bulk of the material for since I am familiar with Rob's writings, but it was a good reminder of WHY we do family ministry and WHY THERE IS A NEED for family ministry. The reason this chapter, for me, was the best out of this book is because it is the only one whose main focus was the theological reason behind family ministry. Others definitely drove Deut 6.4-9 into the ground and used that as an imperative for ministry - but Rob opened up the biblical mandate for Family Ministry and parenting and the church and the gospel. Theology, I know, wasn't the main point of this book. And Chanley and others definitely succeded in the aim of this book. (That's why there are multiple books out there, each with its specific niche.)
2. Rob Bradbury encouraged me by his list. Not only will this chapter be helpful as people sit down to plan out events - but he started with the most important, yet most often overlooked element. PRAYER. He listed prayer before advertising. How often to do plan, advertise, talk up, poster-up, get volunteers - even before we pray. At the church I serve, we have even noticed that this is not as big of a focus as we need it to be. So, we are taking many efforts to strengthen our prayer times in staff meetings or in our lives personally. Today, even, stopping in the middle of staff meeting to pray for a lady who walked through our doors during Joy Prom and said she had never (in 62 years, in the South) walked into a church. These are the things that need praying for.
3. Short chapters. I like books with short chapters because I feel like I can plow through a book without having to sit down and read for 2 hours straight. I like being able to end at a chapter, not in the middle of one.
4. Very practical. If you need ideas, or are stuck and uncreative (like I often am), this book will help bring some fresh new ideas from literally around the world to you.

One word of caution with this book: Picking up this book would lead some to believe that is all about activity - or events. Family Ministry is not event driven. It must NOT be. It has to be theology and gospel driven. God can and does use events to draw people to themselves (take Joy Prom for example, or youth camp, or VBS, or Family Fall night, but if it is event driven, we will just fill up a calendar and spend money. If it is gospel-driven - then hopefully God will use the church to make an impact in the lives of families. You can't get your people on board with events unless they know the why behind what you do.

That is my daily challenge. May it be your's as well.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Book Review: Ware's Big Truths for Young Hearts

Most people would not pick up this book and think of a seminary text book on theology (for example: Grudem, Erickson) - but this book is just as potent - just in paperback form!

Having the opportunity to work with Dr. Ware at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary was definitely a highlight for me during my time there. Seeing the humility and focus on the gospel in which he and his wife lived their lives was a light. The best part of the book, in a way, was the forward which was written by Ware's daughters. They provided insight into long road trips and family dinners they had with their Dad. Dr. Ware lives this theology book. He just doesn't teach it in the classroom or preach it from the pulpit; he and his wife model it for their children, even now as they are grown women. They have had a godly example from which to pattern their lives after and as they raise their children by teaching them Big Truths for Young Hearts.

There are multiple uses for this book (and no, one of them is not hand it to a 10 year old and have them give you a book report on it in a month):
1. Read it. Especially if you are a new believer, or know new believers, Dr. Ware puts many difficult theological concepts in terms and with illustrations to make them easier to comprehend.
2. If you are a Dad: read it, share it with your family - even a chapter a week - at family devotion time. It would be a source of encouragement and edification for you. Read the chapter (short 2-4 pages mostly), then have discussion. Makes family worship easier. The end of each chapter even has questions for discussion (so you don't have to come up with those on your own either). This would be a great tool for Family Worship.
3. Praise. Many times at the end of each chapter, Dr. Ware breaks into a doxology of sorts. The idea that he models here for his readers is that knowing who God is (and Christ, the Spirit, the Church, Man, Salvation, End Times) should warrant our utmost praise! Maybe even break into song!

What I loved about this book is that it gave me broad segments of theology, didn't try to cover everything, was readable, had Scripture within the text, and gave me many "pierce the heart" moments of conviction. Here are some:
"How foolish we are when we forget to read and study this book. But how wise and blessed we are when we go to this book constantly for instruction, guidance, correction, and help with living life as God wants." (p 23 - The Bible)
"A grumbling spirit is sinful, because it fails to recognize God's goodness and kindness in providing for us every good thing in life that we enjoy." (p 69 - God Provides)
"If our punishment is a small thing, then when we learn that Jesus took our punishment upon himself, we think little of this. But, when we see our punishment as the great and weighty and horrible thing that it is, then it becomes a wonder and a marvel to us that Jesus took that punishment upon himself for us." (p 99 - Punishment for Sin)
"The Spirit will have a great influence and will provide more direction in our lives as God's Word "dwells" more and more within us. Our reading of his Word, our time spend memorizing and meditating on Scripture, is one of the main tools that the Spirit uses to help us think, feel, speak, and act in ways that are more and more pleasing to Christ." (p 167 - Spirit)
"We love many things in this world that we shouldn't love, yet we don't love God as we should." (p 171 - God's Kindness and Wisdom)
Believe me, there are many other sentences and paragraphs underlined in my copy. Read it. May it be an encouragement to you and may it be a tool you can use to help lead your family in knowing God deeper.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Redeeming the Time (Guest Post)

I don't know of any woman (single, married, young, not as young, with kids, no kids) who will tell me that she is not busy. We have iPhones, calendars, outlook, post-it notes, etc to help keep us organized! Unfortunately, every day we live, most of us are just getting busier.

There are many Scriptures that tell us how to redeem our time - in every area of life. But, I want to concentrate on your time at home today.

There are a few books that have helped me see this reality a bit clearer: Girls Gone Wise, Shopping for Time, and The Gentle Ways of a Beautiful Woman. Of course there are more, but these three come to mind.

I want to live most of my life at home. Ok, yes, I work a full time job, in ministry, so that often means that it is well over 40 hours and even when at home I'm doing work for work. However, since i've been here, that has not been a reality for me. Some of the personal disciplines that I had in Louisville have not translated well to Raleigh living. Why - busy-ness and lack of strategical planning my day.

My friend Courtney wrote a fantastic blog post on her site about how the Spirit is sanctifying her in this area right now:

"Today has been a lazy day. And boy, do I like it! About a month or two ago a dear friend encouraged me to examine my schedule and cut things out that took me away from my husband and my home. As she wisely observed, I had begun to fill my evenings, and even my Saturdays, with a lot of other things that had very little to do with my husband. I had assumed that since he was studying I could just do whatever I wanted. He didn't need me around, right? Well, what happened was these other things became overwhelming. Suddenly, I was just away from home too much, but I was exhausted and moody when I was home. Not good."

To read the rest...go visit Courtney:

Here are a few exhortations from Scripture:

Prov 31.10, 15, 27: "An excellent wife, who can find? She is far more precious than jewels. She rises while it is yet night, and provides food for her household and portions for her maiden. She looks well to the ways of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness."

These commands and characteristics of the excellent wife (or excellent woman as Carolyn McCulley points out and illustrates in her book Did I Kiss Marriage Goodbye) will look different depending on what life stage you are currently in. But, each of us must strive, in and through grace, to live these out. God has given us His Word to live out by the strength of His grace for his fame and glory in the world (or in our home, or to our friends, or our husbands).

May you be strengthened in His grace today!

