Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Relaunch of Ladies Against Feminism - Promoting Beautiful Womanhood

I'm very excited about the relaunch of the new LAF webpage! I am very passionate about Biblical womanhood and the ladies at LAF are inspiring sisters of the faith! Such a wonderful Christ-exalting ministry and there's so much to explore and look into on their website! I encourage everyone to check it out. It's quite lovely!

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Treasuring and Admiring the Word

I hope my readers enjoy the new selections of music on my blog. A little of the Hobbits theme, Chopin, and Pride and Prejudice. I thought, perhaps, that lighter melodies would appeal rather than the heavy, dark romantic piano. Although, I still kept those tracks further down on my playlist.

The week has been tiresome, which is strange for one's spring break. My body finally gave way to the continual stress of school and I came down with a very exhausting flu bug. Nevertheless, I am now on the mend! I just need to get my voice back in time for my choral concert next Thursday. The Lord, in all His goodness, has been reviving my spirits as well. Emotionally and spiritually, I have been carrying around some heavy burdens. I tend to place the weight of the world, the souls of those whom I love, the direction of my life, and all my passions upon myself and it leads to nothing but constant vexation. As a result, my family has to suffer for the attitudes that I enter in upon each day. Ah, the discipline of one's character and is not too much for our Lord to handle and to transform. The reformation of the human heart is exactly His area of expertise! If only we'd humbly receive His grace for daily sanctification.

The devotion-study books from Steve Gallagher that I received for my B-day, has been serving its purpose in bringing me each morning to the Word. I chose to begin the 12 week study on Psalm 119 (A Lamp Unto My Feet) and I'm drawing near the end of Week 2 which has been concentrating on Psalm 119:9-24. The goal of Gallagher's study is not merely just to study this great Psalm, but to encourage a passionate love for the all the words that proceed from God. The aim of the study is actually to build up holy affections and admirations toward the Bible. A word that went straight to my heart was this commentary on Psalm 119 by Charles Spurgeon that Steve quotes:

Some men can perceive no wonders in the gospel, but David felt sure that there were glorious things in the law; he had not half the Bible, but he prized it more than some men prize the whole. He felt that God had laid up great bounties in his word, and he begs for power to perceive, appreciate, and enjoy the same. We need not so much that God should give us more benefits, as the ability to see what he has given.

The prayer implies a conscious darkness, a dimness of spiritual vision, a powerlessness to remove that defect, and a full assurance that God can remove it. It shows also that the writer knew that there were vast treasures in the word which he had not yet fully seen, marvels which he had not yet beheld, mysteries which he had scarcely believed. The Scriptures teem with marvels; the Bible is wonder-land; it not only relates miracles, but it is itself a world of wonders. Yet what are these to closed eyes? And what can man open his own eyes, since he is born blind? God himself must reveal revelation to each heart. Scriptures needs opening, but not one half so much as our eyes do; the veil is not on the book, but on our hearts. What perfect precepts, what precious promises, what priceless privileges are neglected by us because we wander among them like blind men amongst the beauties of nature, and they are to us as a landscape shrouded in darkness!

Are we learning to love God's Word, even the tough parts that we deem "unkind" or "boring"?

When we go to the Word, are we merely just reading it? Or are we reading it prayerfully and in dependence upon God to open the eyes of our heart and incline us towards His holy precepts?

Are there, weekly and daily, affections rising up in our soul for the marvels and wonders found in Scripture?

I want to be so in love with my Lord's Word. But the extent of my desire for it, on most days, seems weak and dull. O Abba, do what you must in my life and in my soul to make room only for desires and longings for You and Your Word.

Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of Your law! ~ Psalm 119: 18

