Thursday, February 25, 2010

Purity in an Impure World: Part 3

Proverbs repeatedly talks about Lady Wisdom and encourages the believer in Jesus to follow her example. The Bible tells us that a woman of wisdom.

  1. The woman of wisdom’s beauty is to be inward, not outward. Her dress should not be her primary focus. 1 Peter 3:3-4 tells us that a woman's adornment should not be extravagant. Clothing is important. Appearance matters. We should love to look attractive. But it should not characterize us. We should not dress to attract and make ourselves the primary attraction. Christian women should desire to make Christ the main attraction. When we dress immodestly we take away from Christ’s glory. By being lusted after we are getting glory and attention for ourselves, not the One who made us. I like shopping. And I really like doing my hair and makeup in the morning. I would never dream of going to work or church without makeup on. And I really like clothes. I like to look cute. Those things are not wrong in themselves. But when I leave my house in the morning if my heart is saying “I hope everyone loves my outfit." Or "I hope that person notices me,” then I have misplaced desires. I want the wrong thing. My body is not the object of everyone in Louisville’s affections—and neither is yours. One really practical way that we can love our brothers in Christ (and even loved unsaved boys) is be mindful of what we wear. Men are visually stimulated. They are designed to want to look at a woman’s body. And we are designed to want them to. But only in marriage. Our bodies are only for one man.
  2. The woman of wisdom makes herself available to one man. God never intended for you to be a serial dater. The Bible does not give us a framework for the dating culture that we have today. We were made to enjoy intimacy, both emotional and physical, with one man—our husband. In Genesis 2 we see that Eve was made for Adam. She was made to complete him. Flirting and tempting guys with your affections and your body is only opening the doors for your availability for them.
  3. The woman of wisdom is gentle and submissive. Ephesians 5 and 1 Peter 3, while talking about married woman, tell us that a godly woman is gentle and submissive. This does not mean that we do not speak. A gentle and quiet spirit is not a character trait. It is a heart condition. All of us can probably point out girls we know who are “in your face, you can’t tell me what to do” types. We all know women who are manipulative and use people to get their own way. This is not what God says women who are after his heart are to be like. For some of you it is very easy to use your beauty, your sexuality, your body, and even your brains to get what you want. You use your tongue to lure men to desire you. But the godly woman does not see the men around her as objects to control. Rather she sees them as brothers in Christ. She does not use her body to manipulate. Part of being gentle and submissive means watching our tongues. Do not get caught up in the sexual conversations that permeate your school or work environment. If we love Christ, we will not love to talk about those things. Ephesians 5:4 says that there should be no “crude joking,” and he links that with sexual immorality in the previous and following verses. Our speech should be distinctly different.
  4. The woman of wisdom is honest. The godly woman also knows that any sexual activity with a guy before marriage would be committing adultery against her future husband. Jesus says in Matthew 5:28 that if you have even looked at a woman lustfully you have committed adultery. If you cause a man to lust after you, whether by your physical actions with him or physical appearance you have caused him to commit adultery. And if you look lustfully on a man, or even a woman, you have committed the same sin. The godly woman knows that God’s word is true and that marriage to one man is the only honest way to express sexuality.
  5. The woman of wisdom is life-giving. In Genesis 3:20, Adam names his wife Eve as the “mother of all living.” Women and girls are given the task of being life-givers. We are to bear and nurture life in all settings, no matter our age. The forbidden woman’s life leads to death for all who come in contact with her. But the godly woman labors hard to cultivate life in the people around her. Do not be a source of death for the brothers in your life. Be a source of life. Protect their hearts and their eyes by choosing to dress modestly and behave modestly. Protect their future marriages by refraining from using your body and your mind as a tool for your own gain. Encourage them in their walk with the Lord and their fight against lust by your appearance, your actions, and your relationship with them. God has given you a tremendous tool to use for his glory.

Final post to be continued...

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Missions Wednesday: Bangladesh

I hate admiting it, but it is hard to imagine horrific poverty and overpopulation. I live in a suburban area. My streets are clean. My apartment is clean, and not overpopulated. I drive my nice car to work every day, where (by God's gracious and undeserved provision) I make an above poverty level wage. And it's not just me. My husband alone makes above the poverty line. On top of all of that, I drive to my nice church building three times a week where I hear God's Word preached, sing the Word in song, and experience fellowship with other believers. All without any fear that someone might come in at any moment and torture me, or worse: kill me.

It's not wrong that God has provided all of this for me. In fact, I should be thankful and should be on my face thanking him daily.