Friday, April 23, 2010

Book Review: Our Home is Like a Little Church

Sojourn Community Church in Louisville, KY is graced to have many talented people in her body. There are artists, writers, singers, players, cookers, - so many.
What I really like about this one is it a simple reminder (complete with rhyming syntax, fun type, and creative characters) of what "worship-at-home" could look like.
Often, in this discussion of family worship, people ask "How do I do that?' There isn't anything you MUST do to have family worship or have to incorporate for it to be right. If you aren't singers, you don't have to sing. If you aren't into poetry, you don't have to have a reading time. Family Worship can start simply by just reading 10 verses, talking about it, and praying together as a family. Maybe that will take 10 minutes. Maybe you will do that once a month. Maybe you'll do it once a week. The simple equation: just do something. Maybe you are gifted at the guitar or piano or writing songs or creative motions - incorporate those. There is so much freedom in this concept of family worship. Maybe your children love to draw - show them how their drawings can be an act of worship - as they share with the family what God taught them through that practice.
Sojourn tries to remind parents that they should be taking the lead in family worship, that the Dad should be shepherding his family in this way (just as the Pastor would do at the church). An underlying theological truth that is hinted at is that male leadership is a right Biblical concept. This is stated in their goal of this book: "was written to teach preschool children the Christian truth evident...that the home is a little church where the father teaches his family God's commands and leads them to worship the one true God."
And in accomplishing this goal very well, Sojourn also puts forth the co-championing model of Family Worship: "God intended the home to be the front line of ministry to children - not the Sunday School or public church gathering ALONE." This is even intentional throughout the book as on one side of the page there is what we do in church and on the adjacent side if what we do at home.
One critique: this is more of a cultural one. Unfortunately, many marriages/families even within evangelical churches are lead by a single mother. Whether that is by divorce/separation/never present father/unwed teen moms/death - the reality is clear and present. The book is designed to appeal to "cookie cutter" Christian families. How does this work when given to a single Mom who is at her rope's end because her kids are driving her crazy with all the other demands of being a single parent? One way to use this would be to give it to her, but then do a couple things:
1. Pray (with her) that God would give her strength and grace to accomplish this task of raising her children and discipling them in the fear and admonition of the Lord.
2. Pair her up with another Mom (single or married) who is leading well in this area.
3. Don't just send her on her way - make sure she is being cared for, loved on, and nurtured.

This book would be an excellent, inexpensive tool to share with new parents, or new parents in your preschool ministry at your church - about what you expect of them as parents and leading the way in Family Worship.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Winner's Mudhouse Sabbath

There is more to this book than just a cool title.
My friend Janel had this book at her apt when I went to visit in January. I had just started reading through the Bible doing B90x (which I'm still doing by the way) and this aided in my understanding of some of the Jewish laws. With all the fun that we had that wknd, I only got about halfway through it before I left (I'm not a fast reader). But, I was so intrigued by it that I had to pick it up later and finish it. I just did.
This book was helpful in learning more about the laws and customs of Judaism, modern and ancient. This was helpful in seeing a Christian Jew live out her faith but not be under the obligations of the law. Helped to see how community and the law are so important to folks who are devout Jews.
Winner covers many different aspects: food, the sabbath, hospitality, death, doorposts, weddings, candles, etc. All offered insight into what was practiced, what is still being practiced, and how a Christian can incorporate these practices into her life.
On Fasting: "People who have fasted for years tell me there will come a time when I look forward to fasting." (88). Man - this is hard. I remember in recent churches I have been in when the pastors would call the church to a corporate fast. I would try to do it. Most of the tie, I did it out of trying to please certain pastors. Not in an effort to pray and seek the face of God as part of the beautiful Bride of Christ. So, I did it more out of pride, man-pleasing, and legalism and I always failed at it.
On Fasting: "When I am sated, it is easy to feel independent. When I am hungry, it is possible to remember where my dependence lies." (91) This applies to more than just food. Yes, food is the way Lauren talks about it here - but more recently I come to recognize this in finances and material goods. God has been more than gracious to me in so many ways and there is nothing for which I want. But, even toward the end of the month where I have to be more careful and rely on him for guidance on spending and scheduling - I realize that I need to do that all through the month and not just the last week. God is good.
On Aging: "Christianity and Judaism both offer narratives that make sense of death." (101). A few months ago I thought about this paragraph (yes, before I read it). There were a coupld of deaths in my life that occurred all in a short span of time. And I was also helping others through greiving, etc. I started to think that we would never understand death. I came to the conclusion that we were never meant to understand death because we weren't created with death in mind. Adam and Eve were created to live with God in the garden in perfect harmony forever. Then...SIN. Sin is what brought death. God made a way to conquer death - but He never said he would explain it to us.
On Candles: "Even when I am lighiting two thin tapers over dinner, I like to think about the light of Christ rectifying the sin by which came death to the world. The Light of Christ, I sometimes say to myself, Thanks be to God." (119) Most of the time when we have lit candles in our homes they are to create ambience or help eliminate odor. I wonder what would happen if Glade or Yankee Candle Co started marketing to Christians as way a remember this Light of the World. Probably what would be the result is some cheezy fish candle or cross candle just like Testamints or other silly things like that. But, what would happen if we lit candles in our home and made it an intential part of that lighting to thank God for sending the Light of the World to use so that we could behold his glory and truth?

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Greg Gilbert's What is the Gospel?

This book has received so much coverage in the blogosphere - probably since Crazy Love. I picked up this book as soon as it came out - and just finished it. I got to be friends with Greg and his wife, Moriah, while attending the same church in Louisville, KY a few years ago. They both lived out much of this book in their friendship with me: whether it was attending their son's soccer game, eating at the Homemade Pie and Ice Cream Kitchen, or just chilling in their home, or serving hot dogs to the 3rd avenue neighbors.
Greg, at the very beginning, explains his goals for writing this book (I like that, I don't need to wonder what they are). Here is my paraphrase of them:
1. Bring more joy to Christians. "An emaciated gospel leads to emaciated worship." (20) As one of the guys I serve with said this morning, us knowing our sin more (being made more aware of how sinful we are), we will indeed know the gospel - how good and amazing God is - more.
2. Evangelistic. Greg does not suppose that everyone reading this book is a believer. This would be a great book to read in a new believers/interested in Christianity class at a church. 8 chapters - that 2 months, or over the summer, its not overwhelming!
3. Community. "Also, Christian, the gospel should drive you to a deeper and livelier love for God's people, the church." (117) Very clearly we see the need for this in our local body. There are many factions within most local churches. So many do not know those they serve with - or sit next to Sunday after Sunday. This means more than just shaking their hand during the very awkward "greet" time. This means pouring into the lives of those you "do church" with. Get to know them - hear their heartbeat, know what drives them.
4. Clarity. A few months ago there was this "competition" on Twitter to post the gospel in less than 140 characters. how difficult is that? That even paved the way for this goal of Greg's - we need to KNOW what the gospel is and be able to articulate it to a lost and dying world - or confused church attenders.
5. Apologetics. Wow, what a great tool this would be on a college campus - for use in a small group, dorm Bible study. Just having it out on your nightstand or coffee table, or in your car (to read at traffic lights or coffee shops) would definitely open up the door wide for conversations.
These 5 goals of Greg's are clearly met in every chapter of this book. I highly recommend it. Below are some more personal thoughts I have had while reading it:
There is a post-it note on my vanity mirror right now at home - its been up there 10 days, and as I was reminded of it by someone this morning - I think it will stay up there: Jonah 2:8-9: paraphrased: if I cling to worthless idols, I forfeit my hope of steadfast love - by the Savior of the world. Greg puts it like this: "For human beings to consider their Creator and then decide that a wood or metal image of a frog or a bird or even themselves is more valuable is that height of insult and rebellion against God." (29)
Almost immediately after starting my new ministry here in Raleigh, I heard this verse from one of the pastors - Greg writes it here - from 1 Corinthians 15: paraphrased: Christ died for our sins is of UTMOST importance - but He is not still dead - He lives - so we can live too!
As we think about goals and life dreams (not just at New Years or Birthdays): "They had goals and desires that were categorically opposed to what God desired for them, and so they sinned." (50). Do you ever stop to wonder and pray and seek God's face to ask him if the goals you have and the goals He has for you are the same? One of those things that would be good to know!

Thanks Greg for writing this!

