The Beauty of Submission

SUBMIT, WOMAN!

Have you ever heard those words? Either meant seriously or in a joking manner? Probably every woman on the face of the planet has in the very least been acquainted with the idea of submission. In America especially, submission is VERY unpopular word. The concept makes many cringe at the thought. It seems outdated and male chauvinistic. BUT, please bear with me. I promise by the end of this post you’ll have a different perspective with which to think about submission. And you might just like it!

First, we have to ask: When did submission first come into play?

Some believe at creation, others believe it is a consequence of the Fall of Man, and others might believe that it came much later. But I’d challenge you to look at Scripture with me a little bit closer. Let’s collectively zoom into Genesis chapter 1 verse 1: “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” Stop. In the beginning, GOD. Now, lets move over to verse 26 of the same chapter: “Then God said, ‘Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness…” Do you see that? God said, ‘Let US, OUR.” Meaning none other than the Trinity. God the Father, God the Son (Jesus Christ) and the Holy Spirit. It is in THIS relationship that we FIRST see submission. Jesus submitted to the Father’s will when He willing gave up the treasures of heaven to come to earth to die on the cross for our sins. Before he faced the cross, He prayed, ‘My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; yet not as I will, but as You will” (Matthew 26:39). He didn’t want to face the cross, but Jesus recognized that the outcome of His death would make a way for mankind to be reconciled to God, bringing His Father glory.

Let this be clear: Submission is NOT a result of the Fall. Before the entrance of sin, God put Adam in the garden of Eden to ‘cultivate it and keep it.’ (Gen. 1:15) After this, the Lord said ‘it is not good for the man to be alone; I will make him a helper suitable for him’ (1:18). Did you catch that? Role responsibilities before Eve was even created! Before sin ever entered the picture! Man was to cultivate the land and keep it (work, provide, protect) and Eve was to be his helper (help-mate, come along-side to help accomplish his God-given tasks, submit to his leadership).

Okay, that was a long intro, but I promise it was necessary to have a proper understanding of the submission concept!

Ask yourself:

How do YOU view submission? Has this changed over the years or since you got married? Is it harder or easier? For me personally, I believe submission to be necessary, right, and true but even more HARD. Submission is hard! But we practice submission every day in all kinds of various relationships:

  • employer/employee
  • government/citizen
  • parents/children
  • husbands/wives
  • God/creation

Yet which one do we fight the MOST? Husband and wife. We have to remember that husbands and wives are completely EQUAL in value and importance, we just have different role responsibilities. Genesis 1:27 says, “God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.” We are NOT in any way talking about a difference in value. God’s Word is exceptionally clear that men and women are created equally in His image. But just like a manager and an employee of a company are both vital to that company, they have to operate different roles and tasks in order for the company to run as smoothly as possible. Ephesians 5:22-23 reveals to us that God’s ultimate intention for headship and submission in marriage is to reflect the relationship of Christ and the church. “The husband is to mirror the sacrificial love of Christ by laying down his life for his wife, and the wife is to exemplify the church’s joyful submission to Christ by following her husband’s leadership” (138). God designed submission for His glory. When we recognize that, we experience far more blessings than if we are to continuously fight it.

So WHY do we fight submission? What in us makes submission so hard? Well, after the Fall, there were consequences. Right? Right. Genesis 3:16 lays out the woman’s specific consequences for her sin, “…Yet your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you.” Mahaney puts it this way,

“The form and context of the word desire actually has a negative connotation–an urge to manipulate, control, or have mastery over. Because of the curse, we now have a sinful tendency to want our own way and to resist our husband’s authority” (140).

So in reality, the submissive wife, who is portrayed as weak-willed in our culture, is actually a model of inner strength. By God’s grace, she has conquered this opposition within her own heart. “It is actually weakness on display when a wife is not submissive; she is only caving in to her natural inclination to usurp authority and demand her own way. That doesn’t take any effort at all” (140).

I think the reason we buck up against submission is not because we don’t agree with the command, but rather because it is HARD. We would rather be lazy.

We have to get out of our lazy-rutt and act in obedience to God no matter how much we might not initially want to. It is the only way our marriages will perform as God intended them to.

Ask yourself: 

Do I make it difficult for my husband to lead? [Think about your attitude, countenance, sarcasm, leading yourself or trying to lead him, shooting down his ideas, brushing off his requests, etc.]

When I was a teenager, a friend of mine was telling me about how his mom was constantly complaining about how her husband didn’t step up and lead the family enough. His response was, “Well if you want him to step up, you have to step down and let him!” That has resonated with me ever since. Oftentimes as women (and women who have a more outgoing personality or tendency to lead especially) we like to take the reigns and run with them. But then we find ourselves wishing our husbands did more. But in reality, we have to check ourselves and see if we are actually the ones who need to step down in order for our husbands to step up. There’s not room for two in the pilot seat.

Also, we cannot blame our husbands for our lack of submission. Just like we wouldn’t want them to blame us for their lack of leadership. We each have responsibilities and we need to take care of the ones directed towards us. Remember, Titus 2:3-5 says, “…being submission to their own husbands, so that the word of God will not be dishonored.” [emphasis mine]. As married women, we are not to submit to ALL men, but rather to our OWN husbands. One man. ONE MAN, ladies! We can do this!

As a disclaimer, I must add: There are no excuses to this mandate (see 1 Peter 3:1-6) but there are exceptions. We should NEVER follow our husband’s leadership into sin. God’s authority trumps theirs, so if your husband ever tries to lead you down a path that would dishonor God and go against His Word, do not submit. Seek counsel and help from a trusted outside source.

The bottom line is this: Do you trust God enough to lead your husband to lead you?

