Friday, October 31, 2008

THAT AIN'T RIGHT!!!

Today is Reformation Day. Happy Reformation Day everyone! In honor of this very historic day, I thought I'd share the following photograph from my own personal photo album:



This photo was taken of me on October 31, 1995. I was a senior in college, and this was at a "Reformation Day Party". That's me, standing next to the 95 Theses, looking very pensive . . . and stroking my beard.

Ok, let me just address the first question: no, that is not a real beard that I grew on my own. The beard is made of crepe hair, which is a special kind of wool used to make theatrical beards and mustaches. You can get it at any magic shop or wherever theatrical makeup is sold. Crepe hair is cool because you can mix different colors and make your beard look like it has grey patches or red highlights, and match it exactly to your own hair so it looks very realistic.

Anyway, I had gone to college in Massachusetts and a bunch of my friends had heard that one of the Christian clubs over at MIT was having a "Reformation Day Party." Of course, costumes were encouraged because it was also Halloween. I did not want to wear a costume and was quite stubborn about it. But everyone was hassling me to wear a costume, so I decided to experiment a little with my stage makeup. I had just learned how to apply the crepe hair in my stage makeup class and I was really good at it (I got an A for my beards and goatees, but only a C- for my scars and bruises) so I decided, what fun it would be to just show up as myself with a full beard! Oh, and the best part: we decided to take public transportation to MIT!

You should have seen the looks I got! The bus was full so my friends and I had to move to the back, which means we had to walk past all the other passengers. I let my friends go first. People were smiling as they saw a clown, then a scarecrow, then a pumpkin. But they literally shrieked in horror when they saw me. Gruhahahaha!

There were gasps, whispers, and pointing of fingers. Just to make it clear that I was a girl (and not a guy with long hair) I had purposely worn a pink jacket and big hoop earrings. People could not stop staring. They knew it was October 31, but they just could not believe how realistic the beard looked on me. Their reaction was only natural, as I looked completely and utterly unnatural.

When we got off the bus, we had to walk a bit to MIT, so my friends insisted I be the one to ask people for directions. People were making quite a commotion over the bearded freakshow everywhere we went. At one point, a man who appeared to be homeless and carrying a bottle in a brown paper bag approached me from behind to ask what time it was. When I turned around, the man took one look at my face and exclaimed, "WHOA! Man, that ain't right! That just ain't right!"

We eventually made it to the party over at MIT, and 13 years later, I don't remember anything about that party (aside from the fact that I took a bunch of pictures). But I remember clearly the reactions I got from people for whom I was creating a visual disturbance. Why is that so memorable?

Well, after blogging for the last year about biblical gender roles, I would say in hindsight it makes sense that these people would react this way. Just look at what the scriptures say:
Because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse (Romans 1:19-20, emphasis mine)

When we start tinkering with God's perfect creation, everyone's conscience cries out: "That ain't right!" My little beard experiment proves it.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

The Love Dare

The Love DareThis month on Reformed SHEology our film of the month has been the much anticipated Fireproof. Yet because I live in the UK I have not been able to view this movie yet. For those of you who have been blessed enough to see the movie you will be very familiar with the featured book The Love Dare. In the movie the couple "dares to rescue their choking marriage from the flames of divorce and temptation using The Love Dare book as a guide."

When my husband came home from America, he brought back for me the ESV study Bible (yeay!) and to my delight a copy of The Love Dare. It was like Christmas day when he came home! As I set aside my new Bible and opened up my copy of the Love Dare I was met with the following words of warning:

Receive this as a warning. This forty day journey cannot be taken lightly. It is a challenging and often difficult process, but an incredibly fulfilling one. To take this dare requires a resolute mind and a steadfast determination.

It is not meant to be sampled or briefly tested, and those who quit early will forfeit the greatest benefits. If you will commit to a day at a time for forty days, the results could change your life and your marriage.

Consider it a dare, from others who have done it before you.

