Thursday, March 29, 2007

Qualities of a Godly Woman: Part 1

I think in Christian circles we talk a lot about the necessity for male leadership. It’s not uncommon to hear girls on a college campus or in a youth group bemoan the lack of initiative from men—and honestly, I think sometimes men get a bad wrap. Don’t get me wrong, I think first and foremost we should be encouraging our men to step up, love the Gospel, and lead fervently, and it must start with them. But also, in our movement to raise up male leaders, we must also speak to women.

Godly men will be looking for godly wives, so how are we supposed to live?

I have talked before about the necessity for women to love theology—and I think that ties in here. We should saturate our minds with Scripture. Study it. Love it. Meditate on it. Memorize it. Live by it. As your life is centered around the Word of God, the characteristics of a godly woman will be begin to manifest themselves in your life. Male leadership does not mean that we default to their study of the Word as our sole source of spiritual nourishment. They will give an account for how they lead us, but if we love our Savior we should and will love His Word.

How will the children know if we don’t teach them? And how will we teach the children if we don’t know it, love it, and delight in it ourselves? We are all (men and women) called to know and love our Savior, but our roles as women are to teach women and children (Titus 2:3-5).

As I said earlier in the week, we must not be on a “quest” for a husband. Like the Bride waits unknowingly for her Bridegroom, Jesus Christ—so we too wait unknowingly for our future spouse. We must never assume a friendship is more than a friendship when it begins, lest we consciously or unconsciously take over a situation because of our false intuition. We won’t be able to wait unless we have a deep contentment in Jesus Christ. Waiting causes us to live out the theology that we believe. God’s sovereignty over every detail of our lives causes us to rest in the fact that He holds even the smallest details in His hands—even a man’s affections for us.

Being the pursued means exactly what it implies—waiting. Anything more than that turns into a rebellious, unbelieving spirit like Eve. Manipulation is our forte, isn’t it? And often times we do everything in our power to give the impression that we are patiently waiting, yet we coax the man along passive aggressively. It shows itself in our coordinating of situations so they perfectly leave us alone together so we can surprisingly have to “talk”. When we manipulate we are saying that God cannot be trusted in this situation—therefore we have to do something, anything, to make the situation work according to our liking. We usurp the very thing we desire, male leadership, when we attempt to pursue a man.

This is not easy, and it most certainly is not “normal” based on the world’s standards. Which is exactly why we must strive for this. The world preaches feminism and independence from any form of order (moral or social). But the Bible preaches a beautiful picture of redemption, in a Christ who purchases a Bride for Himself with His own blood. There is joy in waiting. There is joy in being pursued the way Christ pursued His Bride because it is the way God designed it. Operating outside of His prescribed parameters brings a joyless existence—and ultimately death.

In all of these things we must remember that our pursuit of God is not a means to finding a godly husband. If that is our motivation, then we need to do some serious thinking. Our pursuit of God must be because we want to get God—and if He so pleases to give us the gift of marriage then we will gladly take it, but in all of life our delight in Christ must be because of Christ, not because of what we think we might receive. May God bless you and increase your joy as you pursue Him with all of your heart and mind.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Qualities of a Godly Man

Yesterday I talked briefly about the supposed female “predicament” to “finding a husband.” I promised to continue writing about the issue because, like some of you have already pointed out, I recognize that I left the issue far from resolved. Katie and Steve were very observant, and kind, to point out “what are the explicit qualities of a biblical man?” and “how do you know if a man is biblical enough when no man is perfect?”

First, I would encourage anyone reading this to go to and read the sermon manuscripts from Pastor John’s two previous sermons on male headship. They are outstanding! He speaks to this issue in ways I would never even be able to.

When talking about the qualities of a godly man instead of getting bogged down in bullet point lists and man-made ideas—we should simply look to the Word of God. If we believe the relationship between Christ and the Church is manifested and displayed in the relationship between a husband and wife, then most certainly the characteristics that define biblical masculinity must come from our Savior Himself.

Ephesians 5:25-28 says: “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself.”

Christ died for the church. First and foremost a man must be willing to die—which demands an awesome amount of humility and grace. He dies because he has the best interest of his family at heart, mainly their spiritual maturity—so he dies seeking to present them to God blamelessly. A godly man feels the weight of his calling so much so that he knows that one day he will give an account for the way in which he handled and led his own household.

