Saturday, December 26, 2009

"Will You Marry Me?"

A year ago Christmas Eve my husband proposed to me here in Florida. I meant to post this on Christmas Eve but ran out of time. So here it is a few days later. Needless to say, I was very surprised! He was so patient with me through my entire dramatic reaction. He is still patient with me. I had no idea he was coming and I usually can figure out surprises. This time I was totally shocked, if you couldn't tell by my relentless screaming. Hope you enjoy the video!

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas from the Reissigs! We are settling in after a long day of fellowship, food, and presents. But as the day comes to a close, I don't want to forget that Christ will one day come to earth again. This is good news. Below are the lyrics to one of my favorite Christmas songs. The words bring me to tears every time.

In the first light of a new day
No one knew He had arrived
Things continued as they had been
While a new born softly cried.

But the heavens wrapped in wonder
Knew the meaning of His birth
In the weakness of a baby
They knew God had come to earth.

As His mother held him closely,
It was hard to understand
That her baby not yet speaking
Was the Word of God to man.

He would tell them of His kingdom,
But their hearts would not believe
They would hate Him and in anger
They would nail Him to a tree.

But the sadness would be broken
As the song of life arose
And the first born of creation
Would ascend and take his throne.

He had left it to redeem us,
But before His life began
He knew He´d come back not as a baby
But as the Lord of every man.

Hear the angels as they´re singing
On the morning of His birth
But how much greater will our song be
When He comes again
When He comes again

Hear the angels as they´re singing
On the morning of His birth
But how much greater will our song be
When He comes again to Earth

When He comes to rule the Earth!

Glory to the newborn King! Praying that you are trusting in this precious and glorious King today and always. Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 21, 2009

The Genealogy of Jesus

Have you ever wondered why certain women are in the genealogy of Jesus? Have you ever been surprised when you go back and read their stories? On Friday, I came across a post at the Christianity Today Women’s blog that caught my attention. The initial post was not about Christ’s genealogy per se, but it was about the truth regarding Mary’s shame over her pregnancy. The author seeks to argue that Mary was not shrouded with illegitimacy claims for the remainder of her life because of the nature of her betrothal to Joseph. In other words, she was not considered an unwed mother. What struck me most were the last few paragraphs that served as a rationale for why Mary was not stuck with the scarlet letter of adultery for the rest of her life.

"Finally, some argue that Matthew is emphasizing Mary’s marginality by highlighting four immoral women in Jesus’ genealogy: Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, Bathsheba (called the wife of Uriah the Hittite) (see Matt. 1:2-17). However, it is arguable that all four have histories of faithfulness in the face of troubles. Tamar is credited with doing the right thing in holding her father-in-law to account for failing to look after her. Ruth is repeatedly praised for her obedience to her mother-in-law and to Boaz. Bathsheba was taken from her home by King David, and the text places no blame on her for his misdeed. Only Rahab is identified as a prostitute, but in saving the Hebrew spies and siding with Israel, she redeemed herself and her family — she is a heroine of the story. It remains unclear to me what motivated Matthew to compose his genealogy as he did, but we can rule out the suggestion that the list reinforced Mary’s suspected sexual impropriety."

In all of these cases the text is silent regarding their actions. The Bible doesn’t explicitly say, “and Tamar committed sin by sleeping with her father-in-law.” We know enough to understand that God does not approve of adultery and deception. But God used the line of Judah to bring the Christ into the world. The Bible also doesn’t explicitly condemn Bathsheba for committing adultery (and we also aren’t told if she is forced into it or not). But we are not told exactly that there is no blame placed on her. Again, God used her son, Solomon, to carry on the line of David.

The thing that is so sad about this statement is that it implies that God used only obedient women to bring about his purposes. What hope is there for the Tamar, Bathsheba, and Ruth of today if they were not really what the text says they were? If what this author is saying is true, there is certainly no hope for me?

The reality is we can look at Bathsheba and Tamar and say that yes, they committed sexual sin, but God redeemed their lives and their families in the most amazing way—Messiah would come through them. The circumstances and family line surrounding the birth of our Christ were so unlikely, and so not king-like. But that is the beauty of it all. It’s our story, too. We are the Bathsheba’s, Tamar’s, Rahab’s, and Ruth’s. We were all once Gentiles, sinners, immoral, and outside of God’s family. But he redeemed us, just like he redeemed them.

The great part about their stories is not that they were faithful in the middle of trouble, but that God can, and does, redeem awful people for his glory. God chooses the unlikely to bear his name, so his grace and salvation is made much of. This is the Christmas story, and it is our story too.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Preparing My Heart for Christmas Part 2

One of the great things about the book I am reading during Advent is that I gain new perspectives on Christmas. I think about it in a different way, or see it from another angle, and am changed and encouraged. Martyn Lloyd-Jones chapter was so helpful in preparing my heart and mind for Christmas. Listen to what he says:

“What God did when he sent his Son into the world is an absolute guarantee that he will do everything he has ever promised to do. Loot at it in a personal sense: ‘All things for together for good to them that love God’—that is a promise—‘to them who are the called according to his purpose’ (Rom. 8:28). ‘But how can I know that is true for me?’ asks someone. The answer is the incarnation. God has given the final proof that all his promises are sure, that he is faithful to everything he has ever said. So that promise is sure for you. Whatever your state or condition may be, whatever may happen to you, he has said, ‘I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee’ (Heb. 13:5)—and he will not. He has said so, and we have absolute proof that he fulfills his promises. He does not always do it immediately in the way we think. No, no! But he does it! And he will never fail to do it.”

—taken from Come Thou Long Expected Jesus: Experiencing the Peace of Promise of Christmas

As I prepare my heart for Christmas, I want to reflect on the fact that this day is a celebration of the greatest promise ever made and kept. All of God’s promises find their “yes” in Jesus Christ. And it started in the manger.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Happy Birthday, Micah

Today my youngest brother turns 20. It's really hard to believe he is already 20. I remember going to the hospital with my dad and two brothers to visit him and my mom, and now here he is turning 20. I have so enjoyed watching him grow into a man these last 20 years. I value his opinion, appreciate his friendship, and admire his walk with the Lord. He is a great brother and I am so thankful for him. He also makes us laugh, a ton. We like that about him, too.

Happy Birthday, Micah. We love you!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

The Life of Peter

The Apostle Peter’s life has always fascinated me. Maybe it’s because I can relate to the whole “foot in the mouth” moment a little too much. The thing that strikes me most in Peter’s life is how broken he was in the moment following his denial. I can’t imagine the sorrow he felt after repeated denials. Wait. Yes, I can. Maybe I am drawn to Peter’s story because it is my story too. I have not seen the actual face of the Savior look over at me in the moments of my denial, but he was there. And I felt his presence.

I would imagine that Peter never got over that moment. It was a defining moment for him. It changed him. Maybe he knew what happened to Judas and knew that Judas’ remorse led to death. But Peter had another way. One of the most comforting passages to me is when Jesus says to Peter in Luke 22:31-32, “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan has demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.”

The only difference between Judas and Peter is Jesus, and only Jesus. The only difference between any person who denies Christ and me is Jesus. God can take a brash, impulsive, cowardice man and turn his tongue and will for good. And he did.

I’m sure Peter never forgot that night around the fire. He was always mindful of his sin—but he was always mindful of his Savior, too. He knew it was Jesus keeping him that dark and sorrowful night, and he knew that Jesus was keeping him until the end. When Jesus makes a promise, he keeps it. This is reason to be thankful.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Christmas Specials on TV

Growing up we watched a lot of the Christmas specials that came on TV. I don't care how many times I have watched Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer, I will still plop down on the couch and watch it (and quote it) whenever it is on. As my life has gotten busier I have found it really hard to know when certain specials are on TV this time of year. Thankfully has done the work for me. The have put together a Christmas TV Guide that is so very helpful. And being the crazy scheduler that I am, I have printed this off, circled the ones I wanted to watch, and put it up on the refrigerator. I have also added it to my Favorites. Call me crazy, but I don't want to miss A Charlie Brown Christmas one more year. Now I don't have to!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

First Christmas Craft

I am trying to learn to be crafty and so last year, right after we got engaged, I bought cheap stockings on sale in hopes that I could muster up enough craftiness to put our names on them this year. I know. It sounds like such a small task, but if you knew my lack of craftiness, you would be proud of any attempts at it. Let's just say I am no Martha Stewart.

Growing up our stockings had our names on them in glitter. My mom used glue and glitter to make our stockings unique and special. This was a tradition we decided to carry on into our family. So the minute we got home from our trip last week I got to work putting our name on our stockings. I was so excited to hang them and decorate our apartment that I couldn't wait until later this week. The above picture is my finished product. They are proudly hanging in our living room, just waiting for presents to go in them!

