Sunday, November 25, 2007

Tough on Mildew!

Back when I was in college, a friend and I used to joke about verses in the Bible that struck us as being very funny. For example:

After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry.(Matthew 4:2, NIV)

Really? He was hungry? After 40 days of fasting? You don't say!

How about this one:

And a young man followed him, with nothing but a linen cloth about his body. And they seized him, but he left the linen cloth and ran away naked (Mark 14:51-52, ESV).

Now that must have been a sight to see! Here's one that my friend pointed out to me:

The LORD will smite you with consumption and with fever and with inflammation and with fiery heat and with the sword and with blight and with mildew, and they will pursue you until you perish (Deuteronomy 28:22, NASB).

This one was very funny to us. The verse almost reads like something from a Monty Python skit. My friend was walking around the room and speaking in a deep, authoritative voice saying, "I will smite thee with MILDEW!!" Somehow, after being smote with fiery heat and the sword, mildew does not seem very daunting.

Although we had a few chuckles over the verse, it did get me wondering. I knew God did not put anything in the Bible without reason, so I decided to do a little research on mildew. What I found was pretty . . . daunting.

Video: Powdery Mildew Cleistothecia, (mildew growing on cherries):



Mildew, as with mold and dust mites, is a biological pollutant, as well as a contaminant. Once something in your home is contaminated with mold or mildew, it is very difficult to control. If you simply google "mildew" you will get 7,770,000 results, and if you google the phrase "health hazards of mildew," you can narrow it down to 167,000 results. Some of the health hazards I found while surfing the net include watery eyes, runny nose and sneezing, nasal congestion, itching, coughing, wheezing and difficulty breathing, headache, dizziness and fatigue.

Okay, so maybe that is still not as bad as being smote with fiery heat and the sword, but imagine in those days the agony of a chronic allergy or sinus condition without any over the counter aid such as Claritin. Most of the websites I found all say to kill mildew with bleach. What was used to kill mildew in Old Testament times? There was no Clorox back then. Everything pretty much had to be burned.

Even in modern times, mold and mildew are not that easy to control. Yang (1994) notes that there are health risks associated with mold and mildew that are extremely toxic, resulting in far more serious health conditions if left unchecked:

The earliest known toxigenic molds, primarily Claviceps purpurea, produce the substance ergot. The ergot molds infect rye, grains and other grasses. Ingestion of ergot contaminated rye or other cereals causes ergotism. There are two types of ergotism recognized clinically: gangrenous and convulsive. Gangrenous ergotism affects the extremities as well as causes gastrointestinal symptoms. Convulsive ergotism affects the nerve system causing brain and spinal lesions which can lead to death or permanent mental impairment. (Yang, 1994)

He lists more health risks as follows:

Mycotoxins may cause a variety of short-term as well as long-term adverse health effects. This ranges from immediate toxic response and immune-suppression to the potential long-term carcinogenic effect. Symptoms due to mycotoxins or toxins-containing airborne spores (particularly those of Stachybotrys chartarum) include dermatitis, recurring cold and flu-like symptoms, burning sore throat, headaches and excessive fatigue, diarrhea, and impaired or altered immune function. The ability of the body to fight off infectious diseases may be weakened resulting in opportunistic infections. Certain mycotoxins, such as zearalenone (F2 toxin), can cause infertility and stillbirths in pigs. (Yang, 1994)

Wow. Who knew mold and mildew could be that detrimental?

Among the modern day damage that has been caused by mold and mildew, Yang cites that in the early 1990's, several courthouses in Florida were shut down for decontamination, a process which costs more than the building itself. And in Canada, an entire school was so infested, the whole building had to be burned.

It is interesting how a majority of television commercials featuring household cleansing products feature women. This is because the traditionally biblical role for women is to manage the home. It is not a meaningless lifestyle, as some feminist philosophers would have you think. Biblically, being the manager of a home is a vital part of fulfilling the helper role.

Many of these television commercials do not just discuss how to clean a shower that may have a bit of mildew. Instead, the commercials use vocabulary such as "fight," "kill," and "destroy" when it comes to mold and mildew. These are combative terms. It shows that there is a legitimate need right in the home to stand guard and offer protection against an intruder. I have discussed in a previous post that the object of love is to protect and provide. Consider the very noble act of protecting one's family in this fashion: to keep the home clean and free of dangerous pollutants and other biological hazards.

The Council for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood takes the position that men and women are equal, but different. We have an equal responsibility to serve God, however, God has given us very different roles to play in how we are to serve Him. When we start to confuse these roles, or assert that one role is less honorable than the other, we upset the order God has established for a perfect partnership. Managing a home involves the same responsibility to protect and provide as going out to work everyday. It just fulfills that responsibility differently.