Sunday, April 04, 2010

Death is Dead and other Real Thoughts

This is not a blog post particularly on Easter, I am just writing it on Easter Sunday afternoon - so some of it has come from thinking on this day.
A lot has taken place in the last week.
True Woman Conference 10 in Chattanooga
Moving out of Louisville, KY and leaving a job I've loved for 2.7 years
Moving back HOME to Raleigh, NC. I love the Triangle.
Driving 9 hours with a great friend following my Dad.
Being welcomed by so many to Providence Baptist Church.
Worshipping this morning for Easter at my new church home and not feeling like a guest.
These are some of my thoughts on that:
1. The unconditional love of God the Father. I learned that this week more. I guess it was on Friday morning, I was getting ready to head to get my hair cut, fixing breakfast for Dad and I. He said "I know it may not always seem it, but I love you." I replied, "I don't know why, I don't always show it back to you." Right as soon as those words came out of my mouth, I knew that I had in a sense declared the gospel to my Dad. God the Father loves me unconditionally - all the time, even when I don't see it, don't feel it, or definitely don't deserve it. He loves me during the times I disrespect him, ignore him, don't want to spend time with Him, etc.
2. The Body of Christ. This wins out over Facebook. I had a amazing help by 6 guy friends in the ville for moving me out so quickly - 45 minutes. And Rachael pretty much hands down cleaned my whole apt as I was directing the guys and saying my goodbyes. But, earlier in the week I had no clue how I was going to get all my stuff in my apt. I had very little help. By the time I got to the apt on Tuesday, I had about 10 people helping - and we finished it in about 25 minutes. Some were friends, some only stayed 5 minutes because there wasn't anything else to be done, but the peeps who did most of the work were people I didn't even know. They just wanted to help. This, my friends, is what the Body does for other members of the Body - and to people not in the Body.
3. "Death is dead." I love this line from a Getty song. I mean think about it. If the wages of sin is dead - then it is dead. Dead. Not half alive, not in a coma. The empty tomb conquered death for us for eternity. Does that mean we still won't sin? No. But, it means that sin has no more dominion over us. When I struggle with the sin of impatience, overeating, laziness, comparison, judgmentalism, coveting, pride, putting Christ last - He has won all those and I need no longer struggle with them. My Mom was talking about this on the phone while I was traveling home. All we have is Christ - as the New Attitude band song says.
4. We have victory every day. Pastor David preached on this this morning. We have victory over sin on Easter. But, we also have victory over sin on Monday, on January 3, on Dec 25, on July 16 - 365 days a year. There is not a day where we should live in the defeated dejection of sin. Christ's love is better than that life.
5. We are all sinners. As I was loving on babies this morning at the 930 hour - I had some cute ones. It was very interesting to see them during snack time. We laid out a sheet and sat them all down, poured cheerios in front of them. They immediately looked at what the other kids received and went for their's. I guarantee their parents haven't trained them to be stealers, coveting, envious, prideful, selfish toddlers. No. But, sin is by nature. This is why we have to teach the gospel so early! We are by nature all sinners, deserving of death, being loved and shown mercy by a gracious God. PTL. And just for the record, I enjoyed holding Rachel and Judah in my lap for most of time. Judah - that kid - gotta love him. We snuggled!
6. I have loved most parts of my life the past 2.7 years. Louisville - the friends, the job, and the restaurants - will definitely be missed. I have great friends there. But, there are other parts that won't be missed so much - that were extremely hard.
7. God has graciously blessed. The last 6 months in this transition have been hard at time, but most of the time I have seen and known the peace of God and known His blessing and hand of direction on this! I will see a dream fulfilled tomorrow - a prayer request I've had for 7 years (since graduating seminary). Even as I look out my porch right now - knowing there is pollen covering my car, knowing there will be tough times, knowing that there will be many times I will feel lonely and over my head, overwhelmed by the task at hand. I do know that God's hand and glory all over this. I can't wait.
I look forward to seeing what my life looks like - as it is lived out for his glory. Thankful for the cross!

Sunday, March 28, 2010

True Woman Conference: Nancy Leigh DeMoss (Last Session)

This last session for the Conference is on Deborah:
Judges 4-5
The stage is set; it describes a cycle that is repeated at least 7 times in Judges:
God’s chosen covenant people were being disobedient. God’s is concerned with the homes of His people. The people of Israel do what is evil in the sight of the Lord. This was a period in the life of Israel of spiritual apostasy, “doing what was right in their own eyes”, they abandoned God and his laws, they pursued after Baal and Canaanite gods.
God sold them – he disciplined them. God in his mercy and love, he gave them up to be oppressed by the enemy. The chastening hand of God. God allows people and instruments to come into our lives to show us where we have disobeyed him.
It took intense discipline over prolonged time (20 years of oppression by the Canaanites) for the Lord to get the attention of His people. This is an amazing demonstration of the longsuffering of God, of his patience and mercy. We will be shown the redeeming hand of God.
v. 4 – Deborah comes in as a judge. Deborah was the answer to the cry of the people. She is utilizing her God-given gifts, living her life for other people, and she was content to fulfill the call of God on her life.
She was a prophetess. She was called and gifted by God to declare His Word to His people.
She was a wife. God inspired this little detail. This was her primary human relationship. She didn’t neglect this relationship.
She was a judge. Judges were people God raised up to rescue his people from their oppressors. God, in his sovereignty, raised this woman up. She just said, ‘”Yes, Lord.”
Deborah first heard from the Lord for herself. Then she gave the message. Deborah didn’t know any better other than just believe what God had said – God would win the battle. There is no doubt here – she is only confident in the Word of God. She had wisdom greater than her own. Today – we need women who know the Word of God. Others will seek us out. They will look for the wisdom that flows through us – the very Words of God.
Deborah agreed to go and arose. She went out of her comfort zone, out of her home; she marched into the face of danger. She went because she was a woman of faith and believed the promises of God. She had no choice but to be involved because God had put a call of God on her life. We get a display of a woman who stands and is strong in the power and Word of God.
God uses foot soldiers and women in this story. God chose the weak to confound the strong. Why? So God would get all the glory. God chooses the needy, helpless, and dependent. We go in the power and grace of the Holy Spirit.
The period of the Judges was not one of strong male leadership. I see Deborah as one who inspires male leadership. Her goal was not to lead but to serve. (5.7) Her heart was a mother. She simply saw herself as a mother – to the troops of Israel. She exuded a nurturing instinct. That is what motivated her, she wasn’t driven by power, position, or prestige – she was driven to be a mother – to sustain and nurture life.
Biblical womanhood looks different in different relationships. Deborah worked to nurture male leadership. She didn’t command Barak to do something – she wasn’t threatening him. She is relaying a message from God. We see Deborah in a responsive, helper role – she went at Barak’s appeal. She is delighted to see men rise up and take leadership. She is delighted to see it happen. When men are inspired to lead, she is happy (5.2). She affirms these men and expresses her gratitude to God. She doesn’t male bash.
Deborah is a woman of faith and courage. The legacy of her life – the men of her day became men. They came forward to fight evil and to defend their wives and children. She wasn’t looking to be the hero of the story. (Heb 11 mentions Barak and not Deborah). We would be totally bent out of shape. Deborah would have been thrilled to see Barak reach that point of faith – a man of great faith. Though she too had faith, in the end, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, it is Barak’s faith that gets listed.
The battle: v 12 – Barak is in a life-threatening position – but Deborah encourages him to move forward in faith. The power of a woman’s word has great influence on a man. Do your words encourage men to be men in whatever realm they are in? Or do they tear him down and make him timid. This isn’t just for your husband, but also for your pastor, your father, your brother, your friends. Our words can either tear up or tear down. Do your words bring fresh new life into the lives of men who are in your circle of influence?
Deborah is not the hero. Barak is not the hero. GOD is the hero. He won the battle. God is the champion of the story of our lives. God is the victorious warrior. We go into battle with that confidence. The battle is the Lord’s. God used human means but he also used supernatural means to win the battle. Jehovah was over this war – and over the false gods. God reminded both the enemy and His people that He is the God over all.
Don’t ever underestimate the power or the grace of God.