The State of the American Woman

In October Time Magazine came out with a cover story on The State of the American Woman. CBMW responded in the initial weeks following the story. You can watch the full response video here.

Today they put up a blog post I wrote about the stories of the woman profiled in the issue. My main point was that womanhood as God defines it is not a cultural construct that shifts with cultural expectations. It is defined by God and it is unchanging.

Here is an excerpt from the end:

The hope for the American woman is not better pay, more career opportunities, perceived equality, or even a well-kept home and family. It is in Jesus Christ alone and in his plan for his people. We don’t believe in womanhood because we just think men should be the “dominant” ones. We believe in womanhood because God said that is what we are. And that is what we must be and teach.

You can read the entire post here.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Preparing My Heart for Christmas

As I move into the Christmas season I decided to pick up my copy of Nancy Guthrie’s Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus. It is a book of Advent readings from various Christian pastors and theologians designed to prepare us for the birth of Christ. I read it last year and decided to make it a tradition. So I am starting year number two of reading the book. But this year I am reading one a day (or so) hoping that God will use this to quiet my heart as I prepare to celebrate the birth of my Savior. I leave you with a quote from the first chapter, an excerpt by George Whitfield called “Contemplating Christmas”:

Did Jesus come into the world to save us from death, and shall we spend no part of our time in conversing about our dear Jesus; shall we pay no regard to the birth of him who came to redeem us from the worst of slavery, from that of sin, and the devil; and shall this Jesus not only be born on our account, but likewise die in our stead, and yet shall we be unmindful of him? Shall we spend our time in those things which are offensive to him? Shall we not rather do all we can to promote his glory and act according to his command?

O be not so ungrateful to him who has been so kind to you! What could the Lord Jesus Christ have done for you more than he has? Then do no abuse his mercy, but let your time be spent thinking and talking of the love of Jesus, who was incarnate for us, who was born of a woman, and made under the law, to redeem us from the wrath to come.

-George Whitfield

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Thanksgiving and New Traditions

My husband and I just got home from a trip to his hometown. We were there to celebrate Thanksgiving with his family, and celebrate our first Thanksgiving as a married couple. Growing up Thanksgiving was a pretty big deal in our house. My mom begins baking days before and gets up in the wee ours of the morning to start the turkey. We always get up just in time to groggily watch the Macy’s parade. And then we wait. Smelling the wonderful turkey and hoping that the timer would soon go off signaling dinner time.

My family loves traditions and no one really likes it when those traditions are changed even the slightest bit. This year, Daniel and I are embarking on a new journey—taking two families worth of traditions and making some our own. Becoming one is, in one way, melding traditions and making them your own—your family’s. And it is bittersweet in some ways. I wasn’t with my family this year. I was with my husband’s family. He won’t be with his family at Christmas. He will be with my family. And each instance is a reminder that things will never be the same again. Neither of us will ever go back to the way it once was. And that is a good thing.

Every Thanksgiving night my family watches Miracle on 34th Street (the old one). I can’t even remember how long we have been watching it. But Daniel and I didn’t do that this year. But we did continue a tradition of his side of the family. We went shopping on Black Friday (and bought Miracle on 34th Street for $9!) and we went to a movie that night (we saw Blind Side—great movie, another post coming on that). Each holiday in these first few years will provide new traditions and experiences for us that draw us closer to one another and make our family our own.

We had a great time with his side of the family. We played games, watched football, ate food, talked, looked at pictures, and enjoyed each other. It was a good time.

The picture above is of Daniel’s family. We had Thanksgiving dinner at the nursing home where Grandma is staying. In order to be accepted in the family, each new member must eat a dessert called Date Nut Loaf. And they have to like it. Somehow, I got in without ever eating it. So after dinner I had to try it and decide whether or not I liked it. My husband captured it on film as evidence. I think the video will speak for itself.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Happy Birthday to My Husband

Last year at this time my husband was preparing to ask my parents for permission to marry me. This year, we are married and loving it. These last, nearly six, months of marriage have been the greatest, most joyful, most sanctifying months of my life. I am so thankful to God for the man that he has given me to spend my life with. Today is my sweet man’s 28th birthday. I thought it would be fitting to honor him by jotting down just a few of the many reasons I am grateful to God for him today, and every day.

Daniel, how much do I love you? Let me count the ways!

  1. You make me love Jesus more.

  2. You love Jesus.

  3. You make me laugh.

  4. You aren’t afraid to lovingly confront me in my sin and point me to Jesus.

  5. You are thoughtful and kind.

  6. You lead us well and love doing it.

  7. You make me think and challenge me to think more clearly.

  8. You are wise.

  9. You are so dang cute (see above picture).

  10. You love Jesus.

  11. You have helped shape and refine my love for the local church.

  12. You are a hard worker.

  13. You let me talk and don’t mind it (which is a big deal in my book, because I talk a lot. A whole lot!).

  14. You challenge me to love lost people.

  15. You love the kids that God has given you to minister to.

You are a good man, Daniel Reissig. I love being your wife and look forward to the years God gives us. Happy Birthday, babe!

Friday, November 20, 2009

Happy Birthday, Dad!

Today, my Dad turns 50. In today’s world, growing up with a father around is not always normal. Growing up with a Christian father is even less common. Every year I am more and more grateful for the Dad that God has given me. Here are just a few of the many reasons I am thankful for my Dad today (and every day).

  1. He doesn’t take himself too seriously—which in turn makes him a pretty funny guy. His humility allows him to laugh at himself, and this taught my brothers and me to be able to laugh at ourselves.
  2. He is kind and compassionate. He cares about the fatherless. I can still remember his care and kindness towards friends who had no fatherly influence in their lives.
  3. He is a hard worker. He has always provided for our family. We always had food on the table (due to Mom’s work in cooking it and Dad’s work in making the living). We always had our needs met.
  4. He loves us and we know it. There was never any doubt in my mind that he loved Mom, me, and my brothers. One of the most vivid pictures of his love for me was when, even in my rebellion against him, he traveled across the country to help me move and took care of me. This was a huge picture of the Gospel to me.
  5. He is always there. In a day when dad’s leave and our unreliable, a dad who is there is no small thing. He cares about the details of my life, from my grades all the way through school to how my job is going now.

As I watch my brothers grow into Christian men and become fathers themselves I see markings of my Dad’s influence in their life—and I am grateful. They are the men they are in part to my Dad’s life being lived out before them. Just like Mom, you are leaving a legacy too, Dad. You are leaving a legacy of godliness and manhood that, Lord willing, will be passed on to future Tarter generations. I love you, Dad. Happy Birthday!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Running The Race I Am Given

Last week I had the opportunity to hear Matt Chandler speak in Southern Seminary’s chapel. I have listened to his church’s podcasts, but had yet to hear him live. I was excited at the chance. He preached from Hebrews 11 and applied “running the race set before us” in a way that I don’t remember hearing before. God knew I needed it. It got right to my heart.

He said that the race we are running is exactly what God has for us. And he connected it to the previous verses, where the writer of Hebrews describes the different paths these great cloud of witnesses walked. But each path was God ordained—whether it was shutting the mouth of lions or being sawn in two. He urged us to stop trying to be something we are not, and be who God made us to be. He challenged us to not do ministry for our own glory and gain, but for the glory of our Christ. Dissatisfaction with our race—our path—is idolatrous.

It is a daily struggle to not compare my race with others. It is a daily struggle to be satisfied with the road that God has me on. So often we see people around us, seemingly more successful, happier, more put together, more spiritual, more fill-in-the-blank, and we covet. We want what they have, and we look at what we have and resent it.

The race that I am running right now is the race that God has given me. It is not an accident. And sometimes that is the hardest truth to swallow, especially when the race is arduous and painful. In the earlier verses the writer tells us about the saints who ran the race that God gave them—and for some it was devastatingly painful, I am sure.

I know that I don’t often want to run the race I am given. I look at people running next to me and think they seem a lot more fit to be running this thing than me. I look at people running behind me and long for the days when I had it like they do now. I look at the people ahead of me and think their path is so much better than mine because they have already gotten through the hard stuff. But the grass is always greener on the other side, right?

I covet these things, but I have no idea what it took to get them there. Maybe they were sawn in two before they could ever close the mouth of a lion. Maybe they weren’t. The point is, comparison is never helpful. It is actually destructive. It is discouraging and it takes my eyes off of the race.