He must constantly be feeding his own soul through personal Bible reading, local church involvement, and reading good books. Why? Because he is the primary one who will be called on to answer the tough questions of the faith—whether at home or in the church.

So what does this mean for single men? Take action now to live a life of male leadership. Study your Bible. Know your Savior. Get involved in your church. Xbox won’t make you into a godly man, only serious devotion to your Savior will. Seek to serve the women in your life by cultivating godly leadership even in friendships. Stand up for the truth, and do not simply sit by when all of the women around you are speaking up—lead by example. You incapacitate yourself for leadership when you are spiritually passive and lazy.

In light of all of this, it may seem quite daunting and weighty. And it should to some degree. But if we look at the whole of Ephesians leading up to this passage we see that this is a fruit of Gospel-living. The Gospel enables men to live this way. Apart from the saving work of Jesus Christ our dead hearts would have no interest in biblical manhood and womanhood. We may feel like Paul who says, “O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?” (Romans 7:24) and we can proclaim with all certainty “Christ will!” because He has delivered us—and raised us to walk in newness of life.

As women, that is where we should rest if men are not acting biblically. Will God give you a man who fulfills all of these qualities right away? Maybe so, maybe not. There must be an element of patience as we are in a relationship with someone who is not leading like we would like. Perfection is not attainable in this life, so the men in our lives will not love us like Christ loved the Church all of the time, and they will not lead us like Christ leads the Church all of the time. We should be looking for evidences of grace that show us that this man is truly seeking to live a God-honoring life through local church involvement and study of the Word. In addition to that, it is important to solicit the prayers and involvement of Godly, wise, older believers who can offer you wise counsel as you navigate through the challenges of male/female relationships.

In all of these things we must remember that we will fail more times than we will get it right. But we have a great Savior who redeems even the vilest of situations for His glory. And He will mold and save a people for Himself because He promised, and we know that He who promised is faithful.

To be continued…

Also, I recognize that there is much that I don’t see and haven’t addressed, so I welcome any input and feedback on what you see in the Bible characterizes a godly man.

(tomorrow, or someday this week, I will address how the Bible says women should be as they wait on God to bring a godly man into their life)

Monday, March 26, 2007

Unrealistic Expectations?

My pastor is preaching through some major texts on marriage, which has proven, as always, to be a Gospel-centered time of Bible study and growth. He is currently on male headship and in lieu of his sermon yesterday I found myself in a conversation with a group of young women. To premise this conversation I will give you his three main points that he then fleshed out (and that you can listen to at when they put the sermon up this week). Here they are:

1. Godly, male leadership means spiritual and physical provision
2. Godly, male leadership means spiritual and physical protection

The overwhelming consensus among these women was “we really aren’t ever going to find a man who is like that.” And unfortunately this is not an uncommon concern among young women. I have had many older women tell me “oh honey, good luck finding a man who will lead you. They just aren’t out there.” One of the young women whom I was speaking with yesterday said she had an older woman tell her this week that she should be more realistic in her expectations and not be looking for “Jesus” because He’s not going to come back and marry her.

I graciously disagree with the sentiments of these older women on so many levels, and would venture to say that their ideas about marriage are probably stemming from unmet expectations by the men in their own lives. But is it biblical?


Marriage is the exact way that God has decided to display the mystery of the Gospel—the image of Christ and His Church. Of course He wants us to live according to the Scriptures. The longings of these young women’s hearts are not false hopes and unrealistic expectations—they are longings put there by their Creator because He wants us to display His glory. If God did not want us to strive and desire male leadership then He would not have put it in the Bible for us to examine and live by.

We live in a culture of overwhelmingly low expectations of everything. We have become so desensitized to laziness and conformity that we almost expect our men to sit on the couch with a remote control while they drool on their t-shirts watching NASCAR and Sports Center (not that there is anything wrong with Sports Center, or NASCAR). We must get out of the cultural norms and see what the Bible says about how we should live, instead of embracing complacency. This is not the model for biblical manhood, and we need to begin recognizing it as such. For far too long we have laughed off male (and female) immaturity as simply a fad to be grown out of. But what we are now seeing is that they are not growing out of it—delayed adulthood seems fun. This does not mean, though, that as Christian women we should acquiesce and take the “leftovers”. We must be willing to wait on a godly man, even if it means never getting married, or getting married when we are forty. We are not displaying the mystery of Christ when we hurriedly marry a “Peter Pan-type” man because we are fearful of becoming an old maid.