Susan Hunt puts it rather beautifully in her book, The True Woman:

“The true woman is not afraid to place herself in a position of submission. She does not have to grasp; she does not have to control. Her fear dissolves in the light of God’s covenant promise to be her God and to live within her. Submission is simply a demonstration of her confidence in the sovereign power of the Lord God.”

Remember ladies, Jesus is the embodiment of pure submission. Let’s emulate Him in our marriages to our husbands so that we, too, may glorify God in our obedience to the Father. This is true feminine appeal that draws a watching world to the gospel of Christ.

The Rewards of Kindness

Chapter 7 of Feminine Appeal deals with the topic of “kindness.” This seems at first glance like a no brainer. But kindness is actually harder than we like to admit sometimes.

Have you ever been surprised at how unkind you can be? I sure have!  There have been too many times when I have caught myself thinking, saying or doing things that I am not proud of.

Carolyn Mahaney prefaces this topic explaining that in order to tease out the full meaning of the imperative to be kind, we must also address the topic of doing good. For goodness is implicit in the definition of the Greek word for “kind” in this passage. Kindness and goodness can often be used interchangeably, but there are actually some differences between the two traits. Jerry Bridges explains:

kindness: the sincere desire for the happiness of others

goodness: the activity calculated to advance that happiness.

You can’t have the effectual rewards of one without the other. Just having the desire for the happiness of others doesn’t get you anywhere. And just doing things for other people’s happiness isn’t genuine–it’s people pleasing.

Just like talk and no walk, or walk and no talk. Only leads to hypocrites and “good people” with no explanation or display of the gospel.

First, we must ask for help before we try to do act in kindness or goodness. Just like every other topic we have covered. John 14:26 says, “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 that I said to you.” Kindness is a fruit of the Holy Spirit living within us. He is the One who produces this fruit in our lives. When we try to accomplish it on our own, we are going to come up short.

There are THREE main hindrances to kindness:

  1. Anger
  2. Bitterness
  3. Judging

1.) Anger

Just like a sponge, when circumstances arise that squeeze us, what is inside is revealed. Matthew 15:18 says, “But the things that proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and those defile the man.” Anger is when we desire something more than we desire to please God. Expressions of anger reveal sinful desires in our hearts, cravings that are not being satisfied. Is that convicting? Often times we desire peace and quiet, convenience and ease, a clean and orderly house, appreciation and recognition, MORE than we desire to glorify God by being kind.

The solution is to humbly submit our sinful cravings to God. This requires humility, but we have God’s pledge that He will give grace to the humble (James 4:6). He will help us turn from anger and cultivate kindness (121).

2.) Bitterness

Bitterness is based upon somebody else’s sin who is close to us, and who did something to us. It has everything to do with the proximity to us. “As wives and mothers, we must be especially wary of developing bitterness toward our husbands and children–our closest relationships” (122). Ephesians 4:31 instructs us to “get rid of all bitterness.” So HOW do we do that?

The solution is forgiveness. Ephesians 4:32 says, “Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.” For when we remember how much we have been forgiven, only then will we have the capacity to forgive. By pondering the cross, our perspective can be transformed, because we then realize that all of our offenses against a holy God make us just as guilty as the person who has wronged us. When we can receive forgiveness from God, we must also extend forgiveness just as He did in Christ.

3.) Judging

Judging is looking for other’s faults, and without valid or sufficient reason, forming unfavorable opinions of their qualities, words, actions, or motives.” Also known as looking for the worst in others. Often we make negative assumptions about others only to find out later that we were completely wrong. Mahaney states, “Sinful judging can wreak havoc with the desire for our husbands’ and children’s happiness; therefore, we must be vigilant in our efforts to resist this temptation” (125).

The solution is repentance. We MUST enlist the Holy Spirit’s aid to making loving judgments. When we repent from judging, we will gain fresh passion for our families’ happiness. We must not presume we are judging a situation correctly. We must ASK if we are perceiving the situation accurately with humility and kindness.

Questions to ponder:

  1. If you were to rate yourself on a scale of 1 to 10 of your kindness before marriage and now, how would the results fall? More kind? Or less kind?
  2. If family and friends were to use one word to describe your character, do you have any idea what they would say?

Scripture makes it clear what we should be known for:

  • praying (James 5:16-18)
    • No one can pray for our husbands and families better than we can!
  • greeting (Romans 16:16)
    • How do you greet your husband when he comes home? (or when you come home to him?)
    • Are you greeting/being greeted with enthusiasm?
  • listening (Proverbs 20:5)
    • Do you practice listening? I think this skill is increasingly difficult for our generation because we have so many distractions. We must PRACTICE the art of listening! Not just hearing, but understanding.
    • Have sincere interest in what our husbands and children are saying. Don’t interrupt, look away, yawn, or take over the conversation.
  • encouraging (Proverbs 12:25)
    • How do we talk to and about husbands and family members? We should be on the lookout for praiseworthy actions that glorify God–then give specific encouragement.
  • planning (Proverbs 22:3, 21:5)
    • Planning ahead to do good works. This is the “calculated” part of kindness and goodness. This could mean planning to hide ourselves and family from trouble as well as planning to initiate good works.

A lot of these acts of kindness do not lend themselves to immediate return. We must think of them as an investment for greater return later in life. “Marriage will become more precious. Motherhood will grow more dear. The rewards will start coming–with bigger and bigger returns” (133). Regardless of who takes notice in this life, God is watching. He is recording every expression of kindness and every act of goodness. What greater incentive could there be to advance our families’ happiness?

HOMEWORK:

  • In which of these five acts of goodness would you most like to improve on?
  • How do you plan on seeking to change?

The Honor of Working at Home

Well….hello.