My old roommates keep a Bethlehem Star Article (church newsletter), written by Pastor John, up on the refrigerator at all times. It is from three years ago, but I keep coming back to it when I feel the urge to compare my race to the ones around me. Pastor John reminded us that to really love is to stop comparing. I find myself repeating it often, especially when I am overwhelmed by the comparisons warring in my own mind.

The race is hard. God did not promise ease and comfort. But he did promise to give us strength and his presence every step of the way. This is more comforting than any temporal comfort could ever be.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Loving Children in Jesus Name

For nearly nine years I have been supporting Walter with Compassion International. For nearly eight years I have been supporting Juan Carlos with Compassion International. Both of them are from Honduras. When I started supporting them they were little boys. Now, they are not-so-little-boys anymore. In the beginning I felt compelled to support them because I wanted to help children, which is a good cause. But I didn't fully fully understand why it was important to help them in the first place. And in recent years, to my shame, I have been a "money-only" sponsor. Yeah, I give them money every month, but I don't give them much of anything else. The really sad thing is, I only think about it when the direct deposit goes through every month.

But this week something changed. I was reminded of why sponsorship is so important. I was reminded of the plight of children throughout the world. And I was reminded in a fresh way how important it is for us to love children in Christ's name. My friend, Molly went to El Salvador with Compassion this week and blogged while she was there. All week I was broken over my selfishness in not spending more time caring for our Compassion children. I was broken over the world that so many children live in. But I was encouraged. I was encouraged by the work that Compassion is doing. God is doing good things in the lives of these families, for the joy of the nations.

Molly's posts made me feel compelled to action. I want to be a better sponsor. Pray for me. And read her posts. They are worth your time. Now I better go. I have some letters to write to Walter and Juan Carlos!

Here are all of her posts. Post 1 Post 2 Post 3 Post 4 Post 5

Thursday, November 12, 2009

All I Really Want For Christmas

"All I Really Want For Christmas" by Steven Curtis Chapman is one of my favorite non-hymn Christmas songs. I have been listening to it on repeat for a few weeks now. It is such a sweet song about a child who just wants a family for Christmas. He can think of many things that he would want, but this is a need. This is what he needs for Christmas. I can't listen to the song without tears welling up in my eyes. It is a true song. There are many children who will spend this Christmas without a family. Here is a link to the song. May God use it to make your heart break for the orphan this Christmas, and be compelled to love orphans, too.

You can watch the video on YouTube here. I couldn't figure out how to post it on the blog from YouTube. If anyone has any ideas, feel free to tell me how!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Year-Round Christmas Music

I love Christmas music. It seems like every year I start listening to it earlier and earlier. Next thing I know, I will be listening in July—which is not a bad idea if you ask me.

I have often wondered why we don’t listen to Christmas music year round. It makes sense that we only sing about rocking around a Christmas tree when we put the tree up. But does it really make sense to only sing about the birth of our Savior one season of the year?

The lyrics to some of the most beloved Christmas hymns are packed full of truths about God that are true every Sunday. We don’t sing “In Christ Alone” only on Easter Sunday. Why not sing “Joy to the World” in May?

Perhaps part of the reason that we only sing Christmas music in December is that we only think about the incarnation when the Christmas tree goes up. I know I am prone to this. I get excited about all things Christmas, and Jesus coming to earth to save sinners like me is just a portion of the excitement—not the reason for the excitement. But really, it should floor me. It should humble me. It should make me thankful. It should make me joyful.

God came to earth.

And not in fanfare and bright lights, like our Christmas ideas so often make us think. He came as a baby. He came in humility. He came to a dirty manger. And this is our great hope. It should make us sing. Christmas shows us that the Cross is coming; that our salvation is coming. Without Christmas, there is no Cross.

Now I like some good, old-fashioned “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” but nothing make my heart sing like the words “born that men no more may die!” I am all for the traditional, light-hearted seasonal music. But that is all that is, really. It’s about a season, not an event.

So what does it really matter if I listen to “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” in June? It should be my heart’s cry as I wait for the second-coming of my Risen King.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Interview with Carolyn McCulley

Radical Womanhood by Carolyn McCulley is one of the most helpful books I have read in the last year. If you haven't read it yet, you should. Last week CBMW published an interview that I did with her. You can read the interview here:

Part 1 and Part 2


Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Zombie and My Neighbor

What does it mean to love my neighbor? How far would I go? Would I put myself in danger? Would I love only people who looked like me, or would I be willing to interact with people who looked a little different than me? A couple of weekends ago my husband and I were in Minneapolis. We were there primarily to visit my new nephew and brother and sister-in-law. While there we were able to attend my former church and hear a really convicting message on Luke 10:25-37, the Parable of the Good Samaritan. Many of us have heard this passage taught on multiple occasions. I know I have. But the main thrust of the sermon was not “go do good things,” primarily. The pastor taught us that since Christ has changed our hearts we should be driven to do good for others in light of the immense good that has already been accomplished for us through Christ. And the most amazing thing about this parable is that the Jewish people thought no Samaritan could do any good, let alone be saved.

I left encouraged. I left convicted. I left excited to live out the Gospel so that others could know the worth of Christ. And then on our way to Chipotle we got stuck in the middle of a zombie night in downtown Minneapolis. Needless to say, we were a little freaked out. We quickly drove through the zombies and made our way back to my brother’s house. But as we talked about it later we were struck with the tremendous spiritual realities surrounding us in zombie-land.

There I was confronted with a direct, practical, and very real way to love my neighbor and all I could feel was fear. Should it really frighten me as much as it did?

Yes and no. But it shouldn’t really surprise me.

In one sense it was mass chaos, and chaos always seems a little frightening—especially when blood-covered people are coming up to cars. But in reality these zombie-dressed neighbors are only wearing on their sleeves what is already in their hearts. We all are. Zombies are dead people. And apart from Christ, all people are zombies at heart. The fact is most of the time they cover up the fact that they are dead-men-walking with clothes and an act that makes them look just like you and me.

Loving my neighbor doesn’t mean I have go out looking for a zombie fest in order to practically live out Luke 10. But it does mean having the discernment to see the zombie talking to me everyday at work, or at the store, or in my family, and not running from them in fear. But rather pointing them to the only One who can truly bring them to life again.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Abortion and Women's Rights

I know it has been pretty quiet around here lately. I am still trying to figure out how to be a new wife, church member, employee, and friend; and then fit in other things (like blogging). I have a TON of ideas in my head, but they haven't made it to paper yet. I promise they will. One idea did make it to paper (or I guess I should say, the idea made it to the computer). I wrote a post for CBMW this week on abortion and women's rights. It is called Life-Giving is a Woman's Issue.

Every day on my way home from work I drive past the local abortion clinic. I used to do it because it was the quickest way home. Now I am reminded to pray everyday at 5:15 when I am driving by it. The rights of the unborn are something that we should all be concerned with. As women we are called to be life-givers, not life-takers. My prayer for the women who enter the clinic, and everyone else inside, is that God would open their eyes to the horrors of abortion and that their would no longer be a need for the abortion clinic. Until then, I will keep driving by and praying.

You can read my post here.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Tozer on the Cross

I read a lot of A.W. Tozer books in college. I was so impacted by his work that I even did a portion of my senior writing project on his life and ministry. The other day I was reminded of one of my favorite books by him, The Radical Cross. This book is a compilation of things he wrote specifically on the cross of our Christ. I read the book the summer before my senior year in college as I prepared to lead a residence hall of women, and it changed me. It's hard to even pick a section of the book that is most powerful. It's just dripping with wonder and reverence for the cross. Below is the section that I read to my residence hall women at the beginning of the semester. It hits you hard, but sometimes a two by four to the head is what we need to remind us of our need to be awestruck by the cross.

"Though the cross of Christ has been beautified by the poet and the artist, the avid seeker after God is likely to find it the same savage implement of destruction it was in the days of old. The way of the cross is still the pain-wracked path to spiritual power and fruitfulness.

So do not seek to hide from it. Do not accept any easy way. Do not allow yourself to be patted to sleep in a comfortable church, void of power and barren of fruit. Do not paint the cross nor deck it with flowers. Take it for what it, as it is, and you will find it the rugged way to death and life. Let it slay you utterly."

Monday, September 21, 2009

SBTS Panel on the Trinity

Sorry I have been so quiet lately. It has been a hectic few weeks around here with school, work, and church. So the blog has been low priority. Plus I did some writing work for the Seminary that I wanted to point you too. Southern Seminary and CBMW co-sponsored a discussion on gender and the Trinity a few weeks ago. I had the pleasure of the attending and covering the panel for the seminary paper and for Gender Blog. Drs. Bruce Ware and Gregg Allison were the panelists, and Dr. Randy Stinson (President of CBMW and Dean of the School of Church Ministries) moderated. It was an excellent discussion. I was struck again by how clear the Scriptures are in not only the doctrine of the Trinity, but gender roles as well.