Secondly, when we expect men to live according to the Scriptures, then we won’t need to “find him”, he will find us. Biblical manhood necessitates pursuing and wooing a woman, because Christ’s relationship to His Bride necessitates Him pursuing and wooing her to Himself. Our desires are correct because they were put there by a loving Father who wants our contentment in our roles to display His glory. But in our desire for a man who leads according to the principles laid out in the Bible, we must not be a on a “quest” for him. Just like our Savior found us in our pig sty and lovingly rescued us, so will our future husband (when the time is right, which we don’t get to decide) lovingly pursue us and bring us to himself.

To be continued…

(I decided because there is so much more I want to say about this, I will talk more in my next post, maybe tomorrow, about biblical womanhood in relation to our desire for a godly man)

Friday, March 23, 2007

Where Have all the Theologians Gone?

Very rarely do I find myself in agreement with the contributors to the Christians for Biblical Equality and Today’s Christian Woman blog—but I must admit, when I ventured over there today, I was nodding my head in affirmation of what was being said (sort of).

The topic was women and theology, and the argument was made that so often women’s ministries simply settle for “fluff and feeling” leaving many women dissatisfied and alienated from women’s ministry—not to mention it leaves a tremendous void in the souls of the women. The post from the Today’s Christian Woman blog, dated February 27, talks about the absence women’s conferences, retreats, ministries, and bible studies that focus on the mind, in addition to the heart.

Rosalie De Rosset says,
“As an example, in the two or more decades I have been speaking at women’s conferences and retreats, I have often chosen to address the importance of good reading and solid Bible study in the Christian life. Often, the leadership has been hesitant when they hear my choice of subject, wondering if perhaps something more practical, more mainstream (dare I say predictable) would be a better subject—something like how to have devotions or how to discern the will of God or how to pray more successfully and consistently.”

Though a true statement, this saddens me. And even though I agree with the assessment that this woman has made, I don’t agree with this blog’s usual understanding of what womanhood is. I love theology, and I can hardly make it out of the church bookstore without purchasing another book that I don’t have time to read. I am frequently teased by my roommates for my Wish List selection on Amazon and my excitement over new books that I find. But I don’t love theology because I want to be a seminary professor or a pastor. First and foremost I love theology because I love God, and theology is knowing God. There is no excuse for a woman to say she does not care about theology—all of us should be vigorous students of the Word of God. Secondly, I love theology because I love seeing women embrace theology and understand it for the first time. I study so I may tell other women about Christ. If women do not have a clear understanding of biblical truth who will teach the next generation of women? Who will teach the children—the next generation of pastors?

And so, women should desire to know theology—but not because we want to be like men, but because we want to be like women. Theological insight is not relegated to men, it is for all people. All of us are commanded to love God with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength. My prayer for my generation is that we would see a rise of women who embrace their role as biblical women and stand in the face of culture and feminism—yet stand because they know and love their Savior, not their feelings.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Going to the Chapel: Where is the Tradition?

There is an article in Tuesday's USA Today entitled "More Men Taking Wive's Last Names" which talks about the rise of men legally taking on their wives names upon marriage. Apparently it doesn't always go over very well with the friends and family who are waiting for them in the receiving line.

At first glance it might not seem like a big deal, but piggy-backing off of my post yesterday, this too addresses a pressing issue in our culture. We have made marriage into whatever we want it to be. Gone are the days of godly, and stealing a word from John Piper, “lion-hearted and lamblike” days of male leadership. Now we have a new wave of young couples redefining what it actually means to live in wedded bliss.

What does this mean for us? Is it really a big deal if men take on the last names of their wives? It’s just a name right? Not really. The fact that men are spending $350 dollars to legally become the subordinate in the relationship is something that should make us think. One husband said “I wanted to tweak the tradition while showing my wife I love her."

That’s a far cry from the words of our God through the Apostle Paul in Ephesians 5:25 where he says, “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.” Christ loved the church by leading her, protecting her, and dying for her. There is no question about roles and leadership in Christ’s relationship to His Bride the Church—yet His love for her is evident and undeniable.

So, what does this mean for us? If we embrace the idea that love means denying roles and changing “tradition” then we are showing the world that we have a Christ who abandons His Church—which is blasphemous and a hindrance to the spreading of the Gospel. The greatest act of love a husband can ever display to his wife is to love her as our Lord Jesus Christ so mercifully loved us. It’s not tradition that we are seeking to recover; it’s the authority of the Bible. Because after all, it’s not just a name—it’s an entire worldview.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Are Children a Choice?