For the people of Bangladesh, my life is very far from the reality of their life. Bangladesh is one of the poorest countries in the world. In fact, 55% of the Bengali people live below the poverty line. Overpopulation only compounds the poverty. Add to it that Bangladesh is an Islamic state that persecutes Christians, and the suffering is compounded even further. With over 150 million people living in this small country, approximately 85% of the population claims to be Muslim. While the country claims religious freedom, persecution is a great risk for people who do not adhere to the teachings of Islam, especially for Christians.

Bangladesh is a country that is overwhelmed by poverty, recovery from civil war with Pakistan, and the danger of natural disasters. They are a country who has seen increased Islamic violence, even while (though a very small number) the Christian church continues to grow. The Bengali people are among some of the largest unreached people groups in the world, especially when you add in the ones who do not live in the actual country of Bangladesh. This could mean that a Bengali man or woman might be right around your corner. They are a people who need our prayers and our time, and they are a people who desperately need Jesus Christ.

Ways to Pray:

  1. Pray for the existing church that it would grow in the midst of persecution.
  2. Pray that poverty would not lead to despair, but would lead to the true Redeemer, Jesus.
  3. Pray that missionaries would go to Bangladesh. There is a tremendous need for people to go.
  4. Pray that God would raise up leaders for the churches in Bangladesh.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Hope for Monday (And Everyday!)

Yesterday I was reading a chapter in War of Words: Getting to The Heart of Your Communication Struggles and this paragraph struck me. It gave me hope. I hope it does for you too.

"In the Word we find hope for our words. This hope is not a dreamy wish or an unfounded expectation. No, biblical hope is nothing less than a confident expectation of a guaranteed result. In him we can win the war of words. We do not have to settle for bitter, angry, destructive, divisive communication. We can have high standards and set lofty goals, not because of who we are, but because of what he has done. So we refuse to settle for the status quo, to let the creeping cynicism of hopelessness cause us to give up in the face of struggle. No, we live and speak with faith and courage, believing that something better can be achieved because of what he has done."

As I start my week, I have hope for change and growth because God has, and will continue to, conform me into the image of his Son.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Purity in an Impure World: Part 2

In light of the fact that we are to be holy because God is holy and in light of the fact that sex is a good thing, how are you supposed to live? In Proverbs 5 we see King Solomon pleading with his son to listen to his words. He has lived life longer. He has experienced the effects of sin. He knows what he is talking about. He wants so badly for his son to understand the death that comes from sexual impurity. And he has wisdom for us today in how to live as pure women.

Proverbs 5-7 is a plea to flee sexual immorality. Solomon is pleading with his son to run from the forbidden woman. We are told in Proverbs 5:1-14 that this woman’s life leads to death and destruction for all who come in contact with her.

But how does she do it?

She is a woman who is set on leading men into adultery. She uses her sexuality to lure men away from their wives and their purity. The remaining posts will contrast the forbidden woman of Proverbs 7 with the godly woman that God calls us to be. Even though Solomon is talking to his son in Proverbs 7, there is a lot to be learned from his teaching here. Today we will look at the 5 characteristics of the forbidden woman:

  1. Notice how she is dressed—like a prostitute (vs. 10). Now it doesn’t say that she is a prostitute. It is her clothing that is saying she is available to this man. She is dressing in a way that causes the men to notice her and want her sexually. We live in a culture where it is popular to dress like a prostitute, right? The Bible says that the woman who dresses in this way is living like the forbidden woman. But, modesty is not simply covering up your body. It is about a desire for attention. This forbidden woman dresses immodestly because she knows that men will notice her and be drawn to her. As women we are tempted by the lust to be lusted after. We want men to desire us and want us. But outside of marriage, any man desiring us and our bodies is sinful.

  2. Notice how she makes herself available to everyone. In verses 11 and 12 it says that she is everywhere. She does not stay at home. She goes to the streets, the market, and anywhere that men will be. She is loud and makes herself known. Are you this type of woman? Do you make yourself available to every boy in your school? Are you cautious with your interactions with boys or do you pursue them? Does everyone know who you like? Do you call, text, and flirt with the boys in your school and youth group?