Friday, March 26, 2010

True Woman Chattanooga: James MacDonald

I've long been a fan of James MacDonald's Walk in the Word on radio. Even though I've lived relatively near his church in the Chicago area for almost 3 years now, I've yet to be to his church. He preached tonight on trials - to go with his life of the past 5 years and his new book, When Life is Hard.
James 1
1. Consider your trials joy.
Trials are going to come. We are called to be joyful – not happy. If you have been riding the roller coaster of happinesss – you don’t get what James is saying here. Joy: supernatural delight. Joy is from God. You can’t do this for yourself. Joy is:
1. In the person of God. Who He is – in His attributes – we are called to delight in the person of God. Your heart will be restless until you rest.
2. In the purpose of God. God has a purpose. There is a God who rules the universe.
3. In the people of God. You can’t just get “a thing” going on with just anyone – it is found in the body of Christ. There is a joy in relationships.
Trials obliterate happiness, but they enhance joy. Consider it joy when you “fall into” “various” (same word for Joseph’s coat of many colors) – all shapes and sizes, different for each person. Our God is marking our steps. Consider it – count it – you can’t come to the conclusion that trials are a joy if you don’t think about them. Consider is translated “to press your mind into”. Get a pen and paper the reasons why I can think about trial as a joyful thing. A helpful thing to consider is why we are put here on this earth. The reason I get to draw another breath is so we can display the life of God. That is why Christians go through trials – people can see something different.
God’s love isn’t a pampering love – it’s a perfecting love. Your Mom may be like that, but God’s not like that. God is not interested in putting a smile on my face by Friday. God stands outside of time – He sees the end from the beginning.
You can’t come to the joyful conclusion about trials filling your face with food to dull the pain; by filling your mind with entertainment to dull your pain; by filling your heart with anger about the wrong that has been done to you to dull the pain; by filling your body with substance abuse to dull the pain. You can only come to the joyful conclusion of trials by counting it, by considering it. You have to right size your trials. Big God, small trials. Not Big Trials, Small God.
2. Trials produces staying power. 1.3. Ps 27.13. You have to get the part that God is trying to get to you. Most people don’t like tests. But, we must know that the TESTing of your faith produces “hupo mene” – under remain. Testing produces “to remain under”. Here are three questions that we must answer.
a. Do I believe that God is in control?
b. Do I believe that God is good?
c. Am I willing to wait by faith until the darkness becomes light?

The first thing we want to do is get out of our trials. There is no exit ramp. God is trying to grow in you the ability to remain under. Name 4 things we want to do instead of remaining under:
1. We complain.
2. We lash out.
3. We bail.
4. We fold or despair.
Humble yourself under the mighty hand of God so that he might exalt you at the proper time. You can’t make it through trials without a deep, abiding sense of your partnership with the God of the Universe.
3. Trials produce life transformation. 1.4. “Under remain” leads to transformation. Some of us have been going through the same trial for years because we don’t “under remain” the trials we receive. Let these trials be the avenue of impact to others. “Under remain’ so that you will be perfect, complete, lacking in nothing. Suffering refines and grows us – if we “remain under” the pressure.
4. If you lack wisdom about your trial – verse 5 – ask God for it. He’s not going to answer the existential why, the ultimate why, the ultimatum why, the observation why. He will answer the why this in my now. What are you trying to teach me, God? You have to ask in faith without doubting. God wants to work on my heart. God starts with the blind spots. Make sure you really want to know. You will be complete – lacking nothing.
I can’t honestly say I’ve experienced “heavy” trials in my life; God has been overwhelmingly good to me. But, in the few “little” ones I’ve dealt with in life – my peace remains by holding firm to the Word of God. That is my voice of hope – because it is the voice of my God who loves me. That is my prayer for you: whether your marriage is hard, your children aren’t believers, finances are small and inadequate, your health is under fire – TRUST. Believe. Walk bold in the truths of God’s Word. Obey. Love Him.

True Woman Conference Chattanooga - Mary Kassian

How many of you have messed something up because you were too proud or stubborn to follow the directions? Over the past few decades, we women decided we needed to put out a new definition of womanhood. Men and women are the same and should be treated the same. Being like men became our highest goal. Men should be more like women; and women should be more like men.
Genesis of Gender (God’s original design for male and female – the directions – the theological meat of gender). Genesis 1 reveals male and female are more like God than anything else in the universe:
1.26-27 “Let us make man in our image.” God is talking to God – the Father is talking to the Son. God created male and female in His image. There is something about the us of God – the relationship of the Trinity – that speaks to gender. He created male and female, gender displays God. How we relate is an object lesson, a parable, the story isn’t about us. Scripture saiys God created sons and daughters to display HIS GLORY. Male and female are the focal point of everything God made. When you observe the differences in male and female, all these things tell a story. Gender and sex constantly display truth about God.
Paul says in Romans 1 that people are without excuse because gender screams out two truths about God: His power and his diving nature. He wants us to get it. Eph 5 connects the dots, marriage and sex, male and female, all illustrate the Gospel Story. That is why God created male and female. Before the foundation of the earth, God knew the story of the Gospel – He had this in mind when He made male and female in the garden during the week of Creation.
12 differences in male and female evident in creation (Girls Gone Wise, Chapter 9):
1. Male is uniquely male – he is firstborn. 2.7. God created male first. This is not random. The firstborn son held a special position in the family – responsible to carry out his father’s instruction. Adam was the firstborn of the human race. Romans tells us that in Adam, all die. This points us to Christ – Col 1 – he took Adam’s place. He is the firstborn, the last Adam, the representative for all who place their trust in Him (Hebrews). Paul tells Timothy the reason men are called to be leaders of the church is because Adam was created first. Men need to step up and be responsible for the church family; as well as his earthly family (Eph 5).
2. The male was put in the garden. 2.15. God took the man from where he was created and put him in the garden. God created man out in the wild, from the dust of the dessert, and put him in the Garden of Eden. A garden is a place with specified boundaries.
3. The male was commissioned to work. 2.15. Work is translated for tilling soil. It contains the idea of serving someone else. Man’s life in the garden was not for himself, but he was to provide for his family’s need. The primary responsibility for provision for a family lies with the man; this is in their makeup.
4. The male was commissioned to protect. 2.15. “Keep” translates to be in charge of, oversight, to be attentive, protect what is in one’s charge. He created men to be stronger, more suited for a fight.
5. The male receives spiritual instruction. 2.16-17. Before woman arrived on the scene, God put the instruction to the man. Woman had a personal relationship with the Lord, but as leader of his newly formed family unit – he needed to know God’s command.
6. The male learned to exercise authority. 2.19. This “naming of the animals” was a training exercise for authority. He was mentoring him in how to do that – how to govern well. He wanted him to exercise that authority with gentleness, care, and wisdom.
7. The female was created from the male. 2.22.23. We need to remember where we came from. We are not to regard that which we were created from as lesser than us. It was proper for the woman to have a sense of respect for the male from which she was created.
8. The female was created for the male. 2.22. It was not the man created for the woman, but the woman for the man. The Hebrew preposition denotes direction – with reference to, or towards him, his existence led to hers. We have fallen so far from the created order. When brides walk down the aisle, we need to be thinking “I was created for this man.”
9. The female was created to help. 2.20. Help with what? She is a helper “fit” for him – a like opposite – a complement to him. His purpose was to glorify God – woman helps man glorify God more than man could do by himself.
10. The female deferred to the male. 2.23. She didn’t try to have dominion over him.
11. The female was the perfect counterpart. 2.25. The sound of the ish and the isha are similar, but ish comes from the root: strength, and isha comes from the root: soft. Strength and soft. She is able to receive. The biblical meaning for strength: a champion valiantly serving his people, manhood, virility. Woman’s corresponding softness is her ability to give life, directed by inner strength. The bodies of male and female show this. A woman’s body is meant to receive; a man’s body is designed to give. She is the beautiful soft woman. Each is a beautiful counterpart. According to Scripture, it is a woman’s softness, our ability to nurture, that is our greatest strength.
12. The woman was created in the garden. Gen 2.15. Female was created in a place of safety. The place that was designed as a place of authority by her husband. She is the constant beneficiary of the protection God has put in her life.
God’s design for biblical manhood and womanhood is spectacular. The sexes complement each other – both exult to the glory of the Gospel. Ultimately, that is what women and men are supposed to do. God designed creation and gender in this way so we could have a display of the Gospel – the story of His Son and His Bride. It also gave us a picture of longing, desire, and relationship. The visible symbols give picture to the unseen – that is why gender is SO important. Is it any wonder Satan tries to destroy this picture? It is where we hurt the most.
1. God has a spectactular design for your womanhood. He has a pattern for what He wants for you to be as woman. It is very profound and significant.
2. God wants you to say yes to His design. He wants you to recognize the ways you have messed up your life by not wanting to read the directions. It is not a cookie-cutter or a list. True womanhood says yes to God and His right to be God. I am a true woman when I acknowledge that God has the best insight into who I am and how I should live.
3. God will do an amazing work of restoration.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