Last night I was asked a question by a young woman that kept me thinking for the better part of today. Is it right, or wrong, for Christians to willingly choose to be childless? Voluntary childlessness is not uncommon in the day of the pro-choice movement and feminism—in fact, many young couples are now opting for childlessness for the sake of saving their careers. At first glance, it might seem like not a huge deal, because in actuality it really is their life, right? As Christians, we must always think of these things in light of the Word of God.

First, the Bible says “be fruitful and multiply” (Gen. 1:28, Gen. 9:1, Gen. 35:11). God wants His people to procreate—He created us to procreate. If Christians voluntarily choose to be childless, where will the next generation of Christians come from?

Second, all through the Old and New Testament we do not see willingly childless women. We see women desperately crying out to God to open up their wombs. Sarah, Rachel, Hannah, and Elizabeth all felt the sting of infertility in the fact that they could not, on their own, fulfill their role as mothers.

Third, children are a gift and not a choice. Aggressive feminist and abortion rights ideology has indoctrinated us with the idea that we can “choose” our family make-up. That is not what God intended. We must recover what has been lost and show to a lost world the beauty and blessing of biblical womanhood in bearing children. There are countless women who would give anything to have a little one, and I would venture to say that it is nothing less than a selfish, entitlement attitude that says we have a “right” to not have children. God is the one who opens and closes the womb, and married Christians should be open to the idea of children. The quest for a career should not cause the Christian to abandon the command to be fruitful and multiply.

As we look at the church today we must ask ourselves if the mass movement of young, Christian’s couples deciding to remain childless is actually a sign of the infiltration of culture into church life. We are seeing an erosion of Christian witness when we embrace cultural ideas, like delayed adulthood and childlessness, and make them our own.

John Piper in his message “Adoption: The Heart of the Gospel” clearly articulates the Christian response to children, and I close leaving you with his words. He answers the question far better than I ever could.

“Few things bring me more satisfaction than seeing a culture of adoption flourish at Bethlehem. It means that our people are looking to their heavenly Father for their joy rather than rejecting the stress and cost of children in order to maximize their freedom and comforts. When people embrace the pain and joy of children rather than using abortion or birth control simply to keep children away, the worth of Christ shines more visibly. Adoption is as far as possible from the mindset that rejects children as an intrusion. Praise God for people ready to embrace the suffering—known and unknown. God’s cost to adopt us was infinitely greater than any cost we will endure in adopting and raising children.” (Event Message, “Adoption the Heart of the Gospel, February 10, 2007:

Nothing shatters the pro-choice movement more than Christians willingly embracing the gift of children—especially children that are not “biologically” theirs. As women, we should desire motherhood, even if marriage and pregnancy are not on the horizon. Motherhood may never give us earthly wealth, power, or prestige. But our treasure is not here—our crown awaits us with our Heavenly Father. Unless we resolve to live counter-culturally in every aspect of our lives, we will have no voice with which to proclaim the Gospel—it will be washed up in the culture as we seek to selfishly obtain a crown here on earth. Adoption, children, and marriage are all things that God ordained to lift high His Son, Jesus Christ. May we be willing to renounce culture and entitlement and live according to His Word.

Volunteering with girls

Erika and I took a couple of our high school girls to help with an inner-city Bible club for kids in our neighborhood. The girls asked me to put pictures up on the blog, so I am fulfilling their wish. (Here you go Hannah and Whitney!)

Often times it is easy to go about my day and never really think about the fact that there are hundreds of children in my neighborhood who live in darkness and hopelessness. Many of them live only a few feet away from me while I bury my nose in a book or sit in front of CNN thinking about all of the horrors of the Fall in our world, when in actuality I don't need to go that far to see it--it's right accross the street.

And so, we went to help out with this kids club because we wanted aid in the spreading of the Gospel, but also we wanted to see what life was like outside of our comfort zone. May God keep us constantly burdened for the souls of the nations--even in our own neighborhoods, and may we not forget the children who fall asleep afraid and alone.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Happy St. Patty's Day

Patty wants everyone to know that he is happy that it is St. Patty's Day!

(p.s. If you look closely, you will see that the Pat Green shirt he is wearing is not his. He stole it--from me. But I think that Patty wearing a Pat Green shirt is very fitting for the occasion.)

Friday's Devotional: Learning from the Patriarch's Part 2

“I don’t read the Old Testament because it has no relevance for me—it’s the Old Covenant. The New Testament pertains to me because it is about Jesus.”