  3. Notice how she is forceful and manipulative. In verses 13-18 and verse 21 we see that not only does she make herself available, she uses her immodesty and availability to lure men to her. She is only thinking about her own pleasure and her own gain.
  4. Notice that she is a cheater and a deceiver. In verses 19-20 we see that she is married and she is using her husband’s time away as an opportunity to commit adultery. No matter what your circumstance right now, if you are impure with a man who is not your husband—even if it is your boyfriend and you say you love him—you are living like the forbidden woman. The reality is that if he is not your husband right now, he very well could be someone else’s husband someday—and you are someone else’s wife. Every sexual act you commit before marriage is adultery against your future spouse.
  5. Notice that her actions lead to death. In verses 22-23 we see that her actions lead this man into death. It costs him his life, and it costs her life as well. It is not what God intended. It is outside of his bounds for sexuality.

And so we see in the rest of the chapter that Solomon is pleading with his son to listen to him and to not turn aside from his teaching. Solomon is begging his son to not follow the forbidden woman. If we are in Christ, we should not desire to be like the forbidden woman—even if all we see around us is women who live this way. Thankfully, God is kind to tell us how to live pure lives as women. To be continued...

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Missions Wednesday: Georgia

If you are watching the Olympics, or even the news, then you have probably heard about the Georgian man who died before the games even started. While the name of the country has been heavily talked about, I realized that I don’t know a lot about the people or the presence of the Gospel there. For most of my life when someone said "Georgia" I would immediately think about the state down south, not the country far away. So this week’s Missions Wednesday will focus on Georgia.

Georgia is a small coastal country on the Black Sea between Turkey and Russia. After years of domination from neighboring countries, they gained their independence in 1991. While the Georgian Orthodox church has been apart of the culture, there are some who do not want to see non-Orthodox churches within the country. Since gaining their independence there has been an increased interest in Christianity among the people of Georgia. This is cause for much praise!

Ways to pray:

  1. Pray that the existing churches would grow and be encouraged in their walks with the Lord.
  2. Pray that God would provide financially for these churches, as poverty is high in many village areas making it difficult to pay for pastors.
  3. Pray that the hearts of Georgian men and women would be softened to see Jesus as the greatest treasure in the universe.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Purity in an Impure World: Part 1

In November, I spoke to a group of youth girls on the topic of purity. I have been meaning to break the talk up into posts for a while now, but just now got around to it. It will probably be spread out over a few days as I have time to edit it down. I hope it is helpful.


Any understanding of purity must first begin with a right understanding of God. God created us and God gives us guidelines for how to live. God tells us in Leviticus 19:2 to “be holy because I am holy.” Our rationale for holiness as Christians is because God is holy. God is pure, holy, and good. If we are in Christ, and children of God, we should want nothing less than what he himself already is.

The problem is that so many of us want to know how far we can go. We want to know how much is too much. But God never takes us there. He gives us one simple command, I am holy and if you are my people you are to be holy like me. But what is the problem with that command? So many of us try to be holy on our own, and we try to fit into God’s standards for morality only to be faced with the fact that those standards crush us every time. We can’t do the very thing he commands us to do. To understand what it means to be pure and holy, we must understand God. And to understand God we need Jesus to cleanse us from our sin.

Purity is not a list of rules to be followed. It is not a ring to be worn or a card to be signed. It is a lifestyle. A lifestyle of a person who has been bought with Christ’s blood and loves God the Father. God is not pleased with a “cleaned up act.” And Bible tells us that all of our acts are filthy rags to God because we have been stained by sin.

In order to understand purity we have to understand how God created us. We are all tempted to impurity because God created us as sexual beings. Sex was his idea. In Genesis 2:18-24 we see that God created Eve for Adam and they were one flesh. It was not good for Adam to be alone, the text tells us. We know from these verses that the woman was made for the man. God created them distinctly different and created them for each other. But unfortunately sin has marred what God created to be good. It has been distorted. Now we see all forms of perversions of what God designed sex to be.

God designed us to desire to be intimate with a man. Part of being human is having sexual desires. We do not check them at the door when we become Christians. But, God has given us parameters for his good gift of sex. This gift is only to be experienced within the bounds of a marriage between one man and one woman. Anything outside of these boundaries is outside of God’s design. If God is calling you to be married some day, then any sexual experience with someone else before your wedding day is outside of God’s design as well. God wants you to be holy, because he is holy. He loves you and wants what is best for you.

In Song of Solomon, the married woman urges the single women around her to not arouse her desires until it is time. Throughout the entire book she is pleading with the young maidens to abstain from awakening desires that are not ready to be awakened. It is not simply about having “sex.” It is about giving yourself over to the desires that are only intended for your future husband. There is timing for our gifts. Just because God gave the desire to us does not mean we get to enjoy the gift right now. The entire Christian life is about waiting and patience. We are not free to do as we please.