Your testimonies are my delight; they are my counselors. ~ Psalm 119:24

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Finally Alive

Do not marvel that I said to you, "You must be born again." The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sounds, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit. ~ John 3:7-8
One of the books that I recently completed on my reading list was John Piper's book on the new birth, Finally Alive. It was such an incredibly humbling read that I feel compelled to devote a blog post to it.
The introduction to Finally Alive begins with the Bible verse above, followed by these words from John Piper:
"The declaration of Jesus that we must be born again is either deluded or devastating to the one would be captain of his soul. Not many Biblical realities are better designed by God to reveal our helplessness in sin."
Unfortunately, as it says on the back of this book, "not everyone today is jealous to esteem this miracle for the wonder that it is."
Piper poses crucial and critical questions about being born again. Questions such as, What is the new birth? How does it come about? What does God do in regeneration? What did He do in history to make it possible? If new birth is decisively the work of God, which it is, how do I experience it? Is there anything I can do to make it happen? What is my part in bringing it about? What is the aim of the new borth? What effect does ithave? What is it like to live as a born again person? What can we do to help others be born again? If God is the great Doer in this affair, what can we do? Does our doing really matter?
Before Piper moves forward to search out Scriptural answers to these questions, he seeks to provide a Biblical definition for the term 'born again.' He targets and clears up the misuses of this term and the many misunderstandings on this subject. 'Born again' is thrown around lightly in evangelical circles. It's merely a title we assign to one who has "prayed the prayer" or made a personal commitment to Jesus Christ and believe they're going to heaven now since they've confessed their sins and accepted Jesus as their Savior. There's also much talk about "re-dedicating" one's life to the Lord. There's also the typical term "backslider" (as if they were a believer before but fell away for awhile?). But the problem with these blacksliders and people who teach such a concept is that they've never even considered the fact that they probably weren't "born again." Piper gives some tough love by stating that Modern Christianity is "permeated by worldliness" and completely unrecognizable from sinners! It's merely an empty, feelings-based faith that has no roots in Truth, thus bearing no lasting, eternal fruit. Popular Christianity is no different from the sinful, hedonistic society that we live. He says,

"Much is at stake in seeing the new birth in true biblical proportions. Heaven and hell are at stake - and a church in the world now that acts more like Jesus and less like the culture around it.
Which brings us back to where we started, namely, the claim that born again Christians have lifestyles of worldliness and sin that are indistinguishable from the unregenerate. I don't think so. 1 John 5:4: "Everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world - our faith." But my conviction is not rosy news for the church. It implies that there are millions of church attenders who are not born again.
Nevertheless, in spite of this conviction, I will distance myself from perfectionism. In other words, I don't think that the new borth makes us perfect in this life. Sin remains, and the fight of faith is a daily necessity. Some unbelievers look like better people than some believers. But that is because some pretty bad people have been born again, and the process of transformation is not always as fast as we would like.
It's also because there are unregenerate people who for all kinds of genetic and social reasons conform to an outward morality while being God-indifferent or God-hostile on the inside. God sees the line between the regenerate and the unregenerate perfectly. We don't. But there is such a line, and those who have been born again are being changed, even if slowly, from one degree of humility and love to the next.
This matters. It matters for eternity, and it matters for the glory of Christ in this life."

"God...does not want us to be ignorant of what he does in the new birth. It means that knowing what he has revealed about the new birth is good for us."

In each section of his book, he begins by asking the most basic questions and looks to the primary sources in Scriptures to answer those questions: John 3:1-10, Eph 2:1-10, 1 Peter 1:13-25, 1 Peter 1:22 - 2:3, 2 Cor 4:1-7, Titus 3:1-8, and the entire book of 1 John. He laces through these passages with Jesus' words from the Gospels and from several OT sources. He presses into each verse, gleaning them for all their precious, Christ-exalting truth. For example, in one chapter he gives 11 Evidences of the New Birth:

1. Those who are born of God keep his commandments (1 John 2:3-4, 1 John 3:24).
2. Those who are born of God walk as Christ walked (1 John 2:5-6).
3. Those who are born of God don't hate others but love them (1 John 2:9, 3:14, 4:7-8, 4:20).
4. Those who are born of God don't love the world (1 John 2:15).
5. Those who are born of God confess the Son and receive (have) him (1 John 2:23, 4:15, 5:12).
6. Those who are born of God practice righteousness (1 John 2:29).
7. Those who are born of God don't make a practice of sinning (1 John 3:6, 1 John 3:9-10, 5:18).
8. Those who are born of God possess the Spirit of God (1 John 3:24, 4:13).
9. Those who are born of God listen submissively to the apostolic Word (1 John 4:6).
10. Those who are born of God believe that Jesus is the Christ (1 John 5:1).
11. Those who are born of God overcome the world (1 John 5:4)

It is apparent throughought the book that he does not lightly touch upon this subject. He never presumes to know the intricate, mysterious innerworkings of God and His Holy Spirit. For any pastor, such an area of study is a weighty and humbling task. John Piper seeks to share the grand glory of God revealed in Scripture about this supernatural phenenomon, but he acknowledges that there some details that the Bible does not tell us. Constantly, he points readers to the vast joy, pleasure, and satisfaction in Christ Jesus as one of the most important aims of the new birth - God awakening in us, through the power of His Holy Spirit, spiritual sight and spiritual tastebuds for the preciousness of Jesus alone.