As a single woman who is solely responsible for putting a roof over my own head, I can fully appreciate the role of a stay-at-home wife and/or mother. When I come home from work, I am tired. I just want to relax! However, I do not have a lovely wife to take care of my house for me while I'm away at work. (And that's why my bathtub often looks like a giant petri dish.) So I can see how valuable the traditional, domestic role of a woman is to a man who is the sole bread winner of the family.

The domestic role which has been biblically prescribed for a woman is not a punishment from God, but a divine responsibility. It is a privilege to be entrusted with such a responsibility. A woman who is diligent in keeping the home clean and orderly is protecting her family against illness, disease, parasitic infestation, and possibly (if you live in Florida) a necessary torching. Therefore, let us not look down upon our prescribed domestic role. Instead, let us fight these intruders to our homes with all diligence as a divine mission from the Creator. Our families will be happier and healthier for it.



Reference:


Yang, C.M. (1994, September). Toxic effects of mildew and mold. Enviros, The Healthy Building Newsletter, 4(9), Retrieved November 25, 2007 from: http://www.mdsdog.com/articles/Effects%20of%20Mildew%20and%20Mold.pdf

Friday, November 23, 2007

Choose Your Own Adventure

The Choice to Love

When I was a child, I used to love to read the Choose Your Own Adventure series. For those of you who are unfamiliar with this series, the title is exactly as it sounds. You literally would choose how the story will go. There were several different storylines: you were in the Amazon jungle, or climbing Mount Everest, or on a Deep Sea Adventure. After reading about five pages or so into the story, the reader would be faced with a decision: If you decide to enter the cave, turn to page 19. If you turn back and go for help, turn to page 81. The choice you made determined the outcome of the story.

I have always been very practical, even as a child. So it probably comes as no surprise to you that I used to read ahead to learn the outcome of both choices. Then, whichever scenario provided the best possible outcome would be the decision I would make.

The Christian life is a lot like the Choose Your Own Adventure series, only we cannot skip ahead a few pages to know the outcome of our decisions ahead of time. Instead, we must use what we know about God's design, God's will, and God's word to make the best possible educated guess and make our choice in faith with God's guidance.

I was once faced with such a decision. A man I knew had made a decision that I did not agree with. That in itself is a struggle, because as self-absorbed sinners, we want what pleases us. But in addition to having to submit to a decision I did not like, there was another issue. In carrying out his decision, the man sinned against me.

The details of what this man did are not important. What is important was my reaction to the sin. In a word, I was angry -- sinfully angry. I wanted to alert this man right away to the fact that what he did was just downright wrong, unfair, and hurtful to me. As far as I could search my heart, I had done nothing to bring this on myself.

So I was faced with a Choose Your Own Adventure-type decision: If you decide to confront this man on his sin, turn to Matthew 18:15-17. If you decide to remain silent, turn to 1 Peter 3:1. Although I did not know the outcome of either decision, I tried my best, given what I know about God's design for men and women, to imagine how each scenario would play out.

Let's look at Matthew 18:15-17:
Moreover if your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he hears you, you have gained your brother. But if he will not hear, take with you one or two more, that ‘by the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.’ And if he refuses to hear them, tell it to the church. But if he refuses even to hear the church, let him be to you like a heathen and a tax collector.

What might the outcome be if I took this road? Well, given what I know about men and women, I most likely would have been extremely tempted to use my feminine power of influence in a selfish way, especially since I was angry. It's possible I would have been tempted to use the discussion about the man's sin as an opportunity to get him to change his decision. As a result, I may have appeared to this man as a contentious and/or selfish woman who was only trying to rob him of his leadership. He may have considered me to be a thorn in the flesh, instead of a caring sister in Christ. Taking this approach might even communicate to him: "I don't respect you enough to trust your ability to make a godly decision." I do have biblical grounds based on Matthew 18 to correct this man. There is nothing unlawful about confronting him on his sin. However, what if I consider this scripture:

All things are lawful for me, but not all things are helpful; all things are lawful for me, but not all things edify. Let no one seek his own, but each one the other’s well-being. (1 Corinthians 10:23-24).

Just because I have biblical grounds for Matthew 18, does that make it the best possible decision? Will confronting this man edify him, or contribute to his well-being?