To be continued...

Monday, February 15, 2010

Snow Day #3

I suppose I should say that this is snow day #4 because we actually had a snow day in January as well. But this is the third snow day that we have had over the course of a week, which is pretty significant for Louisville. Even though this weather is not unfamiliar to a northern gal like me, I still acted like everyone else these last few days and stayed inside. So what else does one do on a snow day?
  1. Make lots of food. I made my mom's lasagna and banana bread last week. Tonight I am making The Pioneer Woman's chicken spaghetti. Daniel loves it, and so do I.
  2. Read and read and read.

  3. Watch television and movies.

  4. Clean like a crazy woman.

  5. Finish some home projects that I have been meaning to do.
  6. Go for a walk in the snow. Crazy? Maybe. Bored? Absolutely.

  7. Blog, of course.

  8. Watch the Olympics! This deserves a bullet point all by itself.

While it is beautiful to see the snow falling outside my apartment window, I will be glad when winter is over.

Being at home so much this past week has made me appreciate home so much more. I enjoy the excitement my husband displays when he comes home from work to a clean house. I love making meals that feed him and satisfy him. I love making our home a warm and inviting place to be. Extra time here helps me to see the value in all of it. I also really like not rushing home from work and frantically trying to make dinner so we can eat before 8 pm! Most likely I will be back to the office tomorrow. It was fun while it lasted...

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Broken-Down House by Paul David Tripp

Living in a sin-cursed world is hard. It is devastating, painful, and very difficult. Learning how to live in this world is often a challenge. Paul David Tripp, in his book Broken-Down House: Living Productive in a World Gone Bad, walks us through life in this fallen world—this broken house. Everything around us is screaming that this is not how it is supposed to be.

Daniel and I had the opportunity to hear him speak on this topic earlier this year. One of the most helpful things then, and in reading the book, was the idea that often we want the grace of release, when God really wants us to have the grace of refinement. As Tripp points out, this desire often comes from an unhelpful understanding of who we are. We want our rights. We don’t think we are as bad as we are, or even could be. Therefore we don’t see the need for refinement. We think we deserve release. Understanding how to live in this world, as Tripp says, must first begin with a proper assessment of who we are as contributors to the fallen, but also as redeemed sinners.

As redeemed sinners we are to live out a ministry of reconciliation and restoration. This fallen world should make us angry, Tripp says. But it should not make us sin. God is angry at sin, but he never sins. He is good and angry. I don’t know about you, but I am very often bad and angry.

He says, “God’s anger is the anger of grace. It is not the violent anger of unbridled fury. God’s anger always works to right what is wrong. That is what grace does. This gracious hanger has to sides to it: justice and mercy.”

Tripp will go on to say that this mercy works to do four things: convict (produce sorrow for wrongs), forgive (cancel our debt for wrongs), empower (give us the ability to do what is right) and deliver (clean out sin). The greatest picture of these things is at the Cross.

If God cares so much about these things, we who have been adopted by his grace should care too. The entire second half of the book is about doing things in this broken-down house, and I found it extremely convicting and also very helpful. Our lives are supposed to be ministry, not a slot filled out on a card. In order to live this way, we must live radically, Tripp says. He explains that we have a “dissatisfied Savior.” He is dissatisfied because this is not how his Father’s world is supposed to be. He is working to restore people to right relationship with God through his completed work. Tripp rightfully assesses that as believers our problem is that we are too satisfied with our lives.

“We are easily satisfied with an externalistic and episodic Christianity that lives most fully on Sunday morning. We are easily satisfied with an approach to theological knowledge and biblical literacy that does not reshape and redefine how we live. We easily are satisfied with marriages that are more marital d├ętente than they are pictures of one-flesh unity. We are easily satisfied with raising children who learn to jump through behavioral hoops, but don’t really have hearts for God. We are easily satisfied having casual relationship with neighbors who live in darkness and desperately need to see the Light of Life. We are all too content to lower our standards enough to participate in entertainment that is increasingly perverse in its depiction of life.”

I was sad when the book was over. I couldn’t get enough of it. Maybe it’s because it hit a little close to home this time. After reading this section I was floored. I know my tendencies towards all of those things. But I want to be like my Savior and be dissatisfied. I don’t want to settle for life in this broken-world. Rather, I want to work with all of my might to help people see the only One who can fix and restore what seems to be irreparable. And his name is Jesus.