True Woman Conference Chattanooga - Nancy Leigh DeMoss

Titus 3 reminds us that we ourselves were once foolish, slaves, hating one another. Do we ever see ourselves in that light? We will never love the gospel enough until we see ourselves as great sinners. And thankfully there is the next verse – he saved us – not because of our works, but according to his own mercy.
First, the context of Titus. Titus 1: Titus’ culture looked much like ours: Titus 1.10ff. God has a solution: the gospel. How does that gospel get into the culture? How does the light penetrate the darkness? God has raised up the church, the redeemed.
Paul is talking to a young man who was called to lead the local church: be above reproach, teach in accordance with sound doctrine. In Titus 2, Paul calls all believers are to do the same thing. Our lives are to be above reproach, different from the world, transformed from the inside out from the power of the gospel, they are to be distinctive. The gospel is supposed to make a difference in our lives. Sadly, this is often not the case. Paul insists that they way to transform a lost culture is to live out the truths of the Word. This is why Paul tells Titus to preach sound doctrine.
Paul gives declaratives to each demographic in life: what constitutes older women? Every woman is an older woman to someone – and we should all be aspiring to this position. We see the life and the legacy of this woman. Our lives are to be above reproach. We need to be reverent in behavior – exhibit behavior for those who are holy. We are not slanders nor slaves to much wine. This above reproach-ness affects every area of our lives. One area is slaves to much wine: (not only specifically to wine, but also to an indulgent lifestyle). God wants to change every bit about me – that includes not living my life for myself.
Their legacy: to train the young women. We cannot train others what we have not learned ourselves. We will not be effective teaching what others have not seen lived out in our lives. We need to teach out of brokenness. We need to take the younger women into our lives: let them see how the Lord of the Gospel is daily changing our lives. We are to pass on the baton of faith for the glory of Jesus.
This teaching takes place in the context of community. Life on life. Teach what is good and so train the younger women. If you have had truth poured into you, then you are to turn around and pour it out into the lives of younger women. (This role is not reserved for the Kay Arthurs, Beth Moores, and Anne Lotzes.) We have the curriculum spelled out for us in Titus 2.3ff. 7 radical, swimming-against-the- culture-lessons. It is God’s way. This is how life is to work.
What is not on this list: prayer, Bible reading, personal devotional life, evangelism. These are important but they are not on the “must” list. Career and doing ministry are not on this list. We need to focus on this list. We see the importance of the home on this list. The norm for most women is to be wives and mothers – this is the primary sphere where most live out the gospel. We also see the priority of love: the love of Christ. We can’t claim to love God if we don’t love our husbands or our children. It doesn’t matter what the other women in the church see in you – it matters what your family sees in you. If we don’t know how to love our husbands and children – we can learn.
Our lives are supposed to be counter-culture. Culture is characterized by pride, gluttony, rebellion, hatred, impurity, etc. That is what this world is like. Can they see a difference in us?
We need to live above reproach.
We need to be intentional about passing on the faith.
We need to be reverent in behavior.
We speak words that build up.
We are not slaves to much wine. We do not live for our flesh.
We are to love our husbands and value the permanence of marriage.
We are to love our children.
We are to be self-controlled. (a sophron state of mind)
We are to be pure.
We are to love our home – be homemakers.
We are to be kind and other-centered.
We are to have a submissive heart attitude.
How well does your life, does my life, reflect the grace of God – a woman who has been transformed and redeemed by the Blood of Christ. Our culture is so absent of the items in the above list. I want to be defined by the things on this list – even while single. I want to love my home. I want to be kind and gracious to people in my speech. I want to have a submissive spirit to the godly, male authority in my life in the relationships with my pastors, my boss, and my father. I want to be pure in every area of my life. I do not want to indulge.
So that the world will have nothing negative to say about me.
So that that the Word of God will not be misaligned.
So that I might adorn the gospel – that the focus would not be on me.
By the power of the Gospel. (Titus 2.11)

True Woman Conference Chattanooga: Voddie Baucham

True Woman Conference Sessions 1: Voddie Baucham
Dr. Baucham is a pastor in Spring, Texas and an author, a husband, and a father. The first time I heard him speak live was at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary to a packed house – he brought it. Tonight he is speaking to a group of women of all ages – about 2400 of us. Different audience, same Truth. Tonight, the truth is coming from Titus 1-2.
“Set our heart’s affection on you – speak to us clearly and powerfully through your Word." - Amen
From True Woman Manifesto: God’s Plan for gender is wider than marriage; all women, whether married or single, are to model femininity in their various relationship, by exhibiting a distinctive modesty , responsiveness, and gentleness of spirit. (Lord – make this so in my life.)
Mature Christian women have a responsibility to leave a legacy of faith, by discipling younger women in the Word and ways of God and modeling for the next generation lives of fruitful femininity.
God gives us a picture in Titus 1 and 2 of what he has provided for our sanctification – the way he shapes our lives as believers. There are three principle tools here:
a. Godly mature men and women in the church.
b. Godly manly elders and pastors
c. Biblically functioning homes

Titus 2 – Godly mature men and women in the church. This is for our discipleship and growth in Christ. Older men are to be. Older women are to likewise be. Godly, mature, character. This isn’t automatic for people who are older – this is character that is formed over time and is the fruit of sanctification. This is the picture of character forged over time. We, as women, have a unique power in our tongue – to build up and to tear down. The older women are exemplified in the way we use our speech. The picture painted here is the result of the years of walking with God and being transformed by the gospel – she opens her mouth and wisdom comes out (Prov 31, Gal 4, Dt 31), speaking God’s truth. This isn’t a picture of a woman who teaches Bible studies (primarily) – but is speaking of a woman who has poured her life into the lives of women through intentional relationships. The younger women need older women to teach them to love their husbands and children. That the Word of God might not be reviled. When older women are not about the task of teaching younger women – we are not rightly living out the gospel. If we are following the ways of a culture that denies biblical manhood and womanhood, then I am marring the picture of Christ and his Church. His honor is being defamed. These things need to be taught. The older women have such a crucial role in the life of the church. And when we blame our disobedience on our circumstances: we are putting our circumstances above the Word of God.

Titus 1: Godly manly elders and pastors. The list in Titus 1 is primarily for pastors and elders, but Titus 1 is for all men – here is why:
There is no list in Titus 2.
Pastors are called in 1 Peter 5.3 to be examples to the flock. If he has a list of qualifications that aren’t applicable to the rest of the flock – then how can he be an example.
There isn’t anything in this list that we would give up for our sons – that we would not want our sons to be. Above reproach. Godly kids. Not arrogant. But hospitable. Hold firm to
the Truth (not a heretic). (Just to name a few.)
Titus 1: Biblically functioning homes. Titus 1.10 – “for” – there are many who are upsetting whole families.”
The primary discipling unit is the home. Eph 6.1-4. Children, parents, fathers – Dt 6, Ps 78, Proverbs – the home is the place of instruction for our children. Child is born. Child is born into a home with a mother and father who know and love God. They understand biblical womanhood and manhood, understand marriage as a picture of the gospel, and they give sound doctrine throughout the life of that child, they take that child to a healthy church where he hears thundering gospel from the pulpit. The pastor echoes what this child has heard in his home, the gray-haired folks in the church echo what this child has learned in his home. That is the picture.
On a personal note: I do not live in the ideal. I am not ideal: I sin. I fall short of the glory of God. I do have great older women, pastors, and families who model Titus 1 and 2 for me. I pray that as I grow older, the Lord continues to put younger women in my life that I can pour into – that I can speak grace and truth to. Lord – make my speech a display of your glorious Gospel.
When we don’t have all the pieces of this puzzle – be grateful before you get mad at the Lord. Be grateful for the grace in your life of what you do have. Repent of the sin that is in our lives that keep us from having the ideal. We live in a fallen world – always affected by either our sin or someone else’s sin. Repent of the anger, the bitterness, the lies, the unforgiveness. Be God’s, live and walk in the Truth of the Word and the light of the Gospel.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Personal Reflections on Counsel From the Cross (Elyse Fitzpatrick)