I feel I knew this brother well enough to say that he is a very gentle and tenderhearted man of God. I am confident that he is aware of his sin. All of us have sinned at one point and knew it, yet were ashamed or embarrassed to address the offended party. Perhaps we were afraid of rejection. The possibility of hearing that individual say, "You really blew it bigtime!" is not helpful. Most of us would probably respond, "Gee, thanks. Tell me something I don't know!" I am confident that 1 Peter 3:1 gives me the opportunity to communicate to this man, without the use of words, the very "something" he may not know:

  • I don't agree with your decision, but I respect you enough to submit to it. I am demonstrating my submission to you by my silence.
  • I have compassion for you, so as not to throw your sin in your face.

  • I know you have a lot on your plate; therefore, I will remain silent. I will not add my own drama to your troubles.
  • I trust your level of integrity enough to let you come to me on your own when you are ready.
  • I believe in you! I know you can take the lead and initiate reconciliation without any nagging from me.
  • I will not rob you of your leadership. I will wait for you to step in and fulfill your role.
  • I will not use the occasion to address sin as an opportunity to influence you to change your decision.
  • I want to calm any fears you have that I may jump down your throat, as though I am surprised at your sin.


  • So here is the difference: Matthew 18 is an opportunity to focus on the man's sin, while 1 Peter 3 is an opportunity to focus on the man's decision. Which is the better choice? Although it is appropriate for me to confront the sin, I chose to let it go and focus instead on the fact that I have an opportunity to respect this man through silence and submission. An opportunity to demonstrate respect, especially when the opportunity calls for a demonstration of grace, is far more edifying to a brother in Christ. Therefore, I felt 1 Peter 3:1 was the better decision in this case, so that's the road I took. Unfortunately, we never did achieve reconciliation (although God could always change that).

    Even so, I think I did the right thing. The only reason to have taken the Matthew 18 road would be so I could get what I was looking for: communication. Yet we know the Christian life is not about the self, rather, the Christian life is about putting others first. This is not about getting what I want as much as giving him what he needs. And because of his circumstances, my dear brother in Christ could probably use some support from me in the form of me not nagging him about his sin right now. What he needs is the assurance that I am here and willing to reconcile. I don't do that with words. I demonstrate that through quietness, so that even if he doesn't obey the word, he may be won through my conduct (1 Peter 3:1).


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


    Let us be gracious to our brothers in the Lord when they sin against us. Leadership is hard. They cannot do it alone. They so desperately need our help, patience, and understanding as they try to do what's right in God's eyes, knowing He will hold them accountable for their decisions. I encourage you to watch this brief clip of John Piper as he explains the role of leadership in initiating reconciliation:

    video

    *A popular question I have been asked about 1 Peter 3:1 is, "Aren't you contributing to the breakdown in communication with this technique?" When using 1 Peter 3:1, especially in a marital situation, I need to stress that we are not talking about giving someone the "Silent Treatment." The silent treatment is never a Christian response to another's sin. This scripture is advocating silence regarding specific issues, not silence toward individuals. Before making any decision to confront an individual in sin or to remain silent, it is best to pray and seek God's face as to what the best course of action is. Remember, Ecclesiastes 3:7 says that there is a time to be silent, and a time to speak. God will direct your paths and show you when to speak, and when to keep silent. For additional information, consult this article by John MacArthur.

    Thursday, November 22, 2007

    Helper to Every Man, Mother to Every Child


    After nearly 15 years of life as a single Christian woman, I am pretty well acquainted with those ministries commonly referred to as "singles groups." My attitude toward many of these groups traditionally has not been very positive. That all changed when I attended my first meeting of Undivided, the singles ministry of Metro Life Church, where I am a currently a member.

    My past experience demonstrated to me that church singles groups generally exist for the sole purpose of consoling poor singles who are grieving their singleness. I found, throughout the years, that these groups were largely fellowship-based, heavy on the social interaction, but light on devotions. Most singles, it seemed, were more interested in attending these functions for one reason and one reason alone: to find a spouse. Those who lamented the curse of their present marital status were often met by leadership with these words of comfort: "Look on the bright side! This is a time to focus on yourself!"

    The first night I attended an Undivided meeting, I was met with a much different philosophy: "Tell me, when in the Christian life are we ever permitted to focus on the self?"

    To say that I was impressed is an understatement. I sat forward in my chair, my curiosity growing as I had never heard anything like this before at any singles group I had attended throughout all my years as a Christian.

    "Listen, if you want to get married someday, the time to practice biblical masculinity and biblical femininity is now. Marriage is a ministry to another person. You will be expected to serve that other person and put that other person first in all your decisions. You are in for a rude awakening if you think you are going to just miraculously be granted the gift of service on your wedding day. If you plan on being married someday, start serving others now."

    This is what the Christian life is all about: dying to self. I thought that I was being very holy because unlike all the other singles, I was not remotely interested in getting married. I had mistakenly believed that I was more pious because I had no desire for another. I was completely content in God alone. But the heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked. The truth was, my joy was not in serving God. No, I remained single because I was completely content in serving MYSELF.