I knew then what I held in my hands wasn't just another book to add to my ever growing library. If I was to seriously contemplate taking up the dare I would have to heed those words of warning and not rush headlong into it with an attitude of complacency. Yet this isn't such new territory for me. In fact it wasn't so long ago that I commited to another such book only to come under the most testing of times as I progressed through it. But glory to God that from such testing not only was I being conformed to the image of Christ but my marriage was also being refined. Even from the day of our wedding our marriage has endured many tough trials, often so big that I am sure if I wasn't saved my marriage would have failed by now. But what we have as husband and wife is so very precious that the only way to get what we have now is to go through such fiery trials together with our eyes firmly fixed on the Lord.

After experiencing such a trial from committing to following and applying a biblical study that would be an instrument of change not only for myself but for my marriage also, I take seriously the warning and words of wisdom that precede The Love Dare. It is with all this in mind that I take the love dare! As I progress through the 40 days I will share some of my experiences in the hope of encouraging others.Marriage is only the beginning of the journey.

In closing this post I want to share one last point that has been touched upon on Reformed SHEology this month. Marriage is often portrayed in the movies, fairy tales and novels as the end of any romantic story. They focus on the build up to the moment everyone is waiting for...the proposal. Much like Ross and Rachel in the series Friends you are often made to think "Will they? Won't they?" In these build ups we see the couples many obstacles and trials, laughter and tears until we come to the end...marriage. But the reality is marriage is the beginning and not the end of the love story! All that has gone before is only a taste of what is to come. In many films/stories when the proposal comes, it releases the sense of a huge sigh of relief; "Ah, they made it!" But this is not so in reality. Marriage is only the beginning of the journey. That sigh of relief should only be made if we have successfully run the race of marriage. So the real love story begins every morning of our married lives. The Love Dare can only be a part of that story, a marker guiding us through God's Word on our way.

I Take the dare. Watch this space!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

My Husband, My Idol

As Christians we're all too familiar with the fact that we can have many different idols in our lives. Unfortunately as God opens our eyes to one and we let go and deal with it, another is just around the corner. We'd be fools to think that once dealt with, we are free from them once and for all. Idols can be very subtle and once our eyes are opened to them they are often painful to let go of. The problem is that something as simple as wanting to keep a clean house can become an idol. As Tara Klena and Judy Dabler write in their excellent book, Peacemaking Women:
"It is not the object that is the problem - it is how much we desire it that is the problem."
So it shouldn't come as too much of a surprise when I say that even our husbands can become idols. I can imagine some laughing at that statement but when we really think about how our husbands become our idols it becomes quite a serious matter. When I say the husband can become your idol I am talking about the many desires we have regarding him. Take the following for example:

Desire for...

The perfect husband
The unsaved husband to be saved
The husband to meet specific needs (such as financial, etc.)

Now, this is by no means an exhaustive list and I'm certain there are many women who can add a few more examples to it. But my point is to show the many desires we have for our husbands which, and let me stress, in themselves are right! But, when those desires are elevated to demands they turn to idolatry. Idols then rule us and can cause us to stumble:
They served their idols,
which became a snare to them. Psalm 106:36 ESV
I can shamefully recall my desire for my husband to be walking with the Lord. This desire grew into a demand. I turned into this ugly monster demanding we have prayer times together, questioning the last he read his Bible, demanding he take more Sundays off work to go to church. Oh, I'm cringing as I type but back then I felt justified!

As a result my marriage began to suffer. Then God mercifully opened my eyes to this idol.

As with many idols, they can destroy relationships. A desire can become an expectation made too high. For example, if we desire our husbands to be home more and we then justify it in our minds, listening to the voice that whispers "he should be at home more, he's married to you not work!", then we expect them to be home and when our expectations aren't met we begin to make demands. This we all know can lead to tension and arguments, not a path we want our marriages to take.
The key is to find our fulfillment in Christ.
The key is to find our fulfilment in Christ. I must admit, this is not easy. We crave to have the things we feel are rightfully ours such as a husband who would only help out more. But as we turn to Christ, surrender our will and seek His, we can become satisfied. We can work on repenting and giving up our idols and from there seek God to change our circumstances. But we mustn't ever put a time limit on these things. As you pray, God will do His part in His time.