I feel like I need to introduce myself to my readers again because I’ve been gone for so long. With all the craziness of Christmas and a new year, building a house, and being on the job search again, my blog has taken the backseat, totally unintentionally. I honestly didn’t realize it had been so long since I had updated and for that, I apologize! So, without further ado, let me finish my summaries of Feminine Appeal for those of you who have been following along. Our Wednesday night group just finished last Wednesday, so I’m not too terribly behind, right? Ha, right.

Chapter 6 is titled, “The Honor of Working at Home,” which could quite possibly be a source of debate among some of you. So let me preface this by saying, there is no biblical mandate that says the wife and mother is sinning if she does not work at home. Absolutely not! There are definitely circumstances that do not allow that to happen, and people who would prefer to have a career outside the home. This is not intended to induce guilt by any stretch of the mind, so please don’t think this is some legalistic virtue that binds women to ONLY household duties and mothering. It is merely an encouragement to priorities these roles over other things and for us to realize the great honor that comes with it.

Titus 2:3-5 says,

“Older women likewise are to be reverent in their behavior, not malicious gossips nor enslaved to much wine, teaching what is good, so that they may encourage the younger women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be sensible, pure, workers at home, kind, being subject to their own husbands, so that the word of God will not be dishonored.”

Let’s all start on the same page here. Obviously, we are living in a post-feminism movement society. So let’s ask ourselves:

  • In what ways have we been influenced by the toxic feminist air that we have been breathing for the last several decades?

The media feeds us constant lies that being a wife and a mother is less honorable than having a career. Mahaney states, “Feminism has failed to deliver as advertised. Yet feminism philosophy has become thoroughly integrated into the values of mainstream society–so much so, that it has been absorbed and applied by the majority of women, even many who do not consider themselves feminist. Ask yourself: “Have I been seduced?” For me, having a career seems more glamourous sometimes–especially in my 20’s. It seems glamourous to have a nice paycheck, be able to buy nice clothes, travel for work, and to meet all kinds of people in all walks of life; to not be “tied down” at home.

  • But how does Scripture convince us to think differently about “working at home?”

1 Timothy 5:14 counsels the younger widows to marry, bear children, and manage their households.

Proverbs 31 we have the ideal wife and mother who’s sphere of work centered around the home.

1 Timothy 5:8 clearly states that men are responsible to be the providers for the home while women are responsible to be the caretakers of the home.

However the KEY is this:

“Scripture provides examples of godly women who worked in other settings and earned extra income, but never to the neglect of their families and homes” (104).

Working at home should be a constant and ongoing priority in our lives. Seasons of our lives will change and working outside the home will not compromise our work in the home. Especially before children and after they have left the house. However, whenever we contemplate opportunities outside of the home, we must first consider what consequences they might have on our families. That includes our motives for working outside the home. Ask yourself the following questions:

  1. What are my reasons for considering this opportunity? Are they selfish or God-honoring?
  2. Will pursuing this venture glorify God and honor the gospel?
  3. Is this an undertaking that will help my husband?
  4. Will it enhance and enrich the lives of my family?
  5. Does this endeavor hinder my role as caretaker of my home?

Let us remember, though, Scripture doesn’t say that wives and mothers are sinning if they work outside the home. Let that be clear! There will be some women in circumstances that do not allow them the choice. However, our PRIORITY should always be to our husband, children, and home first.

In all of this, we must know where our ability to do this comes from. Psalm 28:7 says, “The LORD is my strength and my shield; in Him my heart trusts and I am helped.” God is the One who has called you to be a homemaker, and He will supply all the strength you need as you look to Him (107).

Scripture has provided a job description for us as managers of our homes, and it is surprisingly simple: We are to be our husband’s helper. (Genesis 1:26-31, 2:7-25, 1 Cor. 11:8-9) We can easily determine what we should do and how we should do it by asking ourselves: “What will most help my husband?” As Douglas Wilson puts it, “The man needs THE help, the woman needs TO help” (109). That is our God given role and God-equipped nature.

  • How is your attitude at home while you are “homemaking?” Would your husband and family describe you as happy?

REMEMBER: Proverbs 31:13 says “she works with her hands in delight!”

The tasks have to get done, you might as well make them fun!

The goal of all of this is so our homes can actually be a showcase for the gospel. In God’s economy, homemaking is a high and noble calling!

Our homes should be our families’ safe haven. It is our responsibility to make that happen.

HOMEWORK:

  1. Ask your husband what you can do that will be MOST helpful to him this week.
  2. What is one new skill of homemaking you’d like to acquire?
  3. Keep this as a constant issue of prayer in every season of your life.

The Pleasure of Purity

First of all, my apologies for the delay in getting this posted. I’ve been crazy busy lately and haven’t made the time to make it happen! So without further ado…

“The Pleasure of Purity.”

“Older women likewise are to be reverent in their behavior, not malicious gossips nor enslaved to much wine, teaching what is good, so that they may encourage the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be sensible, pure, workers at home, kind, being subject to their own husbands, so that the word of God will not be dishonored.” -Titus 2:3-5

Usually when we think of the word “purity” we think of being pure before we are married, not having sex before marriage and guarding our thoughts before marriage. But in this passage, Paul is addressing the older women to teach the younger women who are married to be pure. So what does that mean? What does purity in marriage look like?

The Effects of Our Culture:

Unfortunately, “our culture has pushed marital sex into the backroom and instead celebrates immoral sex” (82). Just by watching TV, movies, or reading magazines, we get the impression that the only people having sex (or “good sex”) are the ones who aren’t married. Martial sex on the other hand is portrayed as bland and routine. God never intended for that to be the case.