Perhaps the most troubling section of Finally Alive is when Piper address the questions, "Why must we be born again?" The reality and knowledge of ourselves is disturbing. The depth of sin and corruption that makes up the human heart is unfathomable to us. Oftentimes, that reality grows distant and loses its frightening image. We tend to grow cold in our understanding and dealing with sin. The Bible doesn't lightly touch upon the subject of sin. And so, Piper, humbly and lovingly, takes us through verse after verse on our condition, giving deep, convicting, terrible insight to the question, "Why must we be born again?" He states firmly,
"The Bible has a clear and devastating message about the state of our souls." and
"Jesus had no romantic notions about the best of men."

One might ask upon reading those 'disturbing' chapters, "Why do we have to keep emphasizing our sin?" Because it keeps the Cross near in all its beauty and grandeur! The Good News cannot ever be GOOD, wonderful, praise-worthy, joyful news without knowledge of the Bad News. As imperative as the bad news is to hear before one is 'born again,' even moreso after to keep the greatness and gloriousness of the Gospel bright in our eyes! And to keep us from idle, carnal wanderings in our faith! It's humbling and good to hear the Truths that are dark and terrible. It is shameful to preach the Gospel message without preaching about the seriousness of our sin.

Here are the 7 Biblical explanations that Piper gives on our condition apart from the new birth and why it is so necessary:
1. Apart from the new birth, we are dead in trespasses and sin (Eph 2:1-2).
2. Apart from the new bith, we are by nature children of wrath (Eph 2:3).
3. Apart from the new birth, we love darkness and hate the light (John 3:19-20).
4. Apart from the new birth, our hearts are hard like stone (Ezek 36:26; Eph 4:18)
5. Apart from the new birth, we are unable to submit to God or please God (Rom 8:7-8).
6. Apart from the new birth, we are unable to accept the gospel (Eph 4:18; 1 Cor 2:14).
7. Apart from the new birth, we are unable to come to Christ or embrace him as Lord (John 6:44, 65; 1 Cor 12:3)

As the study moves forward and more detailed, Piper builds upon Scripture with Scripture and exhorts us to submit our feelings to the Truth.
"The Biblical truth that saving faith is possibly only because God causes unbelievers to be born again (1 John 5:1) may make us feel empowered and encouraged and bold and hopefuly in our personal evangelism, or it may make us feel fatalistic, pointless, unmotivated, and paralyzed in our evangelism. If we fatalistic and pointless and unmotivated and paralyzed in our witness to unbelievers, our feelings are out of sync with the truth, and we should ask the Lord to change our feelings."
" to bring {our] vagrant feelings into line with ultimate reality. My feelings are not God. God is God. My feelings do not define truth. God's word defines truth. My feelings are echoes and responses to what my mind perceives. And sometimes - many times - my feelings are out of sync with truth. When that happens - and it happens every day in some measure - I try not to bend the truth to justify my imperfect feelings, but rather, I plead with God: Purify my perceptions of your truth and transform my feelings so that they are in sync with the truth."

The last chapters of his book are dedicated to sharing the Gospel. I was so strongly encouraged by the practical ways to evangelize that I think I shall type them out soon and share them here on my blog. They were convicting to me as they challenged me to refocus my efforts and reshape my thinking on how I go about my days. John Piper shares the joy and freedom found in being a clay pot that, although we're unable to make the new birth happen in anyone, that proclaims and shares the treasure of Christ and the surpassing power of God in all that we say and do. The fact that we are unable to cause anyone to be born again gives more hope to our powerful God who may choose to use us anytime or anywhere to stir others to His glorious reality.