I did not say that. A fellow student said that to me my first year at Northwestern while we were studying for an OT exam. Unfortunately, many students, and Christians for that matter, breeze over the Old Testament because they find it archaic and, well—boring. That being said, I love the Old Testament (and the New Testament). Every part of the Bible from Genesis to Revelation is proclaiming the greatness of Christ and the power of the Cross. The Old Testament is a foreshadowing of the coming Messiah and the New Testament is the proclamation that He has come!

My Friday devotional is still from Genesis, and the Lord has blessed me and convicted me tremendously through my study of the Patriarch’s. Genesis 22 is a very familiar passage—the sacrifice of Isaac. It is a passage filled with hope because we can know and rest in the fact that God provides our sacrifice, God provides our ransom.

Verse 8 says: “Abraham said, ‘God will provide for himself the lamb for a burnt offering, my son.’”

And God did. The atonement was where the wrath of God was satisfied. The sacrifice of Jesus Christ was to appease God the Father. Abraham knew that God was the one who saved. Sinful man cannot provide his own sacrifice, it must come from another place.

This is what the Old Testament believers held to. Sin must be dealt with, and the animal sacrificial system was not enough—Messiah had to come. Redemptive history, and even the Old Testament, is laying for us a framework and understanding of the greatness of our sin before a holy, righteous God, and the power of Christ in taking on the judgment for that sin on our behalf.

The God of the Universe did provide a sacrifice for Abraham, and God credited his faith in that promise as righteousness, and the God of the Universe provided a sacrifice for us as well—Jesus Christ, the Word made flesh. Understanding and knowing the Old Testament is crucial to the growth of a Christian because without it we cannot adequately interpret the New Testament.

Messianic promises in the Old Testament enable us to rest in the future grace of our God. We don’t need to fear because God will, and has provided the sacrifice on our behalf. Don’t despair Christian, Christ is your righteousness. May God awaken in you a deep love for the whole counsel of God, and may He grant you the discipline and grace to know His word from Genesis to Revelation!

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

What Does it Mean to Be Relevant?

I love words, so much so that if I don’t know what a word means, I will go look it up in a dictionary so that I have no excuse for not knowing the definition of the word in question (which I am sure is a form of pride, but that is not the point here).

Often times in evangelical circles, and other circles too, we throw around words that display to the people in our circle that we know what’s going on—that we are up with the times. I did this when I first came back to Christ. I grew up in a Reformed, Christian home, but somehow didn’t exactly know what “sovereign” meant. At the Christian college that I attended, “sovereign” was the big buzz word, and was thrown around in sentences, so I started throwing it around in sentences, not exactly sure what I was saying. All this to say, often times we use words that sound like we are knowledgeable, yet really they are cover-ups for our own pride and naivety. Now, I am not advocating for a mass exodus from theological language in evangelical circles. I love theological language. Justification makes my heart sing! Theology is essential to a Christian’s faith and growth. I am simply trying to prove a point about how often we like to use words because they sound cool, without ever defining them, or knowing what they mean ourselves—speaking of cool, the word I want to talk about is “relevant”.

Before I go any further, I would like to say that my intent with this post is not to offend anyone. I am simply trying to define a word that is popular and give my assessment of the effect that it has had on the church. I am not an expert by any stretch of the imagination; these are simply my own observations, and what I believe the Bible teaches on this issue.

Relevant is the new word of mainstream evangelicalism. I read an article yesterday about a group of churches that are redefining church in order to reach target audiences. I won’t bother mentioning the article because the article could have been written about a host of other people, churches, ministries, etc. Reading the article, I realized that if each of the people mentioned were asked to define “relevant” they probably would all come up with a different answer.

And so, we see now in so many churches a sort of segregation based on the relevance factor—we have the church who’s target audience is the counter-culture, we have the church who’s target audience is baby boomers, we have the church who’s target audience is Hollywood, and so on and so on. Any stream of society could be inserted here. Relevance, like so much of post-modern culture, has actually become whatever you make it to be, and more often than not, where we want to be “relevant” is really only with a specific target audience—the cool, young people who have influence, who are “going” somewhere. There aren’t a lot of people moving to Appalachia because they want to be relevant in those communities. Or how about the nursing homes, I don’t see a lot of church planters trying to be relevant there.