There are a few women authors who I love: Mary Kassian, Nancy Leigh DeMoss, Carolyn McCulley and Mahaney, Francine Rivers, Melanie Jetschke, and this one: Elyse Fitzpatrick. These women all write with a focus on the cross.
None more than this book. This book is meant to be used as a tool in how to counsel those who come to you for help - but also can be used to preach the gospel to yourself.
I've been reading it this semester with a friend of mine, Becca, and it has been a tool that has shaped both of us (I'm thankful that she gave it to me as a bday gift).
One of the biggest truths this book has made me realize is that I don't love very well: honestly and truly love faithfully. It is so hard to love without wanting anything in return or loving those who don't love me. Bring in the gospel: I can't do it - but the Cross is big enough to love through me.
"The Bible also mentions another conduit through which the Father pours his mercy and power into the hearts of his children: deep, meaningful fellowship with our brothers and sisters in the church." (47) As I get ready to leave Louisville after 2.7 years I look back at the relationships I have here. Many women have played a crucial part in my sanctification here: Laura D, Bonnie M, Becca B, Cynthia B, Shana S, Tracy H, Aarica M, Rayann J, Brandi L, Sarah V, Sarah M, Sarah M, Amber P, Lindsay W. But, I also look forward to the women who are in Raleigh who will also (and have) played an important role in my sanctification: Rach W, Sarah M, Tina W, Clariss B, Bonnie B, Vern G, Erin H, Maggie M, Steph C, and I look forward to new girls I will meet there. Also, I think about the wider body of Christ and how women all over have played a role in my sanctification: Phyllis R, Mom, Nena T, Kathy K, Lisa M, Laura M, Janel B, Mary K, Jaye M. What I'm trying to say is: God uses women in my life - not just in the life of the local body of believers - to have a real sanctifying power on my life - because they are rooted in the Gospel too! Thank you to these women and I can't wait to live more of life with each of you!
"In a profound sense, we have been given only two commands: to love God with our whole heart, soul, mind, and strength and to love our neighbor as ourselves. Jesus affirms that all other directives in Scripture depend on these two and provide commentary on what it means to love God supremely and to love others as we love ourselves. Just these two simple commands, and yet, every sin we commit finds its genesis in a failure to obey one of the other or both." (55)
And there you have it: the root of all SIN.
"When we don't love others, we will fear them too. We will fear what they might think of us, say about us, or do to us. Our fear will enslave us; we will be tied to their opinions, wants, and demands. Without fervent love driving and informing all our relationships, we will constantly swing back and forth between slavish, joyless servitude (motivated by guilt and self-love) and self-sufficiency and anger (motivated by pride and self-love)." (56)
"Do you _____? If so, you are missing the gospel; you are more sinful and flawed than you ever dared believe, but God graciously chose you when there wasn't one drop of grace in your soul and nothing to recommend you to him." (77) - Total depravity and Unconditional Election - gotta love the truths of Scripture!
"Gospel-centered counseling is counseling based on Scripture that defines us as God does and then applies both gospel declarations and gospel obligations to every sin problem we encounter." (93) This is so different than much "Christian counseling" today.
"We will never be truly free from self-condemnation and the desire for approval until we grasp this fact. We were so sinful we had to die. Personal reformation won't help. We need death." (94).
This is a big area in which I struggle - need to always preach the gospel to myself every day: "If the message of the gospel does not inform every thought, word, and deed, our striving to put off and put on will disintegrate into another way to gain the approval of others, ourselves, and even the Lord." (108)
One area I struggle in is fear of man - ongoing but Christ is slowly changing it. "Because of His sinless life, we can stop worrying about our reputation or trying to make ourselves look good in the eyes of others. We are sinful and flawed but loved and welcomed. We have been counted righteous." (137)
This is something I desperately need to act upon: "He loves us because he chooses to love us, and the depth of our defection from him should produce in us great humility, gratitude, and patience with others' failures." (153)
The past 2 years (almost) I've been in churches that practice Communion every week. That has been some of the BEST of Louisville: "How frequently do we fail to remember him, even during the Lord's Supper, because we are so focused on our glory story that the story of the cross seems weak, passe, and hackneyed? All we are called to do is to remember, and we can't even do that." (174)
This is another book to read - maybe in light of Easter - that is soon approaching!

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Personal Reflections on Crazy Love (Francis Chan)

I don't know if I can remember a book being as popular on a seminary campus (where folks already have to do a TON of reading) as Crazy Love by Francis Chan. Chan is a pastor in Simi Valley, CA. I've heard him speak live and he is just as engaging and hard-core in his preaching as he is in his writing.
Here is my question (as Francis is probably asking too): if so many people are reading this book (including myself, of course) and so many are saying "wow, that is such a great book; man, I love that book; ugh, that's a hard book to read, it is kicking my butt" - then how will the local church look different? If people are reading it and being convicted by it - shouldn't the church change in light of that conviction? Or are we (am I) doing to stop at conviction?
"In our world, where hundreds of things distract us from God, we have to intentionally and consistently remind ourselves of Him." (29) Mary Kassian brought this up in Girls Gone Wise: we have to be intentional about feeding ourselves on God-things, not just shutting ourselves out from the world.
Piper has a similar subject matter in Future Grace: "When I am consumed by my problems - stressed out about my life, my family, and my job - I actually convey the belief that I think the circumstances are more important than God's command to always rejoice. In other words, I have a right to disobey God because of the magnitude of my responsibilities." (41) In about 8 days I'll be driving to NC to start a new job and really a new phase of life. This has been one of the easiest transitions (just like the last one) of my life. Why? Because I have total confidence in the God that brought about the circumstances that led to this coming change. He is faithful.
I wrote this on the header of page 73: What would this look like? It was in response to: "Lukewarm people love God, but they do not love Him with all their heart, soul, and strength."
I love pastors who use sarcasm. Its a grand use of the English language: "Some people claim that we can be Christians without necessarily becoming disciples. I wonder, then, why the last thing Jesus told us was to go into the world, making disciples of all nations, teaching them to obey all that He commanded? You'll notice that He didn't add, but hey, if that's too much to ask, tell them to just become Christians - you know, the people who get to go to heaven without having to commit to anything." (87)
"Leftovers are not merely inadequate; from God's point of view (and lest we forget, His is the only one who matters), they are evil. Let's stop calling it a busy schedule or bills or forgetfulness (me: or sleeping late or watching tv or reading other good books). It's called EVIL. (92)
"As we love more genuinely and deeply, giving becomes the obvious and natural response. Taking and keeping for ourselves becomes unattractive and imprudent." (120). This is one of my favorite quotes of all the book. This is what I want my life to be characterized by. Not so people can look at me and say, I want to be like her in my giving. No - but to mirror the grace of God in my life (dimly, I know).
I engaged in a conversation about this book with two friends today. We were talking about any problems that we might have with this book. This book calls for radical living, beyond many books that I have read. And I really like the last chapter. Francis doesn't say "your life must look like this for you to be obeying God's call to radical living". He says "is this the most loving way to do life?". That is what you need to ask yourself. Then however you answer that question will be a good indicator of the radical call on your life placed there by a majestic God.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Personal Reflection on Girls Gone Wise