God’s Purpose and Design:

Scripture actually encourages marital sex and has a good deal to say about it! Only God, in His infinite wisdom, could create sex and showcase His approval of it in marriage in an entire book of the Bible: Song of Solomon. (Not to mention the various other Scripture that speak to this topic.) Often times, in Christian homes, sex is portrayed as something to hide, something embarrassing, or something that is bad. However, Mahaney reminds us, “Our sexual desire is not evil because God Himself has created it. He is not embarrassed about our sexual nature, and neither should we be embarrassed.” God is the one who gives sexual desire, so He is the one who gets to define the boundaries, and His boundaries are confined to one man and one woman in a covenant marriage. These boundaries are for our good: to protect us and to bless us.

God designed us for intimacy. In Genesis 4:1 it says that “Adam knew his wife, and she conceived.” This word for knew refers to experiential knowledge. Sometimes I think to myself, “I feel like I didn’t even know my husband before we got married compared to how I know him now!” And that’s because it is when husband and wife are joined together in sexual intimacy that they can truly “know” one another. Mahaney describes it as the “highest form of the communication of love–a language that expresses love without words.” Each encounter leads us to a deeper “knowing” of the one we love. (84).

The Effects of Sin:

As wonderful as a gift as sex is, it is grossly polluted by sin. Sin has affected every area of our lives, including the sexual relationship. Sometimes that comes in the form of willful sin and other times it affects some as a result of another’s sin. But be assured  that no situation in your life is beyond the reach of God’s grace. He can beautifully redeem everything that might have been lost prior to a marriage relationship. Because of Jesus, even the most difficult or painful situation can be turned into a story of grace. And THAT is worth celebrating!

The Problem of Lust:

Past sin is not the only thing that can entangle us in our quest for purity. In fact, the most ongoing struggle we will face in this area is the problem of lust. “Sexual temptation is no respecter of persons. You can be male, female, young or old, rich or poor, single or married, happily married or unhappily married. No one is safe from this vice.(86)” Thankfully, we know the truth of Scripture teaches us in 1 Corinthians 10:13 that “no temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man; and God is faithful who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it.”

We Must Resolve:

Because of our propensity to sin sexually, we must resolve, ahead of time, to walk in absolute purity. How do we do that? First and foremost, we must set our minds on things above (Colossians 3). If we are not replacing sinful thoughts with godly thoughts, we are already losing the battle. Next, we must MAKE NO PROVISION FOR THE FLESH. This is a huge one. We must ask ourselves, “When, where, and with whom are we most tempted to accommodate our flesh and gratify it’s desires?” (89). We should not read anything, watch anything, or listen to anything that arouses impure thoughts or compromises our biblical convictions. (Think: romance novels, magazines, chick flicks, TV shows, internet websites, etc.) Remember David’s commitment  in Psalm 101:2-3 was to walk in his house with a blameless heart and set no evil thing before his eyes. We must commit to do the same. We must be honest and pursue accountability in this area. Only then, can we expect victory in the battle of lust.

Now, for MARRIED women only:

One key to pursuing purity in our marriages is to pursue an exciting sexual relationship with our husbands. When you eat on a regular basis, you’re less likely to binge on something unhealthy. Think about it.

  • Be attractive in your husbands eyes alone. Discover what clothing, hairstyles, and make up he finds most appealing, and cultivate that. “We should give the same careful attention to our physical appearance after marriage as we did before.” However, more important than any outward presentation, is the pursuit of a gentle and quiet spirit. (1 Peter 3:3). Growing in godly character is the most attractive quality to our husbands.
  • Be available. Scripture makes it very clear that our bodies belong to our spouse. “We are to give ourselves without qualification and not withhold the pleasure of sex. The only exception to this rule is for the activity of prayer, by mutual agreement and for a limited time. Mahaney quoted a man that said he observed that, “I’ve heard many excuses for not having sex–not in the mood, headache, too tired, don’t have time. Prayer and fasting has never been one of them.”
  • Lastly, be anticipatory. Use your mind to prepare for sex throughout the day. “God has furnished us with imaginations, and we should use them to ‘day dream’ about our husbands.” Carve out time in your schedule for sex and initiate it every once in a while!

Remember, God was the one who created sex in the first place, for our pleasure and for His glory. Do not neglect His wonderful gift. He will reward our obedience in every area of our lives, including this one.

[I realize how lengthy this “review” was, and for that I apologize. But I felt it was a necessary topic to cover thoroughly for any woman who might be reading this who is not in the weekly discussions. If you need to seek accountability in this area or would like for me to pray for/with you, please don’t hesitate to contact me at crimsonrenney@gmail.com]

The Safety of Self-Control

Self Control. Whoa, what an annoying word, right?

Our culture has painted the picture of self-control as something ridiculous. You would never see on the front of a magazine, “5 Steps to Practice Self-Control!” but rather something that look more like, “5 Steps to the Life You Deserve.” Am I right? Usually we grudgingly look at self-control as something that restrains us, binds us, and keeps us from the things we love. And in a way some of those descriptions might be true. But a proper view of self-control is necessary to appreciating it and understanding what God intended for us when He instructed us to live self controlled lives.

Titus 2:3-5 says,

“Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderersor addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good. Then they can urge the younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God.”

If someone challenged you to go without one thing for a week, what would it be? How long could you last? Social media? Sweets? Cell phone? TV?

Better yet, have you ever set goals for yourself in January (aka ‘New Years Resolutions’) and by February forgotten what they were?

“Self control is what we need in order to say no to sinful desires and what we need to follow through with godly desires” (64). Scripture is very clear on self-control. Its a fruit of the Spirit living within us. Paul emphasized it in Titus 2 as he directed every single group; older women, younger women, older men, and younger men. If Paul required self-control, that must mean it is attainable. So why do we struggle with it SO much? Self-control requires effort. It doesn’t come naturally or easily. We continually fail because we are attempting to accomplish such a grandiose task in our own strength. Mahaney reminds us that, “It is only as we cooperate with the power of the Holy Spirit that we will achieve self-control” (65).