In no way am I saying that relevance is not important. It is massively important, but I think that our churches have never really defined or lived out cultural relevancy, and so in turn we have an entire movement/generation of people who are hyper-reacting to the so-called “fundamentalists” of their parent’s era, and in turn capitulating to culture. Relevance is not dumbing down the Gospel in order to make people think Jesus is cool and in turn want to follow Him. Relevance is giving people what they need in their souls, not what they think they need. If we only reach out to felt-needs we will run out of options when someone tells us they don’t need anything.

Instead, we must tell them the most relevant thing of all, the thing that transcends culture, class, and generational lines— “This saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost” (1 Timothy 1:15). That is the most relevant statement you could ever say to someone. Not because, like so many people like to say, “See I’m a sinner, I’m just as messed up as you are—and God doesn’t care, He loves you just the way you are.” Paul is not using that verse as a license to sin, but as an example of the greatness of the righteousness of Christ. Because one thing that never changes, no matter how much the culture shifts, is the fact that from the Fall to the End, from Genesis to Revelation, the human race is sinful and in need of a Great Savior. What is going to happen when the people in your “biker ministry” church don’t feel like being biker’s anymore, or when all your young, hip, twenty-something’s become thirty—will you kick them out? Dropping a few cuss words into a sermon and going out to bars on Friday nights just to show people that Christians can be cool too is not relevant—it’s compromise, and when Christians begin to engage the culture in a way that does not react to the generation before them, but actually lives counter-culturally, that sends a clearer message than all the swear words in the English language. Tailor-making churches in order to reach a specific audience is really limiting our ability to spread the Gospel to the masses, because when we reach out to target audiences are only reaching small percentiles of people, not all peoples, like we are told to in Scripture. Churches are to be a reflection of the Kingdom of God, which includes the bikers, the former drug addicts, the former homeless person, the wealthy baby boomer, the college student, the elderly woman, and the tiniest infant.

I recognize that I am extremely old-fashioned, and probably as far from relevant as humanly possible, but I wonder what would happen if we abandoned our methods and programming and simply got back to the Gospel, once for all delivered to the Saints, and stopped trying to be cool to so many different people, it really is exhausting. We should not be living and ministering so we can grace the next cover of "Relevant Magazine" or be hailed as "cool Christians." Our Savior was not cool, He was hated. And we must be content with being hated too if we are ever to make a difference in the lives of people. The Gospel is foolishness to those who are perishing, not "coolness".

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Happy Birthday Annalise!

I recognize that this is only interesting to the Tarter family. But, seeing as how only half of the Tarter's were able to experience this wonderful occasion, it seems only fitting that I put up pictures from our exciting day at Chuck-E-Cheese. My niece turns four on Tuesday, so we had a little party for her at every child's favorite pizza place.

First, let me say that I think that you lose all ability to act like an adult the minute you step foot in Chuck-E-Cheese.

She drove the race car, I pushed the gas pedal.

They were in a competition, Zach lost.

Mimi Strelecki, Erica, and Anna

The Birthday Girl!

We missed you Momma, Daddy, and Micah. It wasn't the same without you! Jerm asked me if I thought that the Chuck-E-Cheese in Texas was way bigger than the one here, and then I preceded to tell him that everything looked bigger when we were eight. As you can see, nothing has changed up here!

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Passing the Bible on to our Daughters

I was at a conference a month ago, where the topic pertained to biblical manhood and womanhood. This is an issue that is very near to my heart because I see the devastating effects that feminism has had on our culture, and now the church. Something that one of the speakers said really stood out to me. In talking about women's bible studies, he mentioned the necessity for women to know how to actually teach the Bible to other women and not simply delegate bible study time to a DVD. In allowing a women's bible study to simply be a DVD of a popular female teacher, what actually happens is that it teaches the women in the group that you must be a nationally known speaker in order to teach the Bible. DVD's are good and helpful, but should not be the sole source of teaching that falls on the ears of our women.

I agree with him. If we do not, as women, first and foremost desire to study the Bible on our own, we will not be able to teach it to other women. The first step in training younger women is to first know the Bible, and desire the Bible, and to never grow tired of the Bible. The second step is to understand that Titus 2:3-5, which says, "They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands,” does not mean to pop in a DVD and that is the extent of the training. We have lost, in our churches, a deep reverence for the Word of God in our women’s ministries and subsequently this has happened in our children and youth ministries as well. We treat Bible study as something that men do, and women simply talk about feelings and what the Bible means to them.