Is there any desire you have that has become a demand? Has it begun to affect any of your relationships? Often we don't notice it but our children can even pick up on our idol worship and those idols can become theirs. (Sadly we hear all too often of young girls thinking they're not thin or pretty enough!)

Maybe we can,with HUMILITY, ask our husbands if they feel there's too much of a demand being made of them. We can then take this to God in prayer.

For a fantastic write up on idolatry please check out Chapter Two of Peacemaking Women. It is a very helpful chapter on idolatry in general. There is a great Q&A at the end of the chapter which I have found powerfully thought-provoking and helpful. And if that's not enough, there is a great list on recommended resources for further study and consideration.

Monday, October 27, 2008

When Sinners Say "I Do"

Dave Harvey has written an incredibly profound book on marriage that I recommend for everyone, whether married or single. The book is called, When Sinners Say "I Do". Harvey explains the basis of the book as follows in the preface: "Marriage is the union of two people toting the luggage of life. And that luggage always contains sin . . . to get to the heart of marriage, we must deal with the heart of sin . . . But we must start where the gospel starts; there lies the hope for sinners who say 'I do'" (pp. 15-16).

The tone is set in the first chapter with the statement, "What we believe about God determines the quality of our marriage" (p. 20). Using the analogy of an uneven button-down shirt, Harvey illustrates that when we get the first button right (theology), then all the other buttons of marriage will fall into place. A marriage that is not built on God is like putting the first button of your shirt into the wrong hole. Nothing that follows seems to line up correctly. Naturally, the first button is an understanding that marriage is designed to glorify God. The most important person in the marriage is not me or my spouse. The most important person in the marriage is God.

Once we realize this, we will get all the rest of our buttons straight. We will understand that women are to submit to their husbands. Men understand they are to love and cherish their wives. When faced with tough decisions, we make the right choices. We understand that the greatest enemy to our marriages is sin.

Harvey writes: "Till sin be bitter, Christ will not be sweet," (p. 29). Much of the discussion that takes place after this statement is about sin. Sin is not something many of us enjoy hearing about, but as Harvey notes, "dealing with the sin problem is necessary to a thriving marriage."

The remaining buttons described in the book include conflict resolution, mercy and forgiveness, accountability and honesty to one another concerning each other's sin, and sexual relations. Most books I've come across on marriage discuss these issues, but what makes this book different is that it centers these issues around a realistic look at sin and the power of the gospel to conquer it. Finally, this book is different because the final chapter, "When Sinners Say Goodbye," discusses the issue of decline. Rarely do we ever talk about the fact that when two people get married, it is only temporary, until death. As couples go through their marriage, they are expected to honor their commitment to be faithful servants to one another through disease, decay, and death. Again, when we understand that the most important person in the marriage is God, the inevitable releasing of our husband to Him becomes possible.

This book is a very God-centered, realistic book on marriage. It is gospel-focused without over-emphasizing the fact that marriage is a symbol of Christ and His bride. It offers very practical, down to earth advice that is valuable to both married people and single people as well. Any single person who is struggling with the longing for a spouse will have a greater appreciation for the fact that marriage belongs to God, which I think helps to take the focus off self and ease the longing.

When Sinners Say I Do also makes a great group study for couples (my church went through the study for couples this past summer). Study guides are available for this purpose and can usually be purchased wherever the book is sold.

If you'd like a sneak peek into the basic principles of this book, click here to read the Westminster Bookstore's interview with author Dave Harvey.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Bridezillas Beware!