God’s Word likens self-control to that of a protective wall. Just like in history when massive stone walls were built around cities for protection from the enemy, self-control protects us from the attacks of our enemy who would love nothing more than to steal, kill, and destroy us.

But why is self-control SO hard? To put it bluntly, because sin is enjoyable. We have selfish natures that are inclined to sin. The Bible is very clear that sin is enjoyable for a season. However, Proverbs 16:25 makes it clear: “There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death.” Not exercising self-control in our sleeping habits (whether too little or too much), eating habits (making poor food choices, indulgence, or vanity), our thoughts and our behavior all reflect selfish motives and leads to regret and destruction. But by practicing self-control in these areas, we are protected from the ill effects of poor decisions and poor time management. Mahaney states, “When we recognize self-control as the virtue that spares us from sin’s negative consquences, we will welcome it eagerly as our friend.” (67)

In the book, Carolyn covers 4 areas where self-control is vitally important: Our Appetites, Sleep Habits, Our Thoughts and Feelings, and Our Behavior.

1. Our Appetites:

Whether eating too much, too little, or making unhealthy choices, our eating habits say a lot about our ability to control ourselves. A quote from Elisabeth Elliot ends with, “We cannot give our hearts to God and keep our bodies to ourselves.” (68). It is undeniable that undisciplined use of our bodies will hinder our service to God. When we don’t eat healthy, our bodies reflect that. The less healthy our bodies are, the less able we are to serve the Lord physically. On the other hand, eating too little or obsessing over our health is also not glorifying God with our bodies. The sin of vanity is no less serious than the sin of gluttony (71).

2. Our Sleep Habits:

Sleep is a gift from God. It restores our physical strength and resets our emotions. “God has designed our bodies to require sleep, and to cut corners may be expression of pride–an arrogant disregard of our God-given physical limitations” (71). But we can also love sleep a little bit too much (I might fall into this category!)  Proverbs 20:13 is clear that loving sleep too much results in laziness and poverty. We must make the most of our time. A lot of women  classify themselves as “night owls,” making excuses for their choice to stay up late and sleep in. But rather than using our evening hours for personal pleasure , we need to use that time to prepare for the next day and to go to bed early enough to rise ready to serve God and our families.

3. Our Thoughts and Feelings:

In our feeling-obsessed culture, we MUST develop a proper understanding of feelings. They are a gift from God! Life would be amazingly bleak if we could not feel. But because of sin, the way we think and feel is often contrary to what Scripture commands. We often need to tell ourselves how to feel instead of letting our feelings tell us how to think. Sinful thoughts and sinful feelings lead to sinful behavior. We must exercise self control in this area. 2 Corinthians 10:5 commands us to take every thought captive and make it obedient to Christ. Remember: Just because we feel something doesn’t make it true. Our feelings are either ruled by truth or ruled by sin (75).

4. Our Behavior:

There are tons of areas where our behavior needs self control. But there is one that affects all the others. One behavior, if diligently pursued, will promote self-control in every other area. What is it? The daily practice of meeting with God. Call it a cliche, but cliches are cliches because they are true. By meeting with God every single day, we are acknowledging that we are totally dependent upon His grace. No matter what our circumstances are, intimacy with God in His presence is the rock that will empower us to fight our battles every day. We should eagerly and consistently respond to our Savior’s invitation to come and meet with Him. What a privilege!

All of this probably sounds overwhelming. Our temptation is to muster up new resolve and get to work. But just like New Years resolutions tend to fall flat when we try and try and try, so will our efforts in the area of self-control. That’s why we have to surrender ourselves again to the Holy Spirit and allow Him to accomplish it through us. John 15:5 makes it clear: “Apart from [Jesus] you can do nothing.”

Homework:

  • Think about the one area where you are most in need of self-control. What is one way you can apply what you’ve learned in this chapter before our next meeting? (Remember–not “all by yourself!”)
  • Make a plan to meet with God every day this week. Acknowledge your dependence on Him for self-control.

The Blessings of Loving My Children

Chapter 3 of this book was rather difficult for me because it was titled, “The Blessings of Loving My Children.”

Well, I don’t have any children. No one in our group has any children, (except for Heather, who just had her baby boy about a week ago! and Carly, who is due next Spring!) so I really felt completely inadequate trying to teach this material. The only experience I have with children is nannying, and even that doesn’t seem to suffice because they are not my own kids. Either way, I prayed the Lord would direct our conversation to what He would be pleased with, and I actually feel like it was one of the best discussions we have had so far!

Considering none of us had children, we looked at this chapter as more of a challenge to prepare for the children we may one day have, if it be the Lord’s will. A challenge to change our viewpoint on children, a challenge to prepare ourselves to be mothers, and a challenge to start praying, even now, for the salvation of any children God may choose to give us.

Just like in chapter 2, “The Delight of Loving our Husbands,” we learned that the greek word used for ‘love’ in this passage is phileo. The tender, affectionate, enjoyment kind of love. It is my understanding that being a mother requires every kind of energy, patience, self-sacrificing, kind of love there is. And a lot of times, moms can lose the joy of actually raising their children. Just like everything else in life, it’s easy to become selfish in our motives for why we do or do not do things. We feel we are entitled to a certain lifestyle, a certain amount of praise, etc. and that leaves us feeling nothing short of mentally, emotionally, and physically exhausted when that “standard” isn’t met. But God does not want mothers to live in this exhausted state. He wants moms refreshed and enjoying their children, for His glory.