Titus 2 ministry is about training the women to love the Book, to love their Savior, and to desire to know Him. And if we do not train our women to know their Bible’s and know Jesus Christ, who will teach the children? The high calling of motherhood means passing on Gospel truths to your children, and if you are not married, passing on Gospel truths to someone else’s children. This requires great faithfulness and desire to know the Gospel for ourselves. As women we have a distinct calling to teach women and to teach children, and it means teaching them the whole counsel of God from birth to adulthood. Being a biblical woman in today’s society will require a radical shift from what evangelical churches have been doing for so long. It will require women to embrace theology, not because we want to be like men, but because loving theology is loving and knowing our God. It will require women to take seriously the calling to motherhood and seeing that it is not simply feeding babies and changing diapers (though these are important), but a distinct and serious job that will impact the culture and church for years to come.

We must train our daughters to know their Bibles. We must reclaim women’s bible studies as a time of serious study and reflection on the Word of God, not because we want to be like men, but because we want to be like women—women who know their Savior. You don’t have to be a nationally known speaker and author to teach the Bible to women. You don’t have to be seminary trained. The Kingdom of God is made manifest when godly older women, who love Christ, sit in a small country church and open the Word of God to the next generation. This is counter-cultural, and it is beautiful.

Friday, March 9, 2007

Friday's Devotional: Learning from the Patriarch's

I decided to start posting a Friday devotional. It will consist primarily of what I have been learning throughout the week in my time in the Word.

God has been teaching me a lot about the faithfulness of His promises, and how since He is the Creator and I am the created, I do not get to decide what is best for me. I’m reading through Genesis right now, and this week have been reading through the story of Abraham.

Faith is not easy, but it is what we are called to. It’s not easy to trust when we don’t know the outcome of a particular situation. I need constant reminders from the Bible that God always knows the outcome of my circumstances, even if I cannot see ahead of my surroundings. And the answer to my uncertainty is not to frantically try and micromanage the outcome. The answer is always more faith, more hope in God.

In Genesis 12:10-20 Abraham lied to Pharaoh by saying that Sarah was his sister. He was afraid that Pharaoh would see Sarah and want her for his own, and in turn kill Abraham. But Abraham did not enter Egypt without hope, God had told him, in verses 2 and 3, that he would make Abraham a great nation. That promise did not change upon entering Egypt, in fact it should have given Abraham more courage to tell the truth—God had promised him life. The external circumstances looked bleak, so instead of falling back on God’s faithfulness, he trusted in his own feeble ability to protect himself—which backfired.

But God does not leave Abraham there. He pursues him. He chases after Him and conforms Him to the dictates of a Holy Creator by making Him trust. He continually puts situation after situation in front of Abraham saying “I am your God, I will fulfill all I have promised.”

In Genesis 15:4-6 we begin to see a change in Abraham. God still is promising Abraham a son, and Abraham believes God’s promises and the faith is credited as righteousness. Abraham had no tangible thing to hold onto. He only had the Word of God, and he trusted it. We must trust the promises of God. All of our attempts to take matters into our own hands are professions of unbelief—which ultimately lead to death. Death is waiting for us if we consistently usurp the authority of God over us and take control of our situations. We don’t always know why God puts us in periods of trusting, and sometimes we may never know. But we have the Bible to tell us that He is faithful, and “no good thing does he withhold from those who walk uprightly. O LORD of hosts, blessed is the one who trusts in you!” (Psalm 84:11b-12).

That is what God does to us to make us trust Him. He knows exactly what we need to conform us into the image of Christ. Everything is about Christ. All of our circumstances, all of our suffering, all of our waiting, all of our sorrows—all of these things are meant to lift high the King of Kings and conform us into His likeness.

When we begin to feel like God is not answering us quickly enough, and we want to give up on this Christian life all together, we must remember that our Creator really is Sovereign, and He has not left us. There is an answer coming, even if the only answer we ever get is that Christ has redeemed us. There is no other place to go. We either can walk in the light of Christ knowing that God will work all details out for our joy and good and His ultimate glory, or we can walk in darkness following the wide road to death. We can either believe God and receive the credit of Christ’s righteousness, or we can go our own way thinking that we know best. One of my new favorite songs by Keith Getty starts out like this:

“My hope rests firm on Jesus Christ, He is my only plea. Though all the world shall point and scorn, His ransom leaves me free.”