    Since that time, some have said to me, "Jennifer, what's with all this submission stuff? You don't need to worry about that. You're not married." Well, I would dispute that for two reasons. The first reason is, if I'm not going to miraculously receive the gift of service on my wedding day, what makes me think I'm going to miraculously receive the gift of submission? I had better start practicing now if I want to be any good at it when that day comes. But the second reason goes much deeper than that.

    Some have said the Bible claims women need only submit to their husbands, pastor, father, employer, and of course God. But they technically don't need to submit or display biblical womanhood to any men other than that. Perhaps that is true. But what is the benefit in that?

    The Bible says, all things are lawful for me, but not all things are helpful; all things are lawful for me, but not all things edify. Let no one seek his own, but each one the other’s well-being. (1 Corinthians 10:23-24).

    Now I ask you, it may be lawful to submit to my husband and no other man, and that may be all God requires of me. But how is that edifying to other men around me? If I am gracious with my husband, but contentious with other men in my church, does that edify those men? What am I doing to their sense of masculinity by refusing to honor their leadership or rejecting their authority?

    Should I wait to have children before I am a positive influence on a child? Or would it be edifying to the children around me to be a positive influence on them now? Do I want to confuse my youngest, most impressionable brothers in sisters in Christ because I technically don't have to model biblical femininity to someone else's children? What type of example am I setting for other little boys and girls when I disagree with a man in public, or insist on holding a position of leadership, or behave as though all that men and women stuff is just for married people? Won't I be making another parent's job more difficult, because I am not providing these children with consistency between what they are learning at home, at what they see acted out in the body of Christ?

    And what of the lost? Should I also be a source of confusion for them as well? As I try to explain that Christ came to restore what was lost in the Garden of Eden, should I behave in a manner that continues to celebrate that which was lost, as though it had not been restored? Should I continue to promote attitudes about men and women that were only introduced into the world when the curse of sin entered?

    I may be single now, and I may be married in the future, but I am now, have always been, and always will be a woman in this life. Being married or single does not alter that role. Submissiveness and silence and all the things that make me feminine are not dependent on my marital status any more than they are dependent on what church I attend, the ministries in which I serve, the friends I have, or where God has chosen for me to work. I am a woman, and there is no escaping that. Why would I only want to celebrate that when I'm married?

    For the longest time, I misunderstood 1 Corinthians 7. I honestly thought Paul was saying it was better to be single because single people were holier. I am embarrassed over how misguided I was. Both callings to singleness and marriage require service to others, only the focus is different. It is a lot like being male or female. Neither is more precious to God, and one is not better than the other. The roles are just different.

    In marriage, I will be serving my own spouse and my own children. But as a single, I am blessed in that I have the opportunity to widen that ministry. I am a helper to every man. I am a mother to every child. Not having my own husband or children gives me the freedom to give my time, money, talents, and heart to others. That's what Christianity is all about: giving your life away in mimicry of the One who gave the ultimate Life away.

    I am so thankful to my God for His sovereign wisdom. In all His glory He saw fit to make me a woman, to place me in the lives of those who need a temporary helper or a mother where one may not be available. Focus on myself? Oh Lord may it never be! Dear Christ You gave Your life away, thus let it be with me.

    I encourage you to watch this excellent sermon by John Piper: Single in Christ: A Name Better than Sons and Daughters.

    Wednesday, November 21, 2007

    The Power of Silence

    Every Woman's Secret Weapon

    One of the most profound commands in the Bible directed toward women is the command to be silent. To most, it does not seem profound at all. As someone who subscribes to reformed theology, I can relate to this. Scripture tells us that a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised (1 Corinthians 2:14). I had been a Christian for 13 years before God opened my eyes to the truths of biblical femininity. Though I was not in the natural, it still took the grace of God for me to see the spiritually appraised wisdom in silence.

    Notice that we are commanded to be silent in specific circumstances, namely, our silence is to go hand in hand with submission:

    The women are to keep silent in the churches; for they are not permitted to speak, but are to subject themselves, just as the Law also says. (1 Corinthians 14:34)

    A woman must quietly receive instruction with entire submissiveness. (1 Timothy 2:11)

    In the same way, you wives, be submissive to your own husbands so that even if any of them are disobedient to the word, they may be won without a word by the behavior of their wives. (1 Peter 3:1)

    That last scripture is my personal favorite. The magic phrase is “they may be won without a word.” It implies that a man can be won over through a woman’s silence. Does that sound like tyranny and oppression? To me, that reads like a secret weapon! So secret, most women don't even know about it.