But what is the highest objective of motherhood? It is not to create happy, fulfilled, successful human beings. But it IS “to be sure our children repent from their sins, put their faith in Jesus Christ,and reflect the gospel to the world around them.” (pg. 60-61) This mandate is exciting and nerve-wracking  at the same time. What a HUGE responsibility! What an honor.

We asked the question, “When thinking about the possibility of having children, what words come to your mind?” And oh! and the responses! Words like, “exhausting, expensive, terrifying, and overwhelming” came to mind. And that doesn’t include the facial expressions! But God’s Word has a very different description of children and how we are to view them: (Psalm 127:3-5)

“Behold, children are a gift of the Lord,
The fruit of the womb is a reward.
Like arrows in the hand of a warrior,
So are the children of one’s youth.
How blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them;
They will not be ashamed
When they speak with their enemies in the gate.”

Wow! What a difference in how we are supposed to view them. If God allows us to have children, they are an inheritance from Him. A gift from him, a reward. Like arrows to be shot out to proclaim the gospel among the nations, parents are blessed with children. The more we think of children as a reward, a gift, and a blessing, the more joy we will have in raising them.

So, knowing that our lives don’t always (or ever!) go according to our own personal plans, but rather the Lord’s, how can we prepare ourselves now for the wonderful task of motherhood so that we will be ready whenever God sees fit to give us His precious gift?

  • Above all, create a habit NOW of spending daily, quality, time in the Word with the Lord. If it is already a practice, it will be easier to keep it a habit when children do come. The only way we can receive true refreshment for our souls is through the living water of God’s precious Word. If we think it’s hard to get alone with God now, there is no way it will become easier when you’re taking care of children. It is vital that we develop habits now that we want to have in place if/when we do become moms.
  • Start praying for your future children (or the children you already have, if you are a mom!). Pray for their salvation. Pray for their character. Pray for their obedience to God’s will and His calling on their lives. No prayers are wasted, even when praying over children that are yet to exist!
  • And lastly, think of any children you have in your life right now. What kind of influence do you have over them? Practice sharing the gospel with them in way that their little minds can understand. Learn from their moms, ask questions. Think of your own mom and how you grew up. Did she model behavior and habits that you want to cultivate as a mom? Spend some time thanking her for her investment in your life, and open up the doors of communication for learning from her as you transition into that season. If you didn’t have a mom that you’d want to emulate, pray that God would place some people in your life that would show you what godly motherhood looks like. Learn by their example.

The task of motherhood may seem daunting (I know it does to me!) but if God allows you the privilege of parenting any children, He will most definitely equip for it. If you are apprehensive about becoming a mother, take the time to write down any fears and concerns and spend some time this week finding Scripture that relates to those. The Lord is GOOD, and He will not leave you without hope in this season, or in any other season of your life.

The Delight of Loving My Husband

This past week we read and discussed the second chapter of Feminine Appeal! Last week we laid the foundation of why we pursue these seven virtues (so that the gospel is made attractive in our lives to the lost around us), and this week begins our study of each individual quality. [Let me give the disclaimer here: This chapter is CHOCK FULL of goodness….I implore you to read it to yourself, over and over again, until it sinks in. This post, no matter how lengthy, is still a summary of what the chapter discusses, therefore it is vital to read it in order to have the full context of what we are talking about.]

“Older women likewise are to be reverent in their behavior, not malicious gossips nor enslaved to much wine, teaching what is good, so that they may encourage the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be sensible, pure, workers at home, kind, being subject to their own husbands, so that the word of God will not be dishonored.” -Titus 2:3-5

The Delight of Loving My Husband

Before you were about to get married, did married women think your giddyness was cute, but then tell you that the “in love” phase would wear off? Carolyn talks about the multiple women who would continually tell her, “He’s Mr. Wonderful now, but that will all change when you get married.” She stated that they unanimously agreed that the fairy tale would end shortly after the honeymoon. Were you told the same thing? As we talked about this in our group, everyone nodded their head that they heard the exact same things before they got married. It’s sad, but it’s all too often true. Is this inevitable? Absolutely NOT! “God never intended for wives to abandon their passion and delight for their husbands.” 

The interesting thing about this passage of Scripture that tells older women to teach the younger women to “love their husbands” lies in the Greek usage of the word “love.” So often we think of marital love as sacrificial and unconditional–that agape love that we hear about. While that is true of God’s commandment for husbands to love their wives as Christ loves the church, wives are never, not once, commanded to love their husbands in this way. The Greek word for love used in Titus 2:4 is phileo. Phileo love describes the love between very close friends: tender, affectionate, passionate. It emphasizes enjoyment and respect in a relationship. Talk about a new perspective on how we are supposed to love our husbands!

All too often, wives get caught up in agape loving their husbands, serving them and unconditionally loving them–being committed to them no matter the circumstances. But God calls us to ENJOY our husbands. Why do you think husbands are instructed to agape love their wives while wives are instructed to phileo love their husbands? Mahaney states, “I believe that Scripture’s specific commands to husbands and wives regarding their duties in marriage attest to our respective weaknesses.” Men generally have a harder time sacrificially loving their wives while wives generally have a harder time exhibiting an affectionate love for their husbands.

However, we MUST recognize that Scripture does not include a “contingency clause.” Page 35 says, “This verse does not say, ‘Have the older women teach the young women how to love their husbands–if they have godly character or if they are deserving of this kind of love or if they change.’ No. We are to love our husbands with a tender, affectionate love REGARDLESS of their response.” This is where many women begin to protest. But as believers, we must ask ourselves what will bring honor to the gospel. We must love our husbands. As we submit to God’s command, He will show us how to love, and He will make it possible!

Our culture inundates us with the idea that “falling in love” is some sort of outside force that we have no control over. But Paul makes it VERY clear that this kind of love is to be taught, therefore meaning it does not come naturally. Oftentimes, if we do what FEELS right, we will be wrong most of the time. Phileo “loving our husbands–as biblically defined–is a learned response through the grace of God” (37). And God is eager to teach us, if we are willing to learn!