My heart was overcome with the glory of the Gospel in Piper's last words:

"Jesus' words "You must be born again" (John 3:7) go to the heart of the world's problems. There will be no final peace, no final justice, no triumph over hate and selfishness and racism without this profound change in human nature.
All other diagnoses and remedies are superficial. They may eve be valuable - like laws that restrain people from doing their worst. But without the new birth, people are not changed at the root, and that is where the problem lies. If human beings are not changed at the root, then our innate selfishness will spoil every dream.
Jesus' remedy fits the depths of our disorder. If we only did bad things because of bad circumstances, then ther emight be hope that changing the circumstances would change our behavior. But our problem is not simply that we do bad things - like slanderings others, and cheating in privated, and neglecting our responsibilities, and shunning those who are different, and doing shoddy work, and bending the truth, and gratifying our desires ant others' expense, and ignoring the poor, and giving no regard to our Maker.
Our problem is that what we do comes from who we are (Matt 7:16-17, 12:34).
So if your heartache is for your own personal changed, or for change in your marriage, or change in your prodigal children, or in your church, or in the systemic structures of injustice, or in the political system, or in the hostilities among nations, or in the human degradation of the environment, or in the raunchiness of our entertainment culture, or in the miseries of the poor, or in the calllous opulence of the rich, or in the inequities of educational opportunity, or in arrogant attitudes of ethnocentrism, or in a hundred areas of human need caused by some form of human greed - if your heart aches for any of these, then you should care supremely about the new birth.
There are other ways of shaping culture and guiding behavior. But none so deep. None so far-reaching. None so universally relevant. None so eternally significant."

Oh that God might grant us sight to always see this eternal, divine truth as precious!!

I once thought there was need to move beyond the basic Gospel message. In one sense I was right, and in another sense, I was wrong. I was right in the sense that we need to move beyond - not away from the Gospel, but into the Gospel. There is a vast depth of meaning, grace, and glory in the Gospel left unexplored. You can hear all the lovely, happy bits of the Gospel message whilst walking through a Christian bookstore or attending church every sunday. But you'll never know the depth and granduer of it merely by doing or being a part of the "Christian" things. Healing, power, holy affections for Christ and the Cross, and vibrant life come only from daily beholding the Gospel and God's glory in all its detail! There is great need to daily abide and meditate in this Truth. There are vast treasures in this Truth that we have yet tasted.

This might concern some, but in reading Finally Alive in line with the Bible, I have been even more strongly rooted in my belief of God's sovereignty, His effectual calling (predestination), and man's complete inability to will or to choose God. One might think, "Oh gosh, she's just been reaffirmed in her Calvinism." If, by Calvinism, you mean that God, lovingly, chose before creation a Bride for Himself (the souls of whom He knows all by name!) and overcomes our hardened, depraved hearts, and wills to bring us to Himself, thereby granting (in his mysterious, sovereign goodness!) some vessels for mercy and some for wrath - then yes, I have been 'reaffirmed' in that belief. However, I highly disapprove of its labeling as Calvinism - as if Calvin himself came up with such a hated belief that tears free-will straight out of our hands! Our very nature shivers at such a reality. Do we really believe that the teaching of predestination and God's soverign choice is merely the result of one man's interpretation of Scripture? No one ever curses or hates the Apostle Paul for some of the things he wrote about this in Romans. No, we just avoid it and pretend it's not there.
Test everything with Scripture. Answer Scripture with Scripture. Lace them together. This is not something we cannot know.
I cannot run from these hard truths. The more earnestly I've tried to find anything in Scripture that might suggest otherwise, the increasingly more apparent it becomes that God will give His glory to NO ONE. He does it all - every little and hard thing, even those that our finite minds cannot comprehend. There is much freedom in His sovereign grace - freedom that, otherwise, would not have been there if our little wills marred His Spirit's divine innerworkings. It frees us up to trust in Him - Rom 8:28 - knowing that He works for our good and His glory, which is our joy.

Lord, I thank You that the new birth and the entire Gospel is entirely Your work because otherwise, I would never have chosen You and known Your Life! What sweet, precious, comforting, freeing joy this is to our souls!