You can read my overview of the event here.

And listen to the audio here.


Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Be Patient With Them All

“And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all.”—1 Thessalonians 5:14

I have heard this verse many times, but it was not until I began memorizing it for my biblical counseling class this semester that the words, “be patient with them all” struck me. Why would Paul tell the Thessalonians (and us) to be patient with people in these circumstances?

Notice his commands: admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak. If you have spent any amount of time ministering to people in these situations you will know that there are times where patience is greatly needed. Perhaps you are dealing with a discouraged person who every time you talk to them always seems to dwell on the pain and turmoil. Patience will help draw them to the Father who can (and will) heal the pain. Perhaps you are discipling a weaker sister who consistently battles sin. Patience will help you be a grace bearer to her. Or maybe you have had enough of the roommate who never seems to do anything around the apartment except sleep, eat, and make a mess. Losing control over her idleness and laziness will not spur her on to responsibility. Sometimes these circumstances do provide more opportunity for frustration than patience. But frustration is the opposite of patience. And often this will only exasperate hurting and struggling people.

Here in the middle of a verse on discipleship Paul is discipling us. Even when we are the ones helping, we must understand that we have not arrived spiritually. We need constant reminders to be patient, kind, and compassionate to hurting people. Patience is what will make all of the previous commands stick, because patience is directly at the heart of Jesus. He is always patient with the struggling believer who is stuck in the pit. And he is always patient with us, even when we shake our fists at him.

Often we like to talk about discipleship as a fun and lighthearted endeavor relegated to college ministries and accountability groups. But true discipleship is never easy. Fighting sin with another believer takes work, and more importantly it takes the Holy Spirit. The command to be patient is not something we can do on our own. Have you ever tried to be patient on your own only to be met with your inability? Only Christ can give us the grace to live with our brothers and sisters in grace and understanding. And only Christ can be the true means of change for the idle, fainthearted, and weak.

I am thankful that I am memorizing this verse this semester, primarily because I need to be regularly reminded to be patient. It is a great need in my life. But more importantly, I need a greater heart for the struggling believer, because in reality I am no different than them. May we all learn what it means to be patient with one another, and thus point our brothers and sisters to the most patient One of all—our Christ.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Learning to Love the Interruptions

I like schedules. Anyone who has ever lived with me knows that I do everything according to a schedule and structure. I wake up at almost the same time every day. I do the same thing in the morning—every day. I have lists of tasks that keep me focused. Structure keeps me sane. It helps me get through the day. It allows me to feel like I am accomplishing something. And the worst part about it all—I hate it when my schedule is interrupted. Usually it is interrupted by people. People I like. But sadly in my heart a battle is raging. “I really want to talk to this person right now, but I have like ten things I wanted to get done and now I will only get eight done because of this twenty minute conversation and then my day will be all thrown off and tomorrow will start bad…” You can see where this is going.

My problem, and to be honest, my sin problem, is that I only want to talk to people on my terms. I actually want everything on my terms. If I could schedule everything I would be much happier, but would I? It’s not really that my friends and family are interrupting my important life; it’s that I think my life is so important that it can’t be interrupted. Jesus didn’t think that. Can you imagine if he did? Of all people he really didn’t need the interruptions, but he came down to earth to save sinful fallen people like myself. He was always willing to be interrupted. Even when the disciples thought that he shouldn’t be interacting with certain people because they had things to do, he did it anyway. People were important. Their souls were of great value to him.

Jesus saves me from my sin. This is amazing. He saves me from my schedule and my need to always be in control. He saves me from the wicked assumption that my world is the only thing that matters. All of his righteousness swallows up my wicked pride and self-preoccupation.

You see, I can hide under the guise of order and structure and make people think that my life is really important because I am always busy. But that would not be showing people the greatness of Jesus. It would be showing them the greatness of me—which really isn’t that great anyway. Jesus loved people, even in the interruptions because he wanted them to see God. He wanted them to see the awesome beauty of his glory and power—and he wanted them to be saved. What I need, in much greater measure, is a strong desire to see people saved, not my list to be accomplished. I need more love for people, not my list. I need to get out of my structure bubble and care about what is going on in the lives of those around me. And I need more of Jesus, and less of me.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

What Women Want

“You know what women really want? They just want the man to make the decision. They don’t want to have to decide where to eat when they are hungry,” said a friend of mine a few weeks ago. She is a self-proclaimed feminist who doesn’t really feel like she needs a man or the Gospel—but I think she is on to something. Now, before you think this is a post about the necessity for men to make decisions, think again. The fact that a Generation Y feminist would make such a pronounced statement about her own relational desires says something profound about how women think and who God made them to be.

We have an innate desire to be led and provided for—even the self-proclaimed feminists. As Christian women we have a unique and wonderful opportunity to be an encouragement to the men in our lives to be the kind of men God made us to desire, and the kind of men that he made them to be. As I thought more about her statement two particular applications came to mind.

1. We can encourage the men in our lives that do this.
2. We can be patient with the ones that don’t always do this.

So, how do you encourage the men in your life? If you are single, it can mean thanking a Christian brother for planning group activities or leading a church Bible study. It can also mean thanking your dad or brother when he pursues a friendship with you. And if you are in a relationship with a Christian brother, you can encourage him as he works at leading you. I have heard that encouragement can be the fuel to continue leading well. Married women have the opportunity to encourage regularly as they live with their husbands. When your husband leads family worship, thank him for his heart to serve. And it doesn’t hurt to periodically let him know how thankful to God you are for him.

One of the biggest things to understand is that the men in our lives will fail us, sometimes terribly. Whether it is a father, a brother, a friend, a pastor, or a husband, at some point we will be very disappointed, and even heartbroken by their lack of Christ-likeness. But the reality is they will have that same disappointment towards us at some point as well. We are all works in progress. We will never do it right all of the time. This is why we need Christ. We need a daily, strong dose of the Gospel to enable us to live how God has called us to. Patience is not my specialty. Often my lack of patience is stemming from unmet, unrealistic expectations. If a brother in Christ isn’t leading well in asking a girl out, perhaps patience would be the remedy for his lack of action. If a husband doesn’t understand that we want him to make a decision in that exact moment, perhaps communicating what we want in a humble and kind manner would help him.

In all of these things it is important to never condone unrepentant, continual sin. But it is important to extend grace to our brothers, as we would like them to extend grace to us. My pastor said last week that all we get from Jesus is grace. He doesn’t give us the silent treatment. He doesn’t see us as lost causes when we sin. He doesn’t lash out in a hateful tone when we don’t do what he commands. He convicts us of sin and provides a way for us to sin no more.

Male/female relationships are hard. If they were easy, we wouldn’t need to daily cry out to the Lord. My friend was right, women want a decision. We were made to follow a man. But more importantly, we were made to follow the God Man—Jesus. He is our ultimate head and leader. And he is our hope when all else fails us. Instead of banking all our hope on a fallen man, let us put all our hope in Christ. It will change our attitudes towards the sinners we are in relationships with, and it will conform us more into his image.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

The Strong and The Weak Brother

Daniel and I have been reading through Romans together this summer. It has been a helpful and edifying experience to read through a passage of scripture and talk about it with him. The Lord has used it to bring sin to light and to make me love the Savior more.

When we got to Romans 14, I was reminded in greater measure about how radical the weaker/stronger brother idea is. Often I have heard it explained in the context of a stronger brother feeling that his or her liberty is challenged when a weaker brother sees the stronger one’s liberty as sin. Maybe the liberty is challenged, maybe not. But what struck me the most is how much this passage is “others” focused. The discussion about the weaker and stronger brother is not about a right to do something—it is about self-giving service to a brother or sister who serves the same Christ as us. The stronger brother has an obligation to protect the weaker from temptation to sin—even if the matter is a not a sin issue. The weaker brother has an obligation to not judge the stronger brother for doing things that he or she might view as “sinful.”
There have been many occasions when I have looked down on someone for choosing to do a particular thing that is not condemned in Scripture, but would be against my own conscience if I did it. I need to repent of that. There have been many other occasions when I have looked down on someone for not choosing to do a particular thing because I felt the freedom to do it. I felt threatened by their abstinence. I need to repent of that.

All of Romans 14, and the rest of Romans, is pouring out of the rich truths of the Gospel that come before it in Romans 1-11. We do all of these things “in view of God’s mercy” (Romans 12:1). God has saved us, not because of our own merit, but on the merit of another. As a result our lives should be a reflection of that. It should be a radical, life-giving service to our brothers and sisters so that people will see Jesus—not us.