    But why? Why are we told to be silent? Well, it's common knowledge: men are visual creatures. The trick is to show, not to tell:

    It’s like that awful joke: “Why do I have to tell my wife I love her? I told her that when we got married!” Just as a wife would feel dreadful if her husband never demonstrated his love, a husband feels dreadful if a wife never demonstrates her respect . . . Most women appreciate it when a husband says, “I love you.” But, as I discovered pretty quickly, it just doesn’t do it for a guy to hear his wife coo, “Oh, honey, I respect you so much.” He does need to hear, “Honey, I’m so proud of you,” and “I trust you.” But beyond that, demonstrating respect, day in and day out, means far more than just saying a few words. (Feldhahn, 2004, p. 28, emphasis mine).

    Feldhahn goes on to list four key areas where a woman can portray respect for a man:

    1. Respect his judgment.
    2. Respect his abilities.
    3. Respect in communication.
    4. Respect in public.
    All four of these areas of respect can be demonstrated through the powerful, yet subtle art of silence. Let me remind you that Feldhahn's book was published two thousand years after the birth of Christ. After two millennia, the author has discovered absolutely nothing that the Bible has not already told us about men:

    Respect his judgment: The Bible says we are not to be argumentative or contentious (Proverbs 27:15-16). You may have a better idea, or feel your decision is better. But are you more concerned with being right, or being an excellent woman? If your way truly is the better way, stay silent and allow him to figure that out on his own, which bring us to:

    Respect his abilities: The Bible tells us we are the helpers. Helping implies assistance. It does not mean that you take over and do everything for the man. There is a fine line between helping and controlling. When you begin to control, you have robbed him of his leadership. Resist the urge to say, “Oh, here let me do it,” or, “Will you just listen to me and take my advice?”

    Respect in communication: It's not so much what we say, but how we say it. Nagging is a perfect example. While asking communicates a request, nagging communicates disappointment. It implies that the man is a failure because he did not process your request fast enough. It also suggests that you think he is too stupid to have understood it the first time, hence, the need for constant reminders. The Bible says “an excellent wife is the crown of her husband, but she who shames him is like rottenness in his bones” (Proverbs 12:4). Silence communicates trust: trust that he heard you the first time and that you believe in his ability to do the job and do it right.

    Respect in public: Shaming a man and being rottenness in his bones is magnified when you do it in public. It is far better to stay silent in public when you disagree with a man or feel that urge to correct him than to speak your mind in front of everyone. The Bible talks about a man’s reputation, and how important that is to him. When you disrespect a man in front of others, especially other men, it is the ultimate, mother of all demonstrations of uber-disrespect. Consider the high emphasis the Bible places on a man’s public reputation:

    A good name is to be more desired than great wealth, Favor is better than silver and gold. (Proverbs 22:1)

    A good name is better than a good ointment, and the day of one's death is better than the day of one's birth. (Ecclesiastes 7:1)

    Her husband is known in the gates when he sits among the elders of the land. (Proverbs 31:23)

    Because of the fragrance of your good ointments, Your name is ointment poured forth; Therefore the virgins love you. (Song of Solomon 1:3)
    Remaining silent is not a matter of legalistic oppression. As with submission, the decision to control your tongue belongs to you. True strength is not just in possessing power; true strength lies in your ability to harness that power. When circumstances call for silence and we choose to exercise that power, we are protecting a man's reputation and providing him with a safe environment to feel confident that he is respected. The art of silence, along with the art of submission, are skills that can be refined with practice. They will edify any man, not just a husband. The command to be silent is liberating: it will unlock the door to a man's excellence and set it free. Only an excellent woman can motivate an excellent man. Are you an excellent woman?

    References

    Feldhahn, S. (2004). For women only: What you need to know about the inner lives of men. Atlanta, GA: Multnomah.

    Friday, November 16, 2007

    The Truth About Submission

    Leadership in Disguise

    No single word has bred more animosity between the sexes than the word submission. Unfortunately, this is most likely due to the fact that both sexes are misinterpreting exactly what that word means, and this is understandable. Sin does that to people.

    Most women who misunderstand this word do so because the feminist movement has confused the term submission with oppression. This is because most men who abuse this word are operating under the impression that the term submission means, "She has to do whatever I say." Neither of these assumptions on behalf of men or women come remotely close to what God has in mind.

    The verb submit can be defined as follows:

    1. to yield oneself to the power or authority of another: to submit to a conqueror.
    2. to allow oneself to be subjected to some kind of treatment: as in chemotherapy
    3. to present for the approval, consideration, or decision of another or others: to submit a plan; to submit an application.
    4. to state or urge with deference; suggest or propose: I submit that full proof should be required.