The blood of Jesus Christ that paid my ransom should bind me to the Cross forever and cause me never to run away from trusting the great promises of God. Choose today whom you will serve.

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Mother Sues Planned Parenthood for Botched Abortion

A Massachusetts woman (according to today’s Boston Globe) has sued a doctor and Planned Parenthood for malpractice regarding her abortion. The problem—the abortion didn’t work, and now she is upset that she has to raise the child. She is suing them demanding repayment for damages and child support, since she is now stuck raising an “unwanted child.”

Initially when I read this article, I was angry at the woman for dragging her disdain for her child out this long (the abortion procedure was performed two years ago). Then I was angry at a justice system that would allow such a thing to even make it past the initial complaint. But the thing that struck me most was the fact that this is about more than a botched abortion that resulted in an unwanted baby. This is about a little girl who will one day grow up into a woman, and will know that her mother fought against her not only when she was in the womb but two years after she entered this world. Not only will she grow up knowing that her mother tried to have her killed once, but she will grow up (with the court and news media documentation to prove it) knowing that her mother didn’t even want her after she saw her face for the first time.

We live in a strange world where mothers can so flippantly disregard their children as mere lifestyle choices that can be terminated at will. But even stranger, that mothers can now sue Planned Parenthood for child support when they fail to do what they promise—kill their babies. We have so separated the maternal instinct from child birth. Gone are the days where mothers feel a deep connection with their unborn children. Post-feminist America has distorted our understanding of what it means to be a mother. I pray for this little two year old, that one day she will be brought to saving faith in Christ and know that we serve a sovereign heavenly Father who did not allow her mother’s selfish lifestyle choice to bring about an end to her little life.

Death Has No Sting

I lived for 23 years before I ever had to face the reality of death, and I don’t know if that was good for me, or bad. Good in the sense that I was spared from immense loss throughout childhood, but bad because I never really had to think about my own mortality in tangible ways—this person was alive and here, and now they are not.

Joan Garrett, my grandmother, passed away in August. She lived for 80 years, which is a full life compared to many. And as I heard the news this weekend of the impending death of my pastor’s father, I was forced to think again about my own grandmother’s death that is still fresh in my mind.

There were many things that Grandma’s dying taught me. But the thing that struck me most, as I heard the announcement this Sunday, was how grateful I am that Grandma and Grandpa gave me my mom, and most importantly that they took my mom to a church where she could hear the Gospel and repent and believe. I am convinced that the reason I am the woman I am today is because of the prayers, teaching, and example of my mom (and dad of course, sorry daddy, I’ll write about you later). The things that Grandma taught my mom, she passed on to me. I do not remember that often enough.

As Grandma was getting near the end, Mom never left her. The horrors of death and the awful reality of a failing body did not scare Mom away. She stayed until the end, singing hymns and reading Scripture. The Gospel truths that Grandma passed onto Mom were made manifest in her willingness to give up many nights of sleep in order to stay by the bedside of my failing Grandma.

Dying is not a pretty picture. We cover it with fancy caskets and dolled-up corpses, all the while trying to hide from the fact that death is imminent. We cannot escape it. One day all of us will be in that casket, but most importantly all of us will be meeting our Maker. The reason why Mom could sit with my Grandma is because of the Gospel. Death had no sting for Grandma and death has no sting for Mom. It’s sad, but it really isn’t the end. The victory of Jesus Christ over the grave enables us to sit with the dying because we have nothing to fear in death. Jesus paid it all.

And so, as I reflect on the dying and suffering that is all around me, I am grateful. Grateful that a Sovereign Creator before the foundation of the world planned to put me in a family where I would hear the Gospel. And someday, when my Mom is preparing to meet her King, I will be able to sit up all night with her too, singing to her the songs that she once sang to me, knowing that death is not the end, and one day Grandma, Mom, and I will all be praising our Savior together for eternity.

Thursday, March 1, 2007

Blizzard: Part 2

Just in case you (and by you, I mean the 3 people who read this blog) don't believe that the recent Minnesota snowfall was a blizzard, just take a look at the largest snowman ever (in my limited opinion) crafted by our wonderful neighbors, the Vitullos. Their being wonderful not only stems from their ability to make snowman of gigantic proportions, but also because they willingly snow blowed our walkway!

p.s. They also made the six 'o clock news, and the Desiring God blog, which in my opinion is a much greater honor!

And just in case you think this snow madness is over, we are supposed to get 8 more inches this afternoon. Looks like I will be putting my new found shoveling talents to use.