Living in light of Romans 14 should cause people outside of Christ to stand in wonder. Not because we are really good at abstaining from the “no-no’s” of the Christian life, and not because we are really hip and free to do whatever we please. Rather, let them be amazed that we give up our freedoms regularly, so that Jesus Christ is made much of in our churches, homes, and communities.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Children's Ministry: The Training Ground for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood

This summer I began directing the children’s church time at my local church here in Louisville. Part of my job was to decide on what to teach the children during this time. One of the things I really want to instill in the children of our church is a passion for God and for his glory in our design as men and women. I want these little ones to see that God had a plan when he made them as little boys and little girls—and that plan is greater than anything we could ever imagine.

In the past few years I have heard various stories about children’s books geared towards an egalitarian model. Imagine three and four year olds sitting in a Sunday school class hearing a book read to them on the so-called “feminine” names for God. Imagine the little girls standing in a play pulpit pretending to be the pastor all because they heard about it in their children’s story—or saw it in their own church. Imagine a nursery where the only rebuke to a little boy who pushes a little girl is “that’s not nice to little girls” instead of “we protect girls, we never hit them.”

Does it sound like a big deal? Should we even care?

I think our egalitarian friends, while mistaken, are on to something profound. Children remember what they hear. In fact, what children hear and learn when they are younger shapes their view of the world as they get older. They are tremendously moldable. If a little girl hears from infancy to adulthood that leadership is based on gifting, then she could be very confused when she learns that her Bible speaks of men as the leaders in the church and the home. And if the only model for womanhood she sees is based on giftedness, not gender, then the Bible’s model for womanhood in the home and church will seem very foreign to her as she gets older.

Our little girls will not wake up when they are eighteen suddenly aware of their calling as a woman, nor will our little boys. And even if they are raised in complementarian homes, they will not by default grow up embracing complementarity. We are all opposed to God’s word—even the precious baby in cradle in the nursery will not naturally embrace God’s design for her life. And apart from God’s grace, as she gets older she will gravitate towards the culture’s understanding of manhood and womanhood. We are living in an age that is increasingly celebratory of androgyny. The Bible gives us clear commands to teach the next generation about the truths of God, so that they will learn to hope in him (Psalm 78:1-8). If they do not understand what it means to live as a created being, in his created world, then they will not rightly understand how to worship him.

When we walk down the halls of our church we need to know that the authority of the Bible is at stake in our Sunday school classrooms. What we teach the next generation about God should include what he says about who he made them to be. When you are teaching the creation story to children, I encourage you not to gloss over the fact that there is a man and a woman being created by God with different roles to play. When you are closing your time with your class, you can teach the little ones to thank God that he made them as little boys and little girls—and that these genders are not interchangeable. If you are a parent, you can be working even now to train your little boys to protect little girls, not react against them. And you can teach your little girls that it is good that they want to play with dolls and help in the house—and someday they will help in their own house and take care of real babies, even if they are single.

The little ones in our classrooms, while precious and fun, are all in their hearts opposed to God’s design for them. Therefore, manhood and womanhood is not simply a topic to be discussed at the seminary level, or even the adult Sunday school class level. It must start earlier. We have the great privilege of teaching the next generation the truths of God. And it starts in your nursery.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Not Your Average Rainbow: God's Mercy in Noah's Ark

Our children’s church teachers are using the Jesus Story Book Bible to teach the kids in our church this year. As I was preparing for the lesson on Noah’s ark I was struck by how the author (Sally Lloyd-Jones) told the story. The story is about God. God brings the animals, God gives Noah the plans for the ark, and God makes the floods come. God also brings the promise of hope. She describes it this way:

“It wasn’t long before everything went wrong again but God wasn’t surprised, he knew this would happen. That’s why, before the beginning of time, he had another plan—a better plan. A plan not to destroy the world, but to rescue it—a plan to one day send his own Son, the Rescuer.

God’s strong anger against hate and sadness and death would come down once more—but not on his people, or his world. No, God’s war bow was not pointing down at his people. It was pointing up, into the heart of Heaven.”

So often we hear the story of Noah’s ark only in children’s Bible stories, and often it is closely followed by a craft where we play with the animals and build the ark. The story of Noah becomes a story about animals getting on a big boat, a flood, and a rainbow. All of these things are essential pieces to this story, but I think they are incomplete. They don’t tell the entire story—the most important part of the story. Jesus.

When we reduce the story of Noah to building an ark and pairs of animals we miss the wonder of the story. It’s hard for us to imagine animals walking on to a boat and not killing each other because we don’t fully grasp what God was doing. He was preserving a people for himself. He was making a new creation. And he was extending amazing mercy that points us to the greatest mercy of all—the Cross. It is in the refuge of Christ that we find protection from the wrath of God. Genesis 6-9 is about sin and a Savior just as much as Romans is.

Little kids need to know that our only hope from the flood of eternal destruction is in Christ. Like Noah, we must seek refuge in the “ark” that God provides for us. When we look at Noah’s story in this way, trying to figure out how many animals got on the boat seems far more insignificant than it used to.

Noah’s ark was most definitely about the animals, and the flood, and the rainbow but most importantly it was about the God that made them. And when we see a rainbow in the sky, we can be thankful that the promise to never flood the earth again was fulfilled in the Promised One—our great Savior, Jesus Christ.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

True Woman 2010

Registration opened this past weekend for the True Woman 2010 conferences. I say "conferences" because there will be more than one this time. True Woman is going to be in three different cities this time, and the wonderful people who put this conference on promise that it will be the same God-centered, womanhood affiirming conference that blessed so many women last October. I hope to be at one of them, and I hope you will consider attending too! What a great opportunity to hear from wonderful speakers and fellowship with women who desire to serve our Christ in the way that he designed us to be.

Visit their website and register today!

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Thanking God for 29 Years of Marriage

Today is my parents 29th wedding anniversary. Even though last year I honored them on this happy day, I think it deserves another mention this year. In today's culture it is no small thing that two people make it to 29 years (and beyond). I think they would tell you that the fact that they made it this long is by the wonderful grace of God. Christ sustained marriages are a sweet testimony to the power and richness of the Gospel. So thank you Lord, for sustaining my parents these 29 years. And thank you for giving them to us as a model of faithful, covenant keeping love. May they be blessed with many more years. Happy Anniversary!

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Learning to Say "Thank You"

“We should see constructive criticism as a gift to us, and respond to the one criticizing with thank you.”

Whoa. Really?

Immediately I feel a sharp pain. Can this be true? What if the criticism isn’t accurate? What if I can think of 50 other reasons why I did what I did? I think if I stopped and really let this idea sink in I would realize that the reason why I chafe against it initially is because I don’t like criticism. Usually my response is a big, fat, “no thank you” to the one bringing the correction.

Is this in the Bible? Not exactly. My husband was taught this (and many other things) at a management training class this week. But I think we can see biblical truth even in this secular model.

Proverbs says, “Faithful are the wounds of a friend.” This friend can be in the form of a spouse, sibling, parent, pastor, or best friend. These wounds are faithful because friendship implies a deep knowing. This person knows us better than anyone, and also loves us dearly. He or she does not want us to continue on in our sin, or even ignorance. Faithful wounds point us towards the Savior and chisel away at the garbage that keeps us from intimacy with the Father.

But what do we do when the person is not a friend, and they aren’t criticizing in love. I do not pretend to have arrived in this area. In fact, I respond poorly even when it is a friend bringing the correction. But as I have heard others (much wiser than me) say before, people who are criticizing us aren’t criticizing us enough. We are far more foolish and sinful than we can even imagine. Our criticizers aren’t even getting to the half of it.

I think we can still respond graciously and kindly to any person bringing correction. Perhaps the flawed correction will be used by God to bring other sin to light that we can’t even see yet. And even if they are wrong on many levels, God will be the final judge. We can trust in his justice. The Psalms are a great source of hope in those times. All throughout the psalmist often cries out to the Lord for vindication from his enemies. These enemies were real, and they were painful at times. But even in his innocence from fault, he trusts that God will deal with those who are against him.

We can be thankful for the criticism, not because it is always right, but because God uses all things for our good. These “wounds”, whether from a friend or enemy, make us examine our hearts and run to the Savior. I think what God cares about for us in these times is how we respond to the people criticizing us. He will deal with the rest. So I am praying for myself today. That I will learn how to say “thank you” instead of “no thank you.”