This past week I've spent much of my time reading Mary Kassian's new book Girls Gone Wise in a World Gone Wild. As most of my close friends know, I'm not a huge reader of "women only" books because I find them to be only geared to certain women or I find them to be fluffy. I am not a fluffy girls' book reader.
This was not a fluffy book and it was geared toward all women - no matter the stage of life she is in! And, it was AMAZING (only better if it were shorter). I was convicted by this book many times. And it seemed as if I thought of one thing - she brought it up in the next paragraph. Very odd - but very cool as well.
Here are some personal thoughts on the Spirit's work in my life through this book. I will definitely be re-reading it - and will hopefully have a chance to lead some girls through it in the future.
1. I am not amenable, at least not in my heart. I like to control a situation, I like to know what is going on, and though I may be "glad" to go along with other plans on the outside, it is a heart struggle. God is working on this in my life. "An amenable woman gladly foregoes personal desires and preferences to honor that authority. (Contrast #4). I think I do that, planning around other's likes and dislikes and preferences, but I still want to be in control. I don't want to be like this: "A brazen, defiant attitude stands in stark contrast to the soft receptiveness that the Lord intended for women." (#4). Like I said, this may be done on the outside, but its the heart that matters.
2. I clearly see the effect of sin in this book on women's lives; it is a sad affair. "So many of us are living with the brokenness, dysfunction, pain, and confusion, that comes from having gone wild." The cure: the Gospel. (intro)
3. "The more a woman's heart is seized with affection for Jesus, the more her life will be transformed to walk in his ways." (#1) It has to start with the heart. I can definitely tell a difference in my life if I have spent way too much time watching TV/movies/internet and not any time reading the Word. My thoughts and contentrations and shortness of temper are definitely off the mark. I saw this marked in a girl's life just last night. You could tell in how she talked about her Jesus that she loved Him and the feelings were mutual! :)
4. "The second adjective describing the Proverbs 7 woman is translated wayward. The Hebrew word means to be stubborn and rebellious. It reflects a defiant, self-willed, obstinate, nobody tells me what to do frame of mind. (#4, Ez 20.38, Ps 78.8). God has already been working this in me. But, I also pick it up in girls more easily now than before. I work in the lounge of the women's dorm on campus here at SBTS. It has given me opportunity to get to know some of them. I can tell though in some of them that they are defiant and loud and not calm and gentle. This makes me sad. Honestly.
5. "Homeward faced, wisdom graced; out to the max, wisdom lacks." (#5) I loved this. I can clearly see that my focus needs to be on home. The past few weeks haven't been that for me in the midst of packing, hanging out with friends, etc - and I have missed that. I love my home (ok, my 800 square foot apt), but I love having folks over, tending to home, being satisfied with being in my quiet apt. This is where God has called women - whether a family, single, kids, etc. We see this in the commands for what older women are to teach younger women (Titus 2).
6. "She's happy when she has a new prospect on the horizon and the hunt is going well" (#6). Mary talks here of a woman's focus. I will admit that when there is a prospect of a cute godly guy in my path, I'm going to get dressed differently in the morning, wear makeup if I'm going out where I might see him, etc. There is an added spring to my step. But, why? Why don't I do this everyday because I'm loved by my Saviour?
7. Body Language - #8. I have seen this all too often in the girls' dorm too - mainly this has been my interaction with college girls the past 3 years. They are playful in tossing the hair, sitting on guys' laps, sitting on the arm of the chair he is sitting in, giggling profusely, sometimes dressing inappropriately. I want to film them, then have a movie night and play it along side the reading of this book. I have also been convicted of watching these same tendencies in my own life and interaction with every male that I come in contact with, work with, see in stores, etc.
8. Roles #9 - if you want a good quick chapter overview of the basics of CBMW Gender Roles - read this chapter. Nuf said!
9. Another one of the big hits for me: "Restraining words means that you don't have to have an opinion on everything. You don't have to comment on everything that happens. You don't have to answer every question. You don't have to constantly make your thoughts known. You don't have to be proved right. You don't have to show off your superior knowledge. You don't have to constantly offer advice." (#17). As most of you know I am quite opinionated. I feel this has also gotten less in the last few years. It is partly due to male leadership in my life the last few years and also the working of the Spirit. I noticed a few times this week even that I practiced this - and you know, it was ok that I didn't express my opinion but instead kept my mouth shut.
I started to get discouraged in my actions and heartitude by page 105. Then I read the next paragraph:
"Given my own strength and willpower, my ability to life a self-disciplined life is extremely limited. That's why I need to depend on my Helper. Success is a matter of depending on the Holy Spirit and not on my own capacity." (#5). Remember, living a life pleasing to God isn't done on your own merits - but on the merit of Christ. That's why we celebrate EASTER!

Book Review: Girls Gone Wise (Mary Kassian)

One of the pleasures of working at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary has been to meet and interact with professors and authors. Mary Kassian is one of those. She has been a joy to get to know. She has provided such wisdom in my life both in conversation and through her writings.
Girls Gone Wise (in a World Gone Wild) is definitely no exception. I marked my copy profusely with notes to myself and underlined key quote that I've been sharing with women.
Kassian has no trouble hitting her target audience: women - of all ages. She wrote this book so that any woman: single, married, in college, 3 kids, high schooler, grandmother, would be able to pick it up and apply it to her life. One of the reasons this is accomplished is because Scripture applies to all of us: no matter what stage of life we are in.
Mrs. Kassian takes the sage advice from the writer of Proverbs and compares the two women he identifies in the book: the "Girls Gone Wild" and the "Girls Gone Wise". She creatively illustrates the devastating contrasts between the women in Proverbs, mostly in chapters 7 and 31. When looking at the two women side-by-side one notices the stark difference between the two. One following the ways of the world, foolish, and heading to a life of destruction. The other following the Spirit's leading, wise, and walking daily in the fear of God; her life gripped with the power of the Gospel.
The author brilliantly weaves cultural anecdotes, Scriptural characters and life lessons to make this a book you do not want to put down. Kassian knows the culture to which she is writing. Her years of ministry, teaching, and being a mom/wife have prepared her more than adequately to write this book.
Mary speaks to gender roles in one of the chapters (taken from Prov 7.13, 22 and 1 Peter 3.4-6). This is a great chapter for a well-done and qucik overview of issues concerning submission, male and female roles in relationships, created equal, and other key points. She speaks of the unique relationship that God started in the garden by the order of creation and the commands that God gave to each person. This is very helpful, especially if this is your first time encountering biblical foundations for gender roles.
The three parts you can find in each of the 20 Points of Contrast Mary highlights are: the dangers of following the ways of the world, dangers of ignoring the counsel of God, His Word, and the Spirit, and the promise of a life well-lived for the glory of God. In this compare/contrast style of writing, it is more clearly seen than if she had chosen to write it a different way. Each chapter you see the dangers and the folly and you are convicted by the Spirit to take account of your own life by the scales of comparison.
The only thing I would say that I would have liked better is if it were shorter. Especially if leading this with a group of women, 20 chapters is a long book. You would definitely need to split it between semesters (Fall/Spring) or do 2 chapters a week in the summer. This book would be amazing to go through in an accountability group of trusted women.
Mary: thank you for writing this wise counsel. I look forward to not only re-reading it, studying it more in depth as I've seen God point out areas in my own life that need working on by the Spirit; but also sharing it/leading it in small groups in the future.

Friday, March 05, 2010

Cleavage and Pencil Skirts on the Toy Aisle

Well...the doll industry has done it again.

Mattel, the leading industry icon for all things doll, including Barbie, has chose to market these new dolls to young girls.
Here are some things this doll can teach impressionable young pre-teen and pre-adolescent girls:

1. You are what you look like.
2. It doesn't matter how you dress
3. The work force is the place for you (whatever work one might be doing dressed like that)
4. You can get where you want to in life as long as you dress immodestly.
That is just the beginning, but I'll leave it at that.
Moms (especially), Dads, childrens pastors, babysitters...anyone...please read this...
Our girls live in an age that is dangerous for them and their eyes and ears. I was visiting with a friend last night and had the Disney channel on for most of the evening. I couldn't believe the shows that were on, what they were wearing, how they talked to their parents, the topics of their conversations....
The magazine aisle or the checkout aisle is dangerous because of the scantily scad stars or models that boast the front page.
The bookstores are dangerous for the same reason.
The malls are dangerous because of stores like Victoria Secrets and even places like Rue 21 and other stores that sell mostly teen, pre-teen clothing.
What I am not saying is to guard your child so much that she never sees the outside of your home. I'm not saying that you should never let your daughter go to the mall, go to Barnes and Noble or shop at Toys 'R' Us again.
What I am saying is this:

1. Amazingly show your daughter that the gospel is more important in her life than what she looks like.
2. Dads (especially) tell your daughter that she is beautiful. The other day I was eating dinner with friends, and probably heard this statement 5 times in a matter of 3 hours. This Dad's daughter was only 15 months or so (about) but she already knew that she was cherished by her Daddy. Priceless.
3. Teach your daughter biblical principles for attire. We don't have hem line measurements in Scripture, but we do have principles.
4. Shop with your daughters and walk them through things that might not be appropriate and tell them why.
5. Be involved in your daughter's life so she can come to you with her questions and her inadequacies and know that you care and love her.
6. Give your daughter a biblical world view of the gospel, her created self made in the image of the one true God, her role as woman, her spirit and heart that matter more than what she looks like on the outside.