    Notice that in all these definitions, the submission is initiated by the one who is ultimately doing the submitting: "To yield oneself," or "To allow oneself". Thus, submission is a personal choice. No one can force someone to submit. When force is involved, we are no longer talking about submission, but rather oppression:
    op·press –verb (used with object)
    1. to burden with cruel or unjust impositions or restraints; subject to a burdensome or harsh exercise of authority or power.
    2. to lie heavily upon (the mind, a person, etc.): Care and sorrow oppressed them.
    3. to weigh down, as sleep or weariness does.
    4. Archaic. to put down; subdue or suppress.
    5. Archaic. to press upon or against; crush. To oppress is usually to subject (a people) to burdens, to undue exercise of authority, and the like; its chief application, therefore, is to a social or political situation: a tyrant oppressing his subjects. 1. maltreat, persecute. —Antonyms 2. uphold, encourage.
    In the case of submission, the person who is doing the submitting is in charge. In the case of oppression however, it is the person in authority who is taking charge, not the other way around. The Bible calls women to submit. It does not, however, call men to oppress:
    Wives, likewise, be submissive to your own husbands . . . Husbands, likewise, dwell with them with understanding, giving honor to the wife (1 Peter 3:1, 7)

    Nowhere does the Bible ever say, "Husbands, love your wives and make sure they submit." God gives the submission command directly to the wife. He does not make it the husband's responsibility to see that she submits, rather, it is the wife's responsibility to obey God in the matter. A man who is constantly telling his wife "You need to submit!" is not exhibiting leadership. This type of man is far more concerned with his wife's sin instead of his own. Instead, the man should be focused on his own command from God, which is to honor his wife. And rest assured, God will not honor the man who does not honor his wife:

    Husbands, likewise, dwell with them with understanding, giving honor to the wife, as to the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life, that your prayers may not be hindered. (1 Peter 3:7, emphasis mine)
    Wow! The Bible actually suggests that if a man dishonors his wife, God will not honor his prayers. This verse also re-emphasizes the original intention for the creation design from Genesis 1:28, which is that both men and women are heirs of God's grace. Therefore, we can easily throw out any notions that the Christian faith is oppressive to women because of the command to submit. God cares very much that both sexes are honoring one another.

    Knowing that the command to submit comes directly from God and not from another sinful man should be enough to obey. Yet sometimes it is hard to understand why God commands us to submit to our husbands, and not the other way around. Again, when we struggle with this notion, it is because we are assuming that leadership comes only with headship. This is not true. Leadership has less to do with a role or title and more to do with initiative.

    Submission, as demonstrated before, is an act of the will. It is something that you initiate. Whenever we initiate something, we are taking leadership over that situation. We are not waiting for someone to give us direction, rather, we are taking it upon ourselves to make a decision and act upon it. When we willfully choose to submit to the men in our lives, these men are not in control -- we are.

    No man has the power to control you. This is why God pleads with women in the Bible to submit. The man has enough responsibility of his own as the appointed spiritual leader, and will be held to a higher standard of accountability for it. We are commanded to submit, not because God is some cosmic killjoy, but because we were designed to be the helpers. A refusal to submit is not helping the men in your life. In fact, it is going to make their job harder:

    Obey those who rule over you, and be submissive, for they watch out for your souls, as those who must give account. Let them do so with joy and not with grief, for that would be unprofitable for you. (Hebrews 13:17)
    This passage speaks the truth about leadership. It is not a position of glory to be coveted, but rather, a position with responsibilities of huge proportions. There are serious consequences for leading poorly and irresponsibly, and if not properly supported, a man can fail at this task. He did not ask to be the leader, just as we did not ask to be the helper. Do you see what a burden men carry every day? Do you see the tremendous power and influence you have in this situation? You have the power to either make a man's day, or to completely ruin it.

    The Bible gives women so much more power than we give ourselves credit for. How will you use your God given power of submission today?

    Wednesday, November 14, 2007

    To Protect and Provide

    Defining Love Biblically

    This summer, I went on a missions cruise to the Bahamas with The Great News Network and I had the privilege of having dinner one evening with author and speaker Josh McDowell. Josh challenged us by asking, “What is the definition of love?” A few of us tried to give a good definition, but could not adequately define it. Finally, Josh told us this: “Love involves two things: protection and provision.”

    Think about it. We are loving others whenever we seek to protect them or to provide for them. Try to think of one loving gesture that does not fall into one or both of these categories. You just can’t do it, can you?

    For men, it is easy to see where their role comes into play here. There are countless obvious examples of how men protect and provide for the ones they love. But what about women? Are we not called to protect and provide also, or is this solely the job of the men?