Alfred Poirier has an excellent article on criticism. It has really helped me (and I know has helped many others). You can read a copy of it here.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

The Mercy of the "Helmet"

One of the sweet mercies of the Lord is to provide hope for us when we feel like there is no hope. Often in times of disappointment or discouragement it feels like God has abandoned us. When things are hard it feels like he isn't there. How could he be, right? How could a loving God be right there with us in the middle of such pain, such heartache. Love, in our finite minds, means not being able to stand the suffering of a cherished one. But the great hope, and great paradox, for a believer is that the only place to look is heavenward. Our loving Father is in control of the hard times. It's almost as if he is saying "hold on, dear child. There is light at the end of this dark tunnel that you can't see right now. But I can. I have made the light, for you." But it just feels so dark. So dark that we can't even see our feet enough to guide us towards the light.

Thankfully feelings are not reality. While God may deal the blows, he protects us from the damage. John Piper wrote an encouraging and challenging post today about our hope when these blows come. As he reflects on his brief battle with cancer, he reminds us that God's word is our "helmet" when trouble comes. It was a blessing to my soul to be reminded of these truths. He concludes by saying:

In retrospect, God covered my head with the promise that this blow was not his wrath. He positioned the helmet of hope perfectly without my even thinking of helmets. I simply thought: This is not wrath; and if I live, I live with Christ, and if I die, I also live with Christ. With that he covered my head.

So go to the arsenal of God’s word and get your armor. The blows are going to come. Without a helmet they will crush your skull. God has a helmet of hope fitted for your head. Put it on.

God's word is our light when we can't see. It is a challenge to me to learn it and study it so my helmet can be secure when these blows come. You can read the rest of the post here

Monday, July 20, 2009

Be Careful Little Eyes What You See

“Be careful little eyes what you see. Be careful little eyes what you see. For the Father up above is looking down in love, so be careful little eyes what you see.”

Many of us remember singing this song in Sunday school growing up. It has a catchy beat, catchy words and enough truth in it to make a little kid understand that God cares about what he or she sees. But has this understanding carried us into adulthood? We hear a lot about men guarding their eyes from impurity, but should women exercise the same vigilance with what images they see?

In talking about movies they watched, I have heard women say “we probably couldn’t watch it if guys were around. But it’s fine if it’s just girls.” Usually this is in reference to less than appropriately dressed women. But does the Bible make distinctions regarding the images that we, as women, allow into our minds?

Ephesians 5:3 says: “But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God's holy people.”

Guarding the eyes is not only a male problem relegated to accountability groups. It applies to women as well. What we fill our minds with matters, even if it is “just women.” God wants our minds to be free from immorality because what the culture is telling us about modesty and sexuality is never what he designed it to be. When we fill our minds with images that are contrary to God’s design we are opening the door to the sin that is already in our hearts. There are three temptations that I see rise up in my heart, and in the hearts of women I have been around, when inundated with worldly images.

  1. The temptation toward comparison. When we consciously or subconsciously allow images of immodesty into our minds we slowly begin to see that as the model. But it isn’t. And this can lead us to compare ourselves to the images we are seeing. Slowly we become discontent with how God made us and begin to wish that we looked differently.
  2. The temptation toward a false understanding of beauty. With this desire to compare comes a wrong understanding of beauty. When we compare we are saying that what we desire is the standard. God sets the standard for beauty, and the world’s understanding of beauty is very far from his. Immodesty and fakeness are not true beauty. Rather, godliness, modesty, and a quiet spirit is what God deems beautiful (1 Peter 3:3-4).
  3. The temptation toward lust. Like guarding our eyes, we often see lust as a male problem. That is far from the truth. While often in different ways, women struggle with lust just as much as men do. We see women getting attention from ungodly men when they look a certain way and we lust for that attention. We see an inappropriate scene in a commercial or movie and we lust for sexual fulfillment outside of a marriage covenant.

Images and scenes draw us in and promise the world. We lust for those promises, but will slowly find out that they are lies. Media is a good thing. But we must be discerning with what we watch. We cannot blindly watch the popular television shows and movies and expect nothing to happen to our consciences. While it may seem like we are fine, slowly our souls are being hardened until all that is left are calluses that numb us to the pain of sin. Images matter for women. Paul did not have gender distinctions when he said that we are to have “not even a hint” of sexual immorality among us. Temptations are strong. Sin is powerful. But Jesus is greater. That old children’s song is good, but not good enough. Yes, we are careful what we see because God is looking down on us. But we are also careful what see because Jesus bought us. Our eyes have been awakened to the truth that Jesus is better than those things that seem so harmless.

So be careful little eyes what you see. Be careful little eyes what you see. For the Savior up above has bought your soul in love, so be careful little eyes what you see.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Return to Gender Blog

I am sorry I haven't posted at all this week. It has been quite crazy around here! But I did get a chance to write at CBMW again. I wrote a post about leaving a legacy of godly womanhood. You can read it here. And while you are there browse around the website. They always have great stuff for free!

I will be back next week (or maybe sometime this weekend) with some new posts. They are in my head, just not in Word yet.

I hope you enjoy the post.

Monday, July 6, 2009

My Life in The Good Confession

Every time I hear the song The Good Confession by Andrew Peterson I can't help but cry. No matter where I am, I just start weeping every single time. This song is my story. But really, it's everybody's story. We all "drank from the shallow well" thinking it would satisfy our thirst until Jesus came and gave us tastebuds for living water. If you haven't heard the song, you should. It will not disappoint.

The Good Confession (I Believe) by Andrew Peterson
From the album: Resurrection Letters Volume II

I was a boy, just nine years old, I heard the call and came. They buried me beneath the water, then I rose again. Well, you know my dad was a preacher man. I walked the aisle and I took his hand. He said, “Son, just do the best you can, and say the words, ‘I believe he is the Christ, the Son of the living God.”

Through the years I barely fell; I mostly dove right in. I drank so deep from the shallow well only to thirst again. Well, I sang the hymns at the summer camp, then I rocked and rolled with a lousy band till I heard a song that took my hand and led me home. And I believe he is the Christ, Son of the living God.

All I know is that I was blind but now I see that though I kick and scream, Love is leading me. And every step of the way his grace is making me; with every breath I breathe, he is saving me. And I believe.

So when my body’s weak and the day is long, when I feel my faith is all but gone, I’ll remember when I sing this song that I believe. I believe he is the Christ, Son of the living God, my Lord, my Savior.

Oh, hosanna, I believe.

Friday, July 3, 2009

What is Your Treasure?

Do you ever find yourself repenting of sin only to be met with another sin immediately following your act of repentance? Or do you ever wonder why you cannot shake that one particular sin that seems to rise up in you?

I can relate to that.

I hate sin. I hate that I do it. I hate when it is done against me. And I especially hate when I do it even when I know that I shouldn’t. John Piper has been preaching through the book of John for a little while now, and as I listened to part one of this sermon series on John 3:16 I was struck by this phrase:

“The reason we sin is because we have other treasures besides Jesus.”

It sounds so simple, yet it is so profound. This statement struck me immediately. I sin because I treasure other things instead of treasuring the greatest treasure of all—Jesus. Every day there are countless things beckoning me to seek my treasure in them, rather than the Savior. And the greatest force that seeks to reign in my soul is me. Ultimately I treasure Courtney over Jesus.

It is a war.

The reason we speak harshly to our husbands and family is because we see ourselves as the most important being in the universe. The reason we gossip is because we treasure acceptance and futile knowledge over Jesus.

If Jesus were my treasure then I would be freed to radically love and serve him because I would see the infinite worth of the Savior and the utter depravity of myself in light of him. I wouldn’t need to lash out at my husband or get angry at the other drivers on the freeway.

Understanding this truth about ourselves radicalizes the way we witness as well. The fundamental problem with people is not that they do bad things, although it is true that we all do bad things. It is that they treasure other things more than Jesus. People commit adultery because they treasure lust and instant gratification more than Jesus. People get high because they treasure fleeting pleasures more than Jesus. When we are giving the Good News to people we must get to the heart of the matter. You do these things because you love them. You treasure them. And you treasure them because your heart is evil and longs for them. What you need is a new heart that will make you long for the greatest Treasure of all—Jesus Christ. He is more valuable and more satisfying than any temporal pleasure can bring.

I was deeply convicted by Pastor John’s statement. I sin because I treasure other things besides Jesus. So, what are you treasuring? Is it the Christ? Or is it something else that will never satisfy your soul.