Here are some Scriptures that teach on the above principles to pour over your daughter (maybe on a mom/daughter date night, or a wknd away, or just a morning breakfast of her fave pancakes): Gen 1:26-28; 1 Peter 3; Prov 7 (of how not to be); Prov 31 (of how to be); Col 3, 4; Gal 6.14; Prov 4.23.

Here are some books that might help you as well:

Girls Gone Wise - Mary Kassian (coming soon)
Your Girl - Vicki Courtney
Girl Talk - Mahaneys
Lies Young Women Believe - Nancy Leigh Demoss
Happily Ever After - Inquest Ministries

Talk with your daughter. Don't let the images that Mattel and other worldly manufacturers distribute be chiseled in their minds. The gospel is better.

Tuesday, March 02, 2010


A friend said to me last night, "Isn't it nice to be shepherded?"
YES - a resounding YES.
I haven't thought of the past few months - or even 2 years - in this term, but that is what has been happening in my life. I have had certain people come alongside me and encourage me, speak TRUTH into my life (exactly when I need it), care for me, spur me on, wish for me to succeed, pray for/with me, love me, and also realize that I'm stupid and listen to other voices.
Jesus talks a lot about sheep, and shepherds. I really liked this blog post from FL pastor, Timmy Brister: "Every one of Jesus’ sheep are safe and secure in the grip of the Good Shepherd who put the choke hold on death and crushed the head of the serpent."
I always need shepherding - but not everyone is a shepherd, and I'm not easily shepherded. There have been pastors in my life who have been shepherds, and I look forward to having 2 more. These pastors have also been friends of mine, and for that I am grateful.
Most of the time I need shepherding is when I listen to other things and am being stupid: and for me, that is most of the time fear of man - I listen to that dude a lot. But, when people come alongside me and remind me that life is not about man, or you - but ultimately it is about the gospel - that is what I need to hear. That is when I need to be shepherded.
But, also another aspect of a shepherd is the ability to love. I love being prized and delighted in. It is amazing that people would do that to/for me. It doesn't happen often. Its an odd thing: receiving love and/or praise. It is very hard for me to receive praise from just anyone - because I don't trust the sincerity of it. Most of the time words of praise have to be matched with action. But, being delighted in - just because of who you are and the gospel story that is on display in your life - that is amazing. When God brings someone into your life that delights in you - cherish it.
Being delighted in helps you to see the God in you, helps you to see the God in others, and increases your chance to succeed in ministry. Because, ultimately, again, its not about you - its about God. God living in you, God redeeming you, God shepherding you, God cherishing you, God loving the world, God shaping you, God refining you, God making you in right standing before Him, God being God.
Two verses on shepherding:

Psalm 100.3 - "Know that the Lord, He is God! It is He who made us, we are His. We are his people and the sheep of His pasture."
John 10.11, 27 - "I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. My sheep hear my voice, and I know them; they follow me."
I am thankful for earthly shepherded who reflect the love of the Good Shepherd to me in their guidance, delighting, and shepherding.

Who is your earthly shepherd?

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

D6 Conference Coming Soon!

If you are in ministry with youth, children, families: you don't want to miss this coming conference.

Some of the speakers:
Rob Rienow: Family Pastor at Wheaton Bible Church in Wheaton, IL
Steve Wright: Rethink and ApParent Privilege author, Student Pastor at Providence Baptist Church in Raleigh, NC
Randy Stinson: Dean, School of Church Ministries at SBTS, President for Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

From the Pen of Rob Rienow: Parenting and the Church

More reading - and passing along the nuggets of truth to you.
I have just finished 3 books by the same author: Rob Rienow, founder (with his wife, Amy) of Visionary Parenting and Family Pastor at Wheaton Bible Church in Wheaton, IL. I have spoken with Rob about ministry and then got to meet him and hear him teach a class at his church in January.
The three books that I have read are:
God's Grand Vision for the Home
Passing the Torch (just two chapters in a multi-author book)
Visionary Parenting (if I just got one, get this one)

Here are some valuable quotes from him and some personal thoughts:
"delegation parenting" - Love this term. It is what a lot of parents in the world today, even in the church, do to get someone else to teach, train, or discipline, or even just be friends with, their kids.
"What am I doing daily with this power and responsibility to impress the hearts of my kids with a love for God?"
"We need to set the example for our kids by putting ourselves under the authority of the Bible, allowing it to speak to our hearts, and letting our kids us talk about it." Honestly, I didn't grow up with this in the home. I went to a Christian school and church, but didn't have it spoken of much in the home. Not till I went to college and built a relationship with my mentor did this become a reality to me.
"Generation after generation have failed to win the souls of their children." I have spent the last month in the Old Testament. Many times, even in those genealogies many of us skip over, it speaks of the generations and if the sons followed after the fathers. Lineage, genealogy, and faith were very important to the Israelites.
"Christians (begin) to reflect the secular culture." When did we do this? Sad but true. We do it in parenting, in clothing, in books/movies. We are called out from the world, a chosen people, a royal priesthood. Back in seminary I had a square postcard on my closet door: The Church is not called to reflect the world, but to change it.
"At the heart of the advance of the Gospel is the call to parents to impress the hearts of their children with a love for God and for His Word." How does your own life reflect this love? Not only to your children, but also to your co-workers, your extended family, and people you meet in line at the grocery store?
"No one can compete with the power a parent has to shape the heart of a child. Your power to bless your children, to build character in their hearts, and to lead them to faith in Jesus Christ." See the first quote. The last two episodes of Criminal Minds - by far my favorite show on television - has been about the influence of fathers over their sons. Powerful stuff!
"God never calls us to do something and then abandons us when we seek to be obedient." This may be helpful to you in any situation you are facing right now. I've had to remind myself of this very thing as I get anxious about some changes coming in my life. God is so much more faithful to us than we could ever be to Him. He will not leave you!
"Our kids will remember who we are at home for more than what we accomplish in our work and activities outside our home."
"One of the subtle ways the enemy pulls parents away from their primary life mission of passing faith to their children is to get them over-involved at church." Wow. This was a power statement for me.

If you are a parent, work with parents, want to be a parent, know any parents (yes, I think that could just about include everyone who reads this blog), pick up these books. I think Visionary Parenting is a good overview and very convicting. These books have great theology, are packed with personal experience, advice, and practical tips, and are loaded with Scripture.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Valentine's Day 2010

This will go down as one of the best Valentine's Day EVER! God is so gracious to me and shows me HIS love in so many ways!
Actually, one of the best VDAY wknds EVER!
Friday: single red rose from my secret sister at work. Made my day and it smelled as only a rose can smell.
Saturday: bought some great new shoes, read about gospel-centered parenting, babysat for amazing kiddos and got some beautiful tulips and wonderful conversation with their parents after they returned from their date. Tulips are absolutively my favorite flower - to matter the color. This has to mean that Spring is on the way.
Sunday: got to hear 4 and 5 year old boys being taught about serving their sisters in Christ in Sunday School (by serving them their goldfish during snack time). Hung out with new friends from Louisianna for dinner and Sojourn 7pm. Pastor Daniel challenged us to give our BEST PRAISE to the amazing God! More on that coming on Wednesday in honor of Ash Wednesday.
And there is now a possibility of no school/work tomorrow because of 5-9 inches of snow coming over night. I love waking up to a white world. (But, I desparately want Spring to come quickly!)
I hope you had an amazing wknd too. God is love. May the Love of Christ compel us. And, as a 6 year old boy quoted this morning, "While we were still sinners, Christ died for us."