All of this background begs the question though, if there were loving feelings in the beginning of our relationship and marriage, where do they go as time goes on? Mahaney explains the answer very simply: Sin destroys our tender love.

“If we find that our affection for our husbands is waning or has subsided altogether, then we do not need to look any further than our own hearts. Where sin is present, warm affection dissipates. Anger, bitterness, criticism, pride, selfishness, fear, laziness–all vigorously oppose tender love. This love cannot survive in a heart that harbors sin.”

Ouch. Ouch. Ouch. Is anyone else convicted by that? So often we jump to blaming our spouse, (just like Adam and Eve did in the garden might I add,) instead of taking responsibility for our own actions. Women especially, tend to get into the habit of blaming our emotions on a certain time of the month, or how our husbands aren’t meeting our needs or doing what they’re supposed to be doing. The list is lengthy of how many reasons we come up with to justify our disobedience, but it doesn’t change the reality that we are completely, 100% responsible to God for how we treat our husbands, no matter what they are or are not doing.

My favorite quote of the chapter lies on page 38 that says, “Our emotions are a warning system God graciously gave us to attract attention to the sin in our hearts.” When we aren’t experiencing loving feelings towards our husbands, that’s usually a good sign that there is some sin in our own hearts that needs attention. We know we have a sinful heart (Romans 3:23), so don’t tune out all this “sin-talk.” It is when we realize we are sinning that we can begin to experience the forgiveness of Christ and His power to change. And when we remember that just as we married a sinner, our husbands did too! “When we see our husbands as sinners like ourselves–sinners in need of God’s grace and mercy–it strips away any intolerant, critical, or demanding attitude we may be tempted to have.”

Matthew 7:5 states, “You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.”

So often we hear this verse in reference to our brothers and sisters in Christ without thinking about our husbands also being our brothers in Christ. The same applies! Before we try and blame our spouses, pointing out their flaws, we must first take a good hard look at our own hearts and ask God’s forgiveness for the sin in our lives.

With that being said, What does this look like practically?

1. TENDER THOUGHTS

  • What is the nature of our thoughts about our husbands? Critical, nitpicky, nagging, annoyed, loving, tender? We MUST choose to focus on our husbands many commendable qualities. Ask yourself, what attracted you to your husband in the first place? Why did you marry him?
  • Philippians 4:8 tells us, “whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.”
  • Make a list of all the things you love and appreciate about your husband and practice thinking them. It may sound silly, but when you combine that with prayer, asking God to help you change your thought patterns, you’ll be amazed at the difference it will make in the way you view your husband.

2. TENDER BEHAVIOR

  • Prize him above all others (children, siblings, friends, parents, nieces, nephews, etc.) Genesis 2:18 says, “Then the LORD God said, ‘It is not good for man to be alone; I will make him a helper suitable for him.” Women have to remember that God created us to be our husband’s helper, not our children’s mother. (I’m not a mom, but I see countless women put their children above their husband, and God NEVER intended for that to be the case.) Certainly moms are supposed to care for and nurture their children, but never as a replacement for their love for their husbands. Our husbands should always remain first in our hearts and in our care. In fact, one of the most loving things we can do for our children is to prize our husbands (43).
  • Cherish him. Most of our wedding vows included the phrase, “to love and to cherish, from this day forward…” What does cherish mean? “To hold dear, to care for tenderly or to nurture, to cling fondly to, or to treat as precious.” Check out pages 44-45 for specific examples of what men described as how they knew their wives cherished them. What is one way we can cherish our husbands today? (Think Love Languages!)
  • Enjoy him. -joy and delight. This simply means to prefer their company about all others. Take genuine pleasure in serving them. Take an interest in what they enjoy! Even if it’s not our preference, we should make an effort to enjoy those things that interest our husbands. We may not understand, but we must make this effort. It means the world to them ladies!

Remember, God delights to honor our obedience. The more we seek to prize, cherish, and enjoy our husbands, God will freely fill our hearts with love and affection for them. His grace provides all that we need to love our husbands!

Mahaney challenges us, and I extend the same challenge: “The next time we meet a woman who is getting married, let’s tell her about the wonderful grace of God that makes it possible to love her husband more and more with each passing year.” THIS is Titus 2 in action 🙂

Homework: (page 164)

1.) What is one way that you can “change your thought pattern” this week in order to cultivate tender thoughts toward your husband?

2.) Using the suggestions beginning on page 44 to spark our creativity, let’s find one way to cherish our husbands before our next meeting. Come prepared to share how it went!

Also, feel free to share in the comments section or on the iVow girls discussion group facebook page ways that you are cherishing your husband so that we can continue to spur one another on to love and good deeds! Love you all!

Transformed by Titus 2

This fall the Lord has graciously allowed me the opportunity to serve my fellow newlywed friends by leading a small group discussion based off the book “Feminine Appeal” by Carolyn Mahaney. The whole book centers on the passage of Scripture from Titus 2:3-5. After our first discussion last week, I had the idea to write a blog post as a brief synopsis of our discussion so that the ladies who were not able to make it would still be able to see what we talked about. I’ll try my best to make this a habit, but I’m not promising this for every week, seeing as how my blogging has been rather sub-par lately! Feel free to read along and join us in our discussion; just know that some of it might not make perfect sense unless you’re also following along in the book.