Missions Wednesday: Germany

This week’s country focus shifts to Western Europe. Germany is a country with a rich history, and like much of Europe, is a country whose religious leanings are now only a memory of what once was. According to Operation World, while 70% of the people in Germany would claim to be Christians, only 45% believe in a God who is personal, and only 8% actually worship the Savior they claim. Because of this exodus from orthodox Christianity, to be a sold-out Christian means facing hostility from your countrymen. While there were once many church buildings filled with Germans, these are now only empty edifices. In many ways, Germany is very hard soil to penetrate.

The thing that fascinates me about Germany is its familiarity. It’s easy to look at Saudi Arabia and Turkey, and even Haiti, and see it as so “other.” The culture is so different than mine. The people look different than me. Their gods and religions are so different than what I am used to. But Western Europe isn’t that way. They have empty churches just like we do. They fight many of the same cultural battles that we fight. In reality the god of this age blinds the eyes of the Germans in the same way he does the Saudi’s and the Turks—and the Americans. It just manifests differently. The cultural differences in each country are a reminder to me to know them all, and not lump them all into the “lost and need Jesus” category. They each have desires. They each have sin tendencies. They each have a deep and cavernous void that desperately needs to be filled by King Jesus.

Ways to pray:

  1. Pray that God would soften the hearts of stone in the lives of many Germans.
  2. Pray that believers would feel compelled to disciple fellow Germans and proclaim the Gospel.
  3. Pray that the existing church would be strengthened and that the forces of darkness would be taken out.
  4. Pray that Christians in other countries would go and plant churches in Germany and evangelize the German people.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Paul Richard Garrett 1927-2010

On April 25, 1927, Paul Richard Garrett was born into this world. On February 6, 2010, he went to be with King Jesus. A lot of things happened in his nearly 83 years of life. Most importantly, God saved him out of his sin. But he also married Joan, fathered Deb (and two other children), and became a grandfather to me. He left behind three children, twelve grandchildren, and five great-grandchildren. Most importantly he left a legacy of love for his family and commitment to Christ. I often think that if my grandparents had not taken my mom to church, where she could hear the Gospel and believe, my life could be very different right now. I do not take that for granted at all. My grandpa was an avid sports fan, enjoyed telling jokes, and loved his church. He was a humble man who cared about people. Even in his final hours he spent much of his time asking about his family members and learning more about their lives. One of my brothers was able to see him on Thursday, and he said that it was evident that he was clinging to Christ as he neared the end. He knew he was going to be with Jesus.

My mom told me that the grief will come in waves. And it has. There are moments where I am living life as normal, and there are moments where I am overcome with sorrow and disbelief that he is really gone. As I have gotten older, I have grown to appreciate the heritage of my family, and I loved being around my grandpa. My parents moved to Florida after my grandma died to be near him, and he became a part of our life as a family. It feels like there is a void now. But I think that is what death is supposed to feel like. Death reminds us that things will never be as they once were. And it is an ugly feeling. As my dad says, “it is unnatural.” This is not how things were supposed to be.

As sorrowful as yesterday morning at church was, I worshipped knowing that my grandpa is worshipping in a way that I cannot even imagine. Our corporate worship was a mere shadow of the pleasure that he is experiencing right now in the presence of his Savior, my Savior. And that is our hope. We will see him again. But more importantly, we will be with our King one day. Even though I knew all of these things, I still wept through singing because I can’t get to him. Not yet, at least.

He will be missed, terribly. He was a good grandpa. There won’t be anymore jokes at family events, there won’t be anymore moments where he tries to slip money into my hands (he was always so generous), there won’t be anymore hugs. But we know our goodbye is not the end. And I praise God that we have hope. One day our faith will be sight. Until then we wait.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

One Way to Save a Life

For almost all of the two and a half years that I have been in Louisville, Carl "Chip" Stam has helped shepherd my heart and mind to worship God. Whether through leading chapel worship at Southern or leading Sunday morning worship at church, he has helped me prepare my heart to receive God's word.

He has also been battling cancer.

It's hard to put into words how much Chip and Doris Stam have, through living their lives, helped me see the goodness of God even in the midst of suffering. I am so grateful for their testimony.

Now Chip is in need of a stem-cell transplant and he needs a match. And you can help. If you have given blood before this is not too different. You can register online and they will send you a kit in the mail. If you are a match they will contact you when someone needs your help.

I signed up on Sunday night. I hope you do to. And if you can't, please remember to pray for Chip's healing.

Here is the link:

The coupon code for Chip is: CARLSTAM2010