    Remember, as Christians, we are all commanded to love one another. If the definition of love is to protect and provide, surely women must have a responsibility in this as well. The gender roles God has assigned for us are not necessarily different in purpose, but rather, different in application. The bible commands men to love their wives, but it commands women to respect their husbands. The application here is different, but the goal for both men and women is the same: self sacrifice, and esteeming others as being more important than oneself. According to Feldhahn (2004), men see respect as being synonymous with love. Therefore, we are to protect and provide for men by showing them respect. Here are the two primary ways I believe women are called to protect and provide for the men in their lives that will leave a man feeling honored and respected:

    1. We are to PROTECT their reputation and sense of self as capable, trustworthy, honorable men.

    2. We are to PROVIDE them with opportunities to take on the masculine leadership role.

    When we are constantly seeking to protect and provide for men in this manner, we are setting aside our own needs and desires and putting others first. Consider these examples:

    • Allowing a young boy to choose where the family will have lunch after church.
    • Encouraging your brother by saying, "You can do it!" instead of telling him, "Oh here, this is how it's done."
    • Trusting your pastor(s) with decisions that affect the entire church.
    • Sharing a story about something wonderful your husband did, instead of telling everyone about the time he was a bungling idiot.
    • Letting your father try to fix the sink himself before calling a plumber.
    • Resisting the urge to volunteer for a leadership role at church and waiting to see if a man would like to volunteer instead.
    • Waiting until you are in private to disagree with something your husband has said in public.

    The Bible gives women very clear instructions on how to protect and provide for men. Specifically, we do this through two vehicles: submission and silence. Personally, I think when we read the Bible with a self-focused lens, we see those two commands as being oppressive, but when we read these commands with an others-focused lens, we see that these two directives are not oppressive at all. Rather, they begin to read more like a how-to manual.

    Submission and silence, when properly applied, are a woman's ticket to harmonious relationships with the men in her life, not some horribly cruel and unfair burden designed to keep her down. In my next few blog entries, I intend to look at both of these "weapons" of influence in greater detail, and to consider just how powerful they can be, contrary to popular (feminist) opinion.

    References

    Feldhahn, S. (2004). For women only: What you need to know about the inner lives of men. Atlanta, GA: Multnomah.

    Wednesday, November 7, 2007

    But He Started It!


    In spite of the many men out there who have blamed Eve throughout the ages for the fall of creation, there is sufficient biblical evidence to support the argument that it was actually Adam who “started it:”

    The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it. And the LORD God commanded the man, "You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die." The LORD God said, "It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him." (Genesis 2:15-18).

    Thus, God made Adam completely responsible for keeping that tree off limits. Eve had not even been created yet. She was ignorant of any such directive. And make no mistake – Satan approached Eve on purpose. The devil hates God’s design, so he deliberately perverted it by putting Eve in charge, forcing Adam into submission. And Adam allowed it to happen:

    When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it.(Genesis 3:6).


    The Bible clearly states that Adam was with Eve when she ate the fruit. As leader, he stood there and watched as the serpent deceived his bride. As protector, he did not intervene and try to stop her when she put herself in harm's way. He knew God said eating that fruit would kill her. Yet he did nothing as she took a bite and swallowed the poison. Then he ate for himself.

    The scriptures further note that God later came walking in the garden looking for Adam, because it was Adam who was originally accountable. Adam's response? Blame Eve. (Genesis 3:9-12).

    Gut check: how are you feeling right now? Justified? Vindicated? How about . . . self-righteous? If you chose C, you are correct! As women, we often like to blame men for our behavior: "See? It's his fault! If only he would lead, I wouldn't have to take control," or, "If he was a more responsible protector/provider, I would happily submit." While it is true that Adam sinned, God still dealt with Eve separately. He still held her accountable for her actions, and He will do the same with each and every one of us.

    Feminism is a direct reaction to both real and perceived injustices done to women on behalf of men, whether directly or indirectly. Though this implies that “he started it,” the question of whom is primarily responsible for the breakdown of God’s design for the sexes is irrelevant. Feminism is a sinful reaction to sin. Though it may appear as though female rebellion is justified, it is not. Sin is never justified. Two wrongs do not make a right. You will not be able to rationalize your behavior and say to God “he started it," or, "he made me do it” because the Bible is clear that we are tempted by our own evil desires and carried away by our own lusts (James 1:14). Who is to blame for our sin? We are. No one can make us sin.