Chapter 1- Transformed by Titus 2

“Older women likewise are to be reverent in their behavior, not malicious gossips nor enslaved to much wine, teaching what is good, so that they may encourage the younger women to love their husbands, love their children, to be sensible, pure, workers at home, kind, being subject to their own husbands, so that the word of God will not be dishonored.” Titus 2:3-5

As we’ve discussed before, every Christian woman falls into the “older woman” and the “younger woman” category, because we are always being influenced by people, as well as influencing others (whether we recognize it or not.) Therefore, this entire passage of Scripture applies to every woman following Christ. This biblical mandate is one that I believe the Lord takes very seriously, yet is often overlooked. We are called to teach what is good. God defines what is good in the following seven virtues of a godly wife and mother.

Titus 2 has a direct way of helping us know whether what we are investing our lives in is truly important. It is the plumb line for women. By lining up our lives with this mandate, we can discern whether or not we are investing our lives in the things that God desires for us.

The purpose for developing these virtues in our own lives is not so that we will have the “perfect” family with traditional values and good morals nor to create law abiding citizens who contribute positively to society. While all these things are fine and good, the purpose is shown in verse 5, “so that the word of God will not be dishonored.”  By obeying Scripture, we are opening up an opportunity to display the gospel to the lost world.

The gospel has EVERYTHING to do with our pursuit of these virtues. If the gospel is not our goal, all of our efforts are in vain. They are worthless.

Mahaney talks about the story of a high-profile Christian woman (p. 27) whose poor decisions greatly influenced what the public thought of Christians. She graciously reminds us,

“Our conduct has a direct influence on how people think about the gospel. The world doesn’t judge us by our theology; the world judges us by our behavior. People don’t necessarily want to know what we believe about the Bible. They want to see if what we believe makes a difference in our lives. Our actions either bring honor to God or misrepresent His truth.”

Our actions make being a Christian look either unattractive or attractive. People are watching!

Verse 10 states, “so that they will adorn the doctrine of God our Savior in every respect.” The gospel cannot be improved! It’s perfect and complete exactly how it is. But we have the opportunity to adorn it and make it attractive to the world around us. Just as the main event of our wedding rings and engagement rings are the diamonds, if they were just sitting loose on a table, they would not look nearly as attractive. It is the setting and design of the ring that shows the diamonds at their best. Even more so, no one wants to wear a wedding ring with empty holes and prongs without the diamonds! If we offer the world a pretty setting without the gospel, our efforts are shallow and empty. Just like the diamonds are adorned to look their best in a wedding ring, we have the opportunity to put the gospel on beautiful display so that the world will be amazed and want to take ownership of it as well.

Bottom line? We are mandated by God to teach these things (loving our husbands, loving our children, self-control, purity, working at home, kindness, and submission) to younger women (whether that be in age or in spiritual journey) so that the effect will be the gospel spreading to the watching world.

Our Challenge: Who are the unbelievers watching your life (family, friends, co-workers)? How do you think you can make the gospel attractive by modeling these virtues?

Our Homework: In the discussion question section of the book, (page 162) we have two questions to answer in preparation for our meeting next week:

  1. Of the seven virtues listed in Titus 2–loving our husbands and children, self-control, purity, working at home, kindness, and submission–which one do you think your husband would most like you to grow in over the course of this study? Why? Ask your husband and return next week to share the answer.
  2. In what season of life do you find yourself (younger woman, older woman, mom of teenager, teenage daughter, single adult, etc.)? How can you fulfill the “mentoring mandate”?

Feel free to continue our discussion or ask any questions in the comments section. I’d love to hear some more perspectives and see what the Lord has spoken to you through your study!

Quitter

Book #2 is in the books! Pun intended.

Quitter

For February, I decided to read the book Quitter by Jon Acuff. It was more of a whim read than something I had been looking forward to for a long time. I started following the author @jonacuff on Twitter, and he often posted excerpts from the book. It intrigued me. So I bought it on a discounted website and planned it for this month. I read this book in 18 days. That’s got to be some kind of record for me. Needless to say, I thoroughly enjoyed it.

The whole theme of the book is “Closing the gap between your day job and your dream job.” Which, as most of you probably know, is something that I would definitely say I’m striving after. Believe it or not, my dream job is not nannying 3 boys 5 days a week. It might be close, but that’s definitely not it. Who am I kidding? Nannying was one of the jobs that was furthest down on my list. But sometimes you just have to take what opportunities come your way when you have student loans up to your eye balls and the bills that have to be paid.

All that goes to say, my degree is in Women’s Ministry and Biblical Studies. What drove me to that field was a heart for teenage girls. I want them to fully know their identity in Christ and allow Him to satisfy every single ounce of who they are. I feel like it has been a neglected area of ministry for far too long and I wanted to educate myself on how to reach that black hole. However, I don’t know how to even get started there. I feel like since I graduated, the Lord has revealed even more things that I’m passionate about. Godly marriages, healthy lifestyles, purity, and even more recently, the hot topic issue of abortion. As I pray through how the Lord would have me to follow Him in these different areas of ministry, I know I have to obey Him where I am currently. And currently I am a full time nanny for 3 boys, ages 4, 5, and 7. And until I’m grateful for that job and do my absolute best at it, He will not let me move on.

Reading this book was very helpful to me. It helped me to realize the importance of working at my day job longer than I would like. It helped me understand that pursuing my dream does not mean throwing caution to the wind. It means striving for excellence in my day job and slowly working toward my dream, or taking steps toward my dream job in my spare time. If I become a professional Quitter in trying to find that “perfect dream job” out there, I’ll never be satisfied and I’ll probably be a terrible employee if I ever do have the opportunity to work in my preferred area of ministry.

If you’ve ever used the phrase, “I’m a __________, but I want to be a _________, ” I highly suggest picking up a copy of this book and applying the lessons from it. It will definitely start giving you hope towards making your dream a reality.

Also, he’s a hilarious writer. I literally laughed out loud throughout every chapter. Ask my husband.