Here in the States we have a cable television program appropriately titled, "Bridezillas." The entire premise of the show can be adequately summed up in this short clip, running only 21 seconds:



Somewhere along the way we have adopted the idea that a wedding is all about the bride. What a travesty! When we consider the beauty and symbolism inherent in the wedding ceremony, we can see why any bride who asserts, "This is MY DAY!" is reducing this occasion to a grotesque, debased imitation of the real thing. Newsflash: it's not about me!

Now, I'm no wedding expert, but I think if we notice the way the wedding ceremony is set up, it is reminiscent of the relationship between Christ and the Church. The groom arrives first, and the bride comes to meet Him:
For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord. (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17).
Traditionally, the groom vows to honor and cherish his wife, while the bride promises to love, honor, and obey. Finally, the new couple is pronounced man and wife (not woman and husband). They are the announced to the witnesses and guests as "Mr. and Mrs. Husband's Last Name." The entire process demonstrates the the acquiring of a wife by a man, not the conquest of a man by a woman. This is because God chooses us. We do not choose Him. A woman becomes part of the man's "world" because God saves us and brings us into His kingdom, where we will live with Him forever.

When I consider these things, I always wonder why wedding ceremonies are so bride-centered. It seems as though we should give a bit more recognition to the groom, not just because he illustrates Christ in relation to the Church, but because as the man, he is taking on a greater responsibility by agreeing to protect, provide for, and lead his wife. I always see wedding guests gushing over the bride, yet the groom so often seems ignored. Aren't the men entitled to a little special attention on this day as well? I wonder if there is a way to reverse this "Bridezilla" mentality in our culture to encourage a more reverent attitude toward one's wedding day and a greater appreciation (or at least an equal opportunity) for the groom.

Of course, the real star of the show is our beautiful Lord Jesus. Our weddings can reflect this, but more importantly, our entire Christian walk should demonstrate that it's all about Him, not about us. On that most ultimate of wedding days, few will be admiring the bride's beauty, because this Groom will be too beautiful to behold. If anyone admires the beauty of the bride, it is only because her beauty is borrowed from the one who has made her beautiful. Truly, when the greatest of Grooms comes to meet His bride, it will be abundantly clear: This is HIS day. Bridezillas, beware!

Update 10/25/08: Ingrid Schlueter has written a wonderful article which expands upon this issue beyond my own efforts. I highly recommend reading her thoughts on the subject by clicking here.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Mrs. Hyphenated-Last-Name

It's no secret that most young girls begin planning their weddings from a very early age. But have you ever stopped to consider how much further planning we tend to do when it comes to being married? Some women already know what they want to name their children. Some have already picked out their dinnerware for special occasions. Although I was never one for planning my wedding or decorating my future home, I had already decided upon what I wanted to be called, which is exactly what I'm called now.

That's right. I swore I would not change my last name - not even hyphenate it. I have become so accustomed to my maiden name that calling myself by any other name seemed like . . . how did I describe it? Oh, yes: "an assault on my identity." Naturally I am grinning as I write this. The sentiment just smacks of smug rebellion and self-love. Needless to say, I no longer feel this way about changing my last name. Let's just be clear: there is nothing wrong with keeping one's last name, or hyphenating a last name upon getting married. The problem instead lies within the heart. I don't want to directly quote anyone here, but if you surf the net on your own, you will undoubtedly come across three general reasons women give for not taking their husband's last name:

1. We're both getting married. Why should I take his name? Why doesn't he take mine?

2. That tradition was (allegedly) based on a patriarchal system which symbolized that a woman was the man's property.

3. It would interrupt my career and create all sorts of confusion in my personal life.

The practice of taking your husband's last name has often been associated with Western "patriarchal" culture, but it is more specifically tied to Christianity because it is symbolic of the transformation that takes place when a person is born again. Just as a bride and groom promise to "forsake all others," we reject our former lives when we become born again. We call ourselves Christians to symbolize that we now belong to Christ:
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. (2 Corinthians 5:17)
The fact that I swore I'd never change my name because I wanted to cling to my identity showed where my heart was. The Christian life is precisely about forsaking one's old identity in order to embrace a new identity. Granted, a marriage is merely a temporal symbol of the greater thing: eternal union with the Lord, but what are we saying to our husbands when we refuse to take their last names, or insist on clinging to our own names?