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Costly Grace

"Costly grace is the treasure hidden in the field; for the sake of it a man will gladly go and sell all that he has. It is the pearl of great price to buy which the merchant will sell all his goods. It is the kingly rule of Christ, for whose sake a man will pluck out the eye which causes him to stumble; it is the call of Jesus Christ at which the disciple leaves his nets and follows Him. Such grace is costly because it calls us to follow, and it is grace because it calls us to follow Jesus Christ. It is costly because it costs a man his life, and it is grace because it gives a man the only true life. It is costly because it condemns sin, and grace because it justifies the sinner. Above all, it is costly because it cost God the life of His Son: 'ye were bought at a price', and what has cost God much cannot be cheap for us. Above all, it is grace because God did not reckon His son too dear a price to pay for our life, but delivered Him up for us. Costly grace is the Incarnation of God. Costly grace is the sanctuary of God; it has to be protected from the world, and not thrown to the dogs. It is therefore the living word, the Word of God, which he speaks as it pleases him. Costly grace confronts us as a gracious call to follow Jesus, it comes as a word of forgiveness to the broken spirit and the contrite heart. Grace is costly because it compels a man to submit to the yoke of Christ and follow him; it is grace because Jesus says, 'My yoke is easy and my burden is light'. "

"If we would follow Jesus we must take certain definite steps. The first step, which follows the call, cuts the disciple off from his previous existence. The call to follow at once produces a new situation. To stay in the old situation makes discipleship impossible. Levi must leave the receipt of custom and Peter his nets in order to follow Jesus. One would have thought that nothing so drastic was necessary at such an early stage. Could not Jesus have initiated the publican into some new religious experience, and leave them as they were before? He could have done so, had he not been the incarnate Son of God. But since He is the Christ, he must make it clear from the start that his word is not an abstract doctrine, but the re-creation of the whole life of man. The only right and proper way is quite literally to go with Jesus. The call to follow implies that there is only one way of believing on Jesus Christ, and that is by leaving all and going with the incarnate Son of God."

- Dietrich Bonhoeffer, excerpts from The Cost of Discipleship

Monday, March 8, 2010

Glorifying the Lord with my womanhood...

Little over a year ago, the Lord convicted and inspired me onto the path of Biblical womanhood. My desire to grow in this and to glorify God with His purpose and will for me concerning my daughterhood and womanhood (and, if He should ever will for me to enjoy wifehood and motherhood) has never grown cold. Although I have experienced some very painful and challenging trials along this path, I count those hard times and struggles as nothing but His sovereign blessings. How fitting that He should place some of the most burning trials at the start of my pursuit towards true womanhood! Better the humbling fire of the Refiner than the small, self-righteous efforts of the human heart. He so wonderfully knows best how to sanctify His daughters so that He may be glorified by their womanhood - whether they are single or married, orphan or daughter, or young or old.
The Lord is always good and His steadfast love endures forever! Along this path He has constantly provided for me with Biblical teachings on this topic and has kept me away from much of evangelical feminism that is so prevalant in modern Christianity today. I wanted to post the blogs/ministries that have inspired and encouraged me ever since I began pursuing Biblical womanhood. The wonderful, Godly ladies who run these blogs are such beautiful models of Christ-honoring womanhood. Their teachings on submission, selflessness, humility, a gentle and quiet spirit, simple living, homemaking, courtship, marriage, family, wifehood, motherhood (loving and honoring husbands), daughterhood (loving and honoring fathers), and modesty have profoundly shaped my beliefs and views by leading me to the Scripture time and time again. Not to mention, through their blogs I have come to learn of other Christian authors, missionaries, and teachers who have deepened my faith as well. Some of those have been Elizabeth Prentiss, J.R. Miller, Amy Carmichael, Carolyn McCulley, and Nancy Wilson.
I thank the Lord for the ladies of these blogs. Their words and writings are edifying and Gospel-centered. They have been so fruitful in my life.

A Wise Woman Builds Her Home

Aspiring Homemaker

These were the two ministries that first pushed me forward. I praise the Lord and am ever grateful for Leslie Ludy's Set-Apart Femininity and the Botkin sister's So Much More.

Set-Apart Girl - Leslie Ludy

Visionary Daughters - Elizabeth and Anna Sofia Botkin

I feel like a little girl next to these examples of humble, selfless Biblical women who radiate the beautiful heart and spirit of 1 Peter 3 and Proverbs 31. However, I only began this pursuit a year ago after being deeply (and subtly) entrenched in a worldly-feministic mindset throughout my high school years and my first years at college. I remain a very humbled young woman seeking after the Lord's will, purpose and design for my femininity and relying fully upon His precious grace to sanctify me daily.

The Mighty Intercessor - Eric Ludy