Sell your possessions, and give to the needy. Provide yourselves with moneybags that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.—Luke 12:33-34

Monday, June 29, 2009

Sexting and the Teenage Girl, Part 2

We cannot bury our heads in the sand and pretend like these things are not a reality for many of the kids in our churches. Whether they are exposed to it regularly, tempted by it, or actively engaging in it, sexual immorality is not foreign to many teenagers. And in today’s culture it is even more prominent, and in some cases, celebrated. Ministering to young women will require an understanding of what they are up against on a daily basis, and will also require the biblical tools to fight sin. We must partner with them in the fight against sin, and the quest towards biblical womanhood. It is crucial that we help the young women in our congregations combat the lie that their bodies are their own, and their own to flaunt for anyone who would have them. God does not say this. Their bodies are to be a temple of the Holy Spirit, not the object of a hormonal boy’s gawks. Partnering with parents will be key as we seek to protect and lead the next generation of women to live in purity and holiness.

Mothers have a primary responsibility to shepherd their daughters in the ways of the Lord. Often this will mean protecting them at all costs from their own sinfulness, and the sin around them. No teenage daughter should have uncontrolled access to social networking, technology, or media. Allowing them this freedom will only open a door to an independence that they are often not ready for. If your daughter sends multiple text messages a day and you have no idea who the recipients are, then I encourage you to ask her who she is texting and ask her to show you the messages. Parents have an obligation to protect their daughters from predatory men, and this means boys who will use them for their sexuality. Teach your daughters what purity is at a very young age, and raise her to view her body as reserved only for her husband.

Growing up in today’s culture is not easy. Billboards and store displays scream that if I do not take it all off, I am not beautiful, or desirable. This is a lie. Beauty and desirability are not defined by how much we take off. Rather, in God’s eyes, purity until marriage is of the most value. Dear younger sister in the Lord, do not believe the lies around you that beckon you to give in. Believe the Bible, and believe your parents and your pastors, whom God has given you to protect you physically and spiritually.

We live in a fallen world. Unfortunately these horrible things are results of living in this Genesis 3 world. Some would argue that these acts of immorality are perpetuated by social media. And I don’t necessarily think that is true. I think social media serves a purpose but, like all good things, can be used for sinful purposes as well. The rise of sexting and other forms of pornographic leanings among teenagers is a call to be especially vigilant. It means we need to work desperately hard to protect our girls not only from the people around them, but from their own sinful hearts as well. We cannot pretend like it isn’t happening. But we can show them that Jesus is better than any temporary pleasure an explicit message can bring.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Sexting and the Teenage Girl, Part 1

In the chapter “Raunch Culture Rip-Off,” written in Radical Womanhood: Feminine Faith in a Feminist World, Carolyn McCulley assesses the devastating effects of feminism, and particularly third-wave feminism, on this generation of young women. Raised in a culture that preaches female empowerment, these young women now see their bodies as tools and assets to be used in their quest for power. But they don’t necessarily see it that way all of time. Mostly, young girls who are flaunting themselves are doing so because they can and want to. Pornography, which was once a tenet of the feminists (and Christians) fight, now is not simply an exploitation of women at the hands of men. Girls are proud producers of it too.

Her book crossed my mind again this week as I read a sobering article in USA Today about “sexting” among teenagers. “Sexting” is the act of sending sexually explicit pictures through text messaging. While this article is not the first I have read regarding this recent phenomenon, it reminded me of the need to think biblically about what this, and other forms of social media, means for our teenagers. Sadly, this article probably won’t be the last I read on the subject either.

According to the article:

A new survey on kids in cyberspace finds that one in five teens have "sexted" — sent or received sexually suggestive, nude or nearly nude photos through cellphone text messages or e-mail.

Most teens who sexted sent the photos to girlfriends or boyfriends, but 11% sent them to strangers, according to the study made public today by the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children and Cox Communications. Of teens who sext, 80% are under 18, the survey found.

Initially, when I first began hearing about sexting, my first reaction was “that is terrible, but I can’t imagine that any of the youth in our youth group would be impacted by this.” Unfortunately, the sheer fact that many of them are either in public or private schools exposes them to the myriad of sexual experimentation that permeates so much of young adults’ lives.

As women how do we minister to girls who are exposed to, and tempted by, the lie of third-wave feminism? And as mothers, how do you protect your daughter from her own inclination towards sin, and from the evil that is seeking to lure her in? And as teenage girls, how do you learn to be “innocent in evil,” even when everyone around you is running straight towards sexual sin? And I will answer these questions tomorrow. So stay tuned!

Thursday, June 25, 2009

One Month of Marriage

Today marks one month of marriage for Daniel and me. Everyone told me that things would fly by once we got married.

They weren't lying.

It feels like we just got married yesterday, but in some ways it feels like so much longer. Primarily because our relationship has grown tremendously just in the 30 days that we have been married. He is there when I wake up in the morning and go to bed at night. He is there for every bad and good day. And just the sheer "togetherness" aspect of our relationship has made me love him more, and know him better. So as we celebrate our one month anniversary I thought I would share with you 5 reasons why I am thankful for my husband.

  1. He loves Jesus and challenges me to love Jesus more.

  2. He randomly does things to serve me when I am tired because he loves me (even though he jokes that "it is his duty!")

  3. He consistently leads us in family worship and takes our spiritual health seriously.

  4. He loves the Church and leads us well in loving our local church.

  5. He makes me laugh, even though I pretend like I don't want to!

There are so many more reasons why I am thankful to be married to this man. God has provided for me beyond what I could have imagined and hoped for.

I thank God for you, Daniel. You truly are a gift to me. Happy One Month Anniversary, Babe!

Sunday, June 21, 2009

A Recovering Feminist Gets Hitched

It’s hard to know where to begin after being away from blogging for nearly two months, and away from significant amounts of blogging for even longer. But it would be impossible to re-enter the blogging world without a recap of where I have been. I got engaged on Christmas Eve, started a new job in March, and then got married on May 25 (just a few weeks ago). Needless to say, it has been a whirlwind the last few months. So that is where I have been. Wrapped up in a lot of planning and change—good change though. All this time I have longed to continue writing, I just couldn’t find the time to sit down and put my thoughts together.

But I am back.

Before I assume my regular blogging, though, I thought that I would recap a few things that I have learned in this prolonged absence.

  1. Marriage is a good thing. Though I have only been married for almost a month, I have learned a lot about myself in this time. I am sure more education is coming, too. In light of all the truths that marriage is so much better than dating, and it is, I think the thing that has struck me most is that marriage is the greatest mirror into my soul that I will ever have. Suddenly I can’t sulk all day about something trivial. There is another person who loves me, and cares about the outcome of my faith, who wants to help me through it. And sometimes I don’t want the help. I just want to be a baby. And marriage is a great reminder of how very self-focused I am in these moments.

  2. Change is a good thing. A year ago I was serving in a church and ministry that I was accustomed to, my life was planned out for me—by me, and all of my time was my own. But then I met a wonderful man named Daniel Reissig, and it all changed. I got a new job and then joined Daniel at his church, where he is the youth pastor. And I did not always respond well to the sudden changes. But God showed me, through this change, that I do not own my life. All of my plans were comfortable to me. I was able to be in control when I planned my steps. Change is a humbling thing, because it reminds us that we are not the rulers of our own personal universe. God is. I needed that.

  3. Fellowship is a good thing. In the midst of a new job, new church, and constant planning of a wedding and preparation for marriage, I was not able to spend quality time with other people that I love (besides Daniel, of course). This left a tremendous impression on me. I missed the girls who drew me out of my sin. I missed the families I used to babysit for and see regularly. We are not meant to walk through this journey alone. The busyness of it all made me intensely grateful for the people God has placed in my life. And when I was able to spend an entire weekend with all of them as I joined in marriage to the man who is now my husband I found myself overwhelmed with gratitude to God for giving me such a wonderful life. The wedding weekend was a foretaste of the joys we will have when one day we are all together in glory, praising Jesus forever.

So those are a few things I have learned in these last few months. If anyone is still out there reading, I am grateful that you have stuck with me. And if you aren’t still reading, I can’t blame you! Who wants to read a blog that is never updated! Either way, I am back and blogging and looking forward to walking this Pilgrim road with you.

(Above is a picture of Daniel and me from our wedding day. It was taken by Denny Burk, his daughter was in our wedding.)

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Where Would You Be?

Have you thought about where you would be this Sunday if Good Friday did not happen? Maybe you would be a businesswoman in a corner office, but now you are changing diapers, wiping snotty noses, and pouring the truth of Christ into the next generation. Maybe you would be a politician or a doctor, instead you are preparing to preach the Word to God’s people tomorrow morning. Or maybe, you would be coming down from a drug high or waking up with someone who is not your spouse, but now you are getting ready to worship the Risen King. At some point, all of us were somewhere else before the light of Gospel shone in our stony hearts and changed us forever. We have all come from the same place—darkness. And by God’s grace, we are all going to the same place—glory. For every one of us, who is in Christ, one single day 2,000 years ago, one cry of agony on a wooden cross finalized by a great cry of victory, changed the course of our lives forever. It is finished. We are free.