Let me stress again that this is a symbolic procedure. If you do not change your last name or if you decide to hyphenate, God will not be displeased with you. In fact, in many cultures (particularly in Latin families) it is customary to hyphenate last names as a way of acknowledging the unity of both families. The stress again is on the condition of one's heart when one makes such a decision. If I insist on maintaining my own identity, I am essentially clinging to self. A love of self cannot be good for my walk with God or for my marriage. We are called as Christians to die to self. There is no more room for "me." In marriage, we exchange "me" for "we." In the Christian life, we exchange "me" for "Thee."

When all else fails, we may want to consider dropping our maiden names in the event that our stubborn desire to hyphenate results in one of these unfortunate combinations. (Warning: Content in this link may be mildly offensive to some readers, but I believe it makes a point!)

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Married . . . For Now

Marriage is supposed to be permanent, correct? If you agree with that statement, then you need to define what you mean by permanent, lest you come to a misunderstanding like Larry and Cheryl:



This clip was taken from Curb Your Enthusiasm, a show that commonly portrays Larry David as the bumbling fool. But this time, Larry is correct! We do not take our marriages into eternity with us:
For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven. (Matthew 22:30, cr. Mark 12:25)

Jesus answered and said to them, “The sons of this age marry and are given in marriage. 35 But those who are counted worthy to attain that age, and the resurrection from the dead, neither marry nor are given in marriage. . . (Luke 20:34-35)

Or do you not know, brethren (for I speak to those who know the law), that the law has dominion over a man as long as he lives? For the woman who has a husband is bound by the law to her husband as long as he lives. But if the husband dies, she is released from the law of her husband. So then if, while her husband lives, she marries another man, she will be called an adulteress; but if her husband dies, she is free from that law, so that she is no adulteress, though she has married another man. (Romans 7:1-3)

John Piper has recently released a new book, This Momentary Marriage. The book is so new that it was introduced at the True Woman conference, and not even Nancy Leigh DeMoss has read it yet. For this reason, we are unable to review it for you, but we wanted to make you aware of this interesting new book. According to Piper's website, Desiring God, the book is described as follows:
Romance, sex, and childbearing are temporary gifts of God. So is marriage. It will not be part of the next life. And it is not guaranteed even for this life. It is one possible path along the narrow way to Paradise. It passes through breathtaking heights and through swamps with choking vapors. With marriage comes bitter providences, and it makes many things sweeter.

There never has been a generation whose view of marriage is high enough. The chasm between the biblical vision of marriage and the common human vision is now, and has always been, gargantuan. Some cultures in history respect the importance and the permanence of marriage more than others. Some, like our own, have such low, casual, take-it-or-leave-it attitudes toward marriage as to make the biblical vision seem ludicrous to most people.

Reflecting on his forty years of matrimony, Piper explains:

Most foundationally, marriage is the doing of God. And ultimately, marriage is the display of God. It displays the covenant-keeping love between Christ and his people to the world in a way that no other event or institution does. Marriage, therefore, is not mainly about being in love. It’s mainly about telling the truth with our lives. And staying married is not about staying in love. It is about keeping covenant and putting the glory of Christ’s covenant-keeping love on display.

“If you are married, this is why,” says Piper. “If you hope to be, this should be your dream.”

Earthly marriage between humans is not permanent in the eternal sense. Like Cheryl in the clip above, many people have a difficult time with this. They don't like the idea of being separated from their spouse after so many years of marriage.

While Larry is correct in thinking he and Cheryl will no longer be married in eternity, he is mistaken in assuming he will be single. Even though all marriages will be dissolved in heaven, we will not be single, because we will all be joined in Christ. As John Piper explained at the True Woman conference this past weekend, "God had the cross in mind when he created marriage." This being said, we can understand why there would be no marriage in eternity. Marriage is merely a symbol of greater, more permanent things to come.

Although physical marriage lasts only as long as one's physical life, we still get the pleasure of an eternal commitment in Christ. We remain faithful to our marriage covenants "till death do us part," after which, we are betrothed to another for all eternity!

Monday, October 13, 2008

True Woman 08

This past weekend was the first ever Revive Our Hearts' True Woman Conference held in Schaumburg, Illinois. The conference drew over 6,300 women and was simultaneously streamed via webcast to over 3,000 internet connections!

After returning from the conference for two days, I still do not have words to express or describe what the experience was like. The speakers were so powerful I am still digesting what I took in. However, if I review my notes, I can definitely see several points that were applicable to our ministry here at Reformed SHEology and so I'd like to share them with you:

1) "Wimpy theology makes wimpy women" - John Piper. This is so true! Bad theology has indeed had a profound effect on women. Either we reject the Bible and embrace femininity, or we reject the Bible and embrace legalism.

2) "In every situation, God is always doing a thousand different things that you cannot see and you do not know" - John Piper. This is encouraging in light of the times when we are called to obey or submit and it doesn't seem as though our efforts to honor God are really making a difference.

3) "A true woman says, Yes, Lord" - Nancy Leigh DeMoss. This is a helpful reminder for those times when we are tempted to do our own will. A true woman of God will say yes to God by saying no to other things.

4) "Stop listening to yourself and start talking to yourself" - Karen Lorritts. This is a modified version of the popular phrase, "Preach the gospel to yourself." When we are tempted to allow the enemy to fill our heads with lies, we listen to those lies. The cure for this is to stop listening, and start talking -- tell yourself out loud the great things God has done.

5) "The opposite of fear is love, not courage, because you expend yourself and serve others in spite of your fear" - Carolyn McCulley. I thought this was extremely apropos in light of my own personal testimony concerning my singleness. If you are unfamiliar with my story, you can review this post or just stay tuned for next month's theme, "Testimony."

6) "A home is a mission field, not a place to be decorated" - Carolyn McCulley. This statement also echoes much of what we feel about womanhood, as illustrated in this entry.

7) "We are in a battle" - Nancy Leigh DeMoss. This is the one truth that serves as the sole purpose of our blog. We are in a battle to protect and preserve the holy design ordained by God which is under attack by the institution of feminism.

One of the most interesting parts of the entire weekend was learning that in 1977, a federally funded feminist "consciousness raising" conference was held in the Chicago area! The event drew only 200 women, but it changed the face of feminine thought throughout our society as each woman pledged to tell just two friends about what she had learned. Now, 21 years later, over 6,300 women attended the Revive Our Hearts event in an effort to take back what the enemy has stolen. The conference ended with an inspiring ceremony as the True Woman Manifesto was read aloud and signed by all the attendees. If you'd like to read or sign the Manifesto, click here. We have also adopted the True Woman Manifesto as the official Reformed SHEology Statement of Faith, and have modified our "About This Site" page to include this information.

The entire conference was wildly successful and should Revive Our Hearts host True Woman events on a regular (perhaps annual) basis, I would highly recommend you do everything in your power to get there. If you would like a taste of what we experienced this weekend, you can visit the True Woman website for additional resources and information regarding the True Woman movement. Also, I highly recommend the following three messages which I personally thought were the most powerful. They are now available for download:

Session 3: Mary Kassian
Session 5: Janet Parshall
Session 8: Nancy Leigh DeMoss

You can listen to these messages by clicking here.

I would also like to extend a friendly welcome and hello to Ellen from Illinois, Anna from Nebraska, and Maryann from Texas -- three ladies with whom I had the pleasure of sharing brief conversation at various intervals. I'd like to say a special thank you to Maryann, whose testimony about leading her father to Christ after praying for 20 years blessed me tremendously!