    The story of Adam’s unfaithfulness does not prove anything other than the fact that both men and women are equally depraved. If you are blaming men for your contentious and argumentative behavior, you need to ask God’s forgiveness and repent. Women may not be the spiritual leaders, but they can still initiate reconciliation with the men in their lives by submitting to their leadership. Consider the Genesis story as you meditate on 1 Timothy 2:8-15 and ask yourself what is more important: getting your way, or doing your part to restore what God originally intended?

    Sunday, November 4, 2007

    Helper by Design

    Note: After this post was published, it was later discovered that a book exists by the same title. The material in this post is not related to the book, Helper by Design by Elyse Fitzpatrick. However, we plan to read and review that book on this site soon.

    One of the things we tend to do as fallen creatures in a fallen world is look for someone to blame for everything that goes wrong, especially in matters concerning the opposite sex. Men like to joke that if it weren't for women, they'd still be in Eden. The female comeback to this is that the reason God made men first is because you always do a rough draft before unveiling your final masterpiece.

    While these silly statements are made in jest, I believe there is truth in jest, at least in the idea that these comments signify some real resentment on both sides due to our failure to communicate and understand one another. It also stands to reason that because the Bible portrays God in the masculine gender, I think more often than not this results in a communication breakdown between women and their Creator. Many women blame God for the state of their interpersonal relationships with men, reasoning that it was God who declared the woman subject to masculine authority, and since men don't always play fair, we suffer at their hands. Therefore, it's God's fault.

    What we are doing here is comparing apples and oranges. We cannot evaluate God's mindset based upon the fallen creation. Rather, we need to look at what the Bible says about God's vision for His creation before sin entered the picture.

    In Genesis 1:26, we see God create man in His image. We know from Matthew 5:48 that God is perfect, and that His desire is for us to be perfect as well. So it makes sense that God's creation was created in perfect condition. By Genesis 1:28, we see that God has given everything to both the man and the woman to exercise dominion over the creation together. This is very important. God's original intention was that both male and female were to have authority over the rest of creation. Notice the scripture says that God blessed them and addressed both of them, not just the man. The woman was to be right there beside him, exercising authority as well. However, the man was to be the primary authority (Genesis 2:15), and the woman's role was that of helper (Genesis 2:18).

    Now if you're like me, you're not too jazzed by the word helper. It implies that women play second fiddle. But I want to call your attention to something very profound. A few months ago, I was watching a pre-recorded broadcast of The Winning Edge. Dr. Dwayne Mercer was delivering a message on marriage and said something to this effect:

    Most people automatically believe that the helper is the inferior role. But do not make that mistake! The helper is not inferior, just different. And here's why: In the book of John, Jesus tells His disciples that upon His departure, He will send them a Helper. Consider these verses:

    And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever—(John 14:16)

    But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you. (John 14:26)

    But when the Helper comes, whom I shall send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, He will testify of Me. (John 15:26)


    Nevertheless I tell you the truth. It is to your advantage that I go away; for
    if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I depart, I will
    send Him to you. (John 16:7)

    No one would argue that the Holy Spirit is inferior to the Father or the Son, simply because His role is that of Helper. Likewise, we should never assume that the woman is inferior to the man because her role is that of helper.

    The realization set in as I was listening to this message that just as God created man in His own image (Genesis 1:26), the woman was created in the image of God as well, only we can infer that she was fashioned after the third Person of the Trinity. Wow! That gives a whole new perspective on the word, helper doesn't it?
    No one would argue that the Holy Spirit is inferior to the Father or the Son, simply because His role is that of Helper. Likewise, we should never assume that the woman is inferior to the man because her role is that of helper.
    One of the things that I learned during my two and a half years of being de-programmed of my feminist ideas is that God is never at fault, and He is never to blame for anything that goes wrong in my life. Being created a woman was not an accident, but a very deliberate, calculated decision made by God. It is an honor to be given the role of helper. Being a helper comes with its own power -- it just manifests itself differently from the power of leadership. We are literally helpless without our Helper. I cannot do anything apart from the power of the Holy Spirit. And I know many men who would say that they wouldn't be where they are today without the help of a godly woman.

    The Holy Spirit is quiet and gentle. He softly convicts us of sin, without a word. He gently guides us to the right decisions. In a similar fashion, consider the power women have over the men in their lives -- to gently guide them toward making godly decisions. Of course, this power of influence can be used in an evil way -- just look at the adulteress in Proverbs 7. But as Christians, we want to use our power and influence over the men in our lives in a way that will edify them. After all, we are their helpers. We do not wish to do them harm.

    Consider the men in your life. Perhaps you have a brother or a son that you want to encourage toward a deeper relationship with God. If so, you can encourage him to grow in biblical masculinity simply through the quiet example of a gentle spirit, just like our God, the Holy Spirit. How will you exercise your power and influence as a woman? Who will you encourage today?