Because we are in Christ our old, sinful life died with him. It was crucified with the Savior. But because of the crucifixion we can gladly proclaim that He is risen, and through tears of joy, we can also say “So am I, so am I.”

May this Easter be a glad reminder of the work of Christ in your life. Hallelujah, what a Savior!

“And you were dead in your trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience—among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body, and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.”—Ephesians 2:1-7

Friday, April 3, 2009

Interview with Alex and Brett Harris

In March I had the opportunity to interview Alex and Brett Harris for Southern's newspaper. The interview also appeared on CBMW's Gender Blog. Below is a transcript of the interview.

What is the Rebelution?

It is a teenage rebellion against low expectations. It says that the teen years are not a vacation from responsibility before real life starts. These years are a launching pad and training ground for the rest of our lives. It is preparing for a life of service to God. It is also a blog where we write about this concept for teenagers (

What role do parents play in this cause?

Alex: The dedication of our book is to our parents, Greg and Sono Harris, and it says “this book is the message of your lives.” Now, they didn’t say, “do hard things” and they certainly didn’t call it a “rebelution,” but they modeled for us to do what was right for our family and encouraged us to do what was right—sometimes against our will—in order to do what pleased God. That was the biggest thing for us—that they modeled it for us, and we grew up seeing mature biblical manhood and womanhood in our parents living this way. The other thing is they encouraged us to step outside our comfort zones. In all those areas they pushed us beyond what we would naturally do, to the point where we had to rely on strength greater than ourselves—ultimately pointing us to the Cross. That was really the foundation of our understanding of doing hard things for God. It’s an important role that parents can play in the lives of their children.

How does this apply specifically to young men and young women?

Brett: Alex and I firmly believe that there are specific things that God has called young men to do, that he hasn’t called young women to do. And we also believe that there are specific things that God has called young men to do that he hasn’t called young women to do. So we challenge the young people at our conferences to go to their pastors or their parents—godly men and women in their lives—and ask them what specific things has God called me to as a young man and what specific things has called me to as a young lady. In our culture even recognizing the differences between men and women is a hard thing. It’s a challenge because it means standing up for something you see as important and going against the flow.

What do pastors need to be aware of when working with this generation?

Brett: Pastors need to be aware that young people can grasp big things about God. I would say that as you approach young people in your church you need to first recognize that there are low expectations. They are not used to being expected to do these things. And then the next step is to acknowledge the low expectations and know that they are not going to get that kind of challenge in other places, but say “I believe God has made you to be able to enter into who he is” and then proceed to really challenge them and give them meat—not just pizza.

How can pastors implement this vision of doing hard things among the young people in their congregations?

Alex: I think a big part of it has to come down to first living the message themselves. A lot of pastors have communicated to us that they see their role of doing hard things is not just taking the easy route, especially as they minister to the young people in their church. To really take the time to challenge and encourage them to step outside their comfort zones and also be willing to do that themselves, and not take the easy route.

Brett: I would just add to that, for pastors I think it really starts with teaching sound doctrine and really digging into God’s Word yourself and feeding the congregation, because it is really the truth of who God is, who we are, and the truth of the Gospel that motivates us, and gives us a reason to go out and do hard things. We do hard things because Christ did the ultimate hard thing that we couldn’t do for ourselves. As pastors, really just be faithful in teaching, and do not feel like you have to water that down, or entertain young people.

What is the most encouraging thing you have seen?

Alex: I think the most encouraging thing we have seen is that God is truly working in our generation. You can look at the statistics among young people today and it can be pretty discouraging—the picture can look pretty bleak, but we are reminded of Psalm 127 that says, “Unless the Lord builds the house they labor in vain. Unless the Lord watches the city the watchman stays awake in vain.” And what that verse is saying is that unless God is at work, no matter what amount of effort you put into it, it isn’t going to succeed—but if God is at work, you can move forward with complete confidence that he will see it done. And we have just seen God’s hand working so clearly in our generation and for that reason we have so much hope as we challenge our peers that they will respond, and it will resonate and happen, not because of anything that we can do, but because God is working in the hearts and lives of a generation—and that is an exciting thing.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Sometimes it’s hard to believe that the Gospel is real—that it has really changed us. We would rather grasp at our perceived good works and lists of accomplishments than cling to the only accomplishment that really saves us. I had been feeling like I needed a good dose of the Gospel in my life to refresh my delight in Christ’s work on my behalf, so I picked up a book called Because He Loves Me: How Christ Transforms Our Daily Life by Elyse Fitzpatrick. It has been so helpful, even in the short amount of time that I have been reading it. I will leave you with a few quotes that ministered to me tremendously.

“God first transforms our hearts, then it changes our behaviors. He does transform our outer, more noticeable behavior (where we usually focus), but this transformation has its genesis in the renovation of the hidden inner person. Without the recognition of this prior and ongoing work of love, we won’t have the courage or strength we’ll need to fight sin in the way he is calling us to. We won’t have the faith to continue to say, ‘Yes Lord,’ unless we’re resting securely in the eternal yes he has spoken over us.”

I love the last line. All of God’s promises find their “yes” in the work of Christ, and if we are in Christ those “yes's” are ours. What an amazing gift that we have received. So often I focus on external behavioral changes, rather than heart changes. I get angry and react against behaviors without ever attempting to discern the heart behind the behavior. If the heart is not first dealt with, these same sin patterns will continue to manifest themselves in other ways until the heart has been changed by Christ. This is a good, but continually needed reminder.

She also says,

“Most of us view God’s love and the gospel as elementary topics meant to get us in the front door of faith, and they are that. But we’ve forgotten how these truths are to transform us every moment of every day—when we’re watching our favorite team lose, when the roast is still as raw as it was when we left for church, when we’re tempted to believe that we’re nothing more than unloved, disrespected, hungry losers.”

Every circumstance that pans out contrary to our expectations is a test, whether it is a friend failing to call us, unemployment that will not end, or a husband who doesn’t remember to take out the trash when we have asked him three times. Will we respond in a way that recognizes that, in Christ, we have received far better than we deserve? Or will we respond in anger and frustration because we feel like we deserve better than we are getting in that moment. I appreciate this conviction because so often I do not respond well. I react. I get angry. I pout. This is not the attitude of a redeemed sinner. Instead of living out of the truth of the Gospel’s work in my life, most of the time I live out of the fleshly woman still raging inside of me.

So, as I read this book (and I hope you will, too!) I want to love the Gospel more when I get to the last page. It’s not because I first loved Him, but because He first loved me.

Monday, January 19, 2009

I Am Romans 1

Often when I read Romans 1 I am prompted to think of other people—the ones who really do suppress the truth of God with lies, the ones who murder innocent babies while they are in their mother’s wombs, the ones who deny the very existence of God. But very rarely do I read Romans 1 with my name in it. And I should. Not because I am doing those things right now. But I could be. Apart from the grace of God sustaining me, his hand would be off of my life in the exact same way as those “haters of God.”

Romans 1 should drive me to prayers of thanksgiving for my own salvation. The only reason I have not been given over completely to my sinful, depraved mind is because of sovereign grace. Nothing else. We see in verse 28 that God gave them over to their sinful passions. God is the one who gives people over to their sin and God is the one who keeps people from their sin. This is no small matter. How humbling to know that the salvation of lost souls is hinging on the keeping power of the God of the Universe.

Reading Romans 1 should make me so utterly thankful for the provision of Jesus death and righteous act, but so often I read other people into the verses. I think of my neighbor, or my friend, or the person I saw on the side of the road. I should be thankful that I am not wallowing in my sin any longer and thankful that I am now a child of the King. If my immediate thought when I read Romans 1 is someone else, then I do not fully grasp the horror of my own sin and the magnitude of God’s forgiveness. This does not mean that the passage should never apply to other people in our lives, but so often we are quickly drawn to the other person before we see how it directly applies to us. It is through the Bible’s light in our own lives that we are able to shine that light into the lives of others.

As I am reading through Romans I want to get this early on. If I don’t get this simple truth of the terrible nature of my sin and my need of a great Savior, then everything else won’t make sense. My prayer as I read through Romans is that God would open my eyes to see my Savior in greater measure this time, and that I would be thankful for the Cross like never before. One of the greatest temptation's for a believer is to grow tired of the Gospel, to find it boring. I must continually remind myself that I am Romans 1 apart from the provision of our Christ. But Christ has come and shone light on this darkened heart. Hallelujah.

"And you were dead in your trespasses and sins in which you once walked...But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ." -Ephesians 2